Christmas in July – Penguins and Polar Bears

The winds roared, the temperature dropped and the rain was unrelenting. The noise of the wind howling through the trees during the previous night woke me from my slumber on several occasions. Before dawn the rain was falling heavily, and it continued to fall steadily until well after sun down.

Two and half inches of rain filled the remaining gaps in all of the water storage tanks. Such rain does not arrive without its attendant thick clouds, and the sun was obscured and dim, almost as if it decided not to show its face for the day. For all I know, the sun may have been elsewhere given the weak illumination it provided. And the solar power system responded by producing just 6 minutes of peak sunlight for the entire day. A truly impressive effort for such advanced technology, and such a result should be reassuring for the true believers in the audience (you know who you are).

Anyway, the day was cold and wet, and it started me thinking about mid-winter feasts and Christmas. Christmas takes place here at the beginning of the hottest part of the year, and so all the images of snow and reindeer’s down here just seem really odd to me. I mean the mental image of Santa wearing a mankini with some cool sunglasses, is bad enough to scare small children. Let alone the same dodgy character trying to harness up several kangaroos to a flying sleigh full of presents for the already scared kids. I have strong doubts that the marsupials are going to appreciate the experience.

So, all the rain and cold was turning my mind to thoughts about Christmas, and for some reason the editor and I began talking about favourite Christmas movies. The beautiful 2003 film, Love Actually, ticks all the boxes for Christmas movies. But then, I also secretly enjoyed the 1988 Christmas action film, Die Hard. Fortunately, due to the wonders of the Internet, my enjoyment of the film is no longer a secret.

Die Hard really is a Christmas film! The story goes that a gritty NY cop travels to reconcile with his estranged wife, at the work Christmas function. I’m not a gritty NY cop and wouldn’t personally recommend using a work Christmas function as a ‘safe space’ with which to discuss how the relationship fell apart with an estranged partner. However, fortunately for the film the lead character is a gritty NY cop and appeared to have no qualms about being that weird.

Troubled relationships aside, the work Christmas party gets even stranger. However not strange due to the sort of party drug and alcohol usage that was depicted in the Hangover series of films. Nope, the party got strange, as often happens at boring Christmas work parties, because the party is disrupted by the arrival of a German terrorist, Hans Gruber, and his merry band of heavily armed men. Their goal was to pretend to be terrorists whilst stealing a whole bunch of bearer bonds.

Mayhem ensues with a lot of cat and mouse scampering throughout the building. Eventually, our hero, the gritty NY cop, (spoiler alert!) happily kills all of the baddies and saves the day. The Christmas party surely would have been prolonged, memorable and somewhat ruined by the arrival and subsequent deaths of the German terrorists.

There was a poignant and tense moment in the Christmas film when a sleazy executive, who was a hostage of both the Christmas work party and the terrorists, decided to act as negotiator so that the gritty NY cop gives up the game. Drugs may have been involved. It turns out the sleazy character may have been good at talking a big game in business, but it is a whole different skill set when it comes to negotiating with criminals. I mean the actions speak for themselves as the terrorists put him out of business – in a most permanent way.

A lot of people make the mistake of believing that because they are good at one specific skill, that they’re somehow good at everything. I wouldn’t want to put such beliefs to the test.

The recent heavy rains mean that from a statistical point of view, we’re having a reasonably average year for rainfall. However, the delivery of that rain is all over the place, and not much fell during what was otherwise a very hot and dry summer. Such weather is probably a good indicator as to what climate change holds in store for us humans. But more importantly, it makes for really challenging conditions when growing edible plants.

Well over a decade ago, I used to believe that growing edible plants would have been the easiest thing to do in the world. I mean, my granddad didn’t appear to have any problems with his huge backyard vegetable patch, so why should I? Turns out I didn’t know that much, and had to learn a whole bunch of stuff about plants. And even today a decade later, I’m still learning a lot on the subject.

Apparently these days, 98% of the population are involved in activities other than agriculture. They must know something that I don’t know about agriculture because the shops are full of cheap food. I guess some of those people are pretty good at negotiation, because just for one example, I see milk being sold for a dollar a litre. I’m told that such a state of affairs is good for consumers. Turns out though that it is probably really hard to make a living producing milk at such prices, and I’ve read recently that a number of dairy farms are being put out of business – in a most permanent way.

16Ah x 36V = 0.6kWh from 6kW of solar panels for the entire day. Worst day ever!
The winter day was cold and Scritchy was wrapped up snugly in the woollen jumper that the editor instructs ‘dare not leave the property’!

The fluffy canine collective (the dogs in the above photo) have created something of a mystery. It is a generally accepted fact of life in this part of the mountain range that the soil does not hold water at ground level in dams (ponds). But in the dogs enclosure, the dogs have dug a hole which holds water. I’m not really sure how they managed that feat of soil engineering, but it may be a combination of lime, soil compaction, and either dogs poo or urine. There is certainly something to be learned there.

The fluffy collective have managed to create a hole that retains water. Nice colour – not to be consumed.

Maintenance of the property is serious business and we do our best to correct failures in systems should they appear. Way back in late 2009 there was a super cell storm (the fancy name for a massive thunderstorm) which dumped over four inches (100mm) of rain in an hour. After the weather settled down, we corrected all of the damage that occurred during the storm, but the surface soil in one the location has dropped a little over the past decade and took a water pipe along for the ride. The footings for the house (the concrete that the house sits on) are four times deeper again than the water pipe, and they have displayed no movement.

The soil dropped a bit over the past decade and took this water pipe along for the ride

The water pipe collects water from the roof drain. In the above photo, sky can be seen between the top of the water pipe and the drain. During heavy storms, water which was collected from the roof ran down the outside of the water pipe. It was easy to fix as we extended the height of the water pipe by adding in a joiner section (the technical name for this join is called a coupler).

The water pipe was cut and a joiner section was added so as to lift the top of the drain higher

The blue glue compound will be painted over during summer.

Another day of digging was done on the developing garden terrace.

Another day of digging was undertaken on the new garden terrace

During the excavation, we unearthed an unfeasible quantity of rocks. Fear not dear reader, there is a use for every rock! And another steel rock gabion is about three quarters full. At the rate we are unearthing rocks, we estimate that over the next two weeks, we’ll have to construct yet another steel rock gabion cage.

The latest steel rock gabion cage is about three quarters full

Despite the heavy rain and occasional heavy frost, there is still plenty going on in the garden. Edible greens are slow growing, but plentiful:

Edible greens are slow growing at this wintery time of the year, but they’re also plentiful

The self seeded avocado trees seem to be surviving the occasional heavy frost, albeit with a few small frost burns:

Self seeded avocado trees seem to be surviving the winter conditions

Olive trees shrug off the very worst that the winter weather can chuck at them:

Olive trees shrug off the very worst that the winter weather can chuck at them

There is plenty of fresh citrus on the trees:

Eureka lemons and Australian round limes brush off the cold weather

Over the next twelve months we intend to experiment with producing a batch of rose hip wine. It should be an interesting experiment, and over the next month or so we’ll track down some rose varieties that produce large rose hips.

Tiny rose hips. We plan to produce a rose hip wine over the next year

The Poopyquat seems to have recovered from the hot and dry summer, and may even produce some kumquat flowers:

The Poopyquat has recovered from the very hot and dry summer and may now flower

Fungi are also active all over the farm:

Fungi and moss are an attractive combination. Who put the fun into fungus – we did!

Some of the plants are convinced that spring is here early.

A Manchurian pear begins to produce lots of spring growth and buds
This Jostaberry looks as though it is producing spring buds
The nitrogen capturing Tree lucerne (Tagasaste) are now in flower
The bottle brush flowers on this Silver Banksia are fascinating, and beloved by honeyeaters.

Here are some of the ferns that this farm is named after:

A local fern grows in the shade of an Elderberry (great texture on the bark) next to a flax lilly
The local ferns and Hellebores tend to get along well
The local tree ferns can grow slowly, and eventually quite tall in the shade of the forest.

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 5’C (41’F). So far this year there has been 384.6mm (15.3 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 331.8mm (13.1 inches).

87 thoughts on “Christmas in July – Penguins and Polar Bears”

  1. Hi Chris, on the subject of variable rainfall….down here in southern Melbourne, we had 2 inches over the first 4 months and 10 inches over the next 2. Melbourne’s average is given at around 2 inches per month, give or take a few mm either side. So it sort of works out, but…..

  2. Hi Inge,

    That’s not good news, sorry to say. Some people have demon’s riding them pretty hard, and that option can be the only option that is clear to them. Despair is a tough emotion for people to endure, and sometimes people feel currents far deeper than the currents actually are. We’re not really being taught to swim against such currents these days.

    84’F indoors is hot for me too. Chuck in a bit of humidity, and you could probably hear me whingeing from your lovely part of the world! I constructed the house to withstand hot temperatures, and 86’F (30’C) is about as hot as I can ever recall seeing it indoors. However, on a bright note, each summer seems to offer me a new temperature outrage.

    Has it cooled down? The rain was feral here on Saturday.



  3. Hi Margaret,

    Oh yeah, dogs are quite blatant with their emotions when it comes to jockeying for position in the pack and/or attention. Leo sounds to me as if he has a lovely nature. I feel that I would quite appreciate such a response to Salve’s interception, if only because Leo has that rare quality of good grace.

    As a comparison, Scritchy requires almost no attention, unless she has decided that she wants something and the ultimate pester power comes into play. And she is a serious practitioner of such dark arts, and has even developed of late this sort of whine to accompany her antics. The whine goes: “whee, whee, whee, whee”, and at such times she is a sore trial. But I suspect that in her past life before arriving here, she spent most of her time in a backyard by herself. She is very self contained and will tolerate affection for about twenty seconds before cracking the sads. A strange dog personality, but you get what you get with rescue dogs, and she enjoys all of her perquisites and knows that she is cared for here.

    Thanks for the correction about goats and their eating habits. Most animals are very clean with their business, so it is nice to know that goats take particular care with their housing. I use a lot of sugar cane mulch with the chickens bedding, and it is not lost on me how easy it is for me to go to the local farm supply store and pick up bales.

    Yeah, the weather is getting more tropical here too over the past few summers, when it doesn’t get crazy hot and dry. I dunno, all you can do is try to adapt with the conditions that you find yourself in. Your asparagus would be totally loving the weather conditions that you have this year.

    Good luck and best wishes for a speedy recovery (and also a return of full use). Now at this point I feel a reprimand is in order. As a young lady, the editor worked in a department store in the ladies footwear area. Remember to look after your feet. On a serious note, I do hope that you have recovered? In a strange twist of fate, I too used to work as an accountant for a factory that made ladies boots – them was the days when we used to manufacture useful items.

    Thanks for the book reference. The book sounds fascinating, and your club has picked a book covering an important topic. I’m a bit soft and I have intersperse such books with lighter topics. Mind you, I brought back a boot load of coffee grounds from the big smoke today. They know not what they do. 😉

    I read a funny quote about the Rocketman film, in that the artist suggested that he had not led a ‘PG rated’ life and as such the film should not overlook such aspects of his life so as to achieve that sort of a rating. Whilst I’d probably enjoy both films, my brain is not wired for musicals. 🙂

    How about the rain here? Has it eased off in your part of the world?



  4. Hi DJ,

    Thanks for the laugh, I had to look up what IIRC meant! It sounded like some sort of secret society or lodge that Fred and Barney from the Flintstones visited (I’d probably enjoy such company), and dare I mention Kaos and Control? 🙂 I enjoyed that show. The most recent time I came across the 90% figure was in the book that Lewis mentioned to me about the Edo period in Japan. It was a fascinating book which I unfortunately put down two thirds of the way into because the author started suggesting that the cultural habits of that period could be introduced into the West. I felt that the author was writing to the Japanese audience with such suggestions (great for book sales) but internally I was thinking to myself: “Have you been smoking drugs?” I will finish the book, but at that point I had to take a break from it, because the feudal system will fit out culture far better in the distant future.

    And yeah, fits and starts is the way of it. How’s your garden going? You are at such an exciting time of year. There is not much happening down here which is why I can work on the infrastructure. Did you end up planting any carrots?

    You are lucky to know such people. I know people who grew up on farms but they now all do something else with their lives, so I can’t say that reassures me. I sort of feel that an area of a farm should be set aside for the youngsters to ‘get it out of their systems’ and trial stuff, but that also necessitates that not every spare scrap of land be put to cultivation.

    Mate, I checked out the images of Bamburgh Castle and the first and last thought at attacking such an impregnable construction was to starve them out – or render them impotent to respond to the local deprivations. But the history says otherwise and it changed hands many times. I find the Vikings to be a strange bunch because they rarely held their conquests, and as such sowed the seeds of their conclusion. I guess it was good in the short term, but sooner or later they would have been met with a serious response. I do wonder if anyone took the fight to their shores once they were elsewhere. That’s what I would do.

    Ransomware. Fun stuff. Mate, I get emails and comments here all of the time suggesting that if I don’t pay them money, they’ll release pictures onto the interweb. I just delete such nonsense and don’t click on any of the links they thoughtfully provide. I pay for interweb security software. Nuff said. It can be a rough road though.



  5. Hi Pam,

    99’F already and you have a hot few months ahead of you. After all of the rain though, the plants should grow – a lot. Has the humidity continued or is it a fairly dry heat?

    The rain here on Saturday was feral. It has been a long time since I’ve experienced such a deluge. It is good for the water tanks though. And they’re about 95% full now.

    I dunno either, which is why I asked the question. I have noticed that such authorities are good at the initial request, but not so good at following up on how it all worked out. Of course, the initial request sets the legal tone for such a request, but I dunno. It seems inordinately wasteful to me to demolish a house that could be repaired.

    Ah, of course and that makes sense about the small buildings and I too have seen them around farms. So obvious from hindsight. Down here they were at quite a remove from the main farmstead. Next time I head up that way, I’ll take the camera with me and you can see what they look like down here. 🙂

    Who knows what mischief legislators get up to? Certainly it might not be for our benefit.

    Hope the power is back on? What horrid weather for such an activity.



  6. Hi Bev,

    So it sort of works out, but…..

    My thoughts exactly. What a crazy year it has been weather wise, and last week was just warm and sunny. Bonkers. Hope you garden is growing well!



  7. Hi Lewis,

    Arms race is spot on, and reading in between the lines it became clear that investing in the heavy cavalry was a do or die decision for the Romans. Sucks to be them. 😉 All I kept thinking about was the feed for these heavy horses. I mean it is not as if the land was not already being put to good use. And then the colony had to feed a standing army. Talk about putting themselves under strain, and then as I read today, offering their services to the regent Stilicho in return for official recognition. Ouch. It is a truly great book, and I’m enjoying every word of the story. Speaking of which I missed a few words, not because I skim read the words, but because in the past a chunk of the book (about 20 pages) had detached from the binding, and the previous owner had thoughtfully glued the section back in. Except somehow the section had been guillotined and was missing about 1/5th of every page. The thread of the story was not lost, but still the Vandals (and Visigoths) had attacked the book! 🙂 Who does that to a second hand book and then fails to mention the matter in the blurb for the book sale?

    I’m not actually sure what fit looks like. I feel that the notions of aesthetic preferences have invaded such definitions. And is the ability to dig soil for six hours better than being able to push weights around in a gym? Dunno. It is a complicated question. I knew someone who used to drive to a gym so that they could use a walking machine. Far out. But is pony club any better for horses? I once saw a film of the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in WWII, and the thing that I noticed was that the people in the film looked stringy like myself. Dunno.

    Mate, life feels fleeting to me too. But then the understanding provides incentive to keep life a bit spicy. I learned about death at a young age, and to me a lot of people are oblivious and their own possible mortality can be quite a shock for them as it may never have occurred to them. But there is also the buying into the dominant narrative as some sort of twisted sphere of protection where nothing bad happens, and if it does the blame is often foisted onto the individual.

    Hope the zombie film is good? I can’t believe this, but the recent Bill Murray zombie film is not due for release down here until late October. I guess we are a long way away down here.

    Your weather looks set to be about perfect for the next few days. I loved the photos of clouds on the latest CliffMass essay.

    Oh yeah, we’ve mentioned the film about the Biggest Little Farm, and oh no, it is only showing at one cinema in the state. Not good. The trailer looked good, and the farm looked very interesting, all set out on contour. The outcome looked far better than the budget, and I’m always curious about how such enterprises are financed. But yeah, sustainable can be a very misused word. I see that commercial whaling has re-commenced for the Japanese. The Norweigans and Icelanders have also been into that gear for a while. You’d hope that the harvesting is sustainable?

    The article you linked to was unfortunately behind a paywall. But the photo was awesome and the text was intriguing. I sort of like the idea of masons signing their works and providing ‘how to’ instructions. Neat. It speaks of a commonly understood methodology of work, which is something that the Swedish have tapped into.

    My grandfather gave me the present of a Meccano construction set when I was a very young child, and I had hours of fun with that stuff building all sorts of items that my imagination could come up with. The toy system has quite a long history and it is a nifty way to train young minds. It has been a long time since I spotted any child using such an excellent toy. They even used to have a small fully working steam engine (which I saw as a small child and used to lust after but never quite managed to obtain).



  8. Hi, Chris!

    The sun was elsewhere. It was at my house making the air 100F.

    Six minutes of peak sunlight for an entire day – well, it takes a brave soul to deal with solar power under those conditions (you know who you are).

    No, not really – flying kangaroos? What Silly Billy thought up that one? Everyone knows that only reindeer can fly.

    You look lovely and cozy in your jumper, Scritchy. Hi, little Toothy. I see that you are wearing your own handsome coat, Ollie. And what a neat little pond. Did you have something to do with that, Ollie?

    I look forward to seeing some of your local tenant/sharecropper houses if you have time to look for them.


  9. Hello Chris
    I have spent one Christmas in Australia. We always celebrated Christmas Eve due to my German mother and the family has continued to do so. So younger daughter put on the family Christmas Eve. However the next day celebrated on the beach, felt really odd.
    Such Customs don’t really move well to other climes and fauna.

    It is warming up again, 78F indoors and too hot to work outside at the moment. My pond has gone completely dry again. The weather forecasters keep saying storms, floods and showers but nothing of that ilk is coming here.
    @ Margaret also
    I have never understood why footwear is not foot shaped. Trying to find shoes which won’t ruin the female foot is very difficult.


  10. Yo, Chris – Hmmm. An interesting question. Are our expectations tied to the calendar, or the seasons? Or are we acculturated to expect a holiday, when it’s cold and dark? Or is it something DNA, deep?

    I avoid Christmas movies, like the plague. All that “heartwarming” slop. But there are a few that appeal, due to their cynical edge :-). But even those get all icky, in the end. That’s what fast forward buttons are for.

    Ah, the mysteries of the Fluffy Canine Collective. How do they engineer the soil to hold water. So, if you dug a pond and fenced in a large pack of dogs …

    Settling. Buildings settle. One hopes, not too much. But, sooner or later (much, much later) everything on your slope will end up down at the bottom of the paddock.

    The rock gabions are looking quit good. Hmmm. Those set backs. Maybe a few spaced pots, or boxes with some non-invasive vines?

    I might just be talking through my hat, but I think I have observed that the older roses, the wilder, more native varieties have the largest rose hips. Cont.

  11. Cont. Oh, dear. I wonder if the post, about your post, made it through. I didn’t get the usual countdown / able to edit. I’ll keep my notes, just in case…

    Hmmm. Sounds like they trimmed the pages, so that when they re-glued the loose section, it wouldn’t obviously show. Getting a re-glued section, that doesn’t stick out from the leading edge is near impossible. So. Recourse. Depends on the original listing. Did it say “Like New”, or was it full of weasel disclaimers? Or, maybe just “Reading (or readable) copy? Usually, when I’ve gotten a paperback (when hard back was promised) or, a book that turned out to be a library discard (when that was not noted), they just say keep the book, we’ll refund your money. Usually. They know what they’re trying to get away with. Not examining the books, at all. When I carefully read the Amazon listings, usually, the really less expensive copies, are pretty weasel. As with tech that doesn’t work, the young just seem to shrug and move on.

    I’ve noticed that about old news films, and, especially, scenes of school children … say, back in the 1940s and 50s. The majority of the kids are pretty fit. Life and food have changed, and it shows.

    Sounds like they’re saving Bill Murray’s zombie film for your Halloween season :-). I doubt “Biggest Little Farm” will show, here, outside major metro areas. Documentaries do not fair well, in commercial theaters.

    Well, that’s interesting. I accessed the article, on two different occasions, on two different days, and didn’t come up against a pay wall. Mysteries of cyberspace. I thought you’d like it, as you like the nuts and bolts of how things work.

    The Meccano sets sound like are Erector sets. Did you have Lincoln Logs? Now it’s all Leggos.

    It was 83F (28.33C) yesterday. But, we’re into another cooling trend. I did an experiment where I planted some “from the store” garlic, in a patch. Pulled the first one, today. Oh, my! The bulb is almost as big as my fist! I picked up the tomatillos from Julia yesterday. LOL. When she said they were potted starts, I thought they’d be on the large side. They’re about 4″ tall. :-). Fingers crossed. Look healthy, and I’ve got them in the ground.

    I had a potato go toes up, overnight. Followed by a marigold. I’m beginning to wonder if, perhaps, a cat isn’t spraying them? Poking around on the net, it’s quit possible. So, I’ll have to shore up my defenses.

    I ran across an article about the economy. Much to my surprise, it turned out to be very Australian-centric. So, I’m passing along the link. Hope it’s not behind another pay wall. Not at my end.


  12. Chris,

    6 minutes of peak sunlight for the day? But, but, but, we can take out a dam and erect a couple solar panels and all will be fiiiiine! Or so we’re told. I’ll believe your “boots on the ground” way before I’ll listen to the pundits and politicians. Criminy, Governor Inslee of this state says that the projected solar farm in Lind, Washington, will be at a perfect location, “because the sun shines there every day”. Ummm, not the day I was in a blizzard there in February. Lind gets 182 days of sunshine (meaning minimal cloud cover) per year. The other half of the year will not get maximum solar generation. Plus, Lind is at about 47 degrees north. And Inslee is running for President!

    Ah yes, Die Hard. I always enjoyed that movie. Enjoyed your commentary.

    The dogs on the sofa during the rain? Dogs know precisely what to do in inclement weather, don’t they? And the picture of their “water hole”? Reminds me of the winter adage around here: “don’t eat yellow snow”.

    Does this latest find of rocks mean that “peak rocks” is officially a thing of the past?

    Kaos and Control? Man, I loved that show! The Get Smart theme song has now replaced the obnoxious ear worm that was there before.

    The garden? The soil in the containers is very good, so things are doing fantabulous in the containers. Two of the raised beds, with green beans and some kind of squash, are doing well. The others are struggling with the soil, but those are green beans and peas that I mainly planted to bring in some nitrogen.

    There are carrots in several of my containers. Most appear to be doing well. One carrot container and one of snap peas got filled with snow during the winter. They got overly saturated to the point that I do not water them and they are still wet on the surface. I think the plants are getting too much water, as they are a little bit yellow-green rather than the deep green of their compatriots. Being in the sun all day has not fixed the saturation problem yet.

    The earwigs have discovered the kale. I have Thursday through Monday off work for the 4th of July holiday plus burn off some leave time. One of the scheduled chores is to pick all the kale and chard and dry it before they’re inedible due to the earwigs.

    Yes, I’m very fortunate to know the people I mentioned. I get to work with the gentleman on a very routine basis for much of the winter and early spring. One of the things that I like about my job is that I work with people from various backgrounds. It has been a worthy education to work with farmers and the trucking community on a routine basis. Talking with them and understanding their challenges has been necessary. I’m trusted enough by my bosses that I’ve been able to streamline my processes to make working with me as painless as possible for the truckers, farmers and several small business owners. Just because they have to work with government for some things doesn’t mean that government has to be hard and bureaucratic!

    Bamburgh Castle is at such a defensible location that it’s hard to fathom how it could’ve been captured on nearly a routine basis, isn’t it?

    The Vikings and holding their conquests? They did pretty well in parts of Ireland and the Hebrides, and held the Isle of Man for quite some time. They did well with Iceland, the Faroes, Shetlands and the Orkney Islands if I’m not having memory lapses. France? They did okay with Normandy? There was something about the English, however, that kept the Vikings off kilter. And the Irish did take them over in the end, too, the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 being the battle that decided their fate.

    I read something recently that the Viking raids on Frankia and England were begun by the Danes because of what Charlemagne had just done to the Continental Saxons. I think her argument has merit, but doesn’t explain everything.

    The ransomware pop-ups are nasty. At least both my wife and I know not to call them or enter anything. And now I’ve got some new protective software…


  13. Hi Chris,

    You cheeky scamp – no one should discuss Christmas movies without covering the family friendly classic, Die Hard 🙂 The scene with the drug-taking “businessman” was a good one, if a bit gruesome. But as you said, the character sort of had it coming!

    Sounds like you are making good progress with The Singing Sword. The colony does have very high running costs, keeping a hundred horse and one thousand soldiers fed and supplied is no picnic. But fending off Roman tax collectors or the legions would be even worse I imagine. I guess Varrus and his fellow colony members could grumble and moan about the new state of affairs, the unfairness of maintaining their own army and paying into the upkeep of the Roman Empire whilst receiving almost no benefits in return. But they seemed to deal with it stoically and just get on with it.

    You and Lew might be interested to know the new Simon Pegg movie Lew suggested, Slaughterhouse Rulez, is great stuff and well worth a watch. A solid 4 stars in the style of Shaun of the Dead and Attack the Block.

    Mrs Damo and I are on the road this week, this time hitting the south of the north Island, but mostly in the Wellington region. There is a major motorway, running from Petone to Wellington city that sits directly on top of a significant fault line. If you look at the area in google maps with satellite imagery on you can see how the terrain has split over time. Very cool, but not sure I would want to live here permanently 🙂


  14. Hi Pam,

    Well that’s a relief that you’ve found the sun, and know its current whereabouts. 🙂 I was a bit worried that someone might have attempted to put it out. Far out that is hot. Hope the vegie patch is going well in the heat?

    Hehe! Thanks. I was less worried about people putting out the sun – which would have been accomplished with a long chain of bucket throwers (of course) – than I was about the low battery voltage that evening. The little warning flashing light was going on and off again and alerting me to something that I already knew about. No fun.

    I actually see flying kangaroos. No seriously, some of the aircraft occasionally fly quite low over the house and the Qantas logo can be seen, whilst the roar of the jet engines can be heard. I always think to myself at such times: Hope you guys know what you are doing!

    Scritchy and Toothy return your greetings. Ollie thanks you for recognising his all round natural fluffy superiority, but he did ask something about if you know what to do about all these freckles? Not sure what he is going on about.

    I know a really interesting one, and the next time I’m in that area over the next month or so, I’ll try and get a photo. The entire area is beginning to really green up.



  15. Hi Inge,

    I tell you, I appreciate the company on Christmas day, but a heavy mid-winter feast when the weather is a squooshing 100’F, makes little sense to my stomach. And yup, the beach is a great place to spend such a day. All the iconography down here at that time of the year is just bonkers.

    Thanks for mentioning your Christmas eve tradition. It is fascinating, and there are all sorts of different traditions observed around that day.

    I hope you receive some more rainfall in the near future.

    When I was a kid the shops that sold shoes (all locally made) used to measure, the length, width and arch of a foot before producing an exact fitting shoe. Not sure what happened, but something sure did, and shoes nowadays are a funny thing. But then I used to work in the manufacturing side of that story. But people enjoy the volume of shoes they can get their hands on nowadays. It wasn’t always that way, and shoes were precious and intended to be looked after.



  16. Chris:

    The vegetables are loving the heat. Though we have to water every day.

    Speaking as one Freckle Puss to another, Ollie: Don’t knock ’em. They make us extra special.

    I’m adding another vote for Get Smart. I loved that show so much; I even have all of them. My girl friends and I always couldn’t wait for each episode to see what 99 was wearing, but the rest of the show was great, too.


  17. .Hello again
    Christmas in Summer brings to mind a quote from Robert Graves
    ‘Australia… a continent that produces black swans, and where one eats plum pudding at Midsummer, and the water goes widdershins down the waste pipe… .


  18. Hi Lewis,

    You’ve plumbed deep depths (!) with such questions about the mid winter. You know mate, all I want to do is sleep in until the sun has risen above the horizon. Getting up in the dark leaves me feeling mildly discomfited for the rest of the day – or at least until I’ve had a coffee. There was serious urgency in the need to fix (!) the coffee machine a week or two back. The seasons don’t really factor into the paid work schedule, and I feel it wrenches the senses in all sorts of minor ways, but then I may be overly sensitive to such changes? Dunno.

    Hehe! Such films warm the very cockles of your soul (whatever that means). I can handle a Christmas film, as long as it doesn’t rely overly heavily on the musical score, because that would make it a musical. You’d probably seriously dislike the 2003 film: Love Actually. Go on, I dare you. 🙂 It begins with a funeral, and not all of the sub plots end up well for the characters.

    Ollie doesn’t appear to appreciate the pond digging thoughts that we are having… Years ago I read about how the ancient Europeans used to use ducks to create a similar pond, but it has been a long while since I’ve looked into such things.

    It is an eerie feeling to consider deep time and what it means. I first encountered the concept in the world of geology. Late last century we visited the MacDonnell Ranges and at some points you can see either side of the weathered remains of where mountains once stood which would surpass the biggest today. It is quite a humbling experience.

    Thanks. It is nice to have avoided the dreaded Peak Rocks, if but for a short while. We party hard whilst the rock supply continues. Nah, I feel that I’m going to leave the rock gabions well alone. They’re like a multi story high rise apartment building for a huge number of reptiles, but perhaps better constructed.

    Your observation about the roses is on the money. The local gardening club supplies a gnarly variety of rose which we’ll use for fencing purposes. It is best to get as many uses from the infrastructure as possible.

    Nope, the comment for some reason ended up in the trash and I can easily restore it from there. As you’d expect, I block the nuisances and also check the trash for valuables. It makes for a nice corner of the interweb!

    You betcha, I got done with the book, and I’d never encountered such a fix before. What do you? Strangely enough, that particular book: ‘The Singing Sword’, was the most expensive of the lot. It was all a bit weird, but if nobody else was selling the book, I guess it is what it is. He says that as he shrugs his shoulders and moves on. How many fights do I want to take on? I leave the left and right hooks fresh for facing off worthy foes. I may have had a minor win over the past week.

    Oh yeah. There was an article in the news that suggested that something like half the population is suffering from one chronic illness or another. No doubt it is because people have to get up before sunrise, but the industrial food system and physical patterns probably also have a lot to do with the story. Exactly, it shows, but then there is a great diversity within the population. I feel that the most important activity is to keep active.

    Halloween! Hehe! Not so big a thing down here, but we are absorbing quite a lot of your culture so it is a trend that is on the rise. Looking forward to watching the zombie flick, when it is eventually released. Anyway, speaking of documentaries, did you ever watch “An inconvenient truth” at the cinema?

    I would enjoy the link, but the paywall was most definite. It is becoming a bit of a thing of late, and the economics link was also behind a paywall. But I kept searching on the title until I discovered a website that was part of the great self repeating (I could think of other less polite terms) echo chamber. I could not find another link to the Romans construction method article, which is a bit of a shame. The first picture was good click bait.

    Ah ha! Meccano was sold in your country as Erector sets. Years ago I used to see a huge billboard promoting a major construction company, and the slogan was something like: “Quality erections, faster”. Seriously, only a guy would come up with a slogan like that, and then plaster it for all the world to see on a huge billboard on the side of a major freeway. It is quite funny really, if a touch infantile. Hey, the Lincoln Logs were really cool too, and they explain to young minds exactly how a log cabin is built. Back in the day it was a part of quite a few trades to create a miniature version of whatever the practitioner was promoting and/or displaying their skills.

    Nice one with the Tomatillos from Julia. Can’t really say that I know what would possibly consume potatoes. I’ve known the leaves to be consumed by wallabies, but they have guts of steel and are unlikely to be in your part of the world (maybe). Sometimes millipedes and nematodes can consume them, and there is also the dreaded fungi blight. Have you had any further thoughts about the potato loss?

    You are having really nice weather of late.

    I saw the photos of the freak hail storm. It was epic. I get hail here during summer, but nothing like that…



  19. Hi DJ,

    It is nice to see the future of your country is in good hands. Mind you, we’re not doing too much better down here and one of our citizens has apparently disappeared in North Korea. Not good and not a place I would visit, but the Prime Minister at least keeps the disappeared citizen in his prayers. I for one feel better. 🙂 I dunno how the story with solar will play out, it just makes no sense to me. It might be possible that the facilities are built and then the owners find that they are uneconomical. That is the sort of strangeness you get when money printing and low interest rates become a way of life.

    Hehe! I was laughing every step along the way whilst writing this little critique. It was almost a personal challenge to make it sillier. But on a serious note, I must add that I did rather enjoy the film back in the day.

    Ooo. Yellow snow. Of course, the same applies for green-ish hued water. All is not good with such choices.

    I wish that it were so, but Peak Rocks is here to stay, we’re just drilling in deep off shore locations. Fracking for rocks is also an option too, now that I know more about the local rocks. Party on dudes!

    Now I can hear the theme song. 🙂 I had no idea that Mel Brooks was involved in the show. Makes sense. Barbra Feldon was in the country recently: TV viewers fell in love with Barbara Feldon on Get Smart.

    Thanks for the garden update, and the activities and plants makes better music for my ears than the aforementioned (but not to be brought back into our consciousness) theme song. Planting the green beans and peas is for nitrogen is a good idea too. Yup, over watering is as much of a problem as under watering.

    You are a wise soul not to push the hard and bureaucratic line. Pedants are rarely tolerated at the best of times (and always remembered when encountered), and if you are there to get a job done, why not just get it done?

    Bamburgh Castle was clearly owned on a rotating basis – an early form of timeshare? I would have thought that it was impregnable. The facts suggest otherwise.

    Thanks for clarifying my understanding of Viking history. I was labouring under a misunderstanding. I would have thought that the English would have been a problem for the Vikings because they’re pretty war like, but also the Vikings might not have been able to strike too far inland. Thanks for the links.

    New software for security is a good idea.



  20. Hi Damo,

    Hehe! Glad you enjoyed the film, and mate I applaud the nefarious folks who pulled the trigger. 🙂 They did all of us a favour, and nobody in the film appeared to be even remotely upset by the act. He probably took the best chunk of Christmas pudding too.

    Thoughtfully said, and I tend to agree with you. Actually the characters seem quite content to be wielding their own private army. I suspect that soon the colonies army will be called into action.

    Thanks for the movie review. Simon Pegg is da man!

    Hope that you and Mrs Damo enjoy your travels in that part of the island. I’ll be curious as to your opinions upon the difference between Auckland and Wellington. When I was in Wellington, the weather was filthy and we didn’t hang around. However, it was only early spring so that is how it goes. Best to be nowhere near the fault when it eventually fails.



  21. Hi Pam,

    Isn’t it funny how the hot days can be a sore trial, but at the same time, the plants need the heat in order to grow. Nice to hear that the well pump is going, err, well… Was that a bad pun? 🙂

    Gangle freckles thanks you for the nice words, and says that you are special too.

    The show was great wasn’t it? Oh no, the dreaded theme song…



  22. Hi Inge,

    Hehe! What a great quote, and all very astute observations.

    The plums are a bit early at that time of year! Oh well, preserved plums do just as well.

    My grandmother used to do a Christmas cake which she hung in a cloth bag and kept in the laundry. It was a very tasty cake. You don’t see them nowadays.



  23. Yo, Chris – The MacDonald Range is really scenic. And those water sources in the gorges. Water in the desert. Mate, you need to hike the Larapinta Trail! You know, in your spare time. :-). I finished Tony Horwitz’s book, “One for the Road.” A very satisfying read. He had a glossary, at the end, of Australian slang terms. Quit enlightening.

    I got “An Inconvenient Truth” from the library. I think there was a follow up, which I also watched. Mr. Gore took a lot of flack, for that one. That’s pretty much when climate change became a political football. When disinformation swung into high gear.

    Yeah, I always have to comb through the spam and deleted files of my e-mail. Treasures slip through. Luckily, there’s never much to slog through. As long as we’re talking about the internet, I’m becoming more and more frustrated by searches. So much junk, they’re becoming practically useless. So much junk that has no relationship to what I’m searching for. That’s interesting about the pay wall on the economic article. Nothing like that, on this end.

    No, Erector set were sold in your country as Meccano :-). And, how many angels CAN dance on the head of a pin?

    Yeah, I think I’ve seen that slightly naughty slogan on a few gimme caps. When I first moved here, there was an Onan Logging Supply, down on the freeway. Now, if you’re up on your biblical references, that’s pretty funny. (See: sins of…). Rationally, it was probably owned by four brothers … Orville, Norbert, Angus and Neville. But I wonder if anyone ever clued them in on the joke?

    Small things were sometimes salesmen’s samples. But, there’s always a lively discussion in the toy subdivision of the tat trade as to if something is a salesmen’s sample, miniature or toy. Or, sometimes they were a premium, an extra, for the kiddies.

    I’m thinking my garden problem is cats. Since it’s mostly an overnight thing. So, I’ll do some refortification. And, grow another crop of plastic forks. People think it’s so odd. Once again, yesterday I had to explain (twice) that a.) it keeps the cats out and b.) I can keep track of where I plant seed.

    Well. My garlic experiment worked out pretty well. You may remember I took some garlic from Safeway and did a test patch. I pulled out one, yesterday, and it was almost as large as my fist! Take that, Safeway! Lew

  24. Hi Chris,
    My sister and her family have a tradition of watching “Die Hard” every Christmas. I’ve never seen it and probably never will.

    Leo is such a laid back dog except when it comes to catching rodents. Log piles are knocked down and large holes appear. Unfortunately for him he isn’t successful actually catching them.

    My toe is back to normal so it’s time to catch up outside. I don’t recall wearing impractical shoes too much. I did learn my lesson the hard way though. In my late twenties I worked in the accounting department downtown Chicago. I think we had to dress fairly professional at that time. My direct supervisor, another young woman and I were sent on an overnight business trip to New York City which was pretty exciting for us. As it was just overnight I packed light meaning I only had one pair of shoes – 3 inch heels which looked mighty fine with my chic business suit. By the time I got home I had to basically crawl up the stairs to our third floor apartment. As Inge said it’s often pretty hard to find comfortable women’s shoes. I remember shoe stores many years ago where they actually measured your foot. Those aren’t too easy to find anymore.

    We received 4 inches of rain in June which is right about normal though that was on top of very saturated ground. Uncomfortably humid but as Pam said the plants are loving it. Looks like I’ll be harvesting beans and zucchini soon.

    We had a quite severe thunderstorm on Sunday. We had lost 1/2 of a cherry tree in another storm and lost the other half on Sunday but luckily it didn’t hit any buildings. It came up rather suddenly and all the meat chickens were outside the chicken tractor so Doug and I were frantically trying to get them all inside. We’ve been pushing them out and putting feed and water outside to encourage them to move. These are those cornish cross chickens (aka frankenbirds) and their main goal in life is to eat and lounge. There’s usually several of them sitting on the ground with one of their legs straight out.


  25. Chris and Lew
    Meccano preceded erector; I had a meccano set also and loved it.


  26. Hi Chris,

    Wellington is very much the “trendier” city out of the two. It also has a bit more “character” with the steep hills, tight winding streets and *very* steep building sites. I may have mentioned in the past that many houses here have cantilevered carports and little cable car contraptions to take people from the road to their house. I think the weather is usually filthy in Wellington, the past two days it has being rainy, windy and cold. They get so much wind they put up massive counter-balanced ornaments that shift and move about when the wind starts getting into the 60-70kph zone.

    Auckland is more like a standard Australian city, in terms of suburb layout and general “feel”. Mrs Damo and I are not really a fan, but it will do for now.

    We did find a very good record shop today inbetween appointments, it is possible we got a few vinyls. And in the second hand section I found an album with music “inspired” by the novels of Dune, recorded before the Lynch movie. Obviously I couldn’t pass that up and am looking forward to hearing, a no doubt LSD inspired, musical journey 🙂 Mrs Damo scored me a awesome, very warm jacket for $8. I think the op-shops might be better in Wellington!


  27. Hi Lew,

    Have you tried using duckduckgo for your internet searches? The results are not personalised in any fashion and might give you better results?


  28. @ Inge:

    “and the water goes widdershins down the waste pipe.” That hadn’t occurred to me about Australia. Makes sense since the seasons and the compass are backwards. 🙂


  29. @ Margaret:

    I am glad that your toe seems back to normal.

    If you ever see a photo on the internet of one of those chickens sitting with its legs stuck out, I sure would like to see it.


  30. @ Lew:

    I used your fork idea among the strawberries this spring. Nothing at all bothered them until – as for some strange reason the forks were driving my son nuts – I removed them towards the end of the strawberry season and – poof! – every last strawberry disappeared. I have forks among my own little patch of Mutant Zucchini – a Patty Pan and Zucchini cross from last summer. There is a fruit on it now. It looks like a white Summer Squash (those yellow ones).


  31. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for mentioning the economics essay and it is excellent. I keep reading that economists are perplexed about the current economic conditions. It is an oft repeated claim, but maybe it is just me because I don’t see the difficulty in comprehending the competing dilemmas. As to the question of how long can things go on the way they are, well I have no idea at all about that and am genuinely impressed that it has gone on as long as it has so far.

    Yeah, I’m 100% with you about the Meccano set. What an amazing toy.



  32. Hi Lewis,

    I have heard of this thing called: “spare time”. It sounds mysterious and alluring. Mind you, I can’t really complain as I do get a lot of spare time, but I’m a natural introvert, so whilst I enjoy lots of social time, I enjoy plenty of time alone too. I’ll bet you can empathise with such conditions? You and I would probably make good hermits! 🙂

    Went out for dinner tonight and enjoyed the best chicken spring rolls in Melbourne, and they do a pretty fine Singapore noodles too. Yum! The spring rolls are Vietnamese style and they are supplied with a sweet chilli sauce and Vietnamese mint (which I grow here). It is a superb tasting mint, and one of the very best for the table.

    Go on, did you have any favourite Australian slang terms? It is a colourful language, but getting less colourful as time goes on. But then I feel that there is a certain homogeneity of culture descending on us all. I’ll bet parts of your country were distinct and different from other parts in the not too distant past?

    I never watched the follow up film. I have a lot of difficulty at people expressing concern about climate change, when their lifestyles display that they are not at all in the slightest bit concerned. Does this mean that global warming and the green house effect is not something to be concerned about? I feel that it is, but very few people have grappled with what it actually means to confront the issue for what it is. A bit of a problem, but I’m fairly fatalistic about it and we have to as a species just go through this tough learning phase. I once ran a graduate program and I did notice that learning was easier if the graduates were allowed to first challenge and fail. Easier for me anyway.

    I’ve noticed with interweb search usage on phones (I don’t use the interweb via such a device) is particularly problematic. I’ve started stirring people up about it when they’re struggling to find something or other. Probably not a popular move on my part, but you can’t be charming and witty all of the time, can you?

    Incidentally, I agree with you and there is a lot of noise on the interweb, and the copying of text in order to fill space is sad thing to witness.

    Ah yes, those two are the same, but Meccano came first!

    I just read the section of ‘The Singing Sword’ where Picus and Varrus were deep into a discussion on theology, and yes I did note that neither character managed to deduce how many angels can dance on a pin head. It seems somehow an important matter, to which the answer must be 42. 🙂 They did mention the word ‘grace’ but I’m guessing that when I use the word, I have a different definition in mind.

    Alas, the mid-week hiatus has just stepped into play, and I felt pressured to provide an answer as to the number of angels! Hehe! What is your answer to that question?



  33. Hi Margaret and Damo,

    It is the dreaded mid-week hiatus and I’m crashing, it’s late here and I will soon be fast asleep. Until tomorrow!

    Margaret – I feel for you, because it is a complicated problem that is designed from the outset to present you with a problem that has no answer without social and/or physical consequences. Basically, there are consequences no matter which choice you made. The editor is a bit younger, and whilst work dress codes were strictly enforced in her earlier years, things slackened off after the recession of the early 90’s. It was a turning point in some regards.



  34. @ Pam – Yeah, I don’t get the fork thing. The push back. It’s like some people get … offended. What’s that all about? When I had my apartment inspection, I made sure to remove the double plastic bag of kitchen scraps I keep in the fridge. That I bury in the garden. I just didn’t want to have to go through the explaination. And, I might be forbidden. “Animals will dig it up!” Not that that’s ever happened, in two years. Probably because it’s all organics.

    And, I won’t breath a word around here about the, er, self produced liquid nitrogen (you figure it out), I liberally applied to the garden, in the dark of night, early this spring. :-). Lew

  35. @ Damo – Yeah, I tried Duckduckgo and even Bing. Really, “Madelaine cameo glass.” I also tried “art glass.” And I get all kinds of links to Alfred Hitchcock (?) movies and a glasses line from some B actress, daytime soap opera queen, who has a line of specs. Or articles so general about cameo glass, as to be worthless. Almost as bad as the library catalog. I was looking for a book called “Class” and it threw up 254 titles. Not only anything with the word “class” in the title, but also “glass.” Did I ask for that? No. Lew PS: There were two pieces of the stuff, for sale, but no further information.

  36. Yo, Chris – Yup. Introverts of the world, unite! The Master Gardeners are having a potluck, here, in about two months. I mentioned that I probably wouldn’t be attending. And, explained, that as I get older, more than three people in a group makes me “twitchy.”

    That sounds like exotic and tasty cuisine. Sigh. Won’t find anything like that, in this county.

    Hmm. Australian slang terms, I like? Cockie (farmer), ocker (redneck). I’d heard swagman, before, and have always liked it. LOL. And, I guess I’m a wowser (non-drinker.) Given the history of Australia, I wonder if some of the slang has it’s roots in Cockney? You don’t hear dialects, much, anymore, here in the States. Maybe parts of the South. Quit a few of the Stephen King movies have bits of New England dialect. Especially, (as I remember) Delores Claybourne.”

    Climate change (or, it’s reception) is a puzzle. I heard on the news, yesterday, that a big coal mining company in Wyoming has gone, quit suddenly, T.U.. 600 miners, out of work. Why? Cheaper natural gas. But, the enviros and greenies will be blamed. One of our Fearless Leader’s campaign promises was to de-regulate and “bring back coal.” As with our logging, automation has also played a big part.

    O.K, O.K. Meccano came first. But we, invented Monopoly! It was a Quaker, in Pennsylvania, that came up with that.

    Yes, that was quit a theological discussion, between Varrus and Picus. I think the author was providing a bit of background, as to what was going on, at the time. On that front. Caius has a more, off hand, relaxed view of religion. Being an “old Roman”, that makes sense. The Empire made lots of room, for all kinds of beliefs. The Christians? No. “Our way, or the highway.” I must say, the venerable old priest, who drifts in and out, does seem a bit more relaxed, and provides helpful nudges, from time to time. Lew

  37. Chris,

    Fracking for rocks? Brilliant! I had a good laugh at that phrasing.

    Who DIDN’T fall in love with Barbara Feldon on that show? I was only 5 when Get Smart started, and I watched it mostly to see her. Of course, at that age I didn’t understand most of the jokes. But Barbara Feldon? As I recall, neither my dad nor my uncle missed many episodes.

    I agree. The music from plants and working in the various garden areas is wonderful music. When the song sparrows, chickadees and other singing birds serenade the neighborhood, the music is great.

    We’ve always had the black capped chickadees here. They have a nice high pitched and short song. A few years ago, a pair of mountain chickadees moved into the area. They look a bit different and have a much throatier version of the song. I talk to all the birds and found that the mountain chickadees really responded to the attention. The family has grown (and more probably moved here) and most of the mountain variety let me get within a meter or two of them. They also chirp, not sing, when my wife and/or I go outside. They follow us and chirp until we greet them, then they go about their business. Great fun.

    Getting nitrogen back into the vegetable areas is important. I need to remember to get more pea seeds and plant them in about 6 weeks just as a late “cover crop” for the nitrogen.

    Working in a bureaucracy is a challenge. We’re getting more and more managers that treat other internal groups quite bureaucratically. I do not deal well with that. So, I’ve made it a point to streamline things and cut the bureaucratic nonsense as much as I can, especially with the public. My job entails a lot of public interaction. My basis with any interaction with the public is to try to treat the other person the way I’d want to be treated if our roles were reversed. It’s not a hard concept, but it is increasingly rare to find anywhere.

    Good one. Bamburgh Castle: the original timeshare!

    The Vikings raided England pretty severely. By the time the Great Army of the late 800s rolled around, they were becoming interested in settling and becoming farmers. They conquered all the English kingdoms except Wessex under Alfred the Great. It seemed like whenever they had Alfred on the ropes, some of the Great Army would leave and settle in what became known as the Danelaw and start farming. Then Alfred would recover. Alfred eventually reorganized things and within a generation or so, most of England was retaken from the Viking leaders and ruled by Wessex. However, many of the Viking farmers remained and mingled with the English.

    One of the other points rarely discussed is that the Scandinavians were well aware of what was occurring farther south under the Romans. In fact, many of the “Germanic” tribes were groups of Scandinavians who migrated down to Germany and started plundering along the Roman frontier. Many of these, such as the Burgundians and Longobards (Lombards), stayed and had some traditions of having come from Scandinavia. The archaeologists are also finding evidence that other groups returned, sometimes after a century or two, to the parts of Scandinavia from whence they had come, their now distant cousins receiving them (and their loot) with open arms. It also appears that some Scandinavian leaders also became career officers in the Roman armies of the 300s and later, often doing quite well before returning home with loot and glory. Finding this out really gave me a different perspective on the history of the later parts of the Western Roman Empire.


  38. Hi Lew,

    I don’t know anything about glass, art or cameo 🙂 But I know a little about search. If you haven’t already, become friends with the syntax options available (e.g. and, or ,+, – operators) to really fine tune your search. There are also operators for restricting results to particular domains and date ranges.

    Certain malicious actors, if present, embedded in your computer or browser can also play havoc with search results, redirecting you to other nefarious pages with low quality answers. If your search results page is covered in garish ads or links, I would suspect this possibility.


  39. Hi Margaret,

    Who would have even thought that the film was considered a Christmas film? I get that about not ever seeing the film, and I was only young at the time it was released. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’m not much of a fan of films that have a ‘bullet budget’.

    Oh no! Well Leo clearly makes up for lack of rodent hunting skill with sheer enthusiasm. The lot here are not much good either in that area. I hadn’t realised how good Sir Poopy was until he was gone. But he had his downsides too, and not to speak ill of the departed, but he was exceptionally lazy most of the time, but when he decided to do something, he got on with the job and undertook it with aplomb, and then went back to resting.

    Glad to read that your toe is back to normal. That was a really quick recovery, and it is a tough time of year to be missing outside time. I mentioned in the reply to you yesterday that I too recall those days when feet were measured. Somehow I suspect that we’ve accepted a volume of stuff, which can only be achieved by accepting lower quality stuff.

    Far out, that would be very early for zucchini here. How are the night time temperatures going for you? As you’d expect, it is pretty cold here, but nothing like your winters. Today on the other hand felt like a very early spring day (57’F and sunny).

    Sorry to read about the loss of your cherry tree. The remains of the tree might make good firewood?

    Far out! Stories about your Frankenbirds always leave me scratching my head in amusement at their antics, but yeah I can see how that situation might develop. Hope they all made it back under cover before the thunderstorm drenched them? Sometimes the chickens here can sort of ignore the rain, and other times they run back into their all weather enclosure. It is hard to tell what they’ll do.



  40. Hi Lewis,

    You are far more learned than I, because the Onan joke would have been lost on me. It is very amusing! And, from my perspective it seems extraordinary that a God would interfere in the economic arrangements of a widow, and the hereditary laws surrounding the widow seemed to defy common sense. Which is perhaps why it was punished so severely.

    Some business names just don’t work out regardless, and long ago, I happened to mention to someone – who I was on otherwise friendly terms with – that their business name had an obvious alternative meaning. Instead of being cool about it, and just shrugging it off, they got quite riled up. I was a bit taken aback by that response, and never mentioned it again. The person in question explained to me when they cooled off that they had been stirred up about the name by other people, who presumably also scored a similar response. A cool response would be saying something like: “Yeah, pretty funny, huh?” And that would be the end of the situation.

    Makes sense about the miniatures, and they would have been easier for the salesmen to carry with them back in the day.

    Cats? Have you had any success with your anti-feline strategies? Cats have sneak factor seven, so I reckon you may be in for an interesting experience with them. Cats are fussy creatures, and yeah, I reckon the forks is a good idea.

    Most garlic is grown from bulbs, so you’ll get a clone of whatever Safeway sold you. The only time it might not work is if they irradiate the bulbs, which is a possibility.

    Hehe! Yes, you would be most welcome, but remember that this introvert club is exclusive, we don’t just let anyone in. 🙂 No dress code requirements though. Collars, ties and jackets appear to be going the way of the dinosaurs. I like groups, but need time out afterwards to restore my equilibrium. Other people feel differently from what I can see, and some people love other people around them all of the time. They would probably hate living up in a place like this!

    Singapore noodles is a fine dish, and if ever you get the chance, I reckon you might just like it.

    I’m getting smashed by paid work at the moment, but today I managed to get outside in the warm winter sunshine (57’F no less) and do a few hours digging on the new terrace. As you may expect, we unearthed and moved a huge rock.

    The mid-week hiatus continues. Will speak tomorrow when there will be plenty of time.



  41. Chris:

    When I was coming home from town yesterday I passed a large rock lying in the middle – thankfully – of the 2-lane rural highway that I use. It had obviously fallen off of some truck. So – what was my first thought? Chris could use that!


  42. @ DJSpo:

    Thinking of history, and then thinking of “Get Smart”, made me think that if anyone wanted to do research on 1960’s ladies’ fashions they could do no better than to watch that show and view what Barbara Feldon wore each time. Her character was the heighth of fashion of that time.


  43. @ Damo – Thanks, Damo! Old dogs, new tricks, etc.. Having slightly better results. Lew

  44. Yo, Chris – When I started reading your story about business names, the thought crossed my mind that the owner had probably heard the story, one too many times. :-). Kind of like me and the forks in the garden.

    Cats are willy. But, they also come and go. If I do a bit of deterent, I expect they’ll be knocked back, a bit. Not like your rats! Even though it was overcast, most of yesterday, I noticed it was one of those days where the garden seemed to put on a lot of growth.

    Rolling stones, moss, etc..

    Today is our 4th of July, holiday. The neighborhood was full of explosions, last night. I’ll probably be able to see some fireworks, tonight. The real cherry on the cake was that an oil tanker (used motor oil) flipped over on I-5, early yesterday. So, all the holiday traffic was detoured through our two little towns. It happens. I ran down to the Club and the traffic was feral. The freeway was blocked for most of yesterday.

    I’ll run down to the Club, today. Probably be pretty quiet, as a few picnics are planned, out at some of the parks.

    Wednesday night is ice cream night, and I always try and have a good movie, on tap. I read a reference, to something I hadn’t seen, in years. Sure enough, the library had one copy left. Reposing in our farthest flung branch. Ilwaco. But, it arrived in time. The film? “Mars Attack!”. What a hoot.

    The Richter bio arrived, yesterday. Probably won’t get to it for a few days. Gotta finish up “Singing Sword.” And, “The Sekura Obsession.” (Japanese cherry trees.). Lew

  45. @ Pam,

    Good point about Barbara Feldon wearing the latest fashions of that era as Agent 99. My wife enjoys watching TV shows from decades back simply to see the hair and clothes styles.

    English and Viking history has been a passion of mine for 50 years now, give or take. I HOPE I remember some things correctly on occasion. 🙂

    Ya know, I’ve seen some big rocks and, if they were shaped correctly, wished for a circle of them standing in my yard. Otherwise, like you, I think of Chris maybe needing them. I even caught myself thinking about shipping one to him, but FedEx would probably have a cow.


  46. Hi Damo,

    Thanks for the tour of Wellington and for providing the fascinating contrast with Auckland. The weather that you and Mrs Damo are currently enjoying, sounds about the same as what the editor and I enjoyed in Wellington (I’m seeing a pattern!). The weather in Wellington inspired us enough to jump on the Picton ferry as quickly as possible and not hang around. The crossing was, err, rough, but I don’t suffer from seasickness, whilst the editor passed out as waves were crashing over the bow of the ferry (hint: avoid the toilets). A bit of character is a worthy goal, and a lot of cities really just look the same to me, especially if they are massively built up. I saw Christchurch before the earthquake, and it was a charming city.

    We took Ollie for a long walk today on an old disused rail line to the west of here. It was all very enjoyable and Ollie is now sound asleep behind me. He may take over the next blog and report on his adventures.

    Lewis has reminded me on several occasions that the Romans used to believe that things were where they were because that is where they are. I can’t fault their logic either, although maybe there is something nagging at the back of my mind about ‘free will’ and all that business. So, when you say that: ‘it will do for now’, well the ancients had something to say about that too.

    You’d love Melbourne because there are a couple of record shops selling old school vinyl LP’s. Your Dune inspired album sounds as if it would be best enjoyed in a dark room only illuminated by a flickering candle. The sensory deprivation will clue you in to the subtleties that the artists wanted to alert you too in their work. Of course, the album might be recorded by a bunch of whacked out hippies high on some sort of illicit mind altering substances as part of a government funded experiment? You never know. 😉

    PS: I’m thoroughly enjoying ‘The Singing Sword’. It is nice to be in the presence of an author who’s sheer scope and scale never fails to impress. And at the same time, the author remembers to tell an engaging tale with bucket loads of action. Never a dull moment, so far.



  47. Hi Pam,

    That’s it! Ollie has declared his willingness to take over the next blog. As a Captain of the Star Trek spaceship ‘Enterprise’ once said (or perhaps on more than just a few occasions): Make it sew. Sorry, he actually said: Make it so.



  48. Hi Lewis,

    Dolores Claiborne is a fascinating story, and by all accounts was a good film adaption. Kathy Bates is one of your great character actors. Who can forget Misery, or her role in Six Feet Under? I’ve added the film to the: ‘to watch’ list of films.

    Hmm, yeah, for some reason they’re walking away from coal fired power stations down here, and I do acknowledge that some of the generators have reached the end of their economic lifespans. Coal exports (and natural gas) are a different story, and they appear to be on the increase.

    The thing is, solar and wind have to work with natural gas (or hydro). Solar and wind are not a good fit for coal, because those coal fired generators can not be switched on an then off again rapidly (if at all) and the lost income lowers their economic returns. From what I’ve been told, natural gas generators can be started quite rapidly, and that implies that when not needed, they can be switched off. There are losses involved when coal and solar and wind are all producing at once. Interestingly, coal and nuclear probably share the same economic problems when renewable sources are chucked into the mix.

    Today we took Ollie for a three hour walk on an old rail trail that runs through a nearby forest (Wombat state forest) that has been logged since the 1850’s. I’d hazard a guess and suggest that the rail line was originally constructed to take logs to the goldfields and also in the other direction in the form of sawn timber products into Melbourne for construction. Logging ceased in 2002, and I didn’t see too many older trees in the forest today. Despite knowing the story, I rather enjoyed the walk, and Ollie is now sound asleep behind me on the green couch. I took some photos and Ollie has promised to tell the story on the next blog. In my travels in the area, I’ve seen old timber bridges that have fallen into the creeks and rivers, and such artefacts are reminders about how fleeting our infrastructure is. And the trees that have regrown in that forest, whilst being young, they looked pretty healthy. There were also many swamps along the trail and tree frogs croaked their delightful chorus.

    Well that was a massive interweb rabbit hole. Turns out the main goal in the game of Monopoly is to: “Players collect rent from their opponents, with the goal being to drive them into bankruptcy”. Sounds like a recipe for success in my book!!! Oh the irony. Anyway, thanks for the introduction to: Henry George. Who would nowadays consider that the “since the financial sector, in its existing form, was mostly augmenting rent extraction, as opposed to productive investment”. The guy was a giant killer, and also something of a pressure release valve on a civilisation under stress.

    George would have something to say about today’s low interest rate environment. At a guess it might be: Low interest rates and an expanding money supply favour the gentle art of speculation, whilst middling interest rates and a slow growing money supply force paper into productivity.

    I noticed that too about Alaric the priest who drifts in and out again in the story, he probably wouldn’t be tolerated otherwise. He seems pretty relaxed about such matters, but it was darkly hinted at that his peers were far from relaxed. Interestingly, I’ve just read the sub plot about Varrus’s daughter ‘Magpie’ being married off to the Celtic King Ullric’s son, and everyone seemed happy that it was a good political match. It is a truly great story, and the author doesn’t let up on the action for one moment.

    You bet he did, but a person’s trade can produce subtle changes upon their consciousness. The name was Pro Fit (short for professional fitting) and well, you don’t need to be Einstein to tell how I read the words… Ah yes, has the garden Goddess come to terms with your upturned forks? If it works, don’t knock it seems to be the rule of the day, but other people…

    Cats are wily creatures, and I can’t say that your definition is an accurate statement of their behaviour. My granddad was rather fond of calling everyone and anyone, a ‘willy head’, and perhaps the deprivations of WWII inured him to such forthright talk! 🙂 People seemed to like him, so he must have been onto something.

    Happy 4th of July to you. Ouch. I hope that nobody was injured in the tanker incident?

    Speaking of climate change (or whatever anyone wants to call it), did you notice that: Record-breaking heat hits Alaska. 89’F is a bonkers hot day for that part of the world.

    Like your style with the Club. At one point in the walk today, we’re out in the middle of the forest and some family attempts to catch up with us, and the kids are yelling and yahooing at the top of their lungs. All really nice and all for a quiet forest walk. Anyway, we burned them off as we just picked up the pace of walking and they flagged and soon fell far behind and that was the last we saw of them. Do you know, so determined to catch up were they that they didn’t stop to look at an old timber railway bridge over a creek? It was really scenic, but also quite poignant. I was surprised by their lack of curiosity. As a kid I would have climbed all over the bridge.

    Mars Attack! Ah yes, I recall the film. Very amusing.

    Oooo! Japanese cherry trees have quite the history in your country. I grow quite a number of them here, and they really are lovely trees.



  49. Hi DJ,

    Thanks! It was a pretty funny use of the word. 🙂

    Hehe! Definitely a hottie. It was a really clever show and so different from the other shows of the time. Apparently sometimes the actors used to just ad lib their lines and jokes. That would have kept all of the other actors on their feet.

    Yeah, the sounds of the garden are a soothing balm. But yeah, birds are smart as, and they spend energy communicating with you, if we but take the time to listen. Your mountain chickadees are not dissimilar from the fairy wrens here. Such birds do a lot of work in the garden too, and they scour the garden beds looking for grubs to eat. I rarely have pest problems here because of the diverse bird life.

    If you listen long enough, you can tell the differences in the birds calls. I can recognise the magpies alarm call where they’re telling each other to watch out for some hazard. They also give an alert call when I’m or the dogs are around. I guess they’re saying to their family group: ‘mostly harmless, but be wary’.

    I have a rule of thumb about soil improvement: Get anything that was once alive back into the soil. One day, I’d like to get the soil tested just to see what the effect of that strategy has been over the years, but money is used for other things.

    Public interaction is, err, at the coal face. 🙂 I agree with you, and likewise follow a similar strategy, but then from time to time in my professional capacity, I encounter people in a high state of emotion and that is always a situational matter when working out what an adequate response should be. Not easy at all. As to your observation, well, we’re all individuals, aren’t we? 🙂

    Thanks for mentioning the history of the Great Heathen Army and also the Wessex leader Alfred the Great (not a title to be given lightly in the histories). It was interesting to me that Alfred came to power at a time of such internal troubles in his land and he set about righting them, and I’m sure some would have been discomfited by that.

    The Western Roman Empire seems to have been a fascinating grab bag of whatever could have been brought to the fore and used. They appear to have been a reasonably tolerant (in some respects) lot.



  50. Hi Inge,

    In the ongoing war on eczema I’m trialing ‘castor oil’. So far so good, and the skin seems better although it is a bit inflamed today which is an annoying set back. Have you ever tried that oil? I might try ‘aloe vera gel’ next.

    It is very annoying as I have two small patches on one finger on each hand and steroids were helping, but if I stopped using them, the eczema would return. And I’m uncomfortable using steroid treatment for over a week. Not good.

    Oh well, keep trying until I work out what is causing the patches to appear. I’ve been largely free of eczema for a few years.

    How are you going?



  51. @ DJSpo:

    I don’t know about FedEx’s cow, but I think you’d have to be Warren Buffett to afford the shipping cost of sending a rock to Australia.


  52. @ Pam – if you hadn’t mentioned the cost of shipping a rock to Australia, I would have. Your version was much more amusing, however.

    @ all – I have never heard so many fireworks as I did last night, and that is saying something as this neighborhood has a tradition of shooting off plenty of fireworks. Even in decline (see my comment to JMG’s Ecosophia post), it seems people around here can find the money for lots of very, very potent fireworks. Good thing we don’t have a dog; I felt like crawling under a bed several times yesterday and would have pushed away any dog that was already there. And we certainly didn’t need to go to a fireworks display; between them the people on the next street or two on either side shot off enough fireworks for more than one professional display. We listened to them, and felt them, from the comfort of the back porch.


  53. Yo, Chris – “Delores Claiborne” is a treat. I haven’t seen it in quit awhile, and, so put it on hold from our library. They still have three copies, kicking around. It’s one of King’s that isn’t a spook show. Nothing paranormal, about it.

    Quit a bit over on Mr. Greer’s blog, this week, about energy. Alternate and otherwise. The Daily Impact has a new post. A rant about the internet of things. What could possibly go wrong?

    That sounds like a really nice hike. A lot of the states here, have “rails to trails” programs. We’ve got one bit that runs through our county. Back when the trains ran from here, to the coast. I’m glad the rail beds are being maintained, even if for hiking. They’ll be a good start, should we ever have to press them into use, again. When I had my fence built, years ago, the lumber was recycled out of an old logging bridge.

    I think one of my cousins had a Monopoly game. It takes a fair number of players to make it interesting. And, takes a long time to play. The game was really popular, for a long bit of time. It also yielded a lot of cultural references. “Get out of jail free card.” “Boardwalk Empire.” Etc.. Those first games (the hand made one) were the first indicator of how “not rare”, previously “rare” items were. Via E-Bay. The first one on E-Bay went for an astronomical amount of money. There was media coverage. People started scouring their attics. (Most of them came out of Philadelphia.) Two more popped up, and sold for lesser amounts. Then another one was listed, and sold for even less. So many things in play. Perceived scarcity. Small pool of interested buyers. Supply and demand.

    Well, I finished “Singing Sword”, last night. Onto “Eagle’s Brood!” :-). But I’ll wait til you catch up. I finished the flowering cherry book, and dipped into the biography of Richter. An interesting fellow. Very shy, and never sought the limelight.

    The flowering cherry book is a biography of Collingwood Ingram. He was a fairly wealthy English dude, from a fairly wealthy, and eccentric, family. Lived to be 100. He was concerned that many varieties of flowering cherry, were going extinct, in Japan. So, he saved as many as he could. And spread them around the world. He freely gave away starts. Later, he was able to return to Japan, some varieties that had gone extinct. He also studied birds, and grew and studied several other kinds of plant.

    No one was killed in the tanker incident. Over 50 haz-mat people were called out for the cleanup.There were a few other wrecks along the detour route. Frustrated and angry freeway travelers. The trucker’s life is pretty much over. Or, at least, radically different. The fines will be incredible. His license will be revoked. There will be court mandated treatment. Maybe jail time.

    I read that about Alaska. But it looks, from Prof. Mass, that they may get a lot of rain, up that way. Canada, yes. Maybe even a bit, here. Fireworks were canceled.

    Well, it was a pretty spectacular show, here in the neighborhood. Glad it’s over. Tried to get a nap, twice, yesterday. No dice. The air was reeking of gun powder.

    Here, we have pretty cheap soil test kits. Do it yourself. The Master Gardeners showed me how to use one, last year. I should take instruction, again. It’s pretty fiddly. Getting powders into very small holes. Using distilled water. Timed waiting periods. Wonder if there’s an ap, for that? :-). Lew

  54. @Pam
    I tried to find a picture of a chicken similar to what I’m describing but the only picture I could find sort of like it had a link that I couldn’t click on when I copied it. I just searched cornish cross chicken leg problems. However what I described really wasn’t in any of the pictures. Doug just put one down as she couldn’t walk but was otherwise healthy.


  55. Hi Chris,
    When I started teaching in 1988 dress was fairly casual but still professional though we did have blue jean Friday. As the years went on though it got to the point that some of the teachers were quite sloppy.

    Wanted to tell you about the neighbors chickens. The family got 12 chicks and the father put together a coop for them. I would see them free ranging from time to time but had not been over to see their set up. On Wednesday we did go over to check it out. Well it’s quite small for the number of pullets and only has a small run under the coop itself 5 x 5 feet at most. They had been letting them free range quite a bit until they all started going up on their newly constructed patio which is brick with mostly sand between the bricks. Apparently they didn’t care for the chickens pooping all over the patio. I come to find out that they aren’t providing any grit for them and in fact had no idea that it was even necessary and the only feed they got was cracked corn. I suggested that they might be up on the patio eating the sand between the bricks and there was an edge that was pretty empty of sand. They were quite happy with the suggestions though and I loaned them one of my beginning chicken books and a container of grit. I was quite appalled that there was basically no research done before embarking on this project. They homeschool and this would be a perfect lesson for the kids. They did invite us over for the next day’s 4th of July party they were having so we went for a couple hours. There were five couples who had between them maybe 30 children. These neighbors have six children themselves with number 7 on the way. I think all of them were at most in their mid 30’s. Doug was wondering if they were having a contest to see who could have the most kids. At any rate they all were very nice and most of them had a few acres and wanted to raise animals as well so had many questions for us. We took some over to our place to see the bees, meat chickens and pigs. The neighbor, Dave, said how they had lucked out with their house (which they bought 3 years ago), a foreclosure and now with us moving in next door who could mentor them with some of the things they would like to do. It did cross my mind that you and Lew would have been driven crazy with all those kids.

    It continues to be very humid. We have our air conditioning on set high just to keep the humidity levels down in the house. Seems like we just had a couple of weeks between heating and cooling which sadly, has become the new normal. The nights are quite warm as well – low 70’s.


  56. Hi Chris,

    You are not wrong about the weather in Wellington, I have being several times now and it definitely trends towards the windier and rainier end of the spectrum. However, on a clear sunny day it is very nice with all the shallow bays that surround it.

    Unfortunately, my trip south for the week coincided with a mild bout of ManFlu (something my recent flu shot either failed to prevent, or helped bring on!), so it was not a pleasant trip, and I enjoyed climbing into my own bed late last night when we got back. Mrs Damo (who you may recall is a qualified neuroscientist) gets upset at me for questioning the Flu Shot, and adamantly insists the “real flu” is much, much worse than ManFlu. I admit to struggling with such abstract concepts and distinctions. I can only credit what I see and feel now, and one week after a flushot, I got sick! Such logic is impeccable and requires no further scrutiny 🙂

    Glad to hear you are enjoying The Singing Sword. On a related note, I just finished the classic “Foundation” series by Asimov. In an interview, Asimov said he had just finished reading Gibbons Decline and Fall before meeting with his editor to discuss his next book. On the way to the meeting he decides to pitch a retelling of Romes fall set in a Galaxy-wide empire with our heroes working to minimise the length of the dark ages (very early on, one character remarks it is impossible to prevent the empires fall, the best they can do is lessen the resulting turmoil). Great stuff, a good mix of post-Roman european history and sci-fi storytelling. No wonder it was so popular. With a warning from Lew though, I am staying away from the numerous spin-offs, prequels and reboots. They might be good, but it is a rabbit hole too deep and twisted. Next up is the Earth Abides!

    I learned something special about France the other day:
    They have a rule that enforces one price for books across the country (no discounts or variations from price set by publisher). This is protect small, local bookshops, of which there are still many in France. The article above, is of course very upset that the French would be so damn, well, French. I am sympathetic to the aims of the law, and I do love a good bookshop. But I think I love a good secondhand bookshop better, and I rarely buy new, even with cheap online prices, anyway.

    This weekend, in consideration of Manflu, I am instructed to not do much. So I have rugged up, turned the heater on, (house got to 6-7 last night) and plan some book reading and maybe a movie. These things must be taken seriously!

    Good luck with your weekend, and hopefully Ollie doesn’t take that 3 hour walk as a “new normal” in fluffy collective / human relations!


  57. @ Pam,

    That was funny! Warren Buffett I’m not.

    We have a large rock garden, large enough that I’ve spent the past month weeding (meaning degrassing) it. I’m about halfway done. Anyhow, a relative does a lot of travelling overseas for business. He agreed, many years ago, to bring back a rock for us everywhere he went. Customs could be a problem, however, so no rock that he’s supplied is bigger than my thumbnail. My wife keeps them in a jar.


  58. Chris,

    Adlibbing can be hard on the other actors. I was in plays in my youth where there was a fair amount of it. I heard that Jackie Gleason rarely learned his lines on The Honeymooners and adlibbed most of his funny lines. It takes a rare talent to keep up with that. Alas, I was NOT that rare talent.

    The different calls the birds make for different types of warnings is interesting. I hear the same kind of difference when I’m outside, especially from the sparrows. But if there’s a serious predator, the warning is different and they fly away or grow silent and hide. If they would scour my gardens looking for and eating the substantial earwig problem, I would be eternally grateful.

    Alfred constantly had problems with the Danes, aka Vikings. I’m not convinced that the Danes weren’t joined by some discontented English. York and Cumbria, especially, but much of the Danelaw in general, proved difficult for the English kings to rule. Edward the Elder and then Athelstan of Brunanburh fame spent much of their rulerships conquering and reconquering these areas.

    Add the Hiberno-Norse Kingdom of Dublin into the mix, where any disaffected kinglet was able to find shelter and regroup for another invasion, and the Viking held areas caused the English kings strife for a long time. Harold Godwineson’s sons used Dublin as a staging area for years after the Battle of Hastings. The great great grandfather of Llewllyn the Great of Wales was married to a granddaughter of the Hiberno-Norse King of Dublin, Sihtric Silkbeard. The Vikings wielded a lot of influence.

    Perhaps the tolerance of the Roman Empire stemmed from desperation. Any warlord with any of his own troops would’ve gladly been put to work fighting against Rome’s other enemies. So maybe the tolerance was pragmatic, knowing that good leaders and fighters were hard to come by. Especially loyal ones, as Rome learned the hard way following successive revolts by the troops and “emperors” from Britannia.


  59. Hello again
    You left me puzzled. Did you think that I suffer from eczema? J have never had it. I do have something called lichen planus. Anyhow, I regard steroids as akin to the plague.
    While on health subjects, back to shoes/feet. All the foot measuring in the world is utterly useless when shoes ignore the need for a straight large toe.
    Still having hot dry weather.


  60. Hi Pam,

    Many apologies, I accidentally missed your comment.

    Free rocks! Who could go past such an enticement? Glad you managed to avoid the rock. 🙂 Years ago, I watched in horrified fascination as a sheet of glass slipped off the back of a truck, then was picked up by the air stream, flipped around and crashed on the road. It was kind of mesmerising to watch. Fortunately nobody was injured by the glass.

    Incidentally, fallen off the back of a truck, back in the day, was code word for fenced goods. Who’d pinch rocks though? No doubt, they’d have rocks in their head (again apologies for the dodgy pun).



  61. Hi Claire,

    What a nightmare. Fireworks are banned from sale in the state I live in, so you never see them unless some government entity puts on a display. Down here, they are an incredible fire risk, particularly over summer.

    On the other hand, it was considerate of your neighbours to foot the bill for your entertainment. 🙂 Far out. The dogs here would be feral at the noise, although Toothy is a bit deaf and probably wouldn’t notice. Have you ever owned a dog?

    Of late, a rabbit moved in to a burrow that is in a hard to get to area and I’m considering what options I should take. In the tomato enclosure, the rabbit appears to have eaten all of the winter vegetables other than the broad beans.



  62. Chris,

    In my younger days, I used to trap rabbits with my grandpa (who did it for far more pragmatic reasons during the depression). The trap is pretty cruel, no way to dispute that, but it means you can get them as they leave the burrow. The trick is to hold your finger under the trigger plate whilst you cover it all with dirt, then gently remove finger. Perfectly safe, as your finger is outside of the clamps, but it makes a scary noise if triggered. Like a rat trap on steroids 🙂

    It looks like softer, kinder souls also use a bucket trap, which might also work I guess 🙂


  63. @ Claire:

    I could hear the fireworks display that is always put on in the largest park in Charlottesville on Independence Day – and we are 6 miles away as the crow flies. There wasn’t as much noise from the neighborhood as there usually is; all of the children around here are practically grown – and mostly girls, as far as I can tell. When our two sons were growing up they loved to explode or shoot off anything noisy they could get hold of. In fact, back then (they are now 31 and 34) one could still buy the ingredients for fire crackers at the local hardware store and gun shop, and they took full advantage of that.

    We had a good rain the afternoon of the Fourth. That is always a relief before fireworks in hot, dry summer weather.


  64. Hi Lewis,

    Mr King can recount a good tale, so I’ll try and track a down a copy of the film too. I’m still yet to watch My Dinner with Harve, but I’ll get there.

    Energy is a funny thing. I read somewhere long ago that plants manage to store 2% of the collected sunlight, and if memory serves me correctly, it referred to the creation of woody plant material and other plant goodies like leaves and fruit etc. If a couple of billion years of evolution produced that result as a best case scenario, then I figure that’s about as good as it will get. Of course, energy can be concentrated, by say for example, consuming a cow that had in turn consumed herbage. Or we can release the concentrated energy by say burning firewood from a tree that had been collecting energy for many decades. But it’s a slow process, I guess. I dunno what I’m trying to say, but maybe something about when we use fossil fuels we release stored energy, and when we talk about renewables, we’re talking about trying to capture and use whatever we can get out hands on at that moment in time. And my mind keeps coming back to the 2% number. It sure don’t look the same to me, but people have a really hard time understanding the difference, and that is probably because fossil fuels are just so darned good. 🙂

    I have heard about the interweb of things, and I can’t say that I’m a fan. Do I really need some hacker to hack into my light bulbs or refrigerator?

    Exactly, digging the slight inclines that low energy trains can cope with is the hard part of the job. There was one point in the walk where the folks clearly had to blast through a cutting that was solid rock. I looked upon such work with a sense of awe. Today, ferns of many different varieties were growing on the shady side in the rocks and accumulated soil, whilst trees were sprouting on the sunny side. It wouldn’t take too much effort to get the line operational again.

    Hey, it is interesting that you mention recycling old timbers, but a local saw mill retooled itself for just that purpose and sells such timber. The forests were closed in 2002 (and I can see why). Interestingly, there are two saw mills operating nowadays, one at the extreme western and the other at the extreme eastern part of the mountain range. It would be a difficult way to make a living and both of them have diversified, but kept the machines in working order.

    Hehe! The cultural references from the game of Monopoly are quite fascinating. The objectives of the game are pretty mercenary, and there are shades of such strategies being implemented in the wider world today. One of the problems with expanding the money supply ad nauseam is that people tend to try to accumulate as many chunks of paper as possible. But then, they use the weight of those chunks of paper to leverage more chunks of paper into their stores. It is a self defeating strategy, but few people want to hear that.

    I read today about the problems that private health insurers down here are having. Apparently the young are leaving the extra coverage of private health insurance in droves because the story goes that they don’t wish to foot the bill for the increased costs of claims for their elders. The cost increases are spread equally among all policy holders. Fascinating, and a sign of things to come.

    Thanks for waiting for me. I take my time and savour an authors words, but that may be just my excuse because I am not a fast reader. I spent most of today digging the new garden terrace, and we moved an inordinate amount of soil today. The weather was a fine and warm 63’F. Not a bad effort for only two weeks out from the winter solstice. That is me being sarcastic, as it was bonkers warm.

    The author Mr Richter was an interesting fellow, and I’ll be curious to hear what you learn about him. His final chapter of the trilogy read like someone who enjoyed his time in nature, appreciated hard work, and I suspect he had an interest in the occult.

    Mr Ingram likewise sounds like an interesting dude. I would have taken some free Japanese maple starts! The most recent acquisitions set me back $25 each, which wasn’t too bad, but the nursery was genuinely in the middle of nowhere and run by an old bloke that looked to me as if he ran the business as an interest.

    I saw the Cliff Mass post yesterday about the summer rain. It is nice that the summer rain negates the fire risk. I like summer rain too for that reason. Fireworks are banned in the state that I live in for much the same reasons.

    Lewis, you are a better man than I, because being woken up by fireworks would leave me feeling a bit out of sorts, and perhaps not very polite!

    Thanks for the suggestion about the soil testing kits. Never even considered that as an option. Well there you go. pH and N-P-K levels can be easily tested. Hmmm.



  65. Chris:

    No worries.

    I suspect that I might know someone who might pinch rocks . . .

    I guess Mr. Toothy is not up to fighting with rabbits anymore? He is the right shape for rabbit holes. Perhaps Mr. Toothy has seen Monty Python’s Killer Rabbit?


  66. Hi Margaret,

    Yeah, and I recall getting told off for my casual dress sense way back in those early work days. Clothes were really expensive back then too. Purchasing a work suit was no small matter. But yeah, casual Fridays do seem to have been extended indefinitely!

    That happens and I recall that a neighbour once believed that one of their moulting chickens was sick and so they left it out for the fox to deal with. I waited a long while and then casually dropped into a conversation one day that my chickens were doing their autumn moult and would soon have all of their feathers regrown. I mean what do you, because the act had already been done. Dunno much, but I reckon people all learn very differently, and for some people that act involves unnecessary harm to other creatures. In such a small enclosure so many chickens may have psychotic reactions. The enclosure and run here is quite large but I upped the numbers to 17 chickens long ago, and there were unpleasant consequences.

    Margaret, you are a saint and so many kids would have done my head in (as you rightly guessed). Ah, ‘lucked out’ down here means the exact opposite of how you used the words. Not sure why that would be the case? Having said that though, you’re really lucky to have neighbours who are interested in what you are Doug are doing with the property. Not many people around here seem to be even remotely interested in obtaining harvest from the land.

    Oops. Whilst assisting in the kitchen, I just broke the plastic lid on the food processor. Oh well, it slipped out of my hands and hit the timber floor…

    Two weeks past the mid-winter solstice and today was 63’F and sunny and warm. Bonkers. But your humidity would be very challenging to experience.



  67. @ DJSpo- Our weekly “new” list, was released by the library, last night. On it was a documentary you might find interesting. One of the Nova series. “Lost Viking Army.”

    A few years back, a small raiding band of Vikings was found in a ditch, in England. It is speculated that the Brits fought back, and maybe ambushed them. There was a similar episode in the series that Chris, Damo and I have been reading. Lew

  68. Yo, Chris – How odd. I had forgotten about a dream I had, last night, until Damo and you started talking about rabbits. Behind The Institution, we have quit a bit of rock for retaining soil. It’s quit a steep slope. I dreamed two rabbits, came out of a burrow in the rocks.

    Speaking of vermin :-), a few weeks ago, Julia had a hen with chicks. A raccoon killed the hen, but the chicks managed to escape. She’s been raising them on chick feed. Well … a few days ago, her dogs treed the raccoon. Julia got her gun and blew the sucker, out of the tree.

    The recycled wood from my fence came from the father of someone I worked with at the library. An old retired dude who had set up a small mill. The internet is all agog that someone has come up with a solution to climate change. Wait for it … plant more trees! Earthquakes in California, heat wave in Alaska. A tornado ripped through a city in NE China. Parts of Japan are washing away.

    Richter was pretty … troubled. Not the usual writer’s path of booze and drugs, but he had his mental problems. A painful self consciousness. And, in some ways, he was very much like Chancy (?), the son in the “Awakening Land” series. Without the bone lazyness. His wife was very ill with TB. A lot of the time, due to being poverty stricken in the Depression, he (along with his daughter) was her primary care giver. Oh, yes, he was interested in the occult. Or, the paranormal. He had some pretty “out there” theories, that he self published in little books. Kept a running notebook, for years, of signs and omens. And, as to if they were good or bad.

    I am not a better man. I was pretty cranky as to missing my naps, due to the fireworks. Slept most of yesterday, just to keep up.

    Waiting for me at the library is, “King Arthur’s Lost Kingdom.” I’ll probably watch it, tonight. As near as I can figure, it has to do with explorations at Tintagel.

    The three potato plants that are languishing, are continuing to languish. The one that looked the most healthy, has begun to wither, from the top down. I do not know what the problem is. I’m about to call it a bad deal, dig them out, and prepare the area for some cool weather crops. Lew

  69. Hmmm. Check the junk pile. I don’t think my last post, to you, went where it was supposed to go. Lew

  70. Hi Damo,

    Your description of Wellington matched my experience, and I’ve always somehow wondered if the name doesn’t have something to do with Wellington boots – a necessity perhaps?

    Mate, not good and you have my sympathies. To be fair to Mrs Damo, I agree with your wife in that it is extraordinarily difficult to get ManFlu from a flu shot, unless you were perhaps immuno-compromised in some way? Dunno. Anyway, if you’ve had the flu, and not just a cold, you know you go down like a sack of spuds. I can see why people die from the virus. Mind you, the editor thought that I was also whingeing and moaning until she too went down like a sack of spuds last year.

    That makes sense about the classic Foundation series, which I quite enjoyed. The depths sure are deep – best not to swim in that murky pool of literature. The 1950’s sensibilities, well, I just sort of skipped over them. Does this mean that I can skim read – it is not a definitive test. 🙂 Have you ever read Gibbons Decline and Fall? Cool, I’ll be really interested to hear what you think about Earth Abides. Inge first suggested it and has only just read it.

    I’d have to suggest that the French are more sensible than us lot. It used to be that shops could make a living selling actual books – and there are still a lot of second hand bookshops around – but a lot of new bookstores went the way of the dinosaur. Last weekend I was having a conversation at Green Wizards and we were lamenting the loss of the big Borders stores. Mind you, I have heard an argument which suggests that they killed off the smaller book stores…

    Yes, I concur with Mrs Damo’s instructions. 🙂 Have you been behaving yourself?

    Thanks for mentioning the rabbit traps – but the dogs are a problem. I’m considering changing where things are planted, so the rabbit can just deal. But I’ll get a more rabbit focused dog at some point in the future. Sir Poopy, believe it or not – and as lazy as he was – used to sort out all that business without fuss or fanfare.



  71. Hi DJ,

    Can you imagine the sheer number of funny lines you’d have to remember simply in order to ad lib? I’m with you, it is a skill that neither of us has mastery in. I keep a few smart alec lines ready for use, but still, if you had to perform on cue, well I’d soon run out or start repeating myself.

    The magpies take on all comers. Huge wedge tail eagles – no dramas, they just dive bomb the huge eagles. But I did note a few weeks back that the magpies balked at a family of very large black and yellow cockatoos – huge birds, and they were in a family unit. What does studiously avoiding noticing four large predator birds look like??? Hehe!

    I see the occasional earwig, and often they work their way into fruit trees, but I’ve never seen them out of control. What is your approach for dealing with them?

    Thanks for the history lesson. Fascinating, and not a place to be on the losing side. Athelstan of Brunanburh must have been some leader to have forged north into what is today known as Scotland and then return and smash the combined armies. I note the Viking raids halted with the death of one leader in particular.

    I reckon you’re right about the Roman’s putting effective and loyal fighters to work against the enemies of the Empire. But still, I reckon the change to heavy cavalry from infantry would have emptied the Roman Empires feed bins. Plus there would have been a significant reduction in boots on the ground, due to the sheer cost of maintaining the forces. What do you reckon about that?



  72. Hi Inge,

    Apologies, I confused lichen planus for eczema. As I’m getting on in years I’m noticing that I’m better at some things, but not as sharp as I used to be at other things… 🙂

    Steroids are only ever a very short term solution, and yeah I agree with you and they have side effects that I too am uncomfortable with. I feel that there is a lot of misuse of those chemicals in the community.

    Exactly. The shoe manufacturer that I worked for produced mostly ladies shoes and boots, and they were really good quality, always used leather, and they left the large toe uncompressed. But you know, the same thing is true of clothes these days and not many people know how to sew, and so they put up with really poor fitting clothes. It is not good, but ill fitting shoes can damage your feet. And don’t get me started on patent leather or plastics which just don’t give. 🙂



  73. Hi Pam,

    Hehe! Surely you are not casting aspersions? 🙂 But you might be right too.

    Toothy does his best, but he’s an old fella now and about five years older than what Sir Poopy was when he sadly passed. And Ollie is way too big to muscle his way through the undergrowth in order to catch a rabbit. At this stage I’m considering a dog like a Jack Russell. Do you have any suggestions?

    Hey, the killer rabbit scared me! Run away, run away!!! What I need is a holy relic, but I’d be more inclined to use it to blow up some rocks. 🙂 Fortunately we can all count to three. Hehe!

    Ollie has to get writing!



  74. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the link. Mate, those Vikings really annoyed the locals to have received such a fate. And by all accounts it was an event widely attended by the locals, who ably assisted. I quite like the Daily Mail in that they run a lot of fluff, and then they slip in fascinating articles and/or in depth analysis on serious topics. I get their business model. It reminds me of Rolling Stone magazine supporting in depth analysis on a particular topic, when other media outlets with perhaps higher opinions of themselves, tend to ‘skim write’. I think I just made that concept up? Probably didn’t, but it sounds good.

    For some reason the junk mail ate your comment. I have no idea why, but it wasn’t lost and I check it every day. Some of the things that I have to delete would make a puritan blush. Fortunately I don’t blush easily.

    Have you had any further insight into your feline-garden situation? Given that you are dreaming about rabbits it may be of some significance? I have one rabbit here that is raiding the winter plants in the tomato enclosure and I can’t say in all honesty that we are friends. Pam mentioned the Monty Python killer rabbit scene, and of late I have been wishing for a Holy hand-grenade of Antioch. That would sort the killer rabbit out. What would you do with a rabbit problem? Rabbits have no business being here on the farm. How did the dream end up?

    Well, I now know how Julia would deal with a rabbit! Raccoons sound whip smart to me and I hope to never encounter one in the flesh. In Tasmania, quolls fill that niche, and in this state foxes will happily eat chicken. My thinking is that if there is a meal, something will try and eat it.

    Portable saw mills are readily available down here too. The only problem is that the economics of them don’t make much sense to me. At the agricultural shows we regularly attend, there are always a few competing brands and they do demonstrations, and I have to admit that the machines are really good. It all comes down to the cost. Like rocks, we don’t waste any timber here, it all has a use. I’ve noticed in this mountainous area that people collect leaves, bark and branches, and then they pile them into drains and then burn the stuff in cold smoky fires. And then the rain washes the ashes away. Noooo! At least the ashes could be spread back over the garden. Oh well.

    We dug the new garden terrace again today, and I must admit that I’m feeling it tonight and I even fell asleep in the bath earlier. But at one point we dug through an old fire pit, and the soil there was rich and black and we spread all of that soil goodness around the place.

    And as the new terrace is beginning to emerge from the earth, we could only just begin to see how the arrangement should all work. Before today, I just couldn’t see how it would all work. Within the space of about an hour, a whole new lot of possibilities had emerged from the soil.

    Hey, I saw the article on tree planting and the acreage required was phenomenal for such a short stay of execution. We’re hearing about the earthquakes too, and hopefully the plates settle down?

    I don’t know about how you felt on the subject, but to me Chancey wasn’t a likeable bloke, and it took him some serious pain before he acknowledged his effect on others. But we never know how the story ended for the character. Conrad Richter on the other hand appears to have understood what the words: ‘serious work ethic’ meant. On the other hand, I sort of believe that hardship, especially when confronted honestly, can be a growth experience. I mean if a person is getting a really easy time of it, then they’re hardly likely to question the dominant narrative, because it is delivering for them. And they won’t question the dominant narrative, even if it is leading them like lemmings following one after another off a cliff. I just don’t get it, but then I know by experience that things can work out really badly. Not everyone gets that message.

    I can see that the author had an interest in the occult and the last chapter of the trilogy was dripping with the authors accumulated thoughts on the future, and way out of the mess.

    Hehe! Good to hear. I’d be cranky too.

    Cool. Did the video shed any light on the excavations at Tintagel? Is it just that I am reading the Camulod series books, or is the SW of England turning up more in my consciousness of late?

    Exactly. If it ain’t working with the potato plants. 😉 I recall a story that suggests that Bill Mollison was being heckled by his students about the subject of him talking to plants. He admitted that he did indeed talk to them. When further pressed on the subject, he said that when he talked to plants he commanded them to: “Hurry up and grow you b!@#$rds or I’ll pull you out!”



  75. Chris:

    Choose a dog because it stirs your heart, not because it looks right for a job, I think, at least in our sort of circumstances (non-professionals). It so often turns out that one takes in a dog (especially if it is a puppy of unknown heritage) and it turns out to be something quite unexpected, like the big, fierce watchdog that turns out to love everybody, especially burglars. Or a Jack Russell that happened to have grown up, unbeknownst to you, with bunny rabbits.


  76. @ Lew:

    We don’t have cats bothering the garden anymore, but a squirrel has decided that the green tomatoes are ripe for the picking. He has struck first at the cherry tomatoes (such a nice size for little squirrel hands). I got some balloons at the Dollar Store and amazed myself by being able to easily blow them up (I’ll admit that they are 12 inch balloons) and tied them to the tomato plants by sticking those twist ties that I save from bread wrappers through the end where one ties the balloon and then twisting that around the tomato vine. I chose all white balloons because I felt it might be more tasteful, though not as festive.

    It was so hot and humid while I worked that I forgot to clean up the pieces of tomatoes all under the vines so I can’t tell if any of that is new debris. Will do so.

    It is tomato and tobacco hornworm time here and I have to collect them every day. I don’t know if you get them, but one large caterpillar (4 1/2 inches long and FAT) can eat up a whole tomato vine in 1 or 2 days. I try to find them by the time they are an inch long as I don’t mind squashing them then, but once they are up to 4 inches or more it’s like having to squash a hamster and I can’t do it.

    What a great title: “50 Vikings in a Ditch”.

    That Julia is some girl! Annie Oakley comes to mind.


  77. Yo, Chris – I haven’t seen any rabbits, around, here. It was a very short dream, and the rabbits just shuffled off, stage left. I looked for new potatoes, this morning, in the lush patch, with a small hand rake (?). No dice. Either there’s no potatoes, down there, or they’re really deep. Maybe tomorrow I’ll haul out the big guns (a shovel) and go at one edge of the patch.

    Julia probably wouldn’t go after rabbits, at all. I mean, she even traps possums and hauls them down the road, five miles, to release them. But with the raccoon, I think it was personal. :-).

    Well, the guy with the saw mill was an old retired logger guy, and I think it was, in some ways, a hobby. I’d guess he put the small mill together with used parts, or, bought it, very cheap, on the second hand market. Lots of swapping around goes on back in them there hills.

    Sometimes, projects are like that. All seems chaos, and then it all comes together. Theatre is like that. Some productions I was in seemed hopelessly doomed, and then all came together in the final crunch.

    I didn’t care much for Chancey, either. All that sighing, moaning and swaning about. As far as he and Rosa, go, if a bit more honesty from family and town had come, early on, tragedy could have been averted.

    Richter had this belief that pioneers had some vital energy, that became dissipated in later generations, due to leisure and ease. When he wasn’t banging on about that, it was about how poorly he compared to his father and grandfather (who weren’t all that energy filled) or, on the other side, thinking he was getting above himself, as he was “only the grandchild of shepherds.” He was hyper sensitive to “face”, appearances and slights, real, or mostly imagined.

    The Richter’s were always on the move. I don’t think they ever had a home of their own. Or, not for very long. Restless wandering from Pennsylvania, to Florida, to the SW, and back again. Some of it was always seeking a healthful climate for his wife. Some of it was Richter’s feeling that he could write in some places, but not in others. In one trip to the SW, they settled in a town, rented and broke two leases, in quick succession, and settled into a third place where he felt he could write. Which lasted less than a year. Rented houses, hotels, relatives. It was a life of constant motion. Often, on returning to a place, they’d rent the same house.

    Superstitious? Oh, yeah. There were six traffic lights, between one house, and the post office. If there were too many red lights, it might throw his whole day, off kilter. All of which he recorded in a notebooks.

    The film on Tintagel was interesting. It was done in 2017, so the information is pretty current. New theories, or ways of looking at things. There was a decided line between the Saxons and the Britons. But really no signs of battle or strife, anywhere along the line. And, doing DNA analysis of the Saxon side, it wasn’t so much a case of conquest, as of mixing and emulation of the incoming people. So what was going on? Trade.

    After the Romans left, and the Saxons came in, trade in the east of Britain was mostly with northern Europe. Western Britain maintained it’s trade connections with the Med. Tintagel was, for the time, the 5th and 6th century, a wealthy trading port. Why? Tin.

    There are only three places in western Europe that have tin. One of them was 15 miles east of Tintagel. It was mined in prehistoric times, by the Romans, and after, by whoever had control of Tintagel. Was it Arthur? Actually, they didn’t have much to say about Arthur. Other than that it was a ripping good yarn. Lew

  78. @ Lew – your potato vines may be languishing because they have formed their potatoes and it is now time for the vines to die back until the soil cools off again, when it will be time for the tubers to wake up and grow more potatoes. My potato vines are turning yellow for just this reason. In other words, your potatoes may be ready to harvest!

    If I were you, I’d dig up one vine and check for mature potatoes. If I found them, I’d wait to dig up the other vines until the vines dried up completely. That’s supposed to toughen the skins of the potatoes so they store better. That’s what I do and my potatoes store well.

    If you don’t find any mature potatoes, you could take a sample of the vines to whoever offers plant testing services where you are. That’s usually done through the state Extension service. It’ll cost something, however; up to you to decide if you want to know enough to pay for the knowledge.


  79. @ Pam – I’m not even sure if we have horn worms, here. nothing much seems to bother the tomatoes. Except for maybe slugs.

    What? No red, white and blue balloons? All patriotic and stuff? I adopted a abandoned, hanging petunia basket, and planted it with red, white and blue petunias. Stuck a flag in it, for the fourth.

    I thought we were going to have fried squirrel, this morning. I was watching two squirrels, playing hide and seek, up to the very top of a power pole, and down again. Then one did his high wire act, over to the forest, and the other squirrel couldn’t figure out, where he’d gone. I’ve never seen the squirrels, in the garden. Close, but not in. I think there’s too many people, coming and going.

    I was walking HRH, the other night, and ran a deer out of the garden. Couldn’t get Princess to bark at the darned thing. So, I was running around shouting at it. I think I scared Princess, more than the deer.

    At least once a summer, we have a power outage, due to fried squirrel. Lew

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