Bless this mess

Last week I wrote about the recent student strikes. The students on strike from school have been gathering in ever larger numbers to protest against a lack of action on climate change. The kids have got a point, because I don’t see any action on climate change either. Maybe climate change isn’t such a big problem? But then again, it might just be that some messes are too big to fix.

About two decades ago I encountered a mess that was too big to fix. What can I say other than I was young and my ego was yet to be blunted by the harsh cruel world of experience. It would have been a simple thing for me to have taken another job.

A bloke running the financial side of a well heeled tech start up company had offered me a cushy job working as his right hand man. But no, I declined that offer. Instead I’d decided to take a job where I was the head honcho and could lead my team of trusty accounts warriors (otherwise known as clerks) and do battle upon the high accountant-seas.

It was a very profitable, but rather strange company. The early warning signs were clear to see, but alas my personal ambitions clouded me to the realities.For instance, the receptionist looked like a hood rat, and some days actually sported a natty going-out hoodie. Perhaps not the choice for office attire that I would have recommended. And she was one of the normal ones. But still, these things can be over-looked as I was the boss at a young age, and believed that the world would shake and groove at my merest utterances.

To cut a long story short, I wanted a challenge and that place presented me with an epic mess. Long term readers will know by now that I abhor messes. And so I immediately set my back and mind to the task at hand, and just like Jeff Lindsay’s fictional character Dexter, I tried to make order from the chaos. Although unlike Dexter, I chose to use computers to solve problems rather than very sharp knives.

I’d never encountered such a mess before, and had little experience at how to approach the task at hand. And there was nobody inside or outside the business for me to seek advice. After consideration, I began by sorting out the easily addressed messes because that required little effort to achieve some easy wins. Some people may describe that strategy as harvesting the low hanging fruit. Management was pleased with my efforts and encouraged me to achieve even greater feats.

Of course, resolving the many easy messes meant that each new challenge was just that bit more difficult to resolve. And management, who candidly were the people who presided over the mess in the first place, began badgering me about resolving the many unresolved messes. And in turn I began regularly working well into the night and at weekends, as was my team. The editor thought that I had lost the plot, and she may well have been correct.

Eventually, I encountered the mess that was too big to resolve. It was there all along just waiting for some sucker to stumble into. There were tens of thousands of transactions all demanding my attention. And more of the transactions were being generated every single day. No normal person could get their head around the finer details of such a process. And the pressure from management to solve the mess was unrelenting, despite my achievements to date.

So I cogitated upon the situation and finally decided to mentally stand way, way, back from the problem and see what it looked like. Then I decided just to accept the data in its entirety if the results fell within a certain narrow range. I was happy with that, but management wanted an exact answer and they were not happy with my repeated observation that there was no affordable solution to this problem. And around and around we went having the same conversation over and over again.

It took a while, but one winters morning I sat in a warm toasty bath and felt despondent at the impasse that I had reached. I’m just not wired to get depressed about such things and so I decided then and there that I’d had enough with the never ending messes, and I parted company with them later that day. The hard won knowledge that I gained from the experience was that if there is a big mess, then the culture that created that mess has allowed it to occur – and they are comfortable with the mess. The facts speak for themselves.

So earlier in the week I was considering the students striking to prompt action on climate change, and it occurred to me that the kids may just have encountered a mess that is too big to fix. And if the mess is too big to fix, what should they then do?

The season appears to be slowly turning away from the never ending dry and hot summer. Most mornings have brought heavy fog and mist over the mountain range.

Early mornings have brought mist and heavy fog over the mountain range

Many of the trees are beginning to turn deciduous and the colour change in the leaves looks great in the fog.

Leaf change is a sure sign that cooler weather (and leaf change tourists) is on the horizon

However by about 10am most days, the sun burns through the fog and we get to enjoy warm days with clear blue skies. The sun looks awesome just when it begins to push its rays through the murky air.

The sun pushes its rays through the thick murky humid air

Hopefully the change to cooler weather means that some decent rain will fall over the mountain range. We still have about 35,000 Litres (10,000 gallons) of water stored and that should be heaps. However, things will be easier next summer as we purchased another water tank and brought it back to the farm this week. You can never have too much stored water.

Another water tank was brought back to the farm this week

Despite not having much spare water in reserve, we managed to install the new water tank, and then fill it with water. It is necessary to fill new water tanks just so that you can ensure that they have no leaks. It is not necessary to do this, but leaks can drain a water tank of the stored water.

The new water tank was placed into position and filled so as to check for any leaks

The blackberry, strawberry and corn enclosures all received a good feed of a 50/50 mix of fine woody compost and mushroom compost. And the paths in those enclosures were covered in a thick layer of coarser woody compost.

Inside the strawberry enclosure. All of the plants have been fed with compost
The plants in the blackberry / raspberry enclosure were all pruned and fed with compost

A lot of compost was placed against the many tree ferns in the fern gully that sits above these two garden beds. The purpose of the fern gully is to ensure that any water that enters the property at the head of the fern gully, gets absorbed into the ground.

The tree ferns in the fern gully enjoyed a good feed of compost

During mowing this week, we discovered some thin rocks that would be good to place next to one of the recently constructed concrete staircases. The rocks are thinner than the ones that we’d normally use, and their purpose is to stop birds and animals kicking soil onto the concrete stairs.

A number of thin rocks were placed against a recently constructed concrete staircase

Observant readers will note that in the photo above that there is a large rock at the top of the stairs. We are unable to move that rock and so it will be used as the beginning of a rock wall to define a garden bed. Making a feature of it is the best camouflage.

The tomato vines are beginning to die back, but there is a huge amount of fruit left to harvest.

Tomato vines are dying back but there is still a huge amount of fruit to harvest

We store the plentiful tomato harvest in a few different ways. We now have a years supply of dehydrated tomatoes in quality olive oil and look forward to consuming them. This week we began the process of bottling up a years supply of passata (which is a tomato sauce we use in cooking).

The solar electricity is getting used to bottle a years supply of passata (tomato sauce)
The processed bottles of tomato sauce can be stored for ages. Those in the know may spot number 27 bottles! For some reason the lighting and camera produced an image that is more yellow than what the sauce actually looks like.

Spring and autumn are the time to make sake (Asian rice wine). Winter is too cold and summer is too hot, but other times of the year are just perfect for making an exceptional brew.

Spring and autumn is the time to make sake (Asian rice wine)

Looks pretty horrid doesn’t it? But it tastes really good and it is the house specialty.

The cucumbers are in the process of being cured in brine (a fancy name for salty water) before they are pickled in vinegar.

Cucumbers are being cured in brine (salty water) before being pickled

Despite the recent increase in humidity, it is still very dry here. The birds and animals hardly seem to notice the dry weather, although that is probably because there is still probably plenty for them to eat and drink here:

The local family of magpies enjoys a conflab
Reptiles like this cute baby skink (our local gecko equivalent) are unconcerned by prolonged hot and dry weather

We’re enjoying watermelons fresh from the garden. They make an outstanding addition to breakfast!

Fresh watermelon for breakfast and straight from the garden

Other melons like canteloupe are almost ripe, as are the pumpkins and squashes.

Canteloupe and pumpkin are almost ripe

More persimmons (Fuyu variety – non astringent) are almost ready to consume.

More persimmons (Fuyu) are almost ready to eat

Onto the flowers:

Geraniums are really going strong despite the conditions
Geraniums are really going strong despite the conditions
Californian poppies are also delightful plants in hot and dry conditions
The nasturtiums have really grown strongly since the slight increase in humidity

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 48.0mm (1.9 inches) which is the slightly higher than last weeks total of 37.0mm (1.5 inches).

87 thoughts on “Bless this mess”

  1. Hi DJ,

    Nikolai would surely have enjoyed your flourish of showmanship! Be careful not to put your tongue on the charged electrons. 🙂 Mate, you sent me down a deep rabbit hole, and not to disparage the guy, but far out, he was one complex but also entertaining bloke. I’d have to suggest that some people are put on this planet to make the rest of us all look bad. Hehe! I had not realised that Thunderbird was a deity – unfortunately the name is embedded in my mind for the cult status puppet show which clearly had pinched the name.

    Please keep your spiders! Many years ago I was speaking with a local farmer, and a huntsman spider (they’re big and fast) intruded into the conversation. The bloke said: “watch this”, and he pulled a large knife on the spider which in turn reared up in challenge. I’d never seen such a thing before. Yep, signs you know you’re living in the country. I was impressed at the unlikely turn of events!

    Haha! That’s funny about the viral video. Who would have thought that nature in all her glory could intrude upon a fun day out?

    I suspect that you’d enjoy the finer points of gallows humour? I was explaining to someone today that I have a dumb phone that does not receive emails because if I could receive emails on the fly people who are paying me for my time would get rather upset that I was worrying about other peoples emails. It makes sense to put some barriers up.

    Sometimes I feel that with all of these new communication devices, people have forgotten how to have a nice phone conversation.



  2. Hi Margaret,

    Oh my, I just checked out the Hosta family of plants and apparently they readily hybridise so there are something like 3,000 recognised varieties!!! None down here that I am aware of. Well there you go, they are apparently extraordinarily popular down here as well. Who’d have thought it? And apparently they are toxic to dogs but not humans. I’ll be interested to read your opinions of the taste of the plant, as I’ve tried broad leaf plantain (not the same species) a few years ago and it was OK.

    I don’t actually know how the plants are surviving so well in the dry soil either. I cannot explain it, but there they are. It may be that we as a species are over watering our plants in order to gain higher yields from them, but that is just a guess? Dunno. For a number of years I’ve been selecting open pollinated plants/seeds for drought and heat hardiness as well as taste. I mean this summer a tomato plant self seeded in the drive way (which has a high lime content) and I did not water the plant once this summer, and yet it produced fruit. And the trees in the orchard have not been watered other than the occasional bucket to some of the younger fruit trees. The difference may be that I also build top soil and I’m not shy about bringing in a trailer load of mulch or manure most weeks.

    Of course my strategy makes little economic sense and that is the difficult side of the equation. For the price of a new 1,050 gallon water tank that I had to pick up from a nearby town, I could have almost 12,500 gallons of water delivered by truck. The equation is bonkers. Oh well, a lot of things are like that and it all makes little sense to me.

    Yeah, the really large trucks are hard on the roads, but your freezes and thaws would be very difficult too as the underlying ground would heave with the temperature changes. The soil here swells and contracts with the change in the moisture content. I used to believe that the soil was a fixed thing, but no.

    Wow! That is really exciting and best of luck for more bluebirds taking up the offer and moving in. 🙂

    I encounter that, and have no idea what to make of it all because I love books and reading. Maybe there are just so much available that people aren’t placing value on what is there? Although if that is the case, it is but a moment in time.

    It has been a hard few days for the chickens. Yesterday I had to neck the grey silky. She used to be the best looking chicken in the collective but then came down with some strange illness a few months back and just started not looking after herself. And by yesterday I was very annoyed with her because she was doing her poo into the water trough that the other chickens drink from. It was the final straw for me, sorry to say. And tonight the oldest chicken of them all, “Liz” the almost ten year old bird, died. The other chickens look fine and are in good health, you know I always lose one or two chickens a year and it is a hard experience. But long ago someone once said to me that if you have live stock, you’ll have dead stock. So true.



  3. Hi Pam,

    Good for you. And dare I mention that a local lady once quietly mentioned to me that her mum used to tell her that the best gardeners are thieves! Hehe! Funny stuff.

    Top work. I have it on good authority that the old timers (and this one was straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak) used to use whatever was readily to hand for the grafting process. They probably would have been rather excited by duct tape. Handy stuff.

    In another year or two I hope to start getting some fruit trees growing from seed and then summer grafting them. It should be interesting, so you are onto something and way ahead of the curve!



  4. Hi Lewis,

    What you are seeing with the soil is exactly what I saw two days ago when I planted the replacement grape vine. The top soil there was in about a year and a half old (and maybe less in other parts) and the clay layer below it was like a whole different world and was hard as concrete. I agree with you too in that it is the additions of organic matter where the soil life lives and also the moisture is retained. The clay layer below the top soil is a bit of a crap shoot and I reckon it takes about three years for the soil life in the top soil, to work its way into the clay layer. Interesting things happen then, but I’m yet to discover a way to speed up the process. It would be nice if it were possible, but I’m not really sure how to achieve that result. Another example here is the old half of the tomato enclosure which has a very deep and rich black loam, but the newer half where the capsicum, eggplants and chilli’s grow lacks the same soil depth and you don’t have to dig far to discover the clay layer under the top soil. Transitioning away from industrially based agriculture is an immense challenge for our society and it will take some time. Anyway, your theory stands in my books! 🙂

    It must be getting warmer at night if the worms are visible? Feed them and they will turn up! Worms do some of the heavy lifting in the soil as you are already aware. And I don’t really know, but I suspected the slaters of consuming some of the tomato seedlings two seasons back. But I don’t really know what was going on there and it is a guess because they were in the vicinity. Of course, the fungi may have taken out the seedlings because it was rather damp that year. Nice work feeding the slugs to the slaters. I found out today that Portuguese millipedes are herbivores so the poor thing that took a chomp on me, probably confused my leg for a tree… The little rotters exude a chemical – quinones – which is very unpleasant smelling and looks kind of like a yellow toxic slime from the original Ghostbusters film.

    You were quite lucky to never have to kill one of your chickens, and that they enjoyed robust good health. I dunno, chickens can get sick from time to time and they do recover, but sometimes they don’t and I frankly don’t have enough experience to know which it will be. I’m always slow to make my mind up about killing a chicken and it is not a decision I come to lightly. A warm sunny day is good for one’s health and I’ve read some interesting new research on the effects of sunlight on our immune systems. The chickens enjoy the sun too. Good thinking, I wouldn’t have considered doing that. Anyway, Liz the oldest chicken of the collective died today. She was looking a bit dodgy last night as I had to go out and neck the other chicken, but she was still upright and ambling around. But this morning she was clearly not well and died during the day. It happens and I usually lose about two chickens a year despite them enjoying good food and a nice shelter and run. Life on a farm is full of these small dramas and you get plenty of exposure to them. Liz had a good life and she almost made it to ten years old and was part of the very first batch of chickens here. At one stage she was the enforcer for the boss chicken: “Rumpole”. The oldest chicken baton has now been handed to “Silky mum”, who is only slightly younger by a few weeks than Liz. Looking at her, you wouldn’t realise that she is as old as she is.

    Ooo, interesting. You’ve mentioned The Orchid Thief book before! “The library was dying a symbolic death at the time it was torched.” Fascinating and you scored really well with the book, was much time spent on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the conflagration? A chance find too is the best of all finds. Hey, the many tangents in the book sound very appealing to my mind! Do you reckon reading is in decline, I sort of suspect that it is? I often wonder what the effect of the sheer volume of stuff available to consume has upon the population? I’ve noticed that when people are over supplied with choice, then the difficulties in making choices becomes the next problem. It is like a snake eating its tail.

    Well, the plan is – being out in the boondocks – if I enjoy The Skystone, which I’ll probably love reading, I’ll pick up the rest of the series. Damo may beat both of us to the task of reading the series though.



  5. @ Margaret:

    I, too, avoid highways – and big trucks. Then again, I am driving Mr. Musty . . .

    We have bluebirds that usually nest on our property, but I would love to give them the option of house. Sometimes a pair nests in the newspaper box by our rural mailbox.

    I have a few hostas. All they have ever needed is plenty of water.


  6. @ Lew:

    I wish you were here. I have never, ever, met anyone who can catch slugs like you. At least you have the option of a new career. I am not kidding. The world needs such a service.


  7. Hi, Chris!

    I like this. It makes great sense to me. It spurs me on: “The hard won knowledge that I gained from the experience was that if there is a big mess, then the culture that created that mess has allowed it to occur – and they are comfortable with the mess. ”

    If a mess is too big to fix? The first choice would seem to be to bail out. More often than not, that can’t be done. If it is a collective mess, than it would seem to be a good idea to gather one’s forces of like-minded people to work on the situation. If that can’t be done, fix the smaller messes around you. I will insert here our family motto, which would be on our coat of arms if we had one: “One Step at a Time”. If all else fails, the old bromide “What can’t be cured must be endured.” follows.

    Will have to look at the photos in a bit (which a joy to look forward to!). My there is a lovely lot of them!


  8. messes- yeah, that slowly dawning realization that a mess is too big is a sad moment. An admission of limits, a loss of control, all dent the ego. I think each person’s reaction is telling. And of course, no decision is a decision, so your step to make a break and end a pointless boulder shove showed your inclination to take action instead of simmering in misery.

    I think our overall societal denial of resource peak and consequent decline is a subconscious admission that the mess is too big to fix, we just don’t relish the obvious step in a new direction.

    Yeah, I’ve been plucking the low hanging fruit, but I’m running out of them! Coming up are some tougher projects, so time to suck it up.

    I bought some used solar thermal panels for cheap, but they need disassembly, repair, and cleaning, with some tricky soldering required. I’ve been putting this project off for too long, but heating water with electricity is just driving me nuts, so it’s rising to the top of my do list. A couple other big projects are looming, but for those, I’m still mentally puzzling through what the best approach will be.

    Maybe you’ve touched on this, but as you continue to add water storage, I wondered what your total capacity is now, and how many days use that equates to? ( including irrigation, all uses included) Also, do you have a target volume that will make you feel it is sufficient?

    We had a scare this past month when our well water pressure went on the fritz. Eventually I figured out it was the pump control box that was bad, a rather easy fix, but if it had actually been the pump down in the well ( ~150 deep, contractor required to replace) we’d have been rather parched for a while. While I’ve done some water storage, it’s for irrigation, and not up to household potable standards, so I think that better storage needs to get on the short term list soon.

  9. Hello Chris
    The climate has changed ever since this planet existed, that we have to accept. Our pollution is another matter but I don’t believe for a moment that there will be any significant change in behaviour. Individual efforts will be too insignificant to have any effect, which is depressing.
    The rice wine does not look appetising.
    I love the skink.


  10. Yo, Chris – I saw a very dumb headline (didn’t bother to read the article) that people aren’t doing anything about climate change because, deep down, they really like the idea of warmth. Or, warmer weather. If such people exist, I figure they’re an adjunct to the “More Co2? Plants like Co2. It’s a good thing!” crowd. What should the students do? That’s a retorical question, right? :-). Well, since we can’t step off this old planet, I guess it’s adapt or die.

    As far as the company you worked for, sounds like there was a lot of hubris, slopping about. Lots of talk about being kings of the world, or empire building? Always bad signs. Just one of life’s lessons. Some messes are just too big to solve. Best call it a bad deal and move along.

    I do like a good round of fog or mists. There’s always an element of mystery. On the other hand, ever read Stephen King’s “The Fog?” Or, seen the movie?

    As far as the new water tank goes, I see you’ve collected the whole set :-). Which sent me off on a tangent. There’s a saying, and, I couldn’t find it. Goes something like “One item is _____, two items are _____, and three items are a collection.” That picture is just great. The angle, the light. It would make a great painting. It makes one think that Fern Glade Farm is all industrial. Which, of course we know, it isn’t.

    Looks and sounds like you’re getting all buttoned up for the winter. The large rock? Just tell folks it was all part of the plan. 🙂

    The passata maker looks like a large coffee urn. How does it work? Tomatoes in one end, passata out the other, and lots of cleaning in between?

    The skink is a cutey. Don’t let those poppies get out of hand. You’ll be overrun with Poppy Peekers. Charge admission. The nasturtiums are really beautiful. I understand that planting them around fruit trees is beneficial. I wonder if that old gardener’s (farmer’s) tale has been scientifically checked out? Who cares? Cont.

  11. Cont. It’s not so much the warm nights that bring the worms out (it’s not that warm, yet), but, the rain. I see not only our big ol’ native earthworms. but, occasionally, the red worms I transplanted from my worm box. I wonder if they war on each other, or jostle along?

    Back when I had chickens, I also had one of the “For Dummies” series, that was just on chicken health. It had a lot more detail than the general guide. Detail on “best practices” for a healthy flock, and also identification and treatment guide for specific problems. Putting my sick chicken out in the sun, wasn’t in the guide, but, it seemed like something she wanted to do. As I remember, it was a coolish day, with sun coming and going. And, there was shade close at hand. She was out of the way, and the other chickens left her alone.

    I don’t know about chickens, but sunlight is about the only way we get vitamin D. We need 10 or 15 minutes a day. Longer, if it’s overcast. I don’t know about chickens.

    They had a suspect in the library fire case. And, he was quit a case. A psychopathic liar, who, as a friend of mine used to say, “lived a rich and varied fantasy life.” Arson is one of those crimes that’s very hard to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt. His story was constantly changing. He didn’t have any previous history of being a fire bug. If he did start the fire, it was a spur of the moment, thing.

    The building was very old, and had a lot of problems. The building had no air conditioning, and dodgy fans were used all over the place. When the fans were in use, coffee makers were banned. They had to replace all the lights in the library stacks from 70w to 40w. There were plans on the board for a complete upgrade when the fire happened.

    The author, Orlean, couldn’t decide if he did it or not. She said, that at some points, she was absolutely convinced he did it. But that it might have been a small bit of mischief, that got completely out of hand. At other times, she didn’t think he did it. And, finally, just decided she’d never know and had to live with the ambiguity.

    So. The State of Reading. It’s always been a bit of a suspect activity, in some quarters. We’ve talked a bit about the possible dangers of reading in public :-). World wide, is reading rising or declining? Don’t know. Guess I’ll have to live with the ambiguity :-). Lew

  12. @ Pam – Oh, it’s pretty easy to become a Master Slug Hunter. All you need is a small flashlight, and a quirt bottle of amonia (cut with a bit of dish soap.) A small bit of commitment and routine. A set route.

    Back when I lived out in the boonies, I’d head out just at sunset. I didn’t want to be wandering around in full dark. Cougars, bears … rabid whatever.

    Here in town, I go out a lot later. I have my little set route around all the garden beds. Takes me about 10 or 15 minutes. Three nights ago, I got 53. Night before last, 29. I skipped last night. It had been a dry day. Today, we got a bit or rain, so, I’ll go out, tonight. Slugs are stupid, greedy and canabalistic. So, there’s always two or three chowing down on whoever I did in, the night before.

    And, it’s fun to make a game of it, and record my number of “kills” on the calendar. Though people think you’re a bit nuts. Which I don’t mind, at all. :-). Lew

  13. Chris,

    Tesla was quite the individual, and that is one deep rabbit hole. There was a large biography book about him at the museum where I worked. I devoured it. My Tesla coil demonstrations featured a talk about Tesla that led up to how the coil itself worked. The coil was in basically a Faraday cage. We had a slot in which we could insert a fluorescent light tube, which lit up when the coil was turned on due to the large electric field. It was really cool.

    Oh, my friend who really liked Tesla and also yells “Go Tesla!” during thunderstorms? He has a brother. 35 years ago the 3 of us were known as the Normal brothers: Ab Normal, Sub Normal and Para Normal.

    Huh! That’s one vicious spider if it will attack a man with a large knife. So, a deal: you keep your spiders, I’ll keep ours. And hope neither of us gets bitten!

    Gallows humor? I love gallows humor. Back in the day, things would be going awry, so the gallows humor would take over. On the rare occasion in which I’d halt the gallows humor, everyone would stop and someone would say, “This has got to be dire. DJSpo isn’t joking around.”

    Oh you’ve hit on it for sure. All this texting and tweeting etal, well, people can’t talk any more, especially on the phone.

    Nice water tank. Living how you do, there can never be too much water saved in the tanks. Never ever.

    That is one big rock you brought to the attention of this temporarily unobservant reader. I wouldn’t want to move it.

    That fermenting rice looks like it’s doing right well and should become something akin to nectar of the gods. Making sake is another of the things on my list to try.

  14. Hi Pam,

    They’re all suitable choices. And I particularly enjoyed reading both of your family motto’s. Especially the final saying regarding enduring. Good stuff!

    I’ve only ever encountered that sort of mess a few times in my life, but each time I noted that there was serious reluctance from the people involved to sorting out the situation. In all cases I noted that their words did not in fact match their actions – and there is something in that observation. May you avoid such disasters!



  15. Hi Steve C,

    Yeah, all good points. There is little point in sorting out a mess where the people who have the biggest sway over the situation lack the commitment to do sort it out. I note during such times that people “talk a big game” but watch for the actions rather than the words.

    It is definitely possible to address the situation with good grace whilst maintaining as many aspects of our society as possible, even now.

    Hehe! Yup, time to get your back into the really epic projects! 🙂

    What a great score with the solar panels. They produce hot water here for about eight months of the year and they are really simple devices. The panels would be under some difficulties in your part of the world due to the cold weather which means that the water may expand in the pipes within the panel. My system trickles water into the panels on frosty nights, and there is also the frost valve to consider.

    Total water stored = 119,500L (31,500 gallons)
    The worst drought year on record will still deliver about 600mm (23.6 inches) of rain
    The roof catchment area is combined about 300m2 (3,230ft2) at a guess (house and sheds)
    So that works out to 300m2 x 600mm = 180,000L (47,370 gallons) of water collected in a drought year

    The calculation is such that 1mm of rain over 1m2 roof space = 1 Litre of water

    Drinking rainwater and using it in the garden produces exactly the same problem as the solar PV in that you have to account for the very worst conditions, not the best or even the average.

    That is a deep well. Some of the locals here have those sorts of wells and they run dry – usually because the people extract too much ground water too rapidly and it takes time for the water to percolate back into the well.



  16. Hi Inge,

    Yes you are correct. The weather today where both you and I are is very different from say twenty millennia ago. And humans were around then and they were the same as us. The clincher is that we may not be able to continue with civilisation as we know it with even minor changes to the climate. The longer I spend at the pursuit of agricultural hobbies, the more that I see that the plants can adapt, but they need the time to do so.

    As an individual myself, I don’t expect to have an effect on the future. However, I have read historical accounts from the depression era and the one thing that shone through from those accounts was that despite the hardships, farm families stayed fed. And I like food.

    I’m not wired at all to get depressed about these things, so I have trouble empathising with your perspective. Change and tragedy have always been with us as constant companions – what would like if it were otherwise? On another point, “What does the world look like” was another minor themes of my essay this week. You however – and I know this from our long discord – already work with what you encounter. I do too. To do otherwise is to seek advantage from another.

    The rice wine may look unappetising but it is highly regarded. It may make a good plan C one day! 🙂 I could probably grow some mountain rice here if only I could come across the seeds…

    The skinks are lovely and they really do enjoy all of the rock walls and gabions (which are like a hotel for the reptiles)!



  17. Hi Lewis,

    Hmm, yeah if people enjoyed the warmth so much, how come they use so much air conditioning – which is incidentally adding to the problem? So yeah, my money is also on it being a dumb headline. Who can forget the awesome line in relation to carbon pollution: Some call it pollution, we call it life… Sometimes the ingenuous nature of people talking a big game, does my head in. It just makes no sense.

    If the students had half a brain to share between them all, they’d get their hands in the dirt and start working out where their food comes from. It is probably a bit of a harsh thought, but I was reading “The Fields” this morning and I noted that whilst the brother character loathed farming, he didn’t hesitate at heading out into the forest to source his meals and was confident of doing so. And the scene where the protagonist lost her daughter in a fire accident was horrendous, but beautifully told and exquisite in the telling of the tale for such a dark subject. I am not half the word smith that the author is but still one can dream.

    Hubris, there was plenty of that there for sure. I didn’t like them much either. You called that too, they did see themselves that way as some sort of rulers of the Universe. And the strange thing was that they were surprised when I resigned, like really surprised that I had my own opinions and thoughts on the subject. I feel that they mistook me for a soft touch, and that was an error on their part. The culture these days is such that polite is often confused for the station of stupid. I’m unsure how that story came to be. It wasn’t always such, but then I may be painting the past with a colour that it never had. Dunno. You are spot on though – What cannot be fixed, will not be fixed.

    No. I have not read the authors book of “The Fog”. Oh no! That was the name of the film adaption of the short story – and done by the master John Carpenter… Get scared, get really, really scared. I’m already scared at the film makers name! Isn’t it nice to encounter a Mrs Carmody at such a time – and I did note that the cheeky scamp offered up other people as sacrifices when her belief system possibly should have suggested that she go first!

    That is funny, but under all of this stuff there is some serious industrial (but kept very simple and unappealing) gear. I’m slowly working out the even lower tech details from here, but it is complicated and not at all nice. The water tanks look quite nice all lined up like that don’t they? Did you notice how low the light is now low in the photo? The sun was towards the latter part of the day, but it has swung towards the north in the sky of late which is entirely expected.

    The passata maker is an electric open top boiler with a thermostat (a very simple device) although it has a plastic lid that holds a thermometer in the water. The passata bottles sit in the hot water bath and just cook away. In other households, making the passata is a big thing: Passata making families keep Italian tradition alive. I read the article whilst drinking coffee at a cafe the other morning – all very civilised. And not much cleaning here, I don’t quite understand the need to remove the seeds from the tomatoes and that is where the mess enters the story for other people. It is an old wives tale that the seeds in the fruit produce a bitter tasting passata, but I remain unconvinced. Although often I feel that the tomatoes used in more traditional passata recipes are very large and have almost no flavour – so that could be the difference.

    Alas the naughty insurers have ensured that I dare never charge admission. It is a long and sad story of decline…

    Hey, nasturtiums are really good plants – and they are completely edible. I feed them to the chickens regularly and not much is left of a plant after they’ve been onto it. Exactly, who knows? But I do suspect that having plants is better than not having plants around fruit trees – but other people differ. I knew a lady around these parts that used to spray glyphosate around her trees. To be fair, her fruit trees grew a lot faster than mine, but still I lack comfort in her decision.

    It completely blows my mind that people don’t get enough Vitamin D down here and it genuinely is a problem. The trick with the immune system is to apparently keep it ticking along and neither under work it, nor over work it – and sunlight apparently challenges the immune system. Although I also read that tests for Vitamin D were apparently propping up pathology test centres. Yes, do you want fries with that flu? I learn about chickens as I go too. They’re complicated creatures with a strong social sense.

    Ouch. Such a person is to beware of, as no good will come from it. It was not for no reason that the Devil was once described as the father of lies. Mind you, I always enjoyed the Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil, but nothing compares to their masterpiece: Gimme Shelter. The other day I came across a photo of Keith Richards sitting in his home library circa 1995 (he’s apparently a bit of a bibliophile) and I thought to myself, I could rip some of those ideas in the shelving. It was all very adult, but also very cool looking which is to be expected.

    He probably did do it, but if a court of law can’t pin it on him, then he didn’t do it. That is our system. There was a character like that who plenty of people pointed the finger at after the Black Saturday fires in 2009, but it was never proven. So, he’s innocent until proven guilty and that is how it is.

    Yes, I attract attention reading in public too. It’s a subversive activity you know? 🙂

    Oh! Well I’m surprised because in preparing the calculations about water for the reply to Steve, I realised I have more water stored than I originally thought. Where did it all go?



  18. @ Lew:

    “A small bit of commitment and routine.” Uh, oh – though I’ll admit 10 or 15 minutes sounds fair. I didn’t know slugs were cannibalistic, but I guess dogs can be, too, so I’ll give them a pass.


  19. @ Steve:

    That is what happened to us last fall – the pump in our well stopped working and my husband and oldest son intrepidly pulled it out (our well is the same depth as yours) and replaced it. We lived on bottled water for ages as after they installed a new pump (there is a place here that sells them) and then they thought it might be a good idea to pour some bleach in while the well was open in case of contamination. It was a very bad idea and it took a couple of weeks of running water constantly to clear out the bleach taste. I am still suspicious of it.

    I don’t think I can recommend amateurs doing that job; it is epic. Though my husband and son seem to have done a very good job (not counting the bleach . . .).


  20. Chris:

    Those are very old “working” chickens (that is, not pets – well, they do have names . . . ). That is quite a credit to you and the editor.

    How long do you let the cucumbers sit in the brine before bottling?

    The line of magpies is impressive.

    I was looking at our skink hotel, which is fortunately right in the middle of the garden. It is an old oak stump, 7 feet (2m) around at the base and 2 feet (.6m) high and flat on top, for a sundeck. They do love it.

    I am about to start watermelon seeds indoors. That sounds crazy – to me, anyway – but with our wooded north slope the growing season is pretty short. Only once were we able to grow a melon with seeds planted outside, and it was small.


  21. Hello again
    I was just making a general statement when I said ‘depressing’. I am not depressed, just accepting. In other words I was writing loosely with insufficient thought.
    People have told Son that if food runs out they will come to his place. His response was ‘You and a thousand others’.

    @ Pam
    The first volume is called ‘The proposal’. I admit to having read them all twice.


  22. Yo, Chris – I picked up a new little book from the library, “The Seven Deadly Sing of Writing: Common Pitfalls of Prose …and How to Avoid Them.” (Kiesling, 2018). It’s just a tiny little paperback, but very clear. The one I have problems with understanding (and, I’ve read it in other writing guides) is “Show, don’t tell.” Most of the other “sins” have pretty clear red flags, and, with a bit of editing, are pretty easy to spot.

    Some employers are clueless. “But we’re a wonderful company, and it’s a wonderful job. Why would anyone want to quit?” Other employers think they have you by the ….. Especially in poor job markets. Of course, here, there’s always the health care to consider. :-(.

    Then there’s always the reference, to consider. I’ve heard of some employers giving a bad reference, just to try and keep an employee, in place. Some employment advisors say that when your interviewing for new jobs, it’s not a good idea to disparage your previous employer. To be too negative. Best to keep to weasel words like “…feel the need for new challenges.” Stuff like that.

    Getting back to that bit about employers thinking they have you trapped, it still makes me smile when I think of when I began making my move from the cafe, to the library. I told you that I overheard the owner make the statement that the library would never hire me as I was “To old, and didn’t have enough education.” Giving notice was one of the best days of my life :-).

    Ah! So the big coffee urn thing-ie is like a canner. Only with a bit more control. Got it. I think I saw an Australian food show where a family was making passata. Just like the families in the pictures. What I liked, was the pictures of the feed that went along with the passata :-).

    The possible arsonist who told the outrageous lies was a cute blond kid. “Dumb blond” of the male persuasion. Some people found him kind of enduring, because his lies were so transparent. Until he wore a bit thin. Also, an absolute klutz who was forever losing or breaking things through inattention. Most of his lies were of a self agrandizeing type. Yes, arson is hard to prove, as, most of the evidence burns up.

    Only got 29 slugs, last night, even with the rain. But the worms were out. There were small read compost worms, everywhere! Yup. They’re established. What I’ve noticed is, the regular earth worms react to light. The compost worms don’t.

    I watched “Robin Hood”, last night. The 2018 version. Oh, it was ok, but it got very bad reviews and didn’t make back it’s investment. I think where it went wrong was … well, I would have called it “Robin Hood(ie): Medieval Superhero.” Some reviews compared it to “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Yeah, I can see that. Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to tamper with iconic source material.

    Where did the water go? Did you check behind the couch? 🙂

  23. Hi DJ, Pam, Inge, and Lewis,

    It is the mid week hiatus. Will speak tomorrow. 🙂

    Lewis – Had to motivate a Koala Bear off the road earlier this evening. It is interesting that the Koala’s appear to be moving into higher elevations in the mountain range. Dunno. I certainly enjoyed a good chunk of stink eye once the Koala had settled into the fork of a tree.

    Tell = He stabbed the victim.

    Show = The knife fairly flew in a neat arc before descending into the hapless victim up to the hilt. Blood sprayed everywhere as the victims life force exited the wound. (I wanted to use the word decamp in there somewhere, but could quite figure out how to work it in. Got any ideas?)

    I had to pull out my trusty 1953 Concise (not sure that is the correct word for the weighty tome that could do more damage to someones head than a knife) Oxford Dictionary – hardback version.

    Now the word “tell” sort of speaks to recounting a story. But then the tricksey dictionary used other words to describe the word “tell”. For example: recount.

    On the other hand the dictionary pulled the same trick with the word “show” and used other words to define it. But I feel that there is an element of showmanship as well as evocation. But I’m not really sure.

    The difference between the two must be the entertainment and engagement value? Again, dunno.

    But then some authors go too far and spend too long evoking a scene, when there is a story to tell – and perhaps the art is finding the mid point between the two words whilst maintaining engagement with the reader?

    What do you reckon? Am I talking pure rubbish? It is possible as my brain is slightly fried today as I worked upon a mind bending problem. Woe is me, but bed is calling and a good night’s sleep may assist my overworked brain.



  24. Hello Chris

    You can have confidence about your prose: I thought that the description of the intense hot weather you wrote some weeks back was excellent, in that it was truly evocative and one could feel what was being described – which I suppose is a good example of ‘show’?

    Ever seen the full Oxford Dictionary? I made the mistake of buying a set needing repair a few years ago, which was dirt cheap because the bookseller wanted to get rid of it and it had no spines so was far to expensive for them to pay to repair: so large are the volumes, and so thick, that you could divide it in two and sit on them, and have enough left over to make a low coffee table in between. Now that’s a reference book!

    I have to find a Greater Fool to take it on once I’ve done the repairs, as it is like having a Great Dane in the house.

    All the best

  25. @Pam
    We’ve seen several bluebirds around so it’ll be fun to see if any of them take up residence as well as other bird species that may be attracted.

    Hostas sure do well in shade and are pretty low maintenance but they do need to be thinned out now and then. I had a few at the old house along the north side of the house which received very little shade. If it was really dry I’d water then now and then but other than that – nothing. Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers as well.


  26. Yo, Chris – I thought a “tell” was when a poor poker player tips off the other players that he’s got a good or bad hand, by some kind of physical quirk? :-). Not having a poker face.

    “The murderer decamped from the room.”

    LOL. After reading your examples, I had to go back and look to see which was the ideal. Show or tell. If I were an editor, I’d probably take hedge clippers to your example of “tell.”

    I’ll have to sit down with the little book, again, and see if I can make sense of it. Hmmm. I also have Stephen King’s “On Writing”, close to hand. I wonder if The Master has anything to say about S&T? More will be revealed.

    Eat something high protein. Supposed to be good for the brain. Fish? A big egg and cheese omelet?

    Here’s an interesting article I ran across about a huge solar farm, back east. And, the problems they are having with NIMBY. (Not in my back yard.). Not too long.

    I think it’s interesting that Microsoft and Amazon are driving the development.

    Big used book sale, this weekend. Maybe I’ll find a copy o “Skystone.” Lew

  27. Hi Chris,

    As the temperatures still are below normal everything is growing very slowly but I’ll let you know as soon as we try them. There’s a woman near here that had several hundred varieties of hostas and appears to do a pretty good business. People really get into different varieties of daylillies as well.

    I mentioned to Pam above that there are regular sightings of bluebirds so we’ll see.

    Yes, people who don’t read books are really missing out. I do think the drop in attention span has a lot to do with it and the competition from so many other forms of entertainment.

    Really sorry to hear about your chicken but that is reality with animals, isn’t it.

    The “Green New Deal” is an example of unrealistic thinking about a mess that’s too big. Incidentally my book club that rarely has time to read an entire book (at least half of the members) will be discussing this next month. It is frustrating that some of the members can’t manage to read one book a month.

    Loved all the pictures, as usual.

  28. @ Pam – Put on your camo, brandish your spray bottle and scream, “Kill! kill! kill!” :-). Friends and family will thing you’ve entirely lost it, but that’s more than half the fun!

    And, even I skip an occasional evening. I probably manage 5 out of 7. Last night, I was pressed for time, and only checked on my patch. I’m trying an experiment, where I’m attempting to grow Brussels sprouts as a perennial. And, the slugs LOVE the tender young sprout, emerging from the stump of last years stalk. Lew

  29. @Lew

    My book club read the very long article by Wallace-Wells in the “New Yorker” which was quite good. I debated reading the other book but felt I probably wasn’t going to learn much more than I already know – other than specific scientific details. I’ve read that the author is only concerned with how the changing climate will affect humans and isn’t concerned with other species.


  30. Hi DJ,

    It is funny that you mention the fluorescent light bulbs and Mr Tesla’s machine, but I have heard similar accounts of the very high voltage / high current transmission wiring which is used near and in cities producing similar effects with the bulbs. Never felt like testing the theory myself. The lines make fascinating noises after rain, or in very humid or smokey weather. Best avoided that lot!

    Very amusing! 🙂 No, name no names!!! But the mind boggles and is intrigued.

    I accept your deal and hope for the best, but expect the worst with the spiders. Garden spiders are a bit of a complexity around here and often I encounter them when clearing weeds away from the fruit trees – which they are clearly not happy about.

    Ah yes, things can always be taken a bit too far with the gallows humour. I have to admit I’m a bit distressed tonight because Sir Scruffy is not well – as in the very not well category of being not well. It has been that sort of week.

    A lot of people that I speak with on the phone seem to also be driving these days – and I would struggle doing those two activities at once, so I have no idea how they do such things, but it does sound a mite distracted to my mind…

    Water will certainly be a problem in the future, no doubts about it.

    I couldn’t move the rock, so make a feature of it. The rocks retain heat for plants and extend the growing season a bit too.

    Definitely give the sake making a go. It is a similar process to making beer, but much easier than beer because rice has a higher sugar content. Good luck!



  31. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! Yes, I rather enjoyed the addition of your sentence including the word ‘decamp’. It is a strange word that only gets wheeled out during legal proceedings of the sort that one would not want to be involved in. Of course, a direction is often added to the sentence in such instances, and so it would probably read (at a guess):

    “The murderer decamped from the room, in an easterly direction.” It all sounds rather officious, and I suspect that people might not know what the heck we were writing about! 🙂

    I’ve never played poker, and probably show too many emotions on my face to ever be a good player. I don’t know how they do such things and stay calm. Not for I. Have you ever played?

    Ah yes, sometimes the pruning shears of an editor is a necessary evil to cut out the flouncy chunks of text. I try not to indulge in such matters in the first place, but sometimes it becomes necessary to evoke a feeling with the words. It is sort of getting into someone else’s zone and asking what it looks like.

    I feel a bit flat tonight. Poor Sir Scruffy (who is extraordinarily old) is looking very ill and he may be on his last legs. I have a test with dogs in that if they display a lack of interest in beef jerky, then I know for sure that they are not in a good place. I put him out in the warm autumn sunshine today and he slept, but he is not in good health. He’s my favourite too.

    I’ll be interested to learn what the master has to say about show and tell. Some of his stories deserve a better fleshed out ending because some of them end rather abruptly. But then weird and inexplicable things happen in Maine (or where a lot of the books are set). I have noticed posters for Pet Semetary.

    Not sure about the whole high protein diet thing. Out of curiosity, and I have no observations to base this on but only what I’ve read, but high protein diets apparently make people grumpy. I reckon asking them the question might produce that reaction, so it is hardly unbiased. Imagine this: Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve been eating a lot of chicken recently and you look a bit grumpy to me! Now that I consider the matter further, the above test might have a little bit of bias built into it!

    Thanks for the article and I really appreciate the conundrum. The thing is, the server farm runs 24/7 and I doubt that such a northern location would get any more than between one and two peak solar hours per day over winter. So, say they install 300MW of panels, then the panels are likely to produce only about an hour’s energy during the depths of winter – and that assumes that they’re not covered in snow! So what the heck are the server farms going to use for the other 22 hours of the day?

    The thing is, the large scale electrical generators are geared to run 24/7 – 365 days. And the economics of them are such that they have to run that way to make a profit. And yet the solar farms – and I like renewable energy systems – provide electricity sometimes for a bit of the day, and then not for most of the remainder of the day. In a weird twist of fate / economics, the solar farms make the large scale generators unprofitable – and more wasteful than they are now. And yet when the sun ain’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing – the server farm wants the same supply of electricity. It doesn’t make sense to me at all, unless it is some sort of play. Dunno. If the server farm shut down when the renewables didn’t generate then that would be good, but even passing clouds would shut them down…

    Stories of people powering their house entirely for the year – miss the entire point of seasonality and harvesting from nature. I read in the Fields today of the epic hunt – wiped out everything – which was rapidly followed by the epic famine. Well done them…



  32. Chris:

    Please tell Sir Scruffy that I hope he feels better soon. Poor little fellow.


  33. @ Lew:

    Thanks for sending the wind farm article. I had not heard of this. That is sort of my backyard – if we think of very large backyards. We never go up that way anymore, to Spotsylvania County or anything within fairly easy reach of D.C. It is rather heartbreaking to see as it used to be rural and small towns. We used to visit the battlefields as well. I suppose they will be solar farms as well some day, which seems fruitless to me as we have way more cloudy days here than sunny.


  34. Hi Chris,

    I’m really sorry to hear that Sir Scruffy is not well. May he have an easy time of it.


  35. Yo, Chris – “After the successful hunt, we returned to de camp.” :-). More seriously, “The Twentieth Legion Augusta decamped from Isca.” Somehow or another, it’s a word that lives more comfortably, in a military context. Just my opinion. Aide decamp?

    I don’t play any kinds of games. Frankly, I’m a poor looser, and would rather not display that side of my character. And, really, it wastes a lot of time, money, or both.

    That is distressing news about Sir Scruffy. May his path from here on out be an easy one. My friends in Idaho have five yippy small dogs (I can’t, or, having taken care of them, I can, imagine.) It’s suddenly dawning on them that they’re all about the same age (aged). The vet bills mount (but, at least they can afford it). One tragedy after another, looms.

    I took a look at King’s “On Writing.” Oh, dear. No table of contents. No index. Won’t be getting to that, for awhile. A Google search might narrow the field, a bit.

    Besides, I picked up “The Fields”, yesterday, and plunged right in. I’m between the epic hunt and the famine. (Spoiler.) It is a good read, and there’s a lot to think about, in the book. As a character, Sayward has such … dignity. The dialect and vocabulary throw me, a bit. But it something that Richter, writing in the 1930s, remembered. Something that’s pretty much lost, now.

    A couple of other things. Long skirts and open hearths were a poor mix. Mortality due to kitchen accidents was pretty common. I seem to remember a vague family story, about pioneering in the wilds of Minnesota in the 1880’s. Something about a young boy who was badly burned by an outside fire.

    The disappearance of the sister, into the forest, reminded me that there’s a whole genre of writing, called “Indian Captivity Narratives.” There are a lot of them. Ranging in dates from the 1500s, up through the 1800s. I think Richter wrote a stand alone book on that theme, “Light in the Forest”. Disney did it as a movie, long, long ago.

    Well, today is the big three, O. :-). My 30th, AA birthday. No big plans. If I had a home group, there would be cake. But, I don’t, so there won’t. :-). Later on, I’ll probably wander down to the Club for a cuppa. Gas with another friend of mine, Susan, who’s working the counter. Swap my 29 year coin for a 30.

    Oh, I don’t think a consistently high protean diet is especially healthy, but as an occasional “boost”, not a bad idea. According to some reports, a bit of a temporary protean boost helps with wound or surgery healing. Mileage may vary. Lew

  36. Hi everyone,

    It is with much sadness that I let you all know that I had to take Sir Scruffy the charming, to the vet this morning and have him put down. He died of old age, and it was a kindness to send him onto his final sleep and next journey. Yesterday he could barely move a muscle but this morning it was clear that he was not going to recover. He was uncomfortable, but not in any great pain – it was just his time.

    Today I shed a few tears for the venerable Sir Scruffy and have given him a suitable burial next to his firm mate Sir Poopy, but it should also be remembered that Sir Scruffy had a great life here and he relished every moment of it. I am almost certain that he would encourage us all to recall that life is in the living.


  37. Hi Pam,

    The chickens do have nicknames, but they are here for egg laying and the production of manure so it is a different situation than if I bred them for the table. Silky mum is a hearty and hale old chicken and now enjoys the venerable role of senior chook. I can barely tell the difference between her robust good health and the much younger chickens.

    The cucumbers were left in brine for three to four days before further processing which has only just happened. My eyes are stinging a bit from the smell of vinegar and cloves emanating from the kitchen.

    Yes, the reptiles would love such a stump. I’m actually not sure what they eat, but I do suspect that they consume a lot of garden pests, so that is probably a good thing.

    Hey, the property here faces south west, so I do understand the shading issues (remembering that things are upside down, down here). With the capsicum and eggplants I can only reliably grow the thinner varieties due to the shading issues – and that is despite record hot weather this year. Bonkers, huh? I hear you.

    I’m sorry to say that Sir Scruffy won’t recover. He was very good mates with Sir Poopy, and so I buried him next to the Poopy-quat.

    Pam, this morning was hard because little Sir Scruffy was my favourite and now he is gone. I planted a Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) over his grave as it is a tree that produces flowers even in the hottest and driest summers. May he rest in peace. I miss my little buddy.



  38. Hello again
    I am so sorry to hear of Sir Scruffy’s departure. May he rest in peace.


  39. Hi Inge,

    I sort of guessed that you were making a general statement so not to worry, but you know words and all that, mean what they mean… Anyway, you don’t appear to my mind to be the sort of person to indulge in such emotions. I get upset, but have never indulged.

    I feel for your son having to listen to such nonsense. It may surprise you, but I too encounter such talk about people coming here. I have no idea what they expect, but such talk does leave a person wondering how most people relate to the land? From what I’ve observed, the world is not a supermarket…

    Earlier in the week I bought a sack of organic rolled oats, and the price increase was significant due to the ongoing drought up north. Almost 50%, but I can absorb that increase but people keep telling me that inflation is low.

    Oh, we left the cucumbers in brine for about three or four days. My eyes are stinging now due to the vinegar in the air from that particular process. Of course, it may have been because I was shedding a quiet tear for the loss of Sir Scruffy… What a rubbish week I’ve had, but all the same I’m still here. Life on the land is precarious and ephemeral which is why plenty of folks chose to move into the town.

    Did you ever have historical land grabs on your island?



  40. Hi Xabier,

    Thank you! One of my favourite stories was the story of walking through the city of Melbourne and all the sights and sounds that I encountered there. I do try to regularly take long walks through the city areas because it would be all too easy to get ‘lost in the bush’ up here, and all the while the world keeps on turning and changing. Sometimes I barely recognise the city despite having only seen it a few weeks beforehand.

    Your book binding skills would have come in handy with the repairs to that complete Oxford Dictionary. I’m personally gladdened to read that you did not kill anyone (accidentally of course) with the weighty tome. Imagine if you stored it on a high bookshelf and whilst reaching up to grab it, the dread anchor slipped from your fingers and clopped somebody on the head? Such is the stuff of nightmares.

    It makes a person wonder if Great Dane’s were ever destined to exist within a house? I tell you this, Australian cattle dogs are very happy to dwell inside a house – and he is sound asleep on the green couch behind me as I type this. Of course he is small fish compared to a Great Dane.



  41. Chris,

    My deepest condolences on the loss of Sir Scruffy. I imagine he’s with Poopy now.


  42. Hi Inge,

    Many thanks for your kind words. It is a sad day to lose the favourite and boss dog. Ollie was quick to take charge this morning and has elected himself to the role of Chief Morale Officer as well as new boss dog. He’d like Ren.



  43. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for the laugh about the daylillies. Today I need a laugh. You reminded me that a year or four ago, I visited a very huge and notable plant fair in the local area – it is a bit of a thing. Anyway, one of the stalls at the plant fair was run by the states Salvia club and they were selling colourful Salvia’s. At the time I was thinking to myself: Who’d like Salvia’s? But nowadays I really appreciate how they survive the worst conditions that the climate here throws at plants. It is nice that we can grow with experience.

    Incidentally, I planted a nice Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) over Sir Scruffy’s grave. They grow well and flower here and I already have one growing here. But recently I’ve seen them used as street trees in Melbourne, and so I sort of figure that anything that can survive the sort of lack of care that street trees enjoy – and still produce copious flowers – must be OK. If Sir Scruffy could choose a plant, he certainly would have ignored that and instead preferred marrow bones to chew upon!

    The bluebirds are very pretty and they would be a nice visitor to your garden. Plus their beaks sort of indicate to me that they may assist with garden pests?

    Distractions abound don’t they? And reading a book end to end is an investment of precious time, but there are such great rewards for investing one’s time in a book. I’ve been to plenty of times and places that I will never physically get to because of books. At the moment I’m in the 18th century America’s reading Conrad Richter’s Awakening Land trilogy which is based in Ohio at the time of early settlement. It is an extraordinary series of books – and worthy of a book club.

    I gave the Grey Silky chicken plenty of chances over many months – and she blew it. She was one of a trio of birds and now only one remains and she seems very normal. The remaining bird is a brown Silky nicknamed “Wub”. Anyway, I don’t really know, but I suspect that something not good is going on with that particular trio of birds.

    I’d never heard of a ‘Green New Deal’ until only recently. I’m a huge fan of renewable energy, but it is not good enough to run an industrial civilisation. Not even close. I rarely use any insecticide, and despite the trauma of earlier today, I had to jump onto the roof and spray a pre-winter squirt of the stuff into each of the four outdoor electrical boxes for the solar power system. Such housing is all too easy and convenient for spiders and other critters that would enjoy over wintering in them. It is the little details that can get a person un-stuck with this stuff. Rain is coming… And wet steel roofs are not good places to be. I also had to clean out the flue on the wood heater and I was amazed at how little soot fell into the combustion chamber of the wood box. I take that as a good sign that the firewood is a job that is being handled well.

    I hear you, but for some people the social aspect is more important than the book. And for those, the book is an opportunity for a social time. I may raise the issue of a Green New Deal with folks that I know and see what they make about it – hopefully they have more opinions on the subject than I do. I’ll report back.

    Thank you very much for the lovely words about the loss of Sir Scruffy. My little matey is sorely missed and I shed many tears for him today. Tonight I’m having home made pizza for dinner and where is Sir Scruffy to demand his chunk of crust?



  44. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for the kind words. I took him to the vet this morning and sat with him in his final moments. Before that it was clear that he was not going to recover, and I feel that it is a kindness to spare him further ordeal. He is now buried next to his best mate Sir Poopy.


  45. My condolences on the passing of the late furry Knight, to which I add those of my own incorrigible rogue, Sir Sancho.

    Only those who’ve had dogs of real personality can understand. Merciful that it was all so brief and not dragged out – I’ve seen people make their dogs go on very selfishly.

    All the best to you and the Editor.

  46. Chris:

    Oh, how we will miss Sir Scruffy. There was never another dog like him. My thoughts are with you and the editor.


  47. Chris:

    I just caught that Sir Scruffy has his very own Scruff Myrtle. One of my favorite trees. I have a large pink one.


  48. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, some weeks are not good, and this is certainly one of those. Sir Scruffy was barely able to toddle a slow circuit around the house yesterday. Overnight he took a turn for the worse, and this morning it was clear that he would never recover. I took him to the vet first thing this morning and they put him to sleep, and it is such an act of kindness to spare my little mate any further suffering. I may not have mentioned it, but he and Sir Poopy were good mates in life and so I buried Sir Scruffy near to him, and then planted a flowering tree (crepe myrtle) which provides reliable flowers at this time of year and in such hot and dry weather conditions. Sir Scruffy was more of a chewing on marrow bone kind of dog rather than a canine that enjoyed flowers, but it seems like a nice memorial to a spirit that came into my life by sheer chance a few years back and brought much happiness. I miss my little matey, and tonight I’m enjoying pizza for dinner (home made of course) and he used to annoy me for the crusts. I tell you, it would be no annoyance to be pestered by him for the pizza crusts this evening.

    Very clever word play! I too have heard some say that to ignore word play is to be in de nile… Sorry, that was bad. The word has such an officious air to its use and yeah it does live well in a military setting. Today was warm and sunny, but tonight the warm weather has decamped to the east and it is now cold outside.

    Mate, his passing was an easy one and it is kindness to be able to provide him that option. The vet gave him an overdose of anaesthetic and Sir Scruffy quickly fell into a final sleep. Earlier in the morning he could barely move and was uncomfortable. I suspect that one of his internal organs failed a few days back. But he lived a full life right up to a few days ago, and for most of that time he enjoyed really robust health. When I was younger it was not unusual for people to drop dead, and that was how things were and he would have done so, but why prolong his suffering?

    Of course the canine situation here has been fluid today and it looks like Ollie has taken charge and is now the boss dog. All of the dogs had a good long sniff of Sir Scruffy when we brought him back from the vet – and they know everything including watching him be buried. I’m not of the belief that such things should be shielded from them. They understand what it means.

    I don’t mind losing at all, if only because I’ve come across plenty of people who were smarter, better looking, better educated, wealthier, faster (or whatever). Some fights can’t be won, but I understand how you feel and I can’t play the editor in Scrabble because sand is seriously kicked in my face, but then she can’t play Monopoly for the same reason. Maybe my earlier sentiment was all talk? 🙂

    No table of contents and/or index? Hmm, perhaps there is no beginning and no end either? I watched a film like that once. Now what was it? That’s right – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. An intriguing way to recount a story. It is a bit like a song without a chorus. It makes you wonder what Mr King might possibly say about that situation?

    Yes, dignity is the word that the character displays. Good grace is another such description. I’m reading the section in the book where Sayward is conning her husband into establishing a school for the area. And it interested me that kids were turned away from attendance for all sorts of reasons – some of which were quite valid. My reading ear is attuned to the dialect now, although the words sounded a bit strange at first encounter, but I could not repeat the language because it is not mine and I know it not. The story really is a good tale. And ah yes, little Sulie copped it bad in the fire – I expected great things from the character, but alas burn brightly and then burn out seems to be the way of it. But the telling of the black face momentarily in the window was an extraordinary addition to that short story. It left me feeling goosebumps. I’m beginning to notice that the book itself is a collection of short stories. Am I imagining this?

    Hey, the Indian captivity narratives actually took place down here but in reverse way back in the day with the whalers and sealers that lived along the coastline. They were a rough bunch for sure and I’ve read accounts that they were not above taking a wife from the locals. I’m a bit leery of Disney films because I don’t have the expectation that there is always a happy ending where everything and everyone is nice. But then perhaps my mind is in a poor state today! Probably not though…

    Congratulations, and a notable and well earned achievement. 🙂 Did you make it down to the club for a cuppa and chat? One of the things that I noted about the Conrad Richter books was how sociable people where and also how their meetings provided a sense of – I dunno if words can describe it – but a sense of greater mystery and connection with the other locals – even those that the central character did not much care for, which the text laid bare in a delightful way.

    Absolutely, everything in moderation – and high protein diets are one such thing. I may not have err, probably got the idea across in my reply yesterday. Mostly I refer to such diets being a problem in the long term, but as an occasional boost, cool as. I feel that at this point in the paragraph, it may be important to mention that it is now Hot Cross Bun season – and that is hardly a high protein thing, but more of a carb bonanza! And wild fermented sour dough Hot Cross Buns sound dodgy, but far out they are good. Hopefully I haven’t lost too many taste buds in my dotage and they taste better than they are? 🙂



  49. Hello again
    Sorry, I don’t know whether or not there have been historical land grabs on the Island.
    The weather continues blue sky and sunny.


  50. @ Inge:

    I see that Mary Balogh’s books are right up my alley – Regency romance. My favorites are Georgette Heyer’s books. She also writes mysteries.

    Thanks for the cucumber in brine information.


  51. @ Pam
    I have all the Georgette Heyer books except the mysteries which I thought very poor. My favourite is ‘These old shades’.
    At least I don’t have to skip pages of Heyer as I do with Balogh. Modern romances are too physically detailed, I prefer hints!


  52. @ Margaret – I think I know what you mean, when it comes to limiting time / selection of some books. A few years back, I came to think I was reading way to many books (on a number of topics) that I came to call the “Oh, ain’t it awful” genre of literature. Things I can do little about. So, now I try and ration myself, a bit. Lew

  53. @ Pam – “They” are building a large wind farm, out in the western part of our county. Out toward the ocean, where there’s more of a consistent wind. I think it’s still moving along. Every once in awhile I’ll see a small article in the newspaper, reporting progress. Lew

  54. Yo, Chris – I am so sorry to hear the news about Sir Scruffy. English is a rich language, but comes up a bit inadequate when it comes to expressing condolences. One never knows quit what to say.

    I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the pizza crusts. Even though it’s been a bit of time, every can of tuna I open, I think of my old cat Nell. She always got a bit put down on the lid of the can. One English word I know she knew, for sure, was “tuna.” I think I mentioned I’d scout miniature kerosene lamps for a fellow, from The Club, who’s recently passed on. Sure enough, I spotted on, the other day, and thought of Ken. I’m sure that will go on for quit awhile.

    The crepe myrtle sounds like a very good choice. You can always replace it, if they ever develop trees that produce bones or pizza crusts. Lew

  55. Yo, Chris – Looks like I’ll have to show a bit of care. I think I’m slightly ahead of you, reading “The Fields.” I’m up to the chapter titled “The Reap Hook.” I think it was interesting that they mentioned “The year without a summer.” 1816. Mt. Tambora exploded in Indonesia, and it effected world wide weather. I don’t think we’ve had anything quit so serious, since. It even shows up in some art, of the time. The English artists Turner, did several paintings showing the odd atmospheric effects.

    I thought it was interesting how people used to refer to their families. “Eight children, five living and three dead.” I’ve run across that, before, in Victorian literature. I don’t know when it fell out of use, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it, in my lifetime.

    Story telling was a great form of entertainment, before books and other types of media began to circulate. It was also a vehicle for passing on folk wisdom, of one type and another. Crops, medicine, child rearing. Survival skills. When Sayward boils up the corn and wheat meal sacks, to squeeze out a few meals, or, pulls apart the corn husk mattress to find a few grains of corn, did she think of those things herself? Or had she heard about them in a story, somewhere? But, I think the ghost stories and “strange events” are the best. They can still give one a bit of a shiver.

    I swapped my 29 year coin for a 30 and had a cuppa, at the Club. Had a chat with Susan. She’s my friend who I “talk movies” with. I didn’t have anything special planned, on the food front. Too much month and not enough money (State retirement lands, today). Oh, sure, I have a bit in savings, but I’m loath to touch that for anything so frivolous as a food binge. And, felt rather uninspired as far as making something. But then, out of the blue, my neighbor, HRH mum turned up with a box of frozen waffles. Not something I’d buy for myself. But, I had strawberries in the freezer, and a dab of ice cream left (butter pecan.) It made a tasty way to end the day.

    I’m headed over to the yearly AAUW (Association of American University Women) used book sale. It started yesterday, and now that I have a bit of jingle in my pocket … why not? Maybe I’ll find a copy of “The Skystone?” Lew

  56. Hi Chris,

    Your descriptions of Sir Scruffy’s activities made his delightful personality come to life. I am glad to have made his acquaintance through your blog, and glad that you have honored his memory with a crape myrtle. They are common street trees here and bloom reliably during August, the hottest part of summer. May memories of Sir Scruffy comfort you and the editor and the rest of the fluffy collective. And congratulations to Ollie on his assumption of the boss dog role!


  57. Chris,

    Condolences about Sir Scruffy. Good move placing him with his comrade in arms and planting a tree with them. That will be a good way to remember them both.

    I’m glad you didn’t hide Sir Scruffy the Magnificent’s demise from his mates. Dogs are smart. Cheyenne the Finnish Spitz knew that Thor the Irish Wolfhound had died. She mourned him for several weeks. The dogs have the right to properly mourn their mate in the dog way.

    When I was 13, a friend and I were on a hike with our 25 milliwatt CB walkie-talkies. Maximum range was maybe 500 meters. We were beneath some very high powered electrical transmission lines for part of the hike. My friend was able to converse with somebody about 5 kilometers away. It was impressive, but I’d hate to live close to those power lines.

    I used to make a lot of beer. So, sake sounds plausible.

    I saw your mention of the high protein diets and grumpiness. All bodies are different. I need to eat a high protein diet and am not normally grumpy. I really take after the men on my mom’s paternal side, and they all needed high protein diets or would get unhealthy and too thin. Grumpy is NOT the word that would describe those calm, peaceful men. However, I eat a lot of fiber with the protein, and make sure I get some carbohydrates also. My guess is that because a lot of the popular high protein diets are also extremely low carbohydrate also, the lack of proper carbs might add to the grumpiness.


  58. Hi Xabier,

    The fluffies are in a bit of turmoil and mourning today, but they shall prevail – eventually. Sir Scruffy was the smartest of the collective, and so Ollie has big paws to follow in that regard.

    Greetings to Sir Sancho, and who doesn’t enjoy the company of an incorrigible canine rogue?

    Yes, I’m not into that either, but I can see how people fall into the situation. For me, it all depends on the dogs age and probability of recovery, and I’ve observed that older dogs rarely recover from invasive surgery. Sir Scruffy suffered probably about two days at most in an otherwise long life, and the two days was just so that I was reasonably certain of the outcome. It is hard for people to empathise with a choice like that, because it may differ from their own choice given the same circumstances.



  59. Hi Pam,

    Thank you for the kind words, and the delightful name for the tree: A Scruff Myrtle, it is! And we had a choice between white flowers, insipid pink, and deep pink – and he got the deep pink because it looked the best of the bunch. Anyway, it was you who coined the name: “Poopy Quat”, so that is two for two, and many thanks for sharing your insight.

    I was doing a bit of reading about the trees and they are commonly grown in your part of the world. You rarely see them down here, but one inner Melbourne council planted them as street trees and they really do put on a good show in adverse conditions and that was how I became aware of them.

    Sir Scruffy would appreciate being near to his old mate Sir Poopy.



  60. Hi Inge,

    Blue skies and sunny weather sounds an awful lot like the summer weather down here. Except for today, which was over-cast and very cold. In the big smoke it barely managed to get warmer than 59’F, and they enjoyed more rainfall there than fell here. Oh well, the weather is strange this year that’s for sure.

    The chickens have been off the lay since I necked the grey silky chicken, and then Liz the eldest unexpectedly died. I can understand the reluctance of the chickens to lay because they are in the autumn moult stage. It is nice that a local kid runs a commercial ethical egg farm – the scale is enormous – and I can purchase eggs from there in a pinch. I’m very impressed with his operation. Some people are put on this planet to raise the standard for the rest of us.



  61. Hi Lewis,

    Well, the Reap Hook. I managed to zip through a huge chunk of the book today because it was Green Wizards day, and as such I caught the train into the big smoke. Everywhere was cold down here today and the maximum temperature bottomed out at 59’F. But at least there was tiramisu to enjoy for dessert and that sort of made up for it. We had a free wheeling discussion today which went all over the shop. Mate, we covered some serious intellectual ground. All up, I’d have to suggest that it was a good meeting and catch-up.

    On the way into the big smoke there were no seats on the train because the train originated from right up on the border at a delightfully named town: “Swan Hill”. We have black swans down here and I’m a bit leery of all this talk about white swans and unsettling events – whatever they are? Anyway, standing up for the train ride into the big smoke was a ‘white swan’ event and I have noticed that that particular train has been getting busier of late. The return train was much quieter but that is probably because it didn’t quite go as far as the earlier train had come from.

    Being someone who does not wish to waste a moment of life, I stuck my nose deep into “The Fields” on both the train in and then out again today, and yeah, I read the chapter that you mentioned. The story as it unfolds one incident at a time is deeply affecting, and I find myself considering the choices that the characters make and also the larger social background. I feel for the choice that Sayward made with Portious, and have not faced that particular question, but then technology was different back then. It is beyond a superb read, and I almost felt that: “The World Made by Hand” series was a story set on the other side of that inverted bell shaped curve that we all travel upon. But then further off into the future we encounter the world of: “Stars Reach” as another future distant possibility.

    Our culture does not deal to well with such incidents at the best of times. I’ve been to a funeral of a mates still born infant and it is a dark place. We tend to gloss over such events but I reckon the scars remain for them. I’m quite in favour of recognising the dead, if only because it brings our attentions to the gentle art of living.

    The chapter where the two young ‘uns took the maize to be ground at the water powered mill and they both sat listening to the stories told by the other farmers was really great. And the other story of the older uneducated blokes sitting in on the class room and intently listening to the re-telling of an ancient Greek morality tale and then calling out the protagonist was amusing. I doubt most people these days would catch the subtleties of the story. The story is rich and nuanced in very subtle ways. Ghost and strange events stories are very cool too! I grew up on that stuff. 🙂

    Waffles, strawberries and ice cream sounds like a special celebration to my ears! 🙂 It sounds like you had quite the sociable day for your most excellent milestone – good stuff and respect. I do hope that HRH scored some waffle, or at least a small chunk of ice cream?

    Did you score anything at the book sale? Always dangerous places to be for the free roaming bibliophile. I love rummaging through such stuff as you never quite know what you’ll find.

    By the way, thank you for the kind (and also the amusing) words regarding Sir Scruffy. Our language does fail us in these circumstances, and I sometimes wonder whether that all arose during the whole “World without end” talk that I have heard spoken in some circles. Of course there is an end.



  62. Hi Claire,

    Thank you and that was beautifully written and deeply felt. I miss my little matey and I keep expecting to see him underfoot or going about his important canine business.

    I felt the tree was a good choice because it is in flower right now and is also an incredibly hardy and reliable tree – just like Sir Scruffy.

    Thanks for the reply too, and as usual you’ve given me much to think about in relation to the eggplant and capsicum. The arugula that I grow during summer is the ‘wild’ variety and it thrives in the hot summer sun unlike the other broad leaf variety which is a winter plant for me.



  63. @ Inge:

    I haven’t read Georgette Heyer’s mysteries in a long time and can’t remember what I thought if them. Ah – “These Old Shades”; I’ll read it next. I agree completely with you about the “hints” – so much more entertaining. That’s one reason I prefer the older books. For me, this is true of movies, also.


  64. Hi DJ,

    I’ve known some good people and also some good dogs. Sir Scruffy was one such, and may he rest in peace near to his best mate Sir Poopy.

    Exactly, dogs feel the loss of their pack mates. And I’ve known packs to get depressed. When Sir Poopy died, the remaining fluffies were depressed. But when Ollie exploded into the household, his youthful exuberance brought them out of their funk. Spitz’s are very smart dogs and he would have known exactly what was going on. It serves no purpose to hide the truth from them.

    I would not want to live near to the electrical fields from those huge transmission lines either. And it is my opinion that they would have an impact upon a person – but everyone will react to that effect differently. I dunno whether you were reading last year when I had to completely rewire the battery room and one of the four cable runs from the solar panels on the house, because interacting electrical fields had become a problem for some of the components. No manual that I have ever read on solar power ever alerts people to that possibility. The time for me was a bit like the guy that puts a super charger on a cars engine without upgrading the engines internals such as the crankshaft and con rods… Same, same, but different. Upgrade one chunk, and something else gives.

    Sake is easier to make than beer, but it is a drop that is made during spring and autumn because the maximum temperature has to be above 18’C, but below 26’C otherwise acetobacteria takes over the batch and you produce acetone – which probably taste worse than it smells. 23’C is optimal. Temperature is the crucial step in making the stuff, everything else is easy as. How did your beer rate?

    I reckon you are onto something with the diet and your supposition, and of course everyone is different in that regard. I should have given a sweeping generalisation alert!



  65. @ DJSpo:

    I think that you are on to something with the lack of proper carbs along with a high protein diet. I also think that there is sometimes a lack of fats in some of these diets. Proper fats are crucial, even saturated ones.


  66. @ Lew:

    I, too, am immensely impressed with your feat of 30 years on the wagon.

    Yesterday I planted a Grace Ward Lithodora. I had thought it was an annual as it didn’t state either way. It turns out it is a perennial and it has the most brilliant blue flowers I have ever seen. It is a ground cover and I have it in a flower bed, though if it spreads I think I’ll plant some on a bank as it is supposedly deer resistant.

    We have 3 Goodwill Stores here and they used to be treasure troves of all sorts of goodies. Now it seems like they mostly have junk. I have heard that they have deals with various second hand shops across the country to sell them certain categories of items. Have you been in one of their stores lately?


  67. Good evening Chris

    Well, I am sure that Ollie (will he become a furry Knight in due course – when he’s won his spurs?) will fill those big paw prints, as I see from the breed description that as working dogs they are very smart, if prone to injure themselves. That’s a very useful dog you have there.

    Sir Sancho is a very fine spaniel, (too good for me) son of the dreadful Grifter of Norfolk (another arch rogue, and gamekeeper’s dog) and was conceived – I am afraid – in rape. and of Princess Tilly, who comes from Northern farming stock and was not very willing to receive the attentions of Grifter, but somehow it happened.

    She was really in love with Balzac, the hunky black labrador, for whom her ears would go down and her tail move to the side at any time, but that was a forbidden relationship and not to be…..

    It says that cattle dogs ‘tend to injure themselves’, and this was also true of dear Tilly, his mother, who always tore her ears (which covered her in blood) and on one occasion ripped her whole chest open on barbed wire chasing a moor hen, which seem to smell totally delicious to spaniels – she’d go nuts over them.

    Spaniels also tend to pull leg muscles (fatally) by too much bouncing around, and this happened to Sancho when only a year old, so he had to be grounded for a month or two – no bouncing and just pottering about the garden. Boy was he bored……

    Has it ever occurred to you that you and the Editor are also part of the Fluffy Collective? It’s all a matter of perspective.

    All the best

  68. Hi Chris,
    Well I had written a nice reply awhile ago but then the computer started doing this thing it does occasionally – the curser just moves on its own and pages just keep scrolling to the bottom. Anyway I turned the computer off for awhile and have now come back but have run out of time.

    My asparagus crowns have arrived so I guess I know what I’ll be doing.

    Wanted to mention that Leo loves pizza crust too.


  69. @ Pam and Chris,

    My carb idea came from some personal experience (I tried the paleo diet for awhile, didn’t get enough carbs, and got grumpy), as well as observation of friends trying these diets and a lot of reading. It really comes back to what is the proper balance for each individual.


  70. Chris,

    I brewed beer for maybe 8 years, and quit when I discovered my gluten problems. I had a nice little book of recipes, several of which I tried for about 2 years. Then my talent for tinkering took over.

    I had a pale ale that was one of my primary 2 brews. I would add more or take out some malt from the recipe, depending on how strong an alcohol content I wanted. I often had very low alcohol content pale ale and would drink it while working in the yard with no dehydration problems.

    The other primary brew was a stout that I developed by amending the recipe, adding different types of malt and flavorings. I finally settled on a stout that had some hints of Scottish ale in the flavor.

    There was the one time I took the pale ale recipe, doubled the amount of malt and added about 3.5 kg of honey. That was one active fermentation! It tasted wonderful, but was very potent. My wife and I usually split a bottle of that stuff.

    I remember reading about your box upgrade. The electrical fields causing interference in the box isn’t something I would’ve thought about until you had problems with it. Then again, putting my physics hat on again, we don’t really KNOW what electricity is, we just know how to do certain things with it under various circumstances. (Same with gravity or any of the main forces of physics.) Because we can observe and predict electricity’s actions, we delude ourselves into thinking that we know what it is. And our mathematical models are models, and have to ignore “miniscule” things that would make the math too difficult to handle if they were included. Thus, every once in awhile, something happens and it’s baffling and surprising.


  71. Yo, Chris – I’m happy you had a good meet up with your local Green Wizard chapter. So, I guess your meeting was like Mr. Greer’s monthly “Ask any question”, posts. Always useful.

    I’ve been a little concerned over Prof. Mass’s talking about how dry things are, here. Even though the snow pack is good, and the lakes full, I wonder if we’ll have water problems, this summer. Now that we have a new administration here at the Institution, I wonder if there will be noises made about doing away with the gardens, due to the cost of water? Wouldn’t put it past them.

    My, you are booming along through “The Fields.” I’ll have to get on the stick. :-). As far as Sayward and Portious go, my thought (and, I know I’m a hard liner) is, “What did she expect him to do?” On another aspect of the story, even though Portious ended up in the wilderness due to “broken heart”, I wonder if later he ever reflected on how it was so much better being a big fish in a little pond, rather than a little fish in a big pond?

    “Future distant possibilities.” I watched “Mortal Engines”, last night. I quit liked it. Lots of sweep and spectacle. It’s 1,700 years in the future. There was the 60 minute war, that almost wiped out humans. So there “take” on the past is rather sketchy. A trip through the London Museum is a hoot.
    The premise is that a lot of cities have taken to moving about, on huge treads. Bit cities gobble up little cities for resources. It’s part of a 4 book series, but I don’t have to worry about sequels. It did so poor at the box office, that none are planned. Whew!

    Actually, the premise has been used, before. Sort of. Decades ago, there was a sci-fi book, called “Cities in Flight.” Someone developed something called a “Spin Dizzy” (take it on faith. The details are a bit hazey.) The cities of earth dome themselves and take to the stars. Trading, mining, becoming pirates. I keep hoping I’ll run across a used copy, as I’d like to read it, again.

    HRH doesn’t get a waffle. She’s gluten intolerant :-). The occasional lick of ice cream, yes. Anything with grain, no. I’d of laughed at the idea, a few years ago. But, Nell also turned out to be gluten intolerant. She was having hair loss problems, I got on line, and there it was. So, I switched her to grain free good, and she cleared right up. I just made sure she got enough protean. Although, she did pretty well on her own, with all the mice and birds she scarfed down. Again, I think it’s the variety of grains grown, and the milling process, these days.

    The book sale was a zinger. Yesterday and today, I hauled home 6 overflowing bags of books, for less than $30. After 3:00, today, it was $2 a bag. Most are for the library here at the Institution. A few things, for me. Even on the last day, you might find an overlooked gem. I found a copy of Gorey’s “The Curious Sofa!” I am thrilled. It was about the last thing I spotted.

    Warning!!! Rant a general kavetch, ahead! When I was all done, I told one of the women running the sale. “I just wanted to say … you are an officious little twit. I don’t know what you did in life, but I’m sure you were a great bureaucrat.” She turned odd colors. The other thing is, what is it with young mothers and their enormous Winnebago sized baby strollers? It’s like an arms race, as to who can have the most enormous RV stroller. Wading into a crowd with those is insane. There were at least two, at the sale. I accidently (really!) gave a little nudge to one, with my book bag. I apologized profusely. Young mum didn’t say anything, but, did steer clear of me, from then on. (End rant, here.)

    I caught two ear wigs at my mason bee box, last night. I’ll have to keep an eye out, for those. Caught me by surprise. Lew

  72. @ Pam – The Lithodora is really pretty. It reminds me of our Vinca. Also, an evergreen ground cover, with blue flowers. It’s about the earliest blooming plant, in this part of the world. I first saw it out where I’m going to be planted :-). I’ve got a bit in a corner of my garden space.

    Ah, yes. The Decline and Fall of Goodwill. They were bought by, I think, Target department stores. That’s why you’ll see a lot of brand new stuff there, now. Overstock, from Target. They also did away with the “collector’s corner”, and, in general, the prices have gone up. Starting price for any little piece of “tat” is $5. And, now they’re scraping the good stuff off, and flogging it on E-Bay and Amazon.

    I keep hearing rumors that there whole “hire the handicapped” isn’t what it used to be. And, a lot of people are not donating, as they did. But that’s ok. There are at least 6 other Op Shops (I love Chris’s term for thrift stores) just in our small area, alone. Lew

  73. Hi Xabier,

    One can only hope so, and exuberant is his middle name – and a personality trait that is sorely needed in these trying times. I do try to calm him down, and he is getting much better with the wildlife. When he first turned up here it was like a full on contact sport, but he has now learned of the dangers of such activity and keeps his distance. A 7 foot kangaroo has some authority, even with a cattle dog. Yes, I have high hopes for him, but what will be, will be.

    Beware the grifter’s, there are a lot of them around and some of them wear suits. Yes canine mating rituals can be rather complicated. I get all of my dogs de-sexed for that reason.

    Spaniels are rather clever dogs too, but yeah the hunting instinct can be taken too far. Ouch. Working dogs often fall into the herding category though, and fingers crossed that he has more of that in him and he stops dead on his boundary line which is amazing for a dog. I’ve never encountered better than Sir Poopy the Swedish Lapphund though as he was bred to herd reindeer. Whatever he was doing in this hot dry country was just not right.

    Absolutely, as you to are with pack with Sir Sancho the spaniel. 🙂



  74. Hi Margaret,

    It is all good. I have to write tonight so my usual verbose self has to be toned down a bit anyway. It has been an exciting day today – I melted a component in the battery room when visitors were here today – no hiding that little mess. Who would have thought that melting things in the battery room despite all of the fuses was even possible? The stink of melted plastic was epic… And it took a bit over an hour to fix up the mess.

    Perhaps your computer was having sympathetic pains with the solar power system here? 🙂

    I’ve had that happen to me too. Sometimes it is the USB port for the keyboard which is a bit faulty (and I swap the keyboard to another USB port), but then there is the dreaded food stuck in keyboard situation which causes the keys to stick, and that can be truly awful. Turning the keyboard upside down and bashing it on the desk can produce all manner of foodstuffs and other miscellaneous unidentified chunks of stuff. Vacuuming the keyboard is also not a bad idea (whilst the computer is switched off of course).

    Nice work with the asparagus crowns. Have you picked a spot to plant them all? I’m almost at the point where I will be able to move some of the self seeded asparagus plants.

    Leo has excellent taste! 🙂



  75. Hi DJ,

    Oh no! It had never occurred to me that gluten problems would extend to beer, but yeah I can see that. Of course ignoring beer, there is always mead, sake and country wines, let alone the millennia or a lot of producing wines from grape vines. Do grape vines grow in your part of the world? I would have thought so.

    The low alcohol beers are complicated for me because the summer weather is quite outrageously hot, and then it is like a runaway fission reactor where some other little unseen fungal critters get into the batch. Think Three Mile Island, but on a brewing front.

    OK. My ears have been pricked up. What was the difference in brewing between stout and ale?

    Honey is about 80% sugar, so you created a fascinating country wine. Meads are good, but compared to cane sugar, honey is an expensive item. I reserve the ageing mead for situations where a potent anti-inflammatory is called upon, such as bee stings. Yes, your brew would have been a potent mix. But of course, the alcohol content may have reached as high as 18% (the upper limit for yeast) so that would have been a tasty and potent brew. It all depends on how long you aged the brew.

    Thanks! I don’t feel quite so inadequate now. 🙂 I have no idea about the weirder side of this off grid set up, and I’ve often and long pondered the heretical thought that nobody else does either. Today I discovered that the nut holding the inverter’s negative cable to the battery had loosened off. I suspect that this was because of all of the thermal expansion and contraction of having to deal with 200+ Amps sojourning through the connection intermittently. A loose bolt combined with 290+ Amps being drawn today from the batteries meant that the plastic on one part of the connector between one battery and the next melted! I couldn’t believe it, but on reflection it is a lot of electricity… I’d managed to unknowingly create my own arc-welder.



  76. Hi Lewis,

    An excellent comparison, and oh boy, did we go places with the discussion. Sometimes it is good just to have a nice free wheeling discussion with people and see what is on their minds. But also we can share experiences and canvass ideas about how to wade through the murk that can be life.

    I defer to Cliff Mass’s greater knowledge on how things are. But your weather reads an awful lot like what I’ve just had to deal to, for the summer that has just passed. No fun and no rain. The rain has only just begun to make a special guest appearance. I took Scritchy out for a walk last night before bedtime and the clouds delivered a bit of persistent drizzle. I hadn’t seen such a sight for so long that it took my mind a little bit to come to terms with what I was seeing and feeling with the wet stuff that freely falls from the sky. It surprised me how easily I’d adjusted to the drier weather.

    Well, I did have a quiet few hours on the train to zip through the book! And standing or sitting, the speed of reading does not change. No, I agree with you and wondered the same thing as to how such issues were negotiated back in the day. The author incidentally skipped over the details, but I can see that Sayward’s social standing has been complicated ever since. She mentions that she rarely sees her sister, but does not dwell upon the why of it all. And I was surprised that Portious had not recalled that it was Sayward who had ‘saved’ him from an uncertain ending in the woods and given him the wherewithal to take up his profession again. It is such a complicated and beautifully told tale. I’m in awe of the words – and it is spell binding. 😉

    Hey, I did enjoy the story of the quick witted youngster who cut his own finger off rather than suffer the almost certain death from the snake bite. Would that happen today? Probably not. The back story of Portious was hinted at, but not directly ever spoken about. A mystery lies there…

    Oh, I saw a preview for the film and it looked intense and a bit dark. Incidentally, I’d read a story about such a city on the surface of the planet Mercury and it was always keeping within the twilight zone between total darkness and scorching sunlight. I did sort of feel that there was little margin for error in such a living, and would not have volunteered for such an existence. Although it was mentioned that the planet was extraordinarily mineral rich as an up side. I remain unconvinced.

    A copy is wending its slow boat way down here. I’d never encountered the book before but it sounds intriguing. And I’m a bit of a sucker for that era sci-fi that goes out of its way to tell a story – thus my love for the works of Jack Vance. Did you come across a copy?

    What? HRH is gluten intolerant? Well it just so happens that I was speaking with a scientist today who knows a thing or three about the gut, and I was informed that it is an extraordinarily difficult thing to change ones gut flora and fauna. I did not think to discuss the matter, but I’m thinking that there is a cut off time in a creatures life, that things can be easily added in to that realm. I do suspect that flora and fauna can be taken away though. And I have mentioned before that I’ve encountered people with gut issues that have dogs with gut issues – and I doubt that that could be a coincidence?

    How funny is that? We were only talking about Edward Gorey and that particular book a few weeks ago. Status signs are entirely lost (well I see them, but reject them from my mind) on me. You encountered one such. I have noted that when I’m in the big smoke that cafe’s can often get over run by such a status symbols – and here am I making space for others and getting trod upon and intruded upon. A worthy rant, and it makes me grumpy too. But I just deal. It was not always that way. Sometimes as I sit there reading a book and enjoying a coffee and an excellent muffin, it becomes a challenge for them to intrude upon my awareness. They just don’t understand how sorry I feel for them. What do you do?

    Not good. Ear wigs have nasty little claws for a reason. Ouch. I have to watch out that the European wasps don’t try to steal honey from the bees. It is a dog eat dog world out there.



  77. @ Lew:

    I have some vinca as a ground cover and I love it, but the Lithodora is the deepest, most brilliant blue I have seen; we might call it a Parrish blue. The plant I bought has flowers on it already.

    That is sad news about Good Will; thanks for clueing me in. It certainly accounts for the changes I have seen. We still donate to them, though my favorite op shop is one run by our SPCA. I have to admit that I usually do donate to them.


  78. Chris:

    Goodness – I am so sorry to hear about your meltdown. Hopefully there weren’t any minors present when it occurred. And one little nut may have been behind all of it.


  79. @ DJSpo:

    I had never realized that beer could be a casualty of gluten intolerance.What an especial shame that would be for a brewer like you. I can’t eat gluten either. When I was sick recently I had to go to the ER because of severe nausea and dehydration. While there they offered me plain saltine crackers, which didn’t bother me at that time ( I was full of fluid and medications . . .). When I got back home I figured that maybe I had been wrong about not eating gluten, and ate some more saltines and some bread. I got so sick that I almost had to go back to the ER.

    And thanks for the mention of the possibility of hair loss being caused by gluten problems. My sister is having that problem and has not been able to figure out why even after adding appropriate supplements and going to a doctor to rule out other conditions. I will pass it on to her.


  80. Yo, Chris – A bit of wet after a long dry can be an experience. Feels like you can soak it in through your pores. And, I find the smell, so nice.

    Well. The sexual politics of Sayward’s and Portios’s marriage … well. Having had many conversations, over the years, with many people about that aspect of life. So, I have some pretty decided opinions. But, on long reflection, I’ve decided, this being a family friendly blog and all, to leave that topic alone. Discretion, valor, etc. etc..

    The snake bite episode was pretty epic. I think in the novel, there are times when people really underestimate Guerdon. In his older brother’s shadow and all that. Sayward worrying that he’ll turn out like her father. But, he always surprises. There was a fellow here, a few years back who was out hiking and got his arm stuck between two rocks. It was either cut the arm off, or die. Well, since he wrote a book about it (and, it later became a movie), I guess you can guess the outcome. I haven’t seen the movie, or, read the book. Even though we have a copy of it kicking around the Institution’s library.

    I was a little confused. (I am so confused… 🙂 Which book is on the slow boat to Australia? “Cities in Flight?” If so, I don’t have a copy now, but did in the past. Even a hard back copy. But, I sold it when I had the used bookstore. Something I wish I had held on to. Hind sight and 20/20, and all that. It’s quit a door stop of a book. I think, if I remember correctly, it was originally three books, pulled into one cover. With maybe a few short stories from Sci-Fi mags thrown in. A multi-generational story. Similar to generation starship novels. I’ll keep an eye out. I may stumble across it, again.

    Gut flora and fauna is all the rage, right now. Some of the claims are pretty out there. Get your flora right, and it will cure everything from cancer to warts. It appeals to the same crowd that took up coffee enemas and colonic irrigation. If there’s a buck to be made … But, I’m sure cooler heads will prevail, and research will shake out all the nuts and rusty bolts. Oh, I think you can tamper with it, even later in life. I had some pretty major upsets when I had my oral surgery. And, I’m still suffering some side effects from my experiment with Jerusalem artichokes. But all will right itself, in time. Cont.

  81. Cont. I tried to watch a new movie, last night, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Based on a true story. My DVD player through up that message that I wasn’t in the right region. My computer had problems reading the disc, even though it’s brand new. I don’t know if I’ll struggle to watch the whole thing, or not. On one hand, it’s a pretty interesting topic. Literary forgery. A look at the high end, stratospheric segment of the used book trade. Also, although it’s not really made clear, that was the period where small publishers were being gobbled up by international mega companies. They cut lose a lot of their “mid-list” authors. Authors that were profitable, but not profitable, enough. But, it’s also the story of two deeply unhappy people, and I don’t know if I’m up for that, right now.

    I also discovered that there’s two newish movies with Peter Dinklage. One a major roll, one supporting. The supporting roll is “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Didn’t much interest me, until I saw the trailer and discovered that Mr. Dinklage is in it. The major role is “My Dinner with Herve.” I don’t know if you remember a TV series called “Fantasy Island.” 1978-84. Staring the ever suave Ricardo Montalban. His side kick was Herve Villechaize. Every episode opened with Villechaize tottering up a hill yelling, “Da plane, boss, da plane.” Which became a cultural catch phrase, ad nauseam. I didn’t catch too many episodes, as, it was kind of silly and my life was pretty busy, right about then. I’ll watch for the DVD, as, frankly, I could watch Mr. Dinklage feed goldfish, and be entertained.

    No more ear wigs on the mason bee house, but I see them other places and dispatch them with a squirt of ammonia. I have also seen, three or four times, some kind of caterpillar. Very large, and, hard to tell in the dark with a flashlight, but dark green or greenish brown. It’s some kind of a night blooming caterpillar. :-). I’ll have to ask the Master Gardeners, about them. The ammonia doesn’t seem to phase them, so it’s onto the concrete and squish! On reflection, I think I should prepare a small bottle so I can show them. Lew

    PS: Fecal transplants, are also available. Mixed reviews on how that is all coming out. Pun intended. 🙂

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