Shades of Grey

An interesting side effect of the Christmas summer holidays was that the editor and I encountered both younger and middle aged adults at the local cafe. It was as if these previously unseen categories of persons had popped out of the forest or one of the nearby towns. Perhaps to enjoy a cappuccino or latte at the local cafe. Who are these folks? I don’t normally see them. Most of the time I see older folks (usually grey) and stay at home mothers (both grey and other colours) frequenting the local amenities.

We live in a very rural and remote area, despite the farm being reasonably close to the large city of Melbourne. And more often than not, the folks up here are older. The economics of high property values means that younger folks are usually excluded from purchasing land in rural areas near to a big city. This area is no different, and I don’t feel that this is a good thing, because areas need a diverse population in order to thrive. But also living in a rural area can necessitate a lot of hard physical work and I’m unsure how many older folks are up for that gear.

Perhaps the younger and middle aged adults that I saw during those first few summer holiday weeks of the year either lived, or were visiting, with their parents over the holidays, and it is the parents who actually live in this rural area?

Most likely the younger and middle aged folks who have the physical strength and energy to create and maintain a kitchen garden, probably have to work, study and/or raise families. None of those activities involves gardening. The older folks who have the time to create and maintain a kitchen garden don’t seem to be very interested in the idea.

Many long years ago, the parents of an old mate of mine, who live on semi-rural acreage just outside the boundaries of Melbourne, remarked to my mate: “Why bother growing tomatoes when you can just go to the supermarket and buy them?” They came from an Italian immigrant background, and no doubt their ancestors who had grown tomatoes for centuries were possibly rolling in their graves at that observation.

I too was dismayed by the stance, but at the same time I was also having plenty of troubles of my own trying to grow vegetables in an old Victorian era house with a small backyard. This plant growing business was not as easy as I first believed! And it wasn’t lost on me that historically, previous residents would have grown vegetables in that very same backyard, with more success.

And the kitchen gardens in rural areas back in those days were probably quite large and impressive. I noticed a reference in a local historical book to “a large orchard, own cows and poultry – (with) hot and cold baths” in relation to a guest house (accommodation) which began operating over a hundred years ago.

All the mod cons – large orchard – tick, cows – tick, poultry – tick, hot and cold baths – tick! Still sounds good to me.

The family who operated that guest house sure would have known a thing or two about producing their own food. The editor and I are getting pretty knowledgeable about producing our own food too, now. But it has taken over ten years of trial and error to accumulate that knowledge and practical experience, and I’m grateful for the markets and supermarkets which provide food when we completely stuff things up!

Over the years I’ve had a number of people say to me that if the zombie apocalypse were to occur, they know where they’d head – and inevitably they look at me with a meaningful look. If they arrived here in the midst of a zombie outbreak, what possible usefulness would they provide, other than becoming a decoy for the encroaching zombies? They wouldn’t know the first thing about growing edible plants, and why would I want to tolerate their errors and mistakes? It makes no sense.

It takes a long time to learn how to grow edible plants with any level of success and repetition, and the longer we spend on that task, the more I realise just how long it takes to become a skilled practitioner. Mind you, dodging zombies is probably also a skill that has died out.

This week there was a shocking heatwave. Monday 43’C (109’F), Tuesday 40’C (104’F) and Wednesday 41’C (106’F) and Thursday and Friday were in the mid thirties. It was a revolting week and heat records were smashed all over the continent, but you know, we survived and without air conditioning. The only time I was troubled was Thursday morning at 3.25am when a blast of hot air woke me up from a deep sleep. It was 29’C (84’F) outside and 26’C (79’F) inside the house, and the hot air was blowing into the bedroom through the window.

3.30am and 29’C (84’f) outside and 26’C (79’F) inside the house

At least the hot weather produced amazing sunsets (they were possibly also contributed to by the smoke from a local bushfire):

Another hot week, another spectacular sunset

Even the bees were hot, and they cooled off by taking turns sitting on the outside of their hive box:

Even the bees were hot. Brave Ollie the foolish!

Sir Scruffy was hot too:

Hot dog!

All good things come to an end, and by late Friday afternoon a cool change swept inland from the Southern Ocean. A dark storm then loomed over the mountain range, but produced very little rain:

A cool change from the south brought with it a dark and low storm over the mountain range

With a bit of cooler weather and another heatwave forecast for the coming week, we decided to clean the leaves out of the guttering on the house and sheds. The dry leaves in the roof guttering are a serious fire risk:

Before – Dry leaves in the guttering of a shed.
After – The guttering of a shed after the leaves have been removed

I use an old vacuum cleaner to suck the dry leaves out of the guttering:

The author uses an old vacuum cleaner to suck the dry leaves out of the guttering

And we also used a pressure washer to hose down the dust and dirt off the walls of the house:

The house is now spick and span after the walls were cleaned of accumulated dust and dirt using a pressure washer. Turns out that it is white, not beige as previously thought.

If you have water to spare, then summer can be a good time to purchase plants from plant nurseries. They generally discount plants at this time of year because people don’t generally purchase plants at this hot time of year, and the nurseries are keen to move the stock out the door. We picked up a dozen gazanias, a couple of salvias and an oak seedling for $1 each from a local nursery:

We purchased some heavily discounted plants
They have all been planted in a new garden bed. They will consume more than their fair share of water over the next few weeks

Long term readers may recall the recent large haul of Anzac peaches from the orchard. Well, those peaches have been turned into 11 jars of peach and currant jam. Peaches are both low in acid and pectin and so lemon juice (acid) was added to the mix as well as the black currants (high in pectin) and the jam has set well and is very tasty.

We produced 11 jars of peach and black currant jam

In breaking produce news:

We harvested some apricots and the first ripe plum a few days ago:

Ripe apricots and the first ripe plum of the season

I spotted this almost ripe nectarine:

An almost ripe nectarine waits on the tree to be picked

The many fig trees growing here were stressed last summer, but they seem less stressed this summer and this one is even producing fruit:

This fig tree has produced some as yet small figs

The lone kiwi fruit is slowly filling out:

The only kiwi fruit we’ve ever produced from the three vines is slowly filling out

Cucumbers have just begun producing flowers:

This cucumber has just begun flowering

The cucumber is growing at about the same rate as the pumpkins, squashes, and melons:

Pumpkins, squashes and melons are enjoying the hot weather

The corn is also enjoying the hot weather, and far out the plants have grown fast!

The corn is growing very fast in the hot weather

We grow a few varieties of plums and this green gage looks almost ripe:

Almost ripe green gage plums

It has been a great year for the many varieties of apples in the orchard:

These two apples are almost fully developed and ready to eat

But the hot weather has really kicked along the passionfruit (which are a normally marginal fruit in this mountain range):

Unripe passionfruit hanging off the vines

Onto the flowers:

Speaking of passionfruit – an amazing passionflower
A native wildflower – rosy hyacinth orchid
The bees love the hundreds of agapanthus flowers
Roses love heat
This geranium is shy but very pretty
This geranium is more prolific and produces dozens of flowers
A bush rose hiding in the shade of an elderberry
A red fragrant geranium and yellow Californian poppies

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 14’C (57’F). So far this year there has been 5.0mm (0.2 inches) which is the same as last weeks total of 2.2mm (0.1 inches).

76 thoughts on “Shades of Grey”

  1. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate them. 🙂 As does Sir Scruffy, Ollie, Scritchy and Toothy!

    The weather forecast for this coming week does not make for good reading, but enough about my problems, how’s your sons stash of firewood shaping up for you this winter?



  2. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the useful saying, but you know I’ve never thought of you as a whingey person, so no if a whinge needs expelling (as they sometimes do) – go for it I say. Honestly you sound self aware enough to avoid that trap, although as I’ve mentioned to you previously, I’ve met plenty of folks who aren’t that awake at the wheel. Zombies are endlessly fascinating but at the same time they’re rather dull creations which seem mildly obsessive. The important question then becomes: have you watched any good zombie films recently?

    Net metering is what it is called here too, although by the feed in tariffs the folks refer to the actual mechanics of the metering system. As a little side story, back in the day, the electricity meters used to be mechanical, and so when electricity was sucked out of the grid, the meter used to spin in one direction. But as the solar power system fed electricity from the household into the grid, the mechanical meter spun in the other direction, thus the phrase ‘net metering’. But with the new smart meters, the digital meter measures both ‘in flows’ and ‘out flows’, and the two flows are accounted for at different rates. As a rough example which is not far from reality, flows into the household are charged to the householder at about $0.32/kWh, but flows from the household into the grid receive compensation of about $0.08/kWh. It seems all very unfair, until I poke my head up and say that this off grid business costs me about $0.85/kWh – and that is why people whine and complain with their hands out wanting subsidies for batteries. To get through the deepest and darkest days of winter is the real challenge for society, and they’re not up for it. But yeah, clever sales folks somehow got that message into their heads. Honestly the supply of stuff that people in first world nations enjoy from centralised system is remarkably cheap.

    Roy has a refreshing take upon the world and he acknowledges how his own actions look to others. But I reckon we can make do with a much smaller and less centralised response and I’d be interested to hear your take on the matter – after you’ve read his book, of course. I watched a few of his utube videos.

    The debt question is a fascinating one isn’t it? Imagine for a brief second what might be the eventuality if all countries pursued quantitative easing programs combined with zero or low interest rates. Where will the paper then go?

    I had to interrupt that train of thought to cut a fat slice of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven and smothered in homemade raspberry jam. My concentration has now been completely lost. Yum! The fluffies demanded their rightful share, but I am feeling less than charitable, and so they suffer in silence (for the moment).

    But yeah, the chickens are coming home to roost, but in very unexpected ways. My gut feeling is that countries are being chucked to the wolves. I mean look at Yemen just for one example, I wouldn’t want to be there right now. And how is it working out for Greece?

    5 months old, and already a problematic device. Well, a minor, but important chunk of plastic broke off my Dyson vacuum cleaner yesterday (and it is only about three years old), and I was pretty annoyed at how thin the plastic was for the moveable tab which had broken. I could easily include a crapification of the week mention, but people get their noses out of joint so easily these days. Anyway, at least they had a spare parts dealer and I could order another plastic part of the same quality. Yay for that (said in a flat voice).

    Water is a huge issue, and it sets the upper limits of the population down here. Many cities now run desalination plants, and that must be the most expensive and polluting way to produce fresh water around. Water rights are only as good as stream flows in the worst years, but they’re often allocated based on average years from what I understand. It is the same problem as with the solar power in that your system – whatever it is – is only as good as the worst time.

    Mate, I recall the last serious drought in Melbourne and we’ve added another million souls to the city since those days.

    The wicked, wicked step mothers to try that trick on the young and unsuspecting ginger step kids. It was the theme of one or two fairy stories from what I can recall, but then mortality rates were higher and births were a risky affair (and potential partners were considered from that perspective). I’m old enough to recall the phrase ‘child bearing hips’ as being a positive thing in a mate.

    I’m with you, most books are better than the films merely because of the ‘readers digest’ factor, which is technically known as ‘squooshing text’ – a frightful and horrific thing to confront!

    I feel that the northern Indians would have been no slouches either when it came to confronting the Roman infantry. Out of sheer curiosity, what was the condition of the fictional Roman legion when it landed in the new world? One of the things that has always struck me as being odd about our history, was that whalers and sealers had set up ports of harbour along the coast well before the settlers arrived, but the start of the colony was always reckoned to be the arrival of the settlers. Is that part of your history too?

    Any (please excuse the gallows humour) juicy (!) stories from the molasses flood? The photos were horrific and the failure must have been quick. Was anyone rescued from the flood?

    The swapping all sounds very black economy to me. What possible problem would the administration have with the swapping? Nice to see that you manage though. There surely is irony in there about the jar of molasses? Yes, I can understand the temptation. Mates brought around a packet of potato chips the other day and the editor and I were pigging out and ended up full up to our eyeballs on potato chips. They were very tasty, and not something that we normally have in the household.

    Thanks for the book recommendation and a copy is wending its way here. How a book can travel from the UK to Australia for free is a matter that is beyond my comprehension.

    It is really smoky here tonight, and today the thermometer reached 38’C (100’F) earlier today and may do again tomorrow. I’m starting to get a bit over summer, but there is a ways to go yet…



  3. Hello Chris
    A pity that we can’t swap a portion of our climates, 27F here. Oh for a middle path. No snow though and our very dry summer is being followed by a dry winter.
    A move has started against wood stoves which are now considered to be polluting; this after people were encouraged to get them. One seems to always be in the wrong nowadays.
    Last lot of young pigs went to slaughter so we are awash with meat at present.
    Land sale seems to be going okay, I have an appointment with my solicitor on Thursday. I requested a meeting with the wife of the pair who are buying as she is not afflicted with the boundless optimism of her husband. There are some serious problems with this land but she had already become aware of most of them by herself. Anyhow they are both happy. Now Son and I must get out and measure the length of the access which will be shared. The couple can’t have there own access because the land drops too steeply from the road. Strange how simple things look until one has to get stuck in! Applies to everything of course.

    I had forgotten about the superb fact that water arrives automatically at ones table in the US. Not so here. I have to make a point of asking for tap water. Otherwise a request for water will be assumed to be for some costly bottled water.


  4. @Pam
    Wasn’t that crazy? My daughter was also telling me that many people think once kids are 8 or so they really shouldn’t be playing but rather in school or participating in organized activities. They especially shouldn’t be playing once they are 13 the age of my granddaughters.

    My last few years teaching at the Jr. High we had a new principal. The kids had 1/2 for lunch (including passing time) but once they finished lunch they were allowed to go outside if they wished and believe me many of them needed that time to have some physical activity. Well she ended that saying they were too old for recess and she was a former PE teacher! These were kids 11 – 13 years old. So it was better to have them crowded into a lunch room causing mayhem rather than blow off a little steam.


  5. Hi Chris,

    Well earlier I had responded to you and some crazy thing happened to the cursor and the comment disappeared.
    Was saying how worrisome your weather is getting. Here we’re on the opposite spectrum with below 0 F and a thick snow cover. Just as you’ve had enough of summer here it’s winter we’re done with. The dogs are going quite stir crazy as it’s so cold they really can’t tolerate being outside for too long. They haven’t had their morning mile walk in three days though tomorrow looks to be warmer with of course more snow.

    It does indeed take time to learn how to grow plants though some are easy enough I’m surprised more people don’t at least try. I think I told you about my daughter and her boyfriend growing quite a few plants in pots on the sunny roof top deck over their garage in the city. Neither had much experience and they both have full time jobs so it can be done. It’s rare to see one of the farmers of commodity crops around here with a vegetable garden.

    I probably wrote more but have forgotten what it is. At any rate it’s now a balmly 12 degrees out (-11C) so I’m going to go on my walk now that I’ve also missed the last three days.

    Oh yeah, speaking of grey that’s what is here – mostly shades of grey and brown.


  6. Hi again,

    I remember what I was going to say. I have had more than a few family members who’ve advised not to get rid of our property as they think they can just show up and we’ll take care of them. Very few have any real practical skills so I’m not sure how they think they could contribute in a real way though there are some hard workers who would try.


  7. Yo, Chris – All those young people about? It probably has dawned on them that they better pay a bit of attention to mum, dad and grannie. Nail down the inheritance. :-).

    Well, here at The Institution, it’s a bit … sad. We have just over 50 Inmates. Maybe, three of us are serious about growing things we can actually consume. Even if we have surplus, pick and wash it, often, it goes to waste in the common room. On the reading front, two of us are what I’d call “serious” readers. There are a handful (hard to get a handle on exactly how many) that might read 3 or 4 books … a year. But, for my own mental health, I think it’s best not to brood. Just shrug and tend my own patch.

    That’s interesting about the … “farm” from the past. In a lot of 19th century literature, you run across such places. Summer boarding houses. Usually owned by a widow with a hired man or two. Maybe some kids to help out. A hired girl. It was kind of a status thing, even for the middle class, to get out of the cities. Away from the heat, smells … disease. Dad usually stayed at work in the city, and came up on weekends. Easy, as then the trains ran EVERYWHERE.

    As the 19th century wound on, some of them expanded into great resorts. Regular institutions, up in the Catskills and Adirondack mountains. The “shore.” Dude Ranches, out west. The trick was to carefully gage if the places matched your particular social class. Maybe a slight cut above. Did the “right” kind of people, congregate in those places? As time went on, they were also seen as marriage marts.

    Well, if things unravel, where are you going to get a good supply of serfs? :-). Best look for healthy people with strong backs, who take direction well, and don’t have too many wildly inventive ideas. Maybe a useful skill or two. Think of the judge in Kunstler’s books who was fast becoming a feudal lord.

    The apricots look lovely, but that plum looks rather lonely. I think I said I didn’t care much for figs (or, was it dates?) but I had forgotten about fig newtons (a kind of biscuit.) And, I ran across a recipe I had forgotten about, in “Betty Crocker’s Lost Recipes” for fig bars. I certainly scarfed down enough of them when I was a kid. Although in the 1950s, you could buy a “kit” to make those. “Just add…”, I forget what.

    So, how are you and the Editor going to divvy up the lone kiwi? Carefully divide it in two? Flip a coin for it? Draw straws? Names in a hat? :-).

    The rose hiding in the elderberry is quit nice. The Romans would have recognized it as a rose. In general, rule of thumb, the simpler the rose, the older the variety. Cont.

  8. Cont. Looks like we’re almost chatting in “real” time. Happens.

    Well, I try to reign in any whingey-ness. :-). It’s not a good look.

    Nothing new on the zombie front, that I’m aware of. But these things tend to cycle. The zeitgeist or the collective unconscious gets poked, and these things spew out. Ought to be about time for another round of Roman films. Haven’t had a good big budget / major studio disaster flick in awhile.

    I can remember several articles plumping for solar, that usually kicked off with the sheer joy of watching the electric meter spin backwards. Didn’t tell the whole story, but as an opening, a real grabber.

    I’m through Mr. Scranton’s essays on climate, and am into his war and politics essays. Well, I suppose one could write him off as a fatalist or, as being very “negative.” A real Debbie Downer. :-). But, like it or not, big changes are coming. Maybe in our life times. It can take many possible forms. It’s all ready come to the drought stricken areas of Australia. It’s come to the people of Paradise, California. Financially, it’s come to the people of Venazualia. We can die, or adapt, as best we can. Recently, I’ve had the thought that we’ll get exactly what we deserve.

    Well, that’s the pits about the Dyson vacuum. Have you noticed, that young people tend to just shrug off the crapification of everything? Well, I suppose they don’t remember a time when quality and service was a given, and expected.

    The relationship between books and movies can be fraught. I noticed that “Chocolot” is actually a slim little volume. The DVD extras mentioned that the film had several added characters, to round out the story. Hmmm.

    Oh, yeah. Our eastern seaboard had regular summer camps for a cod fishing fleet, years before the settlers showed up. But it’s something you don’t hear much, about.

    I’m well into “Dark Tide.” The scale of the tank was pretty impressive. It held 2 million gallons. Was 5 stories tall. 50 feet tall and 90 feet in diameter. Like those huge oil storage tanks. It was built in 1915 and was a rush job. Why? Well, I didn’t know it but molasses is used in the munitions trade. 80% of the molasses went to munitions manufacturers. 20% went to make rum or other food products. Munitions were already gearing up for WWI and Prohabition was looming on the horizon.

    Oh, yes. There were survivors. But, the wave was 15 feet tall and traveled at 35mph. There was a nearby, two story brick police station. It was knocked off it’s foundations, the second story pancaked on the first and it nearly ended up in Boston Harbor.

    There’s also a lot of social background. The neighborhood was the worst slum in Boston. It has started out as a fairly upperclass neighborhood in colonial times. Paul Revere lived close by. Then it became a slum for Irish immigrants. They were replaced by Italian immigrants.

    Yup. The trick to food temptations is to keep the stuff out of the house. We’re only human :-). Lew

  9. @ Inge – Re: Water on the table. Not so much, anymore. Sometimes, it’s offered. Mostly, you have to ask for it. A cost cutting measure. Except in high end “white linen” restaurants. Lew

  10. @ Chris – That was an interesting article about the architecture. See also: Carpenter Gothic. 🙂 Lew

  11. Chris,

    So, what to do when the weather turns extreme? Yes, make offerings to the forest, run down to the plant sale and buy a bunch of stuff at bargain prices, then plant some more things (oaks, as you said, are always good). Then, post pictures of said purchases (unintentional alliteration that time) on your blog, making the bloke from Spokane jealous of your luck. Yup, that’s what’s done.

    I noticed that there are grass and weeds starting to grow at the usual places here. Some wildflowers that I kept in one of the flower beds are starting up, as is the neighbor’s lilac bush. It’s MUCH too early for this. But, the winter has been so nonexistent here. Pam has had more snow than I have. And that bad storm SLClaire mentioned dumped on her twice what I’ve had. I tells ya, we’re going to pay for it this summer. There won’t be enough late snow melt for the rivers and agricultural irrigation unless it’s a long wet spring.

    Not meaning to intrude, but I noticed Lew’s reply to you regarding the European cod fishers on the east coast of North America. There are traditions among some of the First Nations peoples of Canada that fishermen from Brittany were in Newfoundland in what appears to be the 1200s? Not too long after the Vikings, really. But nobody gets any credit for settling in North America until Sir Walter Raleigh’s failed Roanoke settlement. Apparently the Spanish and French settlements don’t count either. And we won’t talk about the cultures that had been here for millennia.

    It must be dinner time. I had to correct some spelling above. I spelled “Spanish” as “Spinach”.

    Seriously, you did good on those discount plants. That passionflower is gorgeous too, by the way.

    For the record, my nonchalant attitude to the ginormous snow? That is from the distance of a decade. The Finnish Spitz’s questioning me about what she was supposed to do snapped me out of a lengthy diatribe liberally filled with multiple “Holy ^%@” and “How the #&%$ did that happen?” mixed with “What the blazes do we do now?” Fortunately, we keep gobs of food here, so digging out was the course of business once the poor dog was taken care of.

    As for the temperatures? We have, on RARE occasion, dipped to negative 35C. Trust me when I’m NOT nonchalant typing that. That is just plain brutally cold.

    For a change of pace if you’re interested, our internet person put the local carving club’s 2018 “Artistry in Wood” pictures online. The top winners are under the “2018 Top Awards” tab. There’s a lot more stuff at the “2018 AIW Candid Photos” button. One of the latter photos has a group of 3 men talking, one of whom has a long white beard and is centered beneath a sign that says “Spokane Carvers”. Rumor has it that you are just this second reading something that he wrote.


  12. Hi Inge,

    It is a shame isn’t it? I could use a bit of your cooler weather. And, um, this is not good, but um: Adelaide heat set to soar to 45C (113’F) on Thursday, close to 1939 record. It won’t get quite as hot here on Friday, but it won’t be far off that temperature. 1939 was not a good year down here.

    Yeah, I have heard rumblings about wood stoves too, and it is funny how people can take the high moral ground on such matters. I tend to remind them that their heating may come from coal, uranium, gas and how is that all working for them? I have ‘property rights’ in relation to harvesting firewood for personal use, but plenty of people have been beaten over the head with bits of legal paper. It happens. And is independence at the core of this concern, or is it resource depletion. Not many folks care that much about pollution, so excuse the pun, but that matter is often used as a smoke screen.

    Yum! Does the abattoir do the butchering? And did you manage to get any pork sausages made up? I’m salivating thinking about Bratwurst in a fresh bun with fried onions and a bit of tasty cheese.

    Boundless optimism has caused many a well intentioned person to become unstuck. I reckon it is good news that the wife appears to have her ambitions and expectations firmly planted in reality. I see a lot of duplication of access ways in rural areas, especially when large farms have been divided up into smaller lots. You just hope that the people are not idiots about the shared road, do something like try and bring in trucks and heavy equipment during the depths of winter – that is what I’d wonder. I’ve seen that take place on Grand Designs UK and access is a difficult matter in some circumstances.

    I totally agree with you. What did the old timers used to say about the ‘Devil being in the detail’?



  13. Hi Margaret,

    Sometimes things are lost in translation because school lunches are usually the concern of the parent or the child, and it is a rare school indeed down here that feeds the kids during lunch break, so the kids normally spread out and do whatever kids do. So it took my mind a few minutes to understand what you meant by: ‘allowed out after lunch’. I guess if things are always organised for the kids, they fail to learn how to organise themselves and/or others? I see a lot of that and I have no idea what to make of it.

    The ghost in the machine! It is a real nuisance losing comments – and that was one of the reasons I jumped ship from the old Blogger platform – as I was beginning to lose comments too. What a nuisance, and I’m glad that you persisted in the face of technical adversity. 🙂

    Far out that is cold! It makes me cold even reading about that sort of weather. Mind you, it is starting to look good compared to what is rolling around here in a few days time (I left a link to an article in the reply to Inge). Hope you, Doug, Leo and Salve are keeping warm.

    The issue about growing plants also becomes understanding the stories of the plants and how to successfully replicate the growth from collected seed – year in and year out. Our forebears would probably consider us all to be quite dull witted in that regard – me included!

    Exactly, farmers don’t tend to keep and maintain a kitchen garden these days. I’m wondering if part of that is the lack of use of animals and a surplus of manure? When you have to pay for all of your fertiliser, plants become a very expensive business. Dunno. Why do you reckon it might be?

    12’F! Very funny. It’s about 90’F outside here right now. 🙂

    I hear you about the colours. The forest has maintained a good canopy coverage this year, and in shady parts of the orchard, the grass underneath the fruit trees is still quite green. I’m hoping the two orchards eventually form a solid canopy of leaves as that will reduce heat stress and water loss in the plants, but that takes a lot of years of growth. Oh well.

    What did they use to say about: Sorting the wheat from the chaff? I reckon the old timers might have been onto something with that expression. I hear the claim more than a bit.

    You know, your ‘few family members’ might do well to forge strong relationships and help out at your previous property and also learn – if they want that particular outcome. My gut feeling is that they’re trying to gain advantage through words alone… I can’t imagine that they’re serious, I’ve never treated anyone seriously who has said such things. Maybe the next time it is said I might question them about it. Dunno. Do you reckon I should just drop the subject with them?



  14. Hello again
    Fortunately access along the road is already dreadful so there is quite a limit to what could even reach the shared drive.
    The abattoir only kills, Son does the butchering. No sausages this time as we have plenty from the last lot of pigs. I have a difficult job trying to prevent Son from instantly freezing it all. He has done it again even though I asked him to bring me unfrozen meat. I suppose that I should be glad that he is so careful but I come from pre refrigeration days and am less nervy about stuff warming up. It does taste so much better if it hasn’t been frozen.
    He did plonk one small unfrozen joint in front of me, which I have already cooked and part eaten.

    An expert has just been amusingly shamed. He noted with delight an ancient stone circle. This made the news, only to have a farmer state later that he created it 20 years ago.

    I asked daughter in South Australia about the temperature there. She is okay because she is on the coast and it is cooler there but she had spent a very hot day in Adelaide. The other daughter is holidaying in Tasmania where I assume that it is cooler.


  15. Hi Lewis,

    Ah, the mercenary response to inheritance. I’d forgotten that path to wealth, if only because it is non-existent for me. You know, hanging around a dysfunctional family situation on the off chance they don’t squander all of their accumulated wealth, and secondly that they don’t write me out of the will on a whim… Is that two or three variables where they gain power and control over me? Dunno. I’m kind of uncomfortable at that thought, but it is an easy ride I guess if it works for other folks. Mate, because it isn’t on my radar I’d never considered that aspect, but it spins a whole different light (or darkness) on the subject matter.

    I get that about the produce going to waste in your common room. A mate once remarked to me that some produce from here was almost as good as a bought one. I was a bit floored by that response and momentarily lost for words, and then I lost the moment to reply too and the conversation moved on. I’m curious about your perspective in this matter, because I do feel that people raised on food arriving in a wrapped package and coming from a shop may indeed view food grown from gardens with a level of suspicion as if it was somehow lesser (or at the least had cooties)? Dunno.

    I’ve been to many different times and places through the simple act of reading a book – and I reckon you may know what I’m talking about. Most people have their heads buried in small devices these days, but I set hard limits around my ‘screen time’ and only ever read the newspaper or a book when at a cafe. Screens are rarely welcome when at table and they are usually uninvited guests (always the troublesome ones, don’t you reckon?) at the behest of actual guests. Mostly visitors respect the fact that we don’t have a television on in the background, and they usually feel a bit awkward if they whip out their smart phones because they generally put them away again. The temptation of the dark side is strong, master! 🙂

    Back in those days the guest house would have been something of a nice earner for the family and their ‘hired men’. You’ll note that every now and then I employ a bunch of men to give us a hand about the property and there is always the whiff of obligation to that relationship, which is cool. Hey, at least the train station is still there and in operation, but I tell ya what, the government decommissioned some serious track miles in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I do often whether that strategy will be one that is regretted in the far future? When I was reading the history book, I noticed a reference to a local bloke who made his living back in the day producing charcoal. Imagine trying to live off the proceeds of charcoal production (or eucalyptus oil for that matter) these days…

    And speaking of trains, during the Great Depression, the trains ran for free on the weekends which allowed people to take up the gentle (and cheap) hobby of bush walking. Apparently back in the day it was quite the thing and hordes of people would have descended upon this mountain range, let alone other ranges that are more convenient to Melbourne.

    Yeah, higher up the mountain spur and up above this place, there is an old Victorian era health resort which is now a private house with three accommodation units. The old Cobb and Co coaches would have taken guests up to enjoy the fresh (and bracing) mountain air of that place. It has a funny name: Craigielea, of which I’m unsure of the derivation. They still do accommodation, but links on this interweb thingee can promote a level of inquisitiveness that I don’t want but a search finds them (add the word Cherokee).

    It wasn’t that long ago that people ‘honeymooned’ in small rural towns along the coast, or up here in the mountains at some exotic spot. Honestly, I don’t know how much of a fan I was of travelling to far and distant exotic countries, although I usually had to venture to third world countries because of financial constraints. There was always the discomfiting thought about where would the next toilet be? I do recall a delightful day sitting in a hammock in Peru in the Amazon rainforest, reading a book, and from time to time watching all of the wildlife bouncing around the place. I rather enjoyed that. My memory of the Amazon rainforest has blurred into a slightly surreal memory of thick jungle, wide rivers and wandering and very localised rain storms.

    The plant hunter extraordinaire (Mr Fairchild) managed to encounter a benevolent patron during such a sojourn. Most folks I met whilst travelling didn’t offer such opportunities.

    Yes, that thought had already occurred to me. It is nice of people to put in the hard yards now, and if push comes to shove I should hopefully enjoy the pick of the bunch who decide for one reason or another to head out of town. There is a whole lot of work to do between now and then, and if it never eventuates, then I’ve had a rather enjoyable life. Yes, the magistrate was a good character.

    Yeah, plums are slow to grow, but then in these old soils, most fruit trees are slow to grow especially if they are not mollycoddled with huge quantities of water. Incidentally, the replacement water pump will hopefully be installed for Thursday – and I’m not relishing that task because a short heatwave is expected to land that day. When articles mention 1939, my mind recoils at the horror of: 1939 Black Friday bushfires.

    Hopefully the kiwi vines produce more fruit in future years? Maybe. The huge volumes of coffee grounds that I’m throwing about the place each week have paid serious dividends and hopefully continue to do so. Coffee is an at risk plant akin to bananas. But this year I intend for all of the fruit trees to get a solid feed in autumn as that strategy last year also paid dividends. It is complicated this stuff – and the soils are so old and worn out. You are lucky to live in a part of the world that has reasonably good soils.

    Interesting, and that variety of rose is very old, and also very hardy. We may plant more roses in the future for pure enjoyment, but believe it or not space is at a bit of a premium at the moment. My mind keeps turning to a crop of sweet sorghum as it has a lot of uses.

    Hehe! Yup, real time. I was enjoying breakfast at the time. 🙂 I picked more apricots off the trees for future breakfasts this morning too.

    A good whinge is often cathartic!

    It is a bit of a shame that there are no zombie or disaster flicks. Have you noticed that the ‘Razzie awards’ are soon to be announced? The nominations are now in…

    It was a show grabber watching a meter spin backwards, but those pesky smart meters are smart enough to measure both the inflows and the outflows. To be honest, it isn’t a particularly complex thing to measure and I do that trick here with the solar power system. It is very insightful to measure your inflows against your outflows and hope that the two are more or less the same numbers (or in the ball park).

    I just came back inside from watching the chickens and one of the silkies had matted feathers on her head. The editor and I cut them off her using very sharp scissors. A disgusting job, and the silky in question has problems maintain good hygiene. She isn’t the brightest chicken, and a more ruthless person would sort that problem out permanently.

    No, I agree, big changes are coming whether we accept that fate or not. The whole money printing, low interest rate policy with rubbish current account deficits is subject to diminishing returns – regardless of whatever spurious claims are made about them. It is akin to stealing from the future, but that maybe is an unpopular view. And climate change, mate, you don’t have to convince me of that as Friday is forecast to reach 41’C / 106’F. Thought you might enjoy this: BOM forecaster Mike Bergin retires after 49 ‘magnificent’ years. BOM is the Bureau of Meteorology down here.

    Crapification is a bit like the story of the frog in the slowly boiling water and I reckon acceptance is a bit like what your wrote in that it occurs due to exposure. Speaking of frogs, mate this is weird: Nocturnal cane toads perform ‘extremely rare’ phase switch, becoming diurnal in Kimberley gorges. And I’ve read that birds of the Corvid family up north have learned to consume the toads whilst avoiding the toxic skin. I like the Corvid’s and are good mates with the Magpie family that live here.

    Yeah, you don’t hear much about the whalers and sealers down here either. They were a rough lot and got up to all sorts of mischief from what I’ve read.

    Far out, that is one big molasses tank, and who would have thought that the molasses was used in the munitions industry. My basic chemistry could use a bit of additional knowledge as it is probably a useful thing to know about that stuff. I’m reluctant to do an interweb search on such matters because the interweb is not as free and easy as most would assume, but do you know of any easy to read and understand books on the subject? I saw the results of the tank failure in the photos and it was a revolting incident.

    The same waves of immigration took place here too.

    Ah yes, to err is to be human! But best if the stuff is not kept inside the house in the first place.



  16. Hi Inge,

    The access issue sort of forces people to use old school techniques, if they want to build a dwelling. The good thing is that those old school techniques by and large aren’t that hard on the land. Heavy machinery does as much good as it does damage, and people forget that.

    It is funny you mention that, but I recall a cartoon from when I was a kid, and it was of a New Zealand farm with all the goings on there. It was called ‘Footrot Flats’ and the central character was a cattle dog, but you may never have heard of it. I do recall that the characters used to simply allow the carcass to hang high up from a tree. People can be a bit funny about food spoiling, but as a species we’ve learned to live without refrigeration for far longer than we’ve enjoyed it. And I got sick the other week because it was an infected human working in a commercial kitchen…

    Hope you enjoyed the joint of meat? Yum! Home raised pork is superb tasting.

    Ha! Oh no. These things happen. I discovered a stone circle not far from the edge of the cleared land here, and I sure didn’t make it. The stones were too large for me to move. But the area has been logged since 1860 to about 1970, so it is hardly surprising that there are relics out there. Given your dry year, a lot of things have been discovered. I may plant an oak tree in that stone circle over the next year or so.

    Glad to hear that your daughter is located near to the coast – an enviable spot to be on Thursday or Friday. And I do hope that your other daughter is not in a wilderness zone in south west Tasmania? Bushfire destroys wilderness retreat as emergency crews look ahead to hot, windy weather. It has been a heck of a season, and I will be grateful to escape it unharmed.



  17. Hi DJ,

    Hehe! Yup, you of all the people who comment here can probably relate the best to this sort of weather that I’m currently – and I’m unsure whether this is the correct word to use, but what the heck – enjoying. It must be a bit surreal reading about heatwaves when you’re ankle deep in snow!

    After the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires I saw plenty of oak trees that had stopped the fire in its track, and half the tree facing the fire was burnt and the other half was green as. They recovered too. I didn’t need to be told a second time and I plant heaps of oak trees. Acorns are even cheaper than seedlings…

    Ouch. Yup it isn’t lost on me that snow melt up in the mountain meadows drives your summer rivers. Mate, water is a huge, in fact a massive, issue. I manage water very carefully here, with one eye on today and many worries for tomorrow. Yes, it probably is too early for your plants unfortunately, and February may be the end of them. But importantly, aren’t you amazed at just how adaptable plants are to a changing climate? I see the plants doing many strange things in autumn.

    The same story went on down here too. There was an often reported by reliable witnesses, but basically neglected Dutch ship wreck on the south coast. That is about a day’s slow drive from here (it is slow because the roads are windy): Mahogany Ship. And the Chinese explorers planted strangler fig vines on the north coast… History can be strange indeed.

    Thanks. The nursery was happy to be rid of the plants and so everyone walked away happy from the deal. I hope the passionfruit ripens. It is an extraordinarily tasty fruit.

    The Finnish Spitz kept you grounded in a time of crisis by focusing your mind on the immediate task at hand. I’d call that a true canine mate! I miss my Swedish Lapphund mate – which is not a dissimilar dog. He really did work hard around here with the wildlife and had a gentle paw on that matter, but then he was just so lazy the rest of the time. He’d still be around today if he’d grasped onto some middle ground between the two extremes of his activities. Hey, it is not funny just how unprepared people are for feeding themselves for more than a few days. With the garden, we could go for months. I’d miss the coffee though after about three months.

    Did you just type -35’C! No way! Horrid. My mind is recoiling at the thought of such weather, and I promise not to complain about the heat anymore (or for a while at least). But far out it is going to get hot later this week. 🙂

    Thanks for the link! The mermaid with the amphora on her head and also the boots were outstanding – as were all of the faces peering out of the timber. I’ve seen indigenous carvings like those up in the north of this country. An impressive beard too! The guy to your right looks like an old mate of mine, which is uncanny because I’m pretty sure he wasn’t there! Speaking of uncanny, the rams head was amazing too. Greetings to you! And I’m really impressed with the quality of the carvings. I hope everyone had a good time there?



  18. @ DJspo – I want the bowl that looks like a Native American fish and the little house that looks like a tree stump :-). Johnny Depp? Really?

    Yup, that beard is heading into ZZ Top territory. :-). Looks like a good group, but where are the young people? That’s just a rhetorical question. Lew

  19. Yo, Chris – Oh, the whole not taking advantage of home grown veg is about convenience, I think. “Fast and easy” has been drilled into our heads, since the 1950s, the the processed food people. Fear of the unknown. Why didn’t I take advantage of that bread pudding, the other day? Knee jerk reaction to something I’d never had, before. And, I was semi-full from the meal, so that took the “adventure” edge off.

    I’ve stumbled on a new way to poke fun at “devices.” The other day I was heading into the Club, and there was three people clustered around the door, all deeply buried in their “things.” So, I hunched my shoulders and stared, deeply, into my empty palm. Not that they noticed. Gave me a giggle. I may deploy that, from time to time, when people do notice.

    Yup. Trains and trams were pretty much gutted in the first half of the 20th century. But the final death blows came with the neo-economists in the 1980s. “Oh, busses will take up the slack.” All fine and good, as long as oil is cheap. At least, with the whole “rails to trails” movement, the road beds are still there, and maintained. Might come in handy, again, at some later date.

    Small places can be so … appealing. When I was watching “Chocolat”, that French village. I thought, “I want to live THERE!” Rationally knowing that you’d always be an outsider, and not welcome. I watched “The Bookstore”, last night. A good movie, but just as sad as the book. Also, a picture perfect little village. And, another cautionary tale about moving to small places. Better off being a recluse/hermit on your own.

    Kunstler’s monday post was partially about the economy. Might want to skip the political part, and take a look at what he has to say about the economy.

    The cane toad article was interesting. Not so unusual, I think. If I’m not careful, I very easily shift to nocturnal. 🙂

    Well, yes, I can think of a book that might expand your horizons, as far as useful chemistry. “Henley’s 20th Century Book of Formulas.” And, there’s always “The Anarchist’s Cookbook.” Hmmm. Maybe not the last.

    I finished “Dark Tide.” There were three or four pages about the 1918 flu, which swept through Boston, just before the tank broke. There’s also quit a bit about the Anarchists. The company that owned the tank tried to get off the hook by claiming anarchists blew up the tank. Didn’t work.

    In a way, the book reminded me of the book I read recently on the Johnstown Flood. It took a tremendous disaster to begin to change laws, as far as corporate liability. There was this … atmosphere that Big Business could, literally, get away with murder. After Johnstown, and the Molasses Flood, that began to change. More protections put in place for citizens. More regulation of dangerous structures and business.

    But, I’m afraid that’s all eroding, now. In the past, Big Business was riding high. But, they’ve learned, from past experience, how to lawyer up, buy influence and chip away at protections. Arbitration, instead of using the legal systems. The whole “we’re only a platform” concept. For a brief period, people had recourse. And, through manipulation, have given most of it away.

    Well, I had another go around with my DVD player, last night. The first disc played fine. The second, regional block. The third, parental block (which I can work around.) The fourth, worked just fine. Unfortunately, the regional block was on “Idiocracy”, which has been kicking around the library system for years. So, it’s a flaw in my player. Lew

  20. Chris,

    Yes that was -35C. VERY rare here but happens. And we can turn around and be +40C the following summer! The extremes, regardless of temperature, are brutal.

    I wish we were ankle deep in snow now, but it’s unlikely to happen. Snowing hard this moment. 2.5 cm on the ground. It’s expected to double, then warm and turn to rain. And be raining at +2C tomorrow. This winter is similar to my first in Spokane, 1967-1968. Evening snows turned to rain and disappeared the next day.

    I really like those northern breed dogs. As you said, they can be very pragmatic and grounding. Both the Finnish Spitz and the Samoyed were that way and highly intelligent. The Samoyed was more human and more mature than many humans I know! I bet you really miss that Swedish Laphound.

    The show was a lot of fun. I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between especially Pacific Northwest Coastal Native art and Australian Aboriginal art. Set them side by side and they’re clearly different, but the similarities are obvious.

    The 2 guys I was talking with in that picture are the show directors. The club went and made me club president, so I have a lot of duties at the show also. It’s always a lot of fun.

    The category that ram was in, Intermediate animals, was hotly contested. There were several quality carvings in that category. In Advanced woodburning, the Carousel Horse that was the best of ALL Advanced carvings narrowly beat my Yggdrasil. Good thing, too, as I’m not ready to compete in Expert and getting Best Advanced Carving would’ve forced me to the top level. The Captain Jack piece was actually an expert woodburning with some carving and a lot of coloring. That artist also had the kitten looking at a bee and Saint Theresa, both from past years, on display. I’m happy to not have to compete against him! My older Steampunk Druid and Nuthatch burnings were also on display from Intermediate and Novice categories. Set my work next to the expert’s and the differences pop right out. Fortunately, he is a good instructor, too!

    I’m always amazed by the quality of the entries as well as the imagination and varieties of the pieces. The limit is really learning the craft and expanding the imagination. The older show director does a lot of funny things. He’s carved a worn leather wallet out of wood that looked so real people were wondering if someone had lost their wallet. He did a “Finger Bowl” a few years back. He carved a bowl out of wood and filled it with fingers of various sizes that he carved.


  21. Hi Lewis,

    Ha! I had a new type of comment today to delete. They’re always a fascinating bunch. But this was a new one which suggested that a lot of the content on the blog was repeated and that they had some sort of program to provide free content. Aren’t they nice that they noticed that I’d be been banging on for years that this whole solar power things makes no economic sense. Hehe! Anyway, if weird content ever turns up here, it is because the site has been hijacked, but I’ll just restore from backups easy enough. I’m amazed at how many nefarious folks keep trying to login to the back end of the website – are they bored or something?

    Yeah I recall the rise of the supermarket back in the day. One of the ‘families’ up in the more fashionable end of the mountain range apparently made their money through those businesses back in the early days. There is a bit of bait and switch going on because I feel that food quality is declining. Yes, I was wondering about the ‘bread pudding’ too, but then there is the anticipation for next time. Personally I reckon you might have done yourself no favours by avoiding that dessert – that is if it is the same as bread and butter pudding down here. A good use for older bread – and the bakery not too far from here with the old Scotch oven sometimes makes that dessert from their leftovers, and it is very tasty. Of course I enjoy it with a dollop of cream, but people may fear that particular heady brew of yumminess!

    Like it, and yes parody is a good option. I almost had a young lady walk into me today when she was walking with her head down in her phone. Whatever she was reading – and I’d like to think that she was reading the blog, but it is hardly likely – at the last second she did a crazy Ivan (a WWI biplane reference) and almost took me out. Like a bowling alley and I was one of the pins. Not thoughtful.

    I’ve wondered that too about the rail trails as it is the earthworks and land appropriations that are the complex bits. The track laying, not so much. I don’t know whether roads would be that good converted into rail because sometimes the gradients and declines are too steep. The rail trail folks might also keep a good eye on the many bridges. Mate I’ve seen some historical photographs of timber wharfs that have been taken by storms, replaced, only to be knocked out again. The hungry ocean reclaims it all in the end!

    That happens here too and you’re not considered a true local until you’re family has been in the area for multiple generations, but then there is little community to speak of because a lot of people are commuters, and I get that because the land can’t provide a living for people and taxes have to be paid in cash. I prefer the hermit option, although you may have already noticed that by now! Mind you, I’m also waiting to see how the cards fall in these parts as we continue to progress.

    I always read Mr Kunstler’s blog on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. It is a highlight of my internet week as I don’t travel widely or far on this here information-super-highway (whatever that means). The economic shenanigans are most certainly subject to diminishing returns – but also there is an element of moving towards the lowest common denominator, because if you don’t, your country becomes at risk. The other option from that is stepping back from the benefits of globalism and not many countries want to: ‘go there own way’. Speaking of which I saw a poster for Fleetwood Mac, apparently they’re intending to tour down here… Rumours was a good album and it stands up well today. Sorry for the ear worm!

    Hehe! Aren’t we all at risk of that? Probably not, but early mornings are hard, but getting to bed early is harder. The early bird might get the worm, but then they might get done in by another bird whilst they’re having a nap! The other day I saw that a Kookaburra performed a daring raid on a common blackbirds nest and took off with one of the young. Brutal, but the Kookaburras were off in the forest having a good old laugh about it as they are apt to do.

    Thanks for the references. Interesting!

    Wow! Who would have thought that the company that owned the molasses tank would lie about their complicity and seek to blame others… The regulation is a good thing, but like everything it can be taken too far, and I see some serious weirdness on that front. It adds to the cost of doing business, but I reckon the cost doesn’t justify the outcome. I might have a story about that…

    Oh yeah, the court system is so expensive that it is not good. I read a story recently which suggested that the court system stuffed something up for someone – and the outcome was serious for them – and the fix was expensive. If you’re interested I can track down the details.

    Sorry to hear that your DVD player is having troubles. Have you considered a USB DVD player for your computer? It might work better and have less hick-ups or cooties because the computer controls the software.

    It is the mid-week hiatus tonight and we went out for Mexican food. Chickpea and salad Burrito. It was excellent! Yum! And whilst we were in the big smoke, a local person that I know walked past the table with her partner by sheer chance and said hello. Such a big world, but also such a small world. Nice.



  22. Hello Chris and Lew
    Bread and butter pudding is not the same as bread pudding. The first is delicious and the second is more like a cake and horrible. Have to admit that the latter view is caused by the fact that my husband used to make it with horribly mouldy bread. He just cut off the mouldy bits and suffered no ill effects!


  23. Yo, Chris – Oh, things are pretty quiet, on my spam front. But, everyday, there are things to empty out of my Yahoo mail. I haven’t had a spam landslide, in awhile. I feel neglected :-(. But, I still have to look at the “headers” to make sure nothing important has slipped through. Gosh, there must be some real idiots out there, who fall for some of those come ons.

    I have been getting an irritating pop up screen, for about a month and a half. I need to upgrade my browser, by Jan. 19th, otherwise AWFUL things will happen. Some new bells and whistles “may” not work. Well, I’m quit happy with my mail, just as it is, now. Does all the things I need it to do, and can’t think of another thing that will … enrich my life. I’m sure there are software developers out there, who just can’t CONCEIVE of anyone not wanting (or caring two figs about) their “enhanced functionality.” After all, it’s *N*E*W*. Well, the 19th came and went, and life as I know it didn’t end. Now they’re predicting apocalypse on the 31st. Promises, promises.

    But, in the real world, life as I know it IS ending!!! I discovered that Garrison Auction is for sale. They want to retire.

    Sure, some regulations are overdone. Even when it comes to health and safety. But there is, somewhere along the way, a Goldilocks zone.

    Thanks for the suggestion about the USB DVD player. Wee small problem. I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Whatever it is, it’s probably a.) stressful b.) has a sharp learning curve (subject to change) and c.) will take a lot of time and headache to figure out. In the meantime, I did get to watch “Idiocracy”, last night. I remembered that I have a DVD port on my computer. I hadn’t used it in years. It was getting kind of cranky, and, the computer isn’t in a comfortable place to spend a lot of time on it.

    There’s also the problem of my computer is very old, so old it won’t upgrade, anymore. So, I don’t want to put any money in it. It’s days are numbered. I’d say, sooner or later (I’d prefer later) a new computer AND DVD player will be in my future. As is, I had to haul out the 442 page computer manual, and brush up on how to use the DVD function. First, find the control panel. Then, figure out all those funny little icons.

    As a last resort, there is a DVD player, in the Institution Library. I checked last night. There it was, jammed up on top of a VHS player. Along with three remotes, each with dozens of buttons. I’d better get out my flashlight and magnifying glass and give it a trial run.

    “Idiocracy” was ok, on second viewing. The premise is rather interesting. But, I found a bit of the language brutal. I’m also watching “Survivors”, and old (2008) British miniseries. A flu wipes out 99% of the people. The ones that are left should all pull together, but aren’t some people awful. Etc..

    Yup. Looks like you’re in for more awful weather. Uncomfortable and dangerous. I wonder if we’ll have a similar summer? Not a flake of snow, this winter. And, I doubt we’ll see any. I might be surprised, though. Lew

  24. Hi Chris,
    Well as with your weather ours is going from bad to worse but in opposite directions. Several days with lows around -15F and one -20F (-29C). The latest snow storm is just finishing up with an additional 7 inches so we’re over a foot now. Our furnace is sucking propane big time. Being in a new house (for us) we’re not sure what to expect when weather like this hits. Will the furnace keep up? Will any pipes freeze? Doug is leaving for five days next week in the midst of this cold weather and I have to say I’m not too comfortable with being here by myself but at least we know our neighbors.

    Having a much smaller house will probably discourage family members from thinking they could stay with us. Back when the brothers first came to live with us I had a market garden and took flowers and produce to a farmers market once a week. My brothers were able to help some and one of my sisters came out once a week from the city to help with weeding. She used to refer to herself as a migrant farmer. At least she’s somewhat familiar with gardening. At any rate we’re all getting up there so there’s a limit to the physical work now.

    The dogs just came in – made it outside for only 10 minutes. Wish I could send some of our snow and cold weather down your way.


  25. Hi, Chris!

    I sure do like the idea of a vacation at that bungalow. I am impressed at the hot and cold running water. I guess I would assume that it is like a bed & breakfast, with all meals, and not self catering? How nice and fresh to have some of the menu right on the premises.

    That’s a beautiful tropical sunset, though I like the storm clouds photo even more. It is really neat to see the bees all clinging to the side of their hive; I’ll bet they are not in a very good mood. No wonder Sir S is hot – he is cooking his head right in the direct sun!

    How beautiful and inspiring is your spic and span house!

    Peaches and currants – what an interesting and delicious-sounding combination. I am glad that you are getting at least some apricots and I see baby cucumbers. The flowers really do love the heat, don’t they? Though the blush rose is in the shade and it still looks great. Thanks for them all; they are gorgeous. How are the chickens doing in the heat?

    My son’s wood stash – would that be for this winter (it’s still going to be around awhile) or next winter? It is actually a moot point as he has enough put aside – and he is at this moment bringing more
    logs from the back of the property to be split – for 2 or 3 more winters.

    I love potato chips. I have to use serious self control.

    When I went into town the other morning it was after a fairly large snow, followed by a whole day of rain, and then the temperature dropped to 9F (-13C) and the road actually became very dusty very quickly. I can only assume that it was freeze dried. There was a lot of wind, too.


  26. @Lew
    Loved your response to people on phones. I may steal that idea if you don’t mind. It becomes more and more common to watch people in a restaurant on their phones instead of conversing.

    If the people in the “home” aren’t reading or gardening what are they doing – just watching TV?

    I have heard most of the books have been removed from the school libraries as the students can read now on their school provided laptops and that includes most textbooks as well.


  27. Hi Chris,

    I hope that you and the Editor, and the fluffies and chickens, take good care of yourselves during the extreme heat! I recommend plenty of sleep. 😉

    Those mid 40sC high temperatures are beyond anything I’ve experienced, but the 29C lows are not uncommon here during the summer. The hottest high temperature I’ve experienced in St. Louis so far is 108F / 42C, but it has gotten as hot as 115F / 46C. Because we are at low altitude and humid during the summer, nighttime lows are in the range of 68-75F / 20-24C almost every day from sometime in June till early September, interspersed with lows in the 76-80F / 24-27C range when it gets hotter, and 81-85F / 27-29C, occasionally even more, during the hottest spells. If you remember that nighttime lows are above 20C for nearly three months every summer here (sometimes longer, like last year), on top of which a large fraction of houses are built of brick with little if any insulation, the use of air conditioning becomes much more understandable. I’m not arguing that it’s sustainable, mind you, and we limit its use to when we can’t get the house below 80F / 27C at night, but we do use it, and I don’t apologize for using it at those times.

    We’re in a seesawing weather pattern. The high was in the mid 40sF / 7C overnight and it rained before a cold front came through near dawn and dropped the temperature below freezing. This was after it was around 20F / -7C and snowing Sunday afternoon, which will repeat this Friday.

    We learned something important Sunday afternoon: the current Volkswagen Beetles do not float. 😉 Here’s how that happened. We were at a friend’s house who lives in a subdivision with a pond. Her back yard slopes steeply downhill to the pond, with an equally steep slope above the opposite shore to a street running parallel to the shore. The slope continues upward from the street, less steep, with houses along the street so that their driveways slope upward. I and our friend were sitting in front of the picture window facing the pond so she looked toward the upstream end of the pond, while I looked downstream at the dam holding the water in the pond. As we were talking she suddenly exclaimed about a car rolling down a driveway and down the slope into the pond! So I came to her side and looked, and sure enough, a red Beetle was in the water, with tracks in the snow to show that it had rolled down the driveway and the slope into the pond. Fortunately no one was inside. Apparently the car’s owner hadn’t set the brakes securely; the snow on the driveway made it slick enough for the car to roll downhill from its own weight. Another friend, our friend’s next door neighbor, who was also present called the emergency number. Considering that we didn’t know if anyone was inside when he called, it seemed to take much too long for the police and a fire truck to arrive on the scene. By the time they got there a different neighbor had informed the car’s owner, who talked to the police and firefighters. And everyone just watched the car slowly sink into the pond (it took close to an hour for it to sink below the surface of the water). No one else was going to try to get any kind of vehicle down the slope to the pond, for fear it would go in too. Plus it will require a diver to attach a towing line to the car, and who wants to do that in this kind of weather? The friend who called in the accident, who is one of the subdivision’s trustees, thinks it will be spring before anyone removes the car.


  28. Chris,

    Keep your head down in that nastily hot weather. Those are brutal temperatures.

    Ended up with 10 cm of wet snow with some freezing rain on top. It got just warm enough to melt some of it, but it was freezing over when I got home from work. By that time, there was about 1 cm of icy crust on the top of the snow. When I attended Catholic School from ages 12 to 14, we called that kind of snow “Religious Snow”. The idea was to grab a chunk of crust, slam it onto somebody’s head and say “They call me John the Baptist in the winter.”

    Well, I had several sidewalks to do, so I got out Big Bertha the Supreme Snowblowing Beauty Machine. (There’s the daily alliteration.) She stinks, she’s noisy, I hate working with her, but it was one of the rare necessary moments.


  29. Hi Inge,

    Hehe! Oh well, I’ve never seen or heard of ‘bread pudding’ before and confused it with Bread and Butter pudding which is very good. I see in the US they call Bread and Butter Pudding by another name: Cold Bread Pudding. They don’t look terribly dissimilar to me – what do you reckon?

    I can sort of see stale bread being used – as that was the point of the dessert – but mouldy bread is something else again. Stale biscuits form the base of tiramisu, so there is a bit of a waste not want not in cooking. Hey isn’t that how penicillin was discovered? Fungi is used heavily in cooking, and our little yeast friends are actually a form of fungi – and aren’t they good? Mind you I would have been uncomfortable with facing blue green bread… I’m a bit soft really and have never developed a taste for mouldy cheeses either, but people swear how nice they are. Give me a vintage tasty over that stuff anyday.

    I tell you a strange story, a few weeks back I was talking to a bloke who grew up on the island of Sardinia. And he told me that when he was a kid, his folks used to raise their own bread wheat, which was milled locally, and he reckoned that the bread they baked with it stayed fresh for about a week. I wasn’t sure what to make about that claim, but I do guess the local milling process may not have been able to remove the oils from the grains, so maybe the bread had a much higher oil content than we are used to with modern flour varieties (which have had the oil removed). Dunno. Do you recall anything along those lines with bread?

    Adelaide sets new heat record as temperatures soar throughout SA.



  30. Hi DJ,

    Thanks for clarifying that awful cold weather statistic. Truly horrid! And I have no idea how I’d cope with -35’C. Speaking of which it is 40’C in Melbourne right now, and 37’C here – although you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference between the two.

    Yeah, I can see that the snow would turn to rain at 2’C and that makes a lot of sense. So you don’t reckon that February will get any colder for you? February may get hotter here, but the cyclone season has begun up north of the continent (it’s late) and that may bring cooler wet weather to this southerly location.

    There used to be a song by a local band and the chorus went something like this: ‘Dogs are the best people’. I recall that at the time the song got quite a lot of air play. It is a nice sentiment.

    That is why I mentioned the similarities in the carvings – as they’re there. Well done on the appointment to your position. And, I thought you might be interested in some very old wood carvings from the ill-fated 19th century explorers down here: Burke and Wills Dig Tree. The face tree is eerie isn’t it?

    You learn something every single day. The Yggdrasil was a fascinating choice with a long history. The quality of the carvings was amazing and yeah it is sometimes best not to win and just enjoy the friendly competition. 🙂 Yup, any skill worthy of learning takes a lot of practice and you are lucky to have access to the experts through your group.

    Do they do any chainsaw art? That’s a bit of a thing down here at agricultural shows – and they’re really good. If you’ve never seen it before I’ll try and get a photo for you the next time I’m at a show.

    The finger bowl is a nifty idea! Very clever.

    Kids can be pretty brutal, but it pays to be aware of your surroundings. I recall a similar trick during wet weather when either yourself or some other kid would wait until another kid was walking under a low tree branch where the leaves would be full of water, then bam, shake the tree and all the water would fall out. Such things made for sometimes nervous but strangely at other times, enjoyable childhood experiences! But I had noticed that what goes around, comes around – as they like to say.

    Go Big Bertha! An occasional but necessary evil.

    Mate, it is hot as today. I’ve been pumping water from the reserve water tank to the main house tank for a few hours this afternoon. Lovin’ the new water pump, which I only installed earlier this morning in the hot sun. It may have cooked my brain a bit. A little bit anyway…



  31. Hi Lewis,

    Spam is funny isn’t it? And often the text is very poorly written with a startling and ingenious use of the language and grammar, that somehow doesn’t quite make any sort of sense. You’d have to suggest that the perpetrators of such nonsense are hoping that other people upon reading the nonsense, believe that they are dim-witted and easily taken advantage of? Actually, now that I think about it, that’s my trick when collecting debts. Not fair at all! Mate on a serious note, I hear reports of people falling for those spam emails, so there must be some level of success in their dodgy endeavours? It is a rare person that can withstand temptation of believing that their rare luck will continue after having once won the lottery. And haven’t we in first world countries won the energy and resource lottery? 😉

    Speaking of which, I travelled to the nearby town to pick up the replacement water pump this morning. Then I installed the machine and have run it for most of the afternoon in the strong afternoon sunlight. The water has to move uphill about 66ft in elevation, and at that height it can deliver about 13 gallons per minute (which is no slouch). That takes about 0.5kW or about 2/3rds of a horsepower. I wouldn’t want to try that trick by hand… I’m really impressed with this new water pump – it’s good. And it has to move a lot of water as there hasn’t been that much rain recently. The tropical cyclone season in the north of the country is about two months late this year but has only just begun in the last few days. The storms up there might be strong enough to send some rainfall down this way (or at least cool the centre of the continent). Fingers crossed.

    The climate is heating up quicker than I anticipated and so I’ll have to take some action from about autumn onwards. The capital city of the state of South Australia has today taken a rather dubious award away from capital city of the state of Victoria, Melbourne: Adelaide now hottest capital city on record as temperatures soar throughout SA. And talk about a negative feedback loop of epic proportions (not that anyone notices such things): Power generators switched on for first time as SA, Victoria suffer through heatwave. I do wonder if the irony of having a solution which contributes further to many other problems is lost on most people? I suspect that it maybe the case.

    I’m curious about your government shutdown. Does that impact upon the salaries of allegedly politicised folks working for the Department of Justice – and also the Congress critter folks?

    Your email has entered the legacy software stage of its life. The thing is, if the software works, why all the need for the various upgrades etc. etc. It makes little to no sense to me. And who is asking for all of these additional bells and whistles? As a teenager I recall a computer game, ‘Elite’ that was famed for its extensive universe that the coders had optimised to fit into a tiny little memory space. Nowadays I reckon the complexity of software means that very few people would have their heads around what is actually going on at the machine instruction level.

    For obvious reasons I’d never heard of Garrison Auction’s. Would you consider the purchase – assuming that you had the funds to do so?

    Yeah, the Goldilocks zone is the ‘just right’ space, and who knows where that is? I remember in the volunteer fire brigade that they had to spend money getting the electric kettle (yes, the thing that heats water for cups of tea) tested and tagged by a certified person. Now having just typed that my place will probably burn to the ground due to a faulty electric kettle, but seriously… It was not like the local brigade was overflowing with funds with nothing else to do with them.

    Fair enough and no worries at all about the DVD player attached to a computer via a USB port. I get that. The new dirt mouse has GPS navigation and I’ve never used it. The screen in that car can also be used for reverse parking into tight parking spaces, but I prefer to keep my manual skills nice and sharp.

    Ouch. Computers are fickle beasties, so don’t be lured by the siren call of the bright shiny new computer singing to you from the sea shore, but know that they want to consume your very sun bleached bones, and all the little marrow bits, when you finally swim to the shore of the new PC land. Except you use Mac’s and things maybe different with their demise, so rather than involving Sirens, you get to consumed by I dunno, werewolves? Stay safe and make a wise decision knowing that something may be chomping down upon yours and my sun bleached bones!

    The weather is brutal hot today, and I expect it to be doubly brutal with a touch of dangerousness for tomorrow. I hope to still be here on Saturday morning…



  32. Hi Margaret,

    Far out, we really are at opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to weather today. I just checked outside and it is 33’C / 91’F at almost 8pm. Far out it is hot here, but your cold weather sounds horrendous (-29’C)… Hope your firewood shed is stacked high and dry? In one part of the state here today (a bit north and east of here) an underground electricity cable failed, and they were without power: Victorian heatwave: Locals left to sweat it out as blackout hits two central towns. Ouch. Your weather would be impossible to survive without energy to keep oneself warm. How would you keep chickens in a barn comfortable and alive in such weather? I understand your concerns about the sheer uncertainty of your systems during extreme weather. I get that and only today replaced one of the seldom used water pumps, merely so as to top up the house water tanks from the large reserve water tank. When will it rain next? Stuffed if I know. The coolest shed on the farm is the chicken shed as it has massive airflow, but the others are quite warm. I might let the chickens have a run after I’ve replied to you.

    Propane is bonkers expensive here, so whilst I do have two tanks, they are only used for a backup water heater when the sun ain’t shining and it is too warm for the wood heater, and also the stove gas top – and that is it. One tank lasts a very long time.

    Hey, did you enjoy doing the farmers market thing? And your sister would have performed a valuable service in your then large market garden. But I too understand your larger point because it’s true. You know, I reckon you just have to do what you’ve gotta do on that front. What do they say: Hope for the best and expect the worst – and you’ll end up happy with the result!

    Hope Leo and Salve enjoyed themselves outside for their brief foray? I chucked the dogs outside earlier today in the shade with some bones, and they dealt with it because I was out there too. But after about 3pm, they weren’t interested in heading outside. And to think Ollie is a tough and rugged cattle dog… He’s no fan of this heat I can tell ya. Please do send some snow and rain and I shall swap you for some excess heat!



  33. Hi Pam,

    I’m not entirely sure about the dinner or lunch side of that arrangement. Back in those days the local pub (which is the same one that the editor and I now frequent) was known as the Oriental Hotel and they would have provided dinner. Plus, there were ‘Tea Rooms’ in that part of the mountain range, and they definitely would have provided for lunches (and scones with fresh jam and cream, and of course Tea). But breakfast would have been part of that deal for sure. Back in the mid 90’s the editor and I stayed at a bed and breakfast in a charming 18th century barracks building in the island state of Tasmania. We’d stuffed up the booking and ended far from where we thought that we would actually be, but you know… The hosts made up for the oversight on our part as every morning they brought in a freshly baked bread loaf and homemade jam. I guess I can be bought off easily… Hehe! The loaf was so good as it was fresh out of the oven and still warm.

    Thanks! I do hope that the weather doesn’t get the best of us, but we should know one way or another by tomorrow night. Sir Scruffy is usually more careful with cooking his head – and that time no bones were involved, unlike this morning’s effort.

    We used good quality paint on the house and put three layers on just to be sure. I have to do some minor touch ups over the next few weeks – and it was in one area that we skimped upon, for a good reason of course. It is quite dazzling on the eyes, is it not? Do you have to regularly oil the logs on your place?

    Haha! The prize goes to the triffid like zucchini’s!. Over the course of a day, one of the fruit has gotten to be huge. Feral things! We pickle most of the cucumbers. The watering routine was a bit spotty this year for that particular plant and so they are still small, but are now growing well. Glad you are enjoying the flowers, and the chickens do well in the heat. They were originally from hot and dry climates, so they love it. Plus their enclosure is mostly in the shade and is very well ventilated naturally using huge swathes of heavy duty gauge steel aviary mesh – which just happens to be predator proof.

    A wise course of action by your son. Dry, seasoned, cut and split firewood is like money in the bank, but better. I did notice that the Cherokee Bank of Firewood (otherwise known by the naughty acronym of CBF) was not called to testify before the recent Royal Commission into the misdeeds of the Banking sector. Some institutions get all of the fun!

    Hmmm, potato chips are good… How can something so good, be so bad? It’s a conundrum!

    Wow, what a day of weather that would have been for you. And I have absolutely no idea how that could happen.



  34. Hi Claire,

    Thanks, but sleep is far from my mind tomorrow – although tonight should see plenty of that gear. We have to keep a close watch on the local emergency services, just in case we have to bail, and you can’t do that whilst you’re asleep – unfortunately.

    Thanks for the comparison, and it is hard to get used to the temperatures here because they are all over the shop and inconsistent. Tomorrow during the day the temperature will reach near to the all time high (the forecast is for 44’C) but it should drop by about 20’C over the course of an hour or two in the early evening. It will be a difficult day to say the least.

    Ah, I hadn’t realised that you have a sub tropical environment, but with startlingly cold winters. Interesting and I’d imagine that people would try all sorts of interesting strategies to keep their sub tropical plants alive during the winters? You wouldn’t see such an environment anywhere down under with such cold winters. You live in a fascinating place. Hey, fair enough too, none of us are perfect and we all have an impact on the planet one way or another. You do plenty of good stuff and far more (and have done far more) than most. Yesterday when I was in the big smoke, I did not see a single insect anywhere. It was kind of spooky for me because they’re all over the shop up here and I’m used to seeing them.

    It is 28’C in the house right now and I suspect that tomorrow because the overnight temperature will be so high, that it might get to 29’C or 30’C (which I’ve never seen inside the house before). Oh well, you just gotta do what you can.

    Yeah, you’re located between two distinct weather patterns (three here) and that would be complicated for agricultural pursuits. But you have water, lots and lots of water!

    Nooo! What a thing to discover. 🙂 Where is Herbie the Love Bug when you need an old VW? Lewis might have something to add to the story as I believe he has owned such a beast. Yeah, no one in their right mind would go into the pond and try and attach a tow rope or chain to the vehicle – and the attachment point is probably now under thick and sludgy mud. What an extraordinary insurance claim. What a thing to watch to, the disaster unfolding in slow motion! Is the pond an ornamental pond? I do hope that it isn’t used for animal or human purposes?

    Hauling cars out of waterways is no joke and I recall this operation from many years ago. I believe some of the vehicles still had their keys in them and that doesn’t look good for the owners: Stolen cars cleaned out of Maribyrnong River in Melbourne.



  35. Chris:

    When our log house was first built we treated the logs with linseed oil. That did not actually wear very well and mold is quite partial to linseed, which makes sense since it is made from plant matter. After a couple of weathered, moldy decades the logs were power washed and sanded and sealed with a special weather-resistant stain, which looks gorgeous and is wearing super well. My son did 95% of the work and saved us about $25,000.

    I am glad to hear that the chickens are weathering the heat well. I had thought they they originated from tropical climes.

    It was 58F (14.5C) this morning when I got up. It is suppose to be 29F (-1.7C) tomorrow at the same time. Such interesting weather. Sad stuff for the people in the heatwave article. Would the public pools not be open because of some electric filtering device? I don’t know much about swimming pools. Once upon a time I would not have been prepared for a power outage. After decades of many such things, it doesn’t even faze me (well, not hardly). There is something to be said for learning things the hard way.


  36. @ Claire:

    Shame on VW for taking away the floating feature in their Beetles.

    How shocking would it be to come home and find your car sunk to the bottom of a pond through a freak of nature, and possibly a faulty parking brake? I have a faulty parking brake. I park ONLY on the flat.


  37. @ DJSpo:

    We have that same brand – Big Bertha the Supreme Snowblowing Beauty Machine! Indeed, she is only brought out under the direst of circumstances.

    Congratulations, also, on your rise to the top as president of your club! Are changes in the air?


  38. Hello again
    Hahaha! I shouldn’t laugh and wouldn’t if he had got hurt. Son has gone through my decking; so at last he is doing something about it. We are so completely different about such things. He thinks that I worry too much about things that may not happen and he is the total opposite.

    Bread: The bread that I bake, keeps for more than a week but I do keep it in the frig. I had always understood that bread mould is akin to penicillin and am wary of it as both elder daughter and I are allergic to it. I adore the strongest, bluest, smelliest cheeses.

    Had never heard of cold bread pudding. Anyhow, bread and butter pudding needs a spoon and bread pudding is eaten like cake.

    I hesitate to mention that I am cold at 27F when others here have horrendously cold temperatures. These are way below anything that I have ever encountered.


  39. @ Margaret – Fell free! Maybe we can begin a movement? :-).

    Hmmm. What do people do here at The Institution? Yes, there is a lot of TV watching. Quit a few seem swept up in their families. One kind of drama or another. There’s a pretty active sewing group. They spend a lot of time making quilts for vets. Endless rounds of doctor visits and shopping. The ones who have dogs or cats are pretty wound up in those.

    If I go back to elementary school, can I get a free laptop, too? Lew

  40. Yo, Chris – Well, I figure a lot of the spam that has problems with grammar or language come from overseas and English is a second … or third, language. Then there is that spam is almost cost free to send out in large amounts. But a copy editor would cost money.

    But, yes, there is a very small response to spam. Hmmm. Dim witted? Well, I think they target the lonely, the hopeless. The elderly are particular targets, as they begin to loose their judgement. Maybe don’t have someone to look out for them. I get a magazine from the AARP (American Association of Retired People) that always has alerts as to the latest scams, over the computer or phone. There was a small article in the newspaper, yesterday, about calls, apparently from our Social Security (retirement) service (usually, they claim to be from the tax people) that says there’s been a glitch and a warrant has been issued for their arrest. It’s endless.

    The new pump will give you grist for your mill. Next weeks blog post can be “An Ode to the New Water Pump.” Get an early start :-).

    Oh, Garrison Auctions is the local auction I go to. Mary and Mike Garrison have had it for decades. They are getting “up” there. I hear Mike had a stroke, about a year ago. He’s doing ok, but still has speech problems, and will probably never be able to participate as an auctioneer, again.

    Oh, when I’m forced to tumble for a new computer, I’ll get a Mac laptop of some sort. The start up guide will get the thing up and running. Then I’ll pick up a “For Dummies” book (all 442 pages of it) on whatever model and software I have. I’ll figure out the basics. With all the ups and downs, I have kept this one humming along (more or less) for around 15 years.

    So. Anyone been gunned down in the streets for uttering the words, “Hot enough for you?” :-).

    I picked up “Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey” (Dery, 2018). Looks to be a “good read.” I also got “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.” I’ve read the first two chapters. Like it so far. The author does have a way with words.

    Not a spoiler, but he comes up with show stopping stuff, as, “This is Mat’s secret weapon, his passport, his get-out-of-jail card. Mat makes things that are beautiful.” Lew

  41. Hi Chris,

    I was wondering that about Herbie the Love Bug myself. An ad for the old Beetles from the 1960s showed one floating, proudly stating that they were so watertight they would float. If you’ve ever wondered why there are no such ads for the currently produced Beetle, now we all know. This particular car looked to be nearly new, very shiny and well cared for, until its untimely attempt to swim. Imagine trying to explain what happened to one’s insurance company …

    The pond is for looks only, which is typical of subdivision ponds in the US. The subdivision rules expressly forbid swimming or wading in it and putting any kind of boat on it, among other things. The code would forbid using the water for animals or plants or anything else if the trustees dreamed that anyone would think of doing that. But I doubt that anyone thought to forbid it, or has ever thought to try it. Wild birds can and do use the water for their own purposes (there are usually ducks and/or geese floating on it), but otherwise it’s strictly for show.


  42. Hi Pam,

    I get that about the linseed oil. You try and do the right thing, but then nature intervenes and just wants to consume the yummy linseed oil infused timber. You might note that I use treated pine posts with the fencing, because not much consumes the heady mix of Copper, Chrome and Arsenic. Even so, nature slowly takes it all back. I’ve been looking at various trees that have differing qualities in relation to breaking back down into soil and I have noticed some interesting differences between various local species. One of the side benefits of harvesting my own firewood. Has your son noticed that with the species there? Anyway, you and your son made a wise choice, and I’m always impressed when people do the hard yards themselves. It is only in recent times that people have outsourced the job of building and maintaining their own house to other people. Pressure washers are an amazing technology, and we used a cheapie version last weekend to wash the walls of the house down.

    Hey, we survived today too! The day started at 27’C / 81’F inside the house and you know, I didn’t know whether we’d be homeless tonight. Such is the whim of fate.

    Yeah, the chickens do come from a tropical environment, but the tropics have 6 months of hot and wet humid weather, and 6 months of hot and dry weather. The common theme being that it is in the tropics. They dust bathe to clean their feathers, so they love the hot dry weather. I find that they are most likely to die when the weather is very cold and humid – as is a huge chunk of the year down here. Winter is very rainy and can be over 90% humidity for at least half the year. Yes, my winter is perhaps coming to an area near you (if the snow ever fails)! Sorry for the gallows humour as I’m genuinely relieved to have survived today. Some plants have died in the ongoing heatwaves, but 99% of them have survived.

    I’m really impressed with your level of acceptance. I too was once fazed by such things, but now, we just learn to live with far less energy, which has the benefit of at least being far more resilient. Many, many people got ‘load shed’ today. I’ll leave a link to an article about it in another comment, otherwise I might start to sound like a broken record: It’s hot. It’s hot. It’s very hot (Oooo! that last one sounded different didn’t it?) 😉

    Please send me some of your cold weather! Pretty please with cherries on top! 🙂

    Mind you, I had the first ripe tomato yesterday, so the heat brings on ripening of the fruit earlier than would otherwise be expected.



  43. Hi Inge,

    There is a certain sort of pleasure to be had from the: ‘I told you so’, school of modern philosophy! I’m glad that your son wasn’t hurt, but it is not as if you hadn’t spoken with him about the decking. Far out.

    Inge, I am embarrassed to admit it, but I was housebroken at an extraordinarily early age and so have learned the hard way to concern myself with the concerns of the females in a household. Hehe! That is what you get when there is no dad around to teach a son to breezily dismiss such concerns. It is a sad state of affairs, but things get done around here. And hopefully your son repairs the decking, and despite the frivolity of my reply I am glad that he is not injured. Injuries can happen in a moment and occur without warning, so they’re no laughing matter.

    You know, there is a middle ground to be found between worrying too much and not worrying nearly enough. And something’s worry the editor that don’t worry me, and other things worry me that don’t worry the editor one iota. The middle ground is hard to find don’t you reckon?

    Ah, of course, I don’t keep bread in the refrigerator, but get around that by making very small loaves on a daily basis. With the heatwave we are having, it is nice to have the electric (solar powered) oven outside in the shade to bake them in. Best not to heat the house up by baking bread on such a day. Not that I am whingeing, but perhaps I am, we hit a new record for air temperature inside the house today. By late afternoon it got to 31’C / 88’F inside the house, but it still felt cool compared to outside… I hope that both of your daughters were ok during the heatwave?

    I will deftly dodge you about the delicate matter of the blue cheese and we shall have to politely agree to disagree.

    I’d never heard of bread pudding before either and I can confirm that bread and butter pudding is indeed always consumed with a spoon and a generous dollop of fresh cream.

    Inge, 27’F is about as cold as it would ever get here. I salute your stoicism, because if you thought that I’m, whining about the temperature today, well that’s just peanuts compared to what I’d be feeling if I experienced 27’F. And my poor tea camellia would be very unlikely to survive such a cold snap. A sad end, to be sure.



  44. Hi Lewis,

    I reckon you are spot on about the spam. A mate of mine explained that the poor grammar was a sort of idiocracy test where those that failed the test and gave money, were probably not as bright as we’d previously considered. Sometimes people who are very desperate for the outcome of unearned money – and have enjoyed such gains in the past – are particularly vulnerable to the scams.

    Speaking about free food, Ollie just came back panting heavily from who knows where, with a large bone that looks suspiciously like a rib from a kangaroo. Talk about saving money on feeding him! In the sort of weather I’ve been having, you’d sort of notice dead animals because they stink to high heaven, but I haven’t noticed any around here. He’s sitting outside now in the relative cool (a truly relative concept today!) and both admiring and enjoying his new acquisition.

    Did I mention that it was hot here today? And also for many days leading up to today? Record-breaking heat in southeastern Australia. It is nice to break records don’t you reckon? 🙂 I have to laugh because I woke up this morning and inside the house it was 81’F, and I seriously wondered if by the evening, whether I’d be homeless or not. But so far, so good, and I’m still here. Although I feel mildly deflated and a bit tired of spirit after a mildly anxious day. We ventured out to the local cafe this morning for breakfast – and it was quiet, so I’m guessing a lot of people bailed out of the mountain range early. A cool change swept through late this afternoon and it is now only 81’F outside. There were a huge number of folks that were load shed from the electricity grid today.

    On a more positive note, did you notice that the archaeologists achieved the impossible and discovered: Remains of explorer Matthew Flinders found under London train station during HS2 dig, ending 200-year mystery? It is a truly impressive feat. The English explorer’s cat was quite the character too and reputedly came to a bad end: True tales of Trim, the adventurous cat belonging to navigator Matthew Flinders. As did the navigator himself.

    Hey, the ‘warrant issued for arrest’ scam business has been going on down here too, and many vulnerable folks have been taken for a wild ride and lost plenty of mad cash. I have no idea what to make of such things other than they are perpetrated by nefarious individuals.

    There is something in what you to be mentioned about beginning writing early. The early bird gets the worm and all that jazz, although I’m frankly uncomfortable with early mornings and they might not make for good prose. Mate, my sleep was not so good last night because the over night low was so high, but you manage. Things are worse elsewhere… In the east of the state there are some serious fires, and that is not to mention the fires raging out of control in the wilderness areas of the island state of Tasmania. Today was as bad as it gets, until of course due to global warming things get worse – which they will.

    Speaking of water pumps, I sat in the cold bath today for about an hour and that restored my normally perky and upbeat spirits to about 50%! Yes, shields were at 50%!

    Not good about the auctioneer and their business. Yes, I’ve seen strokes do some awful things to people and paralysis is one of those side effects. I’ll bet you’ve seen some things during your hospice work? All in all, it’s nice to be alive.

    What? I see that the dark side of the Mac has a strong pull upon your soul. I won’t deign to correct the folly of your ways, but hashtag: justsayin, and all that gear. PC’s are simpler and easier. We probably will never see eye to eye in that matter, and may the dark side of the force guide you where-ever it will in your dark journey! Hehe!

    On reflection though, 15 years is a solid effort for such a device, and it might be mentioned that PC’s probably might not have the sort of longevity that you are used to enjoying. So perhaps it is best to stick to the tried and true.

    Mate, it is possible. I really feel for folks working in commercial kitchens today and yesterday. They do it tough, as you would know. I know a few folks who work as baristas and I just might ask them how they coped today – but in a few days time when the poignancy of the, dare I say it, heated emotions have subsided somewhat. I reckon they might not have a sense of humour about it, and have skipped the pub this week as they don’t need me adding to their burdens.

    Mat sounds like an interesting bloke to me, but not too many spoilers please! Hehe! Well just a few teasers to smooth the way. 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading the book.

    Over breakfast I was giggling to myself at Mr Kunstler’s sly observation and story of the character Mandy, who held a Masters degree in gender relations in his third book in the World Made by Hand series. I’m frankly unsure what grounds such a post graduate degree would cover. I never knew that people took such courses, but you, I’m guilty of being a deeply pragmatic person – and I wondered what sort of job that a person could score out of such an education? I read an alarming article which suggested that a change has occurred in the past three decades, and a bit over 40% of our current crop of politicians arrived in their jobs by way of studies towards that outcome. Now before these days, the number was virtually insignificant. There is probably a story in there which may explain why they are so mealy-mouthed and weasley.

    Gotta go, as it is chook time! 🙂 I’m truly grateful to have survived today unscathed.



  45. Hi Claire,

    Haha! I recall that my dad owned a VW beetle, and I fondly recall the dak dak dak of the engine sound. It was a pretty distinctive engine note. Glad you enjoyed the reference to “Herbie the Love Bug”. I saw the film, but can’t recall much about it, other than the car apparently floated, which as a kid seemed like a really fun idea!

    And yeah, it seems like rather an extreme test for a new and well cared for vehicle. Hehe! Oh well, these things happen. I’ve only ever owned vehicles with manual gearboxes (you may have noticed by now that I’m a bit of a contrarian!) and they can be parked in gear, so the handbrake is supported in its endeavours by the resistance of the engine.

    It is interesting the difference that half a world away makes. Down here, ponds (which we call dams) are usually used for watering thirsty cattle during dry spells. But they’re also used as a resource for fire fighting. I think it might have been in early 2014, a very close to here fire showed me that the fire went right down to the edge of the water in most cases. But yeah, the mountain ducks and other water birds (usually water hens around here) love farm dams. Black swans need much larger lakes with reeds. You know I’ve never seen a white swan!

    The volcanic loam here is too loamy and it won’t hold water above ground. I did notice an interesting effect the other day though. Despite the continuing and unrelenting epic heatwaves (have I mentioned how hot it has been down here? Yeah, I probably have!) I planted an oak tree. Into the volcanic loam I poured a fair bit of coffee grounds and husks as I had the readily to hand, and they’re full of all sorts of good minerals. Then I mixed the lot up. Well, the soil there held water above ground for a while which the oak seedling appreciated, so I’m going to experiment a bit more with that stuff and see what I can make it do. The old timers used to use ducks and their manure to seal leaky ponds and they may have been onto something with that.



  46. Hello again
    It has been crash, bang, wallop as Son takes up the decking. He optimistically thought that he could just replace the timbers under the collapsed bit; but has discovered (as I knew OF COURSE) that the whole lot has to be done.
    The editor is very lucky that you were house broken early. The male mind is so different from the female one. I think that sheer age has rendered me philosophical about most things. Bad happens and so does good, one just gets on with it. I am being sententious again.

  47. Hi Chris,
    We have a pretty good supply of firewood but the issue is where the fireplace is located. It’s a regular fireplace not a wood burner but does have glass doors and a fan to move the heated air into the room. It’s in the living room though and really only heats that room. It’s great when we’re sitting there in the evening but the rest of the house gets heated by the furnace. Our propane was $1.30/gallon this year and we contracted for 1000 gallons but I think we’re going to go over that amount. We prepay for the year which usually saves us quite a bit but it’s always kind of a guess based on past use. This year has been colder overall and as this is a new place we don’t really have a history. The current cold snap looks to run for the next 10 days with three days not even getting above 0 F during the day. That’ll really add to our heating costs. Last night was -10 and it’s only risen to -4 at 11 AM. We set our thermostat much lower at night but I only set it 2 degrees lower last night rather than the usual 6 as I am afraid the temp would never get up to the usual 66 degrees. As of now the furnace has been running for 6.5 hours just to go up 2 degrees.

    I have had chickens in weather like this and they actually do OK though some with larger combs would get frostbit. They really acclimate quite well. Of course I would be very liberal with feed and they sure did consume a lot more with those temps.

    What a huge relief for you to get through yesterday!!

    I did enjoy the market but it became evident pretty quickly that not much money would be made there and that was with free help too. At that time I was raising around 200 meat chickens in four batches. I wasn’t able to sell them at the market but I did take orders there. Doug was traveling a lot at that time so I often had to employ either my sister or my brother, Marty, to help load them in the crates. I actually did make a few dollars there.

    Leo and Salve don’t make it out for too long before they are asking to come in and I don’t blame them. We are also expecting another 8 inches of snow on Monday which will put us at about 20 inches total. That is the only day in the next ten with at least close to seasonable temperature of 22F (-5.6C).


  48. @Lew
    I can’t wait to try it.
    I’m sure you can get a laptop but you’ll have to return it over the summer break. Some sites will be restricted as well but considering your interests I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

    No jigsaw puzzles? There was always one set up at the retirement home where Michael lived. Your place sounds like the senior apartment our friends who had the retirement home also own though there isn’t anyone who manages it full time. Our friends handle all of that.

    Really enjoyed all the woodworking pictures – quite works of art.

    I tend to worry (maybe too much) about things that might happen. Right now I’m worrying about whether the furnace will hold up during this extreme cold and whether any pipes might freeze. Doug, of course, does not worry much at all other than what he’s going to eat for dinner haha.


  49. Hi again,
    Well the furnace was off for 8 minutes before the temp had dropped enough for it to go back on.


  50. Yo, Chris – Yes, one does tend to notice the stink of dead animals. Unless one is lucky enough to be upwind. :-). Are you sure it’s a bit of a kangaroo? Not a body that’s been dumped in your bush? Seems like not a year goes by without seeing a news article, “skeletal remains found in east county.” Ollie, Boy Detective.

    That was an interesting article, about Flinders. Hadn’t heard about that find. I have read several articles, over the past couple of years, about moving these cemeteries. It’s an opportunity to do a good cross societal sampling of populations from one time period or another. Perhaps they should send Capt. Flinders, back to Australia? Give him a proper grand monument that wouldn’t be messed with, for a good long time. Something with a nice view of the sea.

    Flinders. An interesting name. Something nagged at my memory. Flinders can also be a noun. Scandihovian, via Middle English. “Fragments or splinters.” As in, “Smashed to flinders.” I remember hearing that, a time or two, when I was a wee small lad. Today’s bit of useless information :-).

    Mmmm. Most of the hospice work (small as it was) was with people with HIV. I’ve never had to deal with anyone with a stroke, up close and personal. But, it’s something we oldsters fret about, and why we pay such close attention to our blood pressure. My Idaho friends are a bit younger, than me. But, lately, we’ve been having conversations about medical tests, end of life stuff, aging. Keeping in mind, my “take” on the whole thing is different. I’m older, I started thinking about this stuff, earlier, having lived through the Plague (HIV) and seeing a lot of mortality, up close and personal. And, being an orphan, I don’t have to take other people’s … opinions, into consideration.

    “…it’s nice to be alive.” Well. That all depends on the day, and my state of mind. :-).

    Well, early on, I had another brand of computer (I think, an HP) and ran MS software. All I can say is that I’ve had a lot less problems with this lot. Or, maybe, my expectations are lower?

    Yes. Kunstler always seems to fall back on the trope of degrees in “gender relations.” Back in the day, if you wanted to indicate a useless class or degree, you’d usually say it was a “Mickey Mouse course”, or, “underwater basket weaving.” I think I’ve mentioned that I actually once knew someone who got their PHD in “diversity training.” So, what does one do with that kind of “skill?” Usually, travels about giving seminars for corporations and government agencies. He actually turned up at one of our All Staff Days, at the library system, as the key note speaker. We much rather would have had an amusing author. I’d say, the employment opportunities rise and fall with whatever administration is in power. Presently, I’d guess he’s living in a homeless camp, somewhere.

    About parking brakes. You can have real problems with them, in very cold weather. Can’t quit remember the details. Something about not using them, or winding them too tight, in sub zero weather. While sitting, overnight.

    Oak trees. I’d always heard that not much grows under them, and, it’s best not to have them too close to a garden. Maybe a good thing, in fire prone areas. But a quick check of the net says that’s a bit of a garden myth. But, articles vary.

    “If this sounds impressive to you, you’re over thirty.” :-). Lew

  51. Hi Chris,

    Just a brief note to say I’m glad you made it through the day! After I read your earliest comment to me I realized that you needed to stay aware of your surroundings in case evacuation became necessary. I’m glad that didn’t happen.

    I don’t plant trees in summer, only in spring or autumn, in order to reduce the need to water while the tree roots are recovering from transplanting and starting to grow back. Hope your tree takes hold and grows! How large is it at planting?

    @ Lew – I have a Mac too. It’s good that the rest of the world doesn’t realize how much better Macs are than PCs. That means we get all the Macs to ourselves! 😉 I’m typing this on a four year old Mac laptop, and Mike has an iPad, both refurbished. We are fortunate to have one store in the area that carries refurbished used as well as new Macs. It’s a much quieter environment than the Apple Store as well.



  52. @ Marg,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures. There were a lot of high quality pieces at the show.

    -20C where you are? That’s IS cold.


  53. @ Pam,

    I think they moved me into being the President because nobody else wanted it, truthfully. It really means that I preside over the meetings, and make sure that planning for the two main events – the show and the late May outdoor “Rendezvous” – stay on course. Since the people in charge of those events have been doing that longer than I’ve been going to the club, well, things pretty much run themselves.

    The biggest changes are really challenges similar to those most any club faces. The membership is old and we lose members as a result. Also, there are few young people joining. We have gotten a few new young members, but membership is shrinking, the shows keep getting smaller, etc. (My wife has talked about similar issues the Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association has, for example.) As a result, I foresee some major changes in the years ahead, such as combining the show with that of a club 2 hours distant. Fortunately, most of the club leadership sees the same things that I do.


  54. Chris,

    Although February can get colder, I don’t think that’s in the cards the year. The latest 90 day forecast was released yesterday, and it confirms my suspicions: warmer and wetter than normal. At least the mountains should regain snowpack.

    I’ve often opined that Spokane has 2 seasons: March and August. I’ve seen high temperatures (rarely) in August as low as 14C and as high as 41C (not as rare) in Spokane and hotter elsewhere, such as that day of the family feast in which I tried to boil away the creek by soaking in it.

    March can get to 20C give or take. I’ve also seen early March as cold as -23C with 15cm of fresh snow. In other words, March and August temperatures can overlap and hit the “normal” extremes.

    Whew! I knew from watching parts of The Australian Open tennis that you were experienced a drastic drop in temperatures, but 20C in the space of a few hours is almost violent! It’s really hard on the body when the temperatures swing that wildly.

    Thanks for the pictures of the Dig Tree. You’re quite correct in that the “Face Tree” is eerie. Looks to have been good work as well.

    I learned the hard way 4 years ago about competing. The Steampunk Druid woodburning I did was very good, especially for the Intermediate level. My wife and I teamed on woodburning a scene with a wolf howling near a pine tree, the moon peeping through some clouds. I did 70% of it, so I had to enter it under my name as Intermediate rather than hers as Novice. There were some flaws in it, some of which were mine. But the judge for that level liked that style of art, so it got a Best of Advanced Woodburning award, beating out my druid for it. I was pretty irritated, due to the flaws in the “winner”and the drastic difference in the amount of work.

    After a wonderful conversation with the show director and our expert burner, I did a lot of thinking and concluded that I’d better lighten up, enjoy the process and the subjects I choose, and not really care about competing. That has served me well. Good thing to learn, too, as I was forced by rules to move to Advanced the next calendar year, which supposedly means that I’m beyond the learning stage and am competent at the craft. So, instead of getting all 1st place ribbons and occasional Best of Woodburning for that level, it took until Yggdrasil to get a 1st place in Advanced. That ribbon told me that I had truly improved my work to that level. So, I’m more competing with myself, learning to improve my ability, which is healthier than trying to get awards and stuff.

    Chainsaw carving? There are a few chainsaw carvers in the area, but none in the club. One chainsaw artist, however, volunteers each year to give demonstrations of his work outside during the show. We’re grateful, because a few passersby see him and stop out of curiosity, then decide to view the rest of the show.

    Another one of the more interesting carvings from our club…One of the older members, let’s call him Jake, well, one of the expert carvers surreptitiously took several candid photos of Jake from different angles. The expert was teaching an all day class the next spring at the outdoor Rendezvous. For his project, he had about 12 pieces of wood roughed out into “blanks” for his project. The project was for all the people in his class to carve Jake out of the blanks. And yes, Jake carved himself.

    Your wet tree prank reminds me of another one I used to do. There are a lot of huge Ponderosa pines native to the area. When we got a heavy snowfall, I would wait for my mates to get under the branches of a Ponderosa then shake the tree trunk. (Well, I couldn’t really shake it, they’re too big, but you get the idea.) That would be enough vibration for the snow to cascade onto the heads of my unsuspecting friends. Fun for me, not so much for them.


  55. Hi Inge,

    You called that one! Of course, if the decking timbers have rotted, then it is common sense that the bearers and joists have also begun to slowly fade away into the arms of sweet oblivion. It is hard on timber here when it is exposed to the sun and the rain. A long time ago there used to be a belief that there was something called: “dry rot”, in timber. But no, fungi usually requires a bit of moisture in order to consume timber. Not to mention the ants and other critters that dine upon plant cellulose also like a bit of moisture!

    Out of curiosity, how is your son intending to keep the timber away from the soil? I’d use concrete stumps with a damp proof course (like plastic) in order to perform that trick, but that is me, and steel and treated timber would work equally well. The old timers used to cement rocks, and you may have noticed that we have a preference for concrete stairs about the garden?

    If I had to redo the verandah decks here, I’d probably redo them in steel, but the ceramic tiles do have the benefit of not getting quite so hot in the sort of weather that I’m experiencing at the moment.

    Of course. It is not lost on me that males and females think differently. It is just life. To be honest, because I never had a male role model to teach me about this stuff, it isn’t the female mind that boggles me, it is the male mind! It doesn’t matter one bit though, because I learn as I go and I’m a fast study. You have to play the cards that you’ve been dealt.

    I recall an incident as a young teenager which highlighted this issue to me. My mum asked me to help her organise getting the car serviced at a mechanic she’d never been to before. So I strutted into the mechanics and said: “G’day mate. Just wanna book the car in for a service.” And after that was done, and we were on our way back home, my mum looked at me and said: “How did you know how to say that?”



  56. Hi Margaret,

    Of course and that explanation makes total sense. It would be a massive expense to alter the situation. I get that. Way, way, back in the day, only a single room in any house was ever heated – usually the kitchen of all places, for obvious reasons.

    I must say, my poor heat addled brain has had to perform some serious mathematics in order to make any sort of sense of your propane price per gallon!

    OK! Here goes (and please correct me if I am wrong). So 1 gallon of propane is equivalent to approximately 4.2 pounds.

    So we use a 45kg bottle of propane which has the equivalent of 99 pounds of propane.

    That converts to 23.5 gallons which costs me $120 delivered (not including the rental of $20 per quarter for the bottle). That works out to be $5.10 per gallon! Far freakin out!!!!

    You now may well understand my reluctance to use propane in any way, shape or form. Energy is quite expensive down here, and there is no way I’d use that stuff for heating the house as I couldn’t afford it.

    Then again, I do not encounter the sort of cold weather that you are experiencing and we heat entirely with firewood. The setup for that heating system is a bit weird though because the firewood heats water in a large boiler which is then pumped around the rest of the house. It is a simple but also complicated system that would be very hard to retrofit.

    I hear you about the cold weather, because the hot weather here this year has been extraordinary – and record breaking. What do you do? Global warming means that the climate is going to have more energy, and the editor and I were discussing this today, and we reckon that it means that the cold is going to be colder, and the hot is going to be hotter, and the wet is going to be wetter… For the first time in a long time, I’m dumping a bit of water into the garden beds around the house this evening.

    I too have noticed the frostbite on the leghorn varieties which have huge combs. But the other varieties seem to be OK, although if a chicken is going to ail and die it will inevitably be my August, which is your February.

    I feel lighter of spirit today and am grateful that we made it through the day unscathed. Some parts of the state were not so lucky especially in the east of the state that is normally a very damp place, but suffered a lot during winter due to lack of good rainfall.

    Thanks for your story about the farmers market and that is about what I expected. It is interesting to me that you made money on the meat chickens to order. I’ve often wondered if folks who attend farmers markets are actually prepared to take home their purchases? Dunno.

    I wouldn’t blame Leo and Salve either. I’ll tell ya a funny story: Ollie who is by all accounts a tough and rugged cattle dog, with dingo (i.e. our local coyote) heritage appears to be very unsettled by the extraordinarily hot weather of the past few weeks. As a general rule he will opt for the cool of the house during the middle of the day and he has been quite subdued over these weeks. Leo and Salve are clearly of a higher level of intelligence than the average canine!



  57. Hello again
    I shall not query Son as to what he is going to do. Irritability is the name of the game at present. I am not supposed to put down concrete on this protected land. Whatever he does, only has to last as long as I can cope with living here. Once the place is sold it will be pulled down and the usual ‘mansion’ erected in its place.
    Of the 2 new neighbours who have done this, one has completed and is living in the place, the other has a disaster on his hands. The whole area is querying the disaster and I only know the gossip that is running around.
    One hears that women aren’t treated all that well when they take cars into garages. You clearly went automatically into normal male mode.

    @ anyone
    I noticed Margaret’s comment on the time that it took to initially raise the temperature in her place. My query is: why does it take longer to raise heat initially and then as things get warmer they do it more rapidly? I have noticed this when turning on my oven. Is there an explanation that I would have a hope of understanding?


  58. Hi Lewis,

    Once the aroma of decomposition has been encountered, it sort of sticks into the memory. I find it to be an unpleasant smell, but it doesn’t make me gag either. Of course, there is more than the fair share of road kill up this way, so I encounter the smell every few days. Peak Oil will be of great benefit to the wildlife, I can assure you. I drive slowly at times when the wildlife is out and about, but not everyone is excited about that option. In the weather we’ve been enjoying, the smell dissipates much faster, but it hits you with a profound force of stench. But I really hadn’t seen any around the immediate area, but the dogs have a much better developed sense of smell than us puny humans.

    I can’t quite joke around about that, as there have been some rather high profile body dumpings in and around this mountain range over the past few years. There are now number plate readers installed on the local freeway which I presume track vehicle movements. The most recent case was: Borce Ristevski to stand trial for wife Karen Ristevski’s murder. It was the talk of the locals at the time, because people had noted the decomp smell, but failed to investigate. Apologies for the gallows humour, but – if it was around this part of the mountain range, the fluffies most certainly would have investigated the smell. And my kangaroo anatomy is possibly not good enough to determine if the bone was from a kangaroo or wallaby…

    My aren’t we plumbing the more morbid aspects of the human condition this evening? Let’s roll! 🙂 I read about that opportunity when reading about the relocation of the remains from the English rail construction project. It will be interesting to see what statistics they discover. From what I read, the archaeologists were originally suggesting that it would be a very long shot to discover Matthew Flinders grave, so they’ve done really well. The English sure did produce some intrepid adventurers in those days. Hey, not to be outdone by them and all that stuff, but the government is in the process of digging a new metro rail tunnel under the big smoke, and they had archaeologists hard at work too, although the finds were a bit more mundane, but no less interesting: 1,000 teeth and opium lamps among items found during Melbourne Metro Tunnel digt. Cool, huh?

    Never knew that, but it does make you wonder how his family earned the surname? There are always stories in there aren’t there?

    Mate, I hear you as I’ve seen a bit of mortality in my life too. What are you meant to do, it is the final curtain call of all of our lives, after all and none have escaped its grasp – despite claims to the contrary? And I too hear about health this and that from plenty of people that I know – and perhaps I’ve just become of an age that this topic gets inserted into general discourse? One little bit of wisdom that I’ve learned over the years in relation to health – and I’d be curious as to your opinion of this matter – is that you have to manage your own health as nobody will care more about it than you do. I’ve experienced some serious misdiagnoses from health professionals, so my trust has worn thin. Another bit of wisdom which is a very odd belief is that: Thin people are healthy people and will live a long lifespan. That is not necessarily the case.

    I understand where you are coming from in relation to other peoples opinions. That makes sense to me, and fair enough.

    Hehe! Well, you know I sort of suspect that the alternative might be somewhat more final, and some days can be not so good (I point at my own ill health two weeks ago, not to even mention upsetting and un-looked for news), so yeah state of mind can be a big factor in general feelings of well being. We took today very easily and did not do much at all. There is always a bit of comedown after such an anxious day as yesterday.

    Hehe! Probably the HP broke your spirit and you entered the dark realm of the Mac with much lower expectations. Hehe! Bad Chris!!!! 🙂 One you are down the path of the Dark Side, forever shall it guide your destiny – or at the very least the software is incompatible. I feel that I might have ripped that last sentence from somewhere or other!!!

    Really? I mean what would possess someone to head out into the academic world and think to themselves: I’m going to make a difference to this here world by studying ‘Diversity Training’? And what I’m curious to know is whether they apply what they’ve learned to their own lives – or have they just learned the right things to say? It is a really complicated subject and I’m speaking way outside my knowledge area. I see that your opinion regarding their career prospects are not good. I tell ya what though, I always try and entertain the audience when I have to present on a subject. They get bored otherwise! I’ve known several folks who have earned a PhD and not one of them has ever been able to explain their thesis to me in terms that a layman can see the benefit of – and only one of them currently works in their field of knowledge. I’ve always had this deep suspicion that the ‘low hanging fruit’ has been picked and we are far into the realm of diminishing returns for further study. What do you reckon about that supposition?

    I guess so about the parking brakes, but I’ve never owned a vehicle with an automatic gearbox so I’ve always assumed people chucked those ones into Park along with engaging the hand brake – and that was that.

    Oak trees are every bit as tough as the eucalyptus species here, but oak trees are less prone to damage from fires, because I suspect that they take up higher quantities of different minerals – and not all minerals are combustible. Plus the canopy of oak trees is much denser, so there is less evaporation from the soil. I just use whatever nature hands me – and I can grab of course!



  59. Hi Claire,

    Many thanks, and we are relieved to have survived the horrific day unscathed. I felt exhausted today, but that I guess, is some sort of psychological comedown. Yeah, exactly, you have to keep your wits about you on such a day, but also it helps knowing a thing or two about fire and weather behaviour combined with the local topography.

    Yeah, me too and it is just too hot to plant trees and/or other plants during this time of year, but I couldn’t walk away from the bargains. The oak tree is doing particularly well in the heat. Go figure that one.

    Incidentally, about three corn plants lodged (i.e. fell over) and I noted that the plants did so because they appear to have consumed a good deal of the soil around their base. We intend to place more soil in that corn enclosure tomorrow and prop those three plants back upright. It will be interesting to see what happens with these.



  60. Hi Inge,

    You are wise not to poke someone (i.e. your son) that is working upon a task that will be of benefit for you. Thanks for the reminder about concrete and I’d forgotten about that. Out of interest does that apply to your neighbours as well?

    Honestly, I do wonder about the large mansions that get built around these parts too. What were the people thinking? It is funny you mention them because one of them around here is currently for sale, and before it was constructed the editor and I did overhear the owner skiting about how much building they were getting for very little coin. It has a lot of bedrooms, but the why of it makes little sense to me. We went with a quality build first and foremost, and just kept everything small. If the place burnt down in a bushfire, I’d be tempted to rebuild it smaller again (but being slightly better adapted to the site). It is hard to get everything right up front. Oh well.

    Anyway, you alluded to ‘disaster’ in the builds, but then did not supply any details. I do hope there is no land slippage there? Yikes!

    Yeah, that is what I thought about the situation too, and it is a case of blending in and doing what is expected of a person not necessarily what I was comfortable with.

    Thermal inertia may have something to do with that, but I don’t really know. Someone once explained to me that this was why the hottest and coldest weather always occurs after the respective solstices. I’m curious to read what other people have to say on the subject.



  61. Hello again
    I believe that the concrete embargo may apply to the neighbours, certainly concrete paths are forbidden. However the people supposed to enforce these rules, change all the time and things get forgotten. I am living on land which has stricter rules than any other around here. I can only be here because the property has been here since 1934 i.e. prior to all these regulations.
    The disaster build, who knows, it is all rumour. Lousy architect, money running short, far too large a property for the land that it is on, horrendous probability of flooding due to being down in a bowl and probably a lot more. The family were living in a caravan on site but moved off last summer. Land slippage probably not a problem as it is a fairly flat area with other properties below it.


  62. Hi Chris,
    We did talk about putting a real wood burning stove but without your system of pipes even that would mostly heat one additional room. When it gets as cold as they say next week freezing pipes that subsequently burst are a real concern. Tuesday and Wednesday lows at night will be -32C and the high on Wednesday will be -25C with some wind as well. I put in a call to the propane company for a fill and I’m just hoping the propane holds out till they get here. They said within 10 days but usually that’s pretty conservative. They will be quite busy during the cold snap. We will be in the mid 20’s (around -5C) in a week though which will feel like a heat wave.

    Propane is the only energy source other than electric or wood out here. Electric is much more expensive. I see how expensive it is by you though some years ago propane was about $3.50 a gallon. When I called they said it would be $1.69 if paid within ten days which is $.40 over our contracted rate – could be worse.

    I’ve had frostbit combs a few times and they seem to repair themselves mostly over time.

    Well excessive heat can be pretty draining though he appears to have a pretty short coat. Leo often lays out in the sun on days that I would think are too hot. He’s light tan though. Salve is black and she definitely opts for the shade. When outside now and especially if we’re walking on the road they get snow and sometimes road salt between their pads and end up limping badly until we remove it. Road salt use is much less here than our old house on the more rural roads which is good. The road commissioner used to just pour road salt on our old road which was crazy as it was a dead end road with only 5 houses in use year round.

    A young man from our town (age 32) was killed when he ran into a tree while snowmobiling at 1 AM during a pretty heavy snowstorm. He was a long time member of our 4H group when the kids were little. Usually snowmobile deaths occur when they go through ice on lakes that aren’t frozen enough.

    Hope it’s cooled down and you get some rain too.


  63. @ Inge – Let’s see if I can make any sense, at least, as I understand what’s going on.

    When you start with an ice cold house (or room) every item in the place is also ice cold. Right down to the tea mugs and silverware in the drawer. So, it takes a bit of time to get everything heated up. When the heat is turned off, all this “stuff” looses it’s heat, at different rates.

    Does that make any sense at all? Lew

  64. Yo, Chris – Ollie was probably unsettled, as you were unsettled. They pick up on your emotional temperature. :-). Your older hounds, maybe, not so much, as they’ve had years to study your internal ups and downs. Well, it’s a theory …

    LOL. I’m probably more in tune with the morbid aspects of the human condition, as I’m getting pretty deep into the Gorey biography. Not that he had any really startling bits of murder or mayhem in his early upbringing. That we know of. He played pretty close to the chest. Just deflected questions of some areas of his life as “not very interesting.” But, he began reading at a quit early age and was knocking off “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” at 6 or 7. There was also the Lindberg baby kidnapping, that traumatized a whole generation of small children.

    Well, the archaeologists got lucky with Flinders, as he had a coffin plate slapped on his box. Which the better off tended to do, at that time. Your metro dig is pretty interesting. Especially the toy soldier and lead type. I’d like one of the bird whistles. In blue, please. :-).

    Oh, some people manage their own health (without sliding into the realm of hypocondria). Most don’t. They feel they don’t have to worry about all that, because of a miss placed, rather child like, belief in the power of science. They think there will always be a pill, for whatever condition falls upon them. Or that “the doctors” will be able to do “something.”

    Well, the way I see it is, diversity trainers are a subset of Social Justice Warriors. They’re the enforcers :-). The one I knew was rather a twit, but had a certain entertainment value, as he left himself wide open to be sent up on numerous occasions. Sometimes, the opportunities were just too good to pass up. Lots of eye rolling and deep sighs on his part. :-).

    Well, I’m in love. With J. J. Barry’s. It’s a locally owned grocery outlet place. They buy stock over runs and bankruptcy clearance, food stuffs. They’ve been around for years, but, for one reason or another, I never stopped in. Not quit on my usual beaten track. And, the parking lot is impossible to get in and out of, without being smashed up, while trying to get back out on the highway.

    But, I decided to check it out. I did find a work around to their parking problems. And, in future, I’ll go when they open at 9am. The place rambles through many rooms, the light is poor, and the aisles impossibly narrow. I don’t think I’d buy anything out of their freezers. Looks pretty dodgy.

    Everything is kind of jumbled together. But with a bit of patience, there are real finds. All the rice is tossed in one big bin. But with a bit of digging, I found several bags of a good brand of brown rice, at .50 a pound. I found a good bottle of California olive oil at 1/4 what I usually pay. The clerks are very friendly and will point you in the right (general) direction for whatever your looking for. I still haven’t stumbled on a good cheap source for unsalted canned tomatoes or unsalted sunflower seeds. But, given time …

    So, I’m slowly nailing down cheaper sources of the standards, the staples, of what I eat.

    Yes, I agree. Just because your thin, doesn’t mean you’re healthy. But, it can be a good start.

    And, I forgot reply to your question. No, our Congress Critters haven’t missed a pay check. Ever. Or, a meal. Or had to worry about the cost of health care or the price of a pound of brown rice. They’re entirely out of touch with how most people live. There latest advice to furloughed government workers? Well, if you can’t afford your mortgage payment, or are unable to put food on the table, just take out a loan! Makes perfect sense, to them. Lew

  65. @Inge
    Re why it takes so long for things to heat

    I think Chris is probably right about thermal inertia. All of the walls/ floor/ furniture (and oven walls) absorb energy to start with. Once they are warm, then the air can heat up.
    Well, that’s my theory!

    Cheers, Hazel

  66. @ Inge, Chris, Hazel,

    Heating (and cooling) times for houses…I had to find my physics hat, then make sure it fit, then put it on…

    Yes, there is such a thing as thermal inertia, although the term I was taught was “thermal mass”. That is part of what is happening: the room is cold, all of the objects in the room are at that ambient temperature, as are the walls, floor and ceiling. To warm up the room, all of these other things must be warmed up also. But there’s more to it than that.

    There’s also the temperature difference between the inside and the outside, as well as the amount of insulation the walls and ceiling (and floor) have. The basic relationship is that the greater the difference in temperature between inside and outside, the faster heat is generated from the warmer to the cooler. So, when we’re talking about outside temperatures at -20C, and indoor at 15C (59F), there is also a lot of heat transfer to the outside. This means it will take much longer to heat up the inside an additional 3C or 4C than if the outside temperature were +10C, with a lesser inside vs outside temperature difference.

    The corollary to that is the question: Do I use more energy or less energy to let the house cool (at night or when I’m gone during the day) and reheat it, or is it more energy efficient to have it maintain, say +20C rather than allowing it to cool to +15C? The answer is that the higher temperature inside will resort in greater heat transfer to the outside than if I let the inside cool that 3C or 4C when not in use. (Less heat transfer at 15C than at 20C to a cold outside.) Normally, more heat will be lost at the higher indoor temperature than will be expended in reheating it if allowed to cool. That means that more energy will be used in maintaining the higher temperature than what is used in reheating the cooled area.

    Hope that helps?


  67. Hi Inge,

    I’d never encountered a ban on the use of concrete before – anywhere. It is a useful construction material although it is an extraordinarily energy hungry material. The ban all seems very arbitrary to me, is there any historical reason for the ban? It isn’t really necessary, because back in the day, weather board houses used to sit on hardwood stumps which sat in the ground. There was no concrete involved, but under the stumps just so as to stop them sinking into the ground further, a really huge chunk of hardwood sat under the stump. The fancy name for that was a sole plate. I’ve encountered a few of those that were not much more than loamy dark soil as the they’d completely rotted out, but had probably been in the ground for more than 80 years, so that isn’t too bad. Rocks might have been a better choice, but they can float in clay… Our structures are very temporary aren’t they? How about lime, can you use that?

    Thanks for sharing the rumour and speculation! Building too large a building and then having it cost far more than expected, and the owners struggling to complete it – Hey, that sounds like an average Grand Designs episode!!! I’m at a complete loss as to why people do that, but it is common.



  68. Hi Margaret,

    Oh my, the weather is bad here, but even so, I’m really feeling for you. Those temperatures are quite shocking. I can’t recall you ever mentioning temperatures that low before, and yeah the propane situation is not good, and I really do hope that you don’t run out before the refill. And you’re right, it could be worse.

    The system we installed is a custom one and it would be very difficult and expensive to install in an existing house unless you have good access to under the floor and also a strong ceiling to hold up the hot water tank – and the stored hot water would be used up trying to keep the solar hot water panels from breaking in the cold weather (a risk with solar hot water panels). And it is not lost on me that a second wood heater doubles the consumption of firewood. Despite the heat down here, we completed filling up the firewood shed today. It seems bonkers working on firewood systems when it is so warm, but there you go.

    Yes, the leghorn seems the most susceptible to a frost bitten comb, and it doesn’t look good, but the comb recovers. How are the farm animals in your part of the world coping with the cold weather? In the farms I saw the other day, the sheep are shorn, but they were all hiding in whatever shade they could find, as were the cattle.

    Leo is clearly well practiced in the gentle art of cooking his head! Scritchy has to occasionally be rescued from sun baking – and it is not pretty. The salt would be a disaster for the land here as it would be quite toxic to the plants.

    Sorry to hear about that. Was he anyone you knew through school?

    No rain, but today was cooler thanks. Although 84’F now feels cool to me now…



  69. Hi DJ,

    Almost missed your comment because it accidentally went into the Trash area of the comments, for some unknown reason. That is no reflection upon the quality of your comment, but rather the awful lack of discernment that these chunks of software apply to day to day life. Surely you have seen: The Terminator, or Robocop? I would be uncomfortable putting myself in the hands of a chunk of software, but other people feel differently. The comment system is better than the old Blogger platform which you might not have seen, but it still does strange and unusual things from time to time.

    Ouch. Your three month forecast does not make for good reading, and I do wonder what sort of summer maybe in store for you? It has been brutal down here since the start of the year.

    Yup, you and I both live in very variable climates. One month to the next confirms that you and I live in a constant state of surprise. Is this a good thing? Dunno.

    Actually the sudden drop in temperature is very hard on farm animals, and there can be nasty consequences from such a change in the weather. It is unfortunately common at this time of year. Mate, the tennis players do it tough.

    Given the age of the ‘face tree’ it was pretty good work from a person who was near the end of their life.

    I’m impressed! The only race that you can ever compete in is against your internal expectations. 🙂 Not many people ever get around to experiencing that realisation. Otherwise, who sets the bar for what can be considered a good showing – and the question then becomes do you attempt to live up to other people’s expectations? Very deep. But, to my mind you sound as if you are enjoying yourself, and how much fun is that?

    It is an amazing thing to take a chunk of timber and make something of it.

    Jake sounds like a bit of a character! Good for him and what a challenge for the students.

    Hehe! The snow prank with the Ponderosa pines does sound very similar. The Klingon’s have a saying that: “Revenge is a dish best served cold” – and your snow would be cold as! Hehe! I’ll bet your mates got you back – with interest!



  70. Hi Lewis,

    Dogs are quite sensitive to the emotional vibe of a household. The dogs here are usually pretty chilled out, but that day was not good and they hid in the house for most of the day and slept. It is hard to explain the complexities of facing a disaster and wondering where the cards will fall. It is a bit like what you’ve previously written about the Columbus Day storm, and you find yourself on the other side of the day, and still intact. It is a relief really. One aspect that I don’t really talk about is considering what to take and what to leave – and I can approach that task with a level of ruthlessness that others may be uncomfortable with, but then most people fail to make any decision and come unstuck by that decision to make no decision.

    Hehe! What you read has influence upon you, and a Gorey biography would certainly have darker aspects – even if he failed to discuss them. Everyone has darker aspects to their personality, it happens. Hey, a lot of life could be considered as, ‘not very interesting!’ It would be awful to write about those moments, don’t you reckon? Here’s for keeping them dark!

    Ah, I wondered how they found his grave so quickly. To be honest, I was wondering if they’d just gotten so far through the job and just picked a more or less suitable body. I wouldn’t have done that, but I have read about pressures applied to academics. Of course, that would also indicate a seriously dodgy sense of integrity, but they might have been under pressure to deliver and it was like a needle in a haystack problem.

    My understanding is that archaeological digs are conducted for a period of time in most inner city developments down here. History is a funny thing, because when we dug the site for the house, we didn’t discover anything interesting. But then, in the immediate area, I’ve seen collections of what look like either kangaroo or sheep bones, and then there are remnants from the timber getting era, an old canoe tree, and then there is the inexplicable stone circle out in the middle of the forest. So many mysteries in only this small area. It makes you wonder what future generations will make of our current sillinesses?

    Hey, back in the day, doctors had earned a certain level of respect and were thus believed unquestioned. But I reckon some of that was squandered in all sorts of meaningless ways that served only to generate revenue. I recall encountering a doctor who ignored what I was there to get looked at, and instead began pressuring me into getting pathology tests for completely unrelated matters. It just made me grumpy.

    Avoid the enforcers! Seems like good advice because they’d bore the daylights out of me. And the bar can always be raised by them… Bonkers. Never encountered a diversity trainer myself. Have I missed out?

    Ride the wave down my friend! I’ll be there shortly! Hehe! Learning what to jettison and then what to replace it with is a great skill. I can’t say that we have any stores like that one down here. But they must be around somewhere – unless the stuff ends up in landfill, which would be a shocking disgrace upon us. Not touching the stuff in the freezer sounds like good advice (noting it down for future use). 🙂 California would have a great climate for olive oil, and we’re no slouches on that front either – I intend to plant more olive trees over the next few months when it gets suitable for doing so – and maybe some more sugar maples.

    Interestingly the other day I came across a Sugar Gum which is a eucalyptus species, and was wondering whether it had some sort of tapping ability? They’re huge trees. I had read an historical account once that colonial kids used to consume the sap from a particular species of eucalyptus that was very high in sugar, but the species was not mentioned in the account. Dunno. Something to look into.

    Absolutely, it can be a good start, but mate, I once worked with a cheeky lady who used to loudly observe about her co-worker (they were mates) about her smoking habit that: “who cares if she’s healthy, as long as she is thin!” Scandalous, but with a touch of truth.

    WHAT???? I am absolutely 100% gobsmacked! That is an outrageous situation, because what should be good for the goose, should be equally good for the gander. Just so very wrong. I cannot put it any simpler – that lot should not pay themselves if they cannot deign to pay others. For once I am at a complete loss for words. That outcome had never even occurred to me.



  71. Hello again
    I forgot to answer your query about how my daughters are managing in the heat. Haven’t heard from the younger one but the elder said that they had one day sitting under a tree on the south coast beach with the temperature at 46 C.
    Goodness knows about the concrete, few edicts make much sense and they change all the time.
    Your ‘inertia’ suggestion is a good one.
    @ others
    I get that the cold surroundings in house, room etc would cause an initial problem. However I am surprised that it is so noticeable in my oven which is small. Say that it takes 20 mins to reach a high temperature. I would find that it takes about 15 mins to rise slightly and then whoosh, it leaps to the rest. My figures are way way approximate as I have never actually timed it.


  72. Yo, Chris – Best have a disaster plan in place. Deciding what to take, or not. Maybe even stage a drill. Of course, it depends on how much time you have, and what transport is available. I’ve got a “grab” backpack, in the closet, just inside the front door. It’s got all the “paper” that’s important and hard to replace. Birth certificate, insurance stuff, checkbook. As a matter of habit, I keep my wallet and keys in there, if they’re not on me. Beyond that, the rest of it is just “stuff.”

    Let’s see. If Flinders hadn’t been clearly marked, first you need to find a descendent. Then, retrieve DNA from what’s left of Flinders (teeth are good) and match DNA to descendent. That’s how they made sure Richard III, was really, Richard III. Recovery archaeology can be a bit fraught. Sometimes, private construction … well, the builders, if they run across something interesting, just look the other way. Time is money, and all. Digs involving government are a bit different, as there are more laws in place. But, often, there is still a schedule to meet.

    Well, here’s something to think about. Maybe when you were digging the site of your place, you missed something “interesting,” in any direction, by inches. :-). Some bush rangers buried hoard.

    I’m sure there are far more interesting people in the world, to meet, than diversity trainers. But, he was fun to send up. But that’s just momentary entertainment.

    I must say, when I was at J. J. Barry’s, I could quit easily imagine rats running across the top of the shelves. Not that I saw any. California olive oil can be pretty good, as, the industry there, regulates itself about as stringently as Australia.

    You might want to follow up on that sugar gum. According to what I’ve read, sugar maples need some good hard freezes to produce a good flow of sap.

    I made banana blueberry muffins, yesterday. A pretty good batch, if I do say so myself. I finally rounded up some parchment paper cupcake cups, so, no sticking.

    I watched (and fast forwarded through vast sections of) a very silly movie, last night. “Call Girl of Cthulhu.” But, there was a trailer for what looked like another equally silly and low budget film. “My Fair Zombie.” A parody of the “My Fair Lady,” film. Not anything I’ll be tracking down. Even I have my limits :-). Lew

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