Early morning horror

Early mornings are usually accompanied by strange sounds. There is the initial solid sounding click. Then all goes quiet whilst the boiler goes about its boiling. Another click produces a delightfully anticipated whirring sound as the pump pushes hot water through the coffee grounds. But nothing quite compares to the hiss of the steam as the valve is opened and the steam heats and froths the milk to an exactitude.

Some people love the sound of race cars and motorbike engines, and that is cool. I’ve even observed people waiting upon the steam rail society to take their steam locomotive through the local railway station. The whistle of a steam train is unmistakable and distinctive, and when they run the steam train runs I can hear the whistle clearly despite the distance. However, I like the sound of coffee machines.

It isn’t because I like the clicks, and whirs and hisses the machine makes, no. It is because I anticipate the fine quality coffee that my brain requires in order to get kick started early in the morning. Without coffee, early mornings are not clear. I am most definitely not an early morning person. And woe is me, because the coffee machine broke down earlier this week.

Fortunately, this particular coffee machine is a very old design, and replacement parts are readily available. The parts just haven’t arrived yet at this remote location! I confused the concept of ‘express post’ (which I paid extra for) to mean something other than the ‘slow delivery’ that I enjoyed.

The lack of early morning coffee is making me feel a bit edgy this week. Unlike many people that I speak to, I usually sleep very soundly. Everyone is different on that matter, but I normally require a lot of sleep, usually between eight and nine hours per day.

However, this week, in addition to no early morning fine quality coffee, my sleep has been disturbed. And because of that, I’m even more out of sorts early in the morning.

You see, my mind has been mulling over a problem of my own making. I did someone a favour, on the basis that I’d known them for years and years, and they really did need the help. The favour was delivered upon, but then that is when things got strange. What began as a favour, rapidly escalated into the new normal for their expectations. And I was left scratching my head as to how did something that commenced with such good intentions, end so badly for me?

At such times, I like turning over a problem in my mind and examining it from every angle that I can conceive. The editor and I discussed it too. Several possible courses of action were mooted. And finally, we asked the hard questions as to what could be learned from this, and how the heck do we avoid such unexpected nonsense in the future.

Fun times, and I’ve been rather busy this week, so my mind has been full of other matters. But then in the dark wee hours of the night, the Bogeyman rolls out the gang plank, and beckons for me to join him upon the deck of the good ship: HMS Wide Awake in the Middle of the Night. Fortunately for me, all good things come to an end, and I finally solved the puzzle, and got back to sleeping well. I had confused the concepts of ‘relationship’ to mean something other than the ‘exploitation’ that I experienced. And just to add insult to injury, there was still no fine quality coffee to wake up to.

It’s an outrageous state of affairs, however, I’m not alone and there appear to be plenty of other people that are confused by concepts. At least I’ve got an excuse, because unlike me, some of those confused people are probably enjoying fine quality coffees.

Earlier in the week I was pondering the unusual and confusing expectations that some people seem to have in relation to renewable energy systems. For about a decade, I’ve lived in a house that is not connected to the mains electrical grid. It has been a fun and interesting ride. In order to get my head around how this stuff works, many years ago I began keeping records of the daily data for the system. And here it is, all in a nice colour up to date graph:

Solar Power Production (Green) and Battery State of Charge (Blue)

The above graph shows two variables on different axis’s:
– Daily Solar Power Production (Green line) between 2012 to 2019; and
– Battery State of Charge (Blue line) between 2012 and 2019.

When I look at the green line in the graph, it becomes clear that the solar panels produce more electricity in summer than they ever can in winter. The reason for the difference is that the sun is lower in the sky over winter, and the days are shorter. If a person was to graph out the daily growth of plants during a full year, they’d probably see the exact correlation to the solar power electricity generated.

Whenever they are running, night or day, fossil fuel powered electricity generators provide for an electricity output at a more or less constant rate. Solar panels on the other hand produce different outputs of electricity, every single moment at every day of the year – and certainly nothing at all at night. The two different generators may both produce electricity, but the delivery is very different, and I suspect that in the rush to deploy renewable energy technology, not many people have grappled with what that actually means. People, I feel have confused the concept of ‘continuity of supply’ to mean something other than the ‘intermittency’ that they’ll possibly enjoy.

The weather has alternated between pleasant sunny winter days, and seriously heavy downpours. And the more fashionable part of the mountain range enjoyed periods of thick cloud that just scraped the edge of this mountain saddle. The clouds sure looked pretty though:

Looking up from down below, thick clouds sat on the main ridge of the mountain range – fashionably cloudy

The thick clouds brought lots of rain, and I noticed that the large reserve water tank has gone from empty last week, to now being about 40% full.

Water overflows from the house water tanks and into the large reserve water tank

Excavations for the new garden terrace continued. It wasn’t long before we’d unearthed yet another very large rock (but nothing near the size of the Moby (body) rock). So further digging was halted, and we set about learning how to break the larger rock into much smaller sized and more easily handled rocks.

To break up large rocks, a number of deep 22mm (9/10ths of an inch) holes were drilled into the rock.

Holes were drilled into the rock

Once the holes were drilled, the electric jackhammer with a sharp wide blade was brought into play. After a few minutes work with the jackhammer, cracks appeared and the rock fell into two pieces. All of the tools were powered by the solar power system, so this work had to take place on a sunny day.

Take that large rock, or should I say rocks?

We unearthed a number of large rocks in that area.

A number of rocks were excavated and dealt to. Toothy is unmoved.

A wheelbarrow was used to move the smaller (but still large) rocks to their new home which is where the old strawberry patch was located. They’ll create a series of ever higher terraces. The editor intends to plant succulents in the terraced garden beds. The first terrace is nearing completion.

A series of terraced garden beds has begun where the old strawberry patch once grew

Rock walls are quite handy, because they can be easily adjusted. The rock wall on the downhill side of the courtyard has begun to be adjusted so as to reduce the curve of the rockwall.

The rock wall in the courtyard is in the process of being adjusted

Rocks are great resources. We use rock filled steel gabion cages to hold back the steep soil on the potato terrace. Last week, one of the two open steel rock gabion cages was completely filled with small rocks. This week we sewed the cage shut using steel wire.

The upper level steel rock gabion cage closest to the author was sewn shut this week

It all looks pretty good, especially when looking from the potato terrace down to the level that I’m standing on in the above photo.

The steel rock filled gabion cages hold back a lot of soil. The potatoes enjoy the view

The weather on Wednesday was filthy as it was cold and the winds were driving the rain hard. Unperturbed by the weather, we took ourselves to a specialist fern nursery in a nearby mountain range and availed ourselves of some new tree ferns. It was cold and wet up in that nearby mountain range too.

We availed ourselves of some tree ferns purchased at a specialist fern nursery

The rain eventually stopped and over the following days, the tree ferns were planted in the fern gully.

The fern gully is looking quite lush

The fern gully serves an important purpose because any water that runs off the road above it, gets channelled into the fern gully where it rapidly enters the soil and groundwater table. And the fern gully sits well above the sunny orchard, so all of the groundwater eventually makes its way into the sunny orchard. I rarely, if ever, have to provide additional water to the hundreds of fruit trees.

In the (newest) strawberry and grape vine enclosure, we relocated some strawberry runners. Some areas in the enclosure had been a bit thinly planted, whilst other strawberry plants died during the most recent very hot and dry summer.

Strawberry runners were relocated in the strawberry and grape vine enclosure

The garden bed behind the corn enclosure was filled with composted woody mulch. An Irish Strawberry tree as well as an Escallonia shrub were planted in the soil.

The garden bed behind the corn enclosure was planted with screening plants

And the corn enclosure received an extra quantity of fertiliser in the form of additional composted woody mulch, dolomite lime, and a 10kg (22 pound) bag of blood and bone. Ollie the Australian cuddle (cattle) dog was very excited by the smell, and had to be kept out of the enclosure because he wanted to eat the stuff. A snack sized hole can be seen on the right hand side.

The corn enclosure was fertilised with composted woody mulch, dolomite lime and blood and bone

One day next week is the winter solstice, and the asparagus spears finally yellowed and succumbed to the winter weather. It is a good time to cut the spears back hard and apply more compost to the three asparagus raised garden beds.

Winter is a time to cut the asparagus spears back and fertilise the garden beds

Having only a limited amount of sunlight at this time of year, does not mean that plant growth stops, it just slows down a lot. Despite all of that, there are still plenty of edible plants to consume.

Freshly sprouted greens can be picked from the raised garden beds. Mostly these are brassica species
Leeks, parsley and chives continue to grow despite the winter weather
This mandarin provides plenty of fresh fruit for breakfast
A Eureka lemon and the Australian Round Lime are both full of ripe fruit

Onto the flowers:

There are plenty of flowers around, but regular readers saw them last week, and perhaps also the week before. Instead this week, I’ll show some of the mosses and mushrooms that are growing:

The paddock is full of many different varieties of moss
This moss is a very bright green
Sometimes mushrooms grow among the mosses in the paddock
Some of the mushrooms are huge and quite toxic looking. Humongous fungus.

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 5’C (41’F). So far this year there has been 309.4mm (12.2 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 257.6mm (10.1 inches).

62 thoughts on “Early morning horror”

  1. Hi Inge,

    I don’t see the point of delaying the inevitable in the Brexit matter. If there were concerns, it should never have been put to a referendum in the first place, at least that is how I see the matter.

    The corms can be seen if you do a search on “bluebell tuber image”. They’re very variable in size and shape, as are the Jerusalem artichokes. I originally obtained them from a bloke at a hippy market who sold a box of them for a couple of dollars – and I planted all of them.

    Out of curiosity, are the slugs eating the leaves of the potato plant? Can’t say that I’ve seen that, but very occasionally a hungry wallaby will try the leaves. They have cast iron constitutions, much like your slugs.

    I do hope that you have sympathy for my disdain for all things early morning! It is not just the coffee, alas, I feel that I may be hard wired that way. 🙂



  2. Hi Xabier,

    The nose definitely has novelty value – and is immediately distinctive. Ollie is lovely, and for such a big dog – and he is big – he is quite pleasant in his outlook on life. Not all dogs have such pleasant dispositions.

    Thus proving that crows are smarter than dogs, which nobody ever doubted. Ollie tries that trick with the family of magpies that live here, and one member of the magpie family always acts as a lookout whilst the others search the orchard for grubs and worms. Ollie doesn’t stand a chance.

    But yeah, I take your larger point and agree, people are oblivious to the goings on around them in the natural world. I would have been impressed if you had spotted a Womble! 😉



  3. Hi Lewis,

    Not to worry about spoilers, I’m well past the bit where the lake has been drained and things in the larger Roman world have gone a bit askew. I rather enjoyed the plot line that the legions were removed from Britain in order to establish the bona fides of the declared Emperor – and Caius’s son went along for the ride as a grunt. I doubt that it will end well for the young rapscallion. It is good to note that the characters are considering their need to bear arms in the immediate future. And the characters also display mostly unique personalities, whilst skimming over their stories and leaving them as background fodder.

    That makes a certain sort of sense about the natural irregular events, and volcanoes have erupted down here during human occupation, and perhaps on several occasions. Note to self – don’t annoy the mountain Gods because they seem a bit more than the usual grumpy. Thera was a fascinating interweb rabbit hole, and I came across an article on the most recent volcanic action down here: Australia’s volcanic history is a lot more recent than you think. As a suggestion, click past the request for a donation.

    Thanks for the subtle heads up on Varrus and Luceiia. The current story has it that rumour has it that the delightfully accommodating Phoebe has met a rather unpleasant fate at the hands of a wrathful Senecca. A nasty bit of business to be sure. Alaric the cleric personifies the vengeance is mine story – and he might be onto something with that maxim. The book doesn’t let up for a second.

    Yes, it is very weird how that tanker story seems to be played down as: nothing to see here, move along now. As an opinion, it looked an awful lot like a shot across the bow, but heckles get raised, and hawks want to fly, so who knows how the whole sorry mess will turn out. Possibly with some rather large industrial explosion, at a guess. The story reminds me nothing other than the outcome of a friendly war game that was reset due to the participants not playing by the rules of engagement. The historical and fictional comparison with the plight of the characters Terra and Firma was not lost on me.

    I don’t much understand either why people double down on their belief systems in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But then, it is not something that overly worries me either because the behaviour is inevitably self limiting and self defeating. It is sort of sad if anything.

    Mate, can’t you just imagine the sort of meetings that went on at the anarchists clubhouse for it to have gotten to that stage? The thing is I noticed a year or two back that the properties either side of the club house had been redeveloped into multi-story residential apartments and I wondered about the building. Look at how easily I lost a batch of yoghurt to Acetobacterium; it didn’t take much effort to foment discord in the yoghurt.

    Nope, official interest down here rates dropped a week or two back. Interest rates are also a proxy for real world returns on investments.

    I salute your sensibilities. 🙂 You know, I wondered about that show too. The characters were largely self absorbed, but then the people they interacted with mostly sought to blame the characters for the misfortunes that arose from their interactions. It was all a very complicated mix, and now we find ourselves with the sort of dilemma’s that I wrote about in this weeks blog. The editor enjoyed the show, but I barely took any notice of it and the concluding epsiode was about spot on.

    Incidentally, nothing. Very funny! 😉 You are a wily one and I salute your craftiness.

    Ollie is sound asleep on the couch, and you’ve left me wondering now as to his worthiness for being somehow hooked up to a 24V generator. Or maybe better still, a harness and sled to bring rocks back up the hill?

    Thanks for the heads up. John Goodman is a great actor. Who can forget The Big Lebowski? Julianne Moore is also one of your great character actors.

    He batted a good innings that bloke. 96 and out is a good score in anyone’s language. For a moment, I thought that you referred to the 1996 film version of the Bards play.

    How are the emotions after having thinned the beets and carrots? You may notice that I do not raise animals for the table due to such concerns. I worry for my mates who raise animals for the table because they name their many animals. It is complicated, that is for sure and they are tougher than I.



  4. Hello Chris
    Oh I feel extreme sympathy for anyone who has problems with early mornings as I am a night owl. However I just use ground coffee and filter papers, why do you need a machine?
    The most toxic fungi often look smooth, clean and white, appearance tells you nothing unless you have acquired expertise.
    The slugs are eating my potato leaves and everything else that they can get to.
    I did look up the bluebell corms and agree that there could be similarities. you’ll just have to pull up the plants and see which corms are attached to which plants.
    Have just returned from lunch out in town. The first meal out for exactly 2 months! Chicken in stilton sauce which was wonderful.
    Traffic was terrible as it is the end of the Isle of Wight music festival and they make the road one way so that the young can be hurried off the Island. Out here I could hear the bass notes until midnight each evening.


  5. Yo, Chris – Is it the sound or the smell of the coffee? :-). As my new phone doesn’t have an alarm on it, I had to get a wind up. It gives a soft, little click, about 5 minutes before the alarm rings. That usually wakes me up. I find as I get older, I’m more intolerant of sounds.

    Well, you know the old saying. “Give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile.” The Garden Goddess asked if I’d help her with something, the next day. Have no idea what, but I said, no. Then felt a bit guilty about it. But, I know how it will go “One little thing” will expand into four. With a side of constant chatter in my ear. I’m not a morning person, either, but getting up early to take care of my patch has been quit nice. The quiet.

    So, when your reserve water tank is full, will you be up to full capacity? The rock gabion cages look really good, and I think these are the best pictures of how they sit in your landscape. Your new ferns are quit stately. The fern gully is really coming along. Still think you need a garden gnome. Or, on second thought, maybe a little concrete dinosaur. :-).

    Keep those strawberries, rolling along. We’re a bit aghast, here. A flat of strawberries cost $25, this year. I shudder to think what blueberries are going to cost. I don’t know if you measure fruit by “flats”, down there. A flat is a crate or tray with 12 pint baskets.

    Is your weather like ours? I’ve noticed that we get our hottest, or coldest weather, after the solstice. So you’re coming up on what would be our winter solstice. But you sure have a lot more going on in your garden, than we do, at the same “weather” time.

    I think moss and mushrooms are fascinating. Cont.

  6. Cont. Well, when they drained the lake, they brought in army engineers and a crew of legion, to drain the lake slowly and safely. I thought they showed great care and restraint.

    Your Blue Lake, looks like our Crater Lake, down in Oregon. And formed the same way. Crater Lake was a mountain called Mt. Mazama. It blew it’s top about 7,700 years ago. Well within the time of humans, on this continent. The Tribes considered the crater sacred and/or dangerous. I don’t know how accurate one story is, but one tribe thought that to even LOOK at the crater caused death. I see in the article that Australia doesn’t seem to have much seismic monitoring. I saw some footage, recently, of the monitoring at Mt. Visuvious. Looks like NASA mission control. Mt. Elephant looks like a hill fort. :-).

    I’ll pass on the Anarchist’s meeting. I went to enough quasi-political meetings, back in the day. I skip the monthly Inmates meeting, here at the Institution. I figure anything interesting will filter down to me.

    I meant, if you capture Ollie’s wind, you can probably run a stove or heater with it. And Ollie won’t have to do anything but lay around and toot. We discovered, last night, that HRH also likes radishes.

    It was a quiet, affair. The thinned beets and carrots were laid to rest in a matchbox. Only family and close friends were in attendance. In lieu of flowers, please make a charitable donation, in the names of the deceased.

    I happened to hear a fellow on the radio, yesterday. David Splatt (what an unfortunate name) from Melbourne. Wrote a book about climate. “Climate, Code Red” (2008). He’s of the school that if we don’t do something major RIGHT NOW, we’re all doomed. He’s also one of the heads of “Breakthrough – National Center for Climate Restoration.”

    In a related story, it has been found that over 70F, potatoes put on a lot of foliage, but no tubers. Due to a fiddly bit of DNA. Which they may attempt to fiddle with. Lew

  7. @DJSpo – Coming soon to your town! Get your tickets early!


    Thought you might be interested, as they’re approaching the exhibit from a Roman technology, point of view.

    I see it’s going to be at your Northwest Museum of Arts & Crafts (MAC) running from 2/7 to 5/3, 2020.

    I see there also having a “Norman Rockwell’s America” exhibit, starting in October.

    Mark your calendar! Lew

  8. Hi Inge,

    Why a machine? There is less waste with the type of coffee machine that I use, if only because the filters are stainless steel and only require the occasional clean out. The boiler of the machine is able to extract more oils (crema) from the coffee grounds, plus the boiler has a steam function with which to froth the milk. Overall it makes a nicer coffee. Your preferred method of brewing is good too, it just produces what is known down here as a ‘flat white’ coffee, but a latte is a finer coffee.

    Don’t get me started on plastic pod coffee machines. So much waste… The guy who invented the machine has serious misgivings about his creation. The end product looks not dissimilar to my eyes than instant coffee (may the stuff never pass my lips).

    Here’s to the night owls of the world! 🙂

    Fungi down here is a true unknown, unless the fungi are harvested from cultivation and/or pine plantations. Not an area that I would experiment with. I have a few fungi identification books, but the differences are minute.

    Do you have any local birds that enjoy eating slugs?

    Yum! The chicken sounds delicious.

    Were you being humorous, I’m not entirely sure? Oh well. Anyway, I had to laugh at your astute line: “make the road one way so that the young can be hurried off the Island”. The average age of householders up here is not good, especially given the difficulties involved in living in this remote spot. I do wonder how that story will play out in the future? Dunno. Probably not well.

    And yeah, I can sometimes hear the bass notes from large concerts at Hanging Rock (on the other side of the mountain range). I do wonder if people concern themselves with the risk of industrial deafness?



  9. Hi Lewis,

    It is probably closer to Pavlov’s Dogs, and the sound of the coffee machine starts the slow wind up of my brain for the day. The tea camellia’s are both doing well, and one is even flowering. Tea is good, but coffee is also good. 🙂 I once grew a coffee shrub, and it grew beautifully, although I suspect that the rains fall at the wrong time and the summer temperatures are too hot, but still one can dream. Anyway one late winters day, snow fell and the coffee shrub was covered in snow, and promptly died. It could possibly work in a greenhouse.

    I thought you ended up with a smart phone? It doesn’t seem particularly smart if it can’t manage an alarm. 🙂 It is very quiet here at night and so sounds get noticed more readily than if I lived in an urban area. I hear you about the sounds (excuse the pun, but I’m serious) because very occasionally we are in a flight path, and I look up at the jet aircraft going directly over my house and only hope that the machine knows what it is doing and climbs above the much higher main ridge of the mountain range. Sometimes they are ridiculously low.

    Yes, my thoughts exactly. It is funny how good intentions can sometimes lead directly to exploitation. You know, I’ve been considering the problem for a while and I reckon it is a perversion of the social norms and niceties. Remember Lewis, the mantra: “I’d like to help, but I’m a bit busy at the moment”, and then quietly go off and do something else with your time. 😉 But yeah, the Garden Goddess might wear me out too with the constant demands. Have you made any demands in return for your favours rendered? That is how price discovery works in the barter system. Surely a person as well read as yourself has read: “The Art of War”? But yeah, I get it, does one want to consider strategy when they were only ever out for some enjoyable time in the garden?

    If the reserve water tank fills up any time soon, I’ll be faced with a dilemma in that I could fill up one of three other water tank systems with the rainfall catchment from the household roof space. It is complicated at this time of year because I lack the solar electricity with which to power a water pump running for several hours. And we are only a couple of days out from the winter solstice.

    You’ve posed a serious brain teaser. What is the metric conversion for 12 pints? Apparently 2 pints = 473.17 grams, so 12 pints would = 2.839 kilograms. OK. Well, yeah, in season that is about what we would pay for strawberries. I do prefer home grown strawberries if only because they are picked when sun ripened and have a far superior taste to the things that are picked green as and then gassed (with ethylene gas?) to a nice red colour. Shame about the taste.

    Thermal inertia is apparently the reason why it is always warmer and cooler after the respective solstices. Yeah, there is still heaps going on here with the plants, and many of the smaller native trees are in flower right now.

    The moss is a real surprise, because the plant grows in areas that are otherwise very difficult for plants during the growing season. An interesting family of plants. I gave a big patch of them a feed of a large bins worth of coffee grounds today. The mushrooms / fungi are the real heavy hitters in a soil. Quite amazing. Did you ever read the book on the secret life of trees?

    I too was impressed with the care that the Roman engineers and sappers in the story approached the job of draining the lake. They knew full well what the risks would be and spoke of them at the initial meeting. Varrus appears to have designs on his arch enemy that won’t end well and cause him no end of hassles. Incidentally the story highlights that the wolves are nipping at the heels of the eagles. And Caius, who is perhaps more sensible than Varrus, is off to meet a Celtic King at Stonehenge. Awesome! What a story. 🙂

    I am trying to reduce the number of links, but this one is fascinating: Earthquakes at Geoscience Australia. The interweb does well at clickable maps! And who would have thought that there are so many incidents?

    Mount Elephant is cool as! Years ago I used to know somebody who was associated with the mountain in some sense, but my mind has forgotten the details. You can see it from miles around, and it was described somewhere as the light house of the west, which is kind of cool. I see in an article it was described as the ‘swagman’s lighthouse’ which is a reference to the folks who hit the road during the Great Depression looking for agricultural work.

    I skip such meetings too. The endless merry-go-round of arguments that could be settled with a brief discussion of the pros and cons and then a quick vote, and then everyone gets to go home early. Such niceties are often lost in grandstanding and ego driven politics, and I avoid community groups for that reason. The big end of town were dirty for meetings, but I did note that some people filled their days up with such dross. I’m too much of a worker drone to enjoy such antics.

    HRH enjoys radishes? Who’d have thought that was possible? I’m hoping to plant radishes, beets and beans up in the new terrace when it is eventually dug and fenced. Do you reckon dolomite is any good as a soil additive? I can’t even recall why I had a bag of the stuff.

    That’s nice. 🙂 You reminded me of my early forays into pruning in the orchard. Every branch was precious back in the day. Nowadays with a bit more experience under my belt, I lop and hack with abandon. The wallabies do far worse than I could ever do, and in doing so, they showed me just how far an animal could push pruning.

    Thanks for the heads up on the book. It is a real problem. Anyway, when the Europeans first arrived on this continent, apparently about 90% of the indigenous folks died due to disease, loss of land and loss of culture. Such losses are pretty epic and highly destructive, but they’re not ‘we’re all doomed’ by any stretch of the imagination.

    Ha! Good luck with mucking around with the DNA of potatoes. Surely varieties could be bred that are better adapted to warmer conditions? There is a point to raising potatoes from seed rather than tuber. My lot are putting on a huge amount of growth at the moment, but whether it is all leaf and no tubers is something that remains to be seen. And how the plants will cope with the inevitable frosts is also a mystery.

    It is 3’C / 37’F outside right now, so we are edging ever closer to frost land.



  10. Hello again
    It’s called a flat white coffee here also and that is what I drink even when out. I once had a glorious iced coffee in Sydney but have never encountered anything even remotely as good again.
    I am sure that all sorts of things eat slugs, they just can’t manage the quantity!
    Yes, it is not safe to eat fungi if one is only relying on illustrations, one has to be shown by an expert when out picking.
    No I wasn’t being intentionally funny, just assuming that most of the festival goers were young. I could have said ‘overners’ which is what the islanders used to call mainlanders. We do have a large retired population at least in part because there is a lack of jobs here. Also people think that it is lovely to retire by the sea. This is often disastrous because of the lack of accustomed city life. Very often one partner dies not long after moving and the other one is left lonely. I heard this story again and again when I worked in a public library here. Going on holiday to a place is very different from living there.
    Rain is tipping down again just when I had a yen to do some garden work.


  11. Hi Chris,
    Yes, I do keep a garden diary and sometimes I even keep up with it. The new bed has been tilled. I won’t be planting anything in it for a few weeks though so today I’ll mulch it.

    My friends grow great vegetables at a very reasonable price. Gary was falsely accused of his parents death some years ago and was on death row until he was exonerated. Sue, his wife, does the farmers markets though each year they cut back by one as they are now my age. The also have a farm stand at their farm which is run on the honor system. She said he sells at 50 cents/lb but I wonder if it’ll be higher this year unless the weather turns around. Here’s a link about his case. http://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/wrongfulconvictions/exonerations/il/gary-gauger.html

    I did make my own sour dough culture a couple of years ago. We really don’t eat all that much bread though to keep it up. The bread at the market works well for me.

    I’m sorry about your lack of coffee. I keep a small coffee maker in reserve just in case the regular one breaks. We don’t have a fancy machine like yours though – just the standard drip pot.


  12. @Lew
    There have been many movies made in Chicago – fun to watch.
    However, “Ground Hog Day” was filmed in Woodstock, the next town just southeast of us. They still have a Groundhog Day festival each year. Many of the business’s got a free make over. The Unitarian Church I used to attend received a new paint job but in the end was never included in the film.


    So glad you’ve gotten a decent amount of rain. Ours has finally slowed down.


  13. @ Inge – The chicken in Stilton sauce, sounds wonderful. I haven’t been able to find any Stilton, here, in months. Maybe it’s the off season, or some kind of fall out from Brexit?

    There’s still some nice English cheddar, around. Needs, must. Lew

  14. Yo, Chris – Smart phone? You know it’s Lew, right? :-). My old flip phone had an alarm. When I got the new one, the Old People’s Flip phone, it didn’t. :-(. So, I had to go out and buy an alarm clock. Of course, being a low tech kind of a guy, it had to be a wind up. Which of course, has problems of it’s own. We used to make very dependable wind-ups. Still an American company, but made in China. :-(. On line reviews are not very promising for longevity.

    The place I lived before was right on the flight path between Seattle and Portland. Usually, they flew very high and weren’t a problem. But in really, nasty stormy weather, they came over pretty low. Rattled the windows, and a couple of times, sounded like they were going to take the roof off. I always had these fantasies that one was going to come down in my back pasture.

    Can’t think of a thing I’d want from the Garden Goddess. Her irritation quotient far out weighs her usefulness.

    The flats of strawberries or blueberries I buy are either grown in this county, or the next county over. There just “fill in.” But the bulk of my berries come from the grounds of the Institution. Black berries are free for the picking, down by the Club. But the seeds are a problem.

    Yup. I read “The Secret Life of Trees.” Who knew?

    That’s an interesting map of the Australian earthquakes. You lot are rather quiet. Take a look at ours …


    I think the dolomite is lime. Not good for moss, by the way.

    I finished Horwitz’s “Spying on the South.” A couple of interesting bits. A lot of Olmstead’s philosophy of landscaping, developed on his trips. “Olmstead noted that observers of scenery tend to focus on the most dramatic features, such as waterfalls or peaks. But he believed the true power of landscape lay in the dynamic interplay of trees, sky, water, and topography. All combined, like the human face, to create a whole larger than a”a measured account” of its parts.”

    Olmstead also had a sense of history. What he called “the drift of things.” Horwitz relates that to our times. One may get a sense of the future, by noting “the drift of things.”

    In one of those odd coincidences, I ran across a book called “Mysteries of the Mall” (Rybczynski), in our library catalog. Having worked in so many malls, in my life … seeing their rise and now their fall, I’m always a bit curious. I checked to see if the library carried any of his other books. Several. Mostly to do with architecture and city planning. AND, a biography of Frederick Olmstead. Probably won’t get around to reading any of them, until this winter. Other than the mall book.

    Watered this morning in the early quiet. Pruned a bit of potatoes and squash. Splashed about a bit of BT. Lew

  15. Good evening

    Ah, Wombles! That’s starts a nostalgia train: ‘Wombles of Wimbledon, wandering free….’ Perfect role models to which to expose young minds.

    My great-grandfather was one of the last London hansom cab drivers, dying nastily ( ‘you could pour the blood from his boot!’) in 1912 as a result of an unhealed injury from a hay fork left in the wrong place in the dark by his son (should have carried a lantern?) and his preferred pitch was Wimbledon Common, about which his only remembered comment was ‘You should see the things that go on there!’

    He saw his business dissolve before his eyes as private cars and motor taxis came in – at one point he had had 90 horses and lived very well. A handsome man, he seduced my great-grandmother into eloping at the age of 19, (an age gap of 25 years!) resulting in a police hunt to apprehend the rogue…. them was the days! I hope the police wore those little Victorian capes and blew their whistles a lot. And had big whiskers. It’s gratifying to be descended from a man who was actually the subject of a police hunt for charming the socks off a young lady.

    As a morning person I don’t need coffee to wake up – up and off at sunrise whenever possible to go on Patrol Sancho, the fruitless search for pheasants, muntjac and rabbits – but I do need it to recover a few hours later! Brandy is a not unknown addition, as recommended by all physicians. .

    The sound of the morning here is of groaning, and coffee beans being ground in a mortar and pestle which I found in an antique shop with the label ‘c1800’, I couldn’t resist. It’s so beautifully solid.

    I used to use a mechanical hand-mill, but the old one broke after 10 years, the apparently similar replacement was utter rubbish that lasted 1 month (and I’d lost the receipt so no refund) and so until the advent of the mortar and pestle I employed a book binder’s hammer on an old tin lid to do the crushing – how’s that for School of Parsimonious? Beat that!

    Sorry to hear about the exploitative customer: you never know what some people are like until you do them a favour, good or bad….

    All the best


  16. @ Lew,

    Yes, I’ve noticed that Cliff Mass is Seattle-centric. After all, outside of Seattle, Washington is unpopulated! Seriously, I enjoy reading his blog and have learned a lot from him.

    I’ve always wondered how a mall decides to close. Now I know. We have a similar problem at local government with abnotmal situations and lack of decision-making ability.


  17. Hi Chris,

    Who doesn’t love a good excel session? You even fitted a trendline – so nice 🙂 Am I reading that correctly, your annual solar production is roughly double what you started out with?

    Your perfectly reasonably request that I construct you a folly in fern gully led me down a rabbit hole. What sort of follies are people building these days? Well, first of all, turns out that technically a folly is any building which exhibits some sort of architectural flair combined with no practical purpose or function. So, a folly tower built to be a house, would actually not be a folly anymore. Although I would argue it contains spirit of folly, and thus is still a folly.

    An image search reveals all sorts of wonderous towers:
    And check out this one that inspired Tolkien:
    It is even made from red brick, which I thought would not work in a folly.

    Better go, I have been informed by Mrs Damo I require a flu shot. So I will get that done on the way to work!


  18. Chris,

    I’m enjoying the diversity of compost ingredients. I added diversity to the kinds of vegetables I’m growing this year, too. My wife wants me to grow nothing but carrots. What if it’s a bad year for carrots and there’s none to harvest? Gotta have something to eat!

    This week has turned hectic. I noticed a trickle of water travelling from beneath the old clothes washing machine to the basement floor drain. It seems as if the pump is failing and not all the water is getting evacuated when it’s supposed to. So I thought there was a leak in the machine…

    So, after work Monday the Princess and I visited the appliance store and bought a new washer/dryer set. This set, as did the old one, boasts metal parts and metal gears and transmission, in contrast to the typical plastic. Turned out that there was a minor plumbing issue, too.

    So, I repaired most of the plumbing issue, the remainder being out of my capability to fix. Meanwhile, I moved the appliances and fund water everywhere beneath them. A “mop up” operation ensued, some drywall was removed due to the water damage , towels set out near the leaky machine and a fan set up to dry the area. Set up an appointment with the plumber for Wednesday afternoon.

    Arriving home early from work Tuesday because a contractor is coming for an outdoor problem, I trotted to the laundry room. Floor still wet where it shouldn’t be. Then I noticed a drip that was following the dryer vent tubing to the floor. There is a pinhole leak in some PVC right where the dryer vent touches it near ceiling height. More mopping, remove some bits of a wooden wall that no longer was serving a useful purpose (the plumber will now have access to the affected area). Called the plumber and add the PVC to the work order. Placed a 5 gallon bucket under the drip…And there is no longer any water under the old washing machine, so I’m guessing it all came from the drip. The Princess and I voted on whether or not to cancel the order for the new machines. It was unanimous: get the new machines…we’ll need them eventually and we can afford them now.

    Moss is a wonderful thing. Some varieties are edible around here. I’ve never tried any. Fern, especially the young bits, are said to be edible. Is the fern gully an emergency source of greens?

    The new terraces are shaping up nicely. That’s work, as is the rock splitting. Drinking enough coffee before starting those jobs is a must. “No coffee, no workee” is a motto where I work.


  19. Fascinating graph! If you normalize for the average level of production (I presume you’ve gotten more panels or aimed them better or maintained the area around them better over time), do you see a trend in the variability day-to-day over the timeframe? Might have a window into if climage change is altering the distribution of weather in your area…

  20. Hi, Chris!

    I am sorry about your coffee machine, but I expect that the new parts may even be there by now.

    Favors area tricky thing. The ones to be most careful about dispensing are to neighbors. I have done that too many times, and then what does one do when taken advantage of, as one is stuck with seeing that person almost daily, forever perhaps?

    You do have the most magnificent clouds. They can sometimes be very good for your water tanks, too!

    Just think – if you didn’t have all that solar power, you couldn’t have custom made rocks, which look so nice, besides being useful.

    What an enormous amount of strawberry plants. I was going to ask if you had limes as I have been using quite a bit of lime juice lately.


  21. @ Lew
    The stilton sauce recipe definitely needs a strong blue cheese, I wouldn’t do it with cheddar. Wouldn’t use Danish blue either as I dislike its sharpness. The sauce was fabulous with the new potatoes also.


  22. Hi everyone,

    It is that time of the week – the dreaded mid week hiatus. Will speak tomorrow.

    Lewis – Of course, and thanks for the correction about your phone. Makes sense, but what, no alarm? I do recall that old clocks and restoring them was a theme of one of the latter books of the World Made by Hand series, and the job was conducted by the local polymath. Interestingly, I’d never heard of the tables (is almanac the correct word?) for sunrise and sunset times before. What a woeful education system we have these days.

    A wind up clock! Nice one, best of luck that it hangs together. I recall the days of the old mantle piece clock and you could hear the tick-tock throughout the otherwise quiet house.

    The planes can be quite low sometimes can’t they? And I too hope they know what they’re doing. What was the film where that happened? Hmm… Ah, that is it: Donnie Darko. Apparently it is quite the cult classic. Anyway, if a plane did come down and missed the house, it would clear some of the trees that block the winter sun from the solar panels, but then it would be unpleasant for everyone else involved in the incident, so let’s just hope the computers that fly the things know what they’re doing. 😉 On a serious note, some locals from a town to the south of here were killed in the plane that was shot down (MH17).

    The thing is the Garden Goddess knows this and that is why requests of your time are considered free. It is not in my nature, but I have to incorporate the harsh question: “what is in it for me?”, with some situations. Turns out sometimes there isn’t much in there.

    I don’t mind the seeds in blackberries, but mostly we turn the blackberries into jam (you’d call it a conserve), so the cooking and preserving process might soften the seeds somewhat. Dunno. But I do know this: the raspberry jam that we are eating now is without doubt the finest jam that we have made – and they’re usually well beyond good. On freshly baked bread, straight out of the oven, it reminds me of the scene in Soylent Green where the detective is tasting strawberry jam for the first time. Soylent Green might be tasty too, but it probably has a bit too much salt for my tastes.

    Exactly, who knew the trees were interconnected and the fungi is a form of extended root and communication system?

    You win for sure! Mate, your area is very seismically active. Frankly it seems a bit alarming. Are you on a major fault line?

    Of course, I may not have mentioned it but the dolomite was for the corn enclosure. I feed the moss the coffee grounds, and they love it. It always amazes me that the products of tropical soils are ending up down here in the soil. In a sane society, this should not be the case.

    Olmsted is a fascinating character, and who knew that he was involved in planning for Central Park, and he stamped his ideology upon the very land itself. I’ll bet he had some thoughts on the South at that time? Especially, given his other thoughts about social class and structure. He was a reasonably astute bloke to notice that the whole of the landscape has to hang together – coherent, may be the best approximation of the concept. And I do appreciate those who can develop a sense of history and it is a lovely way to describe such a sense.

    Malls are a fascinating subject, and the near empty one that I occasionally park the car at, is a very creepy place. I noticed about a year or two back one of the well to do families that was heavily involved in such activities, completely sold up to some nice Europeans. I have long wondered if they’ll get their assets back on the cheap at some point in the future? Dunno, just pure speculation. It reminds me of a story about a stock tip and a shoe shine boy.

    How is your slug hunt going?

    Had souvlaki for dinner this evening. Yum! Charcoal spit roast lamb is just the thing for a cold winters night. Hope the coffee machine parts are at the post office tomorrow… Unhappy emoji – whatever that is.



  23. Hi Chris,

    My sympathy for your coffee shortage is entirely abstract, since I cannot stand drinking the stuff. It’s OK as a flavoring in mocha fudge ice cream or in a cocktail with other ingredients besides coffee liquor, but not on its own. I drink tea, and generally only one cup of black tea in the morning and one of green tea in the afternoon. Any other tea after that is herbal tea. It’s too easy for me to have caffeine withdrawal otherwise if I miss a day of tea.

    I am pleased to report that I had excellent germination of the corn seeds in all three beds. Monday evening Mike and I drove across the Mississippi River into Illinois and through the closest set of farms on our way to a dulcimer club meeting. In none of the farms were the corn plants as tall as they would normally be at this time of year. The plants in the vast majority of fields looked to be about as far along as those in my beds, or planted around the end of May to beginning of June. The occasional field had been planted a couple of weeks earlier, guessing from the size of the plants. This is still about 2 weeks later than fields are typically planted. The fields were very moist from rain earlier that day; some fields had water in the bottoms of the furrows. The river is still in major flood stage at St. Louis but it should fall below major flood stage today or tomorrow.

    Remember we discussed strawberries a few weeks back? I found the reference from which I learned to mow the strawberry plants after they finish fruiting to extend their productive lives. It’s a reprint of an article Helen and Scott Nearing wrote for Organic Gardening magazine back in 1970 titled Our 10-Year Strawberry Bed. You can find it in the book The Best of Organic Gardening: Over 50 Years of Organic Advice and Reader-Proven Techniques from America’s Best-Loved Gardening Magazine, edited by Mike McGrath. McGrath was the editor of the magazine when I was learning how to garden from it. The essential part of the article is that they planted their strawberry plants 16 inches apart each way. After fruiting ended, they mowed off all the foliage and added a mix of cottonseed, soybean, and alfalfa meal, topped off with an inch or so of acid compost. By autumn the plants had produced a profusion of healthy green leaves. They said the plants overwintered well, with few losses. Each year they filled in the spots where plants died with plants from runners. They experienced excellent production from a bed managed this way for 10 years running before the plants were unable to re-grow well in the spring.


  24. Yo, Chris – Yup. Almanac’s are handy things. Been Franklin made a fair part of his fortune, printing and selling “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Since the mid 1800’s, we’ve had “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.” I order their gardening calendar, every year. In the fall, the distinctive yellow cover of the almanac blooms on every cash wrap, in the land. :-). Full of gardening and household tips … recipes.

    Yeah, my new wind up clock has a very loud tick-tock. Took some getting used to.

    “Donnie Darko” was quit the movie. I keep meaning to get around to seeing the expanded, director’s cut. Just to see if it makes more sense :-).

    Back when I was in the tat trade, I used to get people angling for free appraisals. Sometimes, I’d say, “I can spend a couple of hours researching your item … and it won’t put a dime in my pocket.” Doctor’s call it a “curb side diagnosis.” I’m always very careful when seeking professional advice, “off the cuff.” I often inquire if it’s all right, or out of line.

    We call it jam. :-). At least in this neck of the woods, I very seldom hear conserve.

    Yup. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is where several ocean plates plunge under the North American plate. It creates friction and heat. Hence volcanoes. When they stick, and then tear loose, we get earthquakes. Holding my breath for “the Big One.” The one that will be a 10+ and last for up to five minutes.

    Olmstead, being young and dumb, thought the slave owners could be convinced of the error of their ways. Through logic. Appealing to their higher nature. He was disabused, pretty early on. He thought landscapes should have open meadows, balanced by wild forest areas, but in balance and working together in a natural way.

    The slug hunts are going, ok. I don’t feel the need to go out, every night. Counts have been pretty low. 9, 15. An occasional 25.

    I ran across an interesting article. “Do These Skeletons Hold the Secret to the Fall of the Roman Empire?”


    There’s a theory kicking around that the Saxons stopped their westward advance, across England, for about 100 years, due to plague. And, that the line between them and the Britons was so solid that plague didn’t enter western Britain. I’d say they just haven’t found the bodies, yet. “Someone always breaks quarantine.” (Lew™ ). I may have to get the book mentioned in the article. “The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire.” (Harper, 2017). Library doesn’t have it.

    Our weather has been coolish with lots of scattered overcast. Onshore flow. Feels nice, but the garden grows, slowly. I had to shore up some corn, this morning. The seeds tend to float, when watered, so the are not deeply anchored. I kept shoving them back in the ground. But, some escaped.

    Unhappy emoji = : – ( . Lew

  25. Hi Inge,

    Hmm, ice coffee is a delightful beverage on a hot summer’s day. The local cafe does a good iced coffee, as well as a very refreshing spider. Yum!

    Out of curiosity, do you have hedgerows? Such thick plantings would provide good nesting places for birds, and birds eat slugs (at least the lot here do). The slugs don’t stand a chance. Smaller birds often struggle covering the open ground between their nests and the areas that they feed. The larger birds can often attempt to eat them.

    I know some people that pick wild mushrooms, and I am uncomfortable with the small margin of error that that practice has to face. The risk just isn’t worth the reward.

    It was a funny observation about the festival goers. Like your island, there are few if any jobs up in this mountain range, but then the mountain range is heavy with natural resources so there are other non-monetary benefits to living here. And absolutely, a city life does not prepare one for a life up here in the mountains and forest. It is 37’F outside right now, but toasty enough inside the house, and I’ve heard more than my fair share of arguments over the years between couples who live up here, where one partner is deeply unhappy about the cold winters. To be honest it sounds a lot like whining to me, and I don’t have much time for such nonsense.

    Exactly, I too once lived in a tourist heavy area and the experience was a real eye-opener. Can’t say that I enjoyed it.

    Raining here too today (1/5th of an inch)!



  26. Hi Margaret,

    Nice work, and I hear you. The garden diary here is at best a work-in-progress, because the editor and I have not agreed upon the format, and recently I felt that we had made an error, and we ran the experiment and I was very totally wrong. I am beginning to wonder about whether we need to construct a small green house with which to provide winter greens. I saw the greens in my mates big shed a few weeks back and there is no comparison to the greens here. It is complicated because there are diminishing returns in a greenhouse, so it has to be an unusual form of building. Dunno. I’m interested in the problem.

    Have you got a rotary tiller? Did you get the mulch down upon the garden beds? Given the stuff is so ridiculously cheap here, I just keep bringing back more of the organic matter back every week.

    Far out, it looks as though a job was done on the bloke. You know, I read once long ago that the legal system is a system which seeks to administer itself. I noted that in the definition the aforementioned definition, the concept of ‘justice’ does not appear. Thus my advice is never to get caught in its web. The other thing to recall, and it applies down here too, is that silence is always an option which should be used in any highly emotional situation. Unfortunately, people confuse who their mates are at such times. How is the blokes standing in the community? Key Performance Indicators can be a problem and can make for hasty or botched investigations.

    Exactly, if you’re not making bread every day, then a starter is probably not worth the effort, whilst supporting a local quality baker probably is worth the effort. I have read some articles that describe some of the worst practices with bread making these days, and it is not good.

    Haha! Coffee machine is now fixed. It took several hours of my time this afternoon as well as the assistance of a delightful local lady to sort out the mess. The replacement parts were lost in the post, believe it or not… The poor supplier of the replacement parts had done all the right things, but to no avail. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms were mounting up! 🙂 Not really as we managed just fine, but it does make for a good story. Happy days, coffee is freely flowing again.

    Lots of winter rain here. It is filthy cold outside right now. Brrr!



  27. Hi Xabier,

    The Wombles had a good message too about not abusing the commons. 🙂 I tend to think of them as a note from less troubled times. Beats the stuffing out of HR Puff N Stuff who may have had something to say about, oh I dunno. 😉 Pollution is a serious problem that is getting worse by the day.

    Ouch, sorry to say but hay forks – used in stables – probably have more than their fair share of bacteria. Thanks for the story. I heard long ago that one of the spruiked benefits of motorised vehicles was that the streets would have been clear of horse dung. No self respecting gardener would allow such free fertiliser to go by the wayside…

    Yes, your great grandfather appeared to be quite the character, but given that the lady in question was your great grandmother, well, we don’t need to guess at how the story turned out. One must always maintain a slightly raffish air about them, you never know when it might be useful – and for you it is in the blood.

    Stop this horrid talk of cheery early mornings. Nice for some. Hehe!

    The mortar and pestle is an elegant technology, and as long as the beans were roasted, it would all be good. I have heard of people roasting coffee beans in a fry pan. Need I mention that I have restored the coffee machine to life this afternoon?

    Exactly, it is just like weddings and funerals, in that it brings out the best and the worst in people.



  28. Hi Damo,

    Thank you, and I recall the days when Excel arrived in the mail on two 3.5 inch floppy disks. Remember those? I still encounter them from time to time and think to myself – why are these being kept?

    I was no good at math, having gone to a hippy dippy school for years 7 and 8, and then sitting next to the school bully in year 9. All I can say is that some problems cannot be easily rectified and lost time is indeed lost! But statistics made perfect sense to me at Uni, and just to display a bit of technical knowledge – basically because I’m crap at all other forms of math – the trend line is known as a polynomial regression. And believe it or not, once we knew the formula (I slipped in a cheeky NZ reference in there for you too)!

    Yes, you were rather correct in the assertion and it is my belief that those who suggest, should be put to work, lest their suggestions exceed their efforts and overload the people who are already busy. A sad state of affairs to be sure! 😉

    Thanks for the great images. All I’m sayin’ is that there are a lot of bricks in those buildings. Bricklaying is hard work and I’ve laid a few brick walls in my time. Compared to the tradie guys (and I have no idea how they keep up such a volume of bricks as they age) I was a bit of a slow coach.

    Skystone showed a much easier way to build substantial stone fortifications.



  29. Hi DJ,

    Ah yes, that strategy is also known as the: ‘eggs in one basket’ strategy. I do like carrots, and applaud your ladies fine choice of root vegetable, but as you note, things could go wrong and then that would be that. I tend to silence such requests by getting the people making the suggestions involved, and turns out that requests are simpler to make than getting dirt under the fingernails. Who’d have thought it?

    The coffee machine has now been fixed, and all is right with the world again. The editor and I have a clear demarcation line between opinions where it comes to getting machines fixed. It is not that the editor lacks the intellectual capacity to fix machines, it is just that she lacks the experience – and also the desire to earn the experience required to make assessments as to the course of action. Fixing complicated machines yourself when the problem is unknown is hard enough without assistance and helpful hints.

    Plumbing is a very complicated skill set, and water at pressure has this unerring tendency to want to ooze out of every join and possibility. It is nice to realise when to fix things yourself and when to call in the professionals. I get plumbing jobs like that too, and replacing the failed wood heater two years ago was one of those jobs. Incidentally too, the plumber made nothing but excellent recommendations too, but then he was the same bloke that plumbed up the house in the first place.

    That happens too. It is really hard to know when to throw money at repairs, and when a machine is beyond its economic lifespan. And even after you’ve made the decision, you’ll just never really know the answer, because there probably isn’t one.

    Didn’t know that about the moss and ferns. No, on a serious note, the fern gully is there to get any water off the road and into the groundwater table. It is much harder to evaporate there.



  30. Hi Tony B,

    Well done for such an astute series of comments, questions and observations.

    Yes, it is more than clear that the trend line with the solar power production clearly displays diminishing returns, that is why the curve is flattening off. I could keep on adding more solar panels to the system, but the trend line clearly shows that this won’t produce that much more power.

    And absolutely, one day is very different to the next day. Cloud cover is a highly variable thing, and it affects the panels output. Even minute to minute the output from the solar panels varies wildly.

    People talk about this technology in terms of averages, but it works nothing at all like that and I wouldn’t want to try and make it work the way people think that it does.

    Interestingly, and that is another great observation, the off grid folks that I’ve known over the years have suggested that winters are cloudier down here of late, although that might not be true of everywhere.



  31. Hi Pam,

    Your clairvoyance skills were on the money. There was a bit of a ‘stuff up’ with the delivery of the coffee machine parts, and they were discovered this morning. I spent several hours this afternoon installing the replacement parts, and now all is good with the world and I have enjoyed my caffeine fix, courtesy of the newly repaired machine. Strangely enough I found a lot of what looks like metal filings inside the boiler of the machine earlier in the day, and that made little sense to me. I’m cleaning up and restoring the old parts in order to use them as a replacement should the need arise.

    Exactly, that is what I’ve found too. When the social niceties get abused, what does that mean for the ongoing relationship, and then, you know what they’re capable of as they’ve showed their hand. I tend to smile a lot, be polite and never get involved in their business again. I mean what else do you?

    The water tanks are filling up quite rapidly. The turn around in the climate was quite startling. Anyway, what do they say about: A gallon of water in the tanks is worth lots more in the bush!

    You know, it is not lost on me that despite the solar power systems many deficiencies, the amount that it generates every day is a Kings ransom from an historical perspective.

    Limes grow really well here, although they are not the traditional sub-tropical variety, but they’re close enough. I tend to eat them fresh with breakfast toasted muesli. How do you use them in cooking? I must add that you are keeping the dreaded scurvy at bay!



  32. Hi Claire,

    Thank you for the abstract sympathy and also for the good kick in the pants (in a very polite way) of reminding us all of the far more readily grown caffeine source substitute in these sorts of climates. Coffee growing is going through some serious problems at present due to the treatment of the soils, farmers, and the climate. Most weeks I bring back at least two large bins worth of coffee grounds to add to the soil here, and it is not lost on me what a sad story that is. Anyway, tea, that was what we were speaking of. It is still early days, but I have two Camellia sinensis (although I am unsure of the cultivar which wasn’t listed) plants now happily growing and they have both managed to survive -2’C frosts and snow due to their crazy specific sheltered location on the property. It is a very complicated plant, and it was almost about to flower the other day. We had our first frost of the season yesterday morning at 1’C. It looked quite nice.

    Great news about your corn. I reckon your growing season will be just fine, although as you say it may be late. I experienced a season like that one and the plants simply adapted and grew at a faster rate, although I was very worried at first.

    The Nearing’s are very experienced folk. I quite enjoyed reading about their lives, although there were one or two aspects that were a bit kooky for my tastes. But they sure know about plants, and you are wise to follow their lead. Such magazines are very good – and I used to write semi-regularly for a mob down here – although my articles were often quite informative with a side serving of fluff, which was my stock in trade. I used the fluff as a means to slip below the radar whilst maintaining the reader’s attention. The spacing is something I’m going to experiment with here, Vermont and upstate NY has cooler summers, and they probably need more distant spacing, whereas I need soil shading to reduce heat stress on the plants and loss of groundwater. But yeah, your previous mention of over crowding has alerted me to the need to observe the plants next summer, and then adjust the spacing.



  33. Hi Lewis,

    Of course, an Almanac is a formal written calendar of future and important events. It is all very obvious from hindsight. Interestingly, I have heard a few anecdotal accounts that school students seem to be falling behind in terms of physical writing skills and that is a real worry. I am left wondering that if students can read, but they are unable to physically write, are they in fact illiterate? The written word is a slightly different language than the spoken word, and it is not being taught very well these days. I’m unimpressed, and getting a few jumbled and ill-considered thoughts out and then hoping that other people understand them, is perhaps not a very good way to communicate. How are people meant to express themselves? Anger, frustration, depression? Although as a community we seem to be pretty good at expressing emotions.

    The most recent farmers almanac promises life hacks for less stress. A worthy idea. Speaking of which, the lovely lady at the post office discovered my lost coffee machine parts today. It took about three hours this afternoon, but I overhauled the coffee machine, and hopefully I get another decades’ use out of the beast. I’ve certainly learned a few things about how the machine works. I like it’s simplicity and reparability and note that the machine has been in existence unchanged for many decades. Such a lack of change speaks of elegant simplicity.

    Mention of the almanac reminded me of stories of the old mail order catalogues hanging on the back of an out house door, for err, personal usage. Talk about waste not want not, as the catalogue could be enjoyed twice, once reading, and another time, err, wiping.

    The tick-tock noise late at night would drive me bonkers. I recall that the old mantle piece clocks used to chime on the hour, and they had a special key with which to wind the mechanism, which was usually behind glass.

    I tend to think that the movie was deliberately filmed that way, just so that when people left the cinema – or in that particular case, their video machines – they applauded the film. Whilst secretly they hoped that nobody actually understood the story line either, and that they didn’t appear stupid for not understanding it. It is a complicated strategy. I did enjoy the film, mostly because I didn’t understand it, but was entertained by it nonetheless and the music score was very good. Sometimes you don’t require more than that. A year or two back I watched the series True Detective, and it was genius (the first season), but in order to appreciate it, I had read a synopsis of the story, and then re-watch it, whereupon it made far more sense. I have no time for such things now.

    I like that line about ‘curb side diagnosis’. So true, and also what you wrote about the people who just ask for stuff in the tat trade. People are often looking for an angle. I’m often surprised when they’re not looking for an angle. A sad state of affairs. Oh yeah, upon occasion at a sit down wedding when some person finds out what I do for a living, they start asking questions. I say that it is all very dull, and they have ten minutes, get it out of their system and let’s speak no more upon the subject. Most people seem happy enough with that. I will note that many of the problems I hear about could have been avoided with a bit of care.

    Cool. Jam it is then. The word conserve used to be heard when I was a kid and it indicated jam that had more chunks of fruit in it than the pureed style of jam. The raspberry jam is seriously good. Anyway, few people know much about conserving these days.

    Cascadia subduction zone and the 1700 Cascadia earthquake. Mate, I almost broke my own rule there relating to the use of potty mouth words. It seemed somehow appropriate in this instance. Far out. Good luck and don’t be anywhere in or near a large building or tree, and certainly nowhere near the coast that day. Do you reckon the locals have become accustomed to the risk and is it at the back of peoples minds? I know the fire risk is like that here. Did you see that some researchers discovered recently that there are moon-quakes?

    Logic is good. But logic rarely wins emotive arguments where people have to give something up – whatever that may be. Yeah. But his understanding of the interplay of factors in the landscape is a worthy concept. Nature rarely works in isolation.

    Where are all the slugs coming from? You have to admit that it is a bit of a mystery?

    Haven’t read about the bodies yet, and someone always breaks quarantine. It is a goodie that trademark! 😉 Hey, that actually happened with an Ebola outbreak recently. A nasty disease, and one for which we have a vaccination available, I believe. It may have been sourced from swine ebola, but I can’t recall the details. That disease has created quite the swine body count in Asia of late. Nasty stuff.

    As well as the diseases, I’d guess that it appears that the Roman’s might have seriously annoyed some locals too. As well as a whole bunch of other failings built into a predatory economic model.

    Have you noticed that the ice in Greenland and the Himalaya’s appears to be having a bit of a meltdown of late? I saw a great photo from Greenland of a guy with a dog team on ice that had water on top of it as the water could not drain from the valley, so it looked as though he was on a lake – which I guess he was.

    If the seeds escaped, they may end up elsewhere? It is possible. The winter weather here was filthy today as it was cold and drizzly all day long.



  34. Hello again
    What on earth is a refreshing spider?
    I did have hedges but they are fast growing out due to an embargo on me doing any cutting. All part of the edicts around here which I don’t really want to go into on the internet.
    We have both conserve and jam and the conserve is as yours.
    I am finding the votings for our next prime minister as utterly hilarious, I am avidly listening to the news.


  35. Chris:

    Most of the limes go into a canned black bean, diced raw zucchini (and any other squash on hand), diced raw carrots, sometimes corn, sometimes tofu mix that is stir fried with onions and garlic, and with tons of spices, especially curry powder and cumin powder. The curry adds so much heat that I no longer add any peppers. There is so much spice (extra garlic powder and onion powder sometimes being added, too) that a paste developes that is nice and thick. The black beans and lime only go in at the end after all of the other vegetables are done.

    This is served in store-bought taco shells, usually with more lime being added individually. It can also be eaten in soft flour tortillas as burritos, or just as chili in a bowl.

    Chicken would be good in this.


  36. Hi Chris,
    Yes we do have a tiller which we purchased 30 years ago though as I’ve learned more about the downside to tilling it’s not used too much anymore. The new garden area was tilled with it though as it had pretty heavy sod. That should be the only time it’s tilled with the rotary tiller.

    Gary keeps a pretty low profile as he’s not too comfortable in large social situations unlike his wife. About the only time I see him is at films or programs at the college. He’s quite easy to talk to though. There was so much publicity about his case that I think some still view him negatively. I find it hard to believe that he’s not been compensated. His wife, Sue, who I know well is very involved with social justice and unlike some it’s quite genuine. She is very involved with the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants and runs a weekly program providing lunch and supplies for the homeless community which has no where to go during the warmer months. They generally camp either legally or illegally but come weekly for a very substantial lunch.

    It’s raining again and pretty cool. Glad you’re back in coffee again.


  37. @Lew
    We have a Schatz Ship’s Bell Clock on our mantle that was Doug’s grandfather’s. It has to be wound once a week or so and chimes at the hour and half hour.


  38. Yo, Chris – Reading over the other comments, I have to mention our Club manager, who happens to be a brick mason. Still slinging bricks, in his 70s. Another friend I had, years ago, was a general contractor and all around handy-guy. He said he’d rather take a beating, than work on plumbing. :-).

    The current state of education is pretty appalling. Falling vocabulary comprehension, etc.. I’m watching Ken Burn’s “WWII”. After doing the Civil War, he really wasn’t keen on doing another war series. But, there was demand, and he said he’s run across young folk who think WWII was about the Allies and Germany, fighting against Russia!. I think I mentioned that one of the Inmates daughters, here at the Institution, when the Great Depression was mentioned, didn’t have a clue. There’s a current of anti-education and anti-intellectualism, that I find very disturbing. I think often of Cambodia.

    Enjoy your coffee machine, while you can. Sooner or later some faceless investment firm will buy up the company. Tart up the machine (New! Improved! Different Colors!), cheapen the parts, make it more complicated. “Because our customers demanded it.”

    In the Tat Trade, I’d often make an appraisal, and I’d get “But my brother-in-law said it was worth some life altering amount of money.” I’m usually say, “If he comes across with half that amount, take the money and run.”

    Well, there’s a certain amount of awareness as to waiting for the big one. Movies, books, magazine articles. Well posted evacuation routes along the coast. Drills. Some retrofitting of buildings and infrastructure. But, the big ones happen about every 300-500 years, and we’re just over the window. With luck, I won’t see it in my lifetime. But I do feel like we’re overdue for another good “5”. Those can do a lot of damage. Depends on how long they last. The last one rolled on for almost a minute. Longest minute of my life :-).

    The moon quakes are caused by the over extraction of Moon Pies. :-). A precious natural resource that should be conserved.

    I think slug eggs can survive for two years. I may have brought some in on the leaves I collected.

    I’ve seen footage of warm water that has bored huge holes through the Greenland ice cap. Water pours off the surface and into those cracks. Regular waterfalls. The warm water undermines the glaciers and lubricates them. Speeding their slide toward the sea. Never mind all that fresh water changing the salinity of the North Atlantic. Contributing to the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream.

    And, more good news. The stats are in from the commercial bee breeders, here in the States. 40% of the commercial hives didn’t make it through the winter. Mites.

    Well, I had a pleasant surprise. I saw a new movie, in the library DVD catalog. “Slaughterhouse Rulez”. Sounded interesting. Turns out it’s produced by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. How did I miss that? They both have parts in the film. Slaughterhouse is a very posh English public school. Old school tie, and all that. There’s monsters, stirred up by fraking. To say more would be spoilers. A great romp. One of the best lines is by two students, talking about a third. “He comes from a long line of war criminals.” :-).

    The Horwitz book on his Australian trip, showed up, yesterday. I’ve put the Richter bio on interlibrary loan. Lew

  39. Chris,

    Perhaps “Eggs in one basket” can also be stated as “monocrop farming/gardening”?

    Glad to hear that your coffee need is being met again. We’ve had a visiting relative this week who may stay for an additional week. This has been a great visit for all concerned. And, he’s a coffee drinker, so that an entire pot (or two) get brewed each day. Rellie is happy, my wife is happy, and the compost heap will be happy with the additional coffee grounds. And since all of the above are happy, I’m happy, too.

    No longer being young, and being able to see how few years it will be before I am no longer “unyoung”, I’ve finally developed a sense of when the job is beyond my ability before even attempting it. Some minor plumbing and electrical things we should all be able to do. By experience, I’ve discovered my limits (knowing these limits is very freeing!), so the professionals get called in before I can make something more complicated and exponentially more expensive.

    Appliances and automobiles are both difficult for me to judge when to repair and when to replace, however. I tend to pull the trigger faster on automobiles than I used to. Our OLD vehicle had had its transmission repaired. The vehicle was old enough that it should have been replaced. The transmission shop neglected to replace the old seals with new ones “because I didn’t request it” they later said. Yup, the seals broke and the vehicle broke down in the exact Middle of Nowhere with the temperature near 40C with my patient wife driving by herself. I left work and got there about the same time as the towing service. My patient wife patiently explained to me why she was going to ride back with the towing man and his wife while I could follow them. (You may guess at the reasoning and will likely be correct with your guesses.) Anyhow, the transmission place (mostly) made good on the added expenses. And the vehicle was soon replaced. No longer do I wait so long to replace things, because I do not wish to place my wife in that type of situation again. Did I mention that she is patient? But even her patience has a limit!

    Side note… Notice that the word “nowhere” can be split into either “no where” or “now here”, which are often the exact same location!

    I’ve noticed your reasoning for the fern gully before, but never mentioned it. I like your reasoning, as the ferns will slow the flow of the water and assist in its addition to the groundwater table which will then flow downhill and naturally sub irrigate the fruit trees. What you’ve done there is brilliant applied science, actually.

    If I may add a comment (or more) regarding how people in earthquake-prone areas view them? I lived until I was 7 in Orange County, just east of Los Angeles. The San Andreas and a gazillion smaller fault lines happily reside and play there. My mother was very young and was walking to school when the 1936 Long Beach earthquake hit. I remember, when about 4 (?) when a minor earthquake hit and it felt like the entire floor fell away from my feet. Mom took an hour to regain her composure, due to the fear of another 1936 type event happening again. But earthquake possibility was something we never talked about.

    That silence was apparent during every visit back to the area to see our relatives. They WOULD NOT discuss it. During one visit, there was a largish earthquake 500 km or so north. The idea terrified my sister. My uncle pooh-poohed her fear.

    My wife and I were in Orange County for the June 1992 earthquakes. Yup, two large ones about 45 minutes or so apart hit, the first one literally throwing her out of bed onto the floor a meter away. She jumped up ready to beat the $#^@ out of me (her patience developed some time after this) then realized she couldn’t stand up. My family later just shrugged off the earthquakes with the attitude “Yeah, the BIG ONE might come and kill us all, but we just try to ignore it because this is such a WONDERFUL place to live.” With apologies to any sane Californians who might read this, but I think that kind of mental gymnastics might be part of what makes California the “Land of Fruits and Nuts”.

    Whenever I visit earthquake areas like the entire USA Pacific Coast west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, well, I can’t get the idea of earthquakes OUT of my head and totally detest driving through tunnels of any type while there. I can’t get out of the earthquake areas fast enough!


  40. Hi Inge,

    A spider is a fizzy drink that has ice cream added to it. Just the thing for a very hot summers day, and I indulge in the occasional ginger beer with a dollop of ice cream added for good measure although I keep no such ingredients on the property and have to purchase such a drink. For some reason the ice cream makes the drink fizz, and it just the thing for a very hot day where earlier you may have worked outside in the hot sun and your head feels slightly cooked. Summers are much hotter here than in your lovely green part of the world. Do you have an equivalent drink up your way? Sometimes the ginger beer freezes to the ice cream and that is really nice.

    Oh! Not good, and I totally 100% understand. Far out. I’m planting hedgerows here and use whatever plants work. Many years ago, I watched a video of a bloke restoring a hedgerow, and for some reason it occurred to me that some people might mistakenly believe that such an arrangement of plants is a naturally occurring community of plants. The ideas that the majority of the population enjoys about forest management down here are equally bonkers – mind you, they don’t work at all, but few want to hear that.

    We haven’t heard anything at all about your political goings on. You may get to the next election leaderless? I went to films today and watched the film “Tolkien” about the early life of the good author and Professor. The story covered WWI, and the thing I don’t get is, why hasn’t anyone noticed that the ambitions expressed in that war, and also the next one, never really went away? It makes little to no sense to me.



  41. Hi Pam,

    Awesome food. And as I read the description I was thinking of Mexican food, which is clearly your intention. Yum! Do you have the hard shell taco’s? Of late, I’ve noticed that some Mexican restaurants roll the sort of mix that you described into soft tortilla’s. It ends up being a very healthy and actually quite good for you, burrito. And one of the regular places that I eat out at has a similar mix to what you described, but in a soft tortilla and with a small quantity of chicken. It’s good.

    Interestingly, the tortilla is a bit like a flat mountain bread, but then so are taco’s, however they are baked solid.

    Before replying tonight, I mixed and plated out a tray of Anzac biscuits, and I can now smell them baking away in the oven. Yum! In the batch of biscuits, I make some with sultanas and some without. The ones without sultanas end up in the maws of the fluffy collective, who are otherwise nuisances whenever I open the container of Anzac biscuits and try to enjoy a quiet coffee. Dogs…

    More rain today!



  42. Hi Margaret,

    I’m totally cool with tillers. When I had the excavator guy cutting in the house site into the side of the mountain, I also got him to deep rip a huge area of the paddock. Then the editor and I chucked on a thin load of compost and composted woody mulch and mixed grass seed over the entire area (using a wheelbarrow of course). It works and I have never noticed that rain rolls over that surface no matter how heavy the rain is.

    I agree with you and note that things can always be overdone. It is like everything, a little bit is good, to much is perhaps not so good. Even chucking on a small bit of glyphosate, or even a load of super will produce good results. I always worry when such things become a lifestyle and default choice! 🙂 And that is probably when it crosses into the ‘not good’ territory.

    It is nice that Gary was exonerated. That is enough for me, but there is an old saying that suggests that: “Throw enough mud, and some will stick”. It is a harsh way of interacting with our fellow humans, but some partake of that path. If I was him, I’d probably be left feeling with a bit of trauma too, and it might be that he hasn’t sought recompense, because he might not want to re-engage with that unfortunate time of his life. It is a hard choice to make to move on, and often I’ve noticed that the money is never paid over for no work.

    It is raining here too, and yes, I am very happy about having fixed the coffee machine. It is a beautifully designed machine from a more elegant era where machines were expected to last.



  43. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, I take my hat off to your Club Manager for being able to lay bricks as a trade in his 70’s. They don’t make them like that anymore. 🙂 The work is hard on the hands (big hands are an asset for that particular trade) and I have laid so many of them that I can still recall the exact measurements of the bricks. Of course, the bricks were all about a century old, and as you may have guessed, as such they were only ever approximately the same size. Each of the bricks also had really interesting features due to their sheer age, and I selected them so that they produced a coherent but beautiful wall to look upon. In a weird cosmic twist, I thought that the brick walls ended up looking like a work of art given the care I put into them, but the neighbour told me quite bluntly that she hated it. But then I also easily discounted her opinion because I’d been contacted by various parties related to the construction process (surveyor and local council) who told me that she’d been trying to shake me down to get extra freebie stuff due to the works. The greed was palpable, but also easily ignored. I did ensure that any area of hers was cleaned up and restored to a state that was better than what I found it in – and so perhaps she took that to mean that I was not doing the right thing somehow. People give themselves away in all sorts of minor ways.

    Oh yeah, education is not good. And just getting the ideas down, in whatever fashion, as far as I’m concerned, does not make for a coherent discussion, narrative and/or argument. Nooo! Tell me it is not true, but alas, you’ve just done that. Yes, I guess from some perspectives that narrative might make a lot of sense, despite its incredible historical inaccuracy. I tend to feel that German people may have achieved some of their aims this time around without resorting to arms? Power and control is an ugly business.

    Speaking of which, I took the day off today and went to the cinema and watched the film “Tolkien”. It was a beautiful and moving film and also told a great story of tragedy and surviving it, and the critics be dammed as they are a bunch of hard-hearted numpties. Plus, who’d have thunk it, but Colm Meaney was in the cast? He’s a great character actor. So when are you intending to watch this film? 🙂

    We visited Cambodia maybe a year or two after the country opened up to tourists. It was a pretty quiet country actually, and the locals were by and large happy to see us. The killing fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was one of the more disturbing things that I have ever seen. The killing fields had a tower with a glass faces which contained thousands of human skulls and you didn’t need to look too far to notice chunks of clothes sort of (but not quite) mostly buried. I feel that as a species we are capable of some serious unpleasantness. Cambodia during the Pol Pot era would be an unfortunate government and society to emulate, and best not to wear glasses.

    On the other hand, I’m fairly resilient, and I am enjoying my coffee machine! 😉 I’m ahead of you there, and am slowly restoring the older parts so as to keep them on hand as spares. Given the perilous state of coffee farming, it is probably a greater risk that I may have a working coffee machine, but may be sometime in the distant future unable to purchase the ground coffee at a reasonable price. I have read that the farmers are having similar problems to the banana farmers but add into that mix the heady difficulties of moving to higher altitudes due to shifting and variable climates.

    Hey, don’t laugh but I get the same line and it sounds like this: I was speaking to this Taxi driver who said that I can get a tax deduction just by… (fill in the blank). It is bonkers.

    The wildfires here seem to be about on a 40 year cycle, which makes for an uncomfortable thought. Are your building codes written (and applied!) with the earthquake risk in mind? I had to face that with the wildfire risk – and this house is just bonkers, if only because the details were really strange and had a lot to do with the Great Fire of London and the outcome of that.

    Glad to hear that you know what the word ‘conserve’ means, and yes, I too am a bit fretful due to the over extraction of ‘moon pies’. Let’s hope nobody informs the big cheese. 🙂

    Your consistent slug trapping efforts are probably going to disrupt their breeding cycles, and in future they might even cycle into a more reasonable quantity? But then, bringing in more leaves is a good idea.

    Oh! I didn’t know that about the change in circulation affecting ocean currents due to a change in salinity. Here is an article from the government down here discussing the matter: Ocean circulations are changing.

    40% of hives not being able to over winter is about normal for your part of the world. Best not to poke the bees, methinks. I spotted buds forming on the almond trees today, and the winter solstice is tonight.

    Thanks for the film review, go Nick Frost and Simon Pegg! Awesome.

    Oh, speaking of books, I’m well into The Singing Sword, and our hero has been very naughty with one of his enemies. What could possibly go wrong, except that he appears to have left the enemy alive? Things will end badly when the bloke returns to err, good health. It is not like the character wasn’t already obsessive. And the Lady of the Lake has made an appearance. A nice touch, and the author weaves myth from a practical bent.



  44. Yo, Chris – Here, we call a spider, a float. As in root beer float. But they’re also made with coke or 7-up. Like you, about once or twice a year, I get a craving. I pick up a quart of root beer and some ice cream. Get that out of my system and am good to go.

    I’ll catch “Tolkien” when it comes out on DVD. As it wasn’t a major box office smash, and they won’t be milking it for every penny, probably before Christmas. Hmmm. What was that other WWI drama, about a writer who sends his only son off to war. And things don’t end well. Daniel Radcliffe played the father. Colm Meaney is likely to pop up, anywhere. He’s like Zelig. Must be a pleasant fellow to work with. I’m watching Ken Burns’s, “WWII”. Very grim.

    Our club manager, Bill, is a scrawny little Irish guy. I think there’s a bit of lepricaun (sp?) in his blood line. :-). The Club was on it’s uppers, when he took over. Turns out he was a natural manager, and things are better than rosy, now. Maybe it’s due to the ordered mind, I think it takes, to be a good brick layer. Bricks work can be works of art.

    Coffee, bananas, chocolate. All the things that make life worth living :-). What will we do? Resort to root beer floats, I guess.

    That was a funny story about the taxi driver. I suppose every profession has similar tales. Opinions are like … noses. Everybody has one.

    Earthquake codes can vary, from place to place. Theoretically, this building has three steel bands, (or something) that will hold the whole thing together. Maybe. Or, at least long enough for me to get out. So much depends on which way the earthquake wave comes in. End on, a building tends to ride the waves. Broadside, and things go badly.

    I often wonder if my slug hunting is interfering with other cycles. Or my organic thrip miner traps. Am I going to easy on the snails? I saw five, frolicking on the sidewalk, the other night. But then I’m dealing with a pretty small area. Still plenty of the big fellows (slugs) around back and up in the woods.

    That was one of the clearest articles I’ve seen on ocean circulation. And I thought of (and they mentioned) the film “The Day After Tomorrow.” One of my all time favorite disaster flicks. “…collapse unlikely…” Well, think happy thoughts :-).

    So, the article I read about hive collapse was just alarmist nonsense. Oh, I feel so dirty, and used! :-).

    Yup. Our hero should have followed his initial impulse to lope off his head. But then, I suppose, there would only be 8 volumes in the series, instead of nine. The Lady of the Lake made several appearances in that silly little movie I watched, “The Kid Who Would Be King.” Some of them quit amusing.

    The Tony Horwitz Australian book showed up, yesterday. Probably won’t get to it, until after next Tuesday. I’ve got a yearly apartment inspection, coming up. Darn! Missed the solstice, yesterday. It’s all downhill, from here. Lew

  45. Hello again
    I don’t know if we have any drinks such as you describe. We don’t really have the climate for iced ones but I am sure that there are other weird and wonderful drinks. My range is very limited: tea, coffee, water, wine and orange juice with an occasional sloe gin.


  46. Hi Lew,

    Good to see Chris is now on book 2! Thanks for the Slaughterhouse Rulez reminder – I may watch it tonight 🙂

    Off to bake a chocolate cake. A block of dark chocolate has being sitting in the pantry for over a month and it must be eaten!


  47. @ Lew
    Have just read that slugs hate the smell of lavender. Unfortunately I hate it too, so no use to me.


  48. Hi DJ,

    Exactly. Incidentally, the only reason that our society can maintain such a large population is due to such farming practices. People might get upset about them, but they’re feeding most of us. However, at the same time the systems have inbuilt risks, because inevitably they’re subject to diminishing returns – and the awful question becomes: Then what? With such systems we’ve really tried our best to simplify a really hideously complex system, and then attempt to extract all of the yield, whilst ignoring the risks – and then at the same time trying to keep the costs down. Doesn’t make much sense to me. The yields I get compared to the inputs required are not even close to the yields big ag enjoys. It is a worry, but then the energy inputs here are much more human scaled with what I do. It is a really complicated story.

    Coffee is good, and a working machine is good too. But happy smiles all around (plus happy compost) is perhaps better! 🙂

    It is good to know oneself and when to attempt something and when to call in the people who do such work for a living. On a regular basis I get some blokes to work here and help me with the trees. Some of the work they can easily do is beyond my skills (and comfort levels).

    I hear you about that with the car. You can’t really be onto everything, but the transmission story also involved the not insignificant issue of oversight. Like how much do you poke your nose into a job that you’re paying to get done? And why wouldn’t the seals get replaced given the gearbox is out of the car in the first place? It is like the old story about the: ‘For want of a nail’. As part of the coffee machine repairs, I replaced all of the o-rings with new ones. It made no sense putting the old ones back in place.

    Oh! Never noticed that about the words. It is a bit eerie isn’t it? 🙂

    Thanks. Moving water through the landscape is a complex problem. And it is at the core of, err, future efforts in terms of low energy farming. The beaver dams do the same trick, as does flooding. If you don’t have access to regular water all year around, there ain’t no other game in town. Only rarely do I water the fruit trees, and even then they’re only likely to enjoy a bucket each.

    Far out, and many thanks for sharing the stories, as I have no idea what that would be like. I’d sort of feel the same as you about the risk. Funnily enough, the exact opposite happens down here and everyone feels happy to mention the serious bushfire risk to me. Even people who barely know me, are happy to ask me about whether: Aren’t you worried about bushfires? It can get a bit annoying at times, especially because everyone seems so earnest in their concern. I just tell it like it is, and tell them that I am indeed worried about the risk, but rarely do they ask what I do to mitigate the risk (we had a burn off today and despite it being the winter solstice and everything is wet and green). And when I tell that I burn off the forest materials and keep things neat and tidy, they tend to think that I should let nature just sort things out. Mind you, they forget that the indigenous folks (and us lot with our timber harvesting) have modified the forests for dozens of millennia. And perhaps such thinking is a step too far for people who feel that they are somehow separate from nature.

    I’d dodge the tunnels too! There is a large span bridge down here that dropped during construction. I feel mildly queasy whenever I stop upon it and the bridge deck bounces up and down with the huge weight of the stationary traffic.



  49. Hi Inge,

    It doesn’t need to be too hot to enjoy a good iced coffee! Yum! However, I have never travelled to your delightful part of the world (other than in a book), and don’t ever expect to, and so I defer to your local opinion on the matter.

    Do you grow sloes? Incidentally, this is a bit strange given that today was the winter solstice, but I noticed that a hazelnut (filbert?) shrub appears to have grown a small catkin. It is a bit early. And the almonds have produced small buds. Not good, due to the ongoing frost risk.



  50. Hi Lewis,

    That’s a good name for a spider, (float) but such an order down here might produce a meat pie sitting in a dish of lentil (split pea) soup (the famous or should it be infamous? pie floater). I’d be firstly confused by the charge for the more substantial meal, and then such a meal on a stonking hot day would leave me feeling quite unwell. 🙂 On the other hand, you have to admit that ordering a ‘spider’ seems like asking for trouble given how venomous the little blighters are down here. Over the years I’ve been bitten by more than a few of the garden spiders that live in the grass at the base of fruit trees. Unpleasant bites, with occasional reactions. And it is a bit chilling at night to flash the light of a torch into the orchard and see the little pricks of light sparkle off the arachnid eyes. At such times, you realise just how prolific our eight legged friends really are. Who needs fireflies? So, I feel that the moral of the story might just be that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to call a refreshing summer drink by the name of something that might bite you, and perhaps ‘float’ is a name that better suits the drink?

    The film was showing at an art-house cinema, so the appeal was probably not that great for the general public. I do recommend the film though, and say that without hesitation. Towards the end of the film, something must have got in my eye because it watered a bit, which was annoying.

    I do like your style and approve of it. 😉 Daniel Radcliffe played the son and I had not previously heard of the film, or of the authors loss and grief. Lots of good character actors in the film – need I mention Star Trek 6 or An Education (or even incidentally Mumford and Sons – the interesting pair have diversified into raising heritage breeds of swine)? Not sure how much WWI my brain can handle. The enthusiasm with which the English charged expendable Allied troops at entrenched Axis emplacements with machine guns seems a touch foolish to me. The words ‘cannon fodder’ come to my mind. Not too many generals appeared to be leading from the front, and such outcomes suggest that perhaps that was a mistake and should have been remedied.

    Who’d have thunk it? Leprechaun’s have seven buttons on their coats. An auspicious number. It is amazing how old lore sneaks into references and gets carried on. Brick walls require lots of planning, and stone walls require even more planning and so I agree. As an interesting side note, a brick wall cannot be constructed hither and tither. I note that in the story, Caius was the inspiration for rebuilding the stone fort, and his Celtic neighbours approved and assisted with the activity, perhaps knowing that there was a real need for such a building.

    Never knew what root beer was but had heard of it. Sarsaparilla, ah, of course. That is what the drink was known as back in the day, and you rarely see it for sale in these bland tasting days. We’ve got a Sassafras tree down here, but it isn’t the same. The leaves have a delightful smell when crushed and they were used by the old timer timber getters as part of a herbal tea when they were out in the deep bush. Unfortunately the leaves were nice smelling but with carcinogenic properties or so I have been told.

    Very restrained – I approve! 🙂 Yes, everyone has noses. Opinions are a bit like that!!!

    Far out, yours and DJ’s talk of earthquakes makes for unsettling reading. Do you ever get much in the way of warning when a big one is due to hit? Like are there earlier shocks that build to the big one?

    Totally missed the film: “The Day After Tomorrow.” Might have to do something about that. Can you believe that the character Laura scratched her leg and it became infected? There is always one in such a story. Back in the day she would have sprained her leg, but there is much better CGI now.

    Not at all! 🙂 A loss of 40% of the countries beehives is actually pretty serious, it is just we are now in the new normal – and that is what the new normal looks like. The bees do it hard being moved around a lot and not having access to a diverse diet. The mites are hitting them hard when they’re already hard against the ropes.

    Intriguing. I had not realised that the Seneca feud continued, although there were hints that it was just so.

    One for the Road: An Outback Adventure sounds like a total blast, I haven’t even read the book and I know that you’ll love it based on my read of the various blurbs. Incidentally back in the mid to late 90’s the editor and I travelled much of that land with a small hatchback and a tent. Hardly glamorous, but with the added side benefit of being cheap. It is epic country, and strange things can happen. I await to hear your reports on the subject. The land is remote in a way that most city folks can never quite get their heads around.



  51. Hi Margaret and Pam,

    We break with replies (which are now all done anyway so, I’m not really sure what I’m talking about) with important news:

    I left Ollie inside the house unattended for about an hour and half this morning. And he blew it. He chomped upon one of the cushions for the green couch.

    I’m very disappointed, but what do you do.



  52. Hello again
    The blackthorn grows wild here. However most of it is in hedges along the road, so these must have been deliberately planted. This means that I am in competition for the sloes as other elderly people gather them. I was delighted to discover that they become edible once they have been in the gin for months.
    Glorious sunny day today with just enough breeze to be pleasant.


  53. Yo, Chris – It must have been quit something when flashlights (torches) were first invented. The night became a different place. I’m glad the slugs don’t have reflective eyes. Though, they’d be easier to spot. It must be un-nerving to look out in the orchard and see the spiders, licking their chops!

    Thanks for the warning about the Tolkien film. I’ll watch it in the privacy of my own home. A three hanky movie?

    They do all kinds of weird things with drinks, over here. I understand they’re bottling root beer with a kick. But I’m not much one for buying sodas and pops. But I can see where a close reading of labels may be necessary. :-). I vaguely remember from my bar tending days that there was a mixed drink called a “Root beer float.” It had neither root beer, nor ice cream. But the flavor was the same. Easy to get in trouble with those. They go down so smooth. :-). See also, Brandy Alexander. I do have a funny story (in hindsight) about those.

    Well, sometimes there are fore shocks, in an earthquake. But, usually, scientists just squabble about if they’re fore shocks, or a one off. There is an initial jolt. That’s the “S” wave (I may have my “S’s and P’s confused.) Then, the “P” wave, which is the main event. Only seconds may separate them, depending on how far one is from the epicenter. It’s amazing how fast and far one can move, given a few seconds. Then there are aftershocks. They can be big, but usually not as big as the main event. But they can bring down weakened buildings. After the last big one, in Centralia, a building came down, three days later. But, there was lots of snapping, popping and groaning, so everyone was well clear.

    Volcanos spawn earthquakes, but they’re different. It’s the magma, moving around, not a plate slip. “Harmonic tremors.” Swarms of small earthquakes, not very detectable. They increase in size and severity, as time goes on. But how much time goes on … ah, there’s the rub. Sometimes for months.

    I’m sure “One for the Road” will be good. Tony Horwitz was such a satisfying writer. Lew

  54. Chris,

    The entire Big Agriculture system both feeds us and scares us. Things as complicated as Big Ag never seem to end well, do they? When it fails, where will we be?

    I sure didn’t understand why that transmission shop didn’t replace the old gaskets and such. If I take anything apart that has gaskets or rubber washers or O-rings, I replace them. I sure as heck don’t want to have to take it apart and put it back together again if a bit of preventative maintenance could’ve been done during a different repair. I guess some people don’t grok that mentality though.

    The whole earthquake mentality among those I know just seems weird. Not even gallows humor!

    My year of graduate level geophysics included a fair amount of time with seismology. Whereas we knew that Mt. St. Helens was gonna blow due to the increasingly frequent and severe seismic activity, unfortunately, earthquakes really don’t do that. Only rarely do earthquakes have a foreshock, and those are only determined to be foreshocks after the fact. So, they just hit, like lightning from a clear blue sky.

    I was watching the 1989 baseball World Series (which took place in San Francisco and Oakland, California) when the large quake hit. Some of the bridges were multiple level and collapsed. That added to my *distaste* for being in tunnels in earthquake country.

    We got the new washing machine Friday. It works really nice. The dryer? The guys opened the box it was in and found that it had been broken in their warehouse. Not a dent that would knock the price down, no sirree. Broken to the point that it wouldn’t run. They think it might be two weeks before they can come back. Fortunately, 1) the weather is again warm and dry, so most clothes can be dried outside, and 2) the old drying machine works.


  55. Naughty Ollie. I hope he’s sufficiently contrite. Funny how you think a dog is past that and all of a sudden they revert back to the old behavior. Sounds like he doesn’t like being alone. Salve prefers to chew on wood though early on she did quite a number on an oriental rug. We’ve managed to hide the worst of the damage under a couch.


  56. Hi Inge,

    I’ve never encountered a sloe tree before so thanks for mentioning them. Seems like they have naturalised in Tasmania, but I’ve never seen any on the mainland, although the soils are richer and the climate damper than here. I would have taken note of the fruit for sure if ever I had come across such a tree. I’m with you on the deliberately planted, although it is also possible that the birds could have dropped seeds at such a location too. Hedgerows make for safe perching places for birds – I had to rescue a stuck Kookaburra yesterday… I thought they were smarter than that. Anyway, a year or two back when I was reading about Sugar Maples, I read an account that settlers often planted sugar maple trees along roadsides in some parts of the US. Cleared paddocks being a significant resource and not to be filled with trees.

    Sloe gin sounds like a fine tipple. At the moment I’m enjoying a mulled quince wine, which is very good, and just the thing for a winters day around the solstice. Knowing how to make plants edible is not as easy a task as people may believe.

    Nice to hear, and I’m grateful that the sun finally shone today. The batteries that supply electricity for the house were running quite low…



  57. Hi Margaret,

    Ollie is most definitely not contrite – the cheeky scamp. He was punished of course, and I noted that he chose to chomp upon the section of couch that the less youthful Toothy sleeps upon. I detect a note of jealousy in Ollie’s action.

    Exactly, despite it being winter, out he goes into the cold… Shh, all this talk of Salve chomping upon wood might give Ollie ideas, but yeah it would annoy me too. And I’d do the same as you with the rug.



  58. Hi Lewis,

    The large animals around here are interesting because they are mostly active at night. The grey forest kangaroos are active during the day and the night, but other than that, the rest of the large animals are about their business at night. Torches are great things because the last thing I want to startle at night is a 7 foot tall and rather reactionary kangaroo.

    The spiders in the orchard watch the torch for a while, with the sort of cool intelligence that “Alien” (of the film fame) would bring to the table. The light reflected back is a blue hued light, and the sheer quantity of arachnids can be quite confronting to the senses. I spotted a small school of midges today enjoying a patch of mid afternoon sunlight, so I guess the spiders have plenty to eat. When rural roads were less busy places back in the day, at night I used to spot blue lights on the asphalt and wondered what they were. One night I stopped and had a look at them and discovered that they were huntsman spiders on the move. Did I mention that I got back into the car rather rapidly? Huntsman spiders are rather large and they move really quickly when the need arises.

    Hehe! Yup, three hankies, but possibly it was the heating in the cinema that was causing my eyes to water. Maybe… 😉 Mate, occasionally you can feel that life has done you a bad turn, but then you watch such a story and realise that you got let off pretty easily relative to some other peoples experiences. It was never spoken about in the film as to what happened to the father, but the family had spent some time in Africa, which might have been rather unusual. I was wondering whether the father had been killed in the Boer War?

    Root beer with a kick sounds about right to my ears. Instead of sarsaparilla, down here you’d see ‘ginger beer’ and mostly that is a non-alcoholic soft drink, but it needn’t be and we make a ginger wine which is a very pleasant drink. A month or two back I planted some turmeric and ginger roots just to see what would happen. Interestingly the turmeric had been locally grown so I have high hopes for that tuber, but we’ll see. It was frosty this morning.

    Hey, I don’t have soft drink in the house either, and rarely do I purchase any when I’m elsewhere. Some people drink it out of habit, but the household I grew up in was too broke to have the stuff around. Sometimes we had cordial, which is sort of like a sugary fruit juice concentrate, although I found it to be a bit too sweet for my tastes. When soft drink did make a special guest appearance, it was quite the treat. But I’d have to suggest that a lot of peoples diets are very acidic nowadays and soft drink is possibly a contributor to such an outcome.

    You’ve done an interesting collection of jobs, and I feel that there is something to be said about seeing the world from the underside (so to speak), in that you gain a wider appreciation of the human condition than you might well otherwise. Don’t you reckon people tend to stick within their bubbles these days? Although that sweeping generalisation is probably just as true now as it was in the past?

    Your comment, as well as DJ’s comment has left me with the uncomfortable thought that large scale earthquakes are truly unpredictable events. Or should that be un-forecastable events? Err, good luck and stay safe, and gawd I hope this mountain range which is full of volcanoes is as extinct as geologists suggest… I’ll bet my insurance doesn’t cover a volcanic eruption.

    The sun finally broke through the thick clouds today and shone for the first time in about a week. Today provided a bit over 2 peak sun hours, and the batteries sucked it all in. The rest of the week was far less than that every day, and I’ll put some photos of the clouds and fog from the week in the blog I’m yet to start writing tonight. Of course, with so much sun I could finally whizz around the house with the vacuum cleaner and also bake a loaf of bread in the electric oven. I look upon fossil fuels at this time of year with a sense of mild envy! Hehe! The next few days are meant to be sunny, so the batteries should get back in the 90% range towards the end of the coming week.

    Please let me know if the book is good, and I’ll order a copy?

    Cheers and I better get writing…


  59. Hello again
    Thinking further about the blackthorn, I realise that it was used in conjunction with hawthorn, for field hedging. Hawthorn is thorny but blackthorn is far worse, I would say that it had vicious spikes. Of course the clue is in their names. They aren’t really trees, shrub might be more accurate though still not right. Actually I have seen small hawthorn trees.


  60. Yo, Chris – Well, you can keep your 7 foot kangaroos, unless your willing to take our racoons and possums. :-). They can be pretty vicious if threatened or cornered. They’ll go right for your throat. The Huntsmen spiders were just trying to lure you out of your car.

    Well, I certainly have worked with a lot of people, over the years. Hmmm. Maybe why that’s why I have such a hard time remembering people’s names. The “cast of characters” part of my brain, just overflowed, years ago. LOL. If I feel a little down in the mouth about things, all I have to do is go to a couple of meetings. Early on I discovered (and often say) that I’d leave a meeting thinking, “I don’t have problems. THOSE people have REAL problems.” :-).

    When I was a kid, Kook Aid was the big thing. Little packets, that were very cheap(5 cents, as I recall), that were poured into lots of water and to which you added lots of sugar. A rainbow of colors, not found in nature, in many flavors. There was even a root beer. They had wall-to-wall advertising on any TV show that would remotely appeal to a child. But it was a summertime/school holiday, thing.

    Oh, I think people very much live in bubbles, these days. If their heads aren’t buried in their devices, they’re on the internet. But mostly spend time with sites that reenforce their views and beliefs. It’s been referred to as one vast echo chamber. Of course, in the past, custom and society tended to keep people in bubbles. But I think it’s worse now. The search for “tribe.” I don’t know. I’ve always been interested in what goes on with other people. Just nosy, I guess :-). I read stuff that I suppose I won’t agree with, but I like to keep track. Try and understand. I suppose some of it is just wanting to know what “the other side” is up to.

    Earthquakes can even strike areas that are thought of as geologically stable. Just a couple of years ago, one hit our east coast, an area that is usually pretty quiet. Damaged the Washington monument, so bad, that it was closed for quit awhile, for repairs. Of course, that’s pretty unstable river bottom land. They’re having earthquakes in usually stable areas, like Kansas. Due to fraking. The earthquake DJSpo referred to, down in San Francisco really brought home to me that life is a crap shoot. Small decisions, a few seconds earlier or later, can have profound effects. Best illustrated in the film, “Sliding Doors.” Which was really good and worth a look. A woman loses and earring (or doesn’t) and her life veers off into two entirely different directions.

    I took a bit of time out and read two chapters of the Horwitz book. Oh, I think it’s going to be REALLY good. But I must say, I was a bit disappointed. He’ll travel 7,000 miles, but not get into the State of Victoria, at all. :-(. And I wonder how much difference there is, between the Australia of over 30 years ago, and now?

    My Montezuma red beans have broken soil! But I must say that with our overcast and cool temperatures, some things in the garden are languishing. We need heat and light! Lew

Comments are closed.