Cat on a hot tin roof

The afternoon sun sure is hot. The UV recently tipped into the ‘High” category, whatever that means. All I know about that, is that when working outside in the late spring sunshine, it sure is hot. That phrase was going around and around my brain today because I was actually sitting on a steel roof in the hot afternoon sun. I sure did feel like a cat on a hot tin roof.

At such times when I find myself sitting high up on a steel roof in the hot afternoon sun, I do wonder how I ever ended up here.

The situation occurred despite the best education that money could buy. University ain’t cheap, and I was fortunate enough to commence part time University on the very first year that student fees and student debt were reintroduced after a fifteen year hiatus.

The point was not lost on me when the former Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey once gave a candid bit of advice to first home buyers:

“The starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good money. If you’ve got a good job and it pays good money and you have security in relation to that job, then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money and that’s readily affordable,” he said.

I guess that it was my love of food that lead me here. I like food. I like eating food. I like cooking food. And I like growing food. Food is good stuff. But I’d noticed that food quality had been declining ever so slowly. And I did have a good job that paid good money, so I could afford to buy good food – but even still the quality was declining. It wasn’t a fast decline where you wake up one day and you’re at risk of being turned into Soylent Green. As an amusing side story, I just made up a neat promotional slogan for that fictional foodstuff: Live so that others may live!

Anyway, the decline in food quality looks to me like it has been like the proverbial tortoise and hare: Slowly but surely.

I recalled my grandfather, who if truth be told had an extraordinarily good job that paid extraordinarily well. Yet, all the same that old bloke used to put me to work every Sunday morning tending his massive vegetable patch. It may have been because I was young that everything seemed much bigger at the time, but still, on reflection it was a truly massive vegetable patch. He’d had the good fortune of growing up during The Great Depression, so despite his wealth and influence, he knew that even if things hit the skids, well, he and his family could still eat.

I always remembered his story, and having lived through the recession of the 1990’s myself, I began wondering about food and why the quality would be declining. I certainly didn’t have access to the sort of resources my grandfather had, but I was a smart bloke with a University education and so I thought to myself: how difficult could this food business be?

Well, as it turns out, this food business is extraordinarily complicated and uncertain, which means that I’ll probably have to work hard just to get my head around it. And that was why I was sitting up on a hot steel roof cooking my brains in the late spring sunshine: I was working hard!

In these enlightened times, not many people are interested in the growing side of the food story. Nope, the smart money is elsewhere (providing services?). In fact so few people are growing food, that I noticed on the government broadcasters news website the other day an alarming article: Eastern Australia receives historic grain import volumes as drought creeps further south

Apparently, along the eastern coast of Australia we’re now importing grains (which are a basic food item), from the states of Western Australia and South Australia, and “grain handlers are considering the possibility of importing grain from overseas to meet demand”. The thing is, I know now that in order to grow bread wheat, you have to get the seeds in the ground in autumn. You can plant a spring crop, but it won’t produce anywhere near as much as an autumn planting – and that lower yield might not even be enough to cover the cost of planting for farmers. So we’re now importing grain, and I’m up on a hot steel roof working like a dog (or cat).

It is not lost on me that way back in the day, farmers around these parts used to grow a lot of grains. Nowadays the same farms may run a few cattle or some sheep. You can still see a few of the old bluestone (granite) mills proudly standing today next to rivers that have long since been dammed up. And even if the old mills had their huge waterwheels, they probably no longer have their working stone grinders. Nope, not many people are interested in this food business.

Some years, it rains in these parts of the Victorian Central Highlands, when everywhere else is in drought. September was a reasonably dry month, but October sure has made up for that. This week the skies opened and a lot of rain fell.

Heavy rain falls over the mountain range

The water tanks are all full. The volume of water flowing into the house tanks was like watching the output from a fire hose.

Heavy rain has filled up all the water tanks on the farm

Long term readers will know that over the years I have been slowly adding to the solar power system which provides electricity to the house. About six months ago, this slow increase in the complexity of the solar power system became a bit of a problem. Things slowly began to get a little bit strange, and one of the battery charge controllers began doing odd things. Spare a thought for those battery charge controllers too because they have to handle more electrical energy than a MIG or TIG welder outputs, but all day long, everyday of the year.

What has happened is that there is now sufficient electrical interference in the battery room that things are going ever so slightly haywire. Fortunately the manufacturers of the battery charge controllers are in Melbourne and I have sought their advice. Apparently the controllers should be at least one metre (3.3 feet) away from the inverter (that is the device that converts DC battery power to household mains power). Oops! I had placed them about 30cm (1 foot) from the inverter.

It wasn’t an easy fix, because I had to get the electricians in to move the inverter device. I’m prohibited from working with voltages as high as household mains power and the work has to be performed by a licensed electrician.

The battery room wiring originally looked like this:

The battery room wiring looked like this after nine years of organic growth in the system

The inverter was moved onto the opposite wall and away from this rats nest of wiring.

The inverter now looks lonely on the opposite wall

I then dismantled all of the remaining wiring in the room. And then I spent the rest of the day re-wiring the room from scratch.

The battery room after many long hours of work – still not complete

Neater, yes? The work was not finished that day, so two days later I spent another six hours finishing off the wiring job.

The battery room – rewired!

It is still too early to call it, but so far everything is working perfectly (unlike only very recently).

I thought that the soap aficionado’s in the audience would appreciate an update on the soap making:

The olive oil soap has been set into cakes of love hearts and is now curing

Fortunately the rain stopped because we were able to finish the roof on the new shed. That is what I was doing high up on a steel roof, working like a dog, but feeling like a cool cat!

The author puts the final touches on the roof to the new shed
Ollie approves that we even managed to install the drains – but haven’t yet connected them to the water tanks

Sir Scruffy had reached peak rattyness and it was decided that he needed some serious grooming. Sir Scruffy, despite his charming nature and winning ways, is a very dirty dog who refuses to groom himself. I’ve heard him mutter nonsense about losing his mojo, or some other such rubbish.

Sir Scruffy receives some serious grooming

Observant readers will note the huge volume of hair that I removed from Sir Scruffy. Despite him now looking less Scruffy, he looks at me with pure hatred.

The combination of rain and heat has meant that plants are growing. A lot! The tomato enclosure was in danger of being over grown by weeds.

The combination of rain and heat has meant that plants are growing. Just not the ones we wanted…

In that mix of unwanted plants, we discovered: Seedling tomato plants.

Seedling tomato plants have volunteered in the tomato enclosure

We decided that we had best clear out the weeds from the tomato enclosure and also spread some tomato, capsicum (pepper), eggplant, and chilli seeds in the enclosure.

The tomato enclosure was weeded and seeds were planted

We could probably have planted the seeds last weekend because the corn seeds planted then have begun to germinate.

Corn has begun to germinate in the heat and rain

With the warmer weather, plants are really beginning to grow. We are now consuming a lot of asparagus from the three beds devoted to that plant.

We are eating a huge quantity of asparagus

The leafy greens in the garden beds have also gone feral, as have the leeks and chives.

Leafy greens, leeks and chives are growing as fast as we can eat them

Today the editor spotted the first ladybird of the season in among the leafy greens.

The first ladybird of the season was spotted today basking in the warm spring sunshine

It is not only the edible plants that are enjoying the conditions, there are orchids growing everywhere.

One of many local orchids happily growing

A tree fern that we believed dead due to the very hot and dry October last year, has suddenly arisen from the dead and is producing a new frond.

A tree fern that we’d written off as dead a year ago, has suddenly sprung back into life

It’s rhody (rhododendron) time. There are bright flowers all over the farm:

Rhody time!
Rhody time!
Rhody time!
Rhody time!

However, the rhododendron’s aren’t the only plants in flower:

Bulbs continue to surprise and delight us
Californian poppies grow really well here and this is a very early flower
There are not many fruit trees more attractive than Quince
How good do these two apple trees look?

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 763.6mm (30.1 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 711.2mm (28.0 inches).

57 thoughts on “Cat on a hot tin roof”

  1. The apple trees are indeed stunning. And the Rhodies are lovely. We don´t really have space for rhodies, so we make do with azaleas.

    Hats off to you for the whole solar thing. My eyes cross when I see that wiring. I would like some solar thermal, but that´s as complicated as I´m willing to go.

    And your new shed is so pretty and shiny! You know, if the corn thing doesn´t work out, you could put it on AirB&B and get rent!

    There are still functioning water mills in Galicia. I´ve recently read that a regional type of black corn is the focus of efforts at recovery, ¨millo corvo¨. They say it´s got high levels of antioxidents, etc., and makes a fine corn flour. Good that someone is interested in the local heritage varieties (17th c).

    Sir Scruffy is looking sharp.

  2. Hi Inge,

    It’s a bit eerie to think about land disappearing into the sea, but I guess it is the way of things. Your story about the road reminds me about the solar power system in that it is finished and working for a while… Have you ever seen chunks of cliff falling into the ocean? One of the Grand Designs episodes had that as a problem and it was horrendous because not much erosion occurs and then a big storm comes in, and bam, they lost a huge chunk of their land.

    It is getting much warmer here.



  3. Hi Margaret,

    It is nice to get a break – especially after the year you’ve had. Thanks for the movie reviews and I hadn’t heard about the Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek film. It is fun sometimes to go with a gamblers choice film! 🙂 The other film is a possibility to watch in a few weeks time – after the dust has settled. The cinemas can be pretty packed out in the first week or two (the release date here was much later than in your part of the world). And I once had the unfortunate luck to sit near to a young gentleman who smelled of stale beer and cigarettes. At first we moved away, but hadn’t realised that the cinema was allocated seating for that session and so we had to move back after the cinema filled up. Ah yes, the social niceties and all that stuff.

    Top work with the seed harvesting of indigenous plants. Did the group provide guidance or were you and Doug showing others about the seeds and collecting them? I’m always amazed at how little people know about seeds and collecting them, its taken me a huge amount of time to get my head around that task. Far out, that is so cold, but it is nice that you all took a stoic approach to the day! 🙂

    70 panels is such a huge system that I can’t help but think how it would all work. Not to be too cheeky but, entries on a ledger aren’t going to do much good if the power goes out! Hehe! Bad Chris… The complexity in my system arises because I’m trying to store the electricity and it is a task that is akin to trying to hold water in a leaky bucket where you can’t actually see where the water is leaking out of. And it leaks out in more ways than just one. If you’re just pumping electricity into the grid, the system is big enough and inefficient enough that at the moment it can take whatever people chuck into it. I had to qualify that by adding the words: At the moment, if only because the grid is really about trying to match supply to demand – and renewable sources of energy supply whenever they supply. My system does that smoothing job – but it is too expensive an option to scale up.



  4. Hi Lewis,

    It is both pretty funny and true all at the same time about simpler systems working. In some ways, this website is a whole lot simpler than the blogger platform from all those years ago. From time to time, I have to check that all these photos aren’t filling up the interweb! Well that answers that question. 20% full! Looks like there are plenty more years worth of photos to upload. Imagine reaching the dreaded: ‘Peak Photos’ on the blog! Funny stuff. I’d have to upgrade plans at an extra $10 per month… 🙂

    At least the photos of the battery room don’t appear to have caused you a significant case of the fantods. That’s a perilous state of mind! Hehe! I myself might have had a case of the fantods after the first day of wiring. My brain genuinely felt tired after that long day. I had to concentrate all day long, and I even discovered that I’d made a minor error with the previous incarnation of the wiring. Oops! Nothing too drastic, but it is worth redoing things from time to time. I even have the capacity to add that extra panel to the machinery shed roof. There is a space in the racking up there on the roof for the panel – so why not? Roof space is precious real estate.

    Oh yeah. In a really uncanny thought – maybe the old and the new remote controllers are interchangeable? I know you can purchase learning remote controllers that have hundreds of pre-programmed devices in them, but they can also learn how you want to program your particular remote device. Mind you, that is getting a bit further away from the ‘simple works best policy’ that we were discussing earlier.

    Entertainment value is a good way to describe that particular situation – and we are amused, entertained and enlightened all at once. I hope you guys know what you are doing? Anyway, it is all beyond my poor brain. The funny thing was that down here in the week before the recent by-election the now deposed party began parroting some of the more crazy narratives from your country in order to appeal to special interest groups – it didn’t work. I think the electorate by and large were largely unimpressed – and given that all the adults in the electorate had to cast a vote – they thumped the government resoundingly. It was an historic swing against the government. There is something to be said about compulsory voting. I’m pretty certain that the two main parties would like to get rid of compulsory voting! I don’t know much about politics, and it is impolite to speak of such matters, but there is an old adage that: Oppositions don’t win elections. Governments lose them.

    I guess so. Change never comes easily and the more comfortable people are, the less change they’ll tolerate or invite into their lives – even when things are going off the rails all around them. I sort of feel that there is a lot of anxiety and stress arising in the community where the realities don’t meet expectations. Oh yeah, I see and hear a bit of that if only because I talk to a lot of different people.

    The thing is, just because an area is conservative at the moment – like yours, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. We’re seeing the rise of independents getting into Parliament down here. People are abandoning the two main parties as they’ve neglected the center of politics – and that is the space where the majority of people exist. It is not as if this situation doesn’t have historical parallels. Your conservatives may forget that at the end of the day, and everything else to the side, they need to work for their electorate – and that means getting access to stuff for their population. Once people wake up and realise they can get stuff by threatening their sitting members with job loss, well its not that hard a leap from there.

    I like your style with keeping a low profile and softly, softly! Exactly. There is a funny story about a kid that acts like a hammer and sees everything as nails – it would be an unfortunate thing to have only one tool in the mental toolbox.

    Do you reckon that your story about: “change in transparency seems to come at the State level”, may be an indicator that the activities of corporate lobbyists are subject to diminishing returns? And perhaps even they too can have their paymasters resources spread way too thinly to be able to cover all jurisdictions and interested parties. Your comment makes a person wonder. Have you ever noticed that a lot of people tend to think that there is a: ‘they’; or ‘them’, out there that can mysteriously effect outcomes? I tend to feel that the system is so extraordinarily complicated nowadays and made up of patches laid upon patches and different interest groups competing for diminishing resources, that at some point the system becomes too difficult and unwieldy to manage? Dunno. As an entity, like everything else it is on the inverted bell shape curve – but where becomes the question?

    Auctioning things is a complex and uncertain business. And whenever I’ve had to sell valuable things via auction I’ve never really known whether the auctioneer is working for me to get the best possible price. I’ve long had a feeling that the auctioneer is happier with a return rather than the highest possible commission. Fair enough too as they are in the complicated position of having to stay in business. And how the heck do they ever know how to market an auction such as the one you wrote about? What’s your take on all that?

    And beware the armchair theorist. That lot are a difficult bunch – and even I get them from time to time. They wear me out, and so I shut them down. Over the years I’ve noted that you wield your knowledge in a way that benefits yourself and others – where it is possible to do so. Armchair theorists, correcting auction descriptions just want to feel good about themselves. Oh well.



  5. Hi Coco,

    Thanks and azaleas are beautiful. On a surprising note, I can’t grow azaleas readily here because the wallabies are right little vandals. There was a wallaby, a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch, and a huge wombat roaming around the orchard this evening. Nice! They’re all enjoying the protein rich spring grass.

    Incidentally the local gardening club says time and time again that blueberries will thrive where ever azaleas can grow. Unsurprisingly, I fence off the blueberries! 🙂

    It does my head in too – and I was very tired after the first day of re-wiring. I spent about an hour under the floor of the house that day…

    On a serious note, solar hot water is awesome. The sun is hot enough here to generate toasty hot water for about eight to nine months of the year – depending on the year. In the other months the wood heater keeps the water hot (and the radiators in the house), but the solar does less work so is significantly hotter. Not that either of them are tepid options. In terms of value for money, I reckon solar hot water is a better investment than solar electricity.

    Hehe! Yeah, there probably are people that would pay to sleep in the garden. I never thought of that, but I don’t know whether I’m that keen. Hey, I’m planning another terrace or two above the highest corn and strawberry terrace. And the strawberries are producing a lot of berries this year. I’m going to have to get ruthless about pulling them out after three years and replanting…

    Wow! Cool! I’m always trying to get my hands on older open pollinated varieties of vegetables and grains and I’m always impressed at efforts I read about in Europe to preserve those traditional varieties which are often still in wide circulation. And functioning water powered mills is music to my ears! 🙂



  6. Yo, Chris – Before I forget … We’ve talked a few times about the Sears mail order houses. As Sears is biting the dust, someone wrote an article about those houses. With lots of cool pictures!

    One thing that occurred to me, reading about your grandfather’s vegetable patch is that he did the hard work, and had the luck to be able to afford a patch of land to grow the vegetables. More on learning how to grow food when I get down to the wiring room. There are similarities. Maybe.

    That is an alarming article about the grain imports. But not much on what the grain is used for. I think cattle feed lots was mentioned in one place. Just an idle thought, but, perhaps, maybe, what the grain is being used for needs to be looked at. Maybe needs to be tweaked or changed. He says, all cozy in his armchair :-).

    We also used to grow a lot of grain in this county. Wheat varieties that may be lost. Now, we do grow a lot of hay. Commercial farming, here, seems to have started out with a lot of wheat in the 1800s. Then it shifted to dairy, berries and hops. Hops went elsewhere (east of the mountains) and diary has followed, more recently. Weather, the cost of land, the spread of irrigation. Cheap transportation. The spread of electrification. It all plays a part.

    I could say looking at the pictures of your wiring room gave me a drinking dream (No big deal. Happens to us sober folks from time to time.) That would make for a good story. Or a better story. But, alas, it’s not the truth. 🙁 Cont.

  7. Cont. The new shed looks quit nice. And, with that dark color and roof, should be toasty warm, inside.

    So. I’ve finally come around to why wiring and gardening, maybe share some aspects. It’s that important little details, sometimes, get lost in the shuffle. The idea that the controller and inverter should have a bit of space between them. (I hope the break up was amicable.) And, didn’t you recently discover that a certain amount of distance should be kept between load bearing cables? Same with gardening. I do wish someone would have told me I needed two tomatillo plants. (By the way, I found two fertile tomatillos, way down low on the plant. Apparently, there was a bit of funny business going on when they were in the plant nursery. Seed is saved for next year.)

    Sir Scruffy is looking quit dapper. As he’s opted out of the dating pool, he probably doesn’t see the value of keeping up appearances. I can relate :-). My neighbor found a nifty little grooming gizmo for Princess. A soft toothed comb device that when it gets clogged up with hair, you slide a switch, the teeth retract and the clog falls out. She’s looking ever so spiffy.

    The tomatoes and corn are looking promising. I’m tossing about over ripe tomatoes and hoping for some sprouts, next year, myself. But, put aside seed, just in case. Weeds. I’m hoping to catch the Master Gardeners, tomorrow, as I have some “stuff” coming up in my garden, and don’t know weather to pull it up, or if it’s something useful.

    The Ladybirds (our Lady Bugs), orchids, rhodys and ferns are quit lovely.

    As far as land slipping into the sea, check out Dunwich, England (sp?). Over the course of the Middle Ages, most of the town went into the drink. Or, there’s Port Royal. A lot of the town sank into the sea during an earthquake. National Geographic did a lot of work there in the 1950s (?.)

    Our two parties pretty much have a stranglehold at the national level. There’s no clear third option. They work in a vacuum. But, there may be something stirring at the State and local level. Early days.

    It’s hard to get a fix on how many lobbyists there are per national legislator. In 2010 HufPost stated 131 per. In 2013, they said 23 per. Either way, that’s a lot of pressure, per legislator. Poor dears are so busy raising money for their next election that they’re more than happy to take and introduce bills written by the lobbyists. And there’s all the “gifts” involved. Forbidden by law, but it seems like someone is always being caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

    Apparently, that Most Famous Social Media Platform just got caught with it’s hand in the algorythmic cookie jar. Apparently, they convinced advertisers that video ads are the way to go (“It’s what people want.”) Well, no. As with banners, most folks just scroll by. Doesn’t anyone ever check this stuff “on the ground?” There are some sites that I don’t go to anymore, as the text of articles jumps around as the video ads come and go.

    It’s going to be a long day in the garden. According to Dr. Mass, our winter weather patterns are setting in, late tomorrow. Right now, we’re socked in with fog and I hope it burns off, pretty soon. Lew

  8. Hello Chris
    No, I have never seen cliffs crumble into the sea, only on television news.
    Wow! That wiring of yours amazes me, it is way beyond my understanding. My electricity started to trip out again as it had done in the Winter. Thank goodness I have discovered why. It is caused by a faulty oil filled radiator. I shall just get rid of it and will never know why it had been working fine for a few weeks again. Admittedly it was not in use during the Summer.
    I find it strange that we are on opposite ends of the planet approximately and yet my leeks are looking exactly like yours.


  9. Hi Inge,

    Me neither! You have to admit that it would be a most impressive sight. I recall a long time back about someone (a pair of someones to be precise) who was stranded on one of the twelve apostles (rock formations not religious folk) off the coast of the Great Ocean Road to the south west of here. Well fancy that, the person stuck out on the brand new limestone island formation did a revisit. Here goes: 25 years since London Bridge came falling down. If the pair weren’t airlifted by helicopter, I guess they would have had to scale the formation (without ropes) and then swim across a rough stretch of water. Those sort of odds aren’t good…

    Thanks! The wiring was a complex puzzle, but I approach such problems by starting small and just focusing on a small part of the puzzle and then moving on. There are probably more efficient ways to go, but I like the human pace of those sorts of activities. Don’t you reckon people spend an inordinate amount of energy running around hither, tither and yon?

    Ouch. Those oil filled radiators weren’t really manufactured to be repaired and no doubts the machine has had a long lifespan. Hopefully so? I mean they’re not complex devices and have only a few components.

    The leeks grew all winter. During July and August the growth was very slow because the suns rays are feeble, but they continued on their merry way. The climate here is a bit warmer than your part of the world and that probably explains that, although you were already aware of that. Your daughters location is warmer again, and she would probably feel that it is too cold where I am! 🙂 The potatoes are a bit weird like that too when compared to your part of the world. And without the citrus, my winter fruit situation would have to include far more preserves.



  10. Hi Lewis,

    Oh, I read mention of the fall of Sears over at the comments to Mr Kunstler’s blog. A sad turn of events. Some of the commenters mentioned the activities of private equity firms. Back in the day they were called by their proper name of: corporate raiders. I once worked for a company owned by one of those sorts, and I had a ringside seat to witness the end of a few manufacturing businesses, which frankly made me feel a bit sad for what could have been. Alanis Obomsawin once quite rightly quipped that such folks are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. It can’t be helped, and I feel that such folks have to fail utterly and in every sense of the meaning of that word, in order to let go and move on. I reckon that will be their initiation into the real world, where incidentally things do matter. It is a rough thing to walk through an initiation without a guide. Not everyone makes that journey intact.

    Thanks for the link to the Sears homes article. As an owner builder (but from scratch) I really enjoyed that. And the houses today looked really cool as if they’d just popped out of a John Hughes film from the early 1980’s. You see a lot of Californian bungalows down here, and the Spanish houses were often called bank houses because they were constructed during the Great Depression. I see the suburbs in a strange way because just looking at the houses I get a feel for when they were built and what the stories of the people living there at the time might have been. I’ve heard people tell me that they refuse to spend any money on their house to maintain it because it will just get knocked down after they’ve done with it, but you know, houses tell the story of the people that live in it. And a builder once confided to me that he felt that the current stock of houses had a lifespan of about three decades. I was a bit shocked by that, but I can sort of see how that opinion may have been formed. The sort of buildings that a society constructs tells a lot about the underlying values of the society.

    Where is all this coming from? As an adult, I now reckon the old bloke knew exactly what was going on. He’d seen the world from both ends – so to speak – and he was fortunate enough to have known both abject poverty and relatively good prosperity, and then to have understood the difference between them and the underpinnings of his own life (living through the Great Depression and active duty in WWII may have that effect). He had this uncomfortable way of calling everyone a (excuse the break from the family friendly nature of the blog as I’m trying to quote him verbatim): “dickhead”. As a child I was quite affronted by his constant put downs, but as an adult I could see that he – like pick up artists – climbed onto the backs of others. I’ll tell you a funny story: I only learned that he called everyone that name at his funeral because in a packed church, one of his closest friends got up in front of the crowd at the pulpit and said that he called him that name – and he’d miss that. Talk about an ah-ha moment! I’ll bet you’ve had one of those in your life? All the same, the old bloke meant well, and other than that particular oddity (which I can understand as an adult, but don’t do myself), I never encountered any badness in his general demeanour.

    The grain article was the precursor to a far larger warning – which most people have blithely ignored. Without transport, we’re done for.

    Exactly about the grains. It is a real problem and breeding programs with the plants have to keep on keeping on. I don’t know how my chores will go over the summer and whether I’ll get enough time to construct a grain terrace, but you never know. Firewood this year should hopefully be somewhere between half and two thirds of the job we did last year, and mowing, and fertilising the orchard will definitely be easier, but until it is done, I’ll be the armchair theorist. 😉

    Alas, it does make for a good story! Dreams waking into the cold light of day… Mate, I can assure you that the wiring job sent me off for a pint of stout at the end of that particular day! My brain was totally fried that day. The editor was wisely elsewhere for the day.

    The break up for the inverter and the charge controllers required an intervention of the most expensive sort (the electricians had to be called in)! The things I’ve learned about high current DC wiring would give you the fantods and I’m unsure if anyone would be interested in the details. Actually the pairs of wires have to be kept as close together as possible, but the runs should be separated as much as possible. One could say that they don’t play well with others – I get that!

    Exactly about the tomatillos. I reckon people don’t know and may have lost the skills to be able to observe and draw inferences? It is not as if people are taught that skill anymore. Oh well, but things can be a bit tragic.

    Sir Scruffy is like the Hank Moody character as played by the actor David Duchovny in Californication. If you know, well you know. People are charmed by Sir Scruffy, I on the hand deal with the charm and the grottiness. 🙂

    The dog comb sounds pretty interesting. I use a fork to remove the dog hair from between the combs teeth. Did you see the huge pile of hair behind Sir Scruffy? He was pretty annoyed with me. Princess sounds like a little lady who would not dare associate herself with someone as base (and charming of course) as Sir Scruffy.

    I’d never heard of ladybug before. The word sounds as if it is referring to an old air-cooled Volkswagen! 🙂

    There is no clear third option here either, thus the rise of the independent. I wonder if the two major parties have realised how annoyed the population is with their monkey business given that they’ll happily vote for anyone else… We have the Greens down here, but they seemed captured by any winds that blow on the progressive side of things. It wasn’t always that way with them. A long time in the past we had a third option called: Australian Democrats. I really liked their slogan, but I’ve used up my one break from family friendly comments for at least a few days… You know, my gut feeling says that your democrats are in the process of undergoing a very public form of self destruction. It is not pretty, but frankly they lack the focus on policy, probably because in order for anyone else to get a leg up economically, they have to come down, and that is unthinkable for them. All things pass.

    The thing is with that sort of advertising is that bots count in the clicks and getting a clear idea of the statistics is not as easy as it would seem in this interweb world. A few years back I felt like the old blogger statistics were outright lying to me, but I couldn’t back up my opinion with facts. The ones in WordPress seem a bit more reliable, but who really knows? I’m happy writing and having a daily chat with your good self! Anyway, one good thing about small business is that they rarely splash the cash on advertising unless there is a solid return on their investment.

    Did I see that Cliff Mass has predicted the return of the son of the blob? Oh no! I always enjoy his blog and he writes exceptionally clearly.



  11. Hi, Chris!

    That is one neat slogan! If one was eating Soylent Green one could only hope that the livestock had been well fed, which would probably not be the case under those circumstances. But I guess one was not supposed to know what was being consumed.

    I suspect that it is not good for people – or cats – to spend time on hot steel roofs. In fact, I haven’t seen a cat doing so lately, but then they are known to be rather lazy beasts . . .

    They used to grow grain in my county, way back when, which is somewhat reassuring with all these hills and mountains and rocks. I think that at least some of it (maybe most) was done with slave labor. After that, I suspect that it was not economically feasible – as it seems not to be now, even with modern farm equipment. I am heartened that quite a lot of beef cattle are still raised around me. Autumn is the time that the calves are born and the field next to us is full of baby cows. I don’t think there is much money in it, though, from what I hear.

    Yay for full water tanks!

    A rats nest of wiring! It’s a good term, but not a good state to be in. It looks vastly improved now.

    I do appreciate the soapmaking update.

    I think that is your very best shed yet. Ollie – you have grown since last week!

    Sir Scruffy! Chris has almost denuded you! Good thing that summer seems to already be there.

    This was the first year that we had volunteer pepper plants that actually produced peppers. They are rather small peppers, but it is encouraging. Or was it just an anomaly with our extra 6 weeks of summer this year? It was a strange summer. Look at the size of your leeks and chives and greens!

    What beautiful rhodies. My neighbor has some gorgeous huge ones and they grow wild way up in the mountains.


  12. @ Lew:

    Thanks for the Sears homes link. I have always loved those little houses. Our Kmart (owned by Sears) closed about a year and a half ago and now I am wondering about the Sears store in the mall, which I haven’t been to lately. Vampire that I am, if they are closing I’d better find out as I found some of the best deals ever when Kmart closed.


  13. Yo, Chris – There’s just no truth in advertising, anymore :-(. As far as rock formations, go. So, it should be two sisters and eleven apostles?

    Yup. Sears was done in by a private equity firm. Somewhere else I read an article that laid it all out. One fellow formed an equity firm. He got a controlling interest in Sears. Sears used to own a large chunk of real estate, where a lot of their stores sat. The raider set up another firm, forced Sears to sell the property to it, rented back the spaces to Sears and jacked up the rent. To untenable levels. These people are truly amoral. Their excuse being “It’s only business.”

    Kunstler, over the years, has talked quit a bit about new construction and it’s lifespan. Mmm. I may be wrong, but I think it’s a matter of, if the new stuff goes bad, it can’t be repaired. Large chunks of it have to be replaced. And, all the synthetic materials. You can’t even get good firewood out of most of it.

    LOL. So, if I can find colorful language in a quotation, it’s ok to use? :-). Of course, I went scrambling to find the Australian Democrats motto. The one about honesty? Rather tame, actually, but I think you’re right to hold the line (here) on the side of strict propriety. Naughty language is a slippery slope.

    With all your terraces, pretty soon Fern Glade Farm is going to look like Peru. Or, parts of Asia. Not a bad thing. Besides being picturesque, they’re so useful. In the distant future, folks will make pilgrimages to view The Hanging Gardens of Chris and the Editor. :-).

    I always try to share those “little” details that make the difference between “works” and “doesn’t work.” After the Great Tomatillo Disaster of 2018, if they come up in conversation, I always say, “You need two, you know.” Half the people say, “Of course you do.” The other half say, “You do?” So I’m on crusade. Making the world safe for Tomatillos, one person at a time :-).

    Maybe her Uncle Lew is a bad influence, on Princess. Or, maybe it’s just in her nature. But I think she needs a certain amount of base and weirdness in her life. You should see her in her black leather motorcycle togs. She was wearing a very smart tartan, last night, but insisted on having the collar turned up. To look “bad.” It also had a handy snap pouch for her cigs and lighter.

    We have the Greens, here, too. And, the Libertarians. But they don’t have even enough traction to make it onto the Presidential election debates. There’s something stirring on the east coast. Social Democrats? There was the Tea Party, for awhile. But they were pretty much just “Republican Heavy” (as opposed to Republican lite.). But something is stirring “out there.” People of all different persuasions are beginning to “act out.”

    I harvested the bulk of my corn, yesterday. Shucked it right out in the patch, so I can turn under the husks (while wondering if I could do something “Mexican” with them). No bugs hiding in the cobs. But I was a bit concerned as most of it was creamy white. And, some had a bit of a pink blush (rust?). Then I found one cob that had pretty much begun to dry on the cob. Some kernels were ruby red. So, I popped the lot in the oven, and, this morning, I have a pile of ruby red cobs. I understand when you grind it, it’s color is like regular corn meal. Time will tell.

    I don’t like using all the power to dry it. If the crop had been a bit earlier, I could have tried drying it outdoors. I think I’ll take one cob and hang it in the kitchen, and see how it does. I didn’t want to experiment with the whole lot.

    I also picked my two Hubbard Squash. One is a monster and weighs about 10 pounds. I harvested more tomatoes and planted a couple of varieties of dwarf iris. I had some left over, and decided to finally get up in the woods, with an eye toward later guerilla gardening. Well. I expected nice deep leaf mulch. No. Under a VERY thin layer of leaf, it’s like rock. I asked the Master Gardener about it. It’s our clay soil. He said, it’s almost as hard as shale. And, when they plant something at The Home, it’s quit a job just digging a hole. But the forest is pretty lush, so, the plants are, somehow, finding a way. Lew

  14. @ Chris – Addenda. :-). Here’s a link to the Asian Art auction, coming up this Saturday. Click on any of the pictures and they get larger. Click on the middle of the right side of any of the big pictures, and you can scroll through. You probably know that.—asian-decor-and-antique-auctio

    What you may find interesting about the picture (especially the header picture) is the building the auction is in. It’s a huge hanger of a place. The auction is at one end, our Twelve Step Club is at the other. And, it’s quit a hike.

    My friend Scott says that our Club, “..has all the ambience of a cheese warehouse.” :-). Lew

  15. Hi Chris,
    The pictures of the battery room boggle the mind. Doug is a very handy guy and tackles most jobs but he really not comfortable working with most electrical issues.

    Your soaps look like they could be sold in gift shops. The shed, as all of your projects, looks great.

    I’ve always wondered how you deal with all the dog hair from the fluffy collective. Now dog hair, particularly on furniture, is a real pet peeve of mine. Leo and Salve do shed but not too badly though Leo’s 2nd goal in life (his first is eating particularly people food) is getting up on furniture. When we leave we have to close bedroom doors and put items on other furniture to discourage him. Interesting, our dog with the longest coat shed the least. I’ve heard of people turning dog hair into yarn.

    Of course I’m jealous of all your plants and flowers as things really wind down here. Was at the farmers market this morning and the pickings were pretty slim.

    We make a point of going to afternoon matinees where there may be a dozen people in the theater, all them as old or older than us. I was surprised that even in the city there were maybe only a couple dozen people as well.

    Doug and I aren’t too experienced collecting seeds of native plants or at least knowing what to look for beyond the easy and obvious ones. People shared their expertise identifying plants that were pretty much dead and dried up. It was a pretty miserable day.

    Exactly about entries on a ledger. I don’t know anyone with solar panels that has batteries. At any rate I would be surprised if anyone around here could be off grid year round as there’s so many cloudy days and they seem to be increasing. On the other hand there’s all these small solar farms being proposed here so perhaps I’m wrong.


  16. Hi Pam, Lewis, Margaret, and Inge,

    Alas for that most awfulness of times: The mid-week hiatus! Thanks for all of the lovely comments. And the answer is most definitely yes, I am dreadfully slack, and promise to reply (all being well) tomorrow! Until then…

    Lewis – Did I ever mentioning that my supply of organic oats which I buy in bulk is now coming from two states to the north of here? And they sell both un-stabilised oats, and stabilised oats. I’d never seen stabilised oats before and it all looked a bit weird when I checked out the sample. It was as if the oats had some sort of glaze over them. No doubt that it is a complex brew.

    I had no idea until very recently just how hard the hulls are to remove from the oats. It all seems a bit unfair. I wonder how they did that job in the old days? Surely it couldn’t be as hard as the books make it out to be. Fortunately wheat doesn’t appear to be as difficult a grain. Millet was the traditional grain grown before the arrival of the Europeans and apparently the fields were quite extensive.

    Thanks for the link to the auction. I’ll take a look tomorrow.

    I’ve heard that excuse that it is ‘only business’ used before. The activities are actually a side effect of easy money policies, because in a sane world the physical assets and systems would be invaluable – and easy money would be hard to come by. The problem with easy money is that people are looking for yield, and there is less to be found every single year. And some people are more comfortable tearing things down than building them up. It certainly is much quicker to do that trick.

    Yes, a lot of the materials are quite toxic to combust, and softwoods are no good for heating fuel. I recently saw pre-cast concrete panels that had outer facing faux brickwork. At first when I saw where the pre-cast panels were actually lifted high up in a high rise under construction, I thought to myself that those bricklayers did a heck of a job. But no, it was a panel made off site and then lifted into position. I wonder how the connecting steel with those panels will wear over the years. Already I’ve seen a few chunks of rust seeping out of concrete walls in buildings and also the lime leaches. I hope the controlling bodies of those buildings take action quickly on that problem. Oh well. I’d imagine that given that things are wetter in your part of the world, that sort of problem would be worse?

    I’m off to bed!



  17. Yo, Chris – Oh, no! Not the Dreaded Mid-Week Hiatus! :-). Actually works out quit well for the way I’ve got my life organized. Wednesday is the day I go see my buddy Scott, so, I get an earlier start to my day. Nice of you to take that into consideration when scheduling the hiatus. :-).

    Hmmm. I’ve never heard of those to kinds of oats. Next stop, Google! I just buy smallish bags of regular ol’ rolled oats from the veg store. Keep them in the fridge.

    Separating the wheat from the chaff. :-). Well, you need flails, lots of labor, a good breeze, flat baskets to throw the stuff up in the air, etc. etc.. Or, you could Google “Vintage grain separators” and look around for one of those Victorian gizmos. My, they were handy and inventive.

    Those come on the market, every once in awhile. And, usually go begging. Decorative, but take up a lot of space. Grain was fed through a hopper. You turned the crank and heavy cloth or leather flaps rotated to create a breeze. Chaff shot out one end, grain fell into a holding bin. Nifty, no?

    Hmmm. Drying the corn was interesting. Maybe I overdid it? The grains are quit small. Research, research, research. Lew

  18. Chris,

    Nice looking shed, now that it’s done. Re: the wiring…the rewiring looks much simpler than the original. Maybe that will make it easier to work with over time, too. I’ve seen too many things go strange with complex wiring of many types.

    Dog hair and the dog that detests being brushed! I had one of those, a Finnish Spitz mix. She would patiently undergo the torture of being groomed and brushed daily for the month that denoted the Season of Shedding Hair. And after each session, she would need to play quite roughly with the groomer. I always wore long sleeves and often some leather gauntlets during these events. After 5 minutes or so of roughing me up, she was fine – until the next session. Although, if I told her “Nope, not tonight” she would ignore me for a few hours while getting coddled by my wife.


  19. Hi Pam,

    Ooo! Well I guess mineral deficiencies in the livestock would be a bit of a problem, I never thought of that. They’d probably add a bit of sawdust into the mix just to pad the soylent green biscuit base out a bit… And think about the possibilities for diseases like mad cow disease, but it could be mad human disease? The possibilities are endless.

    I can’t recall whether you have a cat? I used to know a cat that wrapped herself around the flue of a hot water service during winter. She used to burn her guts, but try stopping her… Cats know their own business.

    Exactly, I don’t believe grain on hillsides can be economically feasible, unless it is terraced and the entire process is done manually (and people have the time to do that). I wonder about people’s busy-ness. Yeah, slavery was a thing down here too, except that it was the convicts brought over from the UK and that system rolled on from 1788 to about the 1850’s when it became pointless because people wanted to come down here by choice. It was a very brutal system. Hey, the corn has almost doubled in size since the last photo! I’m going to try and do grains in nice neat rows if time allows over summer to dig the next terrace. Mowing looks set to begin in about a fortnight. Everything is growing strongly…

    Thank you, and the wiring is simpler. I’m hoping to get my hands on the data cable tomorrow which is hopefully in the post.

    Thanks the colour is washing out of the soap as it cures to an almost plaster white. I’ll chuck on a photo when they’ve cured completely.

    Sir Scruffy says hi! And yes, he feels hard done by.

    Did you collect any seeds from the peppers? You may be growing a locally adapted variety? And most of the peppers are small here too, except for the long ones. I suspect that summer has to be really hot and humid for the larger bell peppers to grow well.

    And yeah, the allium family of plants grow through the winter. I read once somewhere that brown onions (which are my favourite and the most commonly available onion in the markets) need something like 11 months to grow…



  20. Hi Chris,

    Oooh, an unexpected chance to type something 🙂 I am in Auckland tonight, providing some training and help to a new employee in this office. He started a few months ago and is really good, but has a tendency to over-complicate things for himself and creates way more stress than required.

    The road my hotel is on, has a slightly seedy reputation with a scattering of, ummmm, dance clubs along it 🙂 But, so many different and great food outlets (probably none are paying the minimum wage, but what can you do?). I settled for an Italian cafe. For some reason, a DJ was in the front window playing smooth beats to the street passerbys. Food was OK, but not great. Overall vibe however was very good, sorta beatnik and slightly run down, but the better for it, washed down by a great local Pilsner on tap.

    Nice work on the electrical re-wiring. Electricity is surprisingly complicated – just for fun, ask an electrician to explain the difference between AC and DC. In my experience, most of them only get it partially correct (lets not get started on active and return wires), but I guess they know the right things to do their job properly (and I would have no idea how to properly wire an house, so yeah, useful knowledge and all that).

    Book update, I started reading Empire by Gore Vidal. I have not read any of his stuff before, this being a $1 find in a book shop a few months ago. So far, pretty good, but it is a struggle keeping up with characters. Must have being a dozen introduced in the first chapter alone!


  21. Hi Margaret,

    Fortunately the voltage is very low, and the peak zap would be at most 42.5V DC but at over 150 Amps (ouch!), so probably not fatal unless a person were foolish enough to place the cables on their tongue. That would possibly be a mind altering experience. It is funny, but with those sorts of projects I just get an idea about where I want to go and then work backwards from that idea one small step at a time. Believe me, the wiring is now much simpler – but each of those cables was a custom size and custom fitting on their ends. That was a long two days that job. It has worked without a hitch for the past few days. Yay! I was a bit worried that after all that work, it still had faulty behaviour.

    The yoghurt cooker just summonsed me! 10 hours the thing cooks the mix. I’m really pleased with that too because I’ve been back-slopping each new batch with about 30% of the previous batch – and the outcome has been reasonably consistent for well over a year. Yoghurt is a complex product. Have you ever had any dairy cows – or did you milk your goats when you had them?

    Thank you! The soap is rapidly curing to a plaster white colour. Such an easy product to make, but olive oil is so easy to obtain down here (I should get some more trees growing).

    Yeah, a mate of mine warned me about Ollie’s hair and furniture. He’s such a lovely dog though, but the hair… Anyway, I’ve got a Dyson vacuum cleaner called “The Animal” and it has this little brush that gets dog hair off furniture. Not having carpet helps to. We’ve got a few rugs, but there is really thick insulation under the floor so the timber flooring never feels cold during winter. Scritchy and Leo are of one mind. 🙂 People food first. Getting on the bed second. It is her kryptonite. If we’re in the house or on the property, she won’t try it. But the moment we leave her inside and forget to close the bedroom door and leave the property – she is onto it. It drives me bananas.

    Ouch. I feel for you and given everything that happened you wouldn’t have had much chance to put away many preserves for the winter. It looks like the frosts put an end to my usual harvest of apricots for breakfast (I opened the last bottle this morning) for next year. I may have to get some elsewhere, but finding them with flavour is not easy as everyone picks green fruit and expects to taste like – cardboard. The preserving process does not add flavour.

    Lucky you! I try the same trick but go for the early evening sessions.

    Yeah, I don’t know a whole lot about the native seeds which can have some unusual requirements in relation to fire. The thing is I find that even without fire, they still germinate so I reckon it is not an all or nothing thing. Your weather really is turning towards winter. Brr!

    Solar is such a weird topic because people have so much emotional investment in it. And whenever batteries get mentioned, people talk a big game. It reminds me of the coffee ground situation. A very long time ago, a guy that had worked at the place for about a decade said to me that he gets a lot of enquiries about the grounds and husks, but never any follow up, so they’re happy as just giving me all of it. The orchard loves the stuff – and the more I put on the ground, the quicker it disappears.



  22. Hi Lewis,

    It does work out pretty well doesn’t it? 🙂 I’d like to suggest that it’s all about you, but that would be taking the reality a bit far don’t you reckon? How is Scott going anyway? Hopefully his wife has not been too traumatised by the loss of her friend?

    I’d never heard of those types of oats either, and I was secretly hoping that you knew something about them? They really do look slightly smaller and almost as if they have some sort of glaze on them. The word stabilised makes me think that they have been treated so that they’ll last longer? Treated with what, is always my next question. The list of chemicals used in flour is quite extensive, so it is little wonder people have reactions to the stuff, but you know I’m no expert.

    I’ll have a look into that about the wheat. There seems little point growing the plants if I can’t process them. There are some very nifty hand grinders and separators for wheat which look a lot like the old meat grinders that my grandmother used to use to make mincemeat out of cheap grades of meat. The machine was very strong and the whole thing pulled apart so that it could be cleaned easily. Nowadays most people don’t have a clue about any of this sort of stuff – and the other weird thing is that if you ever spot the second hand items for sale, the real quality items don’t cost much more than the cheapies. It is weird.

    I dunno about the corn. When we dried the corn here – basically kept the cobs in an airy location and in the sun for the first few days, the kernels looked quite small, but then so did the open pollinated seeds that we bought. The difference between them was minimal, so they do get quite small and shrivelled up when dried. Mind you, if they come out of the oven black and crispy, well perhaps something has gone astray in your process! 🙂

    Exactly, most houses are constructed so that they are unable to be repaired in the future. Down here we’ve had a bit of a problem with concrete slabs that the newer houses sit on cracking as the reactive clays that the slabs sit on swell and shrink. Much like Inge’s pond the ground moves. I used concrete stumps for the house which sit on hugely deep concrete pads. It is a lot harder and more precise work, but I reckon it has a longer lifespan.

    Hehe! I’m so busted. Well, I tried to give you the flavour of the guy and it seemed like the right idea in that instance to quote him verbatim. Rules are complex things and I’m just trying to engage with the spirit of the rules, and in this case the naughty word was not directed at anyone in particular and was being used to illustrate a point. On the other hand, you could very well say that I’m making things up as I go along, and you’d be right! It is a slippery slope and probably best avoided. The motto was from the 1970’s so it was quite risque at the time. They did good stuff that party, but then just dissolved and faded into obscurity. There have been a few of those over the years like the Democratic Labour Party which appears to have rightward leanings and religious underpinnings. I read a story once about a union that has those characteristics, and the story suggested that the union busied itself with all sorts of interests that were of little consequence to the members. It was all very strange. I often wonder if groups are infiltrated and then deliberately blown up – or whether people are just good at doing that naturally. What do you reckon about that?

    I like the sound of the hanging gardens business – but all the people… I dunno. Mind you, the Archimedes screw water pumps sound like a pretty nifty idea.

    It is the little differences with a lot of these systems that can bring you unstuck. I suspect that far fewer people know about the nitty gritty details about this solar power stuff than you may imagine. I mentioned to Margaret in the comment above that people talk a big game when it comes to solar. But I dunno…

    Of course Uncle Lew is a bad influence! That goes without saying! Hehe! Ciggies and lighter!!! Thanks for the laughs.

    I read a reference in the Food Explorer book that farmers formed some sort of party and were within 600,000 votes of gaining the Presidency way back in the day. Dunno. Politics is a weird subject and people put up with a lot of rubbish – until they decide not to. And sometimes the transitions can be jarring. The government down here hasn’t mentioned anything stupid this week – so maybe they learned something? Probably not. And they’ve been tone deaf to how their policies are being received by our nearest neighbours the Indonesians… What is wrong with these people?

    Gotta run!



  23. Chris:

    We have had many cats, but none at the moment. They all liked to lie in front of the fireplace and one did start smoking once, but the worst one was Peefuss, who liked to curl up in the ashes – until we got a screen.

    No, we couldn’t save seeds from the volunteer peppers, they never completely ripened. But we collected seeds from our choicest indoor-started plants. Some of those peppers – plants and fruits – were huge. They are one of the few really reliable vegetables we can grow.


  24. Yo, Chris – Oh, Scott’s doing all right. He says his wife seems on an even keel. On one hand, when you live with someone for as long as they have (I can’t imagine) and, have been a therapist for 20+ years. Well, you have a clue. On the other hand, sometimes we don’t know what’s going on with the people closest to us. She’s seen a lot of changes, this year. Retiring, loosing her closest friend. Not a good mix.

    OK. Stabilizing oats doesn’t sound too bad. And, you were on the right track. They are steam blanched to stop enzymes and prolong shelf life. Not much different from blanching veg to freeze. Maybe the funny coating is dead enzymes :-).

    As far as people in groups, probably a bit of both.

    Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about the crowds making pilgrimage to The Hanging Gardens of Chris & the Editor ™. After all, you’ll be, ahem, long gone. By then, pilgrimage will be made on foot (preferably barefoot) and one must carry a rock to help reconstruct the rock gabions. Small packets of earth from the Holy Site (some bogus) will be sprinkled on the garden plots back home, to insure good harvests. Whatever religious institution is in power at that time, may take a dim view at such “paganism.”

    I finished harvesting my corn, yesterday. Shucked it right out in the “field.” :-). Shucked it right onto patches That have already been harvested. Sprinkled poo over the whole mess. Then, I managed to rake up some leaves to put over that. Makes it look all neat and tidy. I needed another bag of leaves, but lost the light. That will have to wait a few days as the weather has turned feral. We may get as much as 1.5 inches of rain, today. There is a large fire hose of moisture, stretching from Hawaii to our coast. Sound familiar? Lew

  25. @ Pam – There are lists of Sears and K-Mart store closures, on line. We had both. They closed about 9 months ago. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought of things I need, and, the only place to get them is (ominous music) Wally-World.

    We do have a number of independent hardware stores. And, one kind of all purpose store (Sunbirds) that is kind of like a department store. But, it has a few gaps.

    We keep hearing a more benign big box store is coming in, but so far, no solid news. Lew

  26. Hi Pam,

    You’ll be happy to know that I took today off work, and only had to do a little bit of work (it never really stops). 🙂 It has been a few weeks since we had a day off, and it felt nice.

    Cats love cooking their heads in front of fireplaces! Hehe! Yup. After a few hours of that gear, the cats I’ve known in the past tend to get a bit sluggish, floppy and lethargic – and frankly they’re a bit dopey at first. But they soon recover their sense of species superiority! Peefus sounds like a true character. I’ve seen both Scritchy and Toothy get little burned spots in their hair when embers fly out of the firebox when the door gets opened. You would think that they’d react faster to being on fire, but no.

    Very wise indeed. Your shady summer days would be challenging for most vegetables, but then forest berries such as strawberries and bramble berries would love those conditions. I’ve noticed a few feral strawberry plants about the place here. Do they do well at your place?



  27. Hi DJ,

    Thanks for noticing – and the entire point of the re-wiring process was to completely simplify the system in the battery room (and under the floor of the house – which I never showed photos of) from start to finish. The work really has made a significant difference to the stability of the system. The new data cable (which was custom made by the manufacturer) turned up in the post today, but no work day today, means only necessary jobs get completed today – and adding the data cable to the system is not a necessary job. 🙂

    Exactly too, adding layers of complexity to an already complex system is a complete recipe for disaster. It just doesn’t work, although that doesn’t stop people clamouring for such an outcome. Do you see much of that in your part of the world?

    Finnish Spitz’s are good looking dogs. I’d be very happy to have one of those in the fluffy collective. You can see the intelligence in their eyes and also the set of their ears which are upright. Sir Poopy was a close relative of that breed, and despite his lazy demeanour, when a job needed doing he got his back into it (he killed two fox cubs a few weeks before he died). I do however suspect that his laziness was his undoing because he died many years short of his potential lifespan – but he was his own keeper that dog and made his choices. Your dog was clearly playing you off against your wife. 🙂 Did I mention that that particular breed has serious intelligence behind its eyes? Hehe!



  28. Hi Damo,

    No worries at all – and the ongoing, entertaining and enlightening comments are all part of the fluffy package deal. 🙂

    You may be interested to know that we are now resorting to Utube this evening. Phooey to that. As I remarked before, it certainly means something, although I am unsure what that may be. 😉 Thanks for the suggestion as I felt a bit behind the times with the passing episodes…

    Are you still in Auckland? I quite enjoyed my time in Auckland and it is a nice looking city which hugs the bay. I recall a very pleasant coffee and some sort of danish at a bakery that overlooked the bay but then quickly headed north. But the flight from Oz delivered me into NZ in the early hours of the morning and at such times my brain is not the sharp tool that it usually is. Alas for early mornings… Perhaps your new employee indulges in the thrill of complexity? Some people do, although for the life of me I can’t see why that would be… For your interest I recommend that you observe how that form of communication works with customers. There is something to be said about keeping things simple and not going out of ones way to heap concerns about products onto customers, but what do I know – for all I know they might enjoy that gear?

    Clearly you’ve ended up in the thick of it all. And that is one of the interesting aspects of the cash economy. I have no experience of such things but I have suspicion that it was always thus. If you have the time, I recommend an interesting book for you which describes the underside of that industry: Cooking Dirty, by Jason Sheehan. It is a very good book which explains how and why things work in that industry.

    Ah ha, you are teasing me with this talk of great Pilsner on tap! 🙂 I raise you a glass of Vanilla milk stout, which sounds horrific, but is just so good. Of course I may have lost a few taste buds over the years…

    Thanks. I aimed for neat with that job, and every single cable was custom made by me out of scrap on that day. I had to go to the commercial cable supplier in North Melbourne and source a huge number of lugs (handy things that they are) and heat shrink, only a few days before doing the job.

    Exactly! The electrician was amazed by how stable the electricity supply was here when he originally installed the mains cables. In fact he made me look at a multimeter which showed that the voltage was a rock solid 233V which he reckoned was unheard of. The grid is not the stable beast that everyone thinks that it is – and it is getting less stable as time goes on. Not that anyone wants to pay to get it taken back to a state of stability.

    I could have wired the house, but I’m not really allowed to do so… I would get into a lot of trouble for doing so. Bummer!

    Thanks for the book reference. I wonder what Lewis thinks about that book?



  29. Hi Lewis,

    That certainly is a complex mix of traumatic events. Sometimes they arrive all in a series with little time between them and that complicates matters, but you know, I sort of feel that such events arrive all the time as par for course in this thing that is life, and it is only when we are confronted by multiple events that the stresses really build. Also confronting mortality can be something that people have little experience with until they’re faced with it and can no longer look elsewhere whilst the tragedy plays out. I see a bit of that and it can happen to people very late in their lives, although how such people escape the inevitable for so long is way beyond my experience.

    I’d quite enjoy being retired – but then I have friends, hobbies and interests, which is something that a lot of people go out of their way to avoid. The financial side of that retirement story on the other hand would be complicated… Not everyone adjusts to the state of retirement well. And I’m sure that a big part of that is a loss of the sense of connection and purpose which can be linked to peoples sense of identity. What do you reckon about that? Historically, the state of retirement was one that was without precedent for all but the very wealthy. I’m sure I mentioned that my grandfather feared retirement a whole lot, and eventually managed to neatly avoid it in a most definite and final sort of a way. A bit of a shame that, because I would have liked to have known him as an adult.

    Thanks. Yeah, I’m just going with my ‘gut’ feeling about the stabilised oats (please excuse the pun). To be honest, I wouldn’t know a live enzyme if I met one – they’re pretty small, but you’re probably right… Hehe! I think I’ll try growing them firstly and then worrying about the details of hulling them. I would have thought that at some stage during the seeds lifestyle, the hulls would loosen away from the groats anyway? It has to at some stage. Dunno. Don’t you reckon it is interesting that the same word was used to describe coinage during the middle ages? There is something in that.

    Had a walk around the place today and spring is definitely my favourite time of the year. Everything is growing and bright green and full of potential. What the summer brings is a whole ‘nother story, but until then. I hope to finish off the new shed this weekend.

    Interestingly the council sent me a letter today which said that they were about to slap another overlay on my property. Interestingly, the letter spent the whole time explaining what an overlay was, without actually explaining what restrictions they were about to slap on me. I’ll have to spend a bit of time looking into and considering this issue over the next week. And interestingly, they offered nothing in return for these unstated restrictions.

    Yeah, I reckon there is a bit of both with groups too. I’ve met a few people in my time that were the consummate ‘wrecking balls’ when it came to groups. You’re lucky that your club neatly manages to deal with those types. When I was in big business and I had to take over an existing group, the first order of business was making an example of such folks, simply so as to show that I was not to be trifled with. To be honest, the poor folks made that job far easier than it should have been, because they simply couldn’t help themselves – it was in their nature, and they did everything they could do to resist change – even when their actions and the group itself were dysfunctional. On one memorable occasion, I walked one person (which was an extreme action for me), but then I had prior knowledge of the workings of that group. That team had suffered at the hands of a very bad person, and they needed a lot of healing which took a lot of my energy, but not everyone is up for that gear and the person that was walked was one such. It happens and you can’t get along with everyone.

    I read about groups in the UK that were infiltrated to some rather extraordinary lengths. It all seems a bit unnecessary to me.

    Thanks for your intriguing view of the future. I appreciated hearing that. And it has a certain sort of plausibility to it – the business and social arrangements were very insightful. Certainly I’d hope that pilgrims managed to bring up organic matter to recover the loss of the holy soil. I’ve often felt that old temple sites were blessed with fertility because the pilgrims brought with them minerals (offerings and excrement) that may have been lacking in the surrounding soils, but from outside the area. Incidentally, I’ve often noticed that the birds and animals move fertility about the landscape in random patterns, and a temple would be an excellent focus point for such activity – if it was set up correctly.

    Shucking the corn in the garden and then ploughing in the organic matter is a great idea. I left the corn stalks and leaves out for the wallabies and wombats, and they eventually all disappeared especially as winter got deeper. But under the soil – sheer genius! I shouldn’t ask, but where did you get the leaves from that you added to the soil? I’ve seen folks around here packing leaves into huge sacks – and I assume they chuck them onto their gardens or into their compost piles? I generally mow up the leaves so that they break down quicker, but winters are warmer here. Hey, the corn has almost doubled in size. It is feral. The water pump has not been connected yet to the new shed and so I can’t quite water them, and there doesn’t look like much rain is forecast for the next week or so…

    Had a much quieter day today and took the day off work. Unfortunately, in small business that means that work was kept to a minimum, rather than no work at all. We went to a lavender farm which serves really tasty lavender scones, jam and cream. I’m a bit fussy about scones because so many places freeze them and defrost them in the microwave before serving them, and I’m not convinced that they can be called fresh. Anyway, it is an extraordinarily beautiful farm full of old stone buildings and well established gardens: Lavandula Swiss Italian farm.



  30. Chris:

    I am happy to know that you took off work for a day. Does that count as a vacation?

    Our feral strawberry plants – unless they are in the strawberry bed, which I guess doesn’t count – never do as well as the bedded ones. Our natural soil is just unfired bricks. I dug up some clumps of daffodils – in a bed – yesterday to divide and move them and that soil was a sorry sight. I don’t know how they bloomed at all. Apparently when I planted them years ago I didn’t improve it much and adding compost on top hadn’t made it’s way down where they were. They are happier now!

    What might your council be up to? It makes me think of Inge’s troubles with the proposed right-of-way, though yours is probably something like only burning trash in containers, which is what they imposed on us. We don’t burn trash, but I was a bit unhappy that I no longer had the option to burn it in a pit. Of course, some people still do that anyway.

    Thank you for the lavender farm. A tiny touch of vacation – yes!


  31. @ Lew:

    Thanks for the Sears closings list idea. I have looked for ours. It is not on there.

    We have only one small local hardware store left here. It serves a very large area, so it is sort of strange that there is not another. It is a fun place to go and has a basement full of magical stuff.


  32. Hi Chris,

    Wednesday was the pigs “one bad day” as we loaded them up for their trip to the processor. First two went in just fine but (there always has to be one) it took over 1/2 hour to load the last one. I get the job of standing in the smallish trailer with a board over the opening at the top of the ramp to lift as each pig gets to the top at the same time making sure the pigs already in the trailer don’t escape through the opening. The two already in were getting pretty antsy. Luckily we had a bucket of apples and acorns to keep them occupied but I must admit I’m pretty intimidated when those 300 lb plus pigs start pushing towards the opening. It’s only Doug, his friend and me. Finally a rope had to be placed behind the pigs front legs and the friend pushed her up the ramp while doug pulled from the front of the trailer.

    Yesterday I went to the Field Museum in Chicago with my daughter and granddaughters. It was very uncrowded much to my joy. We went to the China and the Civilizations of Ancient Americas exhibit. We spent almost two hours in each exhibit. I haven’t been to this museum for quite a while and my one complaint is there’ now so many videos throughout the exhibits that it can get pretty noisy. My daughter, who goes to many museums says it’s not nearly as bad as some. My granddaughters are home schooled and they are learning about ancient civilizations/history.


  33. Yo, Chris – I saw a photo essay of interesting libraries, around the world. Atlantic magazine? There was a shot of the La Trobe reading room, in your library in Melbourne. Quit impressive. But the corker was the library in Nice, France. Yup. There’s a library in there.

    I find Vidal’s novels a bit of a slog. But he was a fascinating person and I quit liked his autobiographies and biographies about him. I got “A Deadly Wind” (our Columbus Day storm, 1962), yesterday, and am well into it. Dr. Mass is quoted, extensively. It’s a good book, but, every once in awhile, the author goes off on these odd tangents. Some one is killed by the storm in Eugene, Oregon. One of the first responders, 40 years later, is bludgeoned to death by his son with a wrench. Did I need to know that? Doesn’t seem to relate to the subject at hand, at all. Oh, well. Just took up a sentence or two.

    Oh, I think some people don’t like retirement as they lose power. No people to order around, anymore! :-). Some also lose their “place” in the world. A good chunk of “who” they are is wrapped up in the job. No hobbies or outside interests. They retire and there’s nothing but a chair and the tube. Sad. There’s a bit of folk wisdom that floats around the recovery community. People in active addiction lose things. House, family, etc.. The bit of wisdom is, “The job is the last to go.”

    Maybe the Council is just testing the waters. They’ll cook up an overlay, after they see if you sic a legal hound on them. Might be fun to give them a call. “I got your letter. What IS the overlay?”

    I cut the corn down, quit a bit, but still have a bit of knee high stalk, standing. And, some of it didn’t get cut up into small pieces. Next clear bit of weather we get … I’ll cut it down to the ground and leave it undisturbed for as long as I can. Let the root system rot in place.

    On the slope behind the Home we have, mostly, oak trees. Leaves, due to the acid levels, are not supposed to be good for mulch. But, there’s a couple of maples. They haven’t dropped all there leaves, yet, but enough to rake up into a pile, bag and move. Last year I had passed peak leaves before I got with the program. Landscapers tidied them up. So, I was running all over town collecting leaves in odd spots. This year, I’m on top of it.

    Night before last when I was out with Princess, two fat raccoons waddled across the parking lot. Later, I wondered if they were after our little patch of grapes. Startled them again, last night. In the grapes.

    I was watching a move, last night, when a line of dialogue leaped out. “It’s not swearing if it’s a quote.” I laughed out loud. Wasn’t I just saying…. Lew

  34. Chris,

    One winter break from university, so probably in about the 14 century BCE, my dad and I rewired part of his house. 3 bedrooms, bathroom, hallway and the doorbell were all on one 15 amp circuit. Sometimes someone ringing the doorbell blew the fuse. We added two 20 amp circuits and simplified the wiring for that part of the house. End of the problem. The original circuit, in addition to having too many rooms on it, was just too complex.

    Yes, the clamoring for increased complexity is endless here. Pick a topic and it gets complex, to the point that there are no solutions short of trashing it and starting over, which mostly can’t be done. So we muddle through with increasing layers of complexity and more things break. The computer systems where I work are the most obvious in my day to day ventures, but my main duty at work has gotten unfeasibly expensive due to other added layers of complexity. Sadly, only a few of us notice the problems that all the complexity add.

    Our Finnish Spitz was highly intelligent as you surmised. Intelligence oozed out of her eyes. The only “drawback” I found to that breed is that they are intelligent enough to know when they’re being told to do something they don’t want to do, resulting in them getting their stubborn up. Not a lack of understanding what I wanted, rather, a total understanding of a task that they just don’t feel like doing unless they decide to do it.

    I had a Samoyed mix once that looked like a longer and slightly thinner Samoyed. Never have I seen another dog that was that smart. She acted more human than dog a lot of the time. I still think that if she could’ve talked, she would’ve been able to explain quantum mechanics to me and help me with my physics homework.

    I ginned together a harness for the Samoyed one winter and had her pull me around one on my cross country skis until we found unpacked snow. Then I passed her up when going downhill, which totally surprised her. She pulled me home: I could see her brain working on this for a couple days. Next time I hooked up the harness, she sat down, looked at me as if to say, “Hey, boss, you can go faster than I can on those things. I ain’t pulling you.” And she didn’t.


  35. Hi Pam,

    Vacation? What is this mysterious thing? 🙂 At the risk of sounding a bit odd, I find the work days here on the farm to be quite relaxing, and there are now enough of them, that I rarely feel the need for a holiday. When I was younger the editor and I travelled a bit through Asia and also Australia (we’ve seen a massive chunk of the continent) and I dunno now. A friend is tonight jumping aboard the Melbourne to Sydney train in a sleeper carriage, and that is probably a journey I would like to take. I quite enjoy overnight train travel as it is very civilised way to get around, and the rocking motion of the country trains inevitably puts me to sleep. However, on a darker note on the train back out of the big smoke today I did suffer the near-ish presence of a young man who was doing his best to pretend that he was a cave man, because he smelled rather strongly of body odour and unwashed clothes. The young lady who was sitting next to me was having a rather difficult time of it, but didn’t want to give up her seat. Strangely the smell was not consistent as it disappeared for a while only to then return with full force. These things happen.

    Unfired bricks indeed! Ouch. Clay is a difficult soil medium, and it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain large quantities of organic matter to sort that issue out. They’re building houses over the best remaining locally available brick clay down here – not that anyone has noticed…

    It is interesting that you mention digging up bulbs because that is how things are generally understood to work out with that plant and I’ve known people who do that, but I’ve never done that myself and they seem to be OK and growing strongly. Do your bulbs rot over the winter?

    Yes, it does make a person wonder. The thing is, they load paper obligations onto landholders, and then forget that perhaps they should maybe offer something in return for the new restrictions. I’ll look into it later this week and maybe make a few calls.

    The land size that I have has burn off rights attached to it. I’m unsure how I would proceed in the future if they were taken away from me. Certainly there would be an outcry from the locals. I have a nice steel brazier for burning forest materials off over summer. Serious wildfires are driven down here by the fine fuels such as dry twigs and dry leaves, not the trunks of trees – which are extraordinarily hard to burn. The trees only die in the very hottest of fires, or if water courses are changed. It is a complex place here and I don’t really know your forest ecology very well. If it is shady, my mind tells me that you have a lot of organic matter which may break down rapidly in some areas. How does that stack up with your real world experience?



  36. Hi Margaret,

    Pigs are pretty smart, and they know, so you can’t really blame them for trying to dodge the trailer. And yeah, I treat 300 pound pigs with the level of seriousness that that deserves too. They have a low centre of gravity, so they’re not to be trifled with. I approve of your stoicism because it is never an easy task – even under the best of circumstances. In a strange twist of fate, I was discussing how Sir Poopy the now deceased Pomeranian killed two fox cubs in the weeks before his own death. That is how life on a farm goes, and you know, he knew what was going on the day I took him to the vet earlier this year. One bad day is a nice way to describe it, because all of the other days, the animals enjoy very special and enjoyable lives. I assume the abattoir does a fair bit of the butchering and packing, which is an extremely difficult and time consuming job?

    Oh my, you are truly lucky to be able to enjoy such a fine museum. Wow! And it has a Planetarium. Cool. It is very interesting that you mention that, but when I was a kid, museums were quiet places full of displays in specimen cases, roped off areas and behind glass. Years and years ago, the museum moved to a new location near to the Victorian era building of the Exhibition centre (a world heritage site), and I’ve heard that story about the interactive displays. I dunno, maybe I’m a bit old fashioned as those sorts of displays make me feel as if I could stay home and watch utube instead (not that I do that).

    Home schooling is a very variable experience, and I hope that your granddaughters learn to think clearly (which is not always the case in these enlightened times in the mainstream system). But on the whole, I support that form of learning. I assume that given your background you take a bit of interest in the process?



  37. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the link, but instead of a delightful article on great libraries of the world, I got some strange looking block head building. Wasn’t the cartoon character Archie called Blockhead? I can’t say that I’m sold on the aesthetics of the building which frankly look a bit narcissistic and slightly scary. I’d be troubled that the building was taken over by some sort of alien intelligence which then decided to head but all of the passing motor vehicles in a strange ode to Pink Floyds The Wall video with the hammers. I can hear the music now, “we don’t need no education” (a big call if ever there was one). I didn’t understand that film either and I watched the film and felt that Pink (played by Bob Geldof) was not a character worthy of any sympathy at all and could probably have withstood being crushed by a library sitting on the simulacra of a human’s shoulders. Oh well… I wonder how such a building gets any natural light into the interior? The author of the article used the word intriguing. And how the heck would the building ever be maintained and/or repaired? I’d feel very uncomfortable in the cantilevered sections of the building. And just to really annoy me, the building appears to be constructed ever so slightly off centre, as if such an act wouldn’t fuel my anxiety of finding myself in such a building in the first place. I hope you weren’t a fan of the building?

    Gore Vidal. Far out, what does one say about such a person? I’d prefer to avoid unpleasant confrontations with that sort of an intellect if only because I would soon run out of witty and cutting retorts. 🙂 Far out. I knew nothing about the bloke until I went on a rabbit hole this evening, but he cut a swath, that is for sure. Incidentally, unlike Mr Vidal, I feel that there is no political solution to the current set of predicaments. None at all that are allowable under the current paradigm. Some people are put on the planet to make the rest of us look like light weights. He was one such! 🙂

    The minor side story about the Columbus Day storm first responder was perhaps an unnecessary chunk of colour. On the other hand, such people can suffer from serious mental trauma from that role, and that can express itself in all sorts of unexpected ways, but if the author fails to make the link – or even allude to it – what’s the point? It is nice to read that Dr Mass was quoted extensively in the book as he would be in a position to make authoritative pronouncements and provide excellent commentary.

    Mate, I’m totally flawed by that bit of wisdom from the recovery community. Of course, how could I be so dense? It is obvious when viewed from hindsight… And it goes a way towards explaining why some people continue to put personal energy into situations even after the horse has sailed (or bolted or some such occurrence). I never understood that. You know, I knew someone who became so poor they remarked to me that they had to get down to their last fifty five cents before they got motivated to change their situation. Of course, it is a series of strange events, resulting in loss that leads to the place you spoke of.

    I intend to look further into the overlay situation during the next few days. And yes, a fun phone call is definitely in order.

    Exactly. Letting the corns root system rot in place is great feed for the soil critters.

    Had the strangest dream last night. The editor and I were on a pub crawl of the old port suburb of Williamstown, but way, way back in the day. I recall that at one point on our journey we stopped off to get some fish and chips from a small shop. That dream makes no sense whatsoever to me, but it was extraordinarily vivid.

    Good to hear you’re onto the leaves as they’re such a good source of all sorts of minerals. 🙂 For some reason down here, the locals prefer to rake the leaves into piles and then burn the piles. I’m not sure why that maybe the case and I’ve never really thought to ask. On the other hand I let the leaves stay where they drop and then from time to time, I mow them up so they get cut into lots of little chunks that the soil critters disappear (if that is even a grammatically correct way of stating the matter). Incidentally the layer of top soil in the forest is very thin indeed. In the orchard it is now up to a foot deep – and getting deeper every year.

    Ouch! How did the raccoons react to Princess? The wildlife here tends to evaluate the dog threat and react accordingly. I’m amazed that they all appear to know each other (it is a bit like Ash versus the Evil Dead really)…

    Hehe! It was a local farmer that twigged my mind to that point about swearing. He used to tell me that I never swore at anyone, it was usually me expressing frustration, which again was not directed at anyone in particular. That seemed to be OK. Who knew?

    I was in the city today with the Green Wizards and we spoke of all things Brexit. I had very little knowledge of that particular story, but I could entertain people with stories of folks on Grand Designs UK purchasing materials and labour from Latvia and how the local carpenters may have felt about that. Given I live on an island continent, that idea just seems frankly strange.



  38. Hi DJ,

    Hehe! Very funny! And yup. That sort of wiring arrangement can produce those sorts of outcomes! The fire risk is pretty high too. Far out, the entire house on a single circuit – what a thought. 🙂 Adding the second circuit was a good use of your time. Incidentally, because the mains voltage here is higher at 240V, the currents are about half of what you have to deal with (10A max). Hey, the old time wire used to be some sort of cloth wrapped solid copper cables. I’ve removed a few of those in my time. I really liked how some of the cloth appeared burned…

    It is funny that people appear to be able to largely ignore the ever increasing complexity. I don’t get that at all. The other thing I’m noting about the circumstance is that it is chewing up peoples free ‘fat’ and thus their resources and time. Some of the requirements I have had added to my job over the past few years are a bit bizarre and generally they’re not for mine or my clients benefit.

    The Finnish Spitz was clearly what I would describe as a ‘Free Independent Thinking’ Fluffy (or FIT for short – as in: my gosh, that dog’s FIT). Sir Poopy used to (as does Ollie the cattle dog now) occasionally look at me and say: “Yes I hear you, but no. I have important Fluffy business to attend to and you have to wait.” I don’t generally mind that, as they need to be able to exercise a bit of discretion and judgement given I’m on the edge of thick forest, but sometimes I just want them to do what they’re told (which they mostly do) because I’m not asking them to do something out of a sense of capriciousness.

    Hehe! You were lucky to have known such a dog! You go girl, and she had you sorted! Hehe!



  39. Chris:

    It is so nice that they still have sleeper carriages. Such a trip sounds quite tempting.

    The thought never occurred to me that a brick clay resource might end up having houses built on it. It should have, as they built swanky houses right next to – and overlooking! – a clay quarry in the next county and the inhabitants have been complaining about the noise and activity ever since. Go figure – the quarry was there first.

    As far as I can tell none of my bulbs rot over the winter. They seem to love the cold.

    We do have a lot of organic matter in the woods in the form of leaves – gazillions of them! – but they break down really slowly as there is not much besides deer feet and squirrel rummaging – and their varminty counterparts – to stir the leaves up and let oxygen get to them. This is quite a vast forest. If one looks at my area on Google earth there is not much unbroken space in the trees besides a few farms and houses dotted here and there, because of the mountains, I assume.


  40. Yo, Chris – Well, yes, I quite like the “head” library. What I think is interesting (about me) is that I take equal pleasure in our library. Which I think some people would think is a rather gradiose wedding cake. :-). They also had a shot of the Seattle Public Library, which I don’t like at all. But that may be, in some part, as I worked in the preceding building when I was young and it was brand new. What? They want to come along and tear me down, to? One of the articles said that the Nice library looks quit striking, as it is lit up from inside, at night. Couldn’t find a picture, but didn’t look very hard. Natural light fades books.One library I saw had walls of marble, cut very thin to let in light, rather than windows.

    Vidal seems to have gone everywhere and met everyone. At least the ones he deemed “interesting.” Pity the poor person he didn’t deem interesting. And, he wasn’t shy about letting his lack of interest be known.

    I’ve mentioned I have weird dreams, usually in the afternoons. And that sometimes I toy with the idea that they’re some kind of alternate universes. So, your dream was just The Editor and You in an alternate universe. A tweak here, a tweak there, and instead of being home safe in your bed, your out pub crawling suburban Melbourne.

    Hmmm. Why do people burn leaves? An attack of neat and tidy? Mindless tradition? Pyromania? I bet a lot of those ashes used to end up scattered about garden beds.

    Princess never seemed to see the raccoons. She’s built pretty low to the ground. And, was looking off at something else. Our being an upright species does give us a bit of an edge. But, she seemed to sense that something was going on, most of the evening.

    Well, I’m off to the races. The Game is afoot? The ear worm for this morning is baying hounds and hunting horns. The sales await.

    Archie Bunker (tv show, “All in the Family) called his hippie-ish son-in-law, Meathead. Lew

  41. Hi Chris,
    Homeschooling is working quite well for the girls though my daughter puts tons of work into it. She has convinced the family sceptics that it is a good option. They are a part of a large homeschool co-op that offers classes. In addition to their theater class they are taking a literature class and one is taking geometry while the other is taking art. They’ve read “Take of Two Cities” and are currently reading Frankenstein “. One of their recent assignments was to describe how the book, Animal House related to Stalin. They are 13 and would be in 8th grade. Last year my daughter administered one of usual standardized test partly because one of the girls had a real fear of tests and partly to prove to her husband that they weren’t “behind”. Well they tested over the 95th percentile in all subject areas. You are correct that there is a great variance. When I was teaching from time to time a parent would pull their child from school because they had serious behavior issues and say they were going to be homeschooled and we all knew it wasn’t going to turn out well. Many states require that the homeschooled kids take a test to show they have minimum proficiency but Illinois does not. I think it’s a reasonable requirement.


  42. Chris,

    FIT describes the Finnish Spitz perfectly! And yes, I was very fortunate to share 15 years with the Samoyed mix. Very fortunate, indeed.

    I applied for a lateral move 10 years ago at work and nearly got the position. I’m glad I didn’t: accountants and auditors have turned that job into a nightmare of complexity and red tape. Complexity due to the auditors etal has also adversely impacted the ease of the main functions I perform, while also increasing the cost of many of our projects. Takes longer to do any task as a result also.

    I’ve seen a fair amount of that cloth wrapped copper in a couple houses. Scary looking stuff.

    Well, I spent part of today improving garden soil. I hope. I removed the top 4 to 6 inches of soil from the raised beds, then tossed in a layer of leaves onto those areas and dug in the leaves. Then I added another thick layer of leaves and put the removed soil on top of that. I’ll let that sit for awhile, then dig in another layer of leaves either in late November (depending on the weather) or sometime in March.


  43. Hi Chris,

    The vanilla milk stout does sound a treat! I enjoy a good stout, and make a passable attempt at a milk version. Perhaps I should experiment with vanilla as well…?

    You are right about working conditions in restaurants of course, but it bothers me a little more these days for some reason. Your book recommendation sounds like it might be similar to Kitchen Confidential which I quite enjoyed.

    Thankfully, I was only in Auckland the one night. I don’t find the place that endearing, although I admit for a short visit (like most cities) it can be fun looking for dinner and getting whisked around in taxis you don’t have to pay for.

    Today was a bit of fun. Mrs Damo and I went and visited the “sign of the takahe” which had an open day:
    It was shut to the general public after the earthquakes, but I still see the occasional private function sometimes when I go past on the way home from work. Perhaps it is a secret society!

    After that, I installed a basic irrigation system with an automatic timer for various vege patches scattered around our garden. There was a bit of juggling to try and get everything with just two sprinklers and a 15m mist hose, but I got there in the end. Normally I enjoy watering the garden, but we will be away for nearly 3 weeks and I didn’t want to impose on the neighbours to keep an eye on things for that long! Do you use any timers for your setup?


  44. Chris and Lew,

    Vidal does sound a fascinating guy. The book (Empire), was a real slog the first chapter and I nearly put it back on the shelf, but it immediately improved as each subsequent chapter tends to focus on just one character at a time and I can stop trying to figure out who is who and enjoy his sharp writing.

    What is interesting is that Vidal seems well aware of energy limits on a society. There is a big discussion early on in this book where several characters discuss that it is countries with the lowest cost energy which dominate their region (or the world). I presume this line of thinking will fold into the growth and development of the fledgling US state department as the novel continues.


  45. Chris,

    Grand Designs update – did you get a decent version on the U-Tube? I just watched the one with the deep sea diver, and saw the twin brothers one earlier in the week. Both really entertaining although I did not like the finished result in either.

    I was hoping there would be more of a discussion on concrete for the deep sea diver one. There are big advantages to not using steel rebar in concrete – after all, the Colosseum is still standing!


  46. Hi Lewis,

    I’m planning to get writing soon, and work on a water pump went very late this evening…

    Fair enough, it is good that we don’t all like the same things because nobody would make a head shaped library. 🙂 I thought my review was pretty funny, but clearly it fell flat. Have you ever written a review that likewise fell flat on an unappreciative audience? Stand up comedy would be for those with thick skin. Surely someone, somewhere must have been offended (which appears to be a national sport of sorts these days) by something that you reviewed?

    The use of the thin layer of marble to shield the books from UV from sunlight is a great idea. Did I mention that I have plans over the next year to re-do the book shelves here in the house? The materials have to be stronger than they are because the MDF in the shelves is now bowing under the weighty tomes, and to be honest some sort of sliding door wouldn’t be a bad idea either. The dust is collecting on the books at a furry-ious (excuse the dog pun) rate… What do you reckon about a sliding door to keep out the dust? Do you think it would work? From time to time I vacuum the tops of the books, but dust is sticky to paper.

    Hehe! Yup, he didn’t appear to be the shy retiring type, and wasn’t afraid to express an opinion even if it landed him in court. He may well have been better financed and connected than all of us combined given his family background.

    I remember you mentioning the vivid dreams in the afternoon. Alternative reality seems as good a reason as any, because the dream was extraordinarily vivid. The funny thing is that I have very vivid dreams from time to time, but I really struggle bringing any visual images into my mind during the daylight hours. I hope I never to have to recount a scene from memory, or a describe a face as that would be awkward! 🙂 It is unfortunately very blank in there, but I tend to favour smells, emotions, concepts, words, music, all of which I can easily bring to mind. Dunno, can’t be good at everything!

    It is an attack of the neatness and tidy gang, I reckon but don’t really know. And so many people do it, that there must be something in it? The leaves break down, and the more that you allow leaves to break down, the better the soil critters get at doing just that. The ashes are rarely if ever spread around peoples gardens. A bit of a waste that.

    Dogs have a good sense of smell, so Princess might have sensed the presence of raccoons but not known exactly where they were. The dogs can smell if people are walking along the road.

    How was your hunter gatherer experience at the races? Did you get the cat sculpture?

    I spotted this article which might be of interest to you: The clock is ticking to find Matthew Flinders before beginning of $102 billion English rail project. I wish them the best of luck, and it would be a sad end for an explorer of his calibre to end up under platform 15.

    Meathead. Of course! Thanks for the reminder.



  47. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, sleeper carriages would be quite nice. Have you ever been on any long Amtrack journeys?

    More fool those people for living next to a quarry. Mind you, people do the same thing here with airports – and then complain about the noise! What is with that? The worst of the lot are people who move next to live music venues and the complain about the noise – and have restrictions placed upon the venues (or get them shut down). There is a case of a radio shock jock that moved near to the Sydney Opera House and they’ve since had their noise levels restricted. Such things make no sense to me, but people seek an edge at other peoples cost.

    Good to hear about the bulbs. You know I have no idea why people dig up bulbs, unless of course they’re spreading them around the place? It was a bit like when I couldn’t quite understand why I began my tomato seedlings inside the house – the transplant shock always put them behind the self sown ones. I can’t explain why, other than perhaps tradition? Dunno.

    Same here, I can look to the horizon and see forest, broken in parts and unbroken in other parts. Like you part of the world, the land rises and falls with all the folds in the planets crust. A mower would chunk up those leaves… 😉



  48. Hi Margaret,

    Oh yeah, I never for one minute thought that home schooling would be an easy and slack option. As you say, it would take an enormous amount of effort – and absolutely convincing the sceptics would be part of that deal. I assume you meant the book: Tale of Two Cities? Well exactly, there is opportunity to revive a more classical form of education – and that is a great thing because plenty of people aren’t taught how to think, and what is involved in that particular process. I often encounter people who are clearly not stupid, but they appear unable to make the mental leaps which provide insight. They do know how to emote – and that can be a bit scary. I don’t know why that would be and I do wonder about it.

    Tests are a funny thing, and whilst I’m usually pretty good at them, they test a person’s ability to parse a question and then provide the answer that is required by the people who set the test. I tend to feel that tests are an initiation, rather than a confirmation of mental agility. Dunno.

    On the other hand, if the girls are achieving the 95th percentile, then they have little to worry about on that score and will do just fine.

    Behaviour issues can sometimes be a cry for help, or even a demand for attention – and those are complex and dark places, so you never know how things turn out – even though I agree that you just have to go with your gut feeling.



  49. Hi DJ,

    Fifteen years is a commendable age for a medium sized dog. I too would have enjoyed her company and also would have mourned her passing.

    Ouch! But exactly. You know underneath all of that red tape is a simple desire to not be overly excited by unexpected events. Investors mostly seek certainty – if only because they themselves have mortgages and school fees to pay – but life rarely works that way. You dodged a bullet.

    Hehe! Yup, the cloth degrades over time as it becomes brittle, but you know, the plastic may also degrade over time, but hopefully given the plastic insulation over the copper is not exposed to UV or moved around at all, it might have a very long lifespan.

    An interesting experiment – and I reckon you timed it pretty well. You see, exposing the soil critters to the sunlight has a sterilising effect on them, but given you are now in late fall, not much of that gear will be going on. I’ll be very interested to hear how it goes when the spring warmth rolls around again at your place.



  50. Hi Damo,

    Thank you very much for the suggestion of watching Grand Designs on u-tube as I was completely unaware that that option was even a possibility. Who would have thought? The video quality was quite good. We watched ep3 last evening and I did note that the timber frame and panels were made by Latvians and that the threat of Brexit had apparently increased the build costs by 6%. All things considered, most of the houses are way over sized and that one was no exception. People are pretty cagey about the budgets and final costs too these days. What is with that? Where are the dreamers these days who claim that cost is of no consequence!

    Stop teasing me!!!! Hehe! I hope to get onto those episodes over the next week or so… Hehe! I don’t like the outcomes of some of the builds either, because they are over scaled, and that makes me feel uncomfortable – but on the other hand I do enjoy their journeys. My absolute favourite was the Woodsman’s cottage. Hands down it ticked every box. The final build was not only small and cheap being built from local materials – it was also beautiful.

    I could tell you a story about rebar in concrete. There is a union building in Melbourne that I pass regularly that has a spectacular example of concrete cancer. I’ve been tempted to take a photo of it and write a story about that. They probably haven’t even noticed the rust and flaking… It also gets down to the proportion of cement, aggregate and sand too. Cement ain’t concrete!

    Exactly. Keeping your costs low is a good idea and reducing energy usage is always a wise strategy.

    I know it is in the north island, but you may find that a green wizards group gets set up in Auckland next year (maybe). I must add that the Picton ferry was through a rather rough stretch of ocean. 🙂



  51. @ Margaret:

    I homeschooled our youngest son for 7th grade in 2001, not because of his behavior, but because of merciless bullying that his principal would not address. It took a year of going through channels and going before the schoolboard more than once to get him moved to a different middle school out of our district. We had told them, of course, that we would be driving him and would not expect to have a schoolbus pick him up.

    Luckily, by the time I started, there were already homeschooling support groups in place, so they were a great help. Also, he could play sports with the independent leagues that are set up here. It went well, especially as he still had his previous friends from school to hang out with.

    When he started at his new school it was a world of difference.


  52. Hello again
    I have been without an internet connection for a few days and am now desperately e-mailing the people who wondered whether I was okay. A friend has just spent 2 hours here putting things right.


  53. Yo, Chris – As far as I know, no one took offense at my book reviews. No hot letters to the editor. Nothing passed along, to me. I can’t remember writing many scathing reviews. Probably the worst was for “City of Falling Angels,” which was about Venice. But, he was a national author and probably didn’t take much notice of an amateur reviewer, way out in Olympia, Washington. Also, I got to pick out what I reviewed. So, I’d guess my bias ran to books I enjoyed. Or, found useful. I’d occasionally get a book passed along that had been sent into the newspaper, for review. Most of those I ignored, as they tended to be self published and of a drippy religious nature :-).

    Oh, any kind of door, sliding or otherwise ought to keep out the majority of the dust. You’ve probably discovered that the best way to vacuum a book is to use a brush attachment. And, for books with dust jackets to only use the brush in a “toward the spine” direction. Go the other way, and you might catch and damage the dust jacket. Also, skip the plastic bristle brushes that come with a vacuum. We’re lucky enough to have an old sewing machine / vacuum store here that carries horse hair brushes. They are quit soft and do little or no wear on items. I use them on my collectibles, too. You just have to take in the hose and make sure you get a good fit.

    Thanks for the link to the Flinders article. I’ve run across a few archaeology articles recently with references to the HS2 project. But none of them had much detail as to what the HS2 project is. Now I know. Well, they found Richard III under a car park, so, I suppose anything is possible :-).

    About your conversation with Pam. People move here for the rural ambience and then complain about the roosters and smell of cow poop in the morning. They’re given rather short shift. After all, they’re just outsiders :-). Cont.

  54. Cont. Well, it was quit a day, yesterday. Once again, I was first one through the gate at 8am, for the big community garage sale at our fairgrounds. It felt a little odd. Later on I ran into a fellow I had been talking to at the gate, and asked him, “Is it just me, or does this one feel a little low energy?” He agreed, but we couldn’t quit put our finger on why. It may have been because there was a big similar even going on down in Portland. Perhaps some key dealers and buyers were missing. Or, because it was the end of the month, and not much money was available. But, I found a couple of things. What I liked best was a Wedgwood Etruria plate. Circa 1880s. Pure Victorian design, big overblown blue water lilly.

    I ran home for a bit of a tank up, and was back to the auction by 11:00 am. There were about 75-100 people in attendance. About 15 or 20 Asian folk, clearly “not from around here.” Also, a few old anglo dudes I’d never seen before who were, perhaps, “old China hands” who deal.

    Something new, the auction had an Asian art specialist who provided a bit of commentary as the auction went on. Prices, I think, were generally good, for the area. A lot of it would have done a lot better, somewhere else. There was a “scholar’s rock” that went for $75, and I heard the expert comment that it would have brought $600 in New York.

    The two enormous “temple lions” brought $2,750. Elaborate kimonos were going for between $75-$100. Large-ish furniture did not do well. Wonderful mahogany display cases were knocked down at $200.

    I pretty much got the stuff I “really” wanted. Didn’t get much of the “if it goes cheap” stuff. I didn’t pay much attention, but I think early on, someone was “running me up” to spook me off. That’s ok. I ran them up, too :-). By the time they got to the stuff I really wanted, none of that nonsense was going on. I passed on the cat sculpture, even though it went for only $95. Really. What would I do with it?

    I got the two prints I wanted, and, a large blue and white ginger jar. I also got the two Peking glass, blue and white bowls. A large planter. The best? A 4×5″ pottery, covered box of a turtle that looks so mean, he could tear your leg off. :-).

    I had gotten everything I wanted by the time they were about half way through. Lucky, as I was so cold, my teeth were chattering. Scott corrected me. He refers to the building as an “ABANDONED cheese warehouse.” :-). There were real bargains to be had. Were I younger, richer and had a larger place… I came home with $100+ cash in my pocket that I had budgeted for the auction.

    Next weekend, the Home is having it’s yearly Bazaar and rummage sale. I’m going to have a table or two and see if I can flog some of my excess tat. Might even take my banana muffins for a spin. I’ve been sucked into some of the prep. Table set up and putting signs out.

    End of the month is the city-wide, at least 10% off everything, sale. And, with all this going on, still coping with the harvest, in the meantime. Lew

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