Fire Sale

The house was frankly a bit of a dump. On the other hand, the proportions were grand, and I’m a bit of a sucker for 1880’s boom style architecture. The houses from those days are fairly basic, but with lots of interesting details, such as the cast iron lacework at the front of the house. Who could possibly not note that the ironwork in this case, needed a bit of paint to protect it from the ongoing ravages of the weather.

It was a narrow house, as most century old workers cottages in inner Melbourne are. Back in those days, building materials were expensive and so the houses were generally quite small. With houses of that age, the toilet was often found at the very rear (please excuse the pun!) of the property. And I recall that my grandmothers house had the flush toilet all the way down at the end of the small garden and towards the back lane. It was called a ‘dunny’, and there was a certain natural reluctance to visit it on a cold wet winters night.

This house was much the same, and there was a dunny way out back. But before you discovered the dunny, you had to walk through the dodgy lean-to which was attached to the rear of the house. A lean-to is the polite name for the often very dodgy rooms attached to the rear of a house.

Back in the days when I looked at such houses with an eye to fixing them up, it was quite easy to find a house that was a bit over a century old and appeared in fairly original, albeit very run down condition. By sheer chance, on a different day the editor and I stopped past a mortgagee auction (the bank had foreclosed upon the premises) for a house that had been used a brothel. Of course, we were snoopy and poked our noses around the property which had an unusual internal configuration (lots of spa baths) and colour scheme (lots of pink). We hung around watching the auction, and the bank owners and the real estate folks were almost begging us to buy the unusual house for the outrageous price of $49,000.

It always interests me to see the materials used in dodgy constructions. I recall demolishing a lean-to on a century old house, only to discover that the folks who constructed it had used timber packing crates to hold up the walls and roof. I was glad that the plumber who was working on the house with me, had not fallen through the roof!

But the particular house from the start of the story that I was looking at also had a newish two story lean-to. However this one looked to me as if it was about to fall over, and in fairly short order too. People at the inspection were barred from entering the second story of the lean-to at the rear of the house, and that probably was a good thing.

I thought that the house would be sold on the cheap, and so asked the nice real estate agent about the property. Without being prompted, the real estate agent informed me that an insurance claim had been lodged and accepted. The claim was purportedly to cover repairs for the dodgy lean-to. I kept a pleasant and mildly goofy look on my face at that news, but internally a klaxon siren was screaming at full volume: ‘Do not touch or consider this property’. Sound advice, but I was still curious about the insurance, and so asked the real estate agent if he had anything in writing about this matter.

Turns out the insurance policy was with HIH Insurance. As an interesting side note, the company was placed into provisional liquidation and is considered to be the largest corporate collapse in Australia’s history. A tidy effort. It would have been an interesting intellectual exercise to extract the money for the repairs of the dodgy lean-to.

The insurer was big, and I even ended up unwittingly having a policy for building insurance from them. I was selling a house, and was required to furnish an insurance policy along with the contract of sale. I’d purchased and paid for a policy on the very afternoon of the day before the insurer was put into provisional liquidation. At least the nice people at the insurance company, upon accepting my payment, also immediately provided me with a certificate of currency for the insurance policy. And I desperately needed the paperwork as a condition of the contract of sale of the property. In a technical sense, there was an insurance policy in place at the time of the contract of sale. However, I was eternally grateful that nobody ever looked terribly closely at the paperwork.

Note to self – always read the contract.

The insurance that I purchased provided for a six year guarantee for structural faults in the house. I had no worries on that score, because if anything I’d always over-engineered any structures that I’ve constructed. Not every builder acts that way, and of late there have been a number of high profile high rise apartment towers that allegedly have structural problems. Some have even been evacuated.

People often feel the need to remind me of the high bushfire risk that goes along with living in the mountain and forest where the farm is located. The risk is real, but some risks such as bushfire capture the public’s imagination more than others. Probably that is because of the sheer horror or death toll. But even so, I for one wouldn’t want to live in or anywhere near to one of those high rise towers with the alleged structural faults, should they fail.

As part of research for this blog I read a few articles on the subject of the high rise towers. One core issue that was consistently repeated was that the apartments contained within the buildings had lost value. Maybe it is just me, but I’d probably be more worried that I’d be in or near the building if it possibly failed. Not good. However, if an apartment had only lost value and was still saleable, that implies that there is someone who wants to purchase the apartments at a discounted price, otherwise known as a ‘fire sale’.

The moon sets as a thick fog bank rolls towards the mountain range

The winter solstice was reached and for six of the past seven days, clouds have obscured the sun. Some days the thick cloud stuck to the mountain range like a toasty warm blanket.

Thick cloud stuck to the mountain range like a toasty blanket

At least up here on a mountain saddle, the deep winter weather was warmer than in the valley below. When I could see the valley of a morning, frost had settled everywhere.

Frost settles in the valley in the morning

It was cold and damp here for most of the week, but at least the temperature had not yet dropped below 0’C / 32’F, although we got very close one morning.

1’C / 34’F outside and 14’C / 57’F inside the house

Alert readers will note that we don’t tend to go overboard when it comes to heating the house over night.

Despite the frost in the valley being quite heavy, up here the morning frost was only minor. It looked quite nice.

Two Crimson Rosella’s contemplate the light frost

Frost affects plants differently, and this soap wort herb looked quite attractive:

This soap wort herb looks quite attractive due to the frosty edges

I always have several bowls of water available for the use of the wildlife, and that morning, the water was covered in a thin sheet of ice.

A thin sheet of ice formed in the animals water bowl

Overall, the winter so far has been reasonably mild. Two apple trees are a bit confused by the weather and have failed to completely go deciduous.

One of two apple trees that have failed to turn deciduous

The almond trees have begun to produce swelling buds.

The almonds have already begun producing swelling buds

I’ve even noticed that a hazelnut (filbert) has produced a catkin (the technical name for their flowers).

A hazelnut (filbert) has produced a catkin

I recently cut back the Asparagus plants, but one or two of them continue to grow.

This very young asparagus plant continues to grow despite just passing the winter solstice

Today I spotted what looks like either a Daffodil, Jonquil or a Snow drop.

Bulbs have begun to produce leaves

Over the past two weeks, concerned readers have been expressing their deepest sympathy for my well being due to the break down of my coffee machine. Well, fear not brave readers, for I have now fixed the coffee machine. The parts turned up in the mail on Thursday. I wasted no time and began rapidly dismantling the coffee machine.

Inside the guts of the coffee machine

It is an elegant machine that was designed for a long lifespan and with the concept of repair as a distinct possibility (unlike some buildings). Out with the old parts, and in with the new parts:

Coffee machine – out with the old parts and in with the new parts

All is now good with the world as I can enjoy my regular morning coffee again.

In breaking fluffy canine news: Ollie blamed Toothy, but the editor and I are no fools, and we blamed Ollie. He somehow managed to chew upon one corner of the green couch. The green couch has travelled with me for the past 25 years. I am very annoyed at Ollie as he acted badly that day. We have repaired the damaged to the couch, but Ollie is now no longer allowed to be in the house unsupervised. Alert readers will recall how cold it is outside at this time of year.

Oops! Sorry (not really sorry) boss, I didn’t mean to get caught. How did you work out I did it? Toothy did it, yeah maybe he did.

It was so cold, damp and miserable outside this week that we didn’t actually do that much work about the farm. However, by Sunday, the sun broke through the clouds and provided some much needed solar power. That day, we went on a major rock scavenge and managed to discover and move another huge rock for the developing succulent garden terrace.

The rock was huge and certainly weighed more than I do. It is not really night time.

The shadows cast that day were long as we are only a day past the winter solstice. That didn’t stop us though and the large rock was moved into position in the new succulent garden terrace.

The large rock was placed in the rock wall for the series of terraces that will accommodate the many succulent plants we intend to plant there

A lot of the rocks acquired in the rock scavenge, ended up in a steel rock gabion cage. However, mid sized rocks were used to correct the rock wall on the potato terrace (the gabions are on the lower side of this terrace).

The rock wall behind the potato beds has begun to be corrected

In the above photo the rocks closest to the camera were a bit too small and that allowed soil to wash over them during very heavy rainfall. The newer rocks (further away from the camera) sit high above the soil level and that corrects the problem.

As we were moving and relocating rocks, a family of laughing Kookaburra’s observed the work and dived on any grubs that we uncovered.

A family of laughing Kookaburra’s were watching the editor and I work

The return of the rains has meant that it is fungi time. And there are a lot of different fungi species living here. Fungi do great work converting woody organic matter into rich black soil. Fun times.

Sometimes the fungi try to convert my fence palings into rich black soil
The process is quite amazing and the rich black soil can be seen on the underside of this chunk of woody organic matter
Fungi have spread right throughout the orchard
Most of the fungi are toxic, but some look more toxic than others
Fungi even exist in the raised garden beds. Mushrooms and asparagus – a fine recipe.
This fungi in one of the potato beds sort of looks like hollowed out potatoes

Onto the flowers:

Broad beans are in flower
Many of the native plants like this Silver Wattle are in flower and the forest looks quite colourful
The rosemary is also in flower

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 3’C (37’F). So far this year there has been 331.8mm (13.1 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 309.4mm (12.2 inches).

60 thoughts on “Fire Sale”

  1. Here in toasty Tasmania at 9.40am it is -2C. On the bright side, as soon as the fog lifts it we will have blue sky and sunshine and a scorching 11C..

  2. Hi DJ,

    In my mind the system looks exactly like a game of musical chairs, if only because that is probably a good analogue as to how it might play out. People argue all sorts of big talk, but any system that takes minerals (fruit, vegetables, meat etc.) from one area (rural areas) and transports them to another area (cities), without returning the by-products (manures) is on a one way trip to the dust bin. I see that equation play out in my raised garden beds, and the soil really does drop, sure a bit of that is compaction, but another part of the story is that I’m eating the plants grown in the raised beds and the manure ends up in another part of the farm. If there were any other way…

    I was wondering that question to as to why they didn’t replace the old gaskets and seals with new ones? It just makes no sense, but it might be a sign that the shop is under pressure to reduce their costs. And their strategy might work, most of the time. But experience (a great teacher!) has shown me that it only takes the smallest metal filing (and gearboxes and engines are full of them), to embed in the seal and cause mischief. I’ll bet you’ve seen your fair share of those, and back in the day I recall that magnets were placed inside gearboxes in order to collect such filings. Incidentally, the coffee machine boiler (both the new and the old one can be seen in the photo) had filings at the bottom of it. Where did they come from? Possibly the old pump which had been replaced a year or two back. Dunno. The rest is alloy and has no moving parts (other than the solenoid). Dunno, it is a bit of a mystery, but it may have come from the water supply too.

    It seems a bit odd to me as well. It is a bit like, if we don’t talk about the possibility, it will never happen.

    I’d read about that particular earthquake before, and the photos of the damage were horrendous. It was very lucky that the World Series was being held at the time, otherwise… The bridge that I mentioned was the: West Gate Bridge Collapse.

    Your dryer is what I would describe as an incidence of ‘preventative maintenance’. As a person who is naturally cautious, I do tend to check the conditions of boxes that have items that are intended to be used. Of course, in this case you did not have that opportunity. At least the supplier intends to replace the goods.



  3. Hi Inge,

    Years ago, I visited the island state of Tasmania. The island state land was settled well before the state here was permanently settled, and I noted that along the fence lines of the very old farms, the original settlers and their descendants had planted Hawthorne shrubs as natural fencing. Wicked looking thorns! And sloes are naturalised in that part of the country. The sloes would have been a good fit for such fencing. It is a great idea for all sorts of reasons, and a recent garden catalogue mentioned a species of rose that was originally used in this part of the world as a root stock for grafted roses, but when grown without grafting the plant produced a really thick hedge of, well you guessed it, thorny roses. It was described as an earlier form of fencing, and I have been considering how to use such a plant here. For your interest, I grow a diversity of elderberry shrubs, and they’re also great for hedges, and the local parrots love the berries. Hedgerows are a fascinating subject, and I suspect that the combination of plants and how they are used is more important in rural areas than most people would ever realise. Do you have any well maintained hedge rows in your part of the world? I see rows of Hawthorne shrubs down here along fence lines.

    The most thorny tree that I have growing here is the Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and I had not understood just how thorny the tree was until I discovered a thorn deeply embedded into my arm. On the other hand the tree does capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and collect it in the soil, so it is a bit of give and take.



  4. Hi Jo,

    Thanks for the news from your part of the country. Brr! Hope you and your family are keeping warm? You live in a beautiful part of the world. Incidentally, that is as cold as I have ever seen it here. The wood heater is running here right now and keeping me warm, although the outside air is doing its very best to try and cause the solar hot water panels to freeze solid (and break).

    Hehe! Scorching 11’C! Very funny! 🙂 On Sunday at about 12.30pm, I was out in the sun (and grateful for its special guest appearance on that day) and I could feel my skin tingling at the heat delivered from the big fusion reactor in the sky. How is your writing going? I enjoyed your last article. 🙂



  5. Hi Les,

    Long time, no hear! It is really good to speak with you again, and despite the ongoing drought in your part of the world, it is still a beautiful place. And yeah, the heavens decided to open over the past month or so. Before that I was more than a little bit worried about the dry climate, and plenty of folks up here ran out of water (not us) and were only saved by the ability to truck water in.

    Hang with me, I have a theory. The fires in Tasmania and Victoria last summer almost burnt as many acres as what burned in 2009. All those particles go up into the atmosphere, and they might just produce a wet summer. Maybe. That is what happened after the 2009 fires anyway, so fingers crossed. Although too much rain, can be as bad as, too little rain.



  6. Hi Lewis,

    The possums down here are also marsupial’s, but unlike you lot they’re vegetarians, and hardly likely to go postal on a person. They live in fear of their very lives from the threat of the owls which hunt them at night. Your carnivorous lot are the whole next level. And raccoons sound to me like they are highly intelligent creatures, and thus they might be adherents of the maxims of Sun Tzu, thus being highly unpredictable in their interactions with us humans. Please keep them to yourselves, thanks very much. The bears seem pretty scary to me too, and hardly a week goes by when I don’t get to see a video of a bear that has broken into a house or a vehicle and gone on a rampage. I’d appreciate if they were kept in your part of the world too. I saw a herd of deer this morning in an area of the mountain range that I’d never noticed them before. I guess at this time of the year, they’re coming down out of the forest to eat the grass.

    For such memory lapse occasions, there is always the use of the word: “mate”. I’m expected to recall the names of peoples kids and pets, and sometimes even the grand-kids names too and my brain is chock full. I hear you, I mean there is only so much space in there! Oh, anyway, you could use the word ‘mate’ down here in the following sentence: “Oh, hey mate, how’s it goin? I haven’t seen you for ages. How’s things?” And nobody would be the wiser that you can’t recall their name, and it would all be considered appropriately friendly enough. Do you have such handy words in your part of the world?

    Hehe! Brain overflowing, need I mention that the entrails may be found behind the couch, or in your case under the desk, but a bit to the back? You wouldn’t want to step on them! Got any suggestion where my lot are hidden?

    That sort of catharsis was covered very well in Fight Club. I tell you, it all comes back to that story sooner or later. The English language doesn’t really grapple with such concepts, and I do wonder at the reason for that lack. It seems a bit remiss to me.

    Thanks for the Kool Aid story. I’ve never seen the stuff, but I tell ya, that product appears to have captured the populations imagination, but possibly for other reasons. Probably the closest thing to that was some product called: ‘Tang”. It must have been in the late 70’s, but little packets of the stuff were dropped into peoples mail boxes, sort of on an unsolicited basis. My mates and I were bamboozled that any company would ever do such a thing, so we set out to rapidly scour the area for unsolicited samples. That act might have been a bit dodgy, but nobody suggested that possibility at the time, and free stuff was exceedingly rare. No doubt that in an exemplary case study of Energy Returned on Energy Invested, we used a huge amount of personal energy to acquire additional sugary energy. The product reputedly contained 94% sugar according to Wikipedia.

    I agree, and I also see the vast majority of people with their heads down in their phones, doing who knows what. Yeah, I’m nosy and interested too, and try to talk to as many different folks as I can. You never know what you might learn. The work I did on the election day was very interesting as I got to speak with all sorts of people from all sorts of walks of life, and whilst I did not engage them in discussions about politics, their stories were actually all quite interesting. Sometimes I feel a bit sad for some folks who clearly don’t like themselves and can’t understand why anyone would want to speak with them in a reasonably friendly way, and you know they often lash out. I reckon their thinking is that if they don’t like themselves, anyone that is even remotely friendly to them must be a numpty of the finest order. Such thinking arises out of them being very young in more ways than one. I’m usually very careful with such folks and keep them at arms length, but they’re mostly rare.

    Hey, I like to keep track on the thought currents too, even if I don’t agree. I regularly listen to the youth news radio programs. What do they say about being forewarned! It makes sense, that strategy. When I was less busy, I used to take regular walks through the city centre and just sort of look around and see what is going on. It can be quite enlightening, and the changes in only the past two decades are beyond what I would have imagined was possible way back in the day.

    There was an earthquake off the coast of the northern city of Darwin today. Up there they are not far from the rim of fire. Interestingly too, I noted an article today that discussed the problem of ground water depletion in Jakarta that has led to the city sinking (subsidence) at a furious rate. Parts are now below sea level, and it is a very densely populated city. I’m not a fan of the mechanical extraction of groundwater, and I note that it has reared its head as a possible culprit in the leaning tower of San Francisco.

    I rather enjoyed the film! 🙂

    It is a big country, and 7,000 miles might not get you as far as you’d think, especially given the route he took.

    The country would be very different today, and the outback was very quiet back when we travelled around. Certainly we rarely spotted Australian tourists our own age. Most tourists our age were either from England, France or Germany, and they seemed to be all enjoying themselves. I don’t know whether I’d want to be confronted by the changes? The years may not have been kind. Dunno.

    Go the beans! 🙂 Yes, such weather conditions can set the plants back. Hope you enjoyed the photos from winter!



  7. Chris,

    Good points on Big Ag and soil. Yes, we are basically eating the minerals the plant gets from the soil. A rule of thumb I’ve heard is that for every pound of food harvested, I’ve got to replace a pound of nutrients to the soil simply to maintain the same level of fertility. Or more, if I’m trying to improve the soil. Taking the waste stream out of the equation certainly makes it much more difficult to maintain the soil.

    Where do metal filings come from in anything? Friction, that close friend of entropy. That’s my best guess. I’ve noted some metal filings in things that must have been there when installed, meaning that the manufacturer’s quality control was lacking. Metal filings really shouldn’t be present in a length of garden hose or PVC, but I’ve seen it.

    The West Gate Bridge collapse sounds horrid! Poor design, bad construction and then ill-thought “solutions” to the poor construction, it sounds like. All of which could have been avoided. I’m guessing you’ve heard about the old Tacoma Narrows Bridge? A video that show the bridge “flying”:

    Yes , the dryer is one of those lessons to inspect things closely. I’ve got to call the place today to get an update for the new time frame.

    It looks like your winter is starting similar to how our latest winter started. Lilacs and other shrubs were budding in mid December. Grass was growing then, too. That is NOT the norm, here. The trees can get confused and miss a year of fruit production if that lasts too long. IIRC, that happened here once.

    Nice photo of the moon and the fog. I’ve always enjoyed that type of photo. It looks peaceful. I’ve noticed that you live where the view is often spectacular.

    Fungi will grow anywhere, won’t they? My neighborhood used to be a ponderosa pine forest. Not all of the roots were removed when the construction started. Anywhen, from 20 to 80 years later, a circle of fungi mysteriously appears about where a stump was, complete with an impervious layer of some decaying tree byproduct. The local name for this is a “fairy ring”. This impervious layer prevents water from getting to the roots of the grass, so the grass dies in the circle. The fungi then spread outward from where it began, ending only when all of the tree and root bits have been consumed and leaving dead lawn in its wake.

    Treatment to halt this is hard work. I tried digging some out once. It stopped the fungus from spreading, but the time spent digging and then having a circular hole for a few weeks wasn’t worth it. The standard approach is to DAILY poke the fairy ring full of holes with a pitch fork, then pour gallons of water mixed with one particular brand of dish washing detergent in the ring. (Nobody knows why mostly only one brand works here. And the unscented variety of detergent doesn’t seem to work as well.) One of my neighbors has done this treatment, which took him about 30 minutes per day for 10 weeks.

    I now tend to let nature take her course and let the fairy rings do what they will. After all, the grass does start growing again after the fungi has moved on. It may look weird for a year or three, but it all works out.

    Ollie doesn’t look the least bit contrite, does he? Thordog was of a similar mentality. He thought that the world was his personal chew toy. Anything wood was chewed up. I had to build the doghouse out of cinder blocks. He still chewed on the corners of the pressed wood roof.


  8. Hello Chris
    One does see some superb and well maintained hedging along the rural roads here. These usually abut fields. There are also some horrible hedges which have been ripped at, I can’t remember the correct word for this. Anyhow it looks terrible and introduces disease to the torn ends of the branches.
    I think that I know the very thorny rose which makes a fabulous hedge. Is it the one that has very large rosehips?
    Today indoors, humidity is 80% and the temperature is 74F; this is not comfortable. I don’t have measurements for outside but probably similar as I have windows open.


  9. Yo, Chris – Your dunny, our outhouses. :-). Often in really old houses, you can figure out that when indoor plumbing came in, the house just grew to surround the outhouse. Or, washroom. Which was often a lean-to, tacked on.

    There are risks, no matter where you live. If it’s not brushfires, it’s flood. Earthquakes, tornados, volcanic eruptions … alien invasion. Buying land is sooo complicated. My friends in Idaho were dickering on a lot, recently. Which has been on the market for 7 years, with no interest. Offer, counter offer, offer accepted. The fly in the ointment was that they wanted a survey. The seller countered that he’d pay for half. They weren’t buying it. In the meantime, they discovered that the neighbor is a crazy woman with a habit of making frequent police calls and suing people, for this and that. I’d say a.) the seller isn’t a motivated seller and b.) they’re well out of it, due to the neighbor.

    I remember watching some of the video you linked to, about the crumbling high rises. One fellow had bought three of the apartments for investment purposes. That one will drag through the courts, for years.

    Your toasty blanket picture is what I’m seeing out my window, this morning. But no fear of frost, here. It’s all been “chance of showers, slight chance of showers, showers.” And hardly a drop has fallen. Promises, promises :-).

    The innards of your coffee machine, are quit frightening. My untrained eye can’t see much difference between before and after. Any mystery screws left over? Trouble cramming everything back into place?

    Oh, Ollie! Put me in mind of the old movie, “Lady and the Tramp.” Which is a bit hazy, except for the scene where the evil Siamese cats wreck havoc, and set Lady up to take the fall. I probably remember it, due to the catchy tune that came with it. “We are Siamese, if you please. We are Siamese if you don’t please.” Etc..

    More big rocks. So what did you do with the small rocks, from above the potatoes? Pop them in the gabion cages? Inquiring Minds Want to Know.

    On Tony Horwitz’s first morning in Australia, he was jolted out of bed by a Kookaburra, cackling outside his window.

    The fungus, among us. The red one’s are quit pretty. Cont.

  10. Cont. Hawthorne trees were quit popular, at one point, here. Portland has whole streets lined with Hawthorns. They put on quit a show, in the spring. Must have been some kind of hybrid. Never got very big, no matter how old they got.

    I haven’t seen any deer, yet, this season. But there are reports of a few around, and at least one doe with fawn. I’ve seen a few squirrels. And, a first. A small chipmunk.

    I can’t think of an English equivalent to “mate.” Maybe “buddy.” One stumbles across holes in the English language, from time to time.

    Who can forget Tang! “What the astronauts drink!” I also forgot about Fizzies. Gave Kool Aid a bit of a run for it’s money. Came in about as many flavors. It was a tablet, that you’d drop in water, and it would fizz. So, you got a carbonated drink. Went flat, fairly fast. Cost more, as I remember.

    Sounds like Jakarta has the same problems of New Orleans. I wonder what the first great city, will be, to sink beneath the waves? Jakarta? New Orleans? Miami?

    One more day, until my inspection. Still on schedule. I’ll be glad when I’m past that. Lew

  11. Hi DJ,

    In the short term, the mineral recycling system has been largely ignored, but as agricultural yields diminish to some future tipping point where water isn’t retained in the soil as readily during a series of extreme dry years, the incentive to restore some semblance of the longer term system will suddenly be there. We can only blithely ignore such a system because at the moment we can. It is an unappealing historical norm that over 90% of the population were generally involved in agriculture. The thing is, if the systems are set up well, it just isn’t that much work, but try telling people that. Anyway, the facts speak for themselves in this case, and I mean the supermarkets these days are full of food. But it only takes one or two really epic harvest failures to shake things up.

    Really? That’s no good at all, but yeah entropy eats anything and everything in the end. I’m yet to see metal filings in PVC pipes, but it is possible, and it could come from anywhere in the system that has a pump. Even the large municipal water pumps wear out in time. It is what they do. I keep a few spare pumps here ready to go so that I can swap one in and repair the other pump that was removed.

    Mate, apparently the bolts were loosened off so that the two bridge decks met up. What a total disaster, and the lunch shed was underneath the bridge spans, and it was lunchtime. I used to live near to the bridge and occasionally used to walk the dogs down to the memorial underneath the bridge span. Years ago when I used to ride a motorcycle, the winds high up there on that elevated bridge deck were not good, and you could get blown easily from one lane to the next if you stopped tacking into the wind. But nothing compares to the uncomfortable feeling you get in the pit of your guts due to the bounce of the bridge deck when you’re stationary in traffic on a motorcycle.

    Thanks for the links. I feel a bit bad for the poor dog who was not rescued, but who in their right mind would travel upon such a bridge in such winds in the first place? The guy in the video was casually ambling away from the warping bridge deck – as you do.

    Yeah, the winter weather has been strange. As they say two steps forward, one back, so it goes. And that has been how it seems to be working out this year. Most of the plants are handling the weather quite fine and even getting plenty of chilling hours (< 7’C), but as you note there are always a few plants that respond in unusual ways. The morning of the photo when the moon was setting in the west was quite peaceful and still, and I'm glad to share it with you. I introduce to you the:
    Hunting the Ghost Fungus: glowing mushrooms in Australia’s forests
    . Pretty cool, huh?

    Nature inevitably does the hard yards, and sometimes us humans have to learn how to let well alone, which is frankly not as easy as a person would expect it to be.

    Ollie and Thordog would have been great mates had they had the chance to bond over a chunk or twenty of beef jerky. Yes, I too thought that Ollie looked at me with an expression which suggested that he had no idea what the fuss was all about. Yup, dogs and chewing…



  12. Hi, Chris!

    I love old house stories. Thanks!

    That is one of the most beautiful moon photos I have ever seen.

    57F in the house is close to the 60F that most of our house stays in the winter, unless one is near the fireplace or woodstove. We don’t heat our bedroom at all and it often stays in the 40s.

    I am keeping our wildlife water bowls filled, especially in this heat (low 90sF). Ice on a water bowl is impressive as it shows that the temperature actually did get below freezing. In the winter I can get a very good idea of the air temperature by how thick the ice is on the water bowls first thing in the morning. This is because I fill them up for the night animals each night before bed.

    Only yesterday you were picking all that fruit . . .

    Ollie, Ollie . . . I’m with everybody else – you don’t even look repentant. Ah – the rest of the story, straight from the dog’s mouth: You were hungry because they so seldom feed you.

    I always love to see your bird life. Thanks! Kookyburras are extra-special.

    I always wondered about that – when I see fungi on a tree, or lichen. It makes me feel that that tree’s days are numbered.

    Your winter flowers always surprise me.


  13. Hi Inge,

    Yeah, glad to hear that some well tended hedgerows still exist in your part of the world. For your interest, the Hawthorne trees that survive around these parts today also abut fields, and they appear to me to be the remainder of what was once an impenetrable hedge for the wildlife on the outside and the cattle and sheep on the inside. The Hawthorne’s are quite nice because the original farmers planted a mix of flowering types and often there are pink and white flowers in season. Both the bees and the honey-eaters would enjoy the diverse flowers, and it looks good too.

    Maintaining a hedgerow is a real skill and a person would have to know their plants very well before they attempted such a job. And then the poor soul tasked with such a job would have to disregard all of the helpful suggestions that arose out of conducting the job. Not a job for the faint of heart. 🙂

    Dunno. The catalogue describes the rose as a Multiflora variety which comes in both pink and white forms. The description tends to make me feel that it may be quite a vigorous rose.

    Humid summers are quite hard to bear, and you have my sympathy.



  14. Hi Lewis,

    Here is to the humble (but also rather important) outhouse. Your mention of the Japanese Edo period and their farmers desire for manure and their cunning plan to provide public privies was a real eye opener for me. It is all very clever. Years ago Mr Greer mentioned that the ancient temples were often sites of great fertility. Of course, there are metaphysical reasons for this to occur, but there are also practical concerns such as all of the visitors providing soil gifts via their excrement. But also, the sick may have ended up depositing themselves in the soil as well. Such places were sited in naturally good spots anyway, but also enjoyed a nice flow of minerals.

    I saw an outhouse in Nepal that was a tin shed sited over a creek which flowed into the nearby river. One look at that building and how it all worked was all I needed to go elsewhere. On the other hand, I ate one night at a restaurant there where the toilet emptied into the well tended vegetable bed. A nifty, if somewhat unconventional approach. When one is a tourist, it is hard to know where the next toilet may be found.

    Exactly, people ignore the likely risks and instead focus on the sensational. I’ve heard serious people suggest to me that someone may kidnap their baby, and I’ve heard the story widely enough to know that it is a real fear. Mind you, it is a bonkers story.

    Not good. I’ve never encountered the word “dickering” before, but I loved the definition and have met a few such folks in my time. And unfortunately some folks have attempted such a strategy against my good self. I take umbrage at such attempts, and who’d have thunk it, but the people ‘trying it on’ get upset by my response? Best to nip such things in the bud because they tend to escalate. But yeah, I’d have to suggest that from my perspective it appears that your friends are not as keen to sell as they may claim. Selling up and moving on sends a poor message to the rest of the community, and people may be less inclined to spend time with them given your mates uncertain future plans.

    Far out. Hey, the leaning tower in San Francisco is apparently something of a tourist attraction, and I have it on good authority from someone who was there, that the lean is noticeable to the ordinary eye. Oook!

    Toasty blankets of fog beat hard frosts! Did the fog lift for you and the sun shine forth upon its merry stroll across the sky?

    The coffee machine and I are cool. If I was smarter than I am, I would have done an apprenticeship as a mechanic, but alas I expose myself to other people’s concerns about money. Machines tend to make a bit of sense to me about how they work, but complex fault finding is something that is difficult for me, probably due to lack of experience. The mystery left over part is a problem for other people. These days people take photographs before dismantling, but back in the day I had to learn the benefit of organising my workspace so that everything was all lined up in the order that it was disassembled. It seems obvious, but you know everyone is different and stuff.

    I loved that song, and long ago have known a few haughty Siamese cats. What is with them and their bad attitudes? Clearly in the human – feline relationship, they have few doubts that they are the superior species!

    Rocks are precious items here, and none go to waste. The large rocks are being used in rocks walls (like the succulent series of terraces) that need large rocks. Medium sized rocks are being used in normal-ish rock walls along paths, and the smaller rocks end up in the steel rock gabion cages. I’m down to one cage now and it is about half full of rocks. The excavations for the new highest terrace has proven to be a real windfall of rocks.

    Hehe! I hope Mr Horwitz felt kindly towards the laughing Kookaburra – cackling does not describe the pleasant and distinctive notes of their call. It is all very exotic. Hang on, here is a good example: Kookaburra call. The Kookaburra’s here are a bit chunkier here than those skinny two – something about being in a good paddock. Ollie and Scritchy have gone ballistic hearing the bird calls from the speakers…

    You seem to be a fun-guy, I’m a fun-guy, and there are also some fun-gals that comment in this delightful part of the interweb. 🙂 Hehe! I left a link (if two is not too many) to an article about glowing fungus down under in my reply to DJ.

    Oh! Skipped Chapters 3 and 4 today. The chunks of text I read (out of curiosity) all seemed rather sordid and unnecessary. Thanks for the warning. Onto Chapter 5.

    Yeah, the hawthorn trees don’t get very large down here, but from what I understand it, the plants live for quite a long time. And the berries are apparently a medicinal herb, something to do with the heart. Someone needs to grow a blue flowering variety!

    I’m a bit inexperienced with deer, but were you telling me that the stags grow their antlers during the growing season? And then they drop them come autumn?

    You don’t hear the word “buddy” used at all down here, but I do recall that the father character in the series “Six Feet Under” (an awesome story) used to call his favourite son “Buddy-boy”. I can’t recall what the other son played by Michael C Hall was called, but I don’t recall those words being used. The English language seems to ignore discussions of feelings, motivations and such other emotions.

    I saw that reference to the astronauts. One of the more famous of them – the cheeky scamp – was apparently rather disparaging of the product. Probably had more than enough for one life span.

    My money is on Miami, but who really knows. Why people feel that it won’t happen is a mystery to me.

    Good luck with the pending inspection, and I do hope that they stick to some sort of schedule and don’t muck you around too much.



  15. Hi Pam,

    Thanks. For years the editor and I mucked around with houses, and I never once sought to make profit from them by doing nothing and just hoping the price went up. We always sought an example that we could fix up and then on-sell at hopefully a profit. I lost money on the first one I did and it was real drama at the time, especially after so many long tedious hours of work. Still, a person has to move on and apply what they have learned. Easier said that done. Incidentally, the house in this weeks story was an epic dump that I had no intentions of sorting out.

    Thank you. That is a really lovely thing to say. 🙂 The morning the moon looked huge as it fell towards the horizon, and far out it was cold. The fog rapidly moved in, so the view was just a moment in time.

    Exactly, how much firewood and/or other energy do you want to burn through just keeping the house hot for what is only a short period of time? Despite the really thick insulation, when the day starts at 34’F and doesn’t get any warmer than 45’F, it doesn’t matter how much insulation the house has, you can’t passively generate more heat than the average outside air temperature. I’ve heard people suggest that it might be possible to have a house that requires no heating or cooling, but I’m not a believer in such talk. Best to chuck on a few more blankets. Hey, I sleep better in the cooler temperatures anyway, do you find that true for you too?

    Low 90’s is actually quite nice (as long as the humidity isn’t too high?) It is such a nice thing to leave water out for the wildlife, as they really need the regular source of water with which to drink from.

    Hehe! I still am picking fresh breakfast fruit from the citrus. Without those fruit trees, the winters would be most unkind. Winters are strange things here, and it can still snow, but that may have to wait for an Antarctic anomaly in August.

    Ollie’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy! And as you correctly assessed there is little contrition, but no repeat either. He’s a fast learner that dog. Had to laugh about the food! Surely you jest? 🙂

    If you get a chance, I left a link in the reply to Lewis which is a pretty good rendition of the Kookaburra’s call. The birds here are a little bit more well fed than those two skinny Kookaburra’s. I once over fed one with grubs and it ended being so full that it had to digest a bit first before it could fly away. They’re smart birds and I reckon they keep the snakes away (hopefully).

    Nope, the fungi and the trees are in a symbiotic relationship, but eventually the fungi get the upper hand. Is this a bad thing? Depends upon what you want a forest to look like.

    It is nice to enjoy a splash or two of colour about the place at this time of year. I’m hoping the hellebores flower soon.



  16. Hello again
    I have been driven nuts for a while by the sound of helicopters and aeroplanes. Now Son has come down to tell me that the area is crawling with police plus the press and low level rescue, whatever that is. 5 of them have just turned up at my door. It appears that a young woman has gone missing who was working at a kids’ holiday camp here.


  17. @ DJSpo – Thanks for the REAL story of fairy rings. I always wondered, about those. Takes some of the magic out :-(. Next you’ll be telling me Santa and the Easter Bunny can be scientifically, explained. (Actually, I did that, a few months back.)

    Got your tickets for the Pompeii exhibit, at MAC, yet? Lew

  18. Yo, Chris – The Ghost Mushrooms are really something. We have a Ghost Orchid (Florida). Rare, protected. There’s quit an illicit trade. That’s what the book “The Orchid Theif” (a very good read) was all about. They are not luminescent. I think they are just a glowing white that really stands out, in the forest.

    The Romans used a lot of urine in the cleaning and processing of woolen cloth. They attached amphora, of suitable height, outside their fuller’s shops, and the good citizens (at least the males) would leave a deposit, there.

    I must not have been clear. My friends were interested in buying that lot, not selling. They’re a lot more sensible, when it comes to selling. They usually carry the contracts, and consider the payments as part of their retirement. And, they rent them out, until they sell.

    Leaning Tower of San Francisco. Might turn out to be an asset. Seemed to turn out ok, or Piza. 🙂

    Cloud bank is still there. That’s out toward the ocean. It’s seldom entirely clear, out that way.

    There’s been some studies done (and articles written) recently, about real risks vs rare risks. People do get wound up, about supposed dangers. We can thank the media. And, liability lawyers. As an example, I had to remove two cans of air freshener, from under my sink, during inspection, as the garbage disposal motor (which doesn’t work, and I never use) might overheat and cause them to explode. Don’t think I’ll lose any sleep, over that one. Otherwise, the inspection went ok. Now I can get back to my real life. Some question about my oven door not being able to open, fully, due to my much beloved freezer. Wonder if I’ll have to move it into my dining area? Well, that would be ugly.

    The Kookaburra, sure our noisy. And I thought our Jays, were bad. :-). Horwitz has a chapter entitled, “My First Kangaroo.” It was road kill. He is also amazed by the fact, that in the Outback, distance is measure in number of beers consumed, rather than miles. You people can DRINK! 🙂

    Yup. Male deer shed their horns, every year. And, every year they add another point to their “rack.” I hear hunters talk about “getting a nine point buck.” Or, any other number. A “spike” is a yearling deer. Single horns. Lew

  19. Hi Chris,
    Ollie almost looks a bit proud. I did picture something much worse though.

    Multi floral rose is considered a serious invasive here. It was originally planted as a natural fence for livestock but can really run a muck if left it its own devices. The flowers are pretty but those thorns!! Interestingly goats can easily eat them – how I don’t know. I had a doe once who after she kidded just wasn’t quite right and had quite a diminished appetite. I tried all sorts of goodies but it was the multi floral rose that did it. She downed it with great relish and got back to normal in no time.

    We continue to have rain but at least not flooding amounts. Now we’ll be turning rather warm and sadly quite humid. The garden plants are liking it though.

    Last Friday I had a minor procedure to hopefully correct a couple crossed toes which have been pretty uncomfortable. I am supposed to limit walking around until this weekend so am getting behind outside. The upside is I’m getting a lot of reading done. I’ve read “The Moneyless Man” by Mark Boyle and “Bullshit Jobs” by David Graeber. Doug and I went to see “Rocketman” as well. I spent the night at my aunt’s in Chicago where we ate much yummy food as she is a wonderful cook. You can see there’s a lot of sluffing off going on here.

    The bird bath is very popular here though now it gets pretty scummy and needs to be cleaned out every couple of days. The bluebirds have been bringing their babies pretty regularly. Years ago I had a heated birdbath for the winter as the water would otherwise be frozen solid for months.


  20. Lew,

    Sorry to burst your bubble on fairy rings. Sad to say, I’ve never seen a fairy dancing around the rings. 🙁 However, I have observed a Largish bunny laying eggs early on Easter Morning. And my wife and I try to get a picture with Santa Claus every year, so I’ve seen him: he’s real.


  21. Chris,

    Oh yes, the 90% of people once working in agriculture I’ve heard many times. The availability of land is what caused my ancestors to keep moving from the Atlantic coast westward. Yup, most of my ancestors were farmers because that’s the only way they could eat.

    I agree, one day we will be forced to try to take care of the soil. My guess is, though, that similarly to peak oil and global warming, by the time most people see that there’s a problem, it will be too late to fix the problem in order to feed the masses. The result will not be pleasant.

    It is never a good thing to be on a bridge when it is visibly moving. I do NOT understand the people in the Tacoma Narrows videos who were out there on that thing when it was flying. I did some crazy things in my youth, but that’s one I would’ve avoided. I think.

    Cool! Ghost fungi! Seeing those would definitely scare a lot of people I know.

    Letting nature alone is getting easier as I continue to get unyoung. Some things are way too much effort for the results.

    Thanks for the kookaburra photos. I always liked to tune in to the very beginning of the old Radio Australia shortwave broadcasts. Once upon a when, the broadcasts began with a full minute of a laughing kookaburra before transitioning into “Waltzing Matilda”. I miss listening to both.

    We’ve got 2 hawthorn trees in the front of our house. They tend to sprout shoots just about anywhere. Left alone, they would make a dandy hedge. Hedges can be useful, as shown by a passage from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: “A.D. 547. This year Ida began his reign; from whom first arose the royal kindred of the Northumbrians… Ida reigned twelve years. He built Bamburgh-Castle, which was first surrounded with a hedge, and afterwards with a wall.” (edited out the genealogy bits).

    Thordog and Ollie together? Ouch! They would’ve chewed up the whole world together given enough time.


  22. @Margaret:

    Crossed toes – that’s very interesting. Did they cut a bit of ligament, or something like that, to loosen them up? I hope that heals quickly.


  23. Chris:

    Thanks for the kookaburra calls – but no thanks! That becomes annoying pretty instantly, but the pair seems to be having a lot of fun. It seems to me that I have heard that sound in many a jungle movie.

    I do have to be cool to sleep – or I don’t sleep.


  24. Hi Inge, Lewis, Margaret, DJ and Pam,

    ‘Tis the dread pirate Chris informing you landlubbers that ’tis the fearsome mid-week hiatus! Until tomorrow, but for now there is bedtime. Harrrr (with a sort of rolling of the tongue, r-sound)!

    Inge – I do hope that the young lady is found and has not come to be a part of a fatal misadventure.

    Lewis – Did Mexican food tonight in the big smoke. Me tired, as I had some serious ‘bidness to sort out this week, and for me it is emotionally draining. But rarely should a confrontation be put off. No good comes from that.

    Also, additionally I note that you have taken the higher moral ground in your reply and not provided any links whatsoever. I’m impressed by such restraint, and can only hope that I live up to your exacting standards. 🙂 It is going to be hard as I love a good link.

    Who would have thought that orchids could elicit such responses from people? But the trade in illegal wildlife stemming from this country into Asia is apparently also not good. Customs did a well publicised series of busts a month or two back, and I heard one of the customs people on the radio talking about what was going on. I suspect that things had got out of hand recently, thus the public service announcement. It is a bonkers trade, but you’ve met your fair share of collectors in your time, and this lot (the wildlife collectors) would be weirder, but no less avid. Incidentally, most orchids aren’t that easily relocatable. You may notice that I rarely include orchid flowers in the images?

    Incidentally, I got my cool blue hat stretched today. Perhaps my head has swollen of late. But you know, the hat has never really fit well, and that is despite the hat being the correct measurement. I’ve never really been sure whether I wear the hat, or the hat wears me, because it is really cool – maybe a bit too cool, and I feel slightly uncomfortable wearing it. The editor was nice enough to drop the hat off and pick it up again today at the very cool hat shop. I suspect she had a fun time and the shop is very aesthetically pleasing.

    Oh yeah, urine is used in processing pressed wool, or felt. Have you ever come across pressed wool in your activities? It is an amazingly warm and dense material. It is quite a clever way to collect resources.

    Apologies, I misinterpreted the story about your friends and got it completely back to front. Property is a very mixed bag in such low interest rate environments.

    Hey, we were discussing the leaning tower of Pisa the other day down here. Footings and ground works are everything with such a tall structure. I do seriously wonder how all of the large sky scrapers are intending to be demolished in the far future when the buildings have finished their life cycle. There is a bit of a problem down here with building surveyors where the insurers are apparently no longer covering them for some aspects of construction such as cladding (think Grenfell tower) and the policies are just about due to expire. Maybe it is just me, in my opinion polystyrene hardly seems like an appropriate building material if confronted by a fire. The government is talking about possibly becoming an insurer of last resort.

    I have an uncomfortable thought that the problem with risk is greater than most people realise. Of course some people and groups in the community benefit from most people being unable to assess what risks are real and what are imagined.

    Oh no! What a way to be introduced to a kangaroo. There is a lot of road kill, not doubts about it, and I feel for the volunteers who offer their services and check animal pouches and then try to raise any joeys found.

    As to the drinking, that may have been back in the day a bit. Nowadays, the police can stop you and measure your blood alcohol percentage, and there are random checks. I used to measure the distance in terms of roadhouses in the really remote parts of the continent. It is probably a bit hard for most people to comprehend how under populated some parts of the country are. I didn’t drink much up north as it was just too hot.



  25. Yo, Chris – Re: Links. No moral high ground … just a slow news day :-).

    Collectors are a weird lot (Guilty!). For some it is a very competitive thing or a one-upsman-ship. Who has the coolest and most rare. It was interesting. When our youngish building manager did her inspection, I told her if she was curious about any of the tat, to just ask. Not a flicker of interest. You’d think since she manages a building full of old relics, she’d show some curiosity. Nothing about all the books, either. What a bleak little life. Orchids take great skill to grow, so there’s also that. The challenge.

    LOL. The Editor, wisely, was just keeping you out of the hat store, to preserve the family finances. :-).

    Haven’t had to much truck, with felt. One of the librarians I worked with, did it as a hobby. Made the stuff and then all kinds of bibs and bobs, HATS, etc.. Felt boards are used to educate and entertain small children.

    Well, sky scrapers will either be demolished in a controlled fashion (I did a link to that, once), or, eventually, just fall over. Like in that series “After Man.” Or was it “World Without Us?” Or maybe there were two similar series. In one of those coincidences, I finished watching “Endeavor”, series six. The final episode involved a housing tower collapse. Which set in motion, tying up all the loose ends. Council skullduggery, organized crime, Masonic plots.

    That bit about people and groups benefiting from people not being able to assess real and imagined risks. What I wanted to say, but just couldn’t figure out how to state it. Kudos, to you! That kind of thing has been elevated to an art form, in this part of the world.

    I was going to say, there’s probably a YouTube video, showing how to fix your coffee pot. If not, you should have made one. Once, I couldn’t figure out how to get at my tail light to replace the bulb. So, I checked YouTube. Yup. There it was. It was all down to a cleverly concealed bolt.

    All this talk about hedgerows … we have five native roses that grow in this State. I’d guess they migrated in prehistoric times, out of China, when the land bridge was still up. The Nootka grows along our roads, and puts on quit a show, this time of year. And, yes, it makes a great addition to a hedgerow. Lew

  26. @ all
    I am afraid that they are still looking for the girl. it doesn’t look good.


  27. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the update. It is not good and does not bode well that the lady has not yet been found. Have search efforts been reduced? We had a similar situation in the mountain range a few years ago, except that the weather was wet and cold, and so we had to head into the big smoke that day and so just left blankets and some food out in a spot that was easy to find, just in case. The lady was eventually found, and it had apparently been all due to some sort of domestic dispute with a person who worked on a nearby horse stud (neither of them were locals), although that was the only details we ever learned about it. The forest here is not a place to be lost in on a cold wet and miserable day when a person is under prepared for the exposure.

    There will be some sort of story behind the disappearance, but you may never learn what it is.

    It was a beautiful sunny winter’s day here today. 59’F and bright blue skies.



  28. Hi Margaret,

    Ollie did appear to lack any contrition about what he’d done that day (the photo was taken several hours later), but he’s a fast learner and I can assure you he knows that what he did do was very wrong. The damage doesn’t look too bad because the editor sewed up the hole in the corner of the cushion that the otherwise delightful cattle dog had ripped open. I’d be curious as to your opinion, but Ollie bit into the corner of the cushion that Toothy prefers to sleep upon. Such jealousy does not look good from any angle. Have you noticed jealousy between Salve and Leo? Toothy and Ollie are best mates too, but that doesn’t stop the petty jealousy.

    Your serious invasive plant, is perhaps my extraordinarily hardy plant down here where the summers are hotter and drier. 🙂 There are some tough customers (plants) in this forest and I observe them all closely to see how they interact. Very few plants appear to be gaining the upper hand, other than the over story Eucalyptus Obliqua (messmate) trees. For your interest too, I’m noticing that the understory trees appear to be gaining a bit of ground over the Eucalyptus trees. It is really interesting because many of the under story trees have the knack of capturing nitrogen from the atmosphere and getting it into the soil. The Eucalyptus trees fight back by dropping germination inhibitors, but also encouraging wildfires which tend to damage the under story trees. The whole community of plants are seeking an edge over their competitors and it is fascinating to watch the story play out.

    Goats are phenomenal creatures, and I guess they know their own business. I’m unsurprised that the goats survived the meal, I mean you hear stories about goats. Interestingly, I’ve read that the leaves of blackberry and raspberry plants are a useful herbal medicinal and many of the animals around here consume them.

    Your description of the rain and humidity reads a bit like the conditions in the few tropical jungles that I’ve visited over the years. And serious humidity always makes the day feel far hotter than it is. On the other hand, the plants jump out of the ground. How is the asparagus going?

    Hope the procedure went well and that you are now recovering? Ouch. It is nice to be able to take some time out and recover / relax and catch up on reading. Is the book club keeping up with the recommended books of late? Have to suggest that I’ve been in both of those circumstances that you are reading about! 🙂

    Did you enjoy Rocketman? I quite like the song, it has a sad note and tone to it. There has been a bit of a spate of films with such themes of late, and I note that a documentary about the life of Michael Hutchence of INXS fame is shortly due to be released.

    That’s really nice keeping the water available for the birds. Birds tend to be quite good at fertilising their water sources.



  29. Hi DJ,

    The 90% number gets chucked around and the Japanese Edo period I read about recently ran that ratio, but I’m unable to verify its veracity. However, I do believe that the current number is about 2%, which is frankly a bit scary, and it is possible that we have swung from one historical norm to a never to be repeated moment in time. I get that about moving and seeking affordable and fertile land with which to produce something that can be eaten. It is not as easy as it appears.

    Without being too much of a bummer, we’re in uncharted waters on that front, but it is very possible that the reversion to the historical norms may occur in ways that we’ve never considered. Certainly without the huge fossil fuel subsidy, people will have to return to the land, but how that will play out is anyone’s guess, and it may be in fits and starts. I would never have expected that the expansionary money policies that have been the main game in town over the past few decades could have been continued for as long as they have, and eaten so much real world capability in its wake. From some perspectives, it is all very impressive. And I suspect that the games are producing all sorts of funny occurrences, such as fracking just for one example. Who’d have thunk it? So, I just don’t know. But people tend to see a life upon the land as an unpleasant experience, and that ain’t necessarily so from what I’ve seen. Dunno.

    I didn’t get that either about the people on the bridge, and they left the dog in the car by all accounts. Not good.

    The ghost fungi were pretty cool. I’ve never noticed any of the fungi here, but I read an account from a person living in the forest here from way back in the day about a ball of light in the forest. It was apparently a thing back in the day.

    Hehe! Is this the beginning of wisdom? 😉 Mind you, I intend to continue digging the new terrace site tomorrow, so inferences can be made about my own journey.

    At primary school we used to be taught the song Waltzing Matilda, and I can’t say that the song celebrated the actions of the troopers, and it didn’t appear that much investigation had been done before the accusations began flying. The swagman was an itinerant agricultural worker of the sort that hit the road during the Depression era. I doubt they made much mad cash from their endeavours and they were no doubt paid in kind through food and lodging. Drifters have a dubious reputation.

    The problem as I see it for thorny hedges as a defensive wall is that some folks might take the unusual approach of torching them. Thus the need for the wall in the story. What kind of wall do you reckon it was: a timber palisade; or a stone wall?

    Fortunately for all of us, the two dogs may never meet.



  30. Hi Pam,

    I hope they find her too. It is not good.

    Hehe! Yeah, the birds are quite raucous in their song, although those two city birds were possibly fed by the person filming the video. Who would have thought that the two birds in question might get demanding for their regular breakfast feed? Regardless, they looked like they were having a lot of fun. I’ve seen some of the birds here mucking around and playing, so they’re hardly serious all the time. The forest here is rarely quiet.

    I prefer keeping cool at night too. I find that the summer nights when the overnight temperature is crazy hot are just not conducive to a good nights sleep.



  31. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! Slow news day, yeah, maybe it was… 🙂

    The house batteries reached full today which was really nice for this time of year. Today was another in a short run of bright and warm sunny winter days. I even got the chance to run the vacuum cleaner and the electric oven. Best to make hay whilst the sun shines because it looks like between one and two inches of rain look set to fall over the farm on Saturday.

    Lots of administrative tasks are required these days to be done merely in order to comply with the many systems that are thrust upon us. It is a funny story, but not in a humorous way. I spent a fair bit of time today doing such things, and by the time lunchtime rolled around (2pm), even I was surprised by how many minor tasks needed doing. From time to time I do wonder how other people cope with the volume of tasks required of them. Of course there are default options that allow people to ignore the tasks, however I note that the consequences of ending up in the default option is usually not good. Is it bad in your part of the world too? I write that understanding that you’ve just had to deal with an inspection.

    Fortunately after lunch I was able to get on with other tasks around here that needed doing, like fixing a roof drain that was failing and spilling water onto the ground. And also I moved some plants. The days are short right now, although you are experiencing otherwise. 🙂 The PVC for the downpipes is now over a decade old and despite being in the sun every day of the year it is still very strong and took a bit of effort to cut.

    It is a bit of a skill to take something, or an idea, or even a bit of information and then do something with it. Lack of curiosity presents itself in all sorts of ways, but there are also those who see other things (and people) as abstract objects. I feel that people are being trained to see the world that way, but I reckon the pendulum swings one way and then swings the other because that is what pendulums do! I noted that mobile phones are being banned in state schools in this state from next year. Probably not a bad idea.

    Haha! Who can argue with such fine financial logic. 🙂 The bloke suggested to the editor that he would be happy to swap the blue hat with another hat, because he’d been contacted by some ex-customer now in the UK that previously had one and unfortunately lost it.

    Nice. Felt feels really nice as a material and is far less scratchy than wool. Personally I never understood the whole hair shirt thing. Why would anyone want to punish themselves that much?

    The Singing Sword is a great book. The council has just dealt decisively to a very naughty carpenter, who did some seriously bad stuff. I was surprised that given the colonies close relationship with a local Celtic King, they didn’t consider the sort of legal arrangements that were in place in that community. No doubt, the characters will have to harmonise their arrangements with that Celtic community as time goes on. I see what you mean about it being a story about Roman preppers! I find it curious that the local Roman authorities don’t roll into town and try and extort some wealth from the colony. It might yet happen. I can see that the characters are reverting to a Feudal system, what are your thoughts about that?

    No doubts in the future we’ll discover how the process plays out with the skyscrapers. I hope not to be anywhere near to them during such times. Masonic plots? Seriously? There used to be a bloke in the big smoke who preached from his soap box about the evils of that group. Of all the things to worry about, that one probably should be pretty low on the list, if it even makes it onto the list at all! The editors uncle used to be in the Mason’s and he didn’t seem like an evil bloke to me.

    Thanks! The efforts being thrown at the edjakayshun of imagined risks is really quite impressive. It is an art form down here too! I did notice that the banks have apparently announced job cuts, what a surprise.

    Oh yeah, the youtube clips showing how to repair things are pretty good, but I don’t make any videos these days since the digital movie camera died and I just never bothered replacing it. Years ago I did a really cheesy video which was picked up and used by another website. Go figure… They nicely asked for permission to use the video, which is probably better than most these days. Interestingly the bot ‘plagscan’ turned up here at this website last week. I’m curious as to why that happened, but I’ll probably never know. I certainly don’t plagiarise others work, but the interweb is a vast echo chamber, so who knows what is going on.

    Yeah, the roses are a great idea for hedgerows. Over the years I’ve been collecting many elderberry shrubs too as they are really hardy, and the rambling roses creep through their branches. Fences are expensive items!



  32. Yo, Chris – Weather here has been great for people, not so great for the garden. Overnight low of 50F and days don’t get much more than 70F. Supposed to be like that for the next week. A bit of rain, but not enough to not water the garden. So, I do, but with a lighter hand. There was a bit of lightening, but way off to the south. I may be able to dig some new potatoes, soon.

    I find it helpful to jot dow tasks on a piece of scratch paper. Check them off as they get done. I’m not much of a housekeeper. Oh, the kitchen is never a problem, I keep on top of that. I keep the laundry up. No problems there. But clutter and dust! Seems there’s always a bit of a crunch when something like an inspection comes up. Or, a guest comes to call. I discourage that sort of behavior. :-).

    Maybe you should take bids on the blue hat? :-).

    Re: “Singing Sword.” I suppose (as far as law goes) people go with what they’re used to. I think Cassius refers to the council as a senate. I’d guess, sooner or later, a hybrid of Roman and Celtic law, develop. I think the Council is, at times, adrift, as they’ve never had so much atonomy (sp?), before. Your right. Where IS the Tax Man? The Roman villa system was, kinda, sorta, a feudal system. And the tribal organization of the Celts.

    Banks have always been at the forefront of automation, so, I can see them shedding staff. That taken with also shedding the “little” customers, also has an impact.

    I’m still slogging the Bush, with Tony Horwitz. Also, getting into the book on architecture and landscape by Rybczynski. That turns out to be a series of essays. Some I read, some I skip. He has an essay about a fellow named John B. Jackson, who also wrote a lot of essays and articles about the same subjects. I’ve put HIS book, “The Necessity of Ruins” on interlibrary loan. Both authors seem to think that attention is paid to great buildings and houses, but not enough to the everyday architecture that makes up our lives. Food courts in shopping malls and drive through banks, for instance. Something I hadn’t really thought of, before. We live in a landscape, largely creted by the automobile. By the way, the biography of Richter is winging it’s way to me from, somewhere.

    I watched a movie, last night. “The Upside.” You might take a look at the trailer. Lew

  33. Hi Lewis,

    It’s just you and me mate! 🙂 I always joked around that I began writing the blog so that we could stop taking up so much air time over at “Of the Hands”, and I look forward to our daily missives.

    Well, I was going to mention that some poor soul over in New Zealand near to the town of Rotorua, had a bubbling mud pit form in their backyard overnight, and then expand – as they do. But no! One of my favourite actors, Bill Nighy, is in Broken Hill in New South Wales acting in a film about: Bill Nighy falls in love with Australian outback, filming Buckley’s Chance in Broken Hill. From what I’ve occasionally read about him over the years he is very comfortable in his own company, and who can argue with reading a novel on one of the streets of the outback mining town of Broken Hill? I believe that I may also have done just that whilst testing one of the local coffees. A person must take their time during such testing, and a book slows the world down to a manageable pace. Anyway, with a good novel, you can travel to far and distant places in both space and time. At the moment I appear to have found myself in the final days of Roman Britain. It is an exciting place, full of adventures and misadventures, and lots of hard work – sounds like my kind of place.

    The weather has not been that different here. As you say, good for people, but perhaps not so good for the plants. It was apparently 65’F in the big smoke today, but much cooler up here. We dug and moved soil on the new garden terrace for several hours. It is beginning to look like a proper terrace, but there are still many days of work to go before it is near to completion. There are just never enough hours in the day, but one thing that I’m gleaning out of the most excellent books that you recommended on the Roman’s was that the decline occurred slowly.

    Mind you, it appears that the residents of France just endured a new summer temperature record today. I’ve seen hotter temperatures here. They’re survivable, and I might add that I have no air conditioning.

    Watering plants is a complicated puzzle, and the editor and I were discussing that matter today. As we expand the areas under cultivation, so do we also have to adapt the systems so that they don’t send us bonkers during the growing seasons. It is not as easy to do as it sounds. Did you harvest any potatoes? Is my memory incorrect in suggesting that you don’t usually get much lightning in your part of the world? I see the good Professor provided a good update on the impact of climate change in your corner of the globe, but I did note that he used the F-word (for Fusion power, come on folks get your minds out of the gutter!!!)

    Hehe! Well, that is an excellent strategy, and likewise I rarely encourage casual drop ins. Don’t you reckon it is complicated? I mean I’m a very social person, but when we are having time out doing some digging or otherwise hauling loads of manure, do I want people dropping by? Probably not. 😉 But yeah, we also write lists and tick items off as they get done. Doesn’t everyone? 🙂

    I’m torn over the blue hat, but at least it now fits better. The fit was just that tiny bit tight for my head and it gave me headaches. Apparently the summer linen hats turn up in mid August. Linen is just the thing for a hot day.

    I’m really enjoying the Singing Sword. Interestingly, the people establishing the colony all enjoyed vast hoards of wealth with which they were able to, err, sort stuff out. I doubt very much that they themselves were digging terraces. But yeah, no taxes appear to have been levied upon the inhabitants, but most are contributing to the local militia. And the naughty carpenter just burned down the granary, and the act cost him his life. However, winter may be a bit lean for the inhabitants now. Ouch! It possibly wasn’t that smart of an idea to place them all in one convenient location as they had four granary’s next to each other.

    Have the realities of the journey impinged upon Tony Horwitz’s perceptions of the vast bush? Or is he entranced by the scale, colour and distance?

    Mate, everyday architecture leaves a lot to be desired down here. When we constructed this house, we rented in a nearby town in a project house in a housing estate. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me because I’d never lived in such a house before and I can’t truthfully suggest that it sheltered us from the prevailing weather conditions. I loathed that house, but it was an important lesson about what not to do. But you know, most people live in such houses and they seem to like them, so who am I to provide a critique? I’ve learned a lot over the years about building, but I sort of look towards the goal of reducing the ongoing costs of living in a house. It is not as easy a goal to achieve as you’d think!

    Another days digging, and I reckon I’ll fill up the next steel rock gabion cage. I couldn’t believe just how many rocks we excavated and moved today.



  34. Chris:

    A couple of days ago my son answered a knock at the door to find an inspector from one of our County departments. The fellow stated that he was here to inspect the house that was to be demolished! My son just laughed and laughed, as he assumed – rightly so – that the man was looking for the tiny, old cinderblock house behind us. Its address is one digit different from ours.

    This little house had been rented out, off and on, over the last 25 years. The 5 acre property and pond (you have heard me mention the pond behind us) and house have never been maintained by the wealthy gent who owns it and lives on the 200 acre farm with 7,000 sq. ft. house next to us. The last tenants bailed out last December though their lease was not up as the mold had gotten so bad, there was a hole in the roof, etc. Side note: These were the people from whom the wildfire headed towards our house a couple of years ago originated.

    My son went over to the little house with the inspector to ask our neighbor the owner if he was planning to sell the property. This is quite important as it directly adjoins ours. But no, the owner is not selling. He is tired of being a landlord (!) and also can take a huge chunk off of his property taxes if there is no house on the property. He can also call it part of his farm and put it into “land-use” and cut his taxes even further. He was kind enough to tell my son that he could take anything that he found around the house. The house itself is locked, as it is now condemned. I won’t give you a list of all the great stuff my son has salvaged – it is long!

    My son also asked for first chance at buying the property if the neighbor ever sells it, and was granted it. This is kind of bittersweet because sites like this one, especially with an incredible view of the mountains and a pond and power in place, can sell for $200,000.00 – with no house.


  35. Hi Pam,

    Glad the local council folks never made that mistake here! I’d probably tell them to put it in writing and otherwise, (maybe said politely) go away. Laughing at such a mistake is probably the best thing to do given the circumstances. Your son has good diplomatic skills to have understood the error, and then assisted the public servant. Shows you how much they know about the area given they made such a mistake.

    5 acres, electricity services and a pond (mmm, pond – note the mildly envious tone!) does sound like an appealing prospect, and such land would cost far more down here, nowadays. Out of curiosity, if the building is condemned does the owner have to demolish it, or is simply locking it up and throwing away the key a valid option? Anyway, holes in the roof and extreme mould in a house are generally not conducive with a long lifespan for a building. Most houses can be repaired and corrected, although my experience does not extend to cinder-block buildings, and I guess much depends upon the footings and damp proof courses.

    Top work too with the recovery of stuff! 🙂 Fast thinking. Why would anyone want to live in a 7000 sq ft house? It would epic to heat, but far more epic to keep clean. Imagine that task, huh? Crazy stuff. And how many different rooms do you actually need to sit in?

    Is the land farmed in the traditional sense of that word? For your interest, there are no discounts for property taxes in rural areas down here. However, a landholder can place a permanent covenant on their property title which protects some part, or all of their land, from any development (or change) whatsoever, and that removes the property tax burden. As far as I understand it though, once the covenant is on the title, that is that, and future owners enjoy the same restrictions.

    Yeah, but if my neighbours had set off a fire (which they haven’t), I’d be eternally grateful when they left the area.

    That is a bittersweet pill to swallow. You never know, things change, and it might be that at some point in the future, the land only has value to yourself and your son. And then you can name your price.

    Continued digging the new terrace today because the winter sun was glorious and the day was, err, warm.



  36. Hi Chris,

    Our longtime next door neighbors to the east are completing their move to a different place. They moved to their house next door a few years before we moved to ours 17 years ago. Since we have known them they have had two children, let one shed fall in, put up two more sheds and a rabbit hutch (only used for a few years), bought several pieces of machinery including a portable sawmill to cut boards for a board fence around their backyard (only partially complete along one side), and bought and began to restore a pontoon boat before abandoning the effort. They were good neighbors, if a little prone to abandoning projects and keeping the resulting mess around. They are moving into a district with a decent public high school as they cannot afford what the parochial schools charge for a high school education. Their daughter begins high school this autumn, their son 2 years later. I just noticed their pickup truck driving up what I presume is one last time, to deal with bits and pieces still left, as all of the machinery and other visible and valuable outdoor equipment is now gone.

    Speaking of fire sales, instead of trying to sell the still-decent metal frame of the pontoon boat, our neighbor cut it apart, loaded it onto one of his trailers, and took it away. We assume he took it to a scrap metal yard. Mike thinks the pontoons are aluminum; if so, they will have brought a good chunk of money at the scrap yard.

    Now the question becomes what will be done with their house? We don’t know if it has already been sold or not yet put up for sale. The fire sale appellation applies for a number of reasons. First is the less well regarded public schools and the resultant low property values here. Second, when they moved in, occupancy permits were not yet required, meaning the house would not have needed to be brought up to code before they moved in, and codes have toughened since then. The core of the house was built in 1910, but you wouldn’t know it to look at it because it has been concealed from view due to expansion and re-siding. Still, since the house is not large, is located in a less fashionable area, and probably needs some work to be brought up to code, it may be difficult to sell to anyone who isn’t planning to turn it into a rental house. That’s happened to a number of other houses on the street as they came up for sale. Such folks as buy and rent out such houses often send us mail telling us they’d like to buy our house. Our neighbors would have no trouble selling their house to such a buyer. I hope we get as good of neighbors – they have been quiet and friendly, and they shared excess venison (deer meat) with us, and I shared excess garden produce with them. I feel some apprehension, wondering who might end up living in that house.


  37. Yo, Chris – Well, if you get a bubbly mud pit, in your backyard, open a spa :-). As your aware, New Zealand is a heck of a lot more geologically active, than Australia. Wonder if there’s a similar earthquake map, like the one’s we were looking at?

    Bill Nighy is a delight, as an actor. I took a look at his CV, to refresh my memory. Oh, yes. Lots of favorites. “I Capture the Castle”, the Marigold hotel movies and one I recently saw, “The Bookshop.” He’s also worked with Simon Pegg. Who can forget his wonderful turn as Shaun’s step-father, in “Shaun of the Dead?”

    Well, high temps with no air conditioning is survivable, if a person is sensible. But it can be the kind of thing that sneaks up, on one.

    I’ll give the potatoes a few more days. I was cracking the sads, over my tomatillos. Planted seed, and quartered a fruit from last year. A couple of weeks ago. Nada action, in the bed. Well, I happened to run into Julia at the Club, yesterday, and she’s got some extras in pots. I can pick them up, Sunday morning, when she does a quick in and out. Now watch. As soon as I get them in, the seed and fruit will make an appearance. Perverse plants! :-).

    Well, I’d say the leader’s of the colony in “Singing Sword” are Roman’s 1%. Caius with family money, and Varrus with the loot discovered by his grandfather. If nothing else, the burning of the granary did get them to tighten up security, quit a bit.

    Well, Tony Horwitz has fried his brains, many a time, hitchhiking through the Outback. Rides are often few and far between. He sure is meeting a cast of Australian characters. I think it’s indicative of his open character, that all the aboriginal people he meets, really take him to their hearts. He is driving a car at one point (furnished by his newspaper, to follow a particular story) and manages to flip it, and narrowly escape injury and death. Reckless, devil may care young Tony passes that watershed moment, where he becomes conscious of his own mortality. I did come across one bit, that gave me a sad little pause. He was chasing Haley’s comet, near Alice (the year it was a non-event) and was ruminating on how he’d be 103 when it came by the next time. And, as his grandfather had lived to that age, he might be around for it. Didn’t happen.

    I was following Pam and your conversation. Good to keep on the right side of that neighbor. Might turn out to be Pam’s future feudal lord. Her son might want to check and see if there’s a loose grand-daughter kicking around. Never hurts to marry into the local power base :-).

    I keep meaning to mention, the latest post over at “The Daily Impact” is on recycling. About the same time, I saw an article that Berkley, California (no surprise there) hid trackers in their plastic recycling, just to see where it ended up. Couldn’t find that exact article, again, but here is similar.

    I understand that micro plastics are showing up, in everything. Even us. If a plastic eating bacteria is ever launched, we could end up missing a few major organs. Lew

  38. @ all
    I am afraid that they have found the body of the missing girl in woodland not far away. It looks as though she did herself in.


  39. @ Pam
    That is indeed what was done – ligament was cut. Stitch out on Monday.


  40. Hi Chris,
    There really isn’t any jealousy between Salve and Leo though Salve does demand all of the attention – especially from guests. If Leo is getting pet she has to rush right over and push him out of the way. Fortunately he takes it with good nature. He’s not really a dog that requires lots of attention.

    I do miss my goats as they were very affectionate and entertaining. They also leave all their mess outside. They are pickier eaters than their reputation suggests, however.

    It has been getting more tropical here especially the last few years – not pleasant at all. The new asparagus bed is doing just fine. The old bed is providing enough for a meal or two each week.

    Procedure was pretty minor. Will get the stitch out next Monday. Hopefully it’ll solve the problem – at least somewhat.

    Our next meeting of the book club is a planning meeting to choose out books/articles for the next few months. We did make it through “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations”. It did take two months though.

    We did enjoy “Rocketman” though maybe not as much as “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I wonder how much influence Elton John had over how his life was portrayed.


  41. Chris,

    IIRC, I did see a verification once about that 90% figure, but I have no idea where I saw it. It does make an awful lot of sense, though.

    Probably the return to t he land will come about through the slow collapse process. Or, as you said, in fits and starts. That seems to be the way of declines.

    Why people find life on the land unpleasant is beyond me. A coworker and his wife came in to visit on his day off. They live a several km out of town on 10 acres that they use for food production and just enjoying the trees. They grew up here, so have been in the area a few years longer than I have. His wife detests coming into the city, as it is too big and busy. Nor does she understand the phobia of being on the land that seems to be rampant in our society.

    I looked up Bamburgh Castle on Wikipedia. It seems that the Britons had some type of a fort there when Ida and the Angles took it. I’ve read that he rebuilt it, and likely of stone. The Vikings destroyed it in 993, and the Normans later built the large castle there.

    My wife called me when I was at work today. Some popup malware hit the computer. You know the type: allegedly from Microsoft, your computer has been hijacked and is perusing illegal porn sites, so enter your username and password or call a toll free number and give them the username and password so that they can “fix” it. Then they charge you $200 or more to release your computer. My wife is not dumb, so she just left it alone after taking photos of the screen and sending them to my work computer. Thus, I was able to research it and print what to do. However, it’s a good thing that I have Google Chrome in addition to Microsoft Edge, as Chrome allowed me to download a free malware removal tool.

    Naturally, this popup malware has been reported to Microsoft, aka Microsuck, for over two years, but their computer protection programs neither block nor fix it. Oh well, no harm done, just a wee bit of inconvenience. What did we ever do for entertainment before the internet? 😉


  42. Hello again
    Today is supposed to be really hot, by our standards if not yours. 74F indoors at 9am. I am enjoying this weather, it is my 3rd day of going barefoot, sheer heaven. Son is suffering though, he hates it. Mind you, he is doing building work outside.
    Supposed to cool down tomorrow.
    I am eating my own potatoes and runner beans already and am particularly pleased about the potatoes because shop bought ones have been close to rotten.


  43. @ Margaret
    The story of Jayme Close was actually in our newspapers and I had read it.


  44. Hi Claire,

    Who your neighbours are, can make a big difference to the relationships that form in an area, and also your own peace of mind. Years ago I wrote an essay about not wanting to be surrounded by a cemetery of failed projects, but it is worth mentioning that ‘finishing’ tasks is a skill set of its own and everyone is different in that regard. The portable saw mill would be a handy bit of kit if the weather hadn’t worked its wicked way upon the machine?

    Claire, I see people seeking an edge for their kids, and the stories I hear about the education experience tend to leave me contemplating that there may be better ways for people to spend their energies. I do not believe that kids can be driven to excel if the desire is not already within them.

    Who knows how it will turn out for you? It is a bit of a mixed bag really, and many years ago I worked in a transport company where the blokes working on the loading, unloading and storing were mostly really pleasant to work with, whilst the suits inside the office were frankly not good.



  45. Hi Lewis,

    Total genius! It never would have occurred to me to do that with the bubbling pit of mud. Oh my. Over the Tasman Sea, they have such an earthquake map and the place is going off like a frog in a sock. The USGS even mapped several large earthquakes far to the north of the islands over the past few days… Far out.

    Like Fight Club, it all comes back to Shaun of the Dead, sooner or later. The nicest touch was when the character Phillip, as played by Bill Nighy managed to turn off the car stereo, even though he was a full blown zombie. A nice comedic touch.

    When I was a kid, nobody had air conditioning in their houses or their cars. Vehicle manual air conditioning was when one of the passengers or the driver wound the window down and let the hot, but usually fresh air into the insides of the car. It is survivable, even at the crazy temperature extremes we get. Speaking of which, 2.5 inches of rain fell today, and the house water tanks are all now full and over flowing. Full water tanks are like a full firewood shed, in that they are comforting. And the solar power system managed to generate 6 peak sun minutes of solar power for the entire day. It is an impressive effort on behalf of the local extreme weather systems.

    Went to the Green Wizards today and we spoke about rare earth elements. I knew nothing at all about them, but they appear to be very heavily used in all sorts of surprising items. I enjoyed the train ride in and out of the big smoke, and had a good chance to spend a couple of hours reading the Singing Sword. As the characters moved to heavy cavalry from infantry, it occurred to me that the Energy Returned on the Energy Invested would have dropped for the Romans. Please bare with me a second or so whilst I explain. There were a few references in the story to the Roman Empire being a bit low on food, and so adding horses that required a lot of feeding would have put additional costs onto their already stretched systems. Not good. The peoples that the Romans faced that were also on horse, may have had the advantage in such a situation because they could move around and allow the horses to consume fodder from wild areas, whereas the Romans were by and large stationery in their food production systems.

    It might well be a bit late for the Tomatillos, and cracking the sads is probably how the season will go. However, if Julia can supply you with some seedlings, then you’re probably going to be OK.

    Right now the characters are having difficulties with the authorities in Londinium, and of course a Seneca is involved. The author enjoys putting his characters through their emotional paces.

    Ouch. One must be careful never to tempt the fate of the Gods, and Tony Horwitz may have just done so. It is a mixed bag lifespan, and of course parents and family add something to the mix, but also sheer dumb luck also plays a part, and what do the old timers say about counting one’s eggs before the chickens are hatched? 🙂 I know plenty of people who’s parents are still kicking around, and it never occurs to them how fleeting life can be. Your hospice work may have cured you of such conceits?

    Did Tony ever make it to White Cliffs? It is an opal mining town in New South Wales and I spotted this article from that part of the world: handyman finds a KANGAROO sitting casually in the bathroom of an underground hotel in the Outback. I’ve stayed there.

    I like how you think, of course marrying into the local feudal lords family is always an option for the clever.

    Thanks for the link. No magical land of recycling is a nice, albeit technically incorrect way of stating the situation. People are in la la land over the subject. As far as I can understand things, we’ll only keep doing what we are doing, until we can’t do it anymore. Plastic is a strange resource.



  46. Hi Margaret, DJ and Inge,

    Due to unforeseen circumstances I plan to write this evening. I promise to reply tomorrow. But until then, I shall remain mostly silent. 🙂 Busy writers tell no secrets!



  47. Chris:

    I am happy to hear about your lovely weather. We were 99F yesterday.

    So far I haven’t found a law that says a condemned house has to be torn down, though I imagine there is a time limit. Imagine living close next door to an empty falling down house in a city. Everything I read applied to city homes, though, nothing rural. Certainly our countryside is dotted with the remains of old tenant houses – for the people who came in seasonally to work on the farms, or for regular farm help that lived on the farm year round. Those places were never officially condemned I imagine, the way our neighbor’s was. And our busy little legislators may have added new laws over the years.

    The power company was out yesterday cutting the power off at the power line. Soon the fireworks begin!


  48. @ Lew:

    There is a granddaughter – don’t know if she’s loose . . .

    I have a feeling – I’ve seen it happen with another neighbor – that this rich fellow may come a cropper someday and lose some of his assets. Still – there then would be another feudal lord to take his place.


  49. Hi everyone,

    Brace yourselves, the next story has descended into the land of silly. It is a beautiful place, but personally I blame all of the rain today, they started it!



  50. Hello again
    Temperature indoors is now 84F at 1pm, this is reminiscent of 1976. I realise that this is a mere nothing to those in hotter countries but very unusual here.


  51. Yo, Chris – Full tanks, batteries topped up. Your on a roll!

    Yeah, Roman horses probably wouldn’t pencil out. But, if it’s an arms race, ya gotta keep up! And then there’s all that nice horse manure.

    I guess the surprise at Tony Horwitz going, is that in all the pictures I’ve seen of him, he looks so fit. Not that that’s always an indicator of longevity. Maybe the Bush took 40 years off his life? LOL. From my point of view, life is VERY fleeting. :-). To quote a book I read, recently, I’m old enough to die. Could keel over, tomorrow. Might spin out another 30 years.

    That is a funny story about the kangaroo. Just wanted a drink. Luckily, it was a small kangaroo. Horwitz mostly slept rough, but would occasionally splurge on a hotel. I don’t think he made it to White Cliffs, but he did to Coober Pedy. I guess most of the town is underground, and he stayed in an underground hotel, there.

    The new list hit the library catalog, last night. There was another “straight to DVD” zombie movie. Something called “Dear Trigger.” I’ve put a hold on it. Lew

  52. Hi Lewis (and everyone else),

    Sorry mate! I wrote half the blog last night, and another half tonight and have completely run out of time to reply. Will speak tomorrow.



  53. Yo, Chris – That lightening strike map looks like the one Prof. Mass posted on his last blog post. No tornados, here, though. Are tornados usual for Australia? It’s supposed to get to 82F, today. Then get cooler, again.

    Also to hit the library catalog, yesterday, was “The Biggest Little Farm”, on DVD. A couple set out to create a “sustainable” farm. Will be interesting to see their take on “sustainable.”

    Some interesting work, recently done, on how the Romans kept their construction work, sorted. Sort of like Erector sets. or those mail order houses from the past.


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