Neat AF

Earlier this year there was an amusing advertising campaign which began with the line, ‘Broke AF’, before then going on to make a solid case for consumer credit. The advertising campaign may not have been targeted at me, probably because I’m too old to understand what the advertisement was originally going on about. I had to ask the Google search engine the blunt question: What the heck does AF actually mean? I almost blushed at the reply, it was most certainly not family friendly!

Despite not being a millennial, I can dig consumer credit, man. For some reason my mind returned to my one major experience with consumer credit, way back in the early 1990’s. That was the height of the recession down here, and I’d loyally banked with the same credit union for at least four years, and thought that the relationship meant something. Naive AF.

It didn’t actually mean anything at all, if only because when I went to them and asked for a loan to purchase a super duper top end and whiz bang 486DX computer with the all the bells and whistles. Well let’s put it this way, they weren’t as enthusiastic about the idea as I was. In fact, they rather bluntly informed me that it was a really bad idea and that they wouldn’t lend me the money to buy it.

I was rather put out by their campaign of intentional austerity which was being harshly applied to me, and so in a fit of pique I cancelled my account with them. I was appalled at the outrage and injustice of it all, as I’d been putting my hard earned minimum wage in there for years – and then of course dutifully spending all of it. That will teach the likes of them, at least that is what I thought at the time. Vengeful AF.

Now truth to tell, I hadn’t been entirely faithful with my credit union as I’d held another bank account with a different banking business for more than those four years. I’m ashamed to admit it, but the credit union was merely convenient, until I felt spurned.

So I transferred all my mad cash business to the bank, and almost immediately came up with the bright idea of going to them cap in hand for a personal loan.

Back in those days of recession and credit stinginess, you really did have to go cap in hand and do a bit of grovelling. And they appeared to love treating their customers like dirt, as that was my experience. Anyway, it was all good as I’m not above a bit of grovelling to a financial institution, especially when the ultimate goal was a brand new games machine, err sorry, that was a typing slip, as I meant to type, PC for use with my University studies.

The story is quite convoluted because at around that time of my heady experiments with consumer credit, I was made rather rudely made redundant from my cushy state government job. The upside of that job was that I was able to use all of their computers and printers in order to do my University tutorial work and assignments. It was the best arrangement, if only because they had all this awesome computer power back when few other work places had access to the stuff. And nobody cared at all whether I used that computing equipment for personal purposes.

But I guess all that awesome computing stuff back then cost a lot of money to buy and operate. The government no longer wanted to foot the bill for me using their computers and printers. And incidentally, they no longer wanted to foot the bill for my pleasant self. It was all rather unfair, and I no longer had access to a computer and printer. Bereft AF.

To my absolute horror, I rapidly found out that in private industry and doing low status debt collection work, all sorts of people higher in the pecking order seemed to have rather inflexible opinions about me not using the companies computers and printers for personal work. Double unfair!

So off I went to the nice bank to ask them for a personal loan to buy my possibly overly specified super duper computer. And in a really weird turn of events, and this is truly strange: who was next behind me in the queue to see the teller on that fateful day: The editor. True story! The editor at that time was a friend of a friend. We had a cordial discussion that day and I’m pretty certain now that the editor would have remonstrated with me rather strongly if she knew what I was about to do! And I would have ended up with a miserly 286 computer, which I could have afforded. Honestly, a strong case could be made that it would have been for fine for the University work, but not for the games… It is probably unlikely that the editor would have been jealous of my future 486 computer even though she only owned a barely acceptable 386 computer. (Editor = Sensible AF)

Like all good romance stories, the boy got the computer. Triumph! The games were awesome for a while and I was the envy of my friends. Then ever so slowly my relationship with the computer soured because the games required more and better computing grunt. Intel even had the cheek to introduce the new Pentium powered computer, and my sad little 486 wasn’t comparing too well. What is even worse was that the now forlorn boy gets to hear about friends enjoying games that he can’t play – and the debt for some reason didn’t go away. In fact the debt scored an interest rate increase and boy felt even more unhappy with the situation. Obsolete AF

As time went on and despite unhappiness with the obsolete, but expensive computer, boy discovers more interesting things to do with his time because the boy got the editor. Unfortunately the consumer debt was not a wise decision and the editor couldn’t believe the boy’s foolishness. But like all happy endings, in a fit of mutual affection both boy and editor worked together to get rid of computer debt. Consequently boy is banned by the editor from ever delving into the murky waters of consumer credit again and the couple live happily for ever after. Happy AF!

A few days ago I spoke with my neighbour who let me know that the burn off restrictions will soon be enforced (about mid October apparently). I was intending to work on the shed, but instead decided that it might not be a bad idea to cut up the huge branch that fell from a large tree a few months ago.

I’d been putting the job off for a while now because some trees are smaller than this huge branch. I usually burn off the leaves and smaller twigs whilst everything else gets converted into firewood. If the burn off restrictions are in place, I won’t be able to burn off those leaves and smaller twigs.

The author stands among a huge fallen branch

It took about half a day of work to cut up all of the timber that could be converted into firewood. I also moved all of these chunks into an area that receives a lot of sunlight so that the timber dries more thoroughly. You can’t burn wet or green timber and it is best if firewood has a moisture content of about 14%.

The author and Ollie stand beside the collection of firewood that is waiting to be cut and split in a couple of months

Then I spent a further couple of hours work cleaning the area up. Neat AF!

A couple of extra hours work cleaned the area up
The cleaned up area was quite extensive

The Aboriginal people call the process ‘cleaning up’ too, and I can’t think of any better way to describe the process. They of course used fire, whilst I use a self propelled mower, but the outcome is the same. Many years ago, the area in the photo above had absolutely no top soil and was a hard clay pan. No other plants grew in the area other than the Eucalyptus Obliqua trees. It is hard to see in the above photos, but the diversity of plant species is really starting to improve there, despite the best efforts of the Eucalyptus trees at their chemical warfare.

Hazel Pomaderris is an important rainforest and wet eucalyptus forest medium tree species
Toothy inspects a couple of Musk Daisy bushes as well as alpine heath and some other unusual ground cover plants

And I also spent some time repairing patches of soil where nothing was growing. I usually rip the clay by hand using the mattock and then add coffee grounds and soiled chickens bedding. Within a couple of years the area will be teeming with plants.

A patch of bare clay was ripped (by hand) and then coffee and chicken bedding was applied to the surface

The largest trees in the forest are worthy of our consideration and protection, if only because no bird or animal can live on a Eucalyptus sapling. I reckon it usually takes about 80 years of growth before a Eucalyptus tree sports enough hollows (where branches have fallen from) that birds and other animals can set up houses in there.

A magpie has set up a nest in this old and large tree where the top has fallen off

And over the years, if a healthy under story plant community is encouraged in an open forest, the smaller to medium sized trees can get huge:

To the right of this photo are some very old and very large Musk Daisy Bushes.  To the left is a Tree Lucerne and a couple of the local Acacia Melanoxylon (Blackwoods)

Spring has picked up here and the UV is now rated as High. This means that all of the plants are growing strongly.

One day we woke up to discover that everywhere was suddenly a rich green colour
The spring sunlight reflects off a native Beech (Nothofagus Cunninghamii – a very interesting tree) and a pink flowering Anzac Peach

I’m quite the fan of maple species and have a wide variety of them growing here. They have a well deserved reputation for being a bit weedy, but I’ve never really noticed any feral patches of them in this side of the mountain range. In the more fashionable end of the mountain range, there are quite large stands of sycamores which are an under story tree because they don’t stand any chance of competing against the royally huge Eucalyptus Regnans (Mountain Ash). I guess this proves that it is good to be the King or Queen of the flowering plant world!

Anyway, I purchased a few more Japanese maples of various red shades to add to the Japanese maple garden bed.

A couple of Japanese maples were purchased and added to the Japanese maple garden bed

Another very attractive maple is the Acer Negundo (Box Elder) and the flowers look great:

Acer negundo (Box Elder) in flower

A close up of the flowers shows just how intricate they are:

A close up of the Acer Negundo (Box Elder) flowers

This year has been quite notable for the sheer number of frosts. There has just been one frost after another. I’ll be grateful to get any apricots this season, but I grow a wide variety of those plants so hopefully some fruit will eventually grow. The almonds on the other hand seem a bit more hardy to frost, and I spotted these tiny nuts growing:

Tiny almonds defy the continual frosts


Onto the flowers:

A huge hedge of Echium provides good food for the bees
The geraniums are now beginning to put on some colour
African daisies are spreading through one garden bed – which is a good thing
Leucadendrons capture the spring sunlight
Other daisies are beginning to grow and show off their flowers

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 15’C (59’F). So far this year there has been 668.6mm (26.3 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 664.6mm (26.2 inches).

91 thoughts on “Neat AF”

  1. Hi Inge,

    Hope you enjoyed some of the images of the forest here and how it is developing. I tend to think much the same as you. How that plays out down here is that the forest has been actively managed for umpteen millennia and my understanding of the forests is based on the historical accounts and descriptions. Then us folks of European origin went into overdrive and logged the daylights out of the forests which had and has a pretty big impact. Then we probably collectively felt guilty for that act and then went all the way to the other extreme and tell ourselves that it is OK to do nothing. I sort of suspect we have a fraught relationship with nature down here! 🙂

    I’d be horrified to experience a group such as ‘Rural England’. And the main problem I have with such folks is that they usually live far removed from the consequences of their thoughts and deeds and that is probably not a good thing because they probably fall into the trap of abstraction.

    One benefit of a lower energy future is that such centralised oversight will disappear… Until then… ?-)



  2. Hi Margaret,

    Puppies… Ollie is lovely, but is a sore trial on the garden. Digging holes in the garden beds whilst on the hunt for rats and chewing on garden tools. Actually he doesn’t sound very lovely does he? He’s a fast learner though and so doesn’t cause the same havoc – he creates new and interesting forms of havoc. 🙂 Thanks for the thoughts about the grass and I do keep a watch for that. Toothy samples wild mustard’s for some reason that I can’t explain, but maybe it is similar to the grass? Dunno.

    I have to confess to being a bit slack about taking a course. It seemed like a big call to me when I can simply read a book and get out into the garden. Everyone learns differently though and you’d meet some interesting people on the courses and that is invaluable. And my experience is limited to the plants and the wild animals, as I have very little experience with livestock other than chickens and bees. I’d certainly get a lot out of your sessions as I tend to enjoy hearing from people who have first hand experiences with systems.

    Thanks, and I’m very lucky to have such a group nearby too. We did a house visit to one of the member’s houses. I really enjoyed the visit and lunch. The house is owned by someone who would make an outstanding bush or farm engineer as he had so many interesting systems going on in the house. And the house construction itself was also very interesting. The lunch was a pot luck and people brought along things to share. Yum! We shared stories about how we got to be where we are today and then had a general discussion about the state of the world.

    I heard the claim on the podcast about the pruning, and I was rather wondering how the wallaby damage and wind damage to fruit trees worked out in that story. Ollie chased a wallaby this afternoon, but they’re too fast for him. But they do rather prune trees into a certain sort of a regular shape of a single trunk with branches beginning about 6 foot off the ground. I have wondered for a while whether the marsupials work at keeping the forest open? Dunno, you can see in paddocks where cattle graze that the under story of the trees have been grazed to a certain uniform height. It is quite uncanny looking. I wonder if Master Fukuoka had herbivores bouncing around his orchard? Dunno. The descriptions of his place sound really lovely.



  3. Hi Lewis,

    No worries at all. When I deleted the old blogger platform, I deleted the entire lot, comments and all. Where do digital bits and bytes go when they die? Such important questions, which I guess we’ll never get the answer to. Probably don’t need the answer really… 🙂 Although that may make for an interesting story? Hey, we now have the ultimate excuse to cover up for any future text slip ups! Yes, like disappearing into oblivion by falling behind the couch, it must have been in the ‘lost post’. 🙂 Funny stuff – we could get years of mileage out of that one.

    The branch was huge and it took me most of a day to process, burn, move and clean up. I duly thanked the tree for its gift. The photo of the cut timber does not do justice to the sheer volume of firewood as it goes back quite a ways which can’t be seen in the photo. As the timber dries further over the next month or so, it will split naturally. The old timers used to save themselves a lot of effort by doing that.

    I’ve never attempted to use ammonia on plants. It never even occurred to me to do so. You’ve piqued my curiosity so I had a snuffle around the internet and I got the best answer possible: It all depends. How dodgy is that bit of knowledge? This of course most likely means that in small amounts it’s all good, but in larger amounts probably not so much, but then maybe. If I smell any ammonia smell in the chicken enclosure I make sure that I turn all of their bedding material over because there is little point off gassing helpful compounds to the atmosphere where I’m sure there is probably already too much of the stuff. The chicken enclosure is reasonably neutral smelling – unlike some others that I’ve visited. Rancid places where I felt sorry for the chickens.

    Did you manage to get the long recovery nap? The world is a small place. Don’t laugh but I’ve worked with accountants who were very knowledgeable and held very senior positions – but had gotten there by the route of apprenticeship. The implications of that were never lost upon me!

    120 is an outstanding turn out. Really? There is a story there about the Canadians (and who doesn’t like the friendly Canadian’s?) being turned back at the border. Did anyone extrapolate upon the reasons for that? I’m genuinely amazed that people would have travelled from as far away as Boston and Florida. I’d personally be uncomfortable living in Florida and probably be now running for the hills – except I understand that there are none there.

    As a mostly vegetarian I can say with a straight face that vegetarian food is quite good – with the disclaimer that it has to be prepared well. I’ve had friends tell me that the sort of stuff that I eat regularly would convert them to eating vegetarian, although they may have been just telling me what I wanted to hear. I’d like to think that this was not the case.

    I’d heard differently about the small kitchen fire, but you know, whatever you reckon… 🙂 Hehe! At least it sounds as if nobody was injured other than a few bruised egos and some asparagus – and plenty of folks can afford to deal with that gear.

    Mate, I’m not saying that you scored being so far distant and in a barely inhabited cabin, but to my ears it sure sounds that way. I would have loved that result. I’m used to wandering around in the deep dark of the night so it wouldn’t have bothered me one iota. In the earlier nights did you get to look up and see the Milky Way in all its glory sprawled across the sky? I hope there wasn’t too much cloud cover? Although the last nights rain would have made returning to the cabin a mildly difficult proposition.

    The thoughts of being stalked by a cougar in the night is one that is outside of my experience. Best of luck with that one – and it sure would make for an exciting night time experience. There is always the old farmers tale down here about the escaped Puma, but most likely it is a very large feral black domestic cat.

    Hey, that’s interesting about the bunk and I’m glad you tested the upper bunk theory before descending to the more easily accessed lower bunk.

    People are more adaptable to low or no technology than they imagine, and I for one enjoy being in contact, but it is also nice being out of contact, and there are benefits to that. Speaking of which I sat outside the local cafe this morning in the nice mid spring sunshine enjoying a nice cup of coffee all by myself and reading the latest copy of ‘Into the Ruins’ – which arrived in the mail last week. I quite enjoy all of the short stories and am learning a lot about how people go about writing short stories. What interest me is that people spend quite a lot of time describing and setting the scenes that they then write about. There is a real skill in there. The publication also had a graphic novel put together by someone who I count as a friend. 🙂

    It ain’t just you who is cynical. People will hang onto their phones right up to the last minute that it makes any sense to do so. Check out some of the footage from the recent quake and tsunami in Indonesia. It reminded me of the close up photos of the eruption at Mount St Helen where some young and dumb student decided to camp nearby and get some great photos of the eruption. Well, he clearly has bigger cojones than I do as you wouldn’t have caught me anywhere near that place. It is not as if there weren’t warnings in that particular eruption

    Out of curiosity, were there any sessions where people were encouraged to share their stories? Glad to hear that the food was good, because good food makes for happy people!



  4. @ Lew:

    As far as bunks go, the score is: 1 (maybe 2) for your back 0 for nosebleeds!

    You do attract unusual circumstances (I balked at “weird”, but it is kind of weird, in an interesting way). How strange are those connections?


  5. Hi, Chris!

    That would have been such a sad story – if I hadn’t been laughing so much! So – did Chris learn his own lesson or did the editor enforce the lesson? Some of both, I think. I, too, after shamefully running up some hefty credit card debt one Christmas millennia ago (it is nice to be old enough to almost truthfully be able to use “millennia”) 🙂 I was banished from using the credit card, unless traveling. I was all on board for that and it has worked very well.
    Think if you and I had been uncooperative! We are too smart for that, eh?

    What a massive branch and that is a solid pile of fresh logs. 14% is so little moisture and it is a long way to get to that point! Except for a few scattered dead leaves I would never have known that the branch had been there. You must have to be careful when mowing to avoid some of those seedlings coming up all over. Hi, Toothy! Hi, Ollie! Don’t tell me – your mission is chicken poo . . . ?

    I can’t believe the UV is already is already so high there.

    The Acer Negundo is a very odd maple tree! I was waiting to see if it was called “tassel tree”. Echium just never seems to stop. My geraniums are all so sick from lack of sun this summer that I have cut off their tops for cuttings instead of bringing the whole plants inside to flower in the winter. I do enjoy having some “bloomies”, as my mother calls them, as our winters can sometimes be long and dark and grey.

    What interesting thoughts you and Margaret have brought up about pruning.


  6. Yo, Chris – You always tease with your opening photos. I looked at that and wondered, “Why did Chris take a picture of a tree with red, shredded plastic bags, caught in the branches? Ahhh. Box Elder. I haven’t seen (or noticed) them, before.

    I had to look up AF. Now I feel so hip, with it, and down with my younger peeps :-).

    That is a very unhappy tech story. Beats my piddly Beta/VHS bad decision, all to heck. But you DID meet the Editor out of the story. So, she’s the financial brains behind the operation? My mom and dad were a surprise. All my life, I always thought Dad handled all the finances. Mom would say things like, “I need to ask your Dad for more housekeeping money.” Of course, it was the 1940s/50s, and the prevailing narrative was “make the head of household look good.” When my mother died, I discovered my Dad didn’t even know how to deposit his pay check. I gave him a crash course in financial mechanics. He was a quick study :-).

    The hedge of Echium is really beautiful. It’s blue, of course.

    To paraphrase “There is only do, or not do,” There is no could, only will.” Or, something that sounds profound. :-). Right up there with Star Trek temporal anomalies.

    As to ammonia. One doesn’t want rancid chickens. Never did hear why the Canadians were turned back at the border. If that was even more than a rumor. I think the only reason anyone came up with was “general government craziness.”

    Oh, yes, we could see the stars, the first two nights. We see a certain amount, in this small town. But the folks from the big cities were just blown away. And, if I got away from the campfire, I could see the Milky Way. A vast, eddying, swirling smudge across the sky. And, of course, Orion, the only collection of stars I can identify.

    After a bit of attitude adjustment, I found our distant and under populated cabin to be quit cozy. Tucked under the trees. Cont.

  7. Cont. Walking through the dark woods worrying about cougars put me in mind of the 1942 film, “Cat People.” if you’ve never seen it, it’s well worth a look. Black and white. There’s a scene where the heroine is in a swimming pool and the lights go out. “Something” is out in the dark, stalking her. You never see the cat, but it’s rated one of the 100 scariest film moments. The film was remade in 1982, and, if I remember correctly, that scene was replicated, frame for frame. But, it just didn’t have the impact of the 1942 version. Perhaps the difference between black and white. Or, a genius director and camera man.

    At the retreat, at the speaker’s meetings, they shared their stories. There was some of that at the regular meetings, that happened from time to time. There were work shops, but they usually focused on one step or concept (resentments, etc.). There was one workshop (which I didn’t go to) called “Zen Mind, Sober Mind.” I don’t know. Just a little too woo-woo New Age, for my taste. Says the guy that got smudged with sage smoke. :-). And had a brief astrological conversation as I was heading out the door. :-).

    But mostly, story swapping was done in small groups, or, one on one. Informal. It’s funny who you click with. Unpredictable. I was worried before I went that there might be a lot of … trying to “fix” people in some kind of status ranking. Job, education, world travel. But very little of that went on. I was a bit struck, after the retreat, when I realized that I have no idea what my cabin mates, or even the kid I used to babysit do for a living out in the “real” world. Out in the woods in our little bubble, all that stuff just seemed unimportant.

    Just got back from having my back “wound” packed, again. The upset in routine didn’t seem to have any effect. Almost to the “slap a bandaid on it” stage, but not quit yet. Lew

  8. @ Pam – LOL. Well, better to attract weird, than say, attract lightening :-). Or, cougars.

    When I first moved in here, our chaplain (?), the Rev, leaned in and practically whispered, “There are some strange and weird people living here.” I said, “Oh, good! I need a certain amount of weird in my life!” (Can you make me a list?).

    I do need a certain amount of weird and grunge in my life. People are soooo interesting. And some have such interesting stories, to tell. You just have to keep your ears sharp and be a bit open to different ways of living and approaching life. Lew

  9. Hello Chris
    Your woodland is very interesting and so different from mine. I noticed that you mentioned a sycamore, did they arrive with the incomers or can they possibly be native? I regard them as a menace and make sure that not a single one gets in.

    Son visited another woodland the other day and commented that there was no wild life there at all; he said that it felt dark and dead. He compared it with ours which is awash with life.

    On the way out today, I passed some extraordinary fox dung. I told Son who said that he had deliberately left it (it was right by my path) as he knew that I would spot it. It was a very dark green in colour. Their dung goes black when they eat the blackberries but I had never seen anything like this before. I won’t sully the comment with Son’s explanation for the colour unless someone doesn’t know why and wants an explanation.


  10. Chris,

    I’ve returned from the oblivion of falling behind the couch. Or was it the longish weekend at the woodcarving event? Probably the latter.

    Anyhow, it was a good show, although both attendance and the number of carvings entered in the contest were low compared with past years. Chalk a lot of that up to the advancing age of most wood carvers. The younger generation just doesn’t get into it. Plus, with the right computer program and tools, one can put the pattern in the computer, hook up the tools to the computer, toss in a block of wood, press a button and out comes a perfect carving. Of course, the joy of making something yourself is then lost.

    I do little carving other than a few off the wall things that hang about above the fireplace. I’m mostly into controlled arson, I mean pyrography aka wood burning. It’s enjoyable and I seem to be improving my skills.

    Nice work on the plant growth under the eucalyptus forest! Your pictures and experience are a testament to one of the topics we’ve been discussing: soil quality. I grew 3 and a half rows of potatoes this year and had harvested one row a couple weeks ago. I finished harvesting them today. The areas with the best soil had the largest yield and the larger potatoes. The differences in yield per plant as well as potato size due to soil quality were dramatic. So it’s on to continuing to improve the soil.

    You and Lew were mentioning getting stalked by cougars? Those are mean and lethal when they decide to be. Many years ago we were at my wife’s mother’s house in the mountains. A cougar had been spotted in the area. All the nieces and nephews were under 10 years old, but all 6 wanted to go for a hike. So I went with them. After some distance had been covered, the youngest niece said, “Uncle, what do we do if we see the cougar?” My first three possible responses were all unrepeatable to the youngsters and best left unsaid here, but all involved an eventual change of clothing. So I calmly replied, while picking up the stoutest stick I could find, “I’ll fight it off with this stick while all you kids run screaming back to the house so your other uncle can come out here and shoot the cougar.” I added to myself, “This bleeping stick wouldn’t deter a chihuahua, so I hope the other uncle shoots the bleeping cougar before I’m entirely eaten.”

    Well, either we spotted the cougar which promptly grabbed Youngest Niece Who Asks Nasty Questions, never to be seen again, or we never saw the cougar and we’re all living happily ever after. Hint: 2 or 3 years later, I’d gotten a little, ummm, heavy around the middle. Youngest Niece looked at me and said, “Uncle, you look pregnant!”


  11. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, it was a pretty funny story. Isn’t it nice to have been once young and dumb and survived the process! And I reckon harsh lessons like those are best learned when the ‘young’ label still applies. 🙂 It is good isn’t it? Sometimes I slip in lines like: Yeah, like last century blah, blah, blah. It sounds very authoritative, but I generally had no idea about anything way back then. A lot of people get into trouble with credit cards. Way back in those days the banks knew me for the risk that I was, and they only ever gave me a debit card which is limited by available funds. I’m not a fan of paying interest, if only because nature rarely pays interest on anything.

    Thanks and it is hard to see the full extent of the firewood pile in the photo because it goes back a bit. It was a thoughtful gift from the forest and most of my firewood is about 14% at the time that it gets burned. Green it is off the charts damp. Any wetter and the firewood degrades the steel in the firebox. I burned out the guts of the last wood heater and am very keen not to make that same mistake again – which means that I’ll make new and interesting mistakes to the new wood heater.

    Mowing is usually done at a human pace and so I can watch all of the plants around me and decide what to do with them. A tractor or ride on would take all of them out which would be a shame really because there is a lot to see.

    You guessed it correctly. Ollie was deep into the chickens litter…

    It is a nice idea to have plants inside the house during your long cold winters. It would be quite cheering! My mates of the big shed have avocadoes on their tree which is only about maybe four years old – but it is inside the shed. That takes the inside garden concept to a whole ‘nother level.



  12. Hi Lewis,

    The box elder trees are a funny story because I first encountered them at an open garden not too far from here. Nowadays, noblesse oblige seems to be forgotten because there are few if any open gardens. My belief is that an extraordinarily wealthy person once underwrote the previous open garden scheme for the entire country – as they should. Sorry, I digress, the trees were a couple of decades old and were lining the driveway leading towards the house. The canopy had closed over the driveway and the shade was very pleasant during the summer months. It was all very attractive.

    You and I both are now hip and happening because we know the lingo! Cheeky AF, huh? 🙂

    The editor is pretty clever at money management and I have learned much, but mostly we both enjoyed similar experiences during the early 90’s – the editor’s was worse – and so we decided collectively to claw our way out of the swamp. It is funny that you mention financial literacy, but I was discussing that over the weekend as people were making quite complicated assumptions – and I dunno, my reality talks rarely win me any friends, so I keep them to a minimum and wheel them out only when absolutely necessary. I conveyed an anecdotal account that I heard that people investing in managed funds in ‘cash’, may possibly have CDO’s in their ‘cash’ portfolios – not that people want to hear such anecdotal accounts. They are a complicated financial product which I am uncomfortable with.

    Echium’s are great plants and are very reliable at producing huge numbers of flowers.

    That does sound like very profound advice. I’m a bit strung out as I had to drive back from Melbourne with the editor tonight and the car’s engine began overheating but back in the big smoke. For some reason some of the oil had disappeared over the past few weeks. I’ll keep a closer eye on that in future. Fortunately I could purchase some oil not too far from where I first noticed the temperature gauge rising. Dunno. The car was running fine by the time we made it back here.

    Ammonia is a real problem in factory chicken farms. The fumes would be overwhelming if the fans ever stopped.

    Lovely! I suspect that light pollution in cities might be bad enough that few people notice just how many stars there actually are in the night sky. I have no idea where Orion is and will look it up. Nice to learn stuff.

    Everyone goes through attitude adjustment at some point in their lives. It happens.

    Thanks for the film reference and I’ll try and check into it after replying here. I reckon the best horror films are those where you don’t ever directly see what is going on. People’s imaginations can often be far worse than anything that can be shown on the big screen. For some reason the 80’s were full of slasher films. I wasn’t a fan of those. A whole lot of blood. I much preferred the suspense of films like Alien which was so dark it was hard to see much of anything, but you knew it wasn’t good.

    I’m not much for an empty mind either. Empty minds soon get filled with thoughts and the question then becomes: Who’s thoughts have worked their way in there. Anyway, it is a bit like trying to stop a dam by plugging the hole in the dam wall with your finger. Hey, in a strange twist of circumstances, I actually gave that a go (but using my hand) when we were attempting to repair the leaking water tank. It didn’t work that well but did stop a lot of water leaking out the tank when I had to temporarily remove the valve. It looks as though it is holding water without leaking for now. My confidence in that one is a bit shattered, but time will tell.

    That question is one of those questions that often gets asked: Like what do you do? As if that somehow that defines who the person is. Hey, another one of those that gets asked down here is: Where do you live? Our suburbs are very stratified along economic lines now. I’m not sure at all that I’m comfortable with that.

    Nice to hear that the wound is healing well. 🙂



  13. @ Lew:

    I saw the 1942 “Cat People” when I was way too young. That, and some science fiction movie with giant grasshoppers. But I think “Cat People” was very well done. And I think that black and white has a much scarier effect in general because it seems sort of like it is another dimension within itself – “You mean there is a world where there is no color?!” Which is why some film noir -especially silent ones – to my mind, beats the heck out of a lot of this modern stuff. Maybe it calls on us to use more imagination, something I have too much of when it comes to “scary”.


  14. Hi Inge,

    Thanks, it is an interesting and very complex place (as would your forest be too). Yeah, the sycamore’s arrived with the Europeans as they are definitely not native. In some parts of the mountain range where they get a little bit more shade due to the southerly aspect, those plants are very weedy. I’ve heard that the grain is twisted and so they aren’t that good for firewood.

    Your son is onto something. I went past a garden full of flowers in Melbourne today and all I could spot was one solitary European honey bee. And that was it for the entire garden. The other nearby gardens had no insects at all. I was thinking about writing a blog titled: Hey dude, where’s my insects? But it is a bit of a sad story. Mind you, that story is playing out in people’s houses too, as the diversity of flora and fauna is on the decline there as well. I see some cleaning products proudly claiming: “Hospital Strength” as if that is a good thing… That story won’t end well.

    I’d like an explanation if you could kindly please elucidate on the matter of the green scat? Green scats here are usually from the herbivores, although I have seen fox scats with the blackberries. Clearly the foxes are avid gardeners…



  15. @ Inge:

    I love sycamores (they remind me of the cottonwoods – being cousins – of my Texas youth), but have become wary of them, especially since I have encouraged this now-very-large one leaning towards the house in the front yard. Why don’t you want them around?

    A quick look at dark green poop says: Grass, plants high in chlorophyll, blueberries. I can vouch for the blueberries.


  16. @ DJSpo:

    All this talk of cougars is raising the hairs on my neck. Until my two sons were teenagers and had “better” things to do in the summer I always took them to visit my parents in Colorado. After we had been back home about a week from one of our trips, my mother sent me a newspaper clipping that a boy had been killed by a cougar on that very same hike. Was it watching us?


  17. Hi DJ,

    Hehe! Nice to read that the woodcarving show was good. Yeah, those CNC cutting machines are pretty amazing but they do take a lot of the art out of the craft. Although I for one feel that people using such machines would miss on the Japanese concept of Wabi sabi. A lot of the projects we do at the farm here, could be taken to further extremes but sometimes we just get to a natural end point and say, yeah, that’s good enough and then go and do something else with our time.

    The other evening I saw video of a 3D stone cutting machine in use – and in that case it was used to produce heritage replica stone works. Apparently they’re very expensive.

    Controlled arson! Very amusing. I have seen that sort of work, it looks good. It is common form of marking timber down under.

    Soil quality is the thing that makes us all look more knowledgeable than we actually are! Plus it does make growing food a lot easier. Exactly. Potatoes are really heavy feeders and they need really good quality (and deep) soil. We grow them in raised garden beds so I can keep a watch on how much soil is in each bed. It is amazing how quickly plants convert soil into plant matter.

    Hey don’t knock Chihuahua’s as they’re vicious little tykes with bad attitudes. The antibiotic resistant bacteria that gets in after the tiniest of the first bites from those dogs could possibly do you in as certainly as being mauled by a cougar! 🙂 The first time I heard a Koala roar in the forest late one evening, well it scared the daylights out of me. I thought that it was Razorback the wild boar about to rip me in two. Nope, just a very grumpy and rather intoxicated Koala who thought it would be funny to scare me.

    Youngest niece has not yet learned the niceties of social interactions – and maybe still hasn’t! Yes, some kids enjoy pointing out the obvious. Hehe! Good luck with that one.



  18. Chris:

    My goodness, those bug-deprived people should come to my house. The beams in the ceilings are full of spiders, the basement is full of crickets, and the stink bugs are moving in en masse for the winter.

    Which just goes to show what kind of housekeeper I am . . .


  19. Hello again
    I like the word scat and shall use it. Son says that the dark green scat was due to the fox eating the contents of its prey’s gut and stomach. It must have been well fed prey! I do wonder why this isn’t seen more often then.
    The first time that I saw Orion in the southern hemisphere it gave me a shock. I am afraid that his sword becomes something else.
    I think that manage, manager and management have become words with really ugly meanings.
    Son and I have had a ghastly morning struggling with new curtain rails for me, the previous one having broken. How I hate the modern plastic ones and they get ever more unadaptable. Every time I made a suggestion when we encountered a problem, Son had to explain to me why it couldn’t be done with these. Oh for the old brass rails and fittings.


  20. @ Lew
    I am also glad to hear that your back is going on okay; not to be able to reach and deal with it oneself is dreadful.
    Note my comment to Chris about Orion in the southern hemisphere.
    I pass on to my Son many of your humorous comments as he has a very similar sense of humour. The witness protection one went down particularly well, he doubled up.


  21. Yo, Chris – Your mention of your friends with an indoor garden in their fabulous shed reminded me. One of the weird connections at the Retreat had to do with one of our speakers. “Baawby from Baawston” :-). I told him that I loved listening to him speak, and, that if I fell into his regional accent, I wasn’t mocking. I just pick up things like that, really quickly. He observed that out here, in the west, we’re rather accent-less, and to his ear, it sounds a bit flat. But that we have a certain clarity. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Independence Day” (about the Boston bombing) you’ll hear a lot of that accent.

    But, back to the weird connections story. Bobby makes his living (and, a quit nice one, I gather) doing interior landscapes for rich people and corporations. In one of our workshops, we had to pick out someone we didn’t know, give them a little bit of an interview, and present “who they were” in 25 words or less. I got a young man from Portland, who does “living walls” with plants. I mentioned that and that he had 500 house plants in my description. After the worship Bobby came running over. Being in a similar business, they had been talking (as we do here) over the internet, for years. Neither knew the other was 1.) in recovery or 2.) was going to go to this retreat, out in the middle of the howling Washington wilderness :-).

    Your open gardens story reminded me of one of my favorite Downton Abbey episodes. Hit hard by taxes, in the 1920s, they decide (and, at the time a quit daring thing to do) to open the house and gardens for a week or so and let the public in. As a money raiser. Some of the family leads tours. And, some of the “upper” servants. Most of the family are entirely clueless about the history and heritage of the place. The servants have a far better grasp of those things. In my best Victorian accent I’ll say, “It was highly amusing.”

    I’m always encouraged when I see a story about a grade or high school doing classes in, what we call, “financial literacy”. Usually they call them something like “life skills.” But they’re scattered and sporadic. When I was in high school, I took something called “Business Math.” As I am hopeless at anything mathematically abstract (like algebra) I took it to satisfy a math requirement. LOL. It was sometimes called “Bonehead Math.” It covered the wonders of compound interest and the pitfalls of credit card interest. Cont.

  22. Cont. “Whose thoughts have worked there way in there.” There’s an old pop psychology phrase that I still hear from time to time. “Whose driving your bus?” Are you in the driver’s seat, up in your brain, or is it someone else? And, then there’s the old trope “I suddenly realized I sounded just like my mother (or, father.)

    Sometimes, questions are just curiosity or making small talk. Sometimes, it’s social sorting. I admit I’m probably over sensitive to that kind of thing. I imagine someone whispering to someone else, “Steer clear of that one. He’s just not OUR kind of people.” LOL. Have I mentioned I’m neurotic? :-).

    That’s quit a worrying article about the driest year on record. Especially, with no strong El Nino or IOD, which is what usually dries you out. There are far more articles about record temperatures. Not so many about the dry that goes along with it.

    Well, I’ve got to throw another rope around my corn. It’s making a break for the rather flimsy fence. We may get a bit of wind, this afternoon. At 12+ feet tall, it is the wonder of the neighborhood. Besides, I don’t want to be responsible for a headline something like, “Old Lady with Walker, Crushed to Death by Falling Corn.” :-). Lew

  23. @ DJSpo – All the hobby shows seem to be in decline. I stopped by a model train show, last year. Someone commented that it used to be three times as big. And, I saw very few young people or kids. Just about any kind of hobby or collectible I can think of is in decline. Dolls, military collectibles. It also impacts the auction and “antiques” markets. People who thought they could retire on disposing of their collections, late in life, are being sadly disappointed. All the old collectors are dying off, or, downsizing. There are few young collectors. Scholarship … knowledge is being lost.

    There’s a book I haven’t seen yet, called “No one wants your stuff.” I think it’s supposed to be humorous, but just the title makes me want to take a look. I’ve got it on order from our library. Probably more useful is an older book, “Bowling Alone.” About the general lack of public, civic engagement.

    Pyrography brought back memories. Back when I was a kid and roaring through hobbies, I had a wood burning kit. I think my temporary mania fell somewhere between rock tumbling and leather carving. :-). Just out of curiosity, I did an E-Bay search for “pyrography.” Oh, dear. Close to 5,000 hits. But then I looked at the categories, to the left, and it became a bit more manageable. I often see odd pieces of Victorian and Edwardian pyrography floating around the sales. Besides the usual glove boxes and wall plaques, there’s even some fairly large pieces of furniture.

    Years ago, I knew a fellow who did something similar. I think it was a fad for awhile. Taking a butane torch and a light touch to, mostly, oak furniture. The grain burns out at a faster rate than the wood. A little light stain, a good wax job, and Bob’s your uncle. Lew

  24. Hi Chris, frequent reader, love your blog. I was reading back a few posts and I saw read the one about your home insurance increasing. I am actually in the insurance business, sadly. Actually the cost increase is usually the cost of building materials has increased, the company was granted a rate increase by the powers that be, or there have been more than usual losses in your area, which affects your rates. At least that is how it works here in the states. Just thought I would throw that out there. Keep writing, I love reading about what goes on on the other side of the world.


  25. @ Chris – I ran across this interesting article about Australia, New Zealand and China. As these things can disappear very quickly, I thought I’d ought to post it now. Also, you may want to delete this post, due to some of the issues you’ve discussed before. Liability, and all that.

    Also, Michael Lewis (The Big Short, etc.) has a new book out. “The Fifth Risk.” Might have limited appeal as it has less to do with the global economy. Lew

  26. @ Pam,

    My limited knowledge of cougars says that they’re a bit strange. Sometimes they don’t care who’s wandering around, while at other times they seem to be in “attack whatever moves” mode. Certain critters and humans don’t mix at all well, with cougars and grizzly bears being at the top of my list.

    Cougars may have a large ranging area since it takes a lot of food to keep a large cat fed. I hope that cougar wasn’t watching you. That’s a bit too scary for me to think about.


  27. @ Lew, I’ve been watching the various crafts decline for awhile. My wife likes quilting shows, which are declining in size, too. Worse from her perspective is the Native American basketry group in the Pacific NW. She’s been part of this for decades and there are few younger people replacing those who “age out”. Some of the functions have moved from large and hosted at a place with food and lodging for a weekend to single day events at a hole in the wall and advertise “bring your own food”.

    The places that have hosted the carving functions keep raising the rent for the space. We have 2 more years on the agreement with the place that hosts our show, at which time the rent will be renegotiated, aka raised. We may have to merge our show with that of say Tri-Cities in order for both groups to contain the cost.

    I had a pyrography kit when I was a kid. Now they have fancier burners with rheostats on them to adjust the heat. That really makes it easier not to overheat and char the wood. That said, at one of our pyrography classes, a gent fell asleep with his burner on and the burning tip on his project. Yup, it burned a hole through to the table.


  28. @ Chris, Wabi-sabi? Had to look it up. I like this sentence from Wikipeida, “Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.” I think I’ve nearly achieved that with some of the spoons and faces I’ve tried to carve. At least I’ve “mastered” asymmetry, roughness and simplicity. Something tells me our master carvers would call it something short of mastering anything, however. But the faces are unique and we do use the coffee scoop.

    True, I shouldn’t have picked on chihuahuas! My neighbor has had several and they can be vicious when they want to be. Relentlessly so.

    I remember something you said several years ago about intoxicated koalas. If memory serves, you said they’re not nice fluffy little creatures at all, due to being either intoxicated, hungover, or hungry, or some combination thereof.

    About the last time the waxwings showed up here, they were a bit later than usual. They gorged themselves on my crabapples which had apparently fermented. A rather large flock of intoxicated birds made for an entertaining afternoon’s viewing. Not wanting to be part of a real life remake of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, I brought the dogs in and we stayed indoors until the intoxicants managed to fly away.

    I use raised beds for the potatoes, too. I read something about covering the potatoes with compost or even leaves when they first sprout, then continuing this process until several inches of material has repeatedly covered them. Supposedly, that is supposed to enhance the yield. I tried that for part of the potatoes 2 years in a row now, and have found that what mattered much more is the quality and depth of the soil they were planted in.

    Ah yes, Youngest Niece Who Knows No Manners. She is over 25 now, and has learned no lessons: what pops into her brain comes out her mouth, maybe actually bypassing the brain and going directly to speech! ‘Nuff said before I emulate her on the keyboard.


  29. Firewood! Just started splitting wood for next winter. How do you measure the moisture content? I’m wondering if I should do the same. With time, my tarps and shelters seem adequate for wood to get “dry”, but I really don’t know how dry it is. Some sort of device would also be helpful when getting wood from elsewhere, when I don’t know its provenance.

    Box elder is quite common here, and considered rather weedy. They put out loads of seeds each year. The wood is, as you say, usually all twisted, and the wood is weak, making for lots of storm damage and ill shaped trees. It has low BTU content as well. I agree that the flowers in the spring are a pleasant surprise, but the ones here are not quite as showy as the specimen in your photo.

    Just finished bottling our last batch of cider this week, and got our first light frost of the season. Garden harvest is almost done, and planting for next year’s garlic ( we plant hard neck garlic here, which overwinters under mulch) will begin soon.

  30. Hi Pam,

    Hehe! Yeah. Cool! It would be really funny if it wasn’t true. The external body of the car is filthy so the windshield test is probably a thumbs up here too. They reckon a big storm will drop some decent rain over the drought affected areas of the country mid next week (with a little bit down this way too).

    Don’t you ever wonder just how the heck did all those little creatures make their way into the basement in the first place and what are they eating? Hopefully not the house? I get tree frogs under the house. One would think that it is too dry for frogs under the house, but apparently not.

    Too clean is probably really bad for a persons health and I reckon it is at the core of many problems surrounding allergies etc.

    I am exhausted today…



  31. Hi Inge,

    It is a good word isn’t it? Plus it has the advantage that few if any people know what we’re actually talking about. There was a book written a few years back titled: What scat is that? But I can’t seem to find it now, and maybe I confused another book with some other title… Thanks for the explanation and that makes sense.

    Oooo. I see what you mean. How unfortunate for Orion, but I suspect that he’ll be OK, because I read that he will be one of the longer lasting constellations in the night sky. He’ll be wielding that sword long after all other constellations have scattered. Did you see: Dwarf planet ‘the Goblin’ discovered on outskirts of solar system as hunt for Planet X continues?

    I have had good, bad, and indifferent managers over the years and I’d have to suggest that it is a role that can be abused – which ain’t good.

    Plastic curtain rails? Never heard of such a thing. I only have a few curtains in the house and those are the old brass (I’ve also seen timber) rails and the curtains have large steel lined holes in them. What is a plastic curtain rail? Is it the same arrangement as a brass one?



  32. Hi Lewis,

    Oh yeah, the big shed is awesome and a very interesting creation. I cannot believe how the plants physically grow inside that space. It is not problem free, because with benefits also come costs, but far out it is productive.

    The Boston accent is quite pronounced. I was wondering whether you thought that newcomers to that area eventually pick up the local accents? Dunno. Or do you reckon the accent gets diluted?

    Thought I was going to die today. I had to venture into a really run down industrial estate to pick up some steel for the shed. The steel is of course cheap and one must overlook pleasantries in such circumstances. The bloke I made the arrangement with was a man of few words. Very few words in fact. And then he tells me to meet him on the corner of a particularly run down part of the estate. I thought I was going to get mugged or robbed or just generally beaten around. Before I left home, I thought to myself, do I take Ollie with me because a big dog can sometimes sway the balance in your favour – and because he’s big, he has some authority. But no, I decided you have to keep a cool tool, so I just headed on down to meet my fate.

    Anyway, the bloke had the steel and he was just one of those blokes who doesn’t talk much on the phone. And he had his big dog with him, so clearly he was just as worried about me… Far out, the place was crusty as, but after the steel and money changed hands we had a good old chat about the general decline of the world and dogs we’ve known.

    I felt relieved that the whole thing was legit, and actually haven’t been up for much for the rest of the day. My sleep was rather disturbed last night too as I felt a little bit anxious about the situation. I’m usually very relaxed about things. The editor said an amusing comment to me this morning: I don’t want to be one of those people on a true crime podcast talking about events twenty years in the past. A lot of people enjoy true crime podcasts as a form of entertainment. Not me. Instead I go seeking out trouble in particularly run down industrial estates…

    Talk about a small world. That is an amazing coincidence at the retreat and also one of life’ little really nice occurrences.

    Hehe! Yeah, that would be funny about opening the estate to the public. And typical too. I remember going to one of the open gardens that was owned by an ex-Prime Minister (although we seem to have plenty of those nowadays) and there he was just sitting around the garden enjoying himself – nary a security detail in sight! Our most recent ex-PM has been in the papers describing the other ones that haven’t departed as something like ghosts hanging around making a nuisance of themselves. Most people I’ve spoken to when they open their gardens are highly knowledgeable and are always very keen to chat about their gardens. You know history isn’t taught as a compulsory subject down here (although things may have changed) and people have a very poor grasp of the subject.

    Life skills is a great idea for a subject. When I left school and commenced in the workforce full time, I had no idea that tax returns were required to be lodged after a certain date. To be honest I do wonder how a lot of people keep on top of the administrative processes involved with being part of society. For some reason things seem to be getting more complicated, rather than less.

    Nothing wrong with bonehead maths, and someone said the same thing to me about statistics one and two, which I did really well at. The abstract stuff was just lost on me, but other people ran with it and had no troubles at all.

    Well, we all have our neuroses. When I was a kid I used to be a bit shy, but then as an adult it dawned on me one day, that so are most people – and then I just got on with the act of communicating. Mind you, if a social clique has formed and you’re excluded – well that’s that. I’ve been to a few parties in my time like that, but I put that down to people not having the skills to know how to host a party properly.

    It is a real worry. Interestingly, they now reckon a storm may dump some rain over the drought affected area mid next week. Fingers crossed. I sometimes wonder whether the wet / dry seasonal weather has shifted further south than the tropics and the drought is an expression of that wet / dry seasonal change. Dunno.

    Good luck with the corn. You’d never hear the end of that story if it happened… It has grown rather fast. Do you have many cobs on the stalks? I have to get my lot planted over the next few days in preparation for any rain next week.



  33. Hi Chris,

    In my younger days I would have been truly impressed with your mighty 486DX computer! I must have been a generation or so behind as my first computer purchase (at 17, and in cash no less) was a Pentium200MMX! It was truly fantastic, although I was “forced” to obtain a 3D card the following year. The late 90’s was a hard time to keep up with Intel and computer game requirements, thats for sure! Do you remember what games impressed your friends the most? There must have being some Doom deathmatch surely?

    Mind you, I simply replicated your credit mistake by getting a hardwood timber bed on 18 month interest free terms. It was lovely, but an older and wiser Damo would have said to pay a quarter of the price for a used bed just as good!


  34. @ Inge:

    Almost all of the curtain rails/rods in our log house are wood with wooden fittings except for the screws that hold them to the window frames.


  35. Chris:

    Thanks for recounting your most recent harrowing adventure; glad it turned out ok. I’ve suffered quite a bit from anxiety lately and it helps to know that our Fearless Leader has his moments, too.


  36. Hi Cassie, DJ, Steve, and Damo,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but tonight I’m completely done in due to too much excitement and am off to sleepy land. Promise to respond tomorrow. But until then…

    Damo – Funny stuff and yes Doom really tested the boundaries of the unreliability of home computer networks. I was quite the fan of Warcraft 2 and Dune over a network. I reckon half the gaming time was spent trying to get the computers to all see each other on the network. If there wasn’t some sort of inexplicable hardware incompatibility which was a complete show stopper. Such simple times! 🙂



  37. Hello again
    I can’t even begin to describe plastic curtain rails, can already feel my teeth gritting. Don’t know how to compare them to brass ones other than to say:- a thin rail with tiny things that slide across into which the curtain hooks go. These plastic things change continuously so nothing from the past ever fits the next lot.
    I wonder why we get so excited about a tiny discovered planet when it isn’t even as much as a microbe in the scheme of the universe.

    By wooden do you mean a pole on which wooden circles are hung? We do have those, brass poles as well. None of which would fit in my place.


  38. @ Pam – In the 1950s, there was all this anxiety about radiation, and such. Giant mutations. I remember a whole slew of movies. The grasshoppers (who ate Chicago, I think), giant ants in the Los Angeles storm drains, giant tarantula spiders, giant bunnies, and, of course, the classic “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.” I’ve probably missed some.

    When I lived for 5 years out in the boonies, I never saw a cougar. But, other people did. In fact, once years before I lived there, there was a cougar nursing her kits on my front lawn. My landlord often said when I’d bring it up, that “you don’t see them, but they see you.” I never did a lot of wandering around, after dark. Occasionally, my cat would stick her nose out the door, and not want to go out. The dog would bark at things like deer, but every once in awhile he’s make a blood curdling loud growl when something more serious was about. At least, cougars move through rather quickly. Their range is over 600 square miles.

    Then there were those pesky Big Foot. Never saw one of those, either. Think I heard them a time or two, usually in the spring. I think they migrated through. Purely speculative. Lew

  39. @ Inge – I’m glad your son enjoys my sense of humor. I’ve still got some of the Ladies going, a bit, over my witness protection sketch. They’re just not quit sure …

    We can still get the brass rods and fittings, but I’ve noticed the metal is getting thinner and thinner. More flimsy. And, when I moved in here, I bought a shower curtain with metal spring hooks. A dozen. The first one I tried to install snapped right in half. As Chris often says, the crapification of everything. Too true. Lew

  40. @ DJSpo – I don’t know about shows, but on this side of the mountains, quilting seems to be banging along. Seems to mostly revolve around quilting stores. And, there are more men involved. Here at The Home, there’s a quilting group. They mostly make quilts to raffle for fund raising things, but also make a lot of quilts to donate to disabled vets. My last landlords wife was REALLY into quilting. Belonged to a couple of groups (a store group and a church group, I think) and even went on weekend quilting retreats.

    I really like Native American baskets (heck, I like Native American anything) and see stuff at auction, from time to time. But since I don’t know what I’m doing, I steer clear. Quit a few years ago, there was a family in the area, buying modern African baskets and passing them off as Native. Also some half cocked story about “Souix (sp?) Wedding Veils.

    Which reminds me. I do have a couple of things I’m “sure” of. And one you may find interesting. Years ago, I was up on the Peninsula, in a junk store, crawling around under the tables and I came up with a cedar carving of raven. He’s about a foot and a half tall. Has some age on him. I showed it once to an “expert” who says it wasn’t Native made. But, his specialty was Plains items. Recently, I discovered that one of the Ladies here, is Native American. I showed it to her, and she thought it was, definitely, Native made. I’ll go with her take on it. :-). I particularly like my raven as my favorite tale is “Raven Steals the Sun.”

    I hadn’t even thought about rising rents impacting the different craft and collectibles shows. When I took a quick look at EBay, I saw some of those high tech burners. A far cry from the old stylus with a cord attached. Lew

  41. Yo, Chris – I suppose a lot of things play into whether you pick up and accent or have your accent diluted if you move. Age. “Ear.” One fellow I kind of “clicked with” (I did find out what he did. Power plant engineer.) had a funny, slight difference of speech on just a word or two. Very subtle, but my ear caught it and it just kind of whips my head, around. I finally asked him where he hailed from. Maine. :-). I think if I ever moved anywhere with a distinct accent, I’d be “talking like a native” in no time.

    Good grief, your foray into scrap metal sounds like a dope deal going down. And, given that a lot of scrappers are in that profession to get the money to fuel their addictions, your fellow was probably as leery as you were, due to previous bad experiences. When the scrap prices were really high, nothing metal that wasn’t nailed down (and even then….) was in danger. Man hole covers. Even the brass letters on our local library were sawn off. When people exchange stuff, in person, through EBay or Craigslist, it highly advised that any exchanges take place during daylight, in public and well peopled places. And you still hear tales of things going wrong.

    Life’s administrative processes. Nice turn of phrase. Landslides of paper through the mail box. Given our Byzantine medical system, that generates a lot of paper. The bills, the insurance notices, more insurance notices if you have supplemental insurance. It’s really hard on the Ladies, here. I often see them sitting around the lobby, after the mail boat has arrived, puzzling over some bit of paper work. I haven’t seen anything from my back business, yet. I’m mostly covered, I think, but there will still be some payment. I shudder every time I open my mail box.

    Social cliques. The Retreat had this, for the first time, Thursday night kick off. Dinner would be pizza, and we were warned that breakfast and lunch, the next day, would be on us. So I stocked some bananas and granola bars. I needn’t have worried. The snack table was groaning. Several people took off for breakfast or lunch in the surrounding towns. And there was plenty of cold pizza for breakfast! Yummers! 🙂

    It was an extra $45 to show up a day early. But, I went for it, as I wanted the “full experience” and, I thought there would be a certain amount of bonding, going on. I’d say maybe 40 or 50 showed up. And, what I hadn’t realized, that it was really good for me, with all my quirks and neurosis, to kind of ease into the whole thing with a smaller group of people. Find my way around, etc.. Dealing with two fellows in my cabin the first night was easier then if it had maxed out at 8. Strangely enough. Our cabin population stayed the same.

    I’m getting a lot of cobs, but don’t expect them all to make it, after the first frost. I’m keeping a sharp eye on the weather. I did pick a well matured cob, yesterday, when I did the corn rope rangling. It was so big and heavy it was pulling the stock into the fence. I haven’t taken a peak inside, yet. Looks healthy. There was quit a nip in the air, last night. I see it got down to 39F (3.88C)/ Supposed to do the same, tonight, but then bounce back up to the mid 40sF for as far out as the forecast goes. We’re getting back to our winter “if it’s clear, it’s cold” routine. It was clear last night, and will be, tonight. Then the showers are coming back, and with them, warmer overnight temps. Lew

  42. Hi Chris,
    Wow – so many comments. Hard to keep up :).
    Like Lew I had to look up the meaning of AF so now I’m “in the know”.
    Great story and good to hear that the editor is helping you stay on the straight and narrow. When I was in college back in the early ’70s I got my first credit card from a large department store, Carson, Pirie Scott, which I believe recently went bankrupt. Fortunately it had a limit of $300 though at the time one could
    buy a lot of clothes with that which is exactly what I did, along with most of my friends who also got the same card. On a positive note I did keep up with at least the minimum payment and began to build a credit rating of my own.

    I don’t see people in general learning from their mistakes like you and continue to just pile up credit. I think my sister-in-law had a job awhile ago signing up college students for credit cards which a pretty significant balance. Back in the day a person just couldn’t get so much credit that they got themselves into very serious trouble. Lest you think I didn’t do any stupid things in that vein I’ll share that while in my early 20’s my sister and I had a charge-a-thon contest to see who could charge the most in a specified amount of time (it wasn’t too long). Well I won because I bought a boat. It was just a small inexpensive boat and we did have lake rights where we lived then and we liked to fish. At any rate I don’t remember any serious ramifications but looking back I can’t believe I did something like that.

    The box elders here aren’t nearly as pretty. As Steve said they are considered kind of weedy and they are home for large numbers of box elder bugs, harmless but very annoying. They get under siding and take up residence in the house during the winter and also leave red spots all over the outside of the house where they congregate in large numbers in the fall.

    Had another fast 3 inches of rain the other night with chances of rain for the next week – been a pretty wet fall.

    The wallabies pruning is probably more helpful to the forest than not I would think as they’re native unlike the cows.

    I think it’s interesting to read about different gardening/livestock raising methods and picking what works best in your own situation.

    Our neighbors brought pears from their tree today. So far it seems we have good neighbors.

    Last night around 1:30 AM one of our smoke alarms went off but only about 10 seconds. Scared the s**t out of us but we found nothing amiss. Have no idea why that happened. However, neither of us got back to sleep which is why I think a nap is in order.


  43. @Lew
    The retreat sounds great!! I would have preferred the far out cabin. Glad to hear the back is almost healed too. You mentioned Downton Abbey. I remember that episode. I enjoyed the entire series but I compared it to “Upstairs, Downstairs” which I liked even more.


    We are waiting to see how many box elders and asian beetles we get this year. We get some stink bugs but not like those other pests. I swear the asian beetles (or ladybug imposter as they’re also known) can go through glass.


  44. @ Lew,

    The raven sounds interesting. As you hinted at, different regions have different art work. There’s a difference between how the coastal Salish and the interior Salish peoples do their basketry. Whenever we’ve been out of the area, we’ve made it a point to visit local tribes and look at their basketry. The regional differences in basketry differences are more different than those between coastal and interior Salish. Different materials, designs and techniques top the list.

    Your take on quilting confirms my suspicions. Over here, at least, there are even some younger people involved with quilting.


  45. Hi everyone!

    Thanks for all of the lovely comments. I intended to reply today, but worked on the shed all day long and have now run out of time to reply. Everything always takes longer than anyone would ever expect. Fortunately, although I intend to continue cladding the new shed tomorrow I will have plenty of time to reply to tomorrow night.

    Lewis – I’m sitting out in the orchard on the laptop – although it is far from warm this evening 45’F. Brrr. Strangely enough it rained over night and the forecast is that an epic dump of rain will fall next week. I’m trying to work out whether I put the steel roof sheets onto the shed over the next few days or whether that will cause serious flooding if I don’t get the drains sorted out in time. I’m leaning towards not putting the roof up because that tends to concentrate any rain that does fall which is not good. The forecast – although it is still early days – reckons a couple of inches will fall. How is that, not much rain during September and then a whole lot in a short period of time – and then probably not much for a while…

    Weather, can’t live with it – pass me the beer nuts. (A modified joke from the Cheers show).

    Yeah, I reckon I’d also pick up the local accents. It’s what happens given enough time and exposure, but no doubts the locals would still hear the difference – or reckon they could hear the difference. Sometimes I reckon you’re not considered a true local until you’ve been in a place for three generations or more. An old timer once told me that if people made it through the first two winters, they’d probably be around for a while. I know of a few people that that has played out for and it’s the winters that always get them.

    Haha! Yeah, I was a bit worried about that steel deal. It just didn’t smell right to me and internal alarm bells were going off. Exactly, the people in the scrap metal trade have to deal with all sorts of interesting folks. This steel was new, I was just a bit dubious as to it’s origins. But no at the end of the day it all appeared legit, but done on the smell of an oily rag. Anyway, your description was my thinking on the matter and if it doesn’t appear within the goalposts of normality, it probably isn’t.

    Paperwork is used to club people over the head so I take administrative matters very seriously, but sometimes even I find that the requirements have become seriously onerous. And expectations can be such that you have requirements to log into ‘their’ systems and undertake an administrative process – and you have to remember to do it too. There was a time in the past when people or businesses that expected to get paid, well they sent an invoice. It is getting a little hazy these days on that front. And if you don’t follow their procedure, there are penalties.

    Be afraid of the mailbox, be very afraid. But also don’t shy away from the process… 🙂

    Good for you turning up early. I’d probably do that too. I like your style! The cabin thing does sound like it turned out really well for you. Mind you, I remain unconvinced by this talk of cold breakfast pizza’s. The editor is a fan of that food, but I’ll pass on that breakfast option in favour of muesli, fruit and yoghurt. Yeah, yeah, it’s probably the boring option.

    Nice to hear that about the corn cobs. I’m having an internal debate with myself about when to plant the corn seeds. I was thinking about getting them in the ground before the big rain next week. What do you reckon?

    Anyway, I’m going to bounce. Speak more tomorrow.



  46. @Margaret – You may (or may not) have heard that a Downton Abbey movie, is in the works. Most of the characters are returning. Lew

  47. @ DJSpo – I especially like the Native American coastal art. When I was a kid, I hung out at the Portland Art Museum where they have a fine collection.

    The coastal and plains peoples were so different. It really shows in the artwork. Hmmmm? Artwork. Decoration on a lot of things that were used everyday. “Artwork” doesn’t seem quit right. Handicraft?

    I read somewhere where the Costal people had a bit “richer” art tradition as they had more variety and greater abundance of material. Plus the fact that the weather is so bad in winter, that they were forced to spend more time indoors. Lew

  48. Yo, Chris – I think I’d get the drains in place, before the roof if rain is coming. Never know how much there’s going to be. There are a lot of places where I’ve heard the locals say if newcomers make it through two or three winters, they’ll probably stick. I can kind of understand a certain stand-offishness from the locals. Why emotionally invest in people that will be there, and then gone?

    Might want to hold off on the corn until after the next round of rain. Corn will rot in the ground, pretty easy. Ditto, peas. Then you have to replant.

    Continuing the Chehalis International Australian Film Festival, I watched a movie last night called “Occupation.” The alien invasion of Australia. From outer space, just to be clear :-). Not bad, in a mindless entertainment kind of a way. It had a kind of “made for tv” feel to it. I saw a review that reflected a thought I had while watching it. “A very bad “Red Dawn” remake.” Always nice to have one’s opinion validated. I was interested in where it was filmed, as it looked a lot like your patch. Lots of hills and forests with some flat land farming. But, it was mostly filmed in Murwillumbah, New South Wales and along the Gold Coast.

    Did I mention I watched and English film, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties?” Another invasion film, but set in England. A lot more fun, too.

    I finished “The Debatable Land.” There were two chapters relating to “Arthur.” Leaving aside the whole question of who Arthur really was, the author thinks he’s worked out where the 12 Battles, were. And, makes a pretty good case. In the battles list, three of the battles happen in the same place. That makes life simpler :-).

    His theory is that the battles were actually fought during the Great Barbarian Invasion of 183 CE. And grafted on to later tales. Depending on your point of view, the 183 adventure was about native Britains trying to push out the Romans. The later stories were about Britains going up against the Saxons.

    He also thinks that most of the battles took place up in Scotland. The initial landing was from Ireland, between the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall. Then south, breaking through Hadrian’s Wall, a loop through northern England, back across the Wall, further east and a move to the west, again. The author has discovered old place names that match the battles. Using the Ptolemy maps and later maps. And, there’s not as many places in Scotland that have Arthur place names, but they tend to cluster around his speculated battle sites. Arthur’s Seat, Arthur’s Well, Arthur’s Bog (take that as you will :-). So, leaving aside the whole Arthur as a person, question, I think he’s worked out another piece of the puzzle.

    Hit the Safeway, last night, for my weekly shop. Tons of Halloween candy, but nothing of a pumpkin flavor, yet. Tis the season. Lew

  49. Hi Chris,

    I don’t know about your local variety of corn, but most of the corn seeds sold in the US are intended to be planted in warm soil after the last frost has occurred. A few varieties are sold that are known to germinate reasonably well in cool soils and whose seedlings can stand a bit of frost, for people who live in places where summer stays cool, but they are the exceptions. Your best option, IMHO, is to find out from your supplier what soil temperature range suits your corn seeds, then to wait to plant them till your soil reaches that temperature. Soil thermometers are inexpensive and could save you the cost of replacing seeds. Also, you should find out if the seedlings can stand any frost before you decide when to plant them. Remember your tomato plants of a couple of years ago …

    Enjoyed your post as always, but I decided I didn’t really need to know what AF means so I read it without that knowledge. It still works as a good story.

    I was fortunate to have parents who taught me, by their own example, to always repay credit card bills in full upon receipt and who avoided any other consumer debt (I suspect because my father lived through the Depression and learned from his parents how to be tight with money). The only other consumer debt I have ever had was when I was straight out of grad school and owned as close to nothing as I have so far as an adult. Some of that was a loan from the company I worked for, for which they repaid themselves straight out of my paycheck for the next five months. The others were for a car and for some furniture, both of which I paid back according to schedule. I also borrowed some money from my parents, which I paid back to them over the same two to three year period it took to pay off the other loans. The only other loan I ever had was a mortgage, paid off when I sold the condo thirty years ago after I moved in with Mike, and he paid off the mortgage on the house we lived in then 8 years later, buying this house with cash 16 years ago. I’m pretty boring when it comes to money; in fact, I’m generally not much on drama of any sort.

    I play mountain dulcimer and have noticed few young folks taking up the instrument, although there are a number of excellent younger players on the festival circuit. Maybe that’s because folk music seems to be of little interest to younger people, in favor of other genres. Dulcimers aren’t limited to folk music but it seems to be the most popular genre for most amateur and professional players.


  50. Hi Cassie,

    Welcome to the discussion!

    Thanks for the lovely words. Did you just pen a reply which may be entitled: Sympathy for the Devil? It was well spoken, and I largely agree with your points and you’ll find no argument from me on that score. The thing is, insurance has been around for a long time (shipping comes to mind) but you know my point was that if my premiums continue to keep rising at the rate that they’re currently increasing at, well at a guess, I reckon large chunks of your industry may be out of work within a few years. I’d like to be proven wrong as I appreciate the service that insurance provides.



  51. Hi DJ,

    It is such a lovely concept isn’t it – and we have no such aesthetic guiding principles in Western culture.

    Yeah, totally busted, Chihuahuas pack a punch, and I’ve read somewhere that small yappy dogs often make the best watch dogs – if only because they are easily alarmed. Ollie doesn’t bark much at all, but when he does I take notice.

    Koala’s can survive on a diet of toxic Eucalyptus leaves. The word itself for their name derives from an Aboriginal people’s dialect, and I believe it means something like: “Old man, no drink (or no water)”. They can survive with no additional water although they do prefer some species of eucalyptus trees over others and those are known as a manna gum. Apparently the sugars those trees drop are edible and used to be highly sought after by bush kids. If I had half a brain, I’d probably try and tap some of those trees for their sugar syrup. There is always so much to do and so many things to learn.

    Haha! That can happen and mate, the birds and animals are not shy about consuming fermented fruits. I reckon that particular fruit bonus may help spread the seed of the tree. What do you reckon?

    Thanks for the tip about potatoes. I tend to backfill the raised beds with compost too and haven’t tried a control test to see how much of a difference it makes. This part of the mountain range once used to be a big berry and potato growing area. Now, I know of only a single large blueberry farm which is quite close.

    Yah, very wise not to tempt the powers that be and end up with the classic foot in mouth disease! 🙂 We were all young and dumb once. 🙂



  52. Hi Steve,

    I like using firewood and don’t you reckon it pushes you into an annual cycle of tasks? It is quite pleasant really, although at times it can be very hard work. The old timers used to say that firewood keeps you warm on many occasions – and I reckon they’re right about that. 🙂

    To measure the moisture content I have a digital Stihl moisture meter. The meter has a couple of very sharp probes which you stick into timber and the digital display gives you a moisture percentage reading. It is an awesome device, but now that I’ve used it enough to test all manner of timbers I can safely guess what the moisture content will be. Just for your interest, the dining table was the driest chunk of timber I tested and that came in at about 12%. The firewood is about 14% and that is about as good as I reckon it will ever get.

    Thanks for telling me about the box elder in your part of the world as you don’t see those trees much around these parts. Interestingly, I was in a very old public garden last week (Exhibition Gardens) and I noted that the very large and very old English oak trees had tiny flowers hanging off them which look similar but less showy to the box elder. I have never previously noticed that before.

    I’m very impressed with your cider set up. It’s good! Garlic is an interesting plant isn’t it? Even here where it is warmer, the plant still disappears below the ground over the winter. I’m getting solid clumps of that plant, but I just don’t eat it. We’re harvesting leeks right now and they have mild garlic overtones and they’ve been developing that flavour over the years.



  53. Hi Inge,

    Oooo! I have no firsthand experience with plastic curtain rails and so I went on an internet adventure to see what they were all about. I can’t say that I’m a fan of that particular technology. There are some things that are in for a long time, and others are in for a good time, and I’ll be interested to read how your plastic curtain rails ‘progress’ over the years. 😉

    Yeah, I get that about the ‘Goblin’. There are some folks that would like to head off to Mars. I feel that they may not enjoy the scenery there for very long. For some strange reason I was wondering this morning after reading your comment whether even if all of the technical considerations could be overcome, would there even be enough sunlight reaching the surface of that planet for plants to grow? Probably not I reckon. It would be like the ultimate losing game in that everything you do costs energy and nowhere is there enough additional energy turning up anytime soon. My gut feeling is that there is no surplus there, which is possibly why there is no life on that planet? Dunno. I agree with your point too, people worry about other rocks in the solar system when we have one amazingly good one here.



  54. Hello again
    I can tell you now. My previous plastic rails started to break after 12 years.
    I kept writing ‘Rural England’ but it is actually ‘Natural England’. I have just had their latest billet doux. Shall receive a phone call before 5 of them arrive to inspect. A map was enclosed showing their 3 alternative potential routes. It does feel like a punch in the solar plexus. Barely slept last night but Son defused everything this morning and managed to be highly entertaining about the whole business.


  55. Hi Margaret,

    There are a lot of comments aren’t there? I might have to implement plan C next week, which involves writing a truly controversial story, and then we can all go back to the cosy little blog that it always desires to be! 🙂

    Yes, well, it’s a bit naughty that acronym isn’t it? But now we know what the kids are all talking about. Hey, as a laugh I believe that advertisement ruffled more than a few feathers and was pulled from the airwaves.

    It is interesting that you mention being offered a credit card as a College student, if only because I read recently that such things are happening down here too. Unfortunately I have heard accounts that people use such things on a ‘gap year’, whatever that is (I never had such a thing even in my fondest daydreams). There was an interesting article written the other day about banks and kids: Time to get Dollarmites out of schools. I’ve heard the Jesuits have historically made more or less similar claims about kids.

    Oops! Oh well, I did about four years of debt collection way back in the recession of the early 90’s so, you know, your sister in law does what she’s gotta do to survive. I get that. Not getting access to credit back in the day was a way of life, and your experience matches how I recall the times. I sort of feel that the easy credit nowadays has come about because of the prolonged expansionary money supply policies and I guess people have great whopping chunks of the stuff and they really don’t know what to do with it. I’ve actually had people use those exact words with me to describe the situation.

    It is of course pleasing to read that you too got into trouble with credit when young and then learned from the experience! It would be a rather dull world if we hadn’t gotten into some sort of trouble way back in the dark past! Anyway, a boat sounds like much more of a fun purchase than an over specified computer which was soon superseded. Whatever became of the boat?

    We probably don’t get the box elder bugs given that there are no large stands of the trees about. Mind you, there are a lot of other bugs around – and the other day I noticed that one of the garden beds had a lot of wood lice (slaters) in it and they didn’t seem to be eating the plants and I was wondering what was going on with that. Dunno. Red spots would be hard to explain on the siding. I can imagine the new neighbours proclaiming: “The house has got the pox!” – not the inhabitants of course. Hey, we’ve got giant Ollie muddy hoof prints on the sidings. Every summer I get a high pressure washer to clean off the gunk on the side of the house. It works quite well and it is a fun job to do on a hot day.

    Fast 3 inches of rain is like a nightmare. Hopefully everything is working well and the basement remained dry? The storm next week has been downgraded and it looks as though we’ll get somewhere between half an inch and inch. Nice for the orchard and garden. I’m tempted to plant the corn cobs over the next day or so. The soil feels warm and dry to my fingers.

    Probably about the wallabies. I just haven’t had enough years watching what limbs they destroy, although a pattern is emerging. They really rip the branches off the fruit trees. It can be quite heartbreaking when they take the leading trunk of the tree.

    Total score! Hmm, lots of pears. So many things to do with them. There’s of course Perry (yummo!), stewed pears, and of course preserved pears. I’d take that as a good sign.

    Enjoy your nap. Sometimes here little tiny bugs can be attracted to the smoke alarms, which can set them off. To stop this from happening, I painted over the bright green LED with black paint and the whole problem has now gone elsewhere. You may be interested to know that a few years back I stumbled across rechargeable True 9.6V batteries and have used them ever since. Normal rechargeable 9V batteries are a bit stupid because they have 6 cells of 1.2V which equals 7.2V and so the stupid smoke alarm device thinks that the battery is flat and starts beeping. The true 9.6V batteries have 8 cells of 1.2V each which gives 9.6V, but you also need a matching charger… I’d start with the black paint over the LED first. I was amazed how many insects had worked their way into the device before I made that change.



  56. Hi Damo,

    🙂 Back in the day that 486DX was an impressive beast of a machine and it used a Vesa local bus for the graphics (back in the days before PCI-E) and games rocked on that machine. At one stage I recall having a Voodoo 2 graphics card but with two of the cards which were interlinked. But then you upstarts with your Pentium 200 MMX machines came along and wiped the floor. How else to compete on those Doom death matches other than to upgrade the hardware… Warcraft 2 and Dune 2000 were pretty fun over a network. One of my mates had this strategy where he just sent lowly plebs to attack my defences from the very first moment and it just wore your defences out and then he’d use your resources to attack the other players. Good fun. I used to like space sims such as Freelancer too.

    I got sort of put off playing games after I watched my mates appear to get addicted to World of Warcraft. I just didn’t have the desire to commit the time to playing the game, and they sort of did.

    It is nice to be an older and wiser Damo! I’m an older and wiser Chris, and going through these experiences and coming out the other side largely unscathed is a good thing. 🙂



  57. @ Inge:

    Yes, I do mean wooden poles, and wooden brackets, but I should have made it clear that the circles/rings that my curtains are attached to are brass – or imitation brass . . . I have seen wooden rings, though.


  58. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for the explanation about the corn seeds. I’ve been reading (and re-reading) Gene Logsdon’s excellent book on raising grain as he extensively covered the topic of corn. I poked my finger deep into the soil today and it didn’t feel cold or damp, but that is hardly a good test. I might chuck a thermometer into the soil tomorrow to read the actual temperature. You’ve left me feeling mildly guilty at the mention of last seasons tomatoes – although that was transplanting and not seed raising. I went into the tomato enclosure today to see whether any tomatoes had popped out of the ground and there are none there yet. The old timers tell me that they should be growing by the first week of November. And your advice matches Mr Logsdon’s who suggests that early spring is probably better spent picking wildflowers and mushrooms… 🙂

    The varieties I’m planting are open pollinated heritage varieties of corn from a couple of different sources (some saved from last year) and I’m hoping to grow at least 100 plants this season. I have a lot of seed and space and can afford to experiment. Sometimes I like to completely stuff things up just to watch and see what happens. It is nice to have the backup resources with which to do that and it makes me less inclined to experiment in the future. You might be interested to know that I’m giving serious thought to crop rotation for future years which is something I can largely dismiss at the moment merely because I have access to so much manures and mulches. That story should not be, but it is…

    I suspect that you know enough about the title of the blog to avoid becoming interested! Sometimes I’m guilty of a little bit of silliness.

    I’m really genuinely impressed at your experiences with debt. It is interesting, but when I was a kid I distinctly recall adults being profoundly uncomfortable that the nice banks had sent unsolicited credit cards with pre-approved limits to peoples mailboxes. It was as if demons had knocked on the front door asking for a nice cup of tea. My recollection was that people became worn down by the ease and of course there was always the emergency which pre-empted the usage. It was interesting to observe, but other than the editor no adults ever spent the time or effort discussing the matter with me and I just had to learn by trial and error.

    What a lovely instrument. I have read Mr Greer write about the mountain dulcimer and it sounds beautiful. I just listened to a YouTube clip of someone playing whiskey before breakfast on a mountain dulcimer and I liked the sound. Have you been playing for many years?



  59. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks and I absolutely agree with you about getting the drains in place before putting the roof on lest that storm, or any storm for that matter arrives and washes away a goodly chunk of the side of the mountain. In a stroke of good luck, putting up the cladding on the walls has taken twice as long as we planned and there is no way we can even put the roof sheeting on this week. I doubt that we’ll finish the wall cladding anyway, but you know as far as I’m aware there are no deadlines for that project.

    On the other hand, I probably need to get the water pump for that area up and running. What a fine joke it would be to have water on those terraces, plants growing and not be able to access the water easily. Water, water everywhere but not a drop for the plants to drink! There are a huge number of strawberries growing in the enclosure too now (although they’re mostly small and green), so we’ve been discussing pulling a third of those plants out at the end of the growing season and starting with new runners (which we have in abundance). Sometimes with gardening edibles, you have to be completely ruthless! Over the past few weeks I’ve been considering options for crop rotation in future years. I can get away with not doing that nowadays, but in the future – dunno. Possibly not.

    I’ve heard the old timers say that about newcomers and two years. Some have used the words: “blow ins” to describe such people, but it really is the winters here that knock people around. That must sound rather strange from your point of view given that your winters are far harsher, but it really is a thing. I have sat across at the table from bickering spouses who were using me as a safe space whilst they verbally got stuck into each other about how cold their house was during the winter. I’d have to suggest that historically their houses were probably exceptionally warm, but do they want to hear such useful and correctional factoids? Not really. And anyway, I don’t believe that I’ve ever been at a dinner or lunch and just casually started up an argument with the editor. Have you ever encountered such behaviour? Manners can be elsewhere in these enlightened times.

    I’m just soooo tempted to get the corn seed into the ground over the next few days and just see what happens. The soil in the corn enclosure was quite dry and warm today. Anyway, I have a lot of open pollinated seed so can afford to experiment, and of course I will be completely gracious with honesty if proven wrong. 🙂 I was intending to wait for a while before planting out the beans.

    A very bad Red Dawn remake sounds pretty funny. I’d never head of the film Red Dawn before and for some strange reason thought after reading your comment that you were describing the 1990 film Total Recall. Which was actually quite good. Anyway, I had no idea about Red Dawn, so I watched the trailer. Fun stuff. And now thanks to you I have the great one liner (or maybe it should be two liners): “Not bad for a bunch of kids. And mom would be proud”. Although, I’m still giggling to myself about that one. Didn’t some Japanese general once suggest that invading America would be a really bad idea because there would be guns behind every blade of grass? Or did I just make that up? Dunno. Anyway, it seems like a really bad idea and if the English couldn’t pull that trick off and lost on your turf, well, they did have a lot of firepower.

    Murwillumbah is a beautiful part of the country, although I’ve only been there briefly once. I believe Damo hails from that part of the country (or near-ish too). That part of the country is the sweet spot on the continent and they enjoy a very sub tropical environment. It is pretty nice.

    The English film does sound like a lot more fun.

    You are forever sending me on interweb rabbit holes – and thus my education is becoming more rounded! 😉 Thanks! “about native Britains trying to push out the Romans”. It sure does sound like that was what was going on. The more history I read about that era, the more that words like subdued, occupied, mutiny seemed to reoccur with surprising regularity. The history sounded absolutely bloodthirsty to my ears. The Picts seemed to have been quite the fearsome foes too – and they stormed the wall during those years and killed the Commander – as you do. And where the heck would usurpers in Roman Britain obtain Sarmatian cavalry from overseas… After the Romans left, it probably returned back to the same sort of violence, but perhaps not in as great a scale. What do you reckon about that?

    Arthur’s bog is not a very tasteful name for a place. Would he be amused? Dunno. Did you know that there is an Arthur’s seat down this way? I can’t for the life of me think what all those armies wanted out of Scotland way back in the day? Invading the place seems like a really bad idea due to the unfriendly climate.



  60. Hi Inge,

    Did parts of the original curtain rail start to break? Plastic down here gets very brittle due to the extreme UV over summer. Some plastics are UV stable such as the polyethylene water tanks, but even those won’t last forever and they have a finite life. If they were buried and not exposed to the sun, they’d probably have a hugely long half life.

    Thanks for the word. What a lovely and amusing way to describe their instructions. Nice! I’m still giggling about that one. On the other hand it is a bit heavy handed and awful not to enter into discussions with you on the subject. Such actions rarely win friends. It is nice to read that your son lifetd up your spirits.



  61. Yo, Chris – Re: Wood moisture tester. So. If things get desperate, at least you know you can bust up the dinning table to keep warm :-).

    Before I forget. Bee hive collapse disorder. Someone thought of something. Sometimes (rarely) they do. And, it’s our old friend Paul Stamets, riding to the rescue with mushrooms.

    Once I catch onto the fact that a couple are like that (sometimes I refer to it as “taking pot shots at each other”) I steer clear. I was raised with that nonsense and don’t need to put up with it as an adult. But a phrase came to mind, so, down the rabbit hole I went. The Bickersons. Turns out they were a radio sketch in the 1940s and even had a bit of a TV run in the 1950s. Wikipedia has quit a long entry.

    “Red Dawn” was quit a cultural phenomenon, over here. For a lot of reasons There’s been a lot of rampant paranoia and conspiracy theories around the UN for years. That plays to a certain … segment of the population. Go down the rabbit hole and check out “black helicopters.” It’s better than a trip to Wonderland. Go, Wolverines! 🙂

    I dug most of my potatoes, last night. A pretty healthy looking lot. Probably, about 5 pounds, so far, off of three or four plants. A few baking size. A lot of really weird shapes. And, lots of small ones, that I think split will make a nice soup. Or, with a nice mess of white sauce and peas. I also began to make my way up the brussels sprout stalks. I split and steamed a handful. Much to my relief, no bugs inside. Look just like the ones from the store :-).

    Had to do some shopping, yesterday, and went in search of anything pumpkin spice. It IS October, after all. Tons of Halloween candy flooding in, but still no pumpkin chocolate cups, M&Ms or Hersey Kisses. I could buy them online, but have decided to leave those to chance. I heard a vague rumor that Safeway had pumpkin Twinkies. I don’t think I’ve had a Twinkie since I was about 8. Low and behold, there they were! Flavor is not bad, But with a funny after taste, something like root beer. Not a bad thing. OK. I tried them. Got that out of my system. They also had a store made pumpkin flavored granola. Couldn’t taste the pumpkin, at all. At $6 for 6 oz., I won’t be going there, again. Mr. Thomas the freezer man says he’s ordering the pumpkin ice cream,this week. Should be in in less than a week. Last year, there was pumpkin oatmeal and cherios. I heard a rumor that Tony the Tiger will be cranking out pumpkin spice frosted flakes.

    Another of the fellows here at The Home, died. So, with the last death, also a fellow, our male population is down to five, including me. The one who poked an old lady may be on his way out. And, if I manage to push Dick down the stairs … Mr. Mike will be missed. He was funny and cheery. He’d been having problems, so was over at a rehab home. Another overweight person with diabetes and leg problems. So unnecessary. Sigh. Lew

  62. @Lew
    Now that you mention it I do recall hearing about the movie. I doubt I could get Doug to go as he never got into the show. His mom and I used to watch it together.


  63. Hi Chris,

    A gap year is the year between graduating high school and starting college for those who decide to take that break. Not necessarily a bad idea if you can afford it and those credit card offers are for those who can’t apparently. Yep just add that credit card debt to their school loan debt – great idea.

    We sold that boat when we moved from the house with lake rights. Doug makes noise every now and then about getting a boat as he likes to fish quite a bit. He has seen how much work they are (and money) and so far has resisted the urge which is good as I don’t have to weigh in. The boat really wasn’t all that impractical – a much better purchase than a bunch of clothes which is what my sister bought if I recall correctly.

    It was a real concern when we first put our house on the market last fall as that is heavy bug season. If someone wasn’t from a more rural area they would have been really freaked out by it. I can’t tell you how much hauling around of the shop vac I did to keep them under control. That’s about the only thing you can do is vacuum them up. Soapy water kills them but then you just have a pile of dead soapy bugs.

    Glad you storm has been downgraded. We are yet again in a flood watch area as heavy rain is forecast again tonight and in fact it’ll be raining on and off through Wednesday. This is reeking havoc with the fall harvest as well as all the apple orchards and pumpkin patches.

    I’ve been observing where the sunniest parts are on our new very wooded property. I’m thinking I’ll end up with at least three small areas instead of one large garden. Won’t be the most efficient but it will be easy to rotate different crops.


  64. @ Lew,

    Good point: handicraft or decoration is probably a better description for a lot of things. Maybe there’s a spectrum that goes from just too plain to look at one end to pure art at the other?

    Yes, I agree that the abundance and diversity of plants adds to the coastal art forms.


  65. Chris,

    It is a great concept. Reading some older things, such as the Old English rune poems, there seems to have been a glimmer of a similar concept. Either it was already fading as a result of folk wandering era, or maybe it needed more time to develop, but then what Mr. Greer is calling the Faustian culture (in his new series of posts) took over and it has disappeared. I note some similarities between the ideas contained within the Taoism symbol and the Norse Ginnungagap – not a clean mapping, but similarities of a binary being resolved by ternaries resulting from different mixing of the original binary.

    There’s definitely something about fermented things, isn’t there? Given a choice of fermented fruit and unfermented fruit, nearly every critter chooses the fermented stuff! I really hadn’t thought of it, but I think you’re onto something: maybe eating the fermented stuff puts the birds into a mental state in which hey will, ummm, spread the seeds into areas they would’ve otherwise avoided? Especially if they might not have eaten the fruit if not fermented, leaving it to perhaps drop off the tree and attempt to grow in the shade of the parent tree.

    Young and dumb? Oh, yeah, I remember those days. I just hope people don’t call me older and dumber behind my back!


  66. Hi Chris,

    Your friends strategy of constant harassment with low level units is a good one. If you can keep your opponent off balance and reactive, you are free to gobble up most of the resources! Probably a life lesson in there somewhere, just watch out for the giant worm that eats your harvester 🙂


  67. Chris and Lew,

    I grew up on the Mid-North coast of NSW in a town called Dorrigo, a few hours south of Murwillumbah. The whole north coast of New South Wales is very beautiful and has a definite sub-tropical climate. Dorrigo could get the odd snow flurry, but on down on the coast bananas and blueberries are grown to good effect. On occasion, I have considered moving back to the region.


  68. Hi Lewis,

    It is funny you mention that bit about burning furniture in order to keep warm if only because I do wonder just how much of the Great Library of Alexandria was burned for that sort of purpose. Certainly Julius Caesar appears to have enjoyed a good burning, or perhaps four! Anyway, when I was at the Green Wizards meeting, the bloke who’s place it was had access to a wood burning stove and I mentioned in passing that there is plenty of very dry wood in nearby houses and he could happily keep on cooking and heating for quite a while on that lot. The main problem in the city – as far as I can see that one playing out and of course on a completely pragmatic and theoretical front – is that there just aren’t enough trees to supply any level of firewood for very long at all to a large population. On the other hand burning houses for heating and cooking purposes would potentially open up a lot of land for growing edibles – and all those handy bricks would be quite good for constructing ovens etc… I’m not sure that I would want to visit such a place, but it is possible.

    Paul Stamets is an awesome character. Now, as I read the article, it did perform the neat act of trying to underplay the roles of pollution, habitat loss, and herbicides – and I’m not sure that I noted any reference at all to insecticides. I always find it to be rather strange that people decry the loss of a single tree, but happily spray the living daylights out of their gardens and houses with herbicides and insecticides. As you pointed out to me a long while back, nature has to work as a symphony and that requires many different players. I can’t say that I’ve heard of a successful band with only lead guitar players! What Paul may have observed is that his garden is way full of inexplicable numbers of life forms – and the bees simply harvested a different type of food from the water on the mushrooms. And incidentally, there have been a number of reports of honey substitution / sugar syrup down in this country. The basic problem is that orchardists and farmers believe that bees can survive on just one form of food – and they can’t as it just won’t provide them with all of the minerals and compounds that they need to thrive. Imagine if all you had to eat for the next three decades was corn pone. Incidentally, at the beginning of the Irish potato famine I believe that a large chunk of the population were consuming a diet which was up to something like 90% potato based. Yuk! And they only grew from memory two varieties (out of the thousands) – what could possibly go wrong? I reckon a great science fiction story would be set in a future where something had evolved to consume plastic. Scary.

    I like how you think, and yes I agree with you – pot shots – is a great way to describe the situation. I like to think that they have unfinished business, but you know, I do rather suspect that they maintain a delicate balance which is like an inflated balloon in that it can be popped at any time and without warning. The editor and I hash problems out, no matter how ugly the situation. That is not always an easy task to achieve and sometimes circumstances overtake us. But yeah, I guess that is why you didn’t want to experience the shouty film we spoke of a few weeks back. I get that. Sometimes you’ve just experienced too much of one type of experience for a single lifetime.

    The Bickerson’s sound quite frightening to my ears and yes, it was quite the interweb rabbit hole! Shrew’s can be cute little small mouse-like insectivorous mammals and then there are the other types. Not sure that I’ve ever met one of those types, but from time to time I’ve encountered folks of either gender who take upon themselves an air of constant disapproval of the world around them, and then attempt to use that social trick to beat others over the head. It’s a lifestyle choice I guess, much like smoking… 🙂 Can’t say that I’m a fan, and it would make for a very complex domestic arrangement.

    Yeah! Wow! Mate, I’ve heard that theory about the one world government – and then thought to myself, we can’t even seem to be able to agree upon matters within a country. How the heck would that work on a planetary basis? I can see many problems in the thought bubble, so I just sort of faded away and went on and did something else with my time. I’ve encountered some folks who have rather strong beliefs in all manner of unusual things, but frankly I just don’t know enough about anything to be able to form any valid opinions on the matters upon which they expound. Well google now probably has me down for looking up ‘black helicopters’. Thanks for that! Hehe! I believe that the local air force uses Black Hawk helicopters and a month or so back I saw a group of them flying over the mountain range and I tell ya, it made a heck of a racket, but kind of looked pretty cool – and slightly deadly.

    Yum! Garden fresh potatoes! We dug a few small chats up today and they’ll end up in a potato and leek soup. Speaking about carbohydrates, I know a bloke that grew sugar beets after I was raving about them – and then distilled them and also produced a form of sugar beet syrup (like maple syrup). The syrup tasted nice, but had a mildly unpleasant smell, whilst the spirits at 93% smelled pretty strong to my nose. Believe it or not, Ollie dug some of the sugar beets up and ate them. Big dogs take a lot of feeding and the same is true of chickens in that bantam chickens will produce reasonably sized eggs, but not consume as much food.

    Oh yeah, you’re fast approaching Halloween and that means all things pumpkin. I recall my Peanuts cartoons. 🙂 Have you discovered any pumpkin ice cream yet? I’ve never consumed a twinkie and the first I was aware of them was Zombieland which may have possibly have been sponsored by the treats. $6 for 6oz is certainly getting ripped off in my language.

    Condolences and sympathy for Mr Mike who died at the home. Five is better than what I first thought was only two, one of whom I believe was a man of few words. Pushing Dick down the stairs all depends upon the important question – which I don’t really want to know the answer to, but am merely positing the question in a rhetorical manner – has he earned such a fate? I’ve met a few of those types… No please don’t reply to that one!

    I know a researcher who used to work in diabetes research and I have it on good authority that it is not weight, it is the level of activity instead that is one of the key determinants. The problem is that the two (weight and activity) usually have a causal relationship, but you can be thin with type II diabetes from what I understand because you’ve done little physical activity, although I am no expert.



  69. Hi Margaret,

    Apologies, I was being a bit cheeky about the gap year business, if only because it was sour grapes on my part that such an opportunity would never have come my way. It is a bit like ‘Schoolies week’ down here in that nobody did such a thing after the end of High School back way back in my day, but nowadays it seems like some sort of right-of-passage into the messy world of adulthood.

    But yeah, going into debt for such things is a complex proposition with unintended consequences. Who wants that in their life?

    Hehe! Yeah, I’m with you too about the comparison between the boat and the bunch of clothes. It is funny you mention clothes, but I bought a new pair of denim jeans recently and I said to the person working in the shop that the weight of the denim seemed a bit on the thin side. And they replied, yeah, but you can get two pairs for the same price as the old pair. I sort of liked the old style, and the cut was better. You might laugh but I bought the new thinner denim pair just to see what it was all about, and I keep having to lift them up as the cut is poor and they have a tendency to fall, which I’m very uncomfortable about. The editor tells me that a lot of people no longer sew or repair clothes so they know very little about cut and materials…

    I’d never considered bugs being an unsightly problem with selling a house. But yeah, I can see that. People would be freaked out at all of the dead bugs lying around the place, unless of course they knew what they were (which is not very likely if they’re from outside of the area). Hey, people don’t sell houses up here during the winter months. You just don’t see that, because only locals know what it is like up here during the winter. Everyone else gets this vague sort of sense that it is much colder – and colder must clearly be a bad thing…

    Far out, we went to visit one of the old local Hill Station gardens in the more fashionable end of the mountain range this morning. It is really lovely when people open their gardens and we can just wander around checking out the place. Glenrannoch. It was very pretty and had some very old specimen trees and a garden that just fitted its skin well.

    Sorry to hear how much trouble the climate is having in your part of the world. Too much rain can be more problematic than too little rain. Are you at all at risk of flooding in the new property? I don’t recall you mentioning creeks and/or rivers.

    That is exactly my thoughts on the matter too. If the garden is forcibly divided up, then rotation becomes a lot simpler. Are the potential sites of a similar size?



  70. Hi DJ,

    I’d be interested in your thoughts, but I sort of feel that the situation may have arisen because we prize mass manufactured goods over that of hand crafted goods. It was a devils bargain that we sort of had to make way back in the day. I’d never really thought about it, until one day a mate said to me: You know, that’s as good as a bought one. Mind you, the implication in that sentiment is that it is not better than a bought item – but the grudgingly equal one of. It reminds me of an old joke about a Persian carpet salesman proclaiming about some dodgy carpet: Don’t feel the quality, look at the width.

    As a keen appreciator of many types of fermented foods – such as our home made wines, sans preservatives – I reckon there is something in the fermented food story. Oh yeah too, the cheeky parrots knock unripe fruit off the fruit trees and then consume it up to a week later when it has begun fermenting. They’re no fools those parrots. I just wish they wouldn’t attempt to take all of the fruit here. My plan is to outproduce the local bird population which is inevitably limited in size by the lack of food availability during the winter months. I see fruit trees around these parts that get no care or attention, or even netting – and they regularly produce large crops. I’m watching those trees quite closely.

    It is always possible! Hehe! Good luck with that one! 🙂



  71. @ Margaret:

    “I’ve been observing where the sunniest parts are on our new very wooded property. I’m thinking I’ll end up with at least three small areas instead of one large garden. Won’t be the most efficient but it will be easy to rotate different crops.”

    That actually sounds like a brilliant idea. I remember doing a bit of that before we put in the one big garden. Because of the deer we had to fence each small area, but that worked really well as – since the plots were so small – the deer did not even have room to hop into them. I can’t remember – have you seen deer at your new property?

    And this certainly has me laughing:

    “Soapy water kills them but then you just have a pile of dead soapy bugs.”


  72. Hi Damo,

    Thanks for the explanation – and yes you have mentioned Dorrigo before. It truly is a beautiful part of the country with the best climate on the continent. Unfortunately, the land is just hideously expensive in that part of the world. You could grow a wide variety of plants there and have an extraordinarily long growing season. The guy I get all of the coffee grounds from (you’d be surprised how little area that organic matter covers over the year), well his folks used to own a coffee plantation up near Kyogle (not too far from Dorrigo) which was one of the greenest places on the continent!

    Haha! So busted! Ah, I can see you know the ways of Dune 2000. I laughed when I read your comment about worms eating your harvester! It was a tough strategy to counter because you had to waste resources on towers to keep the constant onslaught of plebs at bay. But once you built enough of a force up you could thump them soundly, but that isn’t as easy as it seems – fortifications don’t come cheap – just ask the Romans…

    How are your tomatoes going? No sign of them here yet.



  73. Chris:

    I enjoyed the Glenrannoch link. Lucky you so have such a beautiful garden within reach and to be able to visit it.


  74. Hi Pam,

    Thanks! It is awesome to be able to wander through the old hill station gardens – when they’re open to the public. Alas, that is becoming rarer for all sorts of reasons and so we jumped on the opportunity. It really is stunning that garden. I spotted some of the oldest and tallest Blackwoods (Acacia Melanoxylon) on the mountain in the garden and they’re huge, but there are also lots of hugely old introduced specimens like a massive old Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria species). I had to work this afternoon – no fun at all…



  75. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the link to Glenrannoch. Really quite beautiful. Do a lot of people attend the open gardens? Tomorrow our county is having the annual farm stroll. I don’t know if I mentioned that when we moved we also moved to a new county. Of course our old place was almost on the county line between the two counties.

    Of course rain is in the forecast but I’m still planning to visit some of the nearby farms. You’ll see two are alpaca farms. There are quite a few around here.

    I think the “gap year” is fairly new and mostly kids from affluent families can take advantage of this opportunity and they usually end up traveling. The Obamas’ daughter is taking a gap year now I believe. If a student really has no clue what they’re interested in doing taking a year off to work or maybe volunteer could be advantageous.

    Don’t get me started on clothes!! I have clothes 20 or 25 years old and other than some stains they’re in pretty good condition. Buy anything now and you’re lucky if it lasts a year. I never learned how to sew unfortunately other than some basic mending so am in awe of those who can actually make an outfit.

    The problem with those bugs was you could run around vacuum them up all around the house -i nside and out and then come back and start all over again.

    Our property and especially the house is one of the higher points around so, no, we aren’t having any issues. Just down the road though there is a creek that going pretty strong right now. There are flood warnings out for other local rivers. We still have a spot where water is seeping into the basement during the heavy fast downpours but Doug is on it.

    The potential garden spots could very likely be close to the same size. Believe me I’m starting small at first.


  76. @Pam
    I haven’t seen deer on our property yet but I’m sure they’re around. The old place had quite a large, old oak forest bordering the property line and well beyond and deer were plentiful back there. Here there are stands of woods but so far none nearly as big. Funny at the old place I don’t think I ever had any damage from deer. They were around more from fall to early spring but not so much in the summer. There were some hay fields bordering the woods so they had plenty of food there.

    You may laugh about the piles of soapy bugs but experiencing it – not so funny. Doug would spray them on the siding but his all the windows with soapy water too which then had to be washed too. So far we haven’t seen much evidence of them and I imagine that’s because there’s so much more shade. They really liked to hang out on the sunny sides of the house.


  77. Yo, Chris – The Romans invaded territory for all kinds of reasons. They invaded Britain (discounting Julius Caesar’s day trip) because Claudius’s rule was shaky and a good invasion went over well with the population back in Rome. The games, side show of a good Roman Triumph. Sometimes give aways of money and food. That “shoring up the regime” happened, several times. Maybe they got tired of cross border raids. There was the possibility of gold, silver, tin, slaves, hunting dogs. Britain was quit a bit warmer, then. They had a lively wine culture (which is coming back, due to climate change.) So, there were probably more agricultural products, up north, than there are now.

    Well, when Julius Caesar invaded Alexandria (at the behest of Cleopatra) some of his “fire boats” got out of hand and some of the library was burned. The newly minted Christians did in quit a bit of it. The last of it went when the Arabs invaded. According to reports, it went to heat the baths.

    Speaking of adulterated honey, I’m reading “Real Food/ Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating & What You Can Do About It.” (Olmsted, 2016). I don’t know how far into it I’m going to get. It’s not very well organized. Kind of scattershot writing. And, no index, so I can’t, say, track down all mentions of spices at one go. Was there an editor? Can we hold him or her responsible?

    LOL. Well, you can do a lot with a potato :-). But, yes, depending on only one or two varieties of any food plant is an invitation to disaster. Which is exactly what big ag is doing now. But, luckily, some people in some places are keeping multiple varieties, going.

    Something that eats plastic as an idea for a sci-fi story. Over the years, I’ve read several sci-fi stories with that premise. Usually, it’s a nano or bacteria. Let’s see. From memory (always dicey) there was one where a bacteria (nano?) ate petroleum products. And, since a lot of plastic is made from petroleum … I think there were even a few Star Trek episodes where something munched on vital pieces of the ship’s systems. Cont.

  78. Cont. Mr. Thomas, the freezer man at Safeway, says the pumpkin ice cream will be in sometime, this week.

    The man of few words, Bruce, died a month ago. Now, Mr. Mike. The last volume of my autobiography series might be, “Last Man Standing at the Home.” :-). Very seldom does anyone actually die at the Home. Usually, they cart them off to the hospital or a care center. See how things sort out. Sometimes, they do.

    We have an old Ukrainian couple here. Quit elderly and infirm. I see her from time to time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him. They speak no English. They’re well taken care of. Maybe a bit of family and, a local Ukrainian church that keeps a sharp eye on them. They were both in the care center, maybe, six months ago, for two months. But, they rallied and are back.

    Steve’s in pretty good shape, I think. But, you never know. Heck, I could be the next one to bite the dust.

    You might have to drill a couple of new holes in your belt. I did. I recently got a pair of Levi 501s, and there’s something “off” about the stitching on one side of the waist. Or, maybe it’s the pocket.

    Sometimes here, I hear the phrase, “Better than store bought.” It usually applies to some food stuff. Hmmm. I wonder if that’s an old advertising slogan? If so, it’s so old it’s completely divorced from whatever food it was flogging.

    Timberland libraries are going through their semi-annual “we’re going broke.” They’re talking about closing 1/3 the branches. Patrons are freaking out from Packwood to Illwaco.

    Rained like heck, yesterday. Please consult your local math genius. (ie: The Editor). Is 0.05 the same as half an inch? I couldn’t seem to get a straight answer off the Net. There may have been snow out in the east end of our county, White Pass. Maybe even down to Morton. Possibly, 4 inches. Down here in town, the overnight temps were in the mid 40s. No danger of frost, yet. Lew

  79. @ DJSpo – Third hand, I heard an art teacher say that working a long time on a project didn’t mean it was any good. Chris occasionally says ‘Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.” (I think I got that right.) There are “happy accidents” that don’t take much time. That applies to anything borderline creative, from art to cooking to writing.

    But, I guess the bottom line is, I know what I (underlined) like. For all kinds of complex reasons, I may not understand, myself. Hopefully, I’m open to take another look at something other people like. Or, at least keep my opinions to myself :-). Lew

  80. Hello again
    Oh yes, a rail snapped. The most annoying thing though, is that they keep changing the fittings and curtain hooks so one has to buy new ones.


  81. Chris,

    I think maybe we’re saying something similar but based on radically different places in history. I tend to think more how things are related than not. I’ve got the glimmerings of an idea, but it will take me a few days, or more, to flesh them out…

    More than likely, I’m routinely called old and stupid, so I may be fighting an already lost battle.


  82. @ Lew,

    That art teacher is correct. There’s definitely a point with art at which continuing to work on it provides no improvement and might make the project worse. Two years back, I had to talk my pyrography instructor, who is much better than I ever hope to be, I had to talk him out of doing more work on his award winning project. He already had over 100 hours in it, and the additional 20 or more hours he was thinking about would have taken away from his original idea. I’ve also had a couple of very time consuming projects that just plain weren’t as good as some of the short, fun “filler” projects I’ve done.

    If I can’t understand the art, then I don’t like it and it is more “noise” or disconcerting. I’ve gotten to the point where trying to understand the artists viewpoint and learn isn’t worth the effort. Or, as you said, I know what I like and sometimes with arts and crafts that’s what’s important.


  83. Hi Margaret,

    I have to write tonight so I’ll have to be brief. 🙂 Yeah, plenty of people turn up for the open gardens. A few years back when the program was well funded, it was very extensive and there were always gardens open every weekend to go and poke around in. I feel that the system nowadays is doing what it can, but it is a bit messy compared to how it used to operate. Oh well.

    What exactly is an annual farm stroll? I rarely open the place here because of the public liability issue and so it is an invitation only thing. Have you ever considered getting a couple of alpaca’s?

    That makes sense about the gap year, I often wonder how the thing is funded – and that is the sticky side of that equation.

    Did you note Lewis mentioned jeans. I had a similar situation where I purchased a pair off the interweb and it was two sizes wrong, despite what the label proclaimed… Clothes repairs and modifications is a seriously hard won skill.

    Yukko! What a lot of bugs! Would the chickens eat them?

    Nice work choosing the higher ground. I believe you about starting small – and that is exactly how I do things here too. Start small, gain experience, and then scale up. Of course every step in the scaling up process brings problems…



  84. Hi Lewis,

    You learn something new all of the time. I thought that Julius Caesar claimed the victory for the invasion of Britain? And I did not know that the land in Britain was warmer back in those days, it is so far north that that seems hard to comprehend. Ouch. I imagine that the Roman’s new how to extract their fees from the locals and if the climate cooled, well, agricultural production would go down but would the extracted fees continue to be the same as before? That would make for a contentious issue and plenty of uprisings.

    Mate, I had no idea that they used thermal weapons back in those days. That would have been pretty brutal to have faced such a machine from another timber vessel.

    I’ve read a few books that employ the scattershot technique of writing. Who would have thought that text has to flow and a story has to be coherent? It is an outrage!

    The chickens are annoyed at me tonight because… ta da! This morning the clocks sprang (spring?) forward due to the shift in time that accompanies the change with daylight savings time. An hour of mine has been lost today to a temporal anomaly, and thus I worked later this afternoon than I otherwise would. Where do the chickens come into this very short and sad story of lost time? I decided not to let them roam in the orchard this evening because something had to give, and I volunteered that they would take a hit for team Fluffy.

    Hehe! Like it, and who can argue with the results of that unfortunate historical potato episode. I have only ever encountered a single author who described the situation from an ecological perspective. Other than that everyone talks about injustice this, victim central, and unfair that. Even today the merest mention of the episode unleashes passions. Sometimes just to be a bit naughty I share my thoughts about the ecological side of that story – and whoa! Fireworks…

    Really? Well, I thought that I was onto something new, but perhaps I’d absorbed the Star Trek stories and ran with the idea. I was reading about the Pacific Ocean Plastic vortex and I wondered about that possibility. It seems like a big call though. Certainly archaeologists in the far distant future will point to a layer of gunk in sediments and papers will be written and much discussion will ensue. I wonder if they’ll be able to make any use of the stuff. It’s possible – hey, that would make for an interesting story?

    I look forward to reading your report on this seasons pumpkin ice cream. 🙂

    Sorry to hear about Bruce and Mike, may they both rest in peace. I don’t know about that ‘last man standing’ conjecture, if only because nature abhors a vacuum and new residents may show up in the near future. How’s the new head honcho going anyway? No news is good news on that front – at a guess.

    It is nice not to tempt the Gods with much large talk of over confidence. They seem to get rather annoyed and want to prove you wrong…

    Hehe! Yeah, it is funny you mention jeans, but I got a pair of that brand and the sizing was wrong by two sizes compared to what the label claimed. I was pretty grumpy about that because I kept waiting for them to stretch – and that was a very uncomfortable time. The denim weight seemed the same with it though. I like wearing blue jeans and so will put some thought into the matter. There may be some local producers.

    Honestly the claim about being almost as good as a store bought item was slightly surreal, but who can argue with people’s belief systems.

    I’d freak out too about the library closures. You seem very calm about the matter, but I suspect you have insider information? Libraries way back in the day used to be subscription services, so no doubts we’ll eventually go back to what works. That will make it hard for authors. It is funny I mentioned that point, because I was going to write about that subject tonight. I’ve decided to go full on controversial this week (plan C)- in an amusing way, which probably doesn’t reflect so well upon my good self, but there you go.

    Nope! I consulted the editor and she tells me that half an inch of rain is about 12mm. Now of course metric is a base ten system, so 10mm = 1 cm and 100cm = 1m and 1,000m = 1km. Neat huh? A rap dude from your part of the world (Ghost Faced Killa) wrote a delightful, but very naughty song about the metric system as it related to illegal drugs. It had a very catchy line which went something like: “A kilo is a thousand grams – it’s easy to remember”. Yes, easy to remember is possibly a good idea when dealing with such substances. I better get to writing and offending peoples sensibilities… At least we can have fun whilst I do so. 🙂



  85. Hi Inge,

    Oh yeah, that is the worst. Could you possibly modify your curtains to include the steel hoops and add a timber rail? The only curtains I have in the house are like that sort of style – and they just work due to their simplicity. In some antique shops I have seen the most beautiful chunks of timber that were turned, and also had with carved ends, and those were used as curtain rails back in the day. If I’m not mistaken I also recall steam bent timber loops which are used to hold the curtains onto the rails, but I have a fascination with the details of Victorian era housing and I’ve poked around many of the National Trust houses to see how they did things way back in the day. I reckon there is a lot to be learnt there.



  86. Hi DJ,

    Take your time and cogitate upon the finer details of the matter. There is a lot in there. Glimmerings is such a lovely way to describe the process of insight! 🙂

    Fear not of the battle lost, fear for the battles are yet to be fought!



  87. Yo, Chris – Julius Caesar just took a couple of old hulks (and, maybe a seized merchant ship, or two), set them alight and adrift toward the Egyptian fleet. The wind changed. Oh, dear. Chunks of flaming ship fell into the streets of Alexandria and set the city ablaze. There was “Greek Fire”, but that was later than what I had supposed.

    You may remember the opening scenes of “Gladiator” when the catapults flung flaming olive oil pots. Good old flaming arrows could be effective. Caesar had racked up enough advances in Gaul that he didn’t have to worry about not subduing Britain. Caligula gave it a whirl. His troops baulked at the channel. So, he had them pick up sea shells, said he had conquered Oceanus, and threw a triumph, anyway. Claudius’s troops also baulked. It was a downright mutiny. But, one of his freeman agents shamed the Roman troops into embarking.

    We don’t get our extra hour back until the first weekend in November. Must be arriving by slow boat from Australia. There will be the usual “let’s end this nonsense” in the media, which will last about a day, if that.

    They don’t let the apartments cool off, here. We’ll get two new residents in short order. It’s the luck of the list, but, given the demographics, more likely to be women, than men. Oh, I’m just keeping my head down and steer clear of the head honcho. Other people are fighting battles. We don’t see much of the “Director”, as the new building head (assistant director) is now in place. She’s a bit nicer, but either has to bend to the will of the Martinet, or, figure out a way around her craziness. I steer clear of her, as, I think she’ll only be here a year or two. Why make an emotional investment? I just realized that the Director is very sensitive about “titles.” I think, a true indicator of a martinet. Cont.

  88. Cont. I still don’t get it. The graph says the rainfall is measured in inches, but then they come up with that 0.05. Sigh. From here on out I’ll just say “it rained a lot.”

    More crapification or complication of everything. I get a lot of brand new DVDs from the library. I mean, I’m the first user. I put in a disc from season two of “Wayward Pines”, last night. Disc one and three wouldn’t play. Sometimes, they have a coating. I tried scrubbing it down with alcohol. Then, dish soap. No dice. I got on line to see if there was any help, there. Not really. First they run through all the “user is an idiot” tips. “Do you clean your DVD player with a laser disc cleaner.” Well, yes. Every time I use the darn thing. “Is the disc dirty?” I scrub down every disc I put in the player with alcohol, if they’ve been circulating for awhile. There was a hint that copy protection is getting over the top, and some machines can’t crack it. Old machine? Mine’s about a year and a half old. Oh, well. I’ll just have to reconcile myself to the fact that there are some DVDs that I won’t be able to watch. I guess I’ll just have to go read a book, or something. All probably part of the plot to do away with DVDs and drive everyone to streaming everything. Some of us won’t go there, but not enough to make a difference.

    The other thing is, my toilet tank has started to periodically run, and whistle like a tea kettle. I thought I could give it a whirl. I’ve repaired them before. Well. When I pulled off the top I discovered someone’s been buying surplus off the Star Ship Enterprise, again. I’ve never seen anything like the bibs and bobs under the hood. The Home covers plumbing repairs, but I like to do my own, when I can. I don’t think this is one of those times. Besides, then I’ve got to clean the apartment, if a guys coming in :-).

    I finished digging my potatoes (15 pounds? 3 plants) and got more than half of my pole beans picked. I was toying with the idea of saving seed, and found a clutch of beans that had already dried. Score! Night before last, the temperature was a steady 50F from 9PM til 9AM. The weather station records every 15 minutes. I’m watching the weather like a hawk, in anticipation of the first frost. I found an interesting chart, for our area. Based on records, there’s a 10% chance we’ll have our first frost on October 5th. A 50/50 chance of frost on October 30th. A 90% chance of frost on November 24th. Interesting, but how useful? LOL, our weather forecasts often say “40% chance of rain.” That really doesn’t tell me if I’m going to get wet, or not.

    Princess led me on a merry chase, last night. I guess she saw a cat and slipped her leash, from her owner. And, she is a sly one. I almost had her, and she slipped into a dark corner of the garden. Being black, I couldn’t see her. And, forgot I had a flash light in my pocket. But, I finally nabbed her. She spent our usual “sit out” in the corner, away from polite society.

    Banksy is like that :-). Lew

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