Earlier this week, and late into the evening, the little dirt mouse Suzuki Swift stranded the editor and I in the big smoke of Melbourne. The engine began over heating. Upon noticing the problem, I decided to switch off the motor thus preventing any further damage. We then assessed our options for getting out of the city and home again.

As these things happen, the dirt mouse decided to become cantankerous miles from public transport. We continued assessing our options (which were few), parked the car, organised to get the vehicle towed to the mechanic, and ordered a taxi. I had low expectations that a taxi would actually deliver us to our remote home, but Sandeep the taxi driver bravely drove his nice and clean hybrid Toyota Camry into the depths of the mountains, fog and forest. It was the first time that I had caught a taxi in many long years, and I must say that the experience was quite pleasant. Needless to say it was an epic fare, and I tipped him generously because he earned it.

The little dirt mouse Suzuki was brought to a halt by the failure of a very small component in the engine. For those who are technically inclined, it was the thermostat that had failed.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first component that had failed recently in the vehicle. In the past twelve months we’ve probably spent about a third of the value of a replacement vehicle on all sorts of various repairs to the dirt mouse. To be fair, some of those repairs were replacing consumable items such as the clutch to the manual gearbox, whilst others replaced critical components that had or were near to failing.

The general conclusion that the editor and I took away from our increasingly expensive experiences over the past year with the ageing dirt mouse, was that it had reached the end of its economic life. In fact, it was a bit beyond the end of its economic life – but we hadn’t yet realised that. Now of course, it is not lost on me that the economic life is not the same thing as the physical life of the machine. And for all I know we may have fixed all of the major mechanical issues with the machine (the thermostat has now been replaced) and there may be no further problems.

However we drew a line in the sand, which said more or less: we will spend no more of our resources on that machine. So later in the week, we went to a Suzuki dealership, spent more hours than I would have ever thought possible (a deliberate strategy on their part), and ordered a replacement dirt mouse Suzuki Swift. The new dirt mouse looks more or less the same as the old one, except that it weighs less, has a smaller motor, uses far less fuel and won’t be covered in dirt (at least initially). That’s what I call progress!

But as I was contemplating the decision, I had the vague uneasy feeling that it was all a bit ruthless on my part. And maybe it is.

One of my guilty pleasures is reading the many Dexter books written by the author Jeff Lindsay. The adaptation of the stories into a television show is pretty good too. The author’s many books recount the ongoing tales of the likeable protagonist Dexter. Dexter happens to be a psychopath, who enjoys killing bad guys at night, whilst also working in his day job as a blood splatter analyst in the Miami police department. Like me, Dexter is a busy bloke.

The Dexter stories often follow a familiar path. Dexter actively goes out of his way to meet bad guys. Dexter enjoys killing bad guys. Then something unexpected goes horribly wrong. Dexter gets into a whole bunch of new trouble. Dexter then extricates himself from his new troubles, only to progress onto new and interesting adventures – which usually involves him going out of his way to meet up with and kill some bad guys.

It might be a fair thing to say that the character Dexter enjoys eliminating problems – in a most definite sort of a way. I’d personally be very uncomfortable hanging out with a person such as Dexter. You never know when you’d do some innocuous act that would make him think that you’re now officially on the bad guy list. And then you’d live in fear for your very life – if you knew what was good for your continuing health! No thanks.

What I enjoyed most about the stories was how the character extricated himself from his new troubles. Inevitably that involved the character choosing an entirely unexpected path of action, or taking a highly unusual response to a situation. And because the author controlled the story, the plot twist was always effective and usually devoid of morals.

In life things are rarely that certain. In my uncertainty this week about what to do about the ageing dirt mouse Suzuki, I asked myself the hard question: What would Dexter do? As an amusing side story, in the books Dexter drove a people mover as it best fit his disguise of Mr Inconspicuous (or ‘clip board guy’ as the author so neatly put it). Nope, my gut feeling tells me that the character would not have driven a dirt mouse, but faced with the sort of problems that the vehicle gave me, he would have eliminated the problem. However, his thinking would be different to mine, if only because I just wanted to get home whereas Dexter would not wanted to have been towed because of the dead bodies in the trunk.

Honestly, the best thing for the environment would have been to have repaired the old dirt mouse Suzuki and to continue to do so. Instead I drew a line in the sand which says that I will spend no more of my resources on repairing that machine. If you consider the matter for a while, you’ll see that the problem that I was faced with, is the great dilemma of our time. Convenience versus resources versus the environment versus economics. When faced with such a dilemma, you too might ask yourself: What would Dexter do?

This year has been notable for the many frosts. Old timers used to suggest that dry years are cold years, and they seem to have known what they were talking about. This week there have been a few frosts. One morning I heard a dripping noise outside the house and looked up to see a chunk of ice had slipped off the roof and was dripping melt water to the ground.

A chunk of ice from a frost hangs off the roof and drips water to the ground

The weird thing is that the days have been warm and sunny. However, sometimes the clouds dumped an occasionally huge load of rain onto the farm. On those wet days the dogs got wet and the water tanks refilled. During the sunnier days we put all of the remaining steel cladding onto the walls of the new shed.

The walls of the new shed have been entirely clad in the dark grey steel sheets

Observant readers will note that the steel sheets for the roof have yet to be installed. There is a good reason for that – another huge band of rain is expected later next week. Huge volumes of rain collected from a roof with nowhere to go is a disaster and can cause significant erosion. On the other hand the rainfall is good for bedding down the locally sourced crushed rock with lime that we place on our all weather paths. The combination of warm spring sunshine and rain, causes the lime to form a fairly solid but permeable surface.

The author stands next to two water tanks which will eventually be connected up to the roof of the new shed
The author stands behind the shed where a water pump will provide water to the garden beds near to the new shed. Note the almost invisible hose hanger has already been installed and accidentally walked into!
The author stands on the steps leading up to the next terrace but near to the front of the new shed

Despite the continual frosts, the good rain and the warm spring sunshine is really making the plants highly productive.

Red and black currants have appeared only in the past week
A plumcott (apricot – plum hyrbid) has produced some fruit this year. It is a very early flowering fruit tree
Almonds are also another early flowering fruit tree, but they have simply shaken off the frost
The frosts have reduced the number of apricots on the trees, but hopefully it will still be a reasonable harvest

In other farm news:

Skinks are plentiful and they can be seen sunning themselves and enjoying the warm spring sunshine. Unfortunately the dogs also enjoy the skinks = chewy!
Something (perhaps a devil / wallaby) appears to destroyed many of the new fern fronds in the fern gully
A young fern frond has escaped the attentions of the devil / wallaby and is now unfurling
One of my favourite indigenous plants are the sundews just because they eat ants. Nuff said really…

The many lavender bushes that we planted last summer are doing really well. And the bees love the flowers:

Some of the many lavender bushes that we planted last year are doing really well
A close up of the healthy lavender flowers

Onto the flowers:

Cat mint is a beautiful plant and it flowers profusely
This is another indigenous wildflower – and the name of the plant escapes me…
The local Blackwood (Acacia Melanoxylon) trees are in flower
A lonely tulip has survived many years of the attention of the local wallaby
Many bulbs are continuing to flower – the name also escapes me. Actually I have no idea what it is.
The daffodils are still going strong
This is only the second of the many rhododendron bushes here to flower
Other wildflowers are popping up in the herbage in the paddock below the house
Quince trees are not only beautiful, but the fruit is very tasty (when stewed)
A rhubarb looks set to go into flower. They readily self seed here

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 12’C (53’F). So far this year there has been 711.2mm (28.0 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 674.0mm (26.5 inches).

67 thoughts on “Dexter”

  1. Yes, the perennial question. When does prudent, frugal extending of the life of a car turn into throwing money down the rat hole?

    Even if you add in the question of environmental trade offs, and embodied energy. it is still a toss of the dice and hard to analyze. I’ve been there. There is always the thought ” once I fix this one more thing, I might not need to do another repair for years!”

    I have a Honda Insight, model year 2003. A very efficient, 53 mpg ( .425 kpl), two seat ( that’s why it didn’t sell well here inn the U.S.) hybrid. It had a ten year warranty on the battery, so in yet another sign of excellent Japanese engineering, the battery died right after the ten years expired.

    So I spent the money, got it going, and now other things are starting to die. Not only do I have the initial car cost to weigh, but now I have the recent sunk cost of the battery to place on the scales of decision. It never ends.

    Dexter- My wife got hooked on that TV series a few years ago, and what I saw was very gruesome. Made you think about how confusing it can be to pass judgment on your fellow man. But gruesome. Yuck. Didn’t know it was based on a book series.

  2. Hi Margaret,

    I do actually worry about people focusing too much upon either of those particular subjects, if only because they lose sight of the bigger world around them. It is really quite scary, but even I am subjected to those stories. On a brighter note, the kids are invariably slightly more interesting than job discussions. The world is a very big place, but from what I see many people may have forgotten that. Dunno. It certainly means something, but I’m not sure what. Incidentally, I reckon the bridge club was onto something with that guiding rule.

    Did I mention to you that a PC software application was changed recently so that it required a smart phone to authenticate the user? I was pretty miffed about that, but fortunately smarter folks than I had created a PC emulation solution to the problem. And there was also a parking meter that required a smart phone app to be able to use it… I couldn’t believe it. From my perspective it looks like an attempt to shift costs onto the user.

    Yes, the trains here also use smart cards – which you have to keep topped up. I’ve never encountered the machine that is used to top the smart card up during peak hour services, but my gut feeling tells me that it ain’t good. And even though there are conductors on the trains, they can’t sell you a ticket – which seems bizarre to me. I actually wonder how people from interstate or overseas navigate the system. If the train station wasn’t manned, I wouldn’t have a clue where to purchase a replacement smart card – and they have a fixed life.

    I have never before heard of elderberry syrup. What is this? Elderberry flower wine is one of my favourites. I know a bloke who makes sugar beet syrup which is quite tasty, but had a mildly earthy smell. I need to plant more sugar maples… And it is nice to hear that you also like drier wines, because they’re simply better! 🙂

    Down here it appears that all pretence has gone out the window and a lot of the recycled stuff appears to be getting burned in some very toxic fires. It is fascinating to watch the drama unfold and the unusual critters sneaking into the gaps in the system, but I wouldn’t want to live too close to one of those incidents.

    Ouch! Have you got a backup generator? Spare a thought for poor old me who has to completely re-wire the battery room on Thursday. ?-) No fun, and no power for a few hours on that day. Mustn’t grumble.



  3. Hi Inge,

    Hehe! Bernard was right – it would be boring, and sooner or later a person would long for escape. I read a sci-fi story about that once and the protagonist was a nonpareil in that he had eternal life and in the far future he was prevented by other people in all sorts of ways from ending it all. He tried to arrange for a satellite to fall upon him and unfortunately he stuffed up the calculations. I get that… Your father was quite the character. I’m still giggling to myself thinking of his cheeky quip. I knew a bloke who was an electrician many long years ago who used to always offer the opinion that: “Death – the married man’s friend”. I quite enjoy the state of matrimony, but opinions and experiences differ. Incidentally he was inordinately fond of his wife, who happened to be the mother of a friend of mine, so it was all male bonding talk.



  4. Hi Steve,

    Exactly! And double and triple exactly! You know I keep coming around to the whole story of rendering Caesar’s crap unto Caesar and all that business. There simply is no answer to the dilemma, which is in the nature of a predicament, rather than a problem. And yeah, we’ve all been there – and our current conditions are the results of millions upon millions of individual decision leading to that point: Where the heck do you say: no more… And I frankly don’t know the answer to that question, thus why I introduced the wild card of the monomaniac into the story.

    Incidentally, the new dirt mouse averages 51mpg.

    Thanks for sharing your real world experience. You know I have wondered about those NiMh batteries for a long time. The thing is I have batteries powering the house, but if I use them, they don’t last as long as they otherwise would. The solar power is a really weird dilemma in that you can use the batteries, but they won’t last long, and the less you use them, the longer they’ll last. It is like an old school riddle.

    If your wife likes the show and enjoys reading books, I reckon she’ll enjoy the stories! 🙂 The show was quite gruesome which was interesting because the books rarely delved into such details.



  5. @Lew

    How about people who never have any cash and just assuming that they can use debit/credit card everywhere. My aunt was quite taken aback when I took her to the apple orchard near us and discovered that they only take cash or checks.

    Regarding the train though, not everyone is going downtown and if both stations you are coming from and going to aren’t selling tickets anymore it’s a problem if you want more than a one way ticket. The monthly and ten rides save quite a bit of money. I wonder how long they’ll continue to take cash on the train.

  6. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the great new word: Amphigory. I tell ya what, I’ve encountered stories of some University courses which fall into that particular camp! 🙂 Bad Chris… Isn’t Edward Gorey good! That perhaps was a statement rather than a question because after looking at many of his works, I feel that I rather enjoy them.

    It really is interesting that Edward takes that perspective, because it is frankly unfashionable these days. On the other hand perceptive folks will realise that risk has never gone elsewhere and it in fact walks among us every day of our lives. It is a bit sad that people forget that because the inherent tragedy can be a source of strength. I had a conversation a few weeks back with a mother and daughter about how the daughter had a propensity for attracting trouble. I took one look at the daughter and remarked that her posture was poor and perhaps it might not be a bad idea to get some martial arts training so that she carried herself with more confidence. From my perspective, you can’t control other people, but you can have some control over how other people perceive you – and what I saw wasn’t encouraging. Anyway, for some reason the mother had this thought in her head that said that martial arts was all about fighting – and even though I mentioned the reality, I’m pretty certain they didn’t understand. The reality is that martial arts is about technique and perceptions, and is used as a last defence option. It is a truism that the fight that is avoided is the fight that is won. But you know, people hear what they want to hear.

    It is uncanny, the Dunn’s Salamander is almost the spitting image of our skinks which have an enormous number of variations with the particular family. It must be my mind, but there is something vaguely amusing about: Herd or Congress to describe a collection of salamanders… 🙂

    Mate, the newer Rangers are even huger again. I doubt I could peer into the trays of one of those new vehicles. I’m really unsure why they are constructed to be quite so huge, but people love them. They love vehicles of that size so much that the other week I observed at the petrol station that it took almost $188 to fill one. That is a bit more love than I’m prepared to commit too.

    Absolutely about the flu shot. I can well understand how the flu can kill so many people in any one year. I have only experienced the flu a few times in my life, but if I could avoid those experiences in the future – you bet I will. If other people feel better served by going through the pain of that particular experience, well that is their story, and they have to put up and shut up. Me, I’m a confirmed softie and like you, will be seeking out the flu shot. You know it is not lost on me that that particular outbreak occurred following WWI. It is hardly surprising at all. And people have largely forgotten those hard won lessons from what I’ve seen. You don’t see me at work if I have the flu.

    I really enjoyed Cliff Mass’s latest blog post despite having no say in that matter. And you know if you look at the second photo in this weeks blog – do you notice just how much taller the trees are here than the surrounding forest? It is no mere coincidence that.

    I like the way you think! 🙂 Yeah, maybe that is a good use for taxes. I have to confess that back in the day when we lived in the big smoke, I used to get a bit grumpy about the supply of infrastructure services only because I used very little on principle. Nowadays, in my more enlightened state of being, I know for a fact that those fixed service costs for the supply of whatever infrastructure supplied to city folks is so cheap that it is not funny at all. Is that a road to Damascus sort of revelation? Possibly…

    Fair enough, nobody does their best cooking late in the evening when they are tired. Actually that is often the time when accidents occur which usually involving fingers and sharp knives. Your stripped down version still sounds pretty tasty. Hey, I had a pumpkin (I kept in theme for this time of year) based vegetable sauce over linguine for dinner this evening. Mate, I’m feeling tired myself – and I was out in the dark earlier spreading bin loads of coffee grounds in the orchard. It is always a bit exciting because I have to make sure that there are no 7ft kangaroos lurking about the place. They seem to be easily startled and can take umbrage at my plant fertility rites late in the evening! There is a fair amount of rain set to fall over the next few days so it is always best to get the coffee grounds out before the rain falls.

    Fern motifs are big in New Zealand. I shudder to think that the population there at one stage got down to consuming chunks of ferns and apparently long pig… My money is on a wallaby, but it could just as easily have been a human.

    Did you end up hearing from Scott? No doubts he’ll reschedule.

    Yeah, cleaning up the beans and peas climbing through chicken wire is no joke. The indigenous clematis vines are everywhere and they happily climb up whatever. I recently encountered some very old clematis plants and I was amazed at just how high they could reach into the forest canopy. The trunk of the vines at ground level was quite epic.

    Pea straw is awesome mulch. Sweet pea (which is toxic) grows all over the place here and it is a great pioneering plant. I let a few of them go to seed once and now they’ve happily spread through the garden beds and orchard. They’re a very handy plant.

    Detractors are always a nuisance. Once you’ve got some product, I’d share it with him. That is my version of: Let him eat cake! 🙂



  7. Hello Chris

    Oh dear; many years ago we had a Morris Traveller that was in trouble. My husband also wondered what to do. He decided to have a reconditioned engine put in. About a week later the floor started to creak and move when one got in. It was rusting away and the vehicle had reached the end of its life. At the time, we had 3 young children and were living on the breadline.

    Our weather is unseasonably warm but it is raining and I want rain.


  8. Yo, Chris – As to the retired dirt rat (is there a Home?), I guess it’s the “state of diminishing returns.” The word “ruthless” always put me in mind of (who knows why) the cartoon character, Daffy Duck (“Suffering succotash!”) with his strange, spity speech patterns. I feel the same way about my recent go around with my portable DVD player. It took me a day or so to wrap my head around the fact that every year or two, you have to toss the old one out and spend $90 or so to get a new one. Yet there was a strange, satisfactory relief in tossing the old one in the dumpster. I know, I know. Didn’t dispose of it properly. But, we have the yearly fire inspection coming up, tomorrow, and the current push is to get as much clutter out of my apartment, as possible. My Hoarder Union Card may be revoked. A true hoarder would hold onto the old player, and original packing for … something.

    Clutter out, clutter in. We have a “free” table, here at the Home. I keep an eye on it. Sometimes, something useful surfaces. Last night I scored two quart bottles. According to the embossing in the glass, they once held fancy French lemonade. What’s really nifty about them is they have those wire hinges, with attached plastic and rubber stoppers. I thought they’d be ideal for that hot sauce recipe Pam passed on.

    But I digress :-). The new shed is so clean and shiny. Slap a little camo paint on it, and it will fade right into the forest. Your weather must be getting nice. I think these are the first pictures of you, out of your Ratty Old Jumper ™, in months.

    You might have to net or fence the fern a bit, til it gets a good start. I seem to remember you got those from a fern nursery. Might give them a call and see if they 1.) have any idea what might be munching down on your ferns and 2.) have any innovative ideas on how to keep the wildlife, off.

    The lavender is quit striking. Also, the tulip, daffodils and rhododendrons are startling, to my eye, as we won’t see those for another five months. One of the green bean tendrils had made the leap across three feet of open air and established itself in a rhododendron bush. I got a good handful of beans, hiding in the rhody. Cont.

  9. Cont. Edward Gorey had a very Victorian/Edwardian eccentric dandy, style. He cut quit the figure. Enormously tall, he often sported a ratty old raccoon coat with tennis shoes. Besides his little books, he illustrated a lot of book covers (there’s a newish book, just on his book covers) and designed a lot of costumes and sets for Broadway. I think he, perhaps, yearned for a simpler time. That he was, perhaps, born after his “time.”

    No argument, here. Collective nouns are amusing.

    I don’t get the big trucks, either. I mean, I do, and I don’t. A lot of it’s all wrapped up in masculine insecurity. Which the car companies play to. I don’t think Ford is even making the little Rangers, anymore. I don’t think I’ll ever be in the position of needing another vehicle (fingers crossed), but if I do, I’m sure there’s another company out there, making a small truck at a more reasonable cost.

    Things sound pretty even, around Scott’s house. It was not an unexpected passing. Scott’s wife had spent time with her friend, about a year ago. And, how much worse it would have been had she been “in transit” when the news came. As it was, she was within an hour of boarding the train.

    I saw an article on our last year’s flu. Turns out it was the worst in decades, with 87,000 deaths. Given our health care, here, any time I read an article like this I wonder, “And how did they pay for it?”

    While looking for that link I noticed a couple of headlines. In northern California, the power company is cutting off about 80,000 customers, due to weather increased fire danger. It’s getting to be standard practice. I also saw a headline about flash floods in France. Several fatalities.

    That bit about taxes, infrastructure and cities. Well, per capita costs shrink, the more people you can crowd into a place. Out here in the hinterlands, we’re well aware of shrinking services and buying choices. But, most people see it in isolated incidents. They don’t connect the dots to grasp it’s all about overall decline. The recent tempest over the possibility of closing library branches (mostly rural), is a part of the overall picture. I don’t think it’s going to happen, this time around. But sooner or later … Lew

  10. Hi Chris,

    Much, I think, depends on what the particular issues are with an older car, what you can get replacements for, and how much they cost relative to the cost of what you can buy to replace them. When our previous car’s engine got weak, rather than replace the car, we replaced the engine. That particular engine was still available for sale, and the price of the new engine plus installation was considerably less than what it would have cost to buy even a high-mileage replacement car of about the same size. The body of the car we put the engine into was in good shape, and we’d replaced all the non-engine systems recently enough that they had a lot of life remaining. Replacing the engine rather than the car made environmental and economic sense.

    Our current car is a 19 year old minivan with 230,000 miles / 370,150 km on it. The body is still in very good shape because it’s been garaged all its life, the engine runs as well as the day we bought it from my parents (it had less than 30,000 miles on it then), and it’s needed surprisingly little maintenance beyond the usual consumables. It’s even running on the original (automatic) transmission, which astounds me. We just had replaced the headliner (the fabric on the underside of the car roof). The original headliner let go of the foam above it to the extent that the headliner lay on top of our heads. I guess the adhesive deteriorated over the years. At that point, Mike ripped the headliner off and we went without the headliner for two or three years. If the foam hadn’t fallen off onto us in little pieces every time anything touched the roof or anytime we put the visors down, we wouldn’t have replaced it. We actually would have replaced it earlier than this if we’d known who to take it to to do the work. Last week, we found out who would do the work and got it done. We can finally use the visors again without a shower of foam descending on us!

    As long as the body remains in good shape and assuming we can get a decent engine, new or used, to replace the current engine if it gets to the point of becoming too expensive to fix, that’s what we’ll do. It won’t be just because it’ll be cheaper than getting a decent used car as well as more environmentally responsible, but because the current car has everything we like and nothing we don’t on it. If we are really lucky, we’ll never need to get another car. Mike became eligible for half price public transportation fare when he turned 65 last month; at that fare, public transport is cheaper than the gasoline needed to drive the same distance, much less all the other costs associated with a car. Once I turn 65 and get half-price fare too, we’ll seriously consider going car-less.

    You’d asked about the crimson clover awhile back. It has overwintered in my garden in past years when winter wasn’t too severe (nothing below 0F / -18C). That is around its reported hardiness limit, so I don’t know if it would live through a winter like last year (-9F / -23C). Winter rye will survive that, but I prefer to use the clover on the beds that I won’t be planting until late spring, using rye on the beds that I plant earlier. But I could use the rye on all the beds and just mow it low before I dig. As I get more familiar with each I will have a better idea how to use them.


  11. @ Inge,

    Thank you for the warning about the freezing water taps. I’ve seen that happen; very messy, to say the least. So, during the first frigid wave after moving into this house, I placed thermometers at the likely coldest places in the basement. None ever dropped below +10C even when it was -30C out. (For the Americans reading this, that’s 50F in the basement when -22F outside.) After that, I’ve felt confidant that a trickle of water about pencil-sized diameter, rather than dripping, will work. I’ve retested on occasion.


  12. @ Inge,
    Part 2…The outlet from our house is 12 feet or more under ground. I’ve never seen the ground freeze more than 3 feet beneath the surface, and that was following 10 days with low temperatures between -15C and -35C, and daytime highs never exceeding -10C. I think I’m pretty safe. Or, reworded, if the ground freezes to that depth, there will be other problems that are occurring here.


  13. Chris,

    The hottest I’ve seen in 50 years in Spokane was 108F this summer. I experienced 117F in the foothills outside the town we were visiting in August 2006. We were having a family feast, and I was the outdoor cook. In the sun! Every 5 minutes my wife poured a pitcher of water on my head and another on my shirt. I felt fine. I felt fine after eating. Then I decided to lie down in the swimming hole in the stream. The water was steaming off of me in 45F water! I guess I was, umm, hotter than I thought.

    Slush is nasty. I’ve been cold a few times in my life, cold to the bone. Every time is when there was several inches of slushy snow on the ground, temperature slightly above freezing, and a cold rain drumming down. I better stop there, lest I start to sound like “When I was a lad, I had to walk 5 miles to and from school every day. And every direction was uphill and against the wind.

    Automobiles. Ick. I have the same issues when a car is wearing out: keep fixing it or trade it in. My mechanic shop will tell you that I tend to keep them a bit too long. I’m close to that position again with one of the 2 we have. I’m hoping the stupid thing holds on for 27 months, when I retire from formal employment. We *might* be able to get by with one vehicle then.


  14. Hi Chris,

    What a shame about your dirt mouse. On the other hand, you get a shiny new car! Now, some dour sorts may make guarded comments on extravagance and waste. But did they drive 2000km round the top of Australia without a functioning clutch? Probably not. What was I saying..hmm…nothing of consequence I am sure!

    At some point, the cost in spare parts and time is just too much. As a student, I was reasonably happy to spend a day or so every 4-6 months replacing and repairing the latest bit to break on an old EL Falcon wagon. Working full-time, hmmm, not so much. That is fascininating your new dirtmouse weighs less than the old one. The trend used to be for heavier vehicles, all that air-conditioning, computers and noise insulation weighs a lot.


  15. /cont

    I have been watching Grand Designs UK 2018. Some good episodes so far, I really liked the restoration of the little tower, even if it was completely unsuitable for a family. But far out, that relationship is done for – did you check out the body language of the wife at the end?

    I just watched episode 4, and it was in reverse. The husband was the one complaining and martyring himself all episode. I wondered at the dynamics at play, the husband contributed nothing to the project but was critical of every step. By the end I was yelling at the TV for him to man-up, start actually helping with the build (he was unemployed and presumably had the time) or leave. He was clearly unhappy and projecting that onto others instead of self-reflecting his own choices. House turned out alright though 🙂

    Had to buy some USD today. In my experience banks have always given shoddy FX rates, but your little hole-in-the-wall travel money place at a mall. They give good rates! And if they are painted yellow or red, even better. There seems to be a surprising number of these places, and from what I can gather servicing a large number of migrant/temporary worker and student populations. I guess a large migrant underclass has always been a thing in the rest of the “developed” world, but it still feels new and strange to me in Australia and NZ.


  16. Hi Inge,

    Ouch! I have no idea either when such gremlins – like the dreaded steel worm (rust) – will give you grief, and to my mind replacing the motor at that time was probably a good call. These things only become problematic once new information comes to light (like the damage from rust). If it means anything to you, I too have owned a vehicle that leaked water from its significant rust patches in the floor-pan during rain – fortunately the vehicle did not have carpets which would have stunk to high heaven after such a soaking. I’m pretty sure I mentioned to you many years ago about the time I unfortunately remarked to a much younger person that: the rain that day was so heavy it makes me glad I don’t have a hole in my shoe. Then it got uncomfortable because she asked: why would you have a hole in your shoe… I do wonder how such people will face any downturn in their fortunes in the future.

    Glad to read that you are getting some good rain before the winter sets in. Do you reckon the water will work its way into the ground water table? It rained cats and dogs here today. Over an inch and a half so far, with more to come over the next few days… But it feels tropical outside right now.



  17. Hi Lewis,

    When I was a kid I always enjoyed the Warner Brothers cartoons and they used to be shown at the cinema before the main movie (or during intermissions – remember those). Incidentally I see that your film industry has remade A star is born. I’m old enough to recall the Bette Midler film of the same name. Bradley Cooper is one of your better actors, so it will probably be quite good. Oh well. Anyway, or some reason, the stories in those particular cartoons seemed more entertaining to my mind, than many of the other cartoons which were churned out for kids – most of which I ignored – although we have spoken of Rocky and Bullwinkle before!

    In a really strange twist of fate, a month or so back the local pub served up a special of pork belly and succotash. It was very good, although the pork belly is far too rich for my otherwise rugged gut constitution. I can’t imagine that you would consume pork belly these days? And I must say that I’m rather enjoying the story of Mr Fairchild – he is the timid, yet at the same time, avid adventurer! I did enjoy the side story as to how a chance encounter and brief conversation early in his travels, shored up his future. A nice touch that, and you never quite know what impact other people will have upon you.

    Yes, I believe that you may have been reduced to the ‘hoarder ultra light’ category by the sheer act of chucking out the now faulty DVD player. Now I’m really curious. Do they have support groups for hoarders over in the US? Down here, there is a public outcry, possibly a fire hazard, and then a mucking out… But then the house inevitably refills… A body was found in one hoarder house recently!

    Exactly, those particular style glass bottles are very handy and they seal quite well. I have remarked in the past that Western civilisation will fail from a lack of preserving jars. It would be a fine joke if in the far future we have bottles but no lids…

    Dark grey does fade into the forest quite well. Interestingly, the forest kangaroos are a light grey in colour and they disappear into the trees which are also that colour.

    Hey, this is totally 100% freaky. Today, it rained cats and dogs and well over one and half inches fell in a torrential downpour. During such times I grab a heavy duty umbrella and have a wander around and see how all of the drains are working. It is much easier to correct problems at that stage than repairing the damage later. Anyway, I wandered up to the fern gully and lo and behold one of the very old ferns there which I’d written off as dead as a dead dingoes bits, had sprouted a new frond. I couldn’t believe it and the frond had come out of nowhere. Dicksonia Antarctica have probably been on the planet for a very long time…

    It is nice that you call rhododendrons by their nickname: Rhody! We call them that too, and I have heard a lot of people fondly use that name. After today’s weather, they’ll be pumping up the flowers over the next few weeks. It feels like a tropical jungle outside right now, and I should know as I’ve been to the Amazon. Last night in Melbourne it didn’t drop below 68’F which is uncanny for this time of year.

    The other point of view is that Edward Gorey was born before his time? I do like the sound of the ratty old raccoon coat! 🙂 I’m not allowed to wear my ratty old woollen jumper off the property. I’m wearing it right now and I have to confess that it is a bit tatty.

    I don’t get the big trucks, but like you I do understand why people buy them. You know, they just want to feel safe. I get that and it makes sense. It is just that such feelings of safeness are only of a short term nature and indulging in the safeness makes them less safe, but you know people rarely consider the big picture.

    It is really nice to be able to spend time with people before they pass on, and of course I put the disclaimer in that such time is better spent when the person in question is coherent. You worked for a while in hospice care, what was your take on that? I always wonder whether people are in denial of the final outcome during such times? Dunno. It would be one heck of a regret to not have spent time with a loved one before they passed on. I’m starting to get shades of your version of Hell.

    Incidentally, you mentioning that point brought to mind a future fictional story about death which popped into my head the other day. I probably should write it down before it disappears completely from my mind.

    The comment almost completely disappeared because I accidentally pushed a wrong button on the keyboard. That is not enough room for error on my part, but at least the reply that I’d penned was still there in memory. Speaking about not enough room for error, the clouds were so thick and low today that we used far more electricity than we generated. Not sure how that will work out in the completely fabricated renewable energy unicorn farting future? Dunno. Probably not good.

    Thanks for the link to the npr article on the flu shot. Mate, we’re on the same page with that gear and you don’t have to convince me! 🙂 And npr is like a rabbit hole. The article that was really good click bait for me was: Getting Back What You Lost — Rebuilding In A Wildfire Zone . If only because down here, you have to get your new construction rated for the fire risk – and then you have to build accordingly. My place was the worst of the worst ratings and the materials were crazy expensive, but you know it’s a very small house, so it is possible. I do note that there are few if any new buildings going up in this area and possibly for that reason.

    And down here, the power company (which was sued in a class action) will happily cut off the power during a high risk day. If their legal risk is high, well why not cut the power off to reduce it?

    Oh yeah, the services are being removed from the periphery. Wasn’t that the path that the Roman Empire took?



  18. Hi Claire,

    Exactly, and I 100% agree with you in that it all depends. I got a rough quote from the person I know in the motor trade and they estimated that the replacement engine would be in the range of between four and seven thousand dollars. The thing is, the less engines that we as a society recondition and rebuild, the more expensive the process becomes, if only because far fewer people are involved and skilled in the process.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and story and I applaud your efforts which are far beyond mine. The social and work arrangements are such that if I have to be somewhere, I’m expected to be there – and it is not lost on me that there is a cost to that expectation which I am now paying. But you know I’m not complaining and I did earlier mention about rendering unto Caesar and all that business.

    Speaking of which. You maybe or maybe not aware that there is an ongoing drought down here. What some people have completely failed to understand is that: Eastern Australia receives historic grain import volumes as drought creeps further south. Not good. Incidentally we have a very, very long tradition of indigenous millet grains. I hope to get some fall bread wheat in the ground next year, but we’ll see how things go. Timing this year has been an inordinately complicated process.

    At the farm, the year so far has been very different than what they are experiencing in the drought affected areas (although I don’t know what tomorrow brings) and today it rained over an inch and a half after an unseasonably warm night. It honestly feels totally tropical outside right now and the ferns are loving it!

    I know you’re going to yell at me, but I planted out the corn last week. It will be interesting to see how they go with all of this rain. I may plant out the tomatoes, eggplants, and capsicums next week. Dunno. And yes, learning a plants story is what it takes.



  19. Hi DJ,

    Mate, 108’F is uncomfortably hot. A few years back we had three days in a row of those sorts of daytime temperatures in the shade – and it was no joke at all. Oh yeah, heat exhaustion is a serious problem and you know I what I’ve noticed about it? Because it affects your ability to reason, you can end up a bit strange in the head and keep on going far beyond the point where you should just chuck it in and head for that nice cool swimming pond that you wrote about. We know the signs of heat exhaustion and watch out for each other, but even still we occasionally slip up – and then it is like having one mother of a hangover (which is the pretty much the same thing). Fizzy drinks are good, but electrolyte rehydration solutions are even better. At a pinch a bit of mildly salty water with some sugar works well too. Alcohol and caffeine is not good as it dehydrates your brain further… Many long years ago when I was building the house, a day came when I received a delivery of 15 cubic metres (almost 20 cubic yards) of cement for the foundations of this house, it was about 100’F and I moved all of it (on the flat) by wheelbarrow. By the end of that day, I was done…

    That sounds like a certain well known Monty Python sketch! Hehe!

    When we lived in the inner city, we only had the single vehicle, because we could walk most places – even into the city itself (which I did every day to get to work). It was an hour’s walk in both directions and I used to look at the traffic snarls and wonder what was going on in the drivers minds? Dunno. Probably nothing good. I rarely if ever drive in peak hour traffic. Hope your vehicle doesn’t have to be retired before you retire?



  20. Hi Damo,

    Hehe! What I’m most impressed about is the USB input for the audio player. Yes, small things and all that… 🙂 Actually the new dirt mouse is really economical and it is rated at something crazy like 4.6L/100km which is almost as good as a hybrid vehicle – but at half the cost.

    As a keen motorcycle rider you probably knew when to change gears so that you didn’t have to use the clutch. 😉 Not many people know that that is even possible, but you can get a feel for it. How the heck you got the vehicle to start from first gear is beyond me though. There is a story in there… Did you eventually get the clutch repaired?

    Exactly, like you I used to do all of the maintenance on my vehicles and I repaired and replaced some pretty complex components way back in the day. I applaud your good common sense with the EL Falcon wagon. It was a good choice. Did you ever sleep in the back of that beast on a road trip?

    And yeah, I reckon Suzuki is onto something with that formula of lighter weight, smaller engine, and far better fuel economy (although the current dirt mouse is no slouch on that front). I’ll let you know how it goes in the real world. It should get something like 800km from each 37 litre fuel tank.



  21. Damo (cont)…

    For some reason your second comment went into the trash. I have to keep an eye on the trash because all sorts of otherwise reasonable comments end up in there. Do you have any idea why it is happening?

    Oh yeah, she was dark as about that folly. I love the emotions that get displayed – especially when it comes to restoring historic monuments which by their very nature are epic beasts. But the thing is, I was wondering what she was bringing to the table? Maybe it was her money and he was spending it? Dunno. The guy in ep 1 appeared to talk over his wife as he appeared to attempt to mediate her responses in front of the camera. That tells me a lot.

    I might need to ask you off line about how you did that (ep 2 for me). 🙂 Incidentally, I’ve seen that story play out in the real world over many years. What fascinates me is that eventually they begin to understand where they fit into the world. But until that point in time they can be right pains…

    Hehe! Well, you are far away more experienced with Asia than I am, and those little hole in the wall places are all over the shop there. I did make a subtle reference to that in this weeks story, and he was inordinately pleased with the huge tip. I never used to tip anywhere, but the system is stacked against a whole lot of people nowadays.



  22. Hi, Chris!

    I, too, have met with a faulty thermostat or two. My old Toyota pickup truck had its timing chain break (while I was driving it) last month. As you may remember, this was just another incident in a series of incidents all summer. We had to seriously evaluate the situation after adding this new calamity. However, we have something that you don’t – a mechanic in the family (self-taught though he is) who loves this truck. As a 4-wheel-drive we really need it up here because of the bad winters and it is used for all kinds of farm things. Since he had already reinforced the chassis with steel, we decided that we would keep it and he has since rebuilt the motor (his first). It seems to run beautifully. There is no way that we could have afforded to have had it repaired at a shop. However, there are two old cars in the family and when something major happens to them they will probably be ditched. Fingers crossed.

    The steel shed looks impermeable itself. The author looks pleased with his shed and water tanks, as he should be! Hi, Toothy!

    It is so nice to see so many kinds of baby fruits already. The apricots are really large. I never saw our dogs catch a skink (we have lots of skinks), but the cats did. I hope the fern damage isn’t serious. Nothing eats the ferns here, but maybe that is because we don’t have devils, we have monsters.

    One lonely, beautiful tulip. I am suppose to be planting those right now, also garlic.


  23. ‘@ DJ
    I was making the mistake of extrapolating from our terrible British pipework. I had forgotten that we were always the laughing stock of the world because our pipework is placed on our outside walls! I don’t know whether this is still the case.


  24. Hello Chris
    I think that you will find Notayesman’s 16th Oct blog entertaining.
    I don’t know what is happening to the rain that is falling here as my pond is still completely dry.
    Vehicles rust rapidly here due to the salt in the air.
    Belly pork tastes wonderful in a split pea soup.


  25. Yo, Chris – Heck, I remember the Judy Garland version of “A Star is Born.” :-). I think this is the fourth go-around. It’s been getting good reviews. But, not my cup of tea. My friends in Idaho, really liked it.

    Fairchild really was a bit of a shy, farm boy. But had this enthusiasm for discovery and anything that popped out of the ground. He did have a talent for “falling face down in good fortune.” But then, move around enough, and opportunities present themselves. Wait til you get to his courtship and marriage :-).

    Hoarding is so complex. There are support groups for some kinds of hoarders. Shop-o-holics Anonymous. But a lot of hoarders don’t see a problem, so, not any 12 Step Groups for them. That I’m aware of. There’s therapy and some drugs. More support groups for the families of hoarders. Having a wee bit of a problem in that department, myself, I read just about anything on the topic that comes down the pike. There was two or three TV series on hoarding. I watched a few. Grim. Very grim. Darn, I can’t remember their names, but there was a very famous case in NY city in the late 1930s. Two reclusive brothers. One was crushed to death, in a landslide of his stuff. The other brother, who was disabled then starved to death. Search “Hoarder brothers, NY City.”

    There are some re-useable lids for canning jars. Pricey, but from what I read online, work well. Once lids and rings are no longer available, other forms of food preservation will come to the fore.

    LOL. Rhody. Easier to spell. I don’t have to look it up.

    Big trucks mostly play to the type of person someone wants to be. Not the person they are. Aspirational? Delusional? They play up their rugged, off road capabilities. And most never leave the pavement. To quote an old Texas saying, “All hat and no cows.”

    Generally, I’d say that at end of life, even if a person isn’t very coherent, there’s still a lot going on in there. There can be profound moments of connection. When my Uncle Larry died, he went fast. I had been to visit, less than a month earlier. All seemed pretty good. Then he started to decline. I had a trip planned down to Portland. Two days before I was to go, he passed. But, I take great comfort in the fact that we had a telephone conversation where I was able to express how much he had meant to me, and how lucky I felt having known him.

    LOL. Yes, NPR can be a bit of a rabbit hole. The article on rebuilding after wildfires was interesting. But with 54 years between fires, people forget. I didn’t know there were fire maps. Here, we have flood zone maps. All the same problems. They were going to update the flood maps, and there was a huge public outcry. Being in or out of the flood zone determines if you can build, and your insurance rates. Doesn’t seem to slow people down, much. Especially commercial development.

    The cloud pictures were fantastic. Clouds can be endlessly fascinating, if one stops to look at them. Here, every once in awhile, we have cloud formations that look like your standing on the bottom of the ocean, looking up at ranks of breakers. Some cloud formations can be quit ominous. I enjoy the cheap thrill :-). Lew

  26. @ Margaret – At our little Twelve Step Club, they don’t take credit cards. I don’t know how many times, someone orders a dollar coffee and whips out a credit card. Then there’s lots of scrambling around for change. Which they always come up with.

    I was appalled, when a friend of mine shot through a fast food drive through, and whipped out his credit card for a soft drink, costing less than $2. Lew

  27. Hi Chris,

    Elderberry syrup is made from elderberries (obviously), honey, cinnamon and cloves. It’s supposed to lesson symptoms of colds and flu. Tastes pretty good too.

    We do have a back up generator but haven’t gotten it in place yet as it’s buried in Doug’s overcrowded building. We have to get it wired in as we did in our old house to more important items i. e. furnace, water pump, freezer. You can add cords for other devices as needed. Guess we better get on that.
    Sorry about having to replace the dirt mouse. Always hard to know when an old car just isn’t worth keeping anymore. There used to be a place near here where all unusable cars went to rest. If you needed a part they could look up what cars they had so one could check for needed part. We once needed a replacement door on our daughter’s car that had gotten hit. Went to that place and they had the same vehicle and the same color. Doug was able to replace the door at a very reasonable cost. It’s not there anymore. Seemed like there were acres of old and/or wrecked cars that was in view from the train to Chicago.

    Finally done raining but temperatures are quite below normal.

    The new shed is looking great!!

    Never saw the series Dexter (or read the books) but know that many people liked it.


  28. @ Lew, Thanks for picking up on my omission. Even the sidewalks were too hot for being barefoot some of the time, even on the days (EVERY day, right) that it was a raging blizzard even in May. 😉


  29. Chris,
    Heat can be nasty. I’m glad in that cooking event I was doing mostly the right things, started off well hydrated, drank the right things. I was fine the next day, likely due to boiling away much of the creek the night before.

    We used to heat with wood. The best time to get it delivered was late August. So, last Saturday in August, 2 or 3 cords wood get dumped in my driveway. Then it had to be stacked, preferably all that day. Invariably, it would be about 95 by early afternoon. Even with perpetually watered down head and shirts and drinking the right stuff, I was about useless due to the heat for the next two days.

    Worst time I ever had was when I was 23. Had a softball tournament, 2 games, to be in. I started off a bit dehydrated. It was early July, maybe 85, but no shade. I drank 3 gallons of water in 5 hours, kept dumping water on my head. Two hours after the tournament, in a cool house and after a cool shower, I was running a low grade fever from the heat. I was out of it for a few days. Started learning about hydrating better after that!

    I could’ve used some “Instant Hydration” from Coyote and Roadrunner’s Acme Corporation.

    Roadrunners. The year I lived in southern New Mexico near Las Cruces, I saw a roadrunner almost daily. My wife and I visited the area a few years ago, and she got to see one from about 20 feet. Just west of Las Cruces, there is a GIANT roadrunner made out of trash.


  30. Hi Pam, Inge, Lewis, Margaret, and DJ,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but the Wednesday hiatus is upon us already – and far out, it’s only Wednesday… What’s with that? Time is fast disappearing. Might have to check if it has fallen behind the couch. … Nope, not there… Promise to hopefully reply tomorrow!

    Lewis – How’s this for the healthy option? Chickpea and Falafel Burrito. Yummo! It was really tasty.

    I hadn’t known that Judy Garland had performed a version of the film. Do you reckon fourth time around is a display that they’re onto a winner, or winners are hard to back, or it is a possible sign of creative bankruptcy? I’d only seen the Bette Midler version and I recall that it was very late 70’s early 80’s sort of a vibe. Anyway the new version is getting good reviews, but it can be hard to tell if reviews these days are paid for. Marketing is an interesting business.

    Oh yeah, I’m looking forward to reading more about Fairchild. He just received his initial investment from his backer. He lead an interesting life and went out in search of adventure.

    The young Royals are on tour and they visited a drought affected area. The best of the best shaman could not have arranged things better: Royal storms not unwelcome in Dubbo.

    Strangely enough there is probably more support for them than in our politicians. Incidentally, they’re facing a fascinating by-election this coming weekend and there are signs that there may be a protest vote over the shenanigans going on with the government.

    Thanks, and I’ll have to look up the brothers. It is a really serious risk for fire fighters. You’ll have to dodge the authorities and discover the fine line of tolerance. Who ever knows where that lies?

    Exactly, I use thick glass bottles (and even those won’t last forever) and stainless steel lids. Stainless steel is a remarkable material.

    Hehe! Me too. Rhody away! Hey, some of the purple rhodies are beginning to flower. They’ll have a good season I reckon.

    Oh yeah, and have you ever noticed that the advertising rarely displays the marketed vehicle stuck in traffic? There is usually no other vehicles on the road. A bit like a scene from zombieland or 28 days later don’t you reckon? There might be something in that story. I always wonder about the long lines of traffic trying to get out of an impending disaster zone. Anyway, I’d like one day say to someone that I don’t need a big car to make my hmm hmm feel big. But then, they’d probably get angry, words would be spoken and then it may get ugly. And would my cattle dog be there to watch my back? So many questions…

    Thanks for sharing that, and my experience of those times has also lead me to believe the same thing. Communication is a strong driving force in people. And people can often draw upon deep reserves of energy – although I suspect the personal cost during those times is very high. But yeah, it is nice to be able to share final words and thoughts.

    It is 40 years between fires down here, and the building regulations got slapped onto the entire state. Of course it works like an energy rating and it can vary wildly across the state, but far out, it makes for a complex build. But on reflection I feel that the additional expense was worth it. As to the flooding, oh yeah. And down here they add in the additional unknown possibility that your property could be ruled as ineligible to build upon if it is in a water supply catchment area – and you never know, even if the zoning allows for construction.

    Glad to read that you enjoyed the cloud photos. It was a big storm. 3 inches of rain in two weeks here. And it is raining outside right now. Feral.



  31. @ DJSpo – When I was a kid in grade school, one of my friends mothers always had great comic timing. She’d often kick off talking about the past by saying, “When I was a little boy….” .
    When we’d go on car trips, a game we would play was calling out road kill (always fascinating to 9 year old boys), as in “Dead dog!” “DeadPossum!”. She’s sometimes call out “Dead rag!” as our little heads would whip around. :-).

    The road runner is REALLY cool. I’ll have to tell my friends in Idaho about it, as their daughter is currently living in Taos. (Lincoln’s, doctor’s, daughter’s, dog.) Lew

  32. Yo, Chris – Several entries in today’s Internet Rabbit Hole. The hoarder brothers in New York were the Collyer brothers. Hmmm. There’s even old newsreel footage.

    Two articles of interest in NPR’s “Salt” section (food). One on coffee rust and the other on mesquite beans. The mesquite beans sound quit interesting, and I think they’d grow in your climate. Can even be ground into a type of flour.

    The burrito sounds really good. I finished the book on Mexican foods. It was a good read. I guess one of the current Los Angeles food trends is a fusion of Mexican and Korean food. And not just at upscale “experimental” restaurants. It started right down on a food truck, level.

    Re: “A Star is Born.” I’ll go with creative bankruptcy. But that’s just the sunny and positive thinking guy I am :-). We had our yearly fire inspection, yesterday. Two hours of ringing alarms. Freaked out pets, left and right. I did a lot of (much needed) cleaning and organizing. The young man showed up, plugged in some kind of wand device, waved it at my smoke detector, it beeped, he made to leave. I said “That’s it?” He said, “Yup.” I said, “And for this, I cleaned my bathroom?” We had a small laugh. A very small laugh.

    See? Royals are magic. Back in the Ye Olde Dayze ™, they’d touch lepers to cure them. I bet the Queen is relieved that custom fell out of use.

    Yes, the hmm hmm factor crossed my mind. But this being a Family Friendly Blog ™ and all, I wasn’t going to bring it up.

    I’m off to my friend Julia’s to score some Japanese pears. And, some chicken and alpaca poo for the garden. Lew

  33. Hi everyone!

    I worked from sun up to sun down today on re-wiring the battery room and the result is that my brain is fried. Fortunately that frying is due to tiredness and not actually frying due to an electrical fault which would be a bad thing.

    Lewis – I got the electrician up here today and we moved the inverter – and it seems to be working well – so far…



  34. Hi Chris,

    I was pretty certain that you had investigated the replacement engine option and found it wasn’t viable, for lack of availability and/or prohibitive cost. The car culture, and the size, of the US makes it easier and cheaper to replace engines. Since I live in the cheap seats area, I drive by one of the junked car storage lots, where cars no longer running for whatever reason remain for the rest of their earthly lives, serving as parts storage on the hoof. More than once in my life I’ve had reason to be grateful for the existence of these lots.

    As a comparison to the cost you would have had to pay, my across the street neighbors replaced the engine on their less than a decade old minivan earlier this year. The replaced engine wasn’t new but it had under 50,000 miles on it. It only cost them $3200 for the engine and installation.

    Our first autumn low of 32F/0C occurred earlier this week. I had already removed the solanum-family plants from the garden because one of our free yard waste pickup days was this week, allowing me to send the possibly diseased tomato and pepper plants to a commercial composting facility rather than risk having the disease propagate through my compost pile. The black-eyed peas survived the frost, but we are looking at a possible first freeze of the season over the weekend. They won’t survive that. Too bad because they got a late start and so I won’t get the usual yield out of them. In just the same way that we didn’t get the best part of spring this year, we have missed the best part of fall. But if the predicted weak El Nino winter proves out, it should at least be a milder winter than the past one.


  35. Yo, Chris – “Chris works from sun to sun. Chris’s work is never done.” :-). And, also the Editor. An absence of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Or however that goes. It’s too early. Not enough tea in me, yet.

    So, an inverter will transform the convex, into the concave? Turn an out-y into an in-y? :-).

    I went out to my friend Julia’s, yesterday. I’d never been out there, before. A long drive through the fall colors, out to the country. She has three small dogs, that are fairly well behaved, and an enormous … black, old something dog who planted herself firmly in my path and would not budge until she got a pet and ear scratch. The three Alpaca, the one enormous sheep and chickens of all varieties and ages running everywhere.

    I got two, two-gallon buckets and a big plastic bag, each, of Alpaca and chicken poo. Alpaca are very accommodating, as they all poop in one spot. How they choose that one spot is a mystery. How I’m going to distribute this among my four garden spots is also a mystery. :-). Let’s see. 4 gallons, plus one big plastic bag divided by about 100 square feet = what? I’m probably over thinking it. What it boils down to (What! I have to boil the stuff?) is, keep the hot chicken poo away from stuff that’s still growing and spread the Alpaca poo, anywhere. And, there’s always more where that came from.

    I picked a big bag of apples, two of mostly Asian, and a few regular pears. There was also a mystery bush, loaded with fruit, that Julia thought was a kumquat. Nope. It’s a quince. I brought a few of those, home. Oh, and also a dozen eggs.

    The hunt for pumpkin spice, continues. I stopped by the bakery outlet store, yesterday. They had pumpkin sugar wafers (bland), pumpkin oatmeal biscuits (bland) and pumpkin bread (barely passable.). Did my weekly shopping at the Safeway. Pumpkin ice cream has still not made an appearance. I tried the pumpkin turnovers (bland) and pumpkin brittle. Also bland, but lethal. Ate way too much of that stuff, and won’t have it in the house, again.

    Whew! I slept well, last night. Lew

  36. @ Lew,
    Yeah, that roadrunner rocks!

    I knew a chap once who had a litany he’d go through with every new acquaintance… “My brother was an only child. Whenever he had a question I couldn’t answer, I told him to ask his sister.” And on it went for 2 or 3 minutes or until somebody interrupted him and changed the subject.

    My dad got 3 – 30 gallon aluminum garbage barrels of raw chicken poo once. He spread it all through the garden area. Nothing much grew very well that year. Did I mention that the stuff reeked all summer? The neighbors didn’t like us much that year.

    And the barrels? Well, he’d used one the first year, and used the poo from the second barrel the second year. The third year I found that the bottom of the third barrel had been eaten completely away by that raw chicken poo.


  37. Hi Pam,

    Oops and double ouch! Yes, timing chains are generally very necessary in order to keep an engine ticking along. And when they break, well that’s it. The engine stops immediately! Of course, I only know this through experience as the original, original, dirt rat (a tiny little vinyl roof 1 Litre / 61 cubic inch, four speed with high and low gearing) Suzuki Sierra (called a Jimny in other countries) had its rubber timing chain break.

    Hope you were OK when the chain broke? I was taking off from a traffic light. I should have known that the chain was about to break because the original dirt rat was very hard to start due to such poor timing. I replaced the chain easy enough. I’ve been lead to understand that the metal double row timing chains (unlike the rubber version in the dirt rat) are not quite indestructible, but close to that…

    Exactly. We can cope with one old car, but two of them is a very unappealing and very unreliable prospect. Yup. When the dirt mouse got crunched by a mate and had to be repaired, the dirt rat also decided that it was going to break down. Great timing huh? Has that situation occurred in your home?

    Thanks and although it will rain tomorrow morning, we hope to get the roof up on the shed either Saturday or Sunday. We went out on a hunter gather expedition earlier today to pick up the remaining things with which we need to finish it. I had to get steel guttering to collect the rainfall as our scrap guttering supplies have now been virtually mined out.

    Toothy says hi Pam – as does Ollie who is bordering on sleep behind me on the green couch! And the water tanks appear to not be leaking – and that is a good thing. 🙂

    You are very observant to have noticed the size of the apricots. Yes, they are bigger this year. My gut feeling is that a lot of fruit trees are biennial so we may get a smaller crop this year, but the trees themselves are growing a lot. Dunno. We’ll see how it goes. The pears haven’t flowered as much either, but the apples look like they’re about to produce a lot of flowers and the quince trees are going off.

    Monsters and Devils sound awfully similar to my ears!

    I dunno about tulips if only because they are so readily eaten. Do you dig yours up and then replant them the following season? Your mention of garlic makes me feel guilty because I’m letting my lot form clumps…



  38. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for mentioning the blog. And yes, I am amused and also mildly irate all at the same time. I’d have to suggest that such a state of mind is confusing for me, but then in explanation I spent the entire day yesterday, plus a couple of hours of paid electricians, re-wiring the battery room – because it no longer worked due to the inherently complexity of the individual components when combined into a system. Now if the detractors of Notayesman had spent such time, resources and personal energy into making good their claims, well they’d talk a whole lot less rubbish. The longer I live with this technology, the more I understand it, and the more that such claims as were made in the blog, really worry me. It is like betting the farm away on a long shot, instead of getting into the nitty gritty of actually working towards a future and accepting the costs.

    I can’t say for sure what is happening to your rain, but maybe the rain is either infiltrating into the ground water table, or running off and into the nearest waterway. Have you noticed any cracks in the clay around your part of the world? That is a sure sign that the soil may have become hydrophobic – and then it takes a lot of slow rain in order to rehydrate it. That doesn’t happen here in the mountain range, but lower down in the surrounding elevated plains it is quite common. It is a sort of soil moisture self defence mechanism. Long established trees do well under those conditions, but anything smaller than those massive trees tend to die back. How does that compare to what you are observing?

    Salt is hard on steel. Yup! I have heard reports that people in the UK often purchase older and valuable vehicles such as VW combi vans from down under due to the lower damage in the vehicle bodies.

    Split pea and ham soup is divine! Yummo!



  39. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for sharing your experience of the elderberry syrup. It sounds pretty nice – and I can see that those combination of plants would lessen the symptoms of a cold or flu. I reckon it would taste nice too! Yum! I make an elderberry flower wine and it is a favourite, but I’ve never really known what to do with the huge quantities of berries that get produced by the many shrubs each year. The parrots love the berries, so I have left them for the birds. North of the range I have noticed that there are some feral elderberry shrubs growing, so who knows what will happen once the birds consume the berries. It is funny, but there are mistletoe plants growing way, way, high up in the eucalyptus tree canopy, so birds spread seeds no doubts about it.

    Actually that’s a really good idea with the generator in that you previously had it wired into crucial systems. Spare a thought for the electricians confronted by the complexity of the battery room yesterday. They were looking at it all and saying, what the heck is this stuff? However they only had to work on the mains side of things and they got the inverter moved and the earth and mains wiring sorted in no time at all. And they were fortunately there to help me pull some cables through from under the floor. I had to redo some of the wiring under the floor of the house. This solar stuff is crazy complex. Fortunately spring has meant that there were some active spiders under the floor yesterday and I ended up covered in webs…

    Yeah, reusing old car components is much better on the environment than shredding the cars. Although, I’m personally amazed by those car shredders. And yeah, we have no idea that we’ve made the right call on replacing the car. I just don’t know at all and we had to make a call. Parts are inordinately expensive nowadays. Like your experience, it wasn’t always that way and back in the day I used to get parts from car wreckers. Some of the places you got to dismantle the cars yourself and that was always instructive.

    Your warmer weather is starting to make a special guest appearance down here (just in case you were looking for it)! 🙂

    I noticed the very first tomatoes have arrived today, as well as… ta da! The very first corn seedlings. Needless to say this has changed plans for the next few days as we’ll have to now carefully weed the tomato enclosure and get the rest of the tomato, capsicum, chilli and eggplant seeds into the ground. And we were already busy. Oh well. Hopefully there is enough time to finish off the roof on the shed….

    The Dexter books were a very good read.



  40. Hi DJ,

    Yeah, absolutely. Dipping into the cool creek would have been of great benefit to your body’s internal temperature. I sometimes have a cold bath at the end of very hot work days, but you know, we’re now getting to the point of the year when you can work outside in the afternoons, but it is probably wiser to get up early and not work in the hot afternoon sun.

    Your experience with firewood matches mine and it is best harvested and stored during the hottest months – when the wood is at its driest. 14% moisture content for firewood is not as easy to achieve as a person would think. Incidentally, I see people getting deliveries of firewood during the depths of winter, and it is so humid here then that that option may assist, but long term it is a waste of time. And yup, it is a crazy hot time here too when you have to stack away loads of firewood, but that is when it has to be done. You don’t have to convince me!

    Hey, does your firewood freeze over those really cold spells that you get? Does it burn well after being frozen?

    Ouch. That sounds like a really bad case of heat exhaustion. It can be quite life threatening (and parts of your brain can literally cook if it is bad enough) so you got pretty lucky that there were no long term consequences. I knew somebody that lost their sense of taste (and who knows what else) from a serious case of heat stroke.

    Cool sculpture! You know, I didn’t even realise that roadrunners were a real thing. We have Emu’s down here.



  41. Hi Claire,

    Yeah, the replacement engine business was very sad news and I sought the opinion of a person in the trade who said that it would be somewhere between four and seven thousand dollars, but closer to the seven side of things. What do you do? Years ago there was less choice in vehicles (the market here is crazy deregulated with something like 60 brands), but the components were more likely to be repaired, rebuilt, and/or recycled. Not many businesses provide that service anymore. And many years ago the government threw the local car industry under the bus. I still hear advertisements on the radio saying that: “If you’re affected by the closure of the car industry, call us”… Usually flogging government funded courses…

    Don’t you reckon it is interesting that as an area, or a society becomes poorer, the upside is that there is less waste? That point is not lost on me. Incidentally, your neighbours scored a pretty good price for the installation of a replacement engine.

    Brr! That is cold, and like you I would also be pulling out the Solanum family of plants at this time of year and hoping to get some leafy greens in the ground before winter moved in proper. Fair enough too about taking the plants off site. For your information, I chuck the cuttings into a garden bed and let nature do its thing and so far I haven’t noticed any downsides to that option. Incidentally, I spotted the first volunteer tomato seedlings today – and I admit it is still early days, but the very first corn is beginning to poke its head out of the ground. The weather here for the next week or two looks pretty good for continued good growth. It is not lost on me that this is about three weeks earlier than I would otherwise expect. The climate here this season has been very strange indeed.

    Fingers crossed for the black-eyed peas, and hope you get enough seeds to be able to consume some whilst keeping some in reserve for next season. And yeah, they’re predicting a weak El-Nino this year, but that is one of three patterns that affects this part of the world, although it is the strongest by far.



  42. Hi Lewis,

    Wow, the images of the Collyer Brothers were quite astounding. Interestingly, the two brothers gained a certain form of notoriety from the hoarding activity.

    Ouch! I’m not sure it is ever a good idea to produce single crops over massive acreage, if only because sooner or later some mineral will get strip mined out of the soil. And then the plants will succumb to disease. On the other hand if supplies of coffee ever diminish, then I’ll lose access to thousands of pounds annually of handy minerals via way of used coffee grounds. Yes, there is a bit of self interest in there, but the minerals are really good for the fruit trees in the orchard. Actually, they’re pretty amazing and in short supply in Australian soils. It is too bad that most coffee grounds end up in landfill, which is a bit toxic and I probably wouldn’t recommend growing edible plants over such a place for a very long time to come. Anyway, if I were in those coffee producing areas, I’d begin planting large numbers of random seedlings merely in order to retain something. Coffee is one of the few plants that I’d consider constructing a greenhouse for. At least the tea camellia has definitely survived all of the frosts to date (I checked on it earlier this afternoon). I may not have mentioned it, but I do have enough materials to construct a greenhouse, I just can get my head around how to make it work without producing an artificial environment that ends up taking a huge amount of ongoing work, resources and energy.

    It is a very unfortunate thing that many civilisations have forgotten: what you take from the soil, you have to replace.

    Mr Logsdon wrote in his book on flours that plenty of beans and corn flours can be mixed into bread loaves. I haven’t experimented with that, but it sounds like a good idea. In the food explorer book, I read the story of Mr Fairchild arriving in Sydney and meeting the US scientist working for the colonial government who was responsible for understanding the gluten protein in flour which causes bread to rise. It is a riveting tale and I’m really enjoying the story.

    No way! Wow! Well that is a fusion of cuisines that never would have occurred to me. Maybe I’m a bit biased because whilst I acknowledge that kimchee is probably very good for you, I just don’t enjoy the taste. I could see how it might work as both cuisines have an extraordinary tolerance for very hot chilli…

    Hey, the very first corn seedlings have popped out of the ground today! Yay! And there are even volunteer tomato plants in the tomato enclosure. I’m definitely going to have to spend about two hours over the next day or so weeding that entire enclosure. With that job in mind, I purchased a long handled garden hoe today and I look forward to testing it out. Some of the hoe blades in the various tools looked a bit dodgy to me (weak steel) and I didn’t reckon they’d stand up to much use. The handle feels a bit short for my liking, but I guess I’ll get into the rhythm and learn the motions of the tool (hopefully so).

    The electricians helped me move the inverter yesterday and they did a sterling job as they extended the mains power cables to the house. It was a very long work day for me as I had to also re-route one of the solar power cables under the floor of the house as it ran too close to another cable. The result was what an electrical engineer described to me as ‘induction’ which is not something you’re meant to get in DC power. And you can actually hear induction in action sometimes when it is very rainy or humid and electrical sub stations make an audible buzzing sound. It has been a serious pain and I only got about three quarters of the re-wiring job done yesterday. I couldn’t face it today and went off and had a more relaxing day, but had to fit in some of life’s little administrative tasks. Hope to get to the roof of the shed tomorrow, but it may rain over night.

    Hehe! Yeah, let’s stick with creative bankruptcy, although that does not mean that I won’t go and watch the film at the cinema – so they might be onto something! 😉

    And I have seen charges for owners of rental properties to have someone come around and regularly check the batteries in smoke alarms… They probably get paid more per hour than I do!

    Leprosy is contagious, but not too contagious so you would hope that the people in question never had to touch too many sufferers of that condition, as I guess repeated exposure would up the risk of infection. I saw plenty of beggars missing limbs in Varanasi and one would not want to suffer from a similar condition.

    The hmm hmm factor is possibly what large cars are all about? I honestly don’t know how useable the trays are on utility vehicles (you call them trucks) these days because they are so high off the ground.

    Your trip to Julia’s place sounds awesome – and you connected well with the large dog that brooked no nonsense and blocked your path. I guess size does matter… 🙂

    Yeah! Alpacas are pretty clever in that they don’t poop where they eat. A lot of farm animals make all sorts of interesting accommodations with other animals in that most delicate of matters. The more widely the animals used to roam, the less careful they are about where they poop. And some animals are happy to graze in areas that have been pooped in by another species. And let’s not forget that birds spread poop and they seem to be remarkably good at it.

    The chicken poo dilemma is a complex problem because like you write, it does burn plants, but I tend throw it into the garden when it is mixed with their bedding straw, and I’ve never noticed that it burns plants – but I suspect that is due to the bedding straw. Your garden is going to go feral next season with all of the various soil additions that you are chucking into it! What did you end up doing with all of the poop?

    Yum! Fresh apples and pears from trees sounds really nice. And Asian pears are normally juicy and full of flavour. The quince trees are in flower right now and I’m really impressed at just how much they’re flowering this year. They are as beautiful as magnolia trees (but with the bonus of leaves). You know you have to stew quince with a bit of sugar and a bit of lemon juice to stop the fruit from going brown, but the smell and taste are memorable.

    It is outrageous that there is no pumpkin ice cream yet. It is just not cricket, old chap! 🙂 They’re leaving it a bit late aren’t they (whoever ‘they’ are)? – Given that Halloween is under two weeks away?



  43. Hello again
    Oh yes, the clay soil has well and truly cracked. Your explanation as to my dry pond was interesting and I have observed all that you describe.
    A young woman has placed ducks and poultry in a nearby field. Son warned her that her protection for them was inadequate. A fox/foxes have had the lot. Son says that the poor lass has no idea of what is involved in country living
    My husband used to make cough medicine with elderberries but I don’t have the recipe.



  44. Yo, Chris – Before I forget … I saw this interesting (and not too long) article on NPR. Cherry trees in Japan are experiencing a second flowering. But it’s the last three paragraphs that caught my attention. Early and early flowering.

    You might look into how the Victorian’s pulled off their greenhouses. Horse poo pits and coal and wood fired heaters. And, plenty of “help.”

    I’ve had kimchee a time or two in the distant past. Another one of those “can eat it, but there are so many other things I’d rather eat.” In the “Taco U.S.A.” book, the author mentioned that the hot sauce that you’ll find on every Mexican families table in the US is Tapatio, brand. Safeway provided. Not as much “kick” as the McIhenry’s, but I had an “Ah. That’s the flavor of Mexican restaurant food!” moment. As when I was sampling a lot of green teas, trying to find that Asian restaurant flavor. (Stash brand, by the way. Their Premium Green.)

    Garden tools seem to be a, mostly, “you get what you pay for.” Last year, someone mentioned on Mr. Greer’s blog what they thought the two best companies are. I’ve got it written down. Somewhere. Old tools (op shops, auctions, estate sales) can be a fruitful are to explore for good quality old tools.

    The fire inspection seemed a bit cursory, to me. Not what I remember from last year. Maybe they were trying to pull it off “on the cheap.” We have a HUD inspection, next month, that is more in depth.

    I scattered around a bit of the chicken poo, yesterday. Mostly on areas where I’ve already harvested stuff. Where other things won’t be replanted til next spring. Adding other things to those areas (kitchen scraps, coffee grounds) will turn the soil over, a bit. There is straw in the poo. From the story DJSpo told, I’d better get it out of the truck before it eats through the plastic buckets … and, the bed of my truck!

    I saw a rather large, what I thought was a spider, sitting on the rocker of my rocking chair. I killed it with a paper towel. But, on closer inspection, it rather looks like a cockroach. Which could mean big trouble. But, it was broad daylight and those things usually run. I’ll keep a sharp eye out and maybe pick up s a couple of roach motels. This building is remarkable vermin free. The occasional spider or lady bug. But, that’s about it. Lew

  45. Hi Chris,

    The broken clutch made for some exciting traffic lights! Technique involved judicious use of throttle and more or less jamming it into first. Where possible, parking on a hill was advised! We weren’t able to get it fixed till Darwin, travelling from south of Monkey Mia, through the bungle bungles, and Kakadu before getting it fixed.

    I don’t know why my second comment was sent to spam. Re-reading it, there doesn’t seem to be any offensive keywords. Maybe the acronyms I was using triggered a keyword match as “normal” conversations don’t usually have those?

    Good work on tipping the driver, it would have been a long drive back with little chance of a fare. I can almost handle the system being stacked against so many, it seems futile to rant against it as things have always being this way. My bigger problem is with the hypocrisy of those who refuse to acknowledge it. This is quite evident in the tensions around immigration debates. You never hear a politician say, “we need a low-paid workforce so the middle class can get cheap uber rides and trinkets, and big business gets high profits”.


  46. Lew,

    A few years back, I used to live next door to a hoarder (thankfully not at sibling crushing levels). A student at the time, I was happy to get paid to come through and sort out her belongings piled up in a large shed behind the house. Stuff that hadn’t been used for years, and never will be. I cautiously suggested selling items, but it didn’t work. Indeed, my organising of the shed, freeing up space, just encouraged more acquisitions 🙂


  47. Chris,

    Frozen firewood was not a problem if it was dry. I don’t know what moisture percentage my wood usually had, but it always seemed to be bone dry.

    Emus are cool birds. I was on a jury once that was hearing a civil suit case. The plaintiff claimed that he’d been nearly crippled in an automobile accident. While he was “unable to move”, however, it turns out that he had gone to hospital with a concussion. The concussion was suffered when he was running around his small ranch trying to herd his emus back into their pen; he tripped and got kicked in the head by an emu, hence the concussion. The jury ruled in favor of the defendant…


  48. @ Lew,
    We have June Bugs over here. They look like the southern New Mexico cockroaches – the ones big enough to crawl away carrying an aircraft carrier. The June Bugs tend to stay still, aren’t skittish like roaches, and are easily caught and squished.


  49. Hi Inge,

    The forest has achieved an interesting thing: There are orchids and native clematis vines popping up everywhere. It is amazing to see, and the little orchids really enjoy the more fertile parts of the farm. I reckon it is the combination of last month’s heat and dry, then followed by very heavy rain which resulted in the huge germination rates. And what fascinates me is that the plants are in far greater quantities in the areas that I have been adding lots of organic matter to the soil.

    Clay is an interesting soil type. I have noticed that the cracks in the clay also allow any rainfall which may fall to penetrate deeper into the soil. It will be interesting to hear what you observe, but I reckon that the cracks will close as the soil moisture increases, but I don’t really know.

    Oh yeah, poultry is very tasty, and every animal in the area that can eat them, will give it a go. Oh well, perhaps the young lady will learn through the school of hard knocks? Has she given any indication that she will try again? Hopefully the young lady puts a bit more effort into protecting her gaggle of poultry! Gumption and resilience can be learned that way.

    Thanks, and it is something that I’ll have to look up. I have a lot of different elderberry shrubs growing about the place, and they are so easy to strike cuttings. I was once considering using them as the basis for a hedgerow and may do so in the future.



  50. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for mentioning the article about the cherry blossoms. I read it, and I’m hardly surprised at all. Many of the fruit trees here go a little bit strange in the autumn nowadays and some of them produce blossoms and even tiny little fruit. I suspect that the trees will adapt just fine to a future warmer and wetter world, although agriculture as we know it may get a little bit strange during those times.

    It rained and rained here today. We were planning to put the roof up on the shed, but the rain put an end to those thoughts. Instead I enjoyed a gourmet pie for lunch plus a very tasty lamington, and then got stuck into continuing to rewire the battery room. It is an epic job because every single cable is a custom creation and I had to remake pretty much every single one of them utilising as much scarp as possible. Needless to say that it was a big job. I finished up about 8pm this evening, and I’d like to add that if at any point in our correspondence this evening that I stop making sense, well, I’d have to point at the complex work done this afternoon as the cause. 🙂

    Some of the old hill station gardens up this way have Victorian era greenhouses and I have noticed concrete pits at the bottom of the constructions which house mechanical heaters. The thing that I always notice about such constructions is that they are usually in a poor state of repair – or they’re empty. My best guess is that the greenhouses make little to no economic sense, and eventually the costs over run the otherwise good idea. Dunno.

    I’m with you about kimchee. It’s edible, but there are plenty more interesting foodstuffs on the smorgasbord that I never ever felt the need to go back and test my resolve against Korean foods. Your mention of Tapatio sauce intrigued me, and I looked it up. Apparently it is hotter than Sriracha which I don’t feel is hot at all. So you sound like you’re onto a good thing with that sauce. Mind you, I quite like hot red Tabasco sauce and thick freshly cooked chips in their skins. Yum!

    Exactly, I purchased the garden hoe by judging the quality of the steel used in the cutting head. Incidentally, I took it out for a spin today and I have to say that whoever came up with the idea for such a tool knew what they were doing. Unfortunately I was overly enthusiastic and accidentally took out a few tomato seedlings. Doh! In some small country towns to the west of here (but close as the crow flies), there are shops popping up that sell high quality garden tools and the steel looks old and black as I guess it has a high carbon content. The funny thing is that the tools are quite expensive and very high end so I wonder who is purchasing them and whether they’re actually being used? Dunno.

    What is a HUD inspection? It sounds a bit scary. I always thought that HUD was an acronym for ‘Heads up Display’ which is a technology that produces a display on glass ahead of the controller of a vehicle. Remember not to speak too soon on that most complicated of matters – no point dipping into the world of hubris, if only because we all know where that leads!

    Incidentally, and speaking of which, the federal government appears to have lost a by-election today. You may recall recently that another Prime Minister was deposed (Malcolm Turnbull). Don’t fret for him, we have plenty more where he came from. Anyway, perhaps in a fit of sulks (Sir Scruffy would understand that) the now former Prime Minister quit Parliament. The government had a majority of one seat before he quit, so a by-election was called. Well, it doesn’t look good as an independent appears to have won the seat (it didn’t go to the other main party – Labor) . It is worthwhile mentioning that the seat had been previously safe since Federation… We may have another hung Parliament – I hope they stop mucking around in Canberra.

    Wentworth by-election: Kerryn Phelps claims victory, Government loses majority

    I’m unsure how government will go from here onwards until the next election, they may have to learn to compromise and cut the ideological BS and just get on with the job that we pay them to do.

    Your strategy with the chicken poo is very wise. Have you ever seen chicken poo burn plants? It is not something that I’ve ever noticed, but I do understand that not all poo’s are created equal. That sounds a bit wrong now that I’ve written it, but still…

    I spread some more coffee husks up in the fern gully today, and the ferns are bouncing back rapidly from their recent loss of fronds. The plants may well be far tougher than I’d ever considered. I don’t reckon I’ve ever seen chicken poo eat through plastic and steel, but I can’t say that I’ve experimented to achieve that outcome. Did you spot any damage? Mind you, leaving mulch or compost in the bright yellow trailer for more than a day or two has an impact on the steel in the trailer. Every two years, I coat the trailer in new paint. I believe they have to do the same thing with the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

    Did you get any clearer idea about what sort of crawling insect had invited itself into your abode?

    I didn’t get the data cables up in the battery room today, and am considering getting back into the room later tonight to ponder how the heck am I going to do that task. I sort of like getting the data on my little remote reader, but will have to make do if I have to order some replacement data cables. I can’t make those and have to get them to order from the manufacturer. Oh well.

    Fingers crossed that the rain gives us a break tomorrow and I can get the roof sheets onto the new shed! It is a busy time of year. 🙂



  51. Hi Damo,

    Mate, did you see the Wentworth by-election results. Pretty funny huh? Can’t say I feel sorry for them. You are fortunate to live in a saner country!

    What a story! Yes, that would make for some exciting driving. Did the gearbox ever pack it in after such abuse? Mind you, there is not much changing of gears involved in that particular drive. I’ve travelled that road too (but from north to south), and I totally get your story. It is epic country isn’t it? And you can go for hours and hours and not see any towns other than the regular roadhouses at two hour intervals. Apparently Broome is copping a caning these days due to the sheer number of tourists. When we went late last century it was very sleepy.

    Thanks for considering the comment. Dunno why it happened, but it isn’t just yours that goes to trash and I have to check it every single time I post comments. Dunno. Incidentally thanks for the suggestions too. I appreciate those and had never considered the YouTube option before. I’m beginning to wonder if the missing tornts actually mean something bigger? Possibly so.

    Thank you and even if Sandeep had headed back to the airport, he may well have had a couple of hours long wait in the Taxi snake that sits out of view of the general public. I once had the opportunity to see behind the scenes at the airport and I can’t say I’m much of a fan. I never used to tip anywhere, but things have changed and nowadays ‘goodwill’ seems like an important thing to foster.

    Sir Scruffy is grumpy because I groomed his ratty hair today and he decided just then that he would be happier by lunging at the young and carefree Ollie…

    Apologies for the interruption. Well labour isn’t exempt from the laws of supply and demand and I see that playing out in my own profession. I keep my costs lower than anyone, although the dirt mouse has been trouble. A minor panel fell off it this morning, I couldn’t believe it. I just reattached it using new plastic clips. Honestly plastic in vehicle bodies is a really rubbish idea. At the moment, immigration is what is propping up the housing market. Watch this space, I’ve read anecdotal accounts that people are having a lot of troubles trying to convert from interest only loans (which usually have a fixed term of something like five years, many of which are soon up for renegotiation) into interest and principal loans. They may be left with negative equity as the housing market topples? Dunno. Certainly it will be Australia’s version of the big short. But how will it play out and what will the responses be? Dunno.



  52. Hi DJ,

    Thanks. Yeah, you know I have heard that frozen firewood can be bone dry so that doesn’t surprise me at all and I was really curious to hear what you had to say about the matter. Down here, the winters are warmer and so they’re just wet and firewood in the open air would be a really dumb idea. Mind you, we used to store firewood where the rain could slightly get to it and that caused the smoke in the woodbox to be more acidic than it otherwise would be, and that damages the steel in the combustion chamber and flue. Firewood is a very complex matter and it isn’t at all simple – but we start with the trees and go from that point. My mind boggles at the thought of having to use a cross cut saw, although I have read that back in the day they were almost as fast as a chainsaw, but it requires two people and a whole lot of effort.

    Sorry your honour, my emu kicked me in the head, and from that point on I can’t remember any details pertaining to the automobile accident. But surely in all sincerity, I beseech the court to consider that the primary cause of the debilitating brain damage was caused by the automobile accident.

    Yes, a sad tale! Hehe!

    I respect your commitment to do your civil duty. As a self employed person, I’ve twice dodged jury duty. For some reason I didn’t quite feel that the $10 or $20 per day that they offered me, would quite make up for the lost income. And then I’d still have to make up for the work that I was unable to do whilst I was waiting to be appointed or on an actual jury. I have a vague feeling that the system favours people who are either retired, unemployed, government employees, and / or people working for very large corporates. I’ve often wondered whether the outcomes of jury’s are skewed as a result? Dunno.



  53. Hello again
    I have had cracks in the soil in previous years; they always close up eventually. It isn’t just rain that closes them up though as the land is on the move down towards the beach. The cracks become large enough to put ones entire arm down!

    The girl is talking ‘goats’; I know nothing more.

    I have used a cross cut saw many years ago with my husband. It was hopeless; I always became rapidly faint. We discovered that I breathed in time to the saw. Even when made aware of this, I was unable to stop doing it.


  54. @ DJSpo – Thanks! I think you’re right. June bugs. I saw another one on my truck, yesterday. Got a bit better look at it. Sluggish, broad daylight. I feel much better, now.

    I was in one of the other fellow’s apartments, yesterday. He’s one floor down, other end of the building. Same SW exposure. He’s got Ladybugs. Which freak him out. I see them as rather benign and beneficial. Lew

  55. Yo, Chris – A look in your battery room would probably give me the fantods. It was a cause of great celebration that I got a replacement knob for my air conditioning unit … and it fit! Another tenant, Steve, showed up at my door in a state of near nervous collapse, last night. The audio on his TV had disappeared. Why he came to me, I know not. Emotional support?

    I haven’t had TV in decades, so, the technology has moved far beyond anything I understand or am interested in. He presented me with TWO remote controls, each with about 30 buttons. I checked the “mute” buttons. Nope. Beyond that … I asked him “Were you fiddling with the remote when you lost the sound?” Couldn’t remember. Suzanne (our most tech savy Inmate) was nowhere in evidence. Being a Friday evening, tech support was probably out of the question. I managed not to suggest he read a book, in the meantime.

    I have avoided sriricha, thus far. Here, it’s rather a faddish, thing. And, I tend to avoid faddish things, until the dust settles.

    My general feeling is, most (some?) gardeners run through enough crapified garden tools and finally get the concept that the good stuff is an investment. That may save them money in the long run. I had a good pair of hand pruners, that I lost. And then ran through 3 or 4 cheap-o ones (lucky to last a week, let alone a season) before I got a clue. According to reports, far more people are gardening now. Maybe the timing is right that they’ve figured it out … and there’s enough of them to support the good stuff?

    HUD is the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A sprawling agency. You may have caught a news article or two about the Trump appointed head. Ben Carson. He who pontificated that people in government assisted housing (like me) shouldn’t be “too cozy or too comfortable.” He of the $35,000 dining table for his office. He who finds a niche in the agency for his wife and son. But, to the inspection …

    If we have a good self administered inspection (under the old regime, it was thorough … who knows what the next one will be like) we don’t see the HUD inspectors, except every fourth year. But we do have HUD people, out of Seattle and Denver that do over sight. It’s time for the actual HUD inspection crew. If we get a good inspection, we won’t see them for another four years. Bad, and they’ll be back, next year. Generally, they make sure all the appliances, electric and plumbing is working and not a hazard. That water isn’t pouring through the roof.

    The Sisters of Providence own the building. But, HUD administers it. I (nor has anyone else) have not seen a Sister. In decades. From what I can gather off the Net, for a long time, they’ve been in contraction and have become more … inward turning.

    I haven’t said too much about it, because it’s complicated, but things have gone a bit downhill since our old building head, The Warden, retired. We have a new building head, who spends most of her time looking teary and depressed. Because, she’s under the thumb of …. Gina. Who we didn’t even really know existed. She’s swept in and is “enforcing rules.” Many of which, we find, she’s making up as she goes along. It’s all about power and control. The whole atmosphere of the place has changed. Even people that don’t live here, have noticed it. Several of the Inmates are struggling with depression, and have come to me for advise. But in our own doddering way, we’re fighting back. But people like Gina are very hard to dislodge. Either they know where the bodies are buried, or, use other inducements or “talents” to maintain their positions. :-). Cont.

  56. Cont. But let’s talk about something more pleasant :-).

    Sounds like your government is moving towards the kind of stalemates we have here. Push, pull and influence until most issues are not clear cut and seem to have a 50/50 support from one side, or another. Gridlock. And, I really get the feeling, that some powers find that state of affairs, beneficial, and carefully keep that ineffectual balance. Using wedge issues, media. Inject just enough doubt to strike that balance. And, both “sides” are guilty of it.

    But I promised more pleasant topics, didn’t I? Well, here’s a ray of sunshine, at least for you. I’ve been getting a bit more into that book, “Real Food / Fake Food.” Overlooking the general lack of organization and no index, there are gems in there. There’s a whole chapter on olive oil. Here in the States, it’s not very well regulated. Except for California. The best country for olive oil regulation? Australia. And, Chili.

    I dug a bit (pun intended) into burning, fertilizer and compost. Fertilizer (or, compost that isn’t well broken down) “burns” plants as fertilizer has salts that restrict water uptake. One place stated that compost feeds the soil, fertilizer feeds the plants. Compost is more, I think, a long term thing. Fertilizer, a quick fix. Maybe.

    The local auction finally got pictures posted for the Asian auction, next week. 350 of them. I found 14 items I’m interested in. Some, I’ll talk myself out of (Do I really need a cat garden sculpture?) Other’s make me a bit crazy. Some are “if they go cheap.” There are three blue and white ginger jars. I’ll be happy with one. There are three prints. One would be nice. And, of course, it’s all “subject to inspection.” Lew

  57. Hi everyone,

    Just a bit of website administration. I had to switch off the pirateforms addon on the website today. If anyone notices anything strange about the website (I had to specify that I meant the website as a lot of strange things go on in the world – like our politics down here), please let me know by dropping a comment. 🙂 And if I get no comments at all, I’ll know by default that something very strange has gone on with the website!



  58. Chris,

    Even wood that is moderately seasoned at the start of November will be dry enough to burn well by the end of winter if stored properly, meaning where it can’t get wet. All it takes is two weeks, not necessarily consecutive, of temps -10C or less. It’s generally very dry at those temperatures and it just sucks the wet out of the wood.

    I got out of jury duty when I was an engineering student. Both times that I was on juries I was able to delay the jury duty due to scheduling conflicts, but had to serve. Half of the people on the juries were government employees or retired, the other half were missing work. We were given free parking and paid $0.50 per mile for the travel distance, as well as a stipend of $10.00 per day, which didn’t even cover lunch. Well, I didn’t get the stipend, as my government employer paid me for the day per my contract. The other jurors rightfully griped about the money.


  59. Hi Inge,

    I guess I’d never had to consider that land disappears into the ocean. Out of curiosity, have you ever seen photos or paintings of the island in the far distant past – and the island looked bigger? I assume that there may be old maps floating around too?

    You know I sort of sense that the young lady is expecting ‘no care’ when it comes to farm animals. From what I’ve seen and experienced, ‘low care’ does not mean ‘no care’. I’ve never met one of those farm animals and I’m not sure they exist. Many years ago some hunting dogs that got loose, took out a neighbours goats. The dogs were captured and returned.

    Hehe! Yup. I’d never thought about that either, but many tools require a certain sort of rhythm. I always thought that work songs were part of that story as they mark a cadence and pass the time. Fair enough too. Cross cut saws are no fun at all.



  60. Hello again
    I have seen old photos and maps of the South of the Island, showing the disappearance of the land. There is an area called the Undercliff where the road has gone under the sea and been re-built further back at least 3 times.


  61. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! Better get the smelling salts because I’ll put some photos of the battery room into tomorrow’s blog! Hehe! On a serious note, the complexity of that system does my head in, and part of the re-wire was simplifying the entire arrangement. I have noticed that simpler systems tend to work more reliably.

    Me too. TV bores me silly, although I do enjoy Grand Designs UK, but it has been going for 19 years now and I have a bit of emotional investment in the show. And yeah, those remote controls are inordinately complex. I recall the original remote control units which I saw back in the 70’s and they were wired and only had a few buttons. Run, Suzanne, run! I can’t even begin to imagine the volume of assistance poor Suzanne has to deal with. No doubt she is either hiding or busy, but in no other state of mind.

    To be honest, I’ve never encountered sriracha at a restaurant. Spicy food is pretty nice. Incidentally did I mention that the gourmet pie the other day was a beef and chilli pie? It was a bit fiery, which I quite liked. In the plant explorer book the author mentioned that Fairchild had to endure a lamb/mutton pie when visiting Sydney!

    Reports of more people gardening now is like music to my ears. Down here it is rare – there is some talk, but not much action. It seems sort of appropriate at this time to quote Elvis here (who to be fair may have been considering matters other than gardening): “A little less conversation, a little more action please”. I hope that more people get involved in edible gardening, but it will happen eventually.

    No, I hadn’t noticed any news reports about Ben Carson and the HUD – but that is hardly surprising. On the other hand we do get a lot of news articles about your President, although why that may be the case is way beyond my understanding. Oh, so I had a look at a very recent article on Ben Carson and the HUD. Isn’t that interesting? You know, my gut feeling tells me that you maybe witnessing a changing of the guard due to the larger political machinations and that always creates a lot of noise and outrage, by the deposed folk – then people get on with their lives. I enjoyed working for the government many decades ago as I was young and it was very social. Expectations were also low and that made life easier for me and I recall that my girlfriend at the time used to like going out clubbing on Thursday nights into the small hours of the morning. As a digression, I hated clubbing, but you know compromise and all that. We now return to the original topic: The thing is, when you’re there you sort of believe that the government employment is secure, but I found out the hard way that it wasn’t. Many years ago, the English produced a delightful – and awkward show as they do – called ‘Yes, Minister’. It went into the details in a humorous way about the interactions between the politicians and the bureaucracy. I couldn’t work for either of that lot nowadays as they look sluggish to my mind, and sometimes they need to get a wriggle on and get on with the job that we’re all paying them to do. They may have other plans though…

    The Wikipedia article on the Sisters of Providence is written as if the Sisters walk the talk. A respectable story and their goals are commendable. Many of the stories at the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on the other hand have shown some glaring problems with many groups (and I make no suggestions as to the Sisters who have notable goals), and there have been some dark mutterings about the treatment of single mothers in the past.

    Your situation is a very complicated situation and during such times I lay low and try not to get swept up in the emotional tides that freely flow from such goings on. Easier said than done. 🙂 The lady in question may also be stepping into a power vacuum and taking advantage of the situation? I’ve seen that happen before. They usually burn themselves out or get trapped into knots of their own making.

    Gridlock is the word that you heard. Of course there are beneficiaries of that policy and you know, politicians have forgotten that they need to sell their vision and policies. Infighting and intrigue is a much easier route to take. The things they were discussing the week or two before the election were frankly bizarre and they couldn’t have done a better job of losing the seat if they tried. I reckon politicians are frightened because they’re struggling to explain why some policies benefit some people at other peoples expense. That sort of thing happens when energy per capita is declining as any advantage becomes a disadvantage for others.

    They take olive oil pretty seriously down here, and I have heard reports that local producers are very unhappy at labelling of imported oils because the claims made are apparently preposterous. I’m planning to plant more olive trees as time goes on as they grow really fast here. I’m assuming the book has not improved in your reading? The author probably needed a good editor.

    Yeah, exactly about fertiliser and compost. Fertiliser is in a form more readily available to plants, whereas compost aims to improve the life in the top soil and also provide minerals for the soil critters to eat. Exactly one is short term, and the other is a longer term investment. My take on what you have been doing is that it is longer term by its very nature. My gut feeling is that it takes about three years for soil amendments to really pay off, and even then you still have to keep chucking more onto the soil surface.

    Good luck with the Asian auction – and a cat garden sculpture sounds pretty cool! But then, how big is the sculpture?



  62. @ Inge:

    That is such an interesting comment of yours about breathing in time to the saw. I shall have to ponder that.


  63. Hi Chris,

    Went to Chicago overnight Thursday – stayed overnight at my sister’s. On Wednesday Doug and I saw “A Star is Born” and we both enjoyed it. On Thursday I saw “Old Man and a Gun” with my sister. Two movies in two days – I don’t think I’ve been to a movie in over four months. The 2nd movie starred Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek Neither of us knew any thing about the movie but had walked into a large movie theater in her neighborhood and just picked a movie that worked with our schedule. It was quite good.

    Yesterday Doug and I went to a seed saving event put on by The Land Conservancy. There were several sites to collect seeds as well as bags of seeds people had collected to share. After the collecting there was a pot luck. We’ve been thinking we’ll try to establish more native plants at our new place as time and energy allows. Unfortunately the day was less than optimal. At least it was only cold and breezy at the start (45 F, 7.2C) but that didn’t last long. There sleet, rain and snow as well as very high winds and the temperature dropped into the mid 30’s as well. The pot luck was in the garage. Needless to say everyone was pretty cold. There were quite a few trees downed yesterday as well but we were lucky and didn’t lose any. Someone at the event had recently put 70 solar panels on their roof. Their place is large and a bed and breakfast. Apparently they had saved for years but have no batteries as they are too expensive. They are tied into the local utility and the power they produce is “banked” so in the summer they had months of no electric bill. Every time I hear about people installing solar panels of course I think of you. Oh yes, they were supposed to get a sizable rebate from the state – it’s been six months and they’re still waiting.


  64. @Lew
    Unfortunately I’ve seen people charging $2 items way too often. I made pumpkin bread (well more like cake) for the pot luck yesterday and thought of you. It was one of the few home made desserts and went over quite well.


  65. Yo, Chris – “…simpler systems seem to work more reliably.” That made me giggle, a bit. Because we’ve talked about that, often, in relationship to a lot of things. The constant “upgrading.” The “new and improved.” I told you (but still can’t get over) how relieved I was when the remote for my new DVD player, was about identical to the old remote. I still think someone slipped up :-). And how relieved I was that replacement knob for the air conditioner, actually fit.

    Well, you probably see a lot of articles about our Prez, as he’s “leader of the free world,” and all that. Plus this one’s got a certain “entertainment” value. If you’re on the outside, looking in. From our “Look what those crazy Americans are doing, now,” department.

    “…trapped into knots of their own making.” Well, yes. It’s just that it takes so much darn time. And, there’s so much damage along the way.

    Ah, government. We’re coming up on our mid-term elections. That may be “interesting.” As in the old curse, “may you live in interesting times.” On the local level, my county tends to be pretty conservative. One part has dominated, for decades. Some positions have no one else running against the incumbent. We have a State voter’s pamphlet that let’s both sides take a swing at any issue, and, people running for office can lay out their position. We have a representative that has been in office for so long, and has no competition. He didn’t even bother to send anything in to be published in the pamphlet. Some positions are “nonpartisan.” Yeah, sure. Those I have to dig into to see what these people are all about. I look for little clues.

    Generally, I keep my head down and work behind the scenes, as much as I can. Patience. Opportunities. A word here. A suggestion there. Keep it short and simple. Things that can be easily remembered. I think I’ve talked, briefly, to our new building head (poor thing) twice. And, That Beastly Woman, once.

    Well, “Real Food / Fake Food” had a few gems, but you had to dig them out. There were shopping tips, here and there. Basically, read labels and be skeptical. And, that our Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are full of sloth, graft and corruption. Which isn’t probably going to change anytime soon. Most change in transparency seems to come at the State level, or, specific grower or producer groups.

    Oh, the cat sculpture is about knee high. I think I’ve talked myself out of it, unless it ends up in the category “going cheaply.” On one hand, I hope Garrisons has a really successful auction. Which means, interest from outside this area. People from the big cities. Tacoma, Seattle, Portland. San Francisco? Vancouver, BC? Did they advertise in those areas? I don’t know. It also doesn’t appear that they’re doing any of this one, on line. Which is a bit odd, but, I can think of a few reasons. Shipping some of this stuff would be a nightmare. Also, what do you say (descriptions) of things you know not very much about? Auctions are often a bit vague about “claims.” So basically, if they’re vague that something is something, they don’t have to put up with “experts” coming back at them with “no it’s not.” It’s on the buyer to know what they’re doing.

    Well, I see from Cliff Mass, the Weather Guy, that our winter weather patterns start on Tuesday. Lots to do! Lew

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