Fake Plastic Trees

Politics these days is a funny business. About one of the best explanations of the workings and processes of election results in representative democracy as it is understood down under is that: Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. We’re in the midst of a Federal election campaign down here and I have heard some cheeky wags suggest that even five weeks between the announcement of the election date to the actual date of voting and counting was a couple of weeks too long.

I’m barely interested in the machinations of politics, but I did note that the opposition party proposed that half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 are to be electric vehicles. I am not wise in the ways of advanced math, but even I understand that if in the year 2030 only two vehicles are sold, one of which is powered by an internal combustion engine, and the other has an electric motor and a battery, then it could well be suggested that the policy goal was achieved.

The concept of exponential functions as it applies to math was not something that I understood years ago. What can I say other than I unfortunately sat next to the school bully during year 9 math! And that was after having spent the previous two years at a very hippy dippy school. Some circumstances cannot be easily rectified.

It was the editor who casually introduced me to the exponential function. Many years ago the editor suggested me to take a brain smarts test. One of the questions involved yeast. I like yeast (a form of fungi) and use the little beasties all of the time in the kitchen and for brewing. They’re handy critters and I happily feed and maintain them.

The question in the brain test about yeast completely stumped me. I can’t recall exactly, but the question gave a background explanation that the population of yeast critters doubled every day, and by the tenth day the storage container they lived in would be completely full. The question then asked on what day would the storage container be half full? Well, far out I scratched by head and said that such math was beyond me. But the answer is obvious really, because on the second last day the storage container would be half full. Then another day of doubling meant that the storage container would be entirely filled with useful yeast critters. Well, duh!

I encounter the realities of the exponential function occasionally when I head into the big smoke. There is a car park that I occasionally park the little Suzuki Dirt mouse at. It is in a shopping mall which is full of empty shops. It is a creepy place and I park the car and don’t loiter there. The people on the street are a bizarre mixture of mum’s in active-wear, older immigrants that have been in the area for decades, and junkies. It is a very strange mix of people. The thing that bothers me is that the every time I park the car there, the car park is just a little bit more full. It is as if the yeast critters had turned into vehicles and decided to fill up the only all day car park in the entire area.

It is an old suburb too. The suburb had been surveyed and sold off in tiny lots during the gold rush boom era of the 1850’s. Most of Melbourne has been thoughtfully laid out, but for some reason in those days and in particular that suburb, the developers made some serious mad cash by making the house lots tiny, and the roads and lanes even smaller. On the other hand if you don’t have to park a car, the area has considerable amenities (even for the junkies) and charm.

There has been talk in some of those inner Melbourne areas about constructing developments either with minimal car spaces, or without car parks altogether.

Planning Minister criticises council plan to axe car parks

The number of people that are expected to be housed in those existing inner areas is quite staggering. In fact the article suggested that one council is expected to house an additional 43,000 people by 2036! And the article further suggested that at current vehicle ownership rates, that meant that there would be a further 25,000 more vehicles in the area. With that sort of growth, I probably won’t be able to find a car park in Melbourne at all.

Fortunately one of the political parties who has a chance of getting into power at the upcoming election, has a policy that half of all of those cars sold in those future days will be electric powered. That’s a relief. But then I do wonder, because I’ve never seen a really good reason as to why there should be such a push for electric cars.

To generate base load electricity down here for houses and businesses, we burn brown coal, black coal, natural gas, some hydro, and a bit of solar and wind. It is a heady mix, and it sure would be complicated system to operate, but by and large, brown coal does the heavy lifting. And brown coal is polluting stuff, there is no getting around that. So electric cars swap one source of fuel for another, but they still produce pollution. And no matter how you look at the situation, more cars equals more pollution.

At present down under, we are importing something like 90% of all oil and 100% of all heavy oils such as diesel and bitumen. I do wonder if the push for electric vehicles is an acknowledgement that oil is a finite resource and we are extraordinarily vulnerable as an importer. Of course it is not lost on me that even with a policy push towards electric vehicles, because we no longer manufacture vehicles down under, we would have to import all of those too!

I have heard people make the claim that we could power all of this stuff using renewable resources. Fortunately I have a bit of experience with renewable energy not being connected to the electricity grid and having lived with the technology for about a decade now. I can make a few back of the envelope calculations.

Nowadays an electric vehicle will use about 0.2kWh/km (0.6 miles). It is about 60km (say 40 miles) from the door here to the middle of the CBD. Most trips you have to travel in two directions, so that works out to be 120km (say 80 miles). At a rough guess that will require 24kWh for the travel both into and out of the CBD. During the depths of winter at a latitude of Melbourne 37’S (sorry to the people living further south like the nice Tasmanian’s or New Zealander’s, but it’s gonna suck to be you) a solar panel will generate on average about two hours of production per day. That means that you’d need 12kW worth of panels or about 60 x 200W panels. At even half that quantity of electricity, I doubt the grid as it stands has the ability to supply the electricity.

I can honestly say that I have never seen a domestic installation of solar power that large. For sure, there will be one out there somewhere, but most roof spaces that I’ve seen wouldn’t be able to cope with so many panels. And if it is an apartment block, the roof space will be even smaller for the volume of people living in the building.

Nope it ain’t going to happen and it sort of reminds me of watering a plastic plant in the hope that it grows.

Leaf change time is here in earnest, and it has again brought the tourists. I can see why they might want to visit the area to witness the change in the colour of the leaves. In a higher part of the mountain range I spotted these stunning red maples:

A stunning copse of red maples near to the memorial cross

Many of the fruit trees in the orchard have now lost most of their leaves:

Many of the fruit trees in the shady orchard have lost their leaves

This week we’ve had a couple of days where the temperature has reached 30’C / 86’F, but at least over in the shady orchard, the ground cover is beginning to show some signs of turning green again. The warmer, but also very calm weather has given the state government an opportunity to do some back burning over in the northern side of the mountain range. The wind has blown the smoke in my direction, but I believe that it is better to burn now when the fire won’t get out of control, than to hope for the best and see what happens on a hot and windy summer’s day when a fire would most definitely get out of control.

The state government conducted a burn on the north western flank of the mountain range (or is a volcano erupting)

The leaf change tourists would have enjoyed quite the lung full of smokey air (as we did for a couple of days).

Hope you guys know what you are doing! The burn from the northern side of the mountain range

It is still very dry here. We’ve been busy feeding and pruning the fruit trees. In the past few days we’ve brought back 2 cubic metres (2.6 cubic yards) of a compost and woody mulch mix which is used to feed the hundreds of trees. It is a big job which hopefully will be completed next week.

The bright yellow trailer with a load of mulch and compost mix which we use to feed the many fruit trees

Each bright yellow trailer load provides enough feed for about 30 fruit trees. The first step in the job is to position a crate with the mix next to a fruit tree.

Crates are located next to each fruit tree. In this case the tree is a chestnut

All of the lower growth on the fruit tree is pruned. This ensure that the tree has a single strong trunk and it also forces it to grow tall. Observant readers may note that the fruit tree is in a cage of very strong chicken wire, and the wire stops the wallabies (a forest kangaroo) from destroying the fruit tree. They’re right little vandals, and it takes many years for a fruit tree to recover from the damage they inflict.

A well fed and pruned chestnut tree

All of the trees in the shady orchard have now been fed and pruned. Next week we’ll continue the job but in the sunny orchard. Even the willows and sugar maple that sit on the edge of the swale at the bottom of the tomato enclosure were fed and pruned.

The trees in the swale at the bottom of the tomato enclosure were fed and pruned

Observant readers will note that sitting on the sapling fence is a large black bird similar to a raven. It is a Pied Currawong which is a native bird and it has the loveliest call. Being closely related to ravens, the birds are as smart as, and this season they’ve been enjoying their fair share of fresh tomatoes.

A Pied Currawong enjoys a fresh yellow tomato. Pop goes the tomato.

The bird is not going to enjoy tomatoes for much longer as we are also clearing out the tomato plants and planting the winter vegetables in the above enclosure.

The winter vegetables are being planted in the tomato enclosure. Note the black bird on the fence – no fear

It is hard for me to believe it, but a few times this week, I have had to water the winter vegetables because it has been so hot and dry. And you can see the hose in the above photo.

We also did a lot of pruning in the garden beds. Nothing goes to waste, and we drop all of the prunings in a dip in the orchard. The organic matter should begin to break down over the next week or so, and then we’ll hit it with the mower and really chop it up into fine pieces.

Organic matter from pruning is dropped into a depression in the orchard where it will break down and feed the trees

All of the hundreds of agapanthus flower heads were also pruned and placed into the pile of organic matter in the photo above.

Agapanthus flower heads were pruned

In the above photo, you can also see how a couple of apple trees are growing after being pruned. Two of the three trees still require a steel post (called a star picket) and a tie to ensure that the wallabies cannot pull the trees over. The third apple tree on the right hand side has a trunk that is too strong for the wallabies to damage. The wallabies role in the forest is to keep the paths and under story open, and they do that by removing vegetation to a height of about 6 foot. It is probably not necessary for the wallabies to do that in an orchard, but old habits die hard I guess.

Chestnuts and Horse Chestnuts grow really well here, and this week I planted a few locally grown chestnuts in the nursery bed in the hope that they develop into seedling chestnut trees.

I collected a few locally grown chestnuts and have planted them in the nursery bed

The nursery bed now has Japanese maples, Chestnuts, and Lavender.

The nursery bed now has Japanese maple seedlings, Lavender cuttings, and Chestnuts

In other raised garden beds, the winter vegetables appear to be finally germinating.

The winter vegetables are now germinating

The first of the winter crop of citrus (mandarins) look as if they are just about ripe and ready to pick:

The first citrus crop of the winter months – Mandarins

I also noticed that the Asparagus plants have set seed, and hopefully the produce self-seeded (volunteer) asparagus plants, as has happened in previous years.

Asparagus plants have set seed

Onto the flowers:

This little dandelion is prolific. You can see coffee grounds thrown onto it
A native bee enjoys this mint flower
How nice are the nasturtiums?

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 69.2mm (2.7 inches) which is the slightly higher than last weeks total of 69.0mm (2.7 inches).

62 thoughts on “Fake Plastic Trees”

  1. Hi Pam,

    Rain twice per week sounds utterly perfect! I likewise fit in outside work around the weather. Don’t you reckon people miss out on seasonality if they just expect the weather to be whatever suits their purposes? Speaking of weather, the mist arrived late last evening and has hung around all day long. It provided a tiny bit of rainfall, but other than my seat near to the chickens being a bit damp (I read a book and supervised them this evening with fox cub calls in the forest down below), it is quite dry here. And the 6kW of solar panels produced 3.1kWh for the entire day. How funny is that after this week’s blog?

    The editor appears to be down for the count with a cold, and no doubt that was caused by the three days of smoky dry air. Hope you enjoyed the photos of the simulated volcano? I had the cold about a month and a half ago, so I basically ran the household today, and of course it just happened to be the day that lots of cooking took place. Ended up being in the kitchen for hours. I snuck out this afternoon and picked up a batch of most excellent hot cross buns, which when served warm with butter brought a smile to the editors face.

    Water flows and soil creation is pretty important and is part of the reason that we’ve made it through one of the hottest and driest summers on record and still produced stuff. 2.7 inches of rainfall for the year so far is absolutely bonkers. Mind you, compared to other parts of the continent, that is a pretty good result. Sorry, water and soil. Some trees enjoy a higher ground water table than others, and so whenever we’ve changed the flow of water, the trees health lets you know whether it is a good or bad thing. I’ve inadvertently killed one eucalyptus tree through changing the flow of water, but the trees around it are doing quite nicely. There is a school of thought that suggests that the trees can communicate these changes.

    It is possible, I mean it would be inordinately hard to dump commercial quantities of cement into a sewer in London without someone who is not party to the arrangement to have noticed the goings on. Houses down here up to the maybe 1980’s or 1990’s used to have a grease-trap installed which would have to be manually emptied from time to time. Septic systems are a bit like the solar power system in that most of the time they just do their thing, but every now and then it is not a bad idea to inspect the workings, if for no other reason than to ensure that they are still working! 🙂 I poked my head into the battery room today and had a good look around. I only learn the really obscure things about the system when it fails. The worm farm doesn’t seem to mind a little bit of fat from time to time, but it works differently to a septic system in that it is dominated by oxygen loving creatures. Same, same, but different. Incidentally, the soil itself can become septic if the water table gets too high, and I have seen that here occasionally. You could smell the unmistakable smell of clostridium bacteria (near to the chickens former enclosure which I reckon was a fail).

    Yes, I have been told that it is hard to un-see some things, and Benny Hill was one such!

    Absolutely. The electric chainsaw falls into the same category as the ‘Steel Dragon’ that I wrote about a few months back. The demand for the machines was almost non-existent, so the manufacturer stopped supplying them down under. You know, maybe a year or two back I looked at them, and thought to myself, “yeah, nah, maybe later”. It was no bargain either, but with no market to speak of and them being as rare as hen’s teeth, what do you?



  2. Hi DJ,

    Kanga and Roo are welcome visitors to the orchard and I often see a mum and bubs kangaroo in the late evenings. This year has been brutally hot and dry, and I have left water out every day for both to enjoy (as well as the birds and insects). They in turn leave their scats (calling cards in more polite language). It would be nice if Ollie and Tooth did not consider them to be dog chocolates because the resulting breath is far from fresh. 😉 I’ve always quite enjoyed the character of Eeyore as he employs a sort of clear sighted objectivity. Of course he is also a bit down in the dumps, but perhaps that is to be expected given where he abides in the Hundred Acre wood.

    The fluffies are all sound asleep around me. The day began about 50’F, and not much has changed since then as the cloud was thick and from time to time mist from low cloud brought in a small amount of moisture. The wood heater is going tonight!

    Did you just make up a new word? Mate, you’re on fire with creativity! Hey, it wasn’t just the word, it was also the notable employment of superb flowing calligraphy in the cheeky bit of graffiti. The unknown person had turned dirt and glass into a higher form of art, and we are left in their wake wondering what they were on about? But it was pretty funny.

    Absolutely, it is a sign of a brittle culture. After the recession of the early 1990’s I spent a bit of time contemplating how to put a little bit of distance between the beast and I. It is not easy to do. 🙂 Lewis may be able to correct me here, but I believe that the Roman’s were much more adept at assimilating the other cultures that they came across. I recall reading a book about how the local hunting God in an area in Northern Italy was co-opted by the Roman’s and became Diana. And the locals seemed OK with that.

    The fall of Rome is a fascinating discussion and I have heard two theories recently, one was that wide spread disease weakened them, and the other was that they ran out of lands to exploit and the costs of maintaining such a far flung Empire exceeded the wealth they gained and they slowly went broke and were sacked as their vitality leached away. It could be that both theories were a problem, but there may be other factors at play too such as declining soil fertility (an ongoing and ever present problem in the Middle East and Mediterranean). What is your take on the matter?



  3. Hi Lewis,

    The White Album, what a massive interweb wormhole. I need to up periscope and get some fresh air, because historically it was a murky old world down in those particular recording studios. The fracture and drama would soon tire me, and it makes me happy that I don’t have to write each week’s blog with three other people wanting to put their twenty cents in. Far out! Personally I favoured Sgt. Peppers, and more particularly Abbey Road, but you know, tastes and all that.

    And yeah, Monty Python is all a bit silly. The films were very good, but the show just didn’t translate well at all for my brain. Probably more a limitation of my brain than their creative works, but I just did not get it. Timekeeping is complex isn’t it? And you are now in the dreaded daylight savings mode, so you have definitely lost out there. The lost hour was graciously handed back about a fortnight ago down here. Ah, relief for the senses! 🙂

    You’d reckon that your management would get bored sooner or later and stop making such proclamations? For some people, such talk would be like food and/or a challenge for their senses. Hey, the plot thickens and apparently the most excellent Mrs Beaton also slides into the lapwing story: The Lapwing – the unsung hero of Easter and farmland icon . Fascinating and I was unaware of any of this background. Timing is everything. Must confess that hot cross bun consumption is nearing its sad end time, and chocolate consumption has been almost non-existent. Did you score any chocolate over Easter?

    Exhaust fumes can be pretty unpleasant, and the ones from diesel fuel are apparently not good for you at all. Mind you, I still recall the days when lead was freely added to fuels, and possibly that might explain a thing or two about my math skills (probably not though!) Apparently your body stores the metal in bone marrow so it is not until a bone is broken that it becomes a problem, although I would have thought that having lead anywhere in your system at all is not all that good an idea. Years ago I read studies which reported that back in the lead fuel days children in schools near to busy roads had a lower IQ than children in schools more removed from such things. But that could also be explained by demographics.

    The vinegar is a great idea – and we use it as a cleaning product too. The stuff is amazing. I had a few free brain cells tonight so I finally got around to having a look at how white vinegar is made. Doesn’t seem too difficult to me, and it might just be a use for the batches of sake that we’d completely messed up with the incorrect temperature range (easy to do at the wrong time of year). It never even occurred to me to age them as I do for wines. Well, there you go.

    That sly Yankee business was new to me. I quite enjoyed Pappy Wurth’s epic tirade to Portious’s sister about the changes in the area. He made some good points that I’m sympathetic too. He also freely shared his opinions with both passion and eloquence, and then Sayward’s sister dragged him away (with the inference that he’d get an ear full on the way back to his shanty!) Incidentally, Sayward’s station has risen high indeed. One character described her as the richest lady in town, and then went on to complain that she spoke to anyone and everyone (except perhaps Mrs Tench, for obvious reasons). If I were in her situation, I would have taken advantage of the situation, and I can’t honestly see what all the fuss is about.

    Ha! A goodly death toll had apparently built up around the water pump, but in a strange twist of fate, the water was previously considered one of the better quality wells. And at one point in time it may well have been quite good. But it had the unfortunate problem of being located near to a latrine which contaminated the water – and the particular bacteria for Cholera can survive in the wild without a host. Ouch.

    Thanks! I’m quite looking forward to reading about a people whom I know little about. And forest management practices are always important, plus they’ve managed to incorporate (outside of the cities) beauty into the function of the land. Not always easy to achieve. Certainly there is something to be learned in the book and thanks for mentioning it.

    The editor has a cold and no doubt being subjected to very smoky air for three days has something to do with that. I’m doing all of the work around the place today, and it is a lot for one person as today involved hours of cooking. Still, I managed to sneak out this afternoon and pick up the last of the hot cross buns. Alas for another season of hot cross buns that is now in the past…

    You’d hope the brake didn’t fail when the chair was coming back down the hill again, especially on the corners (as you mischievously pointed out!) Oops. Might need one of those sand patches that are used on the side of very steep highways to land on should everything go horribly wrong at a tricky point. From some perspectives I’m a bit like the character Sayward who doesn’t see the need for big houses. I believe the average house size down here nowadays is 2500 square feet. Bonkers.

    For an Easter Monday it’s been a very quiet day, but I dare not set foot over in the more fashionable end of the mountain range where all of the leaf change tourists have descended upon. Some have trundled past here from time to time, but there isn’t much to see from the road.



  4. Hi Chris,

    I’ve made the mistake in the past of being rudely skeptical of electric cars, when I could have politely directed the conversation in the direction of electric bikes!

    But how viable are even e-bikes on local-scale renewables? I read that to fully charge an e-bike takes about 0.5 kWh and will transport you ~50 km before a recharge is required. Do you even have 0.5 kWh to spare in darkest winter?

  5. Yo, Chris – I do hope The Editor mends fast, and that it’s a cold of the minor (not major) variety. Not that even minor colds aren’t a pain in the …. ear.

    I try and ignore politics, as much as possible. Not that that’s very possible. The whole thing is such a flaming poop show.

    The whole “we’ll all have electric cars that run on renewable energy” is such a fantasy. Yeah, sure, and about the same time we’ll have thriving colonies on Mars. Delusions and the madness of crowds. What? All that water I put on my plastic plants has been going to waste? They’re not going to grow? Next you’ll be telling me that Santa and the Easter Bunny isn’t real. :-).

    It’s not a government burn, it’s a volcano. Having lived through, been a witness of, the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption, I can lay claim to being a geologist / volcanologist, without portfolio. In other words, an expert. Got my certificate on-line and hung out a shingle. It’s a government cover up conspiracy, just so the leaf peepers won’t be spooked. I’m sure I read that on Q-Anon.

    Well, now we know all about the care and feeding of trees. But no pictures of poo flinging? I think it’s an Olympic event.

    Chestnuts are so pretty. A bowl of them sitting around makes for nice decor.

    “Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands, The smith a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands …” (etc, for another 50 stanzas) Longfellow, 1840. Falls under the poetic classification of “That Old Chestnut.” The McCoy pottery company, in the 1940s (or so) created a planter based on that poem. Still a lot of them around, and not too pricey. It’s on my list of “things I’d like to have, if I ever happen to fall over one.” Why? Got me. ‘Cause it’s cool?

    You won’t see any mandarins growing on the trees, around here. But I noticed in the Territorial Seed Catalog (they’re just south of Portland, in the Willamette Valley) that they have Meyer Lemons! I meant to follow up on what that’s all about.

    I have a bad case of asparagus envy. After four attempts, I’ve decided to hang up the trowel, on that one. Cont.

  6. Cont. Was it the White Album, or Doctor Pepper, that the recording went on for days, and every rock star of the time wandered in and out of the studio. “More stars than in the sky!” Along with their entourage, birds, and assorted hangers on. (Astrologers, gurus, dope dealers….).

    That was an interesting article about lapwings. I didn’t realize that plover were one and the same thing. You wonder about the evolutionary advantage of laying eggs on fairly open ground? Which came first, the male hipster with his man bun, or the lapwing? I don’t know why gents with man buns make me so twitchy. Especially having survived the Hair Wars of the 1960s. Just part of being an old crock, I guess.

    No exotic chocolates, here, for Easter. Just my usual two small daily squares of dark. For medicinal purposes, only. :-). Which according to the Angry Chef, is wrong thinking.

    Sayward’s father is a hoot. A thorn in his daughter’s sides. The old guy just wants simple food and to live in a simple place, the boat shed/shanty. But horrors! What will people think? LOL. It’s the myth of the rugged founding father / pioneer butting heads with the reality. Another good example of that (and, I’m sure your past that bit) is a look at the “real” Johnny Appleseed.

    Yes, why would one have a 2,500 square foot house? Other than for status and show. Or, maybe if you had 12 kids and took in boarders.

    Yup. Health and Safety demands you have a stair lift runaway lane. Just in case. Actually, when I took my trip to Idaho a few years ago, there were truck runaway lanes up in the mountains. They’re quit interesting constructions. From the very simple, to quit elaborate. Google images has quit a few pictures of all the permutations.

    I do hope Inge is having a good visit with all her relatives, but I’ll be glad when they move along and we see her back here. Purely selfish on my part.

    Which reminds me. The Vindolanda excavations have kicked off for the season. They’ve already uncovered a wooden comb, a jet ring, tent stakes and, yes, a shoe. :-). Lew

  7. Chris,

    Exponential growth is an interesting thing. Al Bartlett from University of Colorado (IIRC he’s been mentioned here before) had a thought experiment similar to the one you described. Nearly everybody has the same reaction you did to the question “when will it be half full?” What does not get mentioned is that in the earliest stages of an exponential function, the graph (time on the horizontal axis, population or temperature increase etc on the vertical) anyhow, the graph approximates a straight line linear function. Any unpredicted (by a linear function) increase in the population or temperature or what have you is held to be either an aberration or a mild change. Here’s the key: by the time it is obvious to those living within the system that what is being measured is exponential, it is too late to do anything about it! That’s an important enough concept that I’ll repeat it: by the time it is obvious to those living within the system that what is being measured is exponential, it is too late to do anything about it! So, as has been discussed here and elsewhere, learn to adapt because things will not improve.

    Hope the editor recovers quickly. At my home, at least, there is always a pall about the place when one of us is ill. Even the house feels it.

    Did I make up another new word? Maybehaps I did. Actually, I’ve been using that word occasionally for decades. Nearly calligraphic lettering for the “pizza” on your car? I’ll have to remember that if I ever venture into such art.

    Rome? My studies and thinking have led me to the conclusion that there was more than one cause for the decay and fall of the Empire. Decadence was one, as was the pride in being the best and the most powerful. Diseases and plagues certainly played a role. The ghastly numbers of Caesars/emperors and those who wanted to be Caesar in the 3rd century onward are almost comical. Almost, because you look at the latest and the next USA Presidential campaign and how many people want to dethrone whatever at the time is the current ruling group indicate that we’re living through something similar. The resultant civil wars also didn’t help.

    Also adding to the problem was the loss of soil fertility and the costs of running an empire without new sources of wealth to steal and spend – so the “wealth pump” was dead and the existing wealth became much too concentrated; the “bread and circuses” was used to keep the common people from noticing what was really going on. ( A modern analogy could be any or all of cell phones/internet/the entertainment industry, etc.) Add to the mix that SOMETHING happened in Asia that caused the Huns and Alans and more to encroach on the borders of the Empire, which forced the Germanic peoples to become panicked enough to prefer fighting Rome rather than the Huns.

    The poverty in Gaul led to centuries of fighting the Bacudae gangs. The armies consisted of German, Britons, Gauls, and other groups that were not necessarily Roman citizens until serving their time in the army, hence the level of loyalty was different. Simple discipline suffered: armor became lighter, shields smaller and lighter, the heavier javelins were discarded. Each legionnaire once used to carry a pointed stake; these were pounded into the ground around the new camp each night, with a ditch and embankment being dug as a quick fortification. This discipline also ceased. With the loss of discipline and superiority of arms, the legions lost their edge.

    Anyhow, those are the conclusions I’ve gotten to regarding Rome. I could be wrong on some, and could have missed other reasons. I’m totally convinced, however, that there were multiple factors involved. What think you?


  8. Hi crowandsheep,

    We’ve all been there, and the reactions are always enlightening. I take no joy in such discussions.

    Exactly! Electric vehicles have an excellent chance if they are small and lightweight. Some of the small motors and controllers being produced and sold now are excellent and 10Wh per Km is outstandingly efficient use of energy (especially compared to 200Wh).

    Yes, I could rustle up an extra 0.5kW per day during the deepest darkest days of winter (3 weeks either side of the winter solstice). I’m not sure how long you’ve been reading, but I feel you and I go back a fair way to the old ADR. You may have noticed that each year I add something (or make modifications) to the off grid solar power system so that it works better based on what I learned the previous year. If there was a better way of living with such a system, nobody has ever gotten around to correcting my thinking. So yeah, there is a little bit of fat for that time of year. The climate could always get worse.

    One of the insights that I’ve learned with all of these systems which seek to harvest outputs from natural systems (food, water, energy) is that a system has to accommodate the worst conditions as distinct from the average or best conditions. The sort of large scale centralised systems that form our infrastructure are generally based around supplying for an average (with a little bit of fat) expectation. There is a marked difference between the two positions.



  9. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks mate, and I took the editor down to see the doctor this morning. Apparently it is viral and she just has to work it through her system.

    Yeah, it is impossible to ignore politics, but from time to time (and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts in the matter) with all of the posturing and silliness that goes on in the Federal sphere, I do wonder how the politicians justify their pay? It might be a form of entertainment like the old Roman’s bread and circuses? Dunno. Your lot have disappeared up their own opinions of themselves from what I can see of that story.

    It is a bonkers story about electric self driving cars, although pronouncements were made about such things today. The thing that makes me a bit suspicious, and I could well be wrong, is how could an expensive computer and a range of sensors be cheaper than a human being? It is just a story that doesn’t make much sense to me, although I might be missing something. Mars would be a very unpleasant place to live, and I doubt that humans could live very long there. Minutes probably.

    Hehe! Glad you enjoyed the plastic plant analogy.

    I doff my hat to you Good Sir as our self-proclaimed volcanologist with real world experience. I’m unsure that my senses would be up for such an experience as the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s. Did you note that in the lead photograph, you can see the cone of an ancient volcano? That volcano has the name Mount Towrong and it is hard to find anything online about the geology. I’ve walked around the caldera and some of the views are quite good. Here is a little bit more information about the geology of the area: The Camels Hump. The farm here sits high up in the mountain range on the right hand side of the photo, which is covered in smoke. It is still smoky today by the way, and I can almost taste the burning plant matter whenever I step outside.

    Hehe! The poor editor was a bit ill so alas for the lack of action shots depicting the poo throwing carnival. 🙂 Even the hot cross bun today did not make her feel better. I’m often tempted just to throw the poo like how the old timer manure spreaders used to do it. I have no doubts that the effect on plant growth would be similar to what I’m seeing nowadays. On a serious note, if I was being a bit slack I could throw the poo and use the mower to flick it everywhere. It would work.

    I have high hopes for the chestnuts, and they’re a commonly found nut tree up in this mountain range. On the other hand, the walnuts, mate, I’ve killed too many – just like your experience with the asparagus. It just makes no sense to keep on experimenting with the trees. Although one day I might start a walnut tree from a seed if I can find local varieties. Honestly I would have sworn that your part of the world was perfect for asparagus. I do feed my lot mushroom compost, which leans towards the basic side of things which the plants prefer. Your compost filled trench may have been a little bit too acidic for their liking. And given they’re prolific in raised garden beds here, maybe the trench was not well drained enough for them? Dunno, but down here commercially they grow them in drained swamps (!) so who knows?

    🙂 Because it’s cool is good enough for me! 🙂

    Hang on, the Willamette Valley also has wineries. Fascinating. I’d recommend a Meyer lemon as it handles the cold and occasional snow fall and repeated frosts here. It is the wind you have to protect the tree from, and also citrus are really heavy feeders. They enjoy a feed beyond what most people would expect them to enjoy. When I was a kid my grandmother had a seedling lemon tree that was so big you could climb it and no doubt the root system had broken into the old clay sewerage pipes. They sell seedling varieties of Meyer lemons down here and I’d recommend such a plant over a grafted variety if only because the root system would be so much bigger and hardier.

    Those music lads sure did get up to some mischief. From what I was reading yesterday, it would have been a nightmare working with them at the end. High drama only arrives as the concluding curtain is set to close! Did I just make that up?

    I didn’t know that about the lapwings and / or plovers either. I blame the man-bun solely on Russel Brand. He made it fashionable. No! Not at all, crock away, surely that is your right, and you’ve earned it? Back in the day I used to have long hair, but it never pans out well for most blokes and the dreaded thief of time sneaks up on you whilst your attention is directed elsewhere. It is a bit bait and switch routine really. 🙂 Did you ever sport an exotic beard?

    What? Dark chocolate is so good, how could it be bad? What does the Angry Chef have to say about such important matters? And whyever is he angry? Some people sport anger as a facade because they may be too proud to admit their fear.

    Interesting and I had not understood the comparison of the rugged founding father versus the reality. He’s a good sort Wurth, but I wouldn’t want to have to rely on him. But he sure did stick it to them, and most eloquently too and in the form of an epic soliloquy.

    No, not at all! They’ve just encountered the lost Sulie, who doesn’t appear to want a bar of the two sisters. From past discussions I understand that the Real Johnny Appleseed was a travelling preacher for the Swedenborg school of philosophy and mysticism, as well as promoting the planting of orchards. It interests me that Sayward is scorned by some of the locals for continuing to produce crops in her spare land during her fifties. I’m much impressed with the character.

    Large families are I believe a status symbol these days. In the third world large families are a thing for the very rich and of course the very poor. Nobody else can afford them.

    I usually am breakfast and lunch chef in Chateau Fernglade. However, tonight the editor is banned from the kitchen due to health and safety reasons, and so I have donned my chef’s hat and taken charge. Of course I had no idea what to make and took a brief look in the pantry and also what was on offer in the garden. Then I thought about it for about twenty seconds and then proceeded to produce a gnocchi with mushroom and seasonal vegetables in a napoli sauce (our passata) and mozzarella cheese. I’m pleased with the outcome, although the editor mentioned something ominous about future evening work in the kitchen for me. There is a lesson in there for the unwary chef. I actually have always enjoyed cooking, it is such a pleasure. My secret technique was searing all of the mushrooms and vegetables in a bit of butter before adding them to the sauce. Yum!

    No, I too understand your point of view. Personally, I’d be bored of the relatives and seeking some quiet time by now, but I guess there is probably a reason that I happily live a quiet life up in the forest. How is the urban hermit journey working out for you?

    More shoes in Vindolanda? Hey, down here a shipwreck of a torpedoed iron ore carrier was recently discovered about 60 miles off the coast. During WWII Japanese submarines were running around the coastline wreaking havoc with naval and merchant vessels. One of the submarines even got into Sydney Harbour. Long-lost shipwreck found off Victorian coast, 77 years after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine in WWII.



  10. Hi DJ,

    Oh yeah! A few months back I watched the good Professor’s lecture on the exponential function, and it was superb viewing. What interested me about his lecture was how he divided policies into desirable and undesirable outcomes and then spoke about the effect that each policy choice would have upon a particular outcome. Despite being a lecture supposedly about mathematics, it was actually all about people. But exactly, when the container is half full, the average yeast would look upon the vast spaces that were yet to be filled, and not worry overly much.

    Thanks for the kind thoughts, and we went to the doctors this morning. There is nothing to be done other than time.

    Hehe! The word is a goody. And the neat calligraphy made all the difference with the dirt-graffiti.

    I can’t honestly imagine why anyone would want that particular job. Wasn’t one of the head honcho politicians in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy some bloke living in the middle of nowhere that had no interest in the job? That would make for a trustworthy set of requirements!

    Multiple explanations seems plausible to me too. I have long wondered about the distant Roman landlords and the slaves used to run the huge farms. The economics of such an enterprise makes little to no sense to me, but I do not have experience with really fertile soils and a steady climate. I see very little difference with the English sending out convicts down under and expecting them to establish some sort of self-sufficient settlement with very few skills with which to do so. It just makes very little sense and the profits from maintaining the convicts barely exceeded the costs. In the early days the settlement almost starved, and I’d imagine that the convicts, like the Roman’s slaves, plenty of them would have come from an urban area or have farming skills that were of little value to the Roman’s. And why would either slaves or distant landlords want to invest in the future productivity and fertility of their soils when there were lavish lifestyles and intrigue to support? I reckon that part of the story would have been like a death from a thousand cuts as the profits went slowly down and the costs went slowly up. Dunno. Certainly it was definitely not a steady state economy and I’m looking forward to reading the book on Japan that Lewis mentioned.



  11. Hi Chris,

    Best wishes to the editor for a speedy recovery. She’ll probably get better quickly since she went to the doctor. When my kids were young it seemed they would miraculously recover immediately after the visit. I told my pediatrician that I was just going to skip the visit and just write him a check.

    Like you I don’t concern myself with politics though that was not always the case. If TPTB really limit parking spaces the cost to park will really become astronomical. If public transportation is decent one really doesn’t need a car in the city anyway especially when one can rent a car if needed. I keep reading how younger people are passing up on car ownership. On the other hand I’ve heard that all the Uber and Lyft vehicles are causing congestion in the city. In Chicago it seems like luxury buildings and developments are what’s driving construction. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes at all with the new mayor.

    Back in the day when one could earn a decent amount of interest on savings one could build up quite a bit as interest grew exponentially – not so much anymore as you know.

    I may have mentioned it before but there are hundreds of solar projects proposed around here – where there isn’t much sun at least during the winter. They are mostly sited on agricultural fields as well. My book club that doesn’t read many books will be discussing the Green New Deal on Sunday which has similar proposals that you’ve described. It will be interesting to see how many in the group will have an unrealistic outlook on the topic (well actually I can kind of guess).

    Loved the call of the Currawong. However it’s pretty loud. Are they early morning singers?

    We’ve had very little rain here so I’m still waiting for my newly planted asparagus crowns to sprout. I’ve been watering all the spots I’ve planted seeds.

    We went to a Easter brunch this year as the sister and/or cousin who usually host Easter couldn’t do it this year. It was at a very popular sea food restaurant which Doug and I haven’t been in ages. Well it was jammed and I would say the food was just mediocre (and expensive) but at least we had a table that was in a relatively quiet spot. There were only eight of us (small for our family gatherings) so it still was pleasant. That day and yesterday was near 80 degrees as well.

    Tomorrow I’m helping my sister of many husbands pack for her up coming move. I may have mentioned that she is engaged yet again and she and her fiancee have bought a house almost as large as my old one for just the two of them and she’s moving out of a house that would be a perfect size for an older couple. All of this is beyond my understanding. She is one of those very busy people so I seldom get to spend much time with her so at least this will be an opportunity to catch up.


  12. Yo, Chris – Are politicians worth their pay? Seem to be. They usually deliver exactly what their major donors, require. Their major donors will even write bills for them to introduce, so they don’t need to think about it, so much.

    Well, I’m just going to hold out for a flying electric car. I see them in the movies, all the time, so I know they’re possible :-). Buildings will become less tall, and more spread out, so as to provide more easy access parking.

    That was pretty interesting about Camel’s Hump. And, the link to Hanging Rock. I was thinking I really need to look into which face masks are best for filtering out wild fire smoke. I understand some are better than others. Last year I just suffered through, but as it looks like air quality is going to be an ongoing problem, I’d best be prepared.

    Mowing poo. Another Olympic event? Best hope the stuff is a bit on the dry side.

    Here’s a link to what Territorial Seed says about Meyer lemons.


    Only hardy to 32F (-0-C). Nope. Wouldn’t work here, except as an indoor plant. Might be nice to grow one or two if you had a fairly large greenhouse.

    Never had an exotic beard. At least, nothing that works (that I’ve been able to find) with the way my facial hair grows. As in so many areas, genetics has once again failed me :-(. About the best I can do is a neatly trimmed beard and stache.

    Oh, the Angry Chef is all for chocolate, but purely as an enjoyable experience, not as medicine. He’s pretty much on a crusade against self styled charlatans, that make all kinds of claims (and relieve people of a lot of money) based on no science at all. Though he fully recognizes the drawbacks of science as it stands now. Ms. Paltrow (among many others) suffers scathing review. He’s very down on pseudoscience, while realizing the shortcomings of science as it stands. Small test studies, animal studies, etc.. He really walks the reader through pretty simple explanations of the scientific method and critical thinking. In the end, he really wants people to enjoy food, and not obsess and worry about it, so much.

    I think Sayward is scorned because she gets down there and gets her own hands dirty. She’d probably be less scorned if she sat on a fine horse (side saddle, of course), bullwhip in hand and oversaw the field hands. Better yet, hire an overseer and sit in the big house and rake it in. Given the time and place, there’s also, probably, a lot of discomfort that she actually, one on one, collects her own rents and sells her own land. Theoretically, she should have turned the whole mess over to Portius, and not worried her pretty little head about all the grimy details of business. Given Protius’s occasional fecklessness, that probably wouldn’t have ended, well. Also, given her lack of human contact early in life, I think she really enjoyed interacting with people, one on one. Also, I bet she was privy to a lot of “insider” information, that the male members of the business community were itching to get at.

    Seared veg in butter. The Maillard Effect. Can’t go wrong, with that. Extra harmonious layers of flavor. Last night I took a can of beef hash, mixed in some tomato (fresh and canned diced), mushroom and garlic. Secret herbs and spices. Nuked the whole mess and grated some cheddar cheese on top. Fried up a couple of eggs, diced them and threw them on top. Splashed about a bit of hot sauce. Probably enough for two (or three) meals. But that didn’t happen :-). Lew

  13. Hi Chris,

    I appreciate your approach to energy. It is a bottom up strategy in miniature, starting with a minimum number of panels, and cutting use down as far as possible before the production side of the equation is addressed. Which is the opposite macro-strategy of society where production is the focus–putting the cart before the horse par excellence. I enjoyed the chart you published some while ago showing the incremental increase in capacity and even the use of diesel in your first year.

    Harvesting energy from natural systems is a problem with which all creatures must contend. Now one might say the periods of scarcity are something creatures have had to endure to survive. But I put it to you that the wild swings from abundance to scarcity are a precondition (the feature rather than the bug) of the existence of those funny creatures (natural or otherwise) in the first place–the chicken and egg par excellence.

  14. Chris,

    Yes, there was some disinterested bloke who sorta was the Galactic President. I once read in a children’s history book that early in Rome’s history, Cincinnatus led the Romans to victory and was offered a crown. He refused, returned to his farm, and the Republic ensued. Dunno how true it is, though. I maintain that if someone wants to be an elected official that person has just become ineligible for the position.

    I can wait on the self-driving electric cars that were mentioned. Growing up on a combination of what was (“Flintstones”) and what will become (“Jetsons”), I want my flying car now!

    We’re also experiencing TPTB allowing and almost forcing new apartment complexes to have limited or no parking. They want to force people into taking the bus. If everybody did that in the newer complexes, they’d need more buses. However, few people from the newer areas ride the bus, mostly those of us who are closer to the city core.

    Lew, due to his proximity to Mt. St. Helens, yes, he should be the resident volcanologist. Spokane was shut down for almost a week due to the millimeter or so of ash that fell here. 90 km to the west received 15cm of ash or more. It was pretty nasty. I appreciated the camera angle you had that made the smoke look like it was being spewed from the old volcanic cone.


  15. Hi Margaret,

    That’s funny! Thanks for your kind words and the editor is doing much better today, but with a lot of coughing.

    To be honest, I’m unsure how much of a profit the ride share drivers and food delivery folks make. But yeah, I’ve heard the stories about younger folks not wanting to drive, but I have also noted that at the same time they get chauffeured around a lot, so I can’t really say that they’re not partaking. Maybe I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or something like that because I just don’t understand the sheer density and scale of things. On the train trips into the big smoke I look out the window and wonder at the enormity of the systems required just to keep everyone fed. Dunno.

    Ah yes, I recall those days of high interest rates. Fun times! It had the strange effect of funnelling money into financial products and away from the gritty world of goods and services. But when the interest rates were up there and deposits were King, the times they sure were good! 🙂

    Sorry to say that the same thing goes on down here with solar projects. I feel for the folks who live in rural areas that have to co-exist with such large scale industrial installations. And few people understand how much loss there is between the generation of energy and the delivery of electricity at the socket. That story of loss is one that I’ve had to deal with here, and just trying to mitigate it has cost a fair bit of mad cash.

    Hehe! Fortunately the Currawong’s sing their mournful tunes in the evening! The other birds enjoy their early morning songs, and the place is rarely quiet, but I enjoy their songs more than engine noises and the background hum that is the unmistakable call of the urban area. On Sunday, I heard the steam whistle of a steam train that was running down the tracks from Castlemaine to Melbourne. A steam train society up that way regularly runs out of the station at Castlemaine for tourists (which is a station regularly used by the country trains) and up a now disused line. It is funny seeing their steam locomotive sitting at the platform of a well-used railway station.

    Wow. I would have thought that your exceptionally cold winter would have left the soil in a very damp state! The capital city of the state to the west of the one I live in has just recorded a : Record dry start to 2019 in Adelaide. Less than one inch is not good for four months.

    Food can be variable especially in and around Easter when places and businesses get smashed. 80’F is quite warm. I hope the seedlings are appreciating the warmer weather?

    I hear you about that, and sometimes you just have to take what you can with some relationships. I do wonder why people move to larger houses as they age. It makes little to no sense to me – and imagine the cleaning. It is possible, and I’d be happy to be wrong, but you know, time passes and it might be just possible that your sister feels otherwise. Someone once expressed it to me after their parents passed on that they had the realisation that they were next in line. And I have seen people commit to large things so as to have to continue the path that they are on rather than say for example, retire. It is hard for people to let go. What do you think about that? There may well be more to the story than what my gut feeling tells me.



  16. I have my doubts about electric cars, too. Like where does the lithium come from and under what conditions is it obtained? Where does it go after the useful life of the battery is done? And, as you say, what´s producing the electricity?

    I have a tree question. The neighbor made a mighty effort and redid the retaining wall that marks the boundary and it seems like a promising spot for some espaliered fruit trees. Will I be able to plant trees in the autumn safely, since he does like to go a little overboard with the cement in his wall building, and I´m pretty sure it will be leeching and washing off the wall? It´s a pretty sunny spot, except for the cast shadow from the barn which will eventually show up once it´s got a roof, maybe from about 4 or 5 o´clock on. Any suggestions?

    And I´m afraid that while Blogger and Google are tiffing, I can´t figure out how to comment on my own blog. So apologies for that.

    There are general elections here on Sunday, too. No one promising to vote for. The best they seem to be able to manage is to stymie the efforts of any other group to get anything done.

  17. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, I’d completely forgotten about the other forms of pay that they receive. I feel that it is a fine and very difficult to delinate line between a donation and a bribe, and my poor brain is not up for considering the matter. 😉

    Flying cars. Cool. They were on the Jetsons, and I barely remember that cartoon. What about the hover-boards in Back to the Future? They’d be handy, although I do see folks riding around the inner city on electric skateboards. The other day, I saw a bloke on an electric skateboard, weaving in and out of traffic, and taking a phone call. I’d have trouble doing either task, let alone both at the same time. It was truly an impressive feat. And the skateboards go up hill.

    An industrial safety wear supplies shop should be able to sort out your face mask issue. They used to supply us with the masks in the fire brigade, but I forget now which types are the way to go. Do you have hardware shops up your way? They probably have them with the gloves and other safety gear. it is still smoky here today. If we don’t get enough rain in winter and spring, I will definitely pick up full kit for fire fighting as things might be disastrous by next summer.

    I have to retract my earlier supposition that the author Mr Richter had included his good self in the book as the character Chancey. Chancey is turning into a little, I don’t know what the right way to put it, but whenever people talk about equal sharing and no work… My natural inclination is to appreciate the point of view of Sayward when it comes to the subject of work. Chancey, matey, I dunno mate. 🙂 He won’t come to a good end that one.

    Mr Logsdon in one of his many books alerted me to the contraption of the old horse drawn and powered manure spreader. In future years I should be able to replicate the effect but with the mower. I’ve seen farmers doing a similar thing with worm teas, but with tractors and sprayers.

    My Meyer lemon has definitely survived 28’F last year, but it was well established. Interestingly, I just did a search on what the most excellent gardening guru Jacki French had to say about Meyer lemons. Ook! Yup, not cold hardy, but on the other hand, Eureka lemons are meant to be a far cold hardier variety of lemon. Do you have that variety in your part of the world?

    Nothing wrong with neatly trimmed, and yeah alas for the genetic lottery. Some people win it, and I suspect that life goes easier for them on several fronts. Oh well, one must deal with life as it is. One of my mates grew thin and wispy facial hair so he eventually went all Fu Manchu. Dunno about that, but I guess you don’t see it around much so it was more or less unique.

    Much has been said elsewhere about that particular person! Not worrying about food that much is a noble goal. Does the angry chef provide any guidelines as to how to go about doing just that? I’m amazed at how many people and their pets have gut issues these days. It is always a surprise to me. Ollie rolled in some particularly pungent wombat poo today, and things went poorly for him afterwards. But he’s resilient and we’ve become friends again. It was a cold day to use the garden hose.

    Thus my previous paragraph about the wayward character Chancey, who has really gotten up Sayward’s nose with a fine bit of Sophistry and rhetoric. I would never dare do such a thing in the presence of one such. I liked Little Turtle’s comment about Chancey playing the piano in the parlour: “At least him good for something!” Then he went onto say that Chancey would be better in the care of “The Great Spirit”. I almost spat my coffee out onto the table I laughed so hard. I read the introduction about the author, and he had a philosophy similar to Sayward’s when it came to the concept of work. I too would not trust the likes of Portious with financial matters as he would lead others astray in the pursuit of status. Haven’t watched: My dinner with Herve yet as the editors cold has thrown a spanner in the work with the generally smooth running affairs of this household. These things happen.

    Who knew that serious folks had studied and named the process of caramelisation and browning in cooking. Awesome! Your dinner sounds very tasty indeed. Did you learn much working in commercial kitchens back in the day?

    The editor is feeling a bit better today and at least I can hand over a few tasks in the kitchen. I’ve been run off my feet all week just keeping the place going single handedly. It is times like these that you realise just how much goes on just to keep the ship afloat. Mind you, at least it isn’t the Marie Celeste, because that would be a bad thing to experience.

    Thanks for the link too to the 210 reasons. I didn’t count them, and I’ll take the authors word for the count. It doesn’t read that differently from the events of today. I guess if the fall of Rome was dominated by a single causation, then steps could be taken to counter and redress the fall. Alas, death by a thousand (or 210 in this particular case) cuts is the way of it all.

    The other day I noticed an article alerting readers to the future of dairy in Australia. Dairy expert says Australian industry at ‘tipping point’ as demand puts pressure on supply . Far out, one day I suspect that I might just have to get some cows – or try and milk the marsupials which no doubts they’ll be grumpy about. I hear goats and sheep are friendlier animals than cows when it comes to milking. Cheese made from sheep milk is really good stuff. Goat milk is a bit goat-ey tasting to my palate.

    I noticed that electric aircraft were being spruiked…



  18. Hi crowandsheep,

    Thanks very much, and I apply the same approach to most aspects of the property. I have some experience of observing other people wanting to dive in and produce from day one with systems, but I note that it rarely works well.

    It is a good chart, and I had to begin the process of daily record keeping years ago, and that was the very beginning of my acknowledgement that back then I knew very little about solar energy. The editor sometimes stirs me up a bit by reminding me that in the very early days I used to suggest that: “we’ll just install a few more panels and then we’ll never have to worry about the system again”. How wrong I was. Even last year I had to crank out the generator for a few days because one of the main arrays and charge controllers failed abysmally in the middle of winter. I learned about the concept of “inductance” and how that applied to high current DC cables which are switched at high frequencies. Yes, who’d have thought that such knowledge was important?! Hehe! I can laugh about it now. 🙂

    Exactly. Exactly. Exactly! Thus the need to understand preserving techniques with all forms of harvesting of resources and energy from nature. Is bottling fruit in the summer harvest for consumption during the depths of winter any different to capturing rain water during winter so that you have something to drink over summer?

    At the moment, society doesn’t have to preserve because we’re busy using energy that was preserved way, way, way long ago in the distant past.



  19. Hi, Chris!

    I was going to comment on what an interesting cloud that is in your heading photo, only to find further down that it is smoke. It makes me shiver.

    I failed the yeast test, too.

    You and I have baby lettuce at the same time. And what an incredible photo of a crow with a mouth full of tomato.

    The editor is pretty lucky to have you, especially as cook. I would like some of that gnocchi, please.


  20. Hi DJ,

    Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was by most accounts an actual historical figure. He was definitely in and out of the fray at times, and there is nothing wrong with tending a small farm. 🙂 Hehe! That’s funny. There was an article recently based on down under statistics about such matters, and apparently in the past two decades there has been the rise of the professional politician. A wilely beast that one. Where ever would they gain their life experiences if they sought the job first and foremost as a calling? Dunno.

    Hehe! I liked the Flintstones far more than the Jetsons for some reason. The two male characters Fred and Barney were always off attending some lodge meeting or other. I read an article the other day suggesting that kids these days have a lot of trouble making and maintaining friendships away from the school yard. It seemed like a strange concept that one, but when I was a kid there was no such thing as an organised play-date with parents tagging along because they themselves seek a social life. Dunno.

    I like the buses, trams and trains too. They’re all good. When the country trains are cancelled, I always enjoy the bus replacement service because it commences nearby and is usually empty when it arrives at the railway station to pick up the passengers. It usually only makes three stops to pick up passengers on the way into the big smoke too. Hey, I heard a steam train whistle on the main line into the big smoke last Sunday. Cool. Can you usually get a seat on the bus into work? Some of the country trains are packed and I end up having to stand all the way into the city, but you know, it is better than walking the distance!

    15cm of ash would be not good. Even your 1mm of ash would be problematic. Out of curiosity, what ever happened to all of the ash? And was it warm when it fell – or had the air cooled it down sufficiently?

    Still dry and smoky here…



  21. Hi Coco,

    Rare Earth metals are a funny business, and we have a mine in the far north west of the continent, and the other mine is run by the Chinese, in I believe Mongolia. Our mine apparently processes the ores in Malaysia and they appear to be having some troubles. Absolutely, they’re definitely an interesting side to the story and the supply is not infinite. For your interest too, Lead Acid batteries are very easily recyclable and I think that 90%+ of the materials in them are easily recovered.

    I haven’t noticed cured concrete being a problem with any of the fruit trees, and I always use cement with all of the timber posts (and concrete staircases) used about the place. If you’re troubled, you can always add more woody mulch to the soil which will produce the slightly more acidic (and fungal dominated for that matter) soils that fruit trees prefer. I use the local crushed rock with lime as a surface for the paths through the orchard, and I have noticed that the trees grow better near to the paths, so no doubts they’ll adapt just fine. As to the shade, well I have both a sunny and a shady orchard. The shady orchard does just fine, and is in fact more resilient during hot and dry summers. I’d plant apples and pears and maybe cherries (but not other stone fruit) if the location was shady. Stone fruits seem to enjoy full sun. If it is a stone wall, citrus would probably do well too as the stone will keep the air near to it warmer during winter. It is worth a try.

    No worries at all, I jumped off the Blogger bandwagon because some of the strange things that occurred in the software did my head in.

    Good luck with the general election. Same, same, but different, might be a good way to describe things! Hehe!



  22. Hi Pam,

    It was a bit of a worry when I first saw and smelled the smoke. It is probably a good time of year for them to be conducting a burn, but it would be nice if we got some rain before the strong winds hit on Friday. I hope they know what they’re doing, because we are right in line from that burn. Oh well. Anyway, how good did the photo turn out? It sure was a lot of smoke.

    Hehe! You’re in good company. I scratched my head when confronted by the tricky yeastie question. From hindsight it makes sense.

    Ah yeah. Lettuce is a winter crop down here. How funny is that? People think that it is an addition to summer salads, but not so, down here. Summer lettuce must travel from a fair way away. Are the plants really at about the same stage in growth as your seedlings?

    Hehe! One does what one can given the circumstances. 🙂 Tell ya what, it was a shock to my poor youthful senses being housebroken in the ways of all of things domestic duties at about the age of 12. Still, it hasn’t seemed to do me any harm. I’ll bet you learned the gentle art of cooking at a youthful age too?



  23. Yo, Chris – Oh, I should be able to pick up a good face mask at the local hardware stores, or drug stores. But, there are all kinds of masks for painting, medical reasons, wood working, etc.. I’ll just have to do a little on line research to figure out which is best for plane old smoke.

    Chancey, as a character, seems pretty vapid, to me. Being the youngest of the family, he was the “baby” and a bit spoiled. Early on, he quit discovered he enjoyed lolling around, and worked hard to maintain that state :-). Lots of dissatisfied children go through a phase of thinking the rock star and super model who are their REAL parents are going to show up and save them from the dull old family they’ve been parked with. A few years back, the orphan train books were all the rage among the younger set, and no one could quit figure it out. Again, escape from the family. There’s a streak of that running through the Harry Potter books.

    Looks like most lemons need a hardiness zone of 9+. Around here, we’re a 7 or 8. Here’s a map of our county. You might have to zoom out, to see the whole county. I think it’s interesting that Chehalis and Centralia look to be slight “heat islands.”


    I always wanted a luxurious Fu Manchu. Sadly, I have bare spots on both sides right where the leap needs to be made from end of mustache, to chin beard line. Sigh. Oh, well. I suppose if one wore one these days, you’d be accused of cultural appropriation, in some quarters. 🙂

    Oh, the Angry Chef has a 10 point list of how to spot bs in the world of food. One is, “They will fit the health blogger template.” Which is …. “I was living my impossible glamorous life as an (insert glamorous occupation here) at a hundred miles an hour, eating all sorts of junk and not caring what I ut in my body. My health was really suffering. It was only when I started taking control of the food I was eating that my health improved. I started my (insert name of made-up diet plan here) and it revolutionized my life. All my friends just begged me to share my recipes with them, and that’s how my blog was born.” Detox, ancient wisdom, super foods and using anecdotes as evidence are some of the red flags.

    Did I learn anything cooking in commercial kitchens? Hmmm. I suppose so, but couldn’t tell you what. It’s so different cooking to other people’s tastes, and not just to your own.

    I’ve never read Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” It’s quit a slog. Great Courses has a series of lectures called “Books That Matter: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” My library doesn’t have it, but I’ll get it sooner or later, on interlibrary loan. I did notice that my library is getting a book called “The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends Who Shaped an Age.” In the 1760’s, the artist Reynolds invited a few of his friends, down to the local, every Friday night. They included the above named gents, also Adam Smith, Edmund Burke and … Gibbons. I’ve got it on my hold list. Don’t know when it will show up. Might be months.

    Cows are pretty complicated. Goats, less so. But still, complicated. I also don’t like goat milk, but I sure do like the cheese! I’d say skip the animal herding and swap some of that produce and fruit to someone with a surplus of dairy. Which would be easy, if we lived 100+ years ago. Not so easy, today. Lew

  24. Hi Lewis,

    Enjoyed the shout out! And “piffle” is an excellent dismissive word. I feel that it trumped my contribution of: “fuddy-duddy”, which by sheer chance I’d used only yesterday… Strangely enough some of the interweb definitions suggested that whilst generally being a derogatory term at times it could be an affectionate term used to describe: “someone with a zealous focus on order”. Yes, bringing order to the chaos, patterns aligning and all that… Of course I am speaking of a friend, maybe! 🙂 Hey, the inspiration of the list of amusing words tends to put me in mind of Corporal Radar O’Reilly and his interactions with the Colonel and the colourful bouts of epithets (is this the correct use of the word) that were issued in the stead of less accepted, but more commonly heard words. You may have mentioned that a couple of weeks back. Sometimes when I pre-empt and/or anticipate client’s needs, I tell them that I was doing a Radar O’Reilly, and some of them even get the joke.

    Speaking of poo and poop! 😉 I finished feeding, weeding, and pruning the last of the fruit trees late this afternoon as the sun slowly sank towards the horizon. I can’t actually give you a good reason as to why I planted so many fruit trees. About the best explanation that comes to mind was that it seemed like a good idea at the time. What amazes me is that a few of the fruit trees grew a lot this year despite the heat and lack of rainfall. It is hard to understand why that may be the case as I can’t observe any differences between those and the other fruit trees that did not grow quite so fast. I guess with some mysteries, you kinda have to live with them. On a positive note, I removed quite a number of fruit trees from their wallaby proof cages. The trees do better without the cages from what I’ve observed as the steel heats and cools with the climate and it burns the foliage where it touches.

    The mask issue is quite interesting and I did a bit of reading, and it is not a one size fits all approach. It is the particulate matter that you might have to worry about with the smoke, plus stay hydrated i.e. drink lots of water – far more than you normally would. It is smoky again here this afternoon. Better to burn now than in high summer. There is an Antarctic blast arriving here tomorrow morning. Southern Australian coastline expected to cop brunt of large swells. There is an international surf contest on at the famous Bells Beach which is to the South West of me at the moment and they might get a bit of a reminder of the 90’s film “Point Break” and the big waves that can sometimes happen there.

    Chancey as a character is not endearing himself to me, and I enjoyed reading your observations – which match mine by the way. And why, oh, why, would he court Rosa of all characters? I do wonder if Portious told Chancey the full and uncensored version of his reasons for not doing so, but Chancey seemed to have a grasp of the implications of continuing the relationship. I sat outside in the orchard tonight with the chickens and continued reading the story. The story itself is gripping and it is hard to put the book down. Surely a sign of a good story, if ever there was one?

    The child wanting to disavow their parents is an entirely new story to me. I knew my lot, warts and all, so maybe that story never entered the realms of feasibility? Dunno. Have you ever met anyone who proposed such a story? Over the years I have known a few folks who were adopted, and I’d guess that the situation arose due to the workings of a certain Church and single mothers. The people I knew in that situation appeared to me to have unresolved internal business – and I say that with no judgement because that was their journey. A bloke I knew for many long years, although we never became friends (probably because I wasn’t cool enough), and he liked the booze, and the last time I spoke with him we had a lovely chat for a couple of hours. It was at a party many years ago, and someone switched on a movie and we ended up being the only folks at the party not attracted to the pretty lights of the big screen.

    Thanks for the map on hardiness zones. It sure is cold up your part of the world! And the accuracy of the resolution with the map is astounding. I’ve never seen anything like that accurate down here.

    Hehe! Probably, I hear a lot of those sorts of claims of cultural appropriation. If I’m not mistaken, at some point in the past it was said that: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”? You don’t really hear such claims being made down here, although if I looked around I’m sure that someone, somewhere is making such claims. I don’t actually understand the point of the claim (other than beating other people around the head), because if another group or culture has come up with a good idea with which to interact with the world as it is, then why would it be a bad thing to absorb the idea? You mentioned a while back that the Romans were much better at absorbing ideas from other cultures than we are today. I for one believe that we don’t know it all, if only because we’re doing such a good job of completely stuffing it up and so a few pointers to follow wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    Oooo! Health blogger template. Not good. Not good at all. Mate when something like kale becomes a super-food, well all I can add is that people don’t consume enough greens in the first place. 😉 Kale is like the ultimate “neg”. I like the taste, but the editor is not a fan and so we don’t grow the plant. And detox advice could easily read: Don’t get tox in the first place, and then you won’t have to worry about it. I see the Temperance league made a brief visit in the book. Dunno.

    You’ve recommended the Great Courses before and they must cover a wide breadth of subjects.

    How is your hold list going at the library?

    Edward Gibbon is a giant of authorship. I’ll be very interested to read your take on that particular group, and also hope the book lives up to the promise. Gibbon’s as a character would have intrigued me the most of that group. People these days have such trouble contemplating next week. 🙂

    Exactly, not so easy today, and so much rural land is put to little use that I do wonder what is going on. At least the land gets to lie fallow, but then where it is put to use, I see over stocking because people don’t have to care whether the stocking rates make any sense. Almond milk perhaps?



  25. Chris:

    I would say that our lettuce seedlings – yours and ours – are at exactly the same stage.

    I could cook two things when I got married at age 23: Chocolate chip cookies and pizza. Two very worthy things, but one does not live by cookies and pizza alone, not even for love.


  26. Good afternoon (I hope you enjoy the randomness of these greetings, I have no idea at all when you will get it!)

    Exponential Function; ‘things get far worse than you can imagine, much faster than you think’. Who needs maths?

    ‘Watering plastic trees’ really does sum it all up: not merely false expectations, which we can all suffer from, but demonstrably loony, here and now!

    But the poor dear politicians, our Leaders (no snickering there at the back!) do need ideas, and everything Green and Renewable is the thing now: it must be comforting for them to look and sound like visionaries……

    What I like about Rome is that when it fell it either left some pretty beautiful architecture, or just vanished – mostly vanished in the wet and cold places, of course, like Britain.

    Here, developers recently found Roman remains under some fields, to their great surprise (and irritation I am sure).

    A whole industrial town, no less, with evidence of lots of forges and workshops, etc. When Rome fell, it all became agricultural land once more, and slumbered on like that for 1,600 years, with no mention at all in any records.

    Our legacy will not be so benign, clearly.

    A friend of mine owns a book from Gibbon’s library: in Latin and bound in vellum, he can’t read it but couldn’t resist the romance of owning it. Some years ago, a playing card scribbled on by Gibbon came up for sale, as he was quite a social card player when not contemplating all things decline and collapse.

    This town was apparently guarded by Saxon soldiers in the last century of Roman rule, they had a little fort above the river crossing, and their graves were found under what is now my old College cricket ground, swords, spears and all. After the collapse and the Saxon take-over -one of the first bits of Britannia to go barbarian – it seems they rootled around among the old graves of the town for beads and jewelry which they then had buried with them when their turn came (Saxons couldn’t make beads it seems, or even basic pottery ). A neat bit of recycling, isn’t it?

    All the best to you (and everyone), hope the Editor is better. Colds are more depressing than serious illness in my experience.


  27. Hi Pam,

    Cool! Isn’t it amazing the sheer diversity of climates that exist across this planet? 🙂

    Tell ya what, at a similar age I was rather handy with lamb chops and three vegetables. Mind you, I never cooked lamb chops after having left home as a result of consuming more than enough for one lifespan. I refuse to eat lamb these days. Now pizza, there is an enduring food. 🙂

    Well, there you go. It is a good age to get married at, but people may disagree these days. 25 for me, and I felt very young at the time, and had a pony tail! Long hair rarely lasts with the male of the species. Hehe! And these days the editor has longer hair than back in those early days.

    Looks like an Antarctic blast will arrive tomorrow with winds, but not much at all in the way of rain.



  28. Hi Xabier,

    And a good late evening to you (from the future)!

    Comments are like random presents, and I never quite know what to expect from them, but they’re always good. 🙂 Sometimes I feel that the first half of the blog just adds colourful background to the delightful conversations that go on in the comment section!

    Anyway, just to prove that I am easily distracted, I was actually meant to be writing up a discussion group talk tonight… It’s mostly done. Maybe…

    Oh yeah! Cool. Yes indeed, things could always get worse, but faster than expected is quite the horrifying prospect, don’t you reckon?

    There is a lot of that going on, and electric vehicles seems to me to be an absolute doozy of a topic for that stuff. But you know, I accept that everyone gets things wrong from time to time, but it is whether people have gotten their hands dirty in the process and can form a judgement upon the subject at hand. There are a lot of armchair theorists floating around, and especially about the topic of solar energy. It seems to attract them like moths to a flame. Still, long ago I too dreamed the impossible dream with solar electricity, and then crashed to Earth with a resounding thud sound.

    Yeah, I was reading the other day that near to Stonehenge, there is also the site of a Woodhenge. Cool, but now long since decayed into soil.

    I’ve read that due to the drought in the UK, all sorts of interesting archaeological finds have been made. And there were depressions in the soil in the UK that made sense when viewed from the air. The Nazca lines in Peru were a bit like that.

    One word: Skyscrapers. How will their days end? That is what I want to know.

    The great author took his time about writing his Magnum Opus and no doubts that he had some free time in there to play some cards. 🙂 Good things need not be rushed. And a vellum cover would be quite impressive.

    It is a neat bit of recycling. I’ve read historical accounts of people pulling teeth from fallen soldiers after the campaign had concluded. It makes me feel a bit squeamish thinking about it.

    Thanks for asking, and the editor is feeling better today, but still not 100%. It was a cold rather than the flu, but the flu season down here has been rather serious. I went early to get my flu shot this year, although that is not the official advice, which is to wait. Tried that last year and ended up catching the flu – as did the editor. Yuk!



  29. Yo, Chris – The older you get, the less cultural references get got :-). Or, maybe they were just jollying you along so you didn’t notice the hand in the til or the thumb on the scale :-).

    Why so many fruit trees? Maybe the Editor and you like fruit? Collect the whole set? You’ve also got to figure in the depredations of your local wildlife. When are fruit trees like chickens? When NPR writes an article about it.


    High tides and an incoming storm. Not a good mix. If you’re going to put up with a good storm, the least it could do is dump a bit of rain on you. Doesn’t seem fair! :-). I really wonder how much of those hardiness zone charts are science, and how much art? Speculation and best guess. Those temperatures … well, they’re kind of worst case events. Most of our winter temperatures are a lot more moderate. But as I’ve mentioned before, when it gets into those temperature ranges, it’s likely to hang on for days or weeks.

    The whole Chancey / Rosa thing was pretty badly handled, from beginning to end. They’re were points early on where if someone would have said, “Don’t mess with that girl, she’s you’re half sister, and if you do, you’ll have funny looking children. And besides, God doesn’t like it.” With all the rampant DNA testing, these days, all kinds of “interesting” situations are coming to light.

    Actually, (avoiding spoilers here) I’m surprised Chancey didn’t run off and join one of the “utopian” communes that were so popular about that time. Fruitlands (where the Alcotts lived) and Brook Farm. (Hawthorne). We had quit a few up here, around Puget Sound. Most didn’t last long. Neighbors took offense at all that “free” love and casual nudity. :-). I wrote a paper about the Pacific NW one’s back in high school. Don’t remember much about it. The communes of the ’60s, todays intentional communities.

    I was scratching my head and trying to think if I knew anyone who had been adopted. Duh. My Uncle Larry (who wasn’t really my uncle) was adopted. He just dropped it casually, into conversation, from time to time. I probably knew other people, but, generally, given the social niceties, you didn’t inquire to closely.

    There are hundreds of the Great Courses, and they cover a huge variety of subjects. They’re available on-line, as DVDs or CDs. They can be pretty pricey, but they’re always running some sale, or another. And they’re great for “buy over $200 and take an additional 25% off!” That sort of thing. But I’ve noticed their “not so great” sales, might offer free shipping. But then their really good sales, don’t offer free shipping and they really stick it to you with the charges. Onto their game. I’ve bought a few, but mostly try and get them through the library. Sometimes, the professors are very good. But sometimes, unwatchable, for some reason or another. LOL, I’m watching one now about the history of Rome, by way of the emperors. The professor is pretty good, but, he’s got a bit of an Irish brogue (not much of a problem) but, he also stutters. Poor man! Stumbling through those three (or more) part Roman names with all those consonants.

    I’ve suspended most of my holds, right now, as I’ve got company coming in a few weeks (cleaning and organizing) and, it is time to do a bit of serious gardening. I had stumbled on an interesting sounding film, on our new DVD list. “The Night Eats the World” (2018). A French zombie movie! Well, it does take place in Paris, but our hero is English. Hmmm. What to say about it, without giving away too many spoilers. It’s a rather quiet movie, not much running around, lopping off heads. I did fast forward through a bit of it. He’s managed to secure a small apartment block and spends a rather Robinson Caruso like time of it. Worth a look? Hmmm.

    The book about Gibbons and his pals is 400+ pages. I’m guessing I’ll be doing a bit of skimming. Lew

    PS: They finally hauled a body, out of Ballarat lake, in the very last episode. I got on line to see if there was going to be another season. Oh, dear. There was a 6th season planned, but it’s been canceled. The Doctor Blake character, the actor, has been swept up in all the Me To, business. Goes to trial, next month. Sigh. One episode spent quit a bit of time in Melbourne. Interesting how they pulled off 1950s, Melbourne. Your trams were very much in evidence.

  30. Chris,

    I said 1mm of ash, didn’t I? How embarrassing! Off by a factor of 10 – we got 1 cm of ash from Mt. St. Helens. The air temperature was about 21C when it hit here, and the stuff had cooled a LOT. It had gotten shot quite high into the jet stream, so was actually cool to the touch. We tried making adobe out of it, but it crumbled. It added some, but not a lot, of nutrients to the garden soil and wasn’t really worth digging into the garden. Plus, it would cake up into the crumbly “almost adobe” and interfere with sprouting plants. Most of the stuff is either part of the ground now, or got washed into the rivers and turned to silt. It was VERY good about caking onto car air filters and making automobiles stop running. So, we wound cloth rags around the air filters and changed rags when they got too thick with ash. After a few weeks this was no longer necessary.

    I agree on professional politicians. Where, oh where, do they actually live life in order to truly KNOW anything or have any real experience?

    Playdates? Sheesh! When we were kids we just found ways to entertain ourselves: bike rides in the woods, hikes, impromptu games that we made up. We only had to tell a parent where we were going, with whom, and when we’d be home. And we were ALWAYS home for meals. Well fed we were, and we never seemed to lack imagination.

    Bus seating? No problem. If school is out on break, I might actually be one of the first three on the 6:40 a.m. bus. With school in session, I’m about #12. Most of the wannabe upper class will NOT ride the bus at the furthest reaches of the route. As a result, most of the morning crowd boards the bus after I do. I’ve heard that the next one, the 7:10 a.m. bus, is pretty full at my stop, however.

    Going home is a different story. It is pretty crowded when I board, as it fills up downtown. I board about 1.5 km from where the bus starts the outbound route. But most of the riders have exited by my stop. There are a lot of regulars, so some of us have formed friendships and chat. We enjoy when others enter the conversations, too, as it’s always surprising who knows something about weird history or science topics.

    Oy, it has been an intense week at the job. Peak busy season is still ongoing. It looks like it will slow down considerably next week, so maybe I can do something other than talk on the phone most of the day. Even the new guy got burned out this week.


  31. Hi Lewis,

    Haha! That’s really funny, and I did note that you slipped in two fine examples of cultural references (thumbs on scales and hands in til’s – who remembers those two machines let alone how to use them? Unfortunately I do – it’s an age thing) The correct terminology these days is Point of Sale machines. 😉 Strangely enough I have very little interactions with such machines and they are extraordinarily complicated science machines. Used to be a time when a store keeper knew what products sold and in what quantity, and they stocked shelves based on their gut feeling, which is a lost art in retail. But then I guess inventories are kept as small as possible these days and managers can sometimes not be owners.

    It is very true, and I see folks selling home raised eggs for about $5 per dozen by the side of the road, and I know that sounds below cost to my ears. The economics of the situation is exacerbated too because of the dreaded Chookflation. Back in the day I used to be able to buy a point of lay chicken for about $20. Nowadays, they’re pushing $50 and $60 per chicken. My mates now raise chickens in an incubator, from the eggs the fertilised girls produce (they keep roosters). I just hope they have spare chickens for me for a bit later in the year. The last batch I got from them have been really good chickens. But Chookflation is getting into feed too. 44 pounds of feed costs me about $57 now (which lasts about 3 to 4 weeks) although I buy feed that is identifiable and I guess I could feed them pellets (whatever they are). Mostly we use all of the eggs, but I do donate some to people who I know appreciate them (there is a story there which I’ll write about for the next blog). Eggs of the sort of quality that I raise cost about $8 per dozen in the shops, although you can buy cheaper – but do you want to becomes the question. Six chickens wouldn’t produce enough eggs for us and I’d have to suggest that the people might not know how to cook from scratch. You can use a lot of eggs in the kitchen.

    The weather Gods heard your words and provided about 3/8th of an inch of rain today, which was more than the 1/25th of inch forecast. Many thanks to you and them! 🙂 Yeah, I reckon you’re onto something with the cold and heat hardiness zones because much like most things, it all depends. For example, the property here is a bit more sheltered and I can grow plants (like some of the more exotic citrus for just one example) that areas not too far from here will be unable to grow.

    Exactly about poor Rosa (I read the end of that story during lunch today!) and Chancey. I suspect they were supplied with hints and inferences, but nobody ever came out directly and told the story like it was, which would have saved everyone a whole bunch of hassle – and then maybe the two of them could have ended up good mates. But then to do otherwise than what they did, would mean a loss of face and an admission that the adults in charge were in fact fallible. I saw that play out too as a kid with a single mum and they all hang onto their pride, although it hardly seemed to me to be worth the effort. I also feel that there may be an element in there that allows the kids in the story to take the heat off the adults by allowing the kids to accept a sort of misplaced blame for the larger story – when really they were a outcome. Oh well.

    Chancey did run with Utopian ideas didn’t he so it wouldn’t be out of character at all. He got his railroad too, and the reactions of the canal folk were fascinating (they didn’t quite use the word disruptor, but you know thoughtss along those lines and all that). And I met Johnny Appleseed in the story today! What a character, and I’m surprised that Rosa did not take up the offer to move in with the group, although yes, yes, talk around the town. Still, things could hardly get worse for poor Rosa…

    I’ll check out the references to the intentional communities. Not sure I’d enjoy living in such a place, although I did notice that there was an article in the newspaper about one that I’d visited last weekend. I saw the photo and name went to myself, I know that bloke, what’s he doing in the paper?

    I received the electric chainsaw in the mail today. What a fascinating story the machine spoke to me. Firstly, it looked virtually unused, but there were some minor burn marks on the bar and the chain looks and feels blunt to me. But the kicker was that it had a replacement electrical plug. So I reckon the story went like this. Bloke gets chainsaw. Uses it. Chain goes blunt. Bloke continues to use machine with blunt chain. Bloke cuts electrical cord with chainsaw accidentally. Bloke not up for ‘um dangerous machine. Bloke sells barely used machine in acknowledgement of the realities of the situation. Chris happy at blokes loss. 🙂

    It is possible that your Uncle dropped in the mention of the adpotion as an opener for a conversation on the subject. But then do you want the ensuing conversation and what is the upside of that for you? Dunno. From time to time I’ve come across people who like to emotionally dump their load on me, and if there is no upside and no future relationship (or long term friendship) then I don’t see the point. It is probably a bit harsh, but some people take, and then take, and then try and take some more.

    I’ll have a look at the Great Courses. Sounds pretty interesting.

    Ah, the in-between seasons are the time of social activities! Where ever has Inge gone? 🙂 I hope her guests are having a lovely time and nice spring weather.

    Dinner with Herve is still on the ‘to watch’ a la carte menu! I have plans to watch it and enjoy a home made pizza. I envy you your skimming skills. It is a struggle for me to do that.

    Glad they finally managed to drag a body from the lake, and yes, I’d been aware of the actor’s situation, but don’t know anything about it at all, and I try not to get involved in such business from any angle. You can call me Mr Teflon (TM Pending)! I’ve known good people, bad people, and indifferent people and they’re all people with all of the attendant gear that comes with that. My family is no great shakes, so I see no reason to poke into other peoples affairs.



  32. Hello Chris
    The final 3 leave tomorrow and I had hoped to emerge from the whirlpool. One arm was sticking out and the top of my head. It is not to be. Daughter’s partner has been ill here with some virus and now I have it and feel dreadful. Daughter, Son and grandson have gone out to lunch. Partner and I feel too ill. So I may be quiet for a bit longer than originally planned!

    @ Lew
    Thanks. That was nice.


  33. Hi Chris,

    I saw your comment over on ecosophia regarding the expected life of your batteries but I am responding here. You suggested there may be only a few appliances you would critically need to be powered by electricity.

    I am wondering whether you are facing an interesting optimization problem. At what point does it no longer make sense to supply the distributed electrical network throughout your house by batteries if you are only using a few appliances?

    If you are only using one, say refrigeration, would it make sense to switch to a direct powering of the fridge from the inverter (if possible?) when the sun shines (when the fridge likely needs the power)? In the case of pumps, you get most of the pumping done during the day and switch to a header tank up the hill if you need water pressure during the night?

    Then one starts to have crazy ideas about whether the whole business can’t be de-electrified. I have a stupid example. I was recently witness to the electrical failings of a retractable awning. Probably some loose connection or the motor is burnt out or the electronics in the silly remote control are dead. But the awning would last 100 years (assuming no 100-year gusts) if operated with a crank and gear arrangement!

  34. late to the fray again!
    regarding analogies for the responses to our predicament:
    There is an older and rather less used saying here that a useless effort is like a poot in a whirlwind. The old saying does not really capture the point that some useless actions are insincere window dressing, meant to deflect or misdirect.

    So much has been said about the peculiar psychology of our western societies reaction ( or nonreaction) to ecological collapse, not sure I can add more words right now.

    The 23.5 degree tilt has us in springtime here, so have been busy planting more trees, chipping brush for mulch, and spreading said mulch around young trees, to give them a fighting chance against the annual grasses that are starting to green and poke up. Also starting garden seeds in trays, hardening off the earliest plants, and generally shaking off winter.

    Just keep becoming more personally resilient and self sufficient.

  35. Hi Chris,

    The farm land around us is somewhat rolling fortunately as I believe solar farms need to be located on flat land.

    It’s just the top layer of soil where the seeds are planted that’s a bit dry though we received a bit of rain last night. Tomorrow the forecast is quite cold with rain, 4 – 8 inches of snow and freezing temperatures at night.

    My sister was quite under the weather with a bad cold but she had to keep working as she only has this week off. Her third husband who has a painting business was there painting the kitchen and doing something with the cabinets so all the kitchen stuff was in the living room. We packed most of the day and hauled boxes to a storage locker. I never realized how much stuff she had packed into that small house including years of National Geographic magazines and her old textbooks from college. She was quite insistent that they were all moving with her. Not only is she moving into a much larger house but one that has no bedroom or full bath on the first floor. Now she and her fiance are in their early 60’s so one would think that at that age having those on a first floor might just be a priority. I did have to bite my tongue quite a few times. I did get a Downton Abbey DVD set that she didn’t want and a mealworm feeder for bluebirds that she had purchased in error so there’s that. She also informed me that we are to refer to our 9 year old nephew who lives in Portland by only gender neutral pronouns now. She was berated on FB by a friend of our niece (not this particular sister’s daughter) when she had referred to him as “he”. So I asked what do we call him, “it”? No the correct form is “they” the friend told her even though my sister pointed out it’s a plural pronoun. At any rate this will be a fun topic of discussion at the dreaded baby shower tomorrow as we enlighten other family members.

    I wanted to mention that I read the book series you and Lew are reading about a year and a half ago and greatly enjoyed it. In fact your discussion makes me want to read it again. Someone here recommended it – maybe Inge?

    Speaking of poo – both Leo and Salve rolled in some yesterday though not at the same time and not of the same type. We’re a bit mystified as they can’t get into the pigs and we haven’t seen too much other wildlife on the property.
    Speaking of pigs – the one that was constipated never got better despite many calls to the vet and the administration of various remedies and died a few days ago. Personally I think he came in that condition. Anyway Doug picked up a replacement this morning from the same place. At least the guy only charge 1/2 price for this one.

    So glad the editor is on the mend and you finally got a bit of rain.

    Have you considered adding kale to soup or stew?

    On a sad note, about a week ago a child was reported missing two towns away from us by his parents. Turns out the parents murdered him in a very gruesome manner and he was found buried next to the Land Conservancy’s main headquarters. The story has had national exposure much of the last week. It is just beyond any understanding how parents could do something like that to a child.


  36. @Pam
    My mother could only make scrambled eggs and fudge when she got married.

    My husband commuted on the train to Chicago for quite a few years and as we are the last stop on the line it was a long ride. All the regulars had their own seats and woe to the occasional rider who mistakenly took one of them. They had regular parties on the way home on Friday – sometimes complete with appetizers.


  37. Yo, Chris – Over here (or at least the companies I worked for) the whole cash wrap (counter) was called “point of sale.” Lots of frequently changing “impulse items” clustered about. We talked a long time ago, about the front 20 feet of the store being called the “Golden 20 Feet.” But your right about cash registers, these days. Anytime I can, I trot out my old chestnut, that they look like surplus off the Star Ship Enterprise.

    Well, I’m really happy that I finally found a dependable source of “good” eggs. I pay $3 a dozen, which I think is really cheap. Which reminds me to mention to my source to not be shy about renegotiating the price. Once in awhile, I have a surplus and pass them onto my neighbor, HRH’s mum. if she doesn’t need them, I pass them along to my mate, Scott. All people who really appreciate a good egg and know the difference.

    Ooops! I thought you were past the mention of Johnny Appleseed, when I mentioned it. LOL. And I almost slipped up again, as I thought you were done with the book, not just the Rosa and Chancey part.

    Do machines frequently speak to you? If so, perhaps you should have a chat with a professional …. :-). Seriously, though, I see the story a bit differently. Because blokes hold onto stuff, even useless stuff they don’t use. I think he managed to cut off his leg (and the plug), bled out, and his widow sold the chain saw. Didn’t want to have the reminder around, and besides, she had TOLD him it was a bad idea, when he got the darn thing.

    As I remember, Uncle Larry (who was not really my uncle, or even a blood relation) … it came up in relation to something else. And, my memory was that it wasn’t a conversation opener, but just a fact … that he didn’t find very interesting.

    Gray Hound Buss Syndrome. Something I heard, maybe even back in the 1960s. Now sometimes called TMI (Too Much Information). There’s probably a pill, for that. :-). The idea was that you’d be taking a bus somewhere, and someone would plop down next to you and just unload the angst ridden story of their lives. The payoff for the un-load-ee is that they get all this carp off their chest’s to an absolute stranger, that they’ll never see again. Ah, but here’s the rub. Sometimes you might hear a story, worthy of a novel (or, at least short story.) How many stories have started something like, “I was taking the train from Glasgow to Inverness when a rather ordinary man entered the compartment and sat opposite of me.” :-).

    I have often recommended that people who get too many guests that overstay their welcomes to get a sampler. A sampler (in case they call them something else, besides rubbish, in Australia) is a stitched, needlework motto, usually framed and put on view. A certain kind of person is great for splashing mottos about, as decor. This sampler should say “Fish and Guests Smell After Three Days.” It should be placed in the bog, at the eye level of the position people assume for the traditional use of said room. Just so it won’t be missed.

    I watched “Glass”, last night. Hmm. Night Shyamalan. Really the end of a trilogy (quadilogy?). Interesting premiss. Part of the problem may have been (to me) that I don’t particularly care for the actress who plays the psychiatrist. Sorry I can’t supply her name, but it wasn’t on the box in any print that was readable. Grating and high strung. Wouldn’t watch it again. Can’t recommend it.

    I keep forgetting to mention that the book “Just Enough” has a wonderful, illustrated (get out your magnifying glass) 14 page section on the cultivation and processing of rice. Sure, they did wetland rice and you want to do dry, but I think you’ll find some useful tips. Unless you figure out a way to flood one of the terraces :-). Lew

  38. Hi DJ,

    Not to worry, and I’m amazed that 10mm of ash would make it as far east as Spokane and then as far west as Chehalis. Thanks for sharing your experience and that would have been surreal to have to deal with. I’d never have considered the problem with air filters, but yeah, wow, air filters are in all sorts of machines. Recall the third filter theory! You reminded me that a few years back we had a wet and hot summer, and a huge locust population built up in the rivers area in the north of the state and then began migrating south. They grow a lot of grains up in that part of the country… Cars coming down south from that area had fine wire mesh on the front of them to stop the locusts from getting into the engine bay – and thus also into the air filters. It is one thing to speak of a plague of locusts, it’s another thing altogether to see it in the flesh (like volcanic ash falls). Anyway, I never bothered to protect the air filter in the old dirt mouse or dirt rat, and one day I looked up the drive way which faces north and into the sunlight and I could see the plentiful locusts bouncing around from one spot to another. Thought to myself that this was not a good sign. But, the local birds that live here, ate every single one of them.

    Exactly, with no practical real world experience, what would they know of red tape and the outcomes of their proclamations? On the other hand they know lots of strategies. I’m put in mind of the ancient Asian saying that: “Talk does not cook the rice”. But try telling that lot…

    Hehe! Food is good, and it is also a good motivator. I suggested at a talk today on seed saving and plant propagation, that hunger is indeed a very good motivator.

    Public transport can be a bit like that. I took the country train into the big smoke today, and the particular train originated far to the northern-most extent of the line at the delightfully named town of Swan Hill. In a true ‘White Swan’ event (recall that things are upside down here) that particular train is usually packed, but I just stood for the trip in. What doesn’t kill you and all that business… Usually I can get a seat in on the trains. Mostly off peak they are pretty quiet, but I once had an assistant in my team when last I worked in the big bad corporate world, who travelled on this same train line but began much further north than here. She told me that the trains were a similar experience to what you wrote about people knowing each other. After leaving the job, I occasionally used to bump into her at the massive big smoke station of Southern Cross (an impressive structure) and she always gave me a big hug which was nice. The last I heard of her she had moved overseas back to Scotland. She had a strong accent and the poor editor could never understand a single word she said, but I’ve never been graced with a more switched on assistant accountant than her. The funny thing about the accent was that her relatives back in Scotland thought that she had acquired an Australian accent.

    Peak busy season down here too. People go on holidays and begin asking the tough questions. You are welcome to a couple of thousand leaf change tourists if you’d take them? They’re going cheap!



  39. Hi Inge,

    I assume that the arm and head were a swimming reference? Anyway, the analogy works that way. It is not good to be ill, and you have my sympathies, and I hope that you get better soon. The editor has been sick with a cold for about a week now (which covered half of the Easter break). I’ve been running around like a crazy person keeping the house afloat and I’m feeling a bit tired and worn out, but in otherwise good health. I hope you guests are keeping you warm, well fed, and with as many cups of tea as you require? The editor has enjoyed a lemon and honey tea during her bout of illness and I recommend it highly. Not to nag you, but I do hope you are keeping your fluids up young lady! 🙂



  40. Hi crowandsheep,

    Thanks for the reply and thoughts. I’m just not sure about the situation as it appears to be a predicament rather than a problem – and those questions have no answers other than how one responds.

    From what I’m aware of, there are photovoltaic panel controllers that can run a water pump without a battery, but I have a suspicion that they include a capacitor, which is an electronic device that sort of works like a battery and smooths out the peaks and troughs of electricity. Such devices are unfortunately prone to failure in the long term because they dry out.

    In the circumstances that you describe, the devices could pump water up hill to a header water tank whenever sunlight is available. The old timers used to use wind driven water pumps to move water around and when I was young they were a common sight. But nowadays, not so much. Water is a complex issue. Back in the day, and after many long years of logging since the 1860’s (it was the proximity to the steam train line into the big smoke) this area used to be known for its berries and potatoes. But few, if any people grow edible plants up here now. And that is a story that I wonder about. Do you see many people growing edible plants in your part of the world?

    Oh yeah, some of those awnings arrangements here have crank handles on the inside of the house. I’ll tell you a funny story about the battery room door. When I first constructed the door to the room, I had to place a fire rated roller shutter over the door. It was operated by a switch that was inside the house. Up and down the roller door used to go, which was all very easy. Until the power went out one day. With the power off, I had to reflect upon why such an arrangement was a very stupid idea. If only because it was actually pretty dumb – from the wonderful teacher of hindsight.



  41. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the kind words and sage wisdom!

    Yeah, there is a lot of green-washing going on, and society is incredibly complex and it becomes difficult or uncomfortable to stand back and see the big picture. To quote another old saying / analogy: “couldn’t see the forest for the trees”.

    I’m not sure what I can add either, I just try my best and look at how these things play out around us all. I’ll leave the long term projections to people who are better at presenting that side of the subject than I.

    Oh yeah, the grass gets feral at your time of the year. And from experiments that I’ve done here, the grasses make a huge difference to the growth in trees. You might notice that I too have been doing a similar job of late (and finished two days ago) and I’ve been mulching around each of the three hundred fruit trees. All up it took about 13 cubic yards of mulch and manures. Just for your interest with the trees, even though plenty of them go deciduous (some don’t) and get heaps of chilling hours during the winter, they continue to grow and put on wood – probably because winters here are warmer than your part of the world.

    Thank you for the timely reminder, and it is an excellent course of action.



  42. @ Inge:

    I am so sorry to hear that you are sick. Please take the best care of yourself.


  43. Hi Margaret,

    I’m glad that you don’t have to have the solar farms in your neck of the woods, because I have come to the conclusion that people live in rural areas to get away from industrial scale installations, not live next to them – thus the ire directed at wind farms etc. With the solar farms, as far as I understand the problem, it all depends upon the aspect of the land. Here north facing would be good, but up your way south facing would be better for solar panels, to give them a bit of winter edge (there isn’t as much in there though as you’d expect). The land here faces south west, but in a hot and dry summer, there are benefits with that aspect.

    A bloke I know today was telling me that a lot of these sorts of panel farms at remote distances from the end users are struggling to make financial sense, because the local grid is unable to transport the output from such large farms to the users and so the output gets downgraded. A best case scenario would be a solar panel farm in the big smoke – but is that going to happen I ask you? In the blog this week I did a back of envelope calculation which worked out to be 60 panels for a car travelling not too unreasonable a distance. So much output would fry the batteries here, they just couldn’t handle it. And what roof space could handle so many panels?

    Nooo… I do hope you get some temperate weather soon. More snow, sounds a bit like a very delayed summer.

    I feel a bit naughty laughing, but you sure made me laugh with the paragraph on your sister’s activities of late. I have no idea what to make of it all. What I want to know: Is it progress, or is it some sort of performance art?

    Hope you don’t mind me laughing about it? Not to worry, the kids will be alright, and as long as they aren’t the ones requesting the, how did you describe it, plural pronoun? It is a timely reminder that the English language is a fluid beast and if the perpetrators of such gender neutral talk win their game, they’ll in fact lose, because the words used in the game will assume its old meaning, pretty quickly. Anyway, on a positive note, I myself heard a lot of strange talk from adults when I was a kid, some of it directed at me, and all it did was improve my critical thinking skills because the talk was just so bonkers. Although I doubt that was the intentions of the adults! Oh well…

    I can’t recall when first I heard of the series of books by Conrad Richter and by whom, and your observation would not surprise me at all – but it sure is a great read. I find it very hard to put the books down. And sometimes I’m sitting in a cafe with my nose deep in the book (with a coffee and muffin) and I have to recall that I’m meant to be elsewhere other than in that time and place…

    Naughty Leo and Salve. It might just be the time of year for canines to indulge in the worst of their desires. Ollie did it again two days ago, but this time was hosed off and then we sprayed him with perfume. He now smells like a little unhappy flower – and the smell is giving me hay-fever… But every day was becoming a bit of an over indulgence from the cheeky young scamp.

    Sorry to hear about the pig, and it was nice that the guy offered you a replacement for half price. Sometimes, farm animals just don’t recover, and you never know what happened to them. I’ve found that it is more likely that sick chickens will die rather than getting better, and I guess that is how things work out.

    Thanks for the idea about the kale. That one is an issue with the editors taste, but we have plenty of greens for most of the year, so I’ll let that one slide, but it probably is a loss.

    Sorry to hear about the child and that your local land conservancy headquarters was tied up in the sad sorry mess. Some people can just lose the plot, or they’re not wired right in the first place, but I have no idea what would make them do such a thing. I hope that flowers are left at the gruesome spot as an offering to the short lived spirit of the child.



  44. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! Thanks for the laugh about cash registers. So true. And the old ones looked like they’d fit in on the original series! 🙂 Funny stuff. I saw today a new one of them working, well sort of working, as they apologised for the machines and handed me a sheet of paper with which to record my lunch choices. Someone amusingly suggested that they should switch the system off and then re-boot it! Very funny.

    Hey, I went into the big smoke today and conducted a talk on seed saving, but I also took the talk into the complex world of plant propagation in general. It was a good fun talk (hopefully), and I hope I kept them all entertained, or at least engaged. I have to admit that I usually take along chocolates or biscuits to such a talk, but over the past week I’ve been so flat out with the editor being sick and all, that I just ran out of time for such niceties. A long time ago on another talk for work matters, I began gently chucking chocolates at people and I deliberately got a few of them in the head (top shot!) It sure did wake them up and get their attention, although it was possibly not good thing from a work safety point of view, but it was a few years ago and things were a bit different on such fronts and there is a case to say that people were not so uptight.

    Good eggs at $3 dozen is good value and you’ve scored well. Yeah, there isn’t much point in giving quality eggs to people who don’t much care about the difference. The chickens are moulting at the moment, so I’ve had to – shock / horror – purchase eggs. I always buy them from the local kid (although he might be an adult now as I saw an article in the state newspaper on page 2 about him doing his final year at school, and I just can’t recall how long ago that was) who runs the commercial scale egg farm near to here. He’s a serious go-getter and the eggs are as good as what the chickens here produce. I’ll bet HRH enjoys an egg? Never seen a dog that doesn’t appreciate eggs, but there will be one somewhere.

    Strangely enough, I read an article in the physical newspaper today titled: “The Track Less Travelled” about the intentional community Moora Moora that has been going since 1974, but I can’t find it on the web. It is a bit of shame as it spoke about the history of the place and some of the people living there. About a decade and a half ago I visited the place to see what it was all about. One of the people there were nice enough to take us on a tour of the place and spoke about how it all worked. They have regular open days, and we were the only ones that turned up for that particular day, but it was winter and people feel that the winters here are cold (you may laugh now!) It was a long while ago.

    No, Rosa has just been put in her bury hole, and Chancey cracked it and became an editor of a muck raking paper in a larger city, and it was intimated that he had formed a relationship with an older woman – well done him – and no longer wanted to spend time with the family. And that was where I got too. Johnny Appleseed was an intense character who gave some comfort to the unhappy Chancey, who true to character was ungrateful as to the source of the comfort.

    I read all of the comments on Ecosophia today on the train into and then out again of the big smoke. My, my, the discussion went places! But it was all very civil. I enjoyed your later additions to the word play. I felt the need to add in the epithet: Don’t be a Galah! Galah . Fun birds and they really do muck around a lot.

    Haha! The birds may attempt communication with me, but the machines are silent. I’d be very disturbed if they did begin speaking to me. From what I’ve seen of sci-fi films, they’d be deeply unhappy and/or psychotic. You have to admit that it has been a bit of a theme. Even Robbie the Robot from Lost in Space seemed pretty sinister to me. I have noted that some people like talking to machines, but it is more of a master-slave relationship than the machine giving the human a right earful. Too funny! I can’t argue with you – and she was right in the end, you know! 🙂 I tend to maintain machines, but when they get beyond that, I either send them out for repairs, or send them packing on their way. No graveyard of failed projects here, oh, except for the projects that I’ve completely stuffed up. I better get on and fix them.

    Interesting. Well, probably he just wanted to let you know and then let the subject drop there. He’s owning up to the subject and treating it just like a thing. I mean what does it matter? I’ve heard of people going to epic lengths to track down their biological parents (or worse still, donors – who no longer appear to have any anonymity down here despite earlier promises of the kind) and I’d be really freaked out if some creepy teenager suggested I was his/her dad. It is hardly a likely circumstance, but still fortunately for this situation there is DNA testing if it comes down to such things.

    Hehe! I have one ear (or maybe both) alert for such stories. They’re grist for the mill, so to speak. Scored a doozey the other day about some people complaining about their lunch.

    Hey, weren’t we discussing the whole: “Fish and Guests Smell After Three Days” business a long while back? The saying has the ring of familiarity about it, but for the life of me my memory utterly fails me. It is a great saying though, and yeah people can seriously over stay their welcome. It is a great spot to put the reminder too! Hard to miss. I’m very social, but I really enjoy my quiet time and need it to recover.

    Oh, Glass, yeah cool. I actually enjoyed the film Unbreakable, but hadn’t known that it was part of a trilogy. Was Split good too? Acting is all about acting isn’t it, and some actors are cast in roles that might not appeal to tastes. The new Avengers film is getting mixed reviews, no doubt it will be fine.

    Thanks for mentioning the book, and I’m looking forward to receiving it in the mail and getting stuck into it. Had to laugh, flooding a paddy with water! Such profligate usage of water is beyond me. 🙂 There are a lot of unhappy folks along some of the river systems up north that are unhappy about cotton farmers for similar reasons. And in drought years that story doesn’t end well.



  45. Hi Chris,
    Well we could always end up with a wind farm which might be worse.

    Well the worsening forecast has gotten me out of the baby shower. Now it’s supposed to start snowing earlier and become quite windy. Heavy wet snow with high winds makes for very treacherous driving. I am ten miles from town now mostly on open roads. Doug is definitely not an alarmist but even he said this was not a day to be traveling. The shower is quite a distance but my sister who lives in town and I were going to take the train but it’s the getting home from the train station that’s the issue. She was quite relieved we weren’t going.

    Please feel free to laugh. I laugh all the time at the goings on of my family.

    Leo rolled again yesterday as well. We clean the dogs up with soap and water and then have a deodorizing pet spray which helps but they hate it. I wouldn’t like perfume – the spray is better. Did I ever tell you about the time when one of our dogs got majorly skunked just before we all had to go to school/work? She never even got back into the house but Doug had pushed her with his shoe and that was all it took. We all ended up smelling skunky. My oldest daughter was so embarrassed. I was teaching at the time and told the kids what had happened apologizing for the smell. I did have some perfume and used some but the kids all agreed that using the perfume made it worse.

    The new pig is of the same size and after a bit of a tussle the pecking order is established and all is well. However the weather sure isn’t optimal for them. I agree about chickens.
    The next door neighbors just got a dozen chicks so I can get my chicken fix. As they are a family of eight I doubt there will too many extra eggs though. There’s a women two miles down the road who sells eggs and meat at the farmers market. I can pick up eggs from her for $5/dozen which is pretty reasonable.


  46. Yo, Chris – Another consequence of the volcanic ash was that every ATM in Portland, rolled over and died. Besides the vehicles and ATM’s, I’m sure there were a lot of other side effects. Those are just the one’s that stand out in my mind. I did my due diligence and the disposable face mask I need for wildfire season is an N95. I see our local big box hardware store has plenty in stock, right now. I’ll pick some up, next time I’m down that way. Stash them away.

    You record you’re lunch choices? LOL. More shifting the work onto the customer. Oh, well. Probably cuts down on “I didn’t order that!”, go-arounds.

    Seed saving and plant propagation is always a worthy topic for a presentation. So, did your recent foray into the comedy festival give you any ideas for jazzing up the delivery? 🙂

    I don’t know if HRH has ever had an egg, or not. Her Mum is pretty careful about “treats”. And, it commendably shows. She’s not a fat little lap dog. She gets exercise, seems to get enough, but maybe, not. Her Mum can’t negotiate the stairs, anymore, so sometimes I run her (the dog, just to be clear. Not the Mum.) up and down a few flights. She likes that, but I keep a close eye on her. She lets me know when she’s had enough.

    Yup, it’s been quit a week over at Mr. Greer’s site. Profanity and gender issues with forays into … adult entertainment. As much as he got under my skin, I kind of miss Shane. Although there probably would have been a lot of running of the rails, and comments not put through. 🙂 Galah works. Interesting how animals and animal behavior figures in so much “profanity.”

    Paternity (or the lack there of) is getting to be a pretty lively topic. What with all the new DNA testing, individuals are able to do an end run around protective authorities. There were the five siblings who discovered that they were all not full siblings, but half siblings … by five different fathers. None of them their “real” father. Mum and Dad are gone by now, so the entire story will never be told. Then there’s the fertility doctor who said the … material all came from smart grad students. But, it was all his own. They’ve uncovered 50 some half siblings, and the count grows monthly.

    Not interested in seeing the new Avenger movie. 182 minutes and no intermission. I’d either have to smuggle in a bucket or dehydrate myself to dangerous levels. 22 films over 11 years. Break out the flow charts. I saw an amusing article that started off, “I may have missed a film or two, and I have questions.” In my case, I may have seen a film or two, but I don’t have questions. I guess I was lucky enough to see the few that fairly well stood alone. I saw the two with the band of intergalactic rogues with the little tree fellow that rode around in people’s pockets. Interesting. In the Fantastic Beasts films, there is also a little tree fellow who rides around in the heroes pocket. Little tree people must be du jour, lately.

    But getting back to the other end of the time continuum, Rome, I wound up the Great Course on Roman Emperors, last night. I’d heard of the “Crisis of the Third Century”, but never had seen it laid out in as clear a manner. The Severin Dynasty collapsed in 235. Over the next 50 years there were 21 legitimate emperors (one for only 20 days), 38 claimants, and 11 rulers of two sucessionist states. Fun times.

    The professor often bemoans the lack of sources, and that we must often fall back on nothing more than coins and the occasional inscription. LOL. That may be 39 claimants, as two coins of another fellow have recently turned up.

    The professor’s theory (and, given the number of possibilities, it’s all theory) is that it was all a circular feedback loop. External threats (barbarians, Persians, etc.) came at times of internal weakness, which increased more opportunistic external threats, which created more internal weakness. Wash, rinse, repeat. But then, the occasional strong emperor came along (say, Constantine) and managed to keep the whole thing rolling for another 200 years. Lew

  47. @ Marg,

    Friday parties on the commuter train? Cool! It is amazing the friendships that can develop during the commute.


  48. Chris,

    Locusts? Ugh! At least the birds were happy, the locusts disappeared, and you were spared from the plague of locusts.

    “Talk does not cook the rice”. Brilliant quote. I’ll add that one to the arsenal. It fits right in with “You are your deeds”, “Actions speak louder than words”, “If you’re gonna talk the talk, you better walk the walk”, etc.

    Hunger is, indeed, a very good motivator. I speak from both experience and observation.

    I used to have a bunch of online friends from Scotland or who were first generation born in the USA or Canada. The message board we frequented had one rule: “Ilka post hid tae be scrieved in modran Scots leid.” (Every post had to be written in modern Scots language.) And a couple of the guys from Glasgow would phone via Skype periodically. That did NOT sound like anything resembling English the first 2 conversations, but I figured it out. Plus, Scots and English are separate languages and developed differently and from slightly different sources.

    Anyhow, I picked up the lingo and got so I could talk sorta like a Weegie, aka a Glasgow native. Then…I used to ice skate at the public rink once or twice a week, and often skated laps while conversing with an older gentleman from Glasgow. He was amazed that I had no trouble understanding him. I was amazed that I spoke like a normal American and didn’t speak Weegie back, which most likely would’ve had him thinking I was mocking him. I finally did explain to him how I could understand him.

    Our favorite server at a restaurant was also from Glasgow. I told her one evening that my wife wanted a “Glesca kiss”, which is basically a knuckle sandwich. Our dear server looked at me, looked at my wife, ordered a few expensive things for us on my tab that she knew my wife would enjoy, then said in full Scots, “Och, laddie, nivver be daein sicklike agin oor MY Glesca kiss…” Well, the rest is deleted on account of this being a family forum. And only the server and I understood exactly what she was threatening me with.

    My sister had a close friend move to Australia with her parents about 1987. She was here visiting for my sister’s wedding 4 years later. At the dinner the night before the wedding, she was talking in a thick Australian accent. Now, I’d listened to Radio Australia and ABC broadcasts on shortwave for years, so answered her in a thick Australian accent, and told her (in private) that we all knew that she was American and she wasn’t fooling anyone and was acting dumber than she usually did, which was usually pretty dumb and rude. So she quite pretending and we all had a good time.

    Okay, mate, send me a couple thousand leaf tourists, and I’ll forward the endless whiny phone calls to you!


  49. Hi Chris and the gang,

    Apologies for the belated comments, I am still here. In body at least :-p I have also seen a lot of comments to the effect, “All I need is a Tesla and some roof-top solar panels….”. I guess if you only drive a few km a day it might work? I think I already told you that the battery pack is 75kw in one of those. A standard wall outlet does not charge them very quickly at all 🙂 On the other hand, a small scooter or e-bike is very viable with roof-top solar. I used a petrol scooter when living in Laos, it had a little compartment under the seat for your helmet (or groceries), a sensible little platform and mudguard for your feet, and it even had a little hook under the dash to hang a bag of goodies. It was possible to carry a full 24 bottle case of beer on the foot step (100% safely) although of course I would never do such a thing 🙂 Automatic gearbox, comfy seat. So easy to run down the road to the shops, park on the sidewalk and be back before you would have reversed a car out of the driveway.

    I love discussions about the fall of the Roman empire – so pertinent to our times! The best explanation I read is that over time the governing and social institutions become corrupt, complex, brittle and unable to deal effectively with challenges. The line of reasoning being, famines, invading barbarians and so forth are all well and good. But the empire was able to deal with those in the past, so something must change over time to reduce its effectiveness. I think today of the hoops and ticket clipping that occurs just for someone to construct shelter, or open a business. The laws, regulations and intermediaries just keep multiplying. At some point, the costs outweigh the benefits, and it becomes easier to just stay out of the system. At that point, your empire is doomed and it is just a matter of time.


  50. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for the sake encouragement. I have not tasted it yet, but it smells the part. I have started on the second round of rice and reckon I will have a solid 750ml from a 1kg bag of rice once it ferments. Is that about the yield you guys get?

    The recipe is so easy, how did other people manage to stuff it up? Do you guys dry out some of the rice mash to use later as yeast starter?


  51. Hi Lew,

    Your run-down warehouse, op-shop business is not a crazy one. There is a living to be made there, on the margins at least. And hey – warehouse loft apartments are pretty trendy too!

    I rolled the dice and ordered the first 4 skystone books without knowing if I would like them – I think I got mine from Abebooks, which I guess is used by many of the same eBay sellers? Apparently it is all owned by Amazon now anyway.

    You have done well to keep away from Game of Thrones this long – the books are genuinely good, and the TV show was, for the first few seasons at least, good too. I would keep away now though – there is a non-zero chance the author will not complete the series, and in certain circles, people mutter dark things about his health and how long each book takes to write…


  52. Hi Margaret,

    Oh yeah, wind turbines are a hot button issue in rural areas. The heavy hitters around here somehow got legislation enacted that prohibited the wind turbines in this particular council area. People say they make a low level sound, and I don’t know anything about that, but having several 330ft towers looming over my property, with my neighbours making heaps of mad cash would probably really annoy me.

    How good did that turn out? The weather was surely on your side on this day!!! Hope you are keeping warm, and your winter was bad, but it looks like your spring is turning out to be cold too. How are the seedlings coping with the weather? Fortunately, being a bloke I have the ultimate excuse for not having to attend a baby shower. However, there is often great pressure applied to attend kids first birthday parties, which I make a point of dodging. Certainly it would be hard for people to reciprocate favour!

    Hehe! And naughty Leo. Yeah, same, same, the whole point of the deodorant applied to the miscreants is to ensure that they don’t enjoy the smell and it is a reminder that they get to carry around with them. Ollie hates the perfume, and I do too, I just want him to stop it. So far, Ollie has been clean for two days. That sounds a bit dodgy, but wombat poo is very pungent. But far out, it has nothing on a skunk! Your story inspired me to watch a few dog meets skunk videos on the interweb. Far out! The kids were probably right about the smell you know! Thanks for the laughs. 🙂

    Glad to hear that the new piglet has established itself in the pecking order. Are the earlier piglets all of the same litter?

    Yeah, a dozen chickens and a family of eight certainly indicates to me that there will be no over-supply of eggs, unless they don’t know how to cook and then you might be onto something. Some days in late spring / early summer some chickens lay an egg a day, and last year there were times we were getting a dozen eggs a day. I like to keep about between 14 and 16 chickens which feels about the right number for our egg supply. $5 per dozen is a good price – especially if you know the person raising the chickens. I won’t get any eggs now until after the winter solstice has passed. It galls me to have to purchase eggs, but what do you do?



  53. Hi elbows,

    Nice to hear from you, and I hope that you are getting some late autumn rain in your part of the world? The past four months has been crazy hot and dry here. It looks like some rain will fall later in the coming week and hopefully next summer won’t be as dire.

    Thanks! Nasturtiums are really lovely, and I quite enjoy the taste of the leaves and seeds. They’re a real summer survivor too.

    Best wishes for a productive winter garden.



  54. Hi Lewis,

    The story about the volcanic ash and the ATM’s was interesting. I’ve noticed that as things get more complicated, there are sometimes these sorts of unusual and unexpected outcomes. There has been talk in the media about running some mines using robots and eventually becoming autonomous: No one behind the wheel: The new workforce driving Australia’s mines. I would think that sooner or later, the price of oil will again rise, and perhaps by comparison human controllers of these things won’t be considered so expensive. Dunno.

    The smoke from wildfires is a bit of a strain on a person’s respiratory health. The poor editor came down sick with a cold, and there were some afternoons I was quite short of breath. The masks are probably not a bad idea. I’ll be thinking about bushfires over the next few months because burn off restrictions look set to be eased on Wednesday (I believe). There is always a lot to do.

    Hehe! Yeah, it really did happen. The business normally hands you a card that records your purchases and you present the card at the till and pay on the way out. It is a large place, but the food is made fresh in front of you, including the pasta which you can see being made. But the system had really hit the skids and so we went back to paper. Paper works just fine.

    I would have liked to have woven a story relating to seed saving throughout the talk but the only stories I could come up with were sad stories. How do you tell a funny or even an engaging story about the concentration of seed ownership, and/or the loss of skills in the area of seed saving on farms? And then there is the economic pressure to ensure that every square foot of land is productive on a farm – regardless of the climactic conditions. Nah, I just kept it to basics.

    Exercise is the way to go for dogs. Whenever I see one of the fluffies lounging around and enjoying themselves for too long, I give them reason to be on the move. It does their health no good to lounge around and Sir Poopy was the laziest dog that I’ve ever come across, but when he put his mind to things, he accomplished canine greatness. I reckon it took about four or five years off his life. HRH is in good hands. Years and years ago back in the big smoke, I was walking the boss dog “Old Fluffy” and some stranger came up to me and said, “your dog is fat”. I was rather taken aback by the unasked for and rather rude observation, so I replied (rather lamely): “she’s just fluffy”. And then the person doubled down and said: “Yeah, she’s fluffy, but she’s also fat”. I walked off. What is wrong with people?

    It has been quite the week over there! 🙂 I’m not so sanguine about porn, because it is a pacifying tool – although most people don’t recognise it for what it is. Do you have any people at the club seeking guidance about that particular addiction? Yeah both Shane and Bill could certainly push the boundaries of a discussion, and they’re both sadly gone. I have a no tolerance policy with trolls (a minor nuisance) and all of the crazy marketing stuff (a major pain) that I see in the comments section here, Ecosophia would be like moths to a flame. No doubts about it that there are a lot of Galah’s out there! 🙂

    Doesn’t it make you wonder what kind of person hands over their DNA to be read by a corporation and then pays for the privilege for doing so? That story makes no sense whatsoever to me. And yes, it is a fascinating minefield to plumb, but people are giving their information to a private company that basically data-mines it and sells it. All sorts of interesting stories are coming out of that little web of strangeness. No doubt that if I were tested, I’d probably have at least 6% Neanderthal! It would explain a thing or two, like where I enjoy living! 😉 Hey, speaking of which, I may have mentioned to you previously that long ago I looked at another block of land before buying this one? Maybe? Anyway, it was flat, fertile and had a spring. All good things, but it was another 30 minutes away from the big smoke, so we decided against purchasing it and ended up here. I noticed in the newspaper yesterday that there was an advertisement for the sale of that block of land. Someone had poured a lot of money into the buildings on that property, and it was being offered for sale at what I consider to be an exorbitant price on a walk in and walk out basis, so there is a serious tale of woe there.

    3 hours for an Avengers film? Is this the final installment? 22 films in 11 years. Too much for my poor brain! It’s the Neanderthal component you know that stops me from fully understanding such a complex story line!!! Hehe! I’m going to have hours of fun with that one… Actually, no I won’t I better get writing… It is Sunday already!

    Little tree folks sounds nice to me. Some say that the ancient ones are still among us!

    Honestly, the machinations of the late Roman Empire sound an awful lot like our politics down here. It is not for no reason that internationally we have been amusingly referred to as 7-11 (seven Prime Ministers in 11 years). If all we have to rack up is another 15 Prime Ministers in 39 years to beat the Roman’s score, mate, I’m not saying that we might do that easy, but we could give it the good Aussie go. Hehe!

    Did the good Professor manage to dissect exactly what Constantine’s policies were that kept the good ship afloat for another 200 hundred years? I don’t see a lot of vision being expressed by our politicians.



  55. Yo, Chris – Well, it looks like oil is going up in the not to distant future …


    What I found more interesting than the article was some of the comments. Quit a few of them were “Electric cars !!! (blah, blah, save us all, blah, blah). And, thanks to your fine training, I’m immediately thinking, “Electricity from where?” They never seem to take that small leap to the next logical question.

    Hmmm. I just read an article about complicated systems and unexpected failure. I’ll see if I can hunt it up.

    HRH’s mum (the Queen Mum?) DOES give her a bit of egg from time to time. Said she’d happily live on nothing but omelets, given the chance.

    Doesn’t seem to be much on the porn addiction front at the Club. I sort of remember one fellow who mentioned that he went to a SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) meeting in Olympia. Who can forget the bit about those meetings in the book, and movie, “Choke?” Not to poke fun at other people’s addictions, but it was quit a send up.

    I was reading a summary of a new book on personal finance, yesterday. It outlined how the author walked into a hipster coffee shop and announced she was doing a study, and wanted to ask a question. What was their favorite sexual position. Well, every one right down to the barista, had an answer. Then she asked a question about personal finance and everyone was horrified at her probing. Ah, us Americans. We are a strange lot. :-).

    There probably is an interesting story, behind that bloke of land. Maybe it was a health issue. Or, someone’s husband or wife didn’t want to live so far out in the bush. Or, maybe finally the possibility of wild fire spooked them out. The kids grew up and they didn’t have any more “free” labor?

    Well, the professor seemed to think that the empire rolled along a bit more as most of the later emperors were autocratic (despotic?) military men. Also, the idea of splitting the empire in two, gained more traction. Easier to manage.

    There was a frost warning, mostly south of us, last night. Down the coast and into the Oregon interior. We’ve had sun here, the last two days, but gusty winds to 25 mph. That puts a bite in the air. Lew

Comments are closed.