Failure is always an option

When writing a weekly blog, it is tempting to only write about the successes and the wins. But sometimes you don’t win, and despite your best efforts, success is out of reach. This week, I acknowledged that Moby (body) Rock is a worthy adversary that bested me. Moby (body) Rock is the huge chunk of granite that was unearthed recently when excavating the corn enclosure extension.

Our society often fixates upon success at all costs. It seems a bit of an unhealthy obsession to me. A few years ago, I used to occasionally travel past a football club in the big smoke. The club had hung a huge banner on the front of the club buildings. The banner proclaimed the club slogan, which was something along the lines of: “Whatever it takes”. When the football club was later embroiled in a “supplements saga” that was investigated by Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the World Anti-Doping Agency, I wasn’t particularly surprised. In my opinion, the slogan proclaimed that all options were on the table, failure being one of them as it turned out. It was an perhaps an unfortunate choice of words for the club.

As a child, adults used to tell me a similar shtick, and that was that: I could do anything that I wanted to do. Now of course, even as a child I realised that such talk defied reality. And it wasn’t lost on me that the adults pedalling such nonsense still had to go to work on a Monday morning, despite their beliefs.

Nowadays, I’ve noticed that people no longer tell children such tales. No doubt that is because we are much smarter now and more progressive, instead we tell children that they can be either Princesses or Super heroes! Maybe the costumes are cheaper than providing real opportunities.

Nope, limits are real, and there are some things that you can do, but there are far more things that you can’t do. And I put tackling Moby (body) Rock, firmly in the ‘cannot do’ category.

Moby (body) Rock is a massive chunk of incredibly hard granite. In the past dozen years that we’ve owned this property, there has been only one other time that a huge chunk of granite was encountered. And given how much soil we have relocated over the years in order to make this farm, we’ve been really lucky not to have encountered more granite. The earlier instance was the huge rock that sits behind the house and dog run. It is a huge rock, and a 20 tonne excavator could neither relocate nor budge it. So there the rock sits today in all its rocky glory. And I wasn’t allowed to have it blown up at the time (as I still remind the editor, frequently).

Moby (body) Rocky was a different situation, because all we wanted to do was remove a small fraction of the rock. Turns out even that small hope was far harder to do than to talk about.

Thanks to Steve from Colorado’s suggestion to demolish the huge chunk of granite using expansive grout, we began researching and trialling methods for demolishing the rock. We initially purchased cheap tools with which to tackle the job, and those tools promptly broke (not a bad effort for only a few uses!) We then upgraded to far better quality tools and discovered the expansive grout failed to set, but it quickly became obvious that the effort involved was not worth the outcome.

Many 22mm / (9/10ths of an inch) holes were drilled deep into Moby (body) Rock to a depth of about 400mm / (15 inches)

So, on Saturday lunchtime after many hours of drilling and also chipping away at Moby (body) Rock with an electric jackhammer, we called it quits, and decided to do something more beneficial with our time.

There are easier projects to do here that will bring more substantive benefits given our limited time, resources and energy. The situation is a good metaphor for: “Energy Returned on the Energy Invested”, which is a concept that has great implications not only for the corn enclosure where Moby (body) Rock proudly sits, but also for the renewable energy systems that powers our farm during this Wintery time of year.

Despite having been bested by Moby (body) Rock, we still had to install two timber fence posts. With that goal in mind we cut a large chunk out of the rock so that a timber fence post could sit in the removed section of the rock.

A section of Moby (body) Rock was cut out of the granite so that a timber fence post could be located at that spot

And the corner timber post required an even bigger amount of granite to be removed from Moby (body) Rock. It was a big job.

A huge section of Moby (body) Rock was cut away so that the timber post could be located correctly

The next day, we cemented the two timber posts into the cut sections of the rock. The heavy duty chicken wire and steel rails were also added onto the corn enclosure fence. I reckon it looks quite good.

Two timber posts were cemented into Moby Rock and the other fencing items were also added

The kiwi berry vine was planted (making four vines in that enclosure) and we can now declare the corn enclosure project complete!

The corn enclosure extension project is now complete

Almost doubling the size of the corn enclosure over the past couple of months will allow us to plant out about 130 to 140 corn plants next season. That many plants should yield about 260 to 280 corn cobs. And looking down on the corn enclosure from above, you’d never realise how new it all is:

The corn enclosure sits on the same terrace as the strawberry enclosure but above the overflow shed

It has been a stormy old week. The sun has occasional shone forth from the thick clouds, but more often than not, thick clouds have been the order of the day:

Rain rolls in from the direction of the Southern Ocean

I previously mentioned the renewable energy systems that provide electricity from the sun, and on days like the one above (of which there have been many this week), the system barely makes 10% of its rated output:

The system makes less than 10% of its rated output at midday on some cloudy winter days

I’m always surprised when serious people suggest that we can run an industrial civilisation entirely on renewable energy sources. Such claims defy reality, but then I guess people tell kids nowadays that they can become princesses and super heroes (perhaps they might want to try ‘solar power man’), so I shouldn’t expect better. Anyway, for three weeks either side of the winter solstice, there are days when the system here generates far less energy than even our modest requirements.

Ollie the Australian cuddle dog started it! The obstreperous youthful canine chewed a few small holes in Scritchy’s bean bag.

Scritchy is not amused!

There were so many beans everywhere, that Ollie may have started it, but we had to finish it. The holes in the bean bag were patched with duct tape and the beans were vacuumed up.

Bean bag beans were sucked up in the vacuum

Last week we had a batch of milk which when heated tasted a bit odd. We pay well over $3 per litre ($11+ per gallon) for organic unhomogenised milk. Never mind, the dogs and chickens enjoyed the odd tasting milk. However, there was another unopened carton of the same brand and batch of milk, so I thought to myself that I’d use it for making yoghurt.

Digital yoghurt maker removes the guess work out of all sorts of kitchen fermentation activities

Turns out that was a really bad idea and I inadvertently made a monumental blunder. When I tasted the batch of yoghurt, Acetobacterium had contaminated the batch. Acetobacterium produces the distinctive smell and taste of Acetone which most people would encounter as a strong solvent used as nail polish remover, among other industrial uses / drug manufacturing by-product. The batch was completely ruined and not even the dogs or chickens could be fed this stuff, although the worms are far less fussy creatures and they disposed of it. However, I had failed to retain some of my earlier yoghurt as a backup starter culture, and so over several hours I lost two to three years work at producing a reliable and tasty starter culture. Back to the drawing board.

We may only be three weeks out from the winter solstice, but there is plenty of fresh fruit to eat from the diverse range of fruit trees in the orchard. At this time of year, citrus trees are real givers, like this mandarin:

An imperial mandarin produces plenty of tasty ripe fruit despite approaching the winter solstice

I eat a variety of citrus fruit sourced from the orchard:

Meyer lemons, Pomello (grapefruit), and Lemonade

The only beans that grow at this time of year are the broadbeans, and they’re doing quite well:

Broadbeans are growing quite well

We still have a lot of chilli’s. Pity we can’t eat them. Pretty though:

We planted way too many chilli’s

Some birds are only temporary visitors to the farm, but most are permanent residents. Earlier on Sunday I spotted a honeyeater enjoying nectar from the flowers of a recently planted Irish Strawberry tree:

A resident honeyeater enjoys nectar from the flowers of this recently planted Irish Strawberry tree

Onto the flowers:

Vietnamese mint ordinarily would not be expected to grow in a cold climate like this, but it has grown for many years here
These flowers are of the daisy family and the plant happily grows in the orchard
Honeyeaters also enjoy the plentiful supply of geranium flowers that grow year around
Nasturtium basks in a brief period of afternoon sunshine

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 5’C (41’F). So far this year there has been 205.4mm (8.1 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 178.6mm (7.0 inches).

67 thoughts on “Failure is always an option”

  1. Alco44
    Hi Chris
    So sorry about the out come. I thought sure it would succeed.
    I guess the winter cold probably had a effect on curing as the grout has a Portland cement component to it. Heating a mass that size isn’t an option. If you have any of the grout mix left you might try a couple of holes In the spring just to see. Please toss my earlier post today

  2. Chris,

    Eating greens? People won’t eat fresh greens. Or much of anything fresh. Although, my container gardens are full of greens that are thriving. Some kale is ready for harvest. Once the greens start, they can be prolific, especially in the enhanced soil in the containers. What we can’t eat, I dehydrate. The dried greens get added to most anything we cook in the crock pot.

    Glad that you rather quickly discovered who was the winner between you and Moby Rock. The drill patterns and other markings on part of the rock might puzzle whoever rediscovers the rock in a few hundred years, right? What strange religious practice were they memorializing back in the 21st century?

    Those lemons look good. So do the chilis. Too bad you can’t eat the chilis.

    The walnut trees in my yard…I’ve never done a thing to them other than prune them somewhen. Nor do I water them at all. They appear to be self pollinating, producing a large crop each year for the squirrels. The philberts/ hazel nuts are even more prolific with the same level of lack of care from me. I know I talk to the trees a lot, including the nut trees, and I’m sure the squirrels urge the nut trees on also.

    The carving club had its outdoor “Rendezvous” on Friday and Saturday. There are raffles throughout the event, as well as a potluck dinner on Friday and a barbecue on Saturday. Oh, and classes, classes, classes. I taught a class on Friday morning and another on Saturday afternoon. It was a lot of fun.

    But it was HOT, over 30C both days. Normal is between 20 and 25C. It also got humid for Spokane, with a layer of smoke from Canada to add to the enjoyment. Yes, I overheated Saturday morning, but kept drinking liquids and Gatorade while rubbing bags of ice over my arms and neck. I took all the proper precautions beforehand, spend enough time outdoors to be acclimated (sort of), and started off each morning extremely well hydrated. Just goes to show you, when the elements decide to make you slow down, they will win.

    Anyhow, a long shower in cool water, a good night’s sleep, and a day staying slow in the cool house has me back to normal. My wife will likely say I’ve NEVER been normal.

    Ya know, they’re planning a large solar “farm” in Lind, Washington, about an hour west of here. The Governor of Washington said the location is perfect because the sun shines every day in Lind. He obviously never travels there.


  3. @ Pam,

    Book Cliffs? That must be the ones. I’ve heard that the tops of many mesas have springs and sometimes trees.

    My maternal grandmother’s Quaker family moved from Tonganoxie, Kansas, to Greely, Colorado, in 1902. Grandma was born in a covered wagon on that trip. So, you nailed it: that generation still experienced the wild west. And yes, they certainly appreciated cars, at least in my lifetime.


  4. Being able to go with the flow of the ups and downs in life is a wonderful Stoical advantage! Love your work around with the corn enclosure. When you can’t beat it, work with it. Brilliant!

  5. Hi Chris,

    Yeah, the ice tube clock uses NIXIE tubes. Pretty cool no? An elegant tool from a more civilised age 🙂 No more updates on turntable hum as I have being away for the long weekend visiting family in Brisbane (the Queen of New Zealand has a different birthday to the Queen of Australia so today was a holiday for me).

    Family visits were exhausting, but I am told, necessary. Both of my parents (now separated) purchased their own separate homes in the past 12 months and I saw both for the first time. Mum’s place is exactly the sort of setup I would love – except for the climate. 2.5 acres with a couple of sheds, carport, mains + bore water and surrounded by other rural properties (well, people with horses anyway). So I think she is happy, although there are no plans to do anything with the acres beyond rent it out to neighbours with a horse.

    Dad I am not so sure about. He has done a lot of work on an older 3 bedroom ex-commission house (it is now 2 bedrooms). Even doing most of the work himself, he has now spent more in total than what nice houses in that suburb sell for, and bathroom,kitchen and shed is still not done. We all think he bought the place on an impulse with no real thoughts to his future wants, although he does get enjoyment out of building things so it might be just right for him /shrug.

    I get mixed feelings from extended family visits – I eventually find them tiring and then feel guilty about it. I want them to be happy and this makes some of their decisions all the more frustrating. No doubt they are frustrated at times with my decisions as well. Mrs Damo struggles with her family just as much, it is a factor in where we choose to live 🙂

    I am sorry to hear about your failure with Moby Body Rock. It seems that it didn’t…Play…. out as you hoped. Still at least you went out fighting the good fight. We won’t go quietly into the night and all that.

    I have being inspired to write a new story when I stumbled upon this beauty:


  6. @Chris and Lew

    RE: Bagaudae
    Freedom fighters against the roman state – what isn’t to love? And almost no contemporary writings, so we can make them whatever we want – proto-marxists – heh, why not 🙂 Although my personal preference is for some sort of robin hood type scenario.

    I finished the infamous chapters 3/4 from Singing Sword. I think they serve a narrative purpose but with far too much sordid detail. I think they should be at least skimmed through as they serve as a catalyst for important developments in the next few chapters.

    Unrelated – the excellent HBO series Deadwood has finally got a conclusion 13 years later with a movie that came out on the weekend. Great stuff and I may have got a bit teary in parts. Has George Hearst as the villain.


  7. Hi Lewis,

    It is good to see that Cliff Mass is talking some sense about forest management practices. As a culture we have the entire problem upside down, but it reflects the view of nature as being a fixed something that is somehow separate from us humans. It doesn’t work so well because we’re part of nature, and nature is highly changeable. To be honest the whole thing looks like a turf war to me and there are a lot of interests poking their noses into such business and add in a dash of ideology and we’re off and racing to disaster. And we get the same sad results time and time again. I see the Alberta fires are now apparently half a million acres in size… Needless, but few want to do the work that needs doing. At least the smoke is blowing away from you so far this year.

    Dolls are a bit creepy if only because I see them as caricatures or facsimiles of humans. I guess that is why voodoo folks have an interest in them? There is a road between our nations capital (Canberra) and a town to the east by the name of Braidwood, and someone has nailed stuffed toys to trees at regular intervals. I’d be fairly certain that there is a story there. Stephen King could probably churn out an awesome short story on the macabre toys. And on the side of the local freeway between here and the big smoke, at one spot to the south of here where there are a lot of trees, someone has nailed a dolls head to one of the trees – and the dead eyes are peering at the traffic and people racing about on their business. What do you believe the dolls head would be thinking (if it could)? We’ve strayed into ghost and creepy story time again!

    Well this is a new side to you. I don’t believe that you’ve mentioned that part of your life before. I hope that things were OK for you? Leaving the military life and being unceremoniously dumped into civilian life can be a traumatic experience from what I have heard. The military supplies a person with purpose and mates and community, and then it all vanishes upon leaving and people are left to fend for themselves – and occasionally they can encounter public censure. The youth news radio program that I often listen too has covered this story many times across the years, and I’m honestly not sure how I would respond when faced with that circumstance.

    One and a half inches of rain fell here today. The house water tanks are now full! And a small amount of water dribbled into the large reserve water tank (which has only a small amount of water in it because we drained it over the summer months). Pity about the electricity though because the solar panels only brought in 1.8kWh for the day. We are now officially on electricity rations… Still, in historical terms 1.8kWh is a huge amount of energy to collect in a day.

    Yeah, I had that sort of feeling about the political organisation of the Bagaudae too. There was a Monty Python skit about anarchist collectives. Anarchists are humourless folk from my experience. Clearly the Bagaudae stuck to unproductive ground, and then held their ground against the Romans. And occasionally they got crushed, only to reform. It reminds me of the Russians act of heading east whenever the likelihood of invasions from Napoleon or the Germans appeared imminent and on the horizon. And no doubt they burned everything behind them in their wake. The author Jack Whyte, imbued his characters with a certain sense of grudging respect for the Bagaudae efforts at facing off the Roman’s.

    I got the Snoopy reference wrong too, Snoopy always flew a Sopwith Camel for the Allies in battle against the Red Baron. My brain is perhaps not the sharp tool that it once was! Alas for our misbegotten youth. Have you found yours? It may be in a hiding place that you had not previously searched?

    Good luck with the auctions, and may you score a decent haul of under priced, yet highly valued, tat! 🙂

    I have to work tonight… No rest for the wicked, or the competent…



  8. Hi ALCO44,

    No worries at all. I felt sure that it would work too. The expansive grout just did not set at all. I’m not sure what part of the world you hail from, but winters here are a humid experience, and about half the year here it is well over 90% humidity. I’ve become accustomed to the climate, the grout – not so much! I may use the remaining grout on other smaller better exposed rocks about the place.



  9. Hi DJ,

    I don’t tend to worry about people not eating enough greens if only because time will settle that matter. I chucked a link to a reply late last week to Pam about a news article that I heard on the radio about a local rock band, and I’m guessing that there are upper limits to what can be done in the industrial food system. I’m tempted to write a blog one day titled: Decline of Western Civilisation: The industrial food years…

    Oh yeah, those drill holes were both wide and deep. It took a huge amount of effort, but overall when you look at the photos of the corn enclosure, the rock does not take up too much space at all. Not worth the effort.

    I would eat a lemon any day over one of those stonking hot chillis!!! Hehe! Usually I feed the lemons (cut into small bit sized chunks) to the chickens with their greens. They seem to like them, and the trees produce enough that I can normally add at least three lemons every day of the week. Citrus are amazing trees and the lemonades and pomello taste much better.

    No doubts that it is the act of talking to the trees nicely that keeps them producing well? Thanks for the information on the walnuts and hazelnuts. I’ve suspected that they enjoy very well drained and fertile soils.

    Good to hear that you had fun taking the class. What did you end up discussing and practicing?

    Yeah, your winter surely would increase the humidity of the summer months. I hear you about that. Ordinarily hot days that turn humid can feel much hotter than they would otherwise be. Won’t mention that it is 4’C outside right now… Brr!

    Your wife may well be right in her assertion. I’ve heard such talk too! How boring would life be if we were all normal? There is a line from a song, a very dark song, that sings: “nowhere seems as normal as this here town”. And you know it ain’t normal there!

    Well, the technology will be rolled out in scale, although it doesn’t scale well. The solar panels are so nicely sized and regular in shape that at some point in the future, they’ll make a really nice roof over a chicken enclosure. Almost 40mm of rain here today and the 6kW of panels amazingly generated 1.8kWh. It is an impressive outcome in historical terms but hardly enough to run an industrial civilisation.



  10. Hi Jo,

    Many thanks! I’m naturally wired towards the stoic philosophy, but at the same time I’ve had a lot of practical experience of the benefits of the philosophy. It’s all good with me.

    Oh, thank you, the work around looks pretty neat, and the rock hardly takes up much space in the corn enclosure anyway. 🙂

    Incidentally, I am very, very impressed with your networking skills. Top work!



  11. Hi Damo,

    Well in a strange circumstance, I was indirectly made aware of the New Zealand public holiday today. I applaud anyone who can work out how to score two or more birthdays – and organise a public holiday for each.

    I’m really impressed with the ice tube NIXIE clock. It is beyond cool, and you can obtain a portion of its mojo just through the sheer act of owning such a cool device.

    Hope that Mrs Damo is enjoying your company and support up in Brisbane?

    Really? Necessary? Hmm, well, you may not have encountered my family… Hehe! Mate, that happens down here too with rural land. 2.5 acres is a really useful size, and I hate to be the one to inform you, but that sized land will probably feed about one horse in all conditions. People love to over stock, but we can bring in food pretty easily these days, and even my place has a ghost acreage of about 0.5 acres for the chickens grain. You may note that I am experimenting with grains such as corn?

    Shrug maybe the correct answer. You know I have no idea why people want land and don’t want to work it. To me it is an unknown perspective and it just makes no sense to me. The rural areas are full of people doing virtually nothing with their land, but at the same time it is cleared and fenced, and the whole story just sounds like one big money sink.

    Everyone is different in that regard, and I feel much as you do in that matter. It wears me out too, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe, they were hard work, and so I just did something else with my life. There is no right way to go through life, despite what people may feel free to educate you upon the matter! The thing is you have to live your life so that you don’t bring other peoples lives into question – because if you do, well, they can be affronted because it casts doubt in their minds as to their own decisions, and the I dunno, push you get to return the fold is really a story all about them.

    You called that ship in your short story. 🙂 What could possibly go wrong? It makes no economic sense…



  12. Hi, Chris!

    I missed it that Moby was granite. Perhaps you should have consulted Sun Tsu.

    I was told the same schtick as a child. I was in my 30s before I realized it was a lie.

    The new enclosure looks very nice, in spite of the whale. I believe that is called a “conversation piece”. And that’s a handsome pony – I mean cuddle dog – in there.

    Scritchy, I should think that you were not amused! Your throne has been vandalized; off with his head! But wait! It is winter, you made need something warm to cuddle with. Better forgive him, just this once.

    I am so sorry about your yoghurt fiasco; that’s almost heartbreaking.

    Your nasturtiums are always beautiful. I have some now, too, but they are not blooming yet.

    Last week I forgot to answer you about my son’s chainsaw mill. He does have a very basic one that he made, but work on the refined one has been put on the back burner as he has been so busy, and then last week a friend of his, Robert, was hit by a train and killed while working on some wiring next to the railroad tracks. I have no idea how that is possible (he was not under the influence of anything), but my son is helping out Joe, another friend who employed Robert (and witnessed the tragedy), until Joe finds someone to replace Robert at the Livestock Auction where we get our compost. It makes one realize how tenuous life is.


  13. Hi Pam,

    You and your son have my sympathies and the circumstances sound tragic.

    Unfortunately, I had to work tonight (it is almost 11pm here) and will speak tomorrow.

    With sympathy


  14. Hi Chris,
    I think the corn enclosure looks quite nice – has a bit of character. Really sorry about the yogurt.

    We seem to be gradually breaking the rain cycle with less and less chances of rain forecast and only small amounts. It has turned cooler again though and looks to more more cloudy than not which isn’t helpful.

    This is a busy week here as we are having a large open house on Saturday as many people haven’t seen the new place. Right now it’s supposed to be mid 70’s, cloudy with a chance of showers. As it’s an outside event rain won’t be too welcome. We had to tell people that we were not having people stay overnight as we would have in the older, much larger house. We did offer that they can camp if they’d like and we’ve got about 9 doing that. Doug’s friend from Missouri is also arriving on Thursday (he’ll be staying in the guest room) for almost a week. He makes this visit once a year and has always been an easy guest. Getting Marty and his girlfriend, Gwen, here is a bit of an issue and I’ve given my other sisters the task of making that happen. He’s stressing out about it. Anyway with all this going on I’ll probably get behind with all the fine comments here.


  15. @Inge
    Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you all adjusted to the change in status as my family did. My parents both came from modest means but as my father’s career as a pathologist progressed they became quite well off though we didn’t have household help (well I took on a lot of that). Even though they could afford to do so we were never just handed things like a car or lots of clothes. I was quite into horses and they could have just given me one of theirs but no, I had to earn money to purchase him, though at a greatly reduced price of $200. I earned that by mowing the large lawn with a push mower at $4 a week and pulling weeds for 1 cent for six weeds and they had to include the root. Yes, my mother checked and counted each one.


  16. Yo, Chris – As far as aspiring Super heroes go, I’m holding out for Rock Star. Never mind that I can’t play a musical instrument, or, carry a tune, anymore. Although these days, that doesn’t seem important :-).

    Well, you gave Moby Rock your best shot. Above and beyond, in fact. Maybe it will be hit by lightening? The corn enclosure looks quit good, with the rock. An interesting feature. Breaks up the regularity of the terraces, marching down the hill.

    Oh, dear. The bean bag chair was full of those devilish LITTLE styro beads. You’ll be finding them in odd places, for years. We had the same thing happen in one of the library branches I worked in. In our case, it was teenagers gnawing on the vinyl.

    There are small kitchen disasters and large kitchen disasters. Loosing a three year old yoghurt culture falls into the major column.

    I still envy you your citrus. The only citrus we have is lemon balm :-). But I still may try the Meyer lemon, next year. You know, you can dry the chili and use it as a bit of decor. Do a bit of stringing and gift them. I’d bet your friends in the Shed would quit like them.

    Hmmm. That yellow daisy looks a bit like tansy ragwort.

    Sounds like DJSpo is getting smoke from the Alberta fires. I wonder how my friends in Idaho are faring? They haven’t mentioned the smoke.

    To be really effective, voodoo dolls should have a bit of the intended target, incorporated into the doll. Like hair or nail clippings. Somewhen, people were very careful about disposing of such things.

    Re: The Bagaudae. What he (Damo) said. 🙂

    You think you’ve got problems with brain slip-ups, now, wait until you’re my age! Or, Eleanor’s. You should hear the two of us when we sit out in the evenings. Just one fumbling after a name or memory, after another. But, eventually, we come up with whatever it was we were trying to recall. We think it’s funny.

    Oh, I never served. The way it worked back then, was, I was in a lottery (by birth date), and even though I got a high number, I still had to take the physical. I passed, and was liable for military service for a year. That was a nervous year. After that, home free. I remember one fellow was rejected for a horrible case of acne, on his back. The doctor asked him what he had been treating it with. “Peanut butter” was the answer :-). Oh, we got creative, in those days.

    “No rest for the wicked or competent.” That’s a keeper.

    I won both auctions, and will pick up my tat, this afternoon.

    Having full water tanks is a good excuse for a party.

    I’ve been giving thought to “Anna and the Apocalypse.” Wait for the DVD and fast forward through the musical numbers (which I often do, given the sad state of modern musicals.) Or put your fingers in your ears until the Editor gives you the “all clear.” 🙂

    I worked a couple of hours in the garden, last night. Planted the pumpkin, and corn. I also had a slight problem, last year, with tomato blossom end rot. I ran across a bit that claims that if you plant onion and marigold, next to the tomato, that won’t be a problem. I had some onion sets left, and some old marigold seed, so, we’ll give that a shot. I panted my corn. I was also going to plant the red beans and squash, for a three sisters gig, but discovered your supposed to stagger the planting, a bit. Corn, beans, then squash. Some of my time was taken up by sketching out crude little maps of what is planted where. With my corn, I wanted to keep track of which mounds have corn I saved from last year, and which is commercial seed left over from last year. Ditto pumpkins. Oh! And I planted a small patch of Pyrethrum. Going to give making insect spray, a try. Lew

  17. Alcoff 44
    Hi Chris
    Here is another idea for future and maybe for a slow death to Moby.

    Use a 12 or 24 volt cartridge heater about 100 watt or so. Hook up to a portable 100 watt plus solar panel on a stand. Use a switch in series. And appropriate wire. Heater length 4 to 12 inch length. Diameter 1/4 to 1/2 in.
    Place heater in a Moby hole blown out with compressed air. Fill void between heater and hole with clean dry sand.
    On the first hole you can get an idea as to time to get to 65 or 70 degrees F or eq C. Or as desired by using a long cooking thermometer. When warmed, clear hole , pour in mixed grout to desired depth cover hole , sip some wine and wait.

    The heater and every thing else is probably readily available locally. (Amazon shows a heater 4” @ USD $14)
    Everything is non critical self limited
    Just an Idea cheers Al

  18. @ Pam,

    Sorry to hear about your son’s friend. The shock from that type of accident is hard to work through. Hope you and yours are doing okay.


  19. Chris,

    I agree that talking to the trees helps them.

    Humidity here is relative to that experienced by others. Our 30C and hotter days are normally maybe 25% humidity. The hotter it gets, the lower the humidity. By the middle of July, anything over 30C can be as low as 10% humidity. So, not being truly acclimated to 30C, and with the humidity at 40% to 45%, it felt miserable. Yes, 45% humidity is extremely high for us this time of year, and would be dry for other climates.

    We are supposed to have a high temperature of 16C with a low of 5C later this week. By Tuesday it will be 32C. These violent extremes make it hard to acclimate.

    Whoa! you got 30% of the rated output of your panels during the rain? That’s fantastic. Glad to hear that your emergency tank will get a chance to refill, too.

    The Friday class was called “Featherweight”. It entailed taking a piece of basswood (linden) about 5cm by 15cm and carving it into a feather shape, then wood burning the shape to get the feather details. All 3 students surpassed my effort, which is a good thing.

    Although, one of the students hadn’t carved in 45 years, and immediately sliced open a finger. I carved it for her – the wood, not the finger! Once it became clear that there was no serious damage, the jokes, even from other classes, began. “If ya ain’t bleeding, ya ain’t carving!” “Rule #1 of carving is to update your tetanus shot!” “‘Tetanus shmetatanus!’ he exclaimed through locked jaws”. That type of thing.

    The Saturday class was called “Coasting”. She Who Sliced Her Finger, was my lone student. I had various shapes of wood suitable for use as a coaster for drinks, and various patterns that could be traced onto them and then wood burned. I found out 5 days before the event that an additional instructor was needed, so had not had a chance to do one of these before. So student and teacher both enjoyed the experiment in controlled arson while “coasting”.


  20. Hi Pam,

    Only minutes after I clicked on the ‘Post Comment’ button, the power went out. We’d been using the electric oven too much of late and now have to dial it down… And the power doesn’t get restored until you connect up a generator set. I miss my old wood fired oven. We had the exact same problem last year.

    Yeah, granite is tough as. The tools that we can bring to bear upon Moby Rock do make an impression on the behemoth, it is just that the effort is not worth the result. Sun Tzu would definitely have something to say such as: Don’t wear the troops out unnecessarily. And he’d be correct.

    In case you dream of granite… This is a short video of a house on the island state of Tasmania: Is it a castle?

    I hear you, and I can honestly say that I never really understood the implications of such a chunk of shtick until I was an adult. I understood that it was a lie, I just didn’t quite understand why I was being lied to. It’s not good.

    Ollie is very good with the much smaller Scritchy and Toothy. Sometimes I see him appraising them and I can almost hear his thoughts which are: “Worth keeping a close eye on, but mostly harmless with occasional periods of very unpleasant and personally threatening behaviour, but otherwise OK”.

    The yoghurt was a real bummer, and I’ve had to source entirely new cultures and begin the journey all over again. But better to learn these mistakes when you can easily rectify them.

    I don’t mind the taste of the nasturtium leaves, and the seeds are good substitutes for capers.

    Again, I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your son’s mate, and please extend my sympathies to your son. Given it was a workplace, there will probably be an investigation into the matter.

    With sympathy,


  21. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks. And I’m excited by having access to the new garden beds in which to plant more corn. I’ve already given the soil in there a good feed of blood and bone as well as a thick layer of composted woody mulch. And I hope to also add some compost in there over the next few weeks. But even with all that I’ll still have to wait about three years before the soil really takes off, and then the feeding has to continue. In the photo with the broad beans, that is about three year old soil and it is very good and very deep. It all takes so much time and I’ve never really stumbled across a way to speed it up significantly.

    I can’t recall whether I’ve asked you whether the soil in your new garden is any good? Given it is growing patches of nettles, I’d sort of take that as a very good sign. Are you getting a feel for what the previous owners may have been up to in the garden?

    The yoghurt was a total and unexpected bummer. It is a bit like having a computer and not keeping a back up of important documents… I just have to start all over again.

    I hear you about the cloud, and yes it is not helpful. I often use the analogy with plants and the solar power, because if the plants aren’t growing you’re hardly likely to be harvesting solar energy any other way. It makes sense to me, but other people with less experience endlessly debate the subject. Somebody asked me about solar power today, and the power dropped out last night just after I replied to Pam. I honestly can’t say that I’m in a good frame of mind about the subject. We’ve been over using the electric oven and I frankly miss the old wood fired oven. It just worked.

    Mid 70’s is almost perfect weather! But alas for the continuing showers. Over one and half inches of rain has fallen here in the past day or so… Good to read that Doug’s mate from Missouri is enjoying the perquisites of one who has travelled from afar! I hope he wasn’t affected by the recent tornadoes, although they may have been rather localised, but regardless, easy guests are always welcome. A year or two back I was paid a delightful compliment along those lines in that I could: “Sing for my supper”. I do hope that Doug’s mate knows how to entertain a dinner table? Or at least not be a nuisance! Hehe!

    I do also hope that neither Gwen nor Marty turn up unannounced and early. Not good. Good luck. 🙂

    I posted a link in the reply to Pam for an iconic house for sale in the island state of Tasmania (where Jo hails from). It has a video which is worth watching for the sheer epicness of the construction.

    And not to worry, we’ll still be here and waiting with bated breath to learn how the big visit went.



  22. Hi ALCO44,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll tell you a funny story about using solar power to heat by resistance. A few years ago we bought an oil filled electric heater that most likely had an element in it to provide heat through the mechanism of resistance. The thing is, when there was enough sunlight to power the oil heater, I could just open the windows and let the warm-ish air into the house. It was a good solution, but other simpler methods worked better.

    I was rather disappointed that the expansive grout didn’t set, but it just means that I using the stuff in the wrong season.



  23. Hi Lewis,

    Oh you are naughty indeed! 🙂 These days a person can get by with a spoken song and a catchy riff or melody, and also maybe offering the counter point of person with an exceptional voice for the chorus. It happens, but yes, I do hear your unspoken critique!

    You know, musical instruments, or singing (in tune), are a bit like all activities and they take a lot of effort to master. The occasional person can be a wild talent, but for us lesser mortals, we have to work at it. I’m assisting a friend with writing, and the job of an editor is not a fun role. I have a suspicion that people want to just write for themselves, but it has never been lost on me that the art of writing is to convey an idea or form of communication to someone else. I can’t recall exactly where I first picked that idea up, but no doubt someone pushed it very hard into my consciousness.

    Thanks, and yes, whilst the Moby rock has defeated my best efforts, I can admire it and also respect its true nature. Who knows too, the rain may add some minerals off the rock and into the soil in the corn enclosure?

    Most unwise! Hehe! I wonder if somebody scored a pay rise for introducing bean bags into a library? Like many things, it all seemed like a good idea at the time. Do you recall how long the bean bags lasted in the library? Please excuse me if I am out of my depth, but aren’t libraries about making books accessible to the public? I still don’t have my copy of the second book yet.

    On Skystone, I must say that I rather enjoy the unrelenting action pace of the book. The dialogue is rarely for no reason, and each event earns its keep in the larger story. I wasn’t joking around when I remarked that the author has never encountered an action sequence that he didn’t like. It is good stuff and thank you for the recommendation, although I will probably skip chapter 3 and 4 of the next book and that is despite what Damo suggests, although I also respect his opinion. Not sure if I need the images in my head.

    Yeah, it is akin to losing a bread starter culture that had been handed down and kept in the same family from a persons great-great-grandmother. Of course the time period is far shorter in my case, but the loss is no less deeply felt. Note to self: Retain a monthly backup of the culture in future and freeze it against this occurrence.

    Hehe! Lemon balm is good, but not as good as proper citrus. The lemon balm stuff, which is of the mint family, grows feral here. It makes for a nice herbal tea and has traditionally been used as a soporific.

    The yellow flower may be a tansy ragwort. Possibly.

    Hey, I put a link in my reply to Pam for a short video of a castle (?) in the island state of Tasmania. You have to admit that it is pretty epic.

    Smoke and the winds can travel in funny directions. It was pretty windy here last night. Not enough to power a wind turbine though. The electricity dropped out (only the second time that this has occurred in a decade) just after I replied to Pam. We handled the situation with aplomb, but it is not good. I miss my old wood fired oven, and we’d been over using the electric oven of late. Ah, act in haste and repent at leisure. I’m not kidding around about people being crazy people by suggesting that you can run an industrial civilisation off this technology. It might be possible, but few are going to enjoy the outcome. There will be much gnashing of teeth – and a whole lot of whining at volume and possibly some angry foot stomping just for good measure.

    A wise move to be careful about having such personal items falling into nefarious peoples hands. The worms tell no secrets as far as I can understand the matter!

    Hehe! Yes, I appreciated Damo’s comment upon the matter of the Bagaudae. And what do you mean that mental slip ups get worse over time? Not good at all. Hehe! Oh well, acceptance is a wonderful state of mind, and who can argue with such common sense responses. I tend to laugh along with these mental slip ups too, I mean what else can you do – entropy gets everything in the end.

    Thanks for the explanation, and I had not understood how the lottery worked – and yes, it would have made for a nervous year. I did like the peanut butter creative approach. It sort of reminded me of the: “I’d really like to help, but I’ve got blah, blah, blah”.

    Yes, to be competent is to also be sometimes in demand. It is not necessarily to my advantage. I read an article recently that suggested that competence has a strong (not conclusive) inverse correlation to leadership. But that may also express itself in the whole Bright-sided phenomena that we have spoke about in the past.

    What did your tat loot end up containing?

    A neat way to watch the zombie flick that contains musical sequences. On the other hand, you may well be missing something by avoiding the musical sequences? Hey, I’m starting to feel as if it has been a while since I’ve visited the cinema.

    I’ve read that about marigolds and it is certainly worth trying. There is more to companion planting than most people acknowledge, but often people try to simplify gardens and farms when the opposite approach would work better. I’ve heard that about staggering the planting, and then last summer I missed the window to get the beans and squash in and then weeks and weeks of hot weather ruined the young plants, but favoured the corn, so who knows.



  24. Hello Chris
    I really don’t think that hazel needs a well drained soil. I am awash with producing hazel on my clay.
    I thought the site of that gun emplacement was stunning but no way is it a castle. I actually thought it ghastly both inside and out.


    @ Margaret
    My sister and I were too young to be anything but accepting of the change at the time. I think that my mother was amazing though. Helped no doubt by the fact that she had had a hard childhood with a father who gambled and womanized.


  25. Yo, Chris – The bean bag chair lasted less than a year. :-). That was when I worked for three (long) years, out in Yelm. I think it was the idea of the crazy woman I worked for. Some libraries these days, put a lot of effort into “creating spaces for our young adults.” Teen Zones, etc.. Like the hold shelves, elevator and rest rooms, the area couldn’t be seen from the front desk. The chair became a cuddle chair. PDA’s (Public Displays of Affection) were frequent. I heard a rumor that a child or two was conceived in that chair :-).

    Like bad art, after awhile, you won’t even notice Moby Rock. Somewhere over the last couple of days, there was a brief mention in a DVD that the Ancients broke up rock by building a fire around it, and throwing vinegar on it, to shatter the rock. Probably a waste of good vinegar. Don’t know why cold water wouldn’t work, just as well. I think I’d toss and run. Results might be a bit explosive. Explosions are very cool. From a distance.

    Well, if you have any plot questions, after skipping those couple of chapters, we’ll fill you in.

    Lemon balm can be quit invasive, here. There’s a wild patch or two, scattered about the Institution. On my “to do” list is to dry up a bit for tea.

    The castle is quit something. Looks defensible. Or, would have been in the past. I wonder if it was built “on spec” or was purpose built for some Tech Lord, who changed his mind? I wonder if the limitations of solar played a roll? I notice that there’s no price attached to the thing. Only a subtle come on for “expressions of interest.” It’s the old, if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”

    I won two lots, at the auction. Both for well under my absentee bid. One lot was a bronze or brass box with acorns on the top. When I saw the picture, I thought it was made of composite wood. I’ve seen some of those kicking around. But when I went to the preview, and picked it up … It will probably drive me crazy. No marks, and can’t find an example on the Net. Well, I found one, but there was no information on the Site.

    The other lot was the dreaded “box of stuff.” The only thing I really wanted was a pair of salt and pepper shakers, shaped like skulls. Will be really neat in my Halloween collection. Turned out they were “nodders.” Think proto bobble-heads. Porcelain, made in Japan, probably in the 1930s. There are several on E-Bay, but, later, I think. Dare I say, they just don’t look as “classy” or as well made as my set. The pivot is right where our jaws hinge. So, when you set them to nodding, the mouth opens and closes.

    The other things in the box were a couple of salt and peppers of no interest. And, three figures I’m agonizing over, a bit. Keep or pass on? A bride and groom cake topper in plaster (1940s), a “peasant girl” ceramic planter (probably California pottery from the 1940s. No mark. Brief research turns up nothing. And, a stunning (to some people) fairly large figure of a colonial lady. 1930s-40s. Chalkware. How she made it this far without getting her very elegant neck snapped, I don’t know. There’s one on E-Bay for $20. So, no great value.

    Coming up next, an online porcelain and china auction! Lew

  26. Re: castle

    Hey, I liked that one. Maybe the kitchen was a little busy with a mish-mash of old style cooker and modern tiling, but overall a really nice looking house. I know from Grand Designs that getting the minimalist look right is actually very difficult and expensive to do. No where to hide your mistakes! And that part of the world is very nice, plus you could always build a wall later on to repel the peasants.


  27. @Chris, RE: Chooks and ghost acreage

    I have noticed your corn experiments. I assume you are not planning to grow grains for the chickens though? I have wondered about that sometimes. We had quite a big range for our 3 chooks in Zeehan. They only got a minor supplement of feed. However, they were free to graze all day on about 0.5 acre and seemed clever enough to avoid the eagles. I think we still would have got a modest serving of eggs with just kitchen scraps.

    In Laos, there are chickens everywhere in the villages with no supplemental feeding at all. But they are pretty scrawny little things and most of the eggs are bought in externally as far as I can tell. They would just be there for meat I think.

    If you had no choice, would you grow the grain to get eggs?


  28. @ Chris, DJSpo, Margaret:

    Thank you for your sympathy regarding my son’s friend. I will pass it on. He is okay about it, being a very philosophical person.


  29. Chris:

    One can’t even call that an imitation castle. I am aghast that someone spent so much money to build such a thing.


  30. Hi Pam, Damo, Lewis, and Inge,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however it is the dreaded mid-week hiatus, and I got home late after dinner in the big smoke and it is 12’C / 54’F in the house, although much colder outside. I started the wood heater, but there is only so much that can be done in a short period of time and the thought of chucking some woollen blankets over my head and closing my eyes seems rather appealing.

    Inge – Thanks for the tip. I read the article this morning over breakfast and would like to discuss it with you.

    Lewis – So, we were in the big smoke tonight and stayed late for coffee and cake and dinner. Often we’ll go on long walks through the streets of the old Victorian era suburbs. The houses are fascinating and some can date back as far as the mid 1850’s. There is a fair bit of development going on in any large space, which was previously little Victorian era workshops and mini-factories. Before they were demolished and replaced by multi-story buildings standing in among the old terrace houses, some of the old warehouses and factories looked quite nice and fit well into their street scape. Oh well.

    The editor convinced me against my gut feeling to try a trendy looking vegan burger restaurant. We’re not vegan, but I’m curious as to what it was all about. The food was better than I expected, but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that it was cooked for people who had grown up consuming the mac-burger chain food. That wasn’t my scene, as I quite enjoyed the gritty hamburger cooked at the local fish and chip joint. You knew the patty was made on the premises and the lettuce, cheese, fried onions and beetroot was all fresh. And I’m just not a fan of the brioche. I can see why a little bit of sugar goes into a foccacia bun, but do hamburger buns need to be sweet? Not one for my palate.

    And in a very surprising blow to freedom of the press down here, it appears that the Aust Fed Police raided: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I may have mentioned that freedom of speech is not a thing down here and we may be finding the limits of that. At the very least it sends a chilling message to whistle-blowers.

    And in related news the guy that looks like he might get a 160 year sentence got hitched: ATO whistleblower facing 161-year prison sentence says he ‘almost died from the stress’. ATO is an acronym for the tax office.

    Gotta bounce!



  31. Yo, Chris – It’s always sad to see old buildings, go. They lend neighborhoods “character”. But, that’s a pretty amorphous thing and some people don’t see or feel it.

    I ate veg burgers, on and off, for quit awhile. The frozen kind that came in flavors. I was quit partial to the “Greek” that had olives and feta cheese! But they weren’t trying to convince you they were actually meat. But, they disappeared from the market. Finally, the list of ingredients spooked me off and I kept telling myself that I could make one on my own that was a lot healthier.

    Actually, for all our touted freedom of the press, there’s been several cases where great pressure had been put on reporters to reveal sources. Some have done some pretty serious prison time. Same with our whistle blowers. They do not fare well. And I wonder how many readers dismissed the fellow as a loon, because he got married in a library?

    I forgot to follow up on marigolds. I really don’t like the color, or scent. But, sacrifices must be made for a garden :-).
    I couldn’t find the seed, for the one’s I wanted, last year. So, of course, after planting the seed, it occurred to me to check bedding plants. There they were. The big orange / gold ones. So, I popped two in the garden, close to the tomatoes, last night. I’ll save seed from them.

    I saw this article and short video (3 minutes) on one of the archaeology sites. It immediately reminded me of the “castle” you showed us, yesterday. It’s a fortified Pictish settlement, up in Scotland, on a small chunk of land that extended (note the past tense) into the North Sea. From about the time of the end of Roman occupation.

    I also noticed a phrase I haven’t noticed before, in a couple of articles. “Environmental crimes.” Reminded me of a short story I saw, maybe, in the “Into the Ruins”, magazine. Something about people (mostly oldsters) being held in a kind of concentration camp, out in the desert, and being tried and executed for environmental crimes. Such as not recycling. :-).

    There’s a commenter over at Kunstler’s site who goes by the handle of “Green Alba.” She’s in Britain, and is one of the more astute and rational of his commenters. She mentioned something interesting (and, concerning.) The president made a recent trip to England, and part of the purpose of his trip was to flog a new post Brexit trade deal. I guess in the fine print, there’s a proposal to open up the National Health to American corporate interests. If I were a subject of Her Majesty, I’d be VERY concerned.

    I see the library has found someone willing to lend the Horwitz book on Australia, and it has been added to my hold list. I should see it in a week or two. I also see that a copy of “The Kid Who Would Be King”, is waiting for me. Review to follow. Lew

  32. Hi Inge,

    Being on the side of a hill has some advantages, and with enough work to the soil, the clay becomes closer to a clay – loam hybrid soil and is mostly well drained. I’ve suspected that hazelnuts require a bit more clay and water than I currently provide them with, so I appreciate reading your experience with the plant. I intend to try again and plant two more seedling walnut trees over the next week or so. Walnuts have serious problems with blight down here.

    Surely you enjoyed the siting of the house? It was pretty epic, but hardly the sort of place for a small holding – mostly because it is too remote. And the forest occasionally looks as though it may go through a dry spell, but I don’t really know and am just reading the trees that I see there.

    As to the economic essay, I was sort of wondering whether there is an implicit support for the reduction of official interest rates given how government debt is piling up? My main thinking in the matter is that if official interest rates are low enough, then the consequences of borrowing reduce. But of course at the same time it is not lost on me that the value of the dollar can eventually be ‘borrowed’ out of existence due to over expansion of the money supply. Or that the money supply is squooshed into only certain hands and certain expenditure types? Dunno. I’d be curious as to your thoughts in the matter?



  33. Hi Damo,

    The location is epic. Did you ever manage to get to that side of the island? It is a long way from Zeehan. The logistics of the build intrigue me, and I noticed that the advertisement claimed that the house was solar powered and yet I couldn’t see the solar panels. I have a feeling that I either missed them in the video, or that they are attached to a shed somewhere out of sight of the house. Does one want infrastructure on the wrong side of the fortified perimeter wall? I’m pretty sure the Skystone book mentioned defensive fortifications and the importance of maintaining them!

    The feed versus food equation is a big question. The economics of factory farming make little sense to me in a low energy – or energy constrained – world. I mean why feed produce that you could eat so that the chickens can convert it into a more concentrated form of food. But then eggs keep well, so there is that. And their manure is pretty valuable too. I could let the chickens free roam longer in the orchard than they do now, but I’d have to train one of the dogs to monitor them and fend off foxes, cats, eagles etc. Not so easy done as said.

    Yeah, I’m not sure about the chicken situation in Asia either and when I was there I had no interest in chickens and never thought to look into it further. They used to raise roosters for cock fighting too.



  34. Hi Pam,

    Absolutely, there is a story in there about the building. The logistics of the build was not lost on me either. Just bringing materials and equipment onto site would have been a complicated undertaking. And then imagine encountering some of those boulders when the road to the site would have had to have been constructed! And the wind due to the exposure! At least they’d be able to run a wind turbine in such a location. 🙂

    Some people get a raw deal, and I’m assuming he leans towards the stoic side of philosophy?



  35. Hi Lewis,

    Well you learn something new each day. It never occurred to me that people may not have been able to see or appreciate the character of an area? That would be an interesting and insensitive soul. Interestingly, I have encountered people who like the character of an area, but just don’t want to live in one of those: ‘rat infested terraces’, as I have heard some folks suggest. Then they demolish a character filled building, rebuild it with something more to their liking and taste, and then they proceed to enjoy the character of the area. But if too many people ask for special consideration, then sooner or later the character is permanently altered and the area is no longer what it once was. But then it is not lost on me that many parts of the big smoke would have once been open woodland, swamps and wetlands. On a long enough perspective, it may get back to that state of being. Speaking of which, the second book arrived in the mail this morning as well as the intriguing, ‘Earth Abides’. I love going to the post office.

    Olives and feta cheese in a vegie hamburger sound quite nice to me. If you were to use lamb instead of beef and/or plant material, you’d be well on your way to Souvlaki land! Yum! The place last night appeared to have lathered on the salt (or perhaps Monosodium glutamate (MSG)) as I was very thirsty before bedtime. But yeah, products disappear and you’re left reaching for them on the supermarket shelves. I began making my own toasted muesli many years ago for that very reason, and the remaining products had too much salt and/or sugar for my liking, or were prohibitively expensive. I sort of feel that this is a form of stealth inflation? Dunno. What do you reckon about that?

    Exactly, pressure to reveal sources does not indicate an entity that wishes to address internal problems, rather it appears to me to be an entity that has taken the first tentative steps along the road to drinking in the vengeance. Seriously, serial killers appear to get lesser sentences than the guy who blew the whistle on the goings on in the tax office. What is with that? It certainly sends a strong message, but do they not realise that there is blow back in such a heavy handed approach? Anyway, I’m not free to say whatever comes to mind, and it appears that neither is the press, even when they may be right.

    Hey, how beautiful was the library in the background of the photos? That is the state library for South Australia I believe. I hope the guy is OK.

    Yes, of course the marigolds are not blue, but have you thought about seeking out a blue flowered companion planting plant? There are books on the subject – you never know what you might find contained therein. Good work in considering saving the seed for the marigolds.

    The Pictish settlement is amazing. I can’t believe the youths chucked some items into the sea – and that archaeologists recovered some of those items. Still, they told someone about the site which is more than I can say for myself. Interestingly, I saw a concrete sea wall today that was underwater. I recall that it was not that long ago when the water used to lap against it. Sobering.

    Mr Greer also covered that matter of environmental crimes in his Stars Reach book and that had a minor character getting lynched for using an engine of some sort. But then the future will be a complex place to live. Surely you are stirring me up about the recycling matter? It is the strangest story around. People believe that it is happening, and some materials are being recycled, but not all materials are re-processed other than what appears to be a lot of dumping in landfill. I have a suspicion that many materials are not economic to recycle and the population by and large does not want to pay the direct costs of recycling. Interestingly, did I mention this article the other day: Port Fairy’s decades-long push for wall to stop seaside tip spewing rubbish into the ocean to rise from the waves. The economics of the recycling story is serious and it is not as if it wasn’t covered in the Limits to Growth study during the early 1970’s.

    Not good about the UK’s National Health Service. Sorry to bombard you with articles, but things have been very interesting on a global perspective of late: Chinese warships arrive unannounced in Sydney Harbour.

    I assume that the: “The Kid Who Would Be King” book is an Arthurian tale? I’m continuing to read Skystone, but at a slower rate than you two speed readers. Varrus has just met the enigmatic Cymric.

    Call me old fashioned but public displays of affection in libraries seems a bit out of place to my way of thinking. But then I guess I’m a bit old fashioned. I can well understand how the bean bag would not have stood up to the tests of time. 😉 Ollie would be good to chuck into that heady mix of pheromones and teenage lust. Imagine him bounding in at full speed! Funny stuff.

    Thanks for mentioning the vinegar and rock explosive result, but you know me and Moby Rock, we’re cool and have come to terms with the others presence. I once tried to burn an old tree stump out and the quantity of firewood that I used on the experiment was beyond what I could ever feel happy about and I have not repeated it.

    Yeah, nah, I’m all good. If you say skip chapters 3 and 4, I’m good with that.

    Well lemon balm is of the mint family and they are prolific! I quite like the plants just because they’re such great survivors.

    The mid-week hiatus continues. Will speak more tomorrow!



  36. Hello again
    I thought that I said that I loved that site and just loathed the building. It should have been a proper castle with towers and crenellations. (can’t spell it).
    Current economics: oh dear! I think that the mess has become too great to mend. Interest rates are too low and have little manouvering space. The housing market is too expensive but what would happen if/when it collapses? I do expect money to collapse and heaven help us all then. The question is only ‘when?’ How long can this disaster keep going?


  37. Hello again
    Not sure that I answered you properly above. Of course there is an implicit intent to keep interest rates low in order to keep the housing market buoyant. What I don’t know is how the interplay between government and banks functions, if one can call it functioning.


  38. Yo, Chris – Yup. People seem to have a tendency to move to an interesting urban area, a small town, or a rural area. And then they Disney-fy whatever drew them there in the first place. I don’t “get” it, either, but there it is.

    Sometimes, it seems like people don’t see the obvious. Or, at least the obvious as I see it :-). Or have an entirely different “take” on circumstances. We were talking, here at the Institution, about the director. I really don’t think the woman has had a single second of introspection. Of course, navel gazing can be carried to extremes. People who wonder why they have no friends, and can’t see their own horredous behavior or lack of personal hygiene. :-). My friend Scott has a bumper sticker that says “It’s not them.”

    I’ve often experienced that “thirsty before bed” syndrome after eating a restaurant meal. I also figure that I use so little salt in my diet, I’m probably a bit more sensitive to it.

    I went hunting and gathering in the cheap food stores, yesterday. And, made my weekly visit to Safeway. Availability and cost. Seems to get to be more of a struggle, each week. Substitutions found. Just doing without. Wants separated from needs. It might sound like a bit of a funny story, but there was the recent episode of the deodorant. There’s that personal hygiene, again :-). I like a particular brand, but have to find the unscented, as many scents bother my sinus. It got to where I either couldn’t find it, or, when I did, the price was eye watering. Yeah, I could order it online, but the prices were still high. So, I did a bit of research, online. Of course, there’s the old baking soda, routine. I’ve gone that route, before. Clouds of the stuff messing up the bathroom. So then I ran across a bit that rubbing alcohol might be effective. Well, after a month’s experiment, I can say that plane old rubbing alcohol, cheap and available, is just as good as any deodorant. Might not be appropriate for people with sensitive skin, also wouldn’t travel well, but for me, and at home use, works just fine.

    Governments and business like to keep secrets. But, sooner or later, truth outs, and they don’t like it, and will strike back at the source of the light that shines on their nefarious activity.

    That library really is quit nice. But all those musty old books! Best build a wedding venue that is a facsimile of a library :-).

    I think I have three books on companion planting. And I do refer to them. I figure they’re probably about half effective, and the rest is superstition or wishful thinking. Besides being good for the garden, I can get myself to tolerate them by reminding myself, that they play a big part in the Mexican Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos.) Pathways are strewn with the petals, to lead the spirits, back to home.

    Recycling is getting to be a bit of an Act of Faith. And, there’s a lot of feeling virtuous, involved. People don’t inquire too closely where that stuff REALLY goes, and what’s done with it. Port Fairy will probably figure out that there’s a lot of barren land in the middle of your continent. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what they did in this town. Closed our landfill and now it’s all shipped … somewhere.

    So, the Chinese are invading Australia? I suppose the lack of government notice, might have been an attempt to head off any large demonstrations? As far as the laser targeting goes, could be as benign as Chinese soldiers, playing around. There’s been a lot of that around our commercial airports, and no one has gotten to the bottom of that.

    I read a rather startling article, yesterday. Vancouver, British Columbia now has a population that is 42% Asian. 20% mainland Chinese and the rest from Hong Kong, Shanghi, Tiwan, etc..

    “The Kid Who Would Be King” is a kid’s film, from last year. Now on DVD. Not bad, but I wouldn’t pay money, to see it. The casting bothered me a bit (multi-culturalism and inclusiveness can be carried too far) and Merlin did this hand jive thing, every time he performed a bit of magic, that grated as time went on. I also groaned, every time they referred to the “island” of Tintagel. The film rating should also have included, “Suspend belief, all who enter here.”

    Ollie. Defender of Public Morals. Works for me. :-).

    I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say, I just waded through a chapter long theological discussion, in “Skystone.” Hmmm. Well, I think the author throws some of this stuff in to portray what was going on, at the time. How it shapes the characters and their take on the world. There was a lot of head butting between Celtic Catholics and Roman Catholics. I even watched a series a couple of nights ago, on the Celts, and there was a longish bit about that. On reflection, I think it manifested itself in bit of show (the date of Easter, etc.) but was really all about power, control and wealth. Lew

  39. Chris,

    It IS that time of year where power is an issue for you. As you keep saying, renewables won’t let us keep the current standard of living.

    I was going to post yesterday, but we had a lovely thunderstorm again. I enjoyed watching Thor at work. This time the rain was gentle rather than torrents.

    Took the day off from work and spent it fixing 2 minor problems with the kitchen sink. It should have been a minor 30 minute job, which means 90 minutes for me. 6 hours later I got done with no leaky pipes. I am now a firm believer in Hofstadter’s Law “Any job will take longer than you think it will, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”


  40. Hi Inge,

    I too wonder about the relationship between the government and the various reserve banks. I don’t believe that they are as independent as they may claim, but then none of us are really that independent, and the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia is appointed by the Federal Treasurer, so there is a perception issue there at the very least.

    I’d be curious as to your opinion, but as far as I understand things, if the government continues to borrow (from wherever) to fund deficit spending, then there is an implicit policy of reducing interest rates, because that is the single most effective mechanism that can maintain deficit spending into the near future. If interest rates were to rise, then the cost of servicing the debt for the government becomes more burdensome, and thus for deficit spending to continue as a policy, even more must be borrowed under those circumstances. And if most governments are pursuing this policy, the question becomes: What does that say about the underlying ability of governments to provide services? And has increased debt hidden a decline in real wealth? It is worth pondering. Dunno.

    Yes, thanks for the clarification, your previous comment was sweeping and I believed that it may have included the site, which was frankly epic. And exactly, the building demands crenelations for archers, and also perhaps ditch the double car garage door which wouldn’t last long with a proper battering ram! 🙂

    The thing is, when a currency self-destructs, physical infrastructure and assets are not destroyed. I see some of the old Victorian era warehouses and factories getting converted into apartments and whilst the depression of the 1890’s or even the 1930’s may have wiped out the businesses, the buildings remained.

    What concerns me is that I had a firsthand view of the demise of manufacturing, and I saw many useful machines getting sold off on the cheap to buyers in Asia. Not to mention the skills of the operators were set aside. I can’t say that I was soothed by seeing that happen. You too must have witnessed many changes in peoples expectations over the years?



  41. Hi DJ,

    Solar electricity can be a problem at this time of year for us down here at 37.5’S. And we only have ourselves to blame, because we over used the electricity to work upon Moby Rock, and additionally went feral with the electric oven. You see, Moby Rock had the last laugh, because on Monday evening, the power simply went out due to low battery voltage. It was switching on the laser printer that was the final straw. Such devices have a heating element in them and there was a large initial current draw that dropped the battery voltage to below 22V – and the inverter switched off in protest! And we had to recover from pitch darkness using a generator for only the second time in a decade. Lessons have been learned, but we might need to make some changes. 🙂

    Honestly, I miss the days of the wood oven.

    Go Thor, and like you I also enjoy a quality thunderstorm (viewed at a safe, dry and respectable distance).

    How is this for weird winter weather: Warmth returning to Australia’s southeast. I just happen to be in the SE of the continent and it was 18’C / 64’F today. Bonkers. But at least the batteries had a good chance to get a solid charge into them. 24.8V right now in the evening with about an 85% state of charge (whatever the actual charge may be now that the batteries have a decade of use). Did you ever cover batteries in your physics education? People believe the strangest things about batteries and the reality is very complicated.

    Ouch! Yes, the simple fix, turns into the complicated drama, then before you know it an epic amount of time has been eaten. Whilst I sympathise with your plight, I can well understand how these things happen! All the same, you must feel pretty good now that the repairs have been done?



  42. Hi Lewis,

    I see from cliffmass and DJ that you have been entertained by some serious thunderstorm activities. Fun stuff, and they are quite common here, but spare a thought for poor Scritchy the thunderstorm detective who chooses to hide under the bed during such occurrences. The ladybug swarm was fascinating and who would have thought that they could show up on weather radar due to the sheer numbers? Your west coast has enjoyed a damp growing season so far.

    The word Disney-fy really captures the process with changing the character. I’ve never really fallen into that trap. In the late 1990’s I bought a house in a gritty inner urban area because it was cheap and nobody was really interested in the house. Turns out the foundations of the house and most of the lower parts of the timber walls had rotted away. A good lesson to learn. Honestly it was amazing that the house hadn’t collapsed. It was beyond economical repair, so we bulldozed the place, but in its stead we reproduced an exact replica – including the proportions – of a block fronted Victorian era weatherboard workers cottage that was regularly found in the area. I even recovered, restored and installed the extraordinarily heavy, large double sash timber window from the old building. Changing the character of the area just to make my mark was an alien concept to me, because it was the character of the area that brought me to that location in the first place. I have heard such talk about people making their mark, and I’m not sure how well such projects age. But some of them might well be OK too, so it is complex.

    Or the obvious as I see it! Hehe! We could have hours of fun discussing that! There is middle ground to be found in many pursuits, and here is to celebrating the middle ground. Sometimes people go through bad hygiene phases, and over the years I have had to deal very occasionally with such things as a boss. I tended towards the ‘shocking them out of their daydreams’ approach by bringing their mental health into question. Of course in that relationship, I was able to avoid the complicated process of addressing the actual mental health concerns, but it did tend to sort out the physical issues. I could have helped them, but by and large mostly the individuals rarely wanted the help. Mostly I suspected that they used the lack of personal hygiene as an attempt to keep the world at bay, so it was probably a fear response. On the other hand I have heard of people going ‘cave man’ in order to test the boundaries of what society will tolerate. I have also noticed that children often test boundaries as a lifestyle choice. 😉 Scott might be onto something with that stiocker! How is he doing anyway, I haven’t heard about any lunches recently?

    Yeah, it probably is a sensitivity to too much salt. I have heard stories about establishments putting salt into food so that people purchase, err, high margin drinks.

    Deodorant is a funny product, and I have a suspicion that the cocktails that make up the product have changed recently. I recently noticed a new product line described as I believe: Clinical. Mate, it would perhaps not be a good thing to sweat that much as to require such a product. The editor road tested some and won’t be going back again. Well alcohol works because it kills the bacteria which cause the odour, plus it is a cleaning agent, but depending on circumstances it may have to be reapplied. Other deodorants work because they plug the pores for a period of time. It is funny you mention this because we have been looking into it. Baking soda was scratchy and irritating.

    The flip-side of any crisis is opportunity, but I feel that the swatting of the nuisances by governments may lead to far worse outcomes than a general and healthy post-mortem. Nobody ever expects that these behemoths get things right. I mean the sheer number of people involved in them means that it won’t take long before things go awry. But to try to cover up mistakes is an unhealthy response.

    Musty old books indeed! I know that you’d love to poke your nose into that library! 🙂

    The Mexican day of the dead sounds like a thoughtful thing for people to do. I think our culture is not anchored enough to consider such matters as being worthy of their time.

    I love the term ‘an Act of Faith’ because yeah, that is exactly what it looks like to me too. People really don’t want to know what happens. And there is nothing in it for them to worry about the problem. Whilst we were at the restaurant on Wednesday, a couple of youths exited and departed in a car which was parked nearby. Under the car the driver chucked a can of half consumed soft drink, and I watched it rolling on the smooth asphalt whilst depositing its sticky contents all over the place. It is nice to learn a new skill from other people, because it never would have occurred to me to do that.

    Rather than invading, I prefer to believe that we may currently have two overlords, but we’ve always had overlords. I do hope that the authorities took the officers and sailors out and got them drunk whereby a nice time was had by all? We’ve used that strategy in the past. And yes, the drones near to airports is a similar story that was also not lost on me. Mind you, we are also finding drones complicating helicopter fire fighting efforts. And I have noticed that the authorities come down heavily on any individual that they can catch that is stupid enough to fire a laser into a cockpit.

    Well, you know where things are going for Canada.

    The Merlin hand jive would have irritated me too. A good bit of theatrics is a good idea, but it need not be a part of every incantation, although the film director may have felt otherwise. I sort of feel that at the very least there is a downside to displaying for all and sundry to see that you are about to perform an incantation… Directors these days… Where is this island of Tintagel? Stop it now, I protest, you’re making me laugh too much.

    Ollie loves his new title and is actively seeking opportunities for his first moral intervention.

    Once I’ve read the chapter, I shall consider your reply. Incidentally, Varrus has just been shown his smithy and the talk is of dragons in them thar hills. And he may shortly be on a quest!

    Went to look at the ocean today. I can’t say that I’m comforted by what I saw. The high tide damage from king tides appears to be higher than I can previously recall. The authorities were finally dumping some huge rocks at one very low point but mostly they were shifting sand from one part of the beach to another part. On the other hand I stopped by to visit some seriously ancient and untouched forest. It was really beautiful and some of the trees were apparently 300 odd years old and covered in mosses and epiphytes which thoughtfully dripped water onto the forest floor. Good stuff. Had a curried scallop pie too which was very tasty.



  43. Hello again
    We had a decent amount of rain at last, during the night and this morning. The ground and pond are still dry but at least I only need to water in the greenhouses.
    I wonder why what we call spring tides you call king tides. Do you think that someone was deaf way back?
    Loss of skills appears serious to me also, we are certainly suffering from that.
    Don’t forget QE which is being used to keep things going. Cutting interest rates has caused severe problems for pension funds here. Many of them are in deficit, so that is another problem for the future. Actually it is already a problem when a large company goes bust. The government takes over the pension fund but the pensioners get less than they would have received before, I think that private pensions are another future disaster.
    I also wonder about ‘great wealth’ as it often seems to go hand in hand with ‘great debt’.


  44. @ Chris and Lew
    I am another one who hardly ever uses salt. If I eat bacon either bought or made by Son, I find myself drinking water all evening. A bought pepperoni pizza will have the same effect.


  45. Yo, Chris – Even though thunderstorms are often in our forecasts, we don’t have many, here in the twin cities. In the mountains, up around Puget Sound, yes. Here, no. And when they do happen, they’re not very spectacular. Usually. We did have one last summer, that sticks in memory. Horizontal lightening from one end of the sky, to the other. I had never seen anything like it, before. Never did hear anything about why the character of our lightening, changed. Omens of the approaching apocalypse? :-). I quit like our little lady bugs. Benign little creatures who do a lot of good. Some people don’t like them (or, bugs, good or bad, in general) and occasionally they invade an interior, in mass. That might be a problem, but they vacuum up, quit easily.

    It’s commendable that you made the effort to emulate the Victorian architecture of your neighborhood. I’m sure there were a few thoughtful or sensitive souls around, who appreciated your efforts. I’ve seen a few modern buildings that I think, “That’s nice!” But it doesn’t happen, often.

    I saw Scott, for our usual Wednesday chew the fat and gas session, yesterday. Lunch was mentioned, but we didn’t set a date or place. Maybe, next week.

    Well, that’s why pubs have a lot of cheap, free, salty snacks, sitting about. It’s an old truism, dating way back, that you’ll sell a lot more beer to thirsty clients.

    Well, after over a months experiment with the rubbing alcohol, for me, it works. And, mmm, being an old retired guy who doesn’t get out much, anymore, daily showers are no longer required. Or even a daily change of shirt. I apply the alcohol after I shower, and, on rising.

    Government swatting brought to mind a lively colony council meeting, that you’ll encounter in book two. :-). As far as crisis opportunity goes, you might take a look at “Schock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” (Klein, 2007). My friend Julia is pretty conservative, where she invests her money. But she has a certain minor amount that she plays in the stock market. The year the two hurricanes hit Texas and also Florida, she bought stock in a company that makes most of the wall board (gypsum panels). Bought low, sold when the shares reached a certain value, and made a bit of mad cash.

    I suppose some would think I’m a bit morbid, but I love the Mexican Day of the Dead. I’ve read a lot of books about it, and viewed a few DVDs. There’s so much attached to it. Food, crafts. There was an animated kid’s movie, a couple of years ago. “Coco.” I really liked it, and it might be worth a look.

    Which reminds me. I had never gotten around to watching the “new” “Bladerunner.” There it was on the library shelf, last week. I thought it was pretty good.

    So was the ocean still there? :-). I notice you check up on it, from time to time. Curried scallop pie sounds good. I’d give it a whirl.

    It’s coming down buckets, right now. But, in a few days, the weather is supposed to get nice and the temps shot up to 80F+. I expect the garden will really jump, then. I noticed the carrots came up, yesterday. While I was sitting out with Eleanor, last night, I noticed a raccoon on a mission, trotting down the sidewalk in front of The Institution. He was a big fellow. I haven’t seen any of the snails, in quit a few nights. Hmmm, I wonder … Lew

  46. Hi Chris,

    Earlier today I planted the last of the three beds of corn for this season. I’d planted the other two three days ago. It’s later than I would have liked to have planted the corn, but it has been raining here. Again. Still. It’s been raining here all year. The Mississippi River is approaching a crest at St. Louis less than a meter under its highest crest in recorded history, which occurred in 1993, a year with a similar weather pattern to this year. But in 1993 the river didn’t reach that crest till late August. If it keeps on raining, no telling how long the river will remain flooded. No commercial boats can move on the river; it’s so high there isn’t sufficient clearance under the bridges for safe travel. A surprising amount of cargo travels by barge on the river, including a lot of grain during and after grain harvest.

    As you said, failure is always an option, and it’s an option a considerable number of US farmers are facing this year, after the widespread heavy rainfall in the Midwest and Plains. I almost failed to get my corn crop in on time, and as it is the yield may be a little under optimum because of not planting it last month. Furthermore, I had to change my experimental design for the corn beds. My intention was to plant all three beds on the same day, to remove different-day planting as a variable. But earlier this week a considerable amount of rain had been predicted for today (Friday) and the weekend, and I knew I couldn’t get the third bed prepared and planted until today. So I decided to cut potential losses and plant the first two beds on Tuesday. Now the forecast has changed and the rain is farther south. So I could have waited and planted all three beds today after all, but I didn’t know that. Anyway, at some point – it may not be till the end of the month – I’ll write a blog post on the change in the experiment. It’ll have pretty vegetable pictures in it too!


  47. @ Lew,

    I, too, have serious chemical and fragrance issues, and must use the unscented versions of, well, everything. I like 2 deodorant brands. I always travel with a small thingy of Gold Bond powder. It works very well as a deodorant if I’m without the deodorant. It doesn’t take much, so I don’t get a flying powdery mess as with the baking soda.


  48. Chris,

    Spokane is about 47.4 north, so I understand the total lack of solar power for days or weeks at a time for several months. The governor of Washington State supports a huge solar farm for Lind, Washington, 70 minutes or so westerly of here and still close to 47 north, because “the sun shines there every day.” Funny, that, because I was stuck in near blizzard conditions near there in February this year.

    So, you suffered the vengeance of Moby Rock. I tells you, Nature always wins in the end, a fact with which you live closely.

    You were warmer today than we were here: 61. And tomorrow shouldn’t be much warmer. We’ll be into the 90s for much of next week. Ugh. These rapid changes are difficult.

    Batteries? We did a cursory study of them is all. They can be very simple, or complicated. The rechargeable types are all complicated. The other physics professor (not my father) in junior college had me as the lab assistant try an experiment with the nickel-cadmium batteries that would no longer really hold a charge. The theory was that a sudden jolt from a high current and high voltage source might revive them. So, it was charge up a nastily large capacitor then discharge it across the battery to “Frankenstein” it back to life. It didn’t work. The newer types of rechargeable, not nicads, last a lot longer but are more complex. Due to your practical experience, you probably know more about batteries than I do these days.

    Fortunately with the plumbing project I was able to enjoy the project and learning, deflecting away the drama. I learned a lot, the project was successful, so, yes, I feel really good about that.

    More thunderstorms today with them expected to remain through Saturday. Rain and wind so far, but no thunder, which is disappointing. At least the storm downtown quit just before I had to wait outside for the bus to come home, so I avoided a good soaking.


  49. Hi Chris,

    Yeah, that location is epic. And I also wondered where the solar panels are? Lots of slow, overflying shots from a drone and I couldn’t even see a utility shed! I guess they must be there somewhere… The house reminded me a little bit of the follies built in England a few hundred years ago. Of course, I love those as well.

    Traditionally, eggs were pretty expensive. But as you said, they keep well and are very versatile. I feel with a good rooster (or trained dog) to keep losses to a minimum, surely you could have a modest supply of eggs just from kitchen scraps and free-range grazing? I agree that dedicating grain production to them doesn’t make sense. Of course, my opinion is based on experiences with just one group of chooks in a very well fenced, large yard who seemed to possess enough common sense to avoid getting eaten.

    Very strong winds today in Auckland and the power just went out. As we are on tank water – this also means no water. If things get grim I can go out to the tank with a bucket I suppose 🙂


  50. Hi Inge,

    Very salty food does that to me too. When eating food anywhere else, the experience can be very variable, and some people enjoy lots of salt in their diet. Like you, I’m not one such, but there are plenty of people that don’t think anything of it.

    The rain is great news for you! Hopefully you enjoy some further falls over the next month or so. I assume that July is your hottest month?

    That is funny, but I have no idea why we would describe a ‘perigean spring tide’ as a ‘King tide’, whilst you describe it as a ‘spring tide’. The vagaries of the English language yet again befuddle us.

    I do wonder whether the loss of skills drives the strange beliefs that are sometimes expressed to me. Over the years, I have had people suggest to me that it is a very simple matter to grow edible plants, and then they often (without any real skills or experience to speak of) express a sense of disbelief at my claim that it could be far harder than they believe.

    It is interesting that you mention pension funds, but we have escaped that problem largely because the large majority of pension funds in operation now act like bank accounts with a market valuation. They’re called accumulation accounts, whereas the ones you speak of are defined benefit accounts. The difference between the two is that if the accumulation account runs out of money or the market value of the investments goes to zero value, then there is nothing to pay to retirees. Defined benefits operates differently in that it promises a future payment to retirees regardless of how much is earned by the fund – or even how much the fund investments are worth. The fund managers must seek yield in order to continue the largess. It is foolhardy to believe that such a state of affairs can continue, but then if the value of the money is printed out of existence, then a retiree might get their regular payment – but it may well be worth nothing, and won’t even be enough to purchase a pepperoni pizza. It looks to me like a giant gamble. How does such a system look to you? I have had some people get very angry with me when I have suggested that there is a level of uncertainty and risk in their benefits.



  51. Hi Claire,

    I’ve been rather curious about your rainfall and the impacts that may be felt by it. I’d be curious as to your thoughts on the subject, because over at the Daily Impact, the author wrote a blog suggesting that it may be possible that if the rain continues, the Mississippi River may indeed change its course without much notice. And I totally understand the complexities that you are facing this season, because too much rain from my experience is as bad – if not worse – than too little rain.

    And corn is a very interesting plant. I’ll be really interested to hear how your planting, experiment and growing season goes. I have faced a similar very damp season in the past and I found that it all ended up OK, although the harvest was delayed by about two weeks from what I was anticipating. I really appreciate the time and effort you take in quantifying the yields and comparing those to the soil mineral data. I was wondering if some of the minerals get leached away during such wet summers?

    We turned the first clods of soil on the next and highest terrace today. One can never have too much growing space! So far, so good and no large rocks were encountered (although a lot of smaller rocks have been placed in the steel rock gabion cages). I have been adding compost and coffee grounds to the area for about two years now and the soil is a superb loam and has the colour of milk chocolate. Over the next week or so, I’ll fertilise the recently completed corn enclosure with a significant amount of compost. So much to do…



  52. Hi DJ,

    Exactly, the belief systems expressed about renewable energy systems defy reality. Melbourne has a better solar potential than here, but even so, today which was a beautiful winters day with blue sunny skies, but I reckon they may have slightly bettered two peak sun hours, when I enjoyed one and a half peak sun hours due to shading from the large trees and mountain ridge above me. Seriously, it is just not even close enough peak sun hours to power an industrial civilisation, so I really hope that they are working on a plan B, whilst knowing full well that nobody actually is. The other day I enjoyed 20 minutes of peak sun hours for the day. By peak sun hours I refer to the output from a solar panel. One peak sun hour will produce 200Wh from a 200W solar panel. Hope that makes sense. At 47’N, well hope you guys remember to maintain your hydro and then don’t run the dams dry or let them silt up…

    Hehe! Yah! Nature wins hands down, and I doff my hat to the grand old Moby Rock, who will still be there long after I’m in the ground and feeding the worms. I do hope the drill holes provide a puzzle for future archaeologists. One small consolation for all that work.

    It was warmer again today too. 64’F! At one point in mid afternoon I could feel that the sun had a little bit of tooth to it. That is a highly technical term to describe the feeling of warmth on skin.

    Thanks for indirectly answering a question that I’ve long had about batteries: Can they be revived? Probably not is the answer. The real danger that I see with batteries is that people confuse them for fuel tanks – and they ain’t! They’re chemical reactors with all the complexity that that brings. Interestingly, it is possible now to purchase large capacity nickel-iron batteries of the sort that have been around since Moses. The thing is the voltage drop with them under load would be a killer proposition. But they last for decades. Alas, as we may have discussed before there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

    Top work! I employ a similar mindset, and rather try to enjoy the learning process rather than getting mired in the drama.

    Lucky you! And perhaps Thor was looking out for you? I have seen a super cell hit Melbourne and watched with horror from a safe and dry distance as people standing at a tram stop got drenched in the wake of a passing heavy vehicle. I just kept thinking – this is not going to happen, but it did. Fortunately it was in the warmer months because the hapless folks got drenched.



  53. Hi Damo,

    Yeah, I didn’t notice a map of the property on the listing either. It is almost impossible to live in a rural area and not have shedding. Mind you, a place like that is probably remote enough that it probably needs a helipad! I like follies too, and there was one on Grand Designs last season and it was very good. And no, I still haven’t had a chance to watch the latest incarnation of the most excellent series. I secretly love the drama, because in some way it is nice to see outrageous expectations hitting the psychic wall of reality, but that maybe just me.

    I hadn’t known that eggs were traditionally expensive, but it sort of makes sense. And I guess that traditionally they would have been only available in season. Since I bopped the sick grey silky, the chickens have been on egg strike and they won’t begin laying again until after the winter solstice. I suspect the kitchen scraps and free ranging is possible, the thing is here there are just so many critters that would love nothing better than eating chicken that it is a problem. I’ve watched as neighbours let their chickens free roam, and then after a while you no longer see the chickens. I certainly wouldn’t trust the smaller dogs with chickens as they have known breed problems with differentiating between farm animals and something that they’d enjoy killing. You were very lucky in Zeehan that a Quoll didn’t happen to be anywhere near to your chickens.

    Ouch! Hope the power is back on now? Strong winds will do that. At least you have water in the tanks and buckets never go out of style! Hey, the house water tanks are now full due to the recent rain, although the large reserve water tank is mostly empty.



  54. Hi Lewis,

    It is a bit of a shame that Thor didn’t put on a good light and sound show in your part of the world. I was reading the Daily Impact blog about the flooding of the Mississippi River and was wondering if you’d had any news media on the hardly minor risk? And interestingly too, I noticed in looking up the difference between a King tide and a Spring tide (nothing at all) for my reply to Inge that there was a reference to the: Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962. Far out, that was a significant spring tide.

    We get a lot of different forms of lightning here, and I recall one summers night when sheet lighting continuously lit up the sky, but it was an otherwise warm and still summers evening with a clear sky and so we stayed outside to watch the unusual storm. Nature can put on a good show.

    I like ladybugs too. They work hard in the garden consuming all manner of bugs with designs upon the plants. Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that the blue fairy wrens are spending a good amount of time bouncing through the vegetable beds enjoying whatever snack insects that they may find.

    Speaking of which, we began excavating the next highest terrace today. We were a bit enthusiastic and probably did about 10% of the overall digging, which is not a bad effort for a terrace that may end up about 1,000 square feet in size. There is another large Moby Rock that we are aware of, and this time we have chosen to work around it. It is possibly not a bad option given how difficult it is to work with the granite here using only hand tools. One of the steel rock gabion cages is now almost full, and the other is beginning to fill up. I may have a chance to sew up the steel rock gabion cage later in the week, although I have to check the weather as it looks as if Wednesday will be a seriously wet day. The rain appears to be arriving all at once over winter, although I would prefer if it was more evenly spread throughout the year. But no matter. Anyway, the birds watch our digging with interest and whenever we dump a load of soil anywhere, they immediately sift through it for tasty grubs. Haven’t found any yabbies in the ground yet, but it may not be wet enough at that location. The soil has consistently been a really lovely chocolate brown coloured loam. Good stuff and I’ve been applying compost, sawdust and coffee grounds to the area for over two years now.

    I do hope so about the house. The people who bought it after me, turned the Victorian era timber posts upside down, and I was left scratching my head as to why they did that, but still you can never go back. If you are interested here is my handiwork: My handiwork. The stuff dumped on the veranda has nothing to do with me… Not the best photo and it is taken from an odd angle, but you get the gist of it. We got the proportions just right, and the inside of the house had 10ft ceilings. For some reason I feel uncomfortable with houses with 8ft or even 9ft ceilings. And the cast iron lacework and fence was the exact replica of what used to be used for such workers cottages.

    Everyone needs a chew the fat and gas session! 🙂 I remarked to the editor tonight that she needs ‘chick time’, whilst I need ‘bloke time’, and we’re both good with that. I would never dare intrude upon a ‘ladies night’ that the editor may enjoy with her mates from time to time. The whole dynamic changes for them if I did so and anyway, I don’t need the conversation time with them.

    Go Julia! I am not that clever. In a strange twist of fate, I do have some experience with disaster capitalism, and it involves house insurance. As you know I live in an area that has a high fire risk. The house is constructed to withstand being damaged by fire, but you know, natural disaster events can be fluid. Anyway, I keep telling people around here to insure their houses appropriately because the costs to rebuild will be far higher than the value of the building that they are replacing, and they largely just dismiss my thoughts. I dunno. I suspect that things get rebuilt, until they can no longer afford to be rebuilt, and then they’ll return to something simpler.

    Nope, I don’t think so, death is part of life. We all have one bad day sooner or later, and it doesn’t seem like a negotiable thing to me. So the Mexican’s are probably onto something with celebrating the memories of the dead and also the spirits of the dead.

    Top stuff and I recall Mr Kunstler’s amusing review of the film. Need I mention Ramen? What is it with Ramen? Was the new Bladerunner film as dark and gloomy as the original film? It was a bit of a sci-fi classic.

    Hehe! Yeah, the ocean is still there! 🙂 It is just a little bit higher than it previously was. I’m constantly amazed at how much damage the ocean can do to the shoreline, and I do wonder what will happen the day that the ocean laps over the top of the dune that stands between it and the commercial part of the town? It would make for a good story. It would probably recede again only to return at a later date with more force. The curried scallop pie was excellent, and if ever you encounter one, I recommend it. You don’t see them much here, but I recall from my travels in the island state of Tasmania that they were far more common at bakeries along the southern coastline. Ah, so many bakeries to test, so little time…

    Really, you get raccoons near to The Institution? Hope you never live to see a rabid one, and as a gentleman of the first order, you’d surely protect Eleanor from such a monster? How is the slug count going?

    It looks like a rabbit got into my tomato enclosure and ate most of the winter vegetables… I am most annoyed with the dogs – what are they getting paid for? Although I haven’t seen the rabbit around in a while, so perhaps it has been eaten? The last time I saw it a few weeks back, it was running for its very life. But alas, the damage was done.

    More digging tomorrow and apparently another spectacular winters day at 64’F again. A bit unseasonably warm for this time of year.



  55. @ Inge & Chris – Seems like pensions are in the news. In a bit of coincidence (as so often happens here), I was looking at the new DVDs, coming to our library. The Public Broadcasting Service does this weekly in-depth, investigative report on this or that. Called “Frontline.” Our library gets them. I put one on hold titled “Frontline: The Pension Gamble.” Even though I’m number one on the hold list, I probably won’t see it for anywhere from a couple of weeks, to a couple of months. As with most of their reports, I’m sure it will be interesting. I should look into my small State pension, and see where the income is coming from. So far, no rumblings of problems in our State system.

    I’ll put up with an evenings thirst, for a good bit of bacon or slice of pizza! Ditto, Chinese food. Lew

  56. @DJSpo – I probably have a bad reaction to slightly more than half the scents I run up against. Eyes run and swell, sinus commits hari-kuri. Etc..

    I really like some smells, and am happy with the one’s that don’t bother me. Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap, bayberry candles. What gets me is you really have to watch that things say, very clearly, unscented. It’s a mine field, out there. Stuff labeled “Spring Breeze”, “Fresh Scent” or “Clean Burst.”

    And what is it with candle scents, these days? Used to be, you had some idea of what you were getting. Orange Peel, is pretty straightforward. But White Linen? And, the weird combinations. Pomagranit / Apple Spice? Really? Lew

  57. Yo, Chris – Not to much in the news about the flooding. But maybe I’m not looking in the right places. A few “snapshot” articles on NPR. I’d say the price of food and other things are going to take a big jump, as the year goes on.

    So, what’s the new terrace going to be used for? Sounds like you did a lot of valuable pre-soil prep. Never a bad idea.

    Well, if the 10′ ceilings made you twitchy, you could have always put in one of those very stylish, drop ceilings :-). With the sprayed on popcorn texture! I wonder what it was with the high ceilings, in old houses? Attempt to look “grand?” Maybe to dissipate the smoke from oil lamps? The picture didn’t show up. I’ll try a different browser, later.

    I always try and be mindful of giving the Ladies, here at the Institution, chick space. When I want to send them up a bit, I tell them something is “a chick thing.” Like Christmas cards. Eleanor seems to think that having a few blokes around the Institution is a good thing. She thinks the Ladies behave better.

    Yup. The newer “Bladerunner” is just as dark and gloomy as the first one. Maybe more so. There’s a wonderful Elon Musk like villain. Come to think of it, there was one of those in “Venom.”

    I’m watching bits and pieces of a documentary series called “The Years of Living Dangerously.” All about different aspects of climate change. The bits I watched last night were about Hurricane Sandy and the science work being done on Christmas Island, into El Nino. The old sci-fi movies used to have the tag line, “Watch the skies!” The new tag line is, “Watch the oceans!”

    Oh, yeah. We see raccoons around the Institution, from time to time. Last year they were at the grapes. I do a lot of hurumphing and coughing when I’m out slug hunting. Don’t want to surprise one. They can be vicious beasts. Last month I got 431. I don’t feel the need to go out every night, now. The last two times, even though it was wet, I only got 15 per night.

    Julia won’t be coming into the Club, on Sundays, anymore. her health hasn’t been very good, and she just had another go around with another lung thing. She really thinks she picks up bugs, working the counter. She’ll still open, three days a week.

    Well, Farmer McGregor, you’ll have to do something about that rabbit. :-). I suppose you could lock one of the hounds in a terrace, for the night, if the weather is fine. But I suppose they’d think they were exiled, for no good reason, and get all sulky.

    I identified the pottery, peasant girl planter. I thought she might be California pottery, and sure enough. Going by the style of the painting of the eye, and the decoration on the skirt, I finally determined she was Weil Ware. 1930s-40s, Los Angeles. Sells for between $10-$30 on E-Bay.

    I’m almost finished with “The Singing Sword.” Some of the pieces from the legend we know, are falling into place. Lew

  58. Chris,

    The hydro? Well, there are 6 dams on the Snake River in the desert. The Snake empties into the mighty Columbia, as does the Yakima River (also in the desert). To save the salmon that run in the lower Columbia River (the part in the desert), many people want to remove the 6 Snake River dams so the salmon can swim upstream unmolested and spawn. They say this will save the remaining 72 orcas in Puget Sound. The dams will be replaced by wind and solar, of course. There are some problems with this.

    First, any salmon from the Lower Columbia and tributaries do NOT enter Puget Sound, so will not feed the orcas in Puget Sound. Secondly, over a half million people rely on the electricity from these dams. You and I know that wind and solar will not replace the hydro. Finally, studies done on the Yakima River last year showed water temperatures at 82F for 2 months or so. Salmon and trout need water temperatures no greater than 69F. What is true of the Yakima will likely be true for other regional Snake and Columbia tributaries, so that the water will be too warm for the salmon to survive. In other words, the days of these salmon’s survival are already limited.

    If they really were serious about removing dams with salmon that enter Puget Sound, well, there are some candidates, but those dams supply a majority of Seattle’s electricity…What I’m actually waiting for is for some wag to suggest that all of these desert rivers get supplied with multiple small solar panels. These panels would each power a pump to get water into ice making machines also powered by these small panels. So the configuration sucks water out of the hot river, makes ice, and dumps the ice back into the river. There would be hundreds of these per river, so the water temperature would go down and the salmon would be saved. Seriously, I expect somebody to suggest that within a few years.

    I liked the technical term for feeling the sun’s heat. I expect that the feel of the sun will have a lot of tooth to it by Tuesday.

    Exactly, batteries are not fuel tanks, they are a chemistry set with a certain application. No battery can last forever. Entropy and thermodynamics always win in the end. Our society tends to ignore that.

    Drama is overrated. Staying calm is usually a better option. Easy to say, hard to put into practice.

    I was cleaning out my cubicle at the job yesterday and came upon an old article and found it online. It really sums up the problems where I’m employed, and gave me improved perspective on why things likely won’t get fixed. Thus, more calmness, as there’s no “suspense” waiting for things to improve through their current “culture improvement program”. The article is also pertinent to some of our other discussions here and at Mr. Greer’s site:

    I’ve been drenched in some of these cells, too. In fact, that storm that dumped 7.5 cm of rain on us a few weeks back had me soaked in the 75 meters or so from the bus stop to the house. I was fortunate to have missed this latest one. Yes, I said as much to Thor and Anyone else Who cared to take credit.


  59. @ Chris and Lew
    My state pension is straightforward and okay. There are complexities where people did something called ‘contracting out’; I don’t claim to understand this. The problems arise with the pension funds of large firms. Sir Philip Green’s empire being a case in point.


  60. Hi Inge,

    Ah. Interesting. Down here, trading companies i.e. businesses, usually don’t manage or have any controlling interest in employees retirement savings. The problem with that arrangement is that temptation to raid the lolly jar would be too great for some folks, and it would not end well.

    And I have no idea what is meant by the term ‘contracting out’ in a UK context either.

    Most retirement savings arrangements in play down here are of the type that if the money runs out, then there is no future entitlement for members. It is usually only government entities that offer a fixed and regular benefit to pensioners regardless of how much the person has contributed into the fund. The taxpayer makes up the shortfall, which from some perspectives is rather unfair.



  61. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, that was my thoughts too about the epic flooding in the mid-west of your country. Extreme weather can produce some unusual outcomes and down here we have long been a grain exporter, but not this year, with the drought, the tide turned and we had to import. The oats that I purchase increased in price by about 45%, and they were much smaller than I am used to seeing. They still tasted good though.

    We’re not sure yet what we’ll grow on the new terrace. One section will be set aside for a picking garden for the editor who has a desire to grow a whole bunch of fragrant roses. We’re actually considering making some rose hip wine, which might not be a bad idea. Then there will definitely be some globe artichokes, which are really tasty. Maybe some beans, like chick peas and Mungbeans. And we were also discussing the possibility of growing peanuts. The last time we grew peanuts, they grew really well but Sir Poopy dug them all up and ate every one of them. He seemed to believe that they were very tasty. But basically we need to be able to rotate crops when needed and that means more growing space.

    We dug again today on the new terrace, and even I was amazed at how much we’d excavated. And right at the end of the day we unearthed a baby Moby rock. And we dealt to that rock, although it was a massive effort and right at the limit of what we can do with hand tools. We’re considering cutting the rock in half and using it elsewhere on another project.

    No, No! It is the other way around, and low ceiling heights make me feel twitchy. 10’ is about right for me. Down here, higher ceilings mean that the hot summer air may be above your head (warm air rises), and low ceiling heights don’t work so well over the summer months. There was a product called Canite and that used to be a soft textured wall and ceiling surface, and it has good acoustic insulation properties, and back in the day it used to be made from compressed natural fibres.

    Exactly, I have no wish to intrude upon what the indigenous folk down here describe as: “Secret Women’s business”. It is an apt term for matters that don’t involve me due to my gender. And I’m entirely cool with that.

    The villain maybe a new stereotype? A bit like the Seneca’s perhaps?

    Well, the thing is (and I can see the impacts of Global Warming going on all around me) for some strange reason a lot of discussions and articles about the subject end up with the line that more research needs to be done. At what point do the researchers suggest that things are rubbish, and they’ll get more rubbish, and maybe it might not be a bad idea if we stop doing what we are doing to the environment? Dunno. The sheer disconnect seems slightly bonkers to me. Here is another example but with some great bird photos: Golden bowerbirds’ building prowess helps scientists monitor climate change, and alarm bells are ringing. I dunno, it makes little sense to me.

    Haha! I have the exact same problem with the kangaroo’s that you do with the racoons. Do you want to startle a 7 foot tall bull kangaroo that may take serious umbrage at your rude interruption of its enjoyment of the plants?

    Mate, I’m so sorry to read about Julia’s declining health. The word ‘anymore’ has a finality to it that is hard to work around. What does working the counter actually involve? I interact with a huge bunch of people and it is hard to avoid the ‘presenteeism’ that inflicts people nowadays. I read a fascinating article on vaccinations yesterday and there are some parts of the country where rates have dropped to 52% population coverage. I have a suspicion that will change when an epidemic sweeps through, but until then they barely make an impact upon my consciousness. I’ll be guided by history in such matters.

    If I left Ollie in the enclosure over night that had the rabbit, he’d believe that he was being punished and would end up doing more damage than the rabbit… Sulky would be the least of my problems then. 🙂

    Glad to see that your interweb searches bore fruit on the ceramic item. Oh my! I haven’t yet finished Skystone… And I have to write tonight! Hehe!



  62. Yo, Chris – I checked out the “big three” news sites, for flood news. Two out of three had nothing and one had it down in the small print. That did link to a pretty good article. The midsize and smaller farmers are doing it tough, this year. Between the flooding and the tariffs. That’s startling about the rise in oat prices. So far, I haven’t seen a jump in prices, here.

    Go, The Editor! Of course, now the trick is to pick out a variety. There are so many. But everyone seems to have a favorite two or three. You might also explore culinary rose water. That’s on my “to-do” list. For when the day comes that vanilla extract, either disappears or becomes too expensive.

    A baby Moby Rock! And you harpooned it’s mother! :-).

    Ah. Ceiling height clarification. :-). Well, of course in warm climates, high ceilings are a plus. But in colder climates, all the warm air rises, and it can get a bit chilly around ground level. Then you have to resort to ceiling fans.

    The Tech Lords are a kind of new villain. But they’re really a derivative of the old mad scientist.

    “More research” also keeps the scientists employed. There’s been a slight shift in climate change denial. More conservatives are accepting that the climate is changing, but their new sticking point is that it’s not man made, it’s just part of the natural cycles of the earth. So, nothing to be done. The great bower bird looks a bit like a punk rocker, with that feather-do.

    Well, the counter at The Club is a bit like a tucker shop, I imagine. Oceans of coffee get made. There’s tea available. A cooler full of soft drinks and water. Cases and racks of candy and crisps, of different kinds. Information desk. Sells program literature of different kinds. The only thing approaching “real” food is frozen stuff that can be nuked. Volunteer shifts are usually 3 or 4 hours. But a tremendous number of people thunder in and out of the place, in all degrees of health. Julia had a few go arounds with cancer, so, her immune system is a bit depressed, anyway.

    LOL. It took me a few minutes to figure out what you meant by “presenteeism.” People who are sick and should be home but feel the need to come into work and “spread the wealth.” Having spent years working with the public, I think after a certain point, you build up a pretty good immunity to lots of bugs. But even so, every once in awhile, one is laid low. Now that I don’t have much truck with the Great Unwashed, I’ve probably lost some of my immunity. Age, also plays a factor, I think.

    Well, I’m spending my morning out in the garden. My peas didn’t germinate, very well (old seed, I think) so I’m sowing another round, in the gaps. Soaked them overnight, to maybe give them a couple days leg up. That’s the theory, anyway. I’m a bit miffed at The Garden Goddess. She’s planting some different varieties of squash, and pumpkin from mine, so there will probably be genetic contamination, due to our limited garden space. Oh, well. Maybe there will be something super that will come out of the batch. Last year she decided to grow corn (after I decided to grow corn) but, luckily, it was a ways from my lot and did very poorly. I don’t think she’s going to try that, again.

    No worries about the reading. I’m going to stop at the end of the second volume, until you fellows catch up. I’ve got pelnty to read. The Horwitz book on Frederick Olmstead showed up, as did the book on the psychology of miniatures. Throw in a few DVDs (season 8 of “Call the Midwife!”) and I’m well occupied. Lew

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