Starting small

It seems to me that these days everyone wants things big. A big house, a big car with maybe even some big debt. Heck, even I want (and got) some big land. I like having big land, so I have no problems with people wanting a big house or a big car. I’m just sort of uncomfortable with the idea of big debt, and that is where I draw the line on this business of big. Not liking big debt has meant that time and time again I’ve had to start small.

The recession of the early 1990’s unceremoniously dumped me in the job of debt collection. It was the only work I could get back then, and it kept food on the table and a roof over my head. I saw the ugly side of the big story, especially as it related to big debt, and I’ve never needed to be told about either situation a second time. Plus at someone else’s expense I got to listen to every hard luck or evasive story under the sun. It never ceased to amaze me that there were not that many variations in the themes of those stories. Perhaps as a society we’d forgotten how to tell good stories?

Fast forward a bit over half a decade from those heady days of recession, and my fortunes had risen. I was also busy at nights and weekends repairing an inner city house that had a bit of land with which to grow vegetables and fruit trees. Turns out that growing fruit and vegetables was a lot harder than I thought. My confidence was perhaps bigger than my skills?

I hankered for some bigger land, and eventually we purchased a block of land that had been on the market for two years. It was a frightening block of land, if only because the land had been logged since 1860 and there was no top soil to speak of. Rain fell, hit the hard sun baked clay and just rolled on down the hill. And there was no house site to speak of just a driveway and an old timber and steel shanty. However, the zoning meant that it was permissible to build a house.

About two years after purchasing the big block of land, we eventually completed the repair works on the inner city abode, sold up and took up the dream of building a small house on a big bit of land.

In these circumstances, starting small is a not a bad idea. About the same time that we were applying for permission with the local authorities to build the house, the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people and burnt 1,100,000 acres. That was a big fire. And the state government immediately changed the building codes relating to bushfires which added a lot of material costs to our small building. We probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to construct a larger house given the extra costs imposed by the changes. Fortunately we wanted a small house, and we planned to construct the entire house ourselves using our own labour (excluding excavations, plumbing and mains electrical work).

As a strategy, starting small works. And if we need extra storage space, as long term readers may attest, we simply build another shed.

Since moving here, we’ve used that starting small strategy to good effect with most of the systems on the farm. The solar power system was like that too, as we started with 8 photovoltaic (PV) panels, and just kept adding panels until we arrived at 31 PV panels today. The starting small strategy gives a person time to learn the ropes and see what works and what doesn’t work.

Earlier in the week the sun shone from clear blue skies and the late autumn days were warm. The burn-off restrictions for residents were lifted, and pent up demand led to small bonfires in the area and beautiful sunsets.

Warm clear late autumn days and the easing of burn off restrictions for residents led to beautiful sunsets

However, looking at the rainfall forecast I noted that Thursday through Saturday would be quite damp. And it sure was damp as many inches of rain fell over the farm. You could see the rain moving in from across the valley:

This week’s rain could be seen moving in across the valley

The clouds were thick for about four days.

The clouds hung thick over the entire area for many days

The heavy thick cloud and rain meant that all those 31 solar PV panels produced approximately 10% to 15% of what would be expected on an otherwise clear and sunny day. And that went on for four days.

At midday on a very cloudy day the solar PV panels produce only 10% of their rated output

I’m glad that we started with such a small solar power system because we have experience in learning how to live a good life with only a tiny supply of electricity. I hear a lot of big talk, often from people with little real world experience, about this renewable energy technology. They often suggest that we can supply enough electricity to run an industrial civilisation. It sounds like a lot of rubbish talk to me, as we have barely generated enough electricity to power our small needs during the latter half of this very cloudy and rainy week.

Regular readers will recall that we had been extending the corn enclosure so as to provide more space with which to grow this most excellent crop. Given the forecast heavy rain I decided to place a cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of coarse composted woody mulch onto the excavated areas. The mulch slows and spreads the heavy rain and works to stop the recently excavated area from sliding down the hill.

A cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of coarse woody mulch was placed onto the excavated areas due to the forecast heavy rain

Like most systems, we started small when we began growing corn two summers ago. Back then the corn crop was this big (12 plants):

Two summers ago the corn crop was this big

Last summer we increased the number of corn plants growing from 12 to about 70 plants.

Last summer we increased the number of corn plants to about 70

Now of course, when you’re on the side of a hill there is no such thing as flat land for growing plants, so if you want to grow more plants, you have to dig flat land (otherwise known as a terrace). Planting more corn is the reason we began excavating the land behind the corn enclosure in the above photo. This week, we still had a lot of digging to do.

After the rain finished we were able to continue digging the soil so as to extend the corn enclosure and terrace

Sure enough we unearthed some good sized rocks! The big rocks are used for garden rock walls.

We unearthed some good sized rocks

Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (sorry I meant to write Australian cattle dog) is clearly Lord of the Rocks (a must see image for all you Tolkien fans in the audience).

Ollie is Lord of the Rocks (sort of like Lord of the Rings, but with rocks!). Toothy is impressed!

Unfortunately, at the bottom of the soil to be excavated, we unearthed the largest rock that I have yet seen on the property. The thing is the size of a small whale. One rock to rule them all?

A huge rock was unearthed that is the size of a small whale. Toothy is not impressed!

Of course being a guy I suggested that we blow the rock up. The editor who is perhaps of a more cautious and sensible mindset than I, suggested that we work around the rock. So we’re going to work around the rock, but we’ll see how that goes next week. We managed to cement in the treated pine timber post which will hold the gate.

The treated pine timber post for the gate was cemented into the ground late in the day

And we decided to plant four Issai Kiwi Fruit vines inside the enclosure. Being vines, they should happily grow along and through the heavy duty chicken wire which will surround the corn enclosure.

The first of four Issai kiwi fruit vines that will be planted along the fences of the corn enclosure

Despite it being so late in autumn, the return of the rains has meant that many plants are happily growing. In the past few days, many new season grasses have sprouted all over the place.

The return of the rains has meant that new season grass has sprung up all over the place

The insect activity is much quieter now that autumn is nearing its end game. However, the other day we spotted this huge stick insect:

A huge stick insect on the house

Leaf change is almost done for another year:

How good does this smoke bush look?
Although not many plants put on as good a show as the Japanese maples

Onto the flowers:

The return of the rain has meant that we can plant new varieties of Salvia’s
Another new Salvia
The many geranium’s rejoiced at the return of the rains
This rosemary is either late flower or early and I’m really not sure which it is
Broad beans are now flowering

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 8’C (46’F). So far this year there has been 166.4mm (6.6 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 113.6mm (4.5 inches).

60 thoughts on “Starting small”

  1. Hi Inge,

    Hot and dry summers are my nightmare, and you have my sympathies. And hopefully the rain eventually turns up? Have you read any long term forecasts? Out of curiosity, such weather becomes the talk of the mountain range with the locals, and everyone has their opinion and certain sign that things are really bad. A lovely old timer that I know always remarks to me that when the Periwinkle looks as if it has dried to a crisp, you know things are really bad. Do you hear that sort of talk on your island, or are people oblivious to the conditions?

    Lucky you! More tomato seedlings sounds like a fine present to my ears. Does your son raise them in a greenhouse?

    It was finally sunny here today! Yay for the sun!



  2. Hi Lewis,

    Of course with different computer operating systems (e.g. your lot) all this talk of windows sounds a bit opaque! Not quite what one would expect from a window unless it had a one way film applied to the glazing. I once lived in a share house that had that stuff applied on the wrong side of the glazing. At night, nobody who was inside could see outside, but if the light was switched on, the activities going on inside the room became clear to everyone who may have been on the outside of the house. All very weird, and as a consequence that room was never used at night due to the extreme creepy factor of the glazing. Given it was a rental property, nobody could be bothered correcting the problem and so we all just worked around it.

    Hey, that pushing buttons until something works is a good strategy. Back in the day that was described as the: “Commodore 64 users trick”. 🙂 I’ll bet you had a TRS-80 back in the day. I dunno why I get that vibe, but I reckon in some ways you were ahead of the curve. I used to get kicked out of Radio Shack (Tandy down here) electronics shops because I kept trying to play computer games on the old TRS-80’s, and then eventually I guess applying for a job seemed like a logical conclusion. Work back in the day was more fun, and I can’t honestly say that having seen those days and having something to compare the time too, that it is fun these days. I have some mates who are younger than I and someone got into their heads and suggested that work should be fulfilling (whatever that means). Have you heard people sprouting that story? And what do you reckon it even means? I suspect they themselves don’t know.

    How does a company sell teddy bears and expect to make enough profit to keep a head office operating? That story makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, but maybe I think too small.

    I like that line: With luck, it will have sold! Funny stuff and good luck with that one, and may the vase not burn a hole in your consciousness. I’ve suffered from that sad state of affairs only recently with the successful search for the second hand big electric chainsaw that is no longer being sold down under. And I get that, how you can you go home after a hunting and gathering exercise all empty handed and stuff?

    Now, I had absolutely no idea what a cruet was. A very sensible container, and I use such a beast for holding the olive oil (the oil of which is recovered from the dehydrated tomato preserving job). The neck is incorporated in the design so as to collect any lees or chunks of herbs that may have been used to infuse the oil or vinegar. Have you had any luck discovering the manufacturer and history of the unknown patterned glass used in the cruet? I assume that the glass is not coloured because you might have mentioned that – especially if it was blue. I can see how a stopper might have been substituted. That reminds me, do you know, when we had the plumbing done here, I had to modify a stainless steel drain and rubber plug so as to provide an old school plug and drain for the kitchen sink. The modern set ups come with a stainless steel basket and gasket and to me they just don’t work as well, but try finding a brand new old school plug and drain set up fits… And I’m frankly a bit dubious of the material that was used to make the ‘rubber’ plug for the drain. It sort of looks and feels like rubber, but I’m not entirely convinced that it is made of rubber. Incidentally rubber trees are also succumbing to some sort of fungus.

    Your plant mystery is well beyond my experience. Did the master gardeners have anything to say about the matter? Nice to read that the plants are booming along. The rain here has made a difference, and the sun finally returned today for a special guest late autumn appearance. I was starting to get a bit worried about the house batteries. One of the 24 batteries may be dead or dying and the other batteries are discharging into it. Dunno. That can happen. Of course it could have been just pure old heavy cloud cover for days on end. Just in case for a worst case scenario I began looking up how much it would cost to replace all of the batteries. Ook!

    You might be right about the chickens. They have small brains, but far out, they have favourites when it comes to choosing what tucker to consume (good use of the word). And they all have different tastes. Some of the silkies turn their beaks up at anything other than grains. Sometimes when I chuck a cup or two of grains into their run, I see the silkies make a bee-line to the grains and I think to myself that they’re saying: Grainses, grainses, my precioussess!

    I’ll bet the National Trust know a thing or two about scones! 😉 Hey, I just began reading the “Just enough” book this morning. It looks good and I love the little hand written ‘notes to self’, penned by the author in the margins. A very nice touch that and even if it is a contrived artifice, it is a good one.

    Thanks for that. It is really hard to know these days what is guerrilla marketing and what is a genuine review. The need that people have to make a buck these days really obscures clarity and objectivity, and I am aware that there are paid schills on this here beast of an interweb thingee. It is complicated. I tend to weigh up the dissenting reviews and view them through the filter of: is this negative comment within the normal range of idiotic?

    You could make wine in a bathtub, spirits would be a bit harder. I did like how the article I read on the subject referred to poor-quality in relation to the product. Yeah, right. Your prohibition era was a strange time and it would have given the crims a good leg up financially. Hey, we used to do a brisk trade in ceramic demijohns to the US and label them for ‘health drinks’.

    Have you got any explosive harpoons handy? I really did suggest blowing the rock up. Phooey to not doing just that. And the exposed rock is a bit like the iceberg that hit the Titanic as most of it is below the soil. Fortunately the rock edge goes straight down and so the soil won’t be shallow in the corn bed. We’ve come up with a sneaky idea to sort the problem of keeping the fencing on track. More on that next week.



  3. Hi, Chris!

    That is one battered wheelbarrow.

    What a beautiful sunset. The layers of colors are unusual.

    I learned about debt through borrowing more than I could repay in a timely manner and having to cut back thereafter for quite awhile. Isn’t that how most of us learn to fear it? I wish most of us would fear it, once we got into that trap.

    It has rained solidly for three days here. I don’t have to worry about solar input (other than it is quite chilly here); we have no solar panels. All I have to worry about are the vagaries of the power company, paying their bills, and when a tree is going to fall on a power line.

    Hi, Toothy – and an impressive amount of mulch.

    I think that we got lucky with our garden site; it is on one of the less-steep areas. All of yours seems to be steep. Your terraces are cut way deeper than ours.

    Hi, Ollie! Is a rock pillow a good idea? Part of your head could go flat. Hi again, Toothy. Up close you are cuter than ever.

    No, Chris. You’d be sorry if you blew up that rock . . .

    Arrgh! A monster’s foot among the grass! Am I lost in space?

    The Japanese maple is exquisite.


  4. Hi Pam,

    It is a real workhorse that wheelbarrow and I have fond feelings towards it. Unfortunately time and the work here have not been kind. Hey, have you ever had a garden tool that has proven its worth time and time again, but eventually could no longer provide the sterling service of yore?

    The hot and dry summer and many large bushfires has pumped a whole bunch of particulates into the atmosphere. It will be interesting to see what effect those particulates have on the climate. They can sometimes produce a lot of rain. And the sunsets are nice too.

    Aren’t the best lessons those where we’ve completely stuffed things up and then had to crawl our way back out of the muck?

    Hehe! That happens. And lots of rain (with a bit of wind) often undermines trees root systems and so yeah, I too have noticed that trees don’t play nicely with power lines.

    Toothy and Ollie say: hi Pam! 🙂 Scritchy is still around, she is just getting very old, and a tiny little bit odd. And she wants to be let out and then let in again – and basically drives me a bit crazy. She is bored at night. The mulch is good and all of it had to be carried up the hill. Fortunately there are stairs for such purposes.

    The property is steep at that spot. We couldn’t work out what else to do with it, and the terraces just work nicely. At other spots the property is not quite as steep. Nice to hear that conditions are more fluffy optimal up your way. 🙂

    Thanks for the warning. I’ll check Ollie’s head. Now that you mention it, it might be flatter than before… He’s looking at me all innocent and stuff as if to say: “I’m not encouraging Scritchy to want to go outside the house all of the time. Don’t look at me!” I do have to be careful that the dogs aren’t hanging around when I move the larger rocks – as they’re not compatible.

    The editor made sensible arguments about the rock, but I just want to blow it up, just a little bit… Not fair!

    Hehe! It’s a great photo that one. Land of the Giants, and all of those dodgy ‘Giant’ this and that sci-fi films spring to mind! Glad you enjoyed the joke.

    The Japanese maples get better every year too. I recommend them, but you probably already have dozens of maples?



  5. Chris: Should it ever come to it, there are other ways to remove wayward whale rocks. I don’t have any massive rocks close to the surface, but almost wish I did so I could try this technique.

    This stuff is usually used in industrial remodeling, where complete demolition is not the goal.
    ( there are other brands as well, some more marketed at DIY homeowners)

  6. Hello Chris
    That is indeed, one very large rock. I agree with the editor, donot blow it up.
    Yes, big land but not big anything else. I do love land. Though out with Son this morning we turned into a farm for Son to buy his preferred bread and I did comment on the wonderful ancient buildings associated with farms. There were some crumbling beauts there.
    Lack of rain is not really a problem here unlike where you are. I am just tired of watering when still not feeling my best. Have no idea what the long range forecast is and it is always wildly inaccurate anyhow.
    Son grows the tomato seedlings in a greenhouse and I grow them on both outside and in a greenhouse.


  7. Chris,

    Nice sunset photo. I bet you’re enjoying the “smokeless” sunsets. And congrats on more rain!

    I thought that was one large rock in the wheelbarrow. And Pillow Rock is pretty big as well. Then came the photo of Whale Rock, and I was grateful I live in a sandy area. So, is that Whale Rock, Moby Rock, or what?

    I, too, would’ve wanted to do some blasting, but would’ve been told that I’m too nutso for that to safely happen. Working around Rocky Whale is probably the best idea.

    The explosive idea, though, reminded me of some popular sayings in the old science department in college. “If it’s green and wiggles, it’s biology. If it stinks, it’s chemistry. If it blows up, a physicist was having fun.”

    A month ago, I moved some of the good soil from the compost heap into some of my containers, all of which are under the patio roof. I planted some old seeds – carrots, peas, turnips – in the good soil and nearly all of them have sprouted and are doing well, along with 2 volunteer potatoes.

    I spent the past few days adding good composted soil to the remaining containers as well as prepping the raised beds for planting seeds. More carrots in the containers, some bok choy, green onion, and chard got planted therein.

    The raised beds look very sandy on the surface, but the leaves I dug in seem to be adding something beneath the surface. Several varieties of squash and melons got seeded there, with more peas and a lot of green beans mixed throughout. I’ve never planted quite this way before; I’ll keep you informed about the results.

    A late comment on the Anglo-Saxon nobleman’s grave that was linked to in last week’s comments…To me, the most interesting part of that was the journey the harp’s gemstones took from the Indian subcontinent or Sri Lanka to the harp of a “barbarian” noble in 6th century Britain. I want to know the story of those stones and how they got there.


  8. Yo, Chris – The picture of the flat rock in your wheel barrow reminded me of an old saying (who knows why) about the sound of a cow peeing on a flat rock. Not that I’ve seen many cows, lately, urinating, or otherwise. My brain is a mystery, best left unexamined.

    Small scale has the advantage of working the kinks out, on a small scale. Less expensive. Sweeping generalization, small projects usually cost less. I needed a new roof on a house. Cost me less than $500. As it was only a 365 square foot house and I did the clean up of the old roof pieces.

    Yup. Ollie looks like he’s saying “Don’t even think about touching my rock.” Or, “My Precious.” At least he probably won’t be dragging it in the house. Well, being a dude, I am also in favor of blowing stuff up. But there are flying bits to consider. Might take out a solar panel, beehive, or chook run. You could go old school. Drill homes in rock in a line where you wish it to break. Pound in tight wood pegs. Wet wood pegs. Wood expands and cracks rock. Well, it worked for the ancient folk. Although, if you’re going to go to the trouble to drill holes in rocks, might as well tamp them full of explosives and light the fuse.

    The giant puppy foot reminded me of … “Godzilla” (1998). Why? Because I just happened to pick it up at the library the other day, and watched it last night. Cont.

  9. Cont. A TRS-80? You do know who you’re talking to, don’t you. I just kept hoping all this computer nonsense was a flash in the pan, and would go away. My first computer was the dreaded 95, long may it be cursed.

    I had to run down to the post office, this morning (more on that, later) and someone was banging on, on the radio, about fulfilling work. Dealing with ex-crims, or something. I’m so happy, he’s happy, but was making a pointless trip to the PO.

    So, after 30 years of post person leaves box outside our apartment doors, with no problem, the Administration, here at the Institution, decides (for no apparent reason) that packages can no longer be left. If no one is home, they can be left in the office. If there’s anyone in the office. Office hours have been irregular, of late. Well, I didn’t get the memo. So, I ended up with two packages, waiting for me at the PO. One of the packages was the Arthur books, who knows how many days, sitting around. So, in future, I’ll have to watch the tracking, carefully, and way lay the postman. It occurred to me that every change the Administration has made, has made life just a bit harder for the Inmates.

    The vase I’m considering is made by Orient and Flume, Chico, California. They’ve been in business for awhile, and make very high end art glass. The prices seem to be holding. But, I’m waffling a bit, and wondering if I should stick with a nice old piece of … something.

    Cruets, in my experience, were those old heavy glass ones that sat on the table, holding soy sauce, in Chinese restaurants. I’ve got one of those sitting on my kitchen counter. Nicked it from my old landlord’s, mother’s kitchen. Just for nostalgia.

    The cruet I bought for $3 has a pattern called “Paneled Palm”. Made by the U.S. Glass company in 1906. Jury is still out on if the stopper is original. Found one on-line, with a different stopper, but even the dealer wondered if it was original. Ideally, I’ll eventually find an old U.S. Glass catalogue page, or even a picture in an old Sears catalog.

    EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass … though why they call it that, I don’t know. Nothing early American about it. Made mostly in the Victorian and Edwardian eras) is one of those really under rated areas of collecting. Sure, my cruet cost $3, and the price guides and for sale stuff can be expensive. But, no one wants it. That cruet sat in the op-shop for 6 months. I used to have quit a bit of it, but sent it all to auction when I down sized. But I still get an occasional yen, for it. I’m one of the few people, I know, who appreciate it. It came in hundreds of patterns, made by dozens of companies. I probably like it, for the research challenge. Figuring out the pattern, company and approximate year.

    Teddy bears? Never underestimate the power of twee. :-).

    I once drilled a hole in a rubber sink stopper. I really had to think about why I did that. Oh, yes. It was a deep utility sink, and the washer drained into it. But if I didn’t slow down the draining rate, the overflow pipe would, well, overflow.

    I’ll probably see the Master Gardeners, tomorrow. I also have a mystery flower. It might be the horseradish. Or, something that’s snuck in and cozied up to the horseradish.

    Spent more time turning over the dirt, in the garden. Planted some basil and parsley. Don’t know why, but I’m trying “seed discs.” Paper like discs about 5 inches across, impregnated with seed. I also bought a beet “seed tape.” I can only suppose I was entranced by the gimmick, aspect. Just another victim of advertising.

    I feel pretty confident buying stuff from people online, that have a 90% or more approval rating. So, I guess that 10% of the population if the normal range for idiotic. Lew

  10. Hi Steve,

    You have officially earned the title of ‘baddest of the lot’. 🙂

    What a great suggestion, I’d never heard of that stuff. And there is a local supplier. This could revolutionise rocks for us. YEAH! Let’s blow them up! Let’s blow all of them up! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for the suggestion. Hope the spring is going well for you.



  11. Hi Inge,

    Sorry, but the editor is now convinced that we can indeed remove the rock (blame Steve in Colorado for being such a bad influence). We watched a couple of YouTube clips as to how the chemicals work and now they are on order and we are waiting with anticipation. Things move quickly here when they need too.

    I love having access to big land too with all of the life and drama that it brings, and if that means living in a small house, well, so be it. 🙂 I tell you this, when folks win the lottery, sometimes they don’t know that they’ve won the lottery, and they believe that such winnings are part of the normal ebb and flow of life. Well, they’re wrong. But big land is an entirely different matter and it continues to challenge, delight and provide all at the same time regardless of the lottery outcome.

    What exactly is your sons preferred bread? Has he ever considered baking bread at home? I bake a loaf most days and it doesn’t seem like a particularly onerous task to me. I experimented a few weeks back with biodynamic flour, and whilst it was very good, I must say that I can well understand that my palate has become accustomed to finely ground flour.

    The long range forecasts here are quite accurate overall, but a bit dodge in the details. It is fortunate that your daughters are not impacted by the: ongoing drought in western New South Wales.

    It is very wise to hedge ones bets with a greenhouse, but it is not lost on me that greenhouses also require constant watering.



  12. Hi DJ,

    Mate, I’m absolutely and unequivocally pumped that we might be able to blow up the whale of a rock! Oh yeah, this is happening. 🙂 Hehe!

    The rain was a serious relief, and it looks as though a little bit more might eventuate next weekend. The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Ann (which it might be worth noting is far outside the normal cyclone season) may produce a little bit of rain this far south.

    I can’t hide my thoughts at the sheer excitement of breaking up Moby Rock! The rocks have defeated me in the past, and so now the worm has finally turned. I’m starting to sound a bit like a meglo-rock-maniac. We may even be able to avoid the dreaded Peak Rocks by fracking the rocks… I know I should feel guilty, and for that lack I genuinely feel guilty. It is complicated. Yes, well, physics may be the word of the day. 😉

    Hey, I have neglected to inquire as to the outcome of the compost added to the autumn leaf matter story. How did the experiment turn out? Good stuff with moving the good soil, because it brings all of the life along with it and gets a new location started. A mate of mine went to the farm of a guy that encourages worm activity and accepts vast quantities of organic matter, and the bloke used to simply dig clods of top soil with all of the plants that came along for the ride and then dump it elsewhere that needed the assistance. It works.

    Thanks and I will be interested to hear how your plants grow during the season with the different preparation technique.

    Absolutely. There was a story in there of global trade during the 6th century, that’s for sure. And imagine the choice that the ancestors made to bury the precious gems along with the nobleman. What does that say?



  13. Chris:

    Yes, we have had a garden tool that became no longer able to provide service – a wheelbarrow! It was bought in 1982 in Texas and brought with us on the covered wagon (going backwards, instead of “Go west, young man!”) to Virginia. Here it served us well, even though needing a couple of new tires over time and new handles, until 3 pr 4 years ago when we had to buy a replacement – which we have been very happy with. No-one can figure out how to re-purpose the old workhorse and it just sits forlornly there, dreaming of the old days.

    Hi, Dame Scritchy! My thinking is that you have earned the right to a bit of eccentricity after all your years of service, and going in and out for a breath of fresh air – be it ever so brief – is a worthwhile hobby. Now, if you could only train that lazy, bad
    Ollie to open the door. Or might that be a bad new skill for him to have . . . ?

    We do have a few wild maples, but they don’t have quite the rich color of the Japanese ones.


  14. @ Lew:

    Do you think that the Administration is introducing these new regulations just to be cussed? Or could it be overzealousness? Or possibly the Admin has visions of a political future wherein one has to do something – anything – for it to be noticed that one is making “progress”?

    Could someone have tripped over a package in the hall and started this whole ball rolling?


  15. Hi Lewis,

    Can’t say I’ve ever heard that particular sound, but there are plenty of cattle around so, who knows, it may only be a matter of time! I have some expanding grout on order which may crack the huge whale rock. It’s a bloke thing, but the editor is on board. 🙂 I can only hope it works because I reckon I will find some serious rock on the next terrace up too. And to be honest the rock is so hard that it has defeated me so far. The jackhammer barely scrapes the stuff. I’m intrigued by the mention of the wooden plugs. Frost does a similar trick to rocks.

    I for one am glad that your brain is a mystery. We could use more mysteries in our lives, although people tend to feel that things are otherwise.

    365 square feet sounds small, but is in fact bigger than all of the sheds here. Respect. I originally constructed the Cantina shed (which is 215 square feet by the way) as a nice place for people to stay over when they visited. Even had a little wood heater in there with an off grid solar power system for lighting and water pumps, and the walls were very well insulated so it never gets cold or hot. But no, there just weren’t that many people interested. So the shed was converted into a Cantina shed for preserves.

    Ollie provided a delightful bit of ambience with the rock. He’s turning out to be quite a remarkable working dog. I have not encountered his personality type before. Mostly he is busy about the place, but that photo was taken very late in the day as the sun was going down towards the horizon and he was tired. For us expanding the infrastructure only occurs if we have had the chance to attend completely to the maintenance. And people have lost the sense that expansion can only occur if there is the spare energy and resources for it to take place. I continued reading “Just enough” today and I am wondering whether the author covers the transition period between the old ways at the end of the 16th century and the Edo period? Dunno, but it sure could be instructional.

    Godzilla! I can still hear the theme song for Gigantor after all these years. Was the Godzilla film good? I haven’t seen it.

    Hehe! Yeah I know, but it was worth a try. 🙂 Back in the day I was a computer tragic, but nowadays it is a tool like other tools. It was the computer games that hooked me in to computers as a very young kid. In some respects there were not that many differences between those games and gambling. It has been well over a decade since I played any of them – and the games ate my friends lives. It was bizarre to see that time and I want nothing to do with such things nowadays. I imagine you’ve seen such things happen with the drink?

    Not sure that I’d enjoy working with ex-crims. That would possibly be too much excitement for my tastes. But if someone finds it fulfilling (whatever that means) well bully for them. What do you reckon they are trying to fill up? That may well be a more important question than it seems.

    Mate, Australia Post does not deliver to my home address. Full stop. Nada. Nyet. Nein. It’s a giant black hole zone, so yeah like you, I’d be quite happy with parcels left outside the front door. But alas, they’re a long way away at the post office. Welcome to my world.

    The thing is you’ve mentioned in the past that it is a habit of already complex systems to layer further complexity upon the already complex heap of something or other. Probably won’t work out so well.

    At times like these with the high end glassware, you need to search deep into your motivations and seek whether you are purchasing for the speculative side of the story, or the enjoyable side of the story? Is it expanding grout I ask you? Sorry, I’m getting fixated and that makes for a dull conversation… Reset… I reckon go for it (as long as the budget can handle the purchase and it doesn’t upset the pastiche).

    What a difference a world away makes. Soy Sauce is often kept on the tables – in the bottles that they were purchased in. Nothing fancy like a cruet. The Panelled Palm is pretty fancy, and I would never have guessed that the patterns were that old. You see a lot of that style of glassware down here in odd places. Speaking of glassware, I burnt a batch of toasted muesli today and I left the Pyrex dish to soak for a few hours and the burned patches just scrubbed off with little in the way of elbow grease. I keep a few of the same sized and shaped Pyrex dishes for cooking purposes all were obtained second hand because nobody puts any value on this stuff which is bizarre. Did you manage to track down a stopper?

    Teddy bears indeed. I have quipped in the past that second hand goods are only worth what someone else will pay for them. Have you known people to hang onto useless stuff and claim that they could sell it for a high price, but at the same time they never quite get around to testing the market place? It is a brutal old world out there in the market.

    Never seen a drain do that, but I’d probably be inclined to sort out the plumbing problem in the first place. Years ago, when I first moved into a very old house, the plumbing pipes were the old galvanised steel style pipes. Not only were the pipes almost clogged up with calcium deposits, but some of those extensive deposits used to flow out of the tap. How the previous owners put up with the enormous number of unidentified floating chunks in their water was a true mystery to me. Hey, I’ll bet you are glad that your water is now more reliable? I used to worry a bit for you in your old digs. Water is everything down here.

    Horseradish flowers look as if they do not belong to the horseradish plant. The first time I saw one, I pulled it out thinking that it was some sort of weed, but I was wrong.

    At least the spacing will be spot on with the seed discs. Never used them myself. Hey, I managed to track down some parchment paper, which you mentioned for baking purposes quite a number of months ago.

    90% appears to be the magic number to me too. I’ve seen people provide positive words and they must have clicked on the negative feedback button. That counts as idiotic. 🙂



  16. Hi Pam,

    Cool. Moving from Texas to Virginia would have been quite the journey. Had to laugh, I was reading your comment, going what is a tier? I thought that it was the name for the pressed sheet steel tray! We spell such things tyre’s down here. I wonder why there is a difference there in the spelling? Dunno. But like your trusty old workhorse, the one here may languish rather than be re-purposed. The sheet steel is quite damaged from the many rocks, and last weekend I thought that the contraption would topple over (hopefully not onto a fluffy).

    Ollie can actually open the door! Seriously! He learned to let himself out of the house by pulling the door handle downwards. And there was the day he took the lead off in his second day here. That was when I knew that he was liable to do his own thing. Acceptance is a good place to be when confronted by such intelligence.

    Dame Scritchy says Hi Pam! But I did not pass on your suggestions for obvious reasons. 🙂

    Fair enough. Other maples are still very lovely. There are vast numbers of Sycamores wild in the mountain range and they turn a nice yellow colour. I assume you get that variety of maple?



  17. Hello again
    I await the future story of that rock with interest.
    Son buys bread that is awash with seeds. Awful stuff, it sheds seeds everywhere on all surfaces and on the floor. I don’t think that he has time to bake bread, he earns his living up to 6 days a week, plus caring for his livestock and keeping an eye on me. I bake my own bread because I like solidity not that soft steam baked stuff.
    I have to water absolutely everything because even when not in a greenhouse my vegs etc are grown in containers.
    I recovered my health yesterday evening, it was really weird. I have been sleeping up to 11 hours a night from about 9pm onwards and I have had to fight to wait that long to go to bed. Have been falling asleep during the day as well. Then yesterday evening I literally felt a switch go on in my head and there I was in a state of my normal evening high alertness. No more sleepiness at all. I went out for a long walk this afternoon and feel fine. All very odd, especially the sensation of that switch going on.


  18. @ Pam – Nope, no one’s fallen over a package. I would have heard about that. I also just thought about the fact that if a package is left too long outside a door, the tenant is checked on, by a neighbor.

    Reasoning? Given all thats happened around here, I think that Administration is just … evil. 🙂 Lew

  19. Yo, Chris – As to your rock, keep in mind Hubris. What could possible go wrong? Seemed like a good idea at the time. We say that often enough I think we need shorthand. “What could/ seemed like…” You know, just so we don’t use up the internet. Now, go re-read “Moby Dick.” 🙂

    I didn’t know the Cantina Shed was intended for possible visitors. With the rise of AirBnB, you might want to revisit that idea. A bit of extra income. But would the hassle be worth it?

    Hmmm. Was “Godzilla” good? I’d seen it years ago, but often found myself thinking, “I don’t remember this part.” It was pretty exciting, for the most part. But, seemed to drag in a place, or two. Otherwise, pure popcorn movie.

    I’ll be visiting Amanda the Vet, today, and she’s always gaming away on her lap top. I swear, she has regular spread sheets to keep track of players, powers, etc. etc.. But, at least she either puts it up when I come in, or, can carry on an intelligent conversation, while gaming. So, I don’t mind.

    My friends in Idaho have the same situation. No at-home delivery. And, they’re not that far out. I think everyone in their little town has a PO box. But you have to love small towns. Even if something is sent to their physical address, it somehow ends up in their PO box.

    After watching the lectures on palace architecture, I found myself waiting in the lobby for the post office to open, and contemplating the architecture. A nice collection of barrel vaults and arch vaults. It was probably a WPA post office, like Centralia. But no murals. They may have been painted over. It’s all white marble and paint. Kind of a neo-Colonial style, which was also popular, about then. Lots of fan windows and interesting (but restrained) metal work.

    Well, that particular Orient and Flume vase is very beautiful, to me. Dark, iridescent saphire blue background with styleized Deco looking Hawthorne tree.

    I’d guess Australia had the cruets, I’m just older than you. Here too, we’re now reduced to a bottle tossed on the table, or, worse, little plastic packets. The old soy cruets were plane and practically indestructible. Thick chunky glass. Restaurant ware. I see them kicking around the op-shops, now and again. Usually, dirt cheap.

    Oh, my EAPG cruet has a stopper, I’m just now sure if it’s the “right” stopper. Such questions keep me up at night. EAPG was “poor man’s cut glass.” And, washed up with a bit of ammonia, it does sparkle. I’m sure Australia had a bit of a EAPG (Early Australian Pattern Glass?) Industry. Judging from the amount of carnival glass from Australia, that shows up on the market. Mostly with Australian birds. Iridize a piece of EAPG and you have carnival glass.

    Silly me. I should have just looked on the internet. Yup. It’s horseradish flower. I’ll still ask the Master Gardeners. Keep them feeling useful :-). If you’ve checked Prof. Mass, lately, we’re due for a round of rain. So, I was scrambling around the garden, doing a bit of clean up, digging in more leaves and I scattered about a few pounds of stove ash. Ran out of light and had to walk HRH. So, I was out at 10PM, scattering around a few pounds of lime. Good thing I did. We had a light rain, last night. Lew

  20. @ Inge:

    That is such good news – if weird – about you being well again. I am so glad.


  21. Chris:

    Good grief! The last thing anyone needs (except Dame Scritchy) is an Ollie that can open doors.

    Our sycamores – the American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis – are not maples. They are huge trees that are cousins to the Cottonwood tree (don’t know if you have those).


  22. Hi Inge,

    So do I! The stuff is on its way to me and I should get it early next week. I’m absolutely curious to see what it is.

    Ah! Yeah, olive oil is used to stick the seeds to the outside of the loaf as it bakes. I agree with you in that about half of the seeds survive that particular treatment. Mostly these days I add the seeds into the bread mix, which does result in a denser loaf. Can’t honestly say that I know what steam baking is. My homework…

    Of course, containers are like the raised beds and they need constant watering. I forgot that you raise vegetables in containers as well as the greenhouse (also using containers).

    Glad to hear that you are feeling better, and have returned to good health. Can’t say that I had the same experience with the cold as it lingered for a few weeks – and the editor felt the same. After a week and half I was wondering whether the minor lingering effects would be a permanent sensation. One day I woke up and was back to normal health. So who knows, we’re all different on that front.

    Hope the weather was nice for your long walk?



  23. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the gentle reminder and I have adjusted my expectations accordingly. But still, if this stuff works… Might get some of the other fence posts in tomorrow. We’ve had glorious weather this week. Sunny and warm days and there may be some more rain Monday. I read the Cliff Mass blog post yesterday, and you look set for a damp next few weeks, but who knows what will happen long term? Things were looking OK here up until about early January (your July) and then it all abruptly changed and then suddenly the climate was different.

    Hey, I move old photos and client records to a tiny storage facility in the big smoke (surely a pun if ever there was one) during the fire season. Not to tempt fate, but I feel that the bushfire risk is now lower so I closed the use of the facility today.

    The other day I was reading about the plant ‘monkshood’ and speaking of Moby Dick, the old whalers used to place extracts of that plant on the tips of the whaling harpoons. The plant was used extensively in the Roman days too (and I assume well before that and well after it). It was a nervous time to be alive in those days! Try not to cause offense would have been a good guide to better and longer living. Puts a whole new spin on ‘do unto others’.

    Not really. I like the quiet so why invite trouble in the form of AirBnB? I’d have to suggest that a hermit might not make that much noise and mischief. How is your quest for an urban hermit lifestyle going? Forcing you to head out to the local post office to collect parcels doesn’t seem like part of the plan.

    This is totally weird, and you probably were priming yourself to go see it, but today I went past a huge billboard for Godzilla 2. Surely Godzilla copped it bad in the first film? But then where there is one, there are possibly more to be found. Isn’t it funny how you can recall some films very clearly, but not others. I guess they leave their impression? Does that happen with you?

    Hehe! Yeah, that happens here with deliveries to the street address. They can go anywhere in the area and the local post offices eventually get the misbegotten mail to us at the PO Box. It works.

    I thought the idea of the WPA buildings was a really lovely project. And why doesn’t architecture often look beautiful to the eye these days? Some of the newer city blocks constructed in the past decade or so look really imposing and are way way out of scale. And they’re windy and dusty places. The best parts of the city are the old laneways and historic buildings. The next time I go in I might take the camera so you can see the better parts of the city, and they are inevitably human scaled. I continued reading the Just enough book earlier today, and note that the author has perhaps more difficulties with math than I do, but that is charming in its own way. I’m reading about their agriculture systems. Like the use of terraces and note they required wells too at higher elevations. The sense of using communal assets and having a local arbiter was a good idea. Too many of these decisions are handled by folks who don’t live in the area, and may never have even stepped foot in the area. Local decisions are really out of locals hands. That really annoys me, but I assume that it is no better up your way?

    The Orient and Flume glassware is stunning and their website shows craftsmen at work. I’ve seen some glass blowing before many years ago at the Queen Victoria Market. I do wonder how many of those sorts of skills have been lost?

    That probably is the way of it with the cruets and restaurants. So far I haven’t seen the plastic packets. On the other hand I have noticed the use of stainless steel and/or cardboard straws as distinct from plastic straws. Oh. That reminds me, I have to out myself here. Last week I turned up very late to my favourite cafe in the big smoke, and they were near to closing, but being a regular that takes their organic waste has its advantages. So they made me a coffee and served it to me to drink in a takeaway (apparently compostable) container. Well, that is a new experience for me as I’ve only had one or maybe two of those take away containers before in my life. There was something not quite right about it, but I was too polite to be discourteous to someone who was doing me a solid by making the coffee in the first place. It was a complex situation and there was only down sides to making a fuss.

    It hadn’t occurred to me that there would even be a lot of EAPG (but down under style) items floating around the place. Interesting. Hey, what does Iridize mean in relation to glass?

    Hehe! I thought exactly the same thing when I first encountered horseradish flowers – and promptly removed them. Not a serious worry for that plant though because it does enjoy walking around the land. Do you have any ideas on how to preserve the roots – other than leaving them in the soil? The thing is I don’t need an entire root worth of horseradish during cooking.

    The stove ash is a good idea for the soil. I assume that you have donated supplies? I bought another 22 pound bag of blood and bone for the corn enclosure and will add it once the fencing is up because otherwise Ollie will eat it all…



  24. Hi Pam,

    I have to confess that it may well be that Ollie is smarter than I. The second day he was here, he managed to take his lead off and then he proceeded to bounce up to me and was all proud as muck. It was at that point that I realised that there was probably not much point in trying to outwit him, as he had already outwit me. Still, he has much to learn, but is a fast learner.

    The American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, looks a lot like (but is a close relative of) the London Plane trees that they plant by the thousands in the big smoke. The pollen from those trees really irritates my sinuses. The images of the older American sycamores show amazing looking trees.

    I believe the sycamore that grows around here is the: Acer pseudoplatanus. Oh, it is. And the Wikipedia page refers to the weedy status of this tree in this very mountain range. I barely see any of them in this less fashionable part of the mountain range. I guess it pays to be less fashionable? 🙂



  25. Hi Chris,
    Those are some rocks and I’m very glad you aren’t going to try to blow that one up. Ollie looks rather like Leo (without the rock pillow) after a hard day pulling down wood piles in search of rodents.

    I ended up in Chicago for 3 days so am quite behind here and summer like weather has arrived so there’s not much time for the internet until Friday when it’s supposed to turn cool and rainy.


  26. @Lew

    I was visiting my sister in Chicago and she said that one of the owners of the Broadway Antique Mart lives in her building and is an acquaintance of her and her husband. She recommended a book he wrote, “Selling Dead People’s Things” by Duane Scott Cerny. You may have mentioned the mart in the past but at any rate the book sounded like one you would enjoy.


  27. @ Inge – I’m happy to hear your up to tick, again. That is odd about a switch being thrown. Oh, well. Gift horses, and all that :-). Lew

  28. @ Damo – I’m about half way through “Skystone.” Up to chapter XVIII (just to get all Roman, on you.) The bit where Publius first sees Caius’s villa. Hmmm. Have to watch the spoilers, til Chris catches up. 🙂 Lew

  29. Yo, Chris – The Urban Hermit Plan languishes. People just own’t cooperate and change their schedules or shuffle off their mortal coils. :-).

    As far as urban planning goes, you’ve hit on it. Scale. Human scale. Walkability. I think there’s a certain amount of nostalgia at work. Jane … (darn. Can never remember her last name.) Wrote a number of influential books on city planning. James Kunstler built on those. Between the two of them, there’s really a kind of formula for what makes cities “work.”

    “Just Enough” does say a lot about water management. Well, management of all kinds of resources. Valuing them.

    We have a glass blower, in Centralia. He teaches classes and does demos, during tourist season. I have five of his glass pumpkins that I trot out, in the fall.

    Grated horseradish keeps for quit awhile, in the fridge. In small quantities. But best left in the ground, to be used as needed. As you probably know, that stuff can be lethal, and care must be used in handling.

    OK. Down the rabbit hole, we go. Louis Comfort Tiffany saw some Roman glass in the British Museum, back in the 1860s. Leave some kinds of glass in the ground long enough (depends on chemical composition) and it becomes iridized. That “oil on water” rainbow effect. Tiffany, being a man in a hurry, wanted to figure out how to get that effect, without waiting around a few centuries.

    After years of experimentation, he finally pulled it off. Of course, nothing remains secret in the world of glass making, for long. Soon other manufacturers, figured out how to do the process. Then, someone figured out how to do it on the cheap. Someone discovered a formula that could be sprayed on pressed glass, re-fired, and get the same effect. Sort of. On an industrial scale. EAPG is stamped out in molds. The glass can be not only clear, but any color. EAPG glass, sprayed and re-fired became “Carnival” glass (because, so the story goes, it was given away as prizes at carnivals.) Well, maybe. But that was just a small part of distribution. It was packed in laundry soap and flour, as premiums. Given away in drawings at intermission, in movie theaters. You could order it out of the Sear catalog. Pick it up at the general store. Carnival glass was never “not made.” There are companies cranking it out, today.

    Here’s a bit that interesting, for a number of reasons.

    Check out the pictures at the bottom of the page. As EAPG was called “poor man’s cut glass”, so carnival was called “poor man’s Tiffany.” Note the (non-carnival) cobalt blue ball pitcher? 1930s. I’ve got that pitcher, and 6 each of three sizes of tumblers (glasses) that match. Note the blue Steuben and Durand vases? That’s almost the exact background color of the vase I’m lusting after. :-).

    LOL. Recycling (we’re all into that, right?) an ear worm.
    “Birds singing in the sycamore trees, dream a little dream with me.”

    Jane Jacobs! City planner. Wikipedia, if interested.

    I got the stove ashes from Julia. Master Gardeners said to use a light hand, so I did. Lew

  30. Chris,

    Removing Moby Rock should be fun. I’m a physics guy, so fires and blowing stuff up is all good fun. My college chemistry professor also stated that all physicists do is “make bigger and better guns”. He happened to say that on the day I had just set up an air gun for a demonstration in the physics lab, which most of the class knew about. The prof didn’t understand why the entire class erupted in laughter when he said that.

    The leaf experiment? The surface of the soil in which I dug in the leaves still is sandy. However, under the surface is decent soil, with the leaves (buried in two stages) in various states of decay. This should be okay; it has worked well in the past, at least. By the end of the season, the compost pile should be gobs of wonderful soil to dig in and mix with this coming autumn’s leaves. I’ll keep you informed as to whether the soil is actually decent as the season moves along, as well as how the different seeding strategy works.

    There was a lot more global trade in the 6th century than we were taught, being as that was the Dark Ages and there was no civilization. Bah! I think it speaks volumes that those stones were buried with the other riches that the nobleman “needed” in death.

    Update on mid to long range precipitation forecasting. It didn’t take long before there was a change in the forecast. Monday, it appeared as if a minor system might move in and drop maybe a half cm of rain between Thursday and Saturday. Throughout today (Wednesday here), that amount kept increasing. Between midnight tonight and noon Saturday, we might get upwards of 5cm, which is a tremendous amount for one storm system, especially in May. The entire month averages about 2.75 cm or so.

    I’m excited about the rain potential. This has been a bad allergy season. Even people normally unaffected have been knocked down by allergies. The rain should help, at least for awhile. Also, I’m taking a week vacation from the job next week, mostly to catch up on weeding the flower beds and such things. Moist ground will be easier to work.


  31. Hi Margaret,

    Blowing up the rock is a guy thing! But alas, the editor’s opinions must be taken into account in these matters, and so we are going to try slow demolition with expanding grout. Hole drilling will begin tomorrow, so we’ll see how hard that job is first…

    Go Leo! I forget what breed is Leo? I recall some sort of Bull in his heritage, but I may have that as a memory error. I suspect Ollie has some Bull in him. He really has the loveliest nature I’ve never met a more playful dog. At the moment I’m training him to be a little less exuberant, which is a slow going process, but he is getting there.

    Glad you are enjoying some summer like weather, and I’m just glad for you that it eventually stopped snowing.



  32. Hi Lewis,

    I can see how all the social ties that you’ve built up are getting in the way of your plans for becoming an urban hermit. Basically, you’re known, pure and simple and there is no escaping that. Have you been getting any suggestions to assist the fellow residents with the services of the Ranger?

    Thanks. The tall buildings in the big smoke often have some sort of retail space at ground level, but it looks unfriendly and out of scale to my eyes. And also the massive bulk and structure of the buildings often means that the ground level retail does not open to the street. It doesn’t make much sense to me because I’ve noticed that the most patronized eateries often have direct street access where people can be seen consuming food by other people walking past. And in the newer parts of the city, people are scurrying around and not lingering. Or is promenading the correct term for what used to take place before television took over? Dunno.

    I continued reading ‘Just Enough’ this morning and I was rather surprised that the layout of the small family farm bore more than a passing resemblance to the arrangement of the house, terraces and outbuildings here. The pond is something I’ll have to put some thought into though. The text did mention that Permaculture researchers from down under (one who lives not too far from here) had studied the Japanese Edo period agricultural and living arrangements, and no doubts I’ve absorbed some of the ideas over the years and have implemented them here.

    Glass pumpkins are a great idea and locally made too. Cool. I am left wondering if they’d house a tea candle? The effect would look pretty good.

    Thanks. I hadn’t thought about grating and keeping some horseradish in the fridge. We’ve begun freezing the ginger that remains from the ginger wine making process, and that gets added to various Asian style dishes. The editor makes a pretty tasty Singapore noodles. Hey, I planted some ginger and turmeric the other day and I’ll be interested to see how they grow. I wonder if I accidentally left the turmeric out of the soil a bit too long because it began to shrivel up a bit and that can’t be good.

    We cemented in three of the five posts today for the extension of the corn enclosure! The remaining two posts have to wait for the Moby rock to be blown up slow motion style. Tomorrow I’ll weld up the gate out of scrap metal and begin the slow process of drilling holes in the rock for the expanding grout. I just want to blow the rock up. 🙂

    The Favrile glassware is pretty spectacular and I’ll be that the examples in the story would be worth a pretty penny today. I hadn’t known that the glassware was linked to the Arts and Crafts movement. I’ve always like the fanciful architecture and landscaping that the movement produced (a sort of Arcadian wistfulness), but I had no idea they were also into glassware. Who would have thought that there were knock-offs and craftsmen jumping ship and taking their craft with them?

    Was the pitcher the one that was on about a 25 degree angle? How do you fancy your chances of picking up the vase?

    I cheated and did a gogle search on the lyrics! 🙂

    Ah yes, I have heard of the author Jane Jacobs before and if my dodgy memory does not fail me, I believe that it was you that introduced me to the figure. The names escaped me, it was the mention that she had worked as a town planner back in the day. I often feel that town planning is a misnamed occupation because I feel that it is not possible to plan in the growth model. Instead I feel those folks react to developments and not the other way around. I guess it might come back to accepting limits and all that comes with that. I see that the Just Enough book covers that story.

    How is the, I’m not sure what to call the person on Julia’s property, err, boarder? working out?

    AWESOME! The film looks like total fun. It has some big name actors in it too – and its is on the “too see at the cinema” list. Iggy Pop makes a surprisingly good zombie.

    The Jimmy Red corn looks great. What does it taste like? I’ll have a read of the Bourbon article tomorrow. So many uses for corn. Down here we have a slightly different variety of heritage corn called: Corn Painted Mountain Organic.

    Gotta run and cheers!


  33. Spring is going well here in Wisconsin. The pace has shifted in to high gear, with planting, tilling, mulching, firewood prep, various outdoor projects all hitting at once.

    Perennials this year: fifty maple trees, four pear, five apple, and around 50 chestnut trees.

    The feral apple trees in our woods are in full bloom right now, nice fragrance and very pretty, just wish they bore better apples.

    The yield from the varietal apple trees varies from year to year. I hope this is a good year, as we are almost all out of apple sauce, and we only have one six pack of cider left!

  34. @ Margaret – Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon! Yes, I read the book. That’s where I heard about the Broadway Antique Mart. If you think of it, tell your sister to tell Mr. Cerny, he’s got a fan, way out here in the hinterlands. 🙂 Lew

  35. Yo, Chris – I thought you might like this photo. It’s the Detroit Electric Car, chugging through our Cascade Mountains, way back in the day. That’s Mt. Rainier, in the background.

    The new zombie movie has a hermit in it! :-). Oh, the social ties will fray and break. As long as I don’t establish new ties, it all dwindles away. Suggestions to use my truck have fallen to a bare minimum. I’m sure word is out that I’m “selfish.” But, that doesn’t hold water, as I’m generous in other ways. It’s a balance. :-).

    Restaurants (the ones that are on the ball) seat customers first at the window tables. Unless requested, otherwise. We did that at the cafe. LOL. The place could be empty, except for the window table.

    Your comment about layout and “Just Enough” got me thinking about something. Layout and human behavior. How much is culture and how much is genetics? Every once in awhile, behavioral science runs across something that seems to have no reason, other than “it’s what we do.” Or, a large percentage of us do. When we enter a space, say a store, do we circle left or right? Kitchen garbage can under the sink, or not? Toilet paper feed over or under? :-).

    The glass pumpkins I have are entirely enclosed and hollow. But, I try and get light coming from behind or above. I have seen cheap glass pumpkins that you could put a tea light in. I think I’d leave the top off, though. That heat builds up.

    “Arcadian wistfulness.” Oh, I like that turn of phrase. Wish I’d said it :-). Oh, yes. Most “styles” extend to what’s called the “decorative arts.” That loose goose, hard to pin down, conglomeration of “stuff” that makes up a style. Glass, pottery, jewelry, metal work, etc..

    Tiffany glass was, and still is, expensive. And, there are reproductions floating around. I’d love to have a Tiffany lamp, but at, oh, say $5,000, I’d be pretty twitchy to have it around. They made nice bronze desk sets, in a variety of patterns. Pen trays, little clock, stamp boxes, blotter ends. Not much danger of breaking those.

    A lot of glass and pottery workers and designers were brought over from Europe. Or, came on their own. Oh, yes, poaching employees was quit the sport. But, they also had a bit of restlessness. Always trying to better themselves. They’d move from company to company, maybe open a glass works or pottery of their own, then go back to working for a company.

    The pitcher on an angle is called a “ball pitcher.” (Not to be confused with a disk pitcher :-). They came into vogue in the 1920s and are still made, today. Lots of different glass companies, and pottery companies, made them. Nothing screams “art deco” like a ball (or disc) pitcher. Oh, I may, or may not get the vase. Early August is the next city wide, 10-50% off sale. If it doesn’t sell in the meantime (or, if the dealer doesn’t move on), I may (or may not) pick it up. I feel a bit queazy about spending that much on something that’s that new. But, I’m pretty sure it will hold it’s value. Workmanship, scarcity, initial investment (by that I mean, Tiffany glass was expensive to begin with. Still is.) and that strange beast, collector interest. We’ll see. If it slips through my fingers, there’s plenty of other things of occupy my interest.

    There’s town planning, and there’s town planning. Based on previous models that worked, it can be pretty good. Made into whole cloth out of theory, they can be pretty bad. Put me in mind of a book that I think I’ve mentioned before. AND, I plucked it right of my shelf. David Macaulay’s “City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction.” I really like all his books. The sketches are top notch. It’s about a young Roman architect who is tasked with building a colonial Roman town, from the ground up. Probably much like the abandoned German town I mentioned last week.

    Julia’s border? Which one? :-). She always seems to be having someone staying out there, who has need. Some, she says right off the bat can stay 30 days. She’s pretty good at sizing up people. Others are pretty open ended. She’s got a fellow out there, now, who’s working out. Stays out of her way, but also pulls more than his weight around the place.

    The Painted Mountain corn looks very much like the Jimmy Red, I grew. I even got a few multi-colored ones, like in the picture. The flavor is a bit sweet, with a nutty note. Do you have the snack food “corn nuts”, down there? Kind of like that. Only not salty. I figure the multi-colored is either a component of Jimmy Red, a throw back, or, a bit of cross pollination from elsewhere. This year, I’ll plant a mix of seed I saved, and some of the seed I initially bought. Lew

  36. Hi Steve,

    Nice to hear that you are having a great spring. What I’ve noticed is that the more infrastructure and systems that are implemented here, the more time and energy gets expended on maintenance, and then I have less time to expand the infrastructure. From memory you have a very large number of nut trees, and I’ll be certainly interested to read how they grow as the season progresses. I reckon soil moisture would be pretty good for you given the winter just past?

    An excellent choice of trees! Chestnuts are very reliable nut producing trees here. I’ve now given up on walnuts as a prolific soil fungus takes the trees out.

    That’s interesting because the feral apple trees down this way produce quite nice and edible (or cider/cooking) apples. Not sure why that would be different, but at a wild guess, it may be that there is less genetic diversity down here with the apple species?

    Apples down here tend toward biennial production and will produce a good crop every second year. In the off-year, I’ve noticed that the trees produce a lot of wood. I’ve just experienced an off-year, and despite the high temperatures and lack of rainfall, the trees have grown considerably. What is interesting about that story is that they’ve somehow managed to interact with one another and they’re all on a similar cycle. The most likely culprit to explain that would be the pollination process. Mind you, I grow 26 different varieties so it is not as if I have to worry about maintaining compatible pollinators.

    And for your interest I’ve observed that wormwood species planted around apples produce the fastest tree growth.



  37. Hi DJ,

    Mate, that is funny! And an air gun of all things? Well done you! I guess sometimes you just need to fire off some pellets. Had to laugh because I’ve mentioned to some locals that I wanted to blow the rocks up but the editor restrained my enthusiasm for such projects, and now we may go the slow demolition process. They understood the need, but nodded sagely when considering the possible disaster that would ensue from an explosion. We drilled a huge number of holes in the large rock today, but have more drilling to do on Sunday. What was interesting was that at one point in the granite we hit an extremely dense part of the rock which melted the head on a Tungsten Carbide drill bit. Well that was a surprise! Who would have thought that that was even possible? Before each hole we dipped the head in high temperature grease too.

    Thanks for the update on your soil experiments. I’m really interested in that stuff and hope that you get some good results out of your different seeding strategy. The mustard’s, rocket and broccoli seem to be growing well here.

    You’re probably right, and I can see no reason to argue with you in that matter. The stories probably did get buried along with the nobleman. A few years ago I read an obscure reference to the Viking’s that settled Greenland way back in the day. Apparently trade with them had officially ceased, but at the same time somehow the settlers kept up with the latest trends and fashions (before their ultimate demise).

    Nice to read that you enjoyed some unusual rain. Always welcome down here! The long term forecast was released today for down here and it mostly suggests a warmer and drier winter. Not good reading.

    Good for you and I do hope that you enjoy your week off! I have plans in the pipeline for something similar soon as well. Too much work makes for a very dull Chris (and perhaps also a DJ?) Storm asthma is a serious thing down here, and people sensitive to vast quantities of grass pollen in the air can die. Melbourne thunderstorm asthma inquest: Victims’ survival chances greater if symptoms noticed. I grow rye grass here so have a lot of exposure to the pollen and that eases the risk, but in the big smoke it is an entirely different question.



  38. Hello again
    Apples are biennial here as well and yes, they all choose the same years; how very odd!
    Glorious weather for that walk which was why I walked apart from the fact that I was feeling good.
    Woke to a grey, cold sky today but still not a drop of rain.


  39. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the link and I loved the promotional photo from way back in the day. How cool is Mount Rainier? Technology is a funny business and I’d be pretty certain that at various times in history, we (as a society) turned our backs on certain technologies because they were less convenient than the ones that achieved predominancy. How about BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) versus the Internet for just one example. I mean you had to have a relationship with the person that provided access to their bulletin board, and that just doesn’t happen on the interweb. But yeah, it is very hard for an electric vehicle to compete with a 6,000+ pound vehicle that can travel for hours at a time at 60mph. And people think that that is a normal state of affairs! I noted that the electric vehicle travelled along at a sedate 20mph which is no slouch. I have a bit of perspective on the matter because back in the day when I used to run mini and half marathons (never done a full one as it is beyond me) and the fastest rate I could achieve was 9.55mph – and that isn’t considered a slouch. The question that is never asked is how fast do we need to travel in the first place?

    Go the hermit! 🙂 Total respect to them. This talk of social equilibrium suggests that it may not be possible to please all of the people – all of the time. And if fact, as you hint at, to try to achieve such a goal would eventually end up with a person coming face to face with energy and resource constraints. A horrid thought! Speaking of such matters, I do have to politely inform you that for the first time in many years I will unequivocally be unable to reply to you tomorrow. However if you do leave a message, I will reply the following day. More on this matter then. 😉

    You know, I’ve heard people use that selfish label – whatever it means. I’m not sure exactly what to make of it either, but for the past few years I’ve viewed such requests from the position that asks: what are the upsides for me and/or would this request be reciprocated with me or anyone else? It is harsh, but there are a lot of grifters around looking for an easy ride – and some people just try it on. My philosophy fits neatly into the ‘do unto others’ question too.

    Ha! A nifty strategy of seating people in tables / seats near to the windows. As a species, we do tend to rely upon the opinion of the herd.

    It is hard to know what is culture and what is core programming for our species. As a suggestion, one is learned and developed behaviours that led to survival of the species (whether they are useful or not) and the other is behaviours that are taught so that we don’t end up in anarchy – with all of the chaos that that may bring. Just some idle speculation on the subject. What do you reckon?

    Yeah, the pumpkin glass is just asking to be lit from within, and if it is not possible to do so, then lit from without. I’ve burned my hand on a tea candle. Those things put out a bit of energy! Mind you that was nothing compared to the day I accidentally put my hand on the top of a gas lantern. Ouch.

    It is not a bad turn of phrase that one! Hopefully I hadn’t ripped it off someone else, although it might be possible that that is the case, but don’t believe so. 🙂

    Speaking of arts and crafts, I took six disparate chunks of metal today and produced a steel gate for the other side of the corn enclosure. The welding took quite a bit longer than I first anticipated, but fortunately the late autumn midday sun was shining strongly enough to provide enough electricity for the welder.

    We also drilled many holes into the Moby Rock today! One of the sections of the rock was so hard and so dense that it melted a Tungsten Carbide drill bit. Not good, but fortunately the rest of the rock wasn’t quite as hard and the drilling took more time than effort. The expansion grout hadn’t turned up at the post office today, so it is a job for next week. If I get it during the week, we may mix and pour the stuff one night. It sounds bonkers but we’re fracking rocks to avoid the dreaded Peak Rocks. Mr Greer and Mr Kunstler may well have something to say about that!

    I’d feel twitchy about having such an expensive item – like the Tiffany glass – floating around the place too. A good call not to indulge upon such an item. Who knows the mind of the true collector? I’ve sold a lot of things on the second hand market, and I can never pick what will make a good return. And just to add to the confusion, sometimes you just get lucky with a sale and that sends mixed messages that can’t be repeated.

    The story of the craftsmen moving from business to business reminds me of the difficulties of making a living whilst producing art or vegetables. It is inordinately problematic.

    Verbonia sounds like an intriguing imaginary historical place. Those Roman’s don’t appear to have stinted themselves. The author likewise sounds intriguing.

    I hadn’t appreciated that Julia’s borders were of a transient arrangement. OK. Those are good traits – and rare in this day and age.

    Thanks for the review on the flavour of the Jimmy Red corn. I suspect having some of those plants will assist with the genetics of the other open pollinated heritage corn varieties that I grow and save seed from. Genetics in corn can be a bit problematic – and more so than other plants. I’m thinking perhaps you’re seeing a bit of a throw back. Incidentally, the multi-coloured corn does better (apparently) in cooler climates – which makes sense as they’d be lower in sugars.

    The Bureau of Meteorology (what meteors?) released its climate outlook for the next few months today. It doesn’t make for pleasant reading (warmer and dryer). Ook!



  40. Hi Inge,

    I’m finding that a lot of the fruit trees are biennial too. It makes for a good argument to plant a diversity of species if ever there was one! 🙂 I am at a total loss as to why that may be the case and have no idea at all about the mechanism, and the next time (in spring) I encounter a commercial orchardist, I may ask them the hard question. Commercial orchards would have a desire to thwart the best intentions of the trees, so they’ve probably given the matter lots of thought. I just live with what the trees provide, but that means planting a lot of fruit trees and with a fair bit of diversity of species.

    The warm sun makes a person feel good too. 🙂 Apparently sunlight has a noticeable effect on a persons immune response and there are now reports that the incidence of auto-immune responses are higher the higher a persons latitude of abode is.

    Dry here too. And the Bureau of Meteorology has forecast that this winter will be warm and dry. Makes for a nervous existence. Best of luck for some rain soon.



  41. Hi Pam,

    Honestly, I’m starting to get nervous with all this beware of hubris talk! Fingers crossed for a good outcome, but there will be no outcome by the next blog as the stuff didn’t arrive in the mail today. It happens being way down here in a remote spot.

    I’ll tell ya the truth of it. None of this stuff makes any economic sense whatsoever. None at all. If the rock gets blown up (albeit slowly – unfair!) the corn enclosure will hold about maybe 160 corn plants. That will provide about maybe 320 cobs. If I went to the market and purchased that many cobs, they’d set me back about $1 a cob. It is hardly a wonder to me that farmers struggle to make a buck.

    But the flip side is that quality of the stuff that we grow is superior to the market purchased stuff. But I reckon not too many people would notice that – or even want it.

    It doesn’t bother me one iota as I’m still going to blow up the rock and plant out the corn. Food quality is a bigger issue than many people may realise. And it is a big story, but of course you already know that. Has your son tried any of this expanding grout stuff on rocks on your terraces?



  42. Chris

    The Editor and your choice of the Expansive Grout rock breaker suggested by Steve C is a good choice I’ve seen it in use at work and it’s pretty effective.
    I bought some at home to break up a 3/4 cu yd. satellite antenna pole anchor . I didn’t get to use it as the excavation back hoe guy showed up and removed the anchor with his bucket before I got to it.
    The on the job use was on a basalt rock that was in the way of the installation of a precision measuring instrument in a tunnel located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in S.E Washington State. The stuff was apparently fairly new in 1982. Kind of expensive too. But worked well!

  43. Hi Chris,
    Yes, Leo is mostly pit bull as are the majority of dogs in the shelter now days. Salve has settled down quite a bit as she was overly exuberant when she first arrived.

    I had plans to plant most of the vegetable seeds yesterday but the thunderstorm dumped 1/2 inch in short order around 10 AM so I only got the zucchini and winter squash planted as well as filling in the trenches of the new asparagus bed. That bed is doing well and we did harvest a meal’s worth of asparagus from the small old bed already here. Since we have all those nettles I’ve been making nettle tea with a little lemon too. We’ve received over 4 inches of rain so far this month but not all at once so it’s not too bad. Still we have many periods of rain forecast for the next 10 days as well as see-sawing temperatures.

    The meat chicks have arrived and they so far are doing well.

    I’ve been keeping a list of all the bird species we’ve seen here and today we added number 50 to the list – a red-headed woodpecker which I haven’t seen for decades. I imagine I’ll be lucky to see it again but who knows.

    Sorry to hear about the not so good long range forecast. Wish we could send a little of this rain your way.


  44. Yo, Chris – Are business, economics and technology linked? That might be a rhetorical question? :-). For better or worse. Invented, developed, cast aside, reconsidered. Street car lines bought by oil companies and ripped up. The Greeks and Romans had the concept of the steam engine, down pat. Didn’t do much with it, except for parlor tricks. Sometimes attributed to the abundance of slave labor and not having quite the right fuels (coal.) Beta vs VHS :-). How fast do we need to go? Faster than a cougar or a bear :-).

    A day off? No probs. You lead a rich and varied life, beyond this blog. With all it’s obligations and pleasures. Here’s a hope that somewhere along the way, there’s a bit of fun and something tasty!

    Core programing. Nature or nurture? They’ve been going round and round about that one, forever. Every time they think they’ve got it nailed down, some spoilsport comes along and says, “But what about this?” And it’s back to the drawing board / lab / philosopher’s den. I was just thinking the other day (can’t remember why) about how what very small incidents in a child’s life, and have profound effects (for good or bad). Small things that roll of other ducklings backs and leave no mark.

    As to Moby Rock. Couldn’t you just carve a whale on the side and call it good? :-). Just to throw off future archaeologists. “Yes, these ancient people, even though they lived so far inland, apparently worshipped whales. They probably made annual pilgrimages to the coast to obtain salt and quantities of dried whale meat.” :-).

    The professor that did the lectures on ancient palaces speculates that the frequent water features (in dry areas), exotic plants and animals, indicated the rulers control over nature, to their subjects. I suppose a yen for a cooling breeze off a fountain, to view a pretty flower or exotic beastie, isn’t quit enough. Let’s tart it up with theory. :-).

    A bit of a ripple in the archaeological world. A newly discovered temple to Nemesis, outside a stadium. They’re speculating it was mostly for gladiators. The goddess Nemesis was big, among gladiators.

    Any time I think of craftsmen and designers moving about, I think of this guy …

    Sometimes, Roman military camps became towns. Made redundant, to the military, but there was all that nice infrastructure in place, a grid system already laid out, walls and gates. The ultimate in Roman recycling?

    Cloudy with a chance of meteors? :-).

    I’ve been following the chat about biennial apples. I noticed the same thing with Italian prunes. “On years” and “off years.” Nature might not repeat, but it rhymes? For some reason or another, my chickens came to mind. I gave my girls a bit of light, in the winter, just enough to keep them laying a bit. But didn’t run lights 24/7, as some people do. In the first place, it costs money. In the second, I didn’t want to ask too much of them. I always made sure they got a good, solid 8 hours of shut eye. :-). Lew

  45. Hi Chris,

    Good luck with the rock. I am with you – a large rock like that is just asking for demolition – any way possible! Otherwise, you will live out your days, walking past that rock every day, taunted by the thoughts of what could have been.

    Pity about the expensive drill bit though, those things cost a pretty penny. I used to have to drill holes into granite a lot for one of my prior jobs and we used a large hilti impact drill with very expensive 20mm bits. The bits would last a month or so, and the drill would last 18-24 months. No wonder it was called hard rock mining! Of course the expense is nothing compared the big ones used for the actual mining:

    I am home alone for a couple of weeks with Mrs Damo in Brisbane for various medical checkups. I do enjoy alone time, but after a couple of days the novelty will wear off.


  46. Hi Lew,

    Yes, mustn’t spoil anything for Chris. Mind you, if he prevaricates and delays reading Skystone, the blame for any spoiling can only be placed at his feet! 🙂

    I was very impressed with that Villa. Although, I have to be careful not confuse it with another rich villa visited by Cicero in “Lustrum” (Thomas Harris) which I read a couple of months ago. In that one, the villa owner had a very extensive aquaculture setup in marble lined caves under the villa.

    Dead Dont Die looks great, and Bill Murray and Adam Driver!


  47. @Lew

    I meant to ask if you had read any of Douglas Couplands stuff (Generation X)? I saw some recommendations elsewhere and thought it wise to check in with the expert 🙂


  48. Chris,

    You melted a Tungsten Carbide drill bit tip? I didn’t know that was possible! Did you hit a pocket of something that’s not granite, perhaps? Wow.

    The air gun had a purpose. The “target” was a metal can suspended about 2 meters above the floor by an electromagnet. The air gun was aimed at the “target” and pumped up with compressed air. When the trigger was pulled, the electromagnet automatically turned off, allowing the “target” to drop. If the aim was true, the “bullet” ( a metal spike) hit the “target” every time, regardless of the “muzzle speed” of the air gun (or how much compressed air was forced into the air gun). This was to demonstrate that every object is affected by gravity exactly the same as every other object.

    Naturally, the physics prof couldn’t name the demonstration something like “The Air Gun and the Can”. Nope, he called it “The Monkey in the Tree”. So, the demonstrator was aiming a “rifle” at a “monkey in a tree”. The “monkey” let go of the “tree” at exactly the same instant that the “rifle” was fired. The “monkey” got nailed every time.

    Yes, some of the more squeamish students always protested and whined about the poor monkey.

    Trade is a funny thing. For a large swath of Native American tribes from the Southeastern USA northwards to the Ohio River Valley and the Great Lakes, the “3 sisters” of corn, beans and squash were food staples for many centuries before Europeans appeared in North America. The squash was native to the Aztec and Mayan regions of Mexico. Trade had brought it to the Southeast.

    Tobacco didn’t grow in my part of the world. Yet, all of the tribes seemed to have tobacco when the first Europeans wandered through here. That trading network ranged from the Atlantic Coast all the way to Puget Sound and the Pacific, and yes, where Lew lives.

    Dull Chris and dull DJ when there is too much work and not enough living. Very true. I need the break: a friend at the job told me today that I have been acting “pleasantly rude”.

    The rain. Well, Thursday’s main storm wasn’t a small rain shower. No sirree! It was, well, the best way to describe it is as a LARGE party of EVERY thunder god ever known to humans. They were all present and active. I live in one of the two parts of Spokane hit the hardest: 3 cm of rain in 15 minutes. Yes, more rain in 15 minutes than we got in all of April. And it rained hard for 90 minutes. There was water everywhere and a lot of urban flooding. I got soaked in my 80 meter walk from the bus stop to the house. Less than a kilometer from here, some guy was paddling in his kayak on a major street. I think we got upwards of 6.5 cm of rain Thursday night. The storm did not hit the region equally. The official government weather station received less than 0.6 cm.

    It has been raining nonstop since 8:00 Friday morning, so for another 13 hours. This has been pretty uniform – another 2cm of rain. Where the water runs off the roof into a sandy flower bed, well, there was about 5 cm of standing water this evening. Yes, the ground is saturated. I checked the basement walls – all bone dry.

    Here are links to some articles and pictures. I don’t know how long the links will be active. The first one has a video of the kayaker.


  49. Chris:

    No, my son has not discovered expansion grout; what an intriguing product. He will be wanting some; so far, he has never met a project he didn’t like.

    I certainly agree about market produce in no way matching homegrown. We are eating homegrown strawberries now. They have incredible flavor. The store-bought ones have no flavor. If we counted labor as a cost in producing food, we’d be spending more than we would buying at the store, at least in some cases, but we don’t count labor as a cost because of the joy and satisfaction and health benefits incurred from it. You can’t buy that.


  50. Chris:

    In looking up expansion grout I found one called “Bustar”. What a great name!


  51. @ Damo – I stayed up WAY to late last night and am almost done with “Skystone.” I read it years ago, so, some bits are familiar. My edition has a few little pen and ink illustrations, which are quit nice. Villa Britanicus, etc.. I think the sex scenes go on, way to long. I mean, they’re tasteful, and all, not too graphic. But generally, I just roll my eyes, skip a few pages and mutter something about “getting back to the story.” :-).

    I really liked Robert Harris’s “Pompeii.” Read it twice. But his other works, in synopsis, don’t “grab me.” I think I read a series about Cicero, years ago, by another author. The politics of his era (and, politics in general) bore me. His surviving letters are a rich source of his class’s (rich, connected) take on the world, and the domestic bits are gems. How to manage a villa (he had several), how to decorate a villa.

    Hmmm. Coupland. The titles “Generation X” and “Microserfs” are familiar to me. But did I read them, or just hear about them? If I read them, they must not have made much of impression. But sometimes (to me) things don’t, the first time around.

    Yup. The new zombie movie looks pretty good. Of course, I’m waiting for “Anna and The Apocalypse.” It ought to be out on DVD, any time now. As of last week, no release date, yet. What could be better than a Scottish, teen, Christmas musical, with zombies? :-).

    So, your batching (sometimes spelled baching) it. As in, bachelor. A term I don’t hear much, anymore, but when I say it, people seem to still know what it means. LOL. There’s always a thick overlay of pity (Aaaah, the poor thing probably won’t even be able to feed himself.) But if you look hard, there’s also a substantial under layer of envy :-). Usually, from other blokes. Lew

  52. @ DJSpo – We’re getting rain, over this way, but nothing like you.

    I was re-reading what I wrote to Chris (about small childhood incidents that have big results) and ran across “howwhat.”™ Not near so useful as your “somewhen”, but might come in handy. Lew

  53. Hi everyone,

    I worked yesterday for the entire day and then some. It was the Federal election down here, so any chance of responding to comments was more pipe dream than reality! Writing tonight and I should have a chance to reply tomorrow. Until then stay safe and keep both hands on the wheel – that is if you are driving anywhere. If you’re not driving anywhere, then remember to take it easy (or something like that). I’m now rambling and will proceed to commence writing the blog shortly if I don’t get distracted before then! 🙂

    Lewis – The Vindolanda images were pretty good. Very funny too! Looks like a pizza oven to me. On a serious note, how was the wood preserved after all these years? It looks like some sort of foundations for a timber building, just given the general layout. What do you reckon?

    I raise you your Vindolanda images with a fascinating article on preppers but with down under style. I spent a week with a doomsday prepper deep in the outback. This is how it changed me. They had comments in the article and references to research undertaken on the subject by serious academics. I noticed some obscure reference to six months and some other new movement which I hadn’t heard of before. What do you reckon they do in the other six months?

    How fast do we need to go? Possibly just faster than your companions (as the old joke wisely suggested)! 🙂 Sometimes the rate of change feels too fast for my preferences (which I must add are not ever taken into account in these matters. Most unfair!)

    Thanks for noticing. However, paid work is just work for me, and I tend to treat it as something that has to be done. It has been a long time since I found a sense of status from the paid work I do. The profession has been thrown under the bus and basically over supplied – and it leads to ugly outcomes for even experienced practitioners such as myself. On the other hand blowing up rocks. I live for that gear. 🙂

    That aspect is interesting to me too. Plenty of people could have experienced the childhood that, say just for one example (and the same applies to everyone really), you’ve experienced, and had a totally different outcome than where either you or I are at today. There is a great dissensus of outcomes in the stories of people’s lives, but I sort of feel that as a society we view the many different stories from only a few ‘acceptable’ lenses. Is that shoehorning? And that gives distorted perspectives on how things look. But then, and also getting back to the main point, I’ve seen two different people take control and run the same business and get entirely different results and outcomes. I’d be interested in your opinion, but I do sort of feel that the diversity in stories is part of our species larger story and we need to have people with different skills, gifts and attributes in order to work well as a group. I’ve reported to boards were everyone other than I were of a sales background. Ouch.

    I’d like to do something like that rock art just to mess with future archaeologists, but time is always short and the list of projects yet to do is perhaps even longer. And that hungry beastie maintenance eats up infrastructure time.

    Hehe! Indeed, your theory regarding the theorists stands tall!

    Thanks for mentioning Frederick as he is a fascinating historical figure. Reading between the lines, I did note that he had both failures and successes and that probably shaped his character. Have you ever encountered any of his works for sale? The mention of uranium oxides to produce the bright orange colours left me feeling a bit uncomfortable…

    It is at this point in the reply that I must confess that I’m halfway through ‘Just Enough’, but haven’t yet started ‘Skystone’. There, I feel much better now that I have fessed up. Something, something about the patterns not being right! 😉 Do you have any advice for me?

    I’m enjoying ‘Just Enough’, but I see what you mean about the authors fanciful take upon implementing such a culture upon another fixed culture. That bit reads likes a manifesto (dull dead things that they are). Cultures, I feel, have to evolve or perish on their own merits. Cycling back around to the article on preppers, did you note how the story ended? Their magic is strong.

    Hehe! Yes, watch out for the meteors. I once watched a meteor shower and it took me a while before I could see the meteors darting at very high velocities across the sky. Personally the slow moving ones make a far bigger splash.

    Very nice with the chickens (and also respectful of their needs). I did not enjoy that much shut eye myself over the past two nights, and yesterday was like two days rolled into one. Hope I make some sense tonight. Maybe. All I can say is please be forgiving!



  54. Chris & Editor
    Am calling back at Fernglade. It has been a while since.
    Glad to see you still digging for rocks! Smile
    Best wishes to both & ‘go canny’ with the dynamite.

    Was impressed how little rain you have had for nearly 5 months.
    Do you have a graph so we can see the seasonal fluctuations?

    We are still trying to build soil here on the home ground.

    We are Some 60 miles north of the Wall & Vindolanda. The Romans came well north of course. Here is an image of a marching camp on the high ground. [ Sorry, its the best I could find just now – can be viewed without buying.] The Roman road carefully followed contours and was used as a drove road in mediaeval time. That’s Dark Ages recovery period – see JM Greer and his stories for Meriga. There was even a small settlement here to serve we guess the drovers. We walked over with the children a good number of times and biked it one memorable occasion.


  55. @ Phil Harris – You must be up towards the Antonine Wall. I saw this article, recently, in the Heritage Daily magazine website. You might find it interesting.

    There’s also a fairly new book out: “Septimus Severus In Scotland” by Simon Elliott. I haven’t seen it, yet, so don’t know how good it is. In my opinion :-). Lew

  56. Yo, Chris – The soil is anaerobic at Vindolanda. Not much oxygen to encourage bacteria to break down organic matter. Of course, when it comes out of the ground, it needs to be immediately treated with … something to prevent immediate breakdown. Or, in the case of the wooden posts, they probably slop on … something to seal out the air. But that shoe! I do wish they had mentioned what size foot went into that shoe. But then, it’s a new find, so, maybe, more will be revealed.

    I’d guess the prepper has arranged his employment where he can work 6 months on, and six months off. Maybe teaching, or, who knows, his brother-in-laws auto repair shop. That article really was interesting. When I think about it, “Skystone” is really, in one way, about Roman preppers. :-). You will also find a dozen or so reasons why the Roman empire, fell. But I really don’t think there’s an easy answer to that. Chain of events and many different trends. A symphony, rather than a solo. :-). Not to worry about getting to the “Skystone.” I was thinking, if he’s amenable, I might chat a bit with Damo, over on his blog. So, you might have to tread carefully in his comments! :-).

    There have been some interesting studies done on identical twins, separated at birth. There are differences, but some almost erie similarities. But is that chance, or something else? Some twins (even separated) seem to have an almost metaphysical connection.

    I don’t think I’ve ever run across anything actually made by Rhead. But, plenty designed by him. As in Fiesta dinnerware. I bought and sold a lot of that when I was in the Tat Trade. At one point, I even thought I’d put together a set of the Cobalt Blue for my dinnerware set. But, changed my mind. Ah, yes. The “radioactive red” Fiesta. Turns out is was less radioactive then say, a radium dial wrist watch. But it is a bit more of an expensive color to collect, as there is less of it, due to wartime restrictions. Same with the cobalt blue. Also used by the government for some wartime use. The Homer Laughlin dinnerware company re-issued Fiesta, a few years back. But in slightly different colors and with a different mark than the earlier stuff. To make it identifiable from the old stuff. My local hardware store has a huge display of it. I suffered sticker shock when I inspected a disc pitcher. $50!

    Yup. I thought the author got a bit pendantic (sp?) in parts of “Just Enough”. But so much else in it is interesting. Oh, I agree that a lot of the concepts would be tough to throw on a fixed culture. But if the concepts are part of the historical basis of a culture (Japan), a bit easier to, maybe, pull off. And, if things continue to decline (and, they will), needs must. Lew

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