Poverty with flair

I was looking at old photos this evening and the above photo leapt into my awareness. It was from 15 years ago and not only did I wear a watch in those days, I was also sound asleep whilst the old boss dog, The Fat (a Dorgi which is a Dachshund – Corgi cross) and The Fluff (the Pomeranian and yet to become boss dog) looked at me with concern at my lack of alertness. They were fine and outstanding dogs and I was glad to have known them.

Well, the dogs should have been concerned because I was actually tired. I’d laid every recycled old red brick in the neat brick wall in the above photo behind me, and also constructed the neat timber frame which would eventually hold the insulation and plaster finish. Of course as is expected, there was another brick wall on the other side of the room. And I’m assuming that the roof had been covered over, otherwise I wouldn’t be sleeping upon the green couch, which incidentally sits behind me right now as I type this. However, this evening, Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (every right thinking person knows that he is an Australian cattle dog) is sound asleep on the green couch after a long day of running around the farm. I did a lot of digging today, but I don’t feel so tired these days.

Anyway the photo was from the mid-noughties (2005) as they are now called. And when I bought that particular house, which was only 4km (2.5 miles) from the city centre, five years before the photo, it cost about three years of my salary. The editor also worked and so the house cost far less than three years of our combined salary.

Of course at the time, purchasing the house was a very unfashionable choice. Not only was it the worst house (structurally sound by otherwise un-liveable) in an otherwise OK street, none of my friends lived in the area. And the area was full of people who were old enough to be parents of the baby boomers or they were younger and outright eccentric. One of the neighbours had a penchant for very large military vehicles which he parked on the street. The vehicles had massive ground clearances, and implied the sort of serious ‘go-anywhere’ look that people who may be concerned about an impending zombie apocalypse could truly appreciate.

Back in the very late 1990’s when grunge music by then was so passé, we bought and moved to that house because we could see that house prices were rising, and if we didn’t make the move then, there was a real possibility that we would never be able to make it.

And at that time (and earlier) governments around the world continued with their programs of deficit spending (i.e. spending more than they brought in with taxes and borrowing to make up the difference), so the money supplies around the globe began to groan and expand. One fascinating side effect was that house prices in Australia began to inexorably rise. I watched the financial spectacle with a sort of horrified fascination as house prices continued to rise and then rise some more. It should be remembered that for some people a rise in house prices is inflation, but for others it’s a form of mad cash whilst doing absolutely nothing of note.

By the time that the 2008 Global Financial Crisis / Great Recession rolled around, I’d already decided (completely unrelated to the financial ructions) to do something different with my life, and so we sold up and moved up to the country and began the process of building this house using our own labour. Again it was an unfashionable choice, but because we kept the house small it was achievable.

Small houses are a bit of a thing these days. However, when I look at the suburbs I don’t see small houses, I see house after house, of the same story. That being the largest possible house on the smallest possible land size. Not a choice that I would make myself, but I make unfashionable choices.

On the other hand, a lot of people seem to acquaint small houses with the tiny house movement. Tiny houses are small living spaces constructed on trailers so that they can be easily relocated. I may not be cool, but Tiny houses are pretty cool. And I’ve recently been thinking to myself that they are a way of providing a form of “poverty with flair”, because in less glamorous and far less polished forms, such caravan dwellings inhabit trailer/caravan parks. Sometimes with an annex attached to the side for extra living space.

As long term readers know, we grow a lot of fruit, vegetables and berries for our consumption. And each year we grow more of them. I’ve encountered plenty of folks over the years who happily remind me that such an act is considered to be the activity of a poverty stricken individual. That story also gets reinforced regularly in the newspapers as the neo-hippies growing vegetables in the articles always look to me like some sort of sad morality tale. It is never presented as an empowering thing for a person to do.

But the times they are changing and economics bites. Some forms of poverty with flair are being up-sold, and I for one have noticed car sharing services in the big smoke. I guess what they are suggesting is that even though you might not be able to afford a car of your own, you can simply rent one on a time-share basis. Not a bad idea at all. And there is a very large business that rents high end clothes, so that (I’m assuming) folks who can’t or may not be able to afford them, can still wear them. Nice one. Even the ongoing stoush about Veganism appears to be a way of making the consumption of vegetables and grains out to be a subversive act. Getting people to eat more vegetables is a good cause, although with all of the media beat-up on vegans I do feel sorry for long term vegans who have had their diet choices hijacked and politicised.

Where is it going long term? I don’t really know, but one aspect of those possibilities that interests me is that they are mostly subject to intermediation (the fancy term which describes somebody enjoying a financial cut of the action). For example, you can own a tiny house, but the laws are such that you can’t just plonk the tiny house anywhere you like, and you still end up with all of the costs of running a household. The cars and clothes, well someone is enjoying a cut of that action. You could probably save a whole bunch of mad cash consuming a vegan diet, but if you spend a lot of effort and ingredients making your vegetables look like meat, it may end being more expensive than actually eating meat.

The alternative is, I guess, making some unfashionable choices.

The season abruptly changed this week and the rains returned. One night I lay in bed listening to heavy rain thrumming on the roof of the house. The house is very well insulated so if you can hear rain, you know it is heavy. I should have gotten up in the middle of the night and cleared the filters for the water tanks. But instead I lay in bed warm and cozy, and most importantly dry, pretending not to notice the heavy rain! I suspect some of the water over flowed the tanks because the next day the water filters had collected a lot of gunk (the technical name for unidentified organic matter) and they had to be cleared out.

Heavy rain earlier in the week dumped a load of organic matter in the filters for the water tanks

The return of the rain meant that we were able to begin excavations to extend the corn enclosure. The rain promotes the growth of the grass, and we use clumps of grass turned upside down to reinforce the very edges of garden terraces. It works much like sand bags.

Excavations began this week to extend the corn enclosure

A lot of large rocks were excavated during the two days of digging!

A lot of large rocks were excavated by hand

And some of the rocks were so large and of such a good shape that we moved them elsewhere and kept them aside for a future project. It is really hard and heavy work moving these rock monsters!

Some rocks were of such good size and shape that we put them aside for use on a future project

Small rocks were so plentiful in the dig that we have almost filled up one of the steel rock gabions.

So many small rocks were excavated that this steel rock gabion is almost two-thirds full

We’re about halfway through the job of excavating another 11 foot of garden space for the corn enclosure. All being well, that should allow us to plant about 200 corn plants in the enclosure, plus a couple of miniature kiwi fruit. We also decided to construct a path leading away from the enclosure to a sloping ramp for future wheel barrow access.

The author stands at the end of a path leading away from the extension of the corn enclosure

We even managed to use many of the larger rocks to construct part of a rock wall around the upper and lower edges of the path.

Rock walls now line both the upper and lower side of the path leading away from the corn enclosure

Observant readers will note on the right hand side in the above photo the large amount of soil between the end of the rock wall and the timber post that has yet to be excavated.

We also purchased an Irish strawberry tree as well as many varieties of flowers to plant in the new garden beds that we’ve created.

An Irish Strawberry tree and other flowering plants wait to be planted out in the new garden beds

As winter fast approaches, the days are getting shorter and colder. The frogs led a rousing croaky cheer when the rain returned, but because of the cold weather there aren’t that many insects around any more. The large Bogong moths are an exception and the lights from the house draw them here at night.

A Bogong moth is drawn to the lights of the house at night

Dozens of rhubarb plants grow here, and they even self-seed (volunteer plants). I enjoy the taste of rhubarb as an addition to breakfast, but I much prefer the plant converted into wine. We started four 5L (1.3 gallon) demijohns of rhubarb wine this week.

Four demijohns of rhubarb wine bubble away. Sake lurks in the background, eyeing off the competition.

Onto the flowers:

Geraniums have responded well to the heavy rainfall this week
It is possible to see the new growth on this geranium
Salvia’s have produced a spectacular floral display due to the return of the rain
Salvia’s and geraniums happily grow together
I’m very impressed with this creeping rose which rambles through a garden bed
Californian poppies are always delightful splashes of colour in the garden. And not pink!
The gazania is just lovely

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 8’C (46’F). So far this year there has been 113.6mm (4.5 inches) which is the slightly higher than last weeks total of 73.4mm (2.9 inches).

58 thoughts on “Poverty with flair”

  1. Hi Lewis,

    It’s just you and me today! I always said that I only began writing the blog so that we could enjoy a convivial place to chat. All the work and stories and rocks – what of those. Hehe!

    I’m having to do software updates on my work laptop and it is hard to concentrate on what is going on with that machine. And I’m always a bit troubled by the ‘I agree’ button with software as if somehow I took the time to read the lengthy legal disclaimers. If I recall correctly, someone in northern Europe recently turned those lengthy disclaimers into some sort of art project. And the tiny bit of hardware that caused all of this nuisance has a, get this: ‘Strong magnet’. Like what would possess a person to place a strong magnet anywhere near a computer?

    I read recently that demand for Nutella has been so great that supplies of hazelnuts (filberts) have been under considerable strain. It reminds me of how the demand for almond based products has recently exceeded world supply. Strangely enough I hear people ordering the strangest coffee orders: “Skinny decaf”. What are they actually consuming becomes a very important question. Oh. Well I just read how that feat is achieved. Not good.

    So when you read a dust jacket, what do you look for? There are a whole bunch of claims made on them, so I was wondering if you went with a gut feeling based on years of experience? It is funny that you mention the ‘fill’ as an issue because when I received the book on Japan in the mail I thought to myself that it was a bit light weight just because of the thickness and nothing more, but then it may also be to the point and not full of fluff – although I have no idea what to expect with the book. Isn’t it strange what we have become accustomed to expecting things to look a certain way?

    Hehe! I have a suspicion that the rusty old horse drawn farm machinery are beyond repair. And strangely enough I feel that horses these days may not be used to such strenuous activity because they seem like a pampered bunch to me. I always get a laugh seeing all of the huge vehicles and trailers towing beasts that can walk themselves – to the local pony club. It is sort of like driving to a gym to go on a walking machine.

    Oh my, the computers are winning and I feel like I might give up on this laptop trouble… I can hear a little voice saying to me: ‘don’t let them win’, but I have to tell you that they are winning! Computer troubles. Yuk!

    There is also a Himalayan strawberry tree which I’ve seen growing around the state. It doesn’t look as good to my eyes, but people still plant them out. The berries taste like consuming cardboard as there is not much in the way of flavour to be harvested from them. The large shrubs / small trees grow quite tall too and have a very shady and drought hardy canopy which is why I decided to plant one in that spot.

    Exactly. The story made no sense to me from so many different perspectives. But yeah, I suspect that insurance is a bit like the old canary in the coal mine and my high premiums and the high deductibles up your way are perhaps but two sides of the same coin. Never had dental insurance, and yeah the service can be expensive – which is why I regularly go for a check up and clean.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say about the Conrad Richter biography. He was an interesting person to come up with such a historically detailed series of stories. I was particularly interested that he wrote about the goings on at the street level rather than at the national level where a whole lot more records were kept and things would have been easier for the author to write about.

    Hehe! Slow news day indeed. You were the only comment this evening. 🙂 It always surprises me what topic will generate more discussion than other topics. And I have no idea what it will be, mostly because I write whatever is going on my mind at the time and don’t really take much note of these matters.

    I am surprised that the Rhone River extends only as far as Switzerland. I would have thought that the Romans would have been very near to such a northern point. Did you mean the Rhine River? Mate Dacia was a very hotly contested area with one after another invaders – and I do note that not many of them held onto the territory for very long at all.

    I read about the battle of Teutoburg Forest and did they really send their successful Generals back to Rome? Seems a bit bonkers to me. And if my memory does not fail me a similar mistake was made by the Germans during WWII. And interestingly, advice regarding possible subterfuge was ignored. A truly swift and brutal loss that one. I’ve heard people make similar claims these days to the cry of: “Quintili Vare, legiones redde!“ Utter disbelief at an unexpected turn of events can only describe such a cry.

    Andrew Carnegie and Mark Twain likewise advised against such acts.



  2. Hello Chris
    It continues dry, dry, dry here. How ridiculous that I am longing for some rain, if only to release me from the chore of watering. It still gets very cold at night which is holding back growth.
    There is a house near here which featured in ‘Grand Designs’. it has been for sale for a while. The price has just been put down to below what it cost to build. People who have these places built, do seem to to get overcome with excitement.


  3. Hi Chris,

    You and the editor are sure one handy pair. One of my sisters attends a couple fancy “do’s” each year and she goes to one of those high end rental shops. I think there’s becoming more and more prom dress rental places too. If ever there was a waste of money it’s prom and homecoming dresses. Having two daughters I sadly have too much experience with this and there were no rental options then. When cleaning out the old house I found quite a few pictures of my girls in expensive dresses with guys they mostly could have cared less about (sigh). Then the dresses would hang in closets for years along with bridesmaid’s dresses. At least I didn’t pay or those.

    Well I’ve got my garden area around the deck pretty well prepped as well as a sunny spot next to the house for herbs.
    I’ve also pulled all the garlic mustard which is an invasive plant that crowds out woodland natives. It’s all over but fortunately there wasn’t too much on our property so it shouldn’t be hard to keep up with it. Now, when young, it is edible though a little goes a long way. I remember even the goats would only eat a little.

    Lots of birds here – we’ve counted 42 species so far including a Bald Eagle overhead last evening. Just now it was quite a cacophony of colors at and around the feeders; Orioles, Bluejays, Red Breasted Grosbeaks, Goldfinches and a new one, Scarlet Tanager. There’s also the Bluebirds but they don’t hang out around the feeders.

    Yah for rain (for you anyway). That must be a relief. I only see Ollie in one picture. Is he becoming camera shy?

    I’m usually reading at least two books at once, one non fiction and one fiction. I also have books loaded on my Nook reader that Doug gifted me years ago which is great for reading in bed or on the train. I’ve mostly found free books or very cheap ones. I may have mentioned that Doug is not much of a reader though he is quite proud that he finished two in a row. Anyway our “together” time is often watching some series on TV though he often gets into stuff I’m not interested in. I’ll read something light or something I’ve read before that doesn’t require too much concentration.

    Later this week and next week will be taken up with a lot of planting. In addition to the plants I bought this weekend I have an order from the Land Conservancy to pick up this Friday. I figure it’ll finally be safe to plant zucchini, winter squash and maybe even beans and cukes. There’s finally asparagus in the old bed coming up as well.

    It appears you have discovered plenty of new rock.


  4. Yo, Chris – Well, if your going to be poverty stricken, you might as well do it with flare! :-). Play your cards right, and it can be pulled off, without much expense. (Thank you, op-shops!) Of course, often, poverty with flare gets co-opted and becomes fashion. Expensive fashion.

    So, is the tartan on the couch, the tartan of Clan Chris? :-). I’d say, maybe your not so tired these days as your eating better?

    There’s a lot of those military looking, high ground clearence vehicles, around here. Pretty easy to spot the ones that are for show, vs the ones that work. Usually, by the mud and lack of fancy chrome.

    Tiny houses have become quit a fad. And, pricey, unless owner built. Somewhen, in the past few days, I saw a book advertised about converting old school buses into tiny houses. Shades of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Further! I’m afraid they’ve become the cool thing to do, without much thought or investigation. Dare I say, like solar?

    Yeah, there’s a lot of play in the media, here, about Impossible Burger™ (?). I guess they’re attempting, fish, too. I’ve eaten a lot of veg burgers in my life, both homemade and commercial. Reading all the articles about artificial meat, I kept thinking “But why?” But then, I never expected a veg burger to “be meat.” I expected to explore interesting new flavors. Silly me.

    Nice rocks! So much for all that fretting about peak rocks. Be careful what you wish for? Well, the ramp will come in handy when you get to that walker/wheel chair time of life :-).

    My, you do like your reds, when it comes to flowers. Cheery, I suppose :-).

    We’ll now take a short break, before returning to our regularly scheduled program. I’ve got to run out and make mud pies for my mason bees. Speaking of fretting, I think I may have been overly concerned about the ear wigs. The number of capped mason bee cells, continue apace. And from what I read, once the cells are capped (takes about two days), the ear wigs can’t get in. Go bees! Cont.

  5. Cont. Well, pretty much everyone clicks on the “I agree” button, on legal disclaimers, on line. Who can wade through, or understand, all that stuff? But at least now, people are catching onto the fact that they are giving up all kinds of protections, buried in the verbiage. But if you want (want, or need?) something, an Ap or a function, not much alternative, is there? And, several people have gotten into legal trouble by leaving negative feedback, for services. Buried in the fine print was costly fines for leaving negative feedback, that hadn’t gone through arbitration. A whole ‘nother kettle of fish. We give up freedoms to feel safe from terrorists. We hobble ourselves of recourse, by clicking that “I accept” button. Is there an answer?

    Hard to believe there’s a hazel nut shortage. They grow pretty freely, here. And, if not watched, become thickets. They make a great hedgerow plant.

    Well, the front flap of the dust jacket usually gives me some idea what the book is about. The back flap might have interesting author information. What else they’ve written. Educational affiliations. What else they’ve written. The back cover may have “blurbs” by other authors. I look for authors I respect and am familiar with. Or, they may have a bit of “credential” (Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, etc.)

    The books I steer clear of (maybe the title or cover made me pick it up) are the one’s that tell me NOTHING about what the story is about. And, all the blurbs are from media, partial and taken out of context. Those go right back on the shelf.

    There’s fluff, and then there’s fluff. I know it when I see (read) it. If it walks like a duck…. Some fluff is interesting and contributes to the main topic. Other fluff contributes little to the overall story. Mileage may vary.

    I think you’ll like the book on Japan. Plenty to chew on, in there. The author may seem a bit “pie in the sky”, at times, but (and I don’t think they’re spoilers) early on he mentions that the Japanese, may ignore new ideas coming from within Japan (no respect for a prophet in his own land, etc.) but may pay more attention to an outside eye. Also, the timing of the release of the book was lucky, at least for the author.

    Oh, dear. I’ve completely messed up my European rivers. The Rhine and the DANUBE (not the Rhone.) The distance between the headwaters of these two rivers is only 171KM (106 miles). There’s a canal, these days. The Rhine – Main – Danube Canal. But, to get back to the Roman frontiers …


    Roman generals were a mixed bag. To be a general was a step in the political process. Usually, a general served for three years or so. Same with provincial governors. Some of this was because the senators and emperor were nervous about a general establishing a power base. Which did happen.

    Varus was some kind of a (by marriage) shirt tail relation, of Augustus. According to sources, he was generally, a bad man. :-). Arrogant and full of himself. Didn’t treat the locals, well, and showed no respect to their leaders. Rome withdrew several legions from Germany (trouble in another part of the empire) and the tribes saw their chance. Lew

  6. @ Inge – I do hope your on the mend. My (unsolicited) advice, chicken soup. Add lemon juice and any kind of pepper. Potatoes, rice (or both) make it real “stick to your ribs.”

    I found it very interesting that your son has a Barnevelder rooster. And therein lies a tale …

    When I first was able to think about a small flock, my friends were getting ready to move to Idaho. And wondered if I wanted any of their chickens. They had 6 “mystery” hens. They had ordered 200 meat chickens, and among them were these 6 hens (and one Brahma hen). Who knows how? I did a bit of research and discovered that the mystery hens were Barnevelder. So, I told my friends I’d be happy to take the Barnevelder. They also asked me to take the Brahma, as Mama Brahma and the Barnevelder had formed a unit.

    They were great hens. Real dual purpose. Good layers and meat (though we never got that far) birds. Even tempered. And, of course, gorgeous. Those copper and bronze feathers were a real knock out. They also come in other interesting color combinations.

    I started to look for a rooster. High and low, none could be found. Either they were not within a reasonable driving distance, or, if I ordered, I’d have to take my chances on mixed sex, AND get 25. So there matters lay (pun?) but it all became theoretical. Except for one little Barnavelder hen, my flock was wiped out, probably by coyotes. It was a horror show. I later got other birds, but could never again find a good source of Barnevelder. Lew

  7. Chris,

    Nice to see a photie of the prior fluffies. It’s always interesting to look at the history of the family.

    Ach, I had to take Friday off from work. Both of us were in a tizzie over various things. Took until late Sunday to get things back to “normal” for us. As a result, screen time was limited for several days. Thankfully, after 28 years together, we know how to work together on stuff, so we don’t take our frustrations out on one another.

    Nice history lesson on houses and housing costs. We, too, bought at a good time, 1996, and were able to pay the house off in less than 10 years on one income. Now? I don’t know if we could afford to buy. And rents are too high. Hereabouts, “affordable housing” is a too large house on a too little lot. I don’t know for whom they are “affordable”. Not me, for sure.

    The intermediation thing w.r.t small houses and vegetables, etc., reminds me of the “voluntary simplicity movement” some 20 years ago. It, too, became commercialized. It was obvious that it was pretty dead when “simplicity” magazines came into print.

    Peak rocks? It looks like every time you dig, you find more rocks. And small boulders. I know from experience (not as extensive as yours) that moving those things is a lot of hard work.

    The summer dry and beginning of the heat have hit. I was planting some new phlox Sunday. The ground was bone dry all the way down to 20cm. I’m having to water the lawns, as they’re starting to dry out and some spots are mildly “crunchy”. 28C is forecast over the coming weekend.

    I like “Poverty with Flair”. It has a better ring to it than my previous favorite “collapse now and avoid the rush”. I suppose they’re saying something similar.

    Speaking of which, one of my neighbors, I think he’s 58, just told me he is now in retirement. He and his wife have got enough income to keep their house and not be destitute. He’d been working for the past several years for a locally owned office supply company. The owners sold it to another company based in Montana. The new owners promptly laid off all of the Spokane based delivery and sales staff, saying that the Montana staff could handle all of that. “Poverty with Flair” is something that we’re likely to see much more of as we go forward.


  8. Hi Inge,

    The old timers here used to quip that: ‘cold years are usually dry years’. I hope you get some decent rain soon, and that you avoid the sort of dry weather that I went through last summer. If your pond is dry, how are the dam levels faring on the island?

    I was thinking earlier today about water resources and the difference between rural and urban areas. If I run out of water, people tend to suggest that that is how things roll in a rural area. But if the city runs low on water, they construct a huge desalination plant at an extraordinary cost to the environment. There is a difference in there somewhere.

    We’ve spoken about that house before after I watched the episode (unless there has been another one built?) I was surprised that the owner constructed such a large dwelling because hadn’t the person also had a major health scare – and there was talk about financing the behemoth build that I felt was very worrying. Hope they sell the house. I’ll bet the circumstances are the talk of the area?



  9. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks very much and I’d like to think that we’ve picked up a few handy hints and skills over the years. 🙂 Strangely enough, and you’ve probably found this with raising the chickens and pigs (and goats) over the years, that familiarity makes the process easier? Certainly we get projects completed faster now than way back in the day. But there are diminishing returns to that and large rocks still take a lot of effort to excavate (although we have some sneaky techniques to make the job easier).

    Your sister is a smart lady to make use of that resource. The editor told me about the business a week or so back and it sure does a good trade. Down here, bridesmaids have to pay for their own outfits and many a friendship has been worn thin by the dreaded Bridezilla! 🙂 A fearsome beastie to be sure, and best avoided or at least handled with kid gloves. I was blessed with a low stress DIY bride, but it was also the midst of a long recession and so things just worked out as they did. Some of the most interesting and enjoyable weddings that I’ve attended were the ones that didn’t look like people thought they should look like, and in fact were quite informal.

    There is a bit of drizzle outside at the moment, and I had to go out in it to fetch Scritchy who was pestering me to go outside in the first place.

    I’d never heard of garlic mustard before, and to me it looks a lot like lemon balm, but perhaps may not be as good in a herbal tea? I’m hoping to get my head around some of the onion family of plants later in the year (although it may be too late by then).

    The Scarlet Tanager is an absolute stunner, and apparently comes with a beautiful call that sounds a lot like the wrens and robins here. Lucky you. Are you finding more birds in your new digs? I assume that given you have more trees, you’ll have more birds? Actually, I was wondering whether squirrels disturb birds nests?

    Good for him. Often when the editor and I are at a cafe, we’ll take along a book or the newspaper and read it. I’ve noticed that since we’ve made this act respectable in nearby public spaces, other people are following our example. I enjoyed quite a bit of Conrad Richter’s trilogy with the occasional break to enjoy a coffee, muffin or fruit toast. I call that getting in ‘the zone’!

    Yummo! Those plants are real givers. Interestingly, yesterday I moved all of the self sown (volunteer) asparagus plants to the newest of the three asparagus beds. And I was genuinely amazed at how large the root systems were for the tiny little plants. It is hardly a wonder that they survive such a scorching summer unfazed! I assume the Land Conservancy supplied the native seeds for your garden?



  10. Hi Lewis,

    Exactly! Lack of mad cash does not mean that life must be all austere and stuff, but the articles in the newspaper that discuss living with less, make the whole business out to look like some sort of crazy hair shirt wearing exercise. I ask you this: Who wants to wear a hair shirt? Michael Stipe from REM once sang about those strange articles of clothing in a plangent tone of longing and mournfulness.

    I don’t know whether it is fashionable or not, but the editor tells me that there is a sub category of this sort of thinking which has been given a rather strange name (which I hadn’t heard about until only the other day). Here goes: Crunchy Mom.

    The rain has just decided to pound upon the roof again! I like this rain business. Planted the Irish Strawberry tree yesterday among other plants including an Issai kiwi fruit which a nursery was getting rid of on the cheap.

    Maybe! That couch is so old that it was made in the big smoke back in the day when such things happened. The quality is amazing given how much punishment both the animals and I have dished up to it. You have just given me a bit of the chills up the spine, because the colour is close to one of the two varieties of tartan.

    The vehicle was the real deal ex-military machine, and the bloke kept both of them road registered. They were huge beasts of machines, although they both had a canvas roof and little in the way of creature comforts. Absolutely no chrome to be found anywhere on them, but I hear you about those pretenders.

    Converting a bus is a good idea, especially given the length of the frame which is much bigger than the average trailer. Most of the tiny houses down here that I’ve seen have a pleasing look to them, almost like a gypsy wagon. At the farm expo I usually go to, and a year or two back, someone was converting old Bedford trucks into tiny houses, and they looked pretty cool. I’ve noticed that these forms of housing are being offered as an alternative form of housing to women in financial distress after perhaps a marriage breakdown or untimely demise of a partner who apparently ‘took care’ of such matters. Can the popularity of tiny homes provide a solution for older women facing homelessness?

    Who hasn’t heard of the impossible burger (like the use of the superscript text)? I’m with you, and the ‘why’ of the story makes no sense to me as well, unless it is a form of enticement? I may be old fashioned because I like my vegetables and grains to look like vegetables and grains. Maybe I’m just boring… Do you reckon the whole ‘impossible’ thing may have arisen due to a lack of imagination?

    Some of the rocks had nice square edges on them, and those are rare as hen’s teeth. I hope it doesn’t come to that because I’m just guessing wildly but I suspect that the economy might not be able to afford to keep me in such a state in the far future.

    Hey, I’ve got a theory for you about the colours of the flowers. The early flowers are blue, and the late flowers are red hued. Do you reckon there is anything in that theory? It might have something to do with complex chemicals inside the plant and the energy available from the sunlight? Dunno.

    Go the bees! Earwigs have been around for a while, so they may have all learned how to foil the others attempts at being converted into a meal? Why were you making mud pies for the mason bees? The editor was listening to a podcast that discussed the pollen of the monkshood plant and how it made the harvesting insects absolutely deadly to other critters that usually ate them. And the wolfsbane / lamb trick was a goodie.

    Who knows what rights we’ve collectively signed away by clicking on the ‘I agree’ button. It is not like you have much choice in the matter. Sometimes when you do have a choice, the wording can be turned to your apparent disadvantage. That happens down here with getting someone to sign up as a ‘sophisticated investor’ and they then apparently lose some of their basic legal protections, but who wants to be thought of as un-sophisticated?

    Hazelnuts are slow growing here, but I may have inadvertently planted them in too shady a spot. There is a cluster of the plants growing strongly on the northern side (and sunnier) of the mountain range. I dunno.

    Thanks for the useful guidance regarding books. I hadn’t considered some of those aspects before, but they are clear when viewed from hindsight.

    I’m looking forward to starting the book on Japan in a couple of days. Plus I’ll try and dip into the Skystone book as well. I’m thinking at this stage that I’ll read a bit of ‘Just enough’ (an apt title by the way) and then cogitate upon the contents whilst easing my mental load by way of the historical fiction. My day job exacts a toll upon my brain, so I do have to consider the bigger picture and energy levels and … stuff! 🙂

    I thought you might have inadvertently confused the two rivers and so thanks for the clarification. Of course: The outer limits! Ha! It is nice to see the recycling into English of such useful place terms from back in the Roman days.

    Varus was described as an administrator of ruthless persuasion. But then, he really messed up big time, and the might of Roman history and blame would have fallen heavily upon his head. On the other hand I read that when the combined tribes descended upon the legions, the Roman supply lines were stretched out for many miles. A truly bonkers strategy in unknown lands – and where were their scouts who should have been earning their keep? I sense a touch of incompetence, subterfuge and plain old bad luck in the story. Such a leader generally makes for opportunism in their enemies.

    Got almost 1/5th of an inch of rain! Yay for rain!



  11. Hi DJ,

    Those were both good dogs and both of them made fine boss dogs. The old fluff had a delightful nature right up to her final day. Not to speak ill of the dead, but when old fluff was a young fluff, mate she was full of mischief.

    Hehe! Glad to hear that you both survived the ordeal and remembered to take it easy on each other. Mate, life is smooth, and then not so smooth, and you never quite know what path it will take. Kind of adds a bit of excitement to things. Although maybe not sometimes…

    I don’t know how I’d go either these days. It really is stacked against the young as well as the older folks that don’t own. I’ve considered that problem and might consider heading out even further than here should something strange and unexpected happen.

    Yeah, too true, simplicity by its very nature should be simple. But mate the mouths that turn up for a feed at the tough are really hard to escape from. I put a few brain cells towards resolving that issue and putting a bit of distance between me and them, but you know it ain’t easy, and I really feel that there are no easy answers. It might not always have been that way, but it sure is today.

    Shhh! Don’t speak so loud about this Peak Rocks business because we’ve hit a rich seam, and I hope that it continues to produce over the next week or so. It reminds me a bit of fracking in that I have to put in a huge amount of effort to extract the rocks! At least digging slowly I can create a relatively flat terrace that gets compacted as we walk upon it.

    The phlox is amazing and I’ve never seen them before. Cool! At least your reservoirs should be pretty full from all of the snow melt? Maybe? How well drained is the soil at your place? It is very well drained here, in fact it is so well drained that I can’t store water in a pond without serious lining (plastic or clay).

    Yeah, they’re saying the same thing, but the up-sell really is going on.

    That’s rough. I was wondering whether the customers of the business respond in kind with the businesses actions? I don’t reckon I’ll get the chance to retire as it is understood today.



  12. ..Hello again
    I don’t think that we have any dams.
    Yes, it is the same property and I am not surprised at its failure to sell. The disaster being built next door to me, is not going to do any better. He is on his 3rd lot of builders. Not next door actually as I have just sold that bit of land and someone else is now his neighbour, thank goodness.
    Actually everything around here is awash with incredible gossip, none of which I can possibly put out on the internet, such a pity.
    Son has been watching new neighbour trying to take out a huge stump with a small electric chain saw. He did point out that it is possible to hire a stump grinder.

    @ all
    Thanks for kind comments. I am a lot better, just tired


  13. Yo, Chris – Forget the hair shirt. Go for nettle. It’s more green :-). I remember they mentioned nettle shirts in “The Town.” I got the feeling from the text that they were considered a bit “low rent.” Compared to flax. Wonder why? The production process was similar … and just as arduous.

    I think I mentioned about a year ago, that I was in a conversation with the old Warden and the Rev about retirement. They were fretting over “did they have enough.” I observed that it depended on your expectations. If you expected life to carry on, as before, probably not. I don’t think they took much on board. Got to keep up appearances, you know :-).

    Crunchy Mom. Kind of a version of the old Earth Mama. Probably linguistically descended from Crunchy Granola. Almost sounds like a version of Fundy Mom. Fundamentalist Christian. But, there is a note that if it were on a spectrum, way out on the end would be Amish. We have a lot of those kinds of Crunchy Moms around here. Easy to spot. Why do I get the feeling there’s a lot of virtue signaling going on?

    The bloke with the military vehicle? Was that before or after Mad Max came out? Might explain a lot.

    That was an interesting article about the tiny houses. From what I gather, a lot of the Ladies here at the Institution fit the profile, mentioned. There’s a lot of fear of ending up homeless.

    Super what? :-). I learned how to do it, over at Greer. Right on my computer the whole time. Who knew?

    Square edge rocks? Probably remains of a long lost civilization. Mu?

    Let the games, begin! Our daytime highs might hit 80F plus, this week. Overnight lows are finally breaking 50F. Time to hit the garden, and hit it hard. I spent awhile putting up deer fencing, last night. Mud Pies For Mason Bees. Sounds like a charity. Maybe I could pick up a few bucks, shaking a can on a corner? :-). It’s been dry, and the bees need mud, close at hand, to cap their cells. So I try and remember to pour a gallon of water on some of the open spots in the garden, close to their nest box.

    The scouts were native spies, who lead Varus along an alternate route that was very narrow. And then they built a camo turf wall, next to a swamp to narrow the route even more. That’s where they struck.

    We got the annual report from our PUD (Public Utility District) aka the electric company. There’s some interesting stuff in there. They have 32,000 customers, in an area of 2,530 square miles. 2,915 miles of line. They wholly own one hydro generation plant, have a 14% share of another, and our building a third. By law, a certain amount of their load must come from renewable resources. They buy some power from two wind plants. 26.5 megawatts, all together.

    Hydro makes up 83.58% of their power. Follwed by nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind and “other”. Other is methane and petroleum. Wind only makes up 0.58%. Lew

  14. Chris,

    Yes, sometimes we need something beside “smooth” in order to appreciate the “smooth”. However, a bit more boredom between events of excitement would be nice. Just saying.

    You nailed it. If there is a way to make money off of something, somebody will. Which, of course, complicates things. The irony with the voluntary simplicity movement and the fortunes made off of it are remarkable.

    The reservoirs are pretty full. They also rely on having rain in the 2nd half of April through the end of June. It looks like that 10 weeks of rain will again be disappointingly low. But none of the experts are wining about it yet.

    Phlox is cool. We’ve had some before that got choked out by grass. Some has come back from wind-blown seeds. It’s colorful and bright and will spread.

    The soil in my part of town drains very well. It’s sand. Fine sand. It doesn’t hold water at all.

    Congrats on more rain!


  15. Hi Inge,

    Oh! I forget these details. Does your town water get pumped across from the mainland? I took a quick look on maps and couldn’t see any large dams. None. Wow. Maybe there are groundwater reserves? I wonder what they did way back in the day? Do old properties come with wells?

    Ah yes, discretion and all that – say no more! 🙂 But the Grand Designs house is an entirely different matter because the owners made it a public matter of interest just by going on the show and divulging their, err, journey?

    You’re making me laugh with the thought of using an electric chainsaw on a tree stump. It might work, but then so would an axe and that would be easier. And I agree with your son as organic matter would struggle to stand against carbon steel (rocks would be a problem). Such work is hard on chainsaws because of the dirt that comes with tree stumps, and the soil blunts the chain and ruins the bar. It is not worth the cost. It is funny to me that it takes a lot of years before you get good at living rurally.



  16. Hi Lewis,

    More green!! Funny. Yeah, I recall reading that titbit about the nettle shirt and it was a process that had never occurred to me. In polite company, that nettle material could be described as viscose, which is a very handy material. Can’t say that I’ve ever produced linen (flax fibres) and some of the characters in the book were dodging the task, so it must have been arduous. And I recall that in the Annie Hawes books the locals spoke of producing linen with a sense of dread and woe. Flax grows wild around here, but after a bit of reading I can see that cotton became the preferred fibre back in the day and flax was relegated to a home industry.

    Mate life is a pretty chancey thing at best so who knows if retirement is a possibility? But let’s assume for the nonce that it is a possibility, then what I notice (from inference) about retirees is that they don’t generally have large expenses. Back in the day people retired and that was that, expectations were low. I’ve noticed that fear lives in the gap between expectations and reality. I don’t really worry about such things because people are pretty adaptable and there is enjoyment to be found in waiting, but that may be a bit old fashioned (most likely). Ha! Appearances are sometimes maintained long after it makes any sense to do so.

    Have you ever wondered why the old phrase “Earth Mother” dropped out of use. It brings to mind overtones of a person caring for the effect their life has on the planet, plus the other baggage. I really do wonder what ever happened to the old back to the land folks? There is certainly a lesson in there. But yeah, plenty of virtue signaling in there.

    All respect to the people in the article, but the zero waste claim seemed like a big call to me: Zero-waste living sounds great — but this is what it actually looks like. I can’t say that I’ve ever made that claim myself because just living you create what is commonly known as waste. When I was a kid, trash cans were very small, and I feel that there is a lesson to be learned in there.

    Definitely after Mad Max. Oh yeah, be afraid! The vehicles would have crushed the Interceptor! I used to feel that those old vehicles were quite large, but the things on the roads these days are much, much, bigger.

    Yeah, it is a real problem, and some parts of our culture have encouraged women not to ask questions about the family finances. But then, those same people enjoy (for a while) not having to worry about the family finances. But then they might also make poor decisions because they’re not involved.

    Superscript (upper) and Subscript (lower). Yes, I was involved in a government experiment way back in the day, and they taught me how to touch type and use a very early form of word processing software. True story! Software these days is more flashy and full of features, but it has the same essential functions underneath the glitz.

    I’d never thought of a lost civilisation under the soil. It’s possible. 🙂 Who would have thought that modern geologists could be such a buzzkill! Hehe!

    Enjoy your beautiful weather. It sounds really nice to me. It is cloudy and rainy here, which is a foretaste of winter. Make sure you remember to hang the lanyard with fake ID casually slung around your neck in a way that makes it illegible. I encountered a chugger yesterday. Didn’t even stop to find out what it was all about. Ah, do the mason bees cap the cells of their brood? Insects need water just as much as the birds and other critters.

    Not good at all. I wonder if Varus felt that duplicitous behaviour was not possible because the natives would respect the Roman’s majesty and all that stuff? I read some accounts that the officers had to fall on their swords – in the approved manner. I would have thought that the locals could have earned some ransom money?

    Wind isn’t as big a source of base load electricity as people might believe. But you know, I did use the word believe. Hey, here’s an article on the mix of electricity sources down here: Energy in Victoria. When I was in the inner city, near to that the local town gas works employed a whole bunch of people. There were even relics of the old train lines leading into the area. All that is gone now, and I believe government housing sits on the site. There are a couple of old cast iron gas lamps on street corners and I doubt many people know what they were there for.



  17. Hi DJ,

    Mate I hear you and can only hope that you get some quiet time of smooth sailing for a while. Too much excitement is a bad thing.

    Yeah, I’m a bit dubious when people are pushing product. A long time ago I read an article about a person suggesting that they managed to feed their family for some ridiculously low amount of money. I thought that this would be interesting, but the article went on to say how the person cleaned out their kitchen cupboards.

    I do wonder what ever happened to the back to the land folks?

    The further out rainfall forecasts get the less accurate they become, so who knows how it will all turn out. Certainly here the rain is becoming heavier and then not much, and then heavier rain again.

    Ah of course, I forget such details. Not good and clay and organic matter are the only way to make sandy soil more fertile.



  18. Hello again
    It rained all night and is raining now. A shame that I watered everything yesterday.
    Some water comes from the Island and there is also a pipe running under the Solent from the mainland. This is where the question of is our water fluoridated or not arises. The Island water is not fluoridated and I can’t find out whether the mainland water is or not. Nor can I find out whether the two lots of water are mixed.
    Yes, old houses come with wells. There is the famous very deep well at Carisbrooke Castle with a donkey in a wheel to lift the water.


  19. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the boat comments – it was indeed a great trip. The first few hours were very moody with dense fog and tall cliffs lining each side of the river. We also got lost at one point when we could only see for about 10 metres and went into a little dead-end back channel. Later the river got so wide, that even with the fog starting to life we couldn’t see the other side. And all of this to the gentle and soothing rumble of the mighty two-stroke seagull 🙂

    Have you checked out any of the grand designs episodes yet? So far I count two separations and one friendship breakdown. Such are the hardships of life!


  20. Hi, Chris!

    You look just the same, except for a bit of grey – and different companions, of course.

    I am sitting on a couch like your green couch; it’s old as the hills. It is awfully lumpy, too, so I have two comforters under the cover that stays over it. I have just changed that cover from the red flannel winter one to the light cotton summer one with a print of dainty flowers. The dogs used to love this couch and I always had to mark my place with something or else have to shove someone off, wherein he or she would crack the sads.

    That is a real problem, tiny houses needing a bit of land to park on, though I have heard of people setting their little house in a friend’s backyard or driveway. That would only work in rural places here and there is a tax (of course) for that.

    From what I can tell, most vegans are happy when their dietary choice is publicized, even if co-opted by some commercial entity. The main thing is to get more people exposed to what they feel is an ethical and practical choice.

    We are finally trying our hands at apple cider vinegar as a bought batch of unpasteurized cider had already started in that direction.

    Boy, are those big rocks! That is a lovely monstrous flat-sided one in the wheelbarrow. Yay for flat sides! Rock walls are so attractive.

    I have had a similar thought about the hues of wildflowers at different seasons of the year. Besides the blue hues in spring, there is a lot of yellow.

    The chimney swifts have just moved back into the chimney. It sounds like thunder – with tweets – in there. I love those birds; they are so different. Good thing it’s only warm weather from now on!


  21. Hi Chris,

    Our house-guest left earlier this morning, so I am getting the house back into its normal state and working my way back into my usual routine.

    When I got engaged to Mike in 1988, I lived in a fashionable condo that I got with a mortgage (in those days I worked as a scientist for a multinational corporation so I had the income for that). Mike lived in an unfashionable house that needed a lot of interior work, in an unfashionable area. His mortgage was less than half of mine. So we made an excellent decision: I sold my condo and moved into his house, and over the next few years we hired contractors to do the needed interior work. Several years later, we paid off the mortgage on that house. Several years after that, we sold that house and paid cash for the current house (also unfashionable and in an unfashionable area but with much more land so I could do a lot more gardening), which also needed a lot of interior and some exterior work. We’ve finished the exterior work and just hired out a last bit of interior work over the past winter, always paying cash for it. If anyone appears to be looking askance at our choices, I tell them that this house is what freedom looks like. They haven’t seemed to get it, sadly.

    Since Lew provided the mix of sources for his electricity in the PNW, I looked up the current mix of sources for our midwest US electric utility. It took some poking around on its website to find a list of all of its plants and their capacities and then to do the math to get percentages. Having done that, here is the list.

    Coal: 54%
    Natural gas or oil: 30%
    Nuclear: 12%
    Hydro: 4%

    In the midwest, coal remains king. But its and nuclear’s shares of the mix are less than they used to be. Natural gas and oil fired plants have gained share, presumably to meet some sort of carbon reduction target. Our utility doesn’t have any wind or solar capacity: the nearest wind farms are in northern Illinois and Kansas, outside of its service area.

    The utility has one pumped hydro source: a large reservoir on top of what passes for a mountain in Missouri. Overnight, some of the excess capacity is used to pump water up into that reservoir, said water being let out through a hydro generating plant during the day when extra energy is needed, especially in the summer. Back in December 2005 or 2006, something went wrong and the dam holding the water in suddenly ceased to do so. All that water cascaded down the side of the mountain, ripping off all the soil in its path. It then went across a road and into a state park, where it swept into the park head’s family’s house and then across a campground and into the river that flows through the park. This was in the middle of the night in winter, so no one was in the campground. Everyone in the family survived, as did the person driving a truck along the road as the water came down. Had this happened in the summer, when the campground would have been crowded with people … well, the utility was very lucky it didn’t happen in summer.

    I spent the last two days mowing the lawn (the house-guest was an old friend of Mike’s, so Mike entertained him) because we finally had a three day stretch without any rain. But we’re supposed to get more rain this afternoon, evening, and overnight. Then it may stop long enough to get the rest of the garden planted – I hope.


  22. Hi Chris,
    Well yes, we sure have learned a lot over the years. Usually we’ve found new skills aren’t as easy at they look though.

    You are right that garlic mustard looks somewhat like lemon balm (which reminds me I have to purchase a plant or two of that) but I would want tea from it. I thought I had found most of it already but yesterday found two more big batches. We also have a lot of stinging nettle which is merrily spreading all over. Now there are many positive benefits to that plant but this is just too much. Guess what I’ll be tackling next.

    That day at the bird feeders was quite amazing!! I haven’t seen the tanager again though. The more aggressive birds may have been too much for him.

    Doug and I had a budget wedding as we were paying for it ourselves but it was still very nice and fun. My niece got married a couple of years ago. She planned and stressed out every detail for over a year. She also informed her female family members that we were not to bring in a hotel luggage cart to the reception as we had done at her brother’s wedding. Well we were not to be thwarted. One of my cousins procured a grocery shopping cart from a store down the street from the reception brought that it in and we had great fun pushing people around in it. Needless to say my niece wasn’t very happy about this but we innocently responded “You never said anything about grocery carts.” She did get over it in the end.

    Doug and I are officially retired but as you know we keep pretty busy. Most of the volunteer organizations couldn’t function without their retired volunteers as they have the time. Of course one never knows what the future will bring with our pensions and rising property taxes. If I end up by myself at some point I could be quite happy in a tiny house.

  23. Yo, Chris – Well, from what I hear, here, around the Institution, retirees expenses depend on relative load. ie:, number of kids and grandkids. :-). Ah, the joys of being an orphan, with no issue. I must say I’ve finagled my way into a low expense situation.

    Earth Mother may have fallen out of use as, here at least, it conjured visions of a “woman of size” in a shapeless muumuu. What happened to the back to the earth folks? A lot became entrapeneurs, with estranged children who are investment bankers :-). I’m afraid you’d have to go case by case.

    Well, the zero waste folks don’t look too demented. Everyone needs a hobby. Must be getting harder due to the recycling crisis. Can we call it a crisis, yet?

    As to older women who fall on hard time. Talk about timing. When I was out slug hunting, last night, Susan Who Always Has a Better Idea was out. She’s also our Parking Lot Nazi. I’d say monitor, save the excess zeal. Well, there’s been a car parked at night, on the side street, up the hill from The Institution. She wants ME to check it out, as there’s some spun out horror show, in her head, about little old ladies getting done in. Because they’re out wandering around in the dark. Which doesn’t happen.

    I pretty much told her, maybe, I’d get around to it. Well, now I’m in a quandry. I do believe there’s a woman sleeping in the car. Darn new fangled street lights. How to they manage NOT to throw useful light? To me, it seems like a pretty benign situation. So, now I’ll be dodging Susan, as I figure she’ll over react in some way. Or worse, try to “help.” Sigh. Let my guard down for a minute, and I get sucked into some drama, I’d rather have to part of. Why she did’t just call the police to do a “wellness check”…. Oh, well, I’m sure it will work itself out.

    Oh, dear. A government experiment. Over here, they seemed to involve testing sketchy drugs on unsuspecting people. Or, in literature, at least, on mothers who produce one kind of horror or another. Frequently seen in straight to DVD films.

    Yup. The mason bees cap their little cells with mud. I did talk to the Master Gardeners, yesterday. They had heard of strawberry trees, but seemed pretty vague about them. Thought a local nursery might carry them. Burnt Ridge Nursery, which is family owned and been around for quit awhile. Well, no, but Raintree does carry them. I mentioned to him, all the things you can grow that we can’t and when I got to lemons, he got all enthusiastic and said “Of course we can.” Confidence seems high for the Meyer. I see both the nurseries mentioned, carries them. Hmmm. They graft it onto root stock, so, it’s more bush than tree. So I’m scheming a bit to figure out where I could squeeze one in, maybe next year.

    The Romans weren’t big on ransom, for military defeat. Fall on your sword, and all that. Pirates and bandits were a different matter. Julius Caesar was ransomed from pirates, when he was a young man. Said he be back to hang them in future. And, did. In the case of Varus, I wonder what happened to the baggage train, and civilian hangers on. It was a running battle, over several days. So, there’s a long trail of artifacts. This or that bit of it, is excavated, from time to time. According to some reports, Varus managed to hide the treasure of the legion. And, there was a “last stand”, where he and his support staff committed suicide, to avoid capture.

    Interesting about your power breakdown. Here, “briquettes” evoke something with which you build a barbacue. :-). Interesting that the Bass Straight oil field peaked in 1985.

    In other news, Simon Pegg has a new movie, coming out. Salon magazine had an extensive review, with lots of spoilers. I don’t think I’m interested in seeing it. A drama about mental illness.

    I went hunting and gathering in the thrifty food stores, yesterday. I found another 10 pounds of brown rice, at less than $1 a pound. I think that’s enough, for now :-). Not much on the useful food front, otherwise. Found some orange / chocolate balls. But milk chocolate, instead of the preferred dark. So, only bought two. 2 gallons of white vinegar (need to stock up on that. When pickling season starts, all the cheap stuff disappears, for a few months.)

    And I found my first (and probably last) jar of Nutella. Seems like an excuse to eat chocolate frosting. :-). I did a bit of research when I got home. It’s more than half sugar and more than 1/3 palm oil. The company was sued here in the States and had to pay out 4 million, as it was thought they had mislead the public into believing the stuff was “healthy.” I tried to nail down if the sugar was beet or cane, but they were pretty cagey, about that. Depends on country it’s made in. My jar came from Canada. I suppose next I’ll be sampling Vegemite. And can Marmite be far behind? Luckily, not easily found, here. Lew

  24. @Inge

    Your comment on the donkey-powered castle well reminded me of a display at a museum I visited in Munich last year. As a Australian, I think we missed a lot of that human-powered and animal powered industry as it was settled just as coal was beginning to really get going.

    So I was quite surprised and fascinated to see so many museum pieces, along with lovely little detailed models, of all the quite scary looking, medieval human/donkey/cow and even dog powered wheels and contraptions that they employed to grind grain, move water and other such tasks. That would not be a pleasant existence!


  25. Hi Chris

    I was thinking about your comment on the different attitude to water shortages in rural areas and cities. I think it is largely about sewerage and public health. If there is no water to flush toilets, epidemics are a real risk. The sad thing is that they use all that pure water to flush it down the drain, where salt or grey water would do the work just as well. Sooner or later, I suspect that drinking water and water for other uses will have to have separate systems. But I am not holding my breath! 😉


  26. Hi everyone!

    Thank you for the lovely and thoughtful comments. It’s the dreaded mid-week hiatus tonight, but there should be plenty of time tomorrow and Saturday to reply. Until then it’s the dreaded mid-week hiatus!



  27. Hi Lewis,

    It is funny how that works. If you think about it, the traditional story has been flipped on its head and the grandparents are financially assisting the younger generations, when traditionally it was the obligation of the younger generations to look after their older relatives who had raised them. There is a story in there somewhere, and how that will all work out in the long term is anyone’s guess.

    Oh! I’d never heard of that usage of the ‘Earth Mother’ term, and no doubts that the term may have been co-opted at some point in the past? Interesting. It certainly means something. The Crunchy Mum concept inserts a very competitive edge to a similar meaning and competition has long been used as a social tool to divide. I respect some of the goals, but making it a competitive social activity seems a bit tiresome. Maybe I’m just getting older, but it does appear to me that of late, public discourse has a very tense edge to it and people have said things to me that have indicated where things could possibly go. Can’t say that it makes me feel relaxed hearing such talk, but I guess that is the point of it.

    No, the zero waste folks look lovely and it’s a good thing to do and they might pick up some useful skills. The recycling situation is a fascinating story, and people are bonkers about it. The things I read about it make me shake my head in wonder and I might even say something naughty like: What the fluff? (not the actual words used) Ha! Can’t break my own rule or where would credibility be found? 🙂

    Susan. Well. Err. Good luck! I’ll tell ya a funny story that could guide your actions (and there is no right way forward with that matter). I knew a bloke who was a member of a local group and he always used to say: “I’d love to do that” or “I’d love to help out” or something like that, and then he’d add: “Mate, I’m flat out at the moment, but maybe sometime later”. or even better: “Can you help me with…” And everyone seemed to enjoy the fact that he going to help out or somehow get involved. People such as Susan are rarely good at following up on their requests. To my mind they take advantage of social niceties in that they just ask for something and then hope that someone else will deliver upon it. It doesn’t cost them anything for them to do so. I wouldn’t act that way because if I’m asking for help, I actually need the help. So, because I act that way, my brain used to interpret their requests in the literal sense of their words, and I had to step back from that mode of thinking so as to protect myself. I tend to consider such requests nowadays from a point of view of social credits, and is there any upside for me in fulfilling the request. Most often there is no upside. I mentioned the recent decline in the standards of social discourse and that was based on a couple of interactions where people felt it necessary to pose a request in the form of a threat. It makes no sense to me, they could have just made the request and I feel such incidents are indicative of their fear or uncertainty. But it is a power game for them too. It is complicated looking into and considering other peoples motivations.

    Fortunately no sketchy drugs or torture was involved in the experiment. I can’t say that I would have enjoyed such a situation as it would have made me quite grumpy. It wasn’t an experiment for the cool kids, and that was probably why I got selected… Fun times. Have I ever mentioned the odour review test panels? They sure liked their experiments that employer.

    Imagine growing lemons in your part of the world? Cool! Do you have a spot in the garden that is out of the cold winter northerly winds? And maybe even against a wall that has lots of thermal mass. I’d go for the Meyer too, but wouldn’t discount the Eureka variety either (it has a sharper lemon taste than the Meyer). The trees enjoy a good feed too.

    Julius Caesar appears to be the sort to hold a grudge and then act upon it if given half a chance. A dangerous person. And if he didn’t hang the pirates, it sure made for a good story. With Varus, I read an account that some of the captured prisoners became slaves of the tribes. I wonder how that went down with the Roman’s? Probably not good. The author Jack Vance had that situation as a sub plot in one of his many books. And then the character escaped and flipped the tables on his captors, but quickly grew tired of their sullen and uncooperative nature.

    I suspect that the Bass Strait field is not that large, and it came on line during the Oil crisis of the 70’s and so we sort of dodged that a bit. However, from what I understand the field produces only light sweet Oils and no heavy Oils (which are all imported).

    Go Simon Pegg. Well this is an interesting turn of events. Sometimes dramas about mental health can be quite good like: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or Girl Interrupted was quite good too. But there are dark stories in those two films.

    Better run! Speak tomorrow.



  28. Hello again
    The colour sequencing idea on flowers, doesn’t work here at all. At the moment, I have whites, yellows, blues, pinks, violets and purples.
    @ Pam
    I am sitting on a Victorian chesterfield that we bought for 5 shillings in about 1959 at auction. It cost another £1 to have it delivered; boy is it heavy. I have had it re-done up once using all the old horse hair. Now I have cushions underneath where I sit as that part is sagging. The whole is covered in a blanket.
    @ Damo
    There are 4 donkeys who take turns on the wheel at Carisbrooke. The well is 161 feet deep.


  29. Yo, Chris – An archetypal Earth Mother would be Mama Cass from the musical group, “Mamas and Papas.” One of my favorite groups. She also had a bit of a solo career, before shuffling off this mortal coil. “Dream a Little Dream with Me” is a fav.

    Yes. The zero waste folks are a photogenic bunch. Purely circumstancsial, I’m sure :-).

    Well, the homeless situation seems to have resolved itself. Disappeared the next night. Maybe my gentle proding around had something to do with it. I talked to my friend Susan, today, who knows a lot about the homeless. She said the car folks are mostly keenly aware of when, perhaps, they’re drawing a bit too much attention. Or, she’s got a set rotation. Wherever she is, I hope she’s safe and well. A pity. Our little side street is, I think, pretty safe, quiet and well lit.

    Nope. Never enlightened us about your participation in the odor review test panel. I’m sure, therein lies a tale. Rating the personal hygiene of co-workers? :-).

    Well, I’m thinking maybe I could put a lemon bush in my one cedar tub. Right now, it’s used for Jerusalem artichoke, but I think I’d rather have a lemon. It’s in a south facing wall that is surrounded on two sides by the building. Like this? |˜˜˜ That upper line should be solid. I diddled around in the garden, last night. Boy, the soil sure does look rich and dark!

    Well, the story goes that Julius Caesar was having a jolly time with the pirates, waiting for the ransom to show up. He was quit young, at the time. So, they’re sitting around being jolly and Julius says, “You know, you rascals, I’ll have to come back and hang you all.” (Ha, ha, ha.) A couple of years later, the Senate finally got fed up with the pirates, and tasked a general with sweeping the Med of the menace. Julius was a young officer, on the expedition, and did, in fact, catch those pirates and hang them. It was the beginning of his military career. He’s begun to make a name for himself. I think he was also involved in putting down the Spartacus, revolt.

    I watched more of the “Palaces of the Ancient World”, last night. The Romans. The professor banged on about the “Roman Architectural Revolution.” About the time of Nero, they began working with concrete. The first domes and barrel vaults were constructed. With concrete. By the time of Hadrian, less than a hundred years later, it was in full flower. See “Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli.” Lew

  30. Chris,

    Once upon a year when I was visiting some of the simplicity discussion boards, one guy was remarking about the various $1.00 meals for a family of 4. That’s $1.00 total per meal, not per person. Nobody could pin him down on how he did it, though.

    The back to the land folks? I knew a few. After finding out some actual Truths and Realities, the ones I knew became yuppies and hard core capitalists and firm believers in the religion of progress. The Truths and Realities that bit them? Yeah, back to the land is HARD WORK. The required skills take years to develop, as they can’t be learned from a book, necessarily. But you live this daily, and know that with the rewards, the risks are always there. The back to the land types I knew couldn’t handle the hard work, grew up sheltered and lacking skills, and were scared to death when the risks outweighed the rewards.

    Rainfall forecasts are difficult, aren’t they? All I have to work with is the change that has been apparent for most of the past 12 years: the rains come in clumps and thunderstorms, the rain givers of the summer, rarely occur now. (I fully expect a major regional power outage caused by a record setting thunderstorm due to the improvidence of making that remark in hearing of Thor, Tesla and Thunderbird.)

    Some “excitement” just drained out of the situation here. My insanely busy season at work ended this week. One final busy season to go through next year, and that should be my last one.


  31. Hi Inge,

    Same here. Rain for most of last night, and thenall day today. 2 inches so far! Yay for rain. Is your pond showing any signs of holding water? I too have been there and done that with watering before a storm hits, but there is another school of thought that suggests that pre-watering the soil allows for a greater infiltration of rain when it does finally show.

    If I recall correctly, you have swum the channel (Solent), but pumping water across from the mainland looks like a bottleneck to me, should anything go wrong. The island state of Tasmania is linked to the mainland electricity grid by way of a massive undersea cable. Like your water pipe it is an impressive bit of engineering. However, I recall just before Christmas a few years back and during a drought that the: 2016 Tasmanian energy crisis began. It makes for sobering reading, and I recall at the time the airy predictions of the problem being fixed in only a month or so.

    I’d suggest (at a guess) that if the water system operates as a single system, then the two waters (local and mainland) are mixed together. Although it is possible that the water mains are divided into two systems, but my gut feeling tells me that someone, somewhere, would have come up with the good idea of connecting the two sources.

    It really is operated by a donkey! I’m impressed at the ingenuity of your forebears – and also at the placid nature of the donkey employed in lifting water from the deep well.

    You might well be right about the seasonal sequence of flower colours in a garden. I’ll try and watch more closely next spring.



  32. Hi Damo,

    Your boat trip sure was epic! And as you well know, they don’t make rivers like that over this side of the drink.

    No, I haven’t watched any of the episodes yet, but here’s hoping for some time with which to do so. Mate, 50mm of rain here today accompanied with wind and cold. One wind gust hit the side of the house today at 41kmh (at ground level) and it was at that point I was thankful for all of the steel strapping used in the house frame. Not a day to be outside. You both had great weather for the boat trip – despite the fog.



  33. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for writing that, and we shall not discuss my anti-ageing ring of power lest people come searching for it. Hehe!

    Dogs can be remarkably good at cracking the sads should the tide of events not go their way. The weather today was filthy with Antarctic winds and driving rain (2 inches. YAY!) Scritchy was in the bean bag earlier today and I had to occasionally “fluff-tip” her out of the bean bag so she could go outside and attend to her canine business. Talk about cracking the sads with a good dose of stink eye. Fluff tipping is the equivalent of your ‘shoving off’, and I hear you – it is most necessary.

    No way. So a tiny house is considered to be another bedroom for property taxes in your part of the world? Who’d have thunk it?

    Exactly, but I’m not entirely convinced that it is the majority of vegan’s themselves that promote the diet. Most go about their business quietly.

    Cool! It is really a worthwhile product to make, and that sure is one way to make it. When we use apples, we have to boil the apples so that it kills off the natural yeasts, but that all depends on where you live and what sort of yeasts inhabit your apple trees. I’ll be interested to hear if you have found that ageing the apple cider vinegar improves the taste.

    Thanks and one can never have too many moveable rocks. Rocks are valuable things.

    Yeah, I don’t tend to get the blues or yellows this late in the season, but I dunno it was just an idle thought about colour sequences as the season progresses.

    Hehe! Yeah, a very good thing for the chimney swifts. 🙂



  34. Hi Claire,

    The Antarctic winds have blown north and brought 2 inches of rain with them today. It is 42’F outside now and quite bitey.

    Thanks for sharing your story and I followed a similar path. Debt elimination was a long term goal for me too and I do wonder why people no longer value having land around them. Yes, freedom is an unfashionable choice and the path less travelled, that’s for sure. There was a book released down here a while ago regarding retro-fitting the suburbs, but I struggle with understanding that story because the houses in those places have eaten the land. I just don’t get it.

    Coal is king down here too. I don’t have great hope for renewable energy sources powering an industrial civilisation given my decade long experiment with the technology. It is good, but it isn’t good enough. I went in with high hopes, but nowadays I just hope the system powers my small daily requirements – and that the batteries last for another decade. I spent an hour or so earlier today reading a serious study into the effect of charging electric vehicles and the impact on the mains grid in the state to the west of here. It was an interesting read, but I do wonder if there is the willpower to invest further resources into the grid just to make some of the electric car dream can work. The report suggested that costs were pushed off onto homeowners and developers. But I suspect not. And the conditions were so sub-optimal today here that the 6kW of solar PV panels produced 2.2kWh of electricity for the entire day. You know, sometimes I show photos of the solar panels here all covered in snow and make the claim that they don’t work in such conditions, and people have in all seriousness replied that they have this model which suggests that the output from those panels should be… The disconnect and dismissal of those claims is truly amazing to behold.

    What a harrowing story of dam failure and I’m genuinely glad to read that few people were inconvenienced (or far worse than that) by the failure. Dams also eventually silt up. But then entropy dines upon our infrastructure at its leisure. Your dam was being used like a large scale battery in the system and it is not a bad idea – if it is maintained.

    Best wishes for a break in the rain longer than three days and that you can get your garden started. What a year you’ve had weather wise. The winter vegetables here are lapping up the rain – and the main house water tanks are about half full now.



  35. Hi Margaret,

    Glad to read, and some new skills are quite quick to learn, but slow to master. And there is a difference between the two stages too I reckon.

    I like lemon balm tea too and it is a prolific self seeding (volunteer) plant in the garden here. I think that it may be of the mint family as it has a square-ish stem and that is always a dead giveaway. Had a look at some climbing roses today at a nearby nursery, but I’m wondering now if I shouldn’t just plant some more rambling roses through some of the gardens. Dunno. They told me to wait until the bare-rooted rose varieties turn up in late June. I have heard that about stinging nettle, and please correct me if I am mistaken, nettle soup was a traditional an early spring tonic meal? How do you control stinging nettle?

    It is possible about the more aggressive birds scaring off the tanager – and that happens here with new birds and they have to fight their way into the pecking order. The world of bird is a brutal place. But you have such a huge diversity of bird life, which surely is a good sign as to the health of your garden and surrounding areas.

    I hear you, and we faced the same budget constraints back in the day. Things were different back then, but on reflection and with the experience of attendance at a number of el-splasho weddings, I wouldn’t change my mind and go all el-splasho-de-casho on a wedding. Nope. Not at all.

    Margaret, you are a far braver soul than I! Hehe! Oh my goodness, teasing the bride in such a fashion. On the other hand I do like your style. 🙂 But I guess people can get lost in the detail, and I’m not convinced that that is a good place to be. I’ll tell ya a funny story, the editor’s mum almost killed us all in an accidental car crash on the way to the garden rotunda where the ceremony took place. It’s all good, she was more nervous than we were and almost pulled out into busy traffic…

    Of course, and I absolutely 100% respect that you both put in time on the various volunteer groups that you are involved with. You never quite know what the future will bring, and if I have to rebuild this house after a bushfire for just one example, I wouldn’t hesitate putting a tiny house on site and living in that during the rebuild. What would bother me more would be having to move into the suburbs again during such a distressing time…



  36. Hi Hazel,

    Hope you scored some rain up your way today? Two inches so far today and I am very grateful for the rain. The house water tanks have begun to slowly refill, but there is a long way to go yet, because you don’t have to dig far before you discover dry soil.

    It is funny that you mention that about the water. When I used to live in the big smoke, I wondered why the local parks and gardens weren’t watered with treated effluent water which must have been plentiful. It is possible, as is your excellent suggestion.



  37. Hi DJ,

    I’ve heard those stories too about eating on the cheap. Excuse the pun, but they smell a bit fishy to me. 🙂 They remind me of the ideal of ‘self sufficiency’, which is lauded as a possible goal, but from my perspective it would be an extraordinarily difficult goal to achieve at the current standard of living.

    Thanks for sharing your experience as I’ve only met a few of those folks in passing over the years and I can only guess at their stories – which are generally not forthcoming, by the way as I was unable to probe and they appeared a bit cagey about the subject. In some ways, your accounts confirmed my worst fears. There is no talking it up really. A long time ago on the old ADR blog someone suggested that just taking land from others in a possible dystopian future was a possible course of action theoretically speaking. In a way they are right, but they haven’t quite gotten around to the ‘what next’ side of that story and I feel that it would end poorly for them.

    Quiet now, lest ye tempt the Gods themselves by such loose talk! 🙂 Err, but since you wrote that, err, good luck and remember to keep some potable water handy! The rain here is also turning up in large downpours – 2 inches today. Spreading it out a bit would be a bit nicer, but the water is sinking into the ground rather than running over the surface on its way to elsewhere.

    Good for you! It is nice to be busy, but only for a while. I suspect that is one of the reasons humans are only good at sprinting in short bursts, despite being able to run at a slower pace for much longer durations.



  38. Hi Chris

    Yes, we scored 13mm of rain today, which was gratefully received. The Antarctic blast also had everyone scurrying for cover, as most of the day was around 7 degrees C. But it’s supposed to be 19C by Sunday, which is very warm for this time of year.
    Glad to hear that your tanks are filling – there’s nothing scarier than getting low on water. Mind you, I look at the water storage situation in Melbourne, and that would scare me silly. I remember how low the levels became in the last drought, and there are now about a million more people there!
    Hope that you and the editor ( and the fluffy collective) are all well, and that you find many more rocks.😃

  39. Hi Lewis,

    I had no idea that that song was performed by Mama Cass, but written earlier. Well there you go. She has an amazing voice. YouTube is a funny thing and there is a live clip from 1972 of John Denver & Cass Elliot – Leaving On A Jet Plane. When I was a kid, the school used to get us singing these songs and California Dreaming was one of those. Dream a Little Dream with Me is a beautiful song.

    Haha! Clearly you are as cynical as I for pointing that out about the photogeneticity! Thanks for the laughs. What can I say, it’s marketing pure and simple. What I noticed was the air conditioner pipe sticking out of the window along side the wall mounted radiator. Those two items are very difficult to use in a zero waste story. I don’t know what to say, but I was reading about electric cars earlier this evening and there was an apartment block with two electric car bays and the quote was something along the lines that if a third vehicle were added, the lifts in the building would not work. I dunno what to say, people just want what they want.

    It is a complicated situation and it would be tough as, living in a car – and your winters are brutal cold and a car is no place to sleep in such a winter climate. Back in the late 90’s we packed it in and travelled around the country in a small hatchback. Mostly we slept in the tent at various sites around the country, and the winters were pretty hard and we started off the adventure during winter down in Tasmania. I’m not sure that I’d recognise the place today, it would I guess, look the sort of the same, but be different. Heck, I can’t even reconcile my memories of the big smoke from back in those days with what it looks like now. And as a side note, it was a surprisingly cheap trip, but we kept it that way. I don’t feel that it would be that cheap nowadays, and despite the election next week, fuel prices are soaring down here.

    The risk that is taken on-board when other people guide a person’s finances is that another person is in control, and they’re only as good as they are. That story I reckon applies to the big picture as well, and people spruiking Modern Monetary Theory probably haven’t considered that side of the story?

    Two inches of rain here today. Yay for rain! Believe it or not, the house water tanks (excluding the large reserve tank which is empty) are now half full. Not a bad effort. I heard the rain start in the wee hours of the morning and I got up this time around and checked that the water filters hadn’t blocked up with gunk. They were squeaky clean after the last heavy rain and so I went back to sleep. And it has continued to rain for most of the day.

    Well maybe there was a bit of odour rating of co-workers! Hehe! This is serious, residents of the areas surrounding the huge sewage treatment plant down in Werribee sometimes complained about the smell. So the boffins would collect samples and I was on a panel which rated the odour. It was an important community service, and it was heaps easier than working. I used to take a book along with me and read it in between the important act of sniffing and rating. Mostly the smells were very inoffensive and of the range that you would expect, but I do wonder if the boffins chucked in a dodgy sample every now and then just to keep the panel members sharp? What a fine joke that would be! Would you pull such a prank? 🙂 So indirectly, if the co-workers business ended up at the sewage treatment plant then I guess you would be correct.

    Rich and dark soil is music to the eyes of a gardener. Hope the worms are having a good time in the soil? I reckon your plan for the lemon is worth trying, and given it is a tub, it might be possible to move the plant into a shed using a trolley should worst case weather arrive? But the old timers used to sometimes just drape a cloth over the plant and that was enough to keep them warm. They need a lot of feeding if kept in tubs. I’d rather have a lemon tree than Jerusalem Artichokes too. Hey, some of the potatoes are now poking their green leaves through the compost that I added to their raised beds a few weeks ago.

    It is not a matter for brevity, but I was reading an account of Spartacus and to quote the author: “The actual Spartacus, however, was not a proto-Marxian proletariat revolutionary nor a hero of his people fighting for their freedom.” but then the author went on to write a truly fascinating article on Spartacus: The Spartacus Revolt. There are some parallels to be seen with the brief mention of unemployment in the article and large scale control of land. For the life of me, I have no idea why Spartacus did not continue north and build his strength or find new alliances beyond the limits.

    The blue glass beakers are amazing and the exhibition would be really good to see. Do you reckon the glass beakers were made during that era or were they from an earlier time?



  40. Hello again
    Er, I was denying the colour sequence of flowers.
    The weather is about to go very dry again. While containers filled with water, the pond only acquired dampness. the ground is really, really dry. I do wish that it was warmer at night so my fruit and veg would show more enthusiasm for growing.


  41. Yo, Chris – To quote the immortal words of Little Orphan Annie, “Tomorrow!” 🙂 If I find nothing, I’ve got a plan B. Retail therapy at Centralia Square Antique Mall. But I doubt I’ll have to put plan B, into effect. I usually find “something” at the fair grounds.

    I can only link to one article at a time. Without going in and out of your blog. Probably a good thing :-). Yesterday was what they call a “target rich environment.” There was a review of a new movie about Tolkien, creatively called “Tolkien.” The Tolkien family didn’t like it. Spent the money and finagled a part for a grandson, but didn’t like it.

    There was another dreary story about our health system. About diabetics. The cost of medication and supplies have gone through the roof. Several have died attempting to ration out the insulin. But, I figured you’d had enough of those stories, at present.

    So, I settled on this. Sounds a bit like The Editor and you.


    LOL. Your reflections on Tasmania and the Big Smoke? Well, not to be the barer of bad tidings (but just to be exactly that) it’s because … you’re getting old! 🙂 Actually, I think it’s more a function of, as we age, there’s more “past” in the past.

    I better go back to hoarding those cans the diced tomatoes, I run across. There have been articles that by fall, tomatoes will cost 80% more than they do now. Due to new tariffs on Mexico. Petrol is also bumping up, here.

    Go rain! You’ll be topped up, in no time. When the Master Gardeners took the artichokes for their sale, it left a sizable hole. So, I chucked in a sack of kitchen scraps and worms, then topped it with some soil. I’m going to plant that section with basil and parsley. I think if I get the lemon tree, I’ll invest in a thermal garden blanket, to throw over the thing. Just in case. I keep meaning to look into, and link, for you, as to methods they use here to save orchards in cold weather. There are smudge pots. They use them a lot over on the other side of our mountains. Then there’s something I read about, that doesn’t make much sense, but works. In Florida, they mist the trees with water, which freezes, and protects the trees. Somehow.

    The glass beaker? All of the above. :-). It might have been an heirloom, passed down, or, even at that time, there was still a pretty lively glass trade going on in the eastern Med. Alexandria, etc.. Another find from Vindolanda. A stone game board. :-). Later flipped over and used as a floor tile. No shoes :-(.

    Well, I suppose there’s all kinds of “takes” on Spartacus. Scholarly papers must be written. When the Berlin Wall came down, a friend said to me, “Isn’t that something. What do you think it’s all about?” My response was: “Shopping.” Lew

  42. Poverty with flair- I guess my mind went off in a slightly different direction. Yes, one can live on the cheap, but still find thrifty ways to “live it up” a bit, or keep a devil may care attitude, while minding the budget, but I see so many examples where folks just don’t know how to be poor anymore.

    I understand that with no savings, sometimes the system forces people to make short term desperate choices, but I have seen examples of folks who have minimal income, no savings, but still eat out, spend on entertainment in various ways, and in general, miss opportunities to start saving a bit of a cushion.

    For a good long stretch, my wife and I were both working well paying jobs, but lunch was leftovers, we would cook our own meals 90% of the time, and rented VHS tapes instead of going to the theater. ( Or just read books) and in various ways, scrimped so we could eventually move to our fully paid acreage in the country, where we now grow much of our own food, and still look for ways to economize.

    OK, that came off as rather finger wagging and preachy, but I still say that getting caught up in the media driven urge to consume has left people not knowing tools available to them to slowly dig themselves out of being poor.

  43. Hi Hazel,

    Yay for decent rain at last. And it looks like you scored some more today. 🙂 It’s a relief isn’t it? Looking at the forecast that might be it for rain until June, and Melbourne appears to be getting the same weather as each day for the next week is either 17’C or 18’C (although I doubt it will get into double digits up here in the cooler mountains).

    This year is as low as the water tanks have fared given a lack of errors on our part. The editor once lost 25,000L just prior to a dry summer a few years back. It happens. Oh! I hadn’t noticed what was going on in Melbourne with their water storage. Apparently it is 51.2% capacity which looks about 10% down on last year at this time. Likewise Sydney is also low at 55.1%, which is about 20% down on this time last year. I have long suspected that water is the limiting resource on this continent.

    Thanks for the kind words and I hope that you and yours are keeping well too and that your winter garden is productive and enjoyable. We plan to dig tomorrow, so hopefully more moveable rocks are unearthed! I’ll keep the camera handy just in case.



  44. Hi Inge,

    Communication via the interweb is a complex thing. It would be far easier to discuss important matters over a nice cup of tea, and maybe a scone (or two or three for me) with fresh homemade jam (as long as someone didn’t mix up some sort of weird flavour combination, but instead stuck to the tried and true forest berries) and then perhaps we would not suffer these minor bouts of miscommunication. I recall a most unfortunate incident a few years ago where a business thought that mixing rosemary into a lemon based dressing on a dessert would be a good idea. My taste buds are not that jaded.

    Anyway, after all of my digressions regarding scones, and despite my earlier words, I was suggesting in my round about way that I have no idea at all about the subject of flower colour progressions and was just guessing, and may in fact put a few more brain cells towards the matter when spring finally arrives here again. 🙂

    It is funny that you mention the cold nights, because it had not occurred to me that in otherwise temperate parts of the world, the warm to hot nights, whilst unpleasant for me, are beneficial for the plants. Writing about air conditioning machines a few months back revealed an astounding diversity of responses. I moved here for the very reason that the summer night time temperatures are cooler than Melbourne, and it is always a shock when I experience a night time temperature in excess of 80’F.

    Summer vegetables cannot be hurried and they follow their own timing – from what I’ve observed. But I suspect that there are other factors at play and the climate variability is slowly increasing. Dunno.

    Have you had summer droughts on the island before?



  45. Hello again
    Of course face to face communication is infinitely more satisfactory and it speeds things up.
    Summer droughts are not unknown here but apart from last year it seems ages since we have had one. The drought last year, caused considerable clearance in the woodland which was a good thing as areas had become completely impassable.


  46. Hi Lewis,

    Good luck and happy hunting at the fair grounds. 🙂 Did you score anything?

    Too many articles is a bit like having too many books waiting to be read. My mind wanders around the place and if I’m not really careful chunks of brain might fall out of various orifices and then the zombies will be lured. Best to keep that undead lot well at bay, me thinks. 🙂 I see your Tolkien and raise you an article on: Powerful owls have settled down in Melbourne’s suburbs, but it might not be for long.

    Many years ago when I lived in the big smoke, I spotted a Powerful Owl sitting on an electricity wire. And as the birds do, it was calling using its low note. I managed to convince a neighbour who was unhappy about all of the hullabaloo that the bird was making (it was about 11pm from memory), and instead I engaged the neighbour and convinced him that it was an amazing sight to see and hear. I was a bit concerned that he wanted to apparently throw something at the large bird and send it on its way. Instead we delved into a bird identification that I took out of the bookshelf and had a nice conversation about what an amazing bird had turned up in the street near to the middle of the night. I can’t honestly say that I miss living in the city.

    But back to the Tolkien film. Apparently the critics, criticised the film whilst the fans enjoyed it. What is going on with the disparity of views? As a former reviewer yourself you must have some thoughts on the matter? As to the family, my mum used to say: If you’ve got nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut. Now of course this rule did not apply to herself, but it is good advice you have to admit?

    If there is ever a supply issue with pharmaceuticals, diabetics could be in for a world of hurt.

    Thanks for mentioning the film: Biggest Little Farm. I watched the trailer and read the article and it looks inspiring and I’m glad that they don’t sugar coat the experience too much. When I saw them digging the dry soil I was thinking to myself: I hear you bro. They do things big as there, and the number of orchard trees was commendable and way outside of what I have the abilities (or can afford) to maintain. From the air it looks like an amazing property. I couldn’t see a cinema release date for Down Under but I’ll keep a note and an eye out for the film.

    Hehe! Yeah, I’ve heard that story about having more past when you’ve got more past. It sort of makes sense from a cognitive point of view. Sometimes I check to see whether my lost youth hasn’t fallen behind the couch. You never know… 🙂 I heard a scientist discussing this matter and suggesting that it was the reason that children feel that the days are soooo long. They’re not, but you know…

    Hopefully we find some more moveable rocks tomorrow because we’ve set aside the entire day for digging. I spent most of today running around like a crazy person getting all of the various tasks that are required to keep us fed and the place running for the next week or so. And I’m looking forward to some basic old hard work tomorrow. Sometimes there is just so many administrative tasks that I do wonder how other people keep on top of them all.

    I dunno about tomatoes in your part of the world increasing in price. And my reason for thinking that, is because your food bowl scored a lot of rain this past winter, and from what I’ve seen of tomatoes, you can start them from seedlings as late as June (experience from one memorable and very damp spring a few years back) and they’ll still produce well. An excellent plant that one. But fuel prices may be increasing as the number of operational fracking wells declines in your country and add onto that our currency sinks further into the doldrums (not a problem for you).

    The thermal garden blanket for a lemon tree is a great idea for the occasional bouts of crazy cold weather in your part of the world. I like it. Basil and parsley are very good plants to have access too. Can you believe the basil is still producing here? In the past two years we’ve planted basil in the deep shade of the asparagus, and it has survived and thrived. Mind you, the asparagus will soon have to be cut back for the winter, so that will be it for the basil.

    The smudge pot is a great idea. Interesting. We’ve been considering getting an electric still for a few months now, and it didn’t take much reading to uncover the simple steps to protect oneself from methanol as distinct from ethanol. I can see that either stupid or greedy might be critical factors in methanol poisoning.

    Given how much you’ve read, and what we’ve discussed over the years, I am starting to wonder whether the dark ages were all that dark. I have no doubts that they were less populous, but I sometimes get hints that trade continued during the time. Have your thoughts changed on that subject over time? It is a bit of a shame that no further shoes were discovered in the digs. 😉 Did anyone know what game the stone tile was used for? Hey, did the Roman’s keep slaves along with the troops that manned Hadrian’s wall?

    I noticed in the article on Spartacus that there was a mention that smaller Roman farmers were often drafted and then their lands were acquired on the cheap by their wealthier neighbours. I can’t imagine that such a practice would not create a lot of discontent – if the drafted Roman soldiers survived. Have you ever read anything about that activity?

    Hey, you were more right than you know. I have heard first hand accounts that some German’s cross the border and do their shopping in the Czech republic for that very reason. Hmm. You can’t do that trick down under.



  47. Hi Steve,

    Exactly, people have forgotten how to enjoy themselves on the cheap. It applies to many aspects. A few weeks ago I took a talk on seed saving and mentioned that it was entirely possible to plant out an orchard of known cultivars and not purchase a single tree and then went on to demonstrate summer bud grafting which is a grafting technique I learned from an old bloke who had been an orchardist most of his life, and his dad used to run an orchard, and the blokes daughter ran the orchard these days.

    Mate, there is a definite skill in both recognising and taking advantage of opportunities.

    It wasn’t preachy at all, it is just plain common sense.

    Thanks for mentioning the blog and I’ll have a read and maybe create a link on the blog roll here.



  48. Hi Inge,

    No worries at all! 🙂

    Droughts do have an impact upon the vegetation, and I have observed that all of the efforts of the past decade at getting water back into the groundwater table and increasing the top soil and general fertility of the soil, meant that the forest canopy barely noticed the hot and dry summer weather. During similar weather in the summer of 2008/09 dead leaves fell from the canopy in profusion as if they were like snow.

    The shrub layer was a different story though this past summer as those plants displayed signs of considerable stress where the plants were too closely spaced. I learn a bit more about the forest story here every year, and open woodlands have less stress in really hot and dry years – I suspect a lack of competition for minerals and water is the key there. How does that compare with your part of the world?



  49. Yo, Chris – Up early to hit the flea market! (And, it’s way to early.) Oh, well. It hit 88F (31.11C), yesterday. About the same, today. I’ll be safely home before the temps start to climb.

    Oh, no! The dreaded Scone Digression! 🙂 I think I saw an ad about that. I think there’s a pill now.

    LOL. I saw the headline of that article and thought, “Powerful owls as opposed to? Wimpy owls? They do have a bit of an odd look about them. A bit demented, around the edges. I could have lived without the photo of regurgitated owl pellets, before I got my breakfast down.

    Oh, I suppose critics underestimate (or, underestimate?) the public. There’s not accounting for taste? (Or, the lack thereof.) It’s funny. Back in the day, I used to read a certain magazine (for the text, only) and I found the reviews very helpful. If they didn’t like a movie, I knew I’d like it. If they praised it to the skies, I knew it would be a waste of my time and money.

    Many diabetics (due to costs) are already in a world of hurt. “The Daily Impact” has a new post, up. It touches on drug prices. I always thought if I ever wrote an TEOTWAWKI story, the opening line would be. “The diabetics died first.”

    They used to (kind of) joke that boot leg gin would make you go blind. I suppose it was the methanol.

    Oh, I’ve never felt the Dark Ages were all that dark. Other than rampaging hoards of people. Off their track and I’m sure life could be a bit bucolic. Again, it all has to do with expectations. Slaves generally made up 30-40% of the Roman empire’s population. So, they were all over the place. There were a lot of “civic” slaves, about. Slaves that belonged to the Empire, or to towns and cities. I’d say in the Roman army, anyone from a Centurion on up, would have at least one slave. I’m sure if you didn’t have extended family, on scene, or a community behind you, land could be taken by force. A lot of army vets were granted land, and it either didn’t work out, or they really had no interest in farming. Some of that land could be had on the cheap.

    There are several differences between taxes in Oregon and Washington. So, there’s always been a lot of cross border fiddling. It’s way cheaper to license a car, in Oregon. When I lived in Vancouver, Washington, we did a lot of buying in Oregon. Usually, they would only nail people on the high ticket items. Penalties could be quit severe.

    Well, away I go! Treasure! Lew

  50. Hi Lewis,

    I lost about an hour of writing time tonight because the website had an update (be afraid, be very afraid!!!) and I accidentally closed the screen off before it had completed the update. And that was when the trouble began. First, the website was locked out in maintenance mode, and then I had to go into the back end at the server and manually delete the problem child chunk of software, and then I had to reinstall it and convince the main software that it still wasn’t updating. What a carry on! And a true waste of time. I promise to be more careful in future with closing the windows before the process has been completed, but then I could just as easily stuff it up all over again.

    That would be my strategy too, plus you have to admit that in these flea market situations, the early bird really does get the worm. 🙂 You are having really lovely weather. Nice and I’ll bet you can almost see the plants jumping out of the soil? It was 50’F here today and so we worked from early this morning until the sun set. We were on a roll with the corn enclosure project and we didn’t even stop for the chickens to have their evening run in the orchard. Mind you, I’d be more sympathetic to the chicken cause if they managed to supply a few eggs! They’re still eating though!

    Did I mention that I bought a large quantity of stabilised oats as they’re much cheaper than the organic rolled oats which retain their malt? The organic stuff is about four times the price, so I thought I might check out if the cheaper stuff is any good. Well it ain’t! The batches of toasted muesli that I produced using the stabilised oats are now being slowly fed to the chickens. It wasn’t good. And the organic stuff has risen in price by almost 40%, but I’m told by authoritative sources that inflation is only 2% so I guess there is nothing to worry about…

    Hehe! Scones are good, and with fresh jam and double whipped cream they are even better. 🙂 Funny stuff.

    Yeah, the regurgitated chunks of Powerful Owl food looks like a chunk of mineral phosphate to me (if you can ignore the chunks of fur and bone). It’s probably pretty good stuff for the garden? And I’d be hard pressed keeping the fluffies off such avian derived treats. Our canine friends have revolting habits. And then they want to share their fresh breath with you. I wonder what they are thinking. Probably nothing good. 🙂

    Mate, I’ve heard that story and may have used the same story myself! When I used to work for the newsagent delivering newspapers, some folks used to get a newspaper titled: “The Truth”. The title was a big call. Anyway, the newspaper used to have a page 3 girlie image (and nobody thought anything about me delivering the newspaper), and the blokes that used to get the paper delivered, when I encountered them, used to remark that the newspaper had the best form guide for the horse racing. They may well be right, although I understand nothing about these matters. Ah yes, you do have to go with your gut feeling with reviews. I’d imagine that you were always fair handed with reviews and called a spade a spade (as they used to quip)?

    Thanks. I saw Tom’s comment about writing when the mood takes him, and fair enough it is his blog. I’ll check out his latest essay, as he always has something interesting to say. I’m really not entirely sure that folks consider such risks with the availability of medications. This article ties in with that story, and is a hint as to what may be possible if people pulled a finger out and got on with important matters of personal interest: Fukushima’s mothers became radiation experts to protect their children after nuclear meltdown .

    It is the methanol in the mix and the boiling point is so much lower than ethanol that it is a no brainer to eliminate the risk. However that assumes that nobody puts the intern on the job of distillation…

    You’ve absolutely and unequivocally changed my mind about that. I suspect that the dark ages were not as dark as people now believe, it is just that there wasn’t enough excess resources around for anyone to make the effort of recording them (or the records decayed or were destroyed one way or another). I also suspect that the majority of people during that time may have been aware of the fall of the Roman Empire and knew enough stories about exploitation and outright brutality of those times that they deliberately turned their backs on civilised existence. It is possible?

    Hey, the same thing happened here with returning WWI vets and land, and some stories worked out, and others didn’t work out so well. The drought leading into and during the Great Depression wouldn’t have assisted matters either. Drought gripped your country too, and I suspect the decline in output from some agricultural areas really kicked out some of the pillars that held up the banking system at that time in history.

    Really? I guess if you lived on the border, you’d sort of be very tempted to take advantage of the differences between one states taxes and the next.

    Best of luck with the treasure hunt – and I better get into some writing! Yikes, it is almost 8.20pm and I haven’t written anything. Did you score any treasure?

    The board game was very cool. And I did like how there was a suggestion that some Roman mercenary had deliberately broken the board after a crushing defeat – at the hand of a slave I’d have to posit. And people are working on the finer details of the game based on what is known from fragments here and there. Impressive stuff.



  51. Hi Pam,

    It is inspiring stuff! Been moving me some rocks and soil today. We unearthed the whale of a rock though. Wait until you see the photo of the immovable beast. Hope you are doing well.



  52. Hello again
    Hot and dry today. Yes, it is the same here; the shrubbery suffers first from lack of rain. However that seems to be a necessary clear out so I am happy with it.
    Son has just brought me tomato seedlings to be planted out; far to many of them. I still have tomatoes in the freezer from last year.


  53. Yo, Chris – Windows? I thought computers had screens? :-). Usually if I solve a computer problem, I have stumbled on it by accident. Push buttons til it does what I want.

    The flea market? Zip. Nada. Not even a crummy Made in China, Boyd Bear. :-(. I wandered up to the op-shop. (Nothing) and over to the antique mall. There was a really nice (and expensive) vase, but I’ll let it sit til the big sale in the fall. With luck, it will have sold :-). I finally stopped by the Club op-shop and bought a little cruet for $3, that I’d been eyeing. I’d sworn off pattern glass, but had to take home SOMETHING. Pattern glass is usually made, 1880-1920, and, is mostly clear with an impressed pattern. I’ll have fun identifying the company and pattern. See if the stopper is the right one. Also, the local auction has at least 5 auctions, this month. Two of them look pretty good.

    The weather is beginning to cool, a bit. Getting cloudy. We may have rain by Wednesday. Plants are booming, along. A mystery. When I got in the truck yesterday morning, I noticed a purple lilac had turned entirely white. Overnight. HRH’s mum noticed it too. Nothing definite on line. Onto the master gardeners.

    LOL. The chickens are withholding eggs, not because they’re molting, but because you’re feeding them rubbish oats. They’re on strike for better tucker. :-).

    Yea, they tell us the same thing here. Little inflation. Yet we can see it all around us.

    The last time I did a book order, I meant to order the British National Trust book of scones. Left it off, by accident. Oh, well. Next time.

    Of course I wasn’t fair handed with my reviews :-). Everyone has their prejudices and blind spots. Little axes to grind.

    During prohibition, bath tub gin was made in, well, bathtubs. I can see where all kinds of things could go wrong. I understand there was a boom in home beer and wine making.

    Looking forward to seeing Whale Rock. Going to name it Moby Dick? There she blows! Man the harpoons! Lew

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