A strong case to answer

It must have been about 1990 when my mates and I were in the city for the huge rally, demonstration and march protesting the Gulf War. We protested along with tens of thousands of other people, and I’d never seen so many people in one place before. We were all walking along Swanston Street and bringing it to a standstill. The crowd was epic.

But then, as has been written elsewhere: a lot of other stuff happened. After the protest, I happily went straight back to working for the local water authority, whilst studying at University at night. People have remarked that I work hard now, but that is just peanuts compared to how hard I worked back then. And if I wanted to visit my girlfriend, who lived a few suburbs away, or hang out with distant mates, it was necessary to own a car.

Fortunately, I lived in a run down old family house with four other mates in a ritzy part of town. I shouldn’t complain as the house kept the rain off our heads, but it was run down, and could have been used as the location for the communal house in the film: “Fight Club”. Anyway, it was with those house mates that I went to the 1990 protest in Melbourne.

The house we lived in wasn’t far from a very large railway station, so getting into and out of the city for work, protesting and University was easy. Getting anywhere else was not so easy, and my house mates used to stir me about disappearing off in the car to visit the girlfriend, and distant friends. On several occasions they rather cheekily suggested that they would gift me a fuel card, which never eventuated, but I understood their point.

Fast living requires a fast car, and my set of wheels in those days was a Datsun 180B SSS coupe. That car used to go hard and the house mates and I completely re-painted it one evening in the garage attached to the house (spare a thought for the neighbours). It was meant to end up glossy, but the best result we could get was a sort of matt-finish dark red. Still the car looked the business, and under the bonnet it had twin carburettors, 5 speed gearbox, sun roof and extractors. And every time I was behind the wheel, I felt like I was competing in a round of the World Rally Championship. Of course, the downside was that the car used a lot of fuel, and the irony of me marching to protest a war in the Middle East, where I guess a lot of Australia’s fuel was coming from, was a subtlety that was completely lost on me at the time.

It is nice to be young and naive. Nowadays I’m less young, and arguably less naive. The kids however are still young, and I’ve noticed recently that they’ve began to strike from school and attend protests. If I’d been on strike from school, I probably would have headed off to the local arcade games parlour to play Donkey Kong. However, todays kids are much more restrained: Students strike for climate change protests, defying calls to stay in school.

The kids have had about four protests in Melbourne so far, and each time they appear to be getting more attendees. I find it fascinating that the authorities aren’t discussing the issues raised by the protestors. Nope, instead they’re demanding that the kids return to school. In less flattering language that demand could be construed as meaning: We’ve got this, we don’t need your opinions or involvement. Of course, the kids might well be less naive than I was at that age, because they don’t appear to have taken too kindly to that message. And there is a strong argument that the kids opinions are valid.

As far as I understand the matter, the kids demands include:

  • Stop the Adani coal mine in central Queensland
  • No new coal or gas projects
  • 100 per cent renewables by 2030

These all sound good in principle, however I know a thing or two about generating electricity from renewable sources, having lived in an off grid solar powered home for about nine years now. Relying on renewable energy sources places very strict limits upon the amount of electricity that a household can use, and I have a suspicion that the kids might not like what they are asking for.

Since 2011, I’ve kept daily records as to how the solar power system is operating. In graph format, they look like this:

Solar power system performance 2011 to 2019

The blue line indicates the health of the batteries, which are now about ten years old. Observant readers will note that as of about a year and a half ago the batteries appear to not to be filling up (the higher side of the blue line) as much as previously. We’ve put this change down to the use of the electric oven in the evenings, which has become necessary since losing the wood fired oven. See what a fickle thing renewable energy is.

The green line displays how much electricity that we were able to use. Very alert readers will notice that we can use more electricity during the summer months than during the winter months, but overall we can use more electricity nowadays than even as recently as five years ago. This is because we have continuously upgraded the solar power system. Even so, with all of the upgrades and the associated frightening costs, the past two or three years show fairly consistent usage. So there are real diminishing returns as well as the inherent winter limitations with this technology.

Except the kids want all future electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030. The majority of electricity in this country is produced using brown or black coal, and most of that stuff is mined using diesel fuel. Both are finite resources, and we don’t even have any economic sources of diesel fuel on this continent. And it is not lost on me that most of the large coal fired power stations on this continent will reach the end of their lifespans by 2040 at the latest.

The thing is, are the kids prepared to accept the limitations imposed upon them from living with electricity entirely generated from renewable sources? And if they don’t like it, what’s their plan B? A sane society would have these discussions now, but is anyone actually doing that? Lets party hard until we fall over!

Speaking of continuously upgrading our solar power system, we added in another 200W solar panel to the system this week. Roof space is precious real estate as it generates electricity and also collects rain water, and we have pretty much used every available surface now!

The machinery shed prior to installing the new 200W solar panel
The eagle has landed and a new solar panel is now connected into the system

Electricity isn’t the only problem that the kids could be considering. I get pretty annoyed by the sheer amount of plastic waste that comes in with the composted green waste sourced from Melbourne gardens, which I purchase. I discovered today that some people in the big smoke believe that golf balls are indeed green waste!

The amount of plastic rubbish that comes here via composted green waste is mind boggling!

That lot took less than ten minutes to pick up. At least there are no turtles, whales or dolphins living here.

It hasn’t rained much lately, and this week was no exception. The large bushfires burning in the eastern part of the state has meant that the air quality has been very poor – and you can smell the burning forest here despite the huge distances:

A bit of fog, but a whole lot of bushfire smoke was in the air this week
Credit where credit is due, and the upside of the bushfires is that the sunsets have been amazing

Earlier in the week we excavated a flat site for a new water tank. In dry years a household can never have too much water, and our reserves are getting low now. We are down to about 40,000 litres / 10,500 gallons.

A flat site for a new water tank was excavated

Observant readers will note that a large pit that has been dug behind the water tank in the photo above. No it is not an outside bath. This catchment pit will capture water that overflows from the water tanks when they are full, allowing slow infiltration of the excess water into the ground. Hopefully the rain does return, and the water tanks get the chance to fill up. It has been so dry in that area this year, that a few of the indigenous musk daisy bushes in that area have died. The dead plants can be more easily seen from the end of the corn enclosure:

A very hot and dry summer has caused these indigenous musk daisy bushes to die

Given the hot and dry weather, we’ve been doing mainly maintenance jobs around the farm. The back wall of the house had not originally received three coats of paint – unlike the rest of the house – and we decided to paint that wall:

The author adds two additional coats of paint to the rear wall of the house

It sure is a long way up that ladder! Whilst I had the paint brush covered in paint, I re-painted the ornamental bird house:

The ornamental bird house scored a coat of paint

We also heavily pruned two olive trees in the courtyard. The olive trees are quite large, but not as large as they used to be!

Two large olive trees in the courtyard were heavily pruned

Many hours were also spent walking behind the self propelled mower:

Many hours of walking behind the self propelled mower took place

I reckon the place is looking very neat now that it has been mowed:

The shady orchard after a mowing neaten up!

After all that work, Sir Scruffy the boss dog and Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (who all right thinking people know is actually an Australian cattle dog), took a long and well earned rest!

Sir Scruffy and Ollie enjoy a well earned rest

Despite the record breaking summer heat and also the dry weather, the place still has plenty of life. Unlike the city, insects are everywhere here:

A large stick insect has been living under the verandah
A local blue banded bee enjoys a feed from this Salvia flower

And there is plenty of produce, despite the dry and hot weather:

Canteloupe are growing bigger each week
Water melon is ripe – and the collected seeds are coriander
The pumpkins are getting huge and I should probably harvest them soon
Hot chilli! Too hot to handle, for us anyway.
The tomato enclosure is full of tomatoes, chilli’s capsicum and eggplant

Just a few photos from around the farm to show how the plants are coping with the hot and dry weather:

The fern gully struggles through the hot and dry summer
Plenty of trees are beginning to go deciduous
The grape vines have begun growing again now that the UV is less extreme. One grape vine has died

Onto the flowers:

Roses enjoy the hot and dry weather
Roses enjoy the hot and dry weather
Roses enjoy the hot and dry weather

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 13’C (55’F). So far this year there has been 37.0mm (1.5 inches) which is the slightly higher than last weeks total of 36.4mm (1.4 inches).

79 thoughts on “A strong case to answer”

  1. Hi everyone,

    Just a couple of minor bits of admin.

    a) The link to the article has now been corrected. Not sure what happened there…


    b) The graph has now been corrected so that you can see the full graph with both axis’s. To view a larger image of the graph, right click on the image, and then left click on the option “view image”. And if you are using a Mac computer, and you don’t get that option, well let’s just say that a person has to follow their own choices, rightly or wrongly – hashtag just sayin! Hehe!

    Your friendly website administrator and author,


  2. Hi Pam,

    Glad to read that you are now more in the land of the living, and that your sharp observational skills have been brought to bear on last week’s blog. 🙂 A sure sign that you are now feeling better, if ever there was one!

    Maybe I just grew up watching too many AI is coming to kill us (or cause significant harm) genre of films. 🙂 No doubt, the lazy AI blighter wouldn’t be able to even make it up the hill without a whole lot of fossil fuels. I’d never considered how the Terminator was fuelled before.

    Scritchy sends her thanks and warm regards!



  3. Hi Inge,

    I frankly don’t know enough about how the body processes fluoride and also the chlorine that is in the mains water supply. I’ve always believed that the chemicals added to the mains water supply are there to kill off any errant bacteria or other life forms? Dunno. A strong case has been made that fluoride in particular brings benefits to peoples teeth. Drinking rain water has had no impact upon my teeth and bones that I’m aware of, but then I don’t consume a lot of sugar and/or soft drinks – both of which are highly acidic, and I understand increased acidity that accompanies those foodstuffs can break down calcium deposits including bones and teeth (for obvious reasons). A lot of the foods that people consume are heavily weighted towards the acidic side of the continuum, and I have a lot of trouble trying to convince anyone to consume leafy greens which contain lots of iron and calcium. I dunno, what is it like over in your part of the world?

    I actually quite like the taste of ginger and can consume it raw, but ginger beer is a very occasional treat after I’ve worked physically hard in the hot sun. Other than those times I rarely drink the stuff.

    The wind is something to be feared. I’ve always felt that really strong winds and very heavy rain does more damage than droughts (if you can avoid the arsonists during that time which is not always possible).



  4. Hi Lewis,

    I don’t really know that much about Ireland, so I had a look at the climate for Dublin. Far out, I’d hardly suggest that they’re doing it tough there, and the climate is far less extreme at either end than what I regularly see. Little wonder they rely on cabbage and potatoes (which are winter – spring crops for me and are almost impossible during the summer months) as a staple food. The problem with being in such a benign, leaning to cool, climate is that if ever you encounter an extreme temperature, mate, it is not good, and if the extremes are prolonged, well that is doubly and triply not good. In terms of climate here, I have a rough idea of what the season will be like, but nothing can prepare a person for the sheer variability that I experience. It is a bit like that in your part of the world too, I guess for much the same reasons relating to the large and mostly warm Pacific Ocean.

    You might be onto something with the whole beef council story. Hey, it is not as if companies haven’t introduced memes into the general public that may or may not have previously been there? I can think of quite a number of those stories – and they’re effective. Some even have benefits for the public.

    I read yesterday in the Wikipedia entry (hardly unbiased, but still useful) that: The Patrick portrayed by Tírechán and Muirchu is a martial figure. Of course, hagiography goes all over the shop. What do you reckon about the two references used to describe the historical figure, should they carry any weight? Of course, it is not lost on me that the truth may have been an amalgam of a whole bunch of different people at the time, which were largely used to prove in latter times the un-provable story that: Our wizards are better than your lot! It would not surprise me one iota.

    It is interesting that you mention the bit about the Abbots being related to the royals of the time. Saint Pat apparently sought to convert well connected noble women, so there may be some truth to your story. It was a bold and also rather astute move on Saint Pat’s part to extend influence.

    Oh! A rabbit hole… Down we go – it’s snorkel time! 🙂 Fascinating stuff. And yes, the cultural links to Beowulf cannot be under stated. Don’t you think it is interesting that despite cultures being separated by continents, they somehow came up with the idea for burial mounds? It would have been an extraordinary act of labour to construct one, but everyone apparently felt that it was worth the effort. Sutton Hoo is a serious treasure trove from the time out of myth. It is a shame that the Vikings of the 9th century did their best to loot and rampage – and thus many records of the time were lost. The Vikings came from a harsh and unforgiving land, but even still, their motivations are beyond my understanding. Perhaps the harsh and unforgiving land found a way to deal with the regular problem of over population when bad times arrived (as they would in such a marginal place).

    It is not lost on me that Rædwald would have known of Arthur. He seemed like a smart bloke to walk both paths at once, thus keeping the people content. People fly to the extremes these days, and I do note that there is a meme developing that only the right hold extreme points of view. Such meme’s clearly forget about Pol Pot, or Stalin and their immense body counts and you’d hardly describe them as right wing. I have no beef with either side of that spectrum and stick clearly to the middle.

    Hmm. Some local councils in NSW apparently purchased AAA CDO’s before the crash of 2009. The problem that the councils have is that they have over committed to paying for retirement benefits for employees, and as such they are grasping for yield to pay for the unfunded liabilities. The councils don’t want to have to ask the property owners for the additional taxes to cover what they’ve promised to people who may not even live in the area, most likely because awkward questions would then get asked. Now any salesman worth their weight can detect the scent of demand, and they probably then supply the story and the instruments. What do they say about a fool and their money? Higher returns inevitably mean taking on higher risks. It has always been thus.

    PS: I enjoyed the mixed metaphor of “He was a sitting duck in a sea of sharks”. Very amusing!

    The thing is, if you take away financial shenanigans (such as expansion of the money supply and investment asset price growth) from the GDP numbers, what are you left with?

    Enjoy your nefarious plan to become an uber hermit! But now, I guess you’ll never know if the food was good or not, and will have to live with the uncertainty! 🙂 I wouldn’t be much good at it either and you may notice in my story from this week that I was often elsewhere from the run down share house.

    Mice can get into bee boxes (the European honey bee variety) and often the bees kill the mouse and then mummify the remains. All the mouse wanted was a warm place to sleep and a bit of a sugar hit… I guess it is early days, but were there any signs of activity from the mason bees?



  5. Hi, Chris!

    First – thanks for the roses. What a way to brighten the day! And you certainly have perfect weather for eating melons – how fortunate that you actually have some.

    You know, I never did go to a protest when young. I don’t know if we even had them in El Paso, Texas where I went to highschool and college; it has always been quite a backwater. I was too clueless about what was going on anywhere but in my own little sphere. Remembering that makes me more patient with clueless young people I know now. It takes an awful lot of work to smarten up!

    I think you may have reached peak surface areas. What a shame about the bushfires, but you are so right – they make for stunning sunsets. I hadn’t realized how very dry it has been there. I don’t remember ever seeing dead plants at your place. In fact, your paddock looks SO dry.

    Does anything ever live in the bird house?

    What lovely shapes you have given the olive trees; that must have been a chore.


  6. Good morning Chris (well, it is here!)

    Reading your blog and attempting to comment suitably has taken me back to my school days, when a frequent assessment was ‘there is clearly something going on in there, but Xabier just never says enough in class’ -that was because yours truly was carefully pondering previous contributions by class mates.

    So, I usually get to Sunday and think I must comment and there are so many good points which have been made that I ponder a bit and……

    So, now I’ve got in early!

    The whole school strike for climate action and ditching of fossil fuels by 2030 is in many ways disquieting: I’m tending to see it more and more as an abuse of the idealism of the young.

    And the prominence of Greta Thunberg who it seems was diagnosed as clinically depressed at 11, poor girl, and autistic, is verging on abuse.

    As you say, they neither know how things really work now, having grown up in our extend a hand and flick a switch culture, nor would they most probably enjoy a real ‘renewable’ life.

    Of course, they have been sold the idea that wind turbines, solar panels and EV’s can do everything that is done now, and also create lots of fantastic well-paid jobs, and deliver Social Justice too – and I suspect there are powerful financial interests selling this idea to them, and creating a voter (and future customer ) base through this movement. There are some interesting stories on the net as to the marketing (on extortionate credit) of solar systems in Africa. Am I being too cynical?

    Frankly, it stinks from the point of view of misinformation alone. And it is, surely, wrong to play with young minds in a state of being formed by feeding in false information and hopes?

    My cry is ‘Free Greta Now!’, and let her enjoy her youth, the open air, first love, etc, outside the international media machine trap she has been embedded in.

    And gently remind the school kids that their labour is only of value to themselves, so by ‘striking’ they harm no one else.

    Please keep publishing the fine views you enjoy: I envy them, although living here in the lowest part of England, East Anglia, we do get wide skies of no little magnificence. The one hill here, 200ft or so, witha
    little ancient wood on top, almost counts as a mountain.

    I’m planning an eventual move to the Basque Country where most of my surviving family live, and right up in the Pyrenees near to where my granny came from, in order to escape the ferocious urbanisation here (just on the edge of town) but will have to be careful not to lose that sense of space, as some of the valley villages are hemmed in by mountains and offer no vistas at all. A real breeding ground for fanatical religion and witchcraft in the past, and not so distant.

    Some also flood badly these days, so I could move from sea-level to thousands of feet up the mountains and drown – which rather appeals to my rather black sense of humour.

    By the way, the Rat Collective seem to have been quiet of late: I’d be worried, a new offensive must be building, what do you think?

  7. Hello Chris
    Hello to the stick insect also.
    Water, food that people eat etc, seems to be similar over here. I was at the dental hygienist today. This is in the village so I shopped there; something that I never do normally. The local shop is an expensive offshoot of a large supermarket chain. They had none of the basics that I wanted. It was hard to describe the stuff sold as edible food. The milk was called filtered whole milk. Son was caught out by this on a previous occasion and brought it to me. I told him to give it to the pigs after reading it up on the internet. He had only read ‘whole milk’. I did say wasn’t he surprised that the drink before date was so long ahead.
    The weather has quietened and is supposed to get warmer.
    It appears that schools here are having to buy washing machines because parents without, are sending their children to school in filthy clothes. I despair, what will people do in the future? As I washed for 4 when living without electricity, I find this unbelievable. The inability to hand wash has to be added to the inability to cook.


  8. Yo, Chris – Been there, done that, got (and lost or wore out) the t-shirt. Viet Nam war protests, Circa 1969. The marches (from Seattle’s university district to the CBD), clogged up Interstate 5, on a couple of occasions. Once I was stranded in my little yellow VW, as thousands of marchers swirled around me. Just a pebble in a stream :-). Good times. :-).

    Maybe, perceiving subtlety comes with time (age.)

    So, you’re reaching peak solar power? You’ll have to build another shed. But, first a terrace to build the shed on. It can be the shed terrace. With attendant stairways. Now that I’ve pulled one leg, I’ll pull the other one. :-).

    That’s one of the problems with getting coffee grounds, from the Club. There’s usually plastic stir sticks, mixed in, along with little plastic pods that contained fancy flavored coffee creamers. For those who the “free” powdered stuff, isn’t sufficient. A tidy little money maker. But, I’ve never found a golf ball. A turkey carcass, yes. A golf ball, no.

    As far as the hole goes, I thought you maybe were getting around to the fire shelter / root cellar. Or perhaps, a large wombat trap? Tasty eating there. Like chicken, according to reports.

    I don’t think we’ve seen the bird house, before. It’s quit nice. Like Pam, I wonder whose home (when they’re at home?). I also agree with Pam, that this weeks pictures are the first time the drought is really noticeable, around Fern Glade Farm. Any rain on the horizon?

    The water melon look very tasty. Maybe you can “gift” the chili? Like zucchini or fruit cakes.

    There was a big hoop-de-do about fluoride, here from the 1940s, to 60s. Adding it to the water was a Commie plot! Reds under the bed! Start adding fluoride to the water, and the next thing you know, you’ll have socialized medicine! By the 60s, it was satire. You may remember the crazed general from the film, “Dr. Strangelove.” He was always raving on about fluoride. Cont.

  9. Cont. Ireland gets a bit of the warm Atlantic Gulf Stream. At least for now.

    I read that, but just kind of skimmed by. Somehow or another, a hard day of over throwing idols and cursing kings and kingdoms, didn’t strike me as being particularly “martial.” I suppose it would be martial if you were on the receiving end off all that over throwing and cursing?

    Raedwald was a bit late for knowing Arthur. Perhaps his grandfather, or great grandfather. More fought, than know. Known to fight? Raedwald reigned right around 600CE. Which is about the latest date for that earliest mention of Arthur, which was just kind of tossed off. “But he was no Arthur.” In reference to a warrior who was very brave, but … That was an old Welsh poem/chronicle. Which dates to 650CE, at the latest. At a stretch.

    No other detail. The theory goes, that the story of Arthur was such common knowledge, that detail wasn’t necessary. I suppose, if your hand writing on sheepskin, you leave out details “that everybody knows.” About the same time, “Arthur” as a name, starts popping up, as a name, among royal houses. Heck, I think even Prince Charlie has Arthur pitched somewhere in the tossed salad of all his names.

    No mason bee activity, yet. But the slugs are out. I got 14, the other night. Mostly, pretty small. Only one exceeded an inch. Lew

  10. Chris,

    You’re spoiling your readers, you know. We ask for more pictures of blue striped bees, and there’s another one. Same with the fascinating stick insect: we ask for a picture, and one appears. And the wonderful roses; mine just got clear of the snow Saturday. Unfortunately, it does look as if the drought has, indeed, ravaged some of your plants.

    I’ve always appreciated (long time reader) your data on solar and what it CANNOT do.

    The “All Creatures Great and Small” BBC tv series was great. I thought they chose the cast well, and they seemed to try to stay true to the books. I watched those whenever they were on, back in the day.

    Oregon grape jam? I’ve heard it is good, but never had it. I’ll occasionally eat some of them from the bushes, but they have a taste that, well, one needs a lot of fortitude to enjoy. When the bushes get bigger, I’ll experiment with the berries more.

    The forest and its extremes. Isn’t the terror of the forest and wilds part of what the first part of Beowulf was about? And what violent creatures/berserkers/monsters lived there? There are places I frequented when younger that I wouldn’t visit now: the cougar population has exploded, and many forested areas now boast cougars, the occasional dread grizzly bear, and wolf packs. The wolves, if not rabid, are probably okay, but sylvan rabies may lie dormant in them for years before it takes over, and meeting up with a rabid wolf pack would not end well for me. So I’m mostly happy with the trees in my yards and the wildlife that visits.

    Yesterday I grabbed my copy of Beowulf (Gummere’s translation) and sat on the back patio reading for an hour. I enjoy his translation (hint, my copy was published in 1909), as it holds true to the alliteration and tries to keep some of the rhythm of the Old English. While enjoying the story, I watched a robin hunting for, and catching and eating, 3 earthworms. Then it would eat some crabapples that had been missed by the horde last month. Meanwhile, I heard a raven about 500 meters away. The murder of crows was nowhere to be found, so the raven took advantage of the rare opportunity to explore the neighborhood. It got to 13C when I was outside.

    Then today…still snow over most of the back yard, but it is melting rapidly: +17C today! And it was –12C less than a week ago. So I emptied the temporary compost bins into the compost pile. The pile still has frozen parts on the surface, but there were some crawlies in the lower parts. It looks as if it will be ready to dig into the containers and raised beds in a few weeks. I haven’t opened the bags of leaves yet.

    Yes, the season is changing. Perhaps this means rain for you soon?


  11. Chris,

    I forgot to mention… Discursive meditation. I tried the emptying variety for several years. It was really counter productive. I got into discursive and other concentration types of meditation after reading Mr. Greer’s “Druidry Handbook”. These work very well for me, and have also helped me use my taiji and qigong exercises more meditatively, too.

    Interestingly enough, when one does some research and some thinking, it becomes clear that emptying meditation is not taught by every qigong and Taoist school. A lot of thought and active meditation had to go into these things in the distant past, and discursive meditation can be used to unlock almost any idea, no matter how obscurely written it is.


  12. Hi Inge,

    The stick insect has been having a grand old time of it all over the past week or so, and it keeps turning up in unexpected places.

    Don’t you sometimes get the feeling that basics aren’t kept on the shelves because people don’t demand them? Most food that we consume here is prepared from scratch, and that requires the basic ingredients – and it is one of the reasons we can consume so much food grown on the property – but it also requires the ability to be able to see the ingredients and know what to do with them. Cooking, like most domestic arts is a real skill that is in serious decline. Life is too short for poorly prepared food, but other people may feel differently. I’d be certain you know a thing or three about cooking?

    I’m not even certain what filtered whole milk actually is, but a long shelf lifespan is indicative that the milk has been subjected to very high temperatures. That stuff tastes thin to me. Pigs are rather unfussy eaters so it was a good call. I drink organic unhomogenised (basically it hasn’t had the fats stirred into the milk) full cream milk. And the dogs regularly enjoy the buttermilk from the inside of the carton. It is very good stuff, but not cheap. Made a batch of yoghurt today and that stuff is basically soured, cultured and curdled milk. I quite enjoy it for breakfast and the yoghurt is very much alive as I back-slop from one batch to the next batch.

    Wow. Well I thought that I’d heard it all. The dirty clothes problem is also prevalent in the US. Ouch. Although I note that a big corporate that manufactures white goods has come to the aid in some circumstances.

    You know, there is a lady who lives in the far east of this state, and has built her own house and for a few decades has been reasonably self-sufficient from her land (if one can ever be such), whilst actively campaigning to save the old growth forest in her part of the world. Basically I hold her in high esteem. A few years ago, she wrote an article about people washing up dishes by hand. I don’t have a dishwasher and have not used one for many decades, but the article left me with the feeling that: Has it come to this? I hear you, Inge, I get it.



  13. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the story. I too would have probably been caught in the same situation. There was an amusing English rom-com a year or two back that had the protagonist caught in the same sort of protest but under different circumstances. Did you ever consider protesting yourself? You seem like a person that is inordinately aware of their own realities from that activity, so I am a bit curious to hear how you felt at the time? For your info, I didn’t even consider protesting the second war in the middle east, which by all accounts garnered an even bigger attendance at the march, but all to no avail. And then they all went back and bought even biggerer cars. Dunno what is with that.

    You’re probably right about the subtlety bit with age, and I am often guilty of being overly subtle. In the last year I had an acquaintance tell me to stop being subtle and just tell it like it is. They didn’t seem to enjoy what they asked for, and eventually disregarded me. Oh well.

    Absolutely, peak solar power is here to stay. In the graph you may have noticed a black curving thin line through the chunks of green. You may also notice that the black line is levelling off? Nothing says diminishing returns like that line. All the low hanging solar fruit here has been consumed! Today began foggy, and had thick and low hanging clouds all day, and it is foggy again now that it is dark. Winter is coming (as they say). Anyway, I generated about 8kWh for the day, which is impressive given the conditions, but it isn’t enough to run an industrial civilisation. I may consider installing a wood fired oven sooner or later. More panels is always an answer, but if the sun don’t shine…

    Go on, what was the story with the turkey carcass? I’m completely intrigued, and feel that I’m missing out as I’ve seen most of the other stuff in my coffee grounds and mulches and composts… How do you reckon it happened?

    If people decided to consume the wild meat in this part of the mountain range in earnest, I reckon there’d be little left to consume after a few weeks of harvesting (or jacking). But yeah, wombat probably tastes like a chicken that has enjoyed a very free range diet!

    The bird house is a folly, if only because I made it one day, many years ago, out of scrap plywood material. It looks good – as a folly should – but the holes are too large for any bird to feel any sort of security from living in the bird box. Maybe one day, if I have nothing else to do, I’ll alter the entrance holes and make them much smaller.

    The water melon is very good indeed, and given the floods they’ve had up in the north east of the continent, I’d be a bit wary of melons grown there. Last year there was some sort of listeria outbreak in melons after similar, but less intense flooding. Exactly too, the chilli’s are all gifts as I’m not man enough for them!

    Hehe! Yeah, the crazy general from Dr Strangelove was well, yeah, pretty crazy. Wasn’t it he who rode the bomb down to the surface in the final scenes of the film? Peak oil will certainly mean that there will be a whole lot less energy in food, and then the entire sugar debate evaporates!

    I’ve read a few articles suggesting that the huge oceans currents may possibly decline or reverse. You never know. For some weird reason, the Indian Ocean to the north west of this continent has had cooler surface waters this year. The majority of my summer wet weather comes from there, and so who knows what is going on there with that? I would have expected the waters to be warmer with increased evaporation. Incidentally, it is not lost on me how far north those latitudes are in Ireland, and without the ocean currents, they certainly wouldn’t stay temperate for long.

    The cursing I could deal with, but the throwing, and in quantity, might be a bit of a minor problem. 🙂 Let’s hope they wear themselves out first walking up the hill. 😉 Sun Tzu wrote something or other about not wearing out the troops before they’ve been required.

    Just going with my gut feeling, he’s no Arthur, sorry to say. We could use such a person. He does have an apparent penchant for organic gardening and produce, and for that I salute him, but could he lead a battle and crush the enemy? Dunno. I guess that makes sense about the details being so well known that they’re not recorded. Peering a bit into the future, we might look like that – especially as we commit so much to the precarious medium of digital.

    Incidentally, considering that matter, I sort of suspect that the interweb will follow the same thin black line in the solar power system graph that displays diminishing returns. The inverted bell shape curve gets all of us in the end. The housing market here has taken some serious body blows (not that I play in that adults sand pit): Australia’s $133 billion property price slide rapidly becoming the worst in modern history. Interesting times, huh? 🙂

    How naughty are the slugs? And prolific. I’m wondering about their life cycle and where do they breed? They live here, the tiger slugs, but I’ve never noticed that they’re a problem and the birds dine on them.

    I can almost smell the rain building, now that the monsoon has returned to the north of the country (cyclones on both the east and west coasts), and there is even mention in the forecast about rain this coming Saturday. Fingers crossed.



  14. Hi Pam,

    Glad that you enjoyed the roses, and once the next terrace has been dug, we’ll plant out a rose garden for cut flowers – and enjoyment. It doesn’t need to all be completely productive.

    I’d imagine melons would be a hard ask in your corner of the world? Probably enough heat, but not enough sun – at a guess?

    Hey, you know I never went back for seconds, so you may well have been smarter than I by not attending a protest in the first place. Little good it did, and I never connected my own actions to the circumstances. I go easy on young folk too, because well, we were in their shoes once, and it is a complicated place to be – and I feel that the young folks are over loaded with messages these days – which is not good.

    Nope, there is a new terrace in my future! It is crazy dry here. Bonkers, in fact. We’re about 4 inches behind the long term average rainfall, which is about two inches per month here. But I have to acknowledge that there is a huge range of variability too from one summer to the next, so the average is not that meaningful a guide. If there were no arsonists, I would leave the paddock as long grass because the shading from the long dead grass would retain far more soil moisture and provide homes for countless insects, amphibians and reptiles. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee what some crazy person may do, and have to live with that risk and respond to it.

    Nope, nothing lives in the bird house. It is a folly, and I made the holes too large for the birds – who don’t feel secure inside the box.

    Solar power and an electric hedge trimmer to the rescue. It was a massive job to prune the olives back. All of the cuttings were thrown into a new garden bed near to the Poopy quat.

    Olive trees grow really well here, and I may plant a solid grove of them soon.

    How’s spring going up in your part of the world? Any new garden adventures soon?



  15. Hi DJ,

    Thanks mate, and the birds and insects make it too easy for me – there are an awful lot of them and they’re around all of the time! 🙂 The blog contains only about half of the actual number of photos that I do take. It is interesting to look back and see what was going on even only a year ago. When I feel mildly deflated about how dry it has been, I look back and see that circumstances are within the usual climate variability that is the norm at this time of year – although this year as it the drier end of that spectrum.

    My consistent line on renewable energy is that it is good, but it isn’t good enough. I wish people wouldn’t heap so much of their belief systems onto it, because then they might accomplish something with the resources that they have available to them. When I was young people told me that I could do anything, and some people I suspect have taken that advice literally.

    I grew up on a diet of BBC productions. Who can forget the early Dr Who series? Some of the sci-fi was pretty dodgy, but they always made up for that with good story lines eg: Blakes 7.

    I await to learn of your future experience with the Oregon grapes. You go first! And I had noticed that nobody was picking them, but that is true for a lot of fruit trees. People hardly know one edible plant from another these days. I saw a quince tree in the city the other day, and somebody had clearly taken one of the yellow fruit and attempted to consume it – and then cast it away… Incidentally, I spotted the first Chinese quince fruit tree with a few fruit a few weeks ago. I grow one of them here, but it is slow growing…

    What a difference a world away makes with the forests. We don’t have anything here that will rend you limb from limb, and then dine on the resulting, err, mess. No we have tiny little things that are way deadly. I’ve seen the second deadliest snake in the world slithering up my driveway, admittedly it was a long time ago, but still as they say: once is a pattern. And the spiders and scorpions… It makes for an exciting life when something as simple as turning over a rock can have complicated consequences, that’s for sure!

    Good for you reading Beowulf. It is a heck of a tale, and it is extraordinarily rich in the telling. Does your version contain any explanatory notes? I have to admit that I needed those, and Prof. Tolkien didn’t really focus terribly much on keeping the rhythm of the poem going, although apparently he did used to scare his students with the old English version.

    13’C, well that is it for the snow for you. It isn’t that much warmer outside here right now. Today started with fog, thick cloud all day long, and ended with fog. I can almost smell the rain. Fingers crossed for this coming Saturday!

    Emptying the mind is a difficult thing for me too. In fact it is a waste of time and effort for me. Exactly, the exercise would work well for that. I have an active mind – takes one to know one! 😉 It is a curse, huh? Not really, just kidding around.

    Meditation is a huge continuum and there is not at seat at every table for all people. 🙂



  16. Hi Xabier,

    And a good evening to you! 🙂

    Haha! Your report card may have read similarly to mine, and also have pronounced that: Xabier is a good student, but is easily distracted!!!

    I tend to agree with you that that is part of the story. I mean why fixate on one mine and not all of the other mines that may be equally or more toxic? But I feel that nobody is having an honest discussion with the kids about the realities of the situation or the future. And telling them to go back to school, is a dismissive approach which I don’t personally favour. I feel that if faced with the realities of the situation, many of the kids would rise to the challenge and then who knows what may be accomplished? It is not an impossibility to face the challenges with strength of will and good grace.

    Who knows, Greta Thunberg might be smarter than all of us combined? It is possible.

    Of course, I feel that in a society of declining real wealth, any gain comes at someone else’s loss, and so of course there are interests that protect their wealth with whatever tools come readily to hand. But spin (or thaumaturgy) is usually the hand of the weak, although it might not look that way at the time. Sometimes the strongest of all messages are self-evident, even though they’re not being shouted (as a lot of stuff seems to be communicated at crazy volumes these days).

    You’re right though about the student strikes, as there is little economic cost to be borne by anyone other than the attendees.

    Ah, the UK is a rather flat-ish land, but then so is here. You could walk to the top of the highest mountain down under – it is a good walk with a nice view, but yeah you get the point – it’s a walk!

    The view though is amazing from here. I can see the ridge line of the Brisbane Ranges which are far to the south west of here, and at some points the forest extends to the horizon in an unbroken canopy of trees. It’s quiet here and I love that.

    Actually it is a good idea to know local people – especially familial folk if you move to another country. They’re water catchments for a reason! And yes, it would be a darkly ironic situation. I fear the big rains here (four inches in an hour is not out of the question) as they can cause a huge amount of damage in very little time.

    Thanks for the reminder. The concrete trench was solid blow for the Evil Fluffy Empire, but no doubt sat all that the rodent resistance will be planning some sort of mischief. It is at this time of year that the rodents begin their search for a nice spot to over winter… I’ll keep you posted as I learn more about their nefarious plans!



  17. My most hilarious school report which I cherish surmised that ‘There is something vibrating within which we can only guess at’: the teacher responsible had a rather high consumption of sherry….

    As for Climate Rebellion, etc, I completely agree: now interest has been aroused, the kids should stop ‘striking’ and, without of course patronising them, get some real lessons in school on how this world and the globalised industrial economy actually work – the mines, the oil and gas wells, the extravagent use of coal by China to make all those nice ‘clean’ solar panels, and so on.

    First stop, they could read your real-life solar-performance reports, and also ponder on just how much organic material you have to import to the small-holding, as well as how fossil-fuelled vehicles help you get the job done.

    The problem is, everything is discussed in a vacuum without real-world case-studies.

    But I do worry more than a bit about Greta Thunberg: she just doesn’t look well, and once one knows the back-story of mental illness, well…… I’m shocked by it, and would be inclined to give her parents a stern talking-to (but then I come from a military family!)

    And there is a risk that all those other kids will also develop depression when they realise that the complexity of the predicament is over-whelming: something not unknown to adults looking at the issues, until they come to some kind of emotional, as well as intellectual, accommodation with the situation.

    The local Rat Collective targeted me this winter, and I am impressed by their sheer persistence and intelligence: is there anything so humbling than to be out-witted by a rat?

    I can compare it only to looking a rook in the face, from a few feet away, and realising that it probably has the advantage in terms of intelligence (and knows it).

    I am convinced that they have a system of promotions and decorations: all competing for a sort of ratty Iron Cross with Oak Leaves – to win it, go furthest, deepest and eat the most! So, undoubtedly, the Chief of Staff on the Fernglade Front is, as we type, holding a campaign briefing, with maps….

  18. Chris:

    I’m kind of surprised that something else hasn’t moved into the birdhouse folly, maybe something with fur. Perhaps it is just too exposed. Certainly there would at least be a large wasps’ nest in there by now if it was here.

    Melons have been virtually impossible. The sun, as you said, and I’m not sure it actually does stay hot enough, long enough, here.

    You build uphill, we have to build downhill as our neighbors’ boundary is not that far from the top of our garden (with many big trees that we can’t cut). My son is still extending us down that north slope. He has almost reached where the land drops off abruptly. That probably won’t stop him and we shall eventually have a Hanging Gardens of Babylon situation.

    Today we are starting tomato and pepper seeds full blast as it is getting pretty late. Though, I don’t know, as it was 27F this morning. But the sun is very strong by afternoon.


  19. Chris:

    That koala is bold as! And with a dog in the car! Good thing it wasn’t Ollie.

    Cute as they are, I don’t believe koalas are trustworthy . . .


  20. Hi Chris,
    Even though the kids don’t realize all the implications of what they’re asking for I’m happy to see that they are out there and trying. After all it’s their lives that’ll be as it appears will be severely implicated. I may have mentioned awhile ago that the Kent State shootings occurred while I was a freshman in college. Many colleges went on strike including mine. It was up to the professor how they wanted to handle grades. As my college was a a main street in Chicago the many protests were very visible. Mind you, this was a Catholic women’s college and many of the nuns and other professors were very supportive and/or participated in the demonstrations and used it to be sure we understood the issues regarding the war. At that time though the real implications of war were broadcast nightly on the news unlike with the wars of recent times. There weren’t 100’s of channels where one could just zone out either. We all knew guys who had been drafted as well.

    You are really getting low on water. No wonder you’ve got another tank in the works.

    I can believe the number of adults who are just clueless about the issues with plastic- much less kids.

    The old owners of the house had many feeders and birdhouses up everywhere though none of them were made so they could be cleaned without totally removing nails and quite of few had entrance holes that are too big. We thought we had removed them but when all the leaves dropped we found two more pretty high up in a couple of trees. This was a couple well into their 80’s so don’t know who put them up or thought to maintain them. For Christmas Doug constructed ten bluebird houses so we can put up a bluebird trail. They should already be up but the ground was too frozen. It looks like we might be able to do so later this week now that we have warmer temperatures.

    Off to check out if any plants are coming up in the yard yet.

  21. Yo, Chris – I actually marched in two marches. Got tear gassed, at one. It was a long time ago. I really couldn’t say which one’s were about the Viet Nam War, and which about the Kent State University shootings. I think we talked about those, before. James Mitchner wrote a slim volume, about that. 11 days after Kent State, there was another shooting (2 dead) at Jackson State University. When I saw the news about Kent State, it was like my whole world view tipped, and everything slid into a corner. An almost physical sensation.

    Once I was quietly eating my lunch at a cafeteria, in the basement of one of the University buildings. I came to discover that the building had been taken over (occupied?) by protestors, and all the stair wells filled with classroom furniture. Which I clambered over. Had to get to my next class!

    8KWh (no, please, don’t explain 🙂 sounds like pretty good peak efficiency, for an overcast day.

    The Tale of the Turkey Carcass. An allegory? Well, the Club has a plastic bag lined bucket, that all the grounds and filters get pitched in. Along with other stuff. There was a nice full bag, right after Thanksgiving, as there had been “doings” at the Club. So, it sat in the back of my truck for a few months, slowly marinating. So, when I dumped that bag on my garden, out rolled the turkey carcass, and an incredible stench that just about knocked me on my can. Apparently, someone had dumped the turkey carcass in the bucket, and more grounds went on top, so….

    Yes, a lot of these arm chair survivalists think things will just be fine, as “they’ll just go out hunting” to stock the larder. That all their friends and neighbors will be doing the same thing, doesn’t seem to cross their minds. Nomads were nomadic, for a reason. I think I’ve only run across one novel about a post apocalyptic small village, that ends up “hunting out” the local animal population. Most of the arm chair survivalists can’t get past being giddy over the end of fish and game laws. Peak deer?

    I think it’s delightful that your birdhouse is a folly. Is it spacious enough to house a hermit in the garden? 🙂 I think I saw to ravens, yesterday. They flew right over. Crows? Nope. That was an awfully big wingspan. And, it was a “couple”. Not something I see much with crows.

    Ocean currents, Gulf Stream. “Thermohaline Circulation.” There seem to be recent glitches. Oh, well, “someone” will fix it, I’m sure.

    Wikipedia has a pretty good section on slugs. But don’t read the section on reproduction. You’ll never get those images out of your head. Just accept that they lay about 30 eggs (does that vary by species? How many times a year?) that are pearl like. In holes in the ground and under things. I’ve seen them about the garden, and dispose of them, when I find them. On some levels, slugs are pretty dumb. And, cannibalistic. Apparently, they have a taste for their dead mates, with a savory application of ammonia. I often find two or three gathered around a fallen fellow, from the night before.

    It was 73F (22.77C) yesterday. We’re supposed to have a few days like that, and then back to rain for the weekend. I do hope you get rain. But not too much.

    That was an interesting article about the Koala. But the part that kind of jumped out, to me, was that the guy had all the doors open, with the air conditioner running. Hmmm. Of course I wasn’t there, but it seems a bit … wasteful?

    I see your koala and raise you … poppies.


    You think leaf peppers are bad, sounds like poppy peppers (at least, it’s more alliterative) are worse. I even heard a report on the radio, about it. The mayor of the town stated, that not only was a dog, bit by a rattlesnake, but also a fellow. Lew

  22. @ DJSpo – There’s a couple of recent books out, about ravens. Both, very good reads. I wouldn’t be surprised if your local library, has them.

    “The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London.” (Skaife, 2018).

    “A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven.” (Shute, 2018.)


  23. Chris,

    I thoroughly enjoyed the early Doctor Who series, at least through the 5th Doctor. The 6th was okay, but beyond that, meh. And I won’t even talk about the more recent versions. We never got Blakes 7 here.

    I’ve read several translations of Beowulf. Gummere is my favorite. The story is good, plus it’s interesting trying to look at the heathen culture through the eyes of a Dark Ages Christian scribe. And yes, there are some explanatory notes here and there, which are helpful. However, there are not a lot of these. However, being well read in a lot of similar stories, I find that I don’t need as many of the notes any longer, although I still find the notes instructive as to the translator’s viewpoint.

    I live not far from rattlesnake country. I mean, there are a few about 5 km west of me, across the river. I used to camp and fish in what are called “seep lakes” south of Moses Lake, WA. Total desert. I was always careful about where I stepped or reached or scrambled among rocks. A large scorpion visited my lean-to shelter once. Let’s say that the unwelcome guest did not stay very long.

    Another time, a friend and I were fishing in an open-cockpit vinyl kayak in one of the seep lakes. We were heading back to our camp for lunch, paddling into a narrowing small bay. I noticed a LARGE rattlesnake drop off the rocks into the water from our port side. It was swimming right at us. We veered, and so did the snake. It swam faster than we could paddle our boat. Every course change we made, the rattler changed and swam at us. Finally, I told my friend to paddle like crazy and I had to literally fight the blasted snake with my paddle. Somehow, I flipped him into the water off the starboard bow, and it decided to leave us.

    Some guys on shore wondered what we were on about, so we told them and they just laughed and said that rattlesnakes can’t swim. They were just pushing their boat into the water when the snake slithered over the rear and into the boat. Such cursing amidst their scrambling to exit unbitten was, well, amusing because they didn’t believe us. Nobody got bitten and the snake disappeared in the rocks.

    We have a few nasty spiders here, as well as ticks. The ticks can spread a few nasty things, like Lime disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Icky little suckers they are!

    Things NOT to do at the job…When grabbing some candy from the public candy dish in Jill’s office, and you notice the phone is ringing…and the caller ID says that the highest non-elected official in the entire County is calling…do NOT answer and say in a falsetto “Hi Pete, this is Jill. I hate you!” and then hang up the phone. No, I didn’t do that, but I’m unsure why the thought even crossed my mind while raiding for snacks.

    Yes, I agree, meditation is not a continuum. There is no “one size fits all” here, as in most things. It’s another area in which dissensus is good.


  24. Hi Pam,

    Be afraid Ollie dog, be very afraid! Hey, did you notice how the Koala’s claws had dug into the dashboard? And the poor dog was looking at the Koala – cue dog voice” what are you? Hi! I’m a dog, and I’m a bit nervous about you, but we can still be friends, although I might just check what is going on outside the car. See ya mate!”

    The Koala looked a little bit on the grumpy side of things to me, sort of annoyed at the unexpected turn of events. 🙂

    Yeah, nothing seems to have moved into the folly, other than the usual garden spiders. Possums are brief visitors here as they lead a perilous life as the owls pick them off one by one. It’s brutal.

    The wasps are a possibility for sure. Do you get paper wasps in your part of the world? Here, they construct little cocoons about the size of a pen. In spring they break out of the cocoon. I have no doubt they’d enjoy electrical boxes…

    Fair enough. I’m not sure that melons enjoy that much humidity either. They enjoy water, but seem to prefer drier heat.

    What do they say about necessity being the mother of invention? I wish your son well in his epic terracing construction efforts. He is probably onto something as we’re still talking about The Hanging Gardens long after they’ve been turned to dust.

    It would be early for tomatoes here and some wet years we’ve started them as late as December. I can’t speak for your area, but I find the plants require the heat to grow more than anything else.



  25. Hi Margaret,

    Totally agree with you, and that was one of the reasons that I mentioned how the response to the student protests was more or less telling the kids to get lost and go on about their business. I’d have to suggest that it is an inadequate response to the kids concerns.

    Thanks for recounting your memories of that time. I read again about the history of the Kent State Shootings and to be honest, it seemed like an over the top response and an act that was indicative of both poor training and a lack of leadership. But that does not bring the kids back, and I also read about bayonets used in New Mexico. The draft was here too, but it wasn’t the first time that it was used. Sometimes events get their own momentum, even when they no longer make sense.

    More water! Please! We should be OK as it will rain again – eventually…

    People are oblivious to plastic waste, but it never ceases to amuse me the strange things that I pick out of composted green waste. It hardly surprises me at all that the Chinese put a ban on taking our recycling, because we’re basically clueless and can’t be bothered sorting out the various waste streams. There are factories turning up down here with all manner of stored waste – some of dubious and nefarious origins… The costs are appalling.

    I can just imagine, that one of couple was sent scurrying up into the tree to place the bird boxes! Far out… That reminds me, I do need to construct a three legged orchard ladder.

    Has anything turned up in the garden?



  26. Hi Chris and Lew,

    My new oven thermometer arrived A little analog dial that can hang off the internal rack. Turns out my oven runs a full 20 degrees C hotter! No wonder a few things didn’t turn out!


  27. Hi Chris,

    That banded bee looks very smart with his stripes! I can’t be too critical of the protesting kids, in fact I see it as a good thing although I don’t think much can be done about climate change. In short, good on them! Although I doubt many of them know the joys to be had driving rear wheel drive cars with a manual box 🙂

    As an aside, I suspect that deep down, most kids realise their future will be less good than their parents. The message of limits and sacrifice to get a “green” future might not be lost on them if someone coherent could capture their imagination (a green Trump/Caesar figure perhaps?).

    Mother and sister visited from Australia last weekend. They had a great time at the Hobbit town set from the Lord of the Rings movie, fishing for snapper in the river and visiting some dramatic NZ scenery (https://duckduckgo.com/?q=mercer+bay+loop+walk&t=ffab&iax=images&ia=images).

    On a slightly related note to AI and the Terminator films, I note that the original Alien movie is coming back to the cinema for a few nights next month! Very tempted to go see it, I am not sure what it says about my mental state that I enjoy that sort of movie. Some rocks are best left unturned I guess 🙂


  28. Hi Lewis,

    I’d have to suggest that tensions haven’t risen to such extremes down here, but who knows who may be getting into the kids heads? Margaret also mentioned the Kent State Shootings so I again read a brief history about the event, and yes we had spoken about it before. It seemed like an extreme reaction to me from people that may have been itching for a fight (or a relief from the tension of the situation – there is something in catharsis), but then tensions were actually high, and you know it wasn’t as if the kids weren’t taking the consequences without believing in the program being offered. It was certainly a failure of leadership of the guardsmen.

    I do wonder if the kids these days understand the predicament they (as do we all) face? Dunno. There is so much noise out there. It was the first hand experience living with this renewable energy stuff that alerted me to the serious limitations (there are benefits to be had too). Before that hard won experience, I had so many beliefs and they got punctured one by one, and I see people repeating the beliefs – even the kids protesting are. And they’re mistaken, but then so are the politicians.

    Yeah, I get that. The unthinkable became the done, and it rocks your world view. It is like a physical blow, I get that. Thanks for recounting your response.

    Very conscientious! I probably would have done something similar, whilst thinking to myself: This is all a total nuisance, I hope I don’t get involved in this rapidly evolving and escalating situation!

    Actually it isn’t too bad an output for the solar for a very cloudy day. It is good enough for me, but the average household may get quite the surprise as it is probably about a third of what they’ve become used to. Hey, did you just write: Spare me the details!!! Hehe! But then people have lived without electricity for longer than they’ve had access to it.

    Oh no! Rotten about the turkey carcass. What a find and yeah the stink would have been epic. Maybe accompanied with a few retching sounds. It would put me off turkey sandwiches for a while. Hey I get the strangest rubbish in the coffee grounds. Strange items like the little corners off milk cartons (the plastic lined cardboard variety), and also lots of tiny little napkins which I have no explanation for. Mostly it is pretty good and I pick all of that stuff up. But the composted green waste is just weird. All I can say is beware the plastic dolphin… Never found a plastic turkey though and now feel as though I’m missing out.

    It is bonkers. The issue was covered in Mr Kunstler’s World made by Hand series of books in relation to deer. But up here, there are so few animals that the easiest animal would soon end up being long pig if things ever got to that sort of theoretical situation. Arm chair survivalists believe that gardening takes no effort at all, and they are so mistaken…

    Fascinating, and I wasn’t aware that crows chase off ravens. You’d think that ravens would be tougher as they have larger beaks? I rarely see crows here, but ravens, most certainly. I wonder if crows prefer urban areas? Dunno.

    I’d like to see them give it a go! OK, here is an idea. Large pumps in the ocean powered by solar panels located on the moon with an electrical connection by laser beam. What could possibly go wrong? Wouldn’t want to be near the beam if the tracking was off by a bit… Ouch!

    It is the mid-week hiatus and I’ll check out the slug reference tomorrow night – even the naughty bits! 🙂 Haha! Nature rarely wastes anything. The dogs do a poo around the property, then the birds consume it during the day. But at night, the rodents and numerous insects do the final clean up. It all ends up back in the soil.

    Thanks, and 77’F sounds quite nice (and about what the temperature is here today). Clearly the moons have aligned!

    It was a bit dodgy that part of the Koala story. But it looks as though he’d left his dog in the car too, so who knows what was going on there? Dunno. Cars sitting with their engines idling use a huge amount of fuel. It is a bit scary really. The hungry beasts need their feeding…

    Poppy-pocalypse is a real nightmare. Population pressure. I’m no fan of the leaf peepers and I have no idea what they’re hoping to see. I suspect that it is some sort of compulsion.



  29. Hello again
    I am not sure that protests and marches ever achieve much. I guess that there is an attitude of ‘oh, just let them get on with it’. Even when it appears that they have achieved something it is usually a world event that has caused the change. I suppose that the Jarrow March may have been an exception.
    Thanks for directing us to the koala in the car. I thought that the car owner was being a bit too friendly as koalas can turn nasty.
    Warm and dry here so I am getting out to deal with future fruit and veg. Some potatoes are already in, rhubarb is coming up, Swiss chard has overwintered okay and is continuing to grow, a few leeks are left.


  30. The ironies of Renewables: I look back at the day when I saw the British PM, Cameron, posing with some kind of cute mini wind-turbine on the roof of his London house, saying it was The Future (did he have shares in it?)and thought: ‘Great, so cool, I’ll get one of those!’ How I fancied myself at the leading edge!

    Thus we learn…… 🙂

    I am just setting out a small number of raised beds to grow veg, and I am looking forward to the undoubted humiliations and tribulations which will stem from that – I can see them coming…..

    It’s a kind of dry-run for moving to the Pyrenees, where I hope to eat local sheep and grow my own greens as much as possible, on a drip-feed of the local drink, cider. (Traditionally, together with fried bacon, the favourite sustenance of the old water-spirits, the ‘lamias’ – sensible ladies).

    Not sure what the soil will really be like there, although it’s a very fertile-looking valley I have my eye on, (google ‘Baztan Valley’ if you’d like to see it) called in the 19th century a ‘paradise’; here, the soil is fantastically rich, and every spadeful is bringing up nice plump worms, which is encouraging!

    I have a feeling that only an idiot could fail to grow bumper crops in such soil, and that I might well be that idiot.

    But it’s always good to try something you have absolutely no knowledge of: if it doesn’t work out, whose keeping records after all?

    When I learnt the craft of book binding, I was actually convinced that I wouldn’t be able to do it, being very impatient, and ended up being one of the last of the living who can.

  31. Chris:

    We have every wasp imaginable. One, the cicada killer, is about 2 inches long. Some are very tiny. There is a kind that builds one of those huge paper nests that looks like what I think of when someone mentions a wild beehive in a tree (think Winnie the Pooh). Those wasps build one under the eaves of the house every year. There is one that builds organ pipe houses out of clay and one that builds little clay pots. They are just wonderful creatures.

    Yesterday I planted more radishes and some peas and watered the potted fruit trees. This has been our first significant stretch of dry weather since last midsummer. My son started the tomatoes and peppers inside and I started some chard. I have also started the tobacco inside. You’d think – this being Virginia, well-known for tobacco – that I would have figured out how to grow it outside by now. A few do grow as volunteers each year, but they never have time to flower (we grow them for the flowers, mostly).

    Peaches, cherry bushes, and pears are blooming. With it being below freezing at night, I don’t know how they will fare.

    Nothing helps one feel better faster than to be out in the garden on a nice, sunny day.


  32. Yo, Chris – I seem to remember some pie in the sky (mirror in the sky?) scheme to orbit mirrors in space, to reflect intense beams of sunlight down to earth, that would somehow yield solar energy. Yes. What could possibly to wrong?

    Your mention of dog poo and birds joggled a memory of reading something about horses and sparrows. Yesterday. So, I went down the rabbit hole to see what that was all about. Feed horses enough oats, and sooner or later, the sparrows will benefit. Turns out, it’s the theory of trickle down economics. Though the term “trickle down” was first used by cowboy humorist, Will Rogers, in relation to the Great Depression. He observed it was more trickle up, than trickle down. Anyway. I ran across this, not too long article, on how business works, in the US. You may find it interesting.


    Well, we hit 79F, yesterday. And, four hours later, it was 30 degrees cooler. Overnight, it eventually got down to close to freezing (-0-C). Can I sue for whiplash? 🙂

    I thought the poppy-pocalypse story was a bit amusing. As it’s not happening here. But, I thought the mayor was sending a bit of a mixed message. We’ve got this wonderful thing, but don’t come look at it. Or, some people can come look at it, but not too many. Your either open for business, or your not. Make up your mind! :-). Lew

  33. @ Damo – Boy, that’s quit a variation between supposed oven temperature, and actual. I mentioned I found I have to set my oven 10 degrees higher, to get the correct temperature. I also found that when my oven “beeps” to let me know it’s at temperature, it isn’t. Takes about another 10 minutes to actually get where it’s supposed to be. Those little thermometers come in handy. I picked mine up at our local hardware store. But then I wonder … how accurate are the thermometers?

    I again watched “The Mummy”, last night. Still found the thing to be “not too bad.” I really think the sets make that movie. I got curious about the future of the Universal, Dark Universe series. Looks like the idea has kind of fizzled out. Due to the poor returns on “The Mummy.” Too bad. I’d like to see some of the old Universal classics, redone. At least up to the quality of “The Mummy”, or better. I think the Wikipedia entry was something like “Universal Classic Horror Films.” Interesting what the consider “in the cannon” and “not in the cannon.” Lew

  34. Hi Damo,

    The blue banded bees are fairly common up the east coast of the continent, and they’re fast so are really hard to photograph. They’d be doing hard work up in northern NSW too.

    Me too, I reckon it is great that the kids are flexing their muscles and getting out and protesting. But like you I’m not necessarily sanguine that much will be done about the predicament – which is a bit of a bummer, but there are plenty of other things that can be done!

    I suspect you’re spot on and I do wonder whether the sheer pressure being placed on the kids by concerned parents, is indicative that there will be less to consume at the table in the future? Dunno It certainly doesn’t mean that there will be nothing to eat, but just less for some. The metaphor of musical chairs always comes to my mind for some reason, or seats on the Titanic’s sparse number of lifeboats. Hey, as a salty sea dog yourself, I once read a suggestion that the orderly escape from the sinking Titanic (for some) was not the norm. What do you reckon about that?

    No doubts, they’ll be driving vehicles with automatic gearboxes that their parents own! Cheeky, but I hear anecdotal accounts of kids not wanting to get their license and I do wonder as to the why of it all? I couldn’t wait to get away from the family home.

    The one I worry about is the story of them waking up to discover kicking passengers overboard is a workable strategy. Historically, it has happened plenty of times.

    Cool scenery! Awesome! Glad they enjoyed their stay – and I would be drawn to Hobbit town too.

    Yeah!!!! Go see it on the big screen. Definitely, you’ll love it – although you might already be prepared for the cat scene. I assume you’ve already seen the film?



  35. Hi Inge,

    I sort of feel that protests are blithely ignored – because there is no economic cost to be borne. Booting politicians out of office and/or getting involved in local council politics is a more effective strategy by far. Even better is reducing your reliance upon a system.

    The interesting thing that I noted about the Jarrow March was that the marchers had support from affiliated groups all the way along the route. I feel that the divide and conquer strategy has been used to good effect in our own society – and it has a long history of use in our culture. I don’t see too many local groups that can achieve much, and the two main political parties down here really want to exercise that prerogative, but they’re a bit ineffectual these days – like a spider caught in its own web. How does that compare to your part of the world?

    Whenever I’ve handled a Koala, I always use a thick towel – in fact I keep them ready in the house and in the car (as you never know what you might come across) for such an encounter with the wildlife. The claws are epic – and they know how to use them.

    Fascinating. Swiss chard over winters here too – it is tough stuff. You’re in such an exciting time of the year. I assume the wind has eased off now that it is warmer and drier?



  36. Hi Pam,

    Cool. You appear to be on friendly terms with the wasps – and I am too. The editor was once stung by a European wasp after accidentally upsetting a hive, but they mostly all just go on about their own business and don’t hassle us. The little paper (or clay) nests are great aren’t they – so clever to build their own mud brick home?

    Starting seedlings inside makes a lot of sense. I haven’t quite gotten my head around starting some of the plants outside either – but some sort of cold frame wouldn’t be a bad idea here. Dunno, it’s complicated and not consistent between one spring and the next.

    I’m totally not allowed in any way shape or form to grow a tobacco plant! Seriously. I can own and run a still, but not grow tobacco plants. The authorities throw the book at such dilettante growers! 🙂 Ook! Not for I! Down here the crop is known as chop-chop.

    Bummer, that happened here last spring. You know, some plants were OK and some weren’t. Fingers crossed that the nights don’t get too cold for your fruit trees.

    🙂 A thoroughly excellent idea!



  37. Hi Lewis,

    Ah, it is the dreaded mid-week hiatus (and equinox) and alas my usual verbose self, gets cut short. These limit things are no fun! 🙂

    Finished Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore this morning. What a charming ending. “There is no immortality that is not built upon friendship and work done with care.” I was pretty chuffed reading the ending, and thank you for the suggestion of the book.

    But then the awful problem suddenly became what to read next. Decisions, decisions, decisions! I settled upon Conrad Richter’s second instalment: “The Fields”. Already a few pages in and I am not disappointed. 🙂 You recommended this excellent series of books too. Has it been a while since you read them?

    First thing this morning I got my tetanus booster and also the flu vaccination (I feel like a pin cushion but it was a very minor pain). There is always a huge amount of administration to life, but getting the jab in the arm seems like far less hassle than coming down sick with either disease. Tetanus sounds frightening, although the really nasty side effects are apparently only a 10% probability. It was a rusty plant cage covered in soil which scratched into my arm last week that was the impetus to take the plunge. And well the flu is not good. Been there and done that… Have little desire to journey to that dark place again anytime soon (I know you hear me!).

    Haha! That was what I was thinking about too with the space mirrors and laser beams etc. What about using the sunlight we do get instead of hoping for more? As far as I’ve experienced the benefits of energy, I can see that there is no plan B for Oil – it is just that good and we won the jackpot, but it comes with such a high price. Oh well.

    Trickle down economics – and mate I recall the days of Reganomics and/or supply side economics which has sometimes been referred to as Modern Monetary Theory (or the idea that it all doesn’t matter) – and well what can one say other than it does matter. The trickle down folk forget about the Smaug’s that fly around the landscape hoarding all of the printed money. And if the Smaug’s didn’t do that, inflation would be bonkers. But then Smaug starts thinking that I can use my piles of mad cash to leverage the system to get even more mad cash. For who tells them that they’ve hit the limit? And so the various Smaug’s take the policy into diminishing returns as they forget to pay the underlings… It happens.

    You’re spring is starting to sound like the climate weirdness and variability down here. It is not good for the pollinating insects or the fruit trees. Mind you, the almonds made it through that unscathed, but the plums, apricots and nectarines were done. Ouch!

    I couldn’t work out whether the authorities there wanted the tourists or not either. This weekend is going to be totally bonkers in this part of the world for that too. It makes me want to stay on the property and hide from the tourists. Your hermit adventure has something going for it! 🙂 You weren’t tempted to join the tourists were you?

    Hey, I’m really excited as I picked up some biodynamic wheat flour with the oils mixed in. It smells amazing and I’ll make a loaf of bread from it on maybe Sunday. Hopefully it is good, or way better than that.



  38. Hi Chris,
    Only some hostas are poking up right now but things are getting greener. It’s not going to be as warm as originally forecast but still an improvement. Mostly time to clean up sticks and pull off some of the leaves from garden beds.

    Thanks for the koala link. It was quite funny at least in some ways. Do you really keep a towel with you all the time? I know if one needs to medicate a cat wrapping a towel around it is a must.


  39. @Pam
    Glad to see you back. Your descriptions of your property sound so interesting. We have a lot of paper and mud wasps here. I’ve only been stung by paper wasps and it’s always when I’ve inadvertently grabbed one. This would often happen in the fall when they were just hanging out on a barn post blending right in. Once there was one on a bale of hay that I didn’t notice which stung me on the stomach. People really get freaked out by them but if not disturbed they’re really quite harmless.


  40. Yo, Chris – The temperature hit 79F, again, yesterday. Same old, same old. How boring :-). But, starting today, we’re getting rain and lower temperatures, for at least the next week. But nothing as low as 32F (-0-C). Yup. First day of spring.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed “Mr. Penumbra.” I liked the peek at what a certain segment of “youth” is up to these days. And a bit of a peek behind the curtain of what tech (as a part of culture) is up to, these days. I ran across an article, yesterday, on Googles project to put every book in the world, on-line. I’ll link to it, later.

    Oh, I read the whole Richter series, but it was decades ago. And, it’s probably jumbled up in my mind with the TV mini-series, which, for it’s time, was quit good. Time and memory. Someone, somewhere, probably said something clever, about that. Maybe I should go back and knock off “The Fields.” Just so we have something to talk about :-). Or, at least read a summary. Cliff Notes?

    I’m glad you got your tetanus and flu shot. Now I can sleep :-).

    I think I like the visuals of horses and sparrows, rather than water trickling somewhere. All that supply side business back in the 80s, never sounded quit “right” to me. Hmmm. The Powers That Be, are always developing these grand plans, and never seem to take human nature, into it.

    Oh, sure. I’ll just throw myself on I-5 and make the pilgrimage to the poppy fields. There seems to be a lot of 18 wheelers, out on I-5, today. Do you call them that, down there? I can also see a very long line of freight cars, lumbering by.

    Biodynamic. Now, there’s a word to conjure with. It just sounds so, well, dynamic :-). Lew

  41. Yo, Chris – Here’s the article about Google scanning every book in the world. Turns out it’s about 2 years old.


    I also forgot to mention that the local auction finally spit out something that looks interesting. A print of a, Victorian young lady, really putting her back into it and rowing a boat. Now, I’m probably the only one within 150 miles who knows who she is. I glanced at it and thought, “Oh, that’s Grace Darling.” :-). She’s a celebrated heroine, circa 1840. Light house keeper’s daughter, in England, who saved numerous people from a wreck. There’s an Australian, counterpart.

    So, I stopped by the auction to have a look. Smaller than I expected, but old. Ugly frame. Pretty good shape. So, I left an absentee bid. I’ll find out in a couple of days if I win the auction. Lew

  42. Hi Lew,

    Now I feel intrigued by Mr Penumbras, added to my book list 🙂

    Your talk about lots of 18 wheelers on the I-5 (we call them semi’s, or B-Doubles when they have two trailers) reminded me of how blown away I was when we first came onto an interstate near Joshua Tree NP. For about 10 minutes we were driving along a smaller road, and in the distance I could see hundreds of moving white boxes going both ways. They were of course trucks, but the sheer number of them was amazing. In Australia and NZ, you never see that many trucks on the road at one time (although we have a lot, and most surface freight is by truck rather than train).

    For the rest of trip, no matter what interstate we were on, there was always a huge number of trucks (and on the back of most trucks were advertisements looking for more drivers). A visual reminder of the sheer size of the US economy!

    The calibration of the oven thermometer might be a rabbit hole! An easy home check would be to use various boiling substances as a check (water = 100 C). But you would also need to calibrate against something at 200-250 Celcius to be accurate. Despite being cheap, my thermometer has a little adjustment screw on the back! For now, I will trust it as it confirmed my prejudice against the oven 🙂

    I understand the Universal Monsters reboots are continuing with low key budgets and directors. So no more Tom Cruise and large set pieces. For a laugh, check out this video of a scene with Tom Cruise in the crashing plane with most audio removed 🙂 (skip to about 50seconds)


  43. Hi DJ,

    The moons are in synch, because I too watched the third through six doctors. It has been a very enduring and much loved show. There wouldn’t be too many other shows that have enjoyed such a long run.

    True too about Beowulf translations. The good Prof. Tolkien clearly had an intellectual axe to grind with former translation efforts and appeared not to be shy about stomping them! Nice for some. 🙂 So yeah, the translators point of view is interesting as well, and you know what you may learn as everyone comes at issues with their own bias. I’m as guilty of that as anyone.

    Hey, just to add a bit of drama to the reply. I have the door wide open to the cooler evening air and a solid thunderstorm passed overhead. Boom, crashes the thunder. The thunder gods are clearly pleased! 🙂 The rain is much appreciated and I feel a sense of relief. It has been so dry recently.

    Are your large scorpions poisonous? I haven’t found out about the ones here, but I’m not willing to conduct the test and just sort of respect their housing and not try to annoy them too much.

    Far out! That is a tough way to learn that snakes can swim. They can swim down here too and I’ve seen them slithering into water and then leaving a trail through the duck weed. A very adaptable creature and it is little wonder that they have survived so much ecological turmoil through the ages. Apparently there was even a giant python on this continent which disappeared about 50,000 years ago as it came into contact with another species of which we are all familiar.

    Spiders are everywhere here. The Golden Orb spiders even have a neat trick where they can catch a ride on the wind and that increases their distribution range (they’re common here). Ticks and leeches are here also, although the ticks are more common. The dogs sometimes pick up ticks and I remove them with very fine tweezers. Fortunately the ticks here don’t seem to carry diseases that I’m aware of, but up north where it is warmer, they have a paralysis tick which injects some sort of nerve toxin. Not good and one to avoid, but the ticks are amazing to see in action. I use strong insecticide to remove tick seeds from the dogs in the rare case that I discover the little seeds. In the past I used canine insecticidal soap and that had no effect whatsoever so I went for the big guns. The tick seeds are really hard to remove otherwise and the tick seeds feed off the flesh of the dogs and leave little craters in their skin. The dogs are not happy about them, but it has not stopped them from encountering the cheeky scamps.

    Hehe! Nice one. One can but dream! Personally, my brain operates too slowly for too much witty banter on the fly, and often the good ideas turn up long after the conversation has since passed its used by date. But then, there may be a next time… Cue evil genius chuckle!!!!



  44. Hi Xabier,

    Well as to whether your ex-PM has or had shares in the miniature wind turbine company – who knows? It is a worthy question though because I once installed a miniature wind turbine here. It was installed high up on an 8m steel mast. And I can’t say with any certainty that the intricate machine produced any electricity whatsoever. Probably not though. After several months of watching the machine spin up and then spin down again, I took it down, sold it off, and replaced it with two additional solar panels which produced more electricity in one morning than the wind turbine had produced in many months of operation.

    Still, it was nice to do the experiment. The thing was the other folks who I spoke with who were using these sorts of renewable energy systems, well they warned me not to conduct the experiment. But I blithely ignored their good advice and forged ahead. It is a hard way to learn, but I gave them a good and proper Mea Culpa. For a wind turbine to work, the wind has to continuously physically push you – anything else is a waste of time. The tops of mountain ranges or along the coast are the only places they’ll work well. And be warned that wind may become less in the future.

    So yeah, it is a tough way to learn! The path of the trail blazer (my term for your leading edge term) is a hard path indeed.

    Top work with the raised beds. Out of curiosity, what is the material used to retain the soil within the garden bed? You might enjoy a slightly longer growing season than if you had planted directly into the soil, because the soil in raised garden beds often is faster to warm up than the soil itself (which has vast amounts of thermal mass). Keeping them watered a little bit each day during the summer months is the interesting part of the story. My lot enjoys no more than ten minutes of a small sprayer per day and that is enough, but I’ve selected for heat and dry hardy varieties of annual vegetables over many years. But good luck. Nature is a tough teacher.

    Fried bacon, roast lamb and cider sort of sounds like a tasty combination to me. I grow most of the greens that I consume and nothing beats home grown greens because they begin to decay not long after being picked – and that is just how they are. And in a slightly warmer climate than the UK, I reckon you could enjoy a huge variety of greens. I have edible varieties that grow all year around, but it has taken me more than a few years to get my head around the succession planting and locating of the greens. They’re all finicky plants.

    Baztan Valley is beautiful. Do you notice how the housing is very homogeneous? Also I see that water and soil fertility becomes relatively scarce the further one moves up in altitude. The tree coverage is pretty good at higher elevations though.

    Yeah depending on where you expect to grow things in that area, the fertility appears variable to my eyes (look at the colour shades of the paddocks to instruct your eyes). Incidentally, worms generally favour moister soil, and the worms abdicate their tasks to the ants where the soil dries. Those two species are at loggerheads here and depending on the soil moisture one or the other may be winning.

    Exactly! The only way to test your mettle and knowledge is to pit it against the challenge of implementing something. Good luck and recall that much like knowledge, gardening is a journey.

    Sometimes I suspect that it is the authors of learned thesis that keep the local book binding businesses, in business.



  45. What a stunning sunset. Pity it is a result of the fires.

    Reading what you accomplish makes me tired, so hats off to your younger self. Your flowers and veg look fantastic! Hope you get some rain soon to fill those tanks.

    We´ve had another stretch of atypical sunny dry weather. Warm days and very chilly nights. Once again, my seedlings germinate but don´t want to get past the cotyledon stage. I´m afraid I´ve lost a whole tray of baby carnations to damping. Sprinkled some cinnamon to see if I can save a couple. Other than that it´s a weeding marathon. The garden just really, really wants to go back to pasture. Today the tractor guy is supposed to re-disc the expanded area, so then it will be fence posts and raised beds.

    I went to college in Madison, WI which has a long tradition of protesting back to the late 60´s. I look fondly on the idealism of youth and their passion for causes, but realistically I don´t think they have the practical information they need and the political class just seems to co-opt their energy.

    Lovely birdhouse. I keep meaning to put some on top of the taller fence posts, or hang from the trees.

  46. Hi Margaret,

    A few months ago we had a discussion about those hostas, and I honestly wouldn’t know how to work with such shady conditions. Have you planted some Hellebores and/or ferns? Those plants love the shade and can handle the occasional epic and prolonged bout of dry. Strawberries appear to enjoy the shade too and will still produce fruit, but they don’t really enjoy prolonged dry spells. Like everything else – much depends (which is a neat non answer, don’t you reckon?) I have shady spots here and they are a bit of a pain – especially in the shade of the giant eucalyptus trees which tend to conduct chemical warfare on all of the other plants underneath it.

    But now that I consider the matter, some of the local smaller trees (if you can call up to 150ft small) are very well adapted to shade. Acacia Melanoxylon is a serious favourite, but so are the huge Musk Daisy Bushes, Blanket Leaf’s, Hazel Pomaderris and there is a whole heap of flax lillies not to mention the orchids. Not many edible plants enjoy the shade other than berries (I’m not sure you’d enjoy bramble berries but I grow thornless varieties of blackberries here and they’re tasty). Dunno, it is really complicated. Do you have many varieties of Hostas?

    You have had a very tough winter and have displayed stoic qualities right throughout. The propane delivery was a close call though. Would you put away more firewood for next winter? We finally scored about 1/5th of an inch of rain today and I’m slowly beginning to feel a sense of relief. Installed the new water tank today, but that will take another 15 inches of rain before I get to even think about filling it.

    The reaction of the dog in the video to the Koala was a hoot. And I suspect the Koala would have dealt harshly to the dog so it was wise of the owner to remove the dog from the situation. And absolutely, I keep a towel ready to hand in both the house and the car. One of the cars even has a woollen blanket in case we’re caught in a bushfire. Maybe two summers ago (which was also crazy dry) I came across a Koala on a local road struggling to climb an embankment. So I threw the towel on the Koala and lifted it into a nearby tree that I thought that it might enjoy. At least the Koala was off the road. I encounter a lot of dead wildlife on the side of the roads, and today I saw a dead kangaroo, and the wildlife person who had inspected the pouch for joeys but also sprayed “Slow down” in paint on the road. I’m always impressed at the work that the wildlife carers do. Each carcass is spray painted with an X to indicate that the body and pouches have been checked. That isn’t a job that I could do and I respect the people that do it – many of which are volunteers. Joeys are usually raised and cared for and then released near to where they were found.

    Hehe! Yup! How badly grumpy do cats get when being medicated? The towel is a great idea for that purpose too. How are the dogs coping with the slightly warmer weather? Did they get much cabin fever over the winter?



  47. Hi Lewis,

    It is possible that we may one day have nothing to converse about, but then my money is on the interweb connection going permanently down before that day! 🙂 Speaking of which, I received a message from the nice phone company that they were upgrading the mobile phone (cell phone) connection in the area and that may pose occasional problems over the next few days. I have a fall back plan for that scenario, but it involves less photos in the blog… Oh well, we’ll wait and see.

    Hey, we finally scored some decent (if minor) rain this afternoon (1/5th of an inch). This morning the air was like pea soup the fog was that thick. Then the fog disappeared and it was a rather hot and sunny day at 84’F. I received a call early this morning that the new water tank was ready to pick up from the supplier and so I trundled down to pick it up from the nearby township.

    Stopped past the tip on the way, to drop off my scrap metal which I note is still being recycled. But I did note that they also were collecting cardboard for recycling and that was interesting to me. It seemed as if all else was going into landfill. Saw some good stuff in the tip shop which I was unable to bring back home because the water tank is bigger than the car and entirely fills the bright yellow trailer… Oh well.

    Anyway, we brought the water tank back home and I’d forgotten how we’d moved the thing about the property last time we did that job. Now strangely enough, last time was almost exactly a year ago. Does that make it a pattern? After a bit of stuffing around and much cursing, we recalled how we moved the giant chunk of plastic and placed it into position! Now all I need is a lot of rain to fill the tank. This time I drew a rather dodgy stick figure drawing depicting how we moved the water tank about the property, and I placed the drawing in the file with the water tanks paperwork. A job well done is a satisfying thing. The character Neel Shah in Mr Penumbra’s story would question the accuracy of my stick figure drawings, but one cannot be good at everything! 😉

    We’re almost at about the same daytime temperatures. Hopefully you are in for a mild summer? Fingers crossed – at least you should have plenty of water in your part of the world. Things are very dry down here – it is remarkable just how dry. But it looks like the monsoon has returned up north of the country and we now have cyclones on both sides of the top end. Trevor in the east and Veronica in the west. Let’s hope that the lovely young couple don’t meet. Cyclone Veronica is a category four: Cyclone Veronica approaches WA’s Pilbara with damaging storm surge sparking evacuation calls. The damage to the coastline may possibly be quite huge.

    The photos of the snow melt on the cliffmass blog were awesome.

    It was interesting to read what the tech savvy youth were up to wasn’t it? And I liked that in the Penumbra story the protagonist recognised the social debt obligations that he had incurred and in the conclusion of the story there was lots of formal recognition of the social debt obligations. The previously mentioned mate with the charitable fund was a hoot of a character!

    The thing is, I do wonder at the physical upper limits on data storage. I mean from the end users perspective, it all seems quite straightforward but the reality of data centres and their energy and resource usages must be mind blowing. And the more data that is added, the higher the cost goes (if only incrementally, but still it will add up), so sooner or later diminishing returns must be reached? Dunno?

    You joked to me once about filling up the interweb with all of these photos, but I have to monitor the data stored and traffic usage – it ain’t free (although I am covering the costs which are pretty minimal at the moment). I noticed that Gogle is in the process of deleting Gogle + content so even they have to make savings somewhere.

    Haha! Sure. The summaries can be pretty good at a pinch, although I prefer reading every word of a text where I’m enjoying the authors content. Reading in between the lines, you can sometimes get a feeling for the author and their life, but good authors probably share a lot with good actors and they can turn on a different voice if required. What is your point of view in that matter?

    The author of the trilogy does enjoy keeping the main character in and out of trouble. But the main character also faces all of this ill doings with good grace and a strong back, so maybe the author is onto something? Apparently in the introduction it was mentioned that William Shakespeare also employed that story telling effect. I dunno about you, but things are not always trouble, and like take the student protestors for example, they don’t know that they face a problem without a suitable solution, and are they in trouble because of that? Maybe, but then again maybe not?

    You’re on fire tonight. 🙂 The editor and I still talk about the flu last year, and we know who we caught it from… I sort of wish people wouldn’t go to work when they are feeling that sick – it was a bit extreme. The flu shot is no guarantee, but it sure can help.

    I was a bit suspect about the supply side economic stuff too, and it was never lost on me that a rising tide drowns people without boats and/or access to higher ground. Printing money has only ever been a short term option from my understanding, but this time it has been given a thoroughly good testing. How it will end? Dunno.

    Thanks for the history lesson. There is a pub in the inner northern suburb of Melbourne that bears the name: The Grace Darling Hotel. Fascinating, and I had not previously heard of Grace Bussell either. They made them tough and resourceful in those days. Grace Darling was quite the reluctant celebrity but lauded for her daring and efforts. How were you aware of her history? Best of luck with the auction and I hope you win the print.

    Damo above mentions that we call 18 wheelers semi trailers when there is only a cab and a trailer. But when there are two trailers we call them B-Doubles. When there are three or more trailers we call them Road Trains (good luck getting past one of those trucks). Apparently there is a bit of animosity between the truck drivers and the grey nomad winnebago lot…

    It did seem like a rather fanciful distance for you to drive! I get a bit edgy if I have to spend more than an hour or so in a car, but plenty of people love car trips. I recall once as a young kid that we drove to a really remote spot on the edge of the desert in the north west of this state. And I remember thinking to myself, I hope these adults know what they’re doing! Talk about trust issues, but then their actions told me all I needed to know.

    Hehe! Biodynamic is a good system, but I’m not into such mysticism in that instance because I want to know why such and such a formula works. Of course there is an element of parsimony in there as if I understand the nature of the formula, I can replicate it on the cheap!



  48. @ Margaret:

    I seem to get stung by wasps at least once a summer – and I’m the one who loves them! Last summer when I was barefoot I stepped on a Cicada Killer (we call them Super Hornets) and boy did that hurt! But who could blame him! My big foot didn’t kill him either, for which I was glad.


  49. Chris:

    I am so glad that you got some rain. It rained all day yesterday; I can say that things are well watered! Today looks to be lovely.

    I am also glad that you also sometimes forget which procedure you used to accomplish a particular task, though I’ll grant that if it’s been a year, that is a pretty useful excuse. So good that you got the water tank home – and installed – safely.


  50. I’m delighted that you took a look at Baztan valley, and thanks for the tip about looking at the paddocks to judge the soil.

    I can see myself turning up to viewings with a spade and doing a worm-count, and asking to see the wood shed first. I’ve never understood the obsession with boring things like huge bedrooms and cinema rooms, etc. But where you can store your axe collection is of prime importance.

    My cousins built a very chic country house on some land we once owned in the more Mediterranean part of Navarra, all white walls and big windows, and my girlfriend of the time cracked up to find me outside assessing their wood pile and weighing up the axe (not good, rusty, blunt, but my cousin’s a lawyer).

    As for fertility, here you can see where the ground is more fertile -and old cottages once stood in what are now (but not for long!) fields – by the clumps of nettles.

    The building code in Baztan states that all new building must be in the local style, something quite rare in Spain, which is very solid, and so the main town Elizondo is lovely and harmonious, but the river flowing through the town is ferocious at times.

    Moving towns, let alone countries, is always risky: I was chatting to a cousin who knows the place well and he loves both it and the people, and added that it seemed just right for me for one other reason: ‘It has a very nice madhouse’.

    No comment, and he is not one to throw stones in that particular greenhouse! Still, I shall always have a roof over my head.

    I’ve just discovered that a branch of my family lived there in the 18th century, so that helps my ‘why-I’m-moving-here’ cover story. Spain is still very local,and the valleys the most local of all and yo have to have a back-story to enable people to place you.

    One bit of research I’m doing at a distance is looking on the net at the annual fiestas of places I’m interested in, to see what the locals do when they are letting their hair down (I can’t travel as I refuse to put my dog in a kennels): in Elizondo, the star turn is two strapping wenches sawing a tree trunk in half, in traditional dress which is very fetching.

    Muscles and beauty: I’d certainly buy them a cider or two afterwards! But best not to upset the local boyfriends, and instead head off to the mountain streams with some fried bacon and cider to charm the local spirits……. I think the Arch-Druid would like them.

    In another small town they dress up in sacking and masks and gibber. Not so much fun and not as sexy.

    All the best


  51. Actually I’d qualify that about having a back-story for the locals: if you are a total foreigner, you are just that and no one cares about you at all, but if you are Spanish then they have to be able to place you and know what you are up to. ….

  52. @ Damo – That film clip was a hoot! And, I’m glad that the Dark Universe is staggering onward, in one form or another.

    Yup, the number of trucks flying around our highways is pretty staggering. With all that activity, it’s odd to think that it’s been estimated that there’s only 3 days worth of food, on store shelves.

    I also hear, “semi”, here. And, if the box on the back is refrigerated, it’s called a “reefer.” Lew

    PS. Your pictures were outstanding. You live in a very beautiful place.

  53. Yo, Chris – I’m so glad you finally got a bit of rain. I hope it continues (but, not too much.) It was cooler here, yesterday, and is supposed to be even cooler today, with rain forecast. That ought to bring out more slugs. :-). Got 31, last night. Mostly, very small. Veronica and Trevor sound like a rather nice, but very dim couple from a comedy routine. The snow melt pictures from Prof. Mass were pretty impressive. Putting on my crusty old codger persona, I can bumble about, mumbling, “Mark my words, they’ll be high water on the Columbia.” Delivery must be laden with gloomy angst.

    Speaking of mumbling gloomy angst, the Garden Goddesses always say to not plant anything until the snow is off Baw Faw Peak. (aka Boistfort Peak.) Which I have quit a clear view of, from where I sit.


    “The highest peak in Washington State, that isn’t a mountain.” How’s that for damning with faint praise? Boistfort is the official name, and Baw Faw, much older. But after spending way too much time down the rabbit hole, couldn’t find a clear reason for the name change.

    Congrats on the new water tank. Going to smash a bottle of bubbly on the side, and give it a name? You probably couldn’t remember how to move the tank, as the original memory was so traumatic, that you completely suppressed it. Hypnosis could probably unearth it. But why relive the horror?

    Vast server farms must be something to see. I imagine them as rather ghostly (the ghost in the machine?), with very few people wandering about.

    Cliff Notes can be pretty handy, and the idea was to use them with the text. Kind of like annotations, without marking up all the margins of a book. Author’s voices are funny things. Sometimes I think authors inhabit characters, for awhile. I often read complaints that some male authors don’t do a very good job of writing women. Of course, I don’t ever think I’ve read a review that said a woman author “doesn’t write men, very well.” Odd that. :-).

    Here in Washington State, by law, two “boxes” are the upper limit. I was startled when I traveled through Oregon, over to Idaho, to run across threes. I’m glad the weather was fine, as passing them in the rain, would be a nightmare. Trucks hauling two, are bad enough. They throw enough water that there’s always a dicey few seconds where your running, totally blind.

    Well, years ago, when I was brining in “stuff” from England, a clear glass boat shaped dish, showed up. Probably a celery or pickle dish. The Victorian’s had a piece of dinner ware for just about every imaginable use. Impressed on the bottom was “Grace Darling.” So, being a curious fellow … Grace Darling was the perfect Victorian heroine. Young, brave, virginal and had the good grace (a pun?) of consumption, at a young age.

    I won the print. I’ll pick it up, this afternoon. Got it for the princely sum of $11. Lew

  54. Hi Coco,

    When Captain Cook sailed up the east coast of the continent in the 18th century, he was apparently surprised at the sheer quantity of smoke arising from the landscape. The thing is, once the mega fauna was consumed, humans had to manage the landscape, and fire was the easiest tool available to us. Thus began the cycle that we see today. But yeah, I love the sunsets too. It looks as though the weather is beginning to turn towards cooler and damper, and it might even rain again tomorrow.

    Thanks and that is high praise. I fed the berry beds today with another cubic metre of woody compost and mushroom compost. I’m fascinated that you are unable to obtain blood and bone. I rarely use the stuff except where I intend to plant corn as those plants strip mine the soil fertility.

    I faced exactly those weather circumstances too, last spring. The warm days with early morning frosts were unrelenting – and it basically wiped out my apricot and plum crop. Those are really challenging circumstances. I’m beginning to wonder whether I might throw some sort of cold frame over the seedlings if the weather turns towards the frosty. What do you reckon about trying that in your part of the world? How are your picking flowers going this season? You inspired me to plant roses for cut flowers (but for our enjoyment) in the next terrace that we excavate (hopefully beginning in May sometime).

    I agree with you in that their energy is being directed into protesting, when there are practical solutions – although few will admit to those solutions because it involves some complicated and awkward discussions.

    Thanks! And yes, I reckon it is a great idea to invite the smaller birds into the garden because they clean up all of the insects in the garden beds. Hopefully Briga and Breogan don’t try and chase the small birds though! 🙂



  55. Hi Pam,

    Anyone who sang the old children’s rhyme (down here at least): “Rain. Rain. Go away. Come again another day”, needs their head read. 🙂 Mind you, with two severe tropical cyclones up in the north of the country (Cyclone Trevor and Cyclone Veronica), they’ve probably enjoyed way too much rain up there and may possibly appreciate the rhyme. The tails of those two systems may provide a small amount of rain here in the wee hours of Monday morning.

    Hehe! Sometimes it is better to enjoy too much watering, than not enough – especially for those living on the side of a hill with good drainage. Ah, although extremes of anything are difficult things to encounter. It is always nicer if they are elsewhere. 🙂 Speaking of which I have Portuguese millipedes all over the place. I woke up one night to discover that one of them was chomping on my leg in bed. I was most displeased, but I’ll bet the millipede felt worse. 😉

    Honestly, sometimes I feel that my brain is full, and in those cases I use notes to avoid over loading my brain. Thanks and one can never have too much water stored. I installed the outlet valve today in the water tank and then began filling it up from the house water tanks. Fortunately it looks as though there are no leaks, and for that I am grateful!

    How are the terraces holding up with all of the rain up your way? I planted a replacement grape vine today on the strawberry terrace and I was amazed at how dry the soil was.



  56. Hello again
    A naughty squirrel has just tossed out my newly planted strawberries. Fortunately I could re-plant them and now there is chicken wire over them.
    Swiss Chard doesn’t always survive the winter here so the fact that it did shows what a mild winter we had. Our weather is definitely on the dry side again.
    Awake the other night, I listened to the naked scientist on the radio. He had never known that boys are born at the rate of 52 to 50 girls and that this boy rate increases after wars. I had always known this. The person phoning in believed that this implied sentience a la Mr Greer. I would like to know whether it is the men returning from war who have the extra sons. Does this kind of trauma produce extra y sperm?
    Sorry to introduce something so way out but it did fascinate me.

    I don’t think that either sex makes a good job of writing about the other. Certainly where romance is concerned, men write about women as they wish them to be and vice versa.


  57. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, the ground could use a whole lot more rain, but one mustn’t be too greedy for these things. In my reply to Pam, I mentioned an old rhyme that sprang to mind out of who knows where. Given the content of the rhyme, it probably didn’t originate down here, but you never know? I spoke to a bloke in the big smoke a week or two back who expressed surprise at my account of the unfolding drought drama and that it was so dry, although he did provide a caveat that he didn’t get out of the city much. He’s a nice bloke so I didn’t take any sort of offense.

    Anyway, in the strawberry enclosure (basically a fruit cage) I originally planted ten dessert grape vines. One of the grape vines died during the hot dry summer, despite the regular but brief watering the strawberries enjoy. The last time I was in the big smoke I stumbled across a – get rid of these dodgy looking plants table – which included a grape vine for sale at a throw away price. I planted that vine today and I was amazed at how dry the sub surface soil was – and that is despite the regular if brief, watering.

    They also had a tea camellia and despite the plant being sub tropical, the one here has survived snow, frost, extreme hot weather, drought etc. So I picked up a second tea camellia and planted it next to the original one. The soil was dry in that enclosure too. How the plants are growing and looking good given how dry the soil is, is a complete mystery to me. No doubts the established fungal networks and soil flora and fauna have something to do with that story, but I don’t really know. What do you reckon? I know we have discussed the author and scientist before, but have you read much of Paul Stamet’s work?

    I began filling up the new water tank. So far no leaks! And I noticed that since the previous water tank had so many problems, the manufacturer returned to fitting the outlets with brass rather than plastic threads on the outlets. They spent about four or five hours here a few months back repairing the leak on the last water tank I purchased from them. I have only good things to say about the manufacturer and you know, things go wrong occasionally and I accept that with good grace.

    Ah yes brother Lewis, we’re winning the War of Slugs! 🙂 31 is quite a lot. I’ll bet Julia would enjoy feeding them to her chickens? The chickens caught a skink (which is our local version of a gecko) tonight and they’re brutal. Chickens are definitely not vegetarians. Hey speaking of chickens there has been a huge salmonella outbreak with a commercial chicken farm. I’m very choosy about where I get my eggs from, but you never know when consuming eggs from commercial kitchens. The last time I was very ill, I suspect that dodgy eggs had something to do with the story – as they tasted slightly funny to me, but I shrugged it off and then paid the price. Are you still keeping up the regular dozen eggs arrangement?

    I may have to buy eggs soon because the chickens are going through their annual autumn moult time. The boss chicken looks a bit dodgy as she has lost a number of feathers!

    The photos of Boistfort Peak are amazing! Bizarrely enough the peak looks higher than it actually is. The topography in your part of the world is quite epic. Speaking of all things Washington, I noticed that in “The Fields” the town was proclaimed Washington, although I believe the location for the story was Ohio. I’m really enjoying the story and it is an easy read. Dystopian stories are sort of like the other end of the trilogy!

    And yeah, the description of Boistfort Peak is a bit of a backhanded compliment. Cheeky scamps, to me it is a big mountain – although it is rather flat down under. 🙂 Dunno, but often indigenous place names replace English names, so maybe that is part of the story? Although in a strange twist of fate, one of the highest points in the state here is Mount Baw Baw. It is a bit higher though and with a slightly different name. I have no idea how that mountain gained its name either. Ah, here you go: “Baw Baw’s name originates from the word “Bo Bo” which means “ghost” or “bandicoot” to the Woiwurrung people or “echo” in the Gunai language.

    Hehe! You’re right about the water tank. Despite the small size, because we moved it incorrectly, I almost lost it down the side of the hill… I was in a bit of shock after that, but soon recovered and recalled the easier way to move the monster chunk of plastic. I’m not a fan of hypnosis because a person is in such a suggestive state that how do they know what is an actual memory and what is an inserted memory? Dunno, but I avoid that like the plague.

    I’ve never visited a vast server farm, but I have heard stories. Oh here you go, here are some inside photos and a short article on the behemoths: Sweltering servers: Meet the people who stop your internet melting in summer.

    Oh, I didn’t get that at all as I’ve never encountered Cliff Notes. yeah, they could be handy, but for study? How does the reader discern subtlety and nuance? And yeah, now that you mention it, I’ve never encountered that complaint either. Interesting stuff for contemplation.

    We must do things biggerer down here because road trains can be up to four trailers long. Bonkers, but how else do you move stuff around the far distant outback? There is a train line that runs north – south between Adelaide and Darwin, but still there is a lot of country other than those locations: Road train. How does 200 tonnes of truck sound? Frightening to my ears!

    From some perspectives passing away before expectations are disappointed by realities can be a neat trick – but possibly not for the poor person involved.

    Top work with the auction win! 🙂



  58. and again
    I forgot to add that countries such as China that didn’t permit many girls at one time, didn’t find that more girls were conceived as a result. If stress in men results in more y sperm, would this also apply in the animal kingdom? Two or more potential theses exist here.


  59. @ Inge:

    I knew, in general, about the birth rate of boys vs. girls, but had never heard about the post- war connection. Fascinating, and you pose a good question about the sperm. Unfortunately, one wonders if it would take another war to get those statistics.

    You are spot on about the male and female romance writers’ different depictions of the opposite sex. I have a bit of experience there, as when I really need something light and fruity I sometimes choose a romance novel. Confession alert!


  60. Chris:

    Oh, Chris! A millipede not only in your bed, but chomping your leg! I thought they only ate dead things.

    Our terraces are holding up just fine. No worries there.

    I grew up with that same old rhyme.

    I recently finished pruning our one grape vine. I had pruned half of it in midwinter. Neither time is probably right for pruning; I have no clue. It is mostly nubs now as my son – in driving past the many vineyards in our area – says that’s what they do.

    I have also – maybe – grafted an apple tree. i sure wished you were here.


  61. @ Inge – I agree. Authors (of either sex) write to what they want, or imagine. Some get it “almost” right. Others entirely run off the tracks. Lew

  62. Yo, Chris – A few more thoughts on Cliff Notes. Sometimes in pop culture, I’ll see a reference to “The (is that?) Cliff Notes version. In other words, not the “authentic” experience. In high school, using Cliff Notes always felt a bit subversive. You didn’t want the teacher to catch sight of them. Even if you had read the text. As you could never quit convince the teacher that you HAD read the text, and not just the Cliff Notes. Of course, some students only read the Cliff Notes. When I worked for the bookstore chains, we always had a well designed rack (furnished by the company) that packed in a lot of the titles, while using very little floor space. Sales per square foot were through the roof. It was always fun when some student would come roaring in, 15 minutes before closing, the night before a test, looking for a particular title. I found them useful when preparing to trod the boards in some Shakespeare epic.

    Call the medics! The fellow who didn’t realize there was a drought going on is clearly suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. There’s probably a pill, for that :-). Maybe hypnosis? I agree with you, I’m a bit leery of mesmerists. Lots of charlatans, in the field, I think.

    Good for you, scoring the grape and tea plant. Talk to them, a bit. Give them a shot of something tasty and organic. Worm juice is often a good “go to.” I am also surprised by how dry my soil is, just a few inches down. Even after a good rain. I read a bit of Paul Stamets, but it was quit awhile ago. I’m probably more familiar with the videos, by and about him, on YouTube. The one I remember best is him exploring isolated areas of the British Columbia coast, looking for a Native American mushroom that might have some cancer fighting properties.

    Last nights slug count was 53. The rain brought them out. They must be hatching out, about now, as most are tiny. I’ve also been giving a squirt to earwigs and … well, more on the other, later. I fret bit that I might be upsetting some kind of eco balance, but really don’t think I do enough damage to worry much about that. Earwigs, and … the Other, have their good and bad points. But both do crop damage.

    OK. The Other. Pill bugs (aka: rolypollies, doodle bugs or wood lice. I see from Wikipedia that there are 23 slang names for these little armored fellows. I noticed on the list that “slater” is Australian. And, to get even more specific, “Butcher boy” (or, butchy boy) is a name found around … Melbourne. With their armor, I’m not really sure if a squirt of anomia is effective, or not.

    Yup. I’m still getting my dozen eggs a week. I’d forgot a bit about chicken molt. They do look a sad lot, during that time. I always thought my chickens looked a little embarrassed by the whole ordeal.

    Boisfort Peak looks pretty impressive, from here, as we’re down in the valley, looking up at it. And, it usually has snow on it. Baw Baw is quit striking. Part of your Australian Alps, I see. I suppose the “ghost” name comes from mountains ability to appear, and then disappear. Boisfort is hiding in clouds, today.

    Four “cars” in a train seems pretty overwhelming. I guess that would be a 36 wheeler? :-). Between here and Idaho, I also saw several “truck runaway lanes” in the passes. I’ll see if I can find a picture of one.

    I knew we had server farms in eastern Oregon and Washington. But I didn’t realize they were so extensive. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., all have farms.


    The whole things feels a bit … tenuous.

    Our library systems sole remaining copy of “The Fields” is wending it’s way, to me. I should get it today. Or, Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Anyway. Sometime, soon. Lew

  63. Hi Lew,

    Hehe, glad you liked the clip. I am feeling a bit seedy today and might fire up a Tom Cruise movie this afternoon (thinking the latest Mission Impossible).

    On an unrelated topic, do you think it is a folly to restore a two volume set of the Peoples Cyclopedia, printed 1883? Pictures here:
    Except for one rip on the colour atlas, the pages are in good condition. I imagine it is just the binding that needs replacing, but really have little idea on the work involved. Most of the sets I find online seem to be priced at $150-200 in varying condition. Not hugely rare, although I couldn’t find any as old as the set I have, and most come in 4 volume sets whereas mine is printed in 2, larger, volumes. There is a local shop in town who can restore this sort of thing, no idea what they charge though…might send an email and see what they reckon..


  64. Hi Chris,

    The Titanic was fascinating – I had several books on disasters that I loved to flick through as a child. And the stylised painting of the Titanic listing, lights still on with lifeboats getting winched down was always a favourite chapter! I think part of the calm was perhaps due to the fact that no one really thought it was going to sink, at least for the first hour or so. And, you know, they kept the unruly peasants locked up in steerage. No doubt there is a lesson there for our common predicament as well.

    On a related note, I read the mega-rich are buying up boltholes in New Zealand in case of a French revolution style uprising:
    Some of them even have private jets on standby. Not sure how welcoming the locals will be in such a scenario!


  65. Chris,

    Thunder gods rock! My grandfather gave me a copper belt buckle and a copper armband engraved with Southwest Native American designs including Thunderbird. Thor makes appearances here each spring. I once had a job in a science museum and got to demonstrate a 1 million volt lightning machine, er, Tesla coil. I’ve gotten some strange looks from people when I yell “Go Tesla!” during thunderstorms. Perhaps he’s a thunder demigod?

    Yes, the scorpions near here are poisonous, although I don’t know how bad the poison is. The spiders we’ve got include 2 poisonous species: Black Widows and Hobo spiders. The Hobo spiders are huge and brown and nearly indistinguishable from wolf spiders. Many call them “brown recluse”, but the brown recluse is not found in Spokane. There are 2 differences between a hobo and a wolf spider. IIRC, the wolf has antennae of a single color, whereas those of the hobo are striped. Also, the wolf typically runs for cover when a human gets too close, whereas the hobo attacks aggressively. One cannot see the difference in the antennae until one is close enough to get attacked by the hobo. Whenever I see either, I just tend to smack whatever spider doesn’t immediately run away with a stout board or something.

    My friend of swimming rattlesnake fame called me once so that I could watch a video that had gone viral. A rattlesnake had gotten tired of swimming and was trying to get onto the back step of a large pleasure boat, totally freaking out the teenagers who were driving the boat. We had a good time reminiscing about our experience.

    This is my busy time of year on the job. My phone never quits ringing. In order to get work done, I let calls go to voicemail, then return the calls when I’m moderately caught up on stuff. That means the little red light alerting me to voicemails in nearly always lit. I taped a note to the phone, with an arrow pointing to the little red light: “I totally detest, abhor and loathe this little red light.” Humor helps me cope.


  66. Hi Xabier,

    I intend to write tonight, so I may have to be brief!

    Yeah, the valley looks good, although the lack of flat land would make the area an interesting proposition for farming. I couldn’t spot any terraces in the hillsides, so I’m assuming the steeper paddocks are used for livestock? Certainly water and fertility is a problem the higher you go in those mountains. Dunno.

    Looking for worms is a great idea – although they may be far below the surface during the summer months – or in egg format like what they do here when the soil is too dry – like right now. You may have noticed that I too have a penchant for well constructed shedding? You can never have too many sheds in a rural area – they’re always useful for something.

    Nuff said. Dunno, but down here there are a lot of people living in the rural areas (although you’d probably believe that it was very quiet and unpopulated) but plenty of them are not actually living lives that make any use of the land. I don’t understand that at all.

    The valley looks like a giant catchment area for rain falling on the surrounding mountains. Sometimes things like that can get out of hand!

    Exactly, practice your back story and know it well. I assume the local language/dialect is not a problem?

    The local spirits probably appreciate the attention.



  67. Hi Inge,

    The wildlife is always all too happy to share their opinions about the amusing antics of us humans, and digging up plants is one way that they like to express themselves. I am unable to grow strawberries outside of the steel fortress-like enclosure down here and I tried a lot of different techniques – other than giving up. Chicken wire would not stop the marsupials. Nope. Wombats are like little armoured tanks and they can crush steel cages. Everything – including the dogs – consume strawberries and the predation was unrelenting.

    Swiss chard over winters here too, and that is despite the occasional snow and frost. It is a tough plant – sometimes people grow them down here for winter colour in the garden and they produce multi-colour varieties. I hope you get some rain and don’t have to go through another dry summer like last year. It looks as though it may rain here tonight (the tail end of the two cyclones up north).

    The editor has a background in biology and has told me about this imbalance in the birth rate, although I had not known that after wars things were different again. Although stress does strange things to people. Apparently male babies have a higher infant mortality rate too, so it sort of evens out, and then the gender gap gets wider again from about the late teens onwards, for reasons which are usually put down to risk taking behaviour.

    My understanding is that there are also a number of increasing environmental impacts upon human reproduction. I read a statistic a few years back that something like one in seven babies are now conceived using technological assistance. Mark my words, there will be a cost for that, although we probably have no idea as yet what it will be. But it won’t be cost free – nothing ever is. Speaking of thesis’s I sort of suspect that it is an area that few people want to investigate thoroughly for obvious reasons.



  68. Hi Pam,

    Millipedes would surely enjoy zombies? I checked my leg just to make sure that it was still alive – and yes, it was. I was pretty annoyed at the Portuguese millipede, but on the other hand they work hard down here breaking up cellulose into millipede poo which is useful for the soil in that it speeds up the return of minerals to the soil.

    Good to read! And also glad to read in between the lines that you are feeling better. 🙂

    Yeah, the grape vines have only been in the ground less than a year, so I’m a beginner, but watching how the viticulturist’s do things is a great idea (might do the same too). And pruning, who knows? I suspect that a lot of those sorts of things are done at a certain time for the sake of tradition and it may also have fitted in around the other tasks that were required. The plants are probably a whole lot more resilient than we can possibly guess.

    Well done you with the grafting! It is an excellent skill to possess. Summer bud grafting can be done in the warmer months too. Good luck with the new apple tree.



  69. Hi Lewis,

    Not to doubt you, but I’d never heard of study notes to books, and so I wasn’t 100% sure that they exist down here. Yeah, I can see the problem, and it is a perception thing. But people who aren’t going to read the original text, well they’re probably aren’t going to read the original text anyway. I know quite a lot of people who don’t enjoy reading books, and I suspect that they view my bookish hobby of reading as something very quirky. I like books and reading. It is possible that the notes instead of being subversive, they might actually inspire someone to read the original text? Dunno. I don’t see the notes as cheating at all, and in fact I really quite enjoyed having Prof. Tolkien’s notes alongside the original text for Beowulf. The importance and various complexities of the story would have been entirely lost to me otherwise. And some books are studied at high school because they capture a fad or a moment in time – this does not make them fine works of literature, so the notes would be handy to sift through such dross.

    To get my peers in high school interested in the Bard’s work, they showed us the Polanski version of MacBeth on the big screen. A bloodthirsty cautionary tale that one.

    Hehe! Water may be less of an issue on your continent, but down here, most of the big coastal state capital cities are using desalination to produce fresh water at an extraordinary expense of energy, so I dunno how the people there see the world, but no doubts that you are correct. You can hardly complain about climate change and pollution whilst enjoying the benefits of desalinated water. The sheer disconnect in that complicated belief is bonkers.

    I’m frankly very uncomfortable with the process of hypnosis. The one time I experienced it, the effect was traumatic and who knows what went on although I was vaguely conscious and did not approve. I was very annoyed and set defences against such techniques. You may notice that I don’t watch a lot of television…

    Your soil may have frozen over the winter, and may still be too cold which might explain how dry it is? Water drains off frozen soil. Dunno, what do you reckon about that? One day should I have free time, I may indulge in a few of Paul Stamet’s videos. I have enjoyed the ones that I have watched, and he has an infectious curiosity about him which I quite like. Plus I always get the impression that he knows more than he lets on – which is probably true. I saw him in a video once where he’d made a hat from fungi – which he wore to the talk, with aplomb and then proceeded to speak about the history of the fungi. 🙂

    Your slug count is impressive! Earwigs can cause some serious plant damage too – especially to seedlings. Sometimes, balance can be an elusive thing and from what I’ve observed it is not a constant situation. I often note that pests build up, only to be knocked back by some other hungry critter.

    I feel a bit – ook – tonight as I have to permanently deal to one of the chickens. She has been sick for a while and I’ve given her plenty of time to recover, but for some strange inexplicable reason she decided to sit next to the water bowl that the other chickens use – and she is fouling that area and the other chickens water. The risk to the other chickens is now a lot higher than previously and I’ve tried to move her on, but she still returns… Oh well.

    Nah, they’re more commonly known as “Slaters” and they are aficionados of dog poo. They’re all over the place down here, but I only ever see them active at night. I usually leave them alone and have never been bothered by them, although one very wet and cool summer, maybe two years ago, they were consuming the tomato seedlings. That season I placed diatomaceous Earth around the tomato seedlings and that finished their tricksy prankster like activities.

    I’m unsure that chickens get embarrassed, but who knows what emotions they enjoy – they do display plenty of other emotions.

    The alpine regions down here have had more than a few fires this year. I just checked and there are four large fires burning there even today. And just to add a bit of excitement into the mix, it looks as though there was a fire in the eastern part of this mountain range today. Only the rain will put these fires out. Fortunately we’re due for some rain about midnight and for the next week the winds are blowing the fire away from here.

    Hehe! Probably. There are a whole lot of wheels on them, that’s for sure. I see plenty of B doubles on the roads down here but fortunately on the major roads, we normally have two lanes and the trucks keep to the left lane. They lose a lot of tyres, which I suspect are re-treads (a layer of tyre glued to an older tyre) and you see them on the side of the road.

    The rain is briefly pelting down hard right now! Yay! The frogs are cheering on the rain with their chirrups – and I’m safely inside the house. 🙂 Happy days. I filled up the new water tank today and that took over 15% of my water reserves, so a bit of rain is a good thing.

    The data centres are huge things. I see a lot of activity that doesn’t need to be, but is, being moved onto cloud based services for the purposes of intermediation. The energy cost of that is not insignificant and once other options have disappeared, what will the charges be for the services then? Diminishing returns will eat into that story so yeah, tenuous is a great way to put it. Interestingly enough, small business is a bit leery of such technologies because they know that sooner or later they’ll get slugged hard and the costs will increase in line with dependency.

    We’ll swap notes on the book. I’m about a quarter of the way through it. The book is not thick and the text is large, but the meaning is deep. 🙂



  70. Hi Damo,

    Mate, so true. As a salty sea dog yourself, I do hope that when the HMAS Home Ply (I’m unsure that you’ve named either vessel?) either one or two, hits an ice berg (an unlikely event in your waters, to be sure), that you act like the gentleman that you are, and hand Mrs Damo the life vest first?

    Of course I have noted that in aircraft safety guides that they advise passengers to see to their own oxygen masks before assisting other passengers, so that could also guide your behaviour in the unthinkable. Do you recall the substituted flight safety instructions in Fight Club? Very naughty!

    You’re probably right about people not considering that the ship would actually sink, and locking the steerage passengers in would have been a horrendous ending.

    Admittedly, there are now more useful plants and animals in NZ than there were at the time of the arrival of the Maori. Ah, it is not clear how many Maori lived at that time, for obvious reasons. I’m uncomfortable with the concept of a bolt hole – unless they intend to live like peasants (which I’d have to suggest is an unlikely outcome). And who would know them and support their ideals (as you indicate)? Nope guns and crossbows would be too prolific for such a chance, but good luck to them. There is an argument that the technology of guns lead to the end of feudalism. I mean it is hard to be a lord of the land when someone can bop you unceremoniously at a distance and get away.



  71. Hi Chris,
    I’m sure we have several varieties of hostas but to tell the truth I was so busy last fall I didn’t take much note. This year will be different. As I would like to replace some of them with other plants we’ll be eating the young shoots which I’ve never done. They’re supposed to be quite good.

    I have always been surprised at how well your plants do with the short watering time. I have usually read that it was better to water more but not as frequently as that encouraged the roots to go deeper. Of course that would be after the plants were well established. However I’ve observed that if one waters houseplants less often they seem to adjust to the lower amount of water so maybe that’s the case for you.

    Regarding large trucks, I avoid highways like the plague these days mostly due to all the trucks. It is scary to be wedged between all these monsters. Then the crazy distracted drivers are another factor. That said as I have rare need to do so I’ve pretty much lost my confidence in those situations. The trucks really tear up the roads as well. The roads are really bad after this winter – some of the potholes can just take you out.

    Doug put up all the bluebird houses yesterday. I was out for the afternoon so we went out to look at the new bluebird trail when I returned and there was already a pair nearby one of the houses. We are pretty excited.

    I know so many people who used to read books but rarely do anymore. Instead the just surf the net, watch tv or spend time on social media. One of my sisters who seems to spend half her life on facebook announced that she had recently read a book on a plane because the wifi was down (sigh). She did have a book with her though so I suppose she had intentions to read it. When I was teaching another teacher and I team taught a special reading class for kids who were way below grade level. It was a purchased program though a big educational company but all in all it was pretty good. There was a library of books for the classroom written for junior high age interests but at varying levels of difficulty. There were also a lot of graphic novels of classics which the kids really got into. One boy had read the graphic novel of “Moby Dick” and really liked it. I was at a garage sale and happened upon a very abridged copy of the book and picked it up for him and was pleasantly surprised that he read it right away. Of course that was some years ago so who knows if he ever continued reading.


  72. @Inge

    I am quite worried what the squirrels and chipmunks will do to my garden plants here at our new place. We did have chipmunks at the old place but not near the garden but rarely had a squirrel as our property didn’t have a lot of trees. Here is quite the different story. We were overrun by chipmunks last fall and there’s lots of squirrels as well.


  73. Chris:

    Yes, I feel way better – thank you!

    As to the grafting – I have no skill. I was sitting in the garden reading a gardening book and came upon a section on grafting and said: “Why not?” Perhaps you will not tell anyone that I used a bit of duct tape . . .


  74. @ Pam
    I have to make the same confession! On the slim possibility that you haven’t read them, I’ll mention that my favourites are the 7 volumes in Mary Balogh’s ‘Survivor club series’. Best read in order. I thought that the one that dealt with the only female survivor was not as good as the others.


  75. @ Damo – Nice old books. Has that “ain’t it cool” factor.

    Do you have the missing piece to the map page? Did you collate (count every page and make sure they’re all there)? 🙂

    “On offer” often doesn’t relate to “price realized.” But, you probably know that. I took a quick look around the web, and only found a single volume, of something similar, that sold for $15.

    But, to answer your question, I’d say it’s not worth rebinding, unless it has sentimental (family) value, to you.

    Another thing that might increase value is it it belonged to someone famous. If there was a bookplate, in front, from the library of some one famous.

    And, of course, my favorite potential customer question when flogging a book, “Does it come from a smoke free home?” 🙂 Lew

  76. Yo, Chris – I noticed about my soil and water, when the ground wasn’t frozen. I have a theory, that where the soil looks like it’s holding water (the top two inches, or so) is from all the organic stuff I’ve been adding. The soil under that is still pretty wretched, and doesn’t hold water. At least, that’s the theory.

    I nailed 29 slugs, last night. And I don’t know how many slaters. They do like to chow down on slugs, from the previous evening. The thing about the slaters is, I think they’re going after the beams that form our raised beds. Some of them are looking a little dodgy. After a good rain, I’m also seeing quit a few earthworms about, taking the night air. Looks like my working to increase their population is taking hold.

    I don’t envy your possible chicken task. I was really lucky. I never had to put down a bird. I had one that seemed to be pretty sick. She seemed to want to sit out in the sun. So, I gave her, her own pan of water, and let her do her thing. A day in the sunshine, and she was right as rain. Who knows what that was all about?

    “The Fields”, didn’t show up. I guess the wind wasn’t blowing the right direction. Probably get it on Wednesday. Which is fine, as, suddenly, I’ve got several books to read. Quit by accident. (I looked at the shelves.)

    The library has this program, called “Lucky Day.” (As in, “You’ve had a …”). There are some best sellers, that have long hold lists, and they buy a few copies that can’t be put on the hold list. I don’t know how they decide. But, there was a book that I had on my list of “read, when you can get it in a reasonable amount of time.” And, I stumbled on it, on the “Lucky Day” self.


    She’s one of my favorite authors. And, I had never heard of the LA library, burning down. Turns out that’s because, it happened the afternoon before Chernobyl melted down, and it was washed out of the news. Pre-internet times. I knocked off about a third of it, last night. Fascinating story. Says a lot about reading, in general

    I think I’ll keep my eye open for a cheap-o copy of “The Skystone.” Then when you take the plunge, I can follow along. Haven’t read it in quit awhile. I think it’s worth a second look. Lew

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