Steel dragon

The shop was full of quirky and fascinating items. It was the sort of shop where those mysterious items spilled out onto the footpath enticing passerby’s to purchase them. I was a passerby myself, and despite having never set foot in the shop, I always imagined that there was some old dude out the back. In my imagination he would have been smoking fragrant clove cigarettes, and if you could handle negotiating with him through the smoky haze, the dude might offer to sell you a Gremlin – for the right price of course.

I wouldn’t actually recommend purchasing a Gremlin, mostly because they seem like they’d be a lot of hard work, and they would most certainly get up to mischief. Yup, Gremlins are bad news. Anyway, I couldn’t see any Gremlins for sale in the shop, however they did have a rather large steel dragon for sale. The dragon was made from what looked to me like hundreds of individual small steel scales all riveted together. Sometimes the dragon was outside on the street sitting imperiously upon an old piece of furniture. At other times, the dragon leered at people from behind the plate glass window of the shop. It was an impressive and frightening beast with a 2 metre (7 foot) wingspan.

Who wouldn’t want a steel dragon in their garden? Such a beast would terrify both visitors and rogue Gremlins alike! The editor and I both passed-by the shop many times, and we saw the dragon leering at the population. We finally discussed purchasing the beast, and agreed upon a course of action.

When we visited the shop, we discovered that whilst the shop was indeed full of many quirky and fascinating items, the steel dragon had only recently been sold. The item was a ‘one off’, and as such there was no possibility of obtaining another one. The old bloke that ran the shop offered a steel crocodile which was made using the same technique of interlinked small steel scales. Alas, in our minds, if a dragon was put into a cage-fight with a crocodile, we believe that the dragon would win – any day of the week. Regardless, it would look very stupid if a crocodile was leering at visitors from the peak of one of our sheds. Visitors would ask awkward questions like, why have you got a crocodile on the roof of your shed? And I’d be unable to provide a coherent reply. It was a lost opportunity and the steel dragon was now in the possession of somebody else’s.

It is not all bad, because there have been times when I have avoided the awful fate of the: ‘lost opportunity’. The now sadly deceased, Sir Poopy the Pomeranian fox bane (technically he was a Swedish Lapphund), was one such time.

About a decade or more ago, I’d seen a photo of the very young Sir Poopy (not-yet-knighted at that stage of his illustrious career) at the local bakery. The advertisement quite candidly noted that: “just because he hadn’t retrieved his first ball, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t trying.” And also that: “he was free to a good home.” Well, let’s just say that for the record, by his final days, I knew Sir Poopy well enough that I could say without any hint of uncertainty that he believed that retrieving a ball was an act that was beneath his dignity.

Did I mention that Sir Poopy was free to a good home? Yes, I did. Anyway, prior to us taking him on, he’d been taken by three other homes and then unceremoniously returned. Obviously people felt that in order for a dog to be a ‘real dog’, the dog in question had to return a ball that was thrown. I guess there are dogs that return thrown balls, but most of the dogs I’ve ever met give me this look that says: “If I have to collect this thrown ball. Mate, you are seriously going to have to work hard to get the ball back from me.” Needless to say, I don’t expect that dogs will willingly return thrown balls, unless they’re bored or obsessive, or possibly suffer from both conditions.

Anyway, the advertisement for the young Sir Poopy appeared at the local bakery, and then disappeared, only to reappear again. After understanding that he’d been returned a few times, we went and picked him up. And he was a great dog. Sure, most of the time he was lazy, but when a herd of feral deer needed chasing off the property, some Jehovah’s Witnesses needed to be scared enough to find a good reason to leave as soon as possible, or the fox cubs needed to be killed – he was onto those jobs, and he just sorted them out with minimal fuss.

The other evening the editor spotted a rabbit inside the tomato enclosure. Rabbits are extraordinarily rare here, and Sir Poopy would never have tolerated a rabbit on the property. And he most definitely would not have been able to go back to his extended repose upon the beanbag whilst the awful: ‘intruder alert on deck, tomato’ klaxons were blaring. I set Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (who all right thinking people know is actually a cattle dog) and Toothy onto the job, but Ollie was too big and Toothy lacked the muscle to sort out the rabbit problem. I miss Sir Poopy and his effective laziness, because from hindsight I now know how hard he worked around here. At least Ollie has recently become much better at working with the wildlife, and he shows some promise.

I’ve been thinking about lost opportunities this week, because maybe a year or two back I noticed that the local farm and garden machine store was selling seriously high quality electric chainsaws (powered by the mains power – not batteries). Long term readers will recall that the house is powered by an off grid solar power system. In order to see whether this mains powered electric chainsaw technology was any good, we purchased their smallest electric chainsaw.

Firewood for the entire year has now been completed. Even the firewood storage bay next to the house has been finally filled this week:

The firewood storage bay next to the house has now been filled this week

Small firewood is required for kindling, and all of it this season was cut using the small solar powered electric chainsaw. All of the logs were split using a solar powered electric log splitter. Every year here, we have used less and less fossil fuels in order to produce our annual supply of firewood. And this year, I reckon we used somewhere between four and five litres of fuel (slightly more than one gallon).

It is not a bad effort, but I reckon we can do better again next year and use even less fossil fuels. So I took myself to the local farm and garden machine store, and that was when I discovered that the quality brand of large mains powered electric chainsaws were no longer made. It was such a lost opportunity that I was immediately reminded of the steel dragon.

I was able to purchase a large 2.5 horsepower mains powered electric chainsaw, but of a different brand. What that means is that whilst I’ll be able to obtain consumables for the machine, if it needs repairs, that could be a problem.

The author enjoys making good use of the solar power with this large-ish electric chainsaw

For most of this week, a heatwave has hung over the farm, as indeed it has over this entire corner of the continent. The days have been hot, and there was little relief from the heat at night. The eastern half of the state is peppered with numerous bushfires, some large and some small. The only upside is that the smoke from the many bushfires produced some excellent sunsets:

Smoke from the many bushfires in this continent produce the most amazing summer sunsets

Some of the daytime temperatures reached 40’C / 104’F, and I felt bad putting the dogs out in that weather, even though they were in the shade. But sometimes, out into that unrelentingly hot weather the dogs have to go. Scritchy is adept at producing what I call: “Sad dog flop number four”, and you the reader can see it for yourself in the next photo:

Don’t put me outside boss, says Scritchy the former boss dog who in this instance is pulling sad dog flop number four

Due to the prolonged hot and dry weather this summer, the risk of bushfire is not something to underestimate. With that risk in mind, we installed a steel cover over the front of the now full firewood bay next to the house:

We installed a steel cover over the firewood bay next to the house

We really have tried to make the most of the solar power that we generate over summer. Another use for the electricity is a 2 horsepower electric chipper chopper with which we used this week to mulch up all of the corn stalks. We bought this second hand machine several years ago and rarely use it because it clogs up easily.

The author uses a 2hp electric chipper chopper to mulch up the many corn stalks

Observant readers will note that in my right hand in the photo above, I’m holding a piece of red steel that is the same colour as the machine. That colour is no coincidence as I cut a chunk of steel off the machine. It is the second time that we have had to modify the machine in order to make it work better. It works really well now, and is no less safe than it was before the modification.

All of the corn stalk mulch was spread onto the corn enclosure and we may plant broccoli and mustard plants in there for the winter:

The corn stalk mulch was spread onto the soil of the corn enclosure

Whilst we were cutting steel, we decided to make another steel rock gabion cage. We’re preparing to begin constructing another garden terrace once the weather cools down, and we will need the steel rock gabion cage to take all of the rocks that we excavate in the process.

Another steel rock gabion cage was constructed this week

And we also continued weeding, feeding and removing the lower branches of another 30 fruit trees in the orchard. It is a big job and will continue over the next month or so.

Another 30 fruit trees were weeded and fed this week

The above photo shows just how extraordinarily dry it is here this summer. Despite that, the fruit trees are growing and surviving without any additional watering.

It is tomato season! Over the past week we’ve been hauling in good quantities of tasty ripe tomatoes. Obviously, we can’t eat all of them, so we have begun dehydrating the tomatoes:

Fresh tomatoes ready to be cut into thirds and dehydrated

Every year, we put away about seven large bottles of dehydrated tomatoes in olive oil:

The first of seven large bottles of dehydrated tomatoes in olive oil

The tomatoes are very tasty and should last us until March next year. The tomato vines themselves are beginning to die back, but that is the time when the fruit begins to ripen in vast quantities:

The tomato vines are dying as the fruit continues to ripen. The yellow tomatoes are ripe and ready to eat

For some unknown reason we grew a test patch of chilli’s this year. They’re apparently about medium heat, but all the same they’re very fiery on the taste buds.

Medium heat chilli’s are growing strongly this year. Note the beans climbing the fence in the background

Pumpkins, squashes and melons are continuing to also put on size:

A large pumpkin and a smaller yellow squash are growing strongly
This pumpkin has doubled its size within the past week

The persimmons are beginning to change colour – both the leaves and the fruit:

The persimmons are beginning to change colour

Some crops I leave for the birds to enjoy, like the plentiful elderberries:

I leave the many trees worth of plentiful elderberries for the birds to enjoy

The only downside to allowing the birds to enjoy the elderberries is that there are little seedling elderberry bushes popping up in unexpected places. And also there are many fine examples of purple bird poo:

A purple bird poo from one of the many birds that enjoy elderberries

Onto the flowers:

Colourful geraniums are worth their weight in gold in these hot and dry seasons
Colourful geraniums are worth their weight in gold in these hot and dry seasons
The many Gazania’s we planted only very recently have begun to flower
The many Gazania’s we planted only very recently have begun to flower
The many Gazania’s we planted only very recently have begun to flower
The many Gazania’s we planted only very recently have begun to flower
An indigenous Silver Banksia bottle brush flower

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 14’C (57’F). So far this year there has been 33.8mm (1.3 inches) which is the same as last weeks total of 33.8mm (1.3 inches).

64 thoughts on “Steel dragon”

  1. @ Inge – I allow bread dough to rise three times because that’s what my go-to cookbook The Joy of Cooking, suggests. The book says that the texture of the bread is improved by the extra rise. When I don’t have enough time for the third rise, I notice that the bread is not quite as fine in texture as it is when I allow for three rises. The effect is slight but enough so that as long as there is time for three rises, I allow for them. But if there isn’t, I do only two rises and enjoy the bread just as much.


  2. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the correction. Speaking of dog foxes, Ollie the cattle dog has some dingo (Canis lupus dingo) in his heritage, so it is little wonder that he is as smart as he appears to be. Did your son have any further thoughts about the sound?

    A wombat had pushed over one of my first year tree ferns today in the fern gully. I was most displeased. Anyway, I discovered the poor ferns fate through sheer chance. Fortunately, a deeper hole was easily dug and the fern enjoyed a solid watering (a bucket). Then on the way back to the house I heard a loud crash sound, and thought that it came from the inside of the house. The editor was inside the house and she thought that the sound was emanating from outside the house – and we have no idea what caused the loud crash sound. We had a good look around but it was getting dark and we couldn’t find the source of the sound. All we know is that it wasn’t nothing…

    The local pub has a very small screen which they switch on when the cricket is playing, but other than that I just avoid dining at places with screens. They are a serious distraction.

    I raise your wild and wet, with a calm and hot day!



  3. Hi Margret,

    Thanks for the feedback regarding glasshouses. I’ve sort of suspected that climate is a bit like: You get what ya get! A few years ago I visited an open garden that was one of the old 19th century hill station manors up in the more fashionable end western of the mountain range. The property had a very impressive, and very old greenhouse, which was used at the time I visited the property to grow grape vines. It was at a higher altitude than here (700ft), and I noted that the greenhouse had a fossil fuel powered heater in it, and my mind boggled at the energy use that the owners must have had to confront during serious cold weather.

    And other gardens that I’ve visited around the area have greenhouses that are largely empty.

    Have you ever used cold frames? I have a lot of spare sheets of corrugated polycarbonate, and have been dreaming up ways to use them as a cold frame for some of the plants that are frost sensitive like: chilli’s; capsicum; and eggplant. It is just slightly too cold during spring here, for the seeds to germinate, despite the fact that the plants grow well during the hot summers here. It is a real conundrum. I want to minimise the transplant shock that seedlings seem to suffer from.

    Hehe! Of course I am jealous of those prices! Hehe! Good for you and enjoy your advantages. I’m just impressed that you watched the film at the cinema. I recall the days of my very early youth (I must have been under ten) when the drive-in cinema was all the rage. There are now only two left in the state.

    Of course, I do recall that you enjoyed a warm early winter, only to get the horrendous weather that you’ve experienced so far. It looks like things are turning here towards a cooler weather pattern as tomorrow may be the last hot day for a while. Today was another corker of a day. 🙂

    Fingers crossed for calm and dry weather for Marty’s move to his new abode. How is he coping with the imminent change? And have you whittled down any of his stuff?



  4. Hi Lewis,

    I can’t argue with your logic, because the temperatures that I and the orchard have to deal with is only a day or two of that sort of temperature for the entire year. And just to add insult to injury, you’d hear me whining about how cold it is here, if it did get down that low!

    Today was another hot one, albeit slightly cooler at 93’F. I spent most of the hottest part of the day in the orchard weeding and feeding the fruit trees with another cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of compost. I finished working on the fruit trees at about 3pm and it was a bit of a relief to get out of the sun. The thing is, feeding the trees at this time of year really makes them grow much faster next year – and I really need them to grow big.

    Over the years I’ve read about areas of the world where orchards were established, and I can well understand how those areas rode the inverted bell shaped curve of yields which is endemic of any resource. I reckon the fruit trees here consume about 5,000kg (about 11,000 pounds) of compost per year – and people say that corn is a heavy feeding plant!

    They’re doing it tough over in the eastern part of the state. Here is a bit of an update: Bunyip bushfire’s devastation revealed as Dargo blazes intensify in state’s east. The ABC is the government broadcaster down here and they do an outstanding job of reporting (and keeping people informed) during these times of natural disasters.

    I believe a cool change will arrive tomorrow night and then stick around for the next week. Bizarrely enough, the cool change is a problem for the firefighters because it might whip up the winds and blow the fires in completely different directions.

    Not sure that I’d want to experience a volcanic eruption up close and personal enough to enjoy the spectacle of the lightning. 🙂

    Absolutely, the Aboriginals used to use charcoal to clean their teeth. The editor sometimes chews upon activated charcoal for that purpose. I don’t like the taste of it as they add sucrose to the charcoal and it makes me feel rather unwell.

    Yes, tentacles is the word that you heard! Our local: The blob fish was crowned the world’s ugliest animal. I tend to believe that it looks like a shoggoth from some angles.

    Recycling goods like what you did with the Oster is a good way to get useful items back into use, but a lot of things manufactured these days are total rubbish. I read some sort of mention that Chinese steel manufacturers are going to combat high ore prices by sourcing lower quality ores, and I can’t begin to imagine how that will play out over the next few years. Oh well.

    Nice work with the library. You have to admit that it is a bit like sorting the wheat from the chaff? The thing is value is a relative concept and some of the things that make my life easier here – have absolutely no value at all to anyone else – and some of those items have been superbly manufactured, and you never know which is which.

    Hey, I hear you about the furniture manufacturing. About two and a half decades ago I knew a bloke who was studying at the equivalent of your community colleges a long course on furniture making. And I recall that at one point he was distressed because the head of the course railed at them about the lack of artistic flair in the students. I often wonder how that course ended up for the bloke.

    A tidy use for a sarcophagus. The owners may have had something to say about the matter – but that would be a difficult thing for them to complain about. Hey, the other day I was at the local cafe and two young ladies had hitched their horses to the adjacent building and were enjoying a coffee. I thought to myself that it was about time that people used their horses for transport rather than just great big pampered and expensive pets. They looked like they were having a good time with their ride. Oh, I forgot, at one point in the old main road leading up and over the mountain range, there is an old concrete horse watering trough – not that anyone notices it. I’m starting to feel that I should get myself some old school quality hand pumps – and then work out how to fix them when they need fixing before they need fixing. There are some good cast iron units floating around – and it couldn’t hurt having them here, just in case.

    What I want to know is did Princess score any of the spongey muffin? The oil tends to produce a fluffier bakery product, so I reckon you are onto something with that, but the carrots in water – they’d be like water sponges for sure. Dunno.

    The “On food and cooking” book sounds epic! It may make an excellent present. Thanks for the review.

    Yeah, I’m busting to start the Camulod series, but first the Mr Penumbra book is calling my attention.



  5. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for the explanation. I was beginning to believe that I may not have planted the corn kernels deep enough. I had a few corn stalks lodge this year, so we ran string inside the enclosure and that was good enough to stop them from blowing over.

    Oh yeah, you get some epic wind storms in your part of the world. It is mostly protected from heavy wind here as I’m in something of a huge amphitheatre.

    For your interest, in earlier years the asparagus spears used to occasionally fall over, but as the plants get older, they seem better at being self supporting. Dunno.



  6. Yo, Chris – If I wanted to get all soppy, about it, I’d say “You weren’t meant to have the dragon.” More to the point, in the tat trade, is “You snooze, you loose.” :-).

    Some one will aspire to the title of “…the rabbit killer.” I think we’ve really lost the art of adding description, to names. Eric Redbeard, etc.. When I was reading “The Royal Nanny”, I kept thinking they should just refer to the Duke of Windsor as “Edward the Abdicator.”

    That’s a fine lot of fire wood. Ready for winter, if winter would ever deign to show up. So tell me, does it arrive in those big tins? Is there a special tool to open them? Do you need a huge can opener, or is there a key on the top, like a sardine tin? 🙂

    We’re getting some fine sunsets, here, too. It’s 23F (-5C) right now, at 3am. So, it could get colder. Why am I up at 3am? Long story. I actually went to bed at 11:30pm.

    The gabion looks good. Do you tease Ollie, and tell him your building a cage with his name on it? “This is where naughty dogs go!” Probably doesn’t take teasing. “…all the rocks that we excavate.” Wishful thinking? Hubris?

    So, the tomatoes in the olive oil? Do you have to process them at all? Hot water bath, and all that. Or do you just plunk them in a reasonably clean bottle and fill it with olive oil? Inquiring minds want to know.

    The elderberries are very pretty. I’m sure the birds enjoy the aesthetics. The indigenous bottle brush looks rather other worldly. “Strange visitor from another planet.”

    I got “Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration” (Orion, 2015), from the library. Forward by David Holmgren. Can’t say I’ve run across anything I disagree with. I think it’s basically saying, to restoration (of what? to when?) fascists, “Oh, lighten up!” Cont.

  7. Cont. I wonder if your orchard will require less compost, over time, as the soil becomes richer and richer? As those trees get bigger and bigger, they’ll be dropping a good load of leaves on the ground.

    That was quit an article on the fires in eastern Victoria. I noticed there was a reference to Marie Kondo (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.) All quit the rage, here. The flavor of the month. Give it a year and her books will be clogging the shelves of the op shops. Followed closely by “Lagom” (Swedish balanced living) and Danish “Hygee” (getting cozy.) Then there’s the Swedes, with “Death Cleaning.” Leave it to the Swedes to call a spade, a spade. We’d call it “down sizing”, or “getting your affairs in order.” Always something new coming down the pike. Some new foreign concept to catch everyone’s attention, for a season. Now it we could just get behind the foreign concept of socialized medicine …

    I quit like the blob fish. He’s like a cartoon character. I’m sure Disney has already nailed down the film rights. He just looks so world weary. :-).

    So, are you going to go old school, with the hand pumps? Something like this …

    I had a hard time coming up with even an illustration of one of these, in action. Then, I found the very short film clip. These came in two to eight person models, plus one to hold the hose, back in the 19the century.

    I picked up a new DVD from the library called “Secrets of Britain’s Great Cathedrals.” I though it might be an hour long overview. Turned out to be a three disc set with 9 hour long explorations of two cathedrals or abbeys, per episode.

    Gloucester Cathedral has installed solar panels, on their roof, which provide 25% of the abbeys electrical needs. Now if they reduced their overall electrical use by 75%, they’d be self sufficient. Which may happen, at some future time. If they could get the parts. I wonder if they have one fellow who sees to all the care and feeding, of the system?

    Another thing I happened to think was, if you can set aside the religious aspects, and just look at them as architecture … as buildings, they are truly marvels. Lew

  8. Chris,

    Yes, Spokane has seen and is seeing an influx of people. When my family moved here in 1967, the city’s population was about 167,000. The County had about 250,000. There were fields and trees between the small towns. Now, the city is over 217,000, the County over 400,000, 2 unincorporated areas are now good sized towns east of Spokane, and the empty areas between towns are mostly gone. The metropolitan area now stretches with one small break from Airway Heights (just west of Spokane) to Couer d’Alene, Idaho. The metro area boasts well over 500,000 people and is growing and sprawling.

    Water will become an issue in 30 years or so, because of both climate change and the sheer volume of people. The Powers That Be (PTB) want us to curtail our individual water usage, while the PTB still water the city parks during the hottest part of the day, as do many commercial businesses. The City loses more in evaporation on one day miswatering any of its large parks than I will use in a year.
    Not to mention the pristine gold courses, which are also water hogs.

    And many people quit watering their yards years 10 years ago during a “Brown is the New Green” campaign out of City Hall. Seriously, that was the slogan of the campaign to get individuals to cut back on water usage. So that meant that a lot of trees and shrubs died and were left to stand. Yes, many of these have fallen during some of the severe wind storms. Not to mention that there are now, due to the dead trees and the tress being removed for new property development, significantly less large living things sucking the carbon out of the atmosphere. Very few people who quit on their lawns bothered to replace them with more dryland things that need minimal water during the summer. The yards are just dead and brown, not even any weeds growing.

    I remember the days of CB radio, too. As you said, the internet does much the same thing, but at a much higher energy cost.

    Too bad about the Steel Dragon. That type of thing has happened to me countless times.

    I’ve owned 2 electric chainsaws that run off the mains. Both were of alleged good quality from good companies. Both had interior parts burn out and wear out (dratted plastic gears!) much faster than what a gasoline machine would have done. And they couldn’t be repaired. I’ve got a 3rd that has been in its original packaging since I obtained it 9 years ago.

    Good job on the steel over the wood. And the olive oil lubricating your dried tomatoes. Those look good.


  9. Hello Chris
    Son has conceded that it must have been his dog that I heard. It will have been the bitch Tess as she runs free. Her younger brother Woody stays close to home while Tess likes me and visits many times a day. Neither Flynn nor Ren can be left loose. Flynn goes for miles and has to be collected. Ren has discovered sheep and will travel miles to chase them. A farmer told Son that he might shoot the dog and Son said ‘Be my guest’.


  10. Hi Lewis,

    There is a bit of fatalism to the story of net getting the steel dragon. If I’d acted quicker and simply purchased the beast, I’d be showing photos of a dragon leering at visitors alike from high up on the roof of one of the sheds. But then it also makes for a good story highlighting the topic of regret and missed opportunities. I like your cheeky quip too! Snoozers are losers. I was wondering whether I should type loosers, just to add emphasis to the silliness?

    Titles are good things and they tell a story about a person’s character and achievements. People rarely seek the quest these days, which is a bit of a shame. The place would possibly be a bit more lively if folks took themselves off on the occasional uncertain quest. Nothing wrong with that as I reckon it is hard wired into our species. What do you reckon about that?

    Started Mr Penumbra today and it is engrossing from the first sentence. 🙂 Thanks!

    Winter is a remote possibility with the way that the climate is playing out. A local gardening catalogue had red bananas for sale… It rained here today and that amounted to about 1/50th of an inch of rain. Better than nothing. I’ve got the sniffles tonight as I worked in an extraordinarily hot building today. I joked to them that POW’s of the Japanese during WWII were put in hot boxes as a form of torture. Nobody thought that was funny, but I spent most of the day in the hot box – and now I’ve got the sniffles which I don’t find to be very funny.

    If you are at all interested in just how extreme the climate has been down here during summer, here is a brief 5 minute tell all video: Summer climate wrap up. Shocking – and coming to a store near you! Probably not though.

    Very funny. I’ll keep the steel for next year. We’ve had to hold off filling up that firewood bay in earlier years because of the serious risk of bushfire, and the steel is as good a cover as any.

    Why were you up at 3am? I woke up in the middle of the night last night because the outside air temperature was rising and hot air was blowing across me. Earlier in the evening it was cool and I had mistakenly thrown a blanket over me. It took a while to cool back down again…

    Yes, absolutely! The tomatoes are dehydrated to the point that they are like chips, and only then do we store them in the olive oil (which is used in cooking once the jar is empty of tomatoes). It is good stuff! I can’t recall whether the glass jar was sterilised, but it might have been just washed and dried. Just checked. No, we are very casual about such things – and they’ve never gone off in the past. The trick I believe is in dehydrating all of the moisture from the tomatoes. Other items are sterilised more thoroughly, but not all.

    Given I have to put up with close relatives of the Ravens and also the parrots, well let’s just say that they all enjoy living large here and I cater to their needs. They probably do enjoy the aesthetics, which not enough people bend their minds towards. We could do better as a species, and as object example A, I refer to Mr Kunstler’s most recent March 2019 expensive Grey Hotel thing. I had a bit of a start as I thought he was referring to Damon Albarn OBE. That’s a relief to discover that I was in error. Damon seems OK to me.

    I’m used to seeing the bottle brush flowers and to my minds eye they look normal and expected. The honey eaters adore the flowers and I encourage those plants where ever I discover them. I tend to feel that ‘Love in the Mist’ plants look as though they were deposited here by Space Lizards – whatever they are? Hey, speaking of which, our government knocked back Mr Icke’s visa application and fair enough too. If folks could travel between one star system and another, chances are they won’t turn up here with spears…

    Yes, I’ve met him, he’s a lovely bloke. And absolutely, he has a lot of good common sense to say on the subject of invasive species. Most of the time my forest policies are dictated to me by folks that have never even seen a forest, they live on the ruins of a denuded forest, and they talk a big game that doesn’t stack up well when pitted against fire (which is a natural occurrence – like your volcanoes). And then everyone is surprised when the forest goes up in flames. In the island state of Tasmania, they lost about half a million acres to forest fires this summer. I’ll be interested to see whether the dust emitted into the atmosphere has a cooling effect on next summer. Dunno. Anyway, it is so late in the game of empires that we have to do something different…

    That is my thinking about the compost and the trees. I told the folks who run the local sand and soil business recently that I’d be gutted if they were to close their doors – and they seemed pretty chuffed with the feedback and support.

    Death cleaning is a great metaphor too. The Swedes are pretty switched on to define it so. Gee, speaking of Europe it is getting really close to Brexit D-Day…. Hopefully they get distracted by some Eurovision contest.

    The hand pump was a little ripper. The thing I wanted to know was how come they gave up at the 15 second mark? You’ve gotta keep it up for the long haul me mateys! 😉 They have the old cast iron pumps in use on mineral springs in the area – and they work a treat and can lift water from around 26 foot which is impressive.

    Funny that you mention cathedrals, but I walked past a catholic cathedral today and noticed that some cheeky wag had spray painted ‘666’ on a modern glass window in the building. I was impressed that the cheeky wag knew both the number of the beast and not to damage the old building which dated back to the late 19th century. A very high up Catholic, in fact the highest, has been recently been convicted for pedastry – which is not a nice thing to be convicted of. I could tolerate pedantry, but not the other sort.

    Oh, it is not lost on me that we are going back to being powered by the sun. There is a surplus in there, but it won’t provide enough surplus to enjoy an annual overseas holiday.

    Mate, I’ve always enjoyed the architecture of cathedrals, from their commanding positions over the landscape, to the sheer scope of the communal effort that would have been required to construct the beautiful buildings. The one at the more English than the English school that I attended had a huge vaulted ceiling, and our crew regularly sung the hymns with gusto.



  11. Hi Inge,

    It is nice that the local farmer and your son know each other enough to know where Ren originated. You know, it might be that your Ren has a talent for sheep herding? I’ve seen working dogs and they are like coiled springs ready for action, but they are most definitely not free-independent-thinkers like what those two appear to be.

    Tess sounds like a little sweetie, and if your son tires of her wandering and visits, she’d be most welcome here? 🙂 Yeah, Toothy was like that and he used to roam, but old age has indeed wearied him, and there is the simple fact that the other dogs that know that if they go along with Toothy’s wishes they will end up in serious trouble. Toothy even conned the polite and gentlemanly Sir Scruffy early on into going for a sojourn, and oh boy was Sir Scruffy annoyed with Toothy when he made it back and he was upbraided. Who would have thought that dogs lie?

    It may be that Flynn and Ren will never earn a title?



  12. Hi DJ,

    Far out, that is a big influx, of people and there is no way that infrastructure could keep ahead of such population growth. Out of curiosity, what is an unincorporated area? The absolute majority of land areas here are controlled by a local council which are accountable to the locals and the state government. One exception that comes to mind is the fascinating: French Island (Victoria). In a strange twist of fate, I now know somebody who lives on the island.

    Yeah, that is the thing. You can cut your water use back, but are we accustomed to seeing what that new situation looks like? Most of the garden beds here receive no watering (other than vegetables which are watered a little bit regularly) and it has taken many years to get my head around the combination of plants that survive and thrive in such a hot and dry climate – which can occasionally be also hot and very wet in some years. I’m no fan of using the ground water to water the plants above ground (unless their root systems can reach down into the water table for themselves). It is a good short term thing, but longer term how can anyone be not tempted to pump that resource dry?: Destocking and desalination underway in WA as autumn breeding begins amid water crisis. WA refers in that instance to the huge state of Western Australia. Water will be a serious limiting factor upon the size of the population down here – and my gut feeling is that we are already in overshoot due to the prevalence of desalination plants.

    Yeah, the CB’s were cool. I was always mildly envious of people with the more powerful SSB transceivers that could occasionally speak with people in other countries.

    It is how the cookie crumbles isn’t it? Mind you I tend to like baking my biscuits so that they are crunchy.

    The one that I missed out on was a Sthil MSE230 C which is a very good brand – and I have no complaints that those particular machines are not repairable. This talk of plastic gears may make me pull the machine apart just to see whether I have to suffer the same awful fate? For some reason I thought that the one I purchased was direct drive to the sprocket (which is a consumable item and hopefully not plastic). Ook! The mind boggles that anyone would think to use plastic gears in such a hard working beast…

    In a strange twist of fate, I discovered this new electric one has no warranty due to unforseen and unimagined circumstances which I’m pretty unhappy about. Grumpy. Grumpy. Grumpy.

    Yeah, the olive oil is great to use later in the year when the tomatoes have been consumed. It is tomato infused!



  13. Hello again
    A quick correction: Tess is the mother of Ren, not his older sister. I received a phone call from another neighbour yesterday evening who couldn’t raise Son. Tess was there and they weren’t sure whether she belonged to Son or not. All was well as they liked her just wondered whether someone was missing her. They couldn’t get to Son because he is an early morning person and would have been fast asleep. I am a late night human being.



  14. Yo, Chris – Quests? Why go to all that inconvenience when you can plop on the couch, in front of the tele, and watch other people do their quests? And they get paid for it! :-).

    Well, that was quit a bit of a climate wrap up. I was impressed by how the weather guy is describing all the horrors of a climate apocalypse, with a rather serene, off hand delivery. Reminded me of a scene from “The Newsroom” tv series. Jeff Daniels, as the reporter, is interviewing a climate scientist. Everyone in the studio catches on to the rising horror of what the man is saying. But, he’s just mellow. “Too late. We’re stuffed.” It got down to 19F (-7.22C) here, last night. No worries. It’s going to get warmer. The snow is coming back. Or rain. Or both. I can say with absolute certainty that we WILL have weather.

    Most nights, I’m just rolling TO bed at 2 or 3am. But, I got to bed before midnight, because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Don’t know why I popped up at 3am. Wasn’t particularly bothered about anything. There was a bit of a glitch, early on. Every year we have to fill out some paperwork, to determine our rent for the next year. Produce financials, and stuff. With a bit of back up paper work, to prove “Yup. Still poor!” :-). The last bit I needed was a declaration from the State retirement people. Easy enough to get. Just print it off their web site. Which, was down for maintenance. :-(. But that wasn’t enough to keep me up fretting. I’m weeks under the deadline, so, no worries. So, I can’t really say that was the reason I woke up. I must say, I do like this retirement gig. Most times, sleep when I’m tired and get up when I’m not.

    Thanks for the info on preserving the tomatoes. My “Love in the Mist” was getting ready to flower, last fall, and something neatly nipped off every flower bud! Deer, bugs or slugs? I’ll have to take more care, this year.

    I’d seen those hand pumps, in action, in a movie, somewhere over the years. So, I wanted to get a shot of them in action. But, other than that clip on YouTube, no. Plenty of pics of them in museums, but, in storage, they have both rails in an “up” position, and you really don’t get a good idea of how they work. I thought it would be easy to find an illustration of stalwart 19th century firemen, working as a team, pumping away. But, no.

    Most of the cathedral and abby buildings we see today, are the Norman or Victorian overlays. When the Normans came in in 1066, they had a huge building program to “put their stamp on the land.” A lot of the old Anglo-Saxon churches were torn down and re-built. But in some, there are still bits and pieces of the old structures. The Black Death hit churches, hard. There’s a bit of journal from one of the monasteries, by a friar. Every one else has died. He’s the last one, left.

    And then, there was Henry VIII and the Reformation. Some places were razed to the ground. Others made it through, relatively, unscathed. If you fell in line behind the king, and got rid of all those papist statues and paintings. It also helped if some previous monarch was tucked close to your high altar. Sometimes, art work was stashed away. Hidden. There’s one church that had about 100 statues, of saints and angels. The monks hid them. No one knows where. If found, that will be quit a trove. One town bought back their church, from the king, for the price of the lead in the roof.

    And, there’s always little mysteries. In Gloucester, there’s a nifty carving. It’s of a mason’s bracket.

    A mason’s apprentice is serenely falling through the air, while the master mason throws his hands up in horror, below. A commemoration of some long ago tragedy, the details of which, have all been lost.

    Well, I’m off to the Master Gardener’s meeting. I wonder what dithering nonsense the Garden Goddess will get up to, this year? Once we nail down the plots, I usually duck out. But, I do need the Master Gardener to maybe identify a plant which is overtaking a bit of my patch. I want to know, is it useful? Pretty? Or should I be beating it back with a stick? Lew

  15. Hello again
    Oh dear, a phone call from another neighbour who is further away, to say that Tess is there. Why the heck do they phone me? Son agrees that, as with the others, he will have to stop letting her run free.
    Have just watched ‘Ray Mears goes walkabout’ a journey across Australia. It was very good television. I was particularly fascinated by the mound pools which I had never heard of before, and their connection with the great arterial basin.


  16. Hi Inge,

    No doubt the neighbours probably phone you to complain about something because they want to avoid confronting your son – who is actually responsible for the canine situation – if anyone could ever be said to be responsible for a canine situation!

    Well, one can see where Ren gets his temperament from, but I suppose he’ll settle down in time as he ages? Until then he might have to be confined or fenced in. Dogs can learn when they put their minds to that task and are given incentives to learn.

    Yes, early mornings are not good. I hear you and am a bit of a night owl myself. Alas this mode is at odds with the world, but a person can only do what they can. 🙂

    Thanks for the reference to the show, I’d never heard of the person before. It sounds excellent and I’ll see if I can track down a copy of the series. I assume you are watching the entire series?



  17. Hello again
    I have watched Ray Mears’ programmes for years, they were always excellent. Then things collapsed a bit, but now it appears that he is back on his old form. This particular programme was a repeat so I must have missed a series after I got fed up with him. I shall have to keep my eyes open.


  18. Hi Lewis,

    That’s funny about the quests. I recall that was a theme in Tolkien’s early parts of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy – the need by the characters to avoid an unpleasant and uncomfortable quest. The author would have seen some unpleasant things during his time in the service, and do you reckon that would have informed his world view and story telling abilities? His work always had the smell that things had been better way back in the distant past where culture was higher. The Silmarillion had that recurring theme throughout every story.

    Mate, the weather couldn’t get stranger down here if it tried: Victoria’s Mount Baw Baw has bushfires and snow all in the same week. Bear in mind that that particular mountain is 3,000ft higher in elevation than here. All the same this morning it was drizzling and it looked as if winter had finally arrived – and it was finally bitingly cold! I’m grateful for the tiny bit of rain that we received. But no wonder at all that I have the sniffles now. I still had to work today – and yesterday.

    Exactly too late indeed! What will be will be, now -and it is baked into the muffin (to borrow a relevant oven and much discussed bakery product). You should try the muffin recipe with sour cream if you get a chance! It is more in consistency like a dry-ish cake. Yum!

    I’m a night owl too. Early mornings are a pain – they’re just not clear to me. Dare I suggest that the patterns are all wrong at that time of the morning? 🙂

    Keep on top of your administrative tasks – I’m not kidding around about that. Paper is used these days to beat people around the head. What happens to the folks who are incapable of performing those tasks for one reason or another in your building? It is pretty hard to expect everyone to comply with red tape which can be complex and confronting for some people.

    No problems at all about the tomatoes. You just have to get all of the water out of the tomatoes in the dehydrating process. Otherwise they grow fungi.

    Yeah it is funny that something as simple as that pump arrangement can now be lost in time. Gone.

    The Black Death improved the lot of the commoner (if they survived) – there are some upsides to that dark story and de-populating the countryside and reducing pressure on scarce resources was one upside. I read that prices paid for labour improved markedly after the Black Death. I’m beginning to believe that the next Great Depression Mk II will not be caused by a lack of credit and falling asset prices as in 1929, it will be caused through the concentration of wealth leaving not enough consumers with the ability to consume. Dunno.

    The falling apprentice mason was quite the carving – and yeah my gut feeling says that it was a memorial to some young bloke who fell from on high during the construction of the cathedral. That is bad these days, but back then it would have been fatal. It was strange that the young mason had such a beatific expression on his face. I doubt the construction of the cathedral required human sacrifice, but that was what happened, I guess. Buildings sometimes ask a lot of us humans.

    Hopefully the folks at the meeting don’t prattle on too long. I have a personal distaste for that aspect of meetings. The orator has to learn to read the crowd, otherwise they might as well be talking to themselves. I’ve noticed that a bit of that gear goes on in Parliament. Honestly, you would think that they would have something better to do with their time – like work.

    Sniffle, snuffle…



  19. Yo, Chris – Yes, I’d say Tolkien was impacted by WWI. As was that whole generation of writers and artists. “The Lost Generation.”

    That was quit an article about the brush fire evacuations and snow. Define “bitingly cold.” :-). It got down to 30F (-1.11), last night. As with last Wednesday, we have a forecast of “slight chance of snow”, this morning. Which may screw up my Wednesday morning schedule.

    We’re going to go back on the dreaded Daylight Savings time, again, this weekend. Screws up my internal clock (what’s left of it) for days. Now if someone wants to issue a useful Executive Order, they could abolish all this nonsense with the stroke of a pen. Might drop the White House an e-mail (or, maybe I should Tweet?) with that suggestion.

    I don’t know what happens if you don’t get your paper work in here. There was some vague bit about consequences, when they sent it out. If there’s some raise in the rent, your libel for it, when they finally run you down and beat it out of you. Or, something. The latest hoop-la is that “due to security concerns”, they’re doing away with the master code on the front door. And, limiting each resident to one key card. Without prior notice, they disabled any extra key cards, which created a lot of chaos. And, more hard feelings. So, I guess if I forget my key card (it’s happened a few times), I’ll just freeze to death on the front steps. If there were steps.

    Yes, I’ve read a bit about the economics of the Black Death. having read a lot about the Black Death. Can’t pass up a good disaster story :-). Actually, something I knew (but didn’t know I knew) was that quit a bit of the damage to cathedrals happened after the Reformation. When Cromwell’s armies were thundering back and forth across England, chasing Royalists, he often billeted his soldiers (and their horses) inside the cathedrals. That lot was a bunch of zealous iconoclasts, who smashed up anything left that smacked of popery.

    Maybe the apprentice had that beatific expression on his face, as he was firm in the belief that he’d go straight to heaven? I think even the privet , less religious folk who worked on the cathedrals had a sense of “doing God’s work”.

    The Master Gardener meeting went well. The Garden Goddess was under the weather, and couldn’t attend. Finished up in a third the time it usually takes us. Wonder how that happened :-). Nothing startling. We assigned patches with a minimum of fuss, and I’ve got the same spaces as last year. The mystery plant, that’s taking over a corner of my garden turned out to be … bachelor’s buttons. When I mentioned I’d dig some of it out, the Master Gardener’s asked if they could take it for their yearly sale. They have a yearly sale, as a fund raiser. Quit popular. I’ve never been. Of course, I gave my permission. Worthy cause, and all that. That’s one thing about the Master Gardeners. They work in so many places, that a lot of plants, get around. Cont.

  20. Cont. There were a lot of interesting articles on the Atlantic Magazine website. But, since I’m reaching peek links, I’ll just link to the one on coffee K-cups. The lack of recycling aspects.

    They also had a short 11 minute video, “Countdown to Day Zero” about Cape Town, South Africa, running out of water. The first major metro area to do so. There was also one on “No silver bullet for climate change.” And, lastly, “Is This The End of Recycling?” Lew

  21. Hi Chris,

    The steel enclosure for the wood sure illustrates how different your risks are from here. For us tornadoes are surely the top risk.

    Marty is moved! He informed me the night before that his girlfriend, Gwen, would be there to “help”. I wasn’t too pleased but it ended up OK and she actually was a little helpful. Marty had made great strides cleaning his kitchen and bathroom per my instructions but I don’t think it met most people’s definition of clean. I thought it best not to inform Doug how much of Gwen’ s stuff we would be moving ahead of time but he got the picture once he saw how many boxes had her name on them. That was the only labeling on any box – none were labeled with the contents or room. In the end there were only narrow paths between all the boxes but he informed me that they would be unpacked soon. This move sure out into focus how out of shape he is. There was a great deal of huffing and puffing and many breaks by him so he could catch his breath. There were white spots all over the walls in his o!d apartment where he had spackled and sanded the many holes he had put in the walls over the years. This was not required by the apartment complex but he decided to do it anyway rather than clean well. This project resulted in a fine layer of dust all over everything which ended up being vacuumed up by me even though I had told him earlier that I wasn’t cleaning. oh yes, I forgot to mention the numerous little pieces of used sandpaper strewn about. He had to turn in his key yesterday and it was evident he’d never have the old apartment in even the slightest shape to turn over without more help. I told Doug that we are officially retired from moving people and cleaning out their old places. Even Marty couldn’t surpass Patrick for junk and dirt. Fortunately we are both still upright and not too much the worse for wear.


  22. Chris,

    I don’t think very many people have thought about the water issues. And letting things go to infertile dirt is not the answer in an urban area, especially when trees and larger shrubs are lost. While desalination works, my understanding is that it is very energy intensive. Well, unless there’s newer technology for it that I could have easily missed.

    I had a 250mW CB as a kid, then upgraded to an amateur radio license, which has long since lapsed. My wife thinks I need to get back into it as another hobby. My first reaction is that I don’t have enough time for things as it is, but then, well, it’s very likely that I’ll “collapse now and avoid the rush” in 23 months, which will open up some time. Maybe.

    Hopefully you have metal parts in your chainsaws! I was pretty irritated with the plastic garbage.

    Okay, unincorporated areas. So in Washington State, there are cities and towns, the vast majority of which have “incorporated” so that they have their own city councils, are in charge of their own road maintenance, police and fire services (or contract out for any or all of these), and collect taxes on all the properties within the city limits, as well as some additional sales tax above the basic Washington State sales tax. (Groceries are tax exempt.)

    Everything not within an incorporated city is unincorporated. There are several small “unincorporated” towns within Spokane County, for which Spokane County government provides all the services and collects all the taxes not earmarked for the State of Washington or schools or rural fire districts. This is the vast majority of the land area within Spokane County, which is then responsible for all infrastructure on public roads. There are a lot of private roads over which the county has no jurisdiction. The State of Washington is responsible for all State and Federal highways, as well as for any roads within State Parks. So, if Fernglade Farm were in Spokane County, it would be in an unincorporated area.

    That answer the question?

    We hit +3C yesterday and +5C today, both warmer than was predicted. They say we’ll get some snow tonight and cool back down for a week before the thaw and consistent temperatures above +6C arrive. I’m skeptical. It’s March, and once the temperatures get above what has been forecasted, things tend to stay warm and melt off quickly. In other words, from 35cm of snow on the ground to instant flooding. Normal spring, albeit several weeks late.


  23. @SLClaire

    I am still a bread noob, but my best bread always has had a chance to rise 3 times (2 in the bowl, 1 in the breadtin). I did some reading, and technically it is called a ‘prove’ when it happens in the baking tin. Or so they say anyhow.


  24. Hi Chris,

    RE: Very belated replies

    I can only imagine you would do a skillion roof for ease of construction (it must be easier right?). Having a row of windows along the eave also looks real nice I reckon.

    I have thought well of a similar setup using two shipping containers spaced apart, and covering the gap with a skillion roof. You get a nice big living area, plus two distinct rooms offset at each end. This is sorta what I mean:

    The toilet drama continues. Mrs Damo bought a new, very pretty toilet seat (coral reef themed image on seat, only $10) to replace our slightly yellowed seat and lid, but neglected to think about the logistics of fixing the seat to the toilet itself. A trip to bunnings has revealed the challenges of different seat types, especially ones (like ours) which have no access below the seat. It is all very complicated, but I have some new plastic fittings which promise to secure the palace of contemplation!

    Life goes on, I have a strong feeling that sausage + fried onion and BBQ sauce on a hot dog roll is in my immediate future!


  25. @Lew

    Bohemian Rhapsody was pretty good wasn’t it? I must admit, as far as movies go, it was actually a little weak (what did we learn about Freddie we didn’t already know?). But the music was awesome, and the live aid concert finish was very moving. I now have a strong urge to acquire a decent record player and some Queen LPs!


  26. @Lew RE: Bread

    Don’t worry, I indeed have a *real* bread knife 🙂 Looks pretty much like this:

    In my mind, adding an egg to bread dough elevates it to an “enriched” dough, that tends to be just a little harder to get a good rise from – but if you do, tends to taste a lot nicer.

    I had a really good run with bread last weekend, did a wholemeal loaf (half white/half wholemeal flour) with 2 rises and one proving. Was probably my best bread yet and makes me think I can get a handle on this baking thing 🙂 Maybe my Kenwood Chef mixer (50 years old, $75) had something to do with it, the dough only took 2 minutes to get nice and smooth. It is almost too easy.. (pride before the fall, lets see what this weekend brings…)


  27. Hi Claire,

    Your bread method is what seems to work for me as well – although I don’t add the oil to the dough, but brush it on before the rise stage. Stops it from drying out, and no doubt gets all mixed in during the punch-down stage anyhow.

    Surprised you do well with no salt, by all accounts that is a no-no, but I have never tried it without and my successful loaves could be counted on one hand 🙂


  28. Hi Lewis,

    I’d read that Tolkien lost all bar one of his mates in WWI and that would certainly force a complex worldview on the author don’t you reckon? Death is one of those topics that is often not acknowledged in our society, and I know of plenty of people your age and a bit younger who still have their parents around. I’ve seen more than my fair share of death, and maybe it is just how I’m wired, but death reminds me of the importance of living whilst you’re alive. There is a certain sort of incongruent thought when you wander around in nature and you look at all the beauty and then you realise that everything eats something else, and you’re just part of that story and your lucky numbers will turn up sooner or later – and you just have to enjoy the beauty of the day for what it displays to your senses.

    Or maybe it was just the stonking hot chili I just tasted. Far out, it near on blew my mouth away. Yes, yes, you warned me not to grow hot chili’s – and I ignored your good advice – and even accidentally rubbed my eye… I may just donate these red hot chili’s to someone I know who will enjoy them far more than I do. I am not man enough for these little monsters!

    I see your 30’F and point out that this morning the outside temperature here dropped to 36’F, whilst inside the house was 57’F. There is a story to the low temperature inside the house this morning. So, you may recall that last weekend it reached 104’F here. One day during the week I turned up to a client wearing sandals, shorts and a t-shirt (which is not my usual work wear – but far out it was hot that day). So we’ve kept the cooler night air streaming into the house so as to keep the house cool during the day. Except that the temperature plummeted suddenly one night and we’ve only just recovered some warm air in the house this afternoon. No wonder I’ve had a bad case of the sniffles this week. The temperature swings are doing my head in. And I must get my flu shot over the next few weeks.

    Did your Wednesday schedule work out OK? Or did the weather intrude upon it?

    I reckon that the White House these days would be more likely to respond to a tweet! But there is something to be said about an old school letter in the mail. Those things are hard to delete or ignore because the physical act of throwing the paper out is a much harder thing for people to do. Anyway, yes, you shall suffer some mild jet lag for one week, whereupon your body clock will happily adjust and the daylight hours will be slightly longer than the hours of the night.

    Incidentally, I’m now up to page 32 in Mr Penumbra and I’m really enjoying the story. I do like how the author has a way of carefully describing the most quirky and interesting characteristics of an individual. The authors words remind me of the abilities that a cartoonist brings to a drawing where they emphasise the characters foibles.

    It is probably not a good thing to know what happens when the paperwork is not completed on time and in the correct manner. Such is the unspoken desires of the latent pedants. We hates them forever, we do! Sorry, I feel that Gollum took over my brain for a brief moment and I felt the need to use the plural form. I for one hope that you don’t die a cold lonely death on the front steps of your abode, during one of your brutally cold winters – due to cancelled key card. And to be honest I can’t shake the feeling that there would be something quite Dickensian about such an awful fate. Still after you have passed on, the legal case apportioning blame might be quite lucrative for the investors seeking yield in your misfortune! 😉

    As far as disaster stories go, the Black Death is right up there. As a kid I watched an old school Nosferatu film, and one memorable scene was where the rats fled the docked ship with few survivors into the hapless European port. I’m not much of a fan of rats, if only because I realise that they are perhaps smarter and more ruthless than myself, but imagine if their little flea friends happily carried the plague. Talking about adding insult to injury. The awful thing about the Black Death is that every winter the survivors would have been granted a reprieve as the rats went to ground.

    Cromwell from all accounts sounds like a bit of a martinet. Interestingly, a long time ago a very old mate of mine claimed that his family had in the long distant past been one of the exiled Jacobin’s. I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but I did note that he had a hard wired propensity for violence and I was uncomfortable with that.

    That is probably right as cathedrals, from a purely aesthetic point of view, seem to stand the test of time. So much of our built landscape has a perception of permanence, when in fact it is just a drop in the ocean of time. I see very little that is permanent – and I particularly wonder about the huge edifices that get erected in the big smoke. Like how the heck are these things going to be recycled without having them topple over?

    An efficient meeting is a thing of beauty! Unless of course you are up for a chat as I’ve sometimes been fond of, although not about administrative tasks in the setting of a meeting. Not good. You scored well retaining your space given that you expanded your plot space last year. Ah, those bachelors buttons are lovely plants – and they grow here in random spots in the paddock. I call them by the name of cornflowers – but am not quite sure that is their correct name? And yes, swapping plants is one of the benefits of such a group.

    Hey, we’ve been saving seeds from the many different varieties of beans that grew here during the summer. I am genuinely amazed at the sheer diversity of beans – and they’re usually very tasty.

    Far out! We call those things – and I use that word in a detestable sense – pod coffee. From what I’ve read, they apparently contain among other ingredients a form of instant coffee, although I could well be wrong and it is all a bit of a mystery. A year or two back the editor fed me a coffee which came from a pod machine – because nothing else was available – and I was less than complimentary of the results. Not to worry, we went in search of a proper espresso coffee and resolved the problem. I almost spat the stuff out. Horrid. Oh yeah, I’d heard a podcast (excuse the pun) that apparently the developer of the idea has since become horrified at what he may have unleashed upon the world – and that was repeated in the article. Fear not, I am not involved at any step on that road. You may travel that path, but like the chili’s you have been warned… Anyway, the whole problem will be eventually sorted out because the huge mono-cultures of the coffee plantations are having a few difficulties with plant diseases.

    I love a good rant and good link! Hehe!



  29. @Lew

    More random comments on bread:

    My latest batches, which worked really well, had an initial 5 minutes in a very hot oven (250 Celsius), then dial down to 150ish for 35-40 minutes. A few other recipes I saw made mention of cooking the bread in a “falling” oven. Makes some sense when you think of traditional ovens….


  30. @Lew

    RE: Black Panther

    I will say it 🙂 The movie was a bit bland, even by Marvel standards.

    On a related note, I am watching “The Man in the High Castle”. Quite a good time if you enjoy alternate history nazi’s winning WWII type shows, complete with resistance fighters and the Nazi equivalent of Concorde.


  31. Hi Margaret,

    The fire risk down here this year is bonkers. Incidentally, it was 36’F here this morning and I call that a three blanket night… Who knows, the steel might help with a tornado, and the news reports down here had articles about the recent tornado in Alabama. Isn’t that out of season? They’re a spring-summer thing down here.

    You warned me about the chili’s and all I can say is that I accidentally tasted one of the supposedly mild chili’s and then rubbed my eye – and it hurts. A good lesson to learn.

    I’m glad that Marty (and Gwen’s stuff) was moved – and yes, I absolutely and whole heartedly agree with you in the final analysis on the subject. I’ve seen stickers on the back on utility vehicles (our version of what is commonly known as a truck in your part of the world) down here (although not for a long time) proclaiming that: “Yes this is my ute, and no I will not help you move”. Brutal, but with a grain of truth. Anyway, I do wonder whether Marty would have been able to conduct the move without yours and Doug’s assistance?

    Cleaning houses is one of those interesting things. I’ve noticed that better constructed houses can often be easier to clean. With the rental property that we lived in whilst building this house, it took about four days to clean the place when we moved out because the materials used were of such low quality. We were rather grumpy by the end of those days and have not repeated the errors here.



  32. Hi DJ,

    You know I try not to leave any dirt exposed to the summer sun as I feel that the UV radiation not only evaporates the water held in the soil, but it also kills the life in the top layers of the soil. What I’m noticing that works here in this crazy as summer is shady trees. It just makes the area cooler and you can feel and see the difference underneath the canopy. Of course keeping the trees alive during such weather is another story.

    Your understanding of desalination is spot on. My understanding of the economics of it is that it is right up there as the most expensive fresh water around. And the summer here has led to: Victorian Government places largest-ever water order from desalination plant in dry conditions. I would hope that in fighting the fires in the forest surrounding the largest dam, the authorities didn’t use Class A fire retardants, but they might have…

    Good for you, and Mrs DJ may be onto something with the amateur radio license. There is a local group here, so who knows what goes on in your part of the world? I understand that there is not much of an idiot element with ham radio and that is a good thing. The morse-code tests would be a tough one to learn. Maybe? Do you have to know that for the license in your part of the world? My CB was 5W AM 27Mhz band, but I really hankered for the 13W SSB models. I have noted that amplifiers are now sold and I could imagine that would land a person in trouble – even today.

    Yeah, you had me worried and so I inspected the saw today and noted a steel sprocket, but I was unsure whether there may have been a plastic reduction gear/s between the drive shaft of the motor and the sprocket shaft. The sprocket didn’t appear to me to be directly driven from the motor. That would be typical if it were the case and I’ve noted plenty of electrical motors that use that technique to save the motor from burning out. Where were the plastic gears in your machine? I assume it would have to have some sort of clutch in case the chain jammed in the log… I found an electric chainsaw of the type that I was originally looking for, but it was on the other side of the country and they don’t post items… Incidentally that is about 4,000km away so it is no easy drive.

    Thanks for the explanation regarding unincorporated areas. As I mentioned, those areas are quite rare down here. The local councils down here tend to provide different services for the towns as distinct from the rural areas – like garbage pickup (which is offered here at an additional cost) and road maintenance.

    Speaking of such things, one of the small airports near to the city has its own planning rules – and despite running a light aircraft airport, they constructed a shopping centre…

    Ha! It was +2’C here early this morning, but it did reach slightly beyond 20’C during the day and I could thankfully warm the house up again. The swings in weather are doing my head in and I’ve come down with a case of the sniffles this week. Mustn’t grumble though…

    I hope the possible floods aren’t too bad up your way as the snow melts? At least your reservoirs will have had a good fill up this winter.



  33. @ Damo – Sounds like your really making progress on your bread. Next up for baking will probably be some banana muffins, as I’ve got a couple of bananas that are behaving badly. :-). But, I might run up and buy some “real” bread flour, today. Last week I made some carrot / raisin muffins. Just to get my baking mojo, back.

    Must admit I took a look at the Amazon offerings for Queen CDs. Move before last I sold off all my vinyl. My mate, Scott, who is very musically inclined, recently picked up a good used turn table, and is expanding his record collection.

    I haven’t invested too heavily in the whole super hero, thing. I get so lost in the prequels and sequels. “Aquaman” is being released on DVD, in the next week or two, and if I can find room on my library hold list, (we’re limited to 25 items) I may give it a whirl. I do have “Krypton”, season one on hold. Should be out soon.

    I’ve really been looking forward to “Man in the High Castle”. But it’s been a couple of years, and seasons, and no sign of the DVD, yet. (Except for a few bogus rip off sites.) I really think it’s a test case to see how many people they can stampede onto streaming. Get rid of all those pesky DVDs. I’m not going there. Plenty of other things, to watch. Lew

  34. Yo, Chris – I heard something kind of funny, yesterday. That relates to looking at nature, and all. Red in tooth and claw, etc. My friend Scott carries on a lively e-mail correspondence with his sister down in California. They were discussing vegans, and she made the observation, that looking at nature, God is not a vegan :-).

    There was a story, in that series on cathedrals, I watched. There was an order of monks, established in the 600s. They were vegans. After 400 years of that, they got a new abbot who ate meat. The Vikings came, and killed him. They considered that to be a clear, cautionary tale.

    You might want to consider experimenting a bit more with the chili’s. You build a tolerance, and your brain chemistry changes, a bit, and you crave the stuff. Happened to me. But then, my brain chemistry is a bit wonkie, anyway. :-).

    I thought sandals, shorts and a t-shirt were the national costume of Australia? :-).

    Yesterday, Wednesday, was an almost exact replay of last week. Just as I was going out the door, it started to snow. Snowed until the early afternoon, but none of it stuck. Turned to rain. But, after sunset, it got cold, again. When I headed down to Safeway, around 10pm, I had a heck of a time getting into my truck. The door was frozen shut.

    I’m glad your enjoying “Mr. Penumbula.” The writer has a quirk that threw me off a bit. Sometimes, I couldn’t tell if he was saying something out loud, thinking it inwardly, or just fooling around with dialogue delivery. After awhile, I just went with it. He didn’t do that in “Sourdough: A Novel.” If “Mr. Penumbula” holds up, for you, maybe you’ll give “Sourdough” a whirl? After rolling around in the Arthur cycle, for awhile. That ought to take us up to 2030. :-).

    Bachelor’s buttons are called cornflowers, here, if they’re a pattern on Corning ware :-). But, I think it’s a regional (or, maybe ethnic background) thing. I think “cornflower’ is more of a midwest, back east thing.

    I understand that some K-cups are recyclable. If your willing to disassemble them into tiny bits of plastic, metal and paper. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. When I was haning with Chef John, he had one of those pod coffee things. I must say, it did make a good cup of coffee. But, since I’ve become a tea kind of a guy, no danger of one of those in my future.

    Well, my haunting the library catalog, paid off. The other day “The Favorite” popped up (I’m number one on the list), and also “Mortal Engines” (number 2) and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (number 4). Of course, I had to take two things off my hold list, always an agonizing decision. Lew

  35. Hi Damo,

    Mate that’s funny. I tell ya, the parrots would most certainly have taken a dump on the steel dragon had I placed it on top of one of the sheds. And yes, the steel dragon would have tied the place together, but it is not like I can send the parrots a bill for the freakin’ cleaning! The cheeky scamps are less than polite with their thoughts about solar panels too. 😉

    Hey, I almost forgot to mention that the editor and I saw the film: “The Green Book” last week and really enjoyed the film. That is my version of a film recommendation. It lacks a bit of subtlety, but you know…

    Exactly! The skillion roof would probably be about 15 degree angle (flat roofs being a bad thing during super cells), but the thing is – having no ridges means that there is less possibility for embers from a bushfire to get into the roof timbers, but also, a flat-ish roof gives a lot more real estate for solar panels. Plus the really big benefit is that the water only drains to one side of the roof, gravity being what it is. As it stands I have guttering on all sides of the house, which results in more complicated drainage pipes.

    Windows high up in the eaves tend to let in a lot of heat, unless they can opened, and then the rising hot air can escape to the outside world. I’ve experienced the chimney effect in an old Victorian era house that had a single room second story, and all of the hot air during summer funnelled into that particular room.

    Containers are very useful and inordinately strong structures. That container house looks pretty cool (although I’d add a lot of insulation as metal is a great conductor of heat). Late last year I used to know somebody who lived in a house constructed from 3 x 40′ containers and the lady disappeared out of my life before we had a chance to check out the house. By sheer chance we’d struck up a conversation at a bakery in Central Victoria where she worked and the editor and I had a lot in common with her, but unfortunately she spoke more than worked, and I believe she was given less rosters and the result is that I see her no more.

    Ouch! Yeah, who would have thought that there may one day be benefits from standardising toilet fittings? And plastic is really the way to go with anchoring materials to porcelain. Be thankful that the seals between the cistern and the pan have not yet failed. That happened here and by sheer chance the bloke that does the plumbing here noticed the leak. Replacing the cracked rubber (?) seal was not as easy as you’d think it would be.

    Haha! Yes, just make sure that the onion is under the sausage. Need I mention: Bunnings hits snag with ‘ridiculous’ sausage sizzle safety rule . Locally it was known as “sausage-gate”.



  36. Hi Lewis,

    What I want to know is, where do Scott’s opinions lie in that particularly sensitive matter? For the record, I agree with the sister in that God/s are definitely not predisposed to Veganism. Even the smallest of bugs appear to be hungry for flesh. Everything gets eaten just once, and there doesn’t seem to be a thing we can do about it, although the brightest brains have strained themselves towards putting off that day for a bit. Even the oldest of trees and fungi eventually get consumed.

    The monks may well have been onto something with their belief. In those days it would have been an error to provide the invaders with a feed that they recognised. But in some ways it is an extension of the Golden Rule of: “Do unto others” and the whole: “whatever is done unto the least of me”. Both stipulations have a rather ominous overtone which I’m frankly a bit uncomfortable with. Oh! We have purchased a number of roses and intend to plant out a picking garden over the next few months.

    Mate, the Vikings really did hammer the folk in the UK for almost 500 years. That would have been more than a serious nuisance, but it also had the effect of honing the people who remained, much in the same way a blade is honed by a sharpening stone. Anyway, the more I read about the history of my own people, the more that I understand just how bloodthirsty they were. They really didn’t shy away from a fight. And it is little wonder to me that things have ended up as they have.


  37. Hi Lewis (cont)…

    Anyway, I went to let the chickens out for a run in the orchard, and I underestimated just how rapidly that we are losing the sunlight here to the dark side of the year. Within about two weeks it will be the autumn equinox. The chickens were already in bed, so I guess I’ll have to let them out a bit earlier in the evenings from here onwards. They’ll live. I chucked in a huge quantity of perennial rocket for them to eat today, so they’re hardly short of greens.

    I’ll take a hiatus on the chili’s and instead gift them to people who have already done the hard yards in that regard. I am but a mere mortal when it comes to seriously hot chili’s. The thing is, how do you know that it was your brain chemistry that was wonky? It might be everyone else?

    Well, yeah, sort of. It is hot and so shorts and t-shirt are a good idea, but they’re hardly considered to be suitable office attire. But when an office is that hot as it was the other day, I tend to bend the norms and just go with whatever is suitably comfortable for me. And the experience left me feeling a bit sniffly, so I called that one correctly. My voice is a bit dodgy today as a consequence of that day, and I was considering going to the pub this evening for a pint and feed, but no, one’s health should be given a higher priority than quality dark ales… Maybe… I’m certainly very conflicted on the matter.

    Far out. It never even occurred to me that the rubber seals on a door could stick fast during a serious freeze. I enjoy visiting the supermarket at less than fashionable hours too. When the place is busy, it’s a nightmare, so I hear you. Although the local supermarkets generally close at 9pm in rural areas here. In the inner big smoke areas they’re often open 24/7. In my younger years when I was overloaded with busy-ness, I often used to shop in the late hours of the evening as I had to squeeze that activity into everything else that was going on at the time. But mostly, I just used to enjoy the quiet. 😉

    Yeah, I can see what you mean about the Mr Penumbra author’s mixed use of: internal thoughts; dialogue; scene setting etc. I’m really enjoying the story and interactions with all of the complicated characters. I tend to feel that the story is unfolding and enlarging, rather than being told – if that makes sense? Dunno. I noticed that in the story, Mr Penumbra was training the young clerk as to how to observe the world, and that was interesting to me. That issue was tackled in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

    I may well dive into ‘Sourdough’, but as you note there is a bit of the Arthurian cycle to get through first. I have to confess that depending on how heavy going the Arthurian saga is, I may well take a short diversion into the world of ‘Sourdough’. Incidentally, I once knew somebody who worked in a sourdough bakery, and he told me that during the coldest part of winter, they used to add a bit of bakers yeast to help the bread rise because it was so cold. There may be a lesson in there for your bread making efforts. Bakers can be a mysterious bunch full of trade secrets.

    Speaking of Arthurian cycles, the first such book I encountered was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s the Mists of Avalon. Well, I can’t say that I was overly impressed with the Merlin character in that story. And even Arthur seemed a bit, I dunno, wishy-washy. You would think that a successful warlord would put up with less rubbish, but no. I walked away from Arthurian stories for many years after having encountered that one. Of course I have a deep suspicion that the author may have had a bit of an agenda, and good for her and all that. Have you ever read that version of the Arthurian cycle?

    Oh, well cornflower is a down under thing too. The corning ware note is funny! The plants are extraordinarily hardy meadow flowers. Not much is thriving in the garden right now due to the prolonged dry weather. I picked a good tub of ripe almonds today and will dry them over the next few days. I plan to donate some almonds this week to a lovely vegan person that I know. Unfortunately, I have this background thought that there is some risk of illness from almonds but for the life of me I just can’t recall where I read it. Am I imagining this unlikely problem or what? I hope not, as I’ve consumed a few and they are really tasty and far better than the pesky walnuts which taste similar but are a bit bitter to my taste buds. The latest walnut attempt died this summer, but a lovely oak has thrived in its place. Do I argue with the whim of fate?

    Lewis, please do yourself a favour and stick to tea! I am a self confessed coffee snob and I am just not convinced about pod coffee. Mate, I run an espresso machine here on the solar power… I’ll tell you a funny story. A year or so back the folks that I take all of the coffee grounds and husks from gifted me a nice bag of freshly ground high quality single origin coffee. And frankly it was far better than the usual stuff that I drink (that is already of a high quality). I had to face the awful prospect of whether to lift my game, and I just said no. One has to draw a line in the sand and pod coffee is below that line, but ultra freshly roasted and ground single origin coffee is a bit beyond my day to day experience. Coffee culture is a bit of a thing down here, and it might blow you away should you experience it. But then you (well, given you don’t drink coffee this would be a theoretical exercise) would have to face the awful realisation of facing the inadequacies of your own day to day coffee experience. How hard would that be?

    It is funny you mention that film “The Favourite”, but we have plans to go and see it soon. We shall compare notes. 🙂 It has had glowing reviews.



  38. Hi Inge,

    I was wondering whether your son has constrained the flighty Ren? When farmers start mentioning that they’re about to shoot a stray dog, sometimes they’re not mucking around. Ren is clearly a complicated personality and it would be a shame if he was snuffed out. But then your sons pack of canines may be wholly different under a different boss dog? Who knows? It might be that Ren is a bit too young to be a proper boss dog for the pack?

    Things have cooled down a bit here over the past few days – which is a relief to me. I may begin doing some excavations tomorrow.


  39. Hello again
    Yes all dogs other than Tess are restrained and now Tess has had to join them. I found it interesting that once she was the only one running free, she began to ascend the dominance ladder. This was in relation to me as well. The last time that I met her in the woods she practically sneered at me. It was ‘take it or leave it woman’.


  40. @ Damo, the reason I tried eliminating the salt was that I couldn’t think of a good reason why it was there. It’s harmful to the yeast if in too high an amount, just as too much salt kills any other being. I did a search on the chemistry of bread baking to see what the conventional wisdom is about salt’s role. This site ( claims that salt adds flavor, slows down fermentation, strengthens the gluten’s structure, and makes dough more elastic. Of those, I don’t find salty bread to my liking. Slowing down fermentation refers, I suppose, to avoiding the possible development of a sour flavor, but that isn’t going to happen in the hour to three hours that my bread doughs need to rise. In order to develop a sourdough starter which will impart a sour flavor to bread, one or more days are required.

    As for as the last two, my experience with successful salt-less bread making suggests that salt doesn’t have the effect that is claimed. Because the site I referred to above doesn’t give chemical details, I found another site ( that does discuss the chemistry of salt in breadmaking. It’s on the last page. I’m skeptical; the explanation makes little sense to me, and I have two degrees in chemistry. Plus I have physical evidence in the form of two well risen, properly textured, and delicious loaves of bread that I made earlier this week with no salt in them. But the essence of science is experimentation, so I invite everyone with an interest in the question to make two loaves of bread with all the same ingredients and by the same process except that one of the doughs has salt in it and the other does not. Then you’ll know whether you need it or not.


  41. Hi Chris,
    Sorry about the chili’s. Lew’s probably onto something – you have to build up a tolerance and liking. Over the years I’ve developed more of a liking for spicy food. I make a sriracha carrot hummus that’s quite tasty. I originally bought it at the grocery store but decided that I could make it much more cheaply and easily at home so looked up a few recipes and compared ingredients to the store bought kind and came up with something pretty close. Jalapeno peppers are quite good in salsa as well.

    Marty absolutely could not manage the move on his own. He’s pretty self sufficient overall but he couldn’t handle orchestrating the entire move. I stopped by there today and many boxes are unpacked with the contents strewn all over the floor and any other empty surface. He has mostly arranged the furniture though. He was contentedly lounging on the couch watching something on his computer. I imagine he was taking a break again. This was at 10 AM. Gwen nicely offered me some candy and I noted the other food choices laying around as well.

    Marty has so much stuff that it would take much time to individually dust everything and he doesn’t seem to mind the layer of dust either. His caseworker has a name of someone who could come in and do some cleaning twice a month which I’m seriously considering – once he gets stuff put away.

    Big news!! The temperatures will be above freezing at least during the day for the next ten days. There is a fair amount of rain in the forecast for tomorrow so due to the very frozen ground that should result in flooding but at least the temperature is moving in the right direction. I plan to start some seeds this weekend.


  42. Yo, Chris – Oh, Scott was just reporting a bit of what he considered “witty banter”. (And, it was. But I never crack a smile, with Scott. Don’t want to encourage him :-). But, as far as his own food foibles go, he’s pretty much like us. Eats healthy, most of the time, but if someone throws a nice steak in front of him, he’s not going to turn up his nose.

    Yup. The days are getting longer. And, will be longer yet, once we’re past our “Great Leap Forward.” Hmmm. Maybe I can do in Daylight Savings Time by spreading the meme that it’s all a commie plot? Attaching that to any idea, over here, seems to gain a lot of traction. Hmmm.

    A feed, a pint and quality dark ales. I don’t know. Seems like the key to your robust good health. But, listen to your body, and do what it tells you. Seems to be the best course of action.

    Not only the seals on the doors, but also the locks and windows. And then there’s all that scraping the ice off the windows. Here, the hardware stores practically give away a high impact plastic tool, for scraping ice. I keep one stashed under my truck seat. A credit card will work, in a pinch.

    Yes. Late night shopping is all part of my nefarious plan to become an urban hermit / recluse. :-). If I go earlier on a Wednesday evening, the aisles are clogged with porky little boy scouts, descending like a plague of locusts, and snapping up every bit of junk food, in sight. They ought to give a merit badge in good nutrition.

    “Mr. Penumbra” is, perhaps, an example of “show, don’t tell.” Which all writer’s guides advise. I’ve read a lot about it, but just can’t quit grasp it. I’ll get a grip on it, sooner or later.

    As I remember, I quit galloped through the Arthurian saga. So, I think it’s a bit of an easy read. I probably read Bradley’s Arthur books, but either they didn’t make much of an impression, or, I gave them up as a bad deal. Can’t remember. All I know is, when I run across used copies, I have no impulse to re-read them. Unlike Mary Stewart’s Arthur series. When I see those, I get a bit of a warm glow.

    Almonds. Deadly poisonous. Full of cyanid. That’s why detectives are always banging on about the “smell of bitter almonds.” Send them all to me, and I’ll properly dispose of them. :-).

    But, frankly, Frank, a bitter almond is not a good thing. But, you’d have to eat a ton of them, to do yourself any damage. As far as your friend goes, unless she has a tree nut allergy, or, is a crazed environmentalist (the water! the bees!), she will welcome the almonds. I ran across an old article from Atlantic magazine, on the ins and outs of almonds.

    I was bantering, yesterday, with a friend, about the bit of banter concerning Australia’s National Costume. She bantered back that she thought you had a law … as with the voting. Of course, here, our National Costume seems to be camo and flags. I think I much prefer yours.

    Nothing wrong with being a coffee snob. I keep a bag of nice Kona, in the freezer, for company or special occasions. Lew

  43. Chris,

    In the raised beds this year, I’ll be planting things closer together or having leaves that will shade the dirt. You have me convinced to keep the sun off the dirt in the growing areas. And add a lot more things to the flower beds for the same reasons. Your photos are instructive as well as pretty.

    I had to know Morse code at 5 words per minute to get my license in the 1970s. There is no code requirement now, which I find to be unfortunate. All I did was use Morse back then, and I would be most likely to operate mostly Morse again in the 90 and 40 meter bands, maybe the 20 meter band also. Using Morse was a lot of fun for me.

    Apparently there’s an active ham club in Yakima near my brother-in-law.. They have an event in April that I’ll likely attend. As I’m having trouble finding a group in Spokane, maybe they have ideas.

    It was a plastic sprocket issue that I had with my electric chainsaws. If you’ve got steel sprockets, you’re probably okay.

    So far we’ve had temperatures into the -7C range most nights, with highs +3C to +5C. That has given a slow melt in the lower elevations. Flooding will just depend on when the high temperatures start a fast melt in higher elevations.

    Drastic swings in weather can do bad things to me, too. I feel your pain.


  44. Hi Inge,

    Restraining the canine collective is not a bad idea given their recent proclivities. I hope they play together well and don’t attempt an escape (I’ve experienced that scenario a long time ago)?

    That is a fascinating observation, and I’ve usually only known boss dogs to be female, despite Sir Scruffy’s recent elevation in the pecking order – he’s not very good at his role. But to shy away from you and act in an aloof manner is unusual behaviour for a dog that knows the human. I wonder what has gotten into them. Sometimes one dog, and I’m not pointing the finger at Ren, but they can upset the balance of the pack. Toothy is a bit like that here as he can sometimes lead the other dogs into mischief, when otherwise they would not be up for such activity.

    I can’t say that one of the dogs here have ever sneered at me, as they are usually quite warm and affectionate, but not to people whom they consider to be a threat. It might be that Tess was attempting to out-alpha you, which is understandable, but not cool. What do you reckon about that theory?

    It was sunny and warm here today (another dry day) and we excavated soil for hours. Hard work, but we placed in the excavated area, the recently constructed steel rock gabion cage, and it is looking good.



  45. Hi Margaret,

    I’m reasonably philosophical about the chilli’s, and it is always interesting to grow a new plant and gain and understanding of the plants story. How else do you learn? Nice work with the sriracha carrot hummus and without a doubt I reckon you would have ended up with a higher quality product without the preservatives and other add-ons. We’ve discovered that many of the food products that we make here for our own consumption are far higher in quality than purchased items. I had a conversation recently with a lady that I know of Italian origin about how easy it was to make peanut butter, and I concluded the conversation with the ominous note that: “your ancestors would be rolling in their graves!” We’ve known each other for a very long time, so I can get away with being occasionally cheeky about such things because I feel they are important, although I normally act every bit the gentleman, which is how I get to have the conversation in the first place.

    Jalapeno peppers – I’m just not man enough for such things! 🙂

    Margaret, you are an absolute saint for helping Marty (and Gwen indirectly) move. I hear you, and you can only do what you can do.

    Excellent news with your weather. What sort of seeds are you considering starting? I picked up some onion, mustard and broccoli seeds yesterday and am considering getting some of the winter garden started. I left it too late last year and almost ran out of fresh greens during the winter – when nothing grows for a couple of months on end.

    Looking out the window, all I see is smoke haze to the horizon. So far this season, about a quarter of a million acres burned in this state. All things considered though, it could have been far worse, so despite the garden looking a bit tired, I reckon we’re doing OK.

    On Friday we visited some open gardens and they were doing their best, but here and there you could see the plants were in heat and drought stress.



  46. Hi Lewis,

    Absolutely, it is very wise not to encourage some people’s witty banter, lest it go to extremes. 🙂 Hey, the food option is a sensible strategy and it takes the air out of food challenges which is really more about them than your (or my) good self. And sometimes when a good steak is presented on your plate, there is a certain level of respect to be paid to the animal that gave its life for your dinner, so you might as well chow down and enjoy the steak. I’m pretty sure that it would be a difficult thing to put the steak back where it came from…

    This talk of daylight savings is distressing! 7th April is the day that I regain my stolen hour. I did look for it, but the hour – as you well know – is an elusive and mysterious beast that specialises in hiding in plain sight. I looked everywhere for it last October, even behind the couch, but couldn’t find it. I was left with a week’s worth of jet lag, which only proves how sensitive I am (and your good self) to these awful losses. The only thing I can be sure about is that on the 7th April (in a few weeks), the quarry will be sleepy enough with the cooler autumn weather that Ollie the cattle dog will be able to run it down and put an end to its awfulness. Then I guess there will be another week’s jet lag – which is awful because I haven’t flown anywhere interesting for a very long time – and then all will be good with the world again.

    I’d loan you Ollie the cattle dog to chase down your elusive lost hour when it is fresh in its spring formation, but quarantine restrictions here – like you guys have rabies in some parts of your country – might mean that you’d have to put up with a cattle dog for longer than might be convenient. What do you reckon: Getting your hour back would be worth the red tape and inconvenience for Ollie? I asked him and he looks unconvinced of the merits of this program of action…

    cont… (chicken time)

  47. Hello again
    Tess didn’t shy away from me, she just registered disdain as opposed to her normal eager friendliness. I do think that she was demonstrating superior status. The only time that Son had a dog breakout was when Tess was in season and Flynn managed to get to her. This is why Ren has a younger brother Woody.

    @ Margaret
    I really don’t want to have to make 2 different recipe loaves at the same time; sorry. However I did forget the salt on one occasion and the loaves seemed no different. Of course I realise that this is not a scientific statement. From this moment I shall cease to use salt in bread making. Actually I never add it to meals and rarely use it in cooking. I wonder whether this explains my okay blood pressure regardless of my advanced years? I do drink it in a glass of water in very hot/dry weather. If one needs it it tastes great.


  48. Hi Lewis (cont…)

    The chickens enjoyed their foray into the orchard, and they are particularly pleased at the ease with which they can now dust bathe in selected spots in the orchard. They’d been hard at work removing any and all vegetation earlier in the season in those spots and they now have copious quantities of dust – that was once top soil. Anyway, they’ve been undergoing their usual autumn moult and there are feathers all over the place. Once the chickens begin regrowing their feathers, they slow down producing eggs only to increase that once the winter solstice is in the rear view mirror. How is your new supply of eggs going?

    Exactly, it is surprising to me how many people put up with all sorts of basic ailments that are a result of their diet. I’m not entirely convinced that people listen to the stories that their bodies are telling them. I do, and I absolutely 100% agree with your advice, but how other people can ignore the messages being sent to their brains is a matter that is beyond my ken. I dunno, but maybe the distance running I used to do when I was a kid got me into the habit of listening to what my body was telling me about its well being? Dunno. But knowing when to quit distance running was also a story that wasn’t lost on me.

    Far out, please keep your freezing conditions to yourself. The occasional heavy frost here is bad enough, and last year produced the coldest day (and hottest incidentally) that I’d experienced at this location and frozen hose pipes was something that I hadn’t anticipated. Frozen windows and doors would be a nightmare.

    I salute your nefarious plan and wish you well on your hermit journey. Nothing wrong with being an urban hermit. It is funny how you notice that some times of the day are much quieter than others at certain businesses, and then you start taking advantage of the quiet times…

    I read a bit of Mr Penumbra this afternoon and there was a paragraph – and you alerted me to this – where I was sort of wondering whether the author was conducting an internal or an external dialogue with another character, but I sort of suspect that the author was glossing over some boring dialogue about code which wouldn’t have added anything to the story. Now I’m left wondering whether this was an act of the author or the editor? Not sure, what do you reckon? It was an interesting technique to deploy.

    Go with your gut feeling of a bad deal. 🙂 I feel bad having written that because I did enjoy the Bradley story, but it reminded me of the time that I began watching the series “Breaking Bad’. So many people told me what a great show it was, so who am I to argue with them? But the characters made decisions that were an anathema to me, so I just stopped watching it because the story line was stressing me out. Bonkers. Anyway, Bradley’s characters were a bit like that – like they gained Wales, and then threw that gain into the dustbin through unbelievable recklessness. It was a bit like a scene in Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, where the protagonists have just done something horrid and they claim: “we’re the good guys”. Bonkers.

    Thanks for the article on Almonds. It was an excellent article, and has alerted me to just how much water those trees require. Ouch! The story read like a horror movie script. Other than the bucket of water I chucked on them the other day, I haven’t watered the almond trees. But then I have seriously spent a lot of effort in building the top soil around them.

    You piqued my curiosity, so I grabbed out Dr Louis Glowinski’s most excellent tome: The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia. It appears that almonds are a close relative of the peach, in fact in the Dr’s inimitable style he described an almond as a peach in disguise! Then he goes on to write that peach pips are sweet and edible. Well there you go. Ah, the plants grow best in Mediterranean climates and the Romans called it the: “Greek nut”. The author suggests that the original origin of the plants was Western Asia or Asia Minor.

    The conditions here are probably ideal for the almond trees, other than the lack of summer watering and the occasional late frost. I try to drought stress the fruit trees simply so that they produce less fruit, but put down deeper roots and taller growth. That is how the old timers used to do things with fruit trees. One day, I’m going to have to climb the trees to obtain the fruit, but at least they’ll be hardy. As it was I used a 10 foot ladder to obtain about half of the almonds.

    Camo is a funny choice of clothes to wear. I once heard a comedian remark that they went out of their way to bump into people wearing camo gear (which is rarely seen down here), and then the cheeky scamp used to say: “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you!” Funny stuff, but I’m not sure how well that joke would go down in your part of the world… I suspect people wearing camo gear might not have that much of a sense of humour. The clothes wouldn’t last long either as they’re probably all synthetic materials.

    A fine choice! Coffee snobs of the world unite – before the fungus kills off the crop…



  49. Hi DJ,

    Thanks, that is high praise. Hey, if conditions change, and say you have a mild and damp summer, it is easy to thin the closely planted plants and give them some room to breathe. On the other hand if it is hot and dry, you might find that the plants are slower growing at close spacing, but they’ll be less inclined to bolt to seed, be less stressed by the heat, and they’ll need less water – which is a good thing. I change planting arrangements depending on the season, but mostly I don’t like leaving soil exposed to the sun. I’ll be very curious to hear about your experience with this technique both during and at the end of the growing season.

    The 90m and 40m bands would have pumped out some serious distance? Out of curiosity what circumstances led you to stop using the ham radio? I stopped using CB’s when my various mates stopped using them – although as high school students we were seriously overloaded with homework (often up to 3 hours per night and more when exams rolled around). Things might be worse on that front these days, who knows?

    Ouch. It is a bit of a hike between Spokane and Yakima (and I’d get a bit grumpy about travelling such a distance), although given it is radio communication… That distance would be no problem at all to long wavelengths and a pretty big antenna! Yeah, I’d check out the April event too and see what they’re all about – they might be a good bunch of people to know.

    Had to self-censor a profane word spoken in outburst! A plastic sprocket! It never would have occurred to me that a plastic sprocket could stand up to the forces from the steel chain. In my two stroke chainsaw, the sprocket eventually wears out and is a consumable item – but a plastic one… You have to admit that it is impressive that the sprocket lasted as long as it did in your chainsaw.

    Have to admit that I had a bit of a look into the guts of the machine and it appears that there are some plastic components in there which is a bit of a worry. Oh well – these things could be made better but for some unknown reason.

    Brrr! It was 82’F / 28’C here today and given it was cooler, we dug soil for a few hours and then placed the recently constructed steel rock gabion cage into its new home. I like the solidity of those gabions.



  50. @ DJSpo – I keep seeing references over at Ecosophia, that that web sister site, Green Wizards has a pretty lively ham radio, group. Might be worth a look? Lew

  51. Yo, Chris – You fully grasp the deep distress, physical and mental, of Daylight Savings Time.

    I don’t know how Ollie and Her Royal Highness, would get on. If this were a Hallmark movie, or Disney, just fine. The Princess and the Commoner, and all that nonsense. Hallmark movies make me shudder. I’m back on day long Princess, duty, again. My neighbor is under the weather. I don’t have details. She thinks food poisoning. But that might be just because (and, I agree with her) she’s not the type to throw the label “flu” and any bug, going around. I got one of my flu shot, a few years back, at at store (Safeway? Rite Aide?) and mentioned, I always got one, as I’d ended up in the ER at 3am. The fellow opined that I didn’t have the flu. As he was about to plunge a needle into my arm, I didn’t argue.

    The new egg source is ticking along. I take her empty egg cartons, when I run across them here, at the Institution. I scored about 25 last week, out of recycling. Someone must have been hoarding them. The eggs are so nice. They turn just about anything I cook with them, a nice yellow color.

    It was a steady -0-C, all night long. Lots of warnings out for freezing fog.

    Our Safeway stays open until 1am. Other stores, I try to hit in the early morning, right after they’ve opened their doors.

    I’d say it was the author. It would take a pretty p___ poor editor to miss something that glaring. And, more than once.
    That being said, editing isn’t what it used to be. Along with so much else.

    I’d guessed that about your almond trees. The top soil … the mulch. Your almonds may be getting the same amount of water, but it’s not you pitching it on the top.

    I forget if I mentioned, but during the garden meeting, I asked Mr. Bob, the Master Gardener, if he thought I needed to pitch any mushroom compost on my plots, this year. He didn’t think so. With as much as I’ve been adding to the soil. Also, there were several Master Gardeners in Training, at the meeting. As we were winding down, he asked me to list what I’d planted, last year. So, I closed my eyes, and worked my way from one end of my plots, to the other, reeling off the list. When I was done, he looked at the mob and said “And, that’s square foot gardening.”

    Don’t think I’d want to bump a dude in camo, out in public. In some parts of our Fair Land, they can openly sport their AK-47s, strapped to their backs. Places like Wally World and shopping malls. I’ve never seen it, other than in pictures. In our State, it’s pretty easy to get a “concealed weapons permit.” So, you never know who’s packing what.

    I had an interesting conversation, the other day, that relates to plastic sprockets. I was at the Club, and two ladies were discussing Kitchen Aide mixers. How good, but how expensive they were. I mentioned that I’d seen and ad from Wally World for one, considerably less than what they were talking about. (And, it came in blue!) Well. I got schooled. Those are a cheaper model with plastic gears. Before a certain date, all those mixers had metal gears. Now, there are two stories here. One, that Wally World demanded a cheaper model. The other, that Kitchen Aide offered the plastic geared model as many (who? I want names!) of their customers thought the machines with the metal gears were “too loud.” I’ve been occasionally tempted to buy one, as they show up in auctions, from time to time. Glad I know that information. Forewarned is forearmed. Lew

  52. Chris,

    I’ll keep you informed about the garden experiments this year.

    I got some fair distance on 80m, to Minneapolis, I think. I used about 65 watts input. Any more than that and something in the old transmitter started to fry. And it was a borrowed transmitter. When my friend needed it back, I was stranded, as mine had broken and I didn’t have the funds to replace it. Later when I had money, I was too busy with college, jobs, etc. So now it would be time to start over.

    Spokane to Yakima IS a hike, but I think my wife will be helping her brother near Yakima around then, so it would be a side trip if I dropped in on my wife and her brother for a weekend.

    Yeah, plastic sprockets! My neighbor burned out a similar machine’s interior plastic parts once. And plastic moving parts! I once owned a 1984 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer. The transmission had serious problems when I was in a very remote area. I was able to nurse it back to Spokane, somehow. The transmission shop said that they would NOT put in a new transmission, because the new ones were just like the one that had failed: all plastic parts in the guts. I kid you not, plastic moving parts in an automobile transmission. The shop had access to metal parts for a rebuild, which gave the beast another 8 years of life.

    Your rock gabions are cool! They really keep it together.

    You and Lew have discussed the dread Daylight Savings Time a bit. The governor of Washington is apparently trying to get the state legislature to pass a thingy so that Washington is on Daylight Savings all year. It might go to a popular vote, also. If passed, it would take Federal approval to implement, although remaining on standard time year round would not require Federal approval. Apparently, I’m one of the few who remember the winter of 1973-1974, when President Nixon and Congress had the entire country remain on Daylight Savings “due to the Arab oil embargo”. There was about 6 weeks when it was dark until 8:30 a.m. That was harsh for a 13 year old, I tells ya! My sister and I caught a bus for school at 6:30 a.m. and school started at 8:00. Starting school in the dark did NOT work well. But, then, today’s politicians are noted for not having the brains that the rocks filling one of your gabions have. But rocks are smart, as they don’t try to do things that rocks shouldn’t do.


  53. Hi Lew,

    That is a shame about Man in the High Castle – season two was very strong, and had a lot of humour as well. I wonder about the streaming thing – I mean, DVDs are cheaper to produce then streaming (all those data centres and fibre optics are not cheap). But no doubt there is a prestige thing involved – you *must* have a Prime account to watch this show blah blah. Unless you are happy with alternative sources of course :-p

    At the end of the day, you are right though, no shortage of things to watch, read and do!

    Baking adventures this weekend involved scones (thanks to Mrs Damo), and a chocolate roulade.
    I figured since the swiss rolls were turning out so good, it was time to step up a notch 🙂 It is in the oven now, not long till I find out if it was hubris.


  54. Lew cont/

    Thanks for the book suggestion to Chris (Jack Whyte). They sounded pretty good too me, so I ordered a few the other day. I do love some good historical fiction. My favourite so far being Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Still waiting for the third book (hmm, surely Cromwell comes out of this on top right?).


  55. Hi Claire,

    It sounds like you have done the hard yards on testing salt in bread! It is basically taken as a truism that bread without salt tastes wrong, so I have never thought of not adding it. Certainly worth some experimentation, especially if you can get a slightly better rise..?


  56. RE: plastic gears

    Someone, somewhere, told me that plastic gears in things like food mixers were necessary to prevent motor and bearing burn out. The idea is that eventually, someone will put the unit under too much load and you want a cheap and easily replaceable part to break rather then the expensive motor.

    I believe even my 40 year old kenwood chef mixer (exciting pics on my blog) has plastic gears, although I haven’t opened it up to check.


  57. Chris,

    Mrs Damo informs me I mustn’t be Australian as I blithely announced I am happy with onion either on top or underneath the sausage. Wars have being fought over less!


  58. Hi Inge, Lewis, DJ, and Damo,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however I had to write this evening and have run out of time to reply. Will speak tomorrow, promise!

    Lewis – Oh yeah, I hear you about daylight savings time. It upsets my finely tuned internal balance, and then I have to face the awful prospect of being unbalanced. And who wants to see that? 🙂 It is not so bad really, I just don’t appreciate having to get up earlier, as for some reason it is a struggle for me. Other people seem unaffected by that state of affairs. Best of luck to you with the impending time change.

    Probably not good. Princess would be a right nightmare and probably dominate the more placid Ollie. Although he might try and play games with Princess, although her being a proper fluffy, it could get ugly, really quick. My money would be on Princess too.

    Those movies creep me out too, because isn’t the whole point of fairy tales to be a warning for the unwary? Maybe the current versions are still a warning for the unwary, and the stories have been turned into aspirational, I dunno, what would you call them? Marketing opportunities? Certainly I see the two young cartoon ladies from Frozed in all sorts of places.

    I wouldn’t argue with that either. Your medical system basically scares me, but then there are some cheap preventative measures like the flu shot. It is funny that we were discussing tetanus the other day, but this one is from your part of the world: An unvaccinated child contracted tetanus. It took two months and more than $800K to save him. Apparently after all that they chose not to get the booster shots, which has other unintended consequences. Ouch.

    Yes, home grown eggs have much brighter and tastier yolks. The difference in that case is visible, and I’m now used to eating eggs from the chickens. A couple of weeks back when I was sick, I do recall that I may have consumed a dodgy egg served up to me. There was something not quite right about it and it tasted not at all what I’ve come to expect. But I don’t know for sure what did it, something sure did.

    Oh my, that is cold as! Brrr!

    Yeah, here everything is shut by 9pm, except for the local pokies (one armed bandit machine place) which stays open later. Not my bag though.

    Gotta run, will speak tomorrow.



  59. @ Damo – Hmmm. I may have to consider asking Mr. Whyte for a cut. :-). I quit like historical fiction, too. But, I haven’t read “Wolf Hall.” In general, I’m Tudor-ed out.

    I stumbled on a collection of trailers for the sci-fi movies that are coming out, this year. A new “Godzilla”. Might have to see that one on the big screen. I’m not a fan, but Spiderman in Venice looks fun. A new “Men in Black.” Again, big screen, maybe. “Shazaam!” looks to be so stupid, it might be fun. :-). I didn’t see the trailer, there, but I think there’s a new “Hellboy” , coming out. They’ve been fun in the past. Lew

  60. Yo, Chris – Well, here it is. The dreaded time lash (like whip lash, only worse) of daylight savings time. The clock says 8:30 am, but my body says it’s only 7:30. And, I am not a morning person. :-(.

    I am appreciative of DJSpo filling me in on where our State stands on Daylight Savings Time. I had not heard. I need to write my Congress critter, or something. I had completely forgotten about being on DST, all year around, during the gas crisis. Youth, drink, repressed memories :-).

    I’d seen headlines about the Tetanus Kid, but didn’t read any of the articles. There’s also been stories about another kid, who’s mother was anti vac. As soon as he turned 18, he headed for the nearest doc, and got current on all his shots. That’s all I know, as, again, I didn’t get beyond the click bait.

    I made a batch of banana raisin muffins, yesterday. Tasty, but very heavy. I think because I through a bit of 5 grain cereal, in there.

    Hold the phone! Stop the presses! I picked up “The Great Cactus War: True Story of the Greatest Plant Invasion in Human History” (Domico, 2018), from the library, yesterday. It is fascinating, and all other reading is “on hold” til I get through it. At one point, cactus had taken over an area of Australia the size of England. Or, Italy, depending on which blurb you read. Lew

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