Ye Scurvy Dogs

Someone once recounted an amusing story to me, the gist of which was that children these days believed that money came from ATM’s (Automatic Teller Machines). From one perspective, the kids are correct, but alas for them, that is only part of the larger story of money.

When I was a kid, ATM’s were unheard of, and being the child of a single mother, money was not forthcoming from any direction, including that of an unattended machine in a wall. Nope, if I wanted money, I had to hustle. And being a mercenary little scamp, I was pretty good at hustling. Sometimes I held up to three jobs at a time, so as a young kid I was rolling in mad cash.

At about the age of around eleven or twelve I was dragooned into domestic duties. Before that time, food used to be this magical – if somewhat uncreative – process that resulted in food being placed on the table for me to consume. After being dragooned, I knew where the food originated (the shops!), how it was prepared, and how the preparation was cleaned up, only for it all to be repeated again the next day.

Back then, I may not have known the term stoicism, but I sure was living the philosophy! To me domestic duties were just another form of hustling to add to my already long list of activities that had to be done. But fortunately for me, the food genuinely was uncreative, and mostly made from raw materials. What can I say, they were cheap. I rapidly mastered the skill of basic meal preparation from scratch. At the time, it wasn’t lost on me that ding, ding, reheating cooking was for other people. And, processed food was something that was talked about but rarely seen.

Despite being broke, as a kid we ate reasonably well and I don’t recall any serious bouts of illness. Fresh fruit and vegetables were cheap, and basic cuts of meat – usually lamb chops – were also cheap. I fondly recall picking the lamb chop bones clean, and I savoured the fatty tail and even sucked out the marrow. If Ollie the Australian cattle dog was around in those days, he’d be pretty unhappy with how little was left over on the bone for him to chew. Nope, very little food was ever wasted.

Many years later, my mother hooked up with a bloke whom she later married. He was a good bloke, if a bit rough, and I owe him a debt of thanks as he taught me a whole lot of things about how to use all sorts of tools and make the most of a home workshop. He was one of those handy backyard folks who could make or repair all sorts of items. But at some point in his past he either smoked or had had sun stroke (or possibly both), because he had little sense of taste. And my mum who was never keen on the domestic arts in the first place, gratefully left all of the cooking to him.

Did I mention that the bloke had a very poor sense of taste? Well he used to load huge quantities of salt into his meals, as well as so much garlic that I’ve experienced enough for one lifespan. And chips (thickly cut fries) deep fried in lard were very tasty, but hardly the sort of thing you should consume every night. And there were the yummy processed foodstuffs befitting a household who’s economic star had risen.

The abrupt change in diet was a bit of a shock to me, and I didn’t really take to it. And despite paying 40% of my $12,000 annual salary to them for board, they stopped me from cooking my own food. And I must have been annoyed at the impasse, because when a mate suggested moving out into a large share house, I jumped at the offer.

Of course as fate would have it, my displeasure at the situation made itself known in other ways, and so I made a lot of noise and was a general all round pain in the backside to them. A day or two before I moved out (I had neglected to mention this inconsequential matter) my mother suggested to me that I should think about moving out of the house. And it was with an ironic feeling that I remarked that I was leaving Saturday.

It felt good to step out into the world on my own terms. Plus it was cheaper, and I could cook the food that I wanted to eat.

The feeling of freedom was a heady experience for one as young as I was at the time. And the house mates were entertaining and always up for mischief. Sometimes there was too much mischief! Late nights, mysterious and colourful guests, and dirty Saturday mornings walking out of clubs as the sun rose above the horizon. Fun times.

I was burning the candle at both ends as the old timers used to quip. One day, I recall feeling a bit done, and one of the house mates offered me a multi-vitamin tablet. And when I could feel the vitamins kicking in, I knew I had to slow down a bit and eat more diverse range of fruit and vegetables. I somehow didn’t manage to slow down in that household, but I did improve my diet. About a month later I took another multi-vitamin tablet and felt nothing at all. Of course I was still tired, but that was most likely due to the extraordinarily late nights.

Since those days, I’ve never stopped cooking. The editor is no slouch in the kitchen either and we still prepare most meals from the basic raw materials. It is still fairly cheap to cook that way, and most days of the year we have fresh fruit and vegetables right outside the door ready to pick. And winter is the time for citrus crops here. At the moment I’m consuming ripe lemonades and mandarins in my breakfast. Soon the grapefruit will be ripe, and there are always lemons and limes not to mention the fresh vegetables and herbs. We also supplement our home grown produce with other fresh items purchased from various markets.

I’m really not sure what most people do for food these days. It is a bit of mystery to me. The other day I encountered someone who, I believe, has scurvy. They certainly exhibit the symptoms of the disease. It is a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C – which can eventually kill a person if left untreated. It is the sort of thing that nowadays people in refugee camps suffer from (and pirates of course).

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is important because it is used by the body to maintain and produce collagen, which is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues. Without maintaining your bodies collagen, you basically begin falling apart. It is not nice. Humans and guinea pigs are some of the only animals that can’t produce Vitamin C, and we can’t even store the stuff in our bodies, so we have to consume some Vitamin C every single day of our lives.

Fortunately, obtaining Vitamin C is not a hard thing to do from plants and raw meat. Unfortunately our society cooks a lot of our plants and most of our meat, and a lot of Vitamin C is lost during the cooking process. It is worthwhile noting that nobody is exactly sure of the variables in the cooking process where the vitamin is lost.

I get the impression that this person who possibly has scurvy, believes that they eat a considered diet rich in healthy foods. Like the kids with the ATM, the full food story might be entirely lost on them.

Earlier in the week we installed the gate to the corn (which contains vitamin C) enclosure extension. The fencing was also installed. Most of the materials were sourced from scrap materials that we had to hand, and the chicken wire came from wallaby proof cages around fruit trees that were no longer required.

The gate and part of the fencing was installed in the corn enclosure extension

Along the new fence line we planted lavender plants on the outside of the enclosure and several kiwi berry vines on the inside. Kiwi berries are a small variety of self pollinating kiwi fruit and chock full of vitamin C.

Lavender and kiwi berries were planted along the new fence line

Work on the Moby (Bodyrock!) Rock has continued and we continued to widen and deepen the many holes in the rock before pouring in expansive grout. We’re hoping the expansive grout breaks part of the rock. At the time of writing this blog, our hopes are exceeding reality.

Expansive grout has been poured into the holes drilled into Moby Rock

One of the hardened steel drill bits broke during the drilling process. I am often unimpressed by the quality of goods sold these days.

A hardened steel drill bit broke during the drilling process

The path leading into the far side of the corn enclosure (where the new gate was installed) has had a load of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime placed over the surface.

Locally sourced crushed rock with lime was placed on the path leading into the corn enclosure

Whilst we were waiting for the expansive grout to do its rock demolishing trick (which it hasn’t done so far) we collected a huge quantity of rocks and placed them in and behind one of the steel rock gabions. It is almost – but not quite – full.

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

And it is with sadness that I have to announce that I cut down a mop top (Robinia species) tree that was growing well but over shadowing the strawberry enclosure. There seemed little point in constructing such a useful enclosure and then losing a lot of strawberry production to shading from the tree.

The four terraces can be seen in all their productive glory

A lot of purchased (and free) organic matter is brought onto the farm and I am always surprised at the sheer quantity of plastic waste that it brings onto the property. I am not left wondering why the Chinese no longer accept our recycling waste because of the impurities it contains.

A collection of some of the plastic that we find in purchased organic matter

The remaining tomato plants are right at the end of the season. We’ve removed most of the plants, but left a few that were still producing. Whilst the tomatoes in the next photo are green, they contain all of their sugars and will ripen to a nice yellow colour in the house.

Tomatoes are at the very end of their season and will ripen in the house

A group of rare birds visited the farm the other day. It was a family of four Yellow-tailed black cockatoos and they are as large as a wedge tail eagle. All of the permanent birds that live on the farm studiously avoided taking note of the large birds presence.

A Yellow-tailed black cockatoo sits high up in a tree

Food is a bit scarce for the red and blue parrots (Crimson Rosella’s) that live on the farm and they happily pick through any uneaten grains that the well fed chickens have thoughtlessly discarded:

Crimson rosella’s pick through grains that the chickens have missed

The recent rain (the rain is belting down as I type this) has caused the return of the huge variety of fungi that are found in the soil here:

Fungi have sprouted in the fresh green grass
Fungi are the unsung heroes as they break down woody organic matter into fine soil
Fungi appear on the farm in all manner of shapes and sizes
I even discovered this fungi living in the crushed rock with lime on the floor of a shed. Humongous fungus.

Onto the flowers:

Geraniums form the backbone of the food for insects and the local honey eater birds
Irish Strawberry trees are sensible plants to flower at this time of year
Alpine heath is a common local plant
Not technically a flower, these new leucodendron leaves are very attractive
Rosemary lavender form
Rosemary blue form

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 2’C (36’F). So far this year there has been 178.6mm (7.0 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 167.8mm (6.6 inches).

85 thoughts on “Ye Scurvy Dogs”

  1. Hi David,

    Thanks for the video link. The persons knowledge and experience showed through in every step of the process.

    Interestingly, we make pasta here, but use a hand cranked machine to cut the sheets, and it never would have occurred to me to roll the flattened pasta and then cut the roll. Obvious from hindsight and probably almost as quick as a pasta machine.



  2. Hi Damo,

    I was testing your abilities at advanced math! You passed. 🙂

    Hey, what I didn’t make clear in the story was that it was cheaper to move out because they stopped me using the kitchen so I had to eat out every single night – and I was seriously over that gear. It didn’t take long.

    For your interest, back then rent was about $70 per week for share houses and/or flats and it wasn’t that long ago. And yes, I could survive (only just) on that measly salary. I am not lying when I suggest that inflation is far higher now than in the recent past.

    I have absolutely no idea how people survive on a new start allowance nowadays. It is an embarrassment to the community, and such expenditure is only a small chunk of the amount spent on welfare of which the vast bulk goes to pensioners and families.



  3. Hi, Chris!

    I love these anecdotes of your youth. They make up for my mostly boring and genteel upbringing. I managed to escape a bit, though, once we moved from the big city of Dallas, Texas to the open desert of El Paso. Culture shock, indeed.

    I also loved the lesson on Vitamin C and thanks for the reminder. If I remember correctly, it is almost impossible to get too much Vit C, even in supplement form; it just passes out of the body in the urine.

    I wonder, if you ever decided to get a pig or a goat, if you might turn one of those enclosures into a pen (if it’s not too near the house); they are so sturdy. But wait! Then Chris and the editor would lose all the fun of a new building project!

    Ha! Moby Rock is just lying there laughing at you, even while he is stuffed with grout. He appears right at home – well, that was his home first. Isn’t it going to be interesting to see who gets the last laugh . . . That is impressive about the steel bit. Crapification, or is Moby just too tough?

    Ollie, you’ve grown AGAIN since last week. Soon they’ll be calling you Moby, too.

    That is one huge bird. how neat that you got to see them, but I rather hope they don’t stay. I don’t think anything can match the Rosellas for color, though.

    It is cold there!


  4. Hi Lewis,

    Computers do my head in. For some reason my interweb browser software (after a recent update) has begun allowing a whole lot of unwanted videos to display every single time that I go to a new web site (excluding this fine website which is not pedalling product) that was trying to make money through click bait. With a few minor adjustments the noise has gone elsewhere. I try to keep a clean ship, but each time the ship docks at a new port, the vermin come aboard with the cargo. 😉

    Speaking of which, I’ll bet the pirates didn’t listen to Admiralty’s pronouncements upon the best way to deal with scurvy, when the evidence was before their very eyes.

    I have seen both the Pompeii casts and the Chinese clay warriors at the National Gallery back in the day. They both made quite the impression upon me because the distant memories are stronger than most. I may go and revisit the exhibitions as I wasn’t aware that they were touring at the moment. Thanks for mentioning them. The clay warriors were extraordinary in their detail. You know, I would feel uncomfortable working for a boss that on a whim decided that I had to be put to death upon their death. It seems a bit wasteful to me and would not allow for a proper hand over of skills and experience. I feel that not many cultures could withstand so many body blows, and the clay warriors was a nice (albeit prohibitively expensive) way out of the trap.

    Starlings aren’t visitors to the farm, but my mates of the big shed fame have the birds roosting at the higher points of their shed. Birds are funny creatures because they tend to return to their roosts at night, and us humans have taken advantage of the species propensity to conduct themselves as such. I did want to let the chickens free roam tonight in the orchard, but in between paid work (and weather much like yours), I dodged the rain today and it eased off towards the very late afternoon when the chickens would otherwise be free roaming. Instead I took the drill up to Moby Rock (I’ll bet nobody gets my little music joke) and drilled several foot deep holes into the rock.

    Working with the very large rocks is a fairly new experience for us, so we’re in the experimental phase of the relationship and are testing out different techniques and tools and seeing how things work out. To be honest, it is a wasteful way to go, but if I knew a more efficient way to learn the various tricks and skills, I’d use it. I watched a video yesterday of some bloke to the east of here using hand tools such as a well greased plug and feather to break apart the rocks. And he might be onto something with such old school methods.

    Yes, I suspect that at some point in the future, the mercantilists may suffer from a fall from grace. Moves have been afoot of late down here for the government to get more information from small business, more often. Frankly it has been a bit of a nightmare for me as I’ve had to learn what they want – and then there were the endless software hassles. At a guess I reckon it is part of a long term plan to obtain more detailed information, more regularly and it has been referred to as Standard Business Reporting (a pipe dream if ever there was one). The powers that be may have forgotten that small businesses have to hustle. And it has been a particular pain for me because the requirement has consumed a lot of time and I’m really unsure how much of that time I can pass on. From a larger perspective, the powers that be are eating my time (and others) with no thanks only the stick side of the carrot and stick arrangement.

    This talk of American heiresses sounds alright to me, of course don’t let the editor hear such loose talk! 🙂 Hehe!

    The Skystone story goes into the economic relationships and the Roman’s money supply. Fascinating stuff, and I can see the rise of the barter economy and the forging (excuse my pun!) of mutually beneficial community relationships. The author weaves a fine tale and I’m impressed.

    Hehe! These days I reckon working with the public at the coal face is as good a training ground at the gentle art de-escalation as a person would need. I’ve noticed a great tendency with people these days to wind themselves up into a high state of emotion without much cause. On election day they left me to deal with all of the complex people, and mostly they were OK and we had a laugh and just got on with the reason as to why they were there in the first place. Many people tried to bait me that day. Collecting debts for several years for a job was exceptionally good training.

    Mate, you are right about that. Romanticise is the word that you heard. 🙂 The other one that I see is the clueless person that arrives in the area believing that they can throw their weight around because they used to live in such and such an upmarket area, without having first survived a decade or more of apprenticeship and then understanding that they will die never having exceeded journeyman status – at best. Rural living is not for the faint of heart. Fever dream is a nice way to describe the beliefs.

    I guess I was and I also wasn’t asking for spoilers. It’s complicated being me. 🙂 But did he make the sword? I see that Damo is not offering spoilers either. You two are obviously made of sterner stuff than I. Just saying that Varrus should steer well clear of Phoebe, but you know when the stage is set for a fall…

    HRH has impeccable taste. Dogs enjoy strange meals. Scritchy is partial to our home cooked falafels, I’ll bet HRH would enjoy some well cooked chick peas in her food.



  5. Hi Pam,

    Glad to read that you are enjoying the stories. Life is full of stories and I’m sure that you’ve had plenty of them in your time too. Hey, I recall reading in the book: ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, that the author got his students to write about a physical brick wall. Anyway, one student was having trouble with the assignment and the author got them to look at ever finer detail in the wall until they found something to say about the brick wall. Anyway, I thought that it was good metaphor.

    The images of the mountains surrounding El Paso are amazing. Yeah, it would have been a bit of a culture shock moving to a smaller city – I hear you. The lack of rainfall would have made me very uncomfortable in such a place. Did you end up living in town or out of town there?

    Exactly, vitamin C passes out of the urine. Hehe! The interweb searches that you lot send me upon must make for entertaining reading at the other end. I’ll bet someone somewhere has now recorded that I’m considering overdosing myself on Vitamin C tablets! Hehe! Word on the street is that too much can be a bad thing, and I’ll leave you to look up the why of it all. 🙂

    You are so right. Got it in one. A pigsty or goat enclosure would have to be custom built from scratch – and also have to be modified as we learned more about the fine beasties.

    The Moby magic is strong, my master. So strong in fact that I bought higher quality drill bits and drilled a further 6 x 350mm (a bit over a foot) deep holes into it earlier this evening. Then I hit it hard with a jackhammer – and Moby is still there undaunted, a bit more holy and laughing at me. I have plans, you know! Hehe! Oh, we’ve descended into the land of silly, but I’m really hoping I can best that huge rock.

    Ollie is growing, but he is quiet tonight as he is in a bit of disgrace, and smells like perfume (which neither he nor I are happy about). He bit a hole in Scritchy’s bean bag tonight. A lot of polystyrene beans escaped via the tiny hole. Ollie wasn’t being malicious; it was just a thoughtless act of stupidity. A lot of duct tape was used to patch up the hole – and stop the beans escaping.

    You’re right, the trees here are big, but despite being well over 150ft tall, they’re only babies and the cockatoos were looking for even bigger trees with which to nest in. They’ll struggle finding a tree big enough with a hollow for them to nest in. That is why they are rare.

    The Rosella’s are fun birds and always up for mischief. The magpies give them ‘what for’ if the Rosella’s get too comfortable here. But sometimes I see the two different species of birds out foraging together. Bird politics is a complicated business.

    This morning was the first frost. Actually I thought that it might be snowing higher up in the range this morning and took a look, but no just rain at this stage.

    Hope it is warmer there?



  6. Hello Chris
    I always find other people’s histories interesting, so thanks for that bit of yours.
    I was 10 when my mother bought her house at the end of the war. That was when housework descended upon me. She also started to bring my sister and I up. I had been running completely wild from the age of 7 which had been wonderful. I hated the new system.
    Yesterday I tried to free up a stone slab. It turned out to be no such thing. It was stone hard dry clay soil. So hard and dry that nothing was growing there. I am still longing for rain.


  7. Chris,

    Thunder cells? Always enjoyable, unless one is caught in them with the lightning flitting about and nowhere to hide.

    Rain and quicklime? Unfortunately, you have more experience with quicklime than I do. However, I would guess that quicklime might react to rain somewhat akin to how freshly poured concrete would? Meaning a slowing of the “curing” process?

    I’m thinking Moby Rock is a bad name to have chosen. Big things named Moby tend to steer people to obsession. Not that you’re there, but if I read a post from you starting with “Call me Ishmael…”

    Not that Moby Rock is tiny, but take a look at this one in Colorado.

    Enjoyed the fungi photos. Parts of my yard are full of fungi following the recent rains. I was tempted to call the rains an “onslaught”, but since I’ve gotten half as much rain (or less) in the past 2 weeks than some of the other readers, it really is not an “onslaught” at my place.

    Those crimson rosellas are beautiful. And opportunistic.

    The pictures suggest that Ollie may have developed a nice talent: walking around with closed eyes and apparently not bumping into things. Maybehaps his closed eyes routine is what got him in trouble with the bean bag due to his not watching what he was doing?

    Thanks for the tales of your past. The dietary and cooking lessons you learned years ago sound fantastic and similar to what I allegedly learned. I’ve improved the variety substantially over the years, and have to devise cunning ways to hide some of the vegetables from Picky Eater. As you noted in this week’s article, even a month of healthy eating showed significant change.

    The thing that seems to get missed by many in our society is that, even if the needed levels of vitamins are obtained via a daily tablet, if the tablet is combined with an otherwise shoddy diet devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, other nutrients and benefits of said fruits and vegetables can be missed. And a meal cooked from scratch just plain tastes good!

    Pam is not your only guest here that lived in or near El Paso. I spent a year of gradual, er graduate, school in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a drive of less than an hour from El Paso. The shock to me wasn’t the desert conditions, it was the lack of anything resembling a proper evergreen tree.


  8. Yo, Chris – Money from ATMs? What an outlandish, idea! Everyone knows it grows on trees! :-).

    Cooking and food. It’s all so much chance (who’s in your life) and inclination. It’s also funny how we come, by different routes, to food awakening. For you, it was a roommate and a vitamin tablet. For me, it was an article and a banana for night leg cramps. I have been thinking, recently, that some folks fall into a trap of just thinking about food as medicine. Takes a lot of the enjoyment out. Not a problem, for you or me :-).

    There’s been a couple of articles, recently, in the Atlantic and on NPR about how “we” eat now. Or, at least, a large segment of the population. A lot more grazing and snacking on processed stuff. And, barriers to healthy eating. If your working three jobs to keep ends, together, and living with your family in a motel room, getting a healthy, home cooked meal on the table (what table?) is a bit out of reach.

    As you know, I also bailed out of “home”. The morning of my 18th birthday. Like you, I had also done a certain amount of plotting and planning.

    The gate and fencing look quit fine. But what caught my eye in that photo (as it has in the past) and the photo of the terraces (Four Terrace Farm?) is the deep dark woods, in the background. Deep dark woods worthy of the Brothers Grimm. What terrors and wonders, lurk? I caught your mention of the stone circle, in the forest. Wonder what that’s all about? Something left over from the native people’s? Stray band of Druids? How wide is the ring, do you recon?

    Maybe Moby Rock needs a few small floral and food offerings? :-).

    Just out of curiosity, I did a quick search of the cockatoos. They sell for between $1,500 and $3,000, per.

    The fungi are so different from flowers. But in their own way, are quit handsome. You know, that picture of the Irish strawberry flowers? Somewhen, I have seen those blossoms. But I think grown as an ornamental. Cont.

  9. Cont. What, pray tell, is a “new start allowance?” Probably another one of those Australian things, that will fill me full of envy. 🙂

    Yeah, the ads coming and going drive me bonkers. Many times, they cause the text I’m trying to read, to bounce around.

    I used to get the occasional pigeon inside, when I was camping out in the back of the theatre. I never did figure out where they were getting in. Once, a bat. The pigeon thing only happened three or four times. Given that it was such a huge space with such high ceilings, capture was out of the question. But it was also a dim space. Usually, if I opened the back door to the alley and let the light stream in, the pigeon would (eventually) fly to the light, and out. The Club (aka The Abandoned Cheese Warehouse) is mostly, open girder construction. Sparrows get in, from time to time.

    Well, (tongue firmly in cheek) small business. Get big or get out. If you can’t afford an army of accountants and bookkeepers, what’s the point? I’m sure the software developers probably nudged government into adopting that kit. It will be a giggle if they’re overtaken by ransom ware. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the articles, but currently, the City of Baltamore has been brought to a standstill, due to that. Hospitals (or I should say, huge health care organizations) used to be a favorite target, until they wised up and beefed up their security.

    Yup. The Roman money supply kept things ticking along. And, it mostly entered the economy through the military. And, they kept debasing their coin. Toward the end, a silver coin was a silver washed coin. We debased our coinage, here, in 1964. Another disturbing similarity to empire’s unwinding.

    Just to save you a bit of time, when you get to “The Singing Sword”, you can skip, or lightly skim chapters 3 and 4. It’s a bit of a sordid tale, that doesn’t need to be delved into, too deeply.

    And, is not exceeding journeyman status such a bad thing? I don’t think so, and I don’t think you do either. That old bit about perfect being the enemy of the serviceable. Besides, I think most people excel in some areas, but not others. Fever dream is a good phrase. Haven’t heard it, in awhile.

    I was looking at the other gardens, yesterday. Most of them are so neat and tidy. Tight little rows of this and that. Probably why I must drive some of the other gardeners crazy. Oh, I pay attention to height and which way the sun comes in. But, given a bit of open space, I plop something in it. Crowding? Maybe a bit. But that’s what my pruning shears, are for. My method of gardening might be a bit raffish, But I also have to contend with fewer weeds.

    I cut out a few of the bachelors buttons, last night, to give the love-in-de-mist a bit of breathing room. Planted some more red onions and a different variety of beet. Mounded up a couple of volunteer potatoes from last year. Puzzled over what (if anything) to do about the squash volunteers. There are three, now. Two will probably have to go, as what’s sprouting is seed company seed, and I wanted to get at least one from the seed I saved. Just to get a bit more genetic diversity, going. Work in progress. Lew

  10. @Lew

    Hmm, I have never seen White Fang, but no doubt I would recognise your presence via the blanket 🙂 I am nearly finished The Sea Wolf. If Londons other books have a similar tone, it seems somewhat wrong that White Fang is a disney movie :-p

  11. Yo Chris,

    My amp is too modern for ground lugs and phono-pre amps (apparently modern amps don’t ground lug – and grounding can lead to the dreaded 120hz double hum – so it isn’t always a good thing I am led to believe). Luckily, the turntable I obtained has a built-in pre-amp. Unfortunately, I did end up having to pay for the turntable. My friends turntable was MIA, no doubt tossed out back in the distant past. I ended up with a 1 year old modern Pioneer unit, not direct drive, but sleek and black with buttons that click satisfyingly when you press them. My friend did come up with the goods on old vinyl records though (Thriller, Bowie, Queen, Pet Shop Boys) which is very exciting. I do need to wash them in soapy water as they are not very clean. Is the editor a fan of Queens “The Works”? And, the obvious question, does she have a copy of Jazz with the original, risque poster? Asking for a friend of course… (Gods, times were different back then!).

    One downside, there is a slight hum 🙁 Various elimination processes have pointed to the pre-amp stage on the turntable. Possibly grounding out my amp will help, but I temporarily removed ground from the turnable, so both amp and turntable are not grounded, and it made no difference. So I suspect it is just something that happens and I must live with it. It is not noticeable when music is playing, but I will want to experiment with a borrowed pre-amp in future to isolate and confirm the source.

    Did you know modern vinyl pressings are usually 180gm or even 250gm heavy? And most albums seem to be double vinyl now. I guess that makes them better quality with wider grooves or something? My friends old Greatest Hits Queen is only a single, but the modern pressing I bought with the exact same track list is over 2 vinyls. An industry that is going against the crapification trend?

    Moby Rock could be the artists next album name? With cover art of the indomitable rock resolutely refusing to crack and split 🙂 You have started a journey, a journey that might end with explosives! Risky for sure, but think of how exciting it will be for your loyal readership. These aspects must be considered in any final analysis.


  12. Hi Lew,

    The new Picard trailer was rather flat wasn’t it? Did they even know what people liked about TNG? Seems like they trying to jam in some depressing “mysterious” backstory. You may recall my feelings on modern Trek and this doesn’t bode well. But, of course I will be watching it as soon as it comes out and fingers crossed they stick to telling more original Trek-like moral dilemma and Twilight Zone type stories.

    Venom was a lot of fun wasn’t it. And who doesn’t enjoy watching Tom Hardy grunt his way through dialogue 🙂 I seem to have missed Anna and the Apocalypse, added to my watch list. Maybe I save it for Xmas viewing??

    I see you have started on Singing Sword already – no solidarity 🙂 I am probably a night away from finishing The Sea Wolf. Might move onto Singing Sword after that – I have a 3 hour plane flight on Thursday, could make a good start on it!


  13. Hi Chris,

    I knew you were testing me with that mathematical quandary. If I truly wanted to impress though, I should have converted it to inflation adjusted 2019 dollars 🙂

    My first rental (1998) was $90 a week for a one bedroom apartment in Shute Harbour (near Airlie Beach, or a part of the Great Barrier Reef for our international readers). That was cheap, even for back then. Once we moved into a city it worked out being around $100 per person / per week for maybe 5-6 years – although it wasn’t hard to get small houses for 200-250 a week so as a couple we could have our own space. Then things got crazy. Nowadays, well, a very modest house within 15km of Auckland CBD will start at 700-800 a week! I am a bit further out, working from home somedays etc to avoid long daily commutes and get a cheaper place. My understanding is a lot of people are looking at share-housing for life now. A return to how things used to be for most of human history? Or a temporary blip due to lax bank regulation, high rates of immigration and a tax code that favours speculation over investment? /shrug. Either way, those caught in it have to make the best they can now, as your life can be over waiting 5-10-15 years for changes to come.

    As an aside, my best income to rent ratio was when living on the west coast of Tasmania. Our 3 bedroom house with concrete slab floor, large living area and fully fenced 1/2 acre block up against the forest on a slight hill overlooking the valley was only $160 a week!!! Two people on Newstart could afford to live there! Shame about the 4 hour return trip for groceries though…


  14. @Chris and Lew

    Are we upto spoilers yet? Was interested in thoughts on the ending, but Chris might be still some way away if he is just up to Varrus and Phobe.

  15. Hi Inge,

    It’s been an interesting life, that’s for sure. I was a bit frazzled this morning due to an epic work problem and I was being outwardly cool about it all, and fortunately everyone else was cool too. And we all worked together to get the problem sorted. It was really pleasing moment and reminds me why I chose to work in small to medium business.

    We were of an age when responsibility fell upon us and curbed our more wild instincts. I can’t say that I was much of a fan of all of the work either, but I did discover a love of cooking and food in the process, but the rest of it (like your experience) – not so much.

    Best of luck with the rain. It does return in time, although it is still dry here too. I encounter compacted and super dry clay in pockets. Do you get mudstone in your area? I tend to break up those sorts of super dry clay pockets so that they get air into the material, but mostly it needs water and organic matter.



  16. @ DJSpo:

    I can’t even count how many times I ate at the La Posta restaurant on the plaza in Mesilla. For some reason, the sopapillas really stick with me. I can’t remember a thing about the rest of Las Cruces.


  17. Hi DJ,

    You do read about people who have been hit by lightning, and it happens. Back in the day people used to tell me not to shelter under large trees for that very reason, but my mates gave plenty of incentive not to do that because they’d yank the wet branches and dump a load of water from the tree onto unsuspecting friends.

    My experience with quicklime is not extensive! 🙂 That was my thinking in the matter too. I drilled six more deep holes yesterday and will do some more drilling on Thursday (weather permitting).

    At least Ishmael survived to recount the folly of the ships master. No doubts that he did not cause offense to the whale in question. A fools errand that one.

    That rock in Colorado is feral! Hehe! And where was its buddy rock given they rolled down in a pair? So many questions are left unanswered.

    Climate is a relative concept. If you were say living in far northern Alaska, your conditions might be considered quite pleasant. The rain here has been reasonably consistent this week and not over the top as first predicted.

    I feed quite the family of Rosellas and it would be nice if they persisted from consuming the strawberries, but as the song says: You can’t always get what you want…

    The curse of the Picky Eater is a complex scenario and the utmost cunning must be brought to bear upon the matter. You are wise in the ways of the bait and switch routine.

    Tablet folks miss out on roughage at the very least, and who would want to take a peek into those guts? The coroner perhaps?

    The landscape around El Paso was amazing. The trees here are tall and the forest is evergreen – despite the occasional drought – and the landscape there was such a stark contrast. I’ll bet you harbour a desire to travel back to those dry lands? 🙂



  18. @ DJSpo:

    Thanks for the boulder article. I guess one can still call that thing a boulder; it looks more like a meteorite. I am sorry to see Ouray called a “city”. I have been there a few times, long ago, and it was a wonderful little mining town. Beautiful, beautiful place.


  19. Chris:

    Are you frying your falafels, as is usual? I make falafels quite often and got tired of frying them, so decided to bake them. They wouldn’t stay in ball form, and they were rather dry, so I eventually struck on the idea of cooking them as little muffins in a muffin tin. It worked very well. I call them “mufflafels”, accent on the second syllable.


  20. Hi Lewis,

    I’d forgotten about money growing on trees, and I’d have to suggest that people expect way too much these days from the trees these days.

    Mate, I hear you about the leg cramps and bananas. The cramps are really unexpectedly painful and it is such an elegant solution – change your diet. It might seem obvious, but not so. Food is an enjoyment that should not be rushed or wasted. Believe it or not, I’m having rice and vegetables for dinner tonight.

    But yeah, I have heard of food deserts in your country. But honestly, we have fresh food markets (you’d probably love the cultural experience that they are) in the big smoke and even local green grocers that sell fruit and vegetables. But even travelling around the outback late last century, fresh food may have been difficult to obtain, but it wasn’t impossible. I recall back then the remote town of Coober Pedy where most residents lived in underground houses due to the unrelenting summer heat, and the local grocery store person informed me that Thursday (from memory) was fresh food day. That was the day the truck re-supply rolled into town and replenished the shelves. But it was the declining quality in the taste of fresh fruit that led me on this whole journey in the first place. I even began purchasing direct from the commercial non-organic orchards and it wasn’t good. I’ve tracked down an organic orchard that supplies sun ripened fruit for when my lot of trees have problems. Anyway, there didn’t seem much easy way out of the problem other than growing my own produce. It has been a long and fascinating journey. 🙂

    There was an interesting line in an angsty 30 year old Gen X movie called the Breakfast Club, where one of the characters remarked that: “Well everyone’s home life is unsatisfying. If it wasn’t, people would live with their parents forever.” — attributed to the character Andy. The line has always stuck with me as being rather apt.

    Yes, the interesting thing that I’ve noticed about the surrounding forest – and you called it – is that despite the recent drought and heat, the forest canopy is looking really thick and luscious. I suspect that soil fertility and practices begins from a point here and works its slow way outwards. The stone circle is way out of sight and in the forest down below the house. One of the things I’m hoping to do as I learn how to deal with very large rocks so as to repair the stone circle, and the land is telling me to plant an oak in it. I have done that elsewhere and the oak is doing very well.

    At this stage in our relationship (the rock and I) I intend to drill more and deeper holes into Moby Rock. Moby clearly has other ideas and is resisting my charms with the rotary hammer drill.

    Yes, I was listening to the radio this afternoon about the trade in Australian wildlife for pets. Not good. Border force has recently released the details of a major operation into that illegal trade.

    Ah, new start allowance is another name for the dole. For some reason there is always a rather vocal outcry whenever anybody suggests raising this payment just so that it keeps up with the increase in cost of living. Damo’s rental experiences match mine, and learned people seriously suggest that inflation is running around 2%. It just doesn’t make sense that claim.

    Yeah, the floaty ads on the interweb browser were driving me bonkers and I terminated them with undue prejudice – although I may have used that legal terminology incorrectly. 🙂 Feel free to correct me.

    We have been wondering about that story too with the software developers. And what interests us is that the two main political parties supported the passing of the legislation – despite their antogonism. I wonder what they think people in small business are doing? Mucking around doing much is probably what they think – but no it is hard work all the way. It is funny that you mention ransom ware, but I received an email today which stated that I’d been hacked, blah, blah, blah, and I couldn’t take it seriously because they only asked for one bitcoin. Now if they’d asked for 100 they’d have less of an image problem… I’d heard of the Baltimore ransom, it appears to be rather effective.

    I know, the ever expanding digital money supply is another form of debasing of the currency. I’ve heard Modern Monetary Theorists suggest that things are otherwise and that it all doesn’t matter, and they may be right, until it does matter, and then they may be wrong.

    Thanks very much for the heads up on skipping the chapters. The author doesn’t shy away from unnecessary gritty descriptions of all sorts of stuff.

    I reckon we are on the same page with the journeyman thinking. What does it matter anyway? I’d rather enjoy a broad range of skills rather than being a master of only one. But mileage can vary.

    Nature is rarely neat and tidy, but you may keep their sharp observations about how gardens should look to yourself. 🙂 Of course I am always nervous whenever anybody wheels out the ‘should’ word. And it is always easier to thin than to have not planted enough in the first place.

    Your garden sounds like it is coming along nicely. And I’ll be very curious to learn as to the outcome of the volunteer potatoes and squashes. I have wondered whether they do drift, but you know I suspect that the genetic stocks that we grow with nowadays aren’t quite as diverse as people may imagine.



  21. Hi Damo,

    As a teenager I was into nerdy electronics and constructed my own amplifier (based on someone else’s design and pattern). How could I blast the neighbours with low wattage amplifiers? Nope only a 100W+ per channel fit the bill. You could have a rock concert in your bedroom! And my experience with turntables was that the hum is a product of the pre-amplifier and the lack of grounding for the turntable. Not suggesting that you have an el-cheapo pre-amp, but it looks that way.

    Far out! Mate! Cool! I just looked on ebay and noticed that quality turntable pre-amps are available not with transistors, but with vacuum valve tubes. My inner dork is bouncing up and down in excitement!!! Your mission should you choose to accept it is to eliminate the hum.

    I hate to disappoint you, but I gave away (true story) all of my old LP’s to the dude who bought the old turntable off me. I am embarrassed for my actions sometimes, but I do make the claim that it was a mistake borne of youth and innocence. Who would have thought that vinyl would make a comeback and be all cool again?

    Just asked the editor about The Works versus Jazz and the answer is… Jazz wins. Not to quote Regurgitator but she likes their old stuff better than their new stuff. 😉 Hehe! Couldn’t help myself. Just put on Black Bugs… Best song from Jazz: Don’t stop me now, which was used in the film Sean of the Dead. I tell you it all gets back to Simon Pegg. Not sure why!

    You learn something new everyday. I hadn’t known that the new vinyl pressings were of a better quality grade. Interesting. There are a lot of articles on the interweb praising the product. How strange that we produce better quality product now with vinyl LP’s.

    Moby has been in the news of late, but hardly for good reasons… But there is a tell-all book apparently. Yawn. The videos back in the day were good Bodyrock with fire was silly but enjoyable. Explosives for the rock. YEAH!!!!

    No stop it now, your prowess with the calculator exceeds my own humble skills – and talk of present value calculations just makes my eyes glaze over. Hehe! Then things got crazy is an outstanding way to put it, because it did get crazy and stayed that way. And it looks as though we are about to test just how far all of those policies can be taken. It just makes no sense to me.

    Yeah, you could do that in Zeehan. Getting to the local Centrelink office might make for some difficulties though. It might not be a bad idea to become a bit more self sufficient if a person was to live in such a remote area.



  22. Hi Pam,

    Absolutely. Yes, I fry the falafels in a fry pan with a small quantity of olive oil. They don’t end up being oily or fatty, and I really like them on fresh bread with a bit of butter. If you want to do a vegie burger, you chuck them in the bread bun instead of a meat patty, and with a nice fried egg (a bit runny), a bit of beetroot and some cheese. YUM!

    Mufflafels! Nice one, and I love the name! Good stuff.

    All this talk of yummy food is making me salivate!

    It is rainy, windy and just wet and cold here today. Not that I’m complaining.



  23. Hello again
    I had never heard of mudstone and had to look it up. Don’t know whether we have it here or not.


  24. @Inge
    Thanks for the nettle tips – they’re on the menu now.
    I wish I could send you some of our rain – we are now over 8 inches for May and there is a good chance of quite a bit more.


  25. Hi Chris,
    My experience with cooking is quite different from yours. My mother really disliked cooking. She was quite proud of the fact that when she got married she was able to cook two things – scrambled eggs and fudge. My father was a pathologist and after he got established in his career my parents were very well off so many of our dinners were Stouffer frozen meals with a side of frozen vegetables. Breakfast was cold cereal and lunch was either peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or sandwiches of lunch meat. It wasn’t until after my father passed away at 46 that my mother started to really cook. I didn’t experience that day to day as I had already moved out but from what I recall she became a fairly decent cook. I think I just taught myself how to cook though meat, gravies and sauces are Doug’s domain. Both my mother’s sisters loved to cook are were/are very good cooks. None of my sisters are fond of cooking. My oldest daughter also doesn’t like to cook so one of the twins has taken over and at age 13 does most of the meal planning and cooking. My youngest daughter does like to cook.

    Doug’s family always cooked from scratch and all are/were good cooks. All of his family focuses on meat though. If one would ask any of them what’s for dinner usually only the meat is mentioned.

    Moby Rock is quite the challenge!!

    As I mentioned to Inge, it continues to rain here though half of Saturday and all of Sunday were beautiful. All my transplants are in and I’ve made quite a dent in the nettle population. We also found a few native plants – wild geranium, great angelica and jack-in-the-pulpit.

    Yesterday, as it was raining I went to see my sister of many husbands new large house. It is large – what can I say. On my way home I drove through quite the deluge for about 20-25 minutes. It was raining hard enough that I almost pulled over – it was that hard to see. I was afraid to see what we had received at home but even though we weren’t that far we only had .2 inch. Of course another inch is forecast for tonight. We did miss the wind, flood and hail damage not too far south of us. Sadly the mosquitoes had begun to arrive.


  26. @ Pam,

    My wife and I spent a few days in the Las Cruces area several years ago. We ate at La Posta then, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The year I lived there, 1985-1986, the locals said that the BEST place to eat was the El Sombrero in Las Cruces. It was a tiny hole in the wall back then. It still existed when we vacationed there, but is much larger. The food was still excellent, and better priced than La Posta.

    Other than El Sombrero, I found Las Cruces to be rather forgettable.

    Ouray is a city?!? Bwahahaha! That is like saying that Helper, Utah, is a booming metropolis! I really wouldn’t consider Durango or Farmington to be cities. The nearest small cities, perhaps, might be Gallup and Los Alamos? Otherwise, the nearest cities would be Grand Junction and Albuquerque, IIRC. There just aren’t a lot of people in that part of the country.


  27. @ Damo – Well, Disney … “Sanitized for your protection.” 🙂

    “Anna and the …” looks like fun. I just hope they put it out on DVD. Movies seem to make it, but TV, not so much, anymore. Part of the push to make everyone go to streaming. Someone recently recommended a BBC series, “Misfits.” Great fun. Our library had season 1-3. But not 4&5. So, I put in a request, and got a snippy response that it was (at least in this country) not available on DVD. Oh, well. a.) there’s an old fellow at our local flea market, who has thousands of DVDs. And, he’ll swap one for two. b.) I’m old.

    I’ll probably finish “Singing Sword” and then wait for you fellows to catch up. I’ve got plenty of other stuff to read, and other stuff is pressing. The garden, an inspection coming up, here at The Institution. I did want to ask if my response to your posting of 5/25 made it through? I realize that your a busy guy (you have a life, unlike me :-). But I just wondered if it had fallen through the cracks. Forever wandering the vast stretches of the internet, like the Flying Dutchman. Lew

  28. Yo, Chris – Well, that’s interesting. I wrote a couple of paragraphs to Damo, posted it, and it didn’t show up as “Your Comment is Awaiting moderation” And, a 5 minute count down. A nice feature, by the way. Hence, the test. All seems ok, now.

    Back to our regularly scheduled programing. If I were sending The Ladies up, I’d say that the only experience I have with quicklime is body disposal. :-).

    As I mentioned to Damo, in the Lost Epistle, I’ll probably finish “The Singing Sword” and then wait for you fellows to catch up. I’ve got plenty to divert me, in the meantime.

    I think our local veg store could be called a greengrocer. And, mostly, his prices are lower than Safeway. There are the seasonal farmers markets, usually one day a week in each of our little towns. Prices are high.

    I just took a book back to the library that was an illustrated version of Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules.” But it was expanded by examples that people had sent him, of how to pull those off. Sensible little tips. He said he doesn’t expect one to take them all to heart, but even if two or three are incorporated into one’s shopping, it was worth the effort.

    Pollan, and his readers made a couple of interesting points about healthy food, and it’s cost. If you pay more, you might value it more, and waste less. Also, whole foods tend to be more satisfying. One may eat less. And, if there is waste, if one is lucky, there will be a garden patch to compost it in. I know when I stick to my aspiration of eating all the “junk” food I want … as long as I make it myself, it tends to be more satisfying (maybe because I use “real” , fairly high quality ingredients) and last longer, maybe because of that, and that I value it more, as it took time and energy to make.

    I remember “The Breakfast Club”. Saw it years, ago. Some kids, like me, bail out of home on their 18th birthday (or, even sooner.) Then there are kids like my brother. He stayed at home til is was 28! 🙂

    Well, your stone circle on your land. But what if it’s an archaeological site? But then you have to decide if you want strangers mucking about on your land. I’d guess Victoria State has an archaeologist, on staff. Maybe. They might be interested in taking a look see. Now I know it was New Zealand, but do you remember the stone ruins in “The Search for the Wilderpeople?”

    The dole. I used to hear that term, here, mostly among my folks generation. But, not in years. Here, it can really be a bind. Poor people have a hard time getting by on government “assistance.” But if they get a small bit of income, from a job, their assistance might go away. So, they’re in worse shape. Also, the health insurance and childcare help.. Housing allowance, might also vanish. It’s a Catch-22. There are people who would prefer to work, but by working, their marginal living standard would go down.

    Well, that’s interesting. We mention the dreaded ware and a half-hearted attempt shows up. The walls have ears? Lew

  29. Moby is a big rock indeed. From the photo it looks like the holes might be a little far apart. When I split stone I use wedges (not that I’ve ever split stone as thick as Moby looks) and I drill the holes in a line. You go down the line, tapping the wedges until you get a crack through the stone. Sometimes, once you start breaking a rock apart it gets easier with the first chunk out being the hardest. If the rock goes down deep it might be a challenge to get it to crack through. It looks like it’s still mostly buried with the weight of the earth pushing back against your expanding grout. I would look for a natural weakness or splitting a chunk out to get it started. Two lines of holes at approximately ninety degrees to each other. Imagine cutting a wedge out of a melon. I think you named it correctly, though, as this might turn out to be your white whale.

    Talk of vitamin C reminded me of a story about a college science class where the students were given oranges and had to perform a test for the level of C in them. None of the students could get a result. The teacher thought maybe the reagents were old/bad but after getting new and redoing the test, still no vitamin C. Modern farming on depleted soil, fruit picked unripe and shipped thousands of miles and then gassed to ripen in the shipping containers meant the food was lacking in nutritional quality. I don’t think most people get the nutrition they should even if they make an effort.

  30. Chris,

    I forgot to answer a question you had regarding students taking out loans for math and technical degrees. Right now the job outlook is decent for these people. That could change during the next economic downturn, but will probably rebound with the economy. Another factor to consider is that a lot of older engineers are nearing or at their “pull by” dates and are retiring in the next several years, probably creating more openings. I know we’ve been hiring a boatload of engineers fresh out of university.

    That said, it seems to me that too many people are being pushed in that direction. There will be an upper limit on how many technical jobs there will be. For many of these young people, this won’t end well. I’m also noticing that some of these kids have less skills than did those who had 2 year engineering technician degrees even 15 years ago, so that the curriculum, or at least graduation requirements, have been watered down. I’m also hearing that, hereabouts at least, the “engineer in training (EIT)” exam is difficult, but, after 2 years of experience as an EIT, the professional engineer exam is so easy as to be considered a joke.

    I agree. There are a lot of questions about Feral Colorado Rock and its unpictured mate. Dagnabbit, inquiring minds want to know!

    Feeding the wildlife, whether purposely done or not, is just one of those hazards when growing things, especially pretty bright red scrumptious things like strawberries. After 22 years in this house, I’m still waiting for the squirrels to share the philberts and walnuts with me from my trees, but I fear that my wait is in vain.

    The roughage in a diet is hugely important. As you said, the tablet folks miss out on that. I tend to think that there are also needed other nutrients in fruits and vegetables that our bodies need that science doesn’t understand. Additionally, most fruits and vegetables also add water to our systems, and my guess is that many tablet folks are probably chronically dehydrated – many of these seem to be part of the drink nothing but coffee and soda crowd.

    I noticed your comments with Lew regarding leg cramps and bananas. Personal experience says that bananas are very good for this, their potassium helping a lot. Potatoes also have potassium, so we have either a banana or some potatoes every day, bananas being slightly better in my experience. (I used to know high school volleyball coaches who made their teams eat a lot of bananas during volleyball season.) If the cramping continues, as it does at times for us, more calcium helps, too. We consume some milk and/or cheese daily, and I’ll eat a fair amount of broccoli also. Last, but not least, is the morning and evening light stretching routine. At least this all works for me.


  31. Chris,

    The El Paso – Las Cruces area? I really do like the high desert and the landscape. Water is an increasingly problematic issue. I like the Albuquerque area, or maybe 30 to 40 km south of Albuquerque, better. Water is a bigger problem there. Albuquerque is already constructing (or so I read 2 or 3 years ago) desalinizing facilities.

    Gallup, a few hours west of Albuquerque, I really like, but there are too many drug issues there. Affordable housing may be a problem there, also. My wife and I both liked Flagstaff, Arizona, but Flagstaff gets more snow than Spokane does, although it usually melts rapidly.

    If this sounds as if we were thinking about moving to that region when I retire, we were thinking about it. Water was the biggest problem, so we’ll probably stay right where we are. We both enjoyed the desert, though.


  32. Hi Lew,

    I just finished The Sea Wolf. London was a treasure – what a novel, and he wasn’t afraid to go to some dark places. Still don’t know how Disney adapted some of his stuff…don’t want the population getting too self-reflective I guess.

    Mrs Damo watched a lot of Misfits – I can’t remember much of it, but seemed fun at the time.

    I wrote a reply to your comment on the other blog, but didn’t see a followup from you (if indeed you made a followup yet?). Maybe the same spam monster that got you on this blog struck a cruel blow on my page as well? 🙂 I dunno, your life seems to be pretty happening at times – I consider it a win if I can get through a weekend without doing much of anything. This weekend, I have lost already, with family visits to Brisbane required. I guess it is good to catchup though.

    How is Singing Sword coming along? I will start it tonight I think, see what our Roman prepper friends are up to this time. Children, saxon invaders, roman withdrawl. Plenty of drama to go around 🙂


  33. Hi Chris,

    Yeah, the pre-amp is built-in to the turntable and may not be high quality. There is a switch on the back that lets you disable it if you already have a pre-amp. I have noticed those valve amps as well, and I covet them. Maybe there is a nice kit I can make? Would like to test first before I start buying things, after all, it might not be the pre-amp at all!! And then I would be stuck with a lovely valve amp that illuminates at night when playing records. That would be awful!!

    Nice work building your own amp, everyone loves a teenager with an overpowered stero 🙂 They make good kits with surprisingly few components. I did make a little valve-like LCD clock a few years back from a kit. Pretty neat – I have it going on the TV stand. Apparently the tubes were all built during soviet era and are no longer available. At some point, they will fade and no longer work. Oh well, looks pretty telling the time 🙂

    It sounds like I need to add Jazz to the record collection. One might say most Queen albums are worthy. For what its worth – I think the Highlander soundtrack is really good. I remember the opening scene with the fight in the car park – went really well with “we will rock you”. Maybe the editor just needs to listen to it again a few times!

    One of my work mates is now keen to get a turntable as well. I would say I am a trendsetter, but I think I am behind on the vinyl thing by about 5 years.


  34. @David

    What a fascinating story about the oranges with no vitamin C. Can’t say I am surprised though. Aren’t there studies showing an exponential drop-off in nutritional value as soon as you pick it?

  35. Hi Inge,

    Oh! It all depends upon where I dig, but mostly I come across granite, but from time to time I see mudstone. And sometimes the granite has other rocks within a much larger rock. History on display!

    Today the rain bucketed down and then disappeared as rapidly as it started.



  36. Hi Margaret,

    It is funny that you mention that perspective and there is certainly an aspect of status and a display of wealth if a person can claim that they do not know how to cook. I enjoy food a bit too much for that point of view to have much hold. It is funny though, a mates wife has a great sense of pride in not having much in the way of the domestic arts and for them it is a display of wealth. I’m not entirely sure where that comes from – probably distant nobility / mercantilists – that didn’t have to do such tasks. Dunno.

    But yeah, I’ve noticed that too in that such skills can skip a generation, only to be taken up again – right where they left off. There is probably something in that!

    Haha! Well that happens with the meat. I get that. I dunno, it is funny, but it is probably for me a bit like taking up the habit of watching TV in that some do, some dabble, and others just miss the appeal. 🙂 I’ve never experienced such a diet and I’m not sure that I’d do so well consuming such food all of the time.

    Moby Rock is doing my head in. I picked up some more rock drill bits today. The original drill bits were very low quality and either broke or melted. Not these ones. I hope the rain eases off and I can get outside tomorrow and put them to some good use.

    Is the rain making getting the transplants settled in easier than in other years? How did you end up dealing with the nettles? Nice one with the native plants. I’m sure as you cut things back they’ll happily return. I’ve always suspected that a lot of seeds that sit in the ground for many years are far hardier than we might guess. You might even start to see some orchids?

    Far out, you are having some serious weather this year.



  37. Hi Lewis,

    Not to worry. Your comment was eaten by the spam filter. It does that from time to time whenever it gets hungry, and I have no idea why. I keep a fascinating list of words in the spam filter (the list would make a grown person blush) and any comments that breach those rules, they immediately chuck the comment in the trash. I check the trash anytime that I see a comment in there. Your comment(s) on the other hand was in the trash, but it contained no words that would have caused it to be there. You’ll see that it was rescued! So not to worry in future. Did I mention the extensive list of pharmaceuticals that I had to include in the spam list of words? It became necessary… You would think that the people sending the spam comments would have checked to see whether I’d bought anything from them, but no. I eventually stopped their numerous ip addresses from accessing the website and now it has vanished for them. That is what I call the big pharma one strike and out policy. It works!

    A very handy skill to have with quicklime. You may be joking, but there is a town in South Australia that is struggling to come to terms with such a use of the compound. When I passed through that town late last century, the dark acts were going on in the old bank building: Life after death: Dark tourism and the future of Snowtown. It is such a strange and complex problem to profit from a dark history and the article discusses various points of view.

    Good to read that you are unlikely to be bored. I’m hooning through Skystone, but time is limited for reading pleasure. Anyway, the editors mum used to quip that only boring people get bored. 🙂

    The same thing is true of greengrocers and farmers markets down here. I feel that the farmers markets may reflect small producers attempting to make a profit off the land. Not easy an easy task – if nigh on impossible.

    Michael Pollan seems to have a good grasp on the realities of trying to get people to attempt a change. He sounds allright to me.

    That makes sense. And mate, I’ve tried to help people out for free as an act of charity and/or goodwill and I’m not sure that works so well, so yeah people tend to value things that they pay more for. Interestingly, I feel that that value can get taken too far. Need I mention excessive salaries? Often expectations are far higher of people who get paid only a fraction of those massive salaries.

    But did you enjoy the film? John Hughes did some classic films, he died a few years back (please correct me if I’m wrong in that belief?) I’d go out of my brains if I had stayed at home that long – I was a bit wild and being the youngest, my mum was done with kids by the time I reached adulthood.

    Ha! I’m not sure that I’d want such types hanging around poking their noses about the farm, although they are decent people and would enjoy a beer with them. But I’m unsure they’d offer anything in return. And the question is, is it better to restore the stone circle and plant and oak, or allow it to be turned into a thing that is studied and never allowed to change – other than deterioration? A complex dilemma. What would you do if confronted with the same situation?

    I don’t recall the stone ruins in The hunt for the Wilderpeople.

    It still gets called the dole down here, and I don’t believe the term is out of favour. It is not made easy to get onto government welfare here either, and to stay on it, you have to do something called ‘mututal obligations’ which involves going for job interviews, or showing proof of job hunting. There is a lot of meanness of spirit when it comes to welfare, and people don’t want to give up whatever benefits they’re getting, and some people get some whoppers – and think nothing of how that looks to other less fortunate folks. It is a system I don’t have any desire to join. And that sort of disincentive is part of that story.

    I read about Baltimore. Far out. Have the notables decided to treat with the barbarians at the gate?



  38. @ DJSpo:

    Well, shoot – I missed El Sombrero.

    I lived in Grand Junction one summer and worked in the Coors spark plug factory (my parents were there at the time). I just loved the place (Grand Junction, not the spark plug factory; it would be hard to love a spark plug factory). I went skiing in the winter there, too.


  39. Hi Chris,

    My mother was a staunch first wave feminist so I think that was more of an influence in her lack of regard for domestic pursuits than affluence.

    My brother, Marty, is “on the dole” . He gets some help with food, has subsidized housing and free public transportation. He receives under $800 in government benefits each month and his health care is essentially free but not dental or glasses. I had to set up a special account for him so he can receive his inheritance from Patrick’s and Michael’s estates but no more than $15,000 a year can be deposited annually. This covers “extras” like dental, vision,clothes, internet etc. When he dies anything left in the account will go back to the government. Without this special account he would lose most of his benefits if he had assets over $2000. He by law has to receive any inheritance that are due him. It gets quite complicated sometimes.


  40. @ Damo – Ah, well. My deathless prose, lost! :-(. Not to worry. It was just a couple of paragraphs. If it doesn’t show up by this afternoon/evening, I’ll give it another go.

    I’m about half way through “The Singing Sword.” I don’t know if you caught my advice to Chris, but you can skip chapter three and four. Or just give them a quick skim. A sordid interlude that doesn’t add all that much to the story. I don’t think. Lew

  41. @ Pam – Those Coors folks, sure do get around. One of the relatives ran a pottery / porcelain company. Mostly utilitarian stuff. From about WWI through WWII. I don’t think I have any of it, now. But, every once in awhile I flip over a piece of pottery and see the Coors mark. Usually says “Coorsite.” Tea pots or ashtrays. They did do a nice dinnerware line. Bright colors, similar to Fiesta. With a tiny embossed rosebud, on the side. Here’s a brief history of the company, and a bit of a slide show, at the bottom.


  42. Yo, Chris – Well, sad and a bit startling news, yesterday. Tony Horwitz, the author, died. Keeled over at 60 from a heart attack, while on author tour. I had picked up his “A Voyage Long and Strange” (about settlement and exploration of the Americas before the Pilgrims) and have his new book on my hold list, at the library. What I discovered reading his obituary is that his (probably) first book, back in the late 1980s, was “One for the Road: Hitchhiking Through the Australian Outback.” Our library doesn’t have it, but I put in an Interlibrary Loan Request on it, yesterday. I’m sure the outback has changed a lot, since then, but it still ought to be interesting.

    It took me a few minutes to figure out why you’d be bombarded with pharmaceutical ads, and it dawned on me that they are the type that appeal to gentlemen. Some gentlemen. They are so ubiquitous that I don’t even notice them, anymore.

    That was an interesting article about Snowtown and dark tourism. Set up tableaus, like Madam Tussard’s “Chamber of Horrors” in her wax museum. I understand the little town is dying, but the whole thing makes me a bit uncomfortable. There are still family of victims, about. Maybe after say, a hundred years. I suppose it’s a bit of the same impulse that makes true crime such a popular genre, of reading. I’ve knocked off a few of those, myself. And, I think part of the interest is due to a “there but for the grace of god …” etc.. But I think some of it caters to darker aspects of humanity.

    Well, I saw “Breakfast Club” half a century ago, but I seem to remember enjoying it. Also, “Pretty in Pink.” And, yes, a quick look at Wikipedia indicates John Hughes shuffled off this mortal coil, a couple of years ago.

    Hmmm. What would I do about the stone circle. Probably do a bit of poking around myself and then run some pictures past the State archaeologist. Hoping their response would be something like, “It’s the foundations for a prune dryer.” What is the approximate diameter of the circle and how tall are the stones?

    Snow in Ballarat? Well, that’s something. White snow on the black swans. 🙂

    For your hiatus reading pleasure … here’s an article on beer archaeology. Attempting to resurrect those old ales and meads.


  43. ALCO44

    Hi Chris
    Sorry that the Mighty Moby is resisting your efforts at destruction.
    My on the job application was on a rock that was an out cropping from the rock floor of the tunnel which was about the shape and size of a railroad tunnel. The rock surface was rough as blasted and cleared of debris. The floor was covered with -3/4” minus crushed rock leveled for walking, small tractors and other vehicles with scrubbed exhaust. The walls and ceiling were real rough. The offending rock was attached to the floor and blasting and extensive hammer drilling were out due to vibration interference with equipment already in service.
    The geologists that selected the use of expansive grout described its action as like “slow motion ,non explosive dynamite “ . They determined the material and its application.
    A hole pattern of 1 inch dia . By 12 in depth was used. Holes were on about 4 to 6 inch centers. The mixture was made with clean room temp water. And poured in all holes at once. The intent was that the force exerted would be applied Equally and pretty much uniform throughout the rock matrix.
    The site was covered with a tarp and left to work over the week end.
    When the tarp was removed the rock was cracked between the holes and required some use of electric impact hammering to clear out and hand removal.
    Wasn’t too exciting , unlike some of the other real blasting
    “Capers” that occurred on that project during my 2 1/2 years there.

  44. @ Pam,

    My maternal grandfather and his siblings grew up on a farm in Grand Junction in the early 1900s. The old farm long since disappeared under housing developments. We spent a night Grand Junction in 2012 after “touring” Helper, Utah. We were able to spend an afternoon driving through the Colorado National Monument when we got to Grand Junction. It was spectacular. We watched a mountain goat climb up one of those sheer red columns. I don’t know how they do that.

    We enjoyed the pull outs where we could walk around a bit. My wife had never really been in the southwest, at least outside of Albuquerque or the car, before then. She was amazed that nearly all of the plants had stiff, sharp “leaves”. Until you’ve been out in the SW desert, one doesn’t understand that nearly everything there can bite, including plants.

    Did you ever visit the recycled roadrunner just west of Las Cruces? It’s pretty cool.


  45. @Lew

    Your prose, like tears in the rain, lost forever!

    Hmm, I just did the first chapter in Singing Sword – nice little battle to get things started 🙂 I was shocked, and a little disappointed by the prologue – but can’t say more in case Chris is listening in. I might make a comment on the other blog. I am intrigued to read those chapters now, if they turn out bad I can still blame you for not trying harder to dissuade me 🙂


  46. Hello again
    The second sow has had 12 healthy piglets.
    Still dry here and reservoirs are starting to run dry on the mainland. No hosepipe ban yet though.
    I watched a squirrel going demented in one of my hanging baskets for tomatoes. Went out later to take a look. The squirrel was trying to yank out the stuff with which Son pads out the basket. Of course, it is good nesting material.


  47. Hi everyone,

    The mid week hiatus continues apace – normal programming should resume tomorrow night!

    Lewis – I have not read any of Tony Horwitz’s books, but I was saddened to learn of the passing of such a talented author and journalist. Both his wife and his family are all quite formidable and accomplished people in their own right. You never quite know when or where your time is up.

    The author picked an interesting period of time to write about, because there would have been all sorts of European settlers (temporary or otherwise) floating about the land before the pilgrims turned up. That is like down here too, there were whalers and sealers operating semi-permanent bases along the coastline. His wife was an Australian-American who was also a Pulitzer prize winner… Imagine dinners at that household.

    Haha! Yeah, those pharmaceuticals definitely make an appearance in the spam, but there are other ones too, usually relating to mental health issues. I wouldn’t purchase pharmaceuticals off the interweb, but some might and I’m not sure of the legality of it down here. Pharmaceuticals are proscribed from being advertised down under and thus the unrelenting spam bots. They operate outside the Australian jurisdiction so they get around that law that way, but spam mail fails due to the sheer volume of the stuff. And spam blacklists are not hard to set up, but sometimes they do squirrel away comments that are otherwise OK, like yours. Working out what happened is usually quite straightforward, but not this time.

    It will be interesting to read what the author has to say about Outback travel in the late 1980’s. We travelled around the Outback in the late 1990’s and it was really quiet, but nowadays I’m not sure that I’d want to experience it. Tourism has gone into over drive and it can be quite disconcerting for me to be confronted by the sheer volume of people, like the leaf change tourists. I’ve seen photos of Venice for just one shocking example.

    Speaking of shocking, I managed to break some significant plastic components on the drill today whilst drilling Moby Rock. Haven’t gotten around to mentioning to the editor the need to purchase a better quality drill if the job is ever to get done – not for any dubious reason other than she is elsewhere and best to discuss such things over a nice coffee and an Anzac biscuit – timing is everything in these matters. 🙂 Before it broke, I managed to drill about maybe two dozen 1 inch holes that go down 15 inches into the rock. We’re getting serious about taking on the might that is Moby. Incidentally, that is about a third to a quarter of all the drilling that needs to take place, so we’re getting better and faster at doing the drilling. The drill is not enjoying the job though and protested the fact by breaking some of the plastic components.

    And it has been a wet week, so the area has turned a bit slushy so I brought in a cubic metre of composted woody mulch to make it a more pleasant space to work in. The rock dust is getting mixed into the woody mulch, so that is probably no bad thing.

    It was 1’C / 34’F this morning and because I hadn’t gotten around to running the wood heater last night inside the house was 12’C / 54’F which wasn’t too bad. I call that a four blanket night!

    Snowtown looked a bit dodgy when we passed through in the late 1990’s and it is a complicated situation where I suspect that nobody will ever be happy with the outcome. I used to live in the inner urban suburb of Clifton Hill where a notorious shooter had gone on a rampage (I was there maybe 8 or 9 years after the events) , so I have a bit of sympathy for the residents of Snowtown because it was the first thing that anyone ever asked about whenever I mentioned the suburb. Hoddle Street massacre. The guy that did the deed has apparently been declared a legal nuisance after allegedly getting a formal education in the slammer.

    Pretty in Pink was funny and silly whereas the Breakfast Club was serious. They were good films. Interestingly, we watched Pretty in Pink a few years ago purely for nostalgic reasons and what surprised me was that class issues were openly discussed and what was considered reasonably well-to-do middle class, was actually quite basic. But then I recall those days and how they looked and felt.

    The Skystone is getting very interesting and the characters are now openly discussing the impending fall of Rome and the possibility of establishing a retreat to a Villa. If my history serves me well, and please enlighten me, that strategy did not end well? I find it interesting that the people that stuck it to the Roman’s headed to the hills and watched the fall from a respectable distance.

    It is a bit dark now, otherwise I’d head down into the forest with a tape measure. The stones are quite large, about as big as what I could move without machine assistance. I’ve wondered whether the stone circle was for the loggers who may have used it for fires, but it isn’t near a watercourse where they may have been likely to camp and I don’t believe there are any obvious ashes within the circle. It is a lot of effort to go to for just a temporary camp fire. And I can’t imagine the loggers set about cleaning up the site (coup) that they worked at.

    All this talk of black swans. I’m yet to lay my eyes on a white swan, so I reckon they are fictitious. 🙂 Hehe!

    Ancient beers. Cool. We once produced a very passable batch of millet beer. Millet was a staple and indigenous crop down here. Easy to make. Thanks for the link.



  48. Yo, Chris – As far as hiatus goes, we’ll just think of you as on an extended whaling voyage. Ah, the sea and it’s vagaries. 🙂

    I haven’t read too much by Horwitz’s wife, Geraldine Brooks, but I did quit like her “March.” In “Little Women” they’re always banging on about Papa being off to war. Well, in history, Bronson Alcott was a chaplain, during our Civil War. So, it’s a novel, told from his point of view. The only thing that threw me, a bit, is that about 2/3 of the way through, the point of view changes. Threw me, for a bit. But overall, a “good read.”

    What I liked about Horwitz’s books, is that they’re mostly travelogues, but he always spends time with, and talks to, the “just plane folk.”

    We have a lot of drug ads on TV, and in magazines. Well, I’m not exposed to the TV, but the magazine ads are kind of a hoot. Usually, a page of attractive people, frolicking in sunlit fields, and then three pages of dense, tiny print outlining “possible side effects.”

    Speaking of places being overrun with tourists, I saw an article yesterday, that the Louvre is closed. The employees went out on strike. And, as near as I can tell, it’s not about wages or benefits. It’s about the overwhelming crush of tourists.

    Yup. Looking back, previous times, even in my life were a lot more “pared down.” Not as much “stuff.” Not as much hanging onto things, due to previous investment. Which reminds me. What DOES one do with a defunct flip phone? Without doing any investigation, I suppose smash the sim card and toss the thing.

    For the most part, the single fortified Roman villa came to a bad end. But the Colony is a collection of villas. And, probably a one off. Not possible? You may remember the excavation report from Cadbury Castle, I ran across at a used book sale, about a year ago. Someone pulled off refortifying an old hill fort, at least once. After the Great Conspiracy, a lot of Roman towns refortified. Repaired and strengthened their walls. In one place, Cirencester, they fortified their amphitheatre. Which also happened in other parts of the Empire. Some of the towns staggered on, for one or two hundred years. But, even if they were successful in beating off invaders, they still had a plague to contend with. And, a period of bad weather and famine, due to either a comet, or a volcano.

    Well, I may be seeing a bit of action from my potatoes, beets, red onions and peas. I planted my tomatoes, red peppers and some carrots, last night. I’ll get the tomatillos in, tonight. Some people think I’m a bit “late”, but anything before the 4th of July is ok. We’ve got a good three or four months, of growing season, after that. Lew

  49. What have I started!?!

    I have been gone for a couple weeks, and am catching up, but see that it looks like Moby is being a Dick.

    I’m no expert, but I believe that expanding grout, the same as explosives, needs an open face to push the material toward that is not too far away. This is why mine explosions are timed so the charges closest to the face are lit first, and each sequential row deeper in has a short section to break loose. Same applies to expansive grout. If an open face is too far away, then the grout can’t exert enough pressure to overcome the strength of the rock. It’s hard to see what shape Moby is underground, but I suspect that if you drilled the row of holes on an angle, so the rock will sort of spall up and off, you might get somewhere, and then repeat a foot or so back from the fractured face. A lot of work, but drilling straight in to a rock that size may not work if there is no open face close by.

    Sorry if this does not work and I’ve led you down the garden path.

    Maybe a harpoon next?

  50. Hi David G,

    Yes, I absolutely agree with you. The original holes were drilled too far apart and too far from the rock face. And the original rotary hammer drill was rubbish.

    Now we do experiment with tools and techniques here until we discover what works. So with this in mind over the past few days:
    – Holes have been drilled closer together (about 2 – 3 inches apart);
    – Holes have been drilled deeper (about 15 inches deep);
    – Holes have been drilled closer to the rock face;
    – Better quality four cutting cross head drill bits were purchased; and
    – The original rotary hammer drill broke and has been replaced with a much higher quality unit.

    Other people may prevaricate and mess around. Not our style.

    And it may surprise you that over the next few days, we plan to try your suggestion of tapping along the line of drill holes, but with the electric jackhammer. As far as I can tell, there is no natural line of weakness along the rock, but once we begin removing some chunks, who knows? Most of the rock is underground.

    Thanks for the story, and it is hardly surprising because sooner or later, some mineral gets exhausted in the soil, and oh yeah, food is picked to pack, send and store. I reckon we may be getting to the upper limits of what is possible with an industrial food system. Hope you grow some food of your own?



  51. Hi DJ,

    The story for science, math and engineering is not so good down here. However, technology is the clear winner among those four options that I previously mentioned. There is a bit of a problem with older accountants leaving holes in the profession too, but at the same time, they’re taking advantage of the over-supply of graduates, so there may come a tipping point with that story. Interestingly, there are moves afoot to return to the older ways of doing accounting – and I’m already old school in that I am regularly working at or directly with businesses on their day to day problems, but the business model for that story is complicated and other public accountants see it as low status work.

    I want to know what happened to those two huge boulders too! 🙂 I sort of feel that bigger equipment than the tools that we can bring to bear upon Moby Rock would be required to deal with those two behemoths.

    Please keep your squirrels to yourself. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that a rabbit has taken up residence in the shady orchard. It is a tenuous existence for a fluffy white bunny because if the owls don’t get it, Ollie or a fox will. But still, the rabbit has escaped the attentions of all of those predators so far. So you have a walnut tree? Cool. Is it self-fertile and does it produce many walnuts for the squirrels? I have two seedling walnut trees ready to plant the next time I bring some manure back to the place. So far, blights have killed four walnut trees, but I’m still determined. Do you feed or water your walnut tree during the summer months?

    Ouch! And the soils reflect the quality of the food on offer – not that many people take the time to notice. But I also reckon the preserving techniques which arise due to the distance between the producer and consumer are such that any life on the plant matter gets terminated, and how else are we meant to regularly inoculate our guts with helpful flora and fauna that allows us to take advantage of all of the mineral goodies contained in the food?

    Calcium is harder to obtain in our diet from the environment than most people would consider – and fresh greens are the last thing that people want to consume these days. And yes, like you I too have a stretch routine every single day. It doesn’t take long.



  52. Hi Damo,

    It is possible that the turntable is the cause of the low frequency hum, but a better quality pre-amp might just do the trick, but you never know and it all depends upon whether you’re up for the test. But on the other hand, yeah the valves would be way cool at night (oh yeah, I hear you!) Just checked ebay and there are dozens of pre-amp kits for not many bucks at all.

    The amp that I’ve had for the past 30 years (and sometimes take the case off and clear the dust out with an air compressor) has a turntable pre-amp (and ground lug – hint, hint) and I’ve never heard a background hum when I did have a turntable and that thing can get very loud. Lots of nearby electronic things can cause the hum though – and did I mention that a lack of grounding for the cable is one such. If the case of the amplifier is metal – the case is probably grounded. Hey, does your turntable even have a ground wire? So many questions… But it might just be a cheap turntable. Dire Straits song Telegraph Road is worth listening to on a turntable because of the sheer dynamic range of the recording – plus it is good song with a good message.

    Hehe! What, were you there to hear the over powered stereo of my youth? 🙂 Hehe! Oh Damo, you may lust after a valve powered pre-amp, but this talk of ice tube (NIXIE?) clocks is the whole next level. What an elegant technology. Plus it just looks cool. One could spend time just watching the classy display.

    Far out, you are a thrill seeker mentioning that the Highlander (A kind of magic) soundtrack was really good within earshot of the editor. Fortunately, she isn’t around to read your thoughts on the subject – which by the way, I agree with it was a good film and soundtrack. And who doesn’t like a sword fight? So, just to obtain the full richness of the editors opinion with this most important matter. So, I mentioned your opinion to her and the response was: “Nup, perhaps not!” was the actual quote. Time as they say, heals all wounds, but at the same time some things cut too deep. I may have just contradicted myself or mixed metaphors or something like that.

    You maybe onto something with this revenge of the analogue vinyl thing. 🙂 It is not lost on me that the only way forwards, may in fact be backwards. Tame Impala sang about that. 🙂

    PS: I couldn’t afford a Hilti as you suggested, and instead settled on a Makita after the original cheapie rotary hammer drill broke.



  53. Hi Margaret,

    Yes, I can well understand your mother’s reluctance to embrace the domestic economy. My mother had a very similar belief, which frankly had similar outcomes, and it is something that I have long wondered about. But at the same time, I recall clearly that as a single mother back in the mid to late 1970’s, despite working full time and having the deposit, my mum had to get her father to guarantee the mortgage for the house that we lived in.

    It is a curious situation because from an early age, due to the unusual social circumstances that I grew up in – which at the time was rare due to economic pressures – I have seen that social status does not have the solidity that many people feel that it does.

    The thing that is weird about it all, and I’d be really curious to learn your thoughts in the matter, is that in the kitchen and out in the garden, we save a huge amount of money. The savings mean that we don’t have to work as hard in the financial economy. I sort of feel that the circumstances nowadays are such that people work too hard in the financial economy, to the detriment of the domestic economy. I just don’t know where the middle ground is to be found there so that everyone feels more or less OK about things, whilst understanding that it is impossible to please everyone. Dunno, but it is complicated.

    Marty’s story is also a complicated one, and I do not work with such matters, and they are outside my realm of knowledge. But on the other hand, I do hear people’s similar stories but usually in relation to their ageing parents and the requirements of nursing homes. All I can do is listen to such stories, but the motivations that shine beneath the stories and in between the words spoken are always interesting and telling. Marty’s special account on the other hand sounds like a really nice idea to me as it provides for him but also recognises that the ultimate concern of the account is to be of service to Marty. I have seen situations that are otherwise and they make me feel very uncomfortable due to the underlying motivations and the different outcomes that they create. Anyway, people will be people, I guess.

    More rain here today, and maybe more tomorrow. The water tanks for the house are rapidly filling up (though not the large reserve water tank yet). Today was misty, drizzly and just out right cold. Did you manage to get the seedlings planted out?



  54. Hi ALCO44,

    Well as the old saying used to go: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So over the next day or so we’ll get stuck into doing just that. It is only early days in our understanding of the techniques for dealing with large rocks – and who knows, we might just learn something.

    Thanks for sharing the story and that would have been something to see. And it might surprise you, but we are now drilling similar depth and diameter holes, but at closer centres. It will be interesting to see how it all works out. Hey, the original el-cheapo drill broke a few days ago and we were able to return it today and get a full refund due to it being complete rubbish (two weeks life span for a machine that was hardly used is an impressive feat in anyone’s language).

    I reckon you might have been onto something with the tarp protecting the expansive grout, and I suspect the damp week that we’ve had down here has played a part in the stuff not working properly. But I also suspect that we drilled the original holes incorrectly.



  55. Hi Inge,

    It has been a cold and wet week here, but not so in other parts of the country. There are a couple of good graphs and diagrams relating to water in the article: Australia just had its record warmest start to a year. Will winter turn it around? If a person was to place a linear regression through the graph in the article titled: “Australia’s accessible water volume”, well let’s just say that the implications are not good. The root zone moisture map is also fascinating, and it is interesting that I live in an average to above average zone and I feel that compared to previous years, this one has been quite dry.

    I checked out your UK Southern Water Authority rainfall and reservoir statistics and it looks as though rain has dropped away since April (and also May by your account), but the reservoir levels don’t seem terribly alarming to me. Southern Water – Regional Rainfall. It might be that you are experiencing a very localised drought for your island? Is the media reporting on the dry spell? The reservoir levels may be why you aren’t seeing the hosepipe bans in place. Has that ban been enacted in past years? I’ve seen that circumstance play out in Melbourne, and water usage was reduced to 155 litres (about 41 gallons) per day per person, which is still a massive amount of water.

    Hehe! Please keep your squirrels to your lands. 🙂 Oh my. Fascinating and highly intelligent creatures.



  56. Hi Steve C,

    Mate, the subject blew up from your suggestion – unlike Moby Rock which is still there happily intact and defying all attempts at being removed to the land of elsewhere (steel rock gabion cage). 🙂

    You are correct, and I have taken up all of your suggestions. In fact what we’ve done over the past few days is to:

    – Holes have been drilled closer together (about 2 – 3 inches apart);
    – Holes have been drilled deeper (about 15 inches deep);
    – Holes have been drilled closer to the rock face;
    – Better quality four cutting cross head drill bits were purchased; and
    – The original rotary hammer drill broke and has been replaced with a much higher quality unit.

    Simple enough. We’re going to continue drilling and also hit the rock with the electric jackhammer over the next few days, and hopefully we don’t require a harpoon!

    No apologies necessary, we knew that sooner or later we’d encounter a huge rock when making the terraces, and now is as good a time as ever to learn how to deal with such a beast. It would be nicer if there was more sun in the sky to power the electrical machines, but so be it. One cannot sometimes wait upon more sun to show itself.



  57. Hi Lewis,

    Ah, to see the sea! 🙂 Do you get sea sick? Never felt that myself, but in some very rough seas, I’ve sat next to the editor whilst she passed out. On the hand, she enjoys heights and I’m no fan of those.

    Your mention of the author got me interested in what exactly makes for a Pulitzer Prize (and nominee). Fascinating. Do you usually take the time to read the works of the winners? It is a good strategy, and I wonder if any bias creeps into the winning works over the years? It is fascinating that you mention the books “Little Women”, because as I read the synopsis of the plot I thought to myself that a clever author could re-write the story for today. As an amusing side story I was thinking to myself that the sub plot with the father marching off to the civil war, I thought that in the updated version, the family could have fallen on hard times because the father had been thrown in the slammer for twelve months due to financial peccadilloes and general misdeeds. Then I began wondering just how different are we today than those times? Probably not that much really, was the conclusion that I came too. I’ve been wondering about such matters of late as I heard a brief mention on a recent podcast from Mr Kunstler about how much stick he copped from certain sections of the population decrying his future vision and how it didn’t comport to their ideals. And so, I’ve been mulling the matter over in my head ever since.

    I mentioned to Margaret, that my mum had to obtain her father’s guarantee for a mortgage on a house, due to her at the time having a complicated social status. But then, nowadays the ability to re-pay the mortgage would be the first and foremost concern of the lender, but the social arrangements these days seem to me more isolating and so I’ve been left with the uncomfortable thought that people win on the one hand and lose on the other. And that perhaps the underlying economics and resources and energy dictate the circumstances as much as tradition and / or accepted norms. Dunno. It is complicated. What are your thoughts on the matter? I may write an essay on that matter.

    Out of curiosity, were chaplains on or near to the front line during the Civil War? Years ago, I read a disturbing mention that the European powers sent military observers to the Civil War to see what they could learn. Is my memory correct in that matter?

    The interesting stories are often found in unexpected places. I too tend to speak with most people, but actively avoid those who exude a threat of violence.

    Haha! I wonder if the marketing folks realise that nobody who needs pills are frolicking in sunlit fields, but I guess it is the promise of the future. I just wonder how many folks who live in the city even remember what nature looks like outside of a city park?

    Exactly, I wouldn’t go there for that very reason. I feel sorry for the staff who have to face such conditions. Was there any mention of limiting future numbers into the establishment? There was an article on the trials and tribulations of climbing Mount Everest this climbing season. There was a poignant photo of a long line of climbers waiting to ascend to the peak of the mountain, and apparently they were stepping over dead bodies which are left for the Sherpa’s to bring back down. One day, the mountain gods will not be pleased and make look for a large sacrifice which may be unfortunately at hand… At the very least, it is the same thing as the Louvre without perhaps the bodies and high altitude climbing gear. The editor and I went to Nepal last century and we didn’t go anywhere near Everest, and instead chose to walk in a relatively underpopulated part of the country and we went for weeks without seeing other tourists. It is not like the mountains were any less epic. I recall looking from on high down into a very deep gorge and seeing an aircraft flying way down below. Not the normal perspective you’d expect.

    Less seems to be the way to go. I assume you have to occasionally release some of your collection out into the wilds? I do recall that you’ve sold items at auction before. I have no idea what to do with a defunct flip phone as I’ve hung onto my old phone for years and I don’t believe that the battery has even required to be replaced – but eventually it will. Electronic waste is a fascinating topic and moves were afoot down here to legislate on dumping the stuff into the rubbish bins and also establishing collection points for the stuff. That project has gone quiet I guess because of the sheer enormity of the problem, but I don’t really know what happened and can only recount second hand discussions.

    Speaking of dodgy electronic items, I took the broken drill back to the retailer this morning and they gave me a full refund. Even they were impressed that the machine only lasted two weeks. I still want to do the Moby Rock breakup job, so stumped the readies for a higher quality drill. It happens.

    Refortifying the Roman towns seems like a good idea, and I assume that the locals formed a local militia. But yeah, I get that, some other stuff happened, and events overtook even their best efforts. The thing I wanted to know is who were the survivors of that time, and what did they do?

    No, I don’t feel that you are too late with the planting, but like everything it depends. One wet summer, I planted the summer crops as late as early December and they may have been a fortnight late, but they were otherwise unaffected. I suspect that not much happens during the early part of the growing season. Hey, the potatoes here are really starting to grow with the return of the rains.

    It just rained and rained some more here today. And the wind blew, so it was not a fun day to be outside. Although we ended up eating outside for lunch at a bakery despite the 46’F temperature (although it was well protected from the rain and wind). Inside the cafe, a small child was running amok and screaming at volume. That is a rare event. There were people inside looking at us sitting outside and I could see the thoughtful and hard done by looks on their faces! The unfolding situation cleared the business and they do have to make money.

    Believe it or not, the third, fourth, fifth and sixth books turned up in the mail. But alas, where is the second (and most expensive of the lot) books I ask you? I may not get to read chapters three and four, because I don’t have the book in my hands. Fortunately, I’m still reading through the book. It is a fascinating and plausible insight into the events.



  58. @ Inge:

    Squirrels are apparently naturally demented. We have about 20 of them on the property and they never let up; they might as well be a herd (?) of monkeys. But destructive though they are, they provide ceaseless entertainment. And we have Charlene, the Sacred White Squirrel and her blonde children. So I feel very privileged.

    But we will probably, once again, not get to eat any peaches this year.


  59. Chris:

    I have never seen anything like your antics with that rock. Thank you for being a sort of guinea pig before we try such an endeavor.


  60. @ DJSpo:

    How neat that your grandfather grew up near Grand Junction way back when. It would have been the real Wild West then. Tough stuff. I’ll bet they were glad when they finally got a car.

    If by the “red columns” you mean the Book Cliffs – my brother and I (in our late teens) once climbed them; straight up they are. I have no idea how we did it. Once at the top we realized that one does not go down the same way. It was entirely different on the mesa on top, though. There was even a small stream with small trees all around.

    I have never seen that roadrunner sculpture. It is fantastic. I had not idea till I looked at the second photo how big it was. Thanks!


  61. Hi Pam,

    I’m not sure I’ve seen such antics before either, and it may just help with the dreaded Peak Rocks (an awful fate to be sure)!

    You know, I’m uncomfortable being the guinea pig / trailblazer, but sometimes you just find yourself accidentally out front of the rock and roll band.

    We’ll work something out with the rock, and I do accept that failure is part of that possible story. Time will sort it all out.

    Speaking of rock and roll, I listened on the radio to a fascinating story about one popular band lead singer struggle where he grappled with increasingly volatile and unusual symptoms. Boy & Bear spent 4 years on hiatus. Thanks to a ‘poo roadie’, they’re back.

    Don’t say we don’t cover some interesting ground in this blog! I’m left wondering whether the industrial food system is such a good thing for some folks.



  62. @ Pam
    We only have red squirrels here and they are protected. Thanks to being an island, the grey squirrel has never got here so we are one of the few places in England that still has red squirrels. Although photos always show all red squirrels, they actually come in a variety of shades, some with glorious blond tails. At one time I recognised 16 of them individually due to their different colouring.



  63. @Inge and Pam

    We have lots of squirrels here unlike our last place. I am dreading the havoc they may reek on my garden plants. They are all grey squirrels though some have some red and apparently they can be black as well but we have none of them. They are very entertaining though. I hear we also have flying squirrels but they are nocturnal so we wouldn’t see them. We could put a live trap out at night or fill an empty feeder just before dark and see if any food was eaten.


  64. Hi Chris,
    When my father died my family went from very well off financially to poor pretty quickly. My parents raised and showed Arabian horses. She sold most of them and turned her place into a boarding stable. Marty was the barn cleaner. So yes, by necessity she had to start cooking from scratch and did have a garden at least for a few years. She took pride in her new found cooking skills too. I recall her car having a hole in the floor and the heat in the very large house was kept in the 50’s to save on the heating oil. All in all the family adjusted pretty well all things considered. My parents had a wonderful marriage though they had quite opposite personalities. She never really got over his death – his clothes hung in the closet for years. I had only recently moved out and all my seven siblings were still there. I have great admiration for her.

    The situation with government benefits is confusing and always changing. One well known lawyer who specialized with trusts for disabled people said to my sister and me that said that a law could change as you walked across the street. There are several kinds of special needs trusts and accounts which lawyers charge large amounts of money to set up. My sister and I did some research on this and found that the account we have for Marty is probably most appropriate and even better we were able to set it up ourselves.

    You must be happy about the rain. We’ve received almost 10 inches of rain in May about 6 inches more than normal. Very few crops have been put in yet and I believe the farmers have to make a decision within the next few days if they will plant or apply for crop insurance.


  65. Yo, Chris – No, I don’t seem to have a problem with sea sickness. At least, I’ve never been bothered, anytime I’ve been on a boat. I’m with you on heights. I hate those aerial panning shots that the cinema is so fond of, building shots and then a plunge into the concrete canyons. Usually, I have to look away from the screen.

    I really don’t pay much attention to the Pulitzer, or other awards. It’s just a little extra validation if I discover that a book I liked has won, or does win, a Pulitzer. Some of the Pulitzer winners, are rubbish (to me.)

    Eleanor just mentioned the other night how hard it was for a single woman to rent a place, “way back when.” “Nice” girls lived with Mum and Dad, until they got married. Or lived in tightly controlled all women’s apartment buildings, sorority, or women’s dorms. Oh, like most times, there were some very nice things about the 1950s, and some very awful things. There were more social controls. You wouldn’t find some child running amok in a public place, back then. Here at The Institution, I’m surprised that so many of The Ladies, traipse about in their sleepwear. I’d say the only mistake is to look back on any particular time as a “Golden Age.”

    Well, not having fought in our Civil War (I’m old, but not that old), I have no idea how close to the front lines the chaplains were. I do know that some people packed up the buggy with a picnic lunch, and went out to view the battle.

    Military observers were pretty common, throughout history. The study of military history. Think of all those adults that re-fight the Battle of Waterloo with lead soldiers. Our Romans often refer back to Alexander. What is “The Art of War?” :-).

    I haven’t heard what’s happening at the Louvre. There was supposed to be a meeting, between management and workers. Management keeps trumpeting ever increasing numbers, I suppose, as a justification for their existence. And, just to play a numbers game. Growth, no? While the number of employees has decreased. As to Everest. I don’t know where I saw it, but in the last few days, there was a comment (somewhen) that the commentator was having a hard time working up sympathy for a bunch of dead rich people. Such things will be heard more often as the divide widens between the haves and have nots.

    They’ll be a discussion as to why a Roman militia was a problematic idea. You’ll get to it. As to survivors, it appears that quit a few Romans from Britain, fled to Brittany. Hence, the name. The Roman way of life held up a lot longer, there. And even when the Franks came in, it appears to have been an “easier, softer” invasion. They jostled along, pretty well.

    As far as the common folk went, the original Britons, Romanized or not, they withdrew westward. To Wales, Cornwall and Ireland.

    Gardening is a learning curve (as you’ve often pointed out.) Two things I learned this year is that I was probably planting quit a bit of my seed, too deep. Amazing what you can discover when you read the seed packets. :-). Also to press down the dirt with the back of my trowel, so that the seeds make good contact with the soil. Some of my beets are making an appearance. Go beets! Lew

  66. Hi Margaret,

    Thank you for sharing your story. Yes, that makes sense and the social arrangements in those days were not good for a household when the breadwinner unexpectedly died. You’ve earned some serious knowledge there too, in that you can face difficult circumstances and know that you can make it out the other side more or less OK and adjust and thrive. Glad to read that your mum took pride in her newfound skills, and I have to admit that I take a measure of pride in what we’ve achieved here over the past decade or so. I do often wonder whether people fear change because the stories that they hold in their head doesn’t really allow for unexpected and dramatic change. Dunno, but that is complicated. The world has fallen out beneath me too when I was a young bloke and it is not the end of the world.

    Oh yeah, the hole in the floor of the car, I have noticed that whilst a lot of plastic is used on cars nowadays, the steel does seem to be better prepared so that it doesn’t rust (I used to own a Nissan 1600 – lots of rust). Yup, not good on a wet day and the carpet stank – until it dried out and the next rainfall. Probably not too much of a problem in deserts! Reading your comment, I sort of began wondering whether a little bit of challenge and hardship can bring families and communities closer together? What do you reckon about that?

    Yeah, it is confusing and people ask me about government benefits and I always refer them to people who deal with such matters. It is one great big mystery to me.

    I am happy about the rain and the place has begun to slowly green up, but I suspect that it won’t be until late August that the deep emerald colour will shine forth from the grass. I’m not mucking around when I’ve said in the past that too much rain is a far greater problem for large scale agriculture than a dry year where you have access to water reserves. And your level of rain would be a nightmare, but you might just find that if it heats up for you by about the middle of this month (June), and you’ll be in business. Things will grow fast, although you may have to attend to drainage issues – I use lots of composted woody mulch because as it breaks down it forms a really nice black sandy loam.

    Incidentally, the ladies on the blog were correct, and Moby Rock has defeated our best efforts. It is one hard rock and whilst we could deal with the rock given unlimited time, time is actually pressing and there are other projects to attend to. Three cheers for the sensible ladies contingent who warned me to leave the rock well alone! They were both unanimous and correct in their assertion. 🙂



  67. @ Margaret:

    Thanks so much for the story about your parents. What a sweet tale.

    Yesterday I bought some balloons and some tacks. Supposedly
    I am going to blow them up and stick them in places where I think squirrels are getting into the garden, especially around a couple of huge trees that touch right next to the garden fence. These are spots that have been hard to fortify, and I remembered sticking balloons to poster board and putting it on the dining room table to keep cats – and dogs – from jumping on it. They learned very quickly how scary it was to land on a balloon.


  68. Hi Lewis,

    Vertigo is not a nice feeling, and a very tall building in the big smoke has a viewing platform. For me it is a disturbing place to be, and whilst I can handle it, I just don’t like it. There is a town far to the north of here and they moved a mining poppet head to Mt Tarrengower which overlooks the township. The view is spectacular and covers a full 360 degrees, but having constructed a lot of buildings and structures in my time, I can feel the structure ever so slightly moving and swaying with the wind despite the apparent solidity of the ancient steel. It is a bit of a personal curse because I can also feel signals though my feet letting me know when floors are not mostly flat. On the other hand it is a useful skill to have when constructing a garden terrace on the side of a mountain! Benefits and costs and all that business…

    Fair enough, I thought that you may have sampled some of the Pulitzer fictional wares given how quickly you can read. It interests me that people have to pay an entry fee to have their works considered for the prize. Fascinating, and it is hard not to walk into a bookshop for me and not wonder about all of the lives of the authors that put the works onto the shelves.

    Now onto Skystone, I am curious that Britannicus mentioned the Bagaudae in Gaul and had plans to replicate their success but nearer to his villa on the west coast. And that the mysterious Alaric the cleric chose to ally himself with Britannicus from a young age and has maintained that relationship. And then the other item of note was that after Theodosius’s successful campaign against the invaders, the text mentioned that there was a spirit of resurgence and of renewed optimism in Roman Britain in the years following. I’d be curious as to you opinion of the matter, but my mind immediately latched onto the Reagan policies and years, but maybe that is just me? Whatever the case maybe, clearly more people are required in order to survive long term. I’m also rather curious about Varrus’s African bow. Yes, a bit more than curious.

    Eleanor is correct from my perspective too, and many an unpleasant scenario was papered over back in the day. Maybe a few years back, both you and I watched a film titled: “Brooklyn” about a young Irish immigrant to the US in the 1950’s, and it readily depicted her living arrangements, which were as you both described. It is interesting, but for me the 1950’s hold little appeal due to the social constraints. But at the same time, I’m cognizant that we’re on the other side of what looks like an upside down bell shaped curve where everything old will be new again due to resource, energy and pollution constrains. But then something in me also suggests that it may be same, same, but different. So yeah, maybe there are only days, and talk of halcyon days are an artifice? Dunno.

    Haha! Funny stuff! I really do quite enjoy your dry sense of humour. 🙂 I’m amazed that anyone survived such a dreaded Civil War picnic, but then perhaps people back then understood that we walk upon this earth on a thin tightrope?

    You’ve got a point there, and the characters in Skystone do look back upon the great deeds of Alexander the Great as a yard stick with which to measure their own achievements. It is not lost on me for one moment that this here mountain range was named after Alexander’s equally impressive father. But yeah, the Art of War is a collection of the author’s finer points which other lesser folk could take or leave at their choosing. The author is wise in the ways of strategy, and I have to admit that he provides his advice without a second concern as to whether it is acted upon or no. A clever bloke that Sun Tzu.

    It is expensive to climb to the highest point on the planet so you make a solid point. And I do rather feel that people want the experience of risk whilst attempting to brush-off the actual risks. To me that says something about the world we live in.

    Already the character Varrus is disparaging Roman troops that fail to fortify their encampments at an overnight stop. Not good for the troops feelings of superiority apparently – whatever that means. The stories are not lost on me.

    Brittany is a fascinating place.

    Far out, it must have been very bad for the common folk to remove themselves westward and southward. I’d be curious as to your thoughts, but reading in between the lines of the story, the Roman occupation was good for some folks, and not so much for others and that disparity may have yielded resentment?

    Yes, well, I have learned a thing or two about gardening over the past decade or so. And a good rule of thumb with seed planting depth is to plant the seed about as deep as the seed is. Now of course like all rules of thumb when confronted by the complicated natural world, much depends upon circumstances. I don’t really press down the soil after planting seeds, but I guess it also depends upon the season. Mostly I have noticed that seeds enjoy rainfall and the correct amount of solar energy.

    Well, we got stuck into work on Moby Rock today, and you may be happy to note that the granite is so hard that it has defeated my best efforts. Given enough time I could take it out with the tools that I can bring to bear upon it, but there seems little point in taking things to such an extreme. The ladies called it too. Late this afternoon, we cut two post holes for the corn enclosure fence into the very rock and then called it quits. I was done in and I now feel a bit crunchy. And we did a fair bit of forest cleaning in that area too as well today. Now that everything is so damp, we can conduct a burn without it running away from us. Hopefully tomorrow, we install the two remaining timber fence posts and the corn enclosure extension can be considered to be – done!



  69. @Pam
    That’s an interesting idea. The three places I’ve planted vegetables aren’t too close to the squirrels’ favorite trees so I’m cautiously optimistic.

    People either really liked or disliked my mother – there really wasn’t much middle ground. My dad in the other hand was munched loved by all. He was just so kind and patient. However when people really got to know my mother opinions sometimes changed. My mother -in -law really disliked her at first but after some time they became quite good friends


  70. Hi Chris,

    Well let’s hear it for .the ladies. Do you think you’ll revisit Moby Rock in the future?

    I forgot to answer, yes, all my plants are in. We had a rain free day yesterday but unfortunately it’s raining again now. Our mile long road is 80% farm fields and I noticed this morning that they managed to get it all planted and every thing is up. Elevation is higher here and there hasn’t been too much standing water in those fields


  71. Yo, Chris – Whoever made a connection between that mining equipment, and a dolls head, must have been deep in the bottle. Now I’m confused. Is it the floor that is flat, or your feet that are flat? (The curse of my childhood.) Can it be considered a super power? Maybe you could make a few pence, renting yourself out? 🙂

    I didn’t know there was a fee for entering the Pulitzer. Well, I suppose they have to pay for the prize, somehow. I wonder if the administrative end of the thing is a bit top heavy? I wonder what the percentage of income, goes to employee costs. Quit a few “charities” here, took a lot of criticism when it was revealed how much their front staff took for pay. Especially when compared to back office.

    Oh, the lives of authors has always interested me. Being a snoopy sort. :-). Stephen King and his brother were raised by a single mum. I think the lives of authors is interesting as I wonder where all that creativity springs from.

    I’ll have to read up a bit on the Bagaudae. I remember reading somewhen that not much was known about them, as the Romans didn’t like to record failures. It’s interesting that I read, somewhere that the invading Franks, and some parts of Gaul jostled along fairly well. The enemy of my enemy is my friend?

    The whole history of Christianity in Britain is a bit murky, but it’s there. Plenty in the archaeological record. Villa house churches, and such. Religious gear of one type or another. Burial customs changed. Even in the “dark” ages, church officials from western Britain and Ireland were always popping up. There was a Celtic Christian church and a Roman Christian church, and they duked it out from time to time. Some serious heresies came out of Britain. You’ll have that all laid out in book two. :-).

    Well, after the Great Conspiracy, a lot of money poured into Britain. The economy and trade had been disrupted. More soldiers (at least for awhile) came in and spent their money. A lot was poured in for rebuilding and re-fortification. Due to loss of life, a lot of people, both in the military and civilian side of things, had an opportunity to advance, quickly. Suppose your some fellow living in Rome, scraping along, and you discover your the sole heir to a villa farm, in Britain, due to distant family connections? You can sell it for a quick tidy bundle, at under market value. I think that happens in the books. Disaster capitalism.

    I don’t know about African bows, but later on, the English long bow made an appearance and revolutionized warfare, at that time. For awhile. As far as Alexander goes, you may, or may not have seen this …

    The professor in that Great Course I watched, banged on about it for, awhile. It was in a fairly wealthy house in Pompeii in a semi-private reception/audience room.

    We (I) tend to forget that the people of our Civil War were Victorians. With the Victorian take on, and fascination with, morbidity. And, as with many wars, advances were made in medicine. More soldiers died of disease, than on the battle field. Note was taken and changes began to be made.

    Some rich folks seem to think their money protects them from mortality. Imagine their surprise, when the grim reaper comes calling?

    Where ever the Romans went, native people who were early adaptors, did well. Of course, some of their fellows saw that as collaboration with the enemy, but play your cards right, and you could come out on top. For awhile. Fishbourne Palace, in Britain, may have been a reward (one way or another) for an early British chief who “went Roman.”

    That’s a rather elegant solution to Moby Rock. Which might have saved you a lot of blood, sweat and tears, if thought of, earlier. On the other hand, you learned a lot.

    I’ve been looking into snails, as house pets. Not so unusual. And, I wouldn’t have to pay the pet fee! 🙂

    I’m off to the auction. Leaving an absentee bid on a box of tat. We’ll see. Lew

  72. Hello again
    We quite often get hosepipe bans. The weather forecast keeps telling us that it is going to rain but oddly, it is passing the Island by.
    A badger is trying to dig a sett close by and failing miserably. Every now and then they try to move outward from their sandy patch and the clay always defeats them.


  73. @ Margaret
    We also went from wealthy to very poor when my father died. My mother had lived in a large house with a cook, maids, gardener and a nurse for my sister and I. After that my mother worked as a cleaner and kitchen assistant in exchange for our keep. We lived in and my mother, sister and I shared a small bedroom.
    Also, in this very class ridden country, we sank right down through the ranks. After the war when we had left this place and I had won a scholarship to the best school in the area, I used to make a point of being seen in my school uniform because I had heard someone wondering how come I could be at that school.


  74. Hi Inge,

    It happens. Some years I have waited anxiously for summer rain, only to see a band of rain swiftly moving across the valley in front of me. At times the rain is so tantalisingly close, but it’s not close enough! At least your rain may be replenishing your reservoirs. The most outrageous bill that I receive is the annual water bill. Do I get thanks for putting rainfall into the ground water table? Nope, but I sure do get a bill.

    Badgers are really attractive animals and I’ll bet that they are clever? 🙂 I wonder if anyone has ever kept a badger as a pet? Historically, the convicts used to keep the native marsupial cats as pets, but nowadays there would be public outrage if that was to happen.



  75. Hi Margaret,

    Yes, credit where credit is due, and the ladies called it. 🙂

    We may revisit Moby Rock at some point in the future, but I’m not sure whether the gains will be worth the effort involved. I’d be curious as to your thoughts on the matter once you’ve seen the photos of the work around for the corn enclosure on the next blog?

    Good for you, and there is something to be said about living in an area with good drainage. At some points in the valley below here, I have seen the occasional year (the summer of 2010-2011) when 10 inches of rain fell over 5 days and the soil was saturated, and water was sitting on the soil surface. I’ve noticed that some of that land has been recently turned over to a housing development and I do wonder how that will work out in the next really record breaking wet year. Dunno. Although they do seem to be installing some epic sized drain pipes.



  76. Hi Lewis,

    The name Poppet Head is rather unusual now that you mention it, and I have noticed that the alternative definition for the word has rather dark overtones: “a poppet is a doll made to represent a person, for casting spells on that person or to aid that person through magic. “ Apparently such things are often found in chimneys. I wonder whether the people who do such things are concerned about blow back? Probably not.

    Do you reckon the word is a quirk of the English language? I don’t see the connection myself, but that is what they call the giant mining towers. They used to be steam driven back in the day. And given the ore loads being lifted to the surface for the crushing plants, they’d need to be steam driven.

    You’ve got flat feet? I’m not even sure that I understand what that means, but I do note that at some point in the past it was a good reason to be excused from military service. Sounds like evolution in action?

    There is more to the story of charities in your neck of the woods, and sometimes they are used as vehicles to possibly employ children, and it may also make for favourable outcomes with death duties. Dunno, but I hear things from your part of the world.

    Nothing wrong with being Snoopy. Heck, I liked Peanuts, and the cartoons were great. I always recall that snoopy was intent on re-living the life of the Red Baron. It is interesting that the historical person in question created such a cult hero status, and that it appears that it was the Aussies and Canadians that took him out, but at the same time there was a respect for the worthy foe with the Allies and the Red Baron scored a funeral with honour. I’ve heard such stories told before.

    Bagaudae – how does: “grinding taxation and garnishing of their lands, harvests and manpower by the predatory agents of the late Roman state”, sound to you? It appears that they were initially successful, crushed by the Romans and then later reformed. I guess that means the problems with the Roman’s did not go away – and may in fact have gotten worse?

    I’m looking forward to reading it!

    Thanks for the link to the mosaic. It is not hard to work out who is whom, despite the damage to the mosaic of the ages. Alexander looks much younger than his Persian counterpart.

    The Victorians were a bit fascinated by gruesome details. Methinks they were making up for other stunted parts of their lives! Still I feel that as a society we may have taken some things too far and the consequences of such will be carried with society for quite a while to come. But then, things will change again.

    Yup, the menacing dude with the wickedly sharp scythe and the natty going out hoodie comes for all of us – regardless of wealth. I’ll bet Alexander the Great was surprised by the banal turn of events that led to his meeting with the menacing dude? I recall such likely outcomes as a method of maintaining the understanding that one has to live today, but with an eye for future possibilities.

    We’ve discussed Fishbourne Palace before, and it is impressive. Our forebears were rather clever at using the divide and conquer strategy, and thus the rewards for the early adopters. That even happened here in this country when the Europeans first arrived. I’d have to suggest that the rewards set the tone, and then at a much later date, reality kicked in. There is a brittleness in a dominating culture.

    My thoughts exactly! We’d given it our best go with Moby Rock, and have acknowledged the realities of the situation. Of course the results of the benefits returned on the energy invested equation make absolutely no sense at all, and so we finished the corn enclosure extension with a natty fix. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on the matter once you’ve seen the photographs.

    Not to mention that if they are the right snails, and you’ve fed them a reasonable diet, they’re edible.

    Did you win the absentee bid?

    Better get writing…



  77. Chris:

    I finally had a chance to read the Boy & Bear article. Incredible! And thanks so much. It was interesting on both the level of health problems, and also because of the relationship that developed between – was it Boy or Bear? – and the “donor”.


  78. Hi Pam,

    Glad you enjoyed the article! And I have a deep suspicion that what we are seeing here is the upper limits of the industrial food system (for some people). Yeah, the relationship was fascinating and it would make for a complicated existence (note that Harry went to Nashville).

    The band does a great cover of Crowded House’s song: Fall At Your Feet.

    Haha! Yes, I too have wondered if there is a double entendre in the name? But then a few years ago there was a whole lot of “animal” band names, like Wolfmother. Who would be the wolf in that band, and who would be the mother? Makes you wonder!



  79. Yo, Chris – Re: Poppet. Really depends on the usage of the word. And, maybe, the time period. I’ve seen it used to refer to a doll with no supernatural connotations. Just the word (or, another word) for “doll.” I’ve even seen it used as a term of affection for a cute young child. Then there’s the voodoo doll. I find a lot of dolls, pretty creepy.

    Flat feet usually refers to poor foot arches. When I was a kid, my feet hurt a lot. Of course, part of that might have been because I was such a little porker. Any-who, I had to do daily workouts (picking up marbles with my toes, etc.) and wear clunky orthopedic shoes (they were not cool.) And, I finally lost that weight. When I had my pre-induction physical, at 18, for the military, the feet were not a problem. As an adult, I haven’t really had much problem with them, even though I’ve had jobs where I had to be on my feet, a lot.

    I poked around a bit into the Bagaudae. My favorite take on them is that they were some kind of proto-Marxists. :-). There’s just not that much historical data, to go on. They seemed to be different, at different times and places. The Romans may have used Bagaudae as a catch-all term, like “barbarian.” Composition seemed to be tenant farmers, ruined farmers, runaway slaves, army deserters, etc.. Pretty much anyone who set themselves against “The State.” One author seemed to think they had a bit of a Robin Hood vibe, about them.

    I left two absentee bids, at the auction. I haven’t heard anything, yet. So, either I didn’t win either bid, or, they haven’t got around to making calls, yet. Oh, well, if I don’t win either item, look at the money I’ve saved! :-). Lew

  80. Chris
    A comment of hopeful encouragement.
    May you and the Editor stroll out to the Moby Rock site to find chunks of freshly freed Moby being kicked around by by the hooves of a couple of Rainbow ? farting Unicorns celebrating the success of The expanding grout episode.
    If not it may be time to consult with some controlled demo experts that know how to use blasting protection/ control barriers or maybe some of the expanding wedge hole breaking stuff. Or maybe stronger expanding grout.Good Luck ,Al

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