6am has never been my friend

During the Christmas period I thought about family and what that all meant. And honestly, I can’t say that I’m any wiser on the subject.

My dad left when I was a very young kid. He was there one day, and the next he was gone. It was all really a bit of a mystery to me.

My grandmother (my dads mother) used to take us kids in over the summer holidays to give my mum a break. One day as a gift, my grandmother, who was excellent at making things, made me a stuffed toy Otter. My dad was still around in those days and although I’d never seen an otter, and probably never will, I now had a stuffed toy Otter. Kids didn’t have a lot of stuff in those days. And so I used to take it to bed with me at night.

My one memory of my dad at home was of him and my mother sitting in the backyard drinking, near to an incinerator. In those days, enlightened folks used to burn off their rubbish in a backyard incinerator. Everyone did it. But I recall that my dad was telling me to throw the stuffed toy Otter into the incinerator. I can’t recall his exact words, because I was only four or five, but I reckon he may have been telling me that the act: ‘would make a man of me’. I’m not much of man, because despite getting close to the incinerator as instructed, I ran away crying with the Otter clutched tightly to my chest.

After my dad left, we moved around a bit, staying here and there for a year or so. Eventually my mum managed to buy a town house, and we were able to stop moving around, which suited me because it meant I didn’t have to go to a new school.

My mum got remarried to an Irish – Australian bloke. He wasn’t far off a cliché, because when he was fun, he was a whole lot of fun, but then there were the dark moments. He eventually left too, leaving a lot of debt in his wake from a failed business.

I never really liked the guy, and he knew it. He made my life hell, and as an eight year old or so, he’d got this idea in his head that because I didn’t like him I must have been gay. And from that moment on he used to call me by the name “poofter”. He was a real charmer that bloke. My two older sisters read the situation correctly and knew that it was either them or me, and so they got in on the act too, and called me that name, for years.

After that bloke left, life was never the same for me. Patterns had been set, and my older sisters enjoyed the delicious taste that comes from dark ways, and they never let up on me.

The day he left was a relief, and after that time my grandfather (my mum’s dad), took me under his wing. I genuinely liked the old bloke, but never knew him as an adult, which was a bit of a shame. He was a complex old bloke, and was in some ways harsh, but in most ways he was firm but fair. He’d lead a very interesting life himself which unexpectedly had begun on a farm during the Great Depression, where he was raised by his grandmother. I think he empathised with my situation. His greatest fear was that of being put on the shelf, and so within weeks of his retirement, he promptly died and that was that.

I’m preternaturally an upbeat person, which means that I’m just not wired to get down about how things played out. So I simply played the cards that I’d been dealt whilst thinking long and hard about how to get a bit of distance between the family and myself.

That was when I discovered that in order to get a bit of distance, you needed some mad cash. Mad cash was not forthcoming from my mum, so I got a job doing the morning delivery of newspapers. Despite me never enjoying early mornings, I found myself regularly up and about on my pushbike in the pre-dawn murk in search of mad cash.

Then I scored a second newspaper delivery round. And then there were chemist prescription delivery rounds after school. I was barely old enough to have double digits to my age, and I was rolling in mad cash. I ran wild and did my own thing, hung out with friends, and thought my own thoughts, which is a rare opportunity for a young bloke.

I learned some good lessons during that time such as: Arcade games are addictive and you never win; and also, Building Societies in those days could collapse and make your deposit disappear. Yup, fun times!

But one of the main lessons that I took away from all of the drama was that the social arrangements that lead to the sorts of experiences that I lived through were at best dysfunctional, and at worst, completely bonkers.

Last year a friend (who has since moved overseas), loaned me a first edition copy of the 1972 book: ‘Limits to Growth’. It was a fascinating read as the authors used a computer model to plot and discuss the interactions of: “population, food production, industrialization, pollution, and the consumption of nonrenewable natural resources”, under various scenarios.

The conclusions of the book were frankly not good, but hardly surprising. However, it was the tone of the book that struck me as being a bit odd. The book read like a high school text book: Here are the facts as we see them, for you to consume and consider. It was all very clinical and detached as if the discussion and analysis were happening to someone else on another planet. I had a different perspective from the authors, because I already knew that it was the dysfunctional social arrangements that lead to where the authors reckon we are headed.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Last week was quite warm to hot. One day the temperature outside in the shade reached 42’C / 108’F. That day the air temperature inside the house reached 27’C / 81’F which is still quite hot, but more pleasant than outside!

Outside 42’C / 108’F and inside 26’C / 79’F. A very hot day

Later that evening a cool change swept across the south eastern corner of the continent, and it even brought a tiny bit of rain with it. The frogs were jumping all over the veranda because they loved the cooler temperatures and the sudden increase in humidity.

A Southern Brown Tree Frog hunts insects at night

Despite the heat and unrelenting sun, we managed to construct another steel rock gabion. It is now waiting to be filled with rocks. We do hope that the dreaded Peak Rocks is still far off into the future.

Another steel rock gabion cage was constructed and placed into the wall this week

Hot weather is excellent for harvesting the supply of winter firewood. There is no point trying to burn wet firewood, and the summer heat dries the seasoned timber out beautifully.

The first activity was to cut, split and stack the firewood. This year most of the firewood has come from wind fallen timber which has been sitting around the farm for a few years. Two days of work produced this (in the next photo) most excellent pile of firewood. The Dirt Rat Suzuki and bright yellow trailer were then used to bring the firewood back up hill one trailer load at a time.

Two days of cutting, splitting, and stacking produced this pile of firewood

It takes us about five to six hours of work to neatly relocate and stack about half a months supply of firewood in one of the two firewood sheds.

We’ve stored about two months supply of firewood. I look hot and dirty

After another day of cutting and splitting, the firewood piles which are waiting to be brought uphill look like this:

Another day of cutting and splitting replenished the firewood piles that needs to be brought uphill

Alert readers will note that firewood is without doubt the most time consuming regular job that we have to do each year.

For about a dozen years I have sharpened the teeth on the chainsaw chains by hand. It is not a particularly time consuming job. However, it can require a bit of physical effort, and the end of a long day working with firewood I’m tired, but I also want to put the chainsaw away sharp. I bought a super nifty electric chainsaw chain sharpener. And I’m very happy with it!

The author is super happy with his new electric chainsaw chain sharpener

Spare a thought for the poor Sir Scruffy because this week he has not been feeling well at all. He’s now slowly recovering from his illness, but has become a bit leaky. That is not a good sign as to his longevity.

Sir Scruffy the leaky gets an encouraging and enjoyable head scratch

In breaking produce news:

As the summer heat is increasing Raspberries are coming to an end, but very soon Blackberries will be ripe
One night we headed into the garden in search of produce to chuck in dinner, and this is what we harvested. The strawberry was eaten prior to dinner being prepared
The first of the seasons tomatoes (which are still far from ripe)
The tomatoes are growing strongly
Capsicum and Chilli’s are also growing strongly this week
Gooseberries for breakfast and Black Currants for wine making. Yum!
Some of the corn have produced tassels (male flowers) and silks (female flowers)
A branch on the Anzac peach tree broke in a gust of heavy wind, and we now have two buckets full of slightly unripe (but tasty) peaches. Peach wine anyone?
Three kiwi vines have produced one kiwi. An impressive achievement
The few apricots that escaped the many late season frosts are now close to ripe
A true find. These are the very first persimmons that the trees have produced

Onto the flowers:

Leek flowers with a view! Different from leaky Sir Scruffy.
Some of the first of the seasons Agapanthus flowers
Blue Hydrangeas enjoy the shade of an Elderberry and Japanese maple
Evening Primrose love hot weather
Likewise Salvia’s also enjoy hot weather
The first Feijoa flowers (the plants produce tasty fruit) seen here
How perfect is this rose?

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 12’C (54’F). So far this year there has been 2.2mm (0.1 inches). Last years rainfall total was 949.0mm (37.4 inches), which is above average.

85 thoughts on “6am has never been my friend”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Sorry to hear about Sir Scruffy – please pass along a head scratch for me!

    6am can be tough can’t it – I had to get up today at 630am in order to go to work. After a two week break – the struggle is real! Although not as bad as the 5am starts when working in the mine.

    I am intrigued by your linking of social arrangements to unsustainable resource use. Are you able to expand upon that at all? I have struggled to come up with a hypothetical societal arrangement that is truly long term sustainable. I spent a lot of time thinking about it for a couple of the short stories I wrote. I asked myself how would a future society learn from our mistakes and what policies or social arrangements would they make to ensure long term stability?

    In nature, predators and natural disasters keep populations in check (except when it doesn’t e.g. kangaroo population boom/bust cycles) and I wonder if that is the only thing that will work for humans. The main problem as I see it, you could have a society create a great set of rules and sustainable choices. But it only takes one group to decide taking that short-term sugar hit of fast resource use to wipe them out.

    Benign dictatorship by powerful alien perhaps? This was more or less the premise of the 4th Dune book.


  2. @DJSpo

    I never ran much, but like you, I also did some knee damage downhill skiing. Interesting noises come from my right knee when I stand up from a crouch now. Maybe it comes for us no matter what we do!


  3. Hi Lew,

    Hmm, an amphibious assault on the Isle of Wight could be productive. Lots of loot opportunity I hear, surely they don’t have a navy!

    I went to a small country high school (all white as well) and I can’t think of any equivalent to the FFA. Maybe the closest was Pony Club. Landed gentry could send their kids to weekend camps with the large, expensive animals in tow. Lots of fancy jackets as well! Of course, back then, in that part of the world, a lot of people had at least some land to keep a horse or two so it wasn’t that exclusive.

    I can’t one-up you on the Wontons, but I am suitably impressed 🙂 Your food CV theory seems legit to me – I have no desire to make filo on a regular basis, but I will be bringing it up for sure if someone tries to “out-foodie” me and the home-brew beer doesn’t impress!

    Season 2 of the Orville is up and running. Same as season 1. I still like it, although it is more like the “comfort food” of TV, then “great TV” if that makes sense.


  4. Hi Marg,

    Mrs Damo used to do the “Boot Scootin Boogie” dance (slightly different from what I found on youtube though – an Australian variant perhaps?) and knows the “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” song! If we go again, I will have to make sure we go to a country bar so she can impress the locals 🙂


  5. Hi Chris, if your persimmons are the crunchy ones, then I can’t help, but if they’re the ones you eat when they’re soft and ripe, then you’re in for a treat (you’ll never find this variety in the shops for obvious reasons). This is the variety I have.
    I discovered last year that I can pick them as soon as they get a bit of colour and they will ripen inside. The leaves will still be on the tree at this stage and that helps to hide them from the ubiquitous birds. They need to be sort of soft and squishy when they’re ready to be eaten. The way I eat them is to cut off the top and spoon out the insides. The texture is like rich apricot jam. Enjoy!

  6. Hi Steve,

    I note that you have a new blog entry which I hope to get to read later this evening. I’m always impressed with the goings on at your place, and am curious to know if you are observing the solar panel output during your winter?

    Mate, it is the same thing here with summer nights. Most nights we simply chuck the overhead ceiling fan on, or open the window (which has a very heavy duty stainless steel mesh covering it). A lot of pollution and huge bills are created in the name of comfort.

    The sake has been a long story of experimentation which we now have down pat. I may one day even experiment with growing dry land rice. The yeast / bacteria mix is easily bought down here at Asian supermarkets (which the city has quite a few), but you could get them mail order. I’m not sure what they are called, but I describe them to the shopkeepers as “yeast balls”, and they are some sort of Asian dessert and look about what you’d expect them to look like. The trick with sake is to use medium grain rice which has an extraordinarily high amount of sugar, and then keep the brew out of the light and below 23’C / 73’F. Instructions for making the stuff are really unnecessarily convoluted and full of mysticism, but those are the basics. And the brew we make has been universally acclaimed with taste testers, which is almost unheard of for other brews, even folks who don’t normally drink enjoy the stuff.

    At a guess the alcohol percentage is somewhere between: 15% to 18%.



  7. Hi Pam,

    Ollie sends greetings to you and yours. He’s on the green couch behind me right now and he is wrapped up in a small curl with his face resting on his tail and back legs. Sometimes he reminds me of the sleeping Smaug the dragon of ‘The Hobbit’ fame. I just chucked Scritchy on the couch with him and he now looks less peaceful although I have no idea why. 🙂

    The weather has been all over the shop lately, and I forgot to mention in the blog story that we’d been getting up early recently to harvest the firewood. Early mornings, what are they good for, absolutely nothing, say it again! We’re hoping to beat the heat (that rhymes!), but after 1pm the sun is just intense regardless of the air temperature.

    Isn’t it funny the difference that half a world away makes? I’d like summer shade over the house from well established trees, but I have to weigh that benefit up against the fire risk. So we went with heavy insulation all over the house and thicker wall cavities instead.

    I see your neighbours story playing out down here too, and to be candid, other than a space buffer, I have no idea why the people would want to live in a rural area and not make use of the land around them. I’d intended to write about that this week, but perhaps the vagaries of the weather blew my mind in other directions. Anyway my school report cards always read: Chris is a good student, but easily distracted. Sad but true. Hopefully the teachers did not report such frank opinions upon your own conduct?

    He was incredibly lucky to have recovered from that accident and enjoy the in-between years. Many do not have that chance. I stopped riding motorbikes after I had the strange feeling that I’d used up the last of my nine lives. Does a person need to be told a second time? Maybe?

    So far, so good with the water! And did you notice how green the paddock / meadow / herbage or whatever anyone wants to call it looks? Bonkers for this time of year. Am I complaining, heck no! 🙂

    Well, your suggestion about the self propelled mower concept was one of the lines of thought that had occurred to me too. What can I say other than Great Minds! 🙂

    Sir Scruffy appreciates your thoughts, and he is looking better today, although none can escape the greed of time.



  8. Hi Lewis,

    Good luck with the weather and storms, but when Cliff Mass writes “You think stormfest is over? No way!”, well let’s just say that I’d sit up and take notice (and cover)! There is something that is quite exciting about a big storm, and I’ve never seen a low pressure system here that has a centre of 978 hPa. Mostly when the weather station reports air pressure below 1,000 hPa here, I kind of begin to worry about how the systems will cope with the onslaught.

    Today was warm and the air was still. We got up early, thus my unhappiness about 6am, and cut and split more firewood. I’m beginning to think that maybe the firewood job will be done before the end of the month. Maybe? Never before have so few achieved so much…

    Bring on the next one. I applaud your fortitude and strength of character, but weren’t you also the person who tutored me about how hubris leads to nemesis?

    Yum! I just ate a falafel burger where we’d made the falafels and the bread from scratch. Awesome, and fresh coriander is to be had out in the garden. It always goes to seed at about this time of the year, only to return for a few brief months in every summer. The many Basil plants are slowly starting to grow too and it is a hard thing to not eat a plant to death…

    You might be onto something with the tetanus shot, and for some reason I missed out on the TB shot too. I may have to rectify that minor oversight. I wonder if those bacteria adapt over time? Now that I think about it, I don’t really know much about them at all and should remedy that.

    Who would have thought that even Roman Emperors had a sense of humour? But yeah, the dogs taught me that graves must be deep. It was a very unpleasant, and also hard to forget experience getting to enjoy my well loved but rather deceased cat again after it had been dead for a few days. I can see how Stephen King came up with the story line for Pet Semetary. As an interesting side note, we spell ‘Semetary’ as ‘Cemetery’ and I never quite figured out the correct spelling for the title of the book. Surely there is a story there?

    Which got me thinking about The Ramones song of the same name. So I thought I’d go and check it out and an advertisement came up for a Grammar checker. What the… ? Talk about making everyone sound the same. Pah! Have you ever come across such a software beast? What a horrid concept.

    The Gongshi are really cool and I can understand the appeal. Absolutely too. Didn’t tribal fetishes increase in manna depending upon the fortunes of the owner/s? After several generations they could be potent forces. Unless of course they left their owner in an awkward spot of bother, but then, wouldn’t the owner also have to claim the mantle of the manna? It is all very complicated.

    Hope you are enjoying the blue flowers? The French Lalique glass was a serious score. He did some interesting work that bloke, and I particularly enjoyed the Rolls-Royce hood emblem, but frankly if I owned it, I’d be very nervous that someone would knock the emblem off. It happens. That was one of the undocumented downsides of owning the old Porsche. Not many cars are attractive to the eye and also beautifully engineered, but that car was. And it attracted trouble of the most unusual variety. Anyway, it was the editors idea, I thought that an old MGB would be more suitable as I could have worked on it and kept it maintained due to its simpler nature. Oh well.

    Oh yeah, ‘heart warming’ sucks! I hear you, and if I want my heart warmed, I just head outside and process firewood for several hours. That’ll do it. But animal films make me teary regardless, because you know at the end of the film Old Yella is going to have to be shot dead. I just can’t do them.

    Nothing wrong with that stuff as a fertiliser. Hehe! I’m not entirely sure, but the corn plants really do better grown in a block. I mean you could grow them in a row, but I suspect fertilisation is better in a block form. Time and time again I’ve read that the pollen spreads over enormous distances via the action of the wind, but the pollen looks heavier than that to my eyes. Anyway, what do I know, as it is only the second season for that particular plant.

    Far out. That story about the declining number of people working in agriculture is like a horror story. And what drives me bonkers is that every time the government talks about ‘drought assistance’, all they seem to be offering is loans. They call them concessional loans, which is a fancy name for cheap loans, but a loan is still a loan in anyone’s language. Any business that is in trouble and takes on debt or more debt is in for a very difficult future. And I do wonder how the mechanisation will cope with any shortage of fuel as most of it would probably run on diesel? A lot can happen in hundred years down here too.

    Gaius Julius Caesar was a force to be reckoned with, no doubts about it. Some people stand tall throughout the ages, and are we not speaking of him, all these millennia later?

    You’ve mentioned that about the tides drifting Japanese artefacts onto your beaches. Imagine if that occurred prior to European settlement of the area, and it makes you wonder what the locals would have made of the stuff washing up on their shores?

    My best guess is temporal anomaly for both the girls and the crew of the Mary Celeste. What else can explain the situation? But alien’s of course should never be ruled out! Hehe! Thanks for the laughs. They both probably made some seriously bad calls…

    Cheesy muffins sound nice. Hey they make bread buns down here with cheesy bacon toppings and I have to admit that they’re pretty tasty. Nothing is finer than a good sharp cheddar. When the Green Wizards visited last year, we served them good King Island vintage cheddar cheese, and it disappeared on freshly baked bread very quickly. I managed to enjoy a bite of the cheese myself, but had neglected it on the day. A thoroughly lost fooding opportunity.



  9. Hi Damo,

    Many thanks, and Sir Scruffy the elder sends his regards.

    No way! Seriously? Do people really get up at 5am? It is absolutely shocking and just not cricket! Two words: Good Luck!

    > struggled to come up with a hypothetical societal arrangement that is truly long term sustainable

    Well I could, but you might not like it! No seriously, you wouldn’t like it. Well down under it is a fragile environment, and one thoroughly tested possibility is that you have to incorporate the many rules into your religion and way of life. And then you have to enforce those rules by the threat that your very soul is at peril if you don’t abide by the rules and strictures. Accept limits – fancy that? Then everyone has to be made responsible for one aspect of the environment at whatever level – and the acceptance is deep almost akin to that of family. Then you have to help out your neighbouring tribe if they get into strife, but also thump the daylights out of them if they ignore commonly agreed to boundaries and rules. Then you have to accept limits, and maybe it wouldn’t go astray if we actually abided by the limits. It is a complicated world…

    Historically, we blundered into a country that was so well setup, over so many millennia ,that we failed to even notice how good it all was. And then we have to put all other concerns to the side as managing the environment becomes the foremost concern of everybody. That is one possible future.

    I told you, you wouldn’t like it!

    Hey, I quite liked the Dune books. 🙂



  10. Hi Bev,

    Thanks for the comment, but I’m seriously busting to ask you whether you ever worked out how to tell whether your macqui berry was a male or female plant? Mine is about three years old now and it grew small black berries earlier this season (about the size of a black currant), but they have since shriveled up and mostly fallen off. What is your opinion about this matter?

    I reckon the persimmon is a Fuyu variety which is crunchy at first but then becomes gelatinous as it ripens. They’re meant to be quite tasty. Your description of the fruit has piqued my interest and I’ll keep you updated. Incidentally, how old is your tree? The wallabies have been most unkind to this particular tree.



  11. Hello Chris
    The little frog is very sweet. I found that account of your childhood interesting not all that dissimilar to mine as my father died when I was 5 1/2 and my stepfather arrived when I was 7 1/2. The ‘poofter’ label was downright cruel and I am surprised that your sisters echoed it. Although my sister and I did not get on at all when young, I as the elder, fought anyone who attacked her.
    To comment on some past topics:- I think that a decision whether or not to have children is a matter for the people concerned and no one else’s business at all. The selfish argument can apply either way on an over populated planet.
    Whether or not to have an apprentice of a different sex again has to be an individual decision. I would not have considered it a problem but then I have always had more male than female friends, having tended to get on better with men than with women. This was so much so that I raised the subject before I married my husband as I was not about to ditch my friends.

    Selling land on my part is a convoluted effort to deal with capital gains tax and future inheritance tax. There is also something called (I think) retaining benefit in kind. Son, who is financially hopeless with no thought for the morrow always refuses to comment on what I do in this respect as it is my land. However there is a boundary question of which I was unsure. He has helped me settle that. I should add that his financial lack of thought is combined with being an incredibly nice person. He would give one his last penny even if he was starving. I on the other hand, would not.


  12. Chris and Lew,

    Who can forget the Roman emperor Titus’s terrific last words, “I have made but one mistake”. That has driven scholars crazy for millennia arguing over what exactly, one of the most celebrated leaders in modern history, thought was a mistake. Personally, I think he was trolling and knew exactly what final words like that would do 🙂


  13. Hi Chris,

    I agree, some sort of hunter-gather society + basic agriculture with a strong emphasis on deep-time and land custodianship may be stable in the long term. To play devils advocate though, what evidence do we have that they were not subject to the same boom/bust cycles that plagued the all the other human populations on this planet?*

    And, if it did actually work (which I tend to agree with you that it did), is it transferable to any other land masses on Earth? Australia is massive, and mostly inhospitable. Did this play a part in protecting Aboriginal culture from invasion of more resource intensive societies? Or even stopping a rogue Aboriginal tribe (for want of a better term) from temporarily dominating?

    For myself, I find it hard to believe such an approach would work anywhere that can support modestly dense populations. At least when intense agriculture allows charismatic psychopaths (aka noble leaders) to amass resources and expand. But what a fascinating topic for discussion, I love what if scenarios 🙂


    *I genuinely don’t know the answer to this. I have learnt more about Aboriginal culture from national park information displays then I ever did in history class at high school. Personally, I am very keen to get that “worlds largest estate” book to expand my knowledge.

  14. @ Damo,

    Hmmm, it’s my right knee that got gobsmacked skiing as well. If I do the wrong thing or crouch for too long, my knee sounds like a bowl of Rice Crispies cereal: “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”


  15. @ Damo – Well, I am suitably impressed that you made filo dough. Something I’ve never attempted. I think the Holy Grail of doughs might be strudel dough. All that folding of paper thin layers and smearing butter between each layer. Or, pizza dough that you can sling about in the air, while rotating the whole thing.

    I’m quit looking forward to season two of “Orville.” It will be about a year before the library gets it. “Comfort food” of TV. I know what you mean, but no example comes to mind. Enough same, same, to be predictable, with a few surprises thrown in. But not surprise enough to run the whole thing off the rails.

    Speaking of comfort food, late the other night I ran off the rails. BOXED mac and cheese. Of course, I tarted it up. Garlic, mushrooms and a bit of green veg. Still, I am sooo ashamed :-). My only defense is, I’ve been a bit under the weather (cold.) Lew

  16. Chris,

    A couple of questions you asked that I’m now getting a chance to answer.

    1) The hot, hot day of the family feast. Yes, I thought at the time that I was doing quite well, and that the heat hadn’t made me silly or grumpy or anything either that day or the next. My wife confirms that I was “no loonier than usual”. So I guess all of the things we did during and after the heat worked.

    2) The firewood in my driveway. We had one vehicle at the time. It was in the garage at the to of the driveway. We had plans the next day, requiring that the whole enchilada get stacked in one day. The distance to move the wood was 20 to 30 meters, but it was just a LOT of wood and it was hot.

    I feel your pain about early rising, but sometimes that’s the only way to get things done in the heat. I arise at about 5:30 each morning to get ready for the office, arriving at 7:00 a.m. I work an extra hour most days, so that I can have a “free” day off every 2 weeks. I tells ya, 5:30 a.m. hurts.

    Thanks for the story of your past. So, have you found that you consciously made the decision to get yourself together and make something of yourself, rather than wallow in the muck of how your youth was “unrewarding” from a typical middle class point of view? Reason I ask is that I know many people who had family situations and stories similar to yours. Most of these acquaintances allowed the circumstances to get them down and keep them down for life, while they complain about how everything is someone else’s fault. Then they tend to project their inadequacies and venom onto most everyone else. A few decided to make some mental and attitudinal changes so that they could adapt, grow and get on with living.

    I’m getting the same wind storms that Lewis is, by the way. They’ve decreased somewhat by the time they hit here, so the damage 450 km inland has been minimal. So far. (I’d knock on wood at this point but tapping my head that way gives me a headache.) With the winds and the very warm (for early January) temperatures, it really feels like early March.


  17. Yo, Chris – Family? Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? :-). A lot of us had horrible experiences growing up. But, on the plus side (?) it makes us who we are. Some people think family is going to change, or, there will be some big pay off (emotionally or financially). They stick it out. But, like you, I always knew I wanted to leave and put a good deal of distance between me and them. Hence, leaving home the morning of my 18th birthday.

    Maybe it was the Tolstoy quote, but another thought I had was, I think, early on, you realize other families are not like yours (and, not just necessarily the intact ones). I have such a clear memory of being 8 or 9 and walking into the living room of a buddy. Mum and Dad were having a little pre-dinner cuddle on the couch. Nothing untoward. Just radiating warmth and affection. Something I didn’t see at home. Thinking back, I gravitated to friends who had families like that. That’s where I spent my time, away from home.

    The gabion, the firewood. Busy, busy, busy! But then, you’re getting into summer. Not that you’re slackers in the winter :-). As someone once observed about computers, not less work, just different.

    An electric chain saw sharpener. What will they think of next? Sliced bread? It took me awhile to wrap my head around all you’re electric machines, until I finally “got it” that there things that are useful in summer, when you’re more awash in solar power. I’ll have to ask my logger friends if we have such things, here. My guess is, given that chain saw sharpening (by hand) is viewed as a highly developed skill and art. The old dudes probably look a bit sideways, and think “lazy.” Or, maybe not. They can be fascinated with gizmos … how things work. And there’s probably endless hours of discussing care, feeding and which brand is “best.” LOL. But I’d also guess when things get a bit fraught on the home front, the hand sharpening might provide a convenient exit strategy. “Gotta go out to the shed and sharpen the chain saws.”

    Well, you’re fruit and veg is, for the most part, banging along. How tall is your corn? Yeah, better to grow in a block for pollination. I worried about them not getting enough sun, but then, commercial fields are packed tight. Every once in awhile, if there wasn’t too much wind, I’d give them a gentle shake, to maybe spread a bit more pollen. Don’t know if it did anything, but made me feel better.

    The Agapanthus is a knock out. I looked it up to see if I could grow it here. Probably. With full sun. But, the first dozen or so articles were all about how poisonous it is. Seemed a bit over the top. And, who knows. Might be handy to have something a bit lethal, laying around. :-). Next time I’m in the garden store, I’ll have to see if they carry any. Seed or bulb?

    Bacteria reproduces rapidly. So, evolution is speeded up. Compared to us, or a lot of other things. An interesting idea to think about. The difference in evolutionary speeds, depending on species. Us, about 20 years. A lot of plants and animals, yearly. There’s a lot of accident and opportunity, involved. Cont.

  18. Cont. Several high end car makers make their hood ornaments detachable. For security sake. Yeah, Lalique glass is really nice, but it’s usually pretty expensive and there are a lot of reproductions floating around.

    Yes, it took me awhile to figure out that a lot of “disaster relief” amounted to loans. Always touted as “low-interest.” But still, loans. And, I just thought of something. Adjustable loan rates? From time to time, you hear here about “government small business loans.” I looked into them, a time or two. Never got one. I discovered you could either get them with fixed, or, adjustable rates. And, there were lots of horror stories about multi-generational restaurants that bit the dust when the rates went up. Usually, they had taken out the loans for upgrades and improvements.

    I don’t know why, but I checked last night to see if the “mates in the shed” on building show had made YouTube, yet. I found it! Season 7, Episode 10. But, I’ll need to search “Daylesford.” Anyway. I only watched the first five minutes. Long enough to see you fooling around among the chickens and goats :-). It was late, and I’ll have to find a time to settle in and give it a good watch. Also, the episode I found had really poor picture quality, so, I’ll see if I can find a better version.

    I gave my Jerusalem artichokes, a whirl. They don’t need to be pealed, just a good scrub. I diced them up into about 1/2″ cubes. I usually nuke a small bowl of the hard or frozen things for about 3.5 minutes. Then I put them in the veg/rice mess that I make. Flavor? Well raw, they’re a bit bland. Reports are that they are “nutty.” I don’t know about that. Then another 7 minutes in the nuker. Glad I did. They still had a bit of a crunch. But what they do, is take on the flavors around them. Quit nice.

    It’s official, I have a cold. It took a quick tour through my nose and lungs, and seems to have settled into being a sore throat. Not too bad. I’ve had worse. So, I’m sleeping a lot and eating more of what I want, not what I should :-).

    “Preternaturally upbeat person”. But you don’t come bounding out the the sack at 5AM? :-). Lew

  19. Huh! Good God y’all! I loved the reference to an old Motown favorite of mine in your comment to Pam. Funny how our musical favorites seem to lock in during those young years. War(what is it good for) was definitely a fav. at the time, and still is.

    On a more serious note- That was some serious sharing on your early life, what ever scars you might have seem to have healed over well. The old Tolstoy quote holds true, but when my wife and I compare notes on our respective families, we modify it to ” each dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way”.

    Regarding the solar array: setting a slope for the panels is a compromise, as it will be off perpendicular to the sun most of the time, and you just pick a best average. Also, since I am still grid tied, I have different criteria than you. I simply want to maximize annual production. If I ever go off grid, maybe I need to look at changing things to catch a bit more in the winter? Anyway, my daily peak production in the summer can be up around 33 kWh, but right now a clear day will max around 23 kWh. In addition, we get long stretches of cloudy weather in fall/winter, so weekly and monthly production suffer even more in comparison to summer. ( yesterday I got less than one half kWh production).

  20. Hi Inge,

    The tree frogs are great aren’t they? And I’m genuinely surprised at how adaptable a lot of the flora and fauna here is to very hot and dry weather. You would think that frogs would require a lot of fresh water, but not so.

    That is an eerily similar experience isn’t it? The funny thing is that the word ‘family’ now means blood relatives as well as spouses, but when times were more complicated (major wars and the Great Depression come to mind etc.) the definition was much more extensive. I’m unsure why the definition has changed recently, but it must mean something, maybe?

    Thanks, he was a bit of a cruel person, and I don’t know where he was going at all with that taunt. As a kid I had little idea what he was actually talking about, but I knew it wasn’t good. Such a thing is more about him than me anyway. I kept (and still do keep) my distance from all of them, but you know I have sympathy for them because they were so broken and damaged themselves. It certainly provided a good example of what not to do in life, and I feel that the distance allowed me to wend my way through the morass of ugliness with a level of good grace.

    You were exceedingly thoughtful to defend your sister against potential attackers.

    My experience hard wired me to a level of self resilience that is probably a bit extreme, but I dunno, it is a good tool to have too. The editor is quite similar in that regard and it does make us also very self motivated, which is probably the right approach to living in a place and time like this. I worry about the lack of motivation in others as it makes me a bit uncomfortable, but who knows, they might be on the right track and we’re off by a country mile. Dunno.

    No inheritance taxes down here. I can’t offer any legal advice because that is not my area, but have you considered a: Testamentary trust? Dunno.



  21. Hi Damo,

    How cool was that final mystery chucked out by the Roman emperor Titus? Of course he knew what he was doing, the cheeky scamp. 🙂 Anyway, I know and I’m not telling! Which is about as meaningful an answer as 42 or some such rubbish! Funny stuff, I’ll bet he thought of himself as the master of puppets… If you wanted to be cool at such a time just yawn, look bored, throw in a pregnant pause just for emphasis and to waste time, and then say: “what did you say?”

    What evidence? Well the loss of the megafauna on this continent is probably a good bit of evidence. Then the transition of dry adapted rainforest covering a third of the continent, into more than what it is now. Some of the people up in the north west simply died out and disappeared. The population on Kangaroo Island certainly died out. You know, I’m not sure, but there is a deep lesson to be learned for societies that completely stuff things up and then have to fix them (or at least manage them in a rear guard action).

    It probably isn’t transferable to other continents because they have other problems and opportunities that we won’t be able to manage. There were cannibals where you are now, not all that long ago.

    There has to be a well understood and recognised rigidity in such a society, and aberrations have to be dealt with. It is frankly a very harsh society compared to what we enjoy now, but the freedoms in some ways are enormous, and oral traditions and the arts would probably far exceed what we can do today.

    But yeah, you can almost imagine a fleet of Chinese junks arriving to invade. But wars have to have an economic return otherwise they bleed a kingdom dry, and if there is not much there and the natives are actively hostile it is no easy experience for the invaders. And you have to remember that one advantage the Europeans had was that communicable diseases wiped out 90% of the indigenous population, so it was not like they were fighting off a fit and ready population. And we have different plants and animals on the continent now.

    But also remember how much effort the Romans spent subduing the German barbarians and the Celts to the west. The economic return was low and so eventually the centre couldn’t hold.

    The soils were excellent when Europeans arrived too, but we have not been good to them since and intensive agriculture requires good soils. Like really good soils – and there aren’t many places left on the planet with those that can be economically farmed.

    Dunno, what do you reckon about all that? You raise some fascinating points.



  22. Hi Lewis,

    Sorry mate. I picked up a lot of extra readers last week, for some unknown reason and they had to be disposed of. 😉 A mate of mine once described me as a brutal pragmatist, and maybe it is true.

    But yeah family, can’t live with ’em pass me the beer nuts – that was an adapted quote from ‘Cheers’. And I think Norm may have made that remark, and for some reason it always stuck with me. Oh well.

    It does make us who we are today doesn’t it? And you learn how to have good grace by watching people around you just be totally dysfunctional and horrid and then deciding to do something different. I have no desire to mirror their ugliness, and I have only experienced good grace from yourself so you also have clearly risen above their murk.

    They don’t change do they? If anything time embeds the worst aspects of some peoples personalities. My grandfather asked me if I’d be so kind as to spend effort fix them all (about a week before he died), and I just had to let him down gently, I mean he couldn’t manage the task and had more than a bit of involvement in it, so how could I?

    Yeah me too, the benefit of being an adult is walking out the door of the family home and making something of your life. I am curious that people stay at home so long nowadays as young adults and I’m not criticising them because there are many economic barriers chucked in their way, but I do wonder about that matter. Is that happening in your part of the world too, and I was curious to know if you knew whether this was some sort of return to historical norms?

    Yeah, you get that realisation about other families that seem together and warm and seem to bask in each others company. It is nice to see isn’t it? And yeah, like you I hung out with friends and the contrast was stark enough that the implications could not be avoided – I mean you play the hand you are dealt with as best as possible. I sort of feel sorry for my lot because they’re broken and dysfunctional and the techniques I learned to adapt to that, well I’ve used them to heal groups and people that I have been involved with. And over the years I learned how to avoid people who were actively cruel or evil. That knack has paid me well over the years, and they stand out to me like a sort of a blip on a radar. I’m sure it is just me observing their mannerisms or interactions with other people that alerts me to them. Some people give me the chills if I encounter them in passing.

    Hehe! I laughed about the computer quote. So true. I may have mentioned that I’m old enough to have seen a large-ish business that ran their accounts entirely on paper. And I moved them to a computer based system – and we still had the same number of staff, but the demands bizarrely became greater. Go figure that one out, but I saw that and had a hand in it. Bonkers.

    So much electricity during this time of year but, so little to do with it! I know how to sharpen a chainsaw manually with a file, back to front, front to back, and then also inside out, and maybe even inside out and back to front (is that actually possible?) And I have dozen or so files for the job and can do it accurately without putting much thought into the process. That is what you get for a dozen years of practice. But if I can cut myself (no pun intended) a bit of slack at this time of year, well why not? And the sharpener that I picked up is so well made that it is amazing. Some machines are like that and they haven’t always been affordable items. Some stuff is being dumped down here for sure. It is very odd but perhaps not unexpected.

    Ouch! The logger dudes would be very unimpressed with the electric sharpener, and say that the machine takes too much metal off the chain. And they’d be right too. The old dude that taught me all about chainsaws for two solid days would probably attempt to cuff me around the skull – in a friendly manner of course noting that I was definitely the beta male – and then he’d proceed to tell me how abominably lazy I was. And he might be right. Oh well, let’s not tell them, shall we? Hehe!

    Your guess was spot on too. Much talk goes on around the campfire about which brand is best. Most of them are OK, some are better than others. I tend to go for quality and longevity first and foremost, but I’m a stickler for such things.

    Haha! Yah, the convenient exit strategy. I’ve heard of those!!! Funny stuff. It is funny you mention that, but the editor and I enjoy our time together, but we also schedule time to do our own thing, like this here blog for example. 🙂 Speaking of which, I was really chuffed with Mr Kunstler’s blog this week. Extraordinary writing and I could learn a thing or two from that essay. I must drop a comment of appreciation over there tomorrow evening. Worked in the Big Smoke today, although I’m meant to be on holidays this week but have ended up working two days. That is small business for you.

    Thanks. Breakfasts are particularly good at the moment, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming blackberry harvest. The corn is about five feet now, but some of the corn germinated late and is much smaller, so I can’t really know how well the cobs will set until the season has finished – it is one of the reasons people grow hybrid varieties as they are more consistent in their growth patterns. They are better plants the hybrids, but they are also less resilient, so there are costs as well as benefits. But I’ll select kernels from all of the best cobs later in the year for next summer planting. I’d never considered giving the plants a shake to spread the pollen. A great idea, thanks.

    Are the Agapanthus poisonous? I didn’t know that, so I guess I better not eat them. Mind you, daffodils are pretty toxic too and so it is probably best not to eat them either. And rhubarb leaves are toxic too, although I know of a dog that was hungry enough once to eat some and he survived the experience without a hiccup. Caution is advised, but paranoia is best left well alone. I had someone a while back telling me that hellebores were toxic too. So don’t eat them seems to be good advice, but you know fools rush in and all that. You know the root systems of Agapanthus look a lot like Asparagus and they transplant in much the same way. The frogs love the plants as they can bounce in an out of the leaves and the bees adore the flowers. There are white flowering varieties too, so make sure you get the blue ones. 😉 People also tell me that they are weedy, but I have never seen them expand their range beyond where I put them in the ground.

    Thanks for the info about evolution and bacteria and yes I am seriously considering rectifying that minor oversight.

    You scored exceptionally well with the Lalique glass. I assume you meant that you are planning to add it to your collection?

    The debt story really fascinates me as it is telling where things are at. And it amazes me all of the different attitudes I encounter about the subject. I’m kind of with Dante on this matter, although I do note that he was a bit over the top on some other matters.

    Yeah, absolutely, that is me, the editor, and my two mates – and me going Chook, Chook, Chook! Hehe! The shed is truly an amazing place and they’re genuinely lovely people. Plus they do the hard yards and understand aspects of farming that neither the editor and I are up for: If the boar needs castrating or processing and butchering, mate they just do what has to be done. Plus they are incredible cooks and the food is generally top notch.

    Thanks for road testing the Jerusalem artichokes, and I suitably curious.

    Sorry to hear that you are not feeling well. And best wishes for a speedy recovery. 🙂

    Of course, everyone has their kryptonite!



  23. Hello again
    Two quick comments.
    I run a mile from trusts in a financial context, they can produce any number of future problems.
    My mother had an horrendous mother and she envied a school friends kind and loving mother. Then she stayed with the school friend for a few days. She hated it; found it cloying and returned to her own mother with a totally different outlook.
    I definitely think that a difficult childhood is a good preparation for adult life.
    Actually I think that it would be interesting to hear about your mother’s life from her point of view.
    My sister ran from our mother and had no further communication with her. I made a friend of my mother in so far as it was possible. My sister is still haunted and I am not.
    I hope that you don’t mind me adding to the subject. Chuck it out if you wish.


  24. Yo, Chris – I forgot to explain “Pet Semetery.” You can kind of “get it” from some of the cover illustrations, but I think it’s also explained in the text. The cemetery was started by children. In the cover illustration, the sign is clearly in a child’s scrawl. A child who couldn’t spell, very well. :-).

    What’s a “historical norm?” :-). A lot of young adults say they still live with mum and dad because there are no jobs. Hmmm. Try harder? Don’t be so picky? Even the one’s who work, given the cost of housing, I think they’ve pretty much made a calculated decision. If I want the nice clothes, car, tech fees, I’d better live at home because there’s nothing left over for housing. Back in Ye Olde Days, kids were pretty much turned out, or sent out to work at a pretty young age. It really depended on time, place, financial situation. My dad left home at 14 (17 other mouths to feed) and started riding the rails. That was in the 1930s.

    I was going to mention Kunstler’s blog, this week. Some of the comments are pretty interesting, too. I found it timely, as we had just been discussing ghost malls. Our K-Mart has been turned into a U-Haul truck rental service, depot. Makes sense. It’s right on the freeway. You may remember it from “Captain Fantastic.” :-). I don’t know what will happen to the Sears. It doesn’t have good freeway access.

    Yard Birds, which used to be a huge kind of mall, mostly small, local family run businesses. Now, it’s just one giant flea market. With The Club and the auction. Franks auto repair. There was a huge grocery store, but it closed about a year ago.

    Oh, the Laleque fish will go on the shelf above my bathroom sink. Next to the French crystal sea horse. Seems to be a nautical theme, going on in there. Plaster galleons on the wall. A copper galleon / thermometer. My cheesey “Goddess of the Waves” plaque.

    Still under the weather, but the throat isn’t as bad. Slept until 3pm, yesterday, and then couldn’t sleep at all, last night. I decided to have something simple for dinner last night. Rice, peas and tuna. And, then I threw in garlic and other herbs and spices. Mushroom. Italian parsley. A bit of butter, milk and shredded cheese. I think I’m incapable of just opening a can and eating whatever is in it. Cont.

  25. Cont. And, todays ear worm is … “My Generation” by the Who.


    You may ask why? Last night I watched a very good, fairly recent documentary (2017) with the same title. Hosted and narrated by Sir Michael Caine. The sound track was great. It’s pretty much about swinging London in the 60s. The music, fashion, art. The early bits were really interesting as it talked about the 1940s and 50s and how class ridden England was. Caine was from London’s East End. His first big break was playing a posh military officer. Because he could do the posh accent. But he said that if the Director had been English, and not American, he never would have got the part.

    I’m also reading an interesting cookbook / history. “The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art” (Rolls, 2014). I don’t know if you’re familiar with the “Bloomsbury Group” (see Wikipedia). They perked along from about 1910 until after WWII. They were writers, artists and assorted intellectuals. A bit raffish and bohemian. I suppose the most famous member was the author Virginia Wolf. John Maynard Keynes, the economist, was a member of the group.

    What I found interesting was, well, Bloomsbury was a neighborhood in London. Most of them lived there. But they lived in leased or rented digs. They bought, places in the country. Usually run down. Fixed them up and were serious veg and fruit growers, most had bees and chickens. Did most of the work, themselves. There personal lives could be pretty messy, but they carried it off with pretty good grace. Most of the recipes are not what I’d call fancy. More “country” cooking. I ran across a recipe for Jerusalem artichoke puree. Blend the chokes, potatoes, cream, butter, salt and pepper. Serve. I might have to give that a try.

    It occurred to me that the food term “tastes nutty” is a bit of a cliche, like “tastes like chicken.” :-). Lew

  26. @ Damo – Most of the FFA fellows, as I remember, were off of small family farms. Not a pony to be seen :-). Lew

  27. Hi DJ,

    Your quote: “no loonier than usual” is very funny! Mate, you probably did everything spot on that day, and it does sound to me to be that way. Both the editor and I have suffered from heat exhaustion on different occasions, and I can confirm that we were only mildly irrational. 🙂 The day I used a wheelbarrow to pour cement (which was delivered 2.5 cubic metres at a time) into the very deep holes which are the house foundations, well I seriously cooked my brain. The day was 36’C / 97’F. All up the foundations took 15 cubic metres (19.5 cubic yards) of cement in six separate loads for 115 deep holes, and every load had to be moved in about 20 to 25 minutes, and by the end I just paid the additional waiting time as I was done – but continued stoically onwards. Fortunately the whole effort was done on flat ground, but still I was done. It was the first time that I’d encountered heat exhaustion, so I went to the pub for a celebratory dinner that night and the single beer I enjoyed compounded my cooked brain and I became very ill later that evening. No amount of water could assist, I just had to take in more salts and would have benefited from a fizzy drink, rehydration solution, or a Gatorade or something like that. Oh well, you learn as you go! And now I’m a bit wiser, well just a little bit wiser anyway.

    Your timber hauling effort was heroic. Yup. And it is not lost on me that you had to load the firewood only to then unload it again only 20 to 30 metres away. Yup, firewood makes you warm several times over.

    Years and years ago, I had to learn how to accurately estimate the amount of time that a particular job would take. That is a really difficult thing to learn, as often we as humans tend to under estimate the sheer amount of time that a job will take. And no good comes from being in that space.

    Sympathetic pain is felt at this remote distance. I hear you, 5.30am hurts.

    You nailed my perspective exactly! I saw no benefit to me from wallowing in despair, but I also knew deep down that the situation could not be rectified or even repaired. A lot of people nowadays seek vengeance and that consumes them, when otherwise life is calling. There is an old saying about “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” That seems appropriate to my outlook on life.

    Please stop tapping your head and I guarantee that you will feel better! 🙂 Glad to read that the wind storms have not been too extreme for you.



  28. Hi Steve,

    It was an outstanding song, and I do but seek to entertain as well as occasionally raise an important concern or twenty!

    Thanks. And yeah, I never saw the point of wallowing in despair, and instead simply got on with my life. Of course, you have to make an active decision to do that, and I had the very good fortune of being relatively unsupervised when growing up, and I reckon that allowed me to develop my own thoughts as much as is possible in this day and age of mediation. Forgiveness is part of that, but also the recognition that it would be a very bad idea to re-engage with those people. My own take is that forgiveness should also encompass learning lessons from a situation. Dunno. Other people feel differently.

    I do appreciate the alteration of the Tolstoy quote, and it certainly works, sorry to say!

    Exactly, the slope of the panels from the horizontal determines the winter versus summer energy production. Solar panels work best when they face the sun dead on. And mate, sometimes when the air is cool and the sun is dead on, they work better than you’d think – and that has been a problem I’ve dealt with this year. It is all a compromise, but the general rule of thumb is to tilt the panels at whatever latitude you are at, give or take a few degrees. My latitude is 37.5’S, the roof is about 34’ and the solar panels in the paddock are dead on facing north at 37’ – and they out-produce any other panels.

    I hear you. Have you noticed that the inconsistency in output from the solar panels is also reflected in the outputs from your orchard and vegetable patch?



  29. Hi Inge,

    No worries at all about the trusts as it was only another consideration for you – and whatever you do they all introduce benefits and costs. I understand exactly your situation and also empathise with your concerns.

    Not at all, I loved hearing about your life. It is funny that you mention the cloying aspect in relation to your own mothers experience. Incidentally, I understand that by cloying that you refer to an excess of sentiment? Before I married the editor, I’d dated a number of personable young ladies, but like your mother, I really struggled relating to the girlfriends who were unable or unwilling to make a decision without reference to their families. I felt like I couldn’t breathe in that scenario, and whilst the editor was very close to her mother, her mother also allowed her to have her own life. The difference was not lost on me.

    “I definitely think that a difficult childhood is a good preparation for adult life.”

    There is a lot of truth in that, and if things are too good for too long, often people really struggle to dig deep and unearth the gumption inside them that is required to face real challenges in their life.

    I would also be interested to hear my mothers point of view, but alas she did not wish to engage in that conversation – and I actually did try, but it required her to give up her status and discuss the past. I’ve noted that few people want a mirror held up to their life. I try with the blog to talk about the things that are working as well as the things that are not working, and lovely commenters such as yourself often hold a mirror up to my life! The editor and I often stuff things up and at the conclusion of such times and the stuff up is big enough, we sit down and have an honest post-mortem on the subject. Such a discussion can leave some people feeling a bit vulnerable, but it needn’t be that way, but it does incur loss and there is no getting around that. What do you think about that?

    You and I are similar in that respect as I’m not haunted by the spectre of those ghosts. Everyone is different in that regard and nobody really knows in advance how they’ll react until they’re faced with the situation.



  30. Hi Margaret,

    Hope you are well and haven’t been inundated with a huge dump of snow?

    I wrote the blog this week because about 1,500 additional readers turned up out of nowhere last week, and I thought that I should write about something seriously controversial so that they all went elsewhere. I quite like the intimate tone of the blog and all of our lovely dialogue and I really don’t seek any growth in the readership. All of the stuff in the blog really did happen, but it is not lost on me at all that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of those experiences – and they really didn’t seem to do that much harm to me. Although mileage can vary in that matter, and such things can be extraordinarily traumatic for others.

    Hope we are cool?



  31. Hello again
    I can’t resist a bit of continuation. Just to say first, that the communication between you and the editor sounds great to me.
    When I was at school I had friends who came from wealthier and more cosseted homes. I remember teas at a Jewish friends home. Oh what a wonderful cook her mother was and this was just after the war when food was scarce. This girl was a much loved and cherished child but I realised that I would have felt suffocated in her home. I had a lot of freedom and to this day I put freedom above everything else.
    Also when friends came to my home for tea, I felt uncomfortable because we had to make our own tea with what we could find in the house. To my great surprise my friends loved this because they could do it for themselves.


  32. Hi Lewis,

    I had to wear my woollen jumper tonight whilst outside with the chickens as it is only 50’F. Today was 65’F and sunny and so we took the day of any and all work and just mucked around. We headed off for lunch at Lavandula lavender farm, which is not too far away. I almost feel a bit bad mentioning their excellent lavender scones with strawberry jam and cream and lavender flavoured lemonade. Although there was a star anise in the jam which I couldn’t quite get my head around and wasn’t game to taste. Have you ever tasted one of those spices? Not to mention the toasted foccacia for lunch. Foccacia’s are very 90’s, but oh so good! Mine tasted like a pizza due to the capsicum. Yum! Spotted the first chilli and capsicum flowers today. Hope they don’t cross pollinate, as the plants look very similar. Well, at least the outcome may be interesting…

    Nice to read that your throat is not as bad as it was, and good long sleep cures many ills. 🙂 And insomnia is not good at all and even worse when you’re under the weather. Hope that stage passes as you get to feel better.

    Sir Scruffy is feeling better too, and appears to have made something of a recovery and is now barely leaky. Honestly, I thought that he was done for last week, which is sad because he is the favourite.

    I was curious about your opinion, but there has been a lot of unearned wealth sloshing around the system over the past two decades due to many factors including: the finanicalisation of the economy; the demise of local manufacturing; the increasing externalisation of costs; rising debt levels; and the expansion of the money supply resulting in an increase in price of some categories of assets. And yeah I too have wondered about the (as you put it) calculated decision. The thing is, at the core of the arrangement is a reversal of the wealth flow back to the kids and kid-ults, that accurred to the parents due to the factors I mentioned. I sort of feel that a case could be made that either situation is probably not good, but one direction of flow has resulted in another direction of flow. Dunno. What do you reckon, or am I talking out my backside? 🙂

    Yes, both Mr Kunstler’s blog and the comments are beyond good this week. I’m very unsure I’d know how to deal with 400+ comments… Interestingly, I did notice mention of a Kmart converting into a U-Haul, and wasn’t that also followed up by a mention that people were exiting the area in droves? Going west is probably not much of an option for vast hordes of people and I did wonder where they were all headed? I’ll bet the Western Roman Empire had huge movement of people in its final years?

    There have been anecdotal accounts in the newspapers that many of these large multi-national corporations have been avoiding taxes and also avoiding reporting. The problem for them with that strategy is that undermining a tax base also leads to unemployment, which in turns leads to a lack of customers and eventually it puts a strain on fiat currencies which is what their boards and owners are accumulating. And it is a frankly bizarre strategy to pursue, but you know it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone just what a bad idea it is.

    Cool! I really enjoyed the descriptions of the various items in your bathroom. Good stuff, and very enjoyable. I did a blog years back about a painting we hung in the bathroom of a young lady sitting in a bubble bath and it was titled: “Having a ball”. And the person who sold it to us at the art auction was very rude about it, but we love it and it never ceases to bring a smile on my face. And for some reason I note that we have replicated some aspects of the painting in the actual bathroom. These things are clearly deep and complicated. What does the nautical theme suggest about yourself, although it is very appropriate in a bathroom!

    What an ear worm! I love that song, but the video was amazing and I had never seen it before. It is really interesting to get a peek into a different generation (excuse the pun as I wasn’t actually sure what word to actually use and my mind kept coming back to that one). You’re definitely a bad influence as I now have: “We won’t get fooled again”, going on in the background. Cool!

    Thanks for the film tip. Very interesting indeed! On the too get list. I sometimes feel that social mobility is not as great as it once was. I know of people who are pushing their kids in that direction and I do wonder whether the goal posts have shifted and they may not be aware of the shift. Dunno.

    I wasn’t aware of the Bloomsbury Group. Out of curiosity, I noted that the group “rejected bourgeois habits and indulged in favour of a more informal and private focus on personal relationships and individual pleasure”, does that then make them sort of aligned with the Epicurean school of thought? I did rather enjoy your description of their lives in the country, and would have loved to have known them, and I’ll bet they enjoyed a sparkling dinner table. I get the sense that there is a level of acceptance in their outlook upon life. Am I off in that train of thought?

    Ate crocodile once and it did taste like chicken, but it may have been because the farmer fed them a lot of chickens… I tell you a funny story about breaking food cliches: Years ago I fed the chickens a whole lot of pineapple and didn’t think much more about it. I then gifted some eggs to a friend and he reported back that the eggs tasted a bit strongly! Ah yes, after a bit of investigation I discovered that pineapple flavoured eggs taste a bit on the odd side of things, but they’re still good. 🙂



  33. Hi, Chris!

    I have known people who were abused as children who go on and on about their abuse and then proceed to treat their wife/husband and children the same way. I have known other people who were abused as children who have worked tremendously hard to be sure that they treat their wife/husband and children with respect. I have no idea what makes the difference. One could go on – as in the case of the Emperor with one mistake, thanks Lew – trying to figure out why, but I guess it’s best to just get on with things, as you did. Or as Damo said in his latest blog post “Get ‘er done”.

    I wake up at 5am every day and can’t go back to sleep. It seems to be some sort of biological clock that I am doomed (?) with. It does not matter what time I go to bed, 5 am – up! Everyone else in my house (3 others) will sleep half the day or more if given half a chance.

    You mentioned something about dysfunctional social arrangements when you mentioned “The Limits To Growth”. I doubt if there was ever a “functional” society. Basic human nature is something that never changes and thus certain patterns always have the possibility of being repeated. And we are animals when it all comes down to it.

    As far as children go – I suppose some people have children to pass on the “family name”. That seems to matter to some people – a tribal holdover, maybe? Though I have especially seen it among the well-to-do, people who have something to pass on.

    Egads! There has been so much noise on the front porch that I have to keep hopping up to interrupt my writing. There is a group of 4 squirrels who have gone bonkers out there. They have turned over the dog water bowl, banged on the windows and knocked wood off the pile. Talk about Limits To Growth – it is getting rather scary as our property is now inundated with squirrels. All the females seemed to have had babies over the winter (including Charlene the White Squirrel, whose children are grey with touch of beige) and what on earth is going to happen to our garden come summer?! I wish I didn’t like squirrels so much; there are few things more entertaining.

    When I saw that long shot of the rock gabions I was astounded. You have done even more than I realized.

    What an impressive pile of firewood, all nicely split. And then more piles!

    Oh, no! Sir Scruffy the Leaky! I am sorry to laugh Sir Scruffy, and you are in my thoughts. I hope you feel better. I will note that “leaky” sometimes means an infection that needs an antibiotic. It may not just be old age.

    Thanks for clarifying corn tassels and silks. I had no idea, which may have contributed to my many corn-growing disasters. I found this:


    The vegetables and fruit and flowers are so wonderful. What a year for roses!


  34. Chris:

    The squirrels are now screeching, too. The last time I saw this kind of behavior was when our dogs started doing this and we then had an earthquake. I hope it’s just spring fever.


  35. @ Chris and Bev:

    I am so glad that you brought up persimmons. My husband brought some wild ones home from his walk recently. They were very tasty, but so astringent that my mouth puckered up so much that I could hardly eat them. I suppose cultivated varieties don’t do this?


  36. @ Inge:

    What is it that you don’t trust about trusts? I might have thought that a trust would be a good thing for your son after you are dead, since you mentioned his financial unconcern. Or perhaps that would be insulting?

    You and your son are so interesting.


  37. Yo, Chris – The cold is still pretty bad. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a sneezing fit with a mouth full of cheesy muffin. Slept a bit better. Well, now that that’s out of the way, moving on…

    If you haven’t been over to Mr. Greer’s blog in a few days, check out the post from TamHob, 1/6, 9:19PM. She’s Australian and has held her ground through two brush fires. Check out the last picture in this article.


    A couple survived by standing on that little patch of lawn while their home burned to the foundation, just yards away. There doing quit a bit of work with wildfire thermal blankets. Some of the newer one’s are approaching a rating on 3,000F.

    The Daily Impact blog had a new post go up, just in the past couple of days on unearned wealth. I really don’t know much about economics. It’s all pretty much outside my day to day experience.

    We’ve always been a pretty mobile lot, here. People head for work, or, opportunities. Real, or only perceived. And there may be family or friends in other areas that might give them a leg up. There were vast hordes of people sloshing around the Roman Empire, in the late 4th, early 5th century. One bunch traveled through France and Spain, made the jump to North Africa, mucked around there for awhile, and then ended up in Italy.

    Oh, and I forgot the black cast iron bookends, in the bathroom, that look like Spanish ships. It’s a regular armada, in there. Or, at least, a well stocked sail locker.

    A lot of the documentary is that kind of photo montage, of the period. Like the music video. There’s a lot of voice over interviews with the movers and shakers, from the era. I did notice, however, that you really don’t see many of them. Except in the footage, where they’re young. I got the odd feeling that they didn’t want to parade their lost youth, for the camera.

    Oh, I’m sure the Bloomsbury Group discussed Epicurean philosophy, probably on many occasions. They flogged just about any topic to death. But I can’t say that with any certainty. Don’t know. Wasn’t there :-). Lew

  38. Hi Chris,

    Glad to hear in your comment to Lew that Scruffy is doing better. Remind me of his age please.

    I was a bit confused about your comment to me as I hadn’t yet commented on this week’s blog entry. I haven’t been on my desktop for a couple of days. I think I mentioned that I have a small tablet that was my mother-in-law’s and often just use that. It not easy to comment or email at length so I usually wait until I fire up the laptop with a real keyboard so may not comment for a few days. One of the adjustments we are making here is sharing an office. Our old house was so big that we each had our own office on separate floors no less. Doug’s routine in the morning is to play his on line poker game (not for money) and after a quick check of email, news and weather he proceeds to looking at you tubes often at a pretty high volume. As I usually read your fine blog along with JMG’s and a few others this noise is very distracting to me. He also turns on the very bright overhead light and I am not a fan of bright lights especially first thing in the morning. At any rate I’ve cut back
    on my internet time which is probably a good thing. Doug retired from full time work and we moved to a much smaller house at the same time so we are adjusting to our new living arrangements.

    Did you think I was put off by your description of your childhood because mine was much different? If so that certainly isn’t the case as I much enjoyed reading about it. Even though I have close family ties all was not peaches and cream either. I think I’ve mentioned that my mother wasn’t too maternal. She was really meant to have a career and maybe one or two kids. I didn’t get much chance to participate in outside activities or even go out socially that much even into college as I was always
    helping with my siblings and believe me I resented it. When I was an adult she did admit that she depended on me too much and apologized which I greatly appreciated. My father worked long hours as he was a physician and was the softy of the pair. Sadly he died at 46 when I as the oldest was only 21. Their marriage was very loving which was obvious to us all and I don’t think my mother ever got over his passing. She had many great qualities too and was a lot of fun in many ways. You could confide many things to her and she wouldn’t freak out but rather give advice. When I went to college I had to come home each weekend to watch my siblings for the first year ( my college was only an hour away) so I ended up having my social life during the week and had the grades to show for it. After that, however, the next oldest sister finally stepped up and I was able to stay at school over most weekends and my grades improved. During the summer though it was back to helping with all the kids. I got married the first time at age 20 and that marriage ended after 5 years and one child. I really think that part of the motivation to get married that young was to get out of the house. So I was a single mom for awhile and that sure built character. It can’t have been easy for your mother with several children.

    You were lucky to have your grandfather at least and you certainly have made your peace with your childhood. As I got older I understood why my mother did what she did and we became good friends. Hopefully most children grow up to realize that their parents are just people with all their strengths and weaknesses.

    I would say two of my four sisters are my best friends but that doesn’t mean I agree with all they do or don’t shake my head at some of their choices and I’m sure they feel the same about me. One thing about siblings is that you share more of your life history and experiences with them than anyone else.

    Your weather seems to be swinging widely like ours. Yesterday was near 50 (F) but today it will barely get to 20 and very windy. Other than the one big snow storm in late November there’s been very little but rather we’ve had rain, fog and some ice.


  39. Chris:

    No earthquake. I am such a nervous Nelly. The squirrel delinquents spent about an hour cavorting on the front porch. I went and looked at the back porch. Their mother was there eating a pizza crust. A lesson there?


  40. Chris,

    I’ve also had a few brushes with heat exhaustion. The first, and potentially most serious, one occurred when I played in a softball tournament all day in the sun at about 30C. I poured water on my head every few minutes, drank gallons of water. No salt replacement, alas. It was a bit scary that evening, to be sure, so I stayed in the cool basement and ate salty foods. The next day was *difficult*, to say the least. Being only 22 at the time, there was only the one bad day. I’ve since learned the value of replacing the salts!

    Estimating the time required to do jobs is darn near impossible. I tend to double what I think the job will take, then add on more time for the unavoidable “oh, Shostakovich” moments. I still miss, sometimes badly. My wife says that some jobs take me so long because I get klutzy. I remind her that I CAN chew gum and walk at the same time. Of course, I’m trying to get the gum out of my beard while saying that.

    Good on you for figuring it out when young! I agree, too many people seek vengeance, which adds to the overall anger in our societies. Others wallow in self pity and say they’re victims of whatever. Accepting that bad stuff happens, learning from it, adapting, moving on seem to be the only reasonable things to do in my book. Things might not be enjoyable, but at least then one has a chance to grow and do something useful.

    Okay, I’ll find something wooden other than my head to tap. Hope I don’t hurt my knuckles tapping something else.

    “No loonier than usual”…I get a LOT of that type of comment from my wife. Keeps me in an acceptably humble frame of mind, she does. I’ve got waaaayyy too much formal education for most anyone’s good, so when I have one of my daft moments, I’m likely to hear her say, in a very sweet and sympathetic voice, “Honey, does it hurt to have so much edumacation?”

    We got one of our infrequent ice storms Tuesday night, which was mild compared to what some of your other visitors receive on a more frequent basis. After about 1.25 cm of snow, it started raining at about -2C. Several neighbors got out and moved the snow off the sidewalks. Wrong thing to do. Those of us who let Mother Nature do Her thing had a coating of 3mm or so of ice atop the snow. That stuff could safely be walked upon. The snowless areas had 3mm of ice. That was nasty. It will all disappear by noon Thursday since it will be at least +5C by then. Sometimes doing nothing works out best.


  41. Hi Inge,

    Thank you. The communication has taken a while, but we have been together almost 25 years now. I left home upon becoming an adult, so I reckon some of the more difficult aspects of my communication were rubbed off on house mates and earlier girlfriends. But then most people at that age are not great communicators. When we built the house together I had to not be the boss, and so we started each day by talking through the jobs that we were going to do, and how we were going to do them, and more importantly who was in charge that day. That seemed to work well and so we continue that format every time we start a job about the place. Of course there are times when we have no idea how to go about doing a job, and so we have to admit to that lack, and then make it up as we go along and but also during such a time remember to listen to each other if either of us has an idea to discuss. It seems like a complicated process, but it works. And it also ensures goal congruence and buy-in, which is perhaps more important than most people would believe.

    Exactly, I too feel much the same, and freedom is an often misunderstood concept these days. I understand exactly what you mean, but I suspect when other people use that word, they mean something else altogether – like doing whatever, whenever, without reference to others. What do you reckon about that?

    As a teenager, a mate of mine’s mother used to run a restaurant, and my mate candidly said to me that he didn’t like his mum’s cooking because she only knew about 40 or so (perhaps it may have been more) different dishes! I couldn’t believe the expectations of my mate and it was quite shocking to me, as I’d been raised on a diet of lamb chops and boiled vegetables… It did appear to be a rather spoiled perspective. In the past spoiled usually meant ruined, fancy that!

    As an active participant in household tasks from about the age of 12 – including cooking the main meal for the household – I can’t fathom sitting back and loafing whilst others work. But yeah, as you noted people enjoy responsibility.



  42. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks very much for the visuals! 🙂 The clean up after that would have been an impressive and slightly gluggy feat. Hope you are feeling better today? Or at the very least less sneezey? Glad to hear that you are sleeping better. I was listening to the science hour on the radio today as we hauled and stacked firewood, and people were ringing in saying how good they felt after 3 to 4 hours of sleep per night. The bloke who took the hour on the radio is actually a medical doctor, as well as being a good science communicator, and he discussed the sleep cycle but said that everyone differed, but 8 hours was a good average to aim for. I tend to prefer more sleep and would be happy with 9 hours, but alas it is not always possible. Very unfair!

    Did I mention the other day that the police stopped me on the freeway? My first thought was, I wonder what I’d just done, but no, they blocked the freeway because a truck had to cart through a huge sign that had fallen onto a car and the road. In the increasing crapification of things, this one is a doozy. I’ve seen the wind take out signs, but this sign was huge and the wind has been ruled out. Anyway, it created quite the stir in the local media: Tullamarine Freeway sign falls and crushes car, injuring Melbourne driver. Over a decade ago I used bolts in a set of timber stairs, and the heads of the bolts sheered off. I’d never seen anything like it until that point in time, now I’m careful when constructing things to ensure that it operates like you’d expect it to.

    Thank you for mentioning TamHob’s comment about the fires as I hadn’t realised that people were still commenting there. It is quite heartening to read of her experience, and part of the firewood job has been a cleaning up of the forest. Mind you, I’d like a few more years grace, but eventually a fire will happen.

    The motherjones article was quite interesting. The occupants were also able to shelter on the green grass (which is very hard to burn) from the radiant heat as there was a brick wall, otherwise the fire was clearly quite destructive, but if it was a very extremely hot fire they would have died. Sometimes things burn and you may not have the tools to stop the spread of the fire, but a house can burn down in only a couple of minutes. The Great Fire of London would have been horrific, but also it dealt to the rats so there is a bit of upside there. And having the tools readily to hand to fight a fire is not as obvious a thought as you might believe. Having an independent power supply and water supply as well as permanently ready to go sprinklers is an advantage that most people do not have. But they could.

    I’ll check out the Daily Impact tomorrow evening, I do rather enjoy Tom’s cheeky writing style. I doubt even the economists really know all that much about economics, and I know enough about the subject to suggest that I don’t really know enough. We are in unchartered waters (which is a metaphor which you may appreciate)! I do like deliberately mixing my metaphors and one of my favourites is saying that: the ship has bolted. It is a good test to see whether people are indeed listening!

    Yeah, I am amazed at how mobile your population is. It happens down here too, but not to the same extent. I don’t actually know why that difference may be? Dunno. It is notable though. There are a lot of people on the move around the world right now. I heard an estimate that there are something like 65 million refugees throughout the world.

    Throw in a couple of English and some French 19th century frigates in your bathroom and you’d have a right royal Battle of Trafalgar!

    I actually enjoyed the photo montage, because some of the photos and footage are quite telling of the times and particularly the reactions of the authorities to the public. Plus I didn’t see a single screen anywhere. Nowadays I often note that it is rare to see people walking around in public without a screen in their hand. Of course women often use these devices to avoid having to communicate with unknown males who push social boundaries…

    Gotta head off to the pub as it is the dreaded and fearful time of the mid-week hiatus!



  43. Hi Pam, Margaret and DJ,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but it is now the midweek hiatus. I promise to reply to your comments tomorrow night. If you get the chance check out the footage of the sign falling on the car on the freeway… Feral!



  44. Hello again
    I hear that there has been a fish disaster in the Darling river. Is that climate change or something else?


  45. @ Pam
    Definitely wouldn’t insult Son with a trustee. Choice of a trustee or trustees is an horrendous problem, they have immense power. My half brother inherited a large sum of money while a young child. It was in the hands of trustees until he was 30. In his case this was a public body. Their investing of the money wasn’t clever and they had control over how it was used for his education. My poor father had to demonstrate that he was bringing up his son in an appropriate manner with regard to his future position in society.
    Leaving that particular story aside, how the heck do you choose trustees? Actually I assume that Margaret knows quite a bit about this.
    I am waiting for my young generation to reach the age of 18 in two years time when I hope to redo my will for the last time.

    @ Margaret
    I also wondered what Chris was worried about and I went back through comments to see what you had said and I couldn’t find anything. I actually thought ‘did she say something that he didn’t publish?’ Clearly he reacted to absence. Sweet but sensitive.


  46. Hello Chris
    You are quite correct about the potential misuse of the concept of freedom. I wasn’t thinking broadly enough, just enjoying my own feelings about it.


  47. @Pam
    I also wake up between 4 and 5 AM which is often frustrating.

    We have a lot of squirrels at our new place and between them and the chipmunk I’m concerned about a new garden. They are awfully fun to watch though.


  48. @ Margaret:

    I so much enjoyed reading about your youth. Thanks.

    I quite dread my husband retiring (he’s about to turn 63). He has few interests beyond work. He has wanted to retire for a long time, but realizes that it is not feasible. His father died in the saddle, as it were, still working by consulting – he owned a construction company – until his death at 86. My father retired a few years ago at 74. One thing I suggested to my father before he retired was that he spend a certain amount of time away from their small townhouse to give my mother some of the space she was used to having as a stay-at-home homemaker. Luckily, he loves to go to the gym and do a few other things.


  49. Yo, Chris – This cold does hang on. Can’t complain, too much. I’m hardly ever sick. Other than the mental stuff … :-). Well, there is a bit of a silver lining. Usually, I eat two meals a day. Well, I’ve been ravenous. I’ve been eating three or four. Oh, all healthy stuff. Just a lot. Well, when I did my week weigh in, yesterday, I had still lost a couple of pounds. So when I did my shopping, last night, I just bought lots of really naughty stuff. Mostly, baked goods. Oh, and ice cream! Most of it tasted awful, but, I got that (into and) out of my system.

    The latest storm, didn’t have much wind. At least not here. Lots of rain, though. Fairly clear today. Might even see some sun, tomorrow.

    Oh, those people that bang on about how little sleep they get are just virtue signaling. And, I always notice a whiff of “And the rest of you are just lazy.” I’m always tempted to ask, “And what else have you got going, for yourself?”

    That sign falling down just goes to show. Life is a crap shot. You just never know. If the woman has left home just a few seconds later, or a few seconds earlier, she would have been in the clear.

    Yeah, we are a restless lot. Of course, a lot of us are descended from people who came from somewhere else. And, there was the whole “westward, ever westward” meme. The official line of The Powers That Be, didn’t help, either. I remember in the 80s, when the midwest was rusting up. Whole towns and cities devastated. And, Those In Charge were just very off hand in advising that you just pick up and move to where there is work. Never mind the generations lived in well constructed communities. That was all just sentimentality. Extended families and long established community support systems, were just a drag on the economy.

    Oh, the galleons represent a time older than Trafalgar. Just about every kid in my generation had the bit of doggrel drilled into our heads, “In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” On his good ships, Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.

    I got to thinking about how expositions and events set off decorative art crazes. In 1876 we had the Centennial Exhibition, and colonial revival decor hit hard. 1892 was the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving. Couldn’t let that go unobserved. All though the Columbian Exhibition didn’t happen until 1893. The organizers couldn’t get their act together. But after that, you saw a lot of Spanish revival furniture and galleons slapped on everything from bookends to lamps. The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s (and the widespread coverage) set off Egypt-o mania. Not a bad thing. Several designers married it to Art Deco and some very nice things were produced. The opening of Japan in the 1860s set off a craze for All-Things-Japanese. The flood of Japanese prints and porcelain, into Europe, profoundly influenced artists of the period. From Whistler to Van Gogh. Cont.

  50. Cont. The documentary on the 60s was fun, as there were several scenes of oldsters working themselves into states of apoplexy over the street scene. The old folks came from a culture where fitting in and NOT being seen, was the norm. One of the points of the youth culture was to BE seen. And, hopefully, admired.

    I watched “The Knights of Badassdom”, last night. Great fun. Might be one of those movies that I’ll have to watch, again, every couple of years. Great cast. And, a shout out to DJ, filmed in and around Spokane.

    I was looking around the Net, because there’s this great shot of a single family house that the three majors live in. How cool! If you can imagine a single family dwelling that looks like a castle. That’s where I discovered that the movie was actually filmed in 2010. There were Post Production Problems, too complicated for me to understand (or, care about). There may not have even been a theatrical release. Straight to DVD, in other words.

    Would I recommend it? Hmmm. Well, I liked it. But, it’s a bit of a lark. No startling insights into the inner human condition. Though there’s plenty of sights of the innards of humans. Lew

  51. Hi Chris,

    Of course, the loss of megafauna is good evidence of a prior boom and bust in the local population. I think we discussed previously that some scholars claim it was climate change which killed the megafauna, and not the Aboriginals, who of course lived in perfect harmony with their environment since the beginning of time…

    Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel argued that the Aboriginals basic agriculture quite possibly could have led to development of grains (apparently this process was already underway when Europeans arrived in the SW of Western Australia). Maybe if they were left alone a little longer, they would have started growing grains, stockpiling them and forming villages and cities just like pretty much every other culture on Earth that had access to the right types of plants?

    I have read elsewhere the leap from hunter/gatherer to farming is actually quite a big one (and often not at all worthwhile for the average peasant when you consider how easy it is to steal/tax someone who is tied to a particular location). It only happens with immense, concentrated effort and the right soils/plants. But once it happens, good luck having those sorts for your neighbours!

    Do you think that boom/busts are inevitable in any population? Maybe the only difference is a “lower tech level” society will have much smaller booms, and thus much smaller busts?

    I think if disease didn’t wipe out 90% of the Aboriginals, it would have been slightly different, but not hugely. The Maori in NZ managed to get a treaty way back in the day and have preserved a lot more of their culture. But the overall economic patterns are still the same as Australia.


  52. Hi Pam,

    Your squirrels sound delightful. We spent ages watching them in parks and on trails when over your way. So cute!! Hopefully they don’t abuse your sentimentality 🙂


  53. RE: motorway sign falling on car

    That was a freaky video! And how were the comments in the article with officials going on and on about all the design checks, installation processes and independent inspections. Doesn’t look good to me if a dozen different people signed off on it, and the thing still failed anyway. It is almost like all these rules, regulations and inspections don’t protect us from everything after all :-p

    In other less exciting news, this weekend will be spent mostly packing boxes for the move on Monday. A 20ft container is coming to take all our stuff. In theory it will arrive at our new place 5 days later. Fingers crossed!


  54. Hi Lew,

    Knights of Bad-Assdom was alright wasn’t it. I think they delayed the release to cash in on Tyrions popularity in Game of Thrones 🙂


  55. Hi Pam,

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an uneaten pizza crust, must be in want of a squirrel or dog with which to consume it. Glad your squirrel mystery was solved. Do you get many earthquakes? I’ve felt one in the past dozen years and it was located far and away to the south and east of here.

    Exactly, a life spent wallowing in despair because of past misfortunes is wasted time (in my book anyway), and as all right thinking people know, lost time is indeed lost! 🙂 Of course it wouldn’t hurt to check and see if it had accidentally fallen behind the couch.

    Everyone is different, and I guess things happen at 5am, so it makes sense that someone must be doing these things somewhere else? Dunno, but maybe my brain is a bit fried because we got up at 6am this morning to haul more firewood until the early afternoon sun defeated us. We almost filled the firewood shed today, so another day will should do it. Hey, we have never finished that job this early in the season before and it is the biggest and most labour intensive seasonal job that we have to do here. This is a good thing. You know, every year living here gets easier. I hope we manage to dodge a fire for a few more years as there is still work to do on that front.

    You’re probably spot on about people not having a functional relationship with the environment, and I’ve never experienced that either. One does what one can though.

    That has also been expressed to me as “leaving a legacy”, and I’ve actually heard people say exactly those words in that context, although I have no idea what they’re on about as we seem to be leaving a massive legacy for the future – and I don’t reckon they’ll be very happy with us cheeky scamps. So yeah, what are we leaving seems to be a rather apt observation.

    What a strange world it would be indeed without all of the crazy wildlife goings on! 🙂

    That wall requires another five steel rock gabions too before it is completed! Need more rocks…

    Sir Scruffy is tough as old boots because he appears to have made something of a full recovery. He’s an interesting personality – some may say special demanding snowflake – because he wants everything just so and on his terms, and has decided recently that he wants his breakfast in the evening. Ollie just wants his breakfast…

    Fascinating! Thanks for the link regarding corn and their reproductive systems. I had no idea that germination was so fast. I can see why growing the plants in blocks produces better set cobs. Thanks!



  56. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks, and Sir Scruffy is about fifteen, and we reckon he appears to have made a full recovery. You know, that is a pretty good innings (apologies for the cricket (an English game) reference) for a dog his size. He’s not really a small dog, but more of a medium sized dog, and larger dogs don’t tend to live as long as smaller dogs. Scritchy for example is about eighteen, and you wouldn’t know it the way she bounces around the place.

    The internet is a wonderful way to completely confuse any form of communication, so not to stress at all. 🙂 I’m usually a pretty cool customer, but as Inge pointed out in her own inimitable way, I may have been mildly emotionally invested in this week’s blog. It happens to the best of us from time to time! I’ve never tried such writing before and I dunno, not sure I will again in the immediate future. I don’t really visit many websites either as it is very hard to filter out all of the noise on this here interweb.

    Well, it is a complicated situation. In the first house that I purchased, it was a very gritty suburb. It isn’t nowadays and it is now considered quite an: “we’ve arrived suburb”, but back then it was rough as bags. The neighbour used to drive me bonkers by sitting in his car listening to his stereo at full volume. It was an impressive stereo and I applauded his choice of equipment. However, at the same time, I didn’t really want share his particular taste in music, which frankly was not compatible with my own. So, me being me, I went down to the hifi equipment shop (not cheap in those days) and picked up the biggest speakers that I could afford. Then I put the speakers in the backyard and enjoyed some very delightful 90’s era grunge music in the form of “The Jesus and Mary Chain”. An excellent CD to be sure. It didn’t take my neighbour very long before he issued death threats (seriously), and the police got involved and he promptly moved out. Quieter neighbours moved in, which was nice. He was fencing stolen cars so it was actually the intervention of the police that rattled him more than the music, but still, who would have thought that was how things turned out?

    I remember one day when he almost ran over his daughter who was playing with her toys in the driveway. I believe it may be appropriate to use the word “recriminations” as they appeared to be thrown about liberally that day, verbally and physically. It was a very ugly business. A nasty customer.

    It is very nice that you had a line of communication with your mother, and that enough time had passed that some honest self reflection had taken place. Hey, I tell you a funny thing, my first girlfriend was uncannily similar in personality to my mum, so yeah I hear you. I get that. My granddad was a good person to step into the void, and I respect that too, and that was also despite him being such a complex character. But yeah, most parents are just people doing the best they can. I tend to lean towards a school of thought that says that suggests that mistakes are all cool, it is the responses to those mistakes that tend to influence the eventual outcome of the situation. Dunno, just my philosophy.

    Mate, my siblings didn’t fare as well as myself, so I keep them at a discreet distance. It needn’t be that way, but one in particular is like a black hole and they can absorb any and all energy that you have, and then still demand more. I had to move on from them.

    Yes, variable weather can be a sore trial. Yesterday here it barely made 65’F, but today the heat returned with full force and it is 88’F outside right now and it looks set to be a hot night.



  57. Hi DJ,

    Yeah, it is the salts that matter with heat exhaustion, and too much water can be a problem. You may empathise with tennis players at the Australian Open which is only a week or two away, or cricket players who have to stand out in the sun all day long. We got up at 6am this morning to bring in more firewood, and by early afternoon I was done in. We had a siesta for about an hour and half which helped as well. It is still hot outside, 28’C now, but the forecast is suggesting that it will be a hot night.

    Be careful with that beard (and the gum). I know a local bloke who is a diesel mechanic and fitter and turner who once told me that he got his beard stuck in the under-bits of a truck and he had to be cut free. Hashtag: just sayin!!!! 🙂 I’m generally pretty good at estimating how long some job will take, but I do tend to let people know when I’m taking a wild stab at an estimate. That tends to avoid difficulties. I wasn’t always that good at estimating… It is complex… Hehe!

    Vengeance is an emotion that eats energy and I don’t see the point. I once heard Mr Kunstler on a podcast suggesting that: “life is inherently tragic”, and that theme used to be taught as part of a liberal arts education at Universities. The concept resonated with me, but people can often feel otherwise. Instead I tend to focus on articulating a coherent response to outrages at the time, and people are often surprised with the speed and surprising nature of reactions that they encounter. It seems like a healthier response to me. And also not going around poking people seems like a good thing to do too, but mileage does actually vary in that regard. Some people should be left well alone, and not everyone appreciates that story.

    Be careful with those knuckles, you might need them! 🙂

    Haha! Funny stuff. Yes, over education can be as much a problem as under education. Where ever is that sweet middle point? Beats the stuffing out of me!

    Ice storm! Far out! You appear to have made peace with the local conditions. Mind you, it is 28’C outside and the evening is getting older…

    Speaking of adapting to the local conditions, we got up early today to continue bringing in the firewood before the heat hit with force, and by the time we finished I was thinking to myself that it was about time that we finished. It is all very complicated… But then the firewood shed is nearly full! Yay!



  58. Hi Inge,

    It is pretty awful isn’t it? Menindee mass fish death fury escalates, NSW Police and Minister at odds. I don’t actually know what is going on there, but it is not lost on me that water allocations for irrigation are often made based on average flows. There is little average about the seasons down here because they are different every single year. Variability is the norm, and you might note that one of my core themes with the blog is using less water, although I rarely state it so bluntly. The plants here have to make do with not much water and yet still be productive, and I’m learning more about that as the years go by. I can see how the water table is fairing by looking at the plants because they tell a story that is there to be seen if one but looks. I wish people would not pump water from the water table, but that is another story.

    Exactly, I know what you mean by freedom, I get that concept and feel much the same, but other people have very different opinions about the word. For them it can mean to do: “what they like, when they like”. And life rarely accommodates that particular belief.

    Just wanted to also add how much I enjoy your inimitable style of prose with your observation to Margaret. I’m mostly cool, but perhaps this week I invested too much emotional energy into the subject, so yes I appreciate your perspective. I’d like to believe that ‘sweet’ is the correct word! 🙂



  59. Hi Damo,

    Your sense of irony was not lost on me, and yeah, sometimes in order to learn how to manage something well, you have to completely stuff it up. A very old mate of mine once said that it was only those that had fallen off the cliff, that knew where the edge of said cliff was. An astute observation. But where the heck is that cliff edge? 🙂

    No disrespect to Mr Diamond, but he is incorrect. The indigenous population were (and had been) harvesting native millet for longer than you’d imagine, and they used to make a flat bread (a lack of gluten in the plant species meant that it doesn’t rise). He may have been annoyed that it didn’t quite look like he’d expect, like a vast monoculture crop run by serfs. But for him to think they had access to the plants and chose not to use them is a bonkers concept. Mate they even used to produce their own, sacred drink (!), by collecting flowers and water in hollow logs with lids. And I’ve only ever picked up titbits of information here and there but the picture in my mind is of a very complex society.

    It is an interesting thought isn’t it? I don’t know the answer myself, but I suspect that way back in the day, the average peasant knew far more about plants than today’s townie. To be honest most city folk are very fearful of rural areas, and that maybe because they have been raised to be adapted to urban areas. I do wonder about that, because if someone has only known life in the city, how would they adapt being suddenly thrust into a rural area? Perhaps examining the disconnect between the two may be a core theme in the next story you write, but set in the far distant future?

    Setting an upper limit for a human population is a fairly brutal process (to us) that has been done in some societies. Mostly we depend upon the old favourites of the four horsemen, but there are other ways and getting all the members of a society to buy-in to such a system would be an interesting problem to say the least.

    I agree, as guns and land displacement for cultures that are tied to place tend to be pretty brutal. I reckon our reliance on ‘abstractions’ instead of ‘place’ may be a thing that is subject to diminishing returns. Who knows?

    The sign was bonkers, and you should have seen it on the back of the truck as it was a very wide load. There is little the vehicle could have done to avoid the falling sign. You wouldn’t expect it to happen.

    Fingers crossed for a smooth and uneventful move! 🙂 A 20ft container is a smart way to do it. Do you pack the container yourselves?



  60. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! Mate, we all have ‘off’ days from time to time. Don’t you reckon it would be odd if we didn’t? Too much consistency and we might get replaced by an awful chat-bot. Imagine the indignity of that: Chris and Lewis were so interesting that some nefarious person turned them into a chat-bot. I keep accidentally typing chat-bit… A telco down here uses a chat-bot and mate that thing drives me bonkers as it sends me around and around in a loop. Surely a few stray humans answering the phone wouldn’t hurt?

    Speaking of which we have toll roads down here (with bridge trolls too that have to be paid!) Well, the thing is you keep your account topped up in advance, but the other day I’d accidentally thought that I had paid it when I hadn’t, and I got a note saying that my account was soon to be suspended. Nice one, and had it not occurred to them, that 99.9% of the time the account is way in advance? Does this not count for anything? Probably not. Bonkers, but what do you do, they don’t bill, you simply pay and manage the account for them. It is ingenious really.

    Ooo, I’m just starting to get all riled up. Deep breath, one two three, deep breath. Serenity now, or something like that. Ah, feeling better.

    Of course it helps that I enjoyed a delightful a Spanish tortilla with a huge plate of garden greens for dinner. We had to get up early this morning because today was going to be quite hot, and we wanted to bring in more firewood (I just have a gut feeling that it might not be a bad idea to get a serious wriggle on with that job). But by mid afternoon, we were done and then enjoyed a late lunch of a toasted bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich, all organic ingredients and sour dough bread and stuff, but a bit intense. Of course once we got back home again my body demanded an afternoon nap. And coffee did not help, I find that drink makes no difference to my alertness levels anytime after about mid morning and can easily go to sleep after consuming one. Not sure what that means, but people swear that it picks them up… If they say so…

    Your body is trying to tell you something! Hehe! Do you manage to get any pumpkin ice-cream still or is that just a once a year enjoyment? And do they ever have a blue ice cream? It could be interesting.

    Ouch, after you mentioned the weather I checked in on CliffMass and yeah your truck crash in what looked like black ice conditions to me, beat our dodgy falling sign over a freeway. We get black ice down here and it is a complex thing to encounter especially for people from outside the area who have never seen it.

    Love it! I might just try that one about the lack of sleep folks. One of the Prime Ministers who was one of the first to be removed in the whole 7-11 thing (7 of them in 11 years) was enormously popular and did some good things, but I do wonder how much his lack of sleep lead to his undoing. They nicknamed him Kevin 24/7, but I also wonder why they can’t be allowed to just do a job and get on with it without all of the monkey business and long hours. Years and years ago, I experienced a bout of insomnia, and despite changing utterly after that period (good ancient advice that) – thus not creating persistent pathways – I did discover that I had a great deal of difficulty making complex decisions during that time and also my emotions were in a slightly elevated state – and that ain’t good. And I lost a bit of hair off my head, and that clearly was mojo disappearing. So yeah, get some sleep, and get some good sleep seems to be the way of it! Glad to read that you are slowly but surely recovering.

    Thanks. The economics of the situation does do away with the extended families and long established community support systems. I’d never really quite thought about it that way, but it ain’t good when viewed from that perspective. There is a tourist town along the coast where the real estate values are so high and have been for long enough that whilst there may be seasonal work, the pay is not enough to live there. I read a report that suggested that the town has trouble fielding a football or netball (similar to basketball but for the ladies) team and they also apparently have troubles manning the local volunteer fire brigade. And the average age of the population there is not good, because it is not nearly diverse enough, but who else can afford it?

    I reckon the state of the economy also determines decorative art crazes too. During the recession of the 90’s I noticed that there was a huge craze for floral furniture and drapes, let alone the whole homey pine furniture stuff. But as the economy picked up, people ditched it all in favour of glass and chrome and industrialism. Nowadays I’ve noticed that people want to emulate high end hotels in their houses, and for the life of me I can’t imagine why. No baths for a start…

    That’s a concise but also an amusing way to put the change between one generation and another. 🙂 I sort of suspect that we’ve taken the whole ‘look at me’ thing a bit too far and perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the pendulum swung back a bit? Of course you may feel differently. Anyway, I feel that for all sorts of reasons relating to decline, social arrangements will change. Some things will stay, but some won’t.

    The film looks like a blast. Good fun stuff. Who can ignore chunks of silliness such as that? 🙂 And what did they manage to summons? Not good. Had a mate that was involved in the LARP scene and had never heard of the scene before that. I still recall the days when Dungeons and Dragons was thought to be a really morally dangerous game for people to play. Yes, very scary.

    Someone built a castle around the corner from where I am. I had a look to see whether there were any images on the interweb and there doesn’t seem to be any. In recent years they’ve planted an epic cypress hedge and you can barely see it from the road anymore. I met the owners a few years back.

    Hey, I may have mentioned to you my soft spot for a seaside town right down at the bottom of the state, anyway: Great Ocean Road at risk from surging sea. The changes I’ve seen there in the past three decades are quite alarming.



  61. Hello again
    I was amazed that you don’t have inheritance tax there, how utterly wonderful. Here it has gone a long way towards destroying the stately homes of England. If Lord… dies and then his eldest son dies in a riding accident a few months later, they are clobbered with 2 lots of the tax. People envy the aristocracy but are unaware of what is needed to maintain these great houses. I realise that I don’t know whether or not the royal family is exempt.
    Due to the incredible increase in the cost/value of houses, this tax is now affecting people who die leaving nothing but a house which then has to be sold even if a family member lives there. This tax does not apply if everything is left to a husband or wife. There is exemption up to a certain amount and it can be a double lot when a wife dies after she has received everything after her husband dies. Hope that I haven’t sounded to garbled.


  62. @Pam

    You have only heard the tip of the iceberg haha.
    Doug has many other interests thankfully. Once it gets warm he’ll have a lot more to do outside as well. He enjoys golfing too but it can be quite expensive so he’s got an annual membership to a 9 hole golf course just a couple miles away. For $300 he has unlimited golf and can be part of a golf league too. Then there’s the bees, the pigs and the never ending repairs so I’m not too concerned but it was nice to have the house to myself a couple days a week. We both like some space so have been staggering our activities so we both get the house to ourselves at times. Overall his retiring is a good thing as we can do things together during the week when it’s not crowded too – just takes a bit of adjustment.

    You gave good advice to your dad. My sister and her husband are both retired and they live in a condo in the city. She is dreading when he stops his part time job as he’s very needy but he also enjoys the gym and spends many hours there as well.


  63. Chris:

    50F is unheard of here in summer; 60F would be a stretch and could only happen at night. We get some of the same higher extremes that you do, though, and our winter weather is a lot colder.

    That falling road sign is one of the most freakish things I’ve seen. Note how the only part of the car that was not crushed is the driver’s side. It’s lucky there wasn’t a passenger.

    Apparently we get a lot of small, unnoticeable earthquakes. One has to look them up to know that they have happened. They tend to run about 2.5, except for the doozy in 2011 that was 5.8.

    You have done so well with your firewood this season. Darned if I can tell if things get easier as one goes on. It seems like there is always so much new stuff to adapt to that one can never just feel like one has figured things out.

    Five more gabions. That’s a lot more rocks.

    Sir Scruffy is not a dummy. He knows that breakfast is always served in the morning thus, even if he has breakfast at night, there will always be another one next morning. Who would mess with tradition?

    You may have a castle, but someone is building a large, stone French chateau on the mountain above us. You can only see it from way down below, but they have made sure that it can indeed be viewed by us peasants since all the trees have been cut down around it. Which also gives them a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains across the valley.


  64. Hi Damo,
    Glad you enjoy the family stories. My sister and I had once said we would write a book about our experiences after our mother died, running her horse boarding business, selling her place, getting all the brothers situated including have them live with separate sisters while we added on our house. We figured it would of course be made into a made for TV movie and I had dibs on Sally Field playing me. Then, wouldn’t you know it, a woman we had gotten to know wrote a book, “Riding the Bus With My Sister”, and it did get made into a movie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riding_the_Bus_with_My_Sister

    My sister, Nora, chronicled much of the process in long emails she dubbed “Brother Updates” which I have saved. They were emailed to friends and family about every month or so. Let me say that many of the experiences weren’t so funny at the specific moment but reading about them often was hilarious. She had funny titles such as “Toads, sweaty sleeping bags and medical miracles” and “New Obsessions, Tumors and Lots of Kissing”. Doug even wrote one about his experience of suggesting and explaining getting a vasectomy (as Gwen and he had become an item and she would be visiting him at his apartment) and taking him for the procedure. One of her updates began, “A full month and a half of brother adventures and I am happy to report we’ve made it a whole seven weeks without a police or ambulance call which may be a record.”

    Best of luck with your move. You move around so much that you can’t accumulate too much.


  65. Hi Chris,
    I imagine your dogs stay quite healthy with all the activity they get living around your place. I can’t imagine dogs that live in apartments or houses with tiny yards would do as well. When I visit my sister in the city I can’t believe all the dogs out being walked. It’s mostly apartments, condos and a few small houses in her neighborhood.
    I did enjoy your story so don’t stress yourself.
    Sorry about your sisters. One of my sisters sounds somewhat like the sister you described but she has had to deal with some pretty serious stuff in her life so I try to give her some slack. When she’s in one of her “states” she can just suck the life out of you. However, she is a good and generous person as well. Now that I have more time I’m making a point of spending a little more time with her and so far, so good.

    Kind of hard to acclimate with those temperature swings.

    Met up with Marty today at the dentist as by some fluke we had appointments right next to each other. It worked out OK as I had some paperwork for him and he got a ride home as well. He’s moving to a first floor apartment in a month in the same complex and is very happy but is in a tizz about it.

    Spending the weekend with my aunt this weekend in the city.


  66. @Inge
    I do indeed have experience with trusts. My mother had the wrong kind for Patrick and Michael to access most government benefits. As Marty is more capable she didn’t include him which in the long run was a good thing.

    Laws continually change regarding special needs trusts. It’s a great income source for lawyers I must say.

    I’m sure trust are different here but one huge advantage is when someone dies their estate doesn’t have to go through probate. If you don’t have a will of course it goes through probate but even if you have just a will it still does too. The difference is you choose who you want to inherit your money etc and without a will the court just follows heir ship laws. Probate also takes a long time. With a trust there is no probate but rather the successor trustee distributes the assets per the trusts instructions. My in-laws had one and when my father in law died my mother-in-law needed very little help as everything just passed to her. When she died her assets went to her three sons less any loans they had. No court appearances and as my brothers in law and Doug trusted me (I was the executor) there were no court appearances or legal fees. It was a piece of cake really. After the final tax return that trust will be depleted of funds and closed.

    Doug and I have our assets in a trust for the same reason. If we were both to die at the same time our wishes are clearly drawn out. We are co trustees of our trust and when one of us dies the other will be the sole trustee. The executor will distribute the assets and that’s all.


  67. @ Damo – Good luck with the move. May all go smoothly.

    I watched season one of “Castle Rock”, last night. Pretty good. I guess it’s going to be an anthology series, like, “American Horror Story.”

    The New Star trek is waiting for me at the library. I’ll pick it up, tomorrow. Lew

  68. Yo, Chris – I don’t think we’re in danger of being hijacked by chat bots, any time soon. Given the poor showing by algorhythms. At least, judging by the library catalog and advertising.

    We don’t see many toll roads or bridges out here in the west. It’s mostly an east coast thing. They have more of a history. When I was a kid, they did have a toll on the second span of an interstate bridge, they build across the Columbia River, between Vancouver, Washington and Portland. The toll was just to cover construction costs, and when they met those expenses, they took the toll off. Earlier than projected, in fact.

    Yeah, I always thought it was a bit cold when you pay, faithfully, some bill for years, and when you slip up a bit, they don’t cut you any slack. But then, humans fall on hard times, and I’m sure they wouldn’t want to be caught with someone owing them some small amount. Send them to collections! :-). Destroy their credit rating! If you’re running a plus balance, and, say move to another State, I wonder how hard it is to get your balance, back? Probably, very hard. Tis the nature of the beast.

    Back when I drank coffee, it never bothered my sleep. I could drink a pot before bed, and not have a problem. But that’s different, now that I’ve pretty much switched to tea. No coffee in the evening, if I want a good nights sleep. I usually drink coffee, at the Club. But if I get too much, I can kiss my afternoon nap, goodbye.

    Pumpkin ice cream is long gone, til next year. Blue ice cream? Maybe blueberry? Mostly, if I splurge on ice cream, I want it to have some kind of chunks of chocolate, in it. The kind I favor, these days, has tiny chocolate peanut butter cups in it. And solid chocolate swirls in vanilla ice cream. Ice cream, along with everything else, seems to be getting very expensive, here.

    Being a bleeding heart old lefty, I tend to think about the human toll of things. When the midwest started rusting out in the 80s, there were several books. And, Bruce Springsteen sang about it, enough.

    Oh, there are a lot of rich enclaves where the service staff or seasonal workers can’t afford to live anywhere near the job site. Aspen, comes to mind. Don’t know if they still do, but mountain resorts used to provide bunk houses or dorms for seasonal workers. Come to think of it, I can think of a number of situations where housing, and maybe food is provided for workers. Condition can vary widely, mostly based on available work force. If it’s hard to get workers, conditions are usually better. If people are beating down your door, conditions can be pretty poor.

    Oh, yeah. I remember the Great D&D panic. “Morally dangerous” sounds so tame. What we got here was “Work of the Debil!” “Satanic!” Saw the same thing when Harry Potter rolled into town. All silly, really.

    The neighborhood castle probably got tired of day trippers wandering through their grounds and peering in their windows. You know how people are :-).

    I finished watching season one of “Stephen King’s Castle Rock”, last night. Pretty engrossing. I don’t know how involved King was in creating the series. There were other writers, and, he didn’t figure at all in the DVD extras. I’d guess he felt comfortable enough with the creator’s of the series, to sell the “concept” of Castle Rock. As you may know, Castle Rock is the small Maine town that many of Steven King’s novels take place, in or around.

    The series also had some interesting sub-texts. Dying small towns due to industry leaving. The human costs of privatization. As, the local prison, one of the last local employers is privatized. One of the guards makes a very telling comment. “If there was a Walmart within 60 miles, do you think I would be working here?”

    Can towns be soul sick? Evil? Oh, I think so. There’s a vast difference in the “feeling” between Centralia and Chehalis. Centralia has always been a bit “off.” More nefarious things going on behind the facades. More macabre crimes. I’d say the whole “atmosphere” dates back to at least 1918 (1919?). The “Centralia Massacre” (See Wikipedia). Lew

  69. @ Margaret
    I reckon that trusts are different here. Also, as far as I know, all wills require probate. If there is no will one has to get something called ‘letters of administration’. Like you, I am considered to be honest and have been the executor of a number of wills. Have found that it can take about 2 years to deal with some estates. Interesting that honesty produces burdens! Fortunately I am now too old to be used in this respect, I only have to try to simplify things for my descendants.


  70. @ The Editor:

    Take good care of him (understood!) and give him my best wishes for a speedy recovery.


  71. Yo, Chris – GET WELL SOON!!! (I yelled ’cause your really far away.)

    I may have stumbled on a new fiction writer. Exciting news, as, there just aren’t enough books to read :-). Robin Sloan. Has two books out.

    One is about food (sourdough … yes, a novel about sourdough) and the other is about a used book store (more plausible.) Does this author have my number, or what? If the author is good, maybe the Editor or you might like them.Our library has both in the system. Now, which one to read first? Lew

  72. Hi Chris,

    Hope you feel better soon! (Editor, thanks for letting us know!)

    I’d say more – this is the first time in a couple of weeks I’ve had time to write for fun instead of to deadline – but with you not feeling well, I’ll wait on that. The only thing I’ll mention is St. Louis’ snowbound status. We are in the middle of an epic, for-the-record-books snowfall. I just found out that Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel is in town to report on it. If any of you watch the Weather Channel, you know what that means. 😉

    No worries about Mike and I. We still have electricity, but we’ve taken the opportunity to fire up the wood stove and are basking in its radiant heat, in between shoveling snow. With a 100 foot long driveway and a snowstorm that looks on target to dump a foot or more of snow on us before it ends, shoveling by hand is a team effort. Mike shoveled once yesterday morning and once this morning (Saturday). I shoveled snow yesterday evening after dinner and will do so again this evening.


  73. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts and I am feeling better today. Yesterday was not good and I am grateful for the very strong medicines that I readily to hand for just such an occasion.

    Yup, no inheritance taxes to speak of. The manor houses are indeed a spectacle for the very wealthy. You would not want to own one and be a bit down on your luck. Expectations would be high, whilst resources would be low.

    I have no idea as to that either, and incidentally I have no idea whether we also fund them, given that the Queen is the head of our Parliament and wields considerable power. Although I have no real problems with that because sometimes our elected politicians can be rather short sighted and feckless.

    No that all makes sense. You’d think that there is some sort of middle ground to be found in your inheritance taxes? The rise of house prices has been very good for governments of all stripes down here and not many people appear to remember that.



  74. Hi Pam,

    The editor did indeed take good care of me – as did the fluffy collective (I’ll put some photos on tomorrow). I’m still not good, but it is nice again to be feeling better. 🙂 That’s a weary smile from someone who has slept a lot.

    Well, you are in for a surprise as I took a photo of frost in the valley below the other day. Yup, frost. Even I was struggling to believe that, but photos tell no lies.

    The falling sign has caused a massive ruckus and investigation. The sign was huge and it covered two lanes, and the driver was very lucky.

    Exactly, the earthquakes are small here too and located far away, but you can still feel them. I wouldn’t want to have been here the day the volcano that I’m on erupted. Feeling sick would be the least of my concerns. Some of the volcanoes in this corner of the continent are only a few thousand years old and people would have certainly been around to witness the eruptions. Every now and then a geologist says were due for another eruption somewhere.

    Yeah, I get that sense too, and don’t you reckon it is always a case of two steps forward, one back? But firewood has definitely been easier this year (more on this on tomorrows blog).

    Of course! Sir Scruffy is a canny old canine, and I never would have come up with that answer. He is the story this week. 🙂 Hope you enjoy.

    Really, a large stone French chateau? Sounds bonkers. Hey, you know, I can’t even understand why folks in rural areas don’t even have a kitchen garden, let alone wanting a large stone French chateau! I can tell you which one would be more useful…



  75. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts and the editor looked after me – as well as the fluffies, who kept me company for most of the day and night. I feel better today and am grateful for the serious anti nausea medication that I had readily to hand. It is heavy duty that stuff and just works.

    Yeah, the dogs lead a charmed life and also I feel that it is good for them to be able to spread their business around the orchard. Their business rapidly disappears too as the birds descend upon it and convert it to plant fertiliser. A horrid, but sort of important mechanism. They get to run around a lot too in natural settings and I reckon that helps their mental health which is usually pretty good.

    Thanks for saying that, I appreciate hearing it.

    I hear you about that, and what do you do? There is only so much energy to chuck around. And some folks can eat all of it and more.

    It is hard to acclimate to the temperature here, but most days this week are well over 30’C / 86’F, so it will be a hot one, hopefully followed by a bit of rain on Thursday or Friday. Maybe… Fingers crossed.

    Marty probably doesn’t like his patterns being changed and moving to a first floor apartment – even in the same building – might present a few challenges to him! Good luck and he’ll be fine.

    Enjoy your weekend. And hope you get to visit some galleries or museums and have a good time there.



  76. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, thanks for the yell because I actually was far away. I fell asleep at 3pm and woke up at 8am this morning, but have slept on and off again throughout the day. Dunno, whether I mentioned to you the time a few years back that I teased old Scritchy the boss dog and she poked her tongue in my mouth – and I became very ill and ended up in hospital on a drip? Well, I don’t tease the dogs anymore, but more importantly after that bout of illness, I scored a pack of anti-nausea stuff that chemo folks use. Mate, they probably need it, and that stuff just works. And I had nothing left in my guts yesterday and I was fading fast. It is absolutely bonkers to wake up fit and healthy in the morning only to go down like a sack of spuds by mid afternoon. And what is worse is that I have no idea what the source of the bug was. I took a wild guess, but, I dunno… Turning up to work sick in a commercial kitchen is a no-no, but people might need the pay more than I need my health. It would be a very hard shift for them, so I guess that is one consolation.

    Thanks for mentioning the new author. I’ll check into that. Sourdough or Book Store, what a decision. I’m going book store too.

    Of course, you have experience with the rotten chat bot computer thing in your library. I’ll bet someone earned a lot of money creating that system. I used to like the old card catalogues because they were simple and they worked, but you know, progress and all that gear… The nice telephone company has a chat bot that sends me around the bend, and I might have mentioned that already, but it probably needed reiterating. It really does, and you can’t even swear at it because it comes back saying that you’ve said something else.

    The toll roads down here are only a recent thing. Before that, the roads were publicly owned thus the term ‘free-way’ (maybe, anyway, nobody is really free in a traffic jam – or with a large sign having crushed their vehicle). But the widening was paid for by private money and so they got the right to toll it – and now it is tolled.

    Speaking of which, they’ve had a bit of investigation into the signs and some have apparently been removed and even the gantries are getting a look in.

    Yeah, it is a very impersonal system, but generally debt collectors are pretty good on people who make a slip up and forget to pay. Mind you, it is a dog act to suspend an account for a minor oversight of only a couple of dollars. At the end of the day small amounts are incredibly expensive to legally collect upon. I once worked for a business that got paid a lot of small value credit card transactions (I’m talking tens of thousands of them a week), and it was a bit of a scam because people would query their charges with their bank and get them reversed. It was just too expensive to look into all of them, and I suspect people knew it.

    Speaking of tea, the tea camellia is doing very well, but is nowhere near big enough to be able to make a cuppa. One cuppa would be fatal for the poor bush. It did however survive the winter and the snow and frosts and stuff. Fair enough about the coffee, I get that and I tell ya, I’ve had more than my fair share of afternoon naps today. Managed to write tomorrows blog though, so hopefully it is all good – and makes sense.

    Of course, blueberry ice-cream. Is that even a real thing? They have something called Blue Heaven flavour down here and I’m not entirely convinced that it is anything natural. We’ve been enjoying blueberries this week, but you know I reckon the gooseberry is the better fruit, although they taste pretty similar to me. Gooseberries grow faster and produce more fruit down here anyway. And chocolate chunk ice cream sounds very tasty. Things are getting more expensive down here too. And frankly I really wonder why folks who live in rural areas can’t even be stuffed having a kitchen garden. It just makes me want to rant. Rant. Rant. I feel much better now.

    I tend to worry about the human toll of things too, because mostly it needn’t be the way it is, although other paths are harder work.

    Really? Harry Potter? Bonkers. You know it sounds superficial, and maybe it is, but it was the cover art that put me off those series of books. And I never went back. Hey at least the D&D guys used to actually get together and play the games in the same room. One of my pet hates is the huge massively-multi-player-online games because I lost a large group of friends to that. Pah. Interestingly there has been a lot of talk in the media about ‘loot boxes’ in those games being akin to gambling. The kids are into Fortnite these days and I’d be very cautious if I was a parent, but fortunately I’m not and so it is not a worry, but it would be if I were. That’s complex isn’t it? 🙂

    Hope you are feeling better today and have cast off the last remnants of your cold?

    I did not know that Castle Rock was the small town at which a lot of Stephen King’s stories are set. A place that is thin in the same way that Hanging Rock is? Maine would have quite a nice climate based on its location. Have you ever been in that part of the world? The prison guards comment in the series is sheer genius. There have been rumblings in Amazon land too. Fascinating.

    Thanks for the mention of the massacre. Emotions ran as high as the ideology.



  77. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts and the editor and fluffies nursed me through my hours of need. It was not good – and the onset of illness was very rapid.

    It is nice to enjoy writing for the fun of it (that is my little secret too!)

    Good to hear that you are both warmly and safely snuggled in front of the wood heater in those snowy conditions. To be honest, it sounds sort of nice, other than the shoveling of the 100ft long driveway. But the editor would also be out there mucking in if we ever experienced those sorts of conditions. It is even better that the electricity is still on and you can get to enjoy the snow from inside a toasty warm house!

    It is meant to be 35’C / 95’F tomorrow! Far out…



  78. Chris:

    Glad that you are on the mend and I can’t wait to hear what else Sir Scruffy has been up to. Dragons, probably.


  79. Yo, Chris – I thought maybe you were down from over doing it, stacking wood in the sun and heat. Anti-nausea medication works a charm. When I had the flu and ended up in the ER, at 3am, several years ago, they sent me home with some of that. And, it’s fast!

    I decided to go with the used bookstore novel. It’s the oldest. Might take me a couple of weeks to get. No copies available, right now.

    I’ve seen blueberry ice cream, but never tried it. I suppose the cheaper stuff is 3 or 4 berries in a gallon and all the rest those yummy “natural” flavors and colors. I think I’ve seen organic versions, but the prices were out of sight. Maybe I’ll try making some of my own?

    Thought I’d made some progress on the cold, but I seem to be trying to hack out a lung, this morning. Some would say that that’s a good sign. That the cold is breaking up. But, while I had the cold, I didn’t have any problems with my lungs, at all.

    No, I’ve never been to Maine. Never been east of Minnesota, or to the East Coast, at all. Next life. Wikipedia has a whole entry on the fictional town of Castle Rock. And, other fictional places in King’s work.

    Winters are pretty awful in Maine, from my point of view. 50-70″ of snow, per year, on the coast. 60″ – 110″ inland. The record winter low was -46C. But long periods are 10-20F. People from Maine will tell you the winters aren’t so bad, as it’s a “dry” cold. :-).

    I watched the first episode of Star Trek Discovery, last night. Hmmm. Well, some things are going to take some getting used to. Even though it’s supposedly 10 years before the original series, (but after the Scott Bakula version) it appears higher tech than either. The Klingons are pretty over the top. Costume and make-up, wise. Not near so “relatable” as, say, Ltn. Worf. We’ll see. Early days. Lew

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