Why I don’t write for children

It would be nice to have access to bucket loads of mad cash. Just think of the things I could do here on the farm using heaps of mad cash! Sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night, I think to myself that I should write for children or young adults. It seems like a very lucrative market to me, and I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard anyone claim that either J.K. Rowling or the Wiggles are hard up for mad cash.

But then the darkness quickly fades and reality sets in and I rapidly fall back to sleep. It is at that point that I’m content in the knowledge that whilst I’ll never have access to serious quantities of mad cash, I won’t have to be a children’s author either.

Sometimes, you just know that some things just aren’t right for you. It probably doesn’t reflect well upon me, but at times of existential crisis in the wee hours of the dark night, I reflect upon what I’ve learned from some past interactions with children.  And for all I know past interactions are probably indicative of possible future interactions.

One such occasion was at least two decades ago, and I guess my youth and inexperience must explain the circumstances away.

The editor and I were living in an old Victorian era workers terrace house and were slowly fixing up the house at night and on weekends. I quite liked the house because whilst it wasn’t very wide, it was actually quite long. It was so long in fact that we had a back garden with off street parking for one vehicle.

The original builders in the late nineteenth century had never considered off street vehicle parking. But for some strange reason the old cobblestone lane way behind that particular house was really wide. Once upon a time, the old timer night cart horse and dray teams used to use those lanes to take away peoples excrement in the days before sewers. So I could use this really wide lane way to park my trusty old 1974 Porsche. That was a good thing, because I would not have been able to insure it, if I was only able to park it on the street.

At the time, I also had a motorbike which I used to ride to work. Like the Porsche it too was old. In fact it was a 1982 Yamaha XV750. I tell you, you knew when that beast of engine got fired up (if it could be started in the first place, which is a whole different story). The neighbours also used to know when I was starting the motorbike up, but fortunately for them I was never an early riser.

All of the houses alongside the house that the editor and I were fixing up, were also Victorian era workers cottages. The street was really beautiful as it had old established trees and just house after house of eclectic brick (mostly poly-chrome) Victorian era houses.

Now my neighbour had a garage with a loft room above the garage. It was like the ultimate man cave that loft, and it even had bathroom and cooking facilities.

Then it got a little bit weird. For some inexplicable reason, the neighbours ex-girlfriend managed to get her ex-boyfriend with his two children moved into the loft above the garage. Clearly the ex-boyfriend and his two children had befallen on hard times. The kids were bored out of their brains.

In fact, the kids were so bored that they sometimes used to throw those really bouncy and brightly coloured balls into my backyard, where the dogs quickly enjoyed chewing the balls to complete oblivion. As a fun side note, for a few weeks that year, the dogs poop was also brightly coloured!

The kids quickly grew tired of that game.

I used to keep my trusty old 1982 Yamaha parked next to the Porsche way down at the back of the garden. The loft loomed over both car and bike. And one day as I gratefully managed to get the engine started on the bike, I happened to look up and see two children leering over me. Doing something suspicious. What was it? I couldn’t believe it, they were going to drop something on me. Maybe a brightly coloured ball?

The outrage of it all. Despite being in full black motorbike leathers, I just wasn’t scary enough for the kids. Perhaps I hadn’t thought to put my helmet on quickly enough and they peered into my gooey kind eyes… Probably not. It was however fortunate for me that I hadn’t yet got my helmet on, because the kids could certainly hear me commanding them to: “Get lost”. Those two kids were challenging my mojo – and they were winning. Down upon me they peered, serene in the knowledge that they held the high ground on that battlefield. And they sure looked smug and certain about my inability to do anything about the situation.

I rapidly considered my options and the many brightly coloured bouncy balls that had been consumed by the dogs recently. I also realised that the kids weren’t going anywhere soon, and if I didn’t act fast, they’d have the upper hand. And before I knew it, I had yelled at top of my lungs: “F!@k Off Kids!”.

Quick as a snake in full on attack mode, the father of the kids popped his head out and told me off for swearing at his kids. Apparently I was a poor excuse for a human being. I did however note that he didn’t appear to remonstrate with his kids about dropping items onto adults heads who were not family members, but I guess that was a side issue. Anyway, angry words were spoken as we had quite the heated argument, which largely went nowhere.

Then the next day they moved out and I didn’t have to deal with the kids again. The neighbour who owned the house had exceptional manners if only because we never spoke of the matter and always maintained the most cordial of terms.

What I learned was that it is sometimes very effective to swear at children, although the editor has made me promise never to swear at children. And I honour that promise, but it is sometimes so hard for me, and that’s why I don’t write children’s fiction because sooner or later I’d f!@k up and swear at them. And then all hell would again break loose!

Earlier in the week I visited what must have been the crustiest and most decrepit industrial estate in the big smoke and purchased some steel sheeting with which I’ll begin covering the new shed with. Honestly, I was grateful that I wasn’t mugged in that industrial estate as it really looked like something out of a post apocalyptic novel. The guy that sold me the steel was a really lovely bloke and we had a nice chat for a while about the state of the world and dogs. He was missing some front teeth however which heightened the post apocalyptic feel (perhaps there are no dentists in the post apocalypse?)

Earlier in the week I brought back a load of steel cladding for the new shed

A few days ago we installed the door on the new shed. The door is an old glass and timber door that we had laying about the place. We added stainless steel mesh over the glass, and steel sheet over the timber. And then a lovely flea market obtained lions head handle.

The heavily modified glass door was hung on the new shed

Then about half of the walls were covered in the steel corrugated sheeting.

About half of the walls of the new shed were covered with steel sheet

Observant readers will note that the window on the side of the shed has been covered with two layers of aluminium mesh.

A close up of the lions head handle on the door to the new shed. A flea market find!

On the next terrace up above this new shed is the corn enclosure. Today, we planted out about 100 corn seeds. Once the corn germinates I’ll probably have to begin watering them. There is water storage on the same terrace as the new shed, but no water pump with which to send water higher up the hill to the next terrace. With that problem in mind I began constructing the water pump arrangement. The job is not yet finished, but I reckon I’ve learned a thing or two about water pumps over the years.

I’ve begun constructing the arrangement for the water pump which will sit next to the new shed

The off grid solar power system has been having a few troubles recently with recording data, and I’ve been working with the manufacturer to try and resolve the matter. Fortunately, the manufacturer is located in Melbourne and they’re really lovely people.

Today as I was working on the solar power system, I discovered something very unusual. The six panels connected to one charge controller (one of the three brains behind the system) was reporting a far higher charge than it possibly should. It seems that because the sun is now higher in the sky following the spring equinox combined with very cool air causes the solar panels to produce far more energy than I’d previously thought possible. I would have expected a maximum of around 31 amps(5.2A maximum output x 6 panels). Not so! As the air heats up as summer gets ever closer, the panels won’t be likely to produce as much power.

6 x 5.2A panels somehow produced 40A…

I often get the vague feeling that nobody really understands this solar power stuff. And if they’re telling you they do……..

Rock projects are continuing and we have made great strides towards completing a big chunk the rock wall along the path from the house to the chicken enclosure.

A big chunk of the rock wall on the path between the house and the chicken enclosure was done

How good does the soil look in the photo above?

And the newest steel rock gabion cage is fast filling up. The most recent finds of rocks has averted the most awful situation of peak rocks – for the moment…

The newest steel rock gabion cage is fast filling up

We’ve also begun a round of soap making:

A round of soap making has begun

Production of sake (Asian rice wine) is also starting to ramp up with the warmer weather:

Sake (Asian rice wine) – it’s good!

Spring and autumn are the traditional wine making months due to the free energy from the sun and we also began a batch of rhubarb wine:

Mmmm! Rhubarb wine

Produce from the garden is beginning to come in thick and fast:

New season small potatoes were harvested this week
Strawberries are forming on the plants
Asparagus is growing as fast as we can eat it
Some of the feral vegetables happily growing in the garden beds

What can I say – It’s spring and there are a lot of flowers:

Happy bees on Alkanet
Broad beans
Happy bees on Lavender planted only last summer
Happy bees on Rosemary
Happy bees on Echium (notice the theme yet?)
Jonquils begin their slow walk across the orchard (where are the bees???)
Aluminium plant
Forget me nots!

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 14’C (57’F). So far this year there has been 674.0mm (26.5 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 668.6mm (26.3 inches).

57 thoughts on “Why I don’t write for children”

  1. Hi Lewis,

    Talk about unleashing the beast with Julius Caesar’s tactic of setting fire to a couple of ships and then setting them adrift towards the enemy ships. I assume nobody would have been aboard such a doomed vessel? If you were on board there would be a certain sort of incentive to turn around and take out the perpetrators of the burning as I’m assuming that nobody would be in that situation by choice. Julius probably needed someone with a bit of local knowledge of the winds and tides on that particular confrontation…

    Speaking of winds, it looks as though we’ll get our half inch of rain tomorrow evening. This is a good thing because September was about an inch short of rain drier than what I’d prefer, but beggars can’t be choosers as they quite rightly say, and the weather will do what it will. I spread a couple of bins of coffee grounds through the orchard in the dark this evening in anticipation of the rain. It is still mildly surreal to me that people feel that such resources are a waste product. My mind shrinks from the awfulness of the task of considering the day to day waste implicit in our system. Most people are blissfully unaware of the situation. Incidentally, since China has put the brakes on accepting any of our wastes – and we sent them an awful lot of the stuff – we’ve been having far more waste pile fires than I can ever previously recall. I’m unsure whether this is a deliberate strategy on our part, or just a side risk of stock piling so much waste. The darker recesses of my mind are leaning towards the deliberate strategy side of that story if only because the honoured society used to profit mightily from such revenue sources.

    I’ve never actually seen the film Gladiator. I probably should rectify that lack. Olive trees are an interesting tree and they grow really well here. I’m considering planting more of the trees as the years go on as they seem inordinately handy and hardy. Yeah, I did spot the references to Greek Fire. Far out, what a thing to confront.

    Interestingly, I did read the whole sea shell business, but it just seemed a bit of a strange symbolic occurrence and the currents were lost on me – so thanks for the explanation. Softies… That is what you get with land based troops, of course I would have had a similar hesitation to the Romans. 🙂 Given that the Romans hung around Britain for a few centuries, do you reckon it was worth their while? My gut feeling says that it wasn’t in the long run because the returns would have diminished over time until it cost them more to maintain the troops and defences than what they would have earned in pillage and tithes. I often wonder whether the ancient Greeks also ran their natural resources down and discovered the same result? Have you read much about their history? Certainly there have been studies showing layers of sediments from the land washed out into the oceans around that land during that period of time.

    November. Ouch. I’m not saying that you’ve been short changed but it sure does look that way. Have you checked for the lost hour behind the couch? I took a look today and it was not there… I had to get up an hour earlier than I’m used to – and the patterns just weren’t right for the whole day, but I manfully struggled on through the day and kept my complaints to a minimum. The only people who seem to enjoy whingeing are those that take it upon themselves to get their shoulder into the difficult task of whingeing at others. Mind you, that still does not make the patterns right… 🙂

    Fair enough, space is at a premium and I understand that story. I’m unsure I understand the demographics story, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that women live longer than men, and learned papers have probably expounded upon that story. And sometimes you go with your gut feelings about newcomers and have to slowly wait while they prove their bona fides. I do that nowadays.

    Haha! Yes, ‘rained a lot’ is a very nice way to say that the ground enjoyed a positively strapping soaking old chap!

    Honestly, have you ever delved into the dark world of electronic books? I can honestly say that I have never dabbled in those dark arts, if only because I’m a slow reader and I feel that the batteries would not hold out long enough for me to complete the book. And then what if I wanted to re-read the text and the batteries were flat? Or some cheeky copyright owner decided to wipe the entire book off my device. Nope, it is physical books for me, and I refuse to take a screen into a cafe. Life is far too short to enjoy a coffee with a little screen of text! The time is best spent with the real deal.

    The thing with streaming is that the distribution networks for digital content really have to increase by a massive amount in order for the service to make any sense whatsoever. Where I was today, they have awful interweb connectivity and the thought of streaming large chunks of data just repulses me because it would take days to watch a film – and I lack the patience for that.

    Mate, I hate to be the one to tell you, but I see an apartment clean up in your future. 😉 What did the very clever Mr Tolkien write: “It’s the job that isn’t started as takes the longest to do” – or something like that.

    The dried pole beans was indeed a good score. Hey, I tend to leave those sorts of seeds out in the late summer sun to dry before storing them, so I suspect that you are onto something with that. Despite advice to the contrary, (does this make me contrary?) I planted out the corn seeds yesterday and my lot of saved seeds looked the exact same as the purchased seeds. As I was handling them yesterday (in anticipation of the rain tomorrow) they looked like little gems to me. Seriously.

    A few weeks back I read an article which dissected exactly what those percentages in the weather forecast meant: Rainfall forecasts are often misunderstood, but here is how to make sense of them.

    Princess comes from a long line of dogs whom can best be described as ‘wilful’, although I’m personally unsure what that actually means. 🙂 Mate, Ollie has his own thoughts about things and inability to follow orders was why he was rather rudely dumped – I get that. I on the other hand appreciate a certain looseness which comes from having ones own thoughts, but society invariably favours conformity. I reckon that society is backing the wrong horse, but who am I to argue with so many?



  2. Hello Chris
    I envied you the veg. photographs. Am still getting tomatoes, just 2 varieties of yellow ones; all the red ones have packed up now.
    I have a large variety of very nice curtain fittings left from when I lived in large houses, but they won’t fit here.
    Yes I saw the Banksie auction shredding; very funny. I do slightly wonder whether it was staged because already known about; there must have been some odd weight in the frame.


  3. Yo, Chris – “It’s a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World: A Writer’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Competitive Book Market” (Litowinsky). I took a few classes in children’s and young adult literature. There’s a bit of a knack for it.

    I was surprised to discover that little kids picture books are often written by one person, and illustrated by another. I guess those who can write can’t draw, and those who can draw can’t write? Some publishers insist on the distinction. Probably bad experiences with artists and writers who thought they could do it all? Codified into policy that doesn’t work in all cases.

    I often say if I had children, I’d still be in jail. And, not a day goes by that I don’t see or hear something that makes me thank whatever gods there are, that I am single and childless. Sometimes I say that out loud. :-). I always quit fancied the illustrator Edward Gorey. He has several (not really for) children’s books. Ah, Christmas is coming, and I can usually make a few rude comments about Tiny Tim. It’s much too long a story, but I always expected the police to show up and excavate the crawl space, under my house. Had rather hoped for it, actually. A root cellar would have been nice.

    Nope. No dentists in the post apocalypse. The hero in Brin’s “The Postman” is always rummaging around in the post apocalyptic ruble, on the keen lookout for tooth paste and tooth brushes. After several of his mates from the early days pop their clogs, due to poor dental habits.

    We really need a close up photo of that lion’s head handle. And, why mesh on all the doors and windows? Wombat thieves? Small children could be used to haul water up your hill. Keeps them occupied and out of trouble. Ollie in a water wheel? :-).

    Given your climate, you really have a lot of veg that comes on early. Our spring is more in fits and starts. That’s a lot of happy bees. Reminds me I should tuck the mason bees under cover, for the winter. Cont.

  4. Cont. Yup. That’s what got Caesar into trouble. The wind shifted and Alexandria burned. Reports have it that Cleopatra was a bit miffed, but couldn’t say to much as Caesar was leading the charge against her three(?) ursurper (sp?) brothers. The knives were always out in the House of Ptolemy.

    All around the Med, there were problems with deforestation and erosion. Even if land was managed fairly well in one time period, it all unraveled in another. Was Britain profitable? For the State, in the end, probably not. But a lot of people made a lot of money off of Britain.

    Yes. Women live longer than men. Here’s to the ladies! :-).

    I’ve never even touched an electronic book. The whole idea repulses me. Libraries “lend” electronic books. Come the due date, they just disappear off the device.

    I’m off to the clinic. Sigh. Will this never end? :-). Lew

  5. Chris,

    Fresh veggies so soon after the equinox? Holy smokes, no greenhouse in my yard, so early plantings would end up covered with snow and/or gobsmacked with heavy frosts. The old saying here is “Don’t plant your potatoes until the snow is melted from Mica Peak”, the 2nd tallest mountain in the county. Which, some years, is April and other years is late May. A few years back, the early snows melted from Mica Peak in December, so I quipped, “The snow is off Mica Peak. Time to plant potatoes?” Methinks that is when I was referred to as old and stupid behind my back.

    I liked the article you linked to about rain forecasting. The article quoted a Mr. Threlfall. I worked in an office once with a Mr. Threlfall, who always used the same method when explaining how to spell his name. He was far from amused when the rest of us, one day, repeated with him in unison, “That’s T as in Tom, h-r-e-l, F as in Frank, a-l-l”.

    I agree: children need to be sworn at on occasion, but it always comes at a price. I remember one of the funerals we attended on my wife’s Indian Reservation years ago. Which means several all night slogs and a lot of stuff to do. So I was tired, decided to sleep for a bit in the car. Twin nieces, then about 8 years old, found me and banged on the window yelling, “Uncle, were you trying to sleep?” Now roundly cussing them out would’ve fit my mood, but…some white guy cussing out Native children on the Reservation, regardless of whether they’re related and regardless of whether or not they had it coming? Oh, no, not a good idea if said guy values his health. So I staggered inside while repeating “Shostakovich” to myself repeatedly, as that name gets about all the right sounds flowing to make one feel better.


  6. @ Chris and Lew, Enjoying your back and forth on the Romans in Britain. Early on, Rome probably was coming out ahead in the wealth department. But they couldn’t maintain a frontier, so they kept having to spend more and more money on forts and soldiers and Hadrian’s Wall. And periodically those troublesome Britons decided they didn’t like their lot in life and rebelled. It appears that much earlier than previously speculated, Germanic pirates were raiding Roman Britain, which meant spending even more resources.

    By the later 4th century, Britain had become a huge drain on Roman resources, by which time a series of Roman generals in Britain decided to become emperor and charged onto the Continent, which weakened Rome further. No wonder Rome washed it’s hands of Britain in the early 5th century! The province had become much too troublesome.

    As Chris said, some individuals and families probably became insanely wealthy in Britain, but on the whole, Britain probably cost Rome dearly.


  7. Another who´s happily child-free. Our nieces and nephews are delightful, but I don´t know how their parents sleep wondering about their futures.

    A most excellent corn shed. I assume the extra security is anti-rodent. The traditional structure hereabouts is an ¨horreo¨ corn crib up on raised saddle stones that are shaped like mushrooms. I believe they have the same in Cornwall.

    Chilly now, and it´s supposed to start raining this weekend, finally. Anyone got good ideas for the green tomatoes?

    I´m reconditioning beds like mad to get the ranunculus and anemones planted. However, I´m now really concerned they will all end up eaten by the blasted voles. I´m going to try a solution of castor oil as a repellent and will report back.

    That rhubarb wine looks delicious!

  8. Hi Inge,

    Many thanks and the UV is now rated at ‘High” most days – and with the inch and half of rain received today, the place is rapidly returning to the jungle that it always longs to be! 🙂 The oldest of the native clematis vines look strong enough that Conan himself could have swung across a flooded ford using them. It is a lovely time of year and the vegetables grow very fast. Just for your info, the growth slows down over January to February when the UV hits extreme levels, so the growing season is not as long as it seems.

    Ah. How unfortunate about the curtain rails.

    Yeah! It was fun wasn’t it? I’d never considered that, but from that perspective the Banksy episode could be viewed as a form of performance art? What do you reckon about that? 🙂



  9. Hi Lewis,

    I first believed that the book title was your idea of a joke, but it is a serious, no nonsense textbook on the subject. OK. Out of curiosity, on reflection did you get much out of the classes? I’m unsure how much I actually got out of University lectures. I felt the tutorials were time better spent, but just digging through the books taught me more than either forum. I guess everyone is different. I believe a lot of lectures are now held in virtual space. I don’t know whether I’m cool with that.

    I’m feeling a bit put out this evening because the car broke down in the city leaving the editor and I stranded in the big smoke. A little device in the engines cooling system appears to have seized up. Oh well, we ditched the car and tested out plan T, which involved getting a taxi home. Needless to say that it was an expensive exercise, but it was worth testing just to see whether it was possible and of course for the reaction of the taxi driver who had to drive through thick fog and forest for the last couple of minutes of the drive was well worth the fare. That’ll give him a story to talk about later among his mates. I tipped him very generously for being a good bloke. The car came to a stop nowhere near public transport too, which was a very inconsiderate act of the machine. The faulty part is clearly the cause of the problem last week too. It would be nice if urban areas were designed better so that vehicles were not a necessity, but time will fix that problem.

    I wasn’t aware of the separation of graphic artists and authors, and yeah it is not a policy which would suit the polymaths in the audience. I’ve noticed examples over the years where one person’s actions can ruin things for everyone.

    We’re pretty comfortable with that story too. It ain’t easy being green (or a parent for that matter). Thanks for the tip off about Edward Gorey as I sort of like the sound of ‘vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings.’ I got back so late this evening that I’ve noted his name and will look into it over the next few days. My education in art continues! 🙂 Do you have any recommendations?

    Yukko! At a pinch the hero of Brin’s novel could have used charcoal to good effect on their teeth. That’s what I’d do anyway. We spoke a long while back about how dental hygiene has a massive impact on the health of one’s heart.

    Hey, we scored an inch and a half of rain today! Yay! The house water tanks are rapidly filling up.

    Hopefully by the time you read this, I managed to include a close up photo of the door handle (oops almost forgot). The mesh is to protect the glass in the event of a bushfire. It has to be very hot indeed to burn stainless steel, aluminium not so much, but still a pretty hot fire. I like your thinking with the human powered pump – and no doubts one day it may just get to that! Hopefully we think to keep some galvanised heavy duty buckets for the task.

    Thanks. Yup, there is usually something to eat for most of the year, even when it snows. Of course with a bit of climate change, your part of the world will probably get like that too.

    I believe rumour has it that at the end of the reign of the House of Ptolemy, the person in question took the knife to themselves. What is your take on that historical account? – it seems a bit convenient…

    I suspect that things are heading that way down here in terms of wealth inequality. I’m unsure how that will play out. Probably not well.

    Yes, I salute the ladies continued good health and longer lifespans. 🙂

    Exactly. I’m also repulsed by the concept of electronic books. I guess if you travelled a lot they would be very handy, but on a personal day to day level – not so much. If it means anything to you, I rarely if ever see them being used. They were never a big thing down here.

    Good luck with your back draining and I do hope the wound is healing well.



  10. Hi DJ,

    Ah, I see, mate, you get a lot more snow and cold weather during the winter months. Me, and the farm here, not so much. Greenhouses are good, but I’ll share a little secret about them. They extend your growing season, but the costs for using them are high if only because it is an artificial environment with all that that brings. I can’t speak for your part of the world, but down here they’re mostly empty. That tells me all I need to know about them.

    December, ouch! I’m curious as to whether the hostility arose because of your choice to verbalise the changes to the local ecosystem? Watch out you don’t get confused for a heretic! Potatoes are weird here because I could harvest them year around, although they grow best during the summer months and into the autumn.

    Hehe! Some people have some funny names. I once knew a person who had the surname Belcher. It is quite an old money family too. Of course to my ears they mispronounced the name, but you know I didn’t have to live with it either…

    Exactly, swearing is a tool to be used with care and discernment, although the editor did make me promise not to use that tool… Foiled again! And double exactly, therein lays the real problem with using that tool, in that the emotional heat can build up and explode with unpleasant consequences. Mate, I should have shared the story about the kid and the balloon who tried to bounce it off my head in a restaurant. Fortunately I was alert to that sort of mischief and took swift action. Mind you, Pennywise the clown (from Stephen King’s IT) would never have to put up with that sh#t!



  11. Hi Coco,

    Yeah, that is a really important point that is missed by so many people. I too wonder about that point, if only because people’s actions and words make no sense whatsoever.

    Thanks, the shed is constructed that way to resist burning down during a bushfire. Mind you, that particular shed is probably not going to survive an incident like that if only because the frame is timber. All of the other sheds have steel frames. 😉

    I plan to hang a stainless steel wire up in some of the sheds and hang the produce to dry from those (with a tin lid at each end to foil the sneaky rodents). Actually that wouldn’t surprise me at all about the corn cribs – although very few people grow corn down here because of the old and worn out soils – and as such you never see any corn cribs, but they’re an excellent idea and I’ll look that one up.

    Green tomatoes = green tomato chutney. A delightful addition to winter curries. Yummo!

    I hope you get some rain. An inch and a half fell here today.

    I assume the ranunculus and anemones are for your cut flowers? I look forward to reading about your endeavours.

    Rhubarb wine is very smooth and has subtle flavours. Some country wines can be a bit toothy tasting before they’ve had a chance to age for at least a year.



  12. @ Coco
    I agree with Chris about the chutneys but one can also make green tomato and apple jam. Not wonderful but can be useful. Recipe supplied if wanted.


  13. Yo, Chris – Usurper. Can’t tell you how long I prowled around in my dictionary, with magnifying glass, trying to find that. The Internet provided.

    You may (or may not) find the following article interesting. “1491” from Atlantic magazine. It’s very long, but the more interesting bits, to gardeners, are about halfway down. The article kicks off with a narrative of all the academic squabbling over how many native peoples were in the Americas, before Columbus and the level of culture they attained. Then it starts in about native land management. How pristine was the Americas? Probably, not very. You’ve talked about that with Australia’s native people. But then it gets REALLY interesting when it talks about the Amazon rain forest, how populated it was, and a type of soil called “terra preta.” Which might possible be self replicating, to a certain extent. Or, you could cut to the chase and read the Wikipedia entry for terra preta, which is pretty good. I probably thought it was pretty good, because mostly by accident, it appears I’m doing this to my garden soil.


    Once, about three decades ago, I didn’t break down, but was stranded in Seattle. So, I took a cab from Seattle to Centralia. It’s a long story, so, I’ll skip it. Auto breakdowns are one of my frequent nightmares. Along with hitting a deer. :-).

    I’ll have to do a bit of research on a Gorey recommendation. There’s one collection I have in mind, and I want to get it right. Several very small children meet very bad ends. In a very witty way. There’s a new biography out on him, that I’m looking forward to reading. There was also a, mostly photographic book, done several years ago about the fantastically decorated house he lived in. I don’t have a copy of that.

    More rain again, today. But, we’re supposed to get a clearing period for about a week. Will hit the garden, hard. I spent last evening cleaning and blanching green beans to go in the freezer. Ended up with a light gallon. When I finish picking, I’ll probably have a well stuffed gallon bag in the freezer. Not bad for a four or five foot row of green beans.

    Hmmm. When did the House of Ptolemy end? Was it with Cleopatra applying some sort of snake (jury is still out on variety) to some portion (narratives vary) of her anatomy? She did have a grand daughter (Drasilla) who may (or may, or may not) have had issue.

    I may have to get a can of Spackle to slap on my crater. Hmm. Don’t know if you have Spackle, there. It’s an old brand, something you slap on walls to fill holes.

    The local auction is finally getting around to having an auction of all the oriental (mostly, Japanese) things they got from an estate. Really high end stuff. It’s going to be the same day as the twice yearly Community Garage Sale, at our fairgrounds. But, that opens at 8am, and the auction starts at noon. They are just blocks, apart. So, no problems making both, if my stamina holds up :-).

    At the auction, there’s a smallish garden sculpture of Maneki-neko, which I quit like. He’s the prototype of “Hello Kitty”, which I can’t stand. Go figure. There’s a lot of raku pottery. A lot of it in individual fancy presentation boxes. Might be some real treasure, there. Maybe even some things by Japan’s “Living National Treasures.” But, I know not much about raku, and really don’t warm to it, anyway. Lew

  14. PS: @ Chris – Actually, I found the library classes (on line) to be pretty useful to what I was doing at the time. Working in a lot of rural branches. At least, the classes on children’s and young adult literature. And, the one’s on reference work.

    I saw a funny story, the other day. The American Library Association tracks attempts to ban books, on a yearly basis. A lot of the libraries (most) who belong to the organization have a “Banned Books Month” with displays. Apparently, up in Maine, a bunch of “men of god” wanted to ban the banned book display :-). Oh, the irony. Lew

  15. @ DJSpo – I think, the Roman Empire merrily rolled along as long as they were into the expansionist game. It took them awhile, but, as those things go, over reach set in. Supply lines grew thin. Towards the end, I’m sure they thought they were “too big to fail.” :-). All sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it?

    Here we have Baw Faw Peak (aka Boisfort Peak.) I can see it out my window. The Ladies, here at The Home seem to think when it gets snow, we’ll have our first frost. And when the snow leaves the peak, it’s time to plant. But, they seem a bit tentative about the whole thing. I kept an eye on it, last year, and didn’t see much of a correlation. I think I’ll just keep an eagle eye on the National Weather Service, web site. Lew

  16. Hi Chris,

    The climate in my old stomping grounds is indeed very good, but at a high price. I heard a few months ago that a friend of my father who still runs a dairy in the area recently paid $10,000 an acre for additional farmland! It doesn’t even connect to his current property and the cattle need to be trucked or herded the 5km journey. The old rule of thumb used to be $1000-$2000 an acre for good quality farmland. Not sure where that thumb is now!!

    Our tomatoes are not in the ground yet, the seedlings have not grown as fast as I hoped. It may turn out I don’t end up with anything earlier at all – or maybe only a few weeks earlier. I think we will plant them outside in the next week or so. Cabbages are running bonkers though, and so far no sign of the dreaded cabbage moth!


  17. Hi Chris,

    I think sometimes children need to be occasionally scared of adults. I feel that is the natural order of things! Thankfully, I long ago made adjustments which will ensure no child of mine will ever grace this earth. Plenty enough out there already, plus they would cramp my style!

    I do own an ebook and use it occasionally. They have some advantages, adjustable text size for those with poor eyesight being the main one (or in my case – set the font size to the smallest so I can change pages less often). Battery lasts in the order of a month or so between charges. Overall, nice to read on but I do prefer a good paper copy. I heard comments that some people have gone back to reading paper copies on public transport as e-books have no way of displaying what you are reading to your fellow passengers. Who would have thought there is a narcissistic side to reading 🙂

    In related news, I ordered my first three Jack Vance reprints from Splatterlight Press. They are averaging $25 a copy delivered which is pretty good I guess. Hopefully the print and paper quality is decent as I plan to get them all eventually.

    I haven’t started my sake wine yet – average temperature is still too low. I might need to wait till December to get it into that sweet spot.


  18. Hi Lewis and Damo,

    Thanks for the lovely comments but as is my usual Wednesday wont I am in interweb lockdown (whatever that means – I just made it up because it sounded slightly important), and I promise to reply tomorrow.

    Lewis – Yeah, the car story progressed a bit further today as I got the car towed to some lovely people that I know and who will bring it back to health, sometime soon-ish. As the tow truck driver loaded the car onto the back of the tray I was quite astounded by the speed of the operation, and also at just the sheer number of different technologies employed to keep vehicles on the road. You have to admit that it is quite amazing, although probably wildly inefficient. Vehicles seem way too heavy and large to my mind.

    Despite the heavy rain yesterday, there was no noticeable damage that I could see, although the daylight may reveal new disasters about the place. Today was quite a lot warmer although the awful London Plane Trees have left my eyes feeling as if they are lightly full of grit. The trees drop huge quantities of yellow pollen everywhere in Melbourne for the next six months. I’m not a fan of those trees. Do you grow any of them up your way?

    Actually I’ve read about terra preta.


  19. Not having seen that soil, I do sort of feel that it is what you (and I) are doing by adding quantities of organic matter. Where I’ve done that for years, I do get this sort of black sandy / loam soil, and most of the plants love it. The thing is with that stuff is that I don’t see that many worms in it, so I assume the worms aren’t as fond of that type of soil and they help get it started in its early days. Dunno, but the depths of the stuff in the Amazon sounds quite impressive. But then from historical accounts we had very rich soils here upon arrival of the Europeans on the continent. Sheep take a lot of feeding.

    The article on terra preta is fascinating and I’ve often suspected that charcoal (which has an incredibly huge surface area) provides housing for some of the soil microbial life. This sort of soil is what indigenous people used to to for soil fertility before us more enlightened folks began using natural gas to extract fertilisers… It is also not lost on me that ants detest soil humus.

    Thanks for the link to the article and I got about half way through it. Well one of the great lies we tell ourselves is that we are the good people.



  20. Hi, Chris!

    Speaking as a parent of two sons, I know that we parents sometimes go overboard with protectiveness, but certainly some circumspection is necessary. We have neighbors with two small children and one day when we were walking on our road my husband was cussing to beat the band about something and we ran smack into them around a blind curve. I could tell that the mother (the father was not there) felt really uncomfortable. Unfortunately, my husband did not apologize, which might have helped. I have never see that family walking on the road again and this was years ago. They are way overprotective in other ways, though, and control every bit of their children’s lives. Sad. Our sons were given a whole lot of freedom.

    That is very nice steel cladding; worth the exciting trip, I’d say. That is also a very attractive and serviceable door for a mere shed. Why the mesh on the window? On the door I can see why – glass houses and all.

    I’ll say you have learned a thing or two about water pumps over the years!

    Soap hasn’t been mentioned in awhile. It is nice that you are still making it. Lovely potatoes and especially the asparagus. Yum! Do I remember bees avoiding the jonquils last spring, too?


  21. Chris:

    You have had some troubles in the big smoke lately . . . Are you going to have the car repaired in Melbourne or have it towed to a local repair shop?


  22. Yo, Chris – I’ve never been aware of plane trees, here. But, we have a lot of other trees that drop a lot of pollen, spring and early summer.

    I’ll have to take a long, slow meander through that Wikipedia article. Without any real intention, I managed to throw just about everything on that list at my garden plots. Even the charcoal. I’ve got a source of wood ash. I put two coffee cans full on 100 sq. feet. Next winter, I’ll put more.

    Your mid-week hiatus works out well, for me. I need an earlier start, on wednesdays. And, I’ve got a doctor visit, on top of everything else, this morning. I usually hit the veg stand on wednesdays. Not buying much, these days, other than bananas and lemons. (Stop snickering! Lemon King :-).

  23. Hi Chris,
    Always admire people who realize they weren’t really made out to have children. Too many times people just follow the typical path of high school, college, marriage, buying house and children (in either order), getting a pet etc. never thinking if it’s the best path for them. Let me tell you as a parent and a former teacher it’s often hard to have enough restraint not to blurt out an expletive. Kids now often seem to have the upper hand at home and at school. If a teacher ever swore or god forbid laid a retraining hand on a child the parents will almost always take the side of their child. The assistant principal at my Jr. High was in charge of discipline. He rarely raised his voice and had a very calm personality. One day a boy was really getting physically out of hand and the principal just held on to him for the safety of himself and others. Of course the child threatened that the principal would be reported and sure enough he was put on leave for a few days while the incident was investigated. Fortunately there were plenty of witnesses so nothing came of it.

    I think that new parents are often very isolated now as well. There’s a lot to be said for having their parents and grandparents around for support.
    Over all I enjoyed my girls. They both introduced me to new things due to their varied interests. It’s also nice now that they are adults as we are quite close and I consider them friends as well. I was fortunate to have the same relationship with both my mother and mother-in-law.

    Sorry to hear about the car. I can only imagine the cost of that taxi. Do you have Uber around you? I have avoided using it though from time to time a family member in the city will get one for me through their account to get me to the train. The poor taxi drivers are being put out of business by them. I’m afraid pretty soon it’s going to be the only option. You need to have a smart phone to use it which puts a lot of people as a huge disadvantage.

    It was lucky your dogs didn’t get sick from eating all those balls.

    The shed is looking great and good score with the lion door handle.

    Wish I could taste some of your wines. Are they sweet or dry?

    Another rainy day here. It was in the 80’s and humid the last few days but tonight it turns quite cold with a few nights in the 20’s in the forecast.


  24. Chris,

    People at work no I’m different and it mostly works out. I mostly stay away from talking about peak oil, climate change, etc though. And I HAVE been referred to as “heretic” to my face, which really doesn’t bother me.

    I’ve never had any desire to build a greenhouse. The energy and operational costs have always bothered me. I’ve got a covered patio and can start cool weather things a bit earlier under the roof in containers and move them as needed to increase or decrease the amount of sun they get. That’s good enough for me.

    The substitute math teacher I had in high school was Mr. Belch. He made all the necessary jokes about his name before we even had a chance to start. If my memory is correct, we all thought he was rather mean by stealing all the jokes we would’ve come up with.


  25. @ Lew,

    I totally agree about the Roman Empire moving merrily along during the expansion phase. As seems true of us, they didn’t realize that they had achieved overreach, and were totally unwilling to pull back the frontiers. And your idea of their thinking they were “too big to fail” seems spot on. That attitude is one of many we share with them.

    The wives tales about when to plant worked for quite some time here, but with climate change really being apparent, I’m learning to disregard them, too. Paying attention to the National Weather Service longer range forecasts while just spending time outdoors and feeling what’s going on and “listening” to the earth is starting to serve me better about when to plant. I’ learned the hard way 4 or 5 years ago that if I follow the “Mica Peak” idea, I’m planting too late, the kale and chard and similar things getting done in by the heat earlier than the heat used to be there.

  26. Thank you both for the chutney suggestion. Yum! Unfortunately, V won´t eat curry. I´ll google and see if there isn´t something, other than breading and frying to be done.

    On electronic books, I also far and away prefer an actual, hand held version. But, books in general in Spain are scandalously expensive, and in foreign languages even more so. And, if I order them used from the UK, the book itself may be less than 1€, but the transport and tax brings it right back up over 10€. So I´ve found that I can get instant downloads to the laptop for less than 5€ for the light reading that I won´t want to re-read, and save my pennies for non-fiction, reference tome purchases. It´s not ideal, as I don´t take the laptop outside with me, but it´s a compromise my parsimonious self can live with.

    We´re getting rain! And it brings out all the fall colors so well.


  27. Hi Lewis, Damo, Pam, Margaret, DJ, and Coco,

    Thanks for the lovely comments however events have run away from me today. Seriously… I promise to reply tomorrow.

    Lewis – Mate, had to go into the big smoke today to sort out the continuing Dirt Mouse car mess. It has turned out to be a rather expensive bunch of wombat poo. There, I feel much better now. I think I’ll recount the whole sad sorry tale in full on the next blog because I’ve learned a thing or two. Anyway, it is nice to be able to do things about it. Hope you took note of the interesting day on the share market.



  28. Yo, Chris – No problems. Sorting out transportation takes priority. My little manual truck is getting a bit crunchy between first and second. I happened to see Frank the mechanic, yesterday, and we talked a bit about there perhaps being a trip in, at some future time.

    I had to make a trip into Centralia, yesterday. I found one of the Holy Grails of pumpkin spice-dom … the pumpkin M&Ms. Pricey. Bought two packages. Did my weekly at my Safeway, last night. No pumpkin ice cream, yet. But I found something called Pumpkin Spice Kettle Corn. Popcorn with a “yogurt” glaze and spice flavor. A mostly artificial and bogus food. As it goes with those type’s of things, quit tasty :-).

    My buddy Scott’s wife is going out of town for 10 days, so, I expect he’ll be running wild in his own sedate way :-). We missed lunch, last month, so, decided we’d go out, today. I’d been banging on about the book I’m reading on Mexican food, so, that was kind of a set up. I may try something different, today, instead of my usual shrimp nachos.

    I want to finish harvesting the green beans, today. The weather is ok, but we’re having heavy morning fogs, so, the garden is pretty drippy til afternoon.

    Can’t say I’m too overwrought about the stock market. Not like I can do anything about it. From what I’ve gathered, it seems mostly in the tech sector (finally catching on that The Emperor has no clothes?) Some speculation that interest rates are going up, so, there’s not quit as much “easy money” around, which makes investors nervous. Whatever that means.

    I had an interesting (and, rather circular) conversation with a guy I know, yesterday. Not a stupid man, but I think, with a rather rigid, but uncomplicated take on finance. He feels the economy is ok (as opposed to 2008) as “people are buying houses.” “They must have money, as houses are selling.” The idea that the housing market is bubbling again, due to a lot of paper being issued, is rather foreign, to him.

    What makes it a bit interesting is that he’s a “scrapper.” Tears down an old RV and salvages out all the aluminum in some record amount of time. I asked him if he was concerned about the Chinese rejecting our recycling, but he said the metal part of it doesn’t kick in until 2020. And, who knows what the recycling landscape might look like, by then?

    When I mentioned to my conservative friends in Idaho, that the Timberland library was having it’s cyclic financial problems (and, she worked for Timberland, at one point), her first thought (that she can’t seem to see beyond) is that it’s because the minimum wage has been raised. End of story. Inflation (which she’s sensitive to), falling timber revenues (where the library gets a lot of its income) or the cap on property taxes (more revenue … cap doesn’t take into account inflation), has nothing to do with it. Any kind of union (the library really doesn’t have a very effectual one) is also a convenient target. People’s take on the problems with the economy are a very “one note” riff, influenced by whatever flavor of politics they favor. Lew

  29. Hi Chris,

    You asked me, regarding my last comment, how long I’ve played the mountain dulcimer. Answer: I started taking lessons on it 31 years ago. And given all that time, really, I ought to be a better player than I am.

    Like Margaret, we went from almost record heat (87F/30C on Tuesday) to much below normal temperatures today/Thursday (high only in the 50sF, and the weather folks suggest there might be patchy frost in favored locations tonight). We were supposed to get rain yesterday but it was only scant here. I hope we get more on Friday because I cleared off the garden bed that had held the tomatoes, peppers, and tomatoes and sowed it to crimson clover, a cover crop, figuring on it being rained on. If it doesn’t rain again I’ll need to water it.

    While Mike and I have no biological children, we have been adopted as honorary parents by several folks 20 or so years younger than us. All of them found us in their 20s and all of them have/had mothers, most of whom we know/knew and are friendly with. Sometimes, however, young folks find they need other adults in their lives who can listen well and offer advice when asked. We are those folks, and we treasure their friendship in turn.

    Mike recently bottled up two batches of ale that took a long time to ferment for some odd reason. Soon we will try drinking them; not sure if they will taste good or not. There are elderberries and crabapples in the chest freezer waiting to be turned into wine when Mike feels inspired to do so.


  30. Hi Damo,

    It is an interesting matter isn’t it? I mean the kids in the story that were about to drop something onto my head discovered that there were consequences for their actions – and yet by the mere act of trying to do that particular trick, they hadn’t realised that there would indeed be consequences. How complex is that? I would have thought that it was the job of the parents to teach the kids that those sorts of actions would possibly be a bad idea. And interestingly to me, the father strode protectively into the fray with the intent of making a lot of noise, rather than investigating the situation. But then, I guess he was living in a loft arranged by his ex-girlfriend, at her ex-boyfriends house. Some people like complex living arrangements, I’m not one for that. 🙂

    Mate, you travel a lot so I can well understand that an e-book would work for you. A month between charges for the batteries is pretty good and far beyond what I would have expected. Out of curiosity, what sort of (and how many) batteries do they use? No way, but yeah, that claim about social displays has the ring of authenticity to it to my ears. That aspect would never have occurred to me.

    Like your style – and ambitions – with the Jack Vance books. Can’t wait to read what you have to say about them as I’m sorely tempted. The bank balance took a hiding yesterday. ?-) Hey, my understanding is that they are the reproduced text from the Vance Integral edition, so the text may vary from that of the books that I have here in the bookshelves. Just checked on eBay and there are even a few collections for sale, but no integral edition so your path seems to be the way to go. Do you get them from the publisher – is it some sort of subscription process?

    Oooo! Before I forget, a word of advice about sake. Keep the mash warm, but out of the sunlight. The fermentation works best at between 18’C (sweet) and 23’C (drier, slightly higher alcohol content but still sweet). The direct sun can raise the temperature at the tiniest point in the mash to beyond 29’C, and at that point Acetobacterium can get a solid foothold – and they make the memorable smelling acetic acid. I wouldn’t recommend drinking that stuff. If you get an acetone smell, start the batch off again and keep it cooler and darker.

    A long time ago I knew somebody who spent a cool half a mil on a cafe renovation. It takes a lot of margin on cups of coffee to pay off such a beast – if it is even possible. The dairy farm story is pretty similar. The thumb has gone awol.

    Fair enough, it is early days for tomatoes. The old timers used to say Melbourne cup day was the day for tomatoes, and I haven’t seen a lot to dissuade me that they wrong. If you can move them into the sun during the day, and then into the house in the evening, well, you can probably get tomatoes by Christmas. That is too much work for me and I’m happy to wait until February.



  31. Hi Pam,

    As I have no experience whatsoever in the matter, I defer to your point of view and opinion. Of course, there is always middle ground in most situations but I reckon it is really hard to find out exactly where that point is. And you may indeed have found that middle point given what you wrote. I was way over on the other side where I had a whole lot of freedom and minimal supervision. It worked for me, but it probably wouldn’t be for everyone. 🙂

    And I reckon you are spot on too about apologising, because sometimes it is not the mistake that is the problem, it is how the mistake gets dealt with. And I’m guilty of both over doing and under doing things after that point if only because it is really hard to know what the appropriate response is – until you’ve lived with the consequences.

    Thanks! I’ll chuck more steel cladding up on the shed tomorrow. The weather is superb here at the moment. Not too hot and not too cold, but just about right! The mesh over both door and window is to reduce the possibility that radiant heat breaks the glass during a bushfire. And if the glass does break, then hopefully the mesh stops embers getting into the shed and setting it alight. That’s the theory anyway, how it works out depends upon circumstances and events…

    I don’t know about your part of the world, but here embers from a bushfire can be a real pain and they travel far ahead of the fire front. The buildings have to withstand an assault from the biggest birthday cake sparkler that you could possibly ever imagine.

    The water pump arrangement is looking pretty cool and I hope to get it up and running on Sunday (all being well).

    Olive oil soap is an awesome soap and very gentle on the skin because it doesn’t dry the skin out. Dry skin is a curse and hopefully you are not afflicted by that? Yeah, a lot goes on each week behind the scenes that I just forget to write about that stuff, and soap is one of those things. We’re almost out of preserved apricots from last season now. A bit of a shame that. I reckon the harvest from those trees will be lesser this year because of the continual frosts.

    The European honey bees are total fuss monsters and they eat whatever they want to eat. They’re very active now, but there is a huge number of flowers for them to harvest from. This spring is proceeding at much slower pace than last year when it was much hotter.



  32. Hi Chris,

    I think the father felt threatened about his overall place in the world when you attempted to discipline the children, not surprising with such complicated living arrangements!

    Yeah, the e-book is not elegant, but it serves a purpose and is basically like paper to read. The batteries are embedded in the casing. No user serviceable parts inside!! To be honest I use it a lot less now I have some decent bookshelf space. Moral question, is it worse to *ahem*, obtain an illicit digital copy of a novel, or get a book from the second hand book shop? The author is paid in neither situation, even a library loan they get something (Lew might know more). Oh well, in such quandaries I often ask myself what Cugel the Clever would do!

    My new Jack Vance copies are arriving from a print-on-demand service in the UK call bookdepository.com who were slightly cheaper than Amazon. To my knowledge, there are no bricks and mortar retailers. The first 3 books cost a little over $80 NZD delivered. Cheaper than a new paperback in a shop, but still a lot compared to my normal op-shop finds 🙂

    Thank you for the sake tips, I had visions of starting it earlier but the average house temp is still a bit variable for my liking. Today it got down to 3 degrees outside and pretty much sleeted all day – good thing the tomatoes are still indoors! I got a whole leg of lamb for $11 yesterday, I guess I know what I will be eating this weekend!

    Sorry to hear about your dirt-rat troubles. Considering the varied and ancient cars I have owned, I can’t remember a single time I got stranded. Was always lucky to catch little faults at home before we set out (more via dumb luck than any sort of awesome planning or preventative maintenance though).


  33. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks, and it was a tough road to travel because of the ongoing societal pressures to conform. Circumstances were just against the editor and I, but at least we were wise enough to not push our luck on that front. The dominant narrative is reinforced at an alarming regularity – and many people trade on the fear of missing out. I hear and experience a lot of that.

    Well, you are clearly wiser than I, because you have the restraint not to blurt out an expletive, whereas I failed on that front. Mind you, I’ve honoured the editors promise not to continue with that action. You know, kids are sometimes front and centre, and I can begin talking to adults and then they push the kids into my awareness. I’m unsure whether the parents are hiding their own social awkwardness behind the kids. Dunno, but I’m leaning towards that point of view.

    My understanding of that circumstance with kids getting physically out of hand and being a threat to themselves and others is that it is a very minor circumstance in schools. But the problem is, when it happens, people can often be unaware of how to respond – and that is where I reckon the failure sets in. That is a common story on a number of fronts actually. It is nice to read that the investigation was found in his favour as parent of such kids often instil poor life lessons, but then they themselves may be limited and doing the best they can.

    Yeah, exactly, parents are isolated and they take upon themselves the entire burden of raising their kids. What is with that? It would be an unrelenting thing to do – and all the while it affects their mental health because they are socially isolated. We’re social creatures after all and I reckon the current arrangements don’t work that well at all.

    Your experience sounds lovely and very well balanced. 🙂

    It is funny you say that about Uber, but a lot of people said the same thing to me. Don’t have a smart phone so that option is closed to me, and a taxi it is. The taxi industry is a funny business because behind the cars and drivers is a taxi license (which were traded and sold investments) and a lot of people were doing quite well out of that, whilst I’m not sure that the benefits were flowing through to the drivers. I had a bit of exposure to the taxi industry many years ago. It seemed to be a funny business to me – and not in a humorous way.

    Hehe! The balls went in one end of the dogs and came out the other end only in much smaller chunks. Nowadays I regularly feed them bones and they have bright white toothy grins! Incidentally I’ve begun feeding the chickens once per week a small chunk of beef mince – and they love it.

    Ah, I set up tasting glasses for any guests that are interested. The sake usually is the winner, followed by ginger wine, and then maybe blackcurrant. We tend to age the wines so they are drier tasting. I’m not a great fan of very sweet wines – the sugar gives me headaches.

    Your season is turning, but what a rapid change in temperature. How do the sows cope with that change? 73’F and sunny here tomorrow, and it looks as if another inch or two of rain will fall Tuesday night.



  34. Hi DJ,

    Mate, totally 100% with you. The first rule of Fluffy Club is: Don’t talk about fluffy club! 🙂 There, I feel much better having just written that. I usually tell stories about how it is playing out, and I do much the same here with the blog. Nobody really wants to hear about how we no longer recycle the many materials that we feel really good about by send to off China. Instead I tell them stories about how fires in recycling centres seem to be on the rise. Most people know what it means, but if you ever take the common path that gets people’s emotions raised, well, let’s just say that they’re well prepared for it… 😉

    I reckon your covered patio is probably the best way to go for early season plants. As you wrote, greenhouses require a lot of energy to operate – and what is the point of that? Eventually the costs mount up and then the poor greenhouse looks all sad and empty and stuff. I use that same trick with planting sensitive plants in very sheltered positions and what can I say, but it works. Mind you, you get a lot more snow than I can even understand. Is the snow pack getting greater or lesser recently?

    Mr Belch sounds pretty switched on. I’ve encountered one High School teacher who went really hard on the class early on, and then just slackened off – and we all lived in fear of him… He was alright that guy.

    Pardon me! Excuse my poor belching pun…



  35. Hi Coco,

    Ah, well curry is an acquired taste and I guess it is not for everyone. I really quite like hot curries and there is a place in Melbourne that serves Indian food made from organic ingredients. It’s good…

    It is nice to hear that you too enjoy the real deal with books and I understand your point of view. 🙂 It is really weird but a lot of the books for sale here over the internet also come from the UK, but being down here at the bottom of the planet, the books end up being more expensive than what you pay – although we are probably getting better value per kilometre given the massive distances involved. Damo in his comment was paying $25 per book and that works out to be about 16€. Plus it sometimes takes a month or two to work its way down here. Again, it is pretty amazing really.

    Total respect for your parsimonious nature. And it takes one to know one! Hehe! 😉



  36. Hi Claire,

    Thank you for sharing your mountain dulcimer story, but I do rather fancy that you are being overly immodest. But then, now that I think about it a bit, there are probably a whole lot of things that I should be better at after all these years. It is a bit eerie thinking about such things. Hehe! I’ve known people who are able to pick up musical instruments really easy and they have no troubles at all. I on the other hand find that they are like learning another language and that takes a lot of practice for me. You know, I reckon everyone’s gifts are in different areas – and that is a good thing as it would be all rather dull and uninteresting if we were all identical. Imagine that! Horrid.

    You might be interested to know that if the world were tilted differently, I too would likewise be clearing the tomato beds at this time of year. I assume the crimson clover will over winter – under whatever snow or frozen conditions it gets exposed too? I grow a couple of varieties of clover in the orchard, and I’ve observed that the grass and clover battle it out every year and the outcomes are different even just a few metres away. For your interest, I’m planning to grow mustards in the tomato bed next autumn. Same, same, but different. I’ve been giving crop rotation a lot of thought over the past few months. At the moment I can afford to be very slack because I have access to so much manure. I don’t know how that will play out in the future.

    Thank you also for sharing your beautiful story, and I am frankly envious and really impressed.

    The sake making process is very similar to making ale, and I hope your ale turns out well. About two years back we tried a millet beer which was really good and so easy to do. Slow brewing is usually no problem at all from what I’ve experienced. We’ve found that it is when you try and speed the fermentation process up that it all goes horribly wrong – and unfortunately rather rapidly…



  37. Hi Lewis,

    Hopefully I get some time to finish reading the Atlantic article this evening if only because I suspect that the truth is always a more complex story than people are comfortable admitting to themselves. And the old story of Terra nullius used to get air time down here which would have annoyed plenty of people who’d lost something in the process.

    Yeah, vehicle breakdowns are a nuisance, although there is a state motor vehicle assistance club who came to my rescue, but you have to pay for membership – which I’ve always done as an adult. It was watching those guys in action that made me consider the huge suite of technologies required to keep vehicles on the road. And petrol prices are rising down here too given how much we import. Mustn’t grumble…

    Anyway, I’ve been coming to terms over the past six months with the fact that the little dirt mouse was never designed to operate for as long as I was operating it. And I’m a real stickler for regular maintenance. There are all sorts of interesting implications from that point of view. And I spoke with someone who I know well and who works in the car industry and sought their advice, and they described my situation as facing the need to draw a line in the sand. The thing with that is that it is a gamble and there are plenty of knowns and unknowns, and you just have to leap into the unknown. It also fascinates me that the larger dirt mouse which is four years older, seems to be far better constructed. There is definitely a story in there.

    Did you end getting more rain? And how is the garden looking and producing now that fall is fast approaching? That is interesting about the green beans because we tend to dry them in the sun before storing them, whilst you freeze them. Your lot probably tastes better when it is eventually cooked though! It is an outstanding harvest from such a small row of beans. Nice work.

    None of the corn has popped up out of the soil yet, but it is early days and I haven’t seen any feral tomato plants yet. The rain the other day was really good and it looks as though more will fall Tuesday night. I’m really grateful with how the season has turned out so far – as it could be much worse and actually is on other parts of the continent. I noticed that the European beech has begun producing leaves, although they are in the elongated bud phase and have yet to unfurl. One of the sugar maples has begun producing leaves and the horse chestnut has produced some flowers. I like the sulphur crested cockatoos, but far out, did they have to eat some of the buds off the horse chestnut last year…

    I suspect the victors would have penned a fascinating history of the end of the House of Ptolemy. Such things happen. It is a bit like the old story of “Let them eat cake” or “Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned”. Sometimes it can be handy to have a scapegoat – whatever they are. Actually why is a scapegoat, called a scapegoat? It all seems a bit unfair for the poor goats to have such indignities heaped upon their gentle selves!

    Nope. Never heard of Spackle. It sounds interesting… Wound cleaning is really serious business, and I have encountered quite a number of people in recent years that don’t take it seriously. I’m not joking when I reckon that germ theory won’t last more than a generation or two in any dystopian future.

    Did you make it to the auction of the high end Japanese items? Have you got your eye on any particular item? Well there you go, I always believed that the Maneki-neko were indeed a form of ‘Hello Kitty’, but not so, because one is a global franchise which apparently isn’t a cat despite looking like one, and the other has more immediate personal uses. What a fascinating history they have and it never occurred to me that the beckoning hand gestures would be different.

    No way! I find it quite curious that some folks such as “men of god” would want to ban a banned book display. It all seems rather ironic to me, because unless there is a banned book display, how the heck is anyone ever going to know that a certain book was banned? Anyway, banning books can be some of the best free advertising that a book could ever receive. And what is worse, the book might not be any good, or even worse it could be rather dull and poorly written. What a fine joke that is. Hey, several decades ago one of my early adult favourite bands released an album titled: Censored due to legal advice. Pretty funny huh? It wasn’t my favourite album of theirs either.

    Mate, the London plane trees drop a huge amount of pollen and reactions to the pollen are very common. I find it to be mildly irritating. The tree is grown widely in Melbourne because it has broad leaves, can survive heat and dry, and is oblivious to air pollution. No doubts it is a useful tree with a fascinating history, but still there are other good choices.

    I like your fighting spirit with the soil amendments – and it is my cry too: Next winter (whenever in my case) I’ll add more! It just works… In a weird circumstance, I noticed that the Google Earth satellite photo of this place had been updated recently and it is remarkable just how much greener some parts of this property are compared to the surrounding properties.

    I began reading the plant explorer book today that you recommended a few months back. Already I’m yearning for a time long in the past when such travel was possible. It sounds as rough as bags, but at the same time, all rather civilised, despite the hapless scientist barely dodging jail for espionage! The author recounts a lively ripping yarn.

    Who buys lemons???? I give them away – and there are always more. They’re like tribbles… And I – or the chickens just can’t consume enough of them. Although, as a bit of a teaser, the lemonades are pretty good indeed. Good to read that you don’t buy much these days. With fruit I mainly buy pears, apples and bananas. I feed some of those to the chickens as well as have them in my breakfast. I should probably think about constructing an underground cool store cut into the side of the hill. It is probably easy enough to do.

    Ouch, well the synchromesh between gears one and two in your truck eventually wear out. It is a pretty clever little device that aligns the gears so that they shift smoothly. Manual gearboxes are not hard to rebuild, you just have to get someone who knows what they’re doing. Manual gearboxes are actually a lot simpler than automatics – I’m not a fan of self shifting cars as I prefer to be engaged in the driving process. And some of the newer self shifting gearboxes are mind bogglingly complex machines. I have a suspicion that all of the easy to do things on vehicles have been done…

    We ended up putting a deposit down on a new dirt mouse. The old dirt mouse got $1,600 for a trade in after much haggling. Depreciation is a financial pain. I did very well in Accounting Theory and may one day write the story about depreciation. It is an interesting story and it evolved in your part of the world due to the expansion of private railways.

    Hehe! Enjoy your pumpkin M&M’s! That stuff is always tasty. 🙂

    How did the Mexican lunch go? This talk of branching out into new food choices makes for nervous and uncertain reading on my part! Shrimp nachos sound pretty good to me, but then I am a creature of habit.

    Has Scott run totally wild given the circumstances?

    Spring is gaining momentum here as it will be 74’F tomorrow. You know plenty of trees in the orchard are yet to leaf out fully. It has been a really slow start to spring. Let’s hope summer is not too severe. You’ve past the warm weather batten to us if the moisture doesn’t dissipate from the garden until after lunch. I spotted a chunk of ice the other morning hanging off the roof. I’ll be really lucky to get any fruit this year, although I did a walk around today (one of my quiet joys) and spotted lots of apricots and plenty of almonds… The quince looks set to flower too. And I spotted a lonely little tulip – I’m genuinely surprised nothing has eaten it yet…

    People are bonkers about debt. I can’t write it any simpler than that. When household debt down here passes 120% of GDP and few people seem alarmed by that, mate I don’t know what to think. And yeah, the tech stocks took a hammering. I’ll make a prediction about Mr Musk. Tesla may go into the doldrums for a few years and then they’ll wheel Mr Musk back into the limelight again. Sort of like what happened with Apple.

    I suspect the canny Chinese will take our metal recycling as long as we keep sending it. The stuff is high grade ore after all.

    Yup, like Gollum, people believe what they wants to believe, ah my precioussess! Hehe! 🙂



  38. Yo, Chris – Like humans, Dirt Rats eventually wear out. :-(. Unless super human / mechanical (and expensive) repairs are resorted to. I think my portable DVD problems … well, Damo touched on it. The internal battery has finally given out. I was reading through the instruction manual, and, the battery is guaranteed for a year’s use. I’m pushing two years. And, as our Sears and K-Mart have closed here, I’m afraid I’m in for an, almost, maiden voyage to … (cue ominous music) Wally World. On the agenda for this morning.Sure, they’re “only” $80, but pitching out the old one felt soooo wasteful.

    The gardens here still look pretty good. A little crispy brown around the edges, but that’s more due to fading light than low temperatures. For at least the next week, we’re to have morning fogs, afternoon sun. Cooler night time temps. But, no frost in the forecast.

    Doctor thinks this morning will be the last of the fooling around with my “wound.” No more packing, and, it’s up to me to slap fresh bandaids on it.

    The mostly Japanese auction is the last weekend of the month. I’ll have to see what The Home looks like on Google Earth. If at all interesting, I’ll send the address along.

    I’m glad you got the Fairchild book. Lots of good stories, in there. The Victorians / Edwardians sure knew how to travel in style. There philosophy seemed to be, if you have to leave home, might as well take along as much of home as possible. :-).

    Speaking of shipping books to Australia, I ordered a print off of E-Bay, a little over a week ago. I thought I’d check the tracking. And, noticed a note to the effect that “delivery may be delayed due to hurricane.” Oh, dear. I really hadn’t paid any attention to where it was coming from. So, a bit of digging. Oh, dear, (again.) Port Charlotte, Florida. So then I was scrambling to figure out where the town is. (Was?). Well out of the patch of the hurricane. 100 miles south of Tampa. The local newspaper said they had a bit of beach erosion, but that was about it. I just hope the print wasn’t sitting in a postal service warehouse, further north. Time will tell.

    Yeah, that’s why I got my Ranger truck with manual gears. The initial cost was a bit less. And, I knew any future repairs would also cost less. I hear rumblings that manual gears will eventually be done away with. Wonder why? :-).

    Lunch was canceled. Scott’s wife was about to embark on a train trip to visit a close, terminally ill friend. Just before getting on the train, she heard the friend had (from my purely selfish point of view), in a fit of poor timing, past away. So Scott thought he’d better stick around home and provide “support.” Oh, well. Next week.

    Yeah, I always tell myself I’m going to try new things, but when faced with the actual menu, usually cave. But, in a fit of mental gymnastics, have told myself I can make very good shrimp nachos, at home, so, might as well take a flyer. That may (or may not) work. Lew

  39. Chris,

    “The first rule of Fluffy Club is: Don’t talk about fluffy club!” Well said. That seems to work for a LOT of situations. Now if my mouth would only catch up to that idea…

    The snow pack…Well, the average 110 cm per year can fluctuate wildly year to year. Every 4 years on average we get 150 cm or more, the latest of those being 2 winters ago. The changes that are happening so far is that we don’t get many nights below -18C, whereas we used to have several of these per year. Clear and frigid has become cloudy and cold. Also, there are major thaws occurring earlier with yearly flooding rather than occasional flooding.

    That said, the average annual snowfall for the past 30 years is lower than what the “30 year average” was in 1988, and the recent 30 years includes the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 winters. The first had 244 cm, just shy of the record, and the latter had 285 cm, which shattered the old record. Combined with the warmer temperatures even during “La Nina” winters, I’d have to say something is changing. We’re supposed to see a noticeable snowfall decrease by 2030, or so the recent forecasts have said, although more overall moisture from October through May, which have already been in evidence.

    Summers are hotter, too. Temperatures over 43C used to occur once every few years. Now there are several per summer, and the evenings do not cool off as early as they used to. This is also making growing vegetables a challenge. At the same time that this trend has appeared, the rain quits in late May or June, a good 4 to 6 weeks earlier than it used to . We used to get thunderstorms throughout July and early August, so that even the driest months averaged about 1.75 cm of rain. Now nothing (or maybe 1 cm) from June through September total has been the norm the past 6 years or so.

    Our normal snowfall winters – say between 88 cm and 140 cm – keep me busy shoveling snow off the sidewalks and car parking areas. (I’m glad I take the bus to and from work!) For heavier snow events, I’ve got to get out the snow blowing machine. Another neighbor has one of those, so we help most of the neighbors with our machines.

    I don’t like the machines, but they’re necessary sometimes. They’re loud. My neighbor’s machine clogged last year, so he tried poking his finger into the auger to clear the clog – it cut off the tip of the finger. Then my neighbor was loud. I prefer keeping any and all body parts away from moving machine parts.

    The most snow we ever had on the ground was 107 cm in February 1969. I was only 107 cm tall. All us kids walked to school, which felt like we were walking through tunnels since the snow from sidewalks was piled so high. My father had to shovel snow off the roof to keep the roof from caving in. I have this rake with a loooong handle so I can rake the snow off the roof if it gets too deep. I’ve used it 3 times in the past 22 years.

    So, yes, Spokane can get a lot of snow. It’s an acquired taste, so to speak, and requires a different mentality. And winters aren’t really severe here, compared to maybe Montana or Minneapolis.


  40. Hi Damo,

    That was my take on the situation too. A lot of dysfunctional relationships tend to be very brittle from my perspective and the arrangements don’t stand up to much poking. It happens.

    Fair enough. I have no experience at all with e-readers, but my understanding is that they only use battery energy when they charge the liquid crystal display which then remains, is that your understanding? It is a very clever technology. Your question gets to the heart of the licensing arrangements, but you know I’ve always sort of thought that digital delivery of such media is an expression of the difficulties and costs nowadays of supplying the same media in the physical world. Dunno. Print media has taken a pounding lately and no doubts about it.

    Haha! We both know that Cugel the Clever would not give a fig for the niceties of copyright, unless of course he was caught! 🙂 I quite enjoyed the character of Cugel the Clever, if only because he gave as good as he got.

    Thanks for the information about the books and I’ve filed it away and now only await upon your review!

    Brr! Well that is the South Island for you! I won’t at all mention that today was gloriously sunny, calm and a very pleasant 25’C. I believe that in NZ people have been heard to quip: “Sucks to be you” although given it is in a different dialect with local connotations as to the meaning, so I really have no idea what they are talking about. 😉 We worked outside all day today on the new shed. It looks as though the skies may open again on Tuesday afternoon, but at least sleet appears to be off the table (for now)… Yeah, the tomatoes wouldn’t like that sort of weather, however it is almost perfect weather for roast lamb. Hope you remembered to chuck some potatoes in with the roast? Some may call that cooking with the essential pan juices. I’m beginning to salivate at the thought of roast lamb. Yum!

    It is indeed luck, and you may have just put the kiss of death upon yourself! 🙂 Be careful as hubris leads to nemesis. I’ll write about the story on Monday.



  41. Hi Pam,

    You’ve not mucked around and gotten to the heart of the matter. It is a new new dirt mouse – red in fact. As has been discussed in the past, I’m mildly dubious of Robin’s egg blue, but then I have it on good authority that the most crashed cars are actually green – although I’m unsure why that would be. I’ll do a tell all for the next blog. 🙂

    Incidentally when you originally mentioned the colour, I thought that you were talking about Robin’s Nest which was an English television show in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s. A dubious time to be sure.

    Ollie and co. have been running around outside all day long in the warm spring sunshine. Now they are sound asleep, pleased at the days activities (Toothy managed to find a frog to play with, which I had to rescue) and they’re now gently snoring away content in a job well done.



  42. Hi DJ,

    Your mission should you choose to accept it is… 🙂 Foot in mouth disease is an occupational hazard from time to time. Good luck!

    Far out. No double far out, with an added ‘yeah man’. -18’C is so far beyond my understanding. OK, so how does such a temperature work out? I mean however does a person heat their house when the air is leaching the very warmth from your bones?

    La Nina conditions lead to a very wet summer down here (although you could also say that it depends on much and can be very variable). I was interested to hear how it plays out in your part of the world? We’re heading towards an El Nino this summer which I always thought meant drier and warmer here, but wetter in your part of the world? Again it all depends and here this year so far is about middling average, but other parts of the continent are doing it so tough.

    Your description of the climate reads like a similar story to here. What I’m noticing is that the variability has increased and we are getting warmer days, but also some epic rainfall events. It can actually not rain for weeks and weeks, and then on one day a month’s (and then some) worth of rain falls in an hour. I’m learning how to adapt to those sorts of conditions and then take advantage of them. It is very complicated.

    Ouch. Exactly, 40’C+ days are no good for a vegetable garden. So far the worst I’ve seen on that front is 10 of those days in a single summer – and that was a bad year. I can’t speak for your part of the world, but when such weather hits here, I tend to include photos showing how the garden survives during the middle of the day. The thing that troubles me about your part of the world is that whilst it can get hotter here (45’C) the variability between the highest and the lowest temperatures is less than what you experience. -2’C is the coldest that I have ever seen here.

    Ah yes, it could be said that snow blowing machines, blow… Mate, I spent the day using energy from the sun (and machines and their consumables which were brought in from elsewhere) to continue making the new shed. It is not lost on me at all just how complicated our societal systems have become. On the other hand, we got all of the steel wall cladding onto the walls of the new shed today.

    Thanks for sharing the stories of living in your part of the world. And I’m genuinely surprised that they sent you to school in 1969 during such a dump of snow. I reckon at one level of the human condition it would have been a whole lot of fun and an adventure!



  43. Hi Lewis,

    Entropy is really not a very nice companion if only because it is always taking its share and what are we then left with? I dunno, better judgement and experience? Maybe? I still make plenty of new and interesting as well as dumb mistakes, so I can’t really vouch for the whole better judgement and experience. But it might be possible?

    I’ve read sci-fi novels where people download themselves into some sort of virtual reality and then go on living eternally in that zone – until the computer crashes of course, although they rarely discuss that possibility – I dunno why? Anyway, it all seems like a rather dull existence to my mind. It would be like what they used to claim about the after life in that you can go and hang around heaven for as long as you wanted – if you could even get off that particular carousel. I’d never thought about that. What an uncanny thought. I reckon Gods would be affronted if you were to suggest to them: Mate, this place is nice and all, but I’m totally bored out of my brains. Nope, I can’t speak for you, but I’d be bored to tears by such an existence.

    But yeah, entropy did its job on the dirt mouse, and I plan to write about that story tomorrow night, although from a frankly unusual perspective. What do you do? I sought advice from people in the motor vehicle trade and I reckon they know what they’re talking about.

    Exactly too, batteries scare the daylights out of me, if only because if I stuff up the system here with the house, well it is a bit like your DVD predicament, but on steroids. Incidentally, I decided today that the battery room will get a full re-wire sometime in the next month or so. The thing is, the system evolved bit by bit and nobody would ever have thought that it ended up like it did, so it is time to implement everything I’ve learned and just re-do all of it. There is a bit of incentive to get that job done, because as the inverter (the device that converts the battery power to household mains power) has aged it is putting out slightly more electrical interference which is mucking around with the data recording on one of the controllers. Who would have thought that outcome was even possible?

    The work here is never finished. However, we did manage to get all of the wall steel sheets up today in the nice warm spring sunshine. We didn’t have enough time to put on the roof sheets, but this is a good thing given that apparently a big rain storm will dump a fair bit of rain on Tuesday evening. What a fine mess that would be if all that water had nowhere to go – and was concentrated…

    Good luck at Wally World! People can get rather excited at bargain shopping, but if you have no other option then that is what the option is. I see that place as a sort of last gasp more than anything else. Sort of like a lowest common denominator, although I wasn’t that good at math so I may have gotten that analogy very wrong.

    Your weather sounds very lovely and it is nice that you are getting plenty of moisture – albeit in the format of fogs. Frosts can be very unpleasant for their impact upon the garden.

    That is great news about your back. Really good! Although however does a person pack a wound on their own back. Hopefully you can get help if required. I’m pretty certain the ladies would love to get involved.

    Google earth satellite views are quite amazing. I’m sure the system pops up the occasional drama like the fitbit silliness of a few months back.

    Yeah, I’m really enjoying the Fairchild book as the scientist and also the author share a unique perspective on dipping into uncomfortable territory, but way back in the day. And I liked how Mr Fairchild knew that he didn’t require more than a few buds and some seeds, before making his escape to a distant port. I rarely meet people who have a well defined sense of adventure. I feel that the world maybe both too small and also too large and demanding in other respects now for such journey’s as Mr Fairchild undertook. But it is really interesting reading about his experiences.

    To me the town looks like a write off. Hurricane Michael: Rescue teams find bodies in ground-zero town, as death toll reaches 16. My thoughts and condolences go out to the affected people. And I’m completely unsure what will happen to your parcel if it was in an area affected by that storm. High winds and heavy rainfall is a lethal cocktail, no doubts about it.

    The whole manual gear thing is a really strange story. There were no manual cars available in the country and the one we nabbed was on a ship in transit. Hope the exchange rates don’t tank in the meantime. I don’t enjoy self shifting cars as I feel removed from the experience, whilst they feel sluggy, and like you quite rightly pointed out, automatics are more expensive. The money side of the vehicle story is really fascinating, and I can’t quite understand why other people see status in getting into so much debt. It makes no sense. To put your mind at rest, I didn’t take on debt for this one either. What did that clever bloke all those millennia ago say about rendering unto Caesar? I reckon he was onto something with that thought too.

    Lewis, you are totally super bad! I’m unsure whether to be totally impressed at your audacity for suggesting that (and I confess I am slightly in awe.) or feel sad and sorry that you missed out on your lunch with a mate! What a conundrum you’ve presented! It was pretty funny in a gallows humour sensibility sort of a way which quite frankly should be wheeled out more often in society. We are in total denial about our final journey into the unknown…

    How did the cooked-at-home shrimp nacho’s go? It may be possible that it was better? We ate out last week and had seafood chowder (mainly broth in a bread cob) at a delightful restaurant with the mildly eccentric name of Miss Katie’s crab shack. It was very good and the place was rocking. In sad news the South Eastern US (New Orleans to be precise) restaurant which I used to frequent looks as though it has turned toes up. That is a bit of a shame because I really enjoyed their gumbo. Mmm, gumbo! Your mission should you choose to accept it is…



  44. Yo, Chris – I saw your comment about Toothy and the frog. While walking Princess around back, last night (where there is a rock retaining wall), I discovered a small lizard (skink?) on the path. First I’ve seen, here. Only about 4″ long. I usually don’t hunt slugs, out back, but will have to rethink that. Kill the enormous ones, but leave the little guys as food for the skinks. Everything in balance. One hopes.

    Ah, a dip into the metaphysical :-). I’ve always held that it seemed like only Saints and Holy Women made it into heaven. Doesn’t sound like a fun time. Some people bang on about being reunited with their families. That idea doesn’t appeal. To me. My amorphous ruminations on “hell” are that you are made aware of all your missed opportunities. Even though I’m approaching whatever (if anything) comes next, I don’t spend a lot of time ruminating on it. “All will be made manifest, in time.” :-).

    Anyone who contemplates throwing a few solar panels on their roof, should read your paragraph on rewiring your battery room.

    I went to Wally-World, early. I think I was in and out in under 5 minutes. The new beastie seems ok. I was just happy that the configuration on the remote control was identical to the old one. What!? No new unnecessary bells and whistles?Although the old one, apparently, gave yeoman service as far as battery life goes, I need to look into “care and feeding” a bit more closely. Google is my friend :-).

    Nope. No more “wound packing.” Just slap a bandaid on it, for awhile. Which is a bit of hitting a target I can’t see. But, I have big bandaids. I’m going in for the yearly “wellness check”, the first week of November. And, a flu shot. I skipped the wellness check, last year. Just nipped in and out for the flu shot.

    I have a package (a print) in transit that has gone astray, a bit, in the storm chaos. Last seen departing Jacksonville, Florida (which was well out of the path of the storm). Small potatoes compared with what those people are going through, down there. The dealer who sent the print, was also well out of the storm’s path. The bit about evacuating the military base put me in mind (what doesn’t?) of archaeological evidence of hasty evacuations of Roman forts along Hadrian’s Wall, and points north.

    The Scarrow book has a chapter or two about what happened when it became general knowledge that a long established legion was going to move. Merchants swarmed in, looking for good deals. Everything from slaves, to books, to furniture was off-loaded by the departing soldiers. A lot of the vicus would empty out and move onto greener pastures.

    Frank, the Mechanic, checked my transmission fluid, and it was fine. He took the truck out for a spin, and didn’t think the shift between first and second was very bad. Just keep an eye on it. It’s going in for a general “look-see” in the spring. Cont.

  45. Chris,

    Normal low temperatures are -10C or higher, which still is different than many places. Heating in the cold spells requires different building construction than other climates. My house was build in 1953 and has an outer wall of lath and plaster, a layer of horse hair, empty space, an additional layer of horse hair, then more lath and plaster, then 1/2 inch drywall. This is about R5. My windows are similar R value. Much higher and the house won’t “breathe” and mold is a problem. The attic used to be R28 but is now R48. There is also a finished basement which acts as a temperature buffer in both heat and cold extremes. Summary: properly insulated homes help.

    In addition, I grew up in the home of what Mr. Greer would term a Green Wizard. Many things that many won’t do are very obvious to me: we only heat the rooms we use. But those -15C and colder snaps, well, cold is cold and the furnace will come on more often. And maybe another sweater is worn if needed. But severe cold spells are difficult. I also have natural gas fireplaces on the main floor and the basement. These will run even during a power outage.

    Another consideration is water pipes. Even on municipal water, pipes will freeze when it gets that cold. I err on the side of caution, and usually keep a trickle of water flowing from one tap if it’s about -15C and colder. A lot of people don’t know to do this and pipes will freeze and burst anywhere from -18C and colder. That is a mess I prefer to avoid.

    Water messes, though, well…My father would flood our backyard most winters so we could ice skate there. Most winters gave us about 6 to 8 weeks of skating on the backyard rink. And the yard was a flooded, watery mess for another 6 weeks every spring.

    La Nina here usually brings colder and wetter winters, meaning more snow and some cold snaps. The 2008-2009 La Nina winter gave us a record 69cm of snow in 36 hours. THAT shut down the area and kept everybody home for a few days. Yes, some of us keep a lot of food on hand just so we don’t have to struggle out in those conditions. And I can always cook outside if the power is out.

    That 107 cm on the ground in 1969 took about 4 weeks to accumulate, melt, refreeze, settle and snow some more. So you just get out and go about business. We as kids loved playing in the snow. Although I’d much prefer to pay attention to the extremes and decide that human health is more important than a quick dollar. Maybe we should shut down more often.

    El Ninos here are usually hotter summers and warmer than average winters. Some winters will be dry, others wet, but usually mild enough that there is much less snow. The most severe el Niño I remember was in 1981 I think? It was 15C and sunny on Christmas Day, so I went for a long walk in a tee shirt.

    Oh man, you’re seeing the same change with rainfall that I am! February and March were usually wet throughout the months. Now, some Februarys and March most of the past several years, well, epic rain early in the month, then nothing for 3 weeks, then an epic rain. April and May have been the same: over a month’s worth of rain in a day or two, and dry for weeks until the next hard rain. And rain like that doesn’t soak into the ground, so flooding is an issue.

    The variation between extremes here is interesting. The fact that now there are several 38C days is disconcerting. There used to be a dozen or so days on average over 32C: now there are 18 to over 30. So the hot extreme is hotter and lasts longer.


  46. Cont. Well. I didn’t even know the woman. Heck, I’ve only met Scott’s wife, maybe, twice in 28 years. LOL. I really think some of the things I say, or print, are what other people think. They just don’t blurt it out, as I do. I try and observe the “social niceties”, as much as I can. But my idea of those things, sometimes differs from other people’s.

    I haven’t made the shrimp nachos, yet. Need to make an off schedule trip to the store. There are several things I’m not keeping in the house, at present. Chips, cheese. I would be hard to attain “better than” the stuff they put out at the cafe. But, I can usually hit “as good as.”

    I found a small treasure at one of the op-shops, yesterday. I was back in the cheap seats and noticed a white, porcelain cockatoo with gold beak and claws on a perch. About 8″ tall. Chinese “decor?” It had a mark, so, whipping out my handy magnifying glass, I puzzled out “Bavaria.” Since it was only $1.75, including my “I’m Old” discount, I took a flyer.

    Researched it when I got home. Without too much trouble, I determined that the German porcelain company used the mark between 1923 and 1938. An identical piece sold at auction, in Amsterdam, last year for $30. Couldn’t find the identical piece on E-Bay, but sold prices were all over the place. So, I’ll add him to the aviary I’ve got going in the corner of my bedroom :-). Lew

  47. @ Lewis – in one of those it’s-a-small-world moments, my mother lives in Port Charlotte, FL, so I know exactly where it is. Its hurricane moment was in 2004, when Category 4 Hurricane Charlie passed through. My parents were visiting my sister in suburban Philadelphia at the time, so they weren’t there when it happened, and their condo, built just a couple of years earlier, was undamaged due to the much improved building codes. But we saw a lot of damage in the area when Mike and I next visited several months later.

    Port Charlotte is hundreds of miles south of where Hurricane Michael went through, so that area had no effect from it, other than the beach erosion you mentioned. But it’s possible that your mail got routed through someplace where Michael passed through – anywhere from the Panhandle and northwest FL in general through southeast Alabama through southern Georgia through South and North Carolina through Virginia, quite a large affected area, with about a million people still without electricity. The latter two states experienced much more rain than FL did and some deaths from that. But they are still searching through the rubble in FL so it’s likely that the death toll there will rise. Yet it would have been much worse if the hurricane had hit, say, the Tampa area. As the news article points out and I can verify from driving through the area on the way to visit my mom, the part of FL that was hit is rather sparsely populated.

    On another topic, you have your pumpkin flavor, I have my candy corn. 😉 Another special treat available only at this time of year. Mike and I just bought a bag.

    @ Chris – I have two e-readers, the first of which was given to me, the second of which I bought. I don’t use them to read books, except for the occasional library book when we are traveling. I use them to read long pdf files while sitting in the reclining chair in the living room or a chair on the back porch, either of which is more comfortable than reading them while seated at the desk in front of the computer. I get a quarterly herbal magazine, 250+ pages long, only available as a pdf, which is the major use for the e-reader. I got the second e-reader specifically to read that magazine. This e-reader is bigger, has a color display, and I can expand the display to read small print, which I could not do with the previous e-reader. The color and the ability to expand the text allows me to see and fully appreciate some of the figures in the herbal magazine.


  48. Hi Claire,

    Ah, that makes complete sense. I hadn’t thought about such an excellent use for an e-reader. The quarterly herbal magazine sounds fascinating. I grow a huge number of herbs here and they’re very handy plants. Incidentally I’ll include a photo in tomorrows blog of the lavender that I planted last year. This afternoon the plants were covered in bees.



  49. Hi DJ,

    Going to write this evening so have to be brief. Ah, a bit of a conversion of units from imperial to metric needs to be done for me to make any sense of your R ratings for insulation:

    USA R Value X 0.176 = Metric R Value

    So: USA 60 R Value x 0.176 = 10.56 R Value in Australia

    Your US R 48 = 8.448 Metric R Value

    Oooo! That’s good. My roof is about R6.0 metric which is US R 34.

    But I also insulate in the walls and under the timber floor to US R20 (possibly far higher because this house is an unusual design and nobody thought to measure how the systems work together – it’s a hodge podge of combined systems). I haven’t noticed a mould problem, and feel that I may be missing out on this exciting option… 🙂

    Your winter water woes would be quite challenging and I’m impressed that you’ve come up with the simple solution of leaving the pipes dripping. That option would cost me a lot of electrical energy during winter at a time when I can least afford to expend it upon the water pump. Plus the wear and tear on the pump is not lost on me.

    Interestingly, many years ago I used to communicate with a permaculture bloke in Europe who casually remarked that their warmer winters were leading to very slushy conditions which was unusual for them. Not many plants – if any – enjoy slushy conditions. Such a circumstance is way outside of my experience as I do everything I can here to avoid mud. Mud would be indicative of a failure of planning on my part.

    Nothing wrong with shutting down for a while in adverse conditions. Your experience of El Nino sounds pretty much the same as here as it leads to hotter and drier conditions – then the occasional very heavy rain – and then back to the hot and drier conditions. With the sea surface temperatures warming, the storms are getting stormier and the rain is getting rainier.

    It can get worse than 100’F, much worse in fact. It does here. But you know, if the whole area doesn’t burn down, you simply adapt and you can, although most houses are foolishly constructed to be mechanically heated and cooled. Of course as that story elucidates, the trick is hoping that your systems keep pace with the changes.



  50. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, skinks, geckos, little lizards, whatever they’re called are the good guys in the garden. Princess is a lady of distinction and discernment not to try and kill the lizard on the spot. Toothy is a garden nuisance on that front, but on the other hand he is ensuring that only the fittest and most agile skinks are evolving here. I took a photo today of two of them sunning themselves on the concrete steps. Did you discover what type of lizards you have in your area? I often wonder what they do during the winter months.

    Your description of heaven sounds even less fun again. Now I’m completely certain that I would be bored in that company. And being reunited with families sounds like a form of Hell and beyond… What an outrageous suggestion those people made, that possibility had never even occurred to me. Well, that confirms that I won’t be going into bat for that particular team! Yeah, we all have missed opportunities so that would be a particular form of torture (you have a subtle mind). I salute your pragmatic approach to the problem. You know: wait and see, is always a valid approach to any situation. Of course if you were in the blast zone of Mt St Helens eruption that option might not work so well.

    I actually had to turn off the battery charge controller that appears to be suffering from a case of bad induction (technically known as bad juju) from the inverter (the battery voltage to mains voltage converter thingee) and I plan to pull the entire lot apart on Thursday and start all over again. I just hope I can get the electrician or his apprentices here to do some of the work on the mains.

    In and out in 5 minutes sounds like something I would do. In the past people have taken me to casino’s and I did exactly the same thing. The very air was heavy with bad juju whatever that is… It is interesting that you say that about added functionality because the new dirt mouse is pretty much the same as the old one. But here is the interesting thing. It weighs significantly less, the motor is much smaller, and it uses far less fuel. That is my idea of progress – although pretty much everyone else feels differently.

    Very good news on the wound. Definitely get the flu shot. I was a bit lukewarm about it earlier this year, but not so anymore. Go hard and get thee stuck with that needle, if only because the alternative is far worse and potentially pretty disastrous! 🙂 I for one would miss our witty repartee.

    It is small potatoes compared to what happened down there in Florida, but still losses are still losses regardless. I have no idea how such a thing happened but I saw a photo of a house that appeared more or less intact but it had been pushed by the winds into some sort of apartment complex. Mate, I tied this house down to the ground with steel, but I have seen how other people go about such things and it does not inspire me with confidence in their long term prospects. You are fortunate to live where you do from an extreme weather point of view.

    The story of the Romans departing from long occupied forts made me wonder about the story that you hear repeated that the government isn’t very good at providing services. It is a funny meme because the government is actually there to provide services that may not be otherwise possible to provide, if they had to turn a profit. But then, way back in the Roman days, all those far flung outposts would have cost a pretty denari or a whole lot of them. I reckon it is a complex balance to find what services make sense to provide on a subsidised basis. Your Prez is poking hard at the cheap credit services that he has access to this week. I understand, but don’t necessarily endorse how he feels. The funny thing is that everyone always believes that people who can push levers have all the same desires as everyone else who has their hands on the levers. That just isn’t true at all.

    I don’t feel that the first to second gear crunchiness is a problem either. Manual gearboxes can handle a lot of punishment before they no longer work. You’ll know that something has to be done when the motor can actually kick the gearbox from either first or second into neutral. Then it needs to have the gear teeth and syncromesh replaced. Until then crunch away. The sound provides a certain sort of rural authenticity! At least nobody hearing that noise will ask you to use your vehicle to lug produce about the place! I call that a win.

    Ah no worries at all. That was me just being cheeky and I’d feel much the same. It is a part of life after all, and if there are no connections, well such circumstances descend into the world of inconvenience – which is what you suffered as a result of the untimely demise. How are they all doing anyway? Feel free and blurt away, because you are correct in your assertion.

    OK. Of course. I don’t know why, but you did write shrimp nachos, but my mind was thinking: shrimp tacos. And I was going, why are there chips involved in this cooking extravaganza? And then my mind descended into the world of nachos. It is a beautiful place. Yum! And I reckon good enough is OK by me!

    What a top find with the cockatoo. Incidentally, you are welcome to take all of the cockatoos from here porcelain or real. I walked into the fern gully today only to discover that something had eaten – and then discarded – all but one of the slowly unfurling fern fronds in the fern gully. A lesser man would be rancid angry, I however am of the slow boiling variety and will see how the next round of fern fronds unfurl… It is an outrageous affront…



  51. Hi Chris,
    So many people have made their children not just the center but their entire life and societal pressures cause that as well. When it comes down to it they don’t have much more to talk about than their kids and/or maybe their job. My parents were part of a bridge club for many years made up of six couples. Between the six couples their were forty kids (and one couple only had two). They had a rule when they got together monthly that no one was to talk about their kids. From what I remember they were all pretty interesting people.

    People are getting pushed into having smart phones by things like Uber as it becomes the only easy option in many cases. Our regional train line now is pushing that you purchase your ticket by using their app on your phone. Our station is closed now and others will be soon so you can’t even buy a ticket at a station. You can still purchase a single ticket with cash on the train if your station is closed. However there are monthly and ten ride tickets that save a significant amount of money and those can’t be bought on the train. Since my station is closed I have to buy my 10 ride downtown which isn’t usually an issue but I don’t always go downtown and have to plan ahead.
    I like dry wines myself. We have a lot of elderberries on the property so elderberry syrup and maybe wine is in the future.
    As long as the pigs have a dry spot to sleep they don’t seen much bothered by the weather changes once their past the very young stage. They’re only here for about 10 more days. The hard freezes are early this year. Doug has to drain and disconnect the hose connected to their automatic waterer at night.
    Today was the monthly recycling drive for styrofoam, electronics, batteries etc. There was lots of talk about the problems actually getting things recycled now.
    This is the third time I tried to write this. The power went out twice while writing. It was just a down line about two miles from us but no apparent reason for it i.e. accident, high winds.


  52. Hello again
    The philosopher Bernard Williams wrote about the boredom of eternal life.
    My father said that if he met his mother in heaven, he would retreat to hell.

    @ DJ
    There can be a problem leaving a tap dripping if the outlet freezes up. I have known people come home to find that their kitchen had flooded.


  53. @ Lew:

    How fascinating is this: “The Scarrow book has a chapter or two about what happened when it became general knowledge that a long established legion was going to move. Merchants swarmed in, looking for good deals. Everything from slaves, to books, to furniture was off-loaded by the departing soldiers. A lot of the vicus would empty out and move onto greener pastures.” Thanks!

    Also, I had never thought of a military base being evacuated. I guess I thought those folks were more than human and too “tough” to have to move. Food for thought.


  54. Yo, Chris – Before I forget, a good overview of Edward Gorey’s work is “Amphigory.” Which is a collection and contains “The Gashlycrumb Tinies.” Just plan old “Amphigory”. Not to be confused with Amphigory Too, Also, or Again. :-).

    The questions you ask :-). Actually, I probably saw a Dunn’s Salamander. Rather than a lizard. The terrestrial salamanders, as opposed to the aquatic, hibernate in winter. The collective noun for salamanders is “herd” or “congress.” A good overview of the creepy crawlies in our state is found here: https://www.burkemuseum.org/blog/curated/amphibians-reptiles-washington

    When I got my Ranger in 2004, it was a repeat of what I had, before. Just a newer model. I noticed the newer one had much more plastic bits and bobs. The center of gravity seemed higher. I had to watch it, on corners, until I got used to it.

    I don’t have problems with flu shots. I just chatter away, and don’t look. :-). Same with blood draws. As the flu kills 35,000 people, in an average year, in the US, I think it’s a good idea to get one. Plus the stuff darn near killed me, 15 or 20 years ago. I watched a film the other night about the Austrian artist Egon Schiel (sp?). Buddy of Gustav Klimt. “Death and the Maiden.” His wife and he died in the 1918 flu pandemic. He was 28.

    Speaking of extreme weather, there’s a new book out about our Columbus Day Storm. Cliff Mass mentions it, but I had already ordered it off the “on order” list at the library.

    Some people seem to have a knee jerk reaction to taxes. Without ever thinking about the benefits they receive from them. Roads, schools, etc.. Then there’s the bunch that proclaim, “I don’t use ______, therefore, I shouldn’t have to pay taxes for that.” Usually, it’s “I don’t have kids in school.” I don’t either, but happily pay school taxes, as I figure it keeps the little blighters, off the streets. I always feel my tax dollars are not being used, effectively, whenever there’s a school holiday. :-). But then there’s the whole “government waste,” can of worms.

    I have enough supplies for two batches of nachos. But, last night, it was late, I was tired. So, I just did a stripped down tomatoes, cheese, green onions, garlic, secret herbs and spices. The shrimp stuff involves opening a can and making some kind of red sauce.

    I wonder what’s munching your fern fronds? I hear some varieties are tasty, caught young and sauteed. Never tried it.

    I haven’t heard from Scott, since his wife’s friends exit. I dropped him a short e-mail, last night. But, haven’t checked my e-mail, yet, today.

    I finished picking the green beans, last night. That ought to fill out the partial gallon, quit nicely. Cleaning the vines out of the chicken wire was quit a chore. But, it’s done, and there’s plenty of nice bio mass to turn into the soil. Apparently, “Dick” is telling the Ladies that I’m growing “Useless ornamental corn.” I just laugh and describe the wonders of fresh ground meal for corn bread, pancakes, muffins and grits. And, a good sipping whiskey, if one is so inclined. Oh, well. No goodies for him! :-). Lew

  55. @ Claire – That is coincidence. But they’re thick on the ground, sometimes, around here :-).

    The package was last seen leaving Jacksonville (also out of the storms path) on the tenth. I just hope it’s not floating around in the back of a USPS semi truck, that’s submerged, somewhere along the way. Time will tell. Lew

  56. @ Margaret – About buying tickets. Plan ahead? The horror, the horror :-). I’m often amazed by people’s inability to gaze even 5 minutes into the future. And, irritated. Other people’s disorganization, wastes my time. And at my age, I don’t have time to waste! Lew

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