A very special fluffy

Dogs make for poor company in a bedroom. They snore, and they’re very comfortable ripping out a hearty fart. And sometimes when they’re enjoying a dream, they’ll be sound asleep and not moving anywhere, but their feet are running at speed along the timber skirting boards at the bottom of the walls.

It is a bit of a mystery as to how Sir Scruffy managed to end up sleeping in the bedroom. Here he is:

Sir Scruffy the Charming

He looks like Paddington Bear does he not? He’s getting on in years too. However, he is a dog that knows his own mind. And one day many years ago, he decided that he wanted to sleep in the bedroom. He’s a master strategist, and so he chose to sleep on the floor next the editors side of the bed, rather than risk being on my side.

At first we used to pick him up and decamp him back to his comfy bed near to the wood heater. What dog doesn’t love a wood heater during cold winter nights? Sir Scruffy is one such dog. The cheeky little scamp used to wait until we were fast asleep and then he’d swan back into the bedroom and settle into his – fast becoming usual spot – on the floor next to the editors side of the bed.

It was a war of attrition, the war was long, and eventually Sir Scruffy won, and we lost. Sir Scruffy won the right to sleep in the bedroom.

Winters are cold up here in the mountains, and Sir Scruffy is an old dog, and winter nights spent on the timber floor in the bedroom would be a challenge, even for a puppy. In the cold winter mornings, Sir Scruffy the crunchy, would look at the editor and I with a face that clearly said: “You two are the worst humans ever!” So we got him a woollen blanket to sleep upon. All was suddenly good with the world again.

In those heady days Sir Scruffy was old, nowadays he’s positively ancient. About a year ago I noticed that he preferred sleeping with his head propped on items that were soft, so I got him a small low pillow and stuffed it under his woollen blanket. After that modification he said to me: “I take back all that stuff I said earlier, you two are alright!”

He is a quirky dog, and the other week he decided that he no longer wanted to eat his breakfast in the morning with the other dogs. For some reason he decided that he much prefers breakfast in the evening. So his breakfast gets made in the morning and sits on the bench all day long fermenting. I chuck a bit of home made yoghurt into his breakfast and that is the source of the fermentation. Yoghurt cooks at 43’C / 109’F so I doubt very much that it will go off over the course of a day. Anyway, he loves it, but in the evening.

At night when I put him outside so that he can go to the toilet before he goes to bed, he stands just outside the front door. And waits. Then he waits some more. And he looks at me with a look that says: “Pick me up and carry me over to where I can go to the toilet!” His sheer stubbornness has defeated me here too, and he has trained me to pick him up and carry him down the stairs so that he can go to the toilet. Then I carry him back up the stairs again. Yup, he ain’t heavy, he’s my Scruffy dog. He is heavy though due to all that late breakfast.

He’s isn’t shy about letting you know what he wants. Other dogs will sit quietly at a door waiting to be let in. Sir Scruffy on the other hand has learned to knock on the door – any door – to attract our attention. And it is hard to ignore the banging racket that makes, so he gets promptly let in.

Despite Sir Scruffy being an arthritic and generally crunchy old fella, Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (regular readers will recall that Ollie is actually a very sensible Australian cattle dog) has a deep respect for the opinions of Sir Scruffy. I’ve observed the two dogs interacting and Sir Scruffy trucks no nonsense from the young upstart Ollie. It is awful to behold and in his own uniquely crunchy way he is not shy at all about chomping down hard on the obstreperous young Ollie, if he can catch the agile young scamp.

Earlier in the week Sir Scruffy was very ill. I thought that his time had surely come and he was about to keel over. But no, he made a full recovery. However, Saturday afternoon, I too became ill, in fact very ill. After consuming some serious anti-nausea medication, I slept the rest of the day away and also the rest of the night too. The fluffy collective took turns in keeping an eye out for me in my hours of need.

Toothy keeps watch over me in my hours of need
Ollie keeps watch over me during my hours of need

Dry hot summer air combined with the smoke from bushfires produce the most amazing coloured sunsets. And this week was no exception:

Dry hot summer air and the smoke from bushfires produce the most amazing coloured sunsets

Some mornings this week have been intensely cold. The other day I even spotted a band of cold moist air (otherwise known as frost) settling in the valley below the farm.

A band of frost settled into the valley below the farm one day earlier this week

We took advantage of the cold mornings earlier in the week to harvest firewood. One morning we got up at sunrise and over five hours we cut, split and stacked more firewood.

Another day of cutting and splitting firewood produced this pile

The now cut and split firewood sat out in the sun for a few days before we then began bringing it up the hill and stacking it in the firewood shed.

One day of work put away a lot of firewood
Another day of work almost filled the firewood shed

People get a bit funny about firewood as an energy source, but after a decade of learning how to live with it, I reckon we can say that we know a thing or two about firewood. In the past two years we’ve incorporated an electric (solar powered) chainsaw and a much larger electric log splitter, and so we’ve barely used any fuel in the production of this energy source. And the proof is in the pudding because ultra dry and seasoned firewood burns really cleanly with little smoke and even less creosote (the fancy name for poorly combusted and rather toxic sugars produced by burning damp and unseasoned firewood):

Testing the moisture content of the stored firewood. 14% is considered excellent, but 13% is better again! Excellenter perhaps?

I’m not much of a fan of summer because of the serious heat, but the plants need the heat in order to grow, and if they didn’t grow we wouldn’t get any produce. It is a real predicament, but you learn to live with it. This summer has taught us the benefits of growing a wide diversity of plants, and I reckon we have nailed the succession of forest berries. The succession for harvesting forest berries at this location goes like this: Strawberries, Currants; Raspberries; Gooseberries; and Blackberries. Everyday we are able to head out into the garden and pick a batch of berries for breakfast – and we have done this now for months. We’re now at another time of change where the raspberries are slowing, and the blackberries are beginning to take their place.

Earlier in the week we enjoyed raspberries and gooseberries
But later in the week as it became much warmer, we enjoyed blackberries and gooseberries

Now that the raspberry season is drawing to a close, we produced a batch of very yummy raspberry jam to enjoy on home baked fresh bread over the winter:

We made a batch of raspberry jam from 2kg / 4.4 pounds of berries that we had harvested

We grow a lot of black and red currants too, but those berries are best converted into wine. And black currant wine is the tastiest fruit wine that we make.

A batch of black currant wine was produced this week

The apricot harvest this year was terrible due to the many late season frosts which destroyed the flowers on the trees. Peach trees flower slightly later than apricots and so they missed the run of extraordinarily cold weather. That means that there are several trays of Anzac peaches slowly ripening in the house. The peaches don’t preserve well (bottling / canning) and there are more than we can eat (and the birds got about as many again!) so we may make peach wine or peach jam. If anyone has any other suggestions please let me know?

Lots of peaches! Also some broad beans air drying.

Did I mention that I don’t really enjoy the heat? Oh yeah, I did mention that. On the other hand, the corn seem to be enjoying the heat. In fact they’re doing so well, that we may construct an even larger corn enclosure for next summer and this smaller enclosure can become an onion bed.

Corn is going really well. There are about 70 plants in there which should produce about 2 cobs each

The tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum (peppers) and chilli’s are loving the heat too.

Tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum (peppers) and chilli’s are all enjoying the heat

Herbs are delightful summer plants and many of them are in flower at this hottest time of the year.

Soap wort is an incredibly hardy and Ollie-proof herb
Feverfew is another hardy and useful herb
Bees love all of the poppies that are grown here
We have many varieties of wormwood and the flowers of this silver variety are stunning

Onto the flowers:

A bit of weeding unveiled this delightful geranium
A leek and bee against an Australian cobalt blue summer sky
A delightful rose enjoys the hot summer days
Salvia’s likewise enjoy the heat
European centaury is a common flowering plant in the paddock
The blue agapanthus is just beginning to flower

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 20’C (68’F). So far this year there has been 2.2mm (0.1 inches) which is the same as last weeks total of 2.2mm (0.1 inches).

58 thoughts on “A very special fluffy”

  1. Hi Pam,

    Thar be dragons! 🙂 Never thought about working dragons into the story. It’s possible… Hehe! He’s a lovely dog, that Sir Scruffy.

    It is nice to be in the land of the living again.



  2. Hello Chris
    I am so glad that you have recovered. Had you eaten a bad meal out?
    This week you hit an area where we have nothing in common (the first part). No dog enters my home. Give me children over dogs any time.
    The sunset is fabulous and also the photo of the mist below. I find the photos of herbs particularly interesting as they are often unknown to me other than by name.
    It is cold and bright outside. My pond is actually starting to dry out again. This has never happened in Winter before.


  3. Hi Lewis,

    I thought at first it might have been that too with the recent work and the heat, but you know I walked outside in the midday heat today, which was about 95’F, and thought to myself that it was hot, but it wasn’t as hot as it could be. Mind you, I had to walk outside and take a look around at the horizon because some numpty appeared to be setting off fires nearby. It was at that moment that I decided to top up all of the water tanks from the reserve 8,800 gallon water tank. One can never be too careful in these times.

    So it was probably something I picked up either via a commercial kitchen or from Sir Scruffy who himself was ill earlier in the week. Either is just as likely.

    Oh my, that must have been some ER journey? The flu is no small matter, and I can well understand how people died from it. I’ll bet you get your flu shots nowadays? Of course I know you do and am being facetious. I do too because of that very reason and I note they ran out of shots last year. But the anti nausea stuff is the serious biz and I owe my current good feelings of general health to that stuff because today I feel most of the way to be being fully repaired. Although I am going carefully with alcohol, and I’ll keep off it for a few days, but other than that.

    Enough about me, how are your lungs coping? Well there are other ways to get fluid out of the lungs, but you might not like them. It is hard yakka coughing your guts up. The editor suffers from that whenever she gets the flu, and it is not easy at all and you have my sympathies and best wishes for a speedy recovery. I once knew a builder who had Pleurisy and the stories he told me did not make for good hearing. It is an inflammation in the lining in the lungs.

    Natural is a very misused word. I guess a person hell bent on mischief could claim that uranium is ‘natural’, and to be honest given the fandangling that goes on with that word we couldn’t really argue with them, could we? Speaking of weird, I wrote about air conditioners the other week, and who knew: Treaty on HFCs aims to curb global warming from greenhouse gases in air conditioning, refrigeration? I noted that the article was suitably vague about how all those units are intended to be powered, although it did at least raise the issue at the beginning of the article? It seems a bit of a leap of faith to me. Maybe I’m just grumpy because we are in the grip of a heatwave. It is 8.30pm here and the outside temperature has been beginning to drop for about half an hour now to its current 82’F.

    Oh, shoot! For some reason I thought that Maine was further south. Doh! Yeah, nice summers, shame about the winters… Fair enough too about Minnesota, a man has to know his limits. They’d get some pretty cold winter weather there too. I’ve been right around Australia, but in those days travel was a quiet thing and I’m not sure that I’d enjoy it now. We just chucked a tent and some clothes and food in the hatchback and off we went into the wild blue yonder. I got sick of travel after about six months and all I wanted then was to go home. Saw some interesting stuff and there are some nice parts of the continent, but even back in those days the prices for land there was out of our reach, so here we are.

    You and Damo have convinced me to watch the Orville in the future, and I am curious as to your opinion about Discovery and whether you are enjoying it or not. I’m almost embarrassed to admit, but not really, that I’m watching Bojack Horseman – the editor talked me into it – and it is a very dark tale indeed.

    Get better SOON! 🙂



  4. Hi Inge,

    Yeah my gut feeling (excuse the pun) was that I picked the bug up when eating out somewhere recently. People go to work when they are not well these days, and I guess they need the money, especially if they’re casual and have no sick or holiday leave benefits (which I don’t enjoy either). I could have picked up the bug from Sir Scruffy, but who knows? My hygiene where the dogs are concerned is pretty good, as Scritchy once gave me a stomach bug like the one I just had, and after being hospitalised in the local day hospital, I didn’t need to be told to be careful a second time.

    Haha! Fair enough, the house here is over run with canine activity, and they are useful members of the household each in their own way. Late one evening Sir Scruffy alerted me to strangers coming down the driveway, and that gave me ample time to consider a proper response to the threat. Dogs are good like that. What is your sons feelings about dogs and houses?

    Thanks. The sunsets are amazing here. There were a few small fires nearby today – not good. Yeah, we grow a huge variety of herbs, most of which never make it onto the blog, and the plants just find a suitable spot in one of the garden beds and go about their business. It always surprises me to see orchards or market gardens without hedgerows or flower and herb gardens nearby, but I do wonder whether that is also part of the story about them not being able to make much money off their land? Dunno.

    Oh my! That is not good at all. If the winter here was dry, I would be very uncomfortable about the prospects for the coming summer, but you never know how things turn out until they eventuate.



  5. Yo, Chris – A Very Special Fluffy After School post? :-). I thought Sir Scuffy looked less like Paddington Bear and more like … (took me a few minutes to get it) Dame Judi Dench. Wonder if she’s ever played a dog? In drag, of course. Not so unlikely. She’s played a lot of rolls. :-).

    I’m not a Dog Psychologist (nor, do I play one on TV) but sounds like Sir Scruffy might have had a bit of separation anxiety. I wonder if the well ripened yoghurt contributed to Sir Sruffy’s leaky-ness? I am not a Dog Vet (etc.) but, perhaps, there were some adjustments to be made in the little biome going on in his tummy? It’s an old cliche, but, I’d say your dogs have you pretty well trained. Princess gets a bit balky, at times. I just scoop her up and get her where I want her to go. Which is probably all part of her nefarious plot.

    I’ve got to say that when you were “down” your color looked very bad. I’ve seen healthier looking corpses. But only on TV.

    That wood shed is so well organized, it’s a bit scary. Oh, well. What else are you going to do with your time? And, everyone needs a hobby :-). The berries are quit beautiful. I have a Currier and Ives print, of all kinds of fruit and veg piled up. “Fruits of the Seasons.” Hanging in the kitchen. Next to my Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Calendar. Raspberry jam. Sunshine in a bottle.

    The only thing that comes to mind for peaches is, maybe, peach butter, or, peach leather. Not that I know for sure that such things even exist. Calling Mr. Google!

    Corn, capsicums and chillies. Onomatopoetic. Might make for part of a good poem. Or, at least a bit of doggerel. What rhymes with “eggplant?” Looks like bumper crops, all around.

    Your soap wort looks like our wild geranium. The worm wood looks like tansy ragwort. Hmmm. Isn’t there some killer liquor that can be made out of worm wood? Absinthe? Yup. Absinthe. Fern Wood Farm Green Fairy Absinthe. Might be missing a bet, there. Think of the label possibilities. Green Fairy riding on the back of a wombat?

    The picture of the roses and sunset are calendar worthy. Cont.

  6. (Cont.) It was probably the Internet that saved me when I had the flu. I was dinking around checking symptoms, when I ran across the little factoid that flu had killed 35,000 people, in the US, the previous year. That got through my foggy brain. That and the fact that I hadn’t been able to hold down even water, for three days. So, I called the ambulance. Luckily, I had health insurance at the time. Now that was 15 or so years ago, and, much to my surprise, the 3 mile ride cost $800 and some dollars. Silly me. I can still remember when an ambulance was a municipal service. Next time, I’ll take a cab.

    Poor Alice Springs. 45C! (113F). We hit 113 a few years back. But, just for an afternoon. I thought they’d (you know, them) replaced HFCs. And, I remember reading that there’s a lively black market in them.

    Yup. Minnesota has some winters. When I was a kid, we visited once. But, in the late spring. But I thought it the oddest thing that the cemetery had this kind of potato cellar. It’s where they popped you, if you died in winter, as the ground couldn’t be dug. Speaking of cemeteries, I see the remake of “Pet Semetery” is due out in April.

    I’m about half way through Star Trek Discovery. I find I’m fast forwarding through some parts. All that creeping about wrecked star ships. Small spoilers, ahead!!! The Discovery is a science vessel (more or less). There’s a mycologist, on board, as, it’s been discovered that there’s a universe wide network of mycellium. Like the Wood Wide Web. And, if you can tap into it, you can instantly transport to any part of the galaxy. An organic worm hole? But here’s the corker. The mycologists name is … (wait for it) … Paul Stamets. And, yes, according to Wikipedia, that was intentional.

    And, as an extra little bit of information, the character is the first ongoing gay character in Star Trek history. His main squeeze is the ships doctor. I can’t say the series really “excites” me, but, I think I’m in for the second season. I must say I find a lot of the “back history” interesting. Filling in bits and pieces from the early years. Things you’ve wondered about, or, not even known you were wondering about. Lew

  7. Once again I’m impressed with the wide variety of plants you manage. I’m thinking of adding black currents to our mix, and wondered what varieties you are growing (If you know). I guess our soil and climate need to be accounted for, but still like to hear real world experiences.

    Peaches- Our climate is too cold for nearly all peach varieties, but I”m going to try a few that claim to be good for here. In the mean time, we usually buy a case or two each summer, and eat like mad, but also can many. We’ve had good luck with canning, and wondered what problems you are having.

    A nearby permaculturist bottles about a dozen types of wine each year, and his black currant wine is pretty good, hence my interest in starting them.

  8. Hello again
    Notayesman 14 Jan says that China is importing less iron ore. If you want entertainment and have the time, go to the comments and find the reference to Dr Albert Bartlett ‘The exponential function’. You may have encountered him before of course. I found it riveting.
    Son’s dogs are outside dogs. One would only be indoors if there was a necessary reason.


  9. Good evening Chris

    People do deed get rather funny about firewood.

    Suggested reasons:

    1/ Effort to cut, split and stack. 2/ Making up a good efficient, wood fire requires time and care. 3/ Watching the flames encourages reflection and conversation….horror!

    And of course, it all needs forethought.

    Thank you for your blog: I always drop by for some sanity and am glad I found it via the (former) Archdruid.

  10. Hi Chris,

    So glad to see that you’re on the mend. Cheers to the editor and the fluffies for making that possible.

    Marty will be moving in about a month. He actually requested getting a first floor apartment. This a good idea before he gets much older and falls.

    I did have a nice weekend but no museums. The same storm that Claire experience (and maybe Pam too) hit our area too but just a couple inches of snow. However, my aunt lives quite close to Lake Michigan and the wind and snow made being outside quite unpleasant. We ended up just visiting and going down to a restaurant next to here building just a few steps away. There is a reason Chicago is referred to as the windy city. Doug reported that we had very little wind here but the snow was blowing sideways in the city.

    Sir Scruffy certainly is determined – just wore you down after awhile it seems. I guess at his age he has earned some special privileges. There was awhile last summer when Salve would refuse to eat her regular meal. Now any extra treat or rodent for that matter she would eat with gusto. She seemed perfectly healthy as well.

    What a beautiful sunset! The corn is looking good. That is some load of peaches.

    Looks like we’ll be getting some frigid weather at the end of the week with a high of 10F and a low of zero. Still not that long ago we got many more days like that.


  11. Chris,

    I was away from the computer for a few days. When I got back, I find that you had been ill. I’m so glad you had The Editor and the Fluffies to nurse you back to health! It certainly looks as if the Fluffies had you well covered.

    I remember whenever our dogs got ill, they were always underfoot, literally, and saying “Papa, I don’t feel good!” And if one of us humans got ill, they were always underfoot, literally, and saying “Papa (or Mama), you’re not well. I’ll fix you right up!”

    Warning understood about the beard. Mine us about 26cm long, so I know when to tie it up and keep it inside my shirt and away from moving parts and sharp things!

    Yes, having a peaceful relationship with the weather is a grand way of saying it. With two brief interludes, I’ve lived here since 1967, most of that in the same corner of Spokane. Spending at least a few minutes a day outside regardless of the weather really lets me “feel” what’s happening. It’s much easier that way to listen to and watch the birds and squirrels for any hints of what the weather might do. Having lived through a few winters similar to this one helps also.

    The balance between education and overeducation is a hard one to find. And it seems to be different for everyone. I’ve long said that we’ve all got a bucket that we can fill with common sense and education, and that the more of one you cram in the bucket, the less room there is for the other. I’ve met many highly educated people with absolutely no common sense!

    That is a wonderful photo of the bee on the blooming leek!

    Well done on getting in the firewood. That is a LOT of excruciating work, to say the least. And 13% moisture content? Methinks that that is most excellentest.

    Thanks for the series of feverfew pictures you’ve included. My mother always had some in her flower beds. Your photos bring back good memories of her.


    I really enjoyed

  12. @ Inge,

    Dr. Albert Bartlett. Thank you! I’ve been wracking my brain for several weeks trying to remember his name. I watched several of his filmed talks about exponential growth when I was at university. I was privileged to meet him when he was the main speaker at a physics symposium for regional physics students and teachers in Spokane in about 1986 or so. I found him to be one of those rare individuals whose mind operates at a totally higher level than most, yet he was very down to earth, approachable and able to talk about any topic at the level of the listener.


  13. @DJS
    I have almost nil scientific/mathematic education but found it easy to understand Dr Bartlett. I knew about the exponential function but had never considered it with such a wide application.
    Loved your bucket for education and common sense. Shall not forget it.


  14. Hi Lewis,

    Ooo, you are the naughty one! I reckon he looks like Paddington Bear, and he has such a disarming and beguiling expression on his face that it is little wonder he gets away with the mischief that he does. You probably have a disarming and beguiling expression on your face too, and I’m guessing you would have made a good spy, what’s your take on that? Mind you, I reckon I might have done well at that profession too. A lot of life’s little lessons get absorbed just by going around and asking stupid questions, don’t you reckon? I learned that trick in my early years in the public service, and the dumber you appear to others, the happier other people are to oblige you in your questions. 🙂

    Nah, he’s been eating yoghurt for years and since he’s gotten better, he isn’t leaky, which is a bit of a relief. Mate, they bury fresh bones in the garden, and then dig them up again days later and chew on them. Hmm, don’t ever let a dog lick your mouth, ears, nose, or eyes. Not good. And as a species, they’re a licky bunch too. The interesting thing is that the fluffies have no noticeable odour and their coats are clean with no washing, city dogs on the other hand, not so much as they smell and their coats are greasy. And I have wondered about that difference too. There is definitely something in it.

    Hey, there was a fire this afternoon in the next mountain range to the north which isn’t that far away. The authorities threw everything they had at it and it looks like they’ve done an excellent job. I was working at home and just had the emergency website on in the background, as it is nice to know if I’ve got to bail – the hatches are already battened down. It’s been a terrible hot week. Fire burning at Benloch, north-west of Melbourne.

    Never heard of peach butter, it could be interesting and I’ll check into that. Thanks! I don’t know as whether I actually enjoy fruit leathers. We’ve got a dehydrator, but still. Dunno.

    Hey, the corn is beginning to fill out. It was so warm tonight that we ran the bushfire sprinklers and just watered everything down. It dropped the temperature outside a few degrees but it is still 82’F inside. As far as I can understand the future, these sorts of days and weeks will become more common rather than less common. The canopy of the forest is looking good though and patches of the herbage in the orchard are still green. My thinking, like the song from the 70’s, or was it 80’s – not sure – is that ‘you better get used to it’… A catchy little ditty, that had a rather odd message to his lady friend, sort of like they’d just endured a shotgun wedding. Not sure. The plants will adapt far easier than we will that’s for sure.

    Absinthe was a killer brew, but my understanding of that brew was that it wasn’t so much the wormwood flavouring but the 180 proof liquor. Not many livers can tolerate that business for long. I read somewhere that wormwood used to be consumed by European peasants as a spring herbal tonic. It has a not unpleasant, but distinctive taste. I’m not sure it would grow well in your part of the world, but you never know.

    The roses are nice aren’t they, and that variety is a heritage variety and has a strong fragrance which is very nice.

    Oh my! Yes, a very wise move to call. 3 days? Not good. The longest I’d experienced that sort of feeling was for about a day and half and by that time I was done in and going down fast. I have no idea how your brain operated that clearly to make such a wise call. Not saying you used up one of your nine lives that day, but it does look like it.

    Been there in that town, and wouldn’t want to live there. The locals there might say the same thing about here too. Today and yesterday both exceeded 40’C / 104’F here. It has been unpleasant but deal-able. I noticed a neighbour brought in a huge new water tank. Good thinking.

    Who’d have thought there was a black market for HFC’s? Nah, we replaced CFC’s with HFC’s. A lot of cans of propellant use HFC’s – they’re very commonly used. It was a good solution was it not? 🙂

    Really, cool, but slightly morbid, but also fascinating to understand how these things are done. A cool room in the ground or a root cellar is a really good idea isn’t it? Sigh.

    I’m not reading the spoilers! But using Paul Stamet’s name was a nice touch… 🙂 I’ll bet he was chuffed about the nod, he’s earned it. Sounds fascinating, but skipping forward is not encouraging, and I did enjoy the spoilers, although I didn’t read them. Life is complex sometimes…

    The frogs are singing now because of all of the water we splashed around. It is nice to have plenty of water at this stage of the year. I rather suspect that water is the limiting factor on this continent and next in line would be arable soils and that is only as long as we can continue importing oil. The recent fish kills have not been good, and people are scratching their heads about it. Even Blind Freddy would know what is going on with that – it is not a hard thing to understand.



  15. Hi Steve, Inge, Xabier (!), Margaret, and DJ,

    I had to work late tonight, well past 8pm (no fun), so I’ve run out of time to reply. Tomorrow might be a bit fluid too given there is a fire in the next mountain range to the north. Will reply though one way or another over the next day or so, hang in there!



  16. Yo, Chris – Hmmm. Facial expressions. Etc. I think (and a life time of experience and observation seem to back this up) that I’m quit plane and homely. Not even homely in a charming way, as some people are. And a not very mobile face, in some areas. My smiles, don’t register, on the outside. But, apparently, anger does. I do have the eye roll and arched eyebrow, down pat. I guess I glower. I can scare small children, which comes in handy.

    I’ve thought in the past that I’d make a good spy. As I also have the ability to “fade into the woodwork.” Because of my countenance, people dismiss me, in a split second. Considered, weighed, judged and dismissed. It happened, recently, when I was introduced to someone. I laughed out loud. :-). The dismisser had the good grace to at least blush. Caught the twerp at his own game. You would not make a good spy. In the first place, being a bit of the ginger persuasion, you tend to stand out. And, you’re a bit too dashing. And then, there’s the hats … :-).

    Appearing slightly dumb, is a good information gathering tactic. Also, staying quiet, appearing a bit bored, and just letting people rattle on.

    The Fluffy Collective maybe has nice clean coats (other than the occasional roll in wombat poo) because they are vegetarian? Mostly?

    I’m glad they knocked the brushfire back, so quickly. And that you’ve got a plan to bail, if necessary. A root cellar / fire shelter would be nice. But to burrow down on one of your terraces, or into the hillside? The Romans were great one’s for creating part underground rooms. Usually dinning rooms. Of course, along the coast. But even under the Emperor’s palace on the Palatine Hill.

    Re: Alice Springs. I don’t quit “get” some people’s love of the desert. You saw the footage of Damo’s trip. Some people take to that landscape. I mean, I kind of get it. The play of the light across the colorful rock. The way the desert blooms with wildflowers after a rain. And, I get that some people don’t get my love of the cool, damp, dark and green. But then, if we all liked the same landscape, we’d be terribly bunched up. And there are enough people around, as it is.

    We should be hearing the frogs, anytime, now. There are buds on the trees, but they’re still wrapped up tight. A good thing, as it’s supposed to just get down to freezing, tonight. But, the rain is coming back, so, nights will be warmer, again. Lew

  17. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the link to the video. I’d watched it before, but a very long time ago, and so watched it again. He had a strong message.

    Imagine for a brief moment that someone was to write a story recently about air conditioners. People read the story and they claim special circumstances regarding their use of said device. What do you do? I don’t worry about such things as nature will sort it all out, although we may not like that. It was 40’C outside Monday and Tuesday and I have no air conditioning. It can be done, but few people think that far ahead. The good Doctors presentation speaks to that – and I’m really impressed he understands the human dimensions of the problem, and then calls them out.

    Of course the iron ore is a problem for us, but then they also want the coal, gas and agricultural products (despite the recent fish kill).

    Compared to yours and your sons place, the dogs here seem to lead a charmed life. I might have to remind them about that!



  18. Hi Steve,

    Thanks! It is like a giant supermarket out there – and of course that is the point. 🙂 Not sure what varieties, just black and red currants. They go deciduous so they should be fine up your way. And propagating them is as easy as pushing a semi hardwood cutting into fertile ground. I’d try the gooseberries and jostaberries too as they look to be a similar plant. Don’t expect any berries in the first year and remember to give them a drink of water if it gets hot and dry early on but other than that they’re really hardy. They get big.

    Exactly, the climate is shifting so if you get the chance, try stuff. Even stuff that people tell you won’t work. In the heat this summer an orange has recovered (didn’t like the snow at all – but didn’t die either). I’m growing proper sub tropical tea camellia and that came from a nursery about 2,000km north of here and survived both snow and heat now. The passionfruit is enjoying the heat too.

    Yup, black currant wine is good as! 🙂 Better than grape wines.



  19. Hi Xabier,

    Welcome to the discussion!

    Hehe! Yup all of the above, and of course people do not want to imagine that there could be any level of independence in a person’s life – it is an affront to their own choices! Mostly those sorts of comments are more about them anyway.

    But more importantly, the forest needs humans in there to manage it, because we’ve been doing that down here for tens of thousands of years, and you can’t suddenly stop doing that – although that is what is going on. Oh well!

    Thanks for the lovely comment and hope that your winter or summer is not too harsh. 🙂



  20. Glad you´re feeling better! Breo stays with us when either of us takes to bed. It´s a comfort.

    I´m confused by anywhere that gets both frost and high heat. You Aussies are a tough bunch.

    Congrats on the firewood. It looks very neat and tidy, and dry!

    How about some baked goods with the peaches? Pie/Tart? Galette? Or is it too hot to bake? Ice cream or gelatto? Grilled peaches on the barbecue were a thing a few years ago. Peach salsa with the peppers?

    The flu is reported to be bad this year. Lots of collapsed ERs, etc. We don´t generally get flu, but do come down with winter colds. I have to say the elderberry syrup I made last summer is the bomb. Really delicious. We´re now taking a tablespoon a day, but if we had more I´d be looking to pour it over ice cream or mixing it into a tasty cocktail.

    A Hail and well met to Sir Scruffy, who knows how to get what he wants.


  21. Hi Margaret,

    It is nice to be back in the land of the living, and it is hard to imagine, but on Saturday things were not good, but by Monday I was fine. The anti-nausea medication was unbelievable and we had it to hand after a similar incident many years ago where I was teasing Scritchy the boss dog – and she got me right in my open mouth. That was not a good incident and I ended up in hospital, and I no longer tease the dogs but treat them with the utmost respect that they deserve. The editor and the fluffies were lovely. Sir Scruffy sat next to me on the floor in his basket for the entire time I was asleep (with occasional meal and toilet breaks of course).

    There was a minor lost in translation moment regarding Marty’s imminent move when I realised that by the first floor, you meant the ground floor, and I hadn’t quite understood that. You might call our first floor, the second floor? Maybe? Anyway, it is a good idea that he is planning ahead.

    Oh my, well I guess the wind wouldn’t have drowned out conversations (when indoors of course!) That must have been some storm to have affected such a wide geographical area. Anyway it was nice that there were places to go that were handy to the building and the electricity wasn’t out. Speaking of weather, this week has been a shocker: Monday 43’C (109’F), Tuesday 40’C (104’F), and today 41’C (106’F)! Three days of that gear and I’m done. There was a fire to the north and east of here and I was glad that it wasn’t that windy on Tuesday.

    Exactly, he’s all about pester power (or pester paw-er, sorry for the bad joke!) but age does bring some privileges and who can argue with him? Yeah, don’t they get notions into their heads and sometimes just want things their own way?

    Best not to count the cobs, but they’re filling out and we’ll double the corn crop next season. As a crop down here it doesn’t make a lot of economic sense though because it is such a very heavy feeder, but we do what we can and they’re open pollinated varieties so we save seed.

    I might try peach jam, the inside of the house smells like sweet ripe peaches. It is quite nice really.



  22. Hi Lewis,

    You know I reckon that being, as you put it, “Not even homely in a charming way” would most likely be an advantage for you in such a profession. I reckon a person would want to be unmemorable and of course “fading into the background”, would be a natural advantage! No doubt you had all of your spy training in a past life, or this may have been one of those jobs that you’ve done, but aren’t allowed to talk about for security reasons. 🙂 Who doesn’t like a ginger? 🙂 But yeah, they are a bit too memorable, although it’s mostly grey now.

    Everyone is different in their expressions relating to smiling. I laugh a lot with others and try to make others laugh along with me, and that is how I’m naturally wired. But scaring small children, OK I’m impressed and would love to know the details of that particular expression. I’m not allowed to swear at or in front of children anymore and it’s just not fair! Sometimes the cheeky little scamps deserve it, but then everyone gets their noses out of joint when I do, and who needs those hassles. Hehe! Some parents think it’s OK if little Johnny wants to punch a stranger with a balloon. I can see why people want to look like bikies.

    Yes, I can see that about countenance coming into the equation. An excellent word too, you’ve dropped some rippers recently! Although people are really funny about countenance aren’t they? I’ll tell you a funny story: I’m a naturally lean sort of person, and I’ve noticed that men who have my height, but are a heavier build, tend to be more trusted than myself, and their opinions tend to be less questioned. I find that sort of thing fascinating, because once you understand all of the minutiae of those sorts of social arrangements, you can play the hand that you have been given more easily. I guess that’s a form of knowing where the social limits come into play? Dunno, but I’d rather not try and fight outside my weight class. Well there you go, who knew that would be between a light heavy weight and a cruiser weight. I might need to go on a diet… Hehe!

    Staying quiet is a good one to use too, especially when people are on the back foot. Yeah, social discourse rarely tolerates a quiet moment. That’s where books come in. Did you know they’re like an old school internet mobile device? I think Mr Greer once suggested that. Incidentally, I’ve worked out a fool-proof way to get rid of chuggers (charity muggers).

    Well, that is true, plus the dogs eat a diet of homemade food. The protein in animal food is of a very dubious origin, and I know a bit about that process.

    I wonder how the Roman’s water proofed their underground constructions without all of the high tech synthetic layers that people use nowadays? Dunno. At a guess I reckon I’d mix up the walls, floor and ceilings out of very water tight cement. The extra cost for a small structure isn’t that great. Hey, I read somewhere once that we don’t understand the technology that the Romans used for cement making and even the materials that were used. Have I made that memory up?

    I’m not a fan of the desert either, and I’ve seen enough of down here, but everyone has their own love of place. I’d miss the greenery too. Not for me. It looks like it may rain here tomorrow! Yay! It has been so hot lately. 3 days in a row over 40’C (104’F). I’ve seen that before, but hopefully we don’t make a fourth day. Weather records are breaking all over the place, and the people in the town near to the fish kill are apparently complaining about the quality of their drinking water supplies. Who’d have thunk it? There are a lot of people, that’s for sure.

    Records falling as heatwave continues

    BOM forecasts 47C in outback NSW as heatwave sparks ozone gas warning in Sydney’s west

    Buds on the trees! It’s an exciting time of year. Have you planned out your summer crops yet? We’re already planning the next terrace and it hasn’t even been dug yet!



  23. Hi DJ and Coco,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but as mentioned I did my best but ran out of time to reply today, but at least we’re still here.

    Will speak tomorrow when things are quieter.



  24. Yo, Chris – And, the award for the world’s weirdest disaster … Can we have a moment’s silence, please? Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919.


    The book mentioned came out in 2003, but I checked our library catalog, and, yup, we have it. There’s supposed to be a copy available. If so, I should have it by Saturday. Is it too soon to find the story a bit humorous?

    Speaking of the library, I keep forgetting to tell you about the latest entry in our “What could possibly go wrong?” department. Our library is still thrashing about over the budget shortfall, etc. etc. Well, as a cost cutting measure, they want to try a new bit of tech at our Winlock Branch, which is in a small town, south of here. I worked there a bit.

    The new bit of tech is called “Open +”. Hours would be reduced, but library patrons who wanted one (18 years of age or more) would be issued a key card. So, they can access the library when there’s no staff there. They would be strictly instructed to a.) not lend their card to anyone else and b.) not let anyone in who didn’t have a key card. The Winlock police chief voiced some concerns (Senior citizens could be targeted! If you can’t trot out the kiddies, cue up the duffers) but, not to worry, there will be cameras! Watched by who, from where? But, that wasn’t the issue raised. The issue raised was “privacy.” Bottom line? “What could possibly go wrong? Seemed like a good idea, at the time.” Part of the report says it’s a system “Used nation wide, with good results!” Madness.

    Well, there is my Witness Protection Program, to consider, and all that. It’s been pretty well proven that handsome or pretty people have an easier time of it. Right from grade school where teachers favor more favorable looking children. I’ve also discovered, over my lifetime, that I’m a poor salesman. Or, at least, not convincing. I figure it has to do with countenance (I had to look up the spelling 🙂 and probably, a bit with delivery. Oh, well. It is what it is. Life on life’s terms.

    Roman cement. No, must have been an alternate universe. We pretty much have Roman cement technology, nailed down. But on reflection, perhaps when you were a wee small lad, we didn’t have it nailed down. Advances in science, and all that. I do think the methods were lost for centuries. Rediscovered, I’d guess, in the 19th century. We even figured out that the Roman’s cement that hardened up underwater, was made from ash that came from one particular volcano. Might even be Vesuvius. I forget.

    Don’t count your corn before it tassels. Don’t plan your terrace before it’s dug. :-). I haven’t done much serious garden planning, yet, beyond “we’re going to keep it simple, this year.” Ha! Then I think, “But I want to try this” or “I want to try that.”

    The Club is having it’s yearly board meeting on Sunday. I’ve been urged to attend (Every vote counts!) to insure the “right” people get on the board. I have no aspirations to being a board member. My friend Scott warned me not to step out to the loo, as I’m likely to come back and find myself drafted. “I choose not to serve.” Got the dialogue down. Lew

  25. Hi Chris,

    I’m glad to learn that you have recovered, thanks to the Editor and the fluffies! Was it cooler the day the photos of you and the fluffies was taken? As hot as it has been (in your house as well as outside), I was surprised to see you had a blanket over you.

    The snowstorm was not as bad as the worst predictions, but it was bad enough. I measured 8 or so inches / 200+ mm of snow on Saturday afternoon, but by that time the temperature had risen to around freezing and the snow was starting to melt. The official St. Louis total for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday combined was 11.4 inches / 280 mm, and the official station is near enough to us that I feel safe in saying that we got about that much snow too. An hour or so west of us the total was closer to 20 inches. We may receive another few to several inches of snow this coming weekend and then experience a cold wave on top of that. It won’t be as cold here as Margaret will experience, but it will be cold enough.

    I found your and others’ stories about your childhoods really interesting. It’s a good measure of the community you’ve created that people here feel safe enough to share these stories.

    A few months back several of you were commenting about the book Fire Monks. Your comments inspired me to read the book, but until now I hadn’t remembered to talk about my perception of it. It seemed to me that it is intended to be a book that uses the fire as a way to discuss Zen and inspire people to learn more about it (which you picked up on, if I read your comments on it correctly). As a former Zen practitioner, I know some background on Tassajara and the San Francisco Zen Center that I brought to my reading of it. The book mentions it in passing, but the account of the fire suggested to me that they have not learned all the lessons they need to from their past.

    I haven’t been to Tassajara myself though I know people who have. It is waaayyy off the beaten path. The thing I found most astounding is the constant back-and-forth driving along the 14 mile gravel road that links them to the nearest hamlet, and that itself is a couple of hours’ drive from San Francisco. Those daily runs bring in the folks who want to enjoy the hot springs, and the food and all the other goods needed for their stays. In turn SFZC depends on the tourist season to keep not just Tassajara going, but also SFZC’s temple in San Francisco and the Green Gulch farm where the produce for SFZC’s operations is grown. Nothing could go wrong ….


  26. Hi DJ,

    Mate, hot again today. Nuff said. We were wandering around the orchard picking apricots from the trees at about midday, and the sun peeked out from behind clouds and you could feel the intensity of energy boring into your skin. I had plans, and I guess plans are what you have before you confront the realities of nature. My plans are now slightly smaller than previously.

    Thanks, and the editor and the fluffies both did a sterling job, and by Monday I was feeling my usual robust self. It is not lost on me that ones health can be snatched away at short notice and without warning.

    Your beard is an impressive achievement and I am filled with envy! The editor would stomp her feet if I was to be so daring as to attempt to replicate your efforts. 🙂

    How is your winter going? The past few weeks of summer here have been ‘epic’ due to the heat, but before that it was quite pleasant. Who knows what the next few weeks have in store.

    Hmm, I’ve met a few of those types too. Higher education often provides a specialty in one narrow field, and that does not necessarily translate into proficiencies in other fields. And other skills – that are often not taught as part of the higher education process – are often required to be brought to bear upon the subject itself before anything useful can be said about it. I once ran a graduate program for a large corporate and it was both fun and enlightening.

    Excellentest! 🙂 I hope that nobody has to be so tested, but you never know…

    Thanks, and it was a wise choice of plant for your mother to grow. Did she have much of a herb garden?



  27. Hi Coco,

    Breo would be a comfort during such times. How is Breo’s new companion enjoying the garden beds? Toothy and Ollie have been trying to forge a path through the very steep garden bed behind the house in order to get close to a blackbirds nest. What a mess and possible landslide risk!

    The weather this summer is completely bonkers. The past three days were over 40’C in the shade. If today surpasses 40’C, well, I’ve never experienced four days in a row here over 40’C.

    It really has taken about a decade of experience to get firewood looking that neat. Even we were impressed with the outcome. One or two more days should complete the shed, and then we’ll fill the firewood bay next to the house later in the season when the fire risk is hopefully lower.

    I liked the peach salsa suggestion, it sounds really nice. It is so hot today, we’re going to try and produce some peach jam.

    Elderberry syrup is a really handy winter tonic to have readily to hand – we have fresh citrus for most of the winter. I reckon you could almost grow some cold tolerant citrus in your garden, Meyer or Eureka lemons are two that’d I try. The elderberry plants are so easy to propagate from cuttings. Most of our lot began life that way. They’d make a good base for a hedgerow I reckon.

    Sir Scruffy is a unique character, and a really gentle spirit.



  28. Hi Lewis,

    You know, when the past three days have been in excess of 104’F, and at 3am last night the outside air temperature was 84’F, and it’s the highest overnight minimum temperature that I’ve ever experienced at this location, and people tell you that global warming is some sort of hoax or conspiracy theory, it really is nice to read that things could be worse, and that despite the heat wave at least we’re not drowned by a tsunami of molasses. What a revolting end for those poor folks! And the photos really did the scale of the disaster an absolute justice. A person caught in the sticky morass wouldn’t have been able to extricate themselves – even if they had the strength of Beowulf. It would never have occurred to me that such a possibility could eventuate.

    Robin Sloan’s book, Mr Penumbra 24 hour book store book, is wending its way here down under, but it’s a long way, and may not arrive until mid-February. No spoilers this time please. Seriously. Consider yourself under strict instructions, although I did rather enjoy the Star Trek Discovery spoilers, but did my best not to read them, although at the same time I did read them. Anyway, it is complicated being me. Hehe! Fun stuff.

    Earlier this afternoon I setup the water pump to transfer water from the large reserve water tank up the hill and against that pesky gravity business into the house water tanks. The power was switched on and the silence was deafening. Nothing at all. The simple water pump had died, which is frankly an impressive effort given it is less than four years old. We immediately took ourselves off to the local pump shop in the nearby town and put a quality replacement item on order late this afternoon. The dead pump was of dubious parentage and I freely admit that, but still sometimes I despair at the sheer waste at how some manufactured items are not fit for long term purpose. Sometimes I see this property as huge testing ground as to what sort of manufactured items have any sort of longevity, and the differences are quite marked and can often be very unexpected.

    I’m uncomfortable with such an ‘Open +’ system at your library because I plugged the possibilities into my brain, and the possibilities for mischief seemed endless. It is the sort of system that begins with the premise: ‘Let’s assume that nothing will go wrong’. And those sorts of systems don’t generally work because they are good in theory, but there is this little problem of not according with the whole human nature business.

    The fall can be that much higher as they age for those that traded upon their looks when they were younger. You may recall that with benefits come costs. Me, I’m doing my very best to age disgracefully with a level of dignity. It is an objective worthy of emulation, but alas for some reason people want to be taken very seriously as they age.

    The issue of what makes a great salesman was touched upon in the excellent film: The Wolf of Wall Street. Right at the conclusion of the film, that very subject was displayed in all its ugly chunks. Some folks of course are morally very flexible, and I suspect that assists them in being good at sales. But also an inability to concern oneself with consequences, may be the biggest asset of all when it comes to sales. Alas we can but do our best, knowing that we are flawed and not built for the rough and tumble world of sales. Yeah, it is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t. Hey, I wasn’t exactly sure about the correct spelling of the word ‘ain’t’ either. Is it even correct English grammar? On such questions the world turns and much debate rages?

    Or maybe a spatial anomaly caused my belief about Roman cement? I would have thought that material scientists would have taken a rather good look at the chemistry of that stuff. All I know is that bags of general purpose cement are now half the weight they used to be when I was a younger lad.

    Haha! One plans for simplicity, life however presents opportunities and dishes up complexity. There is always something that wants trying in the garden. Do you have anything specific in mind? You may remember that the tomato enclosure has a lovely and very aesthetic sapling fence? Well the beans have sprouted in there and they are growing furiously and some of the plants have twisted around and around the saplings in a very attractive manner. All up, I reckon it is pleasing upon the eye. Other than broad beans, I’ve never really grown beans before, so it will be interesting to see how it all goes. And I have a dark suspicion that the terrace above the not yet dug terrace should be allocated to bread wheat. There, I feel much better having written that. 🙂

    Run, Lewis, Run! Regular and timely attendance is also a form of service for a group, but preparing your lines in advance of a gracious escape plan is a worthy activity too. I’m wondering how the Green Wizards will go this month now that our fearless leader has moved to New Zealand?



  29. Hi Claire,

    Thank you and the day was cooler, but my internal temperature was all over the shop that day. I suspect that my body reallocated blood away from my extremities to more important organs and so I just felt cold regardless of the temperature. Fortunately the fluffies assisted by providing their excess heat.

    Last night was 29’C / 84’F at 3am. I have never seen it that hot before here at night, and felt very grumpy at human recklessness.

    Cool! Given that sort of snow is not your usual winter weather it would have been a very interesting and also fun experience. I love it when it snows here, but also I’m totally naive about the realities of such weather that you are encountering and have never had to experience the level of snow that you just dealt with. 20 inches of snow sounds like quite a disturbing experience. The fluffies would be entirely covered in such snow – including their obstreperous (I’m just kidding, he is really quite a lovely personality) mascot, Ollie!

    How did your water supply cope with such cold weather? Water is on my mind today because the pump that delivers water from the large reserve tank unexpectedly failed. It isn’t really a worry because the tanks are fairly full at this stage. The garden and orchard has learned to cope with water rations for many years and it is weather like now where that adaption pays serious dividends. Picked the first ripe plum today (Santa Rosa variety) as well as a lot of apricots for breakfast this week!

    Yes, their long supply lines were not lost on me as well as the necessity for them to maintain their camp so that the finances were balanced. But also their creek ran the entire time during the fire and they were able to pump water from it with abandon. Water here is a finite and carefully managed resource and once it is gone… Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed the story as well as the introduction to Zen concepts and would love to visit the place – but can also say that knowing full well that it will never come true.

    The train station which has operated since 1861, is 5 miles (8km) away. The difference was not lost on me either.



  30. Hi, Chris!

    Sir Scruffy: Scruffiness is good! Short is good! Possible gravy on the face is good! Pillows are good! Training humans is good! Chomping freckled ganglechunks is good!

    I am glad, Chris, that you were able to get out the weekly blog – on time! – though you were sick. Certainly the excessive heat doesn’t help things. If it was that hot here we would be watering twice a day.

    You will not be worrying about firewood this winter – and maybe the next one. We are not worrying about firewood. In fact, my son is clearing out some of the firewood in the barn to use that area for another project (or maybe that was to put new footings under each supporting post – there are too many projects going on here to remember) and he keeps bringing loads of wood up to the house and telling me not to hold back on burning it since we have mountains which have not been split yet and which will rot even though they are covered by giant tarps. So I am not holding back. A contrast to the years when I had to ration it.

    That is beautiful jam and the corn looks better than ever. I especially like the leek flower with the bee and the sky.


  31. @ Margaret:

    We did get that same snowstorm that you and Claire got, but it is never as bad here. We had about 5″ of snow. The folks who clear the roads were really on the ball this time. Even so, there was some jostling over who would get to drive Mr. Musty, my 4-wheel drive Toyota.


  32. Chris & Lew
    Roman cement
    I read a while back that in areas too far from any volcanic ash they found that powdered broken roof tiles (fired-clay) was a substitute. Does that ring a bell?

  33. Hi Chris,

    It wasn’t so cold as to be a problem with municipal water, or with our pipes. It’s been as cold as -10F / -23C and not frozen our pipes, though when it got that cold we did open the cabinet doors so that the pipes under the kitchen sink would receive extra warmth. During the winter there are always some water main breaks, but they are spread out over a wide area, so the percentage of people affected by a break at any time is quite small. During the winter we don’t normally collect rainwater, so that the barrels and faucets attached to them won’t freeze. Our stored rainwater is in the basement which has never gotten colder than around 48F / 9C, so we can use it all winter long and then replenish the barrels we empty during the spring.

    We needed to use more of our stored rainwater than usual in the past few days because we had a plumber replace all the water lines. We’ve had issues with low flow in the hot water lines the whole time we’ve lived here because they were smaller diameter than the cold water lines. The original idea was to replace just the hot water lines and the kitchen faucet, but the plumber pointed out issues elsewhere with the mix of 90 year old copper and galvanized pipe, so we decided to go ahead and replace all the lines. The plumber thought it would take one day to do the work, but it ended up taking 2 1/2 days. We could stay here during the work only because we had rainwater to drink and to flush the toilets.

    We got what we wanted from the plumbing work: the flow in the hot water lines now matches that in the cold water lines. But work in a 90 year old house always involves something unanticipated. It turns out that the electrical system grounded to the former metal plumbing lines. Worse, the plumber nicked a hidden electrical line that isn’t to code (most of the wiring in the house isn’t to code). We’ll have an electrician here to check the situation soon. It wouldn’t surprise me if we have to make all the wiring in the house code compliant. That would not be cheap. But we knew we would either have to do that before selling the house, or reduce the price so the new owner could do it (not that we plan to sell anytime soon, but we are both in our 60s and realistic about what that means).


  34. Yo, Chris – Your temperatures sound ghastly. I’d be living in the bath tub under several inches of water. Here, the rain is back and the temperatures are warmer.

    As far as the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 goes, I hope someone makes a mini-series or movie, out of it. I’m surprised it hasn’t been done, yet. As there seems not to be much new material floating around Hollywood.

    All right. I’ll be careful about spoilers for “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore.” In fact, I won’t say anything about it, as, I’ll wait and see what you think. I mean, I recommended it, and you spent good money on it. So, if you don’t like it, I won’t either. Even if I have to pretend :-). Have you ever not poked into something, that you shouldn’t be poking in? Resisted temptation? I’m hard pressed to think of anytime I’ve done that. “Don’t go in the cellar!” Etc..

    Well, that’s pretty poopy, about your water pump. Usually, those things die the day after the guarantee runs out. I had my own little excursion into tech hell, last night. Not near as serious as your water pump, but I’m still fuming. I’ve been waiting for a DVD, for quit a long time. So, I get it from the library. I’m the first user. I’d even laid in a bit of ice cream. I put it in the player, and get a screen I’ve never seen before. “Device does not recognize region.” I suspect the library ended up with a boot leg, from somewhere. There may be a work around, but I’m not hopeful. So, I rummaged through my small cache of DVDs and threw in “Chocolate” (the Johnny Depp version). I saw it years ago, and picked up a copy at a flea market for $1. I see another screen, I’ve never seen before. Apparently, it has a parental lock on it, which needs a code to open. Might be a work around, for that, too. So, I ended up watching “My Man Godfrey” and old 1930s b&w comedy with William Powell. But what are the chances? The ice cream didn’t taste near so good :-(.

    As far as the Open+ library program goes, clearly, it was conceived by, and is being championed by, people who have never worked with the public. Do software designers ever test out their creations in real world situations? I’d say not. Cont.

  35. Cont. Oh, I’m all for aging disgracefully. And, throwing dignity and propriety out the window. Might as well go whole hog. But that’s just me. :-).

    “Ain’t” is a contraction of “isn’t”. :-). No, it isn’t “good English”, and usually signals that one is uneducated. It indicates “lower class”. But, is often used for effect, by edjamacated people. As you used it. Give it another hundred years, and it will be perfectly acceptable. (See: “Idiocracy.)

    So, you’ve got two imaginary undug terraces. Castles in the air? Terraces in the air?

    Got to get my lines down for the Club elections. “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.” General William Tecumsett Sherman, when they tried to railroad him into being president in 1884.

    I picked up an interesting book at the library. “Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany (Mount, 2018). Just about every page is a two page spread of color illustrations (watercolor?) having to do with books, bookstores, libraries and authors. But scattered. So, you’ll have two pages of “beloved bookstores” and two pages of “striking libraries”. But not bunched up together. Scattered through the book, with lots of other book miscellany, in between.

    They had Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, and the Seattle Public Library. They also had an illustration of Paperback Bookshop, in Melbourne. Though from the text, I see that they now also stock hardbacks. I wondered to myself, “Self, I wonder if Chris has ever been there.” The I see that it’s located next to Pelligrini’s Cafe, so, I answered my own question. :-). It’s quit a nice book, and would make a wonderful gift for any book lover. Which, I’m sure is it’s intent. Great binding, too, with one of those nifty little red satin ribbons. Lew

  36. @ Phil – After a (brief) trip down the internet rabbit hole, I didn’t find any references to roof tiles being used in concrete. But, several references to ground roof tiles being used in brick.

    Building contractors, being building contractors, I suppose all kinds of things were chucked in cement, to extend it. To keep costs low. Slap a nice marble face on it, or a thick coat of stucco, and who’d know?

    Searching “structura testacea” turned up some interesting leads. If one is willing to wade through pages of scholarly articles. Lew

  37. @ Pam
    Yes, the beard is getting long. Two years ago it was about 15cm, but very bushy. Since it’s all grey, it made me look about 20 years older than I am. She Who Must be Obeyed said to trim it and shape it, so I did. She’s happy with the length just as long as it’s not a bushy “Santa Claus” beard.

  38. Chris,

    Plans? Aren’t they those things that (like the alliteration?) we make so that we can show how adaptable we are when it’s obvious our plans won’t work?

    Winter? Still warm, although we did have a couple nights at about -8C early in the week. Another mild dose of freezing rain this morning disappeared quickly. Back to very warm for the weekend.

    It’s not at all like the 2008-2009 winter. That season set the record for snow: 282cm! Fortunately it wasn’t all on the ground at one time. I did have to use the special “roof rake” twice, as the snow depth was threatening to get too heavy for the roof. A week before Christmas 2008 we woke up to find 68.5cm of new snow! (The previous high amount I’d seen in one storm was half that.) We let the Finnish Spitz outside and she ran to what was a wall of snow, looked back at me and said, “Papa, I can’t get out in the yard and I’ve GOT TO GO BAD!” I tromped down an area for her and had a lot of extra shoveling to do so she could get around. I bought a Big Bertha snowblower that spring for the deeper snowfalls.

    Before we moved to Spokane, dad had 2 peach trees and an apricot tree, boysenberries, grew a lot of squash and green beans and corn. We had different fruit trees here, strawberries and raspberries rather than boysenberries, and grew a lot of vegetables. Mom was in charge of the flower beds. Herbs were the feverfew (which just showed up from somewhere), chives, lemon balm, maybe a couple other things. The only herb we used were the chives. Everything else was for the flowers or the aroma.

  39. Hi Pam,

    Sir Scruffy here: Greetings to you, and I have heard good reports of you, and your past canines. Dealing with Gangle freckles is a thankless task, and I but do what I can in dealing with the young rascal. And whilst he may be fast, I’m persistent and can eventually bring him to heel – and therein lies the difference between him and I. He quickly forgets the wrong doings (a very long list to be sure), but punishment is eventually meted out by yours truly and order within the fluffy collective is restored. Then I can go and enjoy a nap knowing that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

    Hi Pam,

    Chris here: Thanks, and no the heat made being ill much worse than it otherwise would have been. I was mildly impressed that the blog was as coherent as it ended up being!

    The garden is getting quite dry tolerant, but it has taken a lot of years to get there. It is a complex problem only having a limited volume of water available for the plants, but it can be done.

    Hehe! Your son sounds as though he is doing some seriously top work – and getting foundations right is a worthwhile project. I’ve noticed that not many materials enjoy too much contact with the ground…

    The wood eventually rots here too, and it produces a valuable black sandy loam, although it takes a few years to get there. Firewood is a very complicated energy source and it is nice to read that you can enjoy a surplus. Not sure about you, but I consider systems to be working when there is enough to use with plenty left over for emergencies.

    I’m busting to open up a jar and taste the jam! We’ve begun making peach jam today. Yeah, the corn does look good doesn’t it? And it has been hot enough that the bees were camped out on the outside of their hive box the other day…



  40. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the suggestion about the Roman era cement technology. Interesting, but I don’t know much about their processes. In some of the old Victorian era houses that I’ve worked on over the years, I’ve discovered all manner of items in the concrete foundations. And back in those days, they used to chuck in shell grit and often complete sea shells, so it is fascinating to imagine what archaeologists in the far distant future would make of that discovery?

    Hope your winter up there is pleasant and that you get some rain!



  41. Hi Lewis,

    Your mention of the bath tub response to the heat wave, reminded me of the Captain of the Spaceship in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy who spent most of his time in the bath tub, even as the ship was crashing into the Earth. I do digress.

    After the sun has gone down on such hot nights, I run all of the bushfire sprinklers for a couple of minutes just to damp the place down. I’m not sure it lowers the temperature, but it makes me feel better. You know, over the years I’ve had people claim that such and such a building is so well (or more likely will be) constructed that it requires no heating or cooling and can remain comfortable in all seasons. It might be possible that somebody has achieved that goal, but it sounds like a big call to me. We built the house here to resist the heat and insulate us from sudden changes in temperature, but there is only so much building materials can do. Have you ever heard that claim being made – or heard of someone successfully constructing the dwelling in the flesh? I once heard someone north of here make that claim and then noted that they were lying as they were using a wood heater.

    And yes, I’m not imagining it, it is actually hot: Last night was Australia’s hottest on record.

    In more interesting news: Why do men with brown hair sometimes have red beards?. I quite like the thought of being known as the dreaded Red Beard! 🙂

    I suspect that those folks in tinsel town are a bit afraid of losing money and so they stick to the tried and true. Mind you, who would have thought that Game of Drones (never watched it) would actually have to employ a bloke just to shoot down drones near to the filming location? Bonkers.

    I have an iron will – and am not afraid to use it, so do your worst with spoilers for the book. I’m not afraid. Maybe. Was the book good? And was it anything like Black Books? So many questions. No!!!! Stay strong Chris, but it is so hard to do… Hehe!

    Water pumps are a funny technology and they’re a bit like computers because when they work, they’re great, but then you know, they often don’t work. But then you can get one that goes for decades and a lay person would really struggle sorting the wheat from the chaff.

    Imagine a world where the piracy protection was so good, that nobody could watch the contents – not even the creators of the DVD! You don’t seem to be too far from that point, but nice choice heading back to the past when such protection was unnecessary. I’ll bet films were pirated, from shortly after the technology was developed.

    It is a thing to celebrate! Too many folks get very serious as they age, and I often wonder if the cares of the world make them that way? Dunno, on the other hand few people seem to be overly concerned with global warming – or the war on waste, or other important stuff, so I do wonder what they are actually worried about. I’d never thought about that before.

    The English language is such a flexible organism in the way that it grows and responds to changes. You called that one, and I use such words for effect, a bit like swearing really. Sometimes you reach for a chunk of emphasis! Strangely enough ‘ain’t’ is not really part of the lexicon down here and it is only rarely used. On the up in use is the word ‘sweet’ which I understand has Canadian origins, but down here it comes from New Zealand – and it generally means ‘good and very acceptable to all parties’.

    Speaking of which, there has been something of a backlash against tourists in NZ: ‘Unruly’ group of tourists prompt warning patience with tourists could wear thin. There have apparently been deportations!

    Shhh! Don’t mention the second terrace. It is in the planning phase, but my mind stamps it with the ‘approved’ stamp. But don’t say that too loudly.

    I planted an oak tree today at the lower reaches of the fern gully. The soil was quite dry, but it felt right and hopefully the forest approves of the act. It will require a bit of tending, but they’re very hardy trees.

    General Sherman, like yourself, was clearly a man who knew his mind. As a general note (excuse the dodgy pun) Generals may make good Generals, but they may make for bad Presidents. You mentioned the Peter Principle to me a long time ago and it has stuck.

    Scattered books are difficult for my brain to enjoy, but that particular bookshop is one of my little joys in life. Oh yeah, it’s good – and open late. It is hard to walk out of the shop without an armload of books. Lead me not into temptation! Hehe! The shop has a lovely vibe to it too.



  42. Hi Claire,

    -23’C is a scary low temperature and fortunately it was something of a memorable record for you. I wouldn’t even begin to know what to do in that sort of weather! It is official, it was Australia’s warmest night on record last night. A notable achievement and I hope the oceans don’t notice it, but I fail to see how they could not… Depending on the flexibility of your water tank construction, freezing the water within (on the ones outside) could be quite problematic as it may expand and place stress on the walls of the tank. Dunno, as I have no experience with that, but it is possible, although not keeping the tank full would help a lot. I have had the weather get warm enough during summer that the water coming from the water tanks starts to get mildly tepid.

    Lucky you had the stored rainwater in the first place. It is an excellent resource. Ouch, I read your plumbing story with sympathy. The house here is so complex I usually employ the plumber on an hourly rate because I want the issue fixed.

    Yeah, I’ve heard of people attaching earth cables to copper and galvanised plumbing and it is not a good idea. There have even occasionally been electrocutions of unsuspecting plumbers in those circumstances. Not good. Generally the earth connection is attached to a five foot copper earth stake which is hammered into the ground next to the house where the stake is also exposed to the weather.

    Exactly none of that stuff is cheap. I forget, but does your place have timber weatherboard cladding? Often you can remove a few weatherboards and get access to the walls to replace the wiring in that way. It is cheaper than destroying the plaster, but plaster can be repaired too. Or you could go all fancy and just run the wires in conduit – it can look pretty cool if done well. Or industrial if the conduit is at the skirting board level. Or remove the skirting boards and place the wires behind the skirting boards. So many options, but it will make a mess that’s for sure.



  43. Yo, Chris – Before I forget, there’s a new movie coming out about Brexit. Stars Cumberbatch. Getting good reviews. A line from the review that is one of the better quotes I’ve seen lately is: “Doesn’t suffer fools gladly and finds virtually everyone a fool.” :-).

    Well, you’re fire sprinklers may not lower the temperature, but they probably rise the humidity :-). Oh, running water has always been thought to have a cooling effect. The Romans (at least in Italy) were pretty over the top when it came to “water features” in their homes. I’d guess the closest a home comes to not needing any air or heat would be an underground one. My apartment comes pretty close. Most days, I don’t need any heating or cooling. I did buy a little heater for the bathroom, but that’s just probably me being a whose. (sp?) There was a Roman North African town (forget the name) that they couldn’t quit figure out why there wasn’t more ruins on the surface. And then they discovered the people had built underground houses. Some as much as three stories deep. With lots of water features. My, this paragraph has wandered all over the place. :-).

    That’s some heatwave you’re having. I wonder what we’re in for, this summer? I’ve always thought men with dark hair and a red beard were quit visually striking. My old uncle Larry used to sometimes speculate, “But does the carpet match the drapes?” Not exactly a bon mot, but I always got the feeling it was something he had heard in his youth and it was being passed down. You may blush, now. :-). At least I picked up a new bit of Australian slang. Which I won’t repeat as the source of the article wasn’t clear. And for all I know, may be offensive.

    Well, I haven’t gotten the book to read, yet, so no chance of spoilers. Will it be better than “Black Books?” Well, as the media is entirely different (film, as opposed to what you construct in your head from the printed page) the book should be better. Isn’t the book always better than the movie?

    Speaking of bookstores and movies, I should have a copy of the new film “The Bookstore” waiting for me, tomorrow. It’s from a very slim novel by Penelope Fitzgerald called, “The Bookstore.” I’ve read it twice. The last time, just before I opened my own bookstore. Wish I would have taken it more to heart. Would have saved me a lot of grief. 🙂 I bet Paperback books probably has a very cheap copy :-).

    This is a logical place (stay with me) to mention I’m having my monthly lunch with my mate, Scott, today. And, we’re finally going to the Centerville Cafe. Good ol’ “Merican food. It’s the cafe where I worked for awhile, and, in the building where I lived for 15 years. And, where I had my bookstore. I don’t know if this is a good idea, but curiosity is overcoming trepidation. Which is a bit like what we’ve been talking about.

    What people worry about. Are they keeping up with the Joneses, is their spouse having an affair. Is there spouse aware of the affair they’re having? Will they keep their job? Is that funny spot on their skin something to worry about. Etc. Etc..

    “Sweet” is quit irritating. Used by the same young men who’s vocabulary doesn’t seem to extend much beyond that word, “bro” and “dude.” Maybe with the occasional “awesome”, thrown in.

    When I saw the picture of the troublesome tourist family, my first thought was “Aren’t they a tasty looking bunch.” Sound like plane old garden variety grifters, to me. But, yes, tourists are becoming a problem, world wide. Even the well behaved ones overwhelm by their sheer numbers. I saw that Venice is going to start charging admission. Like a theme park. What we call “freedom campers”, we call “homeless.”

    Well, President (aka General) Eisenhower wasn’t too bad. In retrospect. After all, in his farewell address he did warn us about the “military industrial complex.” But, compared to now, just about every past president is looking pretty good. Even Nixon and Reagan are getting second favorable looks.

    More storms rolling through. We might get wind. Promises, promises. Lew

  44. Hi DJ,

    It would be nice to be a poet, thus causing one’s words to rise above one’s unfortunately derailed plans.

    Your nonchalant mention to -8’C weather and that depth of snow in the prior season of 08/09 is perhaps not the reaction that I would have to that weather. Mind you, I’m absolutely sick of the heatwaves and another is set to visit next week. What do you do when faced with such weather, making offerings to the forest and plant some nice plants including an oak tree.

    Yes, roof loadings are not the simple thing that most people seem to believe. Honestly, most dwellings here have pitched roofs, but some commercial buildings favour flat or only mildly inclined roofs, and I shake my head at those. Incidentally, go the Finnish Spitz! That is a dog that knows its own business and wouldn’t be afraid to share its opinions.

    Thanks for the explanation about the garden and herbs. Chives are good aren’t they, and make for an excellent inclusion in potato salads. Yum!



  45. Hi Lewis,

    That was pretty funny about the snowman who had the last laugh. Serves them right. What kind of miserable person would do that?

    Sounds like a fascinating take on Brexit and I’ll try and track that one down. Ordinarily I rarely venture into the realms of politics here, but you know for a country that once controlled a quarter of the surface of the planet, an even massiver chunk of the ocean, muddled through WWI and its sequel, as well as The Great Depression, and not to forget the outright loss of their once massive empire, the media there does seem rather fearful of the thought of standing on their own two feet. They need to man up. You hardly need a crystal ball to see that change is in the air in the EU. Have they forgotten that they’ve been at war with other EU member states for far longer than they’ve been at peace? Has anything fundamental changed in human nature since those days, did I miss an enlightenment somehow? Possibly it bypassed me down here. Pah! That would be typical… 😉

    Humidity is a funny thing because it is normally humid down here, and dry summer heat (that “at least it’s a dry heat” thing again) usually means temperatures well past 100’F and hot air blowing in from the centre of the continent. Strangely enough I read that people are more susceptible to lung conditions including colds and flu’s when the air is far dryer.

    I reckon your apartment would benefit from the surrounding apartments use of heat in very cold weather. When we lived in a terrace house with adjoining brick walls in the inner city, the neighbours spent money on heating their house, which heated up the party wall and radiated into our living space. The walls were just under half a meter thick (four 230mm (9 inches) x 110mm (4.33 inches) bricks wide) so there was a lot of thermal mass which was not exposed to the outside weather. You may be getting a bit of that action from your neighbours?

    Living underground happens here in mining towns in otherwise inhospitable parts of the country. I’ve stayed in a few over the years and it is quite nice underground and not at all oppressive.

    Your uncle Larry was a cheeky old bloke, but it does seem like an important question doesn’t it. Fortunately I know the answer, as I once had a red haired girlfriend, but it would be impolite and very ungentlemanly to discuss such matters in public. 😉 I’m not sure whether the word ‘Ranga’ is offensive or not, although it was used by some ungentlemanly politicians against our first and now former female Prime Minister (we’ve got plenty more of those and I don’t reckon the current one will be in the chair in eight months time). There is an annual: Ginger Pride parade: More than 1,000 redheads turn out to celebrate in Melbourne. I quite like red hair.

    I’m with you, books are invariably better than the visual media. It would be a difficult and distressing thing to have to condense a novel which you’d lovingly written into a concise screenplay. Possibly getting someone else to do it for you and then recalling not to rubbish off the outcome wouldn’t be a bad idea! Fortunately it is not a worry for the likes of myself.

    Mate, I feel for you. It is so hard to go back to old haunts. Mind you, it is possible that nobody will recognise you, as hospitality work is subject to extraordinarily high turnover. Imagine working in a commercial kitchen during one of our heatwaves? I have no idea how they do it, but little wonder I got sick last week, as they probably weren’t feeling that crash hot in the kitchens. How did the lunch go?

    The funny spot probably is something to worry about, but best get it checked as that seems easier than worry. The rest, if it happens then living in an anxious frame of mind will probably only increase the chances! I take your point though, the things they should worry about aren’t necessarily the ones they are worried about. I read a fascinating article on skin cancer recently, the human body is a complicated animal that’s for sure.

    Hey, you might laugh about this one. In New Zealand, you hear the word ‘sweet’ used and ‘bro’ and there is a saying there: “Don’t bro me, if you don’t know me!” Very concise don’t you reckon?

    We’ve had our share of grifters over this side of the Tasman Sea too and they look remarkably similar. I like that word ‘grifter’. Some commentators have used the word ‘gypsy’ and whilst I have not encountered such folks, in Jack Vance’s many books, they have a dubious reputation. Some of the alleged swindles can be very high end and I recall one from many years ago. Nope, there were so many scams listed that I couldn’t find it…

    Best not to be involved in tourist stuff nowadays, but that is just my take on things. It won’t end well.

    Really, Nixon and Reagan looking good? Wow, how times have changed! Mate, I still remember the “Reaganomics” and then people used to say something, something, supply side economics like they knew what they were talking about. I doubt they did, but it sure did sound good! And it probably sounder better than all this talk of limits that Carter proposed.

    It was much cooler today, and last night was positively cold and I even had to layer on a blanket onto the bed. Fancy that!



  46. Chris and Lew:

    Thanks so much for all the wayout news articles. Red beards, the hottest low, New Zealand’s visiting hooligans, 1000 redheads, and a snowman attack. Good stuff!

    I like red hair, too. In fact, I was a redhead as a child, though it darkened up later. I’ve never understood why redheads are made fun of. You’d think they would be considered sacred since they are quite rare, like our white squirrel.


  47. Hi Chris,

    Been seeing a few articles about your record breaking hot weather. Now here it’s quite the opposite. Got about six inches of snow last night which is now blowing and drifting. Quite a few days in the next ten will be near 0F (-18C) with another pretty significant snow on Tuesday. Leo and Salve are huddled together on one bed. Doug, however, is out trying to retrieve an wounded deer (most likely dead now) that his friend shot late yesterday afternoon. They were out after dark tracking it. Needless to say I don’t plan to venture out today.

    My daughter was telling me yesterday about a Forest Playschool that is used by some of her homeschool group families. There was a very well attended public meeting about it a couple of nights ago which my daughter and granddaughters attended. Some of the kids had comments and politely raised their hands but were not called on until almost the end of the meeting. Some comments from the audience, “Children aren’t supposed to speak at these meetings.” and “Children belong on the soccer field or playground not in the forest.”



  48. Yo, Chris – Well, there seem to be some miserable human beings out there, who’s only joy in life is ruining things that bring other people joy. It’s why we can’t have nice things :-). Sometimes, they get their comeupance. Usually, if caught, they riff on some variation of “we was bored.” We’ve discussed before, failure of imagination.

    Well, I don’t know that much about Brexit, just the general outlines. No skin in the game. Other than what the cost of imported Stilton cheese may be. But, the EU, in general seems to be the dreams of neoliberal economists and globalists. Ever more complexity to drive down costs, to yield greater profits. As with some technology, nice for some people if it works.

    Speaking of technology, apparently, the regional thing with my DVD player is my machine. Worked fine in the library computer. So, I guess when this practically new player dies, I’d better get a higher end model. Not that that guarantees anything. But, until that happens, I’ll be pretty twitchy about putting new discs in the player I have. Oh, well. In the vast scheme of things, no great import.

    Yeah, my apartment is pretty well situated. I understand that apartments on the other side of the building are colder, and darker.

    LOL. Toward the end of Uncle Larry’s life, it could be a bit dodgy going out with him in public. Never knew what he might blurt out. The filters were off! :-).

    I’ve always had a fondness for red heads. Who knows why. Well, actually, I do. They are very hard to photograph or paint. Visually, hard to nail down. Has to do with light and physics and all that.

    I (re) watched the movie “Chocolat” last night. Just as charming as I remember. Turns out it’s from a novel by Joanne Harris. So, I thought I’d give it a whirl. The library has it. Turns out it’s the first book in a trilogy. Oh, dear. Do I want to commit? I also ran across a novel with an interesting premiss. “Clash of Eagles” (Smale, 2015). It’s 1200 and the Roman Empire has not fallen. North America has been recently discovered and a legion is sent to conquer. Much to my horror, I have discovered it is ALSO part of a trilogy. The films “Idiocracy” and “The Bookstore” were in. “Dark Tide” has also arrived.

    Lunch was ok. I had a fish and chip basket. Nothing to write home about. Deserts were in short supply. I should have tried the bread pudding, that was fresh out of the oven, but didn’t. Oh, well. Next time. The psychic toll wasn’t too bad. They’ve changed the layout, quit a bit. My friend Scott knows the owner (Moe) and we talked a bit about the buildings history, etc.. They’ve put quit a bit of money into the building, and would like to buy it. Electrical, plumbing, roof. He said the owner kicked in money, but, I find that hard to believe.

    I guess the family that was deported from New Zealand were British. Maybe, Travelers (aka Gypsies). We have several clans of Irish Travelers in our SE U.S.. And, tribes of the more traditional mob, in most of our large cities. An interesting bunch … from a distance.

    Another favorite of mine from the Regonomics years was “trickle down economy.” Give rich people more money and they’ll spend it and everyone will benefit. Nice theory. Pretty well proven by now that it doesn’t work. But, a lot of those in power, apparently haven’t gotten the memo. Lew

  49. Hi Pam,

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed the fun articles! 🙂 Hey, the hooligans appeared to be uncannily similar to the same ones that hit the city of Brisbane a year or two back. I liked Lewis’s word for them: Grifters.

    Lucky you, it is extra special having red hair, despite what the detractors may say. Anyway, what would they possibly know? Not much! 🙂

    I think I cooked my head a little bit whilst working outside in the sun today… I could use some snow, if you’ve got any to spare?



  50. Hi Margaret,

    The weather across a huge chunk of the continent has been quite extraordinary for the number of heat records broken. Spare a thought for the folks in Cloncurry up in North West Queensland who have broken records, and have almost had to endure three dozen days above 40’C (104’F): Weather records broken as Queensland nears three dozen consecutive days over 40 degrees.

    Six inches of snow is sounding like there is more snow clearing in yours and Doug’s future. 🙂 Incidentally, are your new digs easier to manage with the snow than your previous place? I wouldn’t venture out either. Doug is probably doing the deer a favour by reducing their population a bit as they’ll really suffer hardship if your winter continues to be cold.

    I loved the idea of the forest playschool. Did you notice that one of the core themes was that the kids were attached to place? I’m very impressed that someone thought to teach the kids that important lesson, but they’ll get push back as they’re finding because that is a taboo concept. Nice one.



  51. Hi Lewis,

    We have spoken about them before, haven’t we? The editor’s mum used to quip: only boring people are bored! An astute observation. I was never bored as a child or as an adult, because I learned pretty quickly that expressing dissatisfaction about the level of entertainment on offer, usually ended up with me being corralled into work. An awful fate, to be sure and so easily avoided! I have a gut feeling (or memory) that things were similar for yourself?

    Some folks spend an inordinate amount of time whingeing. I reckon that part of that story is about ‘power and control’ (thanks for that phrase), because by whingeing they’re expressing dissatisfaction about the current state of affairs, and are trying to angle for a better outcome for themselves. But, I’m not really sure what is going on as I have this whole ‘do unto others’ thing hard programmed in and I wouldn’t try that trick on other people, but you know, there are some strange folks out there. What do you reckon about that?

    I read an article in the news today about folks complaining about their solar feed in tarrifs. Now tarrifs refers to the payment that people who have installed solar photovoltaic panels on their roof get paid for exporting energy to the grid. It is a bit bonkers really, because one claim I often see repeated is that their solar power systems generate more electricity than they use. It is nothing more than an outright lie because solar panels produce diddly-squat once the sun has fallen below the horizon. And how is it working for them in the depths of winter? I know this to be true. And then they claim that: ‘I’m gonna get me here some of these batteries things’. But they never do, because it makes little economic sense. It’s all talk as far as I’m concerned. I’d be really happy to hear one person, some day, anywhere at all, to say that they are happy to pay uneconomic rates for off grid electricity because they just want to leave the world (or at least their corner of it) a better place than when they first ventured there. But no, I’m yet to see that – anywhere. Oh, here is the article: Frustration over feed-in tariff pushes Tasmanian solar producers towards batteries. Note that solar production makes up less than 1% of the grid down there in that island state, which is frankly insignificant.

    I couldn’t give a toss about Brexit either, and have no skin in the game. I just assumed that as a population, they were better than they’re acting. Sometimes my expectations fail to live up to reality. It is something of a curse. I do recall the differences in local conditions that Italy joining the EU made to the Italian hill farmers in Annie Hawes second book – and even back then I thought to myself that there is no such thing as a free lunch comprised of German farming equipment.

    Your DVD player may have a ‘region free’ mode, and there are articles on the interweb for many specific players that tell you how to go about doing that trick. The devices are hackable.

    You scored pretty well with your apartment, and given the dramas you used to have to put up with the water in your old digs, you do deserve a break. I was always impressed at how calm you were about the water situation, but things are different here and water is everything – not that anyone has noticed that minor detail. Mind you, they probably have noticed the water issue in the town of Menindee: Menindee fish kill leaves devastated town wondering if its future is gone too.

    Some folks get like that, and a few years ago I had to remonstrate rather forcefully with a local old bloke who had lost his filters and said some pretty nasty things to the editor. I knew him in better days, and nowadays he knows how to keep his distance. In his prime he was a bit of an alpha male and had an alpha male job, and I sometimes wondered whether he felt as if he’d become irrelevant, but he had no way of having that conversation because of his limited mental tool kit. It was all a bit sad, and I still encounter him, but he knows I’m bad news for him, and he leaves me well alone. It didn’t need to be that way, but what do you do? Some folks need someone to say ‘no’ to them and put boundaries around their behaviour. It is not my place to do that, but if they bring the fight to me… Anyway, I too would have enjoyed the company of your Uncle Larry, and would have done my best to smooth over the social injuries as they occurred! Oh well…

    I like red hair, just because! 🙂 It is probably all that ancestral Scottish blood coursing through my veins, or something like that?

    It was a lovely and charming film. Far out, what to do? Trilogies can be a bit scary to commit too and what if the author’s voice doesn’t speak as well as the film? Has that ever happened to you?

    Just sayin, 5,200 Roman soldiers up against the ancestors of the Mayans and Aztecs? My money would be on the locals in that dust up. What are your thoughts? I reckon the guns and disease would have given the early Spanish a unique advantage and if they’d had to fight using local technology against a healthy army things would not have gone as well for them as they did. You are awash in immersive material – what to do? Actually which did you partake first?

    Many long years ago I was served a crumbed and fried seafood basket that was entirely concocted of some sort of reconstituted seafood like product. It never even occurred to me that I’d be served such food. Bread pudding on the other hand is good – especially on a cold day and I agree, you did miss out. Yum! I’m really glad that the psychic toll was not too bad, as it is hard to go back. Commercial leases are strange things and the owners are often reluctant to give up on their flow of funds. I’ve seen commercial buildings sit empty because the owners were just asking for too much.

    Oh yeah, I recall that dodgy claim too about trickle down. It makes me think about the rising tide and all that business because sometimes a rising tide can wash away a town. It is possible!

    I better get into writing, I’m so easily distracted… Hehe!



  52. @ Margaret:

    Weren’t any of the detractors of Forest Playschool ever children themselves? They must lead lives of complete fear. How fortunate are those few children who are able to attend it and I hope that common sense prevails – and it sounds like it might – among the authorities.


  53. Yo, Chris – Oh, as a kid I always had something on the go. Hobby, book or expedition to some far flung corner of the neighborhood. Yeah, I don’t want to be known as one of those constantly whingeing people. And, occasionally have to remind myself of that. I don’t know where I picked it up, but it’s a bit of a saying. “Don’t want to be known as Old B___H and Complain.”

    Yeah, the old Golden Rule. “Do unto others…” etc.. “Treat your neighbor, as you would treat yourself.”

    As far as the solar tariffs go, I think here we call it “net metering.” Maybe. As far as that bit about putting more solar power into the system, than is used, well, I suppose, at times. High summer, middle of a cloudless day, when no one as home. I’d say a bit of those claims are people smarting a bit by being taken in by a cleaver solar power salesman. :-).

    One of the books I picked up at the library was “We’re Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and Climate Change” (Scranton, 2018). In the first paragraph of the introduction, he states: “Not one of us is innocent, not one of us is safe.” I picked it up because I thought, “Finally. Someone’s not sugar coating the future.”

    Well, as far as the EU goes, and all that “free money”, more like “low” interest loans … with variable rates of interest. But, from what I read, it wasn’t just the EU. There was also the World Bank and IMF peddling a “bright new future” in South America and Africa. A lot got “scraped off the top” by bankers and the “upper classes” in lots of places. But, apparently, the “chickens are coming home to roost.”

    Yup. I found the long lists of just about every DVD make and model available, as far as working around the regional locks. And, I found my make and model. No dice. Much to my chagrin, when I took the DVD back to the library, yesterday, it worked just fine in their machine. So, it’s not the disc, it’s a flaw in my machine. Well, it’s the first time it’s come up, since I got it 5 months or so, ago. We’ll see if it comes up, again.

    I do think the situation in Menendee is tragic. But, I also think water is fast becoming a real issue, in different places. Even here in wet old western Washington and Oregon, there have been recent problems with not enough water to go around. Usually on the “water for fish or agriculture” front. Who has the oldest “water rights”, etc.. I vaguely remember, even when I was a kid, there were a couple of times when water, in summer, was a problem. Remember that old Bull Run Water shed? I remember some summers when conservation was urged, and the tap water getting a bit dodgy. Reeking of clorine, etc.. Not getting an automatic glass of water in a restaurant, but having to ask for it. Minor things. But, portents of the future, has we only known.

    There’s a saying here. I don’t know where it came from, or how long it’s been around. I think, maybe, of SE US origin. “Beat ’em like a red haired step child.”

    Most books are better than the films. A sweeping generalization, I know, but, mostly true. When I went to order in “Chocolat” from the library, I discovered that the only copies in the catalog were in Spanish. Apparently, all the copies in English have vanished. So, I’ll have to either Inter Library Loan it, or, hope I can find a used copy, kicking around. The trilogy on the speculative history of the Romans in the New World has them fighting the Indians further north. No Aztecs or Mayans. I did pick it up, and read the first couple of chapters. So far, unimpressed. I also got the book on the molasses flood. Have poked at it, a bit. Looks good.

    We got our monthly “government commodities” box, the other day. It’s all a bit of a mystery, and murky, as to where this “free” box of food comes from. Oh, yeah, there’s usually a bit of government surplus cheese, in there, but most of it is processed or canned food. I wasn’t going to participate, as there’s so little I can (or would) use. But, was urged to as anything that I don’t want, someone else, here at the Institution, can use. We pull out what we want, and the rest of it we swap around. Since the new administration came in, that’s a bit more tricky. But we manage :-). The boxes are all a bit different, as to contents. I got a nice bottle of molasses out of this lot. A few canned and frozen vegetables. Sometimes, it’s a bit of a challenge to keep myself away from the processed stuff. Free, there and convenient. The devil’s playground, in a box. :-).

    You asked awhile back about any other Mark Twain, you might like. Now, I haven’t read it, or, at least not all of it, and it’s been years. But, you might like his …. oh, dear, had the title and now it’s gone. Don’t get old. It’s inconvenient. Back in a minute.

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