Acting dumb

Some people have only one tool in their mental toolbox, and they try to use it in all sorts of inappropriate situations. Having only a single tool in the mental toolbox can be very unfortunate indeed, especially for other people around them.

Take Sir Scruffy for example. Sir Scruffy is a very charming dog, and a crucial elder member of the fluffy collective, but when he puts his mind to it, he can really kick up a fine and proper sulk. If he was one of the seven dwarves (of the Brothers Grimm story about Snow White), well he’d be the Sulky dwarf. I’ve never before encountered a sulky dog, but Sir Scruffy sure has that trick down pat and is not afraid to use it.

Ollie the Australian cattle dog is only only a puppy and he is quite unpredictable in his behaviour so who knows how he’ll turn out. However, Scritchy the boss dog is a very old girl, and she knows every possible permutation about being the mean dwarf. And Toothy, well, he’d be the grumpy dwarf because he is quite vocal about sharing his sense of displeasure at any unexpected turn of events.

The dogs here are quite the collection of personalities, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise, because people are like that too. It is however unfortunate when you have to deal with people who have very limited set responses to every situation, if only because not every situation requires the sulky response of a seasoned campaigner like the usually charming Sir Scruffy.

I’d never really thought about such things until I first entered the world as a young adult (edit: as a puppy?). Full time work thrust me into the adult world where people could be sulky, mean, and/or grumpy a lot of the time. And to my eyes the adults seemed very happy about the situation and didn’t look like they were willing to change any time soon.

Fortunately for me, as a very young adult I’d decided to move out of home as soon as possible. I moved into a share house with a whole bunch of other young adults. It was a lot of fun, and I encountered a lot of different people in a short space of time.

Some of the people I encountered were stoners, and I quite enjoyed their company because they weren’t sulky, mean and/or grumpy. In fact they had this sort of air of cool detachment about them which was probably because they were stoned. And I thought to myself, I could copy some of their mannerisms of cool detachment thus fending off the grumpy adults with a sense of irreverence for their concerns. Plus the stoners had great snacks, when they remembered to buy them.

I’ve never smoked because I had no desire to muck around with my mental health, but as time went on, I got pretty good at effecting the cool air and detachment of the seasoned stoner. It was a great mental disguise, and if people wanted to bring a whole lot of sulky, mean and/or grumpy to my doorstep, then whatever, man!

But that mental tool didn’t work in all situations for me because as I climbed the corporate ladder I discovered that people thought that I actually was a stoner! Some of them even asked me if they could buy drugs from me. It was about that time I thought that I’d have to get a bit more serious if I wanted to be taken seriously. I learned that my policy was subject to diminishing returns, man!

One of my other favourite mental tools is making other people believe that I’m very pleasant and very dumb. During the awful recession of the early nineties, when ten percent of the workforce was looking for a job, I had take any job on offer, simply to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.

The job that was available to me was that of collecting debts from people, on behalf of a big corporate. You wouldn’t think it, but it really was and still is a fascinating job. And I did that job for four years.

Nobody trains you for such a job because you are given a situation and a phone and told to get the money that the person owes. An extraordinarily simply instruction that is extremely complex to complete! But in those days it was quite relaxed, if only because it was such a thankless job that few people were willing to get involved in the process, so there was very little supervision or oversight. I quite enjoyed the freedom, and it sure beat the meagre income from welfare.

Over the years I heard so many different stories and permutations of the same stories. And I learned how to counter all of those stories. In fact within a few moments of speaking to a person I can usually guess which mental tool to bring to bear upon the discussion in order to achieve the desired outcome. And one of my favourite tools was acting really pleasant, and really dumb.

The tool works most of the time because most people like to feel that they’re pretty smart. I’ve met some genuinely smart people in my life, and well, they are actually smarter than I am! So, if you’re thinking that you’re smarter than other people, chances are that you don’t get out enough!

So, I’d happily get on the phone and act all pleasant and dumb, and I could almost hear the person on the other end of the phone thinking to themselves how lucky they were that they didn’t get a smart one demanding the money. I’d even have a bit of a laugh and a giggle with them, and inevitably the person would tell me the real reason they hadn’t paid their debt. And then we’d get to the good bits about what we were going to do about the situation. Often the person on the other end of the phone sounded relieved. There are only so many stories that explain their situation, and I reckon I’ve heard most of them over and over again.

On reflection, most of the stories are not new, sometimes they are unfortunate, but most often they don’t reflect well upon the individual. And people often have those stories fixed firmly in their personality, but you know, that mostly is a choice. I was thinking about this topic earlier in the week because when hard times hit, sometimes people need to learn new tools in order to help themselves through those difficult times, but unfortunately from what I saw of my years of debt collection work, they mostly just don’t want to.

The weather was really nice this week! The sun shone, and the air was cool. And the plants are all growing strongly. That unfortunately means that some of the garden beds became a little bit weedy… Both the strawberry enclosure and the blackberry / raspberry enclosure were weeded. We even added a huge amount of straw to the strawberry beds.

The strawberry bed was weeded and a good layer of straw was added underneath the plants
The blackberry and raspberry enclosure looks feral, but this is it after being weeded and cutting a path through the centre of the enclosure

A layer of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime was added around the outside of the blackberry / raspberry enclosure. The path will provide all weather access.

Locally quarried crushed rock with lime was added to the outside of the blackberry/raspberry enclosure creating an all weather path

I spent several hours replacing the low voltage water pump (which is attached to the water tanks on those two terraces) with a better quality unit that I had sitting around unused. Then it took a long while to fix all of the leaks with that system. Pressurised water is extraordinarily complex to stop from leaking out of any weak link in the system.

The low voltage water pump arrangement for those two terraces

After the water pump woes were all sorted out, I was very pleased with the result of the work and the water pressure coming out of the hose was extremely good and powered by the sun. I celebrated by watering the corn!

The author happily tests the new water pump arrangement

Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (who is not so cuddly today as he rolled in some wombat poo) is always ready to assist with any work around the farm.

Ollie the Australian cattle dog is always happy to assist with any work around the farm

The next steel rock gabion cage is now about 40% full of rocks!

The new steel rock gabion cage is now about 40% full of rocks

I reckon the garden terraces are looking pretty good!

Standing below the potato terrace and look up towards the two higher terraces and the new shed

Observant readers will note that there is still room for further steel rock gabion cages…

Rocks aren’t only used in those cages, because the larger rocks are used to line the lower side of some of the many paths around the farm. Recently we’ve been working on the path to the chicken enclosure, and that is nearing completion.

The rock wall on the downhill side of the path from the house to the chicken enclosure is almost complete. Ollie assists with the work, but I have no idea what he is doing…

Onto the late spring produce:

The corn has grown amazingly well from seed sown only a couple of weeks back:

Corn is growing amazingly well and fast

We’re harvesting beetroot:

Beetroot is ready to harvest

The tomato plants were started from seed sown into the beds in the tomato enclosure and they’re doing remarkably well.

Tomato seedlings are small, but they’re growing. Feather of unknown origin.

Some of the blueberry plants have produced berries which are as yet unripe (greenberries?)

The many greenberry plants have begun producing berries that are as yet unripe

The strawberries will be the earliest of all of the berries.

Strawberries won’t be far from becoming ripe

The gooseberries are also getting closer to being ready to pick.

It looks like it will be a good year for gooseberries

And in a strange turn of events, the maqui berry has produced some fruit. I’m not sure whether I have a male or female plant, but I don’t believe they are self fertile plants. There is a mystery in there.

The maqui berry looks as though it has produced some berries

Apricots are getting much larger and closer to becoming ripe!

Apricots have swollen in size over the past week or so

Onto the flowers:

Fungi are enjoying the change between cold and hot weather and also the recent rainfall
Ixia bulbs
Bearded iris enjoy a splendid view over the valley
This shady flower bed is in its second year
It’s rhody time!
Horse chestnut produce lovely fragrant flowers
We grow a lot of daisies
Rhody’s are scattered all over the property and randomly throughout the orchard. This one is in front of a sugar maple and next to a macadamia – a combination of plants you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else! We need to mow.
One of the earlier elderberry flowers. You know what that means – elderflower wine.

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 16’C (61’F). So far this year there has been 769.8mm (30.3 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 763.8mm (30.1 inches).

62 thoughts on “Acting dumb”

  1. I expect that if I was at your farm I would be ‘helping’ just as much as Ollie the very relaxed cattle dog (although I would probably not roll in wombat poo. Probably).
    I have also been planting tomato seeds in the garden, which are doing very well. Corn is next on the list. Spring is a wonderful time to be alive, and your spring is looking so very beautiful at the farm. I hope you take some time every day to stand and enjoy all the fruits and flowers of your labour (and the fences, paths, sheds etc)..

  2. Hi Inge,

    I’ll be curious to hear how autumn goes in your part of the world, if only because last autumn was quite warm and the leaf change colours were nowhere near as vivid as usual. And interestingly, the change from autumn to winter weather was rather unpleasantly abrupt. One day, we kept the doors and windows open letting in the late autumn warmth, then the very next day we were running the wood heater. Of course, this may well be a normal change that I hadn’t quite observed well enough in years gone past… We used about half as much firewood as we stored, and that means that firewood activities this year will be far quicker!

    I wonder about how the leaves break down into organic matter too in the forest. A long time ago I read that the soils in a well established forest are kept above the ground (presumably the person meant the plant material above the soil level?). Don’t really know about your part of the world though, but the recycling of organic matter here appears to be a very slow process. The biggest gains in terms of top soil building are where we’ve dumped huge quantities of composts or mulches.

    A couple of years ago, we put down some pea straw mulch and now sweet peas grow all over the place. I tend to let them do their thing, as they can capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and leave it in the soil which is a handy trick.

    Not to have a giggle at your sewerage issue, but just mentioning the word ‘drop’ and sewerage pipes in the same sentence puts me in mind of the old ‘drop dunnies’! On a more serious note, you need more than a 5% fall. Gravity is a wonderful thing.



  3. Hi Margaret,

    Nice work! I would do no less. 🙂 And how else does a person get a head start on such a big job as firewood? Of course, tornadoes, and winds in general are natures pruning tool. We get them here too, and I absolutely hear you because they really cut a swath through the foliage. I appreciate the seriously heavy rain from those weather events, but the wind is something else altogether…

    I might not have mentioned it, but we have two firewood sheds and we’ve almost used up all of the firewood in the first shed, but haven’t even touched the second shed. That may be because the new wood heater is far more efficient than the older wood heater, but I don’t really know. And it was a cold winter too. Still, I’d rather have spare capacity just in case the weather turns really unexpectedly cold. We’re talking about starting firewood harvesting shortly and hopefully it will be a quicker job than last year because we need far less. Dunno.

    On the other hand it isn’t cold here right now and at almost 9pm I have the doors and windows open and locked, letting in the cooler evening air. The chickens are outside now until almost 8.30pm which I hadn’t quite counted on last night, because I only started writing the blog after that time – and consequently finished rather late last night…

    Some people have those large propane tanks down here too near to the road for easy refill from the trucks. Propane is crazy expensive to get delivered down here and we have a 12 gallon tank that costs $110 delivered and they ask for $20 a quarter rental on the tanks too. We do everything we can not to use the propane – and fortunately that tank lasts an inordinately long time. It is also one of the reasons I spend a lot of time and energy getting the firewood and the solar power system working properly! 🙂 Propane provides for hot water when it is warm (no wood heating) but the sun is not shining (no solar heating). The manufacturers of some of the solar power gear here have been trying to talk me into adding an electric element to the hot water tank powered by the solar panels, but I don’t know at all.

    Thank you and I am most pleased to read between the lines that you feel that the blog is worth your time, and I do so enjoy your comments, story and perspective! But interweb rations is a fine and worthy goal. 🙂



  4. Hi Lewis,

    That early morning trick just serves to prove that you are made of sterner stuff than I! I for one lack the competency to produce acts of culinary genius at such an early time of the morning. And I do appreciate you reclaiming the word ‘cupcake’, if only because the muffins I do so enjoy are also mini cakes rather than the usual muffins which are a bit fatty for my tastes. If a muffin leaves grease upon my fingers – or makes me sleepy after consuming it – then it is probably not to my taste.

    Mind you, for lunch today I had a bacon, lettuce and avocado toasted sandwich which was hardly the health food of a nation and it certainly left my fingers feeling a little bit greasy – but far out, it was good! We got up early this morning and worked about the place and then travelled to a nearby bakery for a very late lunch. I guess this all indicates that I have a flexible disposition? After the toasted sandwich we shared a chunk of meringue cake with cream and berries. Yum!

    I got back into work after coming back home again from the bakery. I can declare the new shed finished and complete today as I installed the low voltage LED lights on it (and in it).

    Don’t laugh but I know people who can’t handle fractions. I’m not good at math, having unfortunately had to sit next to the school bully in year nine which honestly didn’t help the situation, but I have little natural aptitude for math. But if fractions aren’t understood, we may have a little bit of a problem with the education system. Hehe!

    Incidentally in the Food Explorer book – which I’m thoroughly enjoying – there was mention that at the turn of the century the US had one of the best systems of education in the world – and proudly boasted about that. Over lunch I just stumbled upon the early stages of Mr Fairchild’s courtship. What a delightful story.

    It is all as clear as mud! 😉 At another cafe that I frequent in the big smoke, they sell a vast array of tiny cakes called: mignon’s. I believe that roughly translates as: small and pretty. Whatever the case maybe, they’re pretty good and you can get to sample a small taster of a cake with your coffee. I often let the staff, some of whom have been there for over a decade (which makes me feel very comfortable) choose and/or direct my choices because there is delight in being surprised at a new and exotic mini cake.

    Mmm, I’m having a brain seizure (after working outside in the sun all day today), what do they call the Chinese lunches where you get a bit of this and a bit of that? Oh! That’s right: Yum Cha. I see a yum cha in yours and Scott’s future…

    Yeah, some people can talk some crazy talk – and then that just meshes in with other peoples opinions and it all becomes a match made in heaven. I was listening to the youth news radio program this afternoon as I was busy wiring up the last of the data cables in the battery room, and listening to some very wealthy person on the radio talking about how good and cheap the renewable energy technology stuff is. And I was thinking to myself, I wonder whether that fella has any of that technology powering his apparent mega mansion? He’d probably be singing a different tune then… The weird thing about all of the discussions about renewable energy is that people invariably come around to talking about the economics of the stuff. Nobody says: we have to do this otherwise the future is going to be totally rubbish. I have consistently said over the years that this renewable energy stuff is good, but it makes no economic sense whatsoever – and it just won’t work on an industrial scale.

    Anyway, I finished off all of the final wiring in the battery room at about 7.30pm tonight. I’d accidentally made one of the connecting cables a little bit too small a few weeks back and that had been weighing on my mind of late. It wasn’t small enough to be a problem (i.e. fire hazard), it was just small enough to lose a bit of electrical energy to heat. I replaced the section with much chunkier one inch surface area cable. It will take a bit to give that sized cable a hard time – although it is not an impossibility. And all of the data feeds now appear to be working properly. Although, I’ll test the system over the next few weeks just to ensure that everything is working OK. And believe it or not, I still have one project to complete with the power system before I can rest easy… And maybe I may add one more panel next year…

    Yeah, a kitchen garden is meant to be a potager garden. The thing is I keep expecting to see more vegetables and other edibles in these places, but they are still enjoyable flower displays. Mustn’t grumble.

    Hope you enjoy the iris photo. The editor took that one, and I reckon it is about as good as we can do!

    Hehe! Mr Kunstler posts regular horrendous examples of the built landscape, and the crazy zig zag paving on this month’s fine effort – was frankly bizarre. But of course, the designers must be excused, probably because they’ve never actually walked upon a concrete sidewalk.

    The Arts and Crafts style buildings are superb examples of buildings. They really bring in some nice touches and also a bit of whimsy, although they’re not common down here. There is a photo of the Victorian Artist’s Society building in the wikipedia article on the: Heidelberg School. Frederick McCubbin used to live on the other side of this mountain range at about the same elevation as here. I went to his exhibition at the Bendigo gallery a few years ago. It was very enjoyable.

    Interesting! And I’m going to have to consider that for a bit about the plant network, but as you say things work better in a symphony. Paul Stamet’s has spoken at length about fungal networks, so it hardly surprises me that the complexity of soil is beyond what we can understand. From what I’ve observed time and time again, it takes about three years to organically build productive soil in this sort of temperate environment that plants will really thrive in. I can’t see any easy way around that time.



  5. Hi Jo,

    Hehe! I’m still giggling and laughing to myself at your delightfully amusing comment! Funny stuff. 🙂

    Ollie has such a lovely nature and he constantly just wants to muck around, but when I’m working he’ll also just happily hang around which is good.

    I have it on good authority that wombat poo is an especially pungent perfume. Mind you, you go first… Hehe!

    It such a wonderful time to be alive and able to enjoy a delightful garden. I look forward to reading about your further gardening adventures as the growing season goes on – particularly as you brought in a huge chunk of manure for your garden (always a worthwhile activity). This is only my second year with corn and so far it looks as though we’ve had about a 50% germination rate (so far). They’re growing fast though.

    For your edification, we spend quite a bit of time observing and simply enjoying the place. Sometimes the beauty of nature makes sweeps me away and I’m lost for words (a rare thing that, me being lost for words! 😉 ).



  6. Yo, Chris – Some people seem to be “one note.” Or, as you put it, one tool in the tool box. Here at the Home, we have a couple of Miss Negativities and a Miss Pollyanna, or two. Some people are just mean and nasty. I suppose it’s all about what’s worked for them in the past, to get whatever they want (or need.) Once again, it’s all about power and control. I often wonder if the mean and nasty one’s (who people avoid) ever idly wonder why no one likes them and they have no friends? (Later)

  7. Yo, Chris – Hope you got the first paragraph of this. Talking about people with only one tool in the box. I was interrupted by my neighbor Steve, who needed a pair of glasses (he thought) off of Amazon. Of course, he has no account and really didn’t know exactly what he needed. Ended up sending him to Walgreen Drug Store and Wally-World. Back to our regularly scheduled programing …. If you didn’t get the first paragraph, I’ve kept my notes :-).

    Weeding. Not a favorite thing of mine, but I try to pull a little something, each time I pass the patch. Dumping leaves on top takes care of the problem. For awhile. Weeds will find a way. Your garden terraces look wonderful, and it looks like your going to have a bumper crop of all kinds of berries.

    Your comment to Inge – “Soils in a well established forest are kept above the ground.” That might refer to the canopy. There’s a whole different world, up there. I’ve read a bit and seen a few films about that. There can be whole mats of soils, up there. Growing things, supporting hundreds of species of other plants, insects, animals. Scientist are just beginning to explore that world. A minor degree in mountain climbing (with all the kit) is helpful.

    I see the hold list for the book “The Hidden Life of Trees” is down to a manageable level. I’ll have to get it from the library. I’ve recently seen references to “The Wood Wide Web.” :-). Which is the inter-connecting aspect of the forests.

    My muffins have about 1/2 cup of olive oil per 15 or so cupcakes. My neighbor Eleanor suggested I try substituting apple sauce for the oil. Next time, I’m going to give that a try.

    A BLA sandwich sounds quit healthy, compared to a lot of what’s on offer, out there. I had always thought that toasted bread had less calories than un-toasted bread. Recently, I discovered that is not the case :-(.

    I think my maths are pretty weak. I keep a little calculator, close to hand. Where I managed to dredge up adding fractions, I know not. Maybe it’s because not much clutters my mind at such an early hour?

    I think Fairchild’s later wife was quit smart. Being Edison’s daughter and living in Washington, D.C., think of the array of bachelors she had to choose from. And she picks a rather lowly government clerk. He was loving and attentive, but also rather fixated on his plants. Which she may have found appealing as it gave her a bit of freedom to pursue her own interests. Not always a given for women of her class, at that time. Just an idle theory.

    Don’t know if Chinese with Scott is in the immediate future. He’s determined to get down to 200 pounds by New Years. A laudable goal, which I can only support. But I’ll have to figure out what to do with my Chinese food jones, in the meantime. Got that Chinese food monkey on my back! :-). Cont.

  8. Hello Chris
    Pleasant and dumb and one tool in the mental box; superb. The UK is still a class ridden society and the upper classes tend to be taken in by the pleasant and dumb. I love listening to an interchange between the two here.
    A country drive back from shopping, gave me a wonderful Autumn display of colour.
    Son says that the Island is just a lump of mud. This causes terrible problems with the roads as they just collapse underneath the tarmac. Actually it is incredible to see how the clay absorbs everything, it appears to digest it. There is a chalk ridge running across the centre and one day that is all that will be left.


  9. Cont. The iris photo is quit lovely. Though my tastes run more to blues and white. :-). And, the black ones are quit striking. Especially when mixed with white. I noticed last night that my Forget-Me-Nots made it, and are blooming. Now if the Love In the Mist and Camomile would just kick it into gear, before frost, life will be complete.

    We’d talked about McCubbin, before. I quit like his paintings. Genre paintings of everyday, working people. Thanks for the link. I also really liked Tom Roberts “Shearing the Rams.” It’s so full of energy and movement.

    Talking about Arts and Crafts bungalows and artists colonies reminded me of a book I read a few years ago. “Cottages by the Sea: The Handmade Homes of Carmel.” You can get an idea if you Goggle “Carmel California Homes.” First an artists colony, around 1900. Now a fabulously wealthy area. I drove through once. I couldn’t even afford the parking. Clint Eastwood was the mayor, for a few years.

    There were two architect brothers, Greene and Greene. They did a lot of high end bungalows, mostly in California. But there is one Greene and Greene house, in Portland. Can’t see much of it. Behind an enormous hedge, behind an iron gate, up a long drive.

    Well, the bazaar is well and truly done. I hauled out 12 boxes of left over tat, today. It’s clean and priced, but has been through two bazaars. I was going to take it to one of the nonprofit Op Shops, but it suddenly occurred to me (slow on the uptake, here) that The Club could use it. They opened a stall in the flea market that’s in the same building, as a fund raiser. They’ve established a building fund, as they’d like to own their own place.

    So, it will be good to get back on schedule, again. Eating right and getting my stretching in. Lew

  10. Hi Chris,

    Your place is looking gorgeous with the colorful spring flowers! I especially enjoyed the lavender flowers next to the blackberry/raspberry enclosure. The eared blooms could make Oscar the Grouch smile. Not to take anything away from all the other flowers, but because I have a hard time growing lavender (it wants better drainage than my soil can provide), it catches my notice.

    In the same way that we lost most of spring due to a rapid transition from much colder than normal to much warmer than normal temperatures, we have lost most of autumn to a reverse rapid transition. The transition occurred on October 10. On October 9 the high was 87F/30C; by October 12 the high was 49F/9C. By October 21 we had a hard frost (27F/-3C) which killed the zinnias and the black-eyed peas. It took awhile for the leaves to turn color, but peak color is about now, though wind and rain have already forced down a lot of leaves.

    Today I completed most of the year’s last planting in the vegetable garden, of garlic and potato onions (a type of multiplying onion, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it). It’s raining on them now. Tomorrow I’ll plant the remaining potato onions, then turn my attention to emptying the rest of the water out of the rain barrels and bringing the garden hoses inside for the winter. Allowing water to freeze inside them over the winter would run the risk of splitting them, and there is enough water in the soil to carry the gardens through winter. I’ll also harvest most of the lettuce and all of the turnips and radishes on Tuesday and Wednesday, as the low is supposed to be in the mid 20sF (-4 to -5C) by Friday morning. We may even see a little snow mixed into Thursday’s rain.

    Because I’m an introvert by nature, I learned at an early age that most people like to talk more than I do, and most of them would tell me things I wanted to know without my having to ask them if I let them rattle on long enough. I’ve become quite good at that, and it has served me well.


  11. @ Inge – About something you said, last week. I was telling Chris (you may have missed it among all my verbiage) about the soil (what soil?) up in the forest/park behind my place.

    I had a few left over miniature iris bulbs and root and thought I’d just slip them into the woods. I thought there’d be nice deep mulch to plant them in. A nice sunny slope under oak and other trees that have been raining down leaves for decades. Was I surprised …

    Just the barest covering of leaf covering THE hardest ground I have come across. Swinging my garden tool down on it, with all my might, barely made a dent. I asked the Master Gardener about it, and he said it’s clay, as hard a shale. Said it’s quit a process to plant anything on our patch. He didn’t know where all that nice leaf litter goes, either.

    It’s a mystery … Lew

  12. Hi Inge,

    Exactly. I can well understand how they’d miss out on social cues as they speak with the little people… It would be funny if it weren’t true. Over the years I’ve learned to speak with all sorts of people and it really does cover the full gamut of the class spectrum. What I learned is that even those folks who others may write off as not worthy of their consideration, is that they have a level of rat cunning and understanding that is quite extraordinary to behold. And yes, it is enjoyable to observe the communication gaffe’s of others, and also the lack of understanding, empathy, and compassion really leaves me feeling very uncomfortable, but also vaguely amused. Way back in the day royalty used to send their progeny out to work as maids in waiting and pages – because learning how others live is a far better tool than citing prerogatives.

    Mud is like my personal nightmare! Seriously. Up here in this mountain range by way of comparison, there is some mud but it is quite a rare thing to encounter. A tropical downpour dumped over half an inch of rain over the farm today and I took an umbrella out and had a walk around in the heavy rain and observed how things were working. Interestingly, in the fern gully, a good volume of water ran over the soil surface but at some point it just disappeared into the soil. The fern gully is looking quite delightful too as most of the ferns have sprouted fronds – although they’re a bit small at the moment. Water is always best kept in the soil where it is much harder to evaporate. On the other hand I have to be very careful where I direct water into the soil as too much water can be a bad thing for some of the older trees here.

    I’ve never encountered chalk soils before, and no doubts it would make for an interesting island!



  13. @ Lew
    A perfect description of the woodland here. It really is just leaves and clay and shortly after a lot of rain it becomes just clay. I have to grow everything in containers. There is another layer high in the oak trees where ferns and mosses grow.


  14. Hi Claire,

    Thanks, and I hear you about the lavender – as that plant likes nothing better than hot weather and dry feet. For your interest, I’m considering planting weeping rosemary between the lavender so that they spill down the batter and shade the soil on the embankment. The bees are also a huge fan of the lavender flowers and I sometimes consume the leaves when I walk past them. It never occurred to me that lavender was edible, but in the past I’ve been served lavender lemonade, biscuits and scones and they were all excellent tasting.

    Exactly! This is what global warming looks like. The in between seasons have been disappearing for years now. The prolonged autumn this year was notable for me in that it ran for over a month rather than the shorter few weeks it had been in previous years. The loss of the in between seasons is a bit of a worry. Spring for me is much warmer these days and prone to prolonged dry spells, when it isn’t warmer and far wetter than usual. The UV is a constant factor though and that tends to moderate the worst of the weather and drive the plant growth. Interestingly, a tropical downpour arrived today and we’ve had over half an inch of rain. In Melbourne, they had an inch and half of rain…

    Snow already and those low temperatures can really set back plants! We visited some open gardens last weekend which were further north of here and I spoke with owners about frosts and they had similar temperatures and I could see a fair bit of frost damage in their gardens.

    Hehe! Me too. Did you just say that silence is not only golden, but it is also a tool? I use that tool too when I need to increase the discomfit factor for other people. I still do a bit of regular debt collection work just to keep me sharp! 😉



  15. Hi Lewis,

    The comment arrived. This new blogging platform appears to be a lot more robust than the previous incarnation… Oh well! Negativity to Pollyanna is like going from pillar to post, or one extreme to another. It would be nice if people managed to enjoy the middle ground where life sits. I’m with you too, in that it is about control of the situation and the other people within that situation. Not everything works all of the time, and even the most seasoned poker players would have to learn new tricks (maybe) as all tools are subject to diminishing returns.

    It is funny you ask that particular question as to whether such a person is self-aware because someone actually mentioned to me in passing that they had troubles with other people. And, whilst I can confirm that there was a sense of self-awareness, I wasn’t actually sure whether they were uncomfortable with that or not. But you know I’m more or less coaching them, which takes a fair bit of my energy. I see it as a sort of healing and growing process, but I’ve been there plenty of times before – sometimes with individuals and other times with groups.

    Interruptions are all part of the continuing chunk of fun that is life! Sometimes when I’m typing away to you, Scritchy stomps into the room and demands to be let out to go to the toilet. And then because she went, all of the other fluffies want to get their turn too. Two of them require a chaperone otherwise they’ll head off into the paddock to chase the kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. So I have to give them my full attention whilst they go about their important canine business. Sometimes they decide that chewing bones that are strewn about the place would be a good idea at such times of the night. I rapidly have to bring their attention back to the business at hand, which is primarily going to the toilet…

    Me neither! What a waste of time. However, I do have a lot of growing spaces and I have to remove weedy plants that are growing where I’d prefer they weren’t. You know I spend very little time of the plants – and most of my time on the infrastructure. Mind you, today I had a grand old day just doing lots of little odds and ends sorts of projects that hadn’t been done over the past few months because I’d been inordinately busy with work. It feels good to clear the decks.

    Soils in or as the canopy is a fascinating concept and I first encountered it when I visited some of the patches of remnant rainforest to the south west of here. The plants and everything that lives in that forest, forms part of the soil structure. Possibly why such forest environments are slow to recover from logging. I tell you, your experience of the forest soils neatly matches my experience here and the layer of top soil is very thin indeed.

    And that book about the secret life of the trees keeps popping its head up in my awareness, so I look forward to your review. I was thinking about such things today as I walked around outside (under an umbrella) in the tropical downpour and just watched where all of the water was going. In the fern gully, the water runs for about 20 feet before disappearing into the soil. It is quite uncanny, but the water is also on the land high above the sunny orchard so I’m pretty happy about that.

    Tom Roberts is a classic artist too and I know the painting that you refer too about the shearing of the lambs. Did you notice that the palette of the painting is of browns and yellows? Those are the colours of some parts of the open grass country down here. If the painting was in the open air it would have a strong blue sky.

    I had heard that Clint Eastwood had been in politics. I’d be a bit nervous facing him off as he might say: “Are you feeling lucky punk? Well are ya?”

    Thanks for the link to the craftsman’s bungalow. What a house and it is huge. I do like the use of the stones and exposed timber as it gives the house a very earthy feel – despite its size. I’m glad also to see that the house sits on a granite outcrop which are fairly impervious to the huge storms that must roll in from time to time, but my mind is playing tricks with me because I thought that Oregon was on the west coast, but then I guess you have a lot of sounds and islands etc.

    The Club has begun a wise path in securing their foothold in the community. Are all of the members agreeing that this is a wise move? How do you even get a quorum in such a group that can have fluid membership? I’ll bet that story had been ironed out a long time in the past?

    Apologies, I’ve completely mucked up the order of replies to you! Hehe! Well it shall probably keep you on your toes (maybe, but probably not!)

    Ooops! I would suggest using butter rather than the far-better-for-you olive oil, so perhaps I won’t make that suggestion.

    Hehe! Toasted bread has butter (or margarine on it). I don’t much like the taste of margarine these days, and I have a hunch there has been some bait and switch going on with that product because it smells funny to me these days. Of course I may have destroyed thousands and thousands of taste buds and olfactory nerves which might have explained the situation…

    I reckon your hunch about Mrs Fairchild is very astute and I concur with your opinion. I’ll keep reading the book with that thought in mind.

    200 pounds by New Years Eve is a worthy goal. One of my personal fears is hearing the phrase: Look this has to be done by Christmas (or Easter). I’d have to suggest that religious holidays tend to bring out the best and worst in people, although I have no idea why people make such demands.

    I’m pleased to hear that you stretch regularly. I know people who complain about chronic pain and yet at the same time they refuse to stretch. Being an old fella myself I take time out every day to stretch and I reckon it is a great idea, if only because the alternative is completely rubbish. And during the day, I constantly perform little micro stretches, especially of my hands, arms and shoulders. Nope that body thingee needs looking after and medicine can help, but that is subject to diminishing returns over time from what I’ve seen- so probably it is best left for a last resort scenario.

    Oooo! Scritchy just cracked it with the young upstart Ollie. She decided for some reason known only to herself that she didn’t want to share the green couch with Ollie and teeth were shown. I had to exert my authority and stomp her and her mischief – there was no reason to be quite so mean. A little bit mean is OK, but too much is a bad thing.



  16. Yo, Chris – “Secret Life of Trees” keeps popping in and out of my mind, too. The library hold list was soooo long. So, I keep a running reminder list of books and films to check, from time to time, to see if they’re available in a more reasonable time frame. Mostly because I’m limited to 25 items on my hold list. And, some things languish there for a long time, taking up valuable real estate! :-).

    I’m presently getting quit an eye full of Australia’s colors. I’m watching a newish DVD called “Outback: Journey Through Northwest Australia.” Three hour long episodes. It’s pretty interesting. The Kimberley, the coast, the ocean. Animals and plants. Geology, archaeology, anthropology. And, the people. Everything from the kangaroo rescue people to the pearl divers. It’s a PBS film. Public Broadcasting Service.

    The “abandoned cheese warehouse” is the fourth location The Club has been in, in 34 years, or so. Current location is flooded from time to time. Has happened once, not long after they moved in. But, they really don’t have much “kit”, so not much was lost. Clean up after those events can be pretty bad.

    Well, The Club (as opposed to AA and NA) has an elected board. Old timers who keep things humming along. My friends Julia and Scott are on the board. Also, someone I haven’t mentioned. Mr. Bill. He’s also the Club manager. A semi-retired brick mason who, much to his surprise, discovered, late in life, that he has quit a talent for management. There’s always “youngsters”, coming up. So far, someone has stepped up when we’ve had gaps due to death or burnout.

    Everyone raves about the topping on my muffins. Which is pretty simple. I dip the tops in melted butter and then dip them in a combo of sugar with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg mixed in. That idea came from good old BC (Betty Crocker).

    Well, it took me quit awhile to get it through my thick head that daily stretching = no back problems. It’s one of those situations where I can “suggest” to people how to deal with their complaints, but I don’t think many pick it up. I understand that. Most opt for drugs or surgery. I keep my thoughts to myself, about those routes. There are solutions to all kinds of physical problems, out there, but it takes effort and dedication. Not that I’m any kind of saint.

    Doggie stand offs are unpredictable. Just about every night, a man walks his dog, quit a distance away, when I’m out with Princess. Same man, same dog, same route. Some nights she ignores them. Other nights she barks her head off. I suppose dogs are like people. Some days they’re “touchier” than others.

    I started reading “Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London.” (Skaife, 2018). A pretty good read. He has a nice, comfortable conversational style of writing.

    Well, I’m off for my “yearly” wellness check-up. Will also get my flu shot. And any others that need an update. Lew

  17. Hi Chris,

    Wombat poop – I feel your pain. For some unknown reason we had a year without too much poop rolling.

    Our new place is quite shady – quite different from our old place so I’m going have to research flowers that grow well in almost full shade. The prior owners planted lots of hostas. Now I like hostas fine and they sure are pretty care free plants but I’d like some more variety.

    You’re really ahead of the game wood-wise. Our propane tank holds 500 gallons and the one at our old place held 1000 gallons. The cost is around $1.40/gallon this year with our contract. We estimate what we need and pay it all up front for quite a large discount as the current price without a contract is $1.84/gallon.

    I think it’s a good idea to meditate/imagine what hard times would be like because inevitably life going to throw you some hard balls. Performing this stoic practice will prevent you from being gobsmacked.

    Haha – stoners are pretty laid back. My sister (the one with an endless procession of husbands and boyfriends) had a really nice boyfriend up to fairly recently who was the epitome of a stoner dude. Unfortunately he was so laid back he seldom had any work or income. After several ultimatums she finally sent him packing though he still comes back from North Caroline to northern Illinois to take care of her garden and cats when she goes on trips – the latest time she was on a trip with a new boyfriend.

    Doug and I voted first thing this morning at our new polling place. It was nice to have the old fashioned paper ballots.


  18. @Lew
    Highly recommend “The Secret Life of Trees”. In fact, it’s on my list to read again.


  19. Hi Chris (and everyone else),

    You may not belive it, but I understand the general concensus at work is that I am a bit of a stoner. Apparently I am too laid back and chill. A tendency to pause for a breath or two before replying may contribute to that image, I dunno. Also, the boat building.

    In reality I am not, or at least only every few years, but I don’t protest too much, I think it would just cement their opinions 🙂


  20. Hi Margaret,

    I’m not suggesting that I am now envious of your two dogs (cordial tail wags to Leo and Salve) that have clearly superior sensibilities to said naughty cattle dog, but I have to out myself as being rather envious and I do wish he wouldn’t do it! He seems to choose the most pungent chunks to roll in…

    I tell ya what, I’m feeling tired tonight. We were intending to go to the films tonight and watch a Star is Born, but I’m feeling nuked, and the film doesn’t look as if it is at risk of being pulled from the cinemas anytime soon. Anyway, this morning we began putting a steel mesh roof over the strawberry enclosure and so I’ve spent most of the day drilling holes, cutting steel, and using tek screws (special self-drilling into steel screws) to construct the steel structure to support the steel mesh roof. Time as usual is against me as we picked the very first ripe strawberries today. Another day’s work should get the job mostly finished. Everything eats strawberries here and I tried nylon mesh and plastic supports and that just wasn’t strong enough! I haven’t had any strawberries for the past two years… But there are plans to defeat all of the nefarious plans to consume all of my strawberries (yes, they are mine!)

    Have you considered hellebore’s and ferns? From what I’ve noticed camellia’s love the shade too.

    Thanks about the firewood, but far out! Your costs for propane are not far off one seventh of what we have to pay here – thus my aversion to using the stuff. As a comparison we pay $9.17 per gallon delivered for propane ($110 for 12 gallons delivered).

    Such a practice also provides the opportunity to consider plan B’s before they are required. Don’t the scouts say something about being prepared?

    Your sister clearly still has a soft spot for the bloke! Hashtag: just sayin… 🙂 Hehe! One of the complexities of having fixed stories in our heads about how things should work is that, you know, when they don’t work, but they still fit, is that it breeds a certain sort of conflict, and what I’m left wondering about is whether your sister and the stoner bloke intuitively understand that? Dunno, but I reckon they might. People are often more aware of circumstances than they let on, but you know… And the stoner bloke may have the ability to absorb the many complexities that are thrown his way? Life is complex.

    Paper ballots are very difficult to dodge, and as such I approve of them. Mind you, I often work as a counter and polling person – and I really enjoy the day because I get to speak to all sorts of people all day long – it is not a chore! Voting is compulsory down here. Well done to both of you for voting. 🙂 I’m sorry to add that there are no political solutions, although they may assist.



  21. Hi Damo,

    Hehe! Well done, you! Anyway, who cares what the general consensus believes… And I cite s19e04 as my proof in this particular case as people have grand expectations without the grand hard work… 😉

    As a funny story for you, I had to engage with very senior folks who declared that I had this sort of relaxed and airy vibe about me. Of course, and just between you and I, I wasn’t quite as relaxed as they made me out to be. Now if you can achieve such a relaxed state, then total respect, dude!

    It is nice to take a moment or two to pause, if only to discomfit other folks who may then add all sorts of interesting additional titbits of information. If they feel that the situation is otherwise, stuff ’em.

    Well you have moved into hallowed circles with that assertion, if only because none other than Shakespeare is quoted as having written: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. A very astute observation – and I’ve encountered that one in my time.

    I’m channelling a minor chunk of anarchy tonight as I have the band Helions song Smile, playing in the background!



  22. Hi Lewis,

    Limitations are a real drag. Honestly 25 holds seems like a very arbitrary number to me. As you used to work in the system, how did anyone actually come up with such a number? But as you astutely point out, it is precious real estate.

    The colours up in the north west of Australia are really quite striking. Wide blue skies, red soils and contrasting green vegetation. They get epic sized bushfires up in that part of the world too. You wouldn’t think it, but the sizes of the wildfires can be massive.

    And it is hard to conceptualise, but that part of the continent is very quiet and devoid of people. But interestingly a few days ago there was a very awful mining train incident which you probably hadn’t heard about: BHP runaway train derailment leaves miner flagging iron ore shortfall amid clean-up. The photos and video are epic. Interestingly, I have heard some suggestions that the train drivers are considering being replaced by remote control robots. I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with that, but robots are used a lot in mining.

    The club appears to have a larger energy than its location, given this is the fourth location. I’ve never experienced a flood clean-up (but have had to clean-up a minor landslip), although it has flooded here (in the valley below) after ten inches of rain in only five days. I have never before seen so much water – and water was everywhere then, it was amazing to see.

    Out of curiosity, do you have limits on the number of years that people can fill the ‘old timer’ positions in the club? And I assume you need a quorum of people just in order to vote for the elected positions? The reason I ask is because the bloke that established the green wizards group is moving on, and someone has to perform the administrative role. The editor has been suggesting that I offer my service, but I’m always reluctant about taking on new responsibilities. It took me long enough to decide to write this blog.

    I’d be raving about the topping on your muffins too! 🙂 Down here they coat cinnamon doughnuts with that particular topping, and they are very more-ish! At one place I worked, I chose a random day once per week to be doughnut day and then brought in a bag of cinnamon donughts and they all disappeared. I had no idea that the toppings had such a distinguished pedigree.

    Me too about the stretching. Most people leave such things too late, or are told that it is in their interests to do so, and then they go off and do something else altogether which generally doesn’t involve stretching… Mostly I keep such thoughts to myself too, but every now and then I try to help someone who may be receptive by suggesting to trying something different from what they’ve always done. Generally I have to weigh up whether the benefits outweigh the risks, which is not always easy to determine. I see a huge number of people suffering from hay-fever, and I suggest to some that they consume more leafy greens because the food has strong anti-inflammatory properties which may assist their constricted airwaves. But you know, they go off and do something else… Although on the other hand, fresh leafy greens are not as easy to procure as you would expect these days for those without a garden – or the inclination to grow plants in small containers! I’m no saint either and don’t pretend to be so. Imagine the disappointment that people would feel if I got on my soap box week after week… Much better to be ourselves and let the cards fall where they will. 😉

    Some dogs have a hair trigger response too, and that can make them very unpredictable – not that I can predict what the dogs here will do either, but sticking to some general principles is hopefully something they can achieve. Maybe. Princess is a very clever dog, with a pedigree that reaches back to the wild dogs of yore.

    I once encountered a small Pomeranian in the inner suburbs. And I went to pat the dog, and the Pomeranian bit me. Naughty dog, but I had a laugh and moved on. Glad we don’t have rabies down here. Mind you the dog bite didn’t break my skin so it wasn’t too much of a problem.

    Has Mr Skaife gleaned any insights from interacting with the cleverest birds around? Interactions with the birds here can be a humbling and complex experience.

    Yes, flu shot. A great idea!

    We began putting a steel mesh roof over the strawberry terrace on one of the terraces in the photos today. Far out, I’m feeling it tonight because working with steel is not an easy task and takes a fair bit of physical effort. Hopefully the steel mesh roof goes up over the next few days. We’ve now realised that the strawberry enclosure will become a fruit (or more accurately a berry) cage and are now thinking about growing some table and wine grapes in there too. There is plenty of room inside and we’ve also (shock, horror!) began discussing how we’ll manage the succession planting of the strawberries. But the thing is, when we used to call the enclosure: A strawberry enclosure, that we hadn’t quite understood the potential. Don’t you reckon it is funny how language can limit our thoughts?

    Anyway, we picked the first handful of home grown, sun ripened strawberries today. The shop bought ones have nothing in terms of flavour on those berries. 🙂

    I was going to head out tonight and watch A Star is Born at the cinema, but I’m just not up for it, and decided to stay home instead. Today was very hard. Tomorrow promises to be easier.



  23. Yo, Chris – LOL. Coincidence. I watched the train derailment video, yesterday. And, I’m not prone to watching a lot of videos on line. But who can pass up a good train derailment? Especially if there’s no loss of life. Guilt free! :-). Circus train derailments are usually spectacular. Well, I’ll see your train derailment and raise you spectacular clouds, storms and dust storms.

    Cliff Mass posted someone’s video of weather in our SW part of the country. Arizona, mostly. It’s impressive how rain clouds just dump huge amounts of water. It’s called “Monsoon V.”

    Our Club board has a set period of time that people serve, but I’m not sure how long it is. Three years? And the vacancies are staggered, so you don’t have an entire turn over all at once. It’s also easier to fill fewer slots at once. Scott swears he took a quick trip to the loo, only to return and discover he had been made a board member :-).

    I don’t know what to tell you about taking on the Green Wizard’s. You DO have a lot on your plate. And, I’ve been in the position before where no one wanted to step up to relieve me of my duties. On the other hand, those … punctuations are a good time to assess if a group has run it’s course. If no one steps up, maybe it’s time to put the group to bed? Bowling alone.

    Ravenmaster Skaife (his official title is “Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife, of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and member of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary.” Ravenmaster is just a kind of vernacular add on, which really hasn’t been around (officially) all that long. Just after WWII. But the Yeoman Guards date back to Henry VII. I think Ravenmaster Skaife gets on so well with the ravens, as he came to the realization quit awhile ago that the ravens are smarter than he is.

    You may find it interesting that one of the problems was that foxes were getting the ravens. The moat is dry. So, they’d enter under the drawbridges, travel down secret passages and nail a raven or two. But one of the things the Ravenmaster developed was a new enclosure system. He prefers “enclosure” to “cage” or, even “aviary.” Solid floor and mesh that extends into concrete footings.

    I hit a couple of the op-shops after my doctor’s appointment, yesterday. And, stumbled on a little gem. “The Colonial Cook Book: The Recipes of a By-Gone Australia.” A facsimile edition of Australia’s first cookbook, published in 1864. There’s only one hardback copy on offer, on Amazon. And, only two on E-Bay. Both from Australia. Now how that surfaced in a little op-shop in Centralia, Washington will always remain a mystery. It’s also got all kinds of household tips. Dealing with the servants. And, a section on entertaining royalty. Should you stumble across a Lord in the bush, I guess? Lew

  24. @ Margaret – Thanks for the recommendation. All the more reason to read it. I see there’s an illustrated version out, now. But it only has “selections” from the original text. I think I’ll stick with the long form. I want all the meat and potatoes.

    I’ve never “got” Hostas. Some of the catalogues I get have pages and pages of them. The decaf of the gardening world? I ask myself, why all the interest? There are hosta appreciation societies and even whole magazines devoted to them. Lew

  25. Hello again and Lew who may be interested.
    Did some more sorting of boxes yesterday and came across a small locked tin box. I have found a number of these, they come from my husband’s father. No key, so Son came down this morning with his large collection of keys. Opened with nearly the last key available.

    Fascinating! Unlike the other boxes I have found, this one was in sections inside and with a sectioned tray on top. A number of cigarette and snuffbox cases, a pendulum for a small clock. A number of reading glasses which folded up tiny in assorted convoluted ways. One pair with green glass which made Son look like John Lennon when he put them on. Lots of other metal knick knacks, all with uses.
    One unknown object. It was a small wooden square with a sliding centre with numbers, a teensy bit like a slide rule. It had a sight to look through. Its use totally defeated us.
    There was a spare key for the box, inside.
    I give all these finds to my son.


  26. Hi, Chris!

    I never got to learn the value of a share house. I always lived with family until I moved into a college dorm for a couple of years and I had my own room there, and there was not a lot of camaraderie among the inhabitants; everyone had their own business to attend to. After that I shared an apartment with my brother and then had my own apartment till I got married at 23. Not much in the way of adventure there! And thanks for giving away your coping strategies!

    It is fascinating to hear the accounts of your debt collecting days. I had only heard the side of the debtor before (I’ve known a few deadbeats . . .).

    I am so glad that you have had nice weather. The strawberry beds look stellar; no wonder they are doing so well. I would say that you have tamed – as much as they can be – the blackberries and raspberries.

    Water leaks can be the bane of one’s existence, even with mains water, so you must really have some worries.

    You reckon right about the terraces – they are looking good! That is indeed a lot of corn growth in only two weeks. The White Feather tomato looks so healthy. Could it have been a cockatoo? Your flowers are extra beautiful right now. We usually enjoy a lot of color in the autumn with the leaf change so I don’t mind so much not having a lot of flowers, but it is a bit strange this fall because of the extra 5 or so weeks of summer and so much rain. Our trees are almost all a bright yellow – which is very beautiful – with some bronze and very little of the reds and oranges that we usually get. The woods do seem really bright though with the yellow.


  27. Chris,
    Life has gotten convoluted, complex and hectic this week. I”’ catch up to you later in the week.


  28. Hi Inge,

    Your son did really well getting the fascinating find opened. I would probably have cut the lock open, or perhaps at the very worst cut the hinges off the box.

    I’ve seen those reading glasses that fold up, and they are really quite ingenious. I’m quite the fan of wearing round John Lennon style sunglasses, but the metal in the handles of the glasses is rarely up for day to day use, although I do try. Your son could do far worse than look like John Lennon!

    The wooden square object with the sight glass is beyond my understanding too. Although I have to confess to never having used a slide rule, and probably would know where to begin. Have you ever learned at any stage to use a slide rule? Interestingly, calculators were only in general use towards the last year or two of high school. Before then, all calculations were done on paper. I wonder if Lewis can shed any light on the mysterious object?

    Mind you, that is a handy skill to be able to perform mental arithmetic. I went to check out a new fresh food market today and it was quite good and a real deal experience. It was Big Sam’s, St Albans market images. The funny thing is that I’m noticing in some retail interactions recently that the retailers are surprised when I pay with cash. Not so at a market!



  29. Hi Lewis,

    They do things bigger up in that part of the country. The roads are bigger, the trains are bigger, even the sky is bigger, so of course the train derailments are pretty epic. Far out, train accidents are not unheard of down here, but runaway trains with no driver are a new one to me. Interestingly, it is being reported that apparently the driver had permission to leave the train, and that there were fail safe systems in place. So this one really is a mystery. By all accounts the trains have black box recorders (an Australian invention I believe) so sooner or later the investigation will be released to the public. You’d hope the train controls are not connected up to the internet, but you know…

    Thanks for mentioning that clip, and I really want to check it out as I love watching a good storm from a reasonably safe distance. Talk about coincidences a plenty, as there was a dust storm in the state to the north of here. The article also has a map of part of the continent showing the root zone soil moisture percentiles which is measured by the Bureau of Meteorology: Dusty storm season in NSW. Not good.

    Staggering the vacancies is a great idea, as I’ve been in groups where the management team gets spilled and has to seek re-election. Not a situation that is conducive to smooth management of a group. Scott’s assertion about ducking out back for a wee, only to find himself in an elected position is very funny! Out of curiosity, is he enjoying being involved in the role?

    Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom in relation to the group. I suspect that you are correct, and I will wait and see what happens. I hope someone puts their hand up, and maybe it is possible to open a discussion about how much admin is involved in the role and perhaps it might not be a bad idea to spread the load of that? Dunno. Maybe, a pause is also a time to allow for reflection on what has worked and what hasn’t worked, and then discuss what might work – and who wants to do what. I value the group, and have no desire to go bowling alone. To be frank and provide a candid opinion, it is extraordinarily difficult to get anybody interested in growing edible plants. The power of the dark side is strong, and their narrative is even stronger. 😉

    Speaking of which, I’m reading about the difficulties that Fairchild encountered with his nemesis, the entomology old friend. What a fascinating discussion – and do you know I often suspect that that story expresses itself nowadays in the native versus introduced plants. That argument is a worthy discussion to have, but I don’t know anybody who eats a diet composed of purely indigenous plants. It just doesn’t happen and the fear of the new and exotic is a powerful fear to stoke.

    Mind you, that is a sweeping generalisation about local diet and I did note this article from New Zealand: ‘This is so real’: Why Miriam Lancewood lives in the wild, hunting her own food.

    Thanks for mentioning the Yeoman Guard. What a fascinating history – and that lead me down a rabbit hole. Really interesting.

    And: “Solid floor and mesh that extends into concrete footings.” plus “enclosure” – a bit of goosebumps there… I did that first construction after being exposed to the intelligence of the rats (and foxes) with the chickens – and somehow the word “enclosure” is a better description. The chickens get to free roam, and they’re not afraid to do so, but the circumstances have to be monitored closely.

    What a find in the book shop! Actually I believe that there are one or two Lords and Ladies in the bush. They tend to favour land ownership – and I have met a real Lord. Seriously.

    Hey, I have decided to bring back into use the outdoor kitchen for this summer and today picked up a basic electric oven to cook stuff in outside when it is too hot to do so inside…

    Did you see this article: World’s oldest-known animal cave art painted at least 40,000 years ago in Borneo? Cool, huh?



  30. Hello again

    Son worked for a locksmith after leaving school at 15. I assume that left him with his interest in keys.
    I have never used a slide rule. Calculators were not available when I was at school so I can do mental arithmetic. I was staggered when a friend tried to do some mental arithmetic when we were in a restaurant. She was doing it aloud and was trying to do it by carrying numbers as in long division. It was horrendous! I showed her a way of using tens first and then dealing with what is left. I was never taught this, just worked it out for myself.


  31. Chris:

    I can’t always get to your blog first thing in the week, no sweat if it takes you a while to get to my comment. And after all, you have to answer all of us little chickens!

    I love to hear your gastronomic anecdotes from the smokes, Big or Little, and also what you are having at home as well. Yum!

    Woodland leaf litter is a mystery to me, too, as it is to some others here. Trillions of leaves fall every year, they lie fairly deeply under the trees, yet under them is very little real humus. Is something eating it?

    What a fascinating story that was about Miriam and her wild life. She has some muscles that lady!

    The cave art was so neat, too. I have wondered with some of the hand stencils: Did they use actual hands or did the artist use a manufactured stencil? Sometimes the hands just don’t look quite real, but then I have never tried to create such a thing.


  32. Yo, Chris – I’ve read a few references to black boxes on trains, when we have wrecks, here. One of those inventions where I think, “I hope whoever invented that is racking in a lot of money.” :-).

    The “root zone soil moisture” maps are fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them, before, but maybe they’re just the “drought maps” I see here.

    Well, I wouldn’t say Scott actually “enjoys” being on the board. He seems to be chomping at the bit for his term to expire. Part of that is, I think, being embarrassed about forgetting and missing about half the monthly meetings. :-). He’s got a lot on his plate, even though retired. They’ve got a good sized place that is well maintained. Service work is encouraged as a vital part of maintaining sobriety. Sometimes, I feel a bit guilty that I don’t do more. But, I did a lot, early on. Now I try and help out in different ways. Let the youngsters attend to the nuts and bolts. As I did.

    Hmmm. Some idle thoughts about plants. One fellow’s invasive species might be another fellow’s diversity. If you take a global / deep time perspective, the spread of a lot of different kinds of plants might come in handy in the case of huge natural disasters or run-away climate change. Growing plants in different parts of the world (coffee, tea, bananas, potatoes … different herbs, spices and medicinal plants) might insure that those plants will survive. Lew’s “not having all your eggs in one basket” theory.

    And, that might also apply to people, living very different kinds of lives. Speaking of going down the rabbit hole, the article you posted led to this:

    Interesting. Is there an “optimal phase of human living?” Maybe the real question should be, do we want all of humanities eggs (there may be a pun in there, somewhere) in one basket? The more diversity among humans, ways of living, skills, the more likely the species may survive. Cont.

  33. Cont. The article about the couple in the bush, was interesting. I notice she’s written a book. But, a lot of people seem to be writing books on being locavores. To one extent of another. There was a couple up in Vancouver, B.C. that were only going to eat stuff produced within 300 miles. Barbara Kingsolver wrote a book about attempting to eat, only off her small farm, for a year. I applaud all their efforts. But am a bit amused as there’s always a bit of “fudging.” An item or three that “they just can’t do without.” When I shop, I must admit sometimes I want to know how “local” something is. But what is local? Is stuff from Olympia local? Things grown east of the mountains? Crops from Oregon? I guess what I ask myself is, “Is it local, enough?”

    LOL. If I ever get to name a plant, I might call it “Fairchild’s Nemesis.” :-). Sure, the guy was a bit over the top and there was a lot of, probably, professional and personal envy involved. But I think the idea of quarantine and clean plants if probably a good idea. And, there’s always the possibility of unintended consequences. (See Kudzu and Scotch Broom. Possums? Starlings?)

    I think I prefer a variation on “Chook Fortress.” :-). I read a bit more in the Ravenmaster book. Before his time, foxes were trapped and disposed of. The present Ravenmaster takes a far more enlightened view. He sees the Tower as a delicately balanced system between the Yeomen, tourists, ravens and foxes (and, probably other players). He (daily) keeps a cache of food (well away from the ravens) for the foxes. Well fed foxes leave the ravens, alone. Of course, he has a very contained area to deal with.

    Yes, I saw the article on cave art. Until recently, dating wall paintings was pretty much just an estimate. Given new (non invasive) measurement devices, rock paintings and petroglyphs can now be dated with greater accuracy. A bit of the film on the Outback had footage of the dating process.

    I haven’t given the Australian cookbook a good skim, yet. So many books, so little time. It dawned on me yesterday, we’re only two weeks away from our Thanksgiving holiday. Lew

  34. @ Inge – Now I’d be interested in the cigarette and snuff boxes. Those can bring a pretty penny. It would be interesting to discover the use of the measuring device. You might have to unearth an old surveyor, engineer or astronomer. :-).

    I once got a box of tat from England and there was a small device in it with lots of different scales printed on it. Turned out it was for measuring cordage and wire in the naval industry.

    Sometimes in the history magazines, they have a “what is it” column. Lew

  35. Hi Pam,

    Share houses sure were a lot of fun. And it also goes without saying that complete strangers rarely put up with the sort of behaviour that family will put up with – and as such it is nice way to round off some sharp edges in people. Now, having just wrote that, I reckon share houses day in the sun is done (that rhymes). And my reason for that is that expansionary money supply policies used in western nations tends to be converting houses from something that keeps the rain and sun off your head, into a financial product. Give them credit where credit is due because it is certainly a popular policy, although I frankly have reservations in that regard.

    Coping strategies are always handy, and of course they inevitably get tested in the real world and that sharpens them, or proves their lack of general merit!

    Hehe! Haven’t we all known (and probably been in) that circumstance ourselves? 🙂 I treated the debt collection job as ensuring that either party came to some sort of understanding and a way to move forward. You have to understand that at the core of these arrangements is that corporations want nothing more than a flow of funds. Massive piles of the funds themselves have no intrinsic value otherwise and that is uncomfortably known (as distinct from Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd).

    Blackberries and raspberries rarely listen to the voice of reason. A bit sad that. And would you believe that I caught one of the parrots in the act of consuming a huge and juicy ripe strawberry today! It was an outrageous theft… Don’t tell the parrots that I managed to get the rest of the support structure for the fruit cage up today (and the steel mesh will have to wait a few more days).

    Once a water system appears to be leak free, it is usually leak free. Until it is not…

    Yah, I reckon the white feather was a cockatoo. Or it might well have been one of the pair of long beaked corrella’s that are regular visitors here – and may have a nest nearby. The magpies refuse to put up with either of those two species (thankfully) as they can both cause some serious damage.

    I hear you. Last autumn, the leaves of the deciduous trees did exactly the same thing and they skipped the red phase of their leaf colour turn. Now of course this meant that there were less leaf change tourists, and so the editor and I were clapping our hands in sheer joy, but back then I read up on that matter about the yellowing of the leaves and there is some pretty heavy chemistry going on there. The change is widespread, but fear not for the plants as they are incredibly hardy and adaptable – whether we are as a species is another question altogether.

    My Wednesday and Thursday nights are usually a bit limited in relation to replying, but a courteous reminder that you have not been forgotten is a pleasantry that most people forget in their haste these days.

    Yummo is the word of the day when it comes to gastronomic delights. Not to tease you but I enjoyed a piece of rhubarb topped cake today that was superb. Of course a yummy chunk of cream was dolloped all over it. All I can add is that I worked very hard this morning and I note that unfortunately people seem to be a long time dead and excellent cake opportunities are few and far between, so testing is always required…

    I’d have to suggest that your trees themselves are eating the fallen leaves. Why would they waste such a treasure trove of minerals?

    Clearly that was the whole point of the photo of Miriam and her wild life. 🙂 I was suitably impressed too.

    Oooo! I’d never considered that about the hand cave paintings. I’ve seen a bit of stencil art in the big smoke. Just showing my age, but at one point in time you used to see stencil art proclaiming: “Dogs in Space”, which was a form of guerrilla marketing for the film with the enigmatic front man / actor Michael Hutchence (of INXS) – and just to bring the whole comment back around to where it began: the film was about a share house…



  36. Hi Inge,

    School and Uni is not for everyone, and you know, these days I’m not sure that there is much of a return on investment out of University education as people may expect. I’d have to suggest that my profession is over supplied which keeps prices down and that is how it goes. Fortunately, I’m cheap and willing to head off to see and spend time in businesses helping them with stuff that they need help with. Of course if people are interested in status then they may get something out of higher education – but I’m frankly unsure what that would be.

    Lock-smithing is an art that is beyond me, and I once had the opportunity to observe a locksmith pick a serious looking padlock with ease, which obviously came with practice.

    Hehe! The inability to perform basic mental arithmetic really surprises me too. And yes, I use that method of breaking up calculations into their smaller and easier to handle components. But you know, I had to make an active decision a few years back to flex that mental muscle and keep it sharp. Sometimes, and I don’t know how you would feel about this, but when time is limited and I have to work out some complex math in my head, I work out what the answer should be roughly, and if the market stall holder comes up with a similar answer, then it is all good with me.

    Many years ago I worked retail and my ability to work out multiple additions was pretty sharp. And yeah, I wonder what may happen to people who have grown up and known nothing other than an electronic calculator?

    And in a very worrying moment, I heard a news report suggesting that students were being allowed to perform exams using laptops…



  37. Hi Lewis,

    I’m unsure about the royalties in relation to the black box devices, but I did unearth a fascinating article about the devices: Eight things you might not know about black boxes. I’m unsure whether news of the disappearance of flight MH370 reached your shores, but the flight had a number of Australian’s on it, some of whom used to live in a nearby town to the south of here, and the plane for all intents and purposes has disappeared.

    It is possible that the soil moisture maps are the same as your drought maps, although another way of representing drought is to map out areas with cumulative rainfall that are in their lowest percentiles.

    Oh well, ‘forgetting and missing’ was a recurring theme that I observed in groups that had troubles, mind you, the support base for the Club would be a lot greater than any group that I’ve experienced and would have plenty of fat to cater for Scott. I can understand Scott’s misgivings too, because at the same time he has a desire to provide service. I get that. But exactly too, the youngsters in that circumstance have to pull their weight, so I hear you. One group in particular used to really annoy me because there was no recognition for past service, and you were only as good as the last time that you turned up despite them having a long history. I don’t gel with such a philosophy because there is such a thing as social credit – although most people do their very best to avoid it (thus the money).

    I’m with you too in that belief about diversity. Although, now that I mention that, I checked into the new council planning changes that are afoot, and wow. No doubt that some folks up here have really annoyed a whole bunch of other folks in the area – thus the changes. The mountain range looks as though it is going into some sort of weird planning lock-down, which is basically bonkers – if only because most people living up here in the mountain range are entirely dependent on the facilities of the nearby towns (who are in turn entirely dependent on the big smoke and port facilities – surely they would realise that?) In one of the local history books I read an advertisement for a farm stay up here, but in the late nineteenth century which included reference to a house cow, orchard, fresh vegetables etc… So, yeah if a few people put some of the acres to productive use, whilst the forest and wildlife benefit – why the heck would anyone complain? But they do.

    The article was fascinating and it alluded to one of the other things that really annoy me. If I want to happily live in an area with no services, why the heck is anything wrong with me making it look beautiful and incorporating whatever technology that I choose – and rejecting others that are not worth the trouble or cost? I see a lot of stories showing people living ‘off grid’ and inevitably those stories are presented as a cautionary tale to others. That drives me bonkers too, because people have such an opportunity to pick and choose what aspects of such a life appeal to them or not.

    Exactly, there was a bit of the book publicity about the article and their lifestyle, and that is not a disparagement at all because the author lives in a way that I would not be excited about.

    The experiment that the author Kingsolver (a fascinating surname) undertook sounds fascinating, and also it would have sharpened their wits (perhaps not to the same degree that the New Zealand author would have experienced). Now, I don’t know, but the author arrived at the farm in Virginia in 2004 according to Wikipedia and then began the locavore experiment in 2005. I take my hat off to the author because I’ve been at this gig for over a decade and we might be able to survive – as a thought experiment – if we were cut off from the rest of society, but far out it would be tough. I dunno, at the one year stage, and I’m not really sure how much I knew about anything food and plant related, although the author appears to have had an interesting background that may have honed her skills at an earlier age, but that story about locavore takes serious work.

    Would that plant be Fairchildii?

    The Ravensmaster does take an enlightened view of the foxes and other residents of the tower. Did he mention how he feels about the rats? I’m in total awe of those creatures…

    I’ve seen a bit of cave painting in the outback and it is amazing.

    Where ever has this year gone? Time is one of those things that gets away from us all. Finished the steel support structure on the new fruit cage today, but have to wait a few more days before I’ll get a chance to add the steel mesh onto that fruit cage. And would you believe that I discovered a dastardly parrot munching away on one of the fresh juicy strawberries…



  38. Hello again
    I would suggest that no-one should go to uni. now unless they were being funded by scholarships.
    The inability to do at least an approximation in ones head, is a potential disaster when using a calculator!
    A 90mph storm is supposed to be on its way, that will dispose of our gorgeous autumnal leaf display.
    @ Lew
    I have asked Son to bring back the weird item as I have been asked for a better description of it, by my brother-in-law. Two of the cigarette cases look quite good, a tortoiseshell one and another that is patterned red (I don’t know what it is made of) but very attractive. A silver one also but I think that it is plated, I didn’t look closely. I have definitely reached an age when I want to be shot of stuff.


  39. Yo, Chris – Duh! Of course. “Trees themselves are eating the fallen leaves.” Sometimes, I can’t see the forest, for the trees. 🙂

    Flight MH370 got a lot of play in the news, over here. Of course, “Bus Plunges Off Cliff in Peru. 3 Dead.” also gets a lot of news play. For a day. MH370 still pops up in the news, from time to time. A reminder that the world can still be a big place.

    “Recognition for past service.” Oh, I don’t know. The library was always big on passing out certificates. Nicely framed, and all. But my attitude has always been, “money would have been nicer.” :-).

    Planning crackdown? I presume it’s aimed at any kind of “alternative” ways of living? Anything that falls outside the suburban “dream?” The it’s-all-about-appearances, status quo.

    I read Kingsolver’s book quit a few years ago. I think she had a bit of a farm background. Maybe her husband, too. It might have even been the “old home place” that she moved back to. I’d also guess she (maybe) didn’t have to worry to much about money. Although writers are not THAT well paid, she is popular and her books usually hit the best seller lists. Probably racks a bit in on the lecture circuit. I remember bits of it were pretty amusing. Especially the chapter on attempting to breed turkeys. Because of tinkering with the breed, most turkeys on offer at the super market come from artificial insemination. Older, wilder breeds are balky about … doing the horizontal tango, in captivity. Like bees, if you ask 5 turkey experts their opinion on getting turkeys “in the mood,” you’ll get four different answers. I seem to remember that, after much grief, she was successful.

    Rats don’t seem to be much of a problem, in the Tower of London. In fact, the Ravenmaster has to buy in mice and rats and keep them in a big freezer. I think a raven could handle a rat. And, about 140 people live in the Tower. Many of them have dogs and cats. The Ravenmaster has a dog. Within the Tower, they even have their own “local.”

    It got pretty cold, last night. But still, no freeze. There’s a bit of a breeze this morning, and it has a sharp bite! Lew

  40. @ Inge – Probably Art Deco cigarette cases. There are whole books devoted to those. They were quit nice little individual works of art. The silver might be chrome. It was the hot, new, modern material, of the time.

    I have a little Deco cigarette case, kicking around, somewhere. Chrome and black enamel paint. I used to use it to carry around nicotine gum, when I was kicking the habit. Seemed appropriate. 🙂 Lew

  41. @Lew

    I hear you about hostas. I’m fine with a few and the hummingbirds like them too but there’s way too many around this new place so looking forward to adding some more diversity. There’s someone near here to advertises 200 variety of hostas.


  42. Hi Chris,

    Big voter turnout this year – almost 50% of eligible voters – hmm. Was going to comment more but our power was out yet again (3rd time since we’ve been here) due to someone taking out a utility pole with their car. Doug and I decided we’d head over to the local pub to wait out the outage as it’s only 30F here now and ended up there for 2 hours. I’m doing a chicken workshop for my friends permaculture course tomorrow but have to leave at 7:30 am as it’s quite a distance away. Tomorrow night we’re both volunteering at the Land Conservancy’s fundraiser. We had an inch or two of snow last night and it’s not going to get out of the 30’s for at least a week which is way below normal. Anyway power’s back on and it’s warm again in the house.


  43. Chris,

    Nice phone ploy, playing dumb. It works very well, and not only on the phone. I get excellent results with difficult people by simply staying silent. Americans can’t seem to talk without a lot of verbal feedback. So when I’m asked if I’m still on the phne, I reply, “Yes, since you’re talking, I’m listening.” Then they usually relax to the point where we can have a constructive conversation.

    Your garden is really looking good! Beautiful flowers and the berries, oh my! I really miss gooseberries. I’ll add them to my list of berries to introduce to the garden.

    Our weather just turned much faster than was expected. My wife and I had to do a lot of driving earlier this week. Fortunately, the weather was pleasant for those family business excursions. Thursday morning was -7C. The season’s first snow hit this afternoon. As it was near 0C, it didn’t stick on the streets, but my yard had about an inch when I got home. I truly appreciate the bus system this time of year so I can avoid driving in the snow and ice as much as possible.

    Thor the dog was one of those single tool critters. A box of rocks exhibited more smarts than he did – except for his one true area of genius: he was an escape artist extraordinaire. As we’d gotten him from animal control, they were quite familiar with him. They eventually suggested that when someone found Thor, they’d give the finder my work and home phone numbers. This saved me a small fortune bailing Thor out of “doggy jail”. I got numerous calls with a child’s voice saying, “Hey, mister, I got your dog.” So I’d pick him up and donate my saved small fortune as a reward to the finder.


  44. Hi Inge,

    It isn’t a good situation, and the lack of a return on investment for undertaking such a huge student debt just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. And every year since I began studying, it appears to me that more and more students are pumped through the system than there may even be jobs – and that pushes down wages.

    And for some reason that I’ve never quite understood, parents tend to push their kids into the sciences – and I’m far from certain that there are the jobs there in that field of endeavour.

    To be honest I haven’t heard of scholarship positions for Uni, but I’ve never really looked into it. It is a good idea.

    Exactly! If you don’t have even the vaguest idea what the answer might be, then you just accept whatever the calculator dishes up to you as an answer! What a situation! Don’t you reckon that sounds a bit Orwell 1984’ish?

    Oh yeah, batten down the hatches and thar she blows! Stay safe and keep out of the wind. Was the wind as bad as the forecast suggested or were they referring to the occasional gust? From time to time a huge storm will roll in here from the southern ocean and those storms sometimes produce enough force in the wind to buffet the house. Fortunately I used a lot of steel in the construction to tie the whole house together…



  45. Hello again
    1984ish? Not sure.
    The storm came in during the night not as bad as suggested. As it was southerly, it went over the top here and most of the leaves are still on. I’ll probably see damage when I go out this afternoon.


  46. and again
    Forgot to mention my surprise at your ignorance re. uni. scholarships. Don’t you have them there. We do and so does the US. I understand that my American great niece has got her first few years fees guaranteed already (she is still at school). Obviously you have to be very bright but then, if you aren’t, don’t go. My views do tend to be brutal though, I hope, sensible.


  47. Hi Lewis,

    Not to worry at all, I mean have you ever seen a truly mature forest? Down here there are some small patches of ancient rainforest and they tell that story of recycling nutrients in a stable (but still dynamic environment). For some reason now unknown to us, the early settlers set some of those areas aside and protected them from timber harvesting, and they’re pretty awesome to walk through and observe.

    The thing is, plants can capture some elements from the air such as nitrogen (and possibly some others, but in far smaller quantities) and then they have to deal with the 2% conversion of sunlight to a form of energy which they can harvest and make use of. So the forest is greedy for all of the leaves that have fallen – and possibly not much goes to waste. Eventually after many centuries of uninterrupted growth, the trees reach size a where they become too big, and then they fall over (or parts of the tree fall off) and the forest hungrily gobbles all of those chunks up. But if enough trees in a forest are mature, the 2% conversion of sunlight + the gases extracted from the atmosphere provide a tiny little surplus that goes towards producing deeper top soils. But until that point everything gets consumed. Outside of the orchard and in the forest, the top soil is a thin black line in the soil. Which is far greater than it was when I first turned up here.

    It is quite a horrific situation to contemplate because as a species we extract so many minerals from the soil and then dump them elsewhere (usually the ocean) and don’t give the situation even the briefest of thoughts.

    Now, it is possible to put some savings away in the soil, by chopping and dropping the low lying vegetation in the forest – so that the soil critters can consume them – or by burning the ground in a reasonably cool and low temperature fire. Humans have been doing that for a very long time. Thinning the forest can also reduce the demands upon the soil from the trees thus putting away a bit of extra minerals into the soil, but people have very fixed notions in their heads about such a course of action.

    Yes, the world is a big place. I read an article over breakfast this morning written by the esteemed scientist / author Tim Flannery, who was suggesting some sort growing of seaweed and then dumping it in deep ocean canyons off the coast of South Australia. I’ve read a few of his books and they’re very good, but putting an immediate halt on all unnecessary air travel would perhaps be an easier task to achieve and perhaps would contribute as much to reducing the ever increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, but is it going to happen? I doubt it.

    Hehe! Yes, the money is nicer, and I get that, but I was referring to volunteer (i.e. freebie) work which is a slightly different proposition. I doubt very much that Scott enjoys any financial recompense from his duties in the Club? I reckon society has that story for volunteer work all backwards, but time will sort those issues out.

    It sure looks like a crackdown. I may have mentioned to you a few weeks back that I ventured into a new housing estate to pick up a second hand window for the new shed. Honestly, I looked around with a critical eye and noted that the houses appear to have entirely eaten the land – and the block sizes were about 300m2 now.

    This I know to be true. Writers are not that well paid. And there are expectations that talking circuits to spruik a book are not the lucrative feed trough that people might think. I hadn’t realised that the author may have moved back to a family farm with which she may have had prior knowledge and experience with. My mates of the big shed fame recently regaled me with stories about how they were taught to, and in fact did castrate their boars, and you know all I can add to that story is that I grow a lot of berries, tubers, vegetables, herbs and fruit! It is true, people all raise animals to consume, but I’m (and the editor) are softies.

    What? 140 people living in a tower? That idea had never even occurred to me. There used to be a bridge in Queensland that people lived in tiny houses which were part of the super structure of the bridge. I believe they may have been evicted recently… … I’ve seen this bridge with my own eyes: Inside the Walter Taylor Bridge. Before I saw that bridge I would have thought that people living on a busy bridge would have been a ludicrous concept.

    Freezing weather. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that today was an absolutely beautiful late spring day. The sun was poking out between some clouds and so we headed off into the lower parts of the farm to clean up a mess that was left for us by the islander tree blokes that sometimes come and help us with work – when they need it.

    You may remember a few years back when a huge – and I mean really massive – tree top fell. The blokes turned up one day looking for some work and I got them to help me cut the fallen tree up into firewood chunks. Unfortunately, they also chucked on top of the firewood chunks all of the cut up head of the fallen tree. It was a complete disaster zone of a mess and fire hazard, so today we burned up all of the head of that tree (small branches and leaves) and then reduced the size of all of the firewood that they’d cut up and then split it. The guys had been a bit over sized when they cut most of the firewood chunks, but even so, they made life easier for us.

    I tell ya, I’m feeling like I’ve worked far harder than usual tonight as we finished work at about 7pm after starting very early this morning!

    Did I mention anything about the grape vines?



  48. Hi Margaret,

    By all accounts that is a good turn-out of voters for your part of the world! Mind you, if only that many of the adult population turned out to vote down here, the government body would be making some serious money in fines because voting is compulsory. I usually enjoy working in that process too, and became involved years ago, because I wanted to see with my own eyes how the system worked – and it is scrupulously honest. And paper ballots and scrutineers from the major parties are all part of that honesty.

    But yeah, I hear you! 😉 It is nice to see people in your part of the world waking from their long slumber. Not that any political solutions will solve any of the crises facing industrial civilisation, but they can help a bit.

    Ouch! I hope the person in the car was OK? The electricity grid does not switch off as quickly as you’d expect, and I for one would not venture anywhere near a downed power cable.

    Margaret, I am so impressed with your solution about heading to the pub! Seriously! Awesome. I would do no less. 🙂 When I was a young adult, one evening after part time Uni, I met up with a mate at a local pub which just happened to be next to the railway station where I disembarked at about probably 9.30pm. And in the pub, I happened to strike up a conversation with a young lady, who was also in the pub on that cold winters night, and she was reading Lord of the Rings – an invite for a conversation with a fellow geek, if ever I had seen one! We had a lovely conversation and she confided that she was reading in the pub because it was warmer than her nearby apartment. I once rented an apartment that had no heating – and that was very cold.

    Hope the chicken talk goes well! And getting more people into chickens is a great idea. I for one dread the thought of having to maintain a huge batch of roosters merely so that the genetic pool is maintained… That scenario is one of my nightmares.

    Good to see that you have a lot going on. And snow to boot! It was almost the perfect late spring day today. Warm, but not too warm.



  49. Hi Chris,

    We’re dealing with the same cold air mass that Margaret is. Being farther south it isn’t as cold here, but still, we tied a record low for today of 18F/-8C and received a tenth of an inch of snow or so yesterday evening. It’s supposed to be a bit warmer tomorrow (Sunday), a high in the low 40sF/6 to 7C, but then be as cold as this morning, if not colder, by Wednesday morning. Brrr! But by late next week it is supposed to warm up to just a little cooler than normal.

    I planted all the garlic and multiplier onions and removed all the lettuce, Chinese cabbages, daikon radishes, and turnips before this cold wave, as none of them will take such cold weather. (I did leave a few small lettuce plants in the ground as an experiment, since it’s claimed that small plants sometimes will survive the winters here.) The ground will begin to freeze with these cold temperatures, so I will need to get the onion-garlic bed mulched before the ground thaws and heaves the bulbs out of the ground. I think there are enough leaves on the ground so I can rake them up for mulch on Monday and Tuesday, but there are still plenty of leaves in the trees. It’s always something when you garden. People who don’t attempt to raise at least a small garden have no clue what it takes to get food onto their plates – and that is not a good position to be in at this point.


  50. Yo, Chris – Oh, yeah. I’ve been in mature forests. Great fun and interesting. Always a bit of an air of mystery, about them. Deep mulches and soils. Lots of nurse logs lying about, crumbling into the ground and supporting new growth. I went down the rabbit hole, a bit. The terms “climax forest” and “succession” forest were rattling around in my head.

    The area around our volcano has been intensely studied. The scientists have been a bit gob-smacked by how fast the land is recovering. The return of the plants and animals.

    There was a bit in the “Outback” film I watched about managed burns up in the Kimberley. Quit a few of the rangers, up that way, are indigenous people. You’ve mentioned how they managed the land, pre European contact. There’s been more interest in, and study of, the fact that our indigenous people did the same. Lots of controlled burn offs, from coast to coast. California has more wildfires, going. Some around LA and some big one’s up in northern California. As of yesterday, 5 deaths, already.

    Well, the pay off for volunteering is social capital and networking opportunities. Sometimes, it leads to a paid job. Worked for me, a few times. :-). Yup. Volunteers should be recognized. But paid positions? Skip the little certificates and give me the money. :-). The cartoon Dilbert has a reoccurring theme of those empty awards and pumped up job titles. Cont.

  51. Cont. For authors, I was thinking of the difference between “book tour” (when a new book comes out) and “lecture circuit.” If an author has a good agent, between books they’ll have a round of lectures, readings. Author’s panels. Maybe even temporary teaching gigs, here and there. Anything to keep the money (and agent’s fees) rolling in.

    The article and video of the Walter Taylor bridge was very interesting. LOL. The article writer manage to avoid the phrase “bigger on the inside.” But, perhaps the author isn’t a Whovian. :-). I thought the flats were quit nice. Hmmm. You could build a whole tv series around a rather raffish PI, who lives in a bridge.

    The idea of bridge living doesn’t seem so strange, to me. After all, we’ve got the example of Old London Bridge.

    Great short article and there are miniatures! I am a fool for miniature … anything. I’ve either read a book or seen a movie where a major plot point was when one of the old houses on London Bridge crumbles into the Thames. Beyond that, can’t remember a thing.

    Can’t remember you saying much about grape vines. A grape terrace? :-). Fern Glade Farms Vineyards? Lew

  52. Hi DJ,

    Silence is golden as a tool! 🙂 Exactly too, people fill in the void. What do they say about nature abhorring a vacuum?

    Thanks and gooseberries are so easy to strike from cuttings just plonked in the ground in early spring. They make gardeners look as if they know what we’re all doing.

    Glad to read that the weather held for the excursions, but -7’C is so cold… Apparently tomorrow will reach 86’F and then rain again on Tuesday and Wednesday. The garden is turning into a jungle with this sort of weather. Nice work avoiding driving in the snow.

    Thor may have been a sheep in a past life, because they appear to have enough smarts for being a sheep, but far out, they can escape if the opportunity presents itself. Ollie can run far and fast, and I’m particularly happy that he seems keenly aware of his territory because Toothy and the now deceased Sir Poopy used to head off on forest adventures and it was on their minds 24/7 – 365. It used to drive me bonkers as we couldn’t let them out together. Ollie so far has refused the siren call of the Toothy deep forest adventure.



  53. Hi Inge,

    By 1984-ish, I sort of meant that if you didn’t have the mental tools, or the mental vocabulary (or tools) with which to determine an approximate answer to a puzzle, then a person may be inclined to accept whatever answer is handed to them.

    Glad to read that you are protected from some of the winds. It is funny how minor quirks of the landscape protect some pockets and not others. I’m looking at some of the footage from the recent California fires and noticing that playing out.

    Ignorance is probably the correct word. It never even occurred to me way back in those early days that Uni scholarships were on offer. On the other hand I also wasn’t kidding when I said that I’d met folks who were smarter than I, and I can write that even though I topped a subject at Uni and that was despite my earlier hippy dippy education, I still scored within the top third of students at high school. The top third is not the top though.

    It does raise the much larger question as to whether people actually benefit from having a very high IQ? To even raise such a question sounds a bit like sour grapes, but it is a subject worthy of investigation – because I’m not convinced of the outcomes of being able to complete a test which pronounces the result of a high IQ. Maybe it is just my own personal bias, but I prefer an ability to adapt to circumstances, combined with the ability to learn and apply that learning in the physical world that we exist in. Anyway, whatever the case, I recommend a diversity of approaches.

    I feel that your views are inordinately sensible.



  54. Hi Claire,

    My mind is reeling at the thought of such a cold air mass. Not much in the garden might survive a -8’C morning other than conifers and their ilk. Certainly, nothing will grow. Such weather would be devastating here. The -2’C morning that hit here with such force, pretty much wiped out most of the plum and apricot harvest.

    Out of curiosity, do you preserve much of the summer harvest? About a week ago I ate the final of last seasons preserved apricots, but I still have lots of dehydrated tomatoes in olive oil and the delightful passata (preserved tomato and summer vegetable combination). Spring is a traditionally difficult time.

    It never even occurred to me that your frozen air temperatures may heave bulbs such as onions and garlic out of the ground. What a thing to confront. I don’t actually eat the garlic here and the patch has multiplied and spread over a few small areas in a similar way to what bunching onions do.

    Exactly, I have met people who reckon that food comes from factories. I have no idea what to say to such people.

    I discovered a wild oak earlier today that is a little seedling, and I plan over the next hour when I’m out with the chickens, to put a steel cage around it (the wallabies are feral).



  55. Hi Lewis,

    Mature forests are fun and interesting places aren’t they? There is a mature rainforest on the coast and a fair bit to the south west of here which has a patch called Maits Rest. It is a more or less intact version of the sort of forests that once covered much of Gondwanaland. Of course it is not lost on me that the trees in forests are reasonably hostile to other species and they do what they can (which is considerable) to stymie other forms of life that don’t play nice with them. I do my best to play nice with the trees, but who knows how they feel about things? Although I must say that over the past decade, the canopy of the trees here is really starting to thicken up whilst at the same time the understory plant community is becoming more diverse and hardier. Your description of the process matches what I see here.

    The same thing happens after bushfires, because whilst those events can be catastrophic, they also re-introduce a whole lot of fertility to an area. Just for one example, bracken fern is able to harvest and store phosphates before it runs off the landscape, so they inevitably arrive before other plants. It is a really complex situation and I reckon the best way to manage it is either through a huge amount of work, or semi-regular cool burns. The thing is, nobody wants to pay for such work – and therein lies the difficulty because it is much cheaper to lock the area up and hope for the best, even though the outcomes are nowhere near as good.

    The news of the Californian fires has certainly reached our shores, and it looked epic and vast in terms of the destruction. I sort of feel for the Calfire authority a bit, because they’re on call for most of the year given that you are now leading into winter in your part of the world. It is not good, and the reported death toll looks horrendous. Some Australian firefighters helped out recently and they were apparently shot at whilst in the middle of nowhere – as you do.

    As I volunteered, I saw little social capital and few networking opportunities. My main goal with volunteering for a few years was yes, to meet the locals and slide into the local network, but the lack of social capital – and social activities appeared to be actively squashed – really bummed me out. After a few years I could not understand why I was even there, and so I went off and did something else with my time. But yeah, paid positions, well you’re there for the money and that should be first and foremost. In the couple of groups that I joined I really got to explore how monetary exchanges replaced the social obligations – and that troubled me greatly, if only because the monetary option has a finite end game.

    Mind you, from time to time I’ve encountered organisations where every man and their dog are given the title of manager this, and manager that. What do they say about too many Chiefs and not enough Indians? It seems like an apt observation to me.

    Hehe! Whovian indeed! Yes, some properties are a bit Tardis like! Have you watched the latest incarnation of that series? I recall the old black and white Dr Who repeats from when I was a kid. But Tom Baker and his encounters with the Daleks and the Cybermen used to scare me silly. Little wonder I have no love for stories of AI this and that, if only they have no love for us meatbags!

    OK, I’m really impressed with the story of London Bridge and the model was exquisite in its detail. And a top effort with the creator for plonking himself in among all of the 15th century figurines.

    We travelled north to visit an open garden today. And it was really delightful and had a huge variety of cottage plants and flowers. You could hear the hum of the bees in the garden as they too enjoyed the many and varied plants. I couldn’t help but imagine when looking across the dry paddocks and the valley that the effort could be replicated across the entire landscape as the plants were very hardy choices. Forest Edge – Muckleford. I was really impressed with the scale and beauty of the garden.

    Grapes, oh yes! And unfortunately we need to purchase another two of the plants… Photos and explanation on tomorrow mornings blog. I better get writing…



  56. Hello again
    Thanks for the excellent explanation of 1984 ish.
    High IQ is a subject fraught with danger. I have never met a person with a high IQ who I didn’t find extremely interesting. On this basis alone I value it. However one requires common sense to survive well. Great if you have both.


  57. Hi Chris,

    The election results in one district of our old county were so messed up that it turned out that the person who supposedly received the most votes (out of four) ended up in third and the person with the third most votes ended up first with double the votes originally reported. Only the top two end up on the county board. Originally it was announced that the person who to become the new representative to congress had lost the county and that was wrong too. It didn’t change the final results but it was a pretty big deal as the county just about never votes democrat and the new representative is a 32 year old, African American women – a nurse no less.

    Never did hear about the person involved in the crash but I’m assuming he/she was OK. It was pretty spontaneous for us to end up at the pub and fun.

    Regarding IQs, I figure they’re just one measure of a person’s ability. I’ve certainly met people with high IQs and highly intelligent but common sense – not so much. A person’s IQ measurement is a criteria to determine if someone with an intellectual disability gets government benefits. The cut off is an IQ of 70 and both Patrick and Michael’s were in the high 60’s. Patrick’s room mate’s IQ was just a little over 70 and I don’t believe he did not receive the benefits Patrick did.

    The class went very well. The workshop usually takes about 2 1/2 hours but this time I went well over three hours and the small class was very engaged. This coming week is pretty quiet for me though Doug is preparing for deer hunting and getting all his honey ready to sell at the Christmas tree farm starting a week from Friday.

    The temperature remains well below normal but no more snow in the forecast.


  58. Yo, Chris – The Australian firefighters probably got too close to someone’s illegal mari-hoochie grow operation. There’s a lot of them back in the hills, in California. Not to excuse that very poor behavior. Just an explanation.

    The news keeps referring to the town that was wiped off the map, Paradise, as a “little town.” I was imagining a little spot in the road … a tourist stop. Well, I ran across a population figure. 27,000. Which is about the size of Chehalis and Centralia, combined. Puts it in perspective. 27,000 homeless people. It may be a completely crass remark, but I think there will be some cheap land, available. Here, if a chunk of land has been logged over, it’s a lot less expensive (but still beyond my reach) as there’s so much value in standing timber.

    That’s a shame about the lack of socializing and networking in the volunteer group you belonged to. Your mileage may vary. I think some volunteer groups are very social. Potlucks, and such. “…monetary exchanges replace the social obligations.” Well, it’s just me, but sometimes I prefer a monetary exchange to avoid a social obligation. Because I avoid social entanglements and expectations. Some people use social obligations as a weapon. :-). Some people use the expectation of monetary exchange as another kind of weapon. Which is why when, sometimes, someone does me a favor, I ask, “How much do I owe you?” Just so we’re clear on any expectations. Poor Steve, here at the Home, was looked down on, a bit, as he showed up for potlucks without bringing any food. Well, no one had TOLD him that was expected. And, yes, he is a bit dense. Well, I set him straight. Bring something. ANYTHING. So, now he shows up with usually a bag of chips and some fruit from the store. Which mended a few fences, but some of the Ladies won’t forget his original faux pas. But then, those Ladies are just like that.

    Funny you should mention AIs. I saw an article, yesterday, about a Chinese news anchor AI.

    Which put me in mind of a late 80’s tv series. Do you remember Max Headroom? Darn, I forgot to register who the actor was. He still pops up from time to time in minor rolls, here and there. Always makes me smile. With that kind of longevity, he must show up on time, be pleasant to work with and knows his lines :-).

    The open garden looks quit nice. But, I wished for more pictures. I wanted to see the Hobbit’s house and ruin. Then I blew up the one pic and realized it was the Hobbit’s house. Hmmm. I don’t remember twee rabbits or, for that mater, trucks in Lord of the Rings. :-).

    No frost yet, but the fog is so thick this morning that visibility is less than a city block.

    I finished the Ravenmaster book, last night. What a delight. He’s very committed to keeping the ravens as “wild” as possible. No teaching them to talk or training them to perform tricks. But they are smart. One of the ravens enjoys giving him a turn by occasionally playing dead. Lays very still on her back with her feet in the air.

    I pottered about the garden, a bit, yesterday. Put the mason bees to bed in a box for the winter. Picked a small bucket of tomatoes. Hacked up some more of the larger biomass, so it breaks down faster. Pulled a few weeds. Lew

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