Ramping it down

Early last year I went with friends to a ‘Trivia Night’ at their local golf club. It was a fun night, despite me suffering from the flu. My friends weren’t members of the golf club, and I don’t believe they even play golf, but the club usually put on a good feed and kept a well stocked bar. But more importantly, the club was close to their house, so there we all were at a golf club Trivia night.

In between dinner and drinks, the trivia night was conducted by a master of ceremonies. The bloke put questions to the crowd, and the crowd answered. It was a seated event and the table that answered the most questions won a prize. The questions were divided into topics, and it was about then when I understood that both the editor and I had absolutely no idea at all about sports and politics.

Everyone else at the Trivia night seemed to know a whole lot about the sporting outcomes of the recent 2018 Commonwealth Games. Alas for my woeful education, as I’d failed to read about the games and/or take any interest in the news reports. What is not a good look for me was that the games had been held earlier in the year at the Australian city of Brisbane. For those that don’t know, the Commonwealth Games are a sporting competition which has been held every four years since before the Great Depression. The games bring together the former members of the British Empire.

I’d more or less assumed that the Australian athletes had blitzed those of our former overlords (as usually happens with the cricket, despite the occasional bout of cheating), and that was my first and last thought on the subject. However, such confidence about our athletic prowess as a nation, does not win any points in a Trivia night when specific details are called for.

Likewise, politics is a fraught subject in Australia and the events often do not make for polite dinner conversation. Dinner conversations about politics down here may go like this:

“Did you hear that we have a new Prime Minister today?”

“That’s nice. Can you please pass the bread?”

I mean it is not as if we haven’t had seven Prime Ministers in just ten years. Honestly, sooner or later someone is going to confuse the country for a convenience store (Seven Eleven). Anyway, who can possibly keep abreast of such instability? So we weren’t able to answer many questions about politics either.

However, when the master of ceremonies asked a few questions about music, we nailed every single question. Take that sports and politics fans! I guess that’s what you get when you have the radio playing softly in the background whilst we work around the farm.

The larger point that I learned that evening – and that was despite my flu addled brain – is that you can’t be interested in everything. I mean, nobody has the time to do everything that needs doing. Sometimes you have to pick and choose what you do and learn, and my lack of knowledge about sports and politics is one such choice.

The same thing happens with the jobs we take upon ourselves here at the farm. Sometimes, we plan to do a whole bunch of jobs. Reality and time has its awful way, and one of those planned jobs gets put off to another day. That approach works for us, and this week was no exception, because we’d planned to construct four concrete stair steps, but actually got around to making three. And we’re good with that outcome. We call that ‘ramping it down’.

Speaking of ramps, we have discovered over the years that ramps (walking paths) on slopes don’t work because sooner or later you are going to slip over and fall on your backside. Even I’ve slipped over on some of the ramps. When visitors are around, I can be heard saying: “Just be careful on the ramps. Did everyone hear that disclaimer?”

Over the past year we have removed all but one of the ramps on slopes, and replaced them all with concrete stairs. This week we began tackling the final ramp leading down to the house side of the blackberry enclosure. This is what it looked like before we began excavating a flat landing in front of the blackberry enclosure:

The steep ramp leading down to the blackberry enclosure – before it was excavated

A couple of hours of excavating soil produced a nice flat landing in front of the gate to the blackberry enclosure. We managed to construct two (rather than the three planned steps) and relocate the many rocks that lined the garden bed.

A couple of hours excavating soil produced a nice flat landing. Two steps were constructed, and the garden rock wall was moved

I feel that there are probably only another two steps to complete that stair case. That particular staircase may not have been completed this week, but the nearby staircase leading up to the highest (as yet not excavated) terrace was completed:

The sixth stair on the staircase leading up to the highest and as yet un-excavated terrace was completed

Observant readers will note that we also placed a cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch into the garden bed adjacent to those terraces. Into the new garden bed we have planted another Robinia mop top, which is a thornless variety of Black Locust. It is an extraordinarily heat and drought hardy tree, but provides beautiful and deep shade (plant geek alert: the shape of the leaves tells me that the tree also possibly fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil):

We planted a Robinia mop top into a new garden bed this week

It is a tough time to plant trees, and as you can see in the photo above, the hot and dry summer has been very hard on the ground cover above the new tree.

The farm is getting some moisture, but it often arrives in the form of fog and mist. One evening a fog rolled in from the south (the direction of the ocean) and ended up blanketing the mountain range with a thick mist.

A fog bank slowly rolls in from the south

The next morning the fog was thick indeed, and the sun barely had the strength to push through the mist.

The sun barely had the strength to push through the mist

The fog brought with it a very cold morning (which later cleared to a warm and sunny day). Spare a thought for us, because the morning outside air temperature was only 6’C / 43’F. However, only a week or two back it  had reached a high of 41’C / 106’F.

One morning was 6’C / 43’F yet earlier in the month it was 41’C / 106’F

Of course, cold mornings does not mean that the daytime won’t be hot as these two fluffies can attest:

Hot dawg! Scritchy and Ollie avoid the midday sun – proving that they are neither mad nor are they Englishmen

The hot summer sun has provided plenty of free energy for our many brewing projects, and we have a heap of batches on the go at the moment.

The hot summer sun provides plentiful free energy to assist our brewing projects. Ollie approves, despite being under the legal drinking age.

Over winter we have to place the demijohns (the glass storage vessels in the photo above) next to the wood heater. It would be an act of insanity to run the wood heater at this time of year, but we still have to burn off paper and organic forest litter – which never stops falling. We use a brazier constructed from corten steel (a very hardy version of steel) to burn off paper and forest litter. The ash makes for an outstanding fertiliser and I spread it around the property.

We use a brazier constructed from corten steel to burn off paper and forest litter

The company that produced the brazier ordinarily manufactures huge gas and fluid cylinders for trucks, and they simply produced the brazier using the same process.

Speaking of interesting steel contraptions. A few days ago we went to the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo. It is a great place to get ideas and see what other people are doing. Of course, the expo is also a form of trade fair and there are always interesting things to buy. I couldn’t walk past a steel log roller made from Bisalloy steel (which is an extraordinarily strong form of steel). It’s an awesome tool, but hardly of much interest to anyone who doesn’t have to roll logs. We do!

The author demonstrates his new log roller tool

Hopefully the daytime temperatures cool sometime soon. We want to commence excavating the next and highest terrace, and that is hard work in the hot summer sun. One idea for the terrace is to create a picking garden of bush roses, and this week we began collecting plants for that purpose:

One of the first roses that will be planted in a picking garden which will hopefully contain many roses

At the moment the yet to be dug terrace contains a lot of Cucurbit plants which are growing very fast:

One of a few large squashes which are growing very fast
This butternut pumpkin has almost doubled in size over the past week
I believe that this is a canteloupe
This maybe a watermelon

There are plenty of insects around at the moment, and as the sun sets the cicadas roar whilst the shy frogs croak welcoming the coming of night. During the daytime, the buzz in the garden beds is audible and the native blue banded bees seem to be everywhere:

A native blue banded bee enjoys pollen and nectar on this Salvia flower
The European honey bees and the native Blue banded bees sometimes compete for the same flowers

Onto the flowers:

A delightful and colourful geranium
Californian poppies shrug off heat and dry weather – just like the geraniums
The geraniums really do love this time of year – and these hot and dry conditions
For some reason an elderberry plant is producing both berries and flowers at the same time
A tiny little native wasp enjoys these curry herb flowers
A shy chive flower in a bed of parsley

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 22’C (72’F). So far this year there has been 33.6mm (1.3 inches) which is slightly higher than last weeks total of 29.2mm (1.1 inches).

81 thoughts on “Ramping it down”

  1. Chris,

    Those were some wonderful pictures of the blue banded bees again. The color on those is fantastic. The little wasp was cute, at least as far as those potentially stinging things go. And that butternut GREW in the past week. Enjoy when it’s time to eat it! And the picture with the parsley and chives gives me ideas…And good job and that log roller. That will come in handy.

    Leftover from last week, you’d wondered what I did before the coming of Big Bertha. Well, I’ve only had Bertha for 10 years, so I lived most of my life the muscle way. Where I grew up, there wasn’t room for my and later my sister’s cars in the driveway, so it was park them on the street. Then, when the cars got plowed in, start digging them out, removing the plowed berm from the street. And dig out the driveway, and shovel the driveway and sidewalks and the older peoples’ sidewalks. Then shovel the snow from the backyard parking area/basketball court, which was where I did minor mechanic work on the family vehicles in the winter. (Yes, at times that was brutally cold, but, hey, you do what needs to be done.) Yes, it was a lot of digging snow, but it had to be done.

    It still is much the same at this house, although Bertha is nice on the heavier snow days. If we get too much snow lying around, the weight can be too much for the roof to support. For that I have a roof rake, which is a plastic-type thingy with a 0.5 meter wide end connected to 6 meters of aluminum handle. Reach it up the roof and start dragging snow down. We’ve so far peaked at about 0.5 meters of snow on the roof, much of it light and fluffy, so not a worry. Another 25 cm would require me using the rake on both the house and garage roofs. I’ve used the roof rake 3 times in 22 years here.

    Then there are days like yesterday. It was +2C, so I poked my nose outside and noticed that my aluminum patio roof was showing signs of stress. It’s pitch is less than that of the house, plus the minor melting from the house was mostly getting sucked up by the snow atop the patio roof, adding significant weight. So, out with the roof rake to clear the patio roof, which was clearly much happier when I had finished. Then on to chopping out some of the warmth-softened ice from some areas with the flat bladed shovel. Using the roof rake is hard work using muscles that really aren’t used for anything else.

    Your comments about the ramps resonate with me. My driveway ramps down to the street and often gets a thick ice build up. After shoveling this morning’s 3cm of snow, I got out the flat bladed shovel and chopped and scraped all of the now softening ice from the driveway, grateful for another day near +2C. I’ve got everything important ice and snow free, just in time for the cold front that just started blowing in about 4:00 p.m. As some of your other readers can verify, life in snowy climes is hard work. And much like work on your farm, when it needs to be done, it needs to be done now lest it become a disaster later on.

    But the bitter cold will boast very dry air. That will help decrease the weight on the rooves, as the dry cold will suck a lot of the moisture out of the snow, decreasing its weight. So the cold does have benefits if one knows where to find them.


  2. @ Pam,

    It sounds like you and your husband do things the way my wife and I try to. No debt, really helps, and I’ve found, also, that it’s much easier to stay within budget if we use cash and then when the cash runs out, well, it better be close to payday! e pay the bills by check. Using the credit cards mostly when on trips and to help maintain credit ratings is what we attempt, but we’re not entirely there. I find that this arrangement is much better than what my peers do with credit card balances and draining bank accounts with their debit cards.

    And yes, it rather does fell like trying to paddle against the current, often with paddles full of holes.


  3. Chris,

    Before I forget, a word on local wildfowl. I noticed on Tuesday that a very large flock of birds flew into the neighborhood. It was a mix of robins and waxwings, the waxwings being both cedar and Bohemian varieties. I grew up 3.5 km from my current home, and we watched these varieties of birds arrive every winter. I haven’t seen this many robins here in at least 12 years, and it has been close to 15 since I last saw a waxwing. So I was very excited. Unfortunately, the waxwings moved on the next day, but the robins are still here.

    These birds will eat any fruit left on any of the trees, but the robins and waxwings eat them in reverse order from one another. The robins typically start on things like mountain ash and hawthorn berries, then move on to my chokecherries which are too high for me to pick. The robins save for last the crabapples, which by now have slightly fermented.

    The waxwings, on the other hand, have tended to begin with the fermented crabapples, gorging on them. And getting somewhat tipsy as a result, of course, which makes watching them more amusing. Then, after sobering up and being obviously somewhat grumpy, they then eat the mountain ash and other berries, which would make them right very quickly.

    Alas, the waxwings left before devouring my crabapples, which the robins began nibbling yesterday.


  4. Hi Chris,

    I´m sorry, I´ve missed a few posts because I was taking advantage of a streak of warm, sunny days to weed.

    On ghosting – someone said on twitter somewhere that the concept is interesting because the problem with actual ghosts is that usually they don´t want to leave.

    Your veg and flowers are looking fantastic! A lovely rose purchase, too. I´ve just about gotten all mine pruned. The field bushes are mulched and fertilized. I always go back and forth on how high I should bury them, as if the bud union is too exposed, suckers from the root stock tend to appear. But if you bury them too much, then there´s the possibility of crown rot. Damned if you do…

    Our banking story is from when we first arrived in Madrid, about 10 years ago now. We opened an account at the local branch near the inlaw´s flat. Turns out that from then on, all banking that requires your physical presence has to be done at that branch (now closed). And while any bank will happily open an account for you in about 15 minutes, we´ve been trying to close that account since September!

    Latest Netflix find was Manhunt, a mini series about the Unabomber. I knew Ted Kaczynski was supposed to be a mathematical genius, although a loon, and his manifesto against large organizations v.s. the individual kind of prescient, but it was a really interesting exercise in the irritating layers of incompetent middle management within the FBI and the operation to find TK. I don´t want to work in an office again.

    One agapanthus question – do you ever divide them? I´ve read to dig up the entire rootball and cut into sections. Any tips?

    Hope everyone stays safe in the crazy weather.

  5. Hi Lewis,

    The first time I saw an old engraving (I forget what the metal presses of drawings were called?) of a couple of loggers standing high up in a tree on those springboards, well let’s just say that I gained a true appreciation of just how large the trees used to be here. The trees nowadays, despite being truly massive and tall, are but babies compared to the original forest.

    Happy days with the DVD! Well back then that was how it was, I guess. Surviving WWII with home industry largely unscathed was a bonus for both of our countries. The changes have been great in my lifetime, but compared to those days… Both here and there are now unrecognisable, relative to that period of time. For some reason I was reminded of the book that you recommended to me a few years back: Empire Falls, by Richard Russo. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the story that the book told. It was a real page turner, which also wove a larger narrative of decline in among the tragedy, wins and minor setbacks of everyday life. That story would have fitted in neatly with the Chehalis story, I’m sorry to say. I forget whether I mentioned that I’m currently reading the third book of the World Made by Hand series, and I did a doubletake with added shiver for effect, when the author describes the closure of the local Kmart – which in an ironic twist was left with a sign that proclaimed ‘art’! Given the author blogged about just that situation very recently in his own home town, well, it ain’t good.

    Speaking of small business, the final days of this current government (now in a minority) have scheduled the bare minimum sitting days in Parliament. It is something like ten days in six to eight months or something crazy like that – it is an embarrassment and they need to man up. Anyway, they did manage to get through one bit of legislation that impacts upon small business – and it had the support of both the major parties. And I suspect that it is an ugly chunk of onerous stuff that will force all small businesses to produce electronic records. It is a game changer as previously there was no requirement to maintain computerised accounts, and I suspect that the long game is the concept of standardised business reporting – i.e. give us your data – all of it and let us decide what your burden will be.

    Ah, thanks for the correction. Metal bookends are of a sturdier nature than ceramic ones. I recall in the 1970’s when old school irons (cast iron) were bronzed and sold as book ends. No doubts, they have all been recycled by now into who knows what?

    Yeah, let’s avoid the sour monks… Yuk! Maybe that is too harsh, but sometimes some people can get on a right royal whinge roll – and they’re off and racing! I have no problems with a good whinge, and I like a good whinge as much as the next person, however, as long as that is not the only trick in a persons book… I’ve met a few of those, and I suspect that they are oblivious to their effect on other people.

    Out of curiosity, do you reckon that some of the Abbots would have altered the rules that the monks lived by – just to make their mark? I recently heard two disparate people suggest that they’d like to leave a legacy, and I was unsure what exactly they meant by that particular claim. Mind you, as a species we’re leaving a true whopper of a legacy – not that anybody cares to consider that aspect of their life.

    Hang on a second. Did the Spanish introduce horses onto your continent? Well there you go. I’m amazed and impressed that the native folk adapted so quickly to horse husbandry. I heard an interview on the national youth news broadcaster (triple J) today discussing the massive die offs of fish in the Menindee Lakes. Bad management, over-irrigation behind Menindee fish kills: report. What interested me was that the first nations elder who was interviewed, deftly avoided entering the blame game and then went on to make the correct claim that the river is the owner of the land and not the humans who are subservient to the river.

    I saw the blog by the good Professor about your lowland snow. Good luck!



  6. Hi DJ,

    Mate, the blue banded bees are very fast, and we very were lucky to get those photographs, and they are very clear. The native bees are a bit larger than the European honey bees, but then some native bee species are a bit smaller. But none of them forage as early in the season as the European honey bees and that is a problem for almonds, apricots and plums.

    Yes, plant thickly is the way of things down here – and leave no soil exposed! That is where the chives and parsley fit in, and they play well together. The trick is not leaving soil exposed to the hot summer sun – which increases evaporation.

    Far out, however did you keep your fingers warm enough to do delicate backyard mechanic work in such cold weather way back in the day? I’ll bet you were rugged up like the abominable snowman too! I respect the backyard mechanic gear and used to maintain and repair my own vehicles when they were simpler machines.

    It never even occurred to me that roofs could be overloaded by the sheer weight of a serious snowfall (and yeah, I’d keep a roof snow rake handy) until I began reading the comments here. A few years ago I mentioned to person on another blog that solar panels produce diddly squat electricity when they are covered with snow, and I showed a photo of the ones here covered in snow and Sir Poopy frolicking around in the background just for good measure. And believe it or not, they argued with me that they had this model that said that I should be getting at least two hours of electricity per day out of those panels and something was clearly wrong with my system. Well, there was something wrong alright, but it wasn’t the interaction of snow and the solar power system…

    Out of sheer curiosity, what does stress in an aluminium patio roof look like? My mind boggles, as I over engineered the structure of this house. Did you get much snow melt in the +2’C weather or did it turn to ice?

    Yes, act first, relax later, is a favourite motto of mine. I get that, and you should see what I have to do when there is a torrential downpour here – let’s just say that I end up very wet from the experience. But getting seriously being drenched by the rain sure beats doing major repairs… I’m going to have to do something about that problem soon

    Whatever would your robins be consuming at this time of year? The local birds here are going nuts for the elderberry berries. I grow masses of the plant as the shrubs are reliable food for the birds – and they love the berries. Oh, does fruit on your fruit trees actually manage to freeze and survive the winter for the benefit of the birds? That is an impressive effort as the birds here gorge over the warmer months and then their population crashes during the colder months.



  7. Hi Coco,

    No worries and that is a lovely sentiment. Enjoy your warm sunny winter days.

    Haha! That’s funny about the ghosts – that would never have occurred to me, but it is so true.

    Crown rot isn’t too much of a problem here with roses, but I could see how it could be up in your part of the world. Pruning and feeding plants is a complicated problem, but most plants are reasonably hardy and forgiving. I’m thinking about cutting out the black locust – the thorns are feral.

    Your banking story is bonkers. Do you have an ombudsman or a head office to lodge a complaint with? And what is the chance that another branch won’t go the same way as your local branch?

    Hey, it was the manifesto that was the blokes undoing – from what I understand of the situation. Apparently the story goes that he was identified by the text in the manifesto as his family members had heard such talk before. I do wonder why he did that particular act, but then I guess hubris turns into nemesis and he provided a good example as to how it works out in practice. I don’t condone what the guy did – I’ve noticed that it requires a much harder effort to create something than it does to demolish something.

    Absolutely. If I want to plant out a new area of agapanthus, I dig the plants up and divide the root systems using a shovel. You don’t even have to be careful as any root chunk of system appears to produce a new plant. Such plants make us all look good!

    Thanks for the kind thoughts, and I hope that your summer garden blooms with flowers.



  8. log rolling- Here that tool is called a peavey. I have considered buying one, but have not yet. Bucking a felled tree can be tricky, no fun dulling the chain in the dirt. Rolling and getting up off the ground saves that misery.

    trivia- I have lately taken to doing a crossword each morning, while sipping my coffee. What I have found, is that over time, my knowledge of what I call “pop culture” has declined markedly. More and more of the clues and words reference recent movies, actors, or celebrities, and it is only my knowledge of the other areas that lets me finish the puzzle. I’m ok with that.

    To tell the truth, much of my time on the internet on topics that interest me may well be no more relevant the Kardashians to my day to day life. Even the peak oil and doom sites, as real and dire as the topics are, feel repetitive now, with no real new insights. Kind of like driving by a gory car wreck. You can’t help looking. Except this is the mother of all wrecks, so all the more compelling.

    That’s why my surfing habits are slowly shifting to blogs like yours, where practical homesteading topics prevail.

  9. Hi Chris,

    Trivia nights are becoming a thing here too. Like you and the editor I have very little knowledge of sports but a Doug is a fan of a few I’ve learned a little by osmosis. Used to have more interest in politics but the atmosphere now is such a turn off. No one can be an expert in everything and knowing all these facts sure isn’t a measure of intelligence but more good memory skills. When both daughters were very young, six months to around 2 1/2 I did daycare in my home. All kids were around the same age so mostly I supervised free play, changed diapers and wiped noses. I actually got them all to nap at the same time so I had a break midday. The game,Trivial Pursuit, was very popular at that , so I spent this time memorizing a few of the categories. Whenever we played the game I would wow everyone with my “intelligence” . I had quite a laugh over that one. The contestants on Jeopardy are pretty impressive though.

    Had another 5 inches/13cm of snow yesterday which is now hiding all the ice patches.


  10. Chris,

    The backyard mechanic work was sometimes beyond brutal. The worst was when a boyfriend of my sister gave her Toyota a bad tune-up. It was -26C the evening in which I had to fix it. We had an overhead outdoor light, I wore 3 layers of pants, great boots and socks, plenty of warm clothes for my torso, arms and head. As you surmised, the fingers were the hardest part to keep warm. I used two layers of woolen fingerless gloves and had mittens that would fit over the gloves so that I could rewarm the fingers. Even so, there were a few required trips indoors to properly care for the fingers. It also helped that I spent several hours outdoors daily just because I like being outdoors, so I was somewhat acclimatized. Also, for some of the work I could keep the mittens on. However, a normal 45 minute job took nearly 3 hours because of the rewarming times necessary.

    Two days later the same chump screwed up some inconsequential thing that became an urgent problem as a result of his errors. I fixed it in the extreme cold, then told my sister that if that twit ever touched her car again, she could fix it herself, take it to a real mechanic shop, or go without a car. I was her only mechanic for the next 2 years after that.

    Due to the two days of minor thaw, the snow depth is 8cm less than it was Friday night. I am rather surprised that there is not a crust on the snow in the yard due to the hard freeze after the thaw. The other neat thing about this type of cold? Prior to freezing, any irregularities in the concrete sidewalks and driveway had little bits of water in them, from which the robins were greedily drinking. The dry cold sucked all of that away: the concrete is bare and dry today. Even the tiny bits of ice I didn’t remove yesterday from the driveway are shrinking in the dry cold. And the snow will become lighter and the depth will decrease too, purely as a side effect of the dry cold.

    Oh, the aluminum patio roof. No, it was not shrieking, “Papa, papa, you lunkhead! Get this heavy snow off of me before I collapse!” I noticed that one small section had a small, but noticeable, sag in it between the solid steel support beams. Mate, I was all in at the time, had absolutely no energy left. So I took a quick lunch break, then went to work while the temperature was still above freezing. As you said, there are times where it is act first, relax later.

    Yes, a lot of the fruit on the trees and shrubs sorta stay there, then it freezes and waits for a flock of hungry birds to discover them. The middle of February is when I remember the flocks arriving most years, so they are right on schedule. So they’re currently gorging themselves on crabapples, hawthorn berries, a few chokecherries that the starlings didn’t get, and berries from bushes of unknown variety. Plus a lot of the neighbors have mountain ash trees, which sport edible bright orange berries.


  11. Hello Chris
    Good to see the photo of the log roller as I had never heard of such a thing. The things that we call butternuts are beige/cream coloured, your photo looks like a marrow to me.
    Am just not enjoying one of those ghastly days when everything goes wrong and the weather is grey and wet just to add emphasis to the day. Very first thing, the plastic curtain rail snapped as I drew back the curtain (I hate plastic) and so the day rolled on.


  12. @ Pam – (From last week, re: the cougar story.) Cosmic. Small world. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. :-). It is amazing how some stories catch people’s imaginations, and get around. Lew

  13. Yo, Chris – Trivia games can be a lot of fun. We used to play them, at one of the libraries I worked at. Clericals against the Librarians. That was soon ended, as the clericals always trounced the librarians. :-). Well, as in the Tat Business, no one can know it all. The trick is, to know more about some stuff, than the other guy, in some areas. But, it never hurts to develop a mastery of a couple of skills.

    Ramps and stairs. Chutes and Ladders? :-). Ramps can be a problem, in any area with a lot of clay in the soil. Can get pretty slick. But that can also come in handy. Another logging term. “Skid Road.” Which was later borrowed to indicate a rather unsavory neighborhood. The term originated in Seattle. Yesler Way was a logging skid road, from the hills above Seattle to the waterfront. And, the waterfront, was rather unsavory.

    All your stairs are beginning to look a bit like an M. C. Escher print. I’m sure you’d recognize his stuff. Go, “Oh, yeah, that guy.” Calendars, with his work on it, are still pretty popular.

    All those perking jugs of wine are quit pretty. They’d make a nice painting. The colors … the colors … Ooops! Just having a minor flash back, here. :-).

    The paragraph about the brazier? You have falls of paper? Kind of like a ticker tape parade? I know things are occasionally very odd, in Oz, but really? Who knew? 🙂

    The rose is really pretty. I couldn’t quit read the label. Looks like it might be some kind of Tropicana rose. Rose names can be so interesting.

    The blue banded bees are also, very handsome. It’s interesting how bees and wasps, in the flowering season, can all exist in a Peaceable Kingdom. As if they know there’s enough for everyone, to go around. I’m still amazed when I look in a squash blossom, and see several bumble bees, and several European honey bees, everyone going about their business, and no one getting all territorial.

    I saw an article about the gardens and plants in Colonial Williamsburg. There were several mentions of melons and squash.


    One of the picture captions mentioned “candied squash” and I got all excited imagining something like candied ginger. Well, no. They were referring to something more like our candied yams (aka sweet potatoes) which make an appearance, usually at Thanksgiving. I find the dish too sweet, for my taste. I’ll take a bit, just to be polite. Sometimes, there is the added insult of small marshmallows.

    I’ve been looking around the Net, for the blue agapanthus. They are out there, but, rather pricey. Haven’t checked my local garden shop, yet. I’ve also found some seed for blue geraniums. But I hesitate and waffle. I look at the pictures, and wonder, “Are they blue enough? If I look further, will I find some that are more blue?” (Cont.)

  14. Cont. I looked at the film about Chehalis and wondered what goes on behind the scenes. As in “Empire Falls.” Which poor kids Mum, secretly drinks, and Dad kicks the puppy? Which county official is carrying on with his very pretty secretary, out in some sleazy roadhouse, out on the highway. Will she have to leave town in disgrace? Effect a quick wedding with a local bloke who has no prospects? Visit a “sick aunt” in some far off city for six months, or so? To return sadder, but wiser?

    Well, as most law makers know nothing about electronics, or small business, I’d say the fix is in, somewhere. I mean, where do they come up with these ideas? This was a problem? Small business clamoring for electronic reporting? It just sneaks in, everywhere. It used to be, if you needed a change of address at the post office, it was pretty simple. Most of the posties, carried post cards that you could fill out and drop in the mail. Now, they want you to do it on-line. Costs a dollar. To be charged to your credit card. By some private business, who’s website just looks like it’s the post office. I did find that if I went into the post office, and whined a lot, they’d still come up with one of those little post cards.

    There was a whole line of pottery, around 1900-1920 that had transfer prints of jolly monks, usually making or drinking beer. But I’ve got a mug where the jolly monk is smelling, and clearly enjoying the scent of an Easter lilly. :-). Whoever founded an order, usually created rules that weren’t much tampered with. They pretty much kept everyone in line. Abbots made their mark by building things, expanding monastery estates or creating and expanding business. Wool, metal working, books, honey, etc.etc..

    To leave a legacy. To make a mark. To be remembered. The urge seems to vary, from person to person. Some try and do it through their children. Other’s become notorious serial killers. It’s a mixed bag …

    We had prehistoric horses on this continent, but they all died out. Theories vary. But they disappeared about the same time as the rest of the megafauna. When I was a kid, I had the fossil of three horse molars (long story) that were between 10 and 13,000 years old. The ancient horses were a bit on the small side. Well, as far as the Native Americans taking to the horse, they knew it really gave the Spanish an edge. And, I really think they were a lot more “in-tune” with the natural world, then the “civilized” Spanish. They’d already domesticated dogs, and some birds, like turkeys. Some of the exotic birds, too, for reasons of decoration or religion. They’d seen that the Spanish had domesticated these strange beasts, so why not them?

    Prof. Mass doesn’t seem to think we’re going to get much lowland snow. If at all. But, strange things happen down here in the Napavine Triangle :-). We have quit a few metal roofs, around here, with quit a pitch. The snow slides right off. Of course, it might take your gutters, with it. It was a pretty steady 32F (-0-C), last night. Clear, with a great full moon.

    We got our monthly Government commodities box, last week. Always, surprises. I got a pound of ground turkey, in mine. So, last night, I fried it up with an onion, and secret herbs and spices. Mixed some of it into my veg and rice. There was enough left over from that, to fry up some rice/veg/egg patties, tonight. And two packs of the turkey to freeze up and do something “creative” with, later. Lew

  15. Hi Chris,

    The sight of all those stairs must strike a chord of joy inside you. It does for me, and I didn’t even build them! Safer for slips, but hard to use a wheelbarrow on. Always a compromise!

    The Seymour Expo sounds great, hopefully some of the more smallholder orientated products will also come to the larger, traditional shows. They call them A&P shows (agriculture and produce) in this part of the world. You can see the woodchops, sheep dog trials, horse jumping etc. Plus a lot of displays relating to anything country (tractors, motorbikes, RV vans and more tractors). Not a lot related to smallholder stuff though, besides the occasional tiny home, but maybe that will change over time?

    I feel that “ramping it down” is rather pertinent to our discussion a few days ago. Setting expectations, and trying to do one or two things well rather than a lot of things poorly. Tonight, over a delicious pint of locally brewed German pilsner and a chicken schnitzel (served properly with a slice of lemon and mustard on the side) Mrs Damo and I discussed a potential opportunity to earn some extra mad cash. However, after reflection, we realised it was a very high risk strategy of alienating existing employers and clients, takes up the little remaining free time I have left and could generate blowback. So we quickly realised it was a bad idea and stayed on the sensible downward ramp!

    Thank you for your considered comments, I don’t think anyone has the answers. And those that do, are probably trying to sell you something! Still, we discuss it regularly and I think I feel comfortable with a potential scenario forming in my head, but I want to let it sit for a few months before “committing” to it as a formal plan 🙂 Mrs Damo and I keep coming back to having our own piece of land somewhere – so I think what we eventually settle on will involve that in some capacity.


  16. Hi Chris,

    RE: Tesla and Grand Designs
    Hey, the Tesla we hired did not have the ludicrous mode 🙁 That is only available on the dual motor version (effectively 4wd), whereas ours was rear wheel drive. I think you need the 90kw version as well (our was 75kw). But, even the “standard” Tesla was pretty insane (you can see the real time acceleration in my video a few weeks back), I think 0-100kph in 4 seconds. Very fun, but also very draining on the battery pack 🙂

    Tonight we are staying in a granny flat on the outskirts of Blenheim (a big wine growing region in the north of the South Island). 80% of the wine NZ exports comes from this valley, it is such a hugely concentrated source of export dollars for a little town! But, they have had an incredibly dry couple of months and 70% of the farms got their water cut off. Some are OK, but quite a few have to just close the gate, it isn’t even worth paying for the grapes to be picked now the vines are withered and dried out. The heat also interferes with the winemaker schedule. Much of what fruit survived is ready now and the winemakers are scrambling to get harvest staff and production tanks ready 2-3 weeks earlier than normal! When they told me this I thought of your regular comments on trying to plan garden production around unpredictable seasons. The previous two harvests here were very wet years.

    But back to the granny flat 🙂 It has two generous bedrooms, a big bathroom in between them and built-in closets. I thought to myself this would make a nice, modest house if one bedroom became a combo-kitchen and living area. And with the smaller size, you can spend more on the fit-out and quality of life enhancements like double-glazed windows, insulation and fully-tiled bathroom etc. Even better if there was a shed nearby for all the storage and workbench requirements (maybe even a big kitchen space for preserving, baking etc).

    Every 10-15 minutes, shotgun blasts come from the vineyards surrounding us. Some sort of automated bird scaring device. I would have thought the birds would figure out such a ruse, but /shrug.


  17. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, you said that when you’re hot you’re hot, and when you’re not… Well, I reckon there has been some fire up your way – and that is despite the snow – because you made some genuinely funny comments today. I was giggling and laughing to myself upon reading them, which was nice because I had to work late this evening. Bad past life, and all of that gear.

    How did the clerical staff ever thrash the library staff at trivia games? It just doesn’t sound right, although there is a thought that suggests that you lot were busy working, whilst the other lot were doing other things… 🙂 Hey, the editor blitzes me at scrabble. I dare not face anymore crushing defeats at the hands of the master – it’s embarrassing. But then, and I can’t quite explain this one, I get my revenge with the dark arts of monopoly. We don’t play a lot of board games as a result…

    Given we were speaking about games, I thought you were going to write: Snakes and Ladders, which was a board game I played in my early youth. We were morbid little blighters and I don’t know whether you recall the game: Hangman! But then I can recall the games of chance involving throwing knuckles. I doubt kids would know anything of that lot these days.

    The clay is a problem in wet weather. You might note that we use copious quantities of crushed rock with lime, and that helps. But even the small crushed rocks can occasionally become like ball bearings. Yeah, waterfront dives do have an ominous reputation as being rather dodgy places where all manner of licentious behaviour went on. Not that I’ve been in such places, just read about them. Thanks for the origins of the description. We used timber tramways down here. Oh! I believe a bird just crashed into one of the windows here. That is unusual – I’ll bet it doesn’t feel very well now.

    Those M. C. Escher prints are very simple but complicated all at the same time. You have to switch off part of your brain in order to see the sleight of hand (or would it be pen in this case) that the artist weaves into his works. They are quite impressive and he would understand quite a lot about how the eye and brain interprets the world around it.

    You know, I always feel a bit guilty writing about our adventures into the world of alcohol, knowing that you will read the words. It is one of those tasks we do here that is really high margin in terms of savings over the commercial product, and it would be nice if other people understood their footprint in that matter – we get a lot of judgement about the scale of the production. Most people have no idea as to the enormous scale of the commercial facilities that keep their el-cheapo warehouses full just so they can rock up and purchase whatever they want, whenever they want. The scale is bonkers. Anyway, you are polite enough not to talk about Space Invaders and other arcade game machines which I probably had an unhealthy relationship with as a youngster, and I may have to live up to your good example!

    Hehe! You are indeed correct and I did suggest that paper falls. It could fall. It might fall. But unfortunately for me, the paper does not indeed fall. In fact a friend dropped off a huge quantity of paper for us to burn recently. At least the ash does some good in the orchard. Most recyclables (other than metals) these days are heading to landfill, although people have not yet realised that. I noticed that we’ve begun sending plastics to I believe Vietnam, and the government there may have disappeared another of our citizens who was apparently critical of their government – although the matter may have been resolved because it has gone quiet. Now why people do that critiquing act and then put themselves in the hands of the various foreign governments is an act of sheer bravado that does not end well. You wouldn’t catch me doing that, I’ll make other mistakes…

    We picked up the rose at the expo and I had to carry it around on the day. It is a very cheery rose and I hope to get more of them in the next few months. It would be nice to get some rain soon, but it doesn’t appear to be too likely. I’m hoping all of the smoke from the recent bushfires cools the atmosphere a bit for next summer.

    I tell you who doesn’t play well with the various insects. The ants. They are brutal soldiers and I often seen them carting away another insect back into their colony. I’m glad that the ants are not larger than they are, as there would be nowhere to hide from them. The marsupial bats spend the twilight hours consuming the many insects that fly around the farm.

    Thanks for the link. A truly fascinating place which I’d love to visit, although most likely never will. And their cushaw squash look exactly like the ones grown here (which are a heritage variety). Hey, their dillemma reminded me of a year or two back when I mentioned that I was growing sugar beets (which are now feral in the garden). Someone piped up in the comment section and said that it was a revolting concept to consume sugar beets as they were only fit for livestock. And yeah, it isn’t on my usual menu of plants to consume, but back in the day it produced a slightly earthy sugar syrup which was a very valuable commodity – but I got the reaction… Maybe we are not nearly hungry enough?


  18. Hi Steve, Margaret, DJ, Inge, Bev, and Damo,

    Thanks for the lovely comments. However, plans changed this evening. I had plans, I know what plans are, and then reality kicks ya in the guts. Actually it wasn’t that bad. I planned on replying to your lovely comments this evening on a laptop whilst sitting on the train. It is an enjoyable thing to do and the trains are big and comfy. Alas, the train was cancelled for track maintenance, and I ended up on a bus. Buses are nice and all, but they are not big and comfy. And I was the only passenger, so I ended up talking to the bus driver the whole trip. We had a good chat about all manner of subjects. However me talking is not the same thing as me replying… The difference is notable! Tomorrow is the mid-week hiatus too. Alas, I disappoint myself sometimes too, but at the same time I’m having a bunch of fun! Until after the mid-week hiatus it shall be!



  19. Lewis cont…

    Yes, I too feel that there is a gritty side to life. As a famous (or maybe infamous) punk band once quipped: Nowhere seems as normal as this here town. A dark lyric from an even darker album. I’m told by a reliable person that booze buses (the colloquial name for alcohol breath testing road blocks) when placed outside schools, reliably pick up drivers – you lose your licence down here for such matters.

    Exactly, they know not what they ask in that case. You know the vast majority of businesses do the right thing. But some businesses pay staff without deducting taxes and/or paying into their retirement funds (your 401K thingee equivalent) and those ones are in the sights of law makers. It is just that everyone else ends up paying the not insubstantial cost to comply with the reporting at every pay. And there seems little room for correcting genuine errors.

    Years and years ago I used to work for a company that did regular credit card payments. And I was not impressed with their track record.

    Fossils are cool. Most of the megafauna died out here when humans arrived on the continent. The megafauna had happily lived on the continent for a very long time, and I suspect that us humans ate them. A three tonne wombat would keep you and the rest of the tribe going for quite a while.

    Very funny! I do hope that you get some lowland snow – and I really enjoyed the social side of the Professors recent blog essay on how nice the snow was.

    Turkey meat is quite nice. Hey, they were selling turkeys at the poultry auction at the recent expo. I had a feeling that the dogs would eat them before I got to doing that. Oh well!



  20. Hi Steve,

    Yeah, Lewis pointed out the US name of the peavey tool last week. Mate, as a review, it is good and takes very little effort to roll huge logs. I recommend one for saving your back. And absolutely about blunting the chain in dirt – it can happen very quickly and without warning. Blunt tools are no good.

    Just goes to show that you can’t know everything. I mean there is only so much in the brain.

    Yes, I believe that is why Mr Greer chose to write about other topics. I mean how many times can you say the same thing about a dire subject – everyone gets worked up about it – and then they go on and do what they were going to do anyway. Mind you, I write about decline too, I just write about how it impacts upon my life and add in what I’m doing about the situation. Not many people have grappled with the ‘what next’ story. You seem onto it.



  21. Hi Margaret,

    They’re a lot of fun aren’t they? Well you are lucky to have Doug do the heavy lifting when it comes to sports, but also interestingly I didn’t notice that anybody was on their phone looking up the answers – and I was impressed by the level of restraint shown by the crowd.

    Speaking of intelligence a very old mate was quite proud of being allowed to join mensa. Bully for him. I’m no slouch, but I know some intelligent people that make some pretty dumb decisions – so who knows what is meant by the word intelligence?

    I’m seriously uncertain that I could deal with the pressure of having to answer random questions on television. That is one tough gig!



  22. Hi Inge,

    I reckon your son could make good use of such a tool for moving logs – especially if he assists you with firewood.

    Oh yeah, butternut pumpkins are exactly as you describe. Because I’m me, I selected a packet of random heritage varieties of these plants s- I have absolutely no idea what I am growing – except for the melons – but even then I reckon they might have hybridised a bit… Those plants are complicated.

    What did they use to say about good things coming in threes? But I reckon that applies to unexpected turn of events like your plastic curtain (is that the replacement?) I see timber rods and fabric curtains in your future… Velvet is remarkably cheap nowadays.



  23. Hi DJ,

    I take my hat off to you as you are clearly more of a gentleman than I would have been in that circumstance. I might have made an ungentlemanly suggestion that the mechanic culprit should attend the fixing ceremony given the extreme weather conditions. One sometimes needs to make a point during such times. Anyway, even if nothing is learned, a hardship shared and all that can end up being a good thing…

    sorry ran out of time…

  24. Hello again
    I have vast numbers of curtains lurking in trunks including some velvet ones. The problem with the afore mentioned window, is that the window reaches the ceiling which is very low at that point; I can touch it. So there is no room to put in a curtain pole which is a pity as I have plenty of curtains which already have rings sewn in.
    Son turned up this morning with a new curtain rail and we tried hard not to irritate each other in the restricted space. Or perhaps it was just I who tried hard. Had one heck of a hunt for enough hooks that would fit the new ensemble. Why do they keep changing the fitments and then not include the curtain hooks? Anyhow all done now. Just as well for the temperature dropped last night and the room was very cold without the lined curtains. I do leave some heating on so that was expensive. White frost this morning.


  25. Yo, Chris – Oh, I think the clericals won the trivial pursuit games, as, we’re a bit older. The young librarians depend too much on computers, and don’t commit much to memory. Just a theory. But I have read that it is suspected that all our devices are rewiring our brains.

    LOL. I think there was a name change, from snakes and ladders, to chutes and ladders. More PC. Less scary. Don’t want to startle the snow flakes. :-). Oh, I remember playing Hangman. Tic Tack Toe. Street games? Red Rover. Snap the whip. Hop Scotch and jump rope we’re the domain of the girls. No self respecting boy would be caught dead, doing either.

    Oh, you don’t need to self censor when it comes to alcohol. Varies from person to person, but I guess I’m one of the lucky ones (?) who it doesn’t bother. I’ve even kept a bit in the house, for company, which some would take great exception to. I think I was about 9 months in, when I went out to pizza with some mates. It was after, that I realized that they had been swilling down a bit of beer, and it hadn’t even been picked up on my radar. When I left it behind, I left it behind. But, can appreciate it, aesthetically. LOL. The only time I get a bit down in the mouth is when I run across a recipe that calls for copious amounts of booze. But it’s just for a moment, until I remind myself that their are thousands (millions?) of other recipes, just as interesting, that I haven’t tried, that don’t have booze as a component. So, no worries.

    Ants are interesting. And who can for get the 1970 something film, “Empire of the Ants” with Joan Collins? But even better is the 1950 something, “Them!” Besides being on the edge of your seat thrilling, you also get a good look at the Los Angeles storm drain system.

    Throughout history, different crops have not been in favor, except as animal feed. Corn and orange pumpkins were considered to be only for animals, and the poverty stricken. The same with sugar beets. However, given the choice of sugar made from cane, or sugar made from beets, I choose the cane sugar, every time. Somehow, I’ve got it in my head that the cane stuff is less processed, then the beet variety. I’ll be interested to follow your experiments with sourgum.

    I may be wrong, but I bet the bus driver was surprised you didn’t bury yourself in a device, and instead wanted to chat. he might not have said so, but I bet he thought it. Some people don’t realize you can learn valuable things, just chatting with people. Or, at least, hear a good story.

    Yes, someone is always screwing it up, for the rest of us :-). Back when I was working retail, every store had a ring binder, policy manual. Probably 6″ thick. Each weeks bundle from the home office always had directives to remove pages and replace pages. It was one of the things the district manager checked, when she came for store visits. To make sure we were keeping up and current. Given that we had close to 1,000 stores, by that point, probably necessary. But one time I pointed at the thing, and said, I’d guess that every page represented an instance where someone, somewhere, had screwed up. She agreed with me.

    I ran across an interesting article about the current state of bees, here in the States. The news is not good.



  26. Hi DJ,

    We’re back! Well for a while anyway… It is complicated! 🙂

    Please keep your cold winters over where they belong in your part of world! I’d never even considered that dry weather would be part of such a snow story. Winters here are beyond 90% humidity for months on end, and so that is what I’m used to. I appreciate your description as it is like a whole new world to my poor brain.

    Sagging structures. Well that is another new one to me as well. You did well acting first – despite having not been in the right state – to deal with the problem. We’d lose the guttering here for sure as the weight of the snow would test the brackets holding it in place. Do you have guttering on your roof? And if you don’t what happens when you get massive rainstorms?

    What another fascinating difference as the over wintering fruit just doesn’t get a look in here. Any fruit not picked is taken by the birds and animals before winter, and by spring – things are pretty lean for them. Frankly it knocks back the populations. For some reason all of the animals and birds turn their noses up at the citrus, although the wallabies will nibble away at the leaves on the citrus trees – but it must be pretty horrid for them. It is a real reminder of the underlying spring lean time, which we’d be experiencing if not for our freight systems.

    Do you have the Latin name for the mountain ash plants? Down here they are the gigantic Eucalyptus Regnan’s (or reigning flowering trees – they’re suitably named).



  27. Hi Damo,

    Yeah, you’re spot on about the wheelbarrow and other tools with wheels. I don’t really show it in the photos (it isn’t much to look at), but there is a ramp access up to the terraces. Mate, dragging a 4,000L water tank up a set of stairs is a real drama!

    The expo was really good, and if you ever get the chance to visit it, I’m sure you and Mrs Damo would have a good time. The stuff there is accessible to the small holder. A lot of field days (A&P equivalent) leave me wondering what the heck that big green machine is used for? Glad to see you mentioned the sheep dog trials – that is big stuff over there. None of my fluffy collective lot would do very well in that test, but you know, they do OK for what I expect from them. You’d hope that big ag makes a bit of room for small holders. There is talk here of re-regulating the dairy industry again – I’d have to suggest that deregulation hasn’t worked so well, and I truly wonder how such cheap milk can be stocked. I have a suspicion that it is at, near, or even possibly below cost.

    Hey, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Something, something about not upsetting the goose that lays the golden egg, not biting the hand that feeds you, and making sure the ship doesn’t bolt (sic)! Who doesn’t love a mixed metaphor slipped in just to make sure people are still awake? A wise choice.

    Thank you, you are very kind to say so. Answers are often provided where there are in fact no questions in the first place. The editor was recounting a story recently about the history of the concept of the litterbug and the first tentative shots in the War of Waste – which we seem to be winning.

    Exactly, take your time, keep your eyes open, and a watch out for opportunities. Not much more else you can do than those.

    Oh my, and totally far out! 🙂 Them electric motors have got some good and proper torque curves! But the batteries, the poor batteries. Hey out of curiosity, were there any battery temperature monitors in the car? And did you notice any swings in the battery temperature? Temperature is a real issue with batteries and I was wondering what the impact would be of sucking so much electricity out of a battery to get that sort of acceleration.

    The variability of the climate is a real problem. You just can’t run a farm as if it were a factory, which is the intention. You might be surprised to see how dry it is over in Oz. When I went north to Seymour, even I was quite shocked, but I did notice that the sheds were mostly full of feed bales and the dams looked OK. But the paddocks were often down to bare earth. I heard a quote from an old school farmer which went along the lines of: “keep 10 sheep, when you can feed 10 sheep”. Wise words.

    The cannons are a nightmare. I grow lots of elderberries for the birds to eat, but that takes unproductive land. I don’t know how effective the cannons are, but they wake me up, so I’m glad they are nowhere near here.

    I think you might be onto something there. 😉 Nice one! Sheds are easily built too. One thing that is of real value in a small holding is a large kitchen – that is a place where you can save some serious mad cash.



  28. Hi Inge,

    Ah, the perils of a low ceiling. Not much keeps out the light better than velvet curtains with backing. The other night I left the bedroom window open (it has a heavy duty mesh screen over it). Anyway, by the time the sun had risen, it sounded as if every bird and their mate were in the bedroom cheering on the new morning in their own chirpy way. I like the birds, but it was a bit early to be so excited about the new day.

    Very funny! And glad that you both enjoyed yourselves installing the new curtain arrangement. 🙂 Built in obsolescence is a real problem that will haunt us all in the future. Anything for a buck I guess. Sometimes it is very troubling to have to experience such waste. Down here they appear to be running around like chickens without heads for over a year since the Chinese stopped accepting our wastes. Has that impacted your part of the world? I believe a lot of recyclable stuff is now going to landfill – which I’d imagine would speed up the process of filling them up.

    Hope you are feeling warmer now?



  29. Hi Jo,

    I’m so busted. Now you know my now-not-so-secret concrete hoarding plan! 🙂 they really do make living here easier. Can’t imagine there is too much flat land down your way from what I recall of the area? Hey, hope your cucumber pickling is working out OK as we’ve never managed to sort out a good recipe. How is it going?



  30. Hi Lewis,

    It is a good theory, and I assume you place yourself in the clerical camp? Somewhere I read the quip that: The map is not the territory. And as a society, we can kind of overly rely upon the map. I mean how many times have you heard someone proclaim that they have knowledge of process, but they possess no real world experience of the process? Sometimes it is quite alarming to get things right the first time around here, only to then not be able to repeat the success. That one is a real worry.

    I’m sure the little blighters could stand a bit of scaring! I mean we used to play hangman – and it was the outcome of the game to figuratively hang the suspect. Blood thirsty little devils that we probably were, we knew what it meant. Yeah, you’re probably right. One for the PC crowd would be that we used to play card games of chance! Oh no, the subliminal programming. 🙂 Far out, the things people worry about, are not necessarily the things they should actually be worrying about.

    Thanks for the explanation as I was a bit concerned, but at the same time I wasn’t self censoring because you know, the stuff is part of both of our lives, I guess – and there is something in that. Funny you mention that about the cooking, but alcohol does do a special guest appearance in some recipes, but as you rightly point out, most recipes don’t include it as an ingredient. I feel that you have a well balanced view on the subject and there is something gracious to be found in the ‘each to their own’ point of view.

    Given your recent weather, has attendances been down at the club? I find that people are more likely to catch up during the in-between seasons rather than the peak of the heat or cold. There is something in that, but I haven’t really put too many brain cells to the matter. Sometimes expectations of what things are like can be different to how they actually are, and that sort of impacts upon peoples social abilities. Dunno, but that is lost on me.

    Haha! Corn is far too good for animal feed, but having just written that, the chickens would enjoy all of the corn for themselves. Mate, I too choose sugar cane. Sugar beet syrup has earthy after-tones. I’m hoping to get in a terrace for grains, but at the same time, we may run out of time this year to get that done. It depends on the weather really, as if the dry continues, I may have to change priorities.

    Burying myself in a device whilst replying to the comments here was my original train plan – but it doesn’t work so well on the bus though. I’m usually up for a chat as long as people can exercise the skill of listening and picking up upon conversational hooks – which frankly not many people are that good at doing. It is amazing though what you can learn by just having a conversation with someone.

    I’ve never before been confronted by such a behemoth of a procedure manual in a business – although that may have been because my mind just baulked at concept and my mind looked past the behemoth, but on the other hand I’ve had to read and apply standards and other legalise literature. Checking the procedure manual probably gave them something to do that didn’t involve things such as selling products to customers…

    Thanks for the bee and insurance articles. Not good on either count.

    Hey, haven’t done too badly for the mid-week hiatus? Hehe!



  31. Hi Lewis,

    Hmm, there ain’t no other pollinators for almonds around here. I’d be very uncomfortable moving hives, and I can’t say that I feel that hives would do well consuming only a single food source. I wouldn’t want to survive on just one type of food.

    And the insurance article was fascinating. I keep my eyes on that story. In some respects having insurance removed may give some freedoms, but it is my opinion that people are not necessarily comfortable with responsibility. Dunno.



  32. Hello again
    You have done well in the hiatus. Have just shown Son the photo of your log roller. It appears that he has one but he says that it isn’t large enough. He has been dealing with a large oak that he took down. he says that the log rollers vary, they have different (plates?). Don’t know whether I have got that right.
    China is refusing to take our rubbish as well. Most things here seem to go to landfill though there is denial about this. We really are being swamped. The latest seems to be clothing. It appears that people are only wearing garments once before discarding for good.
    Cane sugar is an interesting topic. I have just switched to it after discovering a supermarket that sells it. Don’t know whether or not I am imagining that it is different.
    Nothing here seems to eat the crab apples, they simply remain on the ground until I suppose that they rot away. One may need to make verjuice from them in the future.


  33. Yo, Chris – As to maps and process … and just to get your heart thumping, early on. :-). Similar to when someone tries to tell you all about solar power, and they don’t have it, or don’t even know anyone who does.

    It’s a slippery slope. From playing Go Fish to Gambler’s Anonymous, in one step. Or, slide. Like ramps.

    I DO like my rum raisin ice cream! :-).

    LOL. I don’t know how the attendance was at the Club, during the round of bad weather. I wasn’t there! I do know they kept it open, regular hours. Though there was a lot of creative scheduling, as folks who lived further out, or didn’t have four wheel drive vehicles, couldn’t make it in.

    Well, there is “feed corn” that’s grown purely for animal feed. But I think it’s a fairly recent development (mid 20th century?). I understand it tastes like ca-ca. Probably the stuff they make ethonal, out of.

    Paradise, California has pretty much dropped out of the news. Except for NPR, which is still following different aspects of the recovery. The had one the other day about bending the building codes a bit, to build semi-temporary tiny houses, to house the homeless.

    I’m off to the cheap grocery place I found, early this am. Want to get there before the crowds and see if I can get a better grip on how the place is laid out. Then, off to gas with my mate Scott, at the Club.

    I finished “Little”, last night, the book about Madame Tussaud. A good read. I looked up her, on the internet, after I had finished. My, he did play fast and loose with the facts. I’d say about half the story he wrote was fictionalized. Now it’s onto Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.” It’s expensive, and I’m trying to decide if I REALLY need a copy. Dazzle me, Harold, dazzle me. :-).

    I’m watching last season’s Doctor Who. Where they introduced the first woman Doctor Who. Still haven’t quit warmed to her, but it’s early days. Lew

  34. @Lew
    My uncle was a Trappist monk, living at Assumption Abbey in Missouri. http://www.assumptionabbey.org/index.asp
    They are known for their fruitcakes. I’m not a fan of fruitcake but these are pretty good. For awhile they were sold through Williams and Sonoma. My sister and I went down to visit him once maybe 20 years ago and stayed in their guest house. We did have to smuggle in some wine though. We were always glad we went to see how he lived. He wasn’t allowed to leave except when his mother/ our grandmother passed away.

    Interestingly on the same trip we went to a small farm show sponsored by “Small Farm Today” magazine that was similar to the one Chris and the editor attended. It was there I found our chicken tractor which we still use today. Turned out the guy who put the kits and plans together wasn’t too far from us so we took a ride and picked it up. The top has a heavy white tarp which we still use almost 20 years later.


  35. Hi Chris,
    That wasn’t much of a mid week hiatus.
    It often seems that people considered highly intelligent by measurement often lack common sense.

    Michael wasn’t much of a conversationalist so we often watched Jeopardy when I visited him. For someone with an IQ in the high 60’s he did remarkably well.

    I’ve received the seeds for this years garden though as I said it won’t be real big. Asparagus crowns are on order as well. I’ve also been researching native plants, shrubs and maybe a couple of trees. Got to remember not to go overboard.

    Now for something surprising – we’re getting a mix of snow and freezing rain yet again. People are really starting to get grumpy now.

    Doug amazingly has four of six hives still alive and three are quite strong.

    You’re place looks so neat and organized.


  36. @Marg

    I always think of delicious beer when I hear about trappist monks, from Belgium I believe? The fruit cake sounds pretty good as well though 🙂


  37. Chris,

    Plans? You had Plans?!? Aren’t plans those things us puny mortals devise so the gods can say, “Foolish and puny mortal made plans? Ha! I’ll show him!” BOOM! And your plans are thumped away.

    I had to be a gentleman with my sister. Family politics. I wanted to do what you suggested you would’ve done, however…

    Gutters? Parts of my roof have them. Some people have them all over. I really don’t know why they don’t collapse every winter. Without the gutters, the rain (and melting snow) just runs off the eaves into the planters or onto the grass or whatever. Although some impressive icicles can form from both eaves and gutters.

    I’ll agree to keep our winters here if you keep your summers there. Hopefully the mighty weather gods don’t decide to thump those plans of ours. 😉

    Noticed you mentioned Escher. I did a woodburning of one of his pieces, I think it was “Ripples in a Pond” or something similarly titled. It was fun, I thought it turned out well, but the judges hated it. So, I’ll do another Escher in a year or 2 because I like his stuff and it lends itself to my art.

    Turns out that the mountain ash is a type of rowan. Here’s a link to the dread Wikipedia…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowan


  38. Hi Inge,

    One does what one can in such circumstances, and I have to confess to not having enough time yesterday to proofread my responses, so I do hope that they made sense, and were more or less grammatically correct! Hehe! Oh well.

    I do hope that you have had the chance to read Mr Greer’s latest essay? The words are beyond good and I feel that the words are up there with his best writing.

    Ah, the people at the expo did indeed sell a few different sized tools, and we picked the middle ground. The long tool had more leverage, but I felt there was a high chance that I may smack my face with the tool should anything go wrong with the log and/or the grip of the tool on the log. Working with large trees is a dangerous business. It is funny your son mentioned plates, but some of the tools came with plates so that the tool rolled and lifted the log off the ground. I have no need for the lifting arrangement and the plate reduced the size of the log that could be handled, so I sort of felt that the tool worked better without the plate. The logs and stumps here are really unfortunately large. The loggers had been in the area for over a century and they have left me with a bit of a mess.

    Yes, we seem to be in denial about the recycling material going to landfill – and that seems really weird to me, but everyone else seems quite comfortable with the situation, so who am I to argue? We try to minimise the waste that we produce in the first place and other than plastic, we have systems for handling the materials in a useful manner.

    Oh! I’m not sure either about the sugar and will look into it tomorrow. Dunno. We have several different grades of sugar on sale, but I thought it all came from the same plant.

    The verjuice sounds fascinating and thank you for mentioning it.



  39. Hi Lewis,

    🙂 My pulse rate is going up and I believe I can hear a whooshing sound in my ears that maybe my blood, all at the cheeky mention of solar power! Hehe! Good fun stuff, it is a bit of a shame that it is true. Hey, Mr Greer penned one of his finest essays this week. It’s good. Actually it is the whole next level from good. That would be excellent!

    In a strange coincidence today, the tree dudes turned up out of the blue as they were scratching around for work. I wasn’t actually prepared for them to do any work today, so I chucked them a small job to help them cover their costs plus a bit extra for the day and organised a more suitable time for them to do some work. I am always grateful for their assistance, and they have skills I can’t match – so we all rely on each other. Anyway, they did the job in about ten minutes with little fuss and so earned a fine hourly rate, which I’m cool with. I was slightly stressing about doing the job myself, so it was serendipitous that they did it instead. It was a dead tree that was wobbling around and looked as if gravity was soon to return the trunk to the earth – but who knows when?

    I spent the day today fertilising the trees in the orchard and basically cleaning up any grass that had grown around them. Plus I remove root-stock and the lower branches in the fruit trees. The fertiliser was a 50/50 mix of composted woody mulch and mushroom compost – and the trees love the stuff. My aim is to get around to the entire orchard before winter, and I might be able to get that done. I did about 10% to 15% of the orchard today – it is a big job.

    A slippery slope indeed. The card game I played as a kid was: Slapjack, although we called it ‘snap’. It is strange that card games – and cheating at card games – used to be a theme in sci-fi and fantasy books, but it has dropped off the radar, and you rarely see references to it nowadays.

    You have good taste, because I like Rum and Raisin ice cream too! Yum!

    Were the roads that bad that they were inaccessible to two wheel drive vehicles? Mate, that must have been one solid storm. Speaking of storms, it looks like there is a whopper of a storm off the Queensland coast again – it is the same storm that caused all of the flooding recently up there and it headed out to sea, took on a bit of water (note the nautical reference!) and is now headed near the coast. It is called Cyclone Oma. It is moderating the weather down here too, so hopefully it is nice enough to bring some much needed rain?

    Ethanol. A fine joke to play on us all, to even consider using it as a large scale fuel source… Bonkers! Are they still doing that in your country?

    Thanks for mentioning Paradise, California because it is a story I can relate to – and I see the same or similar responses up this way.

    How is the new grocery place? Hope you haven’t spotted any rats? Just kidding, but did you? And what were your best finds? I’ve discovered the local butcher sells bags of off cut bones, and I feed the dogs a bone every couple of days – and they love it plus it is very good for their teeth (which are white and shiny with no signs of gum disease like I see on city dogs). How is your jaw going? You haven’t mentioned it for a long time. Hopefully it isn’t an indicator of cold weather?

    Can your library system obtain the Harold McGee book?

    Haven’t watched Dr Who for a very long time, but I’m very fond of the show as I grew up watching it. The Daleks frightened the daylights out of me as a kid: “Exterminate!” They seem rather easily annoyed. I had read reports about the latest Doctor and I’m sure that she will do a good job of the role.



  40. Hi Margaret and DJ,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but I have run out of time this evening to reply. I worked late fertilising the trees in the orchard. They need a good annual feed.



  41. @ DJ
    Don’t know where it came from but I have always loved this:- ‘If you want to hear the gods laugh, tell them your plans.’


  42. @ Margaret- Your trip to visit your uncle / monk sounds very interesting. I probably should have run off and joined an order of hermit monks, early on. Too late for that now. Oh, well, next life. Probably couldn’t have gotten in. I understand you have to be Catholic. And, religious. :-). Lew

  43. RE: Greers latest article

    That one wasn’t a bad read was it? I thought very similar thoughts when living in Zeehan, Tasmania. The west coast of Tasmania has a long history of mining and logging. In the early 1900’s copper was smelted in the same town as everyone lived and the surrounding landscape for 10’s and maybe even 100’s of kilometres was completely stripped of all timber. This in an area with annual rainfall measured in the metres! Needless to say, the topsoil was quickly washed away leaving mostly rock, gravel and scattered clay. Even today the scenery around the town of Queenstown resembles a moonscape as the vegetation struggles to come back.

    As you would expect, the ecosystems are still primarily dominated by pioneer species such as gorse. If left to its own devices, I see no reason why complex forests won’t emerge again after a few centuries of soil and nutrient rebuilding by the hardy “invasive species”. Perhaps the reaction against invasive species is a guilt reflex? People, deep down, know these species would not be dominating regions if we hadn’t screwed them up in the first place?

    Having said all that, I feel Greer was a little over the top in his celebration of the zebra mussel. Surely 50 years of outsourcing manufacturing to China and relative economic decline, topics he is certainly familiar with, played a major part in improving waterways health?


  44. Yo, Chris – That whooshing sound in your ears, is probably the Tardis coming in for a landing. :-). I finished watching the season of Doctor Who, last night. OK, I guess. Two episodes were kind of clever. One was a send up of our current Fearless Leader. The other a take down of an Amazon like organization.

    Did you trot out your new peavey, and dazzle the tree dudes? A day spent in an orchard, is a day well spent. Gives you a chance to take a good long, close look at your trees. As much as they’re “your” trees. That was quit a good post by Mr. Greer. No one seemed to ask the obvious question. Can you eat Zebra muscles? Mixed results from the internet hole. They might have toxins, they might not taste good, there’s not too much meat in them. Blah, blah, blah. But, yes, you can. But, another rabbit hole trip, might have yielded something useful. To take the “wind” out of Jerusalem artichokes, cook them in lemon juice. Vinegar works, too, but doesn’t do much for the flavor. Worth a spin.

    Oh, yeah, they’re still spiking our gas with ethanol. Death to small engines. And, providing Big Ag with hefty subsidies to grow and process the stuff.

    Well, as with most trips to those “factory seconds” warehouse stores, the trip to the grocery store was a wash out, as far as what I was looking for. No brown sugar, and no olive oil, that I would use. But, I found orange chocolate balls (which were nowhere to be found, last holiday season) and some high octane chocolate bars, of which I eat a small quantity, daily. Also, some instant jello pudding. Plenty of other stuff, that I could have used, but that I’m already well stocked up on. Oh, and a six pack of paper towels. By the way, I discovered that the pudding won’t set up using almond milk. There’s a warning on the package, that it won’t, for soy milk. Also, almond milk. But, I found if I pop it in the freezer, for two hours, it sets up quit nicely.

    Teeth and jaw seems ok. I try and just take good care of them and not think about it too much. Sleeping dogs, and all of that.

    I got the McGee book, from our library. To take a look at. I perused it for a bit, last night. No real recipes, but the backgrounds and uses of different foods. The chemical reactions, when you do this or that. Encyclopedic and has a good index. More investigation required.

    I keep forgetting to mention that my mate Scott’s wife took a train trip, down to California, and back. On our Amtrack (known in some quarters and Anthrax) train system. Not a good trip. On the way down, there wasn’t a working bog, within four cars of where she was sitting. On the way back, there was no heat. Got a little nippy, going over the mountains, between Oregon and California. I’d guess, like our post office, the Powers That Be are trying to strangle it in the cradle. Not enough money for maintenance, so, privatization will look like a good idea. They keep trying. Same with our postal service. Lew

    PS: National Weather Service keeps forecasting snow for us, early tomorrow morning. Nothing, yet, from Prof. Mass. Nothing much. 1/2″ to 1″. Soon gone.

  45. Hi Chris,

    A mixed methaphor in the hand is worth at least two unnoticed puns!

    I am glad to hear that there is talk of regulating dairy again. I am old enough to remember the last days of regulation on the family farm. That farm is now still going, and AFAIK, a lot more profitable then before. But Dorrigo now only has 5 dairy farms left when there used to be 70 in the post-war period. The market is a lot more concentrated, and you have to take on large quantities of debt to maintain the necessary scale. And all for what? So Woolworths can sell milk as a loss leader for $1 a litre? Madness.

    What irks me the most, is the condescending nature of the discussion. They use the word “reform” and “freeing up” to imply the old system was created by simple folk who didn’t know any better. They had very good reasons for creating the system in the first place, reasons we are now discovering after 30 years of “successful” deregulation.

    The Tesla did indeed have battery temperature information, and you could often hear the cooling fans running on the battery pack. I am not sure if there was a heater for the extreme cold, but the car performed well with overnight temperatures of -5 Celsius.

    I didn’t mention our new house is on tank water. There is a 15,000 litre concrete tank, plus a second attached to a small shed below the level of the house. I noticed that the pressure pump would cycle randomly, sometimes every 15 minutes, even when no taps are on. I suspect a leak, and the toilet does have a slow drip. Messages were sent to the landlord, who mumbled about already knowing about the toilet leak (so why did you not fix it??). Looking around at the renovation job, the house is quite pleasant, but, how can I say it, final finish is a bit lacking. I suspect the leak is beyond his ken and he is reluctant to pay someone. Our water tank, which was full 5 weeks ago (well, that was claimed by the owner, but I now begin to doubt things he says) is now at 50%. Needless to say I have conveyed the seriousness of the matter, in a friendly, but no nonsense way and he is coming back next week. I will give him one more chance to fix it himself, but expect the tank to be refilled if the rains this weekend don’t do it for us. Otherwise we bring in the professionals*.

    Better go, back to the office today. The past 3 weeks I have been away on 3 different trips to different parts of NZ. It gets a bit exhausting at times and I don’t think I will do much this weekend 🙂


    *I tried myself to investigate the toilet leak, but the usual technique of removing, cleaning and reinstalling the flush mechanism made no difference. And the drips continued even when I turn off the inlet pipe for the toilet. Very strange.

  46. Hello again
    Yes I have read Mr Greer’s latest article and found it fascinating. It gave me a lot to think about.
    My sister and I used to play snap and had to stop because we got so angry with each other. Apart from that the family played rummy and our favourite which was a card game called cheating.

    The attempt to run a public footpath over my land seems to have come to a stop. It appears that they are not going to receive the money that they expected for the project, whoopee!


  47. Hi Margaret,

    You’re right, it wasn’t much of a mid-week hiatus, but we made up for it last night by going to the pub. I finished up in the orchard (fertilising the trees with manure and mulch and clearing root-stock, lower branches and grass) about an hour before we headed off to the pub. The job in the orchard is an epic job and it just has to be completed before winter arrives in force. It is the wallaby cages around each fruit tree that makes it such a complex job, but without the cages I would have no fruit trees to speak of. And believe it or not, I have completely run out of spare cages…

    Yeah, common sense is a rare attribute. A bit of a shame that. Raising livestock like you have, certainly knocks a whole lot of common sense and pure pragmatism into a person’s soul – how could it be otherwise? Did Michael have a remarkable memory?

    Exactly, and that’s what I do here with plants and also systems – start small and then go slowly from there. I applaud your common sense approach and would do no less if our roles were reversed. Hey, it is sort of like the corn. I trialled maybe a dozen plants last year. Seventy this year. And maybe I’ll double this years crop, in the following year. There is something to be said about not spreading yourself too thin and just picking and choosing a few projects.

    Oooo! Your winter sounds like a true nightmare to me – and I’m amazed that the grumpies have been a mythical and rarely sighted beastie until this week. If it was me, there would have been much sooking and moaning long before this week. 🙂 You are almost into spring. Hang in there little camper! 🙂

    I am very impressed with Doug’s efforts with the bees. Seriously really very impressed. Over wintering is the goal as far as I can see things in your part of the world. I recently read an article about a local lady who is breeding bees for greater genetic diversity. There was some mention of an award, and I’ll wait a long while to make contact – like when the dust settles – because the drones and Queen’s here are proven performers.

    Thanks! The ever present fire risk ensures that we keep the place neat and tidy, but it is also in our nature. 🙂



  48. Hi DJ,

    Plans, yes, let’s not excite the attention of the Gods – they seem to be full of tricksters. Now there was a short scene in an excellent, but also rather silly zombie film: “Sean of the Dead”, that relates to planning. Picture this: Zombies have taken over London, and the protagonist, Sean, is in the midst of a ‘pep talk’ with employees at the local white goods store. An employee is on the phone to a mate during the pep talk (a wise decision) and says something, something, to his mate on the phone about being ‘munted’ (whatever that circumstance is). Anyway, the protagonist then gets trapped in a word game where he is forced to admit that he has no plans for the future, and the awful question that derails him is this chunk of genius: “Yeah, like what?” (referring to his theoretical plans). Anyway, I feel that a lot of things are like that for a whole bunch of people.

    Ah, politics, and family politics too. Can’t say that I’m much good at that, but you on the other hand have shown a remarkable talent. I’m envious…

    Far freakin’ out dude! Did you just tempt the weather Gods? That is it, the parties over, everyone has to pack up their stuff, and off they go into the blue horizon. Nobody in their right mind would want to endure the sort of summer weather that we get down here. It is truly bonkers.

    Mate, Escher is one complicated artist, but the larger point stands with your art – do what pleases yourself, and ignore the judges. I sort of feel that art is a form of communication, albeit an obscure one, so don’t worry about the judges. What do they know anyway? Well, after a bit of consideration, they might know a thing or two, but can they reproduce your work?

    Ah! Thanks for the explanation regarding your Rowan. Interesting. Very interesting indeed. The species of tree is not to be found down here. On the other hand, mountain ash refers to the biggest of them all (not a backyard tree – although my eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Obliqua) lot fall into second place and are no slouches): Eucalyptus regnans. Needless to say, they are big, and in some parts of the mountain range I see the butts of the trees and then I understand just how big, the meaning of big, really is.



  49. Hi Damo,

    You’re right. The last time I was on the west coast of Tasmania, we were hoping to stay at a very small town on the Arthur River – it may have been Corinna, and we had to get the barge across the river. Alas we were unable to stay there because some tool had set fire to the forest to the north of the small town. Anyway, I was amazed to see that the Nothofagus Cuninghamii (Myrtle Beech) species were surviving and thriving in what looked to my eyes like some sort of white shale. The top soil was way gone, and the trees were not that tall. But at the same time up north of the town the trees were burning which is slightly bonkers when you consider that they are rainforest species. I grow a few of them here and they are very drought and heat hardy trees, and were once the kings and queens of the forest. It is not lost on me that the entire system is in a state of flux, and we are all actors on that stage, and so what role do we take upon ourselves becomes the most important question?

    Queenstown to my eyes is a horrid place, and we have scooted through there on several occasions without bothering to stop – usually on my way to Strahan. But hey, I like copper as much as the next person…

    Of course, there is that too and so there is truth in what you write. But at the same time, it takes a lot of effort on behalf of the critters in nature to clean up really big messes like the one Mr Greer wrote about. I suspect nature is pretty good at it too given how much practice it has enjoyed over the long years! 🙂

    Liked your quip about the mixed metaphor. Mate, that is funny as! 🙂

    I see a call out has been placed to the Green Wizards?

    The milk story is madness. I mean somebody has know and continue the dairy farms, otherwise there won’t be $1/litre milk. Incidentally I pay about somewhere between $3 and $4 / litre for organic milk, as I want no part of the super cheap milk story. But yeah, abso-freakin-lutely! I am in total agreement with you. It is bonkers, and I have no idea how the farms supply milk for that ultra cheap shelf price. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. Most of the produce I grow here has the same story and I have no idea how it has come to pass.

    I sort of suspect that the chemical reactions are enough in that car that they generate some serious heat in the battery pack. Although, I have to admit that I am considering installing a hydronic radiator in the battery room just to keep things warmer in there over the winter. Things are a bit more sluggish in the system here, than with a car – especially if you were to put your pedal to the metal! And yes, I reckon it will make a difference and if I designed the house now with what I know, things would be very different.

    15,000 Litres is so little water that I would be stressed out of my head!!!!! Far out! We’re down to 60,000 Litres and I’m uncomfortable with that! I hope the owner gets onto the problem, but you can always replace the cistern and pan easily enough yourself – especially if there is a mini-stop valve 1/2 inch valve to connect into with a flexi braided hose?

    I’m not much of a fan of travel so I hear and feel your pain.



  50. Hi Lewis,

    I do hope never to see the Tardis landing here. I’d take it as a bad sign that things may soon go awry! 🙂 Although, I doubt Daleks would enjoy the uneven surface of this property, but the cybermen, well they seem a little more adaptable to such things. It was always the single mindedness of those nasties that gave me the heebie-jeebies. Mind you, they’re a bit like ultra big corporations when you think about it for a while! 😉

    A month or two back I may have mentioned to you an awful article about the big corporation that pinched its name from a rainforest in Brazil. Same, same but different! Anyway, there was some suggestion in the article that the employees in the local warehouse were under such difficult targets and constant monitoring that they had trouble attending to their needs in the toilet. I once mentioned to you that it all comes back to the most excellent Fight Club, because I can almost hear the whispers of the down trodden employees suggesting that the urine content is high in some particular – and convenient to hand (for the employees) – products. When you’ve gotta go, mate, you gotta go. Well that is my theory anyway.

    The tree dudes would have appreciated the genius of the peavey, and also the quality of the manufacture. I trust the dudes as I’ve known them for years, but there seems to be little point in leading them into temptation.

    And exactly, I got up close and personal with some of the fruit trees and attended to their various needs. The one thing they demanded from me, I could not give them: rain. They’ve survived worse than these conditions, but still, many of the fruit trees have simply responded my not growing any further – but at least they are not dying.

    I like how you think. And yeah, look at all of the zebra mussels – let’s eat them! The same thing goes on with the blackberries here. It is bonkers. Like seriously bonkers – because I pick all of the local blackberries that I can get my hands onto – and produce a tidy jam and very tasty wine. People are so weird about things like that. And don’t start me about willows – the local authorities recently removed them out of the local river – and then it dries up and all the fish die because the freakin sun bakes the river dry during summer. What is wrong with these people? And the cheeky scamps send me a bill so I have to contribute to their bonkers behaviour. Anyway, the willows will have the last laugh because, like blackberries, they are extraordinarily hard to kill.

    Ouch! Ethanol and small motors is a bit of a problem. I noticed that the local farm machinery repair dudes now use ultra sound blasters to remove the gunk from the insides of carburettors. It must make a serious mess – and they tell me now to drain the device if it is to be stored for a while. Have I mentioned that I am using more electric tools (from the house system – not the little disposal lithium batteries) these days? I’m seriously impressed with them.

    You are wise to avoid the olive oil of uncertain parentage. The folks down here seem to believe that more Extra Virgin Olive Oil leaves Europe than is actually possible by a large margin of error. I mean it is not as if VW didn’t program in an emissions cheat into some of their engine management systems in order to allegedly gain an advantage.

    Hmm. Chocolate balls – have you ever tried Lindt chocolate balls – they’re good and very more-ish? I recall that you have a penchant for a small amount of daily chocolate, in a similar vein to my daily caffeine intake. It’s good. Had to laugh about the paper towels – always handy – because I wrote a story many years back about ‘two toilet roll terror’ and I see people walking out of supermarkets with massive supplies of toilet paper and it always intrigues me. And I do want to ask them about it, but common decency stops me from doing so. Some mysteries you just have to carry with you!

    Yeah, I put the yoghurt after it has cooked for 10 hours into the fridge for a further 3 hours and it coagulates, so maybe the almond milk is like that? Oh! I just harvested my first almond of the season the other day. It looks good but I haven’t cracked it open yet. They’re very tasty if fresh from the tree.

    Of course, I shall not mention it in future. Of course if you’re not thinking about it, the probabilities are that it is probably all good.

    That is so wrong about such a long train trip. Each carriage here on the country trains has a toilet. Imagine if it didn’t have one… Bonkers. And heating, like how hard is heating in a diesel electric train? One of my travel fears is: What if there is no toilet?

    Maybe a year or two back the postal service here raised the cost of regular stamps from $0.65 to $1.00. I read an article in the newspaper that they are going to raise the price again in order to cover their increased costs – but hopefully it will all be in line with inflation – whatever that means. Anyway: Australia Post’s former CEO Ahmed Fahour walks away with $10.8 million pay package. I have an inkling how they could save some money…

    Did you get your snow?

    Up north, Cyclone Oma is still doing strange things: Cyclone Oma weakens but impacts still expected along Queensland coast .

    No sign of rain down here for the immediate future.



  51. Hi, Chris!

    The great thing about not knowing about everything is that it gives others the opportunity to tell you things, and that is very good for their egos and makes them happy. And you get to find out stuff without any effort involved.

    I like your phrase: “Ramping it down.”

    Hi, itchy Toothy!

    Those long six steps are especially impressive. Is that your longest stretch?

    I think that your robinia/black locust is of the same species as our wild black locust here. It has massive thorns and once one of our dogs got hold of a large branch and ran about waving it at the other dogs and I thought somebody’s eye was going to be put out. I’d swear it was deliberate. Around here, the wood was traditionally used as fence posts, like osage orange. Black locust is a legume and fixes nitrogen, as you thought.

    What a lovely misty evening photo. I love it and the same goes for the morning photo.

    Hi, Scritchy! Hi, Ollie! One of our squirrels is now named Scritchy.

    At last! The log roller! I passed that on to my son and he was much impressed and covets one. He says over here they are called “cant hooks”.

    Oh, what bliss – a real rose garden. That is a dream of mine. The rose waiting to be planted looks like a sunset.

    I am making geranium plans. There will be ones with scents.

    I just looked up curry herb. It does not appear to be used in curry.

    I have just started on reading the comments. It make take me till Monday . . .


  52. @Damo
    Well there was definitely no beer at the monastery in Missouri.

    Well yes Catholic and religious is a big part of it. My uncle had a brain tumor removed not too long before we had our visit. It wasn’t malignant but apparently had tendrils so all was not removed. He was a bit “off” but mostly OK. He did take us (or should I say he told me where to drive) on a somewhat harrowing drive to see local sites some he wasn’t quite sure of the location. The monastery is located in a lovely area in the Ozarks.


  53. Hi Chris,
    I wouldn’t say Michael had a great memory but he did watch the news, the history channel and of course Jeopardy so I think he just picked up some of the facts. He wasn’t a good reader and spent a lot of time watching TV. He was interested in quite a wide variety of topics as well.

    We don’t have many scrubs or bushes other than the elderberries so I’d like to pick up some others like serviceberry. Two sides of our property are bordered by farm fields and getting up some sort of a hedge row would be beneficial.

    I also enjoyed JMG’s blog this week though I have to say I’m a bit conflicted regarding the Zebra mussels. Our book club just finished reading “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” by Dan Egan and the picture seems a bit more complicated.


    However, as you’ll see in the review above he talked quite a bit about the impact on tourism and industry as if that’s the most important thing. Poisoning, electric shock and other potential solutions haven’t worked and of course affect other species as well. It’ll work itself out eventually well after we’re gone. I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about restoration ecology. The Land Conservancy that we’re involved with uses very little herbicide but rather cuts the woody plants that tend to take over and mows some of the less desirable grasses at strategic times. Continuing to overseed is another technique often used. However, it often seems like a losing battle. There’s only so many volunteers and they have quite a few properties now. Add all the property the conservation district has and there just aren’t enough people to really keep up with it all. I could go to a workday every day of the year practically if I wanted to.

    The first few years after Asian lady beetles arrived they were just awful but as the years have gone by (about 15 I think) there are less and less though I’m not sure why. Garlic mustard is another
    plant that is taking over woodlands and there’s a lot of spraying of that plant as it can just carpet the forest floor. It is edible but not that great. I recall even the goats weren’t all that fond of it. Interestingly last year I didn’t see much of it on our property and asked some of my restoration friends. They just said it’s a biennial (yes I knew) so that was why. Didn’t explain why for years there was more and more. They do have blinders on pretty much regarding only planting native plants unfortunately. I have a book “Beyond the War on Invasive Species” by Tao Orion which addresses this issue though as she’s from the Pacific Northwest she addresses plants in that area much more. The forward is by David Holmgren which says something.

    Myself, I plant natives I found that thrive without too much care along with other plants that pollinators like such as Zinnias and Tithonia. We’ll take out big buckthorn and honeysuckles as well as multi floral rose as they do crowd out other plants but it’s a never ending battle.

    Doug doesn’t do anything special for the bees other than insulate the hives with some straw, take care to leave a good amount of honey other the winter and make up these patties of bee food (basically sugar) to supplement if the honey runs low. He still could lose all the hives as that’s happened before – they’ll look pretty healthy and strong and then in March or even early weather the hive is dead. We’re in for another bout of unusually cold weather next week – about 25 degrees F below normal. The piles of snow probably won’t all melt until June.


  54. Yo, Chris – Well, of course you can provide a bit of water to your fruit trees, when you “get all up close and personal.” :-). High in nitrogen and sterile. Probably not enough to make a difference :=(.

    Well, here the Powers That Be here, seem to have got the memo. I don’t know about willows, but trees along creeks and streams are highly regulated. Shade for the fish must be provided. Live stock (which breaks down the banks) must be fenced in. Any logging close to a stream must leave a good sized buffer zone. There’s a lot of whinging. “Over-regulation” and “Telling me what I can, and can’t do with my land.” Besides the fish, those kinds of regulations also help with flood control.

    The whole ethanol in small engines wisdom, seems to be passed along from person to person. When I looked in my owners manual, back when I had a mower, had only one very wishy washy mention of “maybe” not using gas with ethanol in it. I think I’ve mentioned, that only one station in town sells non-ethanol gas. They also sell diesel, which is easier to find. Given we’re rural, and small engines abound (mowers, weed whackers, pruners, chain saws, etc.), they’re always busy.

    Yeah, my two small squares, per day, of the darkest chocolate I can find. Goes out the window, if orange chocolate balls, are around. The rarity, in my case, is probably a good thing. I always hunt for the paper towels that aren’t just the standard sized sheet, but are perforated in such a way that you can tear off 1/2 sheets. A six pack will last me a LONG time.

    Hmmm. Here might be a good place to mention the costs of paper products. They cycle. From astronomical to dirt cheap. They don’t “go bad”. I’d say, the people you see with large amounts, are the thrifty one’s who plan ahead. Or, have large families. Or, pets. Small children, cats and dogs like nothing better than to grab the end of a roll of toilet paper (hence forth known as TP) and RUN with it! Available storage, also plays a roll. (Is that a pun?) Bored teen-agers are known for TP-ing trees, houses, cars and rival school’s statues. Safeway had a recent sale on 12 packs. I now have 24 rolls, under my bathroom sink. How long will it last? Depend on if I give Jerusalem artichokes, another whorl.

    Here might also be a good spot to mention the (I think it’s called) theory of scarcity. That at some future point, something may not be available, or not be available at a price one is willing to pay. And, there’s also a bit of self interest. If I have X, other people may not. People concerned with The End of Everything, often devote a lot of time to thinking about what will be desirable. The man with a warehouse full of TP, may be king :-).

    Well, we got our little round of snow. Probably about an inch. Wet, sloppy stuff. Now, mostly going away. Prof. Mass’s latest post is a bit … unsettled. Looks like peek-a-boo snow for the next week. Makes me twitchy. How much is it going to screw with MY schedule. Shopping, the library, trips to the Club. My needs are small, but I don’t like them messed about with :-).

    I read a humorous article the other day, about a new occupation. Which sounds a lot more useful, than say, Diversity Trainer (Phd, or otherwise.) Psycho-Proctologist. The identification and mitigation of certain kinds of people. Hmmm. Treading carefully, here. Family friendly blog, and all that. Hmmm. You may have to figure it out on your own. This kind of person is often prefixed with the descriptive term, “flaming.” Anyway, sounds like a useful occupation.

    Getting back to scarcity, and water, about once every week, or so, I wash up two cups dry rice. Four rinses, running water. I ALWAYS think of you folk and Fern Glade Farm, and think about the amount of running water I’m using to rinse rice. I bet you’ve developed all kinds of clever, water saving habits, which you probably don’t even think about, any more. Tell all.

    I started reading “Sourdough” (Sloan, 2017), last night. I think I like it even better, than “Mr. Penumbra”. Which I liked, very much. But I wonder, are they good books, or do I THINK they’re good books, because they cater to two major themes that run through my life, bookstores and cooking? Lew

  55. @ Margaret – There’s a theory that there’s only one fruit cake in the world, and it just keeps getting re-gifted :-). But, yes, there are tasty fruit cakes, out there. Usually, heavily infused with lots of booze :-).

    There seem to be quit a few monasteries in the SE, United States. I read quit a bit about a monastery, down that way, but all details have escaped me (temporarily). Kentucky?

    You may enjoy looking at this …


    It was established and run by the Servite Friars. It’s in Portland, and I remember visiting it, a few times, when I was a kid. “Up top” there was a small, walled monastery. Very silent and mysterious.

    Thanks for the tip on the book on invasive species. Our library has two copies, both checked out. Sooner or later, I’ll add it to my hold list. Lew

  56. Hi Inge,

    I hope to get to Mr Greer’s website this evening. And I had the chance to re-read the essay today and most of the comments whilst on the train into and out of the big smoke. It is very good work.

    Hadn’t heard of the card game ‘cheating’ – but that does seem to be the way of the world with such games, and down here from a vague memory, we used to call rummy by a slightly different name which may have been gin-rummy. Speaking of which my juniper bush has pine tasting berries on it. I don’t mind them at all.

    YAY! Go you. 🙂 Economics has trumped the silliness of the proposed path. But you know, I looked into my crystal ball and was sort of feeling that had the path been constructed, the hungry ocean would have quickly eaten it. Do you feel that would have been a likely outcome?



  57. Hi Pam,

    Imagine knowing everything! It would be quite a horrid outcome, and nobody would talk to you at parties. I reckon you are onto something with that thought. One of my favourite mental tools is acting dumb and asking people questions, and then passing the replies through my BS filter (TM pending) – staff at the big box hardware store in a nearby town are a classic and I suspect they have a thought in their heads which says: “fake it ’til you make it”. Except they sound like they’re talking rubbish to me.

    Thanks! One benefit of the phrase is the useful tool of slowly backing away from commitments when you find that you’ve overdone things. Works for me.

    Toothy says Hi! Sir Scruffy is outside in the dark enjoying some quiet Scruffy time with a bone and no other fluffies to annoy him.

    Nope indeed. The longest stretch of stairs is over twenty steps. Finished the work around the last step today, but need to bring some crushed rock with lime in, but that can wait until next week.

    Dogs are smart, so just sayin it doesn’t look good for your former cheeky scamp. Yes, it is the same tree and I may have to severely prune two of the three trees. I found out the hard way about the thorns and it was a harsh lesson twice learned – although I reckon they are excellent pioneering trees. The silver wattles make for good fence posts too and they seem reasonably impervious to rot.

    Some moisture these past few weeks has come in the form of mist. Not good as where is the rain…

    Scritchy is very impressed and happy at her new found international notoriety! Scritchy wants to know whether the squirrel in question is an offspring of Charlene, the naughty but also kind of lovely, white squirrel?

    Yoda says: “Saves ones back, yes, yes, the peavy it does! Mmmm”

    Do roses grow well in your part of the world? It is a dream of the editors too – and she calls it a picking garden, although I’m unsure what that means.

    Hehe! Yes, do not use the curry herb in curry. It smells very nice though and is hardy as. Not to tease you, but one of the geraniums here smell like lemon sorbet when brushed against, and another one has a mint fragrance – the hardiest of the lot smells like Pyrethrum.



  58. Hi Margeret,

    As a teacher did you notice that kids learned in all manner of different ways? And I do wonder whether both Michael and Patrick learned in their own unique ways – despite their limitations. I can’t for the life of me remember whether you taught English, but the way the language was taught to me just baffled me. A structure was laid over the language and then we were expected to apply the structure to the language, when I sort of suspect that the language evolved first by common assent, and then the rules were formulated and applied. Dunno. But that was my worst subject at school because my brain just couldn’t wrap itself around the structure. Music was a bit the same with me too, in that whilst I endeavoured to read music my mind had to actually memorise the notes and chords and use the musical notation as a reminder, more than anything else. It was complicated. It is good to read that Michael was interested in a broad range of topics, because I don’t see a lot of people displaying interest in a breadth of topics – even if all they can retain is useful and knowledgeable sound bites. Dunno. Curiosity is a rare attribute – and I do wonder if you observed that in your days with the kids?

    Ooo! The serviceberry’s are fascinating plants which I’ve not encountered before – and seem like a really good idea. I’m thinking about hedgerows too, and may use elderberries as the early base shrub as they are very hardy here – but in your situation I’d want a hedgerow between myself and the adjacent paddocks.

    The article was behind a paywall – most unfair! And it was a very timely read for your book club. How did the members cope with such a morbid topic? It would not be for the faint of heart!

    I had a train ride into and out of the big smoke today, and as well as reading the essay and comments, I also pondered your thoughts.

    Now I can’t speak for you, but if it means anything to you, I use my tools and energy to adjust the forest – in much the same way as your Land Conservancy group. The First People used to do the same thing with fire. The thing is, if we mess up the landscape enough, we have to become actors in it, and before long, we are part of the land and all of its goings on. The thing you have to come to terms with – and I’m just guessing here – is that everything that is alive in a landscape also has opinions on the subject, and will act without consulting your group, and so you have to mentally accept a less predominate role in the larger story. Plenty of people have trouble with that part of the story and have a fixed idea in their minds as to what the land should look like, but it is dynamic, whereas the idea is fixed – and the two thoughts don’t mesh very well. What do you feel about that?

    Well David Holmgren has his own battle with the willow trees, and I agree with him about their role in the landscape – but more authoritative folks say it is otherwise and so eradication is where the money is thrown. We have all manner of those types of plants too, and I always challenge people who bring up the subject to name a couple of the local indigenous edible plants that they consume from their area, and every time they go quiet, because their entire diet is based around imported plants. The subject is so bonkers that it is not funny. I stomp rather than engage, which works for me.

    The Aboriginals see the land and everything in it – regardless of its origins – as part of the Dreamtime (please correct me if I err in that explanation).

    Exactly, I plant plenty of natives too raised from local seed stocks which I’ve collected, but I also provide plenty of non indigenous plants in order to feed the birds, animals and insects and they all thrive. When I head into the big smoke I see biodiversity that could measured by your fingers – and people are oblivious to their loss.

    The straw around the bee hives is a great idea, and I’ve modified one of my hives to use 2×4 hardwood as it provides better heat insulation than the thin pine usually used in Langstroth boxes – that helps, but the straw is an awesome and essentially the same idea. Fingers crossed for March.

    And yeah, as your next week is cold, mine is hot again. Go figure.



  59. Hi Lewis,

    It is funny you mention that side of the human equation, but I was talking to people today about getting our excrement and urine back into the soil as a fertiliser. And we do that here via the worm farm. If our society keeps sending it out into the ocean, well that is a one-way-trip to the dustbin of history. Anyway, it is such a lost opportunity for our species, when we could actually be using our fossil fuel bonanza to enrich the soils – but no.

    Exactly. All of those conditions upon stream side vegetation are common sense things to do. Down here unfortunately willows are mercilessly removed from stream sides, and sometimes the shady over story is not replaced – which is bonkers. Did I mention that the local river dried up a few weeks back. It begins part of its journey from the bottom of my land and the water is held in a huge dam in the valley below – where I suspect the landholders act like Smaug, the not so friendly dragon (or any dragon for that matter) and sit on the collected water.

    Well that is an interesting comparison, because a few years back, up to 10% ethanol was shipped with petrol (your gas – why do you call a liquid, a gas?) and then a change was made and the fuel now has to be labelled as containing ethanol. Unsurprisingly, the ethanol fuel is cheaper than the non ethanol fuel. Incidentally we now import about 90% of our Oil, and the locally sourced content contains no heavy grades of oil like diesel and bitumen. Not good as the supply lines are long and nobody seems to notice.

    Dark chocolate is both rich and tasty, and I salute your good taste. And dark chocolate with rum and raisin is awesome. Chocolate with orange flavouring is pretty tasty too, and we used to call them: “Jaffa’s”, which I’m not sure whether you get up in your part of the world? Dunno. The learned author, Bill Bryson, who does not flaunt his academic titles, wrote once about the state of milk chocolate in your country – he wasn’t very complimentary the cheeky scamp. I never for one second doubted that you’d get the maximum possible life out of those roll of towels.

    Oh yeah, I’ve heard stories of cats and dogs playing with rolls of toilet paper, but have never seen the naughtiness in the flesh (so to speak). Now it might be that the Fluffies thought about doing just that trick with the toilet paper, and then the consequences of their actions flashed across their minds, and they went off to do something less naughty – but possibly still quite naughty. I suspect the volume of dogs here means that they are rarely bored. I have noticed that bored dogs get up to mischief.

    However, your larger point (and please excuse my earlier dog versus toilet paper digression) is one that I agree with – buy in bulk where ever feasible. People rarely consider that option. However, I’d have to add that the people I see with massive bulk packs of toilet paper, also don’t seem to be following the same strategy with their other goods.

    Interestingly, there are plenty of products that I purchase in bulk, like oats, unbleached flour, peanuts etc. And the stupid thing is, it really is cheaper, but I have no idea why other people aren’t willing to try that particular option? I really don’t know. Do you have any ideas about it?

    In the nearby town, the local teenagers have a funny trick of occasionally pouring soap into the fountain. The result is a whole truck load of bubbles…

    Hey, it is possible about the toilet paper King scenario. But at the same time I sort of feel that having loads of well packaged and easily transportable consumer goods would make a person a target in a situation. Better to look broke, act broke, and have a very well managed and highly productive diverse garden, if only because most people have no idea what plants look like – nor do they know which parts are toxic. I spoke to some gold and silver bugs recently and they’re fascinating people, but I also recall Gene Logsdon’s words about his family making mad cash selling produce for precious metals – it was a chilling thing to read in his final book.

    Your schedule will be – hard to predict in advance due to unforseen weather conditions! Good luck, and I want to know whether you are over winter yet? It looks set to warm up again from tomorrow with a peak of 95’F on Thursday. I’m a bit over summer conditions.

    Haha! Water is very precious here, and with little of the wet stuff falling from the sky forecasted for the next four weeks, it is looking grim indeed. We have to cut back on water, and use very little in the first place and make it go as far as we can. Baths help as they use less water than a shower. I’m unsure that we wash rice for that long, and everything is washed up by hand in the kitchen – using the air and much later cloth towels to dry them. The most water gets used in the vegetable beds as annuals use a lot of water. The orchard gets nothing, and some of the trees are showing signs of heat and water stress, but all they have to do is survive until the rains return (hopefully). I reckon we have 15,000 gallons on hand at the moment, which is probably better than most, but not as good as some.

    Speaking of which, I am absolutely fascinated by a tomato plant that has established itself from chance seed in the driveway (local crushed rock with lime) and is happily fruiting with no additional water at all. Some local feral fruit trees are like that, as are the … blackberries (which we harvest).

    That is a complicated question. I’m onto book four of The World Made by Hand series (Mr Kunstler, why did you have to kill off the character little Sarah – tetanus is a tough end…) and Mr Penumbra is the next on the list (your review has raised its place on the ‘to-read’ list). No spoilers please, well just maybe a few Sourdough ones!

    Speaking of tetanus, when I was younger the doctors did used to give you a shot for that every now and then, but I haven’t heard of anyone getting a shot for it of late. I tend to douse cuts in methylated spirits, but most people I’ve noticed can be a bit careless with minor cuts and abrasions. Dunno, but I do worry that basic first aid precautions are a bit on the decline.



  60. Hello again
    The sea would certainly have taken the path on one side but not the path out which would have been on right angles to it. Unfortunately they would have had the right to keep moving the path inland as needed. It was a potential nightmare. People who believe that they own their land can often be hit with a shock.
    Son is clearing a shed on the land that I am selling. It is full of stuff that my husband had stored there. Son is complaining that whenever something came in pairs, his father only had one of them. There are some very good planks stored up in the roof but they are the length of the shed so Son is going to have to remove a gable end to slide them out as the shed door is in the middle of the shed.
    Our weather is glorious: warm, dry and sunny.


  61. @ Pam and Chris,

    If I may interject on the topic of “knowing everything”…Many years ago, I performed a piece of (not quite) logic, in which I proved that 3 lefts equals a right (and vice versa). I then concluded (purposely and fallaciously) that, because the opposite of right is left AND the opposite of right is wrong, that left equals wrong. I continued on and realized that maximizing the amount of time one could be right approximates 80% before one becomes wrong due to being right too much. Similarly, the maximum amount of time one could be wrong is 80%, or, the least amount of time one could be right is 20%. Pareto’s Law in action.

    I then proceeded to my grand conclusion: Nobody likes a know-it-all and most abhor an idiot. So, don’t be the know-it-all who is right 80% of the time, nor be the idiot who is right a mere 20% of the time. Stay in the middle, or MEDIOCRITY IS PERFECTION.

    I thought about suggesting to the County Commissioners that “Mediocrity is perfection: at the County we strive to be perfect!” should be the County motto, but my supervisor talked me out of making the suggestion.


  62. Chris,

    I haven’t heard anyone mention Shaun of the Dead for years. I think I saw parts of it a few times. The talk of plans and goals always brings me back to the idea that there is one immutable law of the universe: change happens.

    It seems to me that Mr. Greer’s latest column hints at that while getting to the hard reality that industrial society doesn’t want change to happen that isn’t in keeping with its erroneous notion of what “good” change is. People living closer to and with the earth and nature seem to get it that changes will happen and that adapting to the changes is much healthier and easier than fighting a natural process.

    Thanks for the good word regarding my political acumen. The truth is I was scared spitless of what my dad’s reaction would be if I hadn’t stayed calm and polite even if I were seething beneath the surface. I tend to be a bull in a china shop with politics unless I force myself to sit down and think for a few hours or days first.

    OMG Chris! I guess I DID tempt the weather gods! My bad. Is it too late to unsay what I said?!?

    My Escher wood burning and a Druid I wood burned were the 2 major disappointments I had with the judges and my work. So much of the judging gets to be subjective based on personal likes and dislikes, so I just improve my abilities and enjoy, as we’ve discussed before, I think. There aren’t a lot of high quality wood burners who are active in the clubs and shows in this region, so while the judges may know quality work when they see it, they can miss some of the subtleties and most definitely couldn’t reproduce something similar.

    Which works the other way, of course. I can explain in a comprehensive and clear way the difference in ability and artistry between very good carvings of, say, a trout, one carved in the Intermediate and the other in the higher Advanced level. Both may have gotten high marks from the judges, but there is a lot of difference in quality between the 2 pieces. But being able to see that and even explain it to the casual observer doesn’t mean that I can even come close to carving a decent trout myself!

    I’ve seen large eucalyptus trees in California. They are impressive in size, that’s for sure. And the aroma is pleasant. Some of our native Ponderosa pine trees get pretty large, but they are dwarfed by the average eucalyptus.

    Oh, time to head out for the daily venture with snow. Only 2.5cm overnight, so the shovel will suffice and Big Bertha snow machine can stay resting and quiet. It’s starting to look as if things will warm up and maybe turn to a mix of rain and snow Wednesday or Thursday. That will make a nice, sloppy mess of everything! But I do enjoy the changes.


  63. Yo, Chris – Why we call petrol, gas. That’s a rhetorical question, right? Traditional, historic or common usage. It’s a slippery slope. Next we’ll be thrashing out boots and lifts. Squash and pumpkins :-). Feelings will be hurt. There will be sulks.

    Oh, I think anytime you match up chocolate and orange, you’ve got a winner. I don’t know about Jaffa’s, but sometimes I run across some kind of jellied orange stuff that’s chocolate coated. Probably good, back when it was made with real sugar. Not so good now that it’s made with corn syrup. I refuse to look at the ingredients list of the chocolate orange balls. I don’t want to know. :-).

    I had to be careful with Nell, and the exposed roll of TP, in the bathroom. As with so many other things, if I didn’t touch it, she wasn’t interested. Just part of the scenery. But before I learned that, there was one incident where she didn’t run with it, she used it as a scratching post. There was a small blizzard, in the bathroom. After that, I was careful to make sure she was locked out of the bathroom, if I was communing with the TP.

    Well, get caught a few times without enough TP, and it zooms right to the top of the list of “things to not be without.” Ahead of food and drink. But, as to why people don’t buy in bulk. Among the less wealthy part of the population, it may be a question of storage. And, transportation. Lugging home a 24 pack of TP on the bus or bicycle, can be problematic. Or, walking. Scraping together the initial investment, can also be a problem. Some people are poor planers. Either just because they are, or, they are distracted by drama (real or imagined) in their lives. Or, just the distraction of what passes for modern life. And, there are two ends to it. You’ve got to acquire and manage a surplus, and figure out the eating end of things. While avoiding waste.

    Oh, I agree. Piling up consumer goods for times of shortage, isn’t a good way to go. In excess. As Mr. Greer so often points out (and, I think we agree) it’s useful knowledge more than “things” that will be the most valuable.

    Yes, I’d keep track of that feral tomato. Fingers crossed that it also tastes good.

    Your right, doctors don’t push regular tetanus shots, the way they used to. I keep my current, but always have to ask. Maybe they’ve developed a successful (and expensive) treatment for it? Or, maybe it’s so rare in our relatively germ free environments that it’s fallen off the radar, a bit? Lew

  64. PS: I ran across this little film (6 minutes), yesterday. It has to do with consumerism, waste, etc.. And also talks about why we pile up so much stuff. It’s in our genes! Anyway. It’s interesting and there’s some animation! 🙂

    Hmmm. Why didn’t the copy and paste thing-y work? Once more into the breach ….

  65. Hi Chris,

    Queenstown is not the prettiest place. Apparently some of the locals (what few remain) are upset as scraps of vegetation are starting to return to the mountains. It is not what they grew up with they quip!

    What would be the biggest thing you would do different if rebuilding your house?

    15,000L of water is not a lot. With my free time yesterday, I decided to just fix the damn toilet myself. There was a principle at stake, but pragmatically, I had strong doubts the owner could do the job properly, things would have to escalate to a professional etc etc. Took me 10 minutes and a $1 washer + plumbers tape to fix it.

    On one level, I am concerned about people who demonstrate such little curiosity. The guy has owned this place for 14 years, and he never investigated why his tank pressure pump would cycle every 15 minutes after a bathroom renovation (“Yeah, it is annoying at night hey” was a quote straight from his mouth). The mind boggles, it really does….

    On another level, after renting my whole life, patience with amateur landlords who can’t be bothered getting the little things right is really starting to irk. If the laws and protections were in place so you could have confidence in staying in one place for 5+ years (or even a lifetime like is common in Europe) then I would happily paint, maintain and even do minor improvements. As it is, I had to stop myself from unloading the worlds injustices on the self-described “flipper” of homes (“we know what the buyers want, that is why we get such good prices”). There is no benefit to it, and he is just a product of his environment. /shrug. Hey, the toilet doesn’t leak now!

    I took some measurements, and calculated we need 90mm of rain to completely refill the tank. This weekend we got enough to add about 1/3rd to the tank. Looking at historical data, on average, we should get 16-18000 litres of water each month into the tank. I even took measurements from the shower and garden hose to check our usage. It would take 2 months of no rain for us to run out, so with luck, it should be enough storage. There is also the second 15,000litre tank connected to the garage, so can refill from that in a pinch.


  66. Hi Lew,

    Good video, thanks for sharing! A lot of those people in the vox pop’s need help, impulse buying to fill some sort of void or emptiness in their lives I guess? The youtube unboxing videos are the worst…


  67. @To all the breadmakers

    I am still pretty new at breads, but have done a few good white breads recently. Today I had a go at a wholemeal bread (1lb wholemeal flour, 1/2 lb of white with 3 teaspoons of salt). It tastes delicious, but the rise was maybe 2/3rd to 3/4 of what I got from the white, even with a longer rise and proof time. Is this normal? Do you have any tricks for getting a better rise out of the heavier flours? As I said, it tastes delicious, much better than the plain white loaf, but I would love it to be not as close textured. Maybe I should just let it rise for a lot longer?


  68. Hi Inge,

    Property titles are strange things, and I do not believe that titles extend to water lines – which are considered Crown land down here. Or if they do extend to a water line, that section of the title reverts to the Crown upon the transfer of the title. It is probably the same in your part of the world? Maybe?

    The ocean side holiday town that I’ve been visiting for three decades now (but may not be able to enjoy in the future due to being priced out by the sheer volume of international tourists), can’t seem to get around to noticing that their beach is being washed away with the town possibly next on the list. Glad to hear that the path was all talk. I would be distressed by such talk, but the path makes little economic sense, and if we can’t seem to get around to protecting entire towns from the rising oceans, well your path probably wouldn’t stand much of a chance.

    A claim is only as good as a person’s ability to hold onto the claim. 😉

    Noooo! Yes, the lack of a pair would annoy me too. Of course the item may have been intended to have been kept as a spare part for a working device? Dunno. The gable end matter is intriguing, but at least the timber was protected from the worst of the weather.



  69. Hi DJ,

    Your logic is both superb and completely beyond my comprehension. I salute you for your well honed ability to bamboozle the rest of us with your logic chopping! 🙂

    Don’t laugh, but I worked at a place once that declared in their mission statement: something along the lines of aiming to be second best. I did hope that nobody was paid terribly much for coming up with such rubbish, but you know strange things happen in the corporate world… And they were second best by a considerable margin, so I guess that they got their wish. A very strange workplace and it didn’t reflect well upon me that I was working there.

    Ah yes, death, taxes and change. A heady mix.

    Exactly. I reckon bending with the wind is often easier than resisting the wind (unless Ollie the cattle dog rips out a stinky chunk of flatulence), but yeah, I reckon the larger point is that maybe lost on us is that we live with a fragile advantage, and nature is nipping at our heels.

    I get the bull in a China shop perspective. Years ago I used to like finalising situations and now, you know, I take a more live and let live approach, and just go off and do my own thing. Yeah, losing the heat of the emotional content of a situation is a good first step.

    No, you started it! Be wary of teasing the weather Gods… The long term weather forecast here is doing my head in because I’m hoping for some rain and sometimes rain is forecasted – and then it isn’t. We’re about three inches behind the usual average rainfall now. Not good.

    You have given me a bit to dwell upon with the descriptions of your wood carvings and your relationship to the shows. For your interest, I was having a similar discussion with a group of people yesterday, and for me it boils down to the: “why are we here” pub test. As you quite rightly describe, it is not as easy a question to deduce as it may first appear.

    The Eucalyptus Obliqua trees here may eventually grow to a height of 90m (just under 300ft). I suspect at that height they may over shadow the solar panels on the house, but hopefully that is a problem for someone else. The oil is very easily extracted from the leaves. At one point in our history, it used to be a major export.

    Best of luck with the early spring weather.



  70. Hi Lewis,

    Ah well, maybe it was a rhetorical question? One of the local volunteer fire brigades just had their annual flea market yesterday, and we became curious as to the name. So we just looked up why a flea market is described as such. And yes, our worst fears were realised. It is all very French and very chic.

    My mind boggles, as I always thought that lifts were mechanical devices that lifted people within a tall building. But no, they’re so much more… 😉 Yeah, let’s not descend upon the slippery slope of silliness. Well, maybe not in relation to this minor matter.

    Hey, picked a good harvest of almonds this afternoon and there are as many again on the trees. I took them a few buckets of water just to say thanks for the almonds.

    The use of corn syrup in produce in your country really baffles me. Up north of this country, they grow plenty of sugar cane, and so most of our sugar is indeed derived from the sugar cane plant. Have you ever tasted raw corn syrup? Some of the sugar syrups don’t actually taste that nice – and sugar beet syrup comes to mind and despite its useful concentration, the outcome has earthy overtones. Still (an amusing choice of word you have to admit?) if that was all there was available, I’d be chowing down on sugar beet syrup with the best of them. I still feel that I’m in with a chance with the maple syrup – despite the lack of deep freeze. You have to be in it, to win it!

    Has Beau adjusted to his new life (from memory he ended up with Julia)? Nell would have driven me bonkers with the toilet paper game, but now that I consider the matter further, Scritchy plays this game with me that goes like this: I accidentally leave the bedroom door open when she is in the house and I’m off the property – so it is my fault that she had to jump onto the bed. Fortunately she is getting older and is less able to jump as high, but where there is a will, there is a way.

    Did you end up getting any alpaca poo from Julia?

    Oh yeah, some people may consider loofah sponges as an alternative to toilet paper – and I’ve never grown or considered the plant for such a use, but it will happily grow here. I recall visiting some ex-house mates that in an attempt to save money had begun using a telephone book as a substitute toilet paper product. Alas that nowadays telephone books don’t seem to be readily available.

    On a serious note, nature provides a surplus, I just suspect that it isn’t as large as people have become accustomed to enjoying. We wouldn’t be here if there were no surplus to enjoy.

    Mr Greer made a comparison once with the folks that supplied essential services to the pirate ships plying their trade out of the Caribbean – and the folks providing the essential services to the pirates seemed to have enjoyed a charmed (if somewhat nervous) existence. If the pirates had had half a brain, they would have rapidly surmised that they were working for the Crown, and maybe not have taken things too far. I guess some of them would have understood where they stood in that matter, but those were the ones that probably didn’t make the history books. I’ve noticed that for some strange reason regimes that execute some or all of their population seem to want to document the process in an objective manner as if that validates the act. I visited the killing fields of Cambodia and have no allusions as to what us humans are capable of doing.

    Interestingly, we have more tomatoes this year, but I reckon they are also about two weeks behind last year – but it has been warmer and drier this year, so I suspect the lack of rainfall is maybe an issue. Dunno. What do you reckon?

    A tetanus booster shot is on my list of things to do. You know it is far cheaper to prevent problems than it is to clean up the mess afterwards… But try telling people that, and they get all grumpy and stuff and go off and do something else.

    Better get writing!



  71. ‘@ Damo
    An all white flour loaf does rise beautifully but regrettably the rise lessens as you add more wholemeal flour. Rye flour is the worst of all in this respect. Unlike you, I like my bread close knit and heavy. I add very little salt but each to his own.



  72. Hello again
    I own my land down to the mean high tide mark. People who own land that used to be part of the Osborne House estate (Queen Victoria’s pad) own it down to the low tide mark. One of these gets very shirty with anyone who tries to land a boat.
    I think that my husband just kept everything and anything.


  73. Yo, Chris – French AND chic? Horrors! 🙂

    From what I gather from the bee keeping articles, your bees must have been busy to get such a good crop of almonds. Go bees! Go almonds!

    I’ve never had raw corn syrup. But, your right. One uses what one’s got.

    Beau came with the house, so he stayed with the house. If this place had allowed large dogs, I would have asked to take him. But, I doubt they would have let him go. I have no idea how things are going out there. Don’t hear from that lot, at all. Nell went to Julia’s, and, promptly disappeared.

    I got quit a bit of alpaca poo, which is spread around. I should probably get more.

    Disposal of pages from the telephone book, might cause problems with modern plumbing. It’s kind of a running country joke here, for more than a century, that the old outhouses were furnished with the Sear’s catalog. Reading material AND TP.

    Well, it’s going to be an “interesting” week, weather wise. There’s “chance of” snow in the forecasts, night and day, all week long. In the short term, an incoming low might either track north or south. We’ll get snow, but how much? Depends on that low.

    Oh, well. I’ve got plenty of stuff I can do around the apartment. All this talk of bread baking (and the novel “Sourdough”) has me getting in a break baking mood. I watched your YouTube video, again, last night. Lew

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