The Blue Hat

I just wasn’t cool enough. I mean who is cool enough? A few years ago I spied a blue hat in one of my favourite shops in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. About once a week, I’d pass by the shop and the blue hat called to me from the other side of the pane of glass: “Chris! Chris! Purchase me!”, the hat called. And for a while I resisted the call of the Sirens to purchase the blue hat.

Long term readers will know that at times I enjoy long walks through the inner city and northern suburbs of Melbourne. A person could get lost living up in the forest, and I counter that risk by taking regular long walks through what I call, ‘The Big Smoke’.

Sometimes I feel as if I don’t recognise the city that I grew up in. Only two and a half decades ago, at night the city was a quiet and dark place with only the occasional club or bar open. Nowadays, the city streets are a throng and swirling mass of mostly young people – who all live in the city. A multitude of apartment towers have thrust their way into the sky, where once a person could see the night sky. And the exhausts from restaurant kitchens entice the customers by bringing the smell of cooking to the street level. It is a different city than what I recall in my youth.

However, you don’t have to walk far out of the city before things quieten down. It is there that the streets of the sleepy inner northern suburbs fill with charming row upon row of nineteenth century terrace housing constructed for working families. Such terrace houses are expensive nowadays, and the larger sites where the old factories once stood which employed those workers are now being converted to multi-story apartment complexes.

I like to regularly feel the pulse of the city and observe the changes lest the sorrow for what once was becomes too great an emotion to bear. And in my long ambling walks I occasionally pass by a very cool hat shop. And it was there that the blue hat taunted me from the other side of a pane glass window. So, about two years ago, I threw caution to the wind and purchased the blue hat.

It was a beautiful hat. As I’m getting to be an older fella, I’m coming around to appreciating hats because they’re very practical. One hat will keep the sun off your head, whilst another hat will keep your head warm on a chilly winters day.

The blue hat on the other hand was uncomfortable from day one, so I never wore it. The hat was the correct sizing for my head, however on the inside of the hat it had a leather band which was taut and never gave a millimetre, let alone an inch. That placed pressure on my head and gave me headaches. Who wants headaches? So, I never wore the hat.

The editor, had long taken note of this beautiful blue hat sitting unloved on a hook in the hallway of the house, just inside the front door. And the editor took the virtually unworn blue hat back to the store so that it could be adjusted and made more comfortable. The nice bloke at the hat shop stretched the hat, but remarked to the editor that the hat was no longer made, and he knew of some bloke in the UK whom had lost the exact same hat and had been distraught by the loss. An offer was made on the day to the editor to swap the blue hat for another hat.

I’ve met plenty of people over the years who when faced with an opportunity, don’t have the faintest idea as to what to do, and usually they end up doing nothing. I’m of a different sort, and so when I heard about the offer to swap the blue hat, making a decision was not hard. Finding the time to get to the hat shop on the other hand, was hard. But it just so happened that over the past week I had a free day where I could visit the hat shop and swap over the hat.

When I was in the shop talking to the proprietor, I had to firstly ascertain as to whether the offer was serious or otherwise. And as it turns out, the bloke in the shop was serious. But to cover my discomfit at the prospect of returning an item that was purchased two years ago, I made a few jokes such as: “I’m just not cool enough to wear the hat, and I felt like the hat was wearing me, and not the other way around!” That scored a few laughs, but the guy knew his business and he could see that the hat was in ‘as new’ condition. After about maybe half an hour or three quarters of an hour of discussions, I walked away with a grey, rabbit felt Akubra hat. All was good again with the world!

The author sports a new grey rabbit pelt hat

I like my new hat, but I feel that the lesson here is that opportunities can often present themselves at odd occasions and it is up to us to recognise them as such.

Today is the official first day of spring in my corner of the world. The days have been mostly sunny and warm with the occasional thunderstorm. Some of the mornings have been very cold, which brought minor frosts. Down in the valley below, the frosts were even worse!

Cold air settles in the valley below the farm

Despite the foray into the big smoke to swap the blue hat, I was busy for the remainder of the week. However, on Friday we managed to do a days excavations on the new lower garden terrace. There’s probably only about another two days digging before excavations on the lower garden terrace are completed.

Not much soil remains to be excavated from the new lower garden terrace project

Much of the clay that we excavated from the lower garden terrace that day was used to construct a ramp leading up and away from that lower garden terrace. In the above photo I’m standing at the top of the ramp. Here is what the ramp looks like:

Excavated soil was used to construct a ramp leading up from the new lower garden terrace

With the exception of an electric (and solar powered) jackhammer the excavations and clay are moved and compacted using hand tools. I enjoy the slow human scaled pace of the work, and with few deadlines it is a relaxing process, whilst also being physically demanding.

At the top of the ramp is a pile of firewood waiting to be split and stored, but beyond that pile lies a yet-to-be-constructed path leading above the house and to the driveway, almost on contour.

The location of a future path leading from the terraces to the driveway!

Some of the soil excavated on Friday was used to fill and compact the area above the new upper terrace. A sturdy fence will be installed in that area when all of the excavations are complete. The flat surface there will also be home to many black and red currant bushes. The currants are used to make a very tasty wine.

Obedient (?) Ollie sits patiently (?) on the highest point of the terraced areas

On the upper garden terrace which sits just below where Ollie is in the above photo, all but one of the 24 roses planted last week are doing very well. One rose looks like it is set to produce two flowers over the next week or so:

A newly planted rose produces two flower buds

Behind the house sits a courtyard with two very large olive trees. A hire company was disposing of the advanced olive trees many years ago, and we took them off their hands for very little coin. In the intervening years, the olive trees have continued to grow strongly. The growth of the olive trees has been so great that one of paths in the courtyard had become overgrown and it was hard to walk through.

Moving the olive tree would have been difficult, but moving the path proved the much easier option, and so over the past few weeks we’ve been moving the path and creating more space. The job has not yet been completed, however in a month or two it won’t even be obvious that the path had been once overgrown.

A path between a garden bed and a large olive tree has recently been widened

Now that spring is here, I’ve noticed that the European honey bees have been out and about and foraging for pollen and nectar. The hive has been abuzz!

European honey bees have been foraging this week

At this early stage of the growing season, the only pollinating insects active are the European honey bee. Spare a thought for the poor almond trees who have to rely solely upon the European honey bees for pollination services. The early varieties of almond trees are in flower right now.

Almond trees are beginning to produce blossoms

However, today I spotted another variety of pollinating insect that maybe a native wasp or bee. Given the perilous state of the European honey bee, this little critter may become very important for pollinating services in the future:

A native bee or wasp takes shelter in this daffodil flower

Dame Scritchy the venerable elder of the fluffy collective – who is no fan of winter – has also been enjoying the recent sunshine. The other day I kicked her outside in the sun with a bone to chew upon.

Dame Scritchy chews upon a bone in the late winter sunshine

The wallabies must be hungry at this time of the year because of late they have been enjoying consuming the leaves of the potato plants. Anything that can consume the leaves of potato plants is a beast to be feared!

The wallabies have been consuming the leaves of the potato plants. These beds were planted out at the same time.

Observant readers will note that the raised bed closest to the forest has been the most decimated!

The recent heavy snowfall and frosts have not killed off the two tea camellia’s. I have high hopes for these plants as they are the real deal sub tropical variety, and over the past few years the weather conditions have already killed off about four tea camellia plants.

Two tea camellias have survived recent snowfalls and frosts

The capsicum (peppers) and chilli’s were not so hardy, and they are now very dead. People have told me stories about these plants being perennial, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Capsicum (peppers) and chilli’s were all killed by the recent snowfall and frosts

On the other hand, the broccoli seedlings shrugged off the winter conditions and are now growing strongly:

Broccoli seedlings shrugged off the worst of the winter weather

And the alternating warm and cool conditions combined with regular rainfall has proven to be a boon to the diverse fungi that live here.

Fungi are enjoying the conditions – burning the mulch candle at both ends.

Fruit and ornamental tree blossoms are beginning to make an appearance here. It is an exciting time of year full of the promise of future harvests:

A Manchurian Pear is covered in blossoms
This early variety of Apricot has produced blossoms

Onto the flowers:

It is the time of year for Hellebore’s
Hellebore’s come in a variety of colours
This Hellebore hides in the fronds of one of the local ferns
Ollie and Toothy spend time appreciating the flowers

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 4’C (39’F). So far this year there has been 547.2mm (21.5 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 539.2mm (21.2 inches).

77 thoughts on “The Blue Hat”

  1. Hi DJ,

    It’s a nice little corner of the big bad interweb that we have created here. Glad to read that you enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂

    A nice turn of phrase that: Giant Online Retail. As an acronym it sounds like some sort of Japanese manga monster: GOR! And GOR eats up and stomps the daylights out of the quiet parts of a city. You know, I don’t really know about your part of the world, but down here, the stagnant wages with rising cost of living is, I reckon the death knell for those behemoths. I mean how the heck does an economy attempt to grow the expenditure on housing and retail if wages are stagnant (unless of course the population increases)? It just doesn’t make any sense, so I sort of feel that GOR is but a moment in time.

    Nice one. Chick peas are good, but a mix of beans is good too. I’m quite fond of French lentils and they’re a very tasty legume.

    Things can always go wrong, but yeah there is risk and then there is risk. And knowing the difference is a complicated matter. Emergency landing pilot Max Sylvester says ‘study’ saved his life after instructor collapsed. How’s that for a dodgy scenario playing out in real time? You wouldn’t think that such a thing could happen, but there it is. The bloke clearly needs no further lessons!

    It is funny in an uncomfortable way, but I rarely encounter folks who are interested in gardening for edibles. It is a real worry.

    Hopefully it will cool down for you over this month? At least the nights will be cooler. Beats hurricanes… I got outside late this afternoon before the sun set and spent a couple of hours sharpening saws. A few weeks back I came across somebody selling another second hand high quality mains electric chainsaw and I nabbed it. They’re exceedingly rare down here, and this one had been originally purchased and barely used. In fact it looked like they’d used it once and discovered that the chain had to be sharpened, so they put the saw away and never used it again. A bit different from the blue hat…

    I also gave the stump grinder machine a thorough going over but the high carbon steel cutting teeth are not so easy to sharpen. It is fortunate that industrial diamond cutting blades are affordable, as they do a reasonable job of sharpening such hard steel.

    Yeah I can see that the companies probably wouldn’t want to touch such a job, and frankly I’d be happy with the concrete joins, but some people might whinge a lot about the aesthetics of such a fix. Reinforcing bar is a funny material and it sure does rust and crack the cement. In the city last week I saw a very tall building that had used concrete pre-cast panels, and after the rain, fine cracks in walls were visible on most of the panels. Water gets into those cracks and attacks the re-bar. Oh well.

    Hehe! I hear you!!! What do you do? You know, even the newest of homes require maintenance. People forget that, or maybe it is not even on their radar.



  2. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for mentioning the potato starch wrapping. It’s always interesting what I learn here in the comments, because from memory (which maybe faulty), a couple of months back you (and Lewis) mentioned using parchment paper for baking instead of baking paper, and lo and behold I spotted a roll. I haven’t tried using it yet as I still have a remaining roll of baking paper to get through. I try and re-use the stuff until it tears. It seems pointless to waste the stuff unnecessarily.

    Ren may have been singing! He’s a character that dog. Do people get concerned about noise in your area? I’ve had someone complain once about the dogs here barking, but the guy complains about everything so I have no idea when to take him seriously, so I disregarded him and that is the last I’ve heard about the matter. Actually he is a bit of a pain that guy, and for some reason he seems to come across as if he is feeling disappointed with life and he whines and is happy to criticise me to my face. He’s mostly harmless, but I can’t in all honesty suggest that we could ever be friends. Far out, what a trial. Anyway I rarely see him.

    The funny thing about rural areas is that living in one you discover that people living in the city are far more anonymous than their rural peers. 🙂



  3. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, the photos from the Space Needle (is it our societies version of an obelisk or would it be closer in concept to a pyramid?) of the colours in the atmosphere were great. I’ve learn a lot about the weather and climate from the blog, and just glossed over the talk of a fusion powered future. Everyone can dream and it doesn’t seem to do much harm from my perspective because dreaming does not readily convert into action.

    I assume by ‘Sky box’ you’re referring to your apartment? I like the way you think. 🙂 Very amusing. It is nice to have a view isn’t it? It is hard to get time to do all the things that we feel that we must do.

    The weather has been rather changeable here. This morning was sunny and warm and I just checked the weather radar (what a great tool to have access too) and noticed that there is a really fast moving high rainfall storm that looks set to arrive here rather soon. It looks like it is over my mates of the Big Shed fame place right now. The roof span of that building is immense and it collects a lot of rainfall. They need more water storage than we do because of the animals. I’m always amazed how much water keeping lots of farm animals requires (especially milking cows).


  4. Hi Lewis (the double secret cont…)

    It is funny you mention military surplus retailers, but when I was a kid there used to be ‘Army Disposal Shops’ (what they were called down here) stores that sold stuff the army no longer wanted. They were fascinating places and generally offered great (and solid) camping / bivouac supplies for a reasonable price. And the stuff for sale looked like genuine ex-army stuff too. Nowadays, the shops are full of new products and are mostly for camping and work safety wear. I guess there probably isn’t much of a market for the genuine used surplus supplies like there used to be.

    The descent into a giant flea market is a story of decline and fall. It makes you wonder what will be the next incarnation of the massive building? Can you make any guesses as to that future? My thinking is that the flea market won’t provide enough income in order to maintain the structure and cladding of the building.

    Slag glass is an amazing material. I noticed that etsy has quite the collection. Stay strong. 🙂 Dunno about the obelisk and the damage, it all depends upon whether you can live with the damage. I’d probably wait for a better example. Speaking of collections, the editor inadvertently stumbled across a barely used second hand high quality electric chainsaw. We nabbed it last week, so my advice about staying strong should be taken with a grain of salt. The machine was barely used, and I always wonder what sort of story went on for the people to so dispose of such a quality machine. You can’t buy them anymore, and the local farm machine repair shop can get parts for them so it’s all cool. I’d say the collection is near complete. But dare I mention that there is a ‘halo model’ which we’ve never seen for sale second hand or new. The lack of demand was probably the reason why the manufacturer (who has a big presence down under) discontinued supplying the machines. Maybe the collection isn’t quite complete yet…

    Everyone gets to enjoy a second childhood. 🙂 It’s built into the deal.

    Ah. Lime is clearly very handy stuff for all sorts of purposes. You may note that the paths here have great quantities of lime. The barge sunk and dropped our heroes into an area just off the coast of Eire that is, how should I say it? Undeveloped! Even the locals fear the natives, who sound rather warlike and hostile. I wonder if they’ll encounter the hostile natives in their journey to Athol’s kingdom? For your interest, I’ve gotten to the point wherever there is a new character mentioned, I now wonder whether they’ll be the special guest death in the book. Star Trek used a few of those characters (hardly the sign of a budding acting career). The body count is ratcheting upwards. Still, the soldiers seem rather emotionally prepared for their fate, and there is never a dull moment in the book.

    That’s a fair comment about paranoia, but I also mostly agree with your larger point about the inspections. That is the reason I’ve never made a fuss about the situation.

    There is an amusing punk rock song playing on the radio lately about a person who was purchasing illegal drugs using the cover of their VPN and the twist in the story is that a hacker stole their identity and stripped their cash. The song is called ‘Identity Theft’ and it is a cautionary tale.

    I’m not comfortable with the argument about ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ either, because it is not as if zealots haven’t occasionally risen out of the murky primordial slime and thus caused a whole raft of headaches for people who were otherwise doing nothing untoward at all.

    Do it! You never know what that lot were looking into? Lewis maybe described as ‘a person known to the authorities’. Anyway, I feel the same way about getting a copy of my credit record.

    Thanks for the article and things have clearly escalated since the days I plied that particular trade. It is interesting to me that the true value of the debt was downgraded with each step in the process. But there is something highly unethical – and also lacking somewhat in that murky world of consent – where an unconscious person is supplied trade credit. Your gubmint probably needs to bring those shysters to heel.

    It is possible. I have heard of anecdotal accounts of bankruptcy down here – and I am no expert by a long shot – that for a certain period after the declaration the person involved can live a very managed life where their every dollar of earnings (not quite but not far off) is used to apply to old and discharged debts. Some folks just need a fresh start, it is not that much to ask, surely our system is good enough to understand who is gaming the system and who isn’t?



  5. Yo, Chris – The tale of the Blue Hat, and thoughts about your city is (I think) just about the finest bit of writing you’ve done. With a few minor tweeks, I think it could be sent off for publication.

    You had a frost, and I think we’re seeing our first autumn fog, this morning. Todays ear worm is “Holiday” by the Bee-Gees. As it is Labor Day, here. It celebrates organized labor. Now, trade unions aren’t well thought of, in a lot of quarters, but the folks DO like the opportunity for a picnic. The Ladies have something planed, which I have been studiously ignoring.

    That’s a lot of work on the lower garden terrace. It’s really shaping up. You need to put up a construction sign: “Future Site of the House/Driveway Interchange.” Will it have a round-about? :-).

    That rose looks very happy in it’s new home. As you probably know, olive trees can live a thousand or two years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an almond tree, in bloom. Quit pretty.

    Maybe, if the European honey bees disappear, the mystery native pollinators might expand and fill their place? They’re probably hardier. I’ve mentioned when I had fennel, the blossoms were filled with many, mystery pollinators, going about their business. From time to time, I see a Mystery Guest. Saw a gigantic preying mantis, the other day. I realized, the other day, that I haven’t seen many of the nasty wasps, this year. Usually, I’ve got to knock a nest or two, out of the space between my door and the frame, on my truck. Not this year. I noticed a honey bee, working over my basil flowers. The one’s I didn’t nip off, to let them get more bushy.

    It’s nice to see Dame Scritchy, out and about and getting a dose of vitamin D. Is that some kind of a temple dog sculpture, behind her?

    Fungi. Ever fascinating. When I was up in Packwood, I noticed there were mushroom buying stations, being set up. Also, the little local newspaper had reports of where mushrooms were beginning to appear. And, the regulations covering the picking of mushrooms. I saw some local chantrells at the veg store. $15 a pound.

    I didn’t know that peppers were perennial, either. I looked into it a bit. I’d have to pot them, and move them, inside for the winter. (Cont.)

  6. Chris – (Cont.) Reading over your shoulder … I got curious about baking and parchment paper. So, I went to Google, that font of wisdom, where as we know, All Is True. :-). Baking and parchment paper are the same thing. But your more likely to see it called parchment paper, in the U.S..

    From last week, DJ belongs to the Equal Opportunity Legumists. I belong to a splinter group, the LLF (Legume Liberation Front.) Sometimes considered a terrorist organization, due to the frequent deployment of poison gas. 🙂
    Legume soup is all well and good, but never forget the three (or four or five) bean salad! In fact, that’s why we’re a splinter group. The point of doctrine over soup vs salad.

    I’d say the Space Needle is more of an obelisk. No one’s buried in it.

    Sky boxes are usually found in sports arenas. A low rent one is usually provided for the reporters. Then there are quit lavish suites, usually leased by corporations or very rich individuals. According to reports, often, more partying, than game watching goes on in those suites. I understand that access tickets are liberally passed out to favorite pet politicians. Influence, but no grubby (and traceable) money, changes hands.

    Next incarnation of the massive flea market building? Abandoned ruin with a squat or three, in the corners.

    Usually, if I see Etsy, in a search, I skip it. Hundreds of pictures. Usually, I can’t find whatever I was searching for. But, it’s wise to pick up the chainsaws, when you find them cheap. Even a bashed about one, can be parted out. Get enough of them, and you can teach yourself to juggle them. I understand that talent is a real show stopper, at carnivals.

    Speaking of show stoppers, my corn, if I do say so myself, is magnificent. I think it’s up around 12′, now. And, I swear, it’s still growing. I wonder if I took a picture of it, with my phone, and sent it to your com. au address, if the picture would arrive?

    It feels like I spent most of yesterday, in the kitchen. I finished off freezing the blueberries. There was rice to replenish. Lunch, dinner. I made that blackberry crisp. This time, I added three tablespoons of corn starch. Let it sit awhile and poured off about a cup of juice. That worked, and it wasn’t near so runny. But I’ve about given up on blackberries, unless I make jelly. The seeds are just too much. Lew

  7. Hello Chris
    I am most impressed by the extent of your groundworks. I am curious as to how free one is in Australia to do this sort of thing. I can’t do anything at all though admittedly I am living in a sensitive area.
    Your hat story would be very unusual here as I rarely see anyone wearing a hat.
    We do have one neighbour who complains about everything and everyone but the rest are usually fine. Oh yes, if one wants to vanish then go to a city. Here everyone on the Island knows an unbelievable amount about everyone else.
    Still hot and dry here.


  8. Hi Chris,

    Shame about the blue hat, but now it will be hanging proudly from a coat hook in England somewhere, another owner bemoaning his lack of coolness for such a jaunty piece of headgear! Did you manage a straight swap for the new hat?

    Yesterday was warm and sunny, a true taste of spring for the North of new Zealand. It is back to rainy for rest of week though, but the end of winter can’t be far away. We harvested a few tomatoes the other day! Two late planted vines lasted the whole winter.

    More changes are afoot at work, the grand strategy of 6 months ago did not survive a couple of bad months. I feel a bit drained by the whole enterprise, might be time to start planning an exit stratagem.


  9. Chris,

    Yes, the rising prices and stagnant wages is a problem. What the developers and builders consider to be affordable housing is more than I can afford. I’m glad I’m not house shopping. Other developers have been buying the low rent apartments throughout town and renovating them into higher end loft-style units. Then there’s nowhere affordable for the displaced tenants to go. They wonder why we have a lot of homeless!

    Legumes work in stews, soups, salads (3 or 5 bean and other) and in some breads. My normal mix of flours for baking is up to 50% garbanzo flour.

    Egads! first lesson in the plane? Sounds like a movie turned real.

    Several families grow food in our neighborhood. Everybody keeps trying to give away their extra squash, but we all grew our own.

    Things are supposed to cool down to circa 22C to 25C by Sunday. That’s extremely pleasant for this time of year. And congrats on grabbing a back-up electric chainsaw.

    Aesthetics and concrete and me? Not a chance. I’ll settle for functionality. If my work fixed the railings on the porch steps, I’ll be very happy.

    A few years ago, my wife and I went to a women’s professional basketball game at Key Arena in Seattle, right near the Space Needle. One of the star players was a Native American from Pendleton, Oregon. The arena was packed with Native Americans. Outside after the game, a drum appeared and people began singing and dancing. It was a nice party! Someone took a picture of my wife and me with the Space Needle centered behind us and a full moon just above the Space Needle. I don’t remember anything about the game, other than my wife’s sister and her husband were sitting directly across from us. And the party afterwards. And the picture.

    The Blue Hat story was good. I’m glad you could upgrade to an attractive, functional felt.

    Ollie doesn’t look obedient or patient in that picture. To me it looks as if he’s scoping out the nearest wombat poo to chow down. At least the Venerable Dame Scritchy found a sunny spot to eat her bone.

    I’m noticing that the wasps were getting into pollinating this year some. Not quite as many honey bees and bumblebees as the past years, but things got pollinated.

    So wallabies eat potato leaves? And they’re alive? The only thing that eats potato leaves here are the earwigs.

    Thanks for the hellebore photos. Those colors are exquisite!


  10. Hi Inge,

    Many thanks, and the project began as a single terrace, but morphed into something much greater than that once we discovered some very large rocks sitting just below the surface. The earthworks are a bit like the old story of the tortoise and hare, and we’re the tortoise because we just keep plodding along at the task until it is done.

    Well, things might be a bit different there in relation to earthworks. My only restriction is that a farm dam may outrage the notables, but other than that…

    Hat’s may well make a comeback, and I wear hats a lot of the time. What can I say, other than they’re missing out.

    The rest of the neighbours here are fine too, and he’s OK, he just whinges and complains a lot. It is not an endearing trait… But yeah, same here, everyone knows everyone else’s business, but there are benefits to that too.

    The weather station on the farm recorded 75’F today. But things are rather humid right now. How is the humidity in your part of the world?



  11. Hi Damo,

    Yes, I’d like to think so too! 🙂 I’m sort of thinking that if the bloke contacted a retailer on the other side of the planet about the blue hat, he’d probably be rather keen to sport the ‘too cool for school’ hat on his head? The Akubra is a good hat with a long Aussie tradition, but I’d forgotten what I’d originally paid for the blue hat. Add in a bit of devaluing for the two year ownership and everyone appeared happy with the arrangement. What do the old timers say? A hat on the head is worth two in the bush. 😉

    You live in an interesting climate! The latest I’ve harvested tomatoes from the dying vines was about June, and I was impressed with that. Your feat is the whole next level. 24’C here today (apparently), but the rain is returning, and it looks a bit monsoonal to me because it is forecast to turn up late afternoon for the next few days. Hmm.

    If I could share an observation? Well, I’ll take your silence as an affirmative reply. You’re a survivor. So take a cold hard look at the situation, hang in as long as you can, and survive. That’s how you get through a recession.



  12. Congratulations on your new spring bonnet! It looks like it will keep off rain, snow and sun, so an all season piece of headgear.
    I celebrated the beginning of spring by planting hundreds of seeds today. I may have gotten slightly carried away, but that’s spring for you.. I do hope you and the bees are enjoying some sunny weather. Your terraces are looking excellent. The whole place begins to resemble an Italian hill farm, especially with those olive trees..

  13. Hi Lewis,

    Thank you for saying that and I’m quite chuffed with the words. My intention was to take the reader along for the journey whilst also feeling the emotions and seeing the sights. The blog makes for excellent regular writing practice, but I’m also working out how to tell an engaging story. Turns out that it is a more complicated task than it first appears.

    Thanks for the Bee Gee’s – always cool. The Gibb brothers could have worn a blue hat with aplomb. Did the ladies eventually rope you into the Labour Day festivities? I’ll bet they’re persistent? Anyway, the Bee Gee’s have wormed their way into my ears, and they’re good. I watched a clip of them from 1998 and they owned that stage despite the song having been first performed three decades earlier.

    I hope to get another days digging over the next week, but every afternoon has rain forecast. Unthinkable acts may have take place in these testing conditions. The dreaded early rise at daybreak may have to take place. Spare a thought for me, and if I whinge that the patterns weren’t right then you’ll know and can perhaps spare me some sympathy. Desperate times, my friend.

    On the other hand, a roundabout at the end of the path would seriously mess with international visitors to the farm. You’re good.

    No, I was unaware that olive trees could live for so long. They’re a very useful and productive tree and in some other parts of the country, they’ve become a bit weedy. What an awesome weed.

    I too was considering that with the native bee / wasp. The European honey bees are not gentle with their competitors, but if an opportunity presents itself and there is an easy feed for insects, I sort of suspect that something will adapt sooner or later to take advantage of that food source, especially if the climate warms. It is possible that your growing season conditions have been too damp for wasps. That happens down here with introduced wasps. Their nests become too damp and it knocks back their population. It makes for a more pleasant growing season, don’t you reckon? They prefer dry seasons.

    Dame Scritchy was standing in front of a Chinese temple guard dog. The editor has had that sculpture since before we met.

    I assume that a ‘mushroom buying station’ is a place where a person can purchase mushrooms in the town of Packwood? Really? Such wild mushroom harvesting information is distributed on a need to know basis down here.

    Hey, me too! The chilli’s (peppers) are way dead. And it was the snowfall that did them in. I was surprised that the tea camellia’s survived the snowfall.

    Ah yes, gogle tells no lies, it is just that the database may be misinformed from time to time, and evil may occur, but it’s not our fault, we’re just a platform. I began wondering about parchment paper when I received some intriguing comments here suggesting that baking paper may possibly have silicone on it. I’d never heard of parchment paper before that discussion.

    Hehe! Gas. Yes, that’s about right. I tend to feel (in the literal sense of the word) that legumes are akin to an internal gut cleaner. There’s a bit of roughage in them thar legumes. Hopefully the LLF are not at odds with the People’s Front of Legumes (PFL)? A fearsome lot that. Hehe!

    No one’s buried in it. That you heard about. I heard differently…

    Oh, sorry the joke about the sky-box was lost on me because I had no idea and believed you were referring to your apartment window. Alas for the words were lost in translation! Down here those are described as ‘corporate boxes’. Spending an hour in one of those would be like a form of torture for me. I’d be so bored. In my younger days I used to go and watch the cricket. It is an interesting game because a test match can go for five days and sometimes it gets to a nail biting finish. For the players it would be a test of endurance, especially if the weather is feral hot – as it often is over summer.

    I agree, the search facility in etsy is not so good and the volume is huge. If ever you have a bored moment, it is worthwhile checking out the now deceased regr-etsy blog site. It was very amusing.

    Abandoned ruin sounds about right. If the occupants can’t produce enough surplus income with which to maintain the building, it’s toast.

    The cords that go with the electric chainsaws would put a real damper on the juggling act. Bummer, I guess I better stick to my day job. 🙂 The parts situation is not lost on me. It is an interesting story and over the past few years I’ve been working towards simplifying systems, although it is true that other systems have become more complex.

    12′ corn is huge. I did mention to beware of Triffids in your patch of corn. Have any of the ladies or Garden Goddess commented upon your corn patch? Well you could try. The email address here is

    Hey, I reckon the kitchen is one of the best places to partake of productive activities that save money. How did the blackberry crisp taste? Yum! Fair enough about the seeds. We usually make jam, but it is actually a conserve.

    I still have the Bee Gee’s running through my head. I just gotta get a message to you, hold on, hold on. 🙂



  14. Hi, Chris!

    “The Blue Hat” is one of your best stories – charming, and written with such grace. Your new hat is perfect; I hope it is comfortable.

    That terrace now looks like a mysterious road into the forest. It kind of seems a shame to plant anything there.

    I would say that it is really fall here, just like you are really in spring there. Leaves are changing color and slowly drifting down. The garden is winding up, being cleared out – except for the fall plantings, and we are saving seeds. We certainly could use some rain, though. There is a hurricane to the south of us; I hope it sends us some.

    That seems early for a rose to bloom.

    It is the European honey bee that shows up here first to pollinate, too. We get hundreds of them early on as a neighbor over the ridge raises bees. Besides our blooming fruit trees, they have an absolute passion for holly flowers, which bloom early, also. Once those two sorts of blossoms are done, we rarely see a European honey bee till the next spring, but we have many other species of bees and pollinators that follow them.

    My, Dame Scritchy still has such muscles, and at her age! The lion (?) behind her looks ready to gobble her up.

    I think our deer eat potato leaves; they certainly eat tomato leaves. It has been so long since we have planted any vegetables outside of the 8 foot garden fence that I can’t remember.

    The daffodils are so lovely. I will be planting some daffodil bulbs soon. Toothy, I am sorry to say that you look like a skunk in that photo.

    The emergency landing story makes it clear that it does not hurt to study your lessons!

    You commented last week about a mail mystery that you have. How creepy is that?


  15. Hi DJ,

    Yeah it is a story that makes little sense to me either. A single bedroom apartment in the big smoke (or just out of) without a car park will probably set a person back about mid $400k. Back in the day, such places were quite rudely referred to as ‘bed sits’, but times have changed. Me too about not being in that market. It’s a relief. Just prior to building the house here, the building regulations for fire risk changed and we had a bit of a fright because the extra cost they added to the build was a quite large. We ended up having to construct the house ourselves out of sheer economic necessity, that wasn’t always the plan, but plans change. The homeless problem is not good down here either (but your winters would be far worse). I hear that the homeless situation is not good in New Zealand’s large cities either.

    Thanks for mentioning the garbanzo flour. I wouldn’t have considered using bean flour. You may have just provided some thoughts for plantings this coming growing season.

    Mate, the guy has skill to have landed the plane safely. He deserves a medal or something like that.

    You’re in a good area. I can see that people would try to offload squashes as they’re quite prolific. Do they try that with zucchini / marrows? If ever I see them offered, I cut them into quarters and the chickens love them, although the skin is too hard for them (and us).

    The batten will soon be passed across the waves. 24’C here today, but it will cool and rain over the next few days. The saws are as rare as hen’s teeth, but there is no market for them down here, and I have a lot of spare electricity over summer.

    How did the cement cure? Hopefully no squirrels managed to leave their footprints in the wet cement (aka Ollie-style)? I prefer functional repairs too, if you can work aesthetics into it, cool, but it is better if whatever it is works and is more resilient than before.

    Thanks for sharing the story. There is joy in celebrations and some of the best are the spontaneous events.

    The new hat is good and very soft on my head. A cheeky scamp might suggest that I have more hat than cows, and they’d be right! Glad you enjoyed the journey through the inner city streets of Melbourne. The old parts of town are beautiful, but they’re seriously threatened by over development.

    You have sharp eyes because Ollie is learning to be obedient. It will be a long journey. Better wombat poo than cars is my thinking. He’ll turn out to be the best dog I’ve known I reckon and I never would have picked him up if I’d encountered him in his current size. But you know, he’s introduced me to a world of big dog.

    Your damp summer and spring weather would have been hard on the insects that build large nests, but plenty of pollinating insects don’t and they benefit during these sorts of seasons. The yellow jackets (as you call them) hat these sorts of damp summers, or at least they do down here.

    ‘Tes not natural that they can survive – either of them. But the facts speak for themselves. Potatoes come from South America, and once Australia was connected to South America – and we have a whole bunch of native nightshade family plants. So they may have adapted.

    The Hellebore’s are great aren’t they, and they love the deep shade and happily self seed. They do the opposite of what you’d expect and over high summer if it is hot enough, they die back only to reappear once the weather cools.



  16. Hi Chris,
    Great story and a fine solution as well. You look quite dapper in the new hat. Hopefully it won’t blow away in a high wind. We get quite a few really windy days being out here mostly in the midst of farm fields. In the winter I prefer hoods to knitted caps as the result of the tight fit is the dreaded hat hair.

    I hope Ollie hasn’t chased any more cars. Leo and Salve have been trained not to do so and when we’re on our morning walk they (usually) sit nicely at the side of the road with us when a car comes by. If someone comes up the drive though they surround the car in their excitement of the arrival of visitors. As they are both pretty large they can be pretty imposing to those who don’t know them.

    We’ve been enjoying all the young cardinals and hummingbirds the last week or so. One hummingbird hovered about a foot from my face the other day. Most of our summer visitors have moved on though.

    You and the editor much be in fantastic shape with all your physical work.


  17. Hello again
    Humidity is 80%, no sun today just clouds but still dry. I guess that you need a hat there as shade from the sun, not really necessary here unless one is bald.

    @ all
    I am re-reading, for the third time, ‘The Caravaners’ by The Countess von Arnim. I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t know it, as entertainment. Even better read with ones other half!


  18. Yo, Chris – Another autumn fog, this morning. And, yesterday, there was a “certain something” in the air, that signals “fall.”

    Old timers say, “Hats may come, and hats may go, but hats will never leave us.” Or, something like that :-).

    Re: Writing. Maybe you’ve “found your voice.” As a writer. A semi-mystical thing that is hard to describe. But now I wonder if writers speak in different voices? Dialects? :-). An essay voice, a blog voice, a fiction voice?

    No, the Ladies did not rope me into the festivities. I think (most of them), by now, know I can be quit prickly, when pushed.

    The mushroom buying stations are wholesalers who buy from the pickers and sell onto commercial outlets. Mushroom pickers are a pretty wild and wooly bunch. Rather outlaws. Very secretive about their patches. Cash transactions, so, part of the “gray” economy. Somewhere along the way, I read a book about life among the pickers. The newspaper reports of mushrooms are rather general. Something to throw to the punters.

    The People’s Front for Legumes publicly are appalled by the Legume Liberation Front’s actions. But privately cheer them on (and, provide some financial support. Safe houses, etc.)

    Juggling, flaming chainsaws? Only 8 seconds.

    Oh, the Ladies ohh and ahh over the corn. The only thing the Garden Goddess is interested in, is that I lop off the top 6 or 7 feet after harvest, bundle it, and let her use it for Fall decor, around the doors of The Institution. She also does this thing. When I planted corn, last year, she decided she needed to plant corn. Much to her chagrin, her couple of neat little rows were stunted, and produced no cobs. Same thing, this year. She’s a bit of a copy-cat. of course, I worry about contamination, as I save seed.

    The crisp turned out tasty, and firm. But I wouldn’t share it with anyone, due to the seeds. Lew

  19. @ Inge – I finished “England, Their England.” A good read. Our hero, Donald, was an appealing character. Not dim, but a bit naive and clueless. Likable. Reminded me a bit of the beginning of the film, “Shaun of the Dead.”

    I quit liked the bits where Donald goes out to the country. Aylesbury and Winchester. Very lyrical writing, and it made me quit nostalgic for a lost time and place I’ve never been.

    I requested Macdonell’s “A Visit to America,” from our libraries interlibrary loan department. I wonder if they’ll be able to unearth a copy. Not as popular as “England, Their England.” Lew

  20. Chris: PS: The books is, “The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America” (Cook, 2013). Besides the mushrooms, it’s a good snapshot of life out on the fringe of society, in America.

    For a fictionalized look at the mushroom hunters, see, “Our Lady of the Forest” by Gutterson (?). Lew

    PPS: Up to chapter XIV in “Saxon Shore.” I see your “got to get a message to you” and raise you, “In the event of something happening to me…” Still Lew

  21. @ Lew

    My wife and 3 of her siblings were at Packwood Saturday. It sounds like one could get lost there for the entire Labor Day weekend.


  22. During the winter, the City opens some warming shelters. Several churches and some other organizations also open their doors. There’s still not enough space to go around.

    I’m enjoying baking with the garbanzo flour. It lowers the amount of carbs in the bread compared with grains, while also adding some additional fiber. The combinations are allegedly a more complete protein. My gluten free stuff seems to hold together better with the garbanzo flour, plus I’ll add extra butter or oil to help it hold together. So far no complaints about flavor, even from Picky Eater.

    A medal and maybe he should be the flight instructor.

    Oh, yeah, trying to pawn off zucchini is the worst. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were small with tender skin, but people wait until they are big enough to subdue King Kong before trying to get rid of them. And the skin is about as hard as wood by that time. “But think of all the zucchini bread you can make!” is also stated. My reply is that I don’t like zucchini bread and my wife will beat me senseless if I try to give some to her. That works until the next year, when the cycle starts anew.

    The cement is 99% good. Everything seems solid, the railings don’t wobble and are attached several inches into the concrete. There are a few hairline surface cracks on an additional layer I added at two places. I just finished applying crack seal to these. Those posts are well into the good concrete, and the stuff with the cracks was more for esthetics (a smoother look) than functionality. Next step is to apply some sealant before the real autumn rains start.

    Good that Ollie is starting to figure it out. Dog versus car never ends well for the dog.

    Everybody forgets that Australia was once part of the Americas. Some of the youngsters at the job think I’m old enough to have watched Australia separate and sail across the Pacific. I just smile and offer them a pterodactyl claw and a Polaroid photo of me with my pet T Rex taken when I was only 4 years old.

    I’ll have to see if some hellebores will work here. I’ve got one shaded flower bed that I need some shady characters to fill.


  23. Hi Chris,

    You say two years of devaluing, I say two years of curation, restoration and value addition 🙂 But either way, you now have a hat on your head, surely a preferable situation to the alternative.

    24 degrees is nice, I was in QLD a few weeks back and it was clear blue skies, 24 degrees every day. Perfect, unless you need to grow something (they have not had rain worth mentioning all year). I think this time of year is the most pleasant in Australia, before the hot really seeps in. Right now, the rains and wind are back in Auckland. Our rainwater tank has being basically overflowing most of winter (there is a secondary tank we have never pumped from as well).

    I second the others comments on your writing this week – good stuff and it evoked walking down Melbourne streets for me. My sister lives in Brunswick which still has a lot of older terrace houses around.

    I hear you about the work situation. I had a rant to few friends and Mrs Damo last night. The treatment of other staff is very poor, but so far it does not directly impact me or my work responsibilities. I weighed up options, and concluded that my long term goals are still best served by finishing off my contract here, so remain it is! I did offer myself an escape clause, if things get more dire by Christmas, then that makes as good an end date as any.

    Diet update: packed lunches and cooked meals on the road worked well. Keto program has 4 days left, I don’t feel unwell or report any noticeable side effects, barring the come down and hangover on first saturday (few drinks of gin had much bigger impact then expected). Weight loss, little lower than I hoped, but should shake out at around 3kg (from a start of 84kg). I guess that is alright, I was never hungry during the month.

    Next month, back on regular varied diet, but with portion control and tracking using the system I used to track carbs for the past month. I would like to lose another 3kg, and it will be interesting to compare results and experience.


  24. Hi Jo,

    Glad to read that you survived your leech incident. Dare I mention that things were OK before the incident? Well, you kind of have to laugh at tough lessons learned without too much trauma, and you’ll be fine in the future.

    As a gentle suggestion, given you muck around in the soil a bit now, it might not be a bad idea to get your tetanus shot up to date. They can do them at the chemist for only a few bucks. The bacteria Clostridium is unfortunately all over the place, and you’d probably know the smell if you ever encountered it. That bacteria was one of the reasons I rebuilt the chicken enclosure a few years back.

    Bonnet indeed! 🙂 Hehe! I would not enjoy the Handmaids world and would probably take decisive action if confronted by such an ongoing series of outrages. The editor has been watching this show and I hear about it second hand.



  25. Hi Pam,

    Thank you and it is a pleasure to create and share with such lovely people as yourselves. 🙂 The new hat is much softer on my head. Who needs headaches? But truly, the blue was too cool for school.

    Hehe! I’d never thought of the terraces that way before. Perceptions may not be the same again, but plant it up we shall! DJ has got me thinking about beans and legumes.

    Did the hurricane send any rain your way? It is apparently very slow moving, but I checked our news websites and didn’t see anything. Yesterday there were photos of a ‘Florida man’ enjoying the sun on the beach among other people. He might be onto something. But yeah, the weather is rapidly changing, I like the in between seasons as there are less extremes, unless you’re in Florida…

    The rose has only been in the ground for two weeks. Hmm, I checked the DNA and it does have a bit of Triffid in there. I hope none of the roses were mislabelled and we’ve planted a climbing rose on that terrace. Imagine one of those plants taking over the terrace.

    That is my experience with the bees too, although I plant a lot of flowering plants for them to forage for the rest of the season. They can fly for about maybe 3 miles from the hive in order to forage, so no doubts there isn’t much else around for them to eat at that time of the year.

    Dame Scritchy need not fear the Chinese temple guard dog, she’s as tough as old boots that dog. My mum told me to always deduct at least a decade whenever speaking of a ladies age. It was probably the best advice she gave me, and so that makes Dame Scritchy about 8. 🙂

    Deer and wallabies… Voracious grazers, but then they probably feel that we are too.

    I’m frankly glad that we don’t have skunks down here, and I’ve noticed that the Daffodils do better where they have damp feet.

    The mail mystery is interesting, but I’ll pass up on investigating on the grounds that I’m aware of the situation and it is known and things could always get worse.



  26. Hi everyone,

    It is the dreaded mid-week hiatus, and the plan is to get up early and dig tomorrow for rain is due late afternoon and for the next few days. The weather has intervened and early mornings are never good… Will speak tomorrow.



  27. @ Margaret:

    You are so sweet that the hummingbird mistook you for a flower.

    “Hat hair” – that’s a funny one.

    My son has waged a huge war on weeds this summer. One that he has attacked with a great deal of vengeance is crabgrass – we are talking garden, not lawn – but it is not allowed in the lawn either. Since we are all-organic the wretched stuff has to be pulled by hand. This made me think of you and how your mother paid you for pulling weeds, while carefully checking to be sure that you had gotten the roots. My orders are the same (though I don’t get paid): Roots must be out of the ground AND – get this – no seeds must be left about. I am suppose to put any random crabgrasses that I pull into my pocket and throw the seeds into the garbage can. Safe to say, I sometimes cheat . . .


  28. Hi Lewis,

    The in between seasons always put on a great fog show. Your coastline all the way down to the southern tip of South America at Patagonia is famous for its fogs! But yeah, I can smell the change in seasons too. In the big smoke today, there was a monsoonal storm where a brief but very heavy rain storm dumped a lot of water. The editor and I were enjoying dinner and sitting under an outdoor awning, which kept the rain off us. Dinner was Fettucine Primavera (basically a tomato based vegetable sauce) and the editor chose a Calzone (which had oodles of cheese, salami and bacon). I tend to feel that Calzone is an Italian pastie (you may not have those bakery products). 😉 It was very civilised, and best of all we stayed dry when the rain poured down.

    The old timers are of course correct! I can’t recall discussing hats with you before, but I’m thinking that you have at least one cap? You can’t be seen driving the Ranger without a proper cap. It is just not cricket, ole chap! 🙂

    Maybe about the voice, but I don’t know, as I may want to write a thumping good rant from time to time and talk of emotions and loss and courage might not work well in such a format? Dunno. It is a mystical thing an author’s voice, but something also tells me that it can be a trap. What do you reckon about that? Does that sound like a possible pitfall? It can be a strength too, but my mind shies away a bit from the implications.

    Good for you, and your powers for ducking and weaving are clearly superior to my own. On some occasions if I’m not keeping my guard up, and staying sharp I’ve been roped into things. And then there are those who ask for an inch and take a mile. They’re particular skill set involves not disclosing the full details of a request, which usually begins rather innocuously.

    The mushroom hunters sound a lot like the mysterious truffle hunting and growing brigade. Don’t get involved in their business is probably the best advice! But you already knew that!

    Hopefully the various Leguminous factions drop their mutual enmities in the face of Roman oppression? The Monty Python folk sure knew their history. I forget, did you plant many beans this growing season?

    Out of sheer curiosity, other than being competitive in the garden, did the Garden Goddess ever discuss how or why your corn did so well in the face of her attempts?

    You probably grow a different blackberry than the ones we grow here. Sure they have seeds, but they seem no worse than raspberry seeds to me. The crisp sounds yummo!



  29. Hi Inge,

    Politics in your country has taken a rather strange turn of late. The situation is providing for some fine theatre. The public in your country may become very irritated soon and wonder what the politicians are getting paid to do. They appear to have forgotten to represent their electorates. Hope you are enjoying the spectacle?



  30. Hello again
    I am indeed enjoying the theatre of our current politics. I watched and listened to the whole of prime minister’s question time this morning. Many of the populace are extremely angry but British anger is more muted than French anger.


    @ Lew
    I have not read ‘A visit to America’. If the library finds a copy for you, I shall be interested to know whether you think it worth me trying to get hold of a copy.


  31. Yo, Chris – Nope. Pasties are not thick on the ground here. But, I told you the story of the bar I worked in, where the elderly Welsh lady used to bring in home made Cornish pasties. Even after all these years … We have some abomination called a (hot) pocket. Haven’t gone near the things. A nuke-able bit of something, available at every gas station and stop-and-go.

    Oh, yeah. We’ve talked hats. I’ve got two, both gimme hats (baseball caps) from feed stores. One is my garden cap that is all bleached out and beat to heck. The other is my “go to town hat.” I also have a straw, cowboy type of hat, but have never had the guts to wear it. Oh, and in winter, a dark blue stocking cap. Keeps my ears warm. There are some caps I quit like, but as with present company, just can’t quit pull them off.

    Maybe an author’s voice is like singing? One must develop “range?”

    Let’s see. I’ve got the green beans. Then I planted the red beans. I’ll get some, but don’t know how many, as they are hidden in among the corn and tomatoes. They really need to dry on the vine, anyway.

    The G.G. (Garden Goddess) and I have discussed my garden vs hers, and I keep thumping about soil. She complains of her soil, but adds little or know organic stuff to it (unless she can dragoon someone into humping in some mushroom compost or cattle poo), generally depending on using commercial fertilizers, and weird folk wisdom like throwing epsom salt, everywhere. Part of that is because of her ever advancing decrepitude. Aggravated by taking on too large of a garden. She buried kitchen scraps, two or three times, and that was that.

    Well. It all becomes horribly clear … My tomatillos haven’t put on much growth, but did start to flower. The plants were given to me by Julia. This morning, I noticed a “fruit” of some kind, growing among the leaves. I think it’s a green pepper! Looking with new eyes, at the plant, it all becomes terribly clear. Boy, will I be razzing Julia, next time I see her :-).

    Up to chapter XVIII, of “Saxon Shore.” The saga, continues. Lew

  32. Hi Margaret,

    🙂 The new hat is good and much softer being rabbit pelt. So, all up I consider swapping of an unworn hat (which was too cool for me to wear, but also physically uncomfortable) to a new and serviceable hat to be a bit of a win. Blowing away in the wind is a problem for any hat. Hoods and jackets are great for the winter too. Your winters are very cold compared to the mild climate here, but even so, I do know of people living here who grew up further north than where you are, and after a few years, they begin to become just like a local and complain about the cold winter weather down here. It is funny how you acclimate to where you live.

    Leo and Salve have set the bar high for good behaviour. He was out all day today and didn’t chase a single car. The rain didn’t eventuate today and so we dug and moved soil all day long… The editor suggested that perhaps Ollie thought that I was in one of those cars and that is why he took after them? Dunno. Leo and Salve are clearly enjoying their work by doing that trick to unknown visitors.

    How are the bird feeders going up in the trees? Are you able to easily refill them?

    Thanks and we’ve got endurance that’s for sure (did about seven hours of digging and moving soil today). The sort of work we do here on the farm doesn’t bulk you up with musculature like a lot of steroid taking stereotypes. To be frank, I’m unsure what sort of exercise regime one would have to do to achieve that look. When I see older movies the people tend to look more like myself being lean but not cut like people expect nowadays.



  33. Hi Lewis,

    You’ve clearly guessed my program for this evening with your shorter comment! Mate, we got up at dawn and got into digging about 9am and by 6pm this evening I was physically tired. The project is coming along nicely and at one end of the lower garden terrace, we’ve even completed a short section of about six feet. There’s probably another day or two days of digging to go. However, as things turn out, we decided to create a much wider terrace on the third and highest terrace where the currants were to be planted out. It wasn’t obvious earlier, but it seems like the right thing to do.

    Yeah, well Cornish pasties are what pasties down here generally look like. They’re quite widely available and often I prefer them to pies, especially with a good dollop of tomato sauce over the pastry. Yum! And yeah, when they’re good, they’re really good! Perhaps it is time you re-engineered some in the kitchen? They make good winter food.

    Gas station food is not usually renowned for its excellence, although I’d be prepared to be surprised, but mostly the emotion of disappointment would accompany such adventures! Hot pockets sound a bit dodgy to me…

    Ooooo! Yeah, ‘range’ that sounds like a much better way to describe an authors voice. Thanks.

    Good to hear about the green and red beans, and also that they dry on the vine. Makes preserving them easy. Do you freeze them or just keep them in a cool and dark place for the winter and spring?

    Ah, the Garden Goddess is addicted to chemical based agriculture. I see, well you know initially it would work very well and then there’d be diminishing returns. I’d take a peek and see whether her plots are holding any water in the soil or worms? That’s usually a dead giveaway. Some people like their stuff to add though, but you’d think seeing the huge corn, she’d admit defeat and get curious about what was going on? Dunno.

    Ouch! Julia has some explaining to do!!! Hehe!



  34. @Pam

    Sweeter than a flower – not likely haha. Seriously I think these young hummingbirds are just exploring like all young. They are hovering around windows, in the garage and just everywhere.

    Your son is a harsh taskmaster. Do you mulch the garden? It sure cuts down weeds and keeps the soil moist so any weeds, even crabgrass is easy to pull.


  35. Hello again
    There is an ongoing attempt to reintroduce sea eagles to the south coast. 6 were released on the Island about 2 weeks ago. One of them named Culver spent the 1st week circling the Island and then took off. He followed the shortest ferry route to the mainland. Flew over London out to the east coast, then south and is now on the way back (to the Island?). I am really wondering about the intelligence of these birds. I reckon that they said ‘you are the strongest of us, so you do the reconnoitre’. The bird was brought from way north on the island of Skye. One can follow this on the internet. Am now going to get the address for you.


  36. and again
    Here we are: Culver archives – Roy Dennis wildlife foundation. There are maps of the bird’s flight each day. I am finding it quite fascinating.


  37. Chris:

    The other night – night, mind you; that’s so creepy – my son met up with the venomous copperhead snake that we never caught last year. Luckily, this time he had a large splitting maul to hand. He called me in to help identify it, and it was a copperhead. There was the head, with a couple of inches of body, and for 10 minutes I watched it watch us, flicking its tongue, and trying to move that two inches of body towards us. That was enough for me. I don’t know how long it went on. Two hours later the rest of the body had already been carried off by some wild animal.

    Last week when I mentioned propagating rose cuttings I think I forgot to mention that I do so in pots, not in the ground. It is the only way to insure that they stay constantly moist.


  38. Hi Chris,

    It has been a busy few weeks here, between the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden and various health issues my mother-in-law has had.

    Most of the busyness of the JFest is due to Mike’s being in charge of his Zen center’s food booth. Food booths are open from about 10am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm on Monday (Labor Day). The weather was nearly perfect all three days and so attendance was very high, near to or breaking a record – somewhere around 40,000 people. With a limited number of food booths and a high entrance fee to the festival (so attendees generally stay long enough to eat at least one meal), there is serious money to be made, and the food booth made serious money. Making serious money requires serious work. It’s equivalent to opening, running, and then closing a fast food restaurant over the long weekend. It’s work Mike and I are familiar with as the previous Zen center that we both belonged to ran a food booth at JFest each year, and during most of the time we were there Mike and I organized the effort together.

    During the two weeks before the festival, Mike inventories equipment and purchases more as needed. Another person handles food purchases. Mike also is the Zen center’s rep to the nonprofit Japan America Society that organizes the JFest with help from the Garden, and more specifically he helped with putting up decorations on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. This took both mornings. Then he was in charge of one of the three main dishes the Zen center sold at the JFest. He and others set up the food booth on Friday morning and afternoon. He arrived around 8am to work at the booth and didn’t get home till after 9pm on Saturday and Sunday (got home earlier on Monday, after 7pm). This Tuesday he went back to help take the decorations down in the morning. Meanwhile, I volunteered at a T shirt sales table Monday afternoon and then helped the Zen center load up all the equipment and return it to the center, so I was there all day Monday too.

    While the pre-festival work was going on, my 92 year old MIL was in the hospital for observation twice. The first time (Aug. 21) she went because her mouth and throat got so dry she couldn’t eat. They kept her for most of three days, till she was eating soft foods, then released her back to her apartment (she is in independent living in a senior center). In between working on festival stuff Mike visited her and did his best to make sure she was eating something. In the early morning of the 28th she fell; Mike went over and waited with her till the EMTs got there and picked her back up. Then in the afternoon she couldn’t move, so the EMTs came again and took her to the hospital. This time her blood sugar had crashed too low (she has diabetes); she was taking too much insulin for what little she was eating. While in the hospital she started eating harder food again, but the hospital didn’t do anything to increase her strength. So Mike arranged for her to go into a rehab center from the hospital for therapy to increase strength, which needs to happen if she’s going to continue to live independently. Because she was released on Saturday when Mike was working at JFest and he had our only car, a friend of ours took me to the hospital so I could get her admitted into the rehab center.

    She’s still in the rehab center, with her condition varying. While she continues to eat something and is getting therapy, she isn’t ready to go back into her apartment. In fact, she fell again early yesterday morning, which Mike is pointing out to her as reason to stay in rehab. Here’s the problem: she’s mentally competent at the same time as she’s physically weak, and she is dead set against going into assisted living. So we’re trying the gaining-strength route to see if she can improve enough to go back to her apartment.

    This should give you an idea of what our last few weeks have been like. Hard to say what the next few weeks will bring. If you don’t hear from me much for awhile, that will be why.


  39. Yo, Chris – I liked my Cornish pasty with a good dollop of sour cream and a shot of horseradish mustard. Plane yogurt would also be good, I think. I should have a good amount of carrots and potatoes, this winter. I’ve got numerous British cookbooks. I may give them a whirl, when the weather cools down.

    Well, the green beans (you might call them string beans, down there), I cut up and freeze. It was quit by accident that I discovered that I could let a vine or two go to dry, to get seed for next year. The red beans store dry. So, I’ll let them go as long as possible, on the vine. Might have to shell and spread them on newspaper for a week or two. Just to make sure they’re REALLY dry.

    I watched the new “Godzilla” movie, last night. Kind of silly. Very “Pacific Rim.” Heavy on ecological “message.” Oh, well. It was a good excuse to eat ice cream and sweet potato and beet crisps. Which I can almost convince myself are healthy, if I don’t look at the ingredients. :-).

    I suppose you’ve heard about the lady, vegan, massage therapist, up in Perth, who’s taking a case against her neighbors, all the way to your supreme court. She claims to be overwhelmed by the odor of them barbecuing MEAT! (the horror, the horror) and fish. They also have the audacity to SMOKE! (More horror). And bounce a basket ball! I think the story is getting a lot of play here, as a cautionary tale of what will happen if “those people” (liberals), gain control of government.

    Well, the big news here is that one of the Ladies (who is more or less, compos mentis) saw a cougar, on the road between the Institution and the park, up slope from us. And, not just a glimpse. A good long look. Around 5:30 in the afternoon. It was reported to the Fish and Game, service. When I took HRH out to do her business, after dark, we changed routine a bit and used an area that was better lit and with better sight lines.

    Glad I did, as I saw one of the homeless fellows, who lives rough, heading up to the woods. I warned him off, and told him, as the cougars range through, it might be an idea to find different digs, for a few days. He seemed grateful for the information. By the time HRH was done going about her business, he had been joined by two or three other people, and they were deep in conversation. So, the word will spread.

    I figure the cougar must be attracted by our many deer. Or, maybe the porky, well fed young Boy Scouts (Boy Guides?) who have a small lodge, at the edge of the park. Interesting, while I was out, I heard an odd sound from the woods. Twice I heard a kind of low screech. Not a sound I’d heard before. Lew

  40. @ DJSpo – Interesting that I just missed your wife (by a week or two) in Packwood. Yup. It was the annual Labor Day weekend, flea market. I’ve never been. Somehow, 20 miles of flea market on a two lane blacktop road, with thousands of people attending, does not appeal. :-). Lew

    PS: Will probably be watching “Lost Viking Army”, tonight. The library coughed it up, yesterday.

  41. Hi DJ,

    Not good about the homeless during your winter. Out of curiosity, I assume the same conditions occur during your hot and dry summers (with fire risk) for the same people? It is cold and wet down here right now, but in the far north and east of the continent, they’re having really dry and hot conditions with bushfires.

    Thanks for the suggestion about beans and how useful a plant they are. Today we purchased a large selection of seeds for the coming growing season, and a couple of bags of mixed heritage beans were part of that purchase. We did save some seeds from last season, but it is nice to trial new varieties as you never quite know what you’re going to enjoy, and more importantly, what will grow easily here. I imagine you have tested random varieties of plants for your area over the years?

    > “A medal and maybe he should be the flight instructor. “ Not to make light of an arduous situation, but it is a bit ‘top gun’ don’t you reckon? 🙂

    Yeah, exactly about the zucchini (courgettes). I can’t eat the thick skins, you can’t eat the thick skins, the dogs can’t eat the thick skins, and the chooks, well let’s just say that the odds are against them. I once tried blitzing the thick skins in the food processor, and even a 2kW motor with ultra sharp cutting blades protested at the might of the thick zucchini skins. So, faced with stuff that might produce great dark ages leather, I chucked the stuff into the worm farm because nothing can withstand the might of the tiny worms. It is very wise of you to take note of the preferences of your lady and whilst not treating them as inviolate choices, you wisely wove the path of the usually forsaken middle ground. Respect!

    Nice to hear about the cement. What is this sealant that you write of, and what is it sealing? Hopefully no seals are harmed in the process?

    The editor believes that Ollie was looking for me in the cars that he was chasing. Nonetheless, he is being trained.

    Who can forget Polaroids? Digital cameras have pre-empted them but you know they were an OK technology too. Hey, try talking to the kids about Triffids or Tribbles and watch the responses…

    Hellebore’s might survive your winters. Cyclamen’s might do well too.



  42. Hi Damo,

    Yet again, you prove that spin is of some value with the mention of: “two years of curation, restoration and value addition”. Nice one, and it would be nice as if dust and disuse can add value. On the other hand you might be onto something, and it ties in nicely with some of the benefits of MMT and asset value appreciation. If we extend your thoughts a little bit we might get: Hat Appreciation Price Look Extra Special Solution (otherwise known as HAPLESS). It is the dark economic situation where financial assets, such as hats, do nothing interesting in particular, but appreciate in monetary value. Academic careers maybe won for those brave enough to argue the merits of the new theory!

    It is not nice in south east QLD right now… Bushfires rage across southern Queensland. Hope your folks are OK up there?

    Far out, it stops raining in Auckland for four weeks and a drought is declared. 🙂 Mate, last summer was not good here on that front and the long term forecasts for this summer look very uncool! The water tanks are full right now, but who knows what tomorrow may bring.

    Thanks. And Brunswick is not far at all from my usual big smoke haunts in the inner north. Your sister lives in a nice part of the world.

    In relation to your ranting about work, please do extend my sympathies to Mrs Damo! The only thing to remember with such groups is that if whatever they do to others, they’ll happily do to you if given half the chance. You’re your own keeper and I respect that, but a word to the wise, if circumstances change and the focus gets turned on you, bolt for the exit door (or look and act like it would be a loss for them if you did so). Be alert.

    Top work with the packed lunches and cooked dinners whilst on the road. Good stuff. Portion control is perhaps the best long term stratagem. It is often filed under the label of: ‘boring but important’. And who wants that?



  43. Hi Inge,

    Down here we are of a similar mindset in relation to the restraint of anger at the political antics. The theatre they provide is quite entertaining, but I have a suspicion that the current incumbents will not fare so well should they somehow ignore the results of a referendum.

    I mean once a complicated question is put before the electorate and the outcome is decided, in my mind, the politicians job then becomes enacting the will of the people, and not pursuing their own goals and agendas which may run contrary to that choice.

    Interestingly, we had a similar conundrum down here within the last few years, and it related to the introduction of the legislation for same sex marriage. Regardless of whatever your opinion may be upon the subject, the politicians were feral as they listened to various interest groups and their own biases. In the end a plebiscite was provided (a formal survey of the will of the populace rather, than a referendum which can change the constitution). The population overwhelmingly voted in favour, and the politicians just had to shut up, stop their monkey business and get on with implementing the will of the populace. It is one thing to decry the outcome of a plebiscite (which is basically an $80m survey), it is another altogether thing altogether to defy or prevaricate upon a referendum result. I cannot recall another time when this has been the case. Should they not enact the will of the populace, I suspect there will be a backlash upon the sitting members and muted anger often displays itself in the privacy of the voting booth.

    Yes, similar attempts at the reintroduction of species in various locales have been attempted down here too. As a kid I recall that efforts were made to reintroduce the Cape Barren Geese into the national park at Wilson’s Promontory. I remember watching films of earnest looking people placing breeding pairs of the geese into suitable locations within the national park. I’m not sure that it ended up so well down here either. My thoughts on the subject is that if conditions are right, the birds and animals will extend their range into those areas, but until then… Birds are particularly amazing in that they can find their way back home again. I suspect that they sense the world differently from us humans.



  44. Hi Pam,

    Your son was fortunate not to have been bitten by the copperhead. And the snake was no doubt more discomfited by the situation than yourselves. 🙂 As a disclaimer, I’m intending to work in the surrounding forest tomorrow, but snakes here are rare, but not out of the question either as a distinct possibility. The Kookaburra’s are quite handy at feeding upon them, and I do rely on those birds for that particular purpose.

    Maybe it is just me, but I have read far too many Conan stories written by the author Robert E Howard, where the opponent to be overcome (hint, the hero always triumphed in the stories) was a representation of an evil snake god. All up the reptiles get a bad rap, but do they really have to be so poisonous?

    Ah, alas for the lack of water here during summer. I’d really struggle getting cuttings to take if they required to be placed in constantly moist soil. A year or two back I went to an excellent summer bud grafting course at a nearby orchard and they too took cuttings of fruit trees and ensured they were kept moist for six hours per day… Hmm. That would be difficult here. On the other hand the bud grafting is much easier. I would think that new varieties would require raising plants from seedlings?



  45. Hi Claire,

    I hope you both enjoyed the work at the food booth, and in your case the merch (t-shirt) stall? It can be fun interacting with the public during such events, but I sure would enjoy some serious quiet time after working those sorts of hours with the public. There is a reason I enjoy living up in the remote forest! And it is difficult, but I’ve long since noted that mad cash rarely comes for free. 😉 I assume the food was vegetarian, which I probably would have seriously enjoyed consuming? And I do hope that the public also enjoyed the food?

    40,000 people is a great turn out for the event and it is nice that there are so many supporters of the festival and the Japan America Society. And Mike was also involved in the bump-in and bump-out and you worked at loading. Far out! Claire, reading all that I’m feeling tired, the forest animals rarely ask that much of me! 🙂

    Hope you both remember to get some quiet time to spend ambling around the garden pretending to be busy, whilst in actual fact you’re busy doing not much at all!

    I’m so sorry to hear of your mother in laws ailing health. I feel that it would be dishonest of me to sugar coat my reply to you, and all I can add is that such a time is hard on everyone involved. I totally understand, and you have my sympathies. Please remember to go easy on Mike as the loss of a parent (or in your case facing the eventual final act) often brings home just how fleeting and tenuous life can be. The realisation can profoundly affect people and everyone grieves differently and you can never know in advance how things will eventuate, sorry to say.

    Yours sincerely,


  46. Hi Margaret,

    Dare I mention that a third and highest terrace was borne out of an idea yesterday? This excavation process business has been epic.

    Hope you are doing well. The chickens here are now laying four eggs per day as of a few days ago. We’re talking of plans to get another three or so point of lay chickens in the future as the egg count has been very sad of late. I won’t mention that we now have a ‘no more Silky chicken policy’…

    Oh yes, I digress as is usual. A few days ago I managed to watch: WATCH: The Battle Against Climate Change by Paul Kingsnorth. I very much enjoyed watching the short film and his take on the world. He’s travelled a strange path.



  47. Hi Lewis,

    Delightful and Yummo! Sour cream and horseradish mustard (err, sauce?) sound like a truly interesting and very tasty combination – and it sure would beat plain old tomato sauce. Plus it would clear your sinuses, free of any additional charge. I love horseradish and have a huge patch of the stuff growing here. I reckon it would do very well in your part of the world too, although I can’t recall whether you grow any or not? The plant has a propensity to take over whatever place it finds itself in… In autumn I take a handful of the horseradish roots to a client who loves the stuff. It is fiery.

    Yeah, pasties are a cool weather food though, what with all the baking that needs to take place. Not for a kitchen on a hot day. It is funny that you mention British cooking, but the first time I encountered Hot English sauce, it nearly blew my head off. Clearly the stuff was loaded with horseradish. French mustard on the other hand is very mild, and the difference was not at all as per my expectations of my understanding of the cultural differences.

    Took a trip to the nearby garden club today to pick up various seeds for the upcoming growing season. It was a good day for the trip because it was cold, wet and generally unpleasant to be outside. Of course, the rumours are true, there is now another garden terrace unfolding out of thios epic earthworks project. Nomenclature may have to change from upper and lower, to upper and lower with a mid garden terrace! We also gave up on the single sick looking rose and replaced it with a fragrant variety that apparently has orange flowers. The blue rose is an elusive beast and may in fact be fiction?

    Your bean drying on the vine experiment has much to commend itself. Less work for a start! But, I’m guessing it mimics the beans natural growth cycle? But yeah, really dry is not so easily obtained and seeds rapidly mould if not stored with a low moisture content. I leave my lot out in the sun to dry on paper in a cardboard box. Ollie ransacked such a box in his early days at the farm (he was previously significantly underfed). I was impressed at his foraging skills, but at the same time unimpressed that he’d consumed some of my seed stock.

    Sweet potato and beet doesn’t sound too nutritionally questionable to me either. However, my brain did gloss over the other items which may or may not have been included in your text. I failed to notice them for some reason! Hey, I had a chunk of treacle cake today. Far out, it was good.

    I hadn’t heard of this person in Perth at all. I cannot understand the angst whereby such a situation would escalate all the way to apparently the supreme court. It seems like an astounding thing to do. How does anyone pay for such legal action? There is a story there. The person in question apparently lost her case, so the liberals probably sided with the ‘reasonable person’ test. I wonder if the results of the case ever get relayed to the spell bound viewing public over in your part of the world?

    Reading chapter XV (just to keep in Roman mode) and a huge bear stumbled into the midst of a cavalry demonstration. Talk about making a good first impression! There is never a dull moment in the story. Incidentally, plenty of animals and other things can kill a person dead here, but very few of them will rend a person limb from limb. Cougars in urban areas? Far out! Not to mention bears!!! Don’t hang around for a selfie seems like good advice when confronted with such a behemoth of nature.

    Very wise to alter your regular course and stick to well lit areas. Mind you, all you have to do is outrun HRH, but I reckon she’ll be pretty fast. Explaining the situation to Eleanor regarding what happened to HRH may be an entirely different matter.

    It is good that there is a ‘bush telegraph’ for people living rough in your part of the world, and it was a thoughtful act on your part.

    Hehe! Bad Lewis! Hehe! Mate, you already would have felt jumpy, but hearing a low screech sound emanating from the woods at night would have only have added to the situation. It is funny but you do get used to the sounds of the forest at night and the strange grunting noise (aka Razorback the feral boar) is actually a koala bear complaining about some rubbish or other in a nearby tree. Hardly a danger, but then you hear the blood curdling sound of a vixen scream, and I can seriously understand how the night held terrors of the unknown for our forebears.

    Today it was cold and wet, and just a very unpleasant day to be outside. Far off in the north east of the continent, after the prolonged drought, they’re having bushfires after a catastrophic fire weather day today: Bushfires rage across southern Queensland. A timely reminder. Gonna do a bit of clean up work tomorrow.



  48. Hi Chris,
    Yes all is well here. Glad to hear those chickens are earning their keep. Have you ever had Black Australorps? They lay quite well in the winter and have a calm, friendly personality. They are quite large though.

    I did see that video. I sent this article to my book club of his, “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist”

    Most thought he was being selfish just going off and living his life and eschewing the whole activist thing. Of course they all pretty much think renewables will save us all. Speaking of renewables here are a couple of articles you might find of interest.


  49. Yo, Chris – Oh, yeah. I have a patch of horseradish. Didn’t harvest any root, last year, as I wanted to let it get established. Have put some leaves in salads. Nice and mildly spicy. Our “off the shelf” horseradish mustard is pretty wimpy.

    So, we’ll have the LGT, the MGT and the UGT. You’ll have to include a little abbreviation key, to your blog :-).

    According to the talk around The Club, there’s been cougar sightings from here, out to where I used to live, over the last week or so. Yup. That was a pretty exciting bit of business, with Merlin and the bear. And Merlin finds himself in that situation where everyone is oohing and ahhing over his prowess, when besting the bear was pretty much dumb luck. I’m sure you’ve been in that situation before (not involving cougars or bears) where you manage to pull off some big of cleverness, and everyone around you thinks you really knew what you were doing. And, if you claim dumb luck, and no planning on your part, everyone thinks you’re just being modest. After a certain point, you just shrug and let the aqualades (sp?), fall where they may. And try not to get to full of yourself. Kind of like my “gardening.”

    Took a break from Merlin, last night. I watched “The Lost Viking Army”. Quit good, I thought, but then I like just about any kind of archaeology documentary. Also watched “Queen of the Sun” which is about bees. A bit new age-y, but mostly pretty palatable. Lots of interesting hives were shown. Both historic models and modern riffs. The documentary was world wide in scope, and (to me) it seemed there was quit a bit about the state of bees, in Australia and New Zealand. I am also dipping a bit into a thin novel, “Starship Titanic,” by Douglas Adams. His usual madness.

    You might enjoy this. It’s a photo essay (long on photo, short on essay) of Washington State. Both my side of the mountains, and DJ’s. There’s a nice shot of the north side of our volcano (Mt. St. Helens), though it really doesn’t capture the scale of the thing.


  50. Hi Margaret,

    Yes, I have had a couple of black Australorps over the years, and they’re quite good chickens. They’re a very relaxed breed and they lay quite well. Of the two that I’ve had in the chicken collective, neither have been particularly long lived which is cool, but they were far longer lived than the commercial Isa Brown varieties. One thing I noted with the breed is that they had slightly shorter legs than say, Indian game chickens, and that impacted a little bit upon their propensity to pick up scaly leg mites. But they seem like a good dual purpose bird.

    The new boss chicken seems to be the young Faverolles chicken, and she’s quite plucky! And in a really strange turn of events, the chickens and the magpies appear to have come to some sort of truce whereby they’ll all forage together. Up until only recently, the magpies swooped the chickens, but some of the chickens have been slowly fighting back and going the hack on the magpies and now they all seem OK together.

    Thanks for the link to the article in Orion magazine and I’ll have a read after replying. He’s a good author. But yeah, the whole selfish thing is a big call. I’ve had that comment spat at me too and it is not pleasant to encounter. What do people expect? I dunno. I’ve marched in big protest marches too, and noted that my opinions were blithely ignored. When faced with that outcome, a person sort of takes a cold hard look at the world and asks the hard question: ‘what next’?

    Thanks for the other two articles. Rare Earth metals are from what I understand relatively common, they’re just very diffuse, much like gold in the ocean where there is heaps of the stuff, you just can’t make a buck by extracting it.

    Renewable energy systems are good, they’re just not good enough. Today I noted that the solar panels were producing just shy of their maximum output. But then every twenty minutes or so, a band of rain swept up from the valley. The output from the solar panels then dropped to about 5% of their rated output during the heavy cloud and rain. However, the rain clouds passed and the sun shone again and the output from the solar panels shot back up again. Then twenty minutes later another band of rain and thick clouds rolled in…

    The system here is setup so that I can accommodate such huge fluctuations in output from the solar panels from second to second. But to do so makes little to no economic sense, and I don’t run any devices directly from the solar panels. Everything is powered by the batteries (which provide a form of stability in the system), even the very devices that control the fluctuating output from the solar panels are powered by the batteries.

    There are times when I wonder about what the multiplied effect of having so much wind and solar output variability has on the grid, and I tell ya, it is a problem that has not been solved in any meaningful sense. On the other hand, I’d like to see the powers that be give it a serious go! If nothing else, it will be interesting to see them spectacularly fail and then ponder the consequences of that failure.

    When I switch on a light at night or decide to run the electric oven at night, I have to stop and consider how it will play out with the batteries. It is not always an easy decision to make either. Incidentally, I’ve been coming around lately to a mental image of batteries as being devices that more closely resemble the operation of balloons (which exert less air pressure output as they become increasingly deflated) rather than the fuel tanks that people generally mistake them for. You heard that metaphor here first!

    I did have plans today to get back into the new terrace project (there are now three terraces), however the weather was feral cold and wet outside today, so other activities seemed preferable! Hope the weather where you are is nice?



  51. Hi Lewis,

    The weather here today was filthy. The air temperature was cold at about 41’F all day, and in between bouts of sunshine, bands of rain swept up the valley. And the wind blew strongly. Not a day to be working outside or under large trees, so we did all of the inside activities that had to be done, and then in the late afternoon as the sun set, I sat in the hot bath looking out the window at the feral weather rolling in. Plus I did make a trip to a nearby town to purchase a very tasty lamington and sausage roll for lunch. One must make sacrifices.

    The leaves of horseradish are quite tough, but still edible and they even have a mildly fiery aftertaste. I feed them to the chickens as the plants can handle the high temperatures of summer. My patch of horseradish is in its second year and the roots are now about the size and thickness of commercial carrots. And oh boy, do those horseradish roots cause brain pain or what? 🙂 I didn’t harvest them the first year either, and it is probably not a bad idea to let them grow and put on some size. Incidentally, the first time I noted their flowers I thought that some sort of weed had grown in the middle of the patch because it looked so different to the leaves… Not so.

    It is funny you say that, but American mustard is to my palate about on par with French mustard. On the other hand I really like the taste of French Dijon mustard which is more of a pickled mustard seed variety. The English mustard is mental hot, the stuff is crazy. I read a story long ago that the English had developed the mustard in India to disguise the taste of mildly rancid meat, but that may be more story than truth.

    Hehe! If I start using those particular acronyms for the terraces people will surely be confused! 🙂 Hopefully there is a break in the feral weather tomorrow and we can get back into the project. Fingers crossed.

    The economic silliness of the Death Stars in the Star Wars film franchise appears to have been discussed over at Ecosophia. 🙂 Albert Einstein is quoted as having said something about doing the same thing again and expecting a different result. The evil Emperor seemed a bit lost for biggerer and better ideas after the initial Death Star was taken out and so doesn’t seem particularly smart to me. Anyway, I could never understand why the Empire was so evil in the first place? It all seemed rather arbitrary to my mind, although I enjoyed the first three films.

    Cougars are mountain lions? Didn’t know that. Wow! They’re good generalists and if human activity ever declines, they’ll slip on in. Please keep them to your part of the world thanks very much! And keep a watch out for them.

    Kind of like my gardening too! 🙂 It happens, and one of the things I like about the story is that Merlin has to do the hard yards and learn every step of the way. Clearly he began with natural advantages, but he has had to earn his keep and stripes too. But yeah, the incident with the bear would have made a great first impression. My time at the top end of town was a lot like that too because I never sought the placement, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and nobody else wanted to do the jobs (I can understand that perspective). It happens, I mean how does anyone know what they’ll have to face as they go along in life? And some incidents can stretch what you previously believed that you could do. One thing that strikes me about the book is that the characters are far more stoic in relation to loss and failure, as they simply pick up the pieces and carry on. Have you ever had that situation about being in the right place at the right time with a job that may not otherwise have fallen to you?

    Ah! DJ mentioned the documentary on the Vikings. Who were the lost Viking Army, and the larger point is why were they considered lost? And where did they end up?

    It is hardly surprising that the bee documentary covered Australia. New Zealand now has varroa mite, but it is not present on this continent that anyone is aware of. A lot of honey bee Queens are exported from down here to other parts of the world. And there is a large island off the coast of the state of South Australia (Kangaroo Island) where they still have fairly original Italian bee genetics. Last century we visited Kangaroo Island and I really enjoyed the place, although it is extraordinarily quiet (which suits me just fine) but some people may be unhappy about that. The ferry between the mainland and the island were some of the roughest seas that I’ve ever encountered. The editor passed out during the voyage back to the mainland as did a good percentage of the other passengers. I’d never seen such a thing before, but it sure was pretty rough.

    Thanks for the book reference. The Douglas Adams book is attributed to none other than Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame). Are you enjoying the book? I rather liked Adam’s work as it veered into the dark silliness of the soul and Terry Jones would be the right author to capture that tone.

    Lewis, many thanks for the beautiful images from your country. I am genuinely at a loss for words.



  52. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for the article from Paul.

    If it means anything to you, unlike Paul, I don’t feel that the magic is dying. It’s still there, it’s just a bit harder to see.

    And I never hung out with people who did the things he did in his youth. By the time I was old enough to notice I could see that they made little headway by their actions.



  53. @ Lew:

    Thank you for the beautiful, beautiful photos of Washington state. What a diverse lot of scenery, some of everything.


  54. @ Margaret:

    Yes, we do mulch the garden, so there are very few weeds actually in the beds. The crabgrass is everywhere else and is creeping into the edges of the beds. And I do not mulch the herb and flower beds as everything grows so close together, and there is crabgrass in them. Amazing how it can grow in such shade.


  55. Yo, Chris – Nice to watch the weather from a nice, warm bath. The first digs I had when I was 18, had a skylight over the old claw foot tub. An ancient cherry tree’s branch, was visible. I could lie there and watch the clouds roll by. The rain come down. The cherry tree blossom. The snow fall. Day before yesterday, I ran over to the Club and there was a wispy curtain of rain, from one end of the sky, to the other. But not a drop hit the ground, as it evaporated, before touchdown. We see that, every once in awhile.

    Like you, last winter my horseradish died to the ground, and I thought, “Well, that’s it for the horseradish. And spring provided no sprouts. Then those weird flowers came up, and I also thought it was some kind of a weed. Google was my friend. :-). Our go-to generic mustard, here, is called “French’s Mustard.” Pretty tame. But I know what you mean about the true French mustard. There are several varieties on the store shelf, all considered “gourmet” and expensive. But store brands are appearing, in larger size containers, at a less expensive price. All kinds of flavors. Including horseradish. But, to my taste, it’s all rather tame. I always keep a tin of Colman’s English mustard, in my spice cupboard. Mix that with mayo, olive oil, yogurt or sour cream, let it sit a few minutes, and you have something with real kick. A sinus clearer.

    I was never much of a Star Wars, fan. Saw the first one, and was quit blown away, by it. But they were coming out when life was busy and complicated. So, I never picked up the thread. I think I gave some of the later ones, a whirl, but was underwhelmed. It was fun to see Mr. Greer geek out, in reply to your post. I posted something about a Lovecraft movie, I saw.

    Yup. Cougar, mountain lion. I think in some places they are called puma. I think it’s moved along. The woods had a feeling of “emptyness,” last night. So, HRH and I will return to our regularly scheduled programing. She’s an interesting dog. She really notices changes in routine, or objects out of place. Like the rest of the old birds, here, (myself included) she likes consistency and routine.

    Well, people in Merlin’s time did have a bit of a different outlook on lose and death. But I wonder how much of it reflects the author’s feeling about such things? Or, maybe he’s just really good at reflecting the “tenor of the times?” I got up to Book III, and read a chapter, beyond that. Too lazy to walk in the other room, and check the chapter number :-).

    A couple of things I’ve been mulling over. Mr. Greer’s riff on “chosen ones” in life and literature. And, I read the articles and watched a bit of the film on Mr. Kingsnorth. The idea that renewables will not be able to sustain our lavish life styles. And how the enviromentalists refuse to accept that bit of wisdom. I mean, I’ve kind of known that all along. But Mr. Kingsnorth and Mr. Greer’s post from a couple of weeks back, brought it into focus. So, I wonder if we’ll end up living like 1920? 1880? 1820? Of course, a great population reduction will occur. Knowing full well, I’ll probably be part of that population reduction. But then, I’m also well aware that I’m “old enough to die.” In those immortal words of our great benefactor, “What? Me worry?” 🙂

    Well, I’ve always said (or came to realize) that in a lot of ways, I’ve pretty much often “fallen face down in good fortune.” I guess the craziest was when I was living in California and had to cut a vacation short (long story … visit to San Francisco, car towed, finances in shambles, etc. etc..) So, I get back to S. California, and checked in with the Walden Store I was working in, in Laguna Hills. I’m told my manager (and friend) was helping stock a new store at Westminster … which was just a few miles from where I lived. So, to pick up a few extra hours, I dropped in and helped stock for a few days. I off hand asked the District Manager, who was going to manage that store. He said he didn’t have a manager, yet. I laughed, and said, “Oh, I’ll manage it.” And, dead serious, he said, “You’re on.” Part time clerk, to managing an enormous bookstore, in an enormous mall in less than nine months. At 23. That’s the first thing that came to mind, but it seems like accident and coincidence have always played a big part in my life. Careens off in unexpected directions.

    Here you go. Great Viking army …

    This hasn’t been updated, since the documentary came out, and more recent archaeological work has been done. But, you get the drift.

    Yup. Douglas Adams had the idea, and Terry Jones wrote the book. Adams explains how that all came about, in an introduction. He had developed an on-line game, back when such things were text, and “Starship Titanic” was kind of a throw away line. Much later on, some publisher noticed it, and wondered about a book. Due to previous commitments, Adams didn’t have the time. And tossed the idea to Jones. A bit of “Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure” (or, SMEF) :-).

    Yup. Our State looks like that, all places , all times. :-). I did think when I saw them that they were a bit too “calendar ready.” But, I thought you might like them, and they do give you a taste of what’s possible. Lew

  56. Chris,

    There are a few religious organizations that have year-around provisions for the homeless, but the ones added for the winter are closed for about 8 months once the weather has warmed up. There’s always shaded places outdoors and libraries where a lot of people of all classes hang out in the summer. And the evenings do cool down to nondangerous levels. In a “typical” summer like we just experienced, where it is necessary to be aware of hydration, the heat was only at severely dangerous levels for a handful of days. But some of the other summers we’ve been having, well, too hot for too long and I don’t know how the homeless coped.

    Absolutely I experiment with growing different things. Some things we wouldn’t buy from the store are really good fresh from the garden. Experimentation also adds to the diversity of what is grown each year, so if it’s a bad year for onions, maybe it was an extra great year for summer squash.

    Hahahaha! Good one: the thick squash skins making good dark ages leather. True that!

    The cement sealant is sorta painted onto the cement after a few weeks of curing. it is supposed to keep water from penetrating into the cement, where the freeze/thaw cycle will eventually deteriorate the cement. No seals were harmed the last time I used cement sealant.

    The kids I know at the job ALL know about tribbles. But, ya know, they’re engineers or otherwise technically adept, so they know the old Star Trek shows pretty well.

    Those pictures Lew linked to are great. I was happy to note that the majority were of places east of the mountains. Most Washington pictures concentrate on Lew’s side of the state and almost get one thinking that Mount Rainier is the only thing worth looking at. I was very happy to see locations that I frequent on the east side of the mountains. As Damo, noted, this is a very pretty part of the world. Many of the photos are within 2 or 3 hours of my home.

    Supposed to start raining Sunday, maybe up to 1cm. Crossing my fingers.


  57. @Lew

    I have that Cthulhu silent movie you mentioned on Greers blog, but am yet to watch it. The cover for it looks awesome, but time escapes me (perhaps lost to the great old ones).

    Leave for another week long work trip tomorrow – I finished the Longitude book and am just about done on Hilary Mantels , The Giant O’Brien (as usual, excellent). Next up, I feel a bit of sci-fi coming on, so will go with Kim Stanley Robinsons “The memory of whiteness”. (Was nearly going to go with The First Man in Rome, but it is a bit of a doorstop, and in hardcover as well, to fit in my bag).


  58. Hi Chris,

    Well done on the new acronym, run with it and I see an honorary economics doctorate from the “big hat” industry coming your way!

    So far, the fires in QLD are on the north side and unlikely to impact my family thankfully. Dad was just telling me last week how little rain they have had in SE QLD over the past 6 months. Basically zero was the summary I think. Mrs Damo just told me there are now some fires near Dorrigo – the normal climate for that mountain range is sub-tropical rainforest, not exactly bush fire contenders, so shows just how dry things have gotten.

    Yeah, my current place of work (just over 2 years now) has being a bit of a roller-coaster. I will only stay as long as it works for me, I am thankful to have the ability to move along if it goes pear shaped. But, it came close the past few weeks I tell ya! To be honest, I had an exit plan already in my mind, and was just thinking about moving the schedule forward. Calmer minds prevailed and I will stay for now, but not forever.

    One day left on Keto – and have mixed thoughts on it. The job was done, but how much better than just calorie restriction for the month I don’t know? One thing it did do was destroy my appetite for food. I still ate nice things, but the desire wasn’t there. Maybe that is one of the supposed vaunted benefits? At any rate, another work trip tomorrow, so a second chance to improve our packed lunch skills.


  59. Hi Margaret,

    Apologies, my last comment probably sounded more cynical than I actually feel. Just to expand upon the subject matter a little bit, I’m a very pragmatic guy and so I looked at the effort involved in the actions of protest, relative to the outcomes (which have become less over time). Those thoughts were stirred into a heady mix of looking at the world in general and where things are going, and then we picked a path.

    Activism is good and all, but in some respects it looks like a form of death by a thousand cuts. Gains are lost. Dunno. The state here is apparently meant to run short on gas (electricity, heating and cooking etc.) within three years, and so there is a push to over turn the ban on fracking and unconventional drilling and you know, it might happen.

    It’s complicated and Paul would have seriously struggled with a sense of purpose and his place in it. Anyway, that is what I extracted from reading between the lines of his story, but failed to adequately put to words.

    Another wet and cold day down here today! But we did get outside earlier and do about 3 to 4 hours of cleaning up. There are big fires going on in the states far to the north of this one.



  60. Hello again
    Still very dry here, but the temperature started to drop yesterday and I even put heating on when I got up this morning. Am overwhelmed with runner beans and tomatoes. It has been a very good growing summer so long as I kept up the watering.


  61. Hi Lewis,

    Nice, a claw foot bath tub is a thing of beauty – and they’re tough as old boots so long as the enamel coating hasn’t been broken or chipped. The ever changing scenery is the fun part of observing nature in all her guises. Far out, today was another wet and cold day. However, for a few hours before lunchtime, the rain held off and we did about 3 to 4 hours of cleaning up. Your mention of fire risk the other week was a timely reminder, and whilst it is wet and cold here, in New South Wales and Queensland, what with the prolonged drought, they’re having some serious bushfires. Not good.

    Speaking of the ongoing drought up there I came across an article on the subject, and one of the people quoted in the article stated a point of view that I have not heard expressed for a very long time. Macquarie Marshes no longer a green haven, as water crisis bites in western NSW. The quote was: “We’re learning now that water is the critical key, not money. Water will run out before the money does, so it’s time to look at that aspect.”

    Hehe! Yes, gogle does some good from time to time! Glad you identified the horseradish flowers because I ripped a few of them out before thinking better of doing so. Plants with tubers seem to be very hardy.

    Dijon mustard is quite a straightforward product, but it may be a question of low demand? You don’t often see mustard used as a condiment these days. Back in the day we used to occasionally eat hamburgers at a pretty grungy place called ‘Greasy Joes’. They did the best hamburgers around and the thick cut chips were supplied with Dijon mustard. The usual clientele were also pretty grungy and the patrons sat in booths or at the bar. Access to the toilet was supplied only upon request – it was that sort of place. But far out the food was good. Previous patrons had scrawled amusing commentary on the walls and one wall was entirely covered with a printed wall paper of a Canadian mountain scene. The picture was epic, but also inexplicable in that place and somewhat defaced… It is now an apartment block. That’s progress for you.

    I saw both posts, and yeah it was fun to see the topic so well explored. And I reckon he’s spot on too with his analysis! Clearly Mr Greer has become a master strategist. I see Damo has a copy of the film.

    How did your senses perceive the emptiness? And yeah, dogs love their patterns – as do most people despite their protestations. Over the years I have had plenty of people criticise me not being spontaneous enough, and it may be true. I’m not entirely convinced that people who are spontaneous achieve things, and I guess there must be something in there, but I’m unsure. What do you reckon?

    Probably all three explanations are equally valid. Most certainly though, being exposed to the hard to ignore reality of death, does tend to affect people differently. But ignoring the possibility is not feasible, although our society has taken the exact opposite approach that the Victorians took. Some middle ground perspective on the subject would be, err, healthy.

    Possibly 1880. 1920 involved a bit of oil and some shonky financial practices, and the 1890’s were a boom time too, followed by an epic depression. I don’t really know that much about 1820 internationally, but down here things were err, rough and a bit living hand to mouth. We probably have too many resources kicking around these days to go back that far, but on the other hand, the environment was in a whole lot better shape back then than it is now, and we have access to better crops and farm animals, so probably the 1880’s is where things will hang around for a while. Hey, we’re all part of that depopulation story, one bloke is on the record as having allegedly beaten the skinny looking dude with the going out hoodie and the wicked sharp scythe, and that is about it as far as I’m aware. But then the reports of an encore performance by that bloke maybe a metaphor that was interpreted in the most literal sense?

    Good for you, and yeah just recognising and accepting opportunities is a lost and dying art form. Dunno, but I’ve always had a vague unshakable ill-defined feeling that people are on a path. It is funny that you mention cars…

    My mind was temporarily lost in the rabbit hole that was the Great Viking Army. It was not lost on me that nearly one quarter of all adult males were drafted into service by Alfred the Great in order to put a halt to the Viking raids. And the burhs, which are now Burroughs were for fortified defences against the cheeky raiding scamps. Plus Alfred appears to have formed a navy and cut the Vikings off at the knees. Prevention is often better than a cure, and if the Vikings have no ships to return to then they were probably in all sorts of trouble. Ship borne flaming arrows would have been well advised to deal with such obstreperous heathens.

    I’m old enough to have played such online text games over a BBS service. All very Dungeons and Dragons! And yes, beware the pesky SMEF’s! They sound like smurfs to me.

    Thank you for the photos, I really did enjoy them.

    If you have time, there is an interesting article about the hunt for the Tasmanian Tiger: Chasing the tiger with stealth, smarts and science.



  62. Hi DJ,

    Economics can bite hard in that respect and year round services are expensive. It is funny you mention the community places where people hang out, but I often walk past an inner city library and after hours at night there are patrons always hanging around using the free internet connection. The building is constructed from huge old slabs of granite which we call ‘blue stones’ and they provide deep window ledges, and often the patrons are sitting on those window ledges with a little electronic glow surrounding them.

    No, I don’t know how the homeless cope without access to water either. And our city was once known for providing lots of toilet facilities, but of late the services have been reduced. I feel a city could be judged upon the toilet facilities it provides (one of my bugbears from international travel way back in the day when I had no idea about the consequences) and we once did much better. But in some locales the old cast iron bathroom facilities are still provided.

    Exactly, that’s what I reckon too. If one crop fails due to seasonal issues, then there is something else to eat. Thus the diverse orchard here. Today I ate some of last seasons apricots with my breakfast, and during lunch a combination of greens, eggs and last seasons almonds were added. It’s all good, but how many people these days understand how complicated it is to use all the different ingredients that they have to hand?

    Hehe! I’m reading far too much of the Arthur story and that is what you get as a result. Is it good for armour? 🙂 I reckon some marrows could be used to smash some heads… Hehe!

    Good to see that no seals were harmed in the process of sealing the concrete. Don’t know why, but we don’t do that here. I usually add a bit extra cement powder to each mix to ensure that the concrete remains water tight when cured, but who knows how it will turn out? So far, so good.

    I hope the kids know what Triffids are? Your mission should you decide to accept it is…

    Your part of the world is stunning and I really appreciated seeing the pictures.

    I hope you get the rain. It is very wet down here right now, but huge chunks of the continent are in drought. Perth over in Western Australia looks set to reach 30’C over the next day or so… Bonkers and no doubt the rapid rise in temperature over the stratosphere in Antarctica has something to do with the weather craziness. The fires in the drought affected north of the country are not good.



  63. Hi Damo,

    Many thanks and I’ll try not to let my head grow too big for my hat due to the economic analysis! Hehe!

    Yeah, it ain’t good up there, and the forecast is apparently for no rainy weather relief on the horizon. The Indian Ocean to the north west of the continent has cooled and the air sitting high above Antarctica in the stratosphere has warmed by a crazy amount. You may be in for a wet summer over your side of the drink. And spare a thought for west Tasmania which may feel the brunt of that…

    Last year a huge patch of rainforest up in Queensland burned. What did Bob Dylan sing? Oh that’s right, the time’s they’re a changing.

    I hear you about calmer minds prevailing, but an exit plan is always wise, especially if the calmer minds aren’t the ones who have to approach the coal face. But on the other hand, the calmer minds may have the right of it, and if you can reach in and find a modicum of dispassion and distance, then you’ll be able to observe how things play out. Not always easy to do. Did I just say both yes and no? 🙂

    A packed lunch for work trips beats a thousand temptations. Good luck, and understanding what food is can be a fascinating journey.



  64. Hi Inge,

    Today was another cold, windy and rainy day down here. We managed to get outside and do about three to fours of work before the heavens opened again. Everything outside is very wet, but I did notice in the cleaning up that the many leaves and sticks on the ground burned very well despite being very damp.

    I’ve noticed that too, and a hot and dry summer can be really bountiful if you have access to plentiful water. The Mediterranean crops do really well in such seasons. We’re marginal for melons (other than watermelons) and some hot years they do really well, but it is certainly not every year.

    How’s your sons pigs going in the heat? My mates of the big shed fame have all sorts of shade providing structures for the pigs, and on hot days the pigs really use them.

    I better get writing!!!



  65. @Lew

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures. I’ve been in Washington State once. The mountain was not out.

    We’ve had mountain lion sightings around here lately. Every few years ago this will happen. I don’t doubt they are real.


  66. Hi Chris,

    No worries. If someone is an activist and walks the walk themselves I have no problem. Often I think it’s done for attention – look at the protests I’m attending posted on Facebook. I have a sister who lives in Chicago and is quite the SJW who attends many protests but only marginally walks the walk. I try to gently point that out to her but she usually just finds a way to rationalize her behavior. Frankly protests can just be fun. I was talked into participating in a “March Against Monsanto” some years ago by some friends and yes, my sister was there too. At the pre-march rally some of the speakers spoke of dangers of Round Up which hadn’t been proven yet or were outright wrong. Needless to say it was the last protest I attended.

    Speaking of activism, my bookclub is now reading “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.


  67. Hi Chris,

    It’s raining this morning, the first rain we’ve had in September and apparently there won’t be too much of it this time. Before August ended we’d already received more than our entire average yearly rainfall. If anyone is looking for the rain they didn’t get this year, this is where it went. It’s not over yet either as we generally get a healthy amount of precipitation during autumn.

    We always have enough heat from late spring through early fall so water, or lack of it, determines how successful our growing season is. I’ve had much more rain this growing season, all season long, than any other, so I can officially report that our soil drains well no matter how much rain we get. Even when the soil gets saturated it is only so for a short period of time – no clay to keep it from draining out. That’s what it means to live near the top of a loess hill with silt loam soil. What this tells me is that I need to water more during dry periods than I have been doing in past years. Lesson learned and will be remembered.

    The pepper, cucumber, and melon plants have done extraordinarily well this year. Although the cucumbers have now all succumbed to squash bugs, they pushed out many cukes during their lives. We’ve eaten four 2 to 3 pound muskmelons already and there are a few more still on the vines, at least one of which should mature before frost. And peppers – wow is all I can say. The ‘Purple Beauty’ bell peppers are yielding almost as many peppers as the Italian frying style peppers. Meanwhile, the tomato plants have struggled, more due to the humidity than anything, but we have gotten enough tomatoes. The spring-planted kale and collard plants are re-growing good leaves after a month of being attacked by grasshoppers and all of the autumn root crops and some of the leaf crops are growing well. It’ll be a good growing season for most things, with a few exceptions like string beans.

    All of the Zen center’s food booth items were vegetarian; most were vegan and gluten-free. Except for the green tea ice cream, all were traditional Japanese dishes. That made them attractive to many people and helped to boost sales. I can attest to its tastiness and am sure you would have liked it too.

    Thanks for your sympathetic note. Yesterday my mom was in the emergency room briefly before she was sent home. I’ll learn more about that when I call her later today. All of this is what you have to expect with aging parents. But you don’t know the details of what they, and you, will have to deal with till it happens. We are in the early stages of that with both of our mothers, without having had to be the primary responsible parties for or watch anyone else slowly deteriorate over time, so we have nothing to compare it to.


  68. Hello again
    Sun has shone all day and it has warmed up a lot. The pigs have plenty of shade as we are in the middle of woodland. It is easier to find shade than sun as the woodland grows like mad.
    Re: spontaneity, I think that it decreases with age.

  69. I also really enjoyed the WA state photos. The MO Department of Conservation puts out a yearly calendar with some photos of scenery and some of plants and animals that I like. Our scenery is more subtle in character than is that of WA or for that matter most of the US outside the Midwest.

    @ Inge – I’m growing runner beans for the first time in quite a few years. The plants have grown well (much better than the string beans) and made lots of flowers but haven’t produced any beans from those flowers. I’ve read that in the US Midwest they don’t tend to set beans until September. It may be a heat issue. Do your plants make fewer beans when it gets really hot, like over 30C/87F? It’s that hot here from when they start blooming until September when it finally begins to cool down.


  70. Yo, Chris – WARNING!!! Many rabbit holes, ahead, both shallow and deep. :-). The article about the Macquarie Marshes got me thinking about the Colorado River. The one that runs through our Grand Canyon. Most years, it never reaches the Gulf of California.

    Then there’s the Aral Sea, in the former Soviet Union. Not much of a sea, anymore. Our central states are so flat, as, once they were sea bottom. I wonder how much sea level rise it will take to reestablish the “Western Interior Seaway.” (See, Wikipedia.) It was a sea way that ran all the way from the Gulf of Mexico, to the Arctic Circle. Dinosaurs frolicked on it’s shores, and in it’s depths. Sea level rise, along with the land sinking due to pumping out the Ogallala Aquifer, and the sinking land, due to that. Well, sooner or later … Sea level rise will also flood California’s Central Valley, in from the direction of San Francisco Bay. That’s where a lot of our fruit and veg comes from. Land is also sinking there, due to water pumping.

    Water and money. Reminds me of that old saying, “You can’t eat gold.” Can’t drink it, either. Every once in awhile, I run across some statistic as to how little fresh water there actually is in the world. It’s always startling.

    Oh, you can usually find Dijon mustard, here, on just about any store shelf. But, it’s usually in small quantities at high prices. All part of that “artisinal” gourmet business. Along with exotic vinegars or oils. A bit of a fad, that seems to rise and fall with disposable income.

    Hmmm. How do I perceive emptiness? Spidey sense? :-). It’s kind of related, I think, to that sense of unease, that soldiers sometimes have. It’s a lack of sound and movement. Or, more natural sounds are not stilled. Heard some geese flying over, last night. Autumn is coming.

    I quit liked the picture of winter at Mt. Spokane. Those three stars, lined up a bit left of center, are Orion’s Belt. One of the two constellations I can recognize, without hauling out the star charts. Of course, you have a different night sky, down there.

    That was an interesting article about the Tasmanian Tigers. The search for them, reminds me of our search for Big Foot. Oh, yeah, let’s resurrect a large carnivore. Seems like a good idea. What could possibly go wrong. Wait until one carries off a pampered poodle. Or, a small child.

    Looks like it’s going to be a big fall for Stephen King. “It” part two, is due in the theatres. Also, “Doctor Sleep” which is the sequel to “The Shinning.” Danny is all grown up, and a raging alcoholic. Just like Daddy! I liked the book, but then, have a bit of a vested interest. Demon rum, and all. :-). I suppose he’ll maybe have his usual autumn book release, also?

    I harvested a couple of varieties of garlic, last night. Just one little corner of my smaller bed. Ended up with three quart containers of garlic! My, those varieties are prolific. Lew

  71. PS: Saw an article that The Blob, is forming off our coast again. As it did in 2014. Prof. Mass hasn’t mentioned it yet. Can’t for the life of me, remember how that effected our weather, that year. Lew

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