Gravity sucks

Humans exist day to day in a very complicated process of co-operation with other members of our species. But at the same time our co-operation also applies to every other species that live on this delightful planet. And co-operation inevitably involves relationships. I was thinking about such matters the other week, because somebody asked me to volunteer my time to do some unpaid work that would benefit them.

Unpaid work is the very nature of volunteering your time to do some work that someone else inevitably needs doing. That’s not to suggest that volunteering your time to help others is not a good idea, because there are many worthwhile things that actually need doing. It is just that most individual humans can’t volunteer all of their available time to help others, because sooner or later they’d starve. And then if a volunteer starved and died, who would do all of the unpaid work that needed doing?

So, the other week when someone asked me to assist them with some unpaid work that needed doing, I replied with one of my well used lines saying: “Yeah, nah. Love to help, but I’m committed to doing other work”. And that was that.

Of course as things work out, the important work was still done, although I wasn’t involved. It is about this time in the story that I fully expect plenty of people will be thinking to themselves: “This Chris character is selfish as”. I have heard such talk before.

What swayed my decision to decline assisting with this unpaid work was that I asked myself two brief questions: 1: What is in it for me to assist in this important work? and 2: Would the asker assist other people in a similar fashion? They’re both useful questions to consider. And it turns out that there was nothing at all in it for me for me to assist, and the person making the request failed to mention any benefits that may accrue. And in fact I suspect that the thought hadn’t even occurred to the person asking for my help.

Years ago I became involved in a youth mentoring program. I went into it with such high ideals, and thought to myself that this would be an awesome program. I jumped through the hoops of character and police checks, and also the many interviews. I was absolutely pumped and ready to help.

Turned out that the kid that was allocated to me in the program was in it because they received monetary remuneration for being in the program. They were in it for the money, pure and simple, and for good measure the cheeky scamp pinched my favourite sunglasses. The people organising the program likewise were being paid for their time. Turns out that I was the only bunny in that story, because I was giving my time to maintain the artifice. I quit the program and did other things with my life.

The experience highlighted to me that plenty of social relationships and social obligations had been replaced by the tool of money. Everyone knows what money is, and it is often used as a tool with which we negotiate many of the relationships in society that we all have to navigate.

But every tool can be used and abused. And money is a tool that gets abused. And if the abuse of money as a tool means that you can get your hands on some extra mad cash for doing nothing at all, then why not? Well it turns out that there are real world implications for abusing money as a tool, and they’re playing out now.

For most people their biggest expenditure of mad cash is on the house that keeps the rain off their heads. Of late, house prices down here are falling, and it turns out that there are a number of people that owe more mad cash to lenders for their house than it is worth. That situation is called negative equity: Mortgage delinquencies mount as more borrowers find their home is worth less than their loan

I’d hazard a guess and suggest that more than a few of those people in trouble with their mortgages are on interest only loans. With an interest only loan, plenty of people (up to 30% in recent times) were able to secure a much bigger loan, because they didn’t pay a cent of the principle (loan balance) as they only paid the interest. Such loans generally have to be renegotiated at the end of their terms which are often five to ten years. And if the amount owing to the lender at the end of the loan is greater than the value of the asset, then the borrower is faced with what is known in the trade as a ‘margin call’. That’s where the bank asks the borrower to make up the difference between the value of the house and the amount of the loan that exceeds that value.

Nobody ever wants to face a margin call, and it is worthwhile pointing out that they were instrumental in causing the crash in stock markets just prior to The Great Depression beginning in 1929.

Over the weekend Australia went the polls for an election to see which political party forms the Federal Government (which requires more than 76 seats in the House of Representatives). Not to spoil the story, but at this stage it looks as if the government was returned to office with a bigger majority. The opposition party campaigned on a platform of removing some of the many policies that apparently prop up housing prices and make them less appealing to be kept as investment vehicles. Clearly this was not a policy change that the electorate was comfortable with, and a person could cheekily suggest that the population said: “Yeah, Nah” to the change.

The thing is, gravity is an unavoidable force and sooner or later, all balloons come back to the earth.

Work on extending the corn enclosure continued this week. I hand dug holes for several fence posts.

The author hand digs several fence post holes for the extension of the corn enclosure

Soon all of the holes were dug and the treated pine timber posts were cemented into the ground.

Most of the fence posts for the corn enclosure extension have been cemented into the ground

The corn enclosure needed a gate, and so I took six disparate chunks of scrap steel and welded up a gate. Take that McIvor and the A-Team!

Toothy assists the author with welding up a gate from scrap steel

Just to make it clear – Toothy was not with me when I was doing the welding.

To protect the new steel gate from the dreaded steel worm – rust – the editor painted the gate with a glossy black metal paint.

The new steel gate was painted black and left to dry in the late autumn sunshine

There was a bit of discussion in the comments section last week about blowing up the Moby Whale rock that was unearthed last week. In the spirit of this week’s election I took a poll of the readership, the results are in and they are uncanny. All males in the poll suggested blowing the rock up. All females in the poll were disinclined to blow up the rock. There is something in that result, but I’m really not sure what it is.

Tip of the hat to Steve C, who suggested that we use expanding grout to demolish the rock. I’d never heard of this stuff before, and a batch of it is now on its way to me here. I’d still like to blow the rock up, although the editor (and I should mention that this was a win for the ladies in this complicated matter) put her foot down and said no explosives. But to chuck me an olive branch, I can try out this expanding grout stuff. So we drilled a lot of holes into the granite.

Toothy approves of all of the holes drilled into Moby Rock

Can’t wait to see what this stuff will do (more on this next week hopefully)! And with a bit of luck we can use fracking technology (expanding grout) for good and not evil, that being to avoid the dreaded Peak Rocks. All of the recent excavations has almost filled (but not quite) one of the steel rock gabions:

A steel rock gabion cage is almost (but not quite) full

It is not all work here. Sometimes I sit out with the chickens whilst they free roam in the orchard and read about just how susceptible walnut trees are to various blights. Seems like they’re a bit of a problem, but I obtained two seedling walnut trees and will try them.

The author sits out in the late autumn air supervising the chickens whilst reading about walnut blights

At the local tip shop we noticed that some creative soul had converted a bed frame into an outdoor seat. Then they dumped the seat at the local tip shop. Twenty Five bucks later we brought home the seat to be ‘a project’.

We picked up a garden seat made out of an old bed frame at the tip shop for $25

We pimped that seat. How good does it look now? Be gone 1980’s bedframe.

Yeah, pimp my tip shop seat!

All of the eggplants that were remaining on the plants were harvested.

Late autumn and we’re eating fresh eggplants, capsicum and tomatoes (which ripen indoors)

There are still heaps of chillis left unharvested:

Plenty of chilli’s remain unharvested. Too hot to handle, but maybe not too hot to compost!

The raised garden beds used for growing potatoes were fed with a huge amount of compost recently. And the potato leaves have almost immediately begun to emerge from the compost.

Potato leaves are emerging from the compost

Asparagus spears are still producing seeds which may form new plants sometime over the next six months:

Asparagus seeds are yet to fall from the spears

Cape Gooseberries are ready to eat whilst at the same time new flowers are forming.

Cape Gooseberry flowers and fruit

We have a collection of succulents that rarely make an appearance on the blog, but this next one is really interesting looking:

One of the many succulents happily growing here

And leaf change still hasn’t finished…

Leaf change still hasn’t finished as these trees in the foreground attest

The warm and sunny late autumn weather is causing the many trees on the farm to grow. You can almost see the sap rising in the branches.

Warm and sunny late autumn weather is causing this deciduous Manchurian pear to grow

Onto the flowers:

Californian poppies
Delicate Salvia flowers
Geraniums and Salvias
Geraniums, Salvias and Lavender
Blue Rosemary flowers

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 167.8mm (6.6 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 166.4mm (6.6 inches).

86 thoughts on “Gravity sucks”

  1. Hi ALCO44,

    Welcome to the discussion.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence in the expansive grout rock breaker. I’m seriously looking forward to testing the stuff out.

    Back hoe’s are useful machines. And a 20 tonne excavator is an extraordinary machine – although even a machine such as that might not be able to excavate the Moby Rock.

    It is good that you have seen this stuff working in the real world and thanks for the feedback. Many things nowadays are perhaps cheaper than they should reasonably be.



  2. Hi Margaret,

    I have heard that story too about the animal shelters and pit bulls, and Ollie’s particular breed has been experimented with since its creation. And of course the less desirable dogs are dumped at the shelters. Ollie is one such. The breed gets a lot of bad press, but compared to the smaller dogs, Ollie is a rock of stability when it comes to temperament and emotional responses, but I’m glad that I got him early (about three months at a rough guess). If he had been trained for hunting, well I’m not sure he’d be as pleasant a canine as he is. Ollie like Salve is chilling out a bit too as he spends more time here. How old were Leo and Salve when you got them?

    As the old timers quip, when it rains it pours. And that certainly describes your weather. But glad to hear that the rain hasn’t arrived all at once and that you’ve had some time to get outside and get into the garden. Plus fresh asparagus is a true spring delight. The nettle tea (with lemon) sounds good. Do the nettles have much flavour?

    Cool! Hope your chicken coop has been set up? Wow, you’ve been busy. You’ve got great diversity in the local bird population to have seen so many species in such a short period of time. How does it compare with your previous digs?

    Thanks for the kind thoughts about the rain. This well written article provides some insight into just how extensive the drought is down here The long road to drought. Ordinarily by this time of the year I would have expected on a long term average about 10 inches of rain.



  3. Hi Damo,

    Well the results are in regarding the demolition poll, and the guys have invariably said: “let’s blow the rock up”. The, err, perhaps more sensible contingent of ladies have urged caution and acceptance.

    Damo, mate, those are my thoughts exactly. The rock is just asking to be demolished, but that is hard wired in. The editor, who you know, sensibly agreed to the middle path of expansive grout on the basis that corn does not grow in solid rock. Anyway, the expansion grout has not yet turned up in the mail. I’ve been so excited at the possibilities of the stuff that I’ve been checking the mail at the post office / general store every day. Although, it is also a good excuse to obtain a coffee and fruit toast. And this morning I began reading Skystone whilst at the general store. What a great read. Upon returning home again after a fruitless (but fruit toast full – it is a tough job but someone has to do it) search for expansion grout, I ordered the rest of the series. For some reason the second book was quite pricey, but the rest of the series was reasonably priced. I hope I read them in the correct order. Both you and Lewis have put some doubt in my mind that the order of reading the series is a bit fluid.

    Far out. Yeah, that machine would drill the holes a lot easier than the rotary hammer drill that I purchased at Bunnings. And a Hilti is a very good quality machine. In the early 1990’s I had the pleasure of visiting a working tunnel boring machine as it bored out the north west trunk sewer under Melbourne’s suburbs. What a machine.

    Hehe! Yeah I totally understand your feelings in the matter. Best wishes for Mrs Damo and I hope that family are there looking out for her.

    How is the weather going over there? It is bonkers here. Most days for the next week are at or around 20’C. I feel a bit sorry for the fruit trees because they are slightly confused by this late autumn turn of events. Mind you, I’m glad that I spent many weeks feeding every single one of them. You know, if I had to be honest, I’d say that planting several hundred fruit trees all seemed like a good idea at the time… 🙂



  4. Hi DJ,

    The tungsten carbide head of the drill bit melted and I have absolutely no idea what metal is in the rock at that point that could produce such a result, but I may soon find out. Every other hole drilled was just fine, and we placed a bit of high temperature grease on the drill head each time we began a new hole (not that it would last for long on the drill head, but still it would help).

    Interesting. So your experiment proved that the effect of gravity impacted upon the metal spike equally to the metal can. Did the timing of the experiment ever change due to unforeseen circumstances?

    The last time I checked, metal cans were not monkeys. 🙂 Talk about taking an abstraction a little bit too far. 🙂 You know, on Saturday night I was at the local election location and someone who came down to vote unfortunately ran over a young kangaroo on the road. I was eating dinner at the time, and there were people standing around helplessly looking at this unfortunate young kangaroo flopping around on the road and talking among themselves about how awful this all was. Me being me, I didn’t have a phone on me, so I said to the concerned folks to call the police and get them to come and put the kangaroo out of its misery (and they do that unpleasant task). Still unfortunately eating dinner, I discovered that the person driving the car, had dragged the kangaroo into a ditch (which I hadn’t seen them doing). I then asked the driver what had gone on and where was the kangaroo, and then asked them to check if the kangaroo was dead and they mumbled something about calling the local wildlife volunteers instead and drove off. Then I went over to check that the kangaroo was in fact dead – which it was – thankfully. And all the while I was thinking to myself: What is wrong with all of you people, where is your compassion? Sorry, your mention of squeamish monkey business brought that story to my mind.

    Exactly, people have always traded. The local indigenous crew historically operated a flint quarry and traded the most excellent rocks far and wide. They’re distinctive rocks and have been found far and very distant as tools. And you may notice that I’m not shy of bringing in loads of the local crushed rock with lime – it is the same stuff from the same quarry that has been worked for millennia. And the nightshade family of plants (which includes tomatoes and potatoes) which are native to this continent (once we were connected to South America as Gondwanaland) were also traded long distances.

    Pleasantly rude! Yeah, well the receiving of your snarky phone call time has come to a finale, so perhaps a break is a good idea? I’m hoping to organise a week off paid work in June. Being in small business makes it really hard to take any time off.

    Go the Thunder Gods and they are delightful to hear as long as they are accompanied by the pounding of raindrops. Dry lightning starts fires around here, and that can be a serious drama. Have I ever mentioned that Toothy is a Thunder buddy for the tough and large, but occasionally concerned at the sounds of the weather, Ollie? It helps that Toothy is quite deaf.

    Good to read that the damp proof course in the basement walls is holding up under such an extended wet. I’d be excited for so much rain. We’re about 5 to 6 inches behind the long term average at this point. Although I should mention that 1/5th of an inch of rain fell this morning, but the daytime temperatures for Melbourne are all forecast to be around the 68’F mark although that translates to about 53’F here at higher altitude.



  5. Hi, Chris!

    “Yeah, nah. Love to help, but I’m committed to doing other work”

    That is a perfect line. Thanks.

    You are not selfish, unless making your own survival a priority so that you may help first your loved ones and those in your household is selfish. After that – others.

    I see a third question to be asked oneself when someone is asking for what you know is an unreciprocated favor: Is this person desperate and am I the one who has to rescue them? In other words – is this an emergency?

    It helps to vet the program that one volunteers for. I had very good luck – and a good time – working in a volunteer program for foster kids. It was a seasonal thing, too, which means that it was easy to get out of once that commitment was finished (till the next year). I was rewarded in that experience as I got immense satisfaction, an enjoyable time, and taught my children a lesson in giving. The thanks from the kids was priceless.

    Here we call a house where more is owed than the house is worth an “upside down” house.

    That is a lovely gate and smart you for not letting Toothy catch on fire. I love that black.

    That is exactly what expanding grout does – frack. I’m glad you pointed that out. Boy, does my son want some since I mentioned it to him. And thanks, Steve, that you brought it up.

    What beautiful chickens. The silkies are always worth a laugh (sorry). Do they always stick together? What a nice red muffler. Should you get lost in the woods, they’ll spot you real quick.

    That is now a perfect garden seat!

    That succulent is so much fun. It reminds me of the old game “Twister”.

    It’s hard to choose, but the rosemary flowers are my favorite.


  6. @ Steve:

    Thanks for mentioning expanding grout last week. Somehow I missed it in your comment and attributed it to Chris. I have a feeling that we’ll have some at our house soon . . .


  7. Hi Pam,

    The stuff I bought is called: EXPANDO. Cool name huh? Not sure why the product needs to be spelled out in capital letters either…

    It is an intriguing product and many thanks for the most excellent laugh. I love your quote regarding project! And oh yeah, I hear you! Best of luck with that. 🙂 Anyway, it is probably a guy thing. Hehe!

    Absolutely. Home grown berries are superb tasting fruits. The interesting thing that I find is that the home grown berries don’t last as long off the plant and that tells me that the commercial varieties must be picked very green (and then ripened) or they’re a variety which was bred for shelf life. Not good. Do you grow any raspberries?

    And yeah, I too do not value labour into the equation for any of the produce as it was the undeniable difference in quality that led me on this journey in the first place. Once I’d experienced the difference in taste, I was left wondering what else was I missing out on? And once you get past that, you then begin wondering why would it be the way that it is, and before you know it, you are looking at rocks and thinking how useful they would be on the farm and would soya beans or chick peas be any good.

    How is the season going for you? Are you getting all the rain that is falling on both the extreme east and west of your continent? 1/5th of an inch of rain fell here this morning, but the day was full of heavy thick cloud – and you know what that means for electricity. 🙂



  8. Hi Phil,

    Welcome back, and you are always welcome here.

    Oh yeah, peak rocks is serious business if anyone took the time to notice. 🙂 And thank you for the warning and we shall take our time and be careful with this stuff.

    The drought has been epic and about as bad as it gets (so far it could get worse). I left a link to an article on the very subject in the reply to Margaret above which explains just how bad it has been.

    Good for you. I have watched Grand Designs UK (I’m a tragic, sorry) for a couple of decades and I’m always interested in the excavations that take place. The soils in the UK are not so good as they might otherwise be. Take advantage of any organic materials that you can get your hands on, is my best advice.

    The site is large, and I note that sheep dwell there on the green paddocks even today. The camp is next to a water course too and that would have been significant. I read that the drought in the UK last summer revealed a surprising number of outlines of ancient sites.



  9. Hello Chris
    Finally had a a bit of rain but I would like a great deal more.
    Interest only mortgages are a definite no no; people are running into trouble with them here also.
    I love the bed now bench, looks good.
    You have mentioned toilet paper use on more than one occasion so might be amused to hear that a family of three in the UK use 9 rolls a week! How does that compare with your acquaintance’s usage?
    Son’s sow gave birth last night. 13 piglets but 4 of them were stillborn. Son says that it was not a normal birth and that the sow is getting too old. Her daughter is due to give birth any day now.


  10. Hi Lewis,

    So, yeah, the patterns aren’t right now at all because I started reading ‘The Skystone’ book this morning at the local general store / post office / cafe. It must have been the coffee and fruit toast, because I was soon deeply engrossed in the book. Ostensibly I was there to see whether the expanding grout had turned up at the post office, but you know what, I was there, coffee was calling and a good book, what more does anyone want in life? That is the important question of the day. Upon returning home I ordered the rest of the series. Sometimes, you’re ten pages into a book and you just know that you’re gonna love it. 🙂 Thanks for recommending it.

    Truth to tell, I am still enjoying the “Just Enough” book too, but you know I’m of a practical bent and I agree with Mr Kunstler who has often posited that cultures are emergent phenomena. That is in no way a criticism of the book, because I use many of the techniques that were written about therein the text, but I’m an outlier and the rest of society feels otherwise. Incidentally it was reading about the complex web of social arrangements in the book that led to the story in this weeks blog.

    Anaerobic soil can pose interesting challenges to the people tasked with handling the soil. Out of curiosity, have you ever read that one of the archaeologists at the Vindolanda site encountered any unpleasant bacteria? The reason I ask is because many years ago I decided to construct a new chicken enclosure after smelling the distinctive smell of Clostridium bacteria in the soil of the old chicken enclosure. It thrives in challenging soil like that and it was a very damp year that one.

    The old timers used to coat timber in creosote or old used engine sump oil, and those two chemicals were very good at protecting timber in adverse conditions. They left the timber looking very blackened but the stuff is effective. The mummies that I saw in South America were in what looked like hermetically sealed open glass caskets. I wasn’t really sure why I went to see the exhibit and I did wonder at the time if the mountain Gods were annoyed that their sacrifices had been removed? Hey, maybe the archaeologists may discover something that fits the shoe? You never know given the nature of the soils in Vindolanda.

    I couldn’t work out the employment side of the prepper story either, but your explanations are better than any that my brain could come up with. It was a fascinating article as it mentioned moderating trends in the prepper community that were quite encouraging such things as developing skills over the act of hoarding. And we know who is to thank for disseminating such useful ideas! 😉 But I read your comment over breakfast about The Skystone book and you inspired me to break with tradition and develop a new skill. I’m really enjoying the story and it grabs the reader from the first couple of pages. I’ll catch up in time, but you two are fast readers.

    Identical twins are a pain because I have a great deal of trouble telling them apart. And I suspect that they play upon the social advantages that that situation would lend them. You know, they may even be hard wired the same, but the nature bit would provide a bit of difference. What do you reckon about that? I can’t say that I’ve ever had identical twins as a friend, but they are rare.

    Ouch! You may notice that the new / old bench seat was only half of the amount of a new Fiesta pitcher. People have forgotten that such expansive colour pallets are only a very recent thing. Wasn’t the colour green clothe dye originally created using arsenic, and it poisoned the wearers? I really like taking old junk items and making something useful and aesthetic out of them. The Japanese would no doubt appreciate such economy, flair and panache. I’m old enough to have seen the radium dipped dial watches – and yeah, they really did glow in the dark. A useful function but one wonders about the ill effects of the constant exposure to radium. I don’t however recall any great backlash against the technology. What is your take on that?

    And I absolutely agree with you about the Just Enough book. I basically came to the same conclusion and had decided to ignore the pedantry (which is a tiresome quality in a person) and just concentrated on the fine details that the author provides. It is a beautiful system when looked at from above. Interestingly at one point the author let slip his own feelings that the peasants were being taxed too heavily and I’m not sure that we can ever get their side of the story. Reading in between the lines I get the impression that there were a lot of samurai and city folk to support, but relatively speaking they were a small portion of the countries population. Do you believe that I have erred in this understanding of the times?

    About 1/5th of an inch of rain fell this morning and that is a relief because the forecast for the rest of the week is warm and dry. It is bonkers weather. I linked to an article in my reply to Margaret which discusses the extent of the drought on the continent. It is pretty epic in size and scope.

    How is the slug count going this month?



  11. Hi Chris,

    Just a brief comment before I head out to harvest strawberries. They are a little late but exceptionally delicious this year. Perhaps all that rain and the cool spring temperatures helped.

    I got the tomato, pepper, and eggplant bed and melon, squash, and bean seeds planted in a different bed last week after a warm front came through and it mostly stopped raining for a few days. We had only a little rain, about 1/4 inch, over the weekend, so I will be able to dig another bed and plant it later this week. I probably shouldn’t start it till Wednesday because we are supposed to get more rain Tuesday evening. Today I can mow the lawn after I harvest the berries. 🙁

    Enough rain fell upstream of us that the Mississippi River is rising again at St. Louis. The site on the local creek that Mike and I and several others monitor and keep clean is still flooded by water backing up from the river into it. It’s been flooded like that for 2 months and is forecast to be flooded into early June. We hope the river stops flooding eventually; there should be plenty to clean up at our creek site once it does.


  12. @ Inge – regarding your illness turning off as if a switch had been thrown, I once had a several week long bout of anxiety and obsessive thinking break in exactly the same way. I likened it to having been caught in a whirlpool that all of a sudden just threw me out onto dry, stable land. One morning I woke up and the thoughts were gone. I was so surprised I even tried to think the thoughts again and couldn’t – and, wisely, stopped trying and was just grateful after that. I am glad that you are truly feeling better now and have your energy back.


  13. Before expanding grout, before blowing stuff up, historically, dry sawdust was used to split rocks. Tightly pack the sawdust into the holes then add water. Leave it overnight. The expanding wood particles will crack stone.

  14. Yo, Chris – Well, I’m happy to see that you “got” that sometimes, being an unpaid volunteer is worthwhile. Either to society or individually. But, one must marshal their resources. Some people get terribly over extended from being pressured into volunteering for this and that. Volunteering at the library got me a job. That part was planned. Falling into a small, extra retirement (that allowed me to retire a bit earlier, and, makes life oh, so much more pleasant) wasn’t planned. Just kind of fell into that one. I also think the oldsters, have to leave a bit of room for the youngsters to do their bit.

    I do love it when some recruiter for the volunteer corp says something like, “Well, someone needs to do it!” Really? Anyone in particular in mind? :-). Some things run out their span of usefulness, and it’s time for them to die. Natural order of things, and all that.

    So, just to clarify, Australia didn’t suffer a real estate melt down in 2008? But the chickens are now coming home to roost? I know I’m probably being USA-o-centric, but I thought it was a worldwide thing. Blinders, and all that. But now I’m beginning to think, perhaps, there was economic fall out, but your real estate bubble is just coming on now? I’d guess (maybe) the Australian money boys saw what happened and thought, “Oh, there’s mad cash to be made. Let’s try that!” And here you are.

    I meant to mention I read an article about your election. I had to chuckle a bit, when I read that the surveys said the prime minister wouldn’t be returned to power … but then he was. Reminds me of a recent election, here :-).

    I really like the pictures of you, trying on all your different persona. Let’s see, we’ve got “action figure digging hole” (it’s the shades, I think) and “Master of All He Surveys.” Then there’s “Country Squire.” (wearing well loved jumper, he’s forbidden to wear off the place.) Well, there’s a new one. “French Existential Intellectual … Among the Chickens.” :-).

    The resurrection of the garden bench is wizard! Did you “lay on hands”, or just paint? Ought to call it the Lazarus Bench. :-).

    Peppers to asparagus to trees, everything is putting on the fall colors. Quit pretty. Cacti and succulents are really interesting. So many forms. And, mostly, fairly low maintenance. I think it’s interesting that different people develop different manias for different plants. Rose and orchid growers, come to mind. Hosta?

    Your Geraniums are a knock out. Their shy country cousin peeks out from behind his flashy city relatives. And a blue rosemary? Who knew? I’ll have to check out my local garden store and see if any are available. I think I mentioned that we have an enormous purple one, here. Cont.

  15. Cont. I’m glad your enjoying “Skystone.” I’m almost, but not quit finished. Part of it is I’m savoring the ending, and part is that other books (and life stuff) calls. I’m reading bits of “Rome: A History in Seven Sackings.” (Kneale, 2018).

    I haven’t heard too many stories about archaeologists getting done in by bacteria in the ground. Have read a couple of sci-fi novels, based on that plot. There is some concern over what might come out of the melting arctic permafrost. There’s been some cases of anthrax, up in Siberia.

    Old creosote power poles and railroad ties are often used, here, in garden features. Some of our raised beds, here at the Institution, are made of creosote railroad ties. There’s a lot of hand wringing, in certain quarters about that. But given the things that mob wrings their hands over, I’m not too concerned. Or, I’m not concerned, at all.

    I planted my ‘tatters, yesterday. I think the russets will do fine, but I had been saving some blue potatoes in the fridge, and they were a bit moldy. But, I threw them in the ground, anyway. If nothing comes up in a couple of weeks, I’ll just plant something else in that spot. One of the Inmates forced a jar of expired bakers yeast, on me. After doing a little due diligence (Google), I find it’s good for the soil. But might draw slugs. So, I sprinkled it on some areas I haven’t planted yet, as a slug trap. Yup. It worked. Got 31 of the little suckers, last night.

    So, what kind of new skills are you going to develop? Basket weaving? Knife throwing? The possibilities are endless. Knit a socially acceptable jumper? :-).

    Yup. Lots of colors were poisonous, back in the day. Besides the green, there was the lead white. And, as the artists had a bad habit of licking their brushes, to get a fine point, if often didn’t end well.

    Yup. Twins are interesting. I never known any, up close and personal, either. Some cultures honored and valued twins. Others killed them or thought their birth was a bad omen. Cleopatra (the famous one) had a pair of twins by Marc Anthony. Selene (the moon) and Helios (the sun.) Don’t get me started on their story. :-).

    Well, I’d say your understanding of Japan is pretty good. They kept wonderful records. Lew

  16. Chris,

    “Did the timing of the experiment ever change due to unforeseen circumstances?” The only glitch that I ever saw was if not enough compressed air was used in any one “shot”, so that the projectile failed to reach the can before the can clattered to the floor.

    Oh, yeah, I get that the prof took the abstraction too far. He was very good at that, and not just related to physics. Since that prof was my father, I’ve learned not to take my abstractions so seriously or so far. Maybe.

    That’s a sad story about the kangaroo, although the reactions are not surprising to me. I’ve seen similar things, and what people seem to want is for that horrid thing to be out of sight, out of mind, and away from them. There seems to be a disconnect that the kangaroo (or deer, or raccoon, or dog, etc.) is a living being and worthy of compassion and comfort at that time.

    I’d forgotten that Australia and South America were once united. Thanks for the reminder.

    Yes, some time off is needed right about now. I’ve enjoyed doing yard work the past two days. We have some fun things scheduled for the next two or three days, then back home for more yard work and chores, which become enjoyable to me when I can perform that at a relaxed pace rather than in a weekend frenzy. I might have to do this again in July!

    We have the same problem with dry lightning. Fortunately, this event was early enough and with enough rain that there were no fire issues. Give it another month or so, though…

    Hope you get some real rains soon. You need it badly.


  17. @ Claire
    Thanks, that was fascinating and I can add to it. I had severe postnatal depression after the birth of my first child. It remained until I became pregnant with the second. Then it went in one day. The world had been seen by me as through a thin grey curtain. That curtain just lifted like a theatre one. I mentioned it to the doctor and he said that it was known to happen. Clearly this was for hormonal reasons but none the less it is the suddenness of change which is interesting. I should add that I never took any medication for the depression.


  18. Hi Pam,

    Hehe! How good is that line? It is very neat. I’d be lying if I said that I’d made it up too, as I heard an acquaintance use it to good effect many years ago. Some lines are like that. Another good line I occasionally use is: “I don’t really like where this conversation is going”, without actually discussing where the conversation is actually going. That is useful too.

    You can’t help everybody, and I reckon with the volunteer situation I had one belief about what was going on, and everyone else had other motivations that weren’t congruent with mine.

    Nice one. And very true, sometimes there are emergencies. You just sort of hope that the people involved in the emergency don’t get assistance and then find themselves back in the same situation as before. That can happen.

    You’re right and I didn’t vet the group properly. It was a while back now so getting feedback of any sort on the program was a bit harder than things are today.

    🙂 Here’s hoping for upside right houses! Not good at all.

    Nice one. Poor Toothy, he can often be found underfoot at awkward times and yeah, I don’t reckon he’d play too well with an arc welder. How is your son’s chainsaw mill working out? I’ve seen a few advertisements for them since you first mentioned the machine to me. An intriguing machine. And may he have fun with the expanding grout in the rocks. 🙂 The stuff turned up in the mail today which was good. I still have a bit of drilling to do on Thursday before I can fill the holes with the grout. And wouldn’t you know it? It is going to rain on Friday and Saturday… I might have to cover the rock, but I am yet to read the instructions about how to use the stuff.

    We keep all of the gates the same glossy black colour. It looks good and consistent.

    There are four silky chickens. ‘Wub’ is the brown one, and she is the youngest. Then there are the two ‘Baby Silkies’ as they are about eight years old, and then there is ‘Mummy Silk’ who is the oldest chicken in the flock at about ten years. I have suggested to the editor that we don’t get any more silky chickens because they eat a lot of food, live a long time and provide very few eggs in return. But they are entertaining and lively personalities, except for wub who is frankly quite dumb. Most chickens are reasonably switched on, but wub seems a bit lethargic and her two now deceased buddies were worse. No doubt she will live to a ripe old age.

    The scarf is alpaca wool which is very soft and very warm. Cool colour too.

    It always surprises me what people discard. I mean someone spent a lot of effort creating the seat in the first place. They just failed to maintain it, and then discarded it.

    Can you grow succulents in your part of the world? I suppose the winters are a bit cold. We’re getting reports of large tornadoes developing up in your country, but a lot to the west of you.

    Rosemary is pretty nice. And they have different coloured flowers too with the other plants that grow here.



  19. Hi Inge,

    Glad to read that you have enjoyed some rain in your part of the world. It looks as though a bit of rain will fall here over the coming weekend. The main water tanks for the house have begun refilling and are now about 2/3rds full – which is a relief. I probably need a further 20,000 gallons of water before all of the tanks are full and that will require about 10 inches of rain.

    Do you have any idea what sort of story people were telling themselves when they entered into such an interest only mortgage arrangement? I’ve encountered some people who had an interest only mortgage, and they believed that because they made regular payments, that they were paying their loan off. Not so. Financial literacy is not good. I have no idea what is going on in the background with those mortgages either which will need to be reapplied for when their term expires. It may well be our Big Short moment.

    Can you believe people throw such items out because they were unable to maintain them? We modified the design slightly too, and removed the top steel bar, and I feel that the proportions are better now.

    Far out! That is a whole bunch of toilet paper. I can’t recall exactly how much toilet paper was consumed because it was over two and half decades ago. My annoyance at the sheer waste is not forgotten! But at a guess the person was using about 9 rolls per week. Over the years I’ve had a few housemates that were so incredibly wasteful that I decided not to pool resources with them which was a way of covering shared expenses. I cut them loose and they were on their own.

    I’ll be interested to read how the daughters litter compares? I have had very little exposure to pigs but I must add that they are lovely and very useful creatures and I’m rather fond of ham and bacon. The Chinese have had a lot of trouble recently with their swine herd. A whole lot of trouble.



  20. Hi Claire,

    Strawberries are a true spring delight! How did the harvesting go? I struggle with strawberries due to sheer predation from everything including the dogs that are meant to be on my side, and that was one of the reasons that we constructed the huge fruit cage over the strawberry patch. Do you thin your older strawberry plants? Do you have any advice for me with these plants? I haven’t quite worked out a regular maintenance routine with the plants, although I’ve already heavily fed them a month or two back.

    Isn’t it funny that we are half a world away and yet plant the same combination of edible plants (tomato, pepper, and eggplant bed) and (and melon, squash, and bean)? Although I’d be pretty certain that your varieties differ markedly from the ones I grow here. Oh my goodness you’ve had a massive amount of rain this year. I’ve often suspected that due to the increased incidence of plant diseases, very damp years are much harder to extract a harvest from than very dry years (if you have access to enough water).

    Speaking of which, I’m trialling walnut trees again. Do you know, so far I have killed four walnut trees? But these two trees caught my attention because they are seedling (as distinct from grafted) varieties. Blight is a serious problem with that tree. The commonly sold grafted variety is particularly susceptible to blight from what I was reading. If that is the case a person needs to do something entirely different and that is where seedling trees step into the picture.

    On a bright note, all of the flooding in the creek will be depositing copious quantities of organic matter and minerals. Hope the climate settles down a bit for you and Mike.



  21. Hi David G,

    Welcome to the discussion.

    Thanks for mentioning further details in relation to the use of timber products with which to demolish large granite rocks. Other readers have also mentioned this avenue, although not the use of sawdust. The thing I was wondering was how did the old timers drill holes in rocks without tungsten carbide drill bits?



  22. Holes were made with a star drill; a chisel with a star pattern on its tip. Strike the chisel with a mallet, rotate the chisel a bit, strike it with a mallet, rotate, strike, rotate, strike… A laborious endeavor to be sure. I used to build hiking trails and in areas where the conservation corps from the Great Depression built trails in the 30s and you can still occasionally find the star pattern chiseled into the rock in the footpath.

  23. Hi Lewis,

    You betcha. Volunteering is not an all or nothing thing, and sometimes I’ve even assisted businesses that just needed the help with getting their act together. Back in the day that used to be called pro bono work, although I’m very careful with that if only because needs always exceeds resources and so I have a good hard look and determine whether the individuals involved can lift themselves out of the muck that they got themselves into.

    You’ve probably seen this in the Club, but early on I tried to assist a few people and they got within the final few steps of overcoming their issues and then without warning they chose to maintain the chaos instead. I’d be curious as to your take on that, but I suspect they were just comfortable living within a disaster zone. It was a hard lesson for me to learn a long time ago, but you know, the human experience is a diverse chunk of stuff!

    Well exactly too, the oldsters have to face the awful prospect of letting go. It is not so hard that, but I see how it is playing out and I do wonder about the long term consequences of the reluctance. The words ‘cold, dead hands’ springs to mind for some strange reason.

    I’ve heard that story too about “someone needing to do something”. Who is this someone person I ask you? But you’re already onto that gear. That is a tough one and I’ve had to face letting some things go, and putting energy into other things just to keep them afloat. We’ve spoken of this matter before and I hear you, I get it. Sometimes I’m not ready to let go and that produces inner turmoil, but I mean what do you do?

    Correct. Yup we sailed through that time that your housing market imploded. At the time, the gubmint handed out $900 to each adult individual and said, go spend. And spend they did. There is a school of thought that suggests that when faced with such crises the powers that be won’t take action, but sometimes they do and it can be wildly unpredictable. The indebted masses are clamouring for an interest rate cut – and they may get it. And it is worth noting that there are plenty of people shorting the Australian property market and also the banks and they’re spruiking bad news. We’d all do well to understand that there are interests poised to take advantage of most situations, but at the end of the day, they’re all speculators. Real wealth lays in what an entity or individual can produce and what relationships they can maintain, and people have forgotten such basic principles.

    Mate I hear you. The pollsters should be sacked, and immediately. The thing is, given one side of the story was about removing tax giveaways and reducing the impact upon the environment, I have a suspicion that people said one thing in public, and then another altogether different thing in the quiet and very private locale of the voting booth. And even Blind Freddy could see what that means for now and the future.

    Hehe! The garden bench scored a makeover with the angle grinder which cut off some of the superfluous steel chunks and a bit of tender loving care with the paint brush. I’m genuinely amazed that someone would create such a bench and then throw it out.

    Yes, there are the plant manias. A good thing to avoid too, and we just plant as great a diversity of plants as we can manage. I’ve attempted another foray into the blight affected walnut trees, but this time with two seedlings. I’m betting that the additional genetic diversity might give them a slight edge over the four grafted walnut trees that I’ve already killed. Do walnut trees do it hard up your way?

    I must add that the blue rosemary has survived many a hard frost and snow fall although nothing like what you experience. I have a purple and pink flowering rosemary too.

    Skystone is gritty. Nuff said! Speaking of skystones, CCTV up in the far north of the country managed to capture footage of an epic meteor falling. Meteor captured on Northern Territory police CCTV raining ‘purple light’ over Top End. It is a couple of seconds of footage, but you wouldn’t want to have been anywhere near where that baby landed!

    Oh, you’ve led me into a true rabbit hole of deadly infectious disease. Strangely enough I heard an account that scurvy is on the increase. Who’d have thunk it? Incidentally, the anthrax bacteria wasn’t just found in remote parts of Siberia…

    Creosote is pretty nasty, but it is hard to avoid given how prolifically it is found in the environment. I most certainly have come into contact with the stuff. You know I recall advertisements for garden edging made from asbestos – and some countries still mine the stuff. This is what a poisoned planet looks like. And I’m certain that I’ve encountered that product in the past as it was used up until about 1985 – it is a game of Russian roulette with that stuff.

    Speaking of which the expansion grout turned up today and it is primarily Calcium Oxide and a bit of Ferric Oxide – and some other stuff whatever that means.

    31 slugs is a fine body count. I don’t reckon the yeast would be too much of a problem, and I suspect that the orchard here is infected with bakers yeast and champagne yeast. Out in the orchard is a fine place to keep wild yeast as the fungi will have plenty to eat. I’ve noticed a few mushrooms about the place now that things are a bit damper. I hope your blue potato sprouts, and I feel that it may be likely. It was a bit like the turmeric that I planted in that it was a bit mouldy, but here’s hoping!

    I feel that knife throwing would be pretty handy, but that maybe just me. 🙂 Honestly, most people wouldn’t know an edible plant from a highly toxic plant. The basic knowledge is so poor and the reliance on the interweb so great that any useful and practical experienced knowledge is not a bad idea. Incidentally the Just Enough book went into great detail about the use of plant materials into useful items.

    Lead white brings a bit of horror to the story. The mad hatter was indeed quite mad, sorry to say.

    No, what was the story regarding Selene and Helios?

    Good records are everything. We’ve been having discussions about the sort of records that we need to keep. It is hard to recall all of the fine details in ones head. I can’t say that the discussion is going well, but it has yielded some interesting outcomes this season.



  24. Hi DJ,

    Well that would be a problem with the compressed gas. When I was a kid I had an air gun, and when I was way up the bush on remote camping trips, my mates and I used to fire off pellets at cartons of milk which thoughtfully exploded at a respectable distance for our enjoyment. You clearly had more class and decorum and took the same experience into the lab! 🙂

    Your father being the Professor, puts a whole new spin on the story. Hope you two got along well?

    Out of curiosity, the expansion grout turned up today and the two main compounds are: Calcium Oxide (mostly) and Ferric Oxide (trace amounts). Can you shed any light on these compounds?

    Abstractions can be distractions, although that is a slightly warped perspective! 🙂

    I guess for me the first and most important matter was whether the animal was still suffering. The kangaroo was not going to come back from the incident and that is where the compassion side of the story comes into play. A lot of people don’t encounter much death and I suspect that when they do it is a bit of a shock to their senses. And it is not a story that our culture dwells upon as a likelihood, despite it being an eventuality.

    No worries at all. The local solanum family of plants includes the Kangaroo Apple which produces plentiful edible but not particularly tasty fruit about the size of a large cherry tomato. It is a bit soapy tasting to my palate and there may have traditionally been some processing before it was consumed, although such details are out of reach for me. It is possible that I have consumed the fruits before they had yet ripened? I also grow Lilli-Pilly trees that produce berries that the settlers used to harvest and make jam out of. In the big smoke, they often have quite old trees that shed mountains of berries that I’m pretty certain nobody up that way knows what to do with.

    Lucky you! And I feel that such yard work is very good for mental health especially if you can get into a relaxed state and just go with the flow. Time passes very quickly that way, but I feel that it is time spent well. What do you reckon about that? And fun days with nothing planned or a specific goal in mind are always good.

    I hear you about that. Your July is probably like my January and the weather can get err, interesting on that front. I see that your country to your south east is having some serious tornado activity (or maybe we are having a slow news day down here).



  25. Hi David G,

    Many thanks for mentioning the Star Chisel. One of the reasons that I began blogging was to enjoy the conversations and story swapping with people such as yourself, but I also gain access to ideas and concepts that I’d never encountered before. There is plenty of things that I have no idea at all about, but other people inevitably do. 🙂

    I can see that such a tool would be useful where the conservation corps way back in the day would have worked. The Great Ocean Road in Victoria was made by sustenance workers during that time, and there are some parts of the road that have been cut right into the side of an almost sheer cliff face. They would have known a thing or two about rocks.



  26. Hello again
    I have no idea as to the thoughts of people who embarked on interest only mortgages. I’ll guess that it was the financial optimism that so many people seem to have these days. It seems to be based on nil financial understanding. Regrettably they tend to trust those who offer them these dangerous deals.

    It was a very small amount of rain. Bone dry again and hot sun. Everyone’s ponds have completely dried up.

    I am on my third day of eating my greenhouse grown strawberries, lovely.

    I’ll ask Son about the next litter when it arrives. He needs both sows to produce fairly close together otherwise they get narky with each other and have to be kept apart. What is the Chinese pig problem? I seem to have missed that.


  27. Hi Chris,

    You mentioned that the expanding grout is composed of Calcium Oxide and Ferric Oxide. I can tell you what these are. Calcium oxide is otherwise known as quicklime. It reacts vigorously with water and expands (and gives off considerable heat as it does so – did the packaging mention that?). Please be very careful when you use it; wear gloves, long sleeved shirt, long pants, and goggles. Don’t get it on your skin. It will suck the water off your skin and burn you as it does that.

    Ferric oxide is rust, basically. I have no idea why it’s in there. Maybe to color the stuff so you know where it is?

    BTW, as a gal, I would have left Moby Rock alone and relocated the terrace. But then again there are no rocks closer than a meter or so below the surface of the soil where I live. You can’t encounter Peak Rocks where there are no rocks to be had.

    I’ll answer your questions on strawberries separately.


  28. Chris,

    The “Monkey in the Tree” was all dad’s idea and design. I just happened to grow up in his lab and became his lab assistant for 2 years at the 2 year college, along with another gent who moved on to the same 4 year university when I did.

    Oh, we got along very well there. After all, he was the prof, I was a grunt. Very well defined, I’d say. We also played it up by NOT telling the other students that we were related. I NEEDED a year of chemistry, but the chemistry class was full. So, I signed up for dad’s year of (non-engineering level) physics. The first day, all the students had to introduce themselves and say why they were in the class. I was last, and stated my name and that “I’m taking this class just for the heck of it.” Dad gruffly and quickly replied, “Good luck with that, kid!” I was then able to get into chemistry as an “overload”, and dropped dad’s class, so that the next day I wasn’t in his class. When his students saw me in the lab the next week, several asked if he’d kicked me out because of my response the first day. Naturally I replied, “Yup. He’s sort of a hard case. Or maybe I dropped the class acause I needed into chemistry?” By the middle of the term everybody had the relationship figured out.

    Calcium oxide aka quicklime. Probably a main ingredient in “Greek fire”. You do not want to inhale the powder or the results of mixing with ferric oxide. I assume that the mix will be placed into the drill holes and then water added? It will then expand. You also do not want to inhale any of the resultant fumes from addition of water. Water might also cause the quicklime to heat up.

    Ferric oxide occurs naturally as hematite and maghemite. Both this and the quicklime are used in manufacturing steel.

    From Wikipedia on calcium oxide: “Safety[edit]
    Because of vigorous reaction of quicklime with water, quicklime causes severe irritation when inhaled or placed in contact with moist skin or eyes. Inhalation may cause coughing, sneezing, labored breathing. It may then evolve into burns with perforation of the nasal septum, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Although quicklime is not considered a fire hazard, its reaction with water can release enough heat to ignite combustible materials.”

    I think the addition of the ferric oxide might mitigate the more explosive tendencies of the quicklime. Expansive grouts are NOT supposed to be explosive. From what I read, their preparation of both the quicklime and other products are done to keep it from being explosive. I would keep anything flammable away from the drill holes in the Whale Rock, and I’d be leery of inhaling much of the fumes. While not providing a satisfying (to us men) explosion, I’m guessing that the result will be fun to watch. I’m trying really hard here to avoid the obvious puns about “cracking up”. Darn, I succumbed to the temptation.

    I consider myself fortunate that my grandfather took me fishing when I was a little tyke. Then I had to help clean the fish. Experiencing the death of living things at a young age and then messing with the guts and goo and blood gives a different perspective to things. I developed a compassion for fish and anything as an adult when fishing or hunting. Our society wants everything to be sterile and pristine, and I think that adds to the problem of people lacking the needed compassion towards other living things, including humans.

    Yes, I also find the yard work to be relaxing and somewhat meditative, especially when I don’t feel as if I need to rush. Playing in the dirt and listening to the birds lets a lot of needless tension drain away. It’s rewarding and is a part of what humans are supposed to be, in my opinion – working with earth and natural things and slowing down the mental processes and listening and just being in and with nature.

    Tornadoes? Sure been a lot of them. I’m glad I live in a relatively calm area! People who don’t get climate change don’t understand that there is so much extra energy in the atmosphere that these types of violent storms may become more common.

    I’ll be interested to hear how the Great Whale Breakup results. Wil catch up in a few days.


  29. Chris,

    As I posted a reply, something didn’t act right. I hope the post came through. If not, regarding the expansive grout: I wouldn’t inhale either the powder or the fumes. It may heat up when water is added, so keep flammables away. I’d read and follow any warnings given with the directions.

    More in a few days.


  30. Hi Chris,

    OK, strawberries. I don’t have as many critters that eat them as you do. Slugs and birds seem to be about the only ones, and the birds are worse than the slugs. But a 100 square foot / 9 sq m bed provides enough berries that I can allow the birds their take and still get plenty.

    The birds (catbirds and robins appear to be the main culprits) take a lot more plums than strawberries. I think the birds feel more comfortable in the trees than on the ground under an open sky. The fencing around the garden keeps the rabbits out, and squirrels aren’t interested in them.

    The plants need some sort of control to avoid overcrowding. While I harvest from them, I remove any runners that I notice. I try to get to the bed occasionally after the harvest period ends and remove as many runners as possible, unless the runners are making plants in uncrowded areas. Those I allow to remain and set new plants. Doing this slows down overcrowding, but unless you are more diligent than I am, you will miss a lot of runners. You do want some new plants to set because as the plants age they produce less.

    The oldest plants should probably be thinned out after as many new plants as you think right have set, if you want to maintain them in the same bed for many years. I’m going to have to try that, along with better runner control, because I’d like to not have to move the bed – although doing so is an option, and I moved plants into the current bed in the late summer of 2016 because the old bed was too full of perennial weeds. At that time I added compost to the new bed but no further amendments (since it had been in vegetables before it had been amended in previous years), and I haven’t added anything since. The 2017 harvest was low, the 2018 harvest much better after the plants filled in. The bed doesn’t seem overcrowded yet but it is trending in that direction.

    Two other things: keep the bed well weeded. Strawberries don’t compete well with weeds. And try mowing the entire bed in summer, after the harvest ends and the oldest leaves dry up. This is something I did last summer and I am pleased at the results. After I mowed the bed I could see and remove the weeds, and the plants eventually grew healthy new leaves.

    Yesterday (the 20th) I picked 9.7 lbs / 4.4 Kg of berries! That’s probably about 1/4 to 1/3 of the entire harvest in one day.


  31. @Lew
    Mr. Cerny was actually at my sister’s neighbor’s condo across the hall when she got my email so she was able to pass that along. Her neighbor passed away unexpectedly and he was looking over the contents of her place.


  32. Hi Chris,
    An acquaintance who recently retired said she has been overwhelmed by requests from various organizations to volunteer (and she already does volunteer work). Now often volunteer positions become a bit part of some retiree’s social lives which is not a bad thing. On several occasions I’ve gotten in too deep volunteering where it becomes overwhelming and not at all pleasant. Doug has done that as well. What really annoys me is when an organization totally misrepresents the time commitment. Usually this entails going to many meetings which usually accomplish little. A lot of people have a difficult time saying “no”.

    Another term here when one owes more than the house is worth is “being underwater”.

    That is one fine bench!!

    Leo was five when we adopted him and he’s twelve now. We’re not sure about Salve as she was dropped on our road in very bad shape with a prolapsed uterus. The vet thought she was about 1 1/2 but I think she may have been under a year and had pups at too young an age. She grew quite a bit and was just too much like a puppy to be 1 1/2.

    It continues to rain on and off – nothing to extreme but the farmers are way behind as are most plants. Doug’s concerned about the honey this year as the hives just aren’t putting on the usual weight with the cold and rainy weather.

    As we’re only doing meat chickens we didn’t put up a coop. They are brooding right now in the trailer that Doug set up with heat lamps. He can pull it in and out of the building as weather permits. In a few weeks they’ll be out in the chicken tractor for the duration.

    We had a good variety of birds at the old place but seem to have even more diversity here. The former owners had many feeders and birdhouses as do the neighbors across the street so I’ll bet many are established if they’re year round or returning if migrating. We have sunflower, suet, sugar water for hummingbirds and a feeder with oranges and grape jelly for the orioles. The suet will come down soon as it’ll turn rancid with the warm weather. There’s plenty out there for the woodpeckers and nuthatches. We have a great bay/picture window overlooking the back and side where the feeders and bird baths are so it’s just pleasant sit at the kitchen table and watch the show. Oh yes, we also added a mealworm feeder for the bluebirds.

    Your drought looks quite severe and worrisome. We’ve had some pretty dry years but don’t have the fire threat you have of course.

    My book club is reading the book, “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations right now. We were discussing the placement of solar farm on ag land as there are many proposals for just that right now. Also the county environmental group is putting a solar farm on their seven acres of property which abuts a much larger conservation district property. Apparently there is quite a bit of shaming by some prominent members of the environmental community if anyone questions these proposals. In the case of the groups property the birders were not happy as there are several species of birds whose population has been diminishing rapidly on this property. They were afraid to speak out to the decision makers due to this shaming. If one speaks out against any particular project you are considered to be “anti-solar”. Names were named as well.

    As it’s damp and quite cold it’s an inside work day for me. I’ll be getting the rest of my transplants in later this week if there isn’t too much rain as well as the five large shrubs I purchased.


  33. Yo, Chris – Some people seem to thrive on chaos. I suppose it’s habit, comfortable and maybe even a bit predictable.

    Oh, yeah. The Club runs as a completely volunteer effort. LOL, “someone” always seems to step up, though not, sometimes, without a lot of grousing. :-). I don’t. I did, early on, but I’m “in retirement.” I can but warn, and advise. :-). Let the youngsters step up and do their bit. It’s good for their recovery. I did cave in and buy a membership. You can’t vote on Club matters, unless you do. And, actually, given the number of people that thunder in and out of the place, membership is very small. Votes count.

    “Cold dead hand” is appropriate, for some oldsters. It’s tough to give up power and control … for some. The rest of us cast off obligations, as quickly as possible. We have better things to do.

    $900! Where do I sign up? :-). In a way, that’s happened a few times, here. Usually, when a major election is coming up. Funny how that works. Usually, it’s in the form of a large tax refund. The price of gas also goes down. Some of the reserves are released. Or maybe, if the oil companies are happy with the administration, they cut their profits a bit?

    Good luck with the walnut trees. I removed another couple of oak sprouts from my garden, this morning. I can’t imagine you haven’t thought of planting a few walnut, nuts about? Maybe 20 or 30 and see what happens? Here, where there are walnut trees, the squirrels always miss a few and there are volunteers.

    At my old landlord’s mother’s place, there was a rosemary that was decades old. Quit a thick trunk and a 6 foot spread. The purple one we have here at The Institution is good sized. Probably about a decade old. No problems riding out our winters.

    Anthrax pretty happily lives in soil. There’s really more of it about, than people imagine.

    Fingers crossed that the expansion grout does what you want it to.

    I got 47 slugs, last night. Saw one snail, and relocated him. I picked a bowl of camomile flowers this morning, and they are happily drying away. Stikin’ it to the man! Take that, Safeway!
    I discovered two volunteer Hubbard squash, this morning. As no squash rotted in that area, I think it might be seed germinating from the previous year. The Master Gardener advises that I take one out, as they are growing too close, together. It was an heirloom, so, I’ll let it grow.

    Here’s a link to Selene, daughter of THAT Cleopatra. Follow the links and you can put the whole story, together. Her son, Ptolemy, was murdered in Rome by Caligula. Given the convoluted family tree, they were actually cousins. Many later Near Eastern and North African monarchs, claimed decent from her family. The records were pretty spotty.


  34. PS: That was quit interesting footage, of the meteor. I saw something similar, one night coming home from Olympia. I ran across an interesting article, yesterday, about King Tut’s meteor.

    Meteors are quit valuable. People collect them.

    That was a rather disturbing report on your water situation. Well, it’s early days. Maybe you’ll make it up, over the winter. Hopefully, not all at once. I thought Prof. Mass said our summer water situation was fine. Now, today, he seems to think it’s a bit “iffy.” The man needs to make up his mind! Lew

  35. Hi Chris and other shut-ins!

    That $25 bench looks great, what a find!

    I have to step up and admit to something, I bought some vinyl records today! Does this make me an inredeemable hipster? Or perhaps a member of the brave vanguard bringing appropriate technology back? You decide! It all started when I watched Bohemian Rhapsody and remembered that I like queen records. A friend is donating to me a Japanese Technics turntable from his garage. He can’t understand why I don’t just use Spotify….

    This week, whilst Mrs Damo is in Brisbane, I have traveled alone for work to New Plymouth. The entire region is dominated by an extinct volcano, Mt Taranaki. Very impressive, except on 3 separate visits I have never seen it due to a mysterious blanket of clouds. Yesterday, I saw a glimpse for the first time, confirming it isn’t just a ploy by clever locals to lure tourists.

    The election result was a shock, but considering brexit and trump I guess it really shouldn’t have been. Self interest and fear will always win out (although I am not losing sleep at the result, the difference between both parties is real, but smaller than it should be). As you said, it doesnt bode well for the chances of any collective action. Everything must fall apart before it can go back together again.

    Glad you like Skystone! Now keep reading so we can move onto the next 🙂 whilst waiting, I am reading my first Jack London book, Sea Wolf. So far, it is great, and the hardcover edition I got for a dollar is amazing with illustrations and a real nice binding.


  36. Hi everyone,

    It is the mid week hiatus again! Thanks for the lovely comments, and we shall speak tomorrow. Until then…

    Lewis – Yeah, that is what I figured too. They’ve become accustomed to chaos and I guess that is how the world is for them. Hard to make order out of the chaos, if people prefer the chaos.

    Ah, grousing is another description for griping and/or complaining. Grouse down here is old slang for ‘good’. It would be used: Mate, that is grouse. Or just: Grouse. You never hear that nowadays though. Sometimes reluctant leaders can be refreshing and may possibly lead to shorter meetings. Lengthy pointless meetings are my nightmare. I’ll bet Dante had a special layer of Hell for people that waffle on in meetings. Anyway, if you did your bit early on, and the Club is not in chaos or terminal decline, is it necessary to step up to the plate? But keeping a vote – just in case – is a wise strategy.

    You’re sort of hinting that for those that don’t give up on power and control, that there may be reasons of ‘status seeking’ and/or not having any hobbies to take the place of the former power and control situation. Am I off the mark there with that observation? I’m always surprised to encounter people who have no hobbies other than their work.

    It wasn’t a tax break at all, it was a $900 cheque for just being a good citizen. Yes, I believe that I’m worth it. 😉 Although some people may believe otherwise. Hehe! Curiously fuel prices went up before the recent election, but then went down again for no reason whatsoever.

    Well, there is the problem there of the wallabies who would happily eat the walnut seedlings if I just chucked walnuts around and hoped for the best. And I suspect that the rats would probably consume the walnuts themselves. I can do that trick with oaks and acorns because they’re plentiful and I don’t have to pay a cent for them, and if the animals get 95% of the acorns, that still works out to be a huge number of oak seedlings. I hope the seedlings work out.

    Yeah, the rosemary bushes get pretty big down here too. And you could cut floorboards from some of the older bushes. 🙂 I’m not sure how old the shrubs can get, but the ones here are getting quite large.

    I see that bodies can be composted now up in your part of the world. Neat.

    We’re keeping the world of bugs at bay only just, and if we let our guard down then… The editor is listening to a podcast which covers different diseases and we live a tenuous existence.

    It will be really cool if the grout works well. I’ll give it a go tomorrow and see what happens.

    That’s slug central, that is. A tidy haul of slugs.

    I reckon spacing of plants is one of those things that depends on circumstances and different plants can have different outcomes. And the soil, light and watering can make a huge difference. Dunno, but your master gardeners probably know best. But experiments are good to do too.

    Far out. Would not have wanted to have been in the desert the day that meteor flew overhead and turned the sand to glass… Ook. I was curious about the meteor because as it got low and closer to the ground, the bright flash would have been pretty intense. And I’ve heard of people collecting meteorites.

    We’ll see how it goes. I went back over the rainfall records for the past 100 or so years, and this year is right up there in terms of dry. I do hope that some decent rain falls before summer. Up in New South Wales, believe it or not, things are far worse.



  37. Hi Inge,

    I don’t know either, but the stories that reflect reality don’t make for good listening, but the stories that sell product often tell people what they want to hear. And fundamentals like increased return equals increased risk, and the old adage: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, well they’re just lost or not believed. And yeah, it is a trust thing too but unpleasant or realistic stories are harder to build trust with people.

    Financial optimism is a great way of putting the concept. I would never have thought of it that way.

    Ouch. Fingers crossed for some rain. At least you have the water line from the mainland. Things are bad in New South Wales in rural areas.

    Yum! Fresh strawberries! Yum.

    African swine fever spread being countered by voice recognition software, building walls and culling animals. Surprised that you haven’t heard of it.



  38. @Lew

    My copy of Skystone has some illustrations at the beginning of each section as well. They are pretty good! Although it is only a paperback. I hear you on the sex scenes, a little overdone, bordering on graphic, but you know – I aint no prude 🙂 Ready to dive into the next book once our host starts to re-order his priorities correctly 🙂

    I didn’t mind Pompeii – it got turned into a movie staring Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. By all accounts it wasn’t a good movie! I only got the cicero books because they were a dollar for excellent condition hardcovers and I knew they would be a quick, somewhat interesting read (like the fast food of novels). Seems like he made some good speeches, but was a solid supporter of the 1% and thus should be hissed and booed!

    I am reading a Jack London book now, at one point he was considered Americas finest writer and I can see why. Great stuff.


  39. @Lew
    A book about Roman Preppers! LOL, what a great description for Skystone. And that was one of the pleasant surprises for me when reading it. So many parallels to today as well.

    You might be right, could be a good idea to discuss Skystone on my blog, lets Chris join in his own time and doesn’t hassle everyone else with our ongoing rambling..? I just re-posted one of my stories that was in “Into The Ruins” as the exclusive period is well and truly over. We comment under that if you want?


  40. Hi Chris,

    It is a shame we have been outvoted on the rocks fate. A missed opportunity as far as I can tell. Certainly, I see no possible downside to the use of high explosives in close proximity to your house. Only upside on that one! But, I suppose deferring to the wishes of others can be useful. Occasionally they may even be right and see a risk where we cannot!


  41. @ Margaret – How cool, the timing of your e-mail and your siter meeting Mr. Cerny. I really liked his book. But then, it might have limited appeal to those outside the Tat Trade. About 1/4th to 1/3d are ghost stories. Some chapters could stand on their own as short stories. Lew

  42. @ Damo – Nice pics of Mt. Talanaki. Yup. That’s a volcanic peak. Can tell by the shape.

    I’ll have to explore this duckduckgo, thing. Doesn’t seem to have all the “junk” as with the big G’s “images.” Also, the URL’s are shorter, and more manageable. Lew

  43. Yo, Chris – Grouse is also a game bird. :-). Interesting beasties. The males have this enormous sound box, in their crops. During mating season, you can hear them “thrumming.” I don’t think we have them (or, not many) on this side of the mountains. But I’ve heard them on the other side.

    Oh, I’ve sat through my fair share of awful meetings. One just wants to slide under the table and nap a bit. Dante’s hell must be a crowded place.

    The Club did hit a financial low, at one point, and looked to be on the way out. Bad management. I had a bit of unexpected mad cash, at that point, and it just seemed (felt) “right” to drop some of it on them. Same thing happened to the Funny Farm (the rural treatment residence) and I did the same. Both got over their rough patches, and are currently, booming along. I don’t think I was the only one to do that, and those who did keep a low profile. I don’t think it’s general knowledge, around the Club. But I do notice a certain amount of … deference. But that might be just due to my age or longevity.

    Power, control and hobbies. Usually, when I’m getting to know someone, I might inquire as to their interests. I’m always amazed at people who really don’t have any. But sometimes they do, but just don’t think they’re very interesting. Even when they are. What I don’t “get” (but I kind of do) is the people that retire, and, as they no longer have a “roll” (status?), promptly drop dead or take to the bottle.

    Yes, I heard about the natural burial thing, for our State. Sigh. But I’ve already pre-paid my burial, and I doubt I could get that money, back.

    Do watch it with that grout. Sounds more lethal than chili’s or horse radish. Lew

  44. Hi everyone,

    The mid week hiatus continues. This time I have no excuse other than after a day of drilling holes – and breaking the drill, we’re off to the pub. No, the drill really did get broken. The technical description was that the SDS+ drill bit broke and left half of the drill bit in the chuck, and I’ve had an absolute devil of a time to remove the broken chunk of steel in the chuck. And of course, the bit stuck in the chuck would have to be hardened steel.

    On a better note, the gate has now been installed on the corn enclosure extension, and all of the heavy duty chicken wire was hung on the fencing with the steel rails. Now if I could just demolish the Moby Rock, the job would be soon finished. Even managed to plant the lavender and kiwi-berries.

    Lewis – Mate, what a day. And the sun shone strongly for the entire day in a clear blue sky late autumn day, so we made the most of the solar power and put three loads of baking through the electric oven. No point baking food when there is no sun to power the activity. One of the things that is always lost on the ‘let’s power everything using renewable sources’ people is that like every surplus in nature, you have to make hay whilst the sun shines. I suspect the long accepted work routines that people have fallen into, will not adapt well to such a change in routines.

    Thanks for the warnings about the quicklime, and weren’t our forebears up to some serious mischief with the stuff? It is an interesting product and I’m not sure that we mixed it up well (although we followed the instructions to the letter) because it set very rapidly and was hard to push into the holes. I’ll be interested to see what happens to the rock and lime over the next few days. Dunno, but working with large rocks is an entirely new skill set for us, so you have to start somewhere I guess. I’m starting to feel that drilling holes into the rocks (no easy task), filling them with sawdust and water and just waiting for the frosts to break the rocks apart might not be a bad option either.

    Grouse is of the same order of birds as chickens – and some of the species even look a little bit like chickens. Had to dose one of the silky chickens with petroleum jelly all over her feet to kill off the mites. I’ve noticed that birds with shorter feet tend to suffer more from leg mites than those that can preen and clean themselves.

    Apparently it will rain here tomorrow and then some rain each day for the next six days! Yay for rain. That was one of the reasons we put in such a big work day today as you have to work around the weather.

    Me too, I now have a thought that if you’re bored in a meeting you’d slide off the chair and fall under the table. It would be hard to explain, but there is no finer announcement that this meeting is boring as, than that! 🙂 Nice one. Meetings in the big end of town used to do my head in as they were such a waste of time. I’ll bet Attila the Hun didn’t waste too much time on meetings. The Romans were probably famous for them. I have read accounts that at times their Senate used to be places of quite violent acts.

    Exactly, and well done. Resources are invariably limited and you’ve gotta know where to chuck them to good effect.

    Gotta run off to the pub for a pint and feed. Tomorrow should be much easier.



  45. @Lew

    I have my browser set to use DuckDuckGo as the default search engine. It sends the search to Google, but without any personal information. So you get results based on the actual search term and not what Google thinks you might want. It also means searches are private and and not monetized etc. Maybe, maybe not? Anyway, the duck is cute.


  46. Chris:

    I seem to have picked up up chiggers while rescuing a neighbor’s dog. Petroleum jelly sounds like it might work on people’s mites (chiggers are mites, I think) as well as chickens. Thanks!

    If only they were just on my legs.


  47. Hi Chris,

    As with the rats my money is on the whale.

    Way more impressive than blowing up the rock would be to turn it into a standing stone. Hard work and ingenuity would be needed, both of which you have in good supply.

    All good here. We’ve had excellent autumn rains and are heading into a mild to warm winter.

    Regards Elbows

  48. Yo, Damo – I had mixed feelings about the movie, “Pompeii”. On the one hand, cool explosions and great spectacle. On the other, too much tampering with the historic aspects of the eruption, and a rubbish ending. Should have stuck with the book.

    Jack London, our National Treasure. He knew how to tell a tale. A bit of trivia, that signifies, nothing. :-). Back when I was in the Tat Trade, I found an old wool quilt. Cleaned it up and put in my Tat Mall space. Disney Studio bought it. It turned up (in a blink and you can miss it) scene in either “White Fang” or “Call of the Wild.” The hero falls through the ice, is pulled out and bundled into “my” quilt, so he doesn’t freeze to death. So much for my tenuous “claim to fame.” Reflected glory, and all that.

    I’ll make it over to zeehanmanse, sometime later, today. Lew

  49. Yo, Chris – The Curse of Moby Rock? Nothing wrong with a new skill set. Will look good on your CV :-).

    “Make hay while the sun shines” is probably an old saying from our pre-industrial past. When we paid attention, and were in rhythm with, seasons and length of days. I’ve read a bit about the Industrial Revolution, and how cheap, accurate time clocks really changed the whole rhythm of life. What people ate, how much and when, really shifted around.

    Retirement is interesting, as a lot of that gets cast aside. There’s a certain amount of … naughty glee in staying up late, sleeping in and eating what and when we want. There’s always a nosy Parker around, or two, who try and make one feel guilty about all that. We (Eleanor and I) just laugh.

    Both Eleanor and HRH are under the weather. Eleanor’s got some gastro thing going (gall bladder?) and HRH yelps a bit when you try and pick her up, and can’t jump up on things, without distress. I’m hoping it’s something minor (pulled muscle?) as her digestion and eating habits, general outlook and temper, are just fine. Of course, we’re coming up on a long holiday weekend (Memorial Day) which makes taking care of all these things, problematic.

    On the Frivolous Front, I planted the blue geranium seed, forget-me-not, and love-in-da-mist, yesterday. More useful was the red onion sets, more basil and parsley that I planted.

    Possibly useful, to you, is the NPR summer movie release list. 25 films (with short synopsis) that are being released, this summer. Start your check list, now! 🙂


  50. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for the warning about the quicklime. And the stuff really reacts and sets fast. It was surprising just how fast it set. Like everything, we stuffed up the first batch because we were unprepared for how fast the reaction took place, but by the second batch we were old hands at using the stuff. And yes, we took the safety precautions including masks, sleeves, gloves and glasses which didn’t seem much more than the usual common sense approach when dealing with new products that are caustic. I applied a test patch of the stuff to my skin and it didn’t seem particularly alkaline to me and certainly didn’t produce a chemical burn in the small patch which I washed off. It is always worthwhile knowing in advance what sort of worst case scenario outcomes you can expect, and in the mixing process it is very hard not to splash some of the stuff on yourself.

    I was interested that the instructions understated the amount of water required for the product to be properly workable as a slurry, and the first batch we followed the exact quantities for the mix. I guess like cement, the quantities all depend upon the humidity of the air as well as the air temperature. Makes sense, and we watched a few videos of other people using the same product and just replicated the consistency they achieved – I mean it worked for them…

    Hehe! I hear you. I can’t necessarily relocate the terrace, and we have so many rocks that it is worthwhile developing the skills in order to take advantage of the rocks. One thing that is not lost on us is that the winter hard frosts could be used to our advantage with the large rocks. I don’t necessarily feel any fear about tackling unknown or complicated jobs, but at the same time I know when to give something a go and then walk away from it. That is a very complicated story just there.

    It sounds a bit bonkers but rocks are very valuable items in a garden, but your deep and fertile soils are full of rocks, they’re just all ground up! 🙂 Not so here where glaciers were almost non-existent during the last ice age.

    Thanks for providing the story of strawberries, and it had not occurred to me that removing some of the plants and reducing the over-crowding leads to a proliferation of berries the following season. For some reason people always talk about the older plants as harbouring diseases and being less prolific, which may be true, but over-crowding of plants is also a contributing factor to reduced output. Interesting.

    I removed the Robinia mop top (a variety of Black Locust) from near to the strawberry cage yesterday as I felt that the over shadowing from the tree outweighed the nitrogen fixing aspects of the tree.

    And I absolutely 100% agree with you and weed the strawberry bed regularly so as to reduce competition. Thanks too for the great idea about mowing the bed. I have noticed that many plants seem to benefit from being pruned, and someone a long time ago explained to me that with any pruning, the root systems of a plant also reduce and this creates food for the soil critters, which in turn feeds soil fertility and so on. I’m not sure, but pruning replicates what the herbivores did with plants, but without the manure.



  51. Hi DJ,

    The comment came through OK, the spam filter unfortunately put it into the trash for no reason that I could ascertain. I do check the trash for misdirected comments every day. As you may appreciate, I keep an overly active spam filter, which doesn’t do as much work as it used to.

    A while back I became utterly sick of the spam comments (and repeated attempts to hack the website) that I received day after day, and I simply blocked all of those users from accessing the website. To them, the website has simply disappeared. Peace then reigned across the four quarters. The sheer volume of daily spam drove me bonkers.

    Thanks. And yes, we followed all of the safety precautions when using the product. Honestly, sometimes reading the concerns of others here on the blog makes me more worried about a process than I otherwise would be. I point to the fear of the unknown chilli’s that I grew earlier in the season. They were crazy hot, but not out of control hot.

    Out of curiosity, what is the difference between a college and university? I assume they both issue under graduate degrees, so is it merely something that is all in a name? And is it a traditional naming convention?

    Lucky you. Well defined roles tend to make for good working relationships. Yes, the editor and I begin most work days by discussing the goals for the day, working out who is in charge, and getting into the nitty gritty of who does what where. You know, it has saved us a lot of grumbling over the years, and if we ever skip that part of the process things go astray in no time at all.

    You have to mix the powder up first before pouring it into the drill holes. We stuffed up the first batch as it was too dry and so we drilled it back out of the holes and made up a better batch today. The instructions I’d have to say are indicative, and like everything in the natural world, much depends upon the conditions – like air temperature and humidity. Cement is like that and I follow a guideline to produce water tight cement, but know the product well enough to know what it should look like.

    And you’d be happy to know that the mixture bubbled and set very rapidly. The reason we stuffed up the first batch was because it set so rapidly that we were unprepared for the eventuality. The funny thing about learning new skills is that it takes a fair bit of experience and practice in all sorts of conditions before you can suggest that you are in any way good at it. And you know, we have so many large rocks that it is worth taking the time to work out some method of obtaining some usefulness from them. It might all work, and it might not, but the effort expended upon the experiment is certainly worthy of our time and resources.

    My grandfather likewise took me fishing (albeit trout and fly fishing) with his WWII war buddies way up in the remote high country back in the day. And it engendered a love of the wilds in me which I’ve never shaken, so like your fishing experience, it introduces to you different ways of seeing the world – and death is part of that natural world, as is fish guts. 🙂

    That was beautifully said about opening your senses to the natural world – could not have put it better.

    In the past decade I had the pleasure of being direct hit by a tornado on a Christmas day. I actually said to the editor that day that that was fast approaching was a funny looking cloud heading up the valley. It dropped four inches of rain in an hour and the winds were feral and blew trees over. Tornadoes are quite common down here, but they usually hit isolated spots – and the population is quite thin in isolated spots down here.



  52. Hi Margaret,

    I respect your point of view, and I too feel that volunteering would be a big part of a retirees social life. Me too, and it is hard to know where to draw the line and say ‘no more’ when it comes to giving of your time. Only personal experience (I reckon) can provide any guidance with that story and everyone is different in that regard. Some organisations will take and then take some more, and treat you like an unpaid workforce, and it is those situations that leave me wondering what is in it for me.

    And I hear you about the meetings. I distinctly recall sitting in a meeting at the local fire station late one winters evening many years ago and it was snowing outside, and freezing inside the building, and the bloke running the meeting said that ‘it was going to be a really bad fire season’, and I thought to myself: ‘it is snowing outside, how could such an outcome be known so far in advance?’ I’m just not built for too many meetings of too long a duration. One must know their limitations! 🙂

    Oh yes, I have heard that term about a house being underwater. It happens in the literal sense of the meaning too from time to time – and that is also never a good situation.

    Thanks and I reckon the bench turned out pretty well too.

    Had to re-do the expansion grout today. Oh well, it is all good and apparently it takes three days to do its stuff. There is rain every day for the next five days too. Cool. The main house water tanks are filling up, and once they are filled, I begin topping up all of the other water tanks (if the sunlight is available to power the water pumps).

    Leo is like all of us – a respectable elder. 🙂 But I’ll bet you had some fun times when Salve entered your life? And that sounds like the case to me too with her age due to the prolapse. Scritchy is about 18 now and despite being a bit doddery, she jumps up and down like a puppy. It is a bit unsettling, but she must know her own business. Ollie is lethargic tonight because I fed him pigs feet this morning to keep his teeth bright and sharp and he is feeling it tonight.

    Like Dug, I too would be worried about honey and the overall health of the hives in similar damp circumstances. Believe it or not, the bees were out and about foraging here yesterday…

    Fair enough, layers – and especially roosters – are a long term proposition. You’ve only just moved there, so I’d take my time too. People often under estimate the amount of work there is to do on a small holding. I read a story the other day where the person was thankful that they eventually moved back to the city. Here it is: Our tree change was wonderful, until we had children. It might be cold outside here, but this talk of mud sounds a bit alien to me. I placed another load of crushed rock with lime over the recently constructed path from the corn enclosure extension this morning. Mud is easily avoidable… I don’t know what they expect?

    Your native birds are in paradise, from what I can read in between the lines! 🙂 Hey, we had a visit from a family of the Yellow-tailed black cockatoo which are declining in numbers due to loss of nesting sites. They’re really big birds – as big as the wedge tail eagles – and so they need big tree hollows, which require really big trees. The birds are so big that the local magpie family were studiously ignoring their presence.

    Well, what worried me was that looking back over the rainfall records for about the last 140 years, some years every couple of decades or so provide only 20 inches of rain which is bonkers dry here, but out of control dry every where else.

    Yeah, I get some very minor trolling here whenever I mention that solar is good, but it isn’t good enough. I don’t know what people think as I can show a photo of the solar panels covered in snow with a happy Sir Poopy running around in the snow in the background and say that they’re not producing any power at all. Not to mention that solar power doesn’t provide any power at night – and people dismiss such concerns as irrelevant. That is the bigger worry to me. On the other hand I just cooked a pizza in an electric oven at night using this technology, but you’d be surprised at how few lights and/or other appliances are on. And converting prime and fertile agricultural land to an industrial application is a travesty of major proportions but not worth fighting about. There are a number of suburbs in Melbourne that were built upon very fertile land that once supported commercial orchards. It is bonkers. I’ll be curious as to how that story goes with your book club. Good luck.

    Are these large shrubs part of the native plants that you mentioned a while back?



  53. Hi Damo,

    Greetings to you too Mr Damo! 🙂

    The tip shop is part adventure, part lucky dip, and the bench worked out nicely. It amazes me that people were unable to maintain the bench seat once they’d gone to the effort of constructing it.

    The Vinyl Strikes Back! Wouldn’t that make for a good film title? And I for one am impressed. I assume you had an amplifier with a pre-amp input for the turntable and ground lug? Back in the day Technics turntables were pretty good stuff. Given we are in confession mode here, I have to admit to owning a linear tracking turntable back in the day and I thought that technology was pretty impressive stuff. Hey, I grew up listening to Queen’s greatest hits, but the editor was a bigger Queen fan than I and went way back to their earliest records. Sometimes when I want to stir her up I suggest that Queen’s latter albums were their best work and then run! Hehe! Bad Chris. I recall the film Highlander and the soundtrack, but the editor is no fan.

    That is funny because I didn’t see the peak of Mt Taranaki when we were in that part of the world either. Lucky you. I hope they are not working you too hard?

    The news down here suggests that Theresa May has only just resigned. I was very curious that the views of the parliamentarians in the UK didn’t match that of the electorate and there is a conflict of interest in that story. But exactly, the whole edifice has to fail before it can get onto a better footing. On the other hand, we’re in exciting times because we are about to see just how far these policies supporting house prices can be pushed. You have to admit that there is a certain grandeur in making the attempt?

    I’m enjoying Skystone, and I must say that the author has never met an action sequence that he didn’t like! 🙂 As to the sex scenes, I’ll probably skip over them on the off chance that anyone from the local cafe is looking over my shoulder at the text when I’m reading the book. Memories are long around here!

    I managed to extract the broken chunk of the SDS+ drill bit from the chuck. Secret recipe now follows… Lots of WD40 sprayed in drill chuck. More WD40 sprayed in drill chuck. Leave overnight. Shake drill upside down the following morning whilst simultaneously releasing pressure on the hold of the drill bit. Broken drill bit part falls cleanly out. Happy days – and note to self – Buy better quality drill bits in future. All that glitters is not hardened steel. Hehe!

    Au contraire my friend, experiments with the rocks continues. I had to re-do the expansive grout this morning and now I’m waiting the three days to see what happens. And I bought more expensive and hopefully higher quality drill bits late this afternoon, so the explosives as a possible option, may have to wait a bit. What could possibly go wrong? 🙂



  54. Hi Pam,

    So sorry to hear that a nasty little parasite is hitching an unauthorised ride upon your person. Chiggers look like the mites down here. Revolting things and you have my sympathies.

    Buck up little camper, and I’ll tell you a funny story: As a long term reader you may have noticed that we moved the strawberry enclosure last year and completely caged it in steel? The year prior to that was a damp summer here and when we used to pick strawberries, leeches and mites used to hide in the strawberry patch looking for a juicy bit of flesh and blood – a bit like rabid zombies. We stopped picking and eating the strawberries that year for obvious reasons.

    What was the old rhyme about: Fie, fih, foh, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman? Those parasites are onto that gear for sure. Except I’m an Aussie and you’re an American! I guess that means they can adapt.



  55. Hi Elbows,

    Nice to hear from you. 🙂

    Your money is probably safe, but I haven’t yet given up on the rock. I re-did the expansive grout experiment this morning so I’ll give it a week just to see what happens. And if we were making a bet on the rats, I too would back the rats – if for no other reason than they’re just good.

    The challenge should I choose to accept it is … big! And I mean really big, but you might be onto something, and who was the ancient who said something or other about moving the world if the lever was big enough?

    Winter has been warm down here so far too, but without the rains earlier in the season. This month the rain was about average, but the months leading up to that point were not so good.

    Hope you are enjoying lots of winter vegetables.



  56. Hi Lewis,

    Never thought about putting such skills on a CV. I’d like to put ‘swashbuckling’ and ‘devil may care’, as character traits when tackling new problems, but that might scare employers. 🙂 I took all of the usual common sense precautions with the quicklime and it seemed like pretty straight forward stuff to use. Honestly, cement is also quite a basic product, and if you want to go for serious skin burns try stuffing up soap making (which would be pretty nasty). In the tradition of the great scientists who often poisoned themselves (often fatally), I put a test patch of the quicklime on my skin just to see whether it was as caustic as you lot were telling me. It didn’t seem too bad to me. And I just wanted to know what would happen if I accidentally splashed any of the stuff on myself when I was mixing it up. Not a bad idea because splashes can happen at a moment’s notice and without warning and in fact did so. I kept the respirator on because it seemed like a bad idea getting that stuff inside your respiratory tract and into your lungs.

    What surprised me about quicklime was just how fast it set. It went from a slurry to a solid paste / solid grout in under a minute or two. I can’t say that I’ve encountered such a product before and didn’t hang around to see how much heat had been released by the chemical reaction. We stuffed up the first batch yesterday because it set faster than what we were prepared to work with, so we mixed up another batch this morning.

    People are oblivious to the seasons and / or whatever nature is producing. I noticed in the Just Enough book that the Japanese farmers had extensive ceramic pots in their kitchen which contained a wide variety of fermented vegetables. I did a bit of reading about vitamins recently for the next blog and turns out that heat as a preserving agent reduces the quantity and quality of vitamins in food. So for example there is plenty of Vitamin C in raw meat, but cooked meat, not so much. And would you trust industrially farmed meat and eat it raw? Reminds me of Bruce Willis in the film Fast Food Nation, and his observations about: “Just Cook the meat”, although he might have used different words to describe the same thing. 🙂

    But yeah, I’ve often felt that work timing and regularity has in it the nature of the performance of a ritual. The thing is I got dumped hard in the early 90’s during the recession, and I never had to be told twice. Sure, I had to be told once though. You’ve had a checkered career so you probably know what I’m talking about?

    Really, do you get nosy parkers laying on a guilt trip about staying up late – or heaven forbid getting up late? Who gets up at that hour of the morning! Far out! Sorry to read that you lot are suffering from a bug. It is hard with a human, but our canine friends (HRH) possibly fail to comprehend the awfulness of the situation and just try to go about their day as if nothing is wrong. Hope that not much is wrong in either case.

    You got the blue geranium seeds finally! Cool. And I’ll be interested to read what you have to say about them when they finally do poke their leaves out of the soil. Love in a mist always reminds me of the sort of plant that an alien would create and then plant in people’s gardens just to mess with their heads. That would never be the case for triffids because they are too useful whilst being highly problematic all at once. We call red onion by the name of Spanish onion or salad onion. Basil and parsley are awesome too. Yum! Do you have much edible plants at the moment from the garden or are you still in the spring hunger time?

    I’m quite startled to learn that the latest Avengers film did so well at the box office. Reviews were very mixed. My mind boggles at the choices of films on offer, but my heart keeps coming back to: The Dead Don’t Die. Bill Murray. Nuff said. Do you have any of these films on your too see list? The Biggest Little farm isn’t out here until something like late June. There is an Australian film called 2040 which is along similar lines.

    I’m ploughing through Skystone at a furious rate. I may have already mentioned that the author has not encountered an action sequence that he does not like! And the story moves along at a fair clip. The thought that the soldiers who survived the fall of Hadrian’s wall could have been charged with desertion in absentia is an abhorrent concept. Mate, those Roman’s didn’t take failure lying down, and I noticed many parallels between descriptions of fighting forces prior to WWI and how splendid they all looked and marched and then there was the comparison with Britannicus and Varrus’s crew of battle hardened veterans that overcame incredible odds.

    It is like a story of Roman preppers. I can see that. I’ll probably skip over the sex scenes as I’d hate to have someone read the book over my shoulder whilst I was sitting at the local cafe. Memories around these parts are extraordinarily long and confusions easily extend far beyond their use by date.

    Hey, I had a bread and butter pudding with cream today – and it was so good. Yum! Have you ever had a bread and butter pudding?



  57. Hi Chris,
    I am so glad all your tanks are filling up. Still raining here – another inch so far today and more expected. That brings us up to almost 8 inches for May with another week to go. A fairly good chance of rain is in the forecast each day of the next ten except one. The pigs and the bees are not pleased. I did get all the bushes planted yesterday and even with all the rain the soil where they were planted was well drained.

    Thanks for the article. Not sure what they expected. Reminds me of how people move out to the country and then get upset with the farm equipment and slow moving vehicles. I would have thought the kids enjoy and learn from having chickens and goats – mine sure did.

    Your birds do have more of a “wow” factor than ours for the most part. It’s great to have birds show up that aren’t your usual visitors. We know quite a few people who feed birds as we do and just enjoy watching them. Who needs TV?

    Everything that I prefer not to grow is growing like gangbusters, garlic mustard, creeping charlie, canadian thistle and stinging nettles. I’m not quite sure how to keep this all under control and would welcome any or all opinions. Now many of our restoration acquaintances would spray the entire area (which is a couple of acres at least) with round up and start from scratch. This is not something we would want to do. When we have a woody plant that is invasive we’ll cut it and paint the stump with a herbicide to keep it from resprouting and I have used round up very judiciously on a few occasions but that’s about how far I would go. I’ve also purchased some horticultural vinegar (20% acetic acid) though there has to be a dry period to use it and there are cautions about getting it on your skin. The stinging nettle is now about waist high (well my waist which isn’t all that high). It will spread both by seed and root runners. I pulled out quite a bit yesterday but one has to be sure not to get it on the skin though I don’t have a bad reaction to it. The flowers of both nettles and garlic mustard will still go to seed even after pulled so it’s not advised to compost it either. Now I’m fine with several hours a day of outside work but have some of the usual physical complaints that come with being almost 68 especially my back and I will pay for overdoing it. Of course if left to her own devised nature would eventually settle things out. I suppose in the not too distant future what’s native now won’t be then.


  58. @Pam
    So sorry to hear about the chiggers – ugh.
    I used petroleum jelly when the chickens had scaly leg mites – worked quite well.


  59. Yo, Chris – Hmmm. I just had a thought that you could use my identification of the poses you struck (country squire, etc.) for your photos, in a CV. :-). Resumes and job interviews are (were) such an ordeal. You usually had to suss out if the employer was looking for real skills, or just a recitation of those gassy business babble.

    I wonder if the rock will split with a tremendous crack! Enough to tumble you out of bed, or give you whiplash, if you happen to be looking in another direction. Set the hounds to howling.

    Well, as you probably know, a lot of vitamins are water soluble. So our bodies can use them. But, that also means that with boiled veg, a lot of the vitamins end up in the cooking water … which some pour right down the drain. Didn’t get the memo. Oh, well …

    Oh, yeah. A lot of life is ritual. And autopilot. And, as far as the nosy parkers go, it’s often about our old friends, power and control. No matter if it’s irregular hours, off beat food, or reading a page, in public, with more spice on the page than in the food, I find the best response is: straight face, don’t blush, a slight shrug. Sometimes a casual “Don’t care” puts the frosting on the cake. Takes the wind out of their sails. Most times, what they thought was a juicy bit to send you up, just flops around on the table, and dies on the floor. In my experience, anyway.

    HRH seems to be mended. She actually jumped up on Eleanor’s lap, yesterday, and had no problems hopping up on the bench next to me, when we were outside. So, that’s one off the sick list. I hope that half of Eleanor’s problem is fretting over the pup. Eleanor was never a “dog” person, and she often comments at how surprised she is that she has gotten so attached.

    About all I’ve gotten out of the garden, so far, is early garlic. I cut up the bulb and a good part of the stem. Also, I had a good amount of brussels sprouts, leaves. But I still have a supply of sprouts and green beans, from last year. I planted beets, last night. Someone left a box of veg at The Club, and I picked up a couple of cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow peppers and a rather sad looking brocoli head. Most of it went into a rice dish, last night.

    I was thinking about something, yesterday. The ladies often complain that this or that plot has “poor soil.” Or, “bad soil.” As if it’s a condition that can’t be fixed. When I dumped the bag of mushroom compost on Eleanor’s plot, I noticed there were a lot of worms in it, and thought, “Oh, good.” But then later, thought, “What are the poor little worms going to eat?” The usual method of gardening, around here, seems to be to use chemical fertilizers, and, when it comes time to clean up the garden, sweep all the scraps into the dumpster. Oh, sure, they might put on a bit of mushroom compost or manure, of one type or another, but I don’t think it’s nearly enough. And, lacks variety. Of course, we do have the problem of physical condition. But I think more could be done. Heck, just throwing their coffee grounds on the soil, would help. Oh, well. I can’t say too much, but can provide examples.

    Well, that desertion bit in “Skystone” was pretty much the political and personal maneuvering of Seneca. I’d better finish up “Skystone” (just a chapter or two, to go) and move on to the second book. As to movies … (Cont.)

  60. Cont. Movies! By the way, I saw a trailer for a new Star Trek series. “Star Trek Picard.” The trailer was rather uninspiring.

    Let’s see. Movies. A ” * ” indicates I might break down and see it on the big screen. Otherwise, I’ll wait for the library to get it.

    Godzilla*, Brightburn, Rocketman, Dear Don’t Die*, Men in Black*, Yesterday, the new Spiderman*, The Art of Self Defense (it’s got an accountant! :-), Sword of Trust, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (maybe.) I’m surprised Shazaam! didn’t make the list. Maybe it’s already out?

    Of course, I’m still waiting for “Anna and the Apocalypse” on DVD. By the way, our library has expanded the Lucky Day selections to Feature Films. I was checking it out, the other day, and found “Venom.” Something I probably wouldn’t have made an effort to go after, but I’m glad I picked it up. A great popcorn movie. It’s a Marvel comics, origin story. It’s got lots of cool explosions and a great car chase. There are bits that are actually, funny. What’s not to like?

    PS: My basil has started to sprout! Boy, that was fast. Lew

  61. Chris,

    It will be interesting to see how the Quicklime vs Moby Rock works out. As you mentioned to someone else, any type of cracking and then some normal freeze-thaw scenarios will help. I’m suspicious, however, that there might be more there than granite, based on the wear and tear on your drill bits. Maybe there’s a rare-metal alien whale-shaped spacecraft enclosed within the granite!

    I saw a side topic of meetings mentioned. Dang, but I work for a government agency. We never have meetings about the important stuff, but we do have a lot of useless meetings. I’m reminded of an old “Dilbert” cartoon in which he says “Always avoid meetings with time wasting morons.” My sentiments exactly.

    I also sing that “every boss’s hair gets pointy”, but my boss heard me singing that once and WAS. NOT. AMUSED. I still sing it.

    Somewhen, IIRC, a college was a 4 year institution of “higher learning”. Universities were that and also included graduate courses. I know in Washington State, and I believe in Oregon also, there were 2 “land grant” colleges that later became universities. University of Washington and Washington State University and similarly named ones in Oregon. There were also regional state-run 4 year institutions, such as Eastern, Western and Central Washington State Colleges. Similarly named schools existed in Oregon.

    Then everyone began adding graduate degrees, so that now even tiny Whitworth College in Spokane, a private religious school with only a few hundred students, rebranded to Whitworth University.

    Then there are the junior or community colleges. These are also State of Washington schools. Traditionally, these offered the opportunity to get the first two years of prerequisites out of the way for the student, with the understanding that any 2 year academic degree was transferrable to any of the State 4 year colleges and universities. This provided a less expensive means to get the prerequisites done.

    Alternatively, the junior colleges used to offer 2 or 3 year courses in say, automobile mechanics, electronics technology – trade school things. I’m not sure this is true now.

    Oh, yes, the communication with the Princess about who is in charge of what. VERY important stuff, as you said. I’ve also found that such communication, often very brief, saves hours and days of bad feelings and angst and heartache. In most things, our duties have become routine and we can just do. Something new? We talk. Neither of us like to be grumbling or at odds with each other.

    “That was beautifully said about opening your senses to the natural world – could not have put it better.” Thank you. It was based on years of experience and was very heartfelt.

    Nice job on the bench, by the way.

    We were at a Safeway grocery store recently. The middle aged gent who checked the groceries had a thick Aussie accent. There has got to be a story about how someone from Australia got a job as a cashier at a grocery store in Spokane.

    Another footnote to the kangaroo story. We were driving north of Chelan, Washington this week. There was a living ground squirrel lying in the highway. It didn’t look right. It’s tail was twitching (normal behavior before they run) but it wasn’t moving. Then I realized that it had been hit by a car and was badly enough injured that it couldn’t move anything other than its tail. So I finished it off with the car. Some ravens pounced on it before I could even think about moving it off the road. No, I didn’t feel good about that, but at least it didn’t have to be alive while getting its eyes eaten or something.

    We had another thunder cell hit today. Yahoo. The garden is watered. Hope you get enough to fill all your tanks.


  62. I started a comment to tell you to search for info on hydraulic mechanical rock breaking equipment or tools.their are a number of small mechanical tool that might be cheaper than the chemical . There may be some that would even work in larger SDS chucked electrics

    My comment disappeared mysteriously before I got it done

  63. Hi Margaret,

    You’ve had so much rain this spring. That really makes for tough growing conditions, although easy digging conditions for the pigs and chickens. It was raining here this afternoon and shortly after the chickens were let out into the orchard, they turned around and ran straight back into their enclosure. I have no idea how your new bee hives would cope with the sort of weather that you’re having, but you know, bees have been around a long time and they readily adapt. If the conditions are just right, they’ll forage if they need to. I sometimes find little lost worker stragglers who pushed things a bit too far. The rain sure has returned here, and it is predicted to fall every day this coming week.

    Oh yeah, the tractors and slow moving machinery on the roads is not something to get upset about. Relax and enjoy the scenery is my take on that story. But yeah, I would have thought that the kids would have enjoyed such an upbringing. The conclusion of the story was a real worry and I also wondered what the couple expected in the first place and it may well be that only one member of the couple invested into the experience.

    Thanks! For some reason, the birds here tend towards bright primary colours and that makes little to no sense to me as to why that would be the case. The magpies have begun teasing the youthful Ollie – and they’re really good at it, but he keeps hoping for them to make an error all the same.

    Ouch. What a conundrum. I can’t really advise you on that matter, but I could tell you what I’d do if given those circumstances. Firstly, I’d mow the lot flat to the ground. Brush cut first if need be and then mow. And importantly, I’d let the organic matter fall where it was cut and mulched by the process. It would be an almost impossibility to remove all of the root systems of those plants. Then I’d plant in shrubs that I knew would shade out, or out compete, the plants that you don’t want growing. The thing is, most of the plants you mentioned are early pioneering plants (from a successional point of view) and they’re just trying to restore the soil fertility in those spots, because they grow really well with low soil fertility, or in the adverse conditions presented to them.

    The trick is looking about your local area and seeing what shrubs and/or over story plants dominate equivalent locations. The answer might be right in front of you. Dunno, anyway that is what I’d do. I often take the time to observe growing conditions in the area – it is very instructional.

    I have used the mint family of plants to get an area established and then plant an over story of small trees (I use Japanese Maples and Musk Daisy Bushes) into the mint plants (of course after clearing a small section so that the tree does not get out-competed in its early days. It works. After a year or two, the small tree dominates the location.



  64. Hello again
    Still dry here. Re: nettles. They won’t grow here because the soil is too poor! A pity because I love nettle quiche. They grow madly on land nearby which I sold some years ago; that land had once been a field.
    Am currently reading ‘Earth abides’ by George R. Stewart. Written in 1950 it describes life in the US after a plague ha wiped out almost the entire population. Am finding it interesting.


  65. Hi Lewis,

    I was trying a bit from time to time to recall the wildman of yore, but there is a little bit too much civilisation in me, and so that is where the country squire look shines to the fore. I just looked up the definition of what exactly it means to be a country squire. Alas, I am here of my own wits and back and not due to the rent that tenant farmers may pay me. Woe is me… But then I did not have to assist knights during the Feudal days as that would have been a very difficult and problematic proposition – although occasional quite lucrative.

    Interestingly, I am now up to the part of the Skystone story where our hero declares that he knows the secret lore (handed down to him from his grandfather) to making a sword bright from a meteorite. The story gets more interesting as it progresses. I can see that Excalibur the famous sword may have a likely creator in our hero. It is a good read.

    Hehe! I suspect the rock will crack in a slow motion style and do so noiselessly. The process won’t be complete until Monday night and maybe even later in the week, and I can’t be sure whether I’m kidding myself, but I believe that I did see some minor fissures. But they may also have occurred due to the drilling.

    The vitamin story will be quite interesting indeed as time goes on. You know one of the side stories that I took away from my reading about vitamin’s is that the knowledge is hard won through sheer observational prowess, and then it is lost again, only to be rediscovered at a much later date.

    Now that I think about it, I’m surprised that I did not read any references to vitamin deficiency diseases in either Retrotopia or The World Made by Hand series of books, although there were references to quite ill people who may have had that health matter as the core reason.

    Took the train into the big smoke today to attend the Green Wizards meeting. It was good fun and after an informative presentation we spoke about the state of the recycling industries – a truly fascinating insight into the state of the world. Plus there was tiramisu. 🙂 On the train home again, a young lady was kicked off the train at the next stop and sent back to the big smoke for some sort of ticketing violation. Never seen that before, she was sitting next to me with her very young daughter on her lap and there were tears and much unhappiness. Not sure what was going on there, but the conductor forgot to check my ticket (which I had). Dunno.

    Absolutely and yeah the best thing is to own such minor matters when it comes to social condemnation – like reading a book in public. There is a time and place for flippancy, and if the scent of discomfit gets into their awareness, well you’re lost at that point.

    HRH comes from a long canine history / family of tough genetics, so that doesn’t surprise me at all that she is now jumping around the place as if nothing has happened. Well, dogs can be the best people (as the song remarked) and on the train into and out of the big smoke I had the chance to read all of the comments to the latest Ecosophia open post and I noticed that the dreaded ‘cute kitten’ meme reared its head, with a little bit of debate about it just for good measure. Slow news days can always bring on the need for a cute kitten. 🙂

    Yeah I can see that about the early garlic bulbs and stems. It is still early days for you. Brussels sprout leaves taste a bit like kale leaves to my palate – and they’re quite good. Rice dish with vegetables is an excellent meal. I’m quite the fan of the butter curry dish with roti bread. Yum!

    Just providing examples as to how things could work and making the comparison hard to ignore is probably about the best that could be achieved – until the master gardeners shuffle off to somewhere else and you become the master gardener by default. That is also a possibility. The locals around here drive me bonkers because of a similar activity. For some reason, they all gather the collected leaves and bark that have fallen to the ground and then burn them off. And I have never seen anyone spread the ashes from that activity. The leaves and bark could be simply mowed up – or left to break down on the soil surface. You see the thing is, the more organic matter that is added to the soil surface, the faster new organic matter breaks down – it is a cyclical loop / process that speeds up with time.

    Oh no! You are way ahead of me with Skystone, and thanks for your thoughts on the Seneca political manoeuvre.

    Well, well, well, Patrick Stewart returns to the Star Trek Universe as a civilian 20 years after the conclusion of the final Next Gen film. Interesting, and we shall have to wait until December (please correct me if I’m wrong). Good news and good stuff. To be honest I have gotten a bit sick of the continual story that gets repeated that: Crew of the Enterprise defies the odds and saves humanity (plus some fine furry creatures from Alpha Centauri) against marauding alien interests. Back in the day they just used to tell a ripping good story. What could be so hard about doing that?

    Sometimes you just have to see films on the big screen. 🙂 Accountants could use a bit of a public image tidy up. The last film that I can recall that had an accountant played by Ben Affleck did quite well at the box office, but seriously Accountants know how to have a bit of fun and not be quite so err, goal focused. Hehe!

    Far out, the heavens just opened and the rain is pounding down on the roof…

    And has now stopped as quickly as it began.

    I’ve seen posters about the place for Shazaam, so I’m guessing that it has already been released. Super hero movies do very well these days. Indeed, you are onto something with the film that does not take itself too seriously.

    But pray tell, does Anna and the Apocalypse contain long musical sequences? I have this thing about musicals, it’s complicated and I dunno why.

    Go the basil! And that was fast.

    I’m wondering if the rain effects the quicklime that we poured into the holes in the Moby Rock? Dunno.



  66. Hi DJ,

    The quicklime is an experiment and as such I just have no idea how it will end up. However, it is a worthwhile experiment given the need and use of rocks here, so I’ll continue at it until I feel that it is no longer worthwhile. I’d like to think that it was an alien spacecraft embedded in the rock – how cool would that be?

    Long and boring meetings do my head in. At least in small business no one can afford such idle chatter! 🙂

    You know that College to University story played out down here too. Back in the day, College’s down here were only able to issue Advanced Diploma’s, whilst Universities had the strangle hold on Undergraduate degrees. Interestingly, I can’t recall who or why asked for why the change took place and degrees were issued from a wider range of institutions of learning. And the thing that annoys me is that businesses managed to shift the costs for educating staff onto the very staff themselves. It wasn’t always that way, and way back in the day I knew a few older accountants that had simply achieved their status by the route of apprenticeship and for the professional body recognition they simply paid a $50 membership. A lesser person than I would be really really annoyed by that story. And the thing is, there were so many degrees being offered by the time I got around to seeking professional recognition by the professional body, that they forced me to do five (it is now six) additional subjects that they provided. And all the while, the Universities keep over supplying the market and so my rates get pushed way down due to sheer competition. Hardly any wonder why I prefer to spend my time ensuring that this place produces plenty of food. I don’t feel that it is a story that will end well for them.

    The thing that worries me is that people – particularly young females – get pushed into studying the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math courses when I don’t rightly know (other than the Technology stream) whether there are enough jobs for them at the end of the courses. Dunno.

    Well one must communicate with their partners otherwise trouble ensues. Once long ago I was the boss in the big bad corporate world, and a much humbler approach is required when working closely with my lady. Fortunately, I’m a quick study – as I can see that you yourself are!

    Yeah, there is a story there for sure. My mate’s wife had a Green Card to work in the US, and whilst she had a job in academia, he struggled getting any work over there.

    That is a very decent thing to do for the squirrel.

    You’re getting a whole bunch of rain! And who doesn’t love a super cell storm for sheer impressiveness?

    It is raining here too. Do you reckon the rain will have much impact upon the quicklime experiment?



  67. Hi ALCO44,

    Yeah, that thought had occurred to me too. At the moment, I’m using SDS+ drill bits, but I have a suspicion that the SDS MAX drill bits would be much more effective, although the machines that drive them cost more.



  68. Hi Inge,

    Interestingly enough, nettles only grow in very small patches here too. But they are surrounded by a large diversity of plants and like the Jerusalem artichokes I don’t find them particularly troublesome in the garden. I tell you what does run away from me: Horseradish. That plant grows very strongly once it is well established.

    Sorry to here that it is still dry. Believe it or not, I’m contemplating the various methods of irrigation sprinklers that I’ll use on the three garden terraces next summer. I just haven’t found anything that works really effectively without wasting a whole lot of water. Do you water by hand, hose or sprinkler?

    I have heard reference to the book. Are you enjoying the story?



  69. @ Margaret:

    Thanks for the chigger commiseration. You must have had some sometime.

    That is so much rain! We haven’t had rain in two weeks –
    unusual in summer here – and it has been in the 90s for a long stretch. My life consists of watering, and then watering some more.


  70. Hello again
    I water both by hand and hose.
    The story is okay; it is the account of what happens to the uninhabited country that I am finding most interesting.


  71. Hi Chris
    The rock breaking tools I was looking at were mechanical cylindrical in form that were attached to a driving device electric, hydraulic, etc that inserted in the drilled rock hole then expanded by wedge action and cracked the hole out.
    In the Utubes the work looked like land scraping rocks. Or “OMG ! What are you doing here Rocks! “ like your friend Moby Rock.
    You and the editor are probably now qualified as expansive grout expert certified😊


  72. @Inge

    I’m going to have to try nettle quiche. Do you just add the nettles as you would any vegetable?

    At my old place I had wished I had some nettles. Ha – be careful what you wish for as I now have a field of them. I am using them for tea and will be sure to dry plenty for winter use.

    “Earth Abides” is a favorite of mine – probably read it three times.


  73. Hi Chris,
    I wasn’t even going to get on the computer today as we were supposed to have two rain free days. Guess what – it rained. It didn’t rain too much fortunately and should dry out a bit soon as sun is out.

    Yes, we will be doing some mowing however there are still pieces of metal and other stuff in some of the unmowed areas so you have to be really careful while mowing. I know they are mostly pioneer plants. Interestingly nettles grow where the soil is good while some of the other plants are fine with poor soil quality. The shrubs I purchased are all ones that do well in this area. If there were more funds I would have purchased more but as time goes on…. Appreciate your thoughts about the matter.


  74. @ Inge – “Earth Abides” is a good read. I think I’ve read it two or three times, over the years. I don’t think the paperback has ever gone out of print. Lew

  75. Yo, Chris – Hmm. I didn’t know about the landlord part of “country squire.” There’s “gentleman farmer”, but, to me, that sounds a bit to dilettante, which you certainly aren’t. Oh, dear. Might have stumbled into another one of those black holes in the English language.

    Blink and you might miss it, but when Varrus starts talking about his families history of metal working, there’s a bit about social pressure do to their class. As a hobby, maybe a bit odd, but as a profession, it’s just “not done.” And, in archaeological news, there’s this …

    Notice the date? Right around the time of the “Great Conspiracy.” Wikipedia has a pretty good entry. I’d say someone took the opportunity of the chaos to hammer out their own little kingdom. Historians didn’t even know this guy existed, until a few other coins turned up, recently. The more I read, the more I think that toward the end of the Western Empire, anyone who could buy a legion, made a stab at being emperor.

    The subject of vitamins and corn, is interesting. If you eat nothing but corn, you end up with a condition called “pellagra.” Think of scurvy and vitamin C. The Native Americans figured out (somehow) that adding beans to the diet, or, soaking the corn in lime water, overnight, took care of the problem.

    Go Green Wizards of Melbourne! Even if the topic had been rubbish, you’d still have the tiramisu. :-). Once, when I caught the train from Centralia, to Portland, they made an unscheduled stop in Chehalis (which isn’t a stop, anymore) to unceremoniously toss a drunk out, into the dark. Travel is so interesting!

    HRH seems to be doing fine, now. Eleanor is a bit better, and I think that a bit of her problem was fretting over HRH.

    Affleck was oer-the-top goal focused, as he was autistic. Which adds a bit of interest to the story. Yup. Looks like I missed “Shazaam” in the theatre. Oh, well. Probably wouldn’t have got myself together to see it, and will catch the DVD. Godzilla is coming to our local theatre the end of next week and the Spiderman movie, the beginning of July. I’ll probably wait for the DVD on that one, too.

    I read the article “Our Tree Change.” I also followed a link to one called “Things Nobody Tells You About Alternative Living.” I think your speculations are pretty spot on. I’ve seen many a couple move to the bush in the eastern part of our county, for a year or two. I’m sure there was more to the story, but the only thing I ever heard about one couple, was that they bailed out because there were no Starbucks coffee, available. They should have stuck it out. I think we have three, now. :-). And, you have to be prepared for the social isolation. That you’ll never be “quit” accepted by the “old guard.”

    Yup. I’d say 1/3 to 1/2 my evening meals are rice and veg, of some type. Sometimes I throw in a can of tuna, or a bit of cheese. Last night I fried up some eggs, cut them up and mixed that in. I usually sprinkle on a bit of brewer’s yeast and slop on some hot sauce. Yum! I have never had bread and butter pudding.

    Did you ever get around to taking a look at that link to Cleopatra’s children? You know, in your spare time :-). Lew

    PS: I finished “Skystone” last night. Onto “Singing Sword.” One down and eight to go! I’ll probably knock off a couple of chapters, tonight.

  76. Hi Pam,

    Yup, those leeches are blood suckers. And they did a tag team duo with the local ticks, and nothing inspired us more than that wicked combination of unpleasantness, to take the time to construct a proper strawberry enclosure (which can be seen in all its glory in a photo on tomorrows blog).

    Hope the chigger situation is getting better.



  77. Hi Inge,

    I reached a point about a year or two back when there was too much growing space for me to water by hand in the time that I had available to me. It was an interesting turning point and I’ve been experimenting with watering systems ever since then. Can’t say that I’m much impressed with most of the systems that I’ve tested, but I still keep trying because sooner or later something will work out – and I’m getting closer to a simple system in relation to the watering. Incidentally, the orchard receives no additional watering and relies upon rainfall and top soil alone. That works despite the heat and prolonged dry spells, the annuals are an entirely different story.

    You have intrigued me, and a copy of the book is on its way here. Thanks for the book recommendation, and I’ll hopefully get a chance to discuss it with you in a few months time.



  78. Hi ALCO44,

    What a fascinating rabbit hole on utube. One local bloke on a video was even using plugs and feathers in an old school style go at breaking apart a rock. So many options to choose from. It seems that persistence may be the order of the day.

    We may have to drill deeper into the rock on the next attempt. But we’ll give the stuff a few days to break the rock apart. It is cold here now, so the chemical reaction will also slow down.



  79. Hi Margaret,

    I reckon that your ground water is safely assured for the coming summer growth time! 🙂 I hear you, and the rain began a few hours ago here and looks set to continue for the next week. I hope I can get back into the rock breaking over the next few days – but maybe not given the weather.

    Resources are always limited and what would be nice to do is often limited by what is possible to do. I hadn’t known that about nettles and their affinity with rich soil, but it makes sense as they are a useful edible green – despite the downsides. We have a similar problem with rocks in that they float to the soil surface and the blades of the mower hit the rocks (you can hear it happening). I take a mattock with me when mowing and remove the rocks as I find them – the point being to make the place easier to live with. The metal would be a worry and when we first bought the place, someone had torched a very old car on the land – or maybe the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires burnt it, but whatever the case, glass and metal were found in very strange locations on the property – not to mention over a centuries worth of loggers kit that they’d discarded. I do worry about stumbling upon an old rusty trap. There is a large stone ring in the forest which I stumbled across a few months ago. So many mysteries… I reckon the future will be a lot like that.



  80. @ Margaret
    Yes, treat the nettles just as any other vegetable. They should be young nettles though; I use the top 2 inches or so.


  81. Hi Lewis,

    So many books, so little time. Inge’s words convinced me to purchase a copy of Earth Abides. I assume that you enjoyed the story given that you have read it several times over the years? Fortunately the book will take weeks to arrive down here and that will give me time to complete Jack Whyte’s Camulod series of books. I note that in the story, the author has already placed the legendary castle. It was a blink and you’ll miss it reference.

    I hadn’t known that aspect of the esquire story either, but it makes sense given that such a person has a recognised title in the first place. It was interesting watching the recent historical film, “The Favourite”, because even in those days there were tensions mounting between the mercantilists and the large rural landholders. Given the mercantilists eat at the whim of the landholders, you’d think that there would be a sort of mutual co-operation? I had the suspicion that even in Edo era Japan that was a problem, and maybe it is just part of the human condition – and the Japanese peasants of the time were largely unarmed. What do you reckon about that?

    I did take note of the approbation for Varrus’s grandfather taking on a trade which was considered beneath his family’s class – and that he married the daughter of a mercantilist. Interesting huh? That adaptive story wasn’t lost on me either – and sometimes stepping backwards is the only way forward. And being of an educated sort, with a bit of flexibility as to his earnings, he could pursue aspects of the art that his peers were unable to pursue due to having to make a living – and that occasionally yielded gold such as the bright sword made from the skystone.

    Upon reading the history, I am amazed that Flavius Theodosius was able to restore order in such a short period of time – and it is indicative that the local forces had been stripped to the very bone that they were so easily over whelmed in the first place. I’m guessing the grievances were many and long for it to happen. But then, I guess the expenditure to maintain order could not be maintained either because we all know what eventually happened. Interestingly, I noted that an amnesty was provided.

    I’d never heard of pellagra, but then I guess the soils here are too poor for great quantities of maize ever to have been grown. Historically, wheat was the big crop which contains Niacin. It is interesting the process of nixtamalization was observed and discovered – possibly by a tribe that used soft water. I suspect that there are all sorts of food treatments that we are unaware of in this day and age.

    Hehe! Yup. Tiramisu is king! No doubts about it. 🙂 I must give credit to the conductor on the train who was particularly deft at de-escalating the situation. A lesser person may have done much worse. Interestingly, the police would probably be called upon to eject an obstreperous drunk person on a train. I once was on a country train late at night at some bloke who may have had tourettes was subject to intermittent outbursts of swearing at volume. He seemed harmless enough despite the nuisance factor.

    Nice to read that both Eleanor and HRH are doing fine. Yup, anxiety can be not good for a person’s health.

    Hehe! I must confess to not having seen the Affleck film, but the profession does attract its fair share of such folks who believe that they can deal with numbers and legislation rather than people. For some back room type folks that can be true, but mostly the profession is about people – and occasionally they can be in a high state of emotion, which takes it out of me. Most of the time, you have to search deeply into their motivations and that can occasionally be a bit foggy, but like any skill, practice makes perfect.

    It is weird that story of retreat from the country because a lot of the time people go into such adventures with high expectations and low skill sets. And I feel that the confrontation between those two points breeds a bit of unhappiness and it may also highlight what’s good about the city for them. Three may be a pattern! Hehe! And honestly I’ve heard that social isolation story before and people are far more socially isolated in the city because up here there are a lot of people who know and are interested in my goings on. In the city you can be anonymous which some people take to mean that they can re-invent themselves, whereas in rural areas they may carry the baggage of their own making, but also their families making. It is complicated for sure.

    Adding the brewers yeast is a good idea for your internal health. A very good idea. Back in the day, filtration was not so easy, and so people used to consume more lees and I reckon that was good for their guts.

    What is this spare time thing? Sorry, I have not checked it out. A friend has asked me to read and comment upon (i.e. edit) a long story that they have written and that has taken up any spare time. Alas, I disappoint even myself sometimes. 😉

    Far out, you read much faster than I. I reckon I’m about a third of the way through Skystone, but it is a quick read. I find that some books are faster to read than others and Skystone is a real page turner. Did I guess correctly that Varrus made the Singing Sword?

    Cheers and I better get writing!


  82. Yo, Chris – Before I forget, I think the Editor and you should hot foot it down to the National Gallery of Victoria and catch a couple of exhibits. A huge bit of installation art called “Murmuration.” 10,000 porcelain starlings, in flight. There are also several of the Chinese terracotta warriors AND one of the four horse chariots.

    The Victorians were always sneering about people “in trade.” In the series “Victoria” there’s a character, who when he wants to be particularly mean to his wife, reminds her that the only reason he married her was for her mercantile money. During the late 19th, and into the 20th century, there was quit a lively transatlantic trade in American heiresses. Mercantile money in return for a title. Need a new roof on the old family manse? Get yourself an American heiress. :-). Lord Whoz-its wife on Downton Abbey, was one such. Winston Churchill’s mother.

    The Roman’s were similar. As long as you didn’t appear to get your hands dirty, and left business to your freedmen and slaves, it was alright. I think it was Augustus’s wife Livia, who owned extensive brick yards. Cleopatra owned date plantations. I suppose, to our old friends power and control we might add class. Or, perhaps, class is a method of maintaining power and control?

    Well, the conductor clearly must have taken classes in conflict resolution. :-). Or, maybe someone, somewhere, slipped up and actually hired someone who was good at dealing with people? Or he learned, over years, in the trenches.

    The word that kept coming to mind about people moving to the country was “romanticize.” Which is a fever dream that gets people into all kinds of trouble, in all kinds of situations.

    Did Varrus make the Singing Sword? Your asking for spoilers? :-).

    Rain and wind, all day, yesterday. Other than a quick trip out to do an short slug hunt, I pretty much stayed in. The slugs do like my tender young shots.

    I forgot to mention. HRH likes cooked green beans and carrots! Lew

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