The year of no car

Email rarely holds the same appeal and anticipation as unlocking a post box at the local post office. There is magic in the simple opening of the hinged post box door and peering inside. You never quite know what will be contained within the dark confines of a post box. Sometimes there is so much content contained within the post box, that the hinged door pops open, possibly with relief for having its contents emptied. But most of the time the post box only contains a few items, and hopefully never a spider.

Having been in the area only a dozen years, and thus defined as a Johnny-come-lately, my post box is at the very highest level of post boxes. This is in the undesirable section of post boxes. Even at six foot tall, I struggle peering inside and assessing what contents are contained therein. Spare a thought for the editor who is not as tall as I, and who has long since relinquished the task to myself. However, I feel that the difficulties of the post box, also add to the mystery.

Now of course, the post office also serves coffees whilst supplying and holding my regular newspaper. Also, there are cakes and fruit toast. As such it is a true hardship on my part to have to endure the task of clearing the post box. Please take a moment and spare a thought for my ongoing regular ordeal.

Late last week, my hand reached into the post box and I pulled out a letter from an insurer. It is always sad to remove a bill from the post box, because they are pesky things. It is a much finer thing to remove a note declaring that there is a package to pick-up for me at the post office counter. I love packages, and I have amusingly mentioned to the lovely people working there, that visiting them is like enjoying Christmas, but all the time.

Woe is me though. The insurer had sent me a bill for my house and contents insurance. The bill was duly paid, but I’d noticed that the bill was 17.3% higher than last year. A bitter taste accompanied my coffee at the post office that day, and it wasn’t the coffee which caused it.

Math has never been my strong suit, but even I can work out that with compounding increases of that sort, it won’t take too many years before the house and content insurance policy will be truly epic – and mostly unaffordable.

For some inexplicable reason the thought of the insurance bill recalled to mind the year I didn’t own a car. As an adult, I haven’t always owned a car and for a while two decades ago I rode a motorcycle instead. Here’s me trying to be cool at the turn of the century:

The author at the turn of the of the century trying to be cool

Motorbikes were a bit like the Y2K bug (older readers may recall the events of the time), and like that furore, it was a bit too exciting for my tastes. After a few years of commuting, I quietly sold the machine. On the other hand, the year without a car was an entirely different matter.

The story does not reflect well upon anyone involved in the circumstances. To cut a long story short I’d loaned my trusty car (a Datsun 180B SSS coupe) to my then girlfriend for a few months. I had no need of the car at the time, and was hoping that the gesture would win some brownie points. I did say that I was not cool! Anyway, as things turned out, the car was handed back a little worse for wear. We broke up, and the car was disposed of because I lacked the funds to repair it.

No girlfriend, no money, and no car presents unappealing prospects for the young gentleman about town. I may not have been cool, but I understood the philosophical school of stoicism. So, instead of getting down in the dumps about my lack of prospects for a date on a Saturday night (because I couldn’t get anywhere without a car), I decided to ride my pushbike – everywhere. And in the process I saved a fair bit of mad cash.

For a year, I rode my trusty mountain bike everywhere. I thought nothing of pedalling 20km (12.5 miles) to visit friends and then back home again at any hour of the day or night. It did nothing for my love life, but I sure got seriously fit that year. In those days, nobody rode pushbikes and I never had any incidents with cars.

In fact so few people rode pushbikes that late one Saturday evening, I couldn’t avoid the thing that is known down here as a ‘Booze Bus’. That is a colloquial term for a police alcohol breath testing station. The police randomly block off roads and test all drivers to ensure their blood alcohol levels are below 0.05%. There are serious penalties if a driver fails that test. Anyway, I was on my pushbike and the police waved me into the testing station. As I stopped I asked them: “You’re not seriously going to test me are you?” But no, they were indeed serious. Bonkers.

I also used to ride my pushbike to and from work. Back in those days I rarely took note of the weather. It just was what it was and I had to deal with it.

One afternoon at work I watched a ‘super cell’ storm rip through the area. They’re impressive storms and can dump 100mm (4 inches) of rain in under an hour. I’ve heard it said that such storms are a one in a hundred year event, except I see them occur every few years or so. Sitting at work and looking out the window I did take note of that particular storm, and decided that it might not be a bad idea to head home after it had passed. And sure enough the storm soon finished.

Heading out of the building on my trusty mountain bike, the late afternoon was quiet. Trees were down across roads, power lines were down and roads were flooded, albeit only slightly flooded. At the time I was in South Melbourne, and originally before European settlement, the area had once been swampland. Every now and then, nature decides to alert us to the fact that what once was, can be again, and the rain and the flood waters filled the streets and roads.

But it was the quiet that struck me. It was like a scene from a zombie apocalypse film playing out in the streets which I had thought that I knew so well. Being out on a mountain bike, I had no trouble getting around trees on the road, and flooded roads were only a minor inconvenience so long as I didn’t want to take my feet off the pedals and put them into the water, although my runners were already very wet by that stage.

My normal route home took me next to Albert Park Lake. Nowadays, it may host an annual Grand Prix, but before the lake was formed and before European settlement, it was a swamp. And a lot of the water from the surrounding areas were draining into the lake. Vehicle barricades had been hastily erected over the road entrance leading into the park which surrounds the lake. Nobody was manning the barricades, and I thought to myself that I didn’t want to miss this spectacle. So I just went around the barricades and began pedalling down the road which nowadays is occasionally a race track.

It was hard for me to believe it, but the scene became even quieter. With the road blocked off to traffic (with one notable exception on a pushbike), I rode at my leisure. I marvelled at the huge tree branches that had been torn from the old oaks and elms and were so easily strewn by the violence of the storm onto the asphalt. At some points the road was slightly inundated but everywhere was just so quiet. The black swans which inhabit the lake didn’t seem to mind the devastation at all, and they continued their stately promenade upon the water and occasionally ducked their long necks under the surface looking for things to eat.

I took my time traversing the road, not because it was particularly challenging or threatening, but because of the surreal scene that I’d found myself in. There is something indefinably beautiful whereby nature can make a usually noisy scene suddenly go oh so very quiet. I’ve never really understood what I felt that day, but it was peaceful. And sometimes I fancy that the possibility of what I encountered that day is always at the edges of my senses, and if I but just turn and face it, I’ll encounter it again. But before I do, the possibility has gone again where it hides at the furthest edges of my awareness.

Nowadays I am more aware of the climate and weather, but I also note that in the greater scheme of things, there is little you can personally do about it, so adaptation is not a bad strategy. This week has been occasionally sunny, but mostly it was rather cold, wet and overall it’s just damp.

This week brought a series of storms sweeping up the valley from the south west

The storms ripping in from the Southern Ocean have brought winds with them, and the head of one large tree is now hung high up in another adjacent tree. The head of the tree may hang there for many years before eventually returning to the earth. The kookaburra’s seem to enjoy this new state of affairs as it has provided them with new horizontal tree perches!

Two Kookaburra’s enjoy the perch provided by the head of a large tree which is now caught in an adjacent tree

Earlier in the week, we did enjoy a single sunny day. The excavations for the new garden terrace project continued in the sunny weather. The excavations for the lower garden terrace is now nearing completion.

Ollie is impressed by the progress of excavations on the lower garden terrace

Looking along the lower garden terrace, we believe that there may only be another day or two of excavations.

There may only be another day or two excavations on the lower garden terrace

The roses on the new middle garden terrace are growing very well despite the lack of sunshine.

The roses on the middle garden terrace are growing strongly

And all the clay excavated from the lower garden terrace had to go somewhere. So we have begun creating a new upper (Third) garden terrace.

An upper garden terrace has begun to be constructed

This project began small and has ended up being epic in both size and scope! It will provide a huge amount of growing space.  And on one of the very rainy days earlier this week, we picked up seeds for plants that we intend to grow on these three terraces.

The excavations have proven to be a bonanza for rocks. Rock walls are being constructed with the larger rocks, whilst the smaller rocks are ending up in the steel rock gabion cages that retain the soil on the potato terrace.

The latest steel rock gabion cage is rapidly filling up with rocks from the excavations

My garden nemesis, the wallabies (a slightly smaller forest dwelling kangaroo) have been eating the leaves of the potato plants. Recently they appear to have developed a new trick, and that is digging up the potato tubers. Nice effort, and that should save me from having to harvest them.

It looks like the wallabies have begun harvesting potato tubers

We’ve begun making a new batch of olive oil soap. Making soap is easy so long as you treat the process with respect and care. Even people living in the tiniest of apartments can make their own olive oil soap. And the quality is superb.

We’re making another batch of olive oil soap

Despite the stormy weather, things are warming up and asparagus spears have begun poking out of the soil.

Asparagus spears have begun poking out of the soil

Onto the flowers:

It’s Hellebore time
The Hellebore’s grow in the shade with ferns at the bottom of a garden bed
This plum was heavily pruned and fed late last season and it is producing a huge number of blossoms
Echium flowers provide feed for the bees
This rosemary is producing an abundance of flowers
The succulents are also producing flowers
There are few flowers that produce as nice a fragrance as Daphne
Daffodil bulbs are producing lots of flowers and leaves
And this seasons colour is… Yellow!

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 3’C (38’F). So far this year there has been 568.0mm (22.4 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 547.2mm (21.5 inches).

60 thoughts on “The year of no car”

  1. Hi Margaret,

    Oh my goodness! But there is the air and feel of a festival about protests, I hadn’t noticed that before, but yeah. To my mind, it sort of undermines the intent a bit. You know, I’ve never actually met a person who identifies as a Social Justice Warrior, but I probably just need to get out a bit more. 🙂 Have you noticed that a lot of protests appear to be a bit like ‘click bait’ and register your unhappiness about something or other and from there on everything is then outsourced?

    And yes, I’ve also noticed the tendency to calls for action in the face of extraordinary claims, and yes many of those claims are fanciful at best. For a while I’ve been wondering whether such claims tap into the sort of anxiety that people generally have about the future (and particularly in relation to their children’s future). It has never quite occurred to them that the future is a predicament that we as a society have created, and there is a serious difficulty in discussing the allocation of blame and the obvious questions that people who may be looking for simple answers (e.g. kids who lack social filters) may ask about the predicament.

    Mostly, I feel the conversation is avoided because it does not cast any of us in a good light. But I don’t really know and am just guessing.

    The rain in this little corner of the continent has been feral and it has been very hard to get outside and work, but it looks like the weather is warming towards the end of the week. The new terrace project has been epic!



  2. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for the kind offer of rain and some of the drought affected areas of the states of New South Wales and Queensland could use your kind offer. They’re having serious bushfires up there right now and summer is not even yet there. Queensland’s bushfire devastation captured in pictures.

    Loess is apparently one of the best all round soils, so you’ve done really well to end up where you are. Although the sandy aspect of the soil would make it particularly well drained (as you note), and it makes me wonder how agriculture was undertaken way back in the day in your area? But they did have the rivers resources.

    As a contrast, the area here after it was logged, was originally put to growing potatoes and berries and I really wonder how they managed the water side of that story. I just don’t understand it at all, although the efforts were eventually abandoned, but that may also have been due to WWI and WWII emptying the bush of manpower. At the end of WWII there was apparently only a single soul living up here in this less fashionable end of the mountain range.

    Thanks for your observations of your garden in what must have been an extraordinarily wet year. I assume that you have been receiving the heat as well as the additional rain? And the humidity must have been unrelenting. It is interesting that you write that, but I too have noticed that tomatoes do better in drier heat. The skins become damaged if there is too much water available and sometimes the skins can form scar tissue (aka splitting) but ofttimes insects will take advantage of the split in the skin. Cherries have the same issue, but far earlier in the season.

    The food sounds excellent! And I really enjoy Japanese cuisine. Yum!

    Thank you and you have my sympathies as both you and Mike are facing some tough times now and ahead. Life can be very complicated and the details vary from family to family and person to person. I understand that you are not using the word ‘contrast’ in the literal sense of the word. But if it helps, even just a little bit, I reckon life has an element of tragedy about it.

    As a contrast, my dad left when I was so young that I barely remember him. When I was 25, my mum up and moved about 3,000km away and so that was that and there was no help coming from that direction. The editors mum died shortly after we got married and I was only about 26 then. I dunno, life sure can be tough and uncertain sometimes, and you just have to sort of appreciate the fleeting connections that we make in the time that we are here.

    With sympathy,


  3. Hi Inge,

    Out of curiosity, has your summer been warmer than normal, or drier than normal, or perhaps both? This year has been rather strange weather-wise because the summer was rather hot and dry, and then the autumn and winter have been mostly mild and very damp. At least the water tanks are full and there is a lot of water in the soil right now. Who knows what next season will bring…

    And I hear you, shade is an issue in and around a woodland. On the other hand I find that evaporation is less in the shady areas of the property than the sun exposed areas. So despite the plants growing slower in the shady areas, they seem a bit hardier to high temperatures and drier weather.

    Your observation fits what I see here. I’ve noticed seasonal variations in people behaviour too. Over the depths of winter and the extremes of summer, people are less inclined to socialise than in the in-between seasons. Do you find that to be the case?



  4. Hi Lewis,

    Ouch! I had not realised the Colorado River crossed both state borders as well as national borders. Water allocations are a problem down here too with the huge Murray and Darling River systems which crosses several states. In a normal rainfall year you don’t hear a peep about the allocations, but in a drought year, like the this year and last year, well let’s just say that things can get pretty ugly. I heard today a news article that the New South Wales government is relocating as well as using fish hatcheries to rescue fish species that may otherwise be at risk during the next couple of months. Last year there was international outcry about the mass fish deaths – and they were pretty shocking. But some towns up that way are running out of water too. It’s no joke at all.

    I’d read that about the land sinking due to the over pumping of the water table. It figures and the problem is not just confined to your part of the world: Sinking towards disaster.

    Wow! I had no idea about your ancient inland sea which split the north American continent in two. Wow! And yes, the Aral Sea is a shocker. Some internal parts of this continent are below sea level, and I believe Lake Eyre in South Australia is one such. It is strange but parts of the continent are in drought, but the epic rains over some parts of the state of Queensland earlier in the year have worked their way across the land to Lake Eyre and it has filled quite a bit as of a few months ago. The images are amazing: Lake Eyre basin. I don’t believe that the rivers connect to the Murray Darling basin as the lake is west and north of that system.

    Exactly about not being able to eat gold. I believe Mr Gene Logsdon also made that astute observation and he mentioned that his family had apparently traded food for gold at one stage in their recent past. Fresh water is the limiting factor I believe. It is rare down here, and even the local river dries up over summer.

    Shame about the Dijon mustard being so highly priced. The same thing happens down here with the exotic oils and vinegars. On the other hand, locally sourced olive oil is pretty good quality so I can’t complain.

    It is funny that you mention the ‘spidey sense’ of knowing and yet not knowing, because I wrote about that this week. The moons have aligned. 🙂 I tend to hear it if the background forest noises change, or some of the local birds call out a warning. They’re onto things before I even see them, so it always best if I don’t ignore their calls.

    I liked the picture of Mt Spokane too in the snow. I was surprised to see that the lights of the township were not far from the top of the mount, but few people live in mountainous areas down here. Silly me, the lights were of the ski and snowboard park. Duh! The mountain is huge.

    I suspect that there are many people living in Melbourne who have not seen the stars in the night sky due to light pollution. You can still see stars once away from the skyscrapers, but it’s not good and only the brightest stars shine through the murk. Up here, the winter night-time sky is thick with stars. When Halley’s comet passed by I saw it from a spot not too far from where I am now. Mind you, there was also one spot just out of the city in the inner suburbs where it was also clearly visible.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that people shot the daylights out of the Tasmanian Tiger for that very reason – they were large carnivores. One of the photos had a bloke with his dog and gun proudly squatting next to a very dead looking tiger.

    Go Stephen King. It part 2. Cool. Pennywise was a great character and it was always chilling to think of the character lurking around drains talking about balloons. Frightening stuff. And, you did ask for this: Heeere’s Johnny!!!! An equally scary film and Jack Nicholson scared the daylights out of me. It makes sense about character Danny, what did the old timers suggest about the apple not falling far from the tree? He’d make a fitting protagonist, and mate I’d need a bunch of therapy to get over what happened in the earlier story! I feel that there may have been a bit more to the story of Jack rather than just the Demon Rum – although it might not have helped the character Jack’s perilous mental state. 🙂

    Are these the Safeway garlic? Do you dry them?



  5. Hi Damo,

    🙂 Thanks mate. You’re cool too!

    Thought you might appreciate the bike. I swapped that bike for an 1982 Yamaha XV-750 which was a lot of fun. But far out it was loud as the mufflers looked like they were straight through pipes. The motors on those things would go forever, but the starter motor was a serious pain. It ended up at the wreckers. A sad day…



  6. Hello Chris
    I have a neighbour who is enamoured of motor bikes. He has old ones which apparently means that they don’t require taxing. His younger son rides them but neighbour is usually on a pushbike.
    It is logical to socialise less in very cold or hot weather though I hadn’t thought about it before. Huddle over ones fire or stay cool indoors.
    Our summer has been hotter and a lot dryer than most years, but still climate that I have seen in occasionally in the past. They are threatening us with the coldest winter for 30 years. We shall see!


    @ Claire
    Runner beans don’t seem to like very hot weather. I usually only water the soil underneath plants but with runner beans, I do a quick spray over the flowers. This does seem to be necessary in very hot dry weather.


  7. To Everybody – I’m happy y’all liked the pictures of my (and DJ’s) state. But credit, where credit is due. A tip of the hat (and a low sweeping bow) to the photographer, Alan Taylor. And kudos to the Atlantic Magazine for, in their infinite wisdom, publishing them.

    My, Mr. Taylor covered a lot of ground, on the one day a year when it’s sunny with blue skies! :-). Lew

  8. Yo, Chris – Don’t know if I’d be quit comfortable, reaching into a mail box, that I couldn’t see into. Gives me the fantods, just thinking about it. Could be all kinds of things, lurking in there. Tasmanian tigers?

    That’s quit a picture of you in your Hell’s Angels, days. Love the boots! Breathalyzers for alcohol have been around, for years. But I saw in a recent news report, that one had been developed to detect THC (mara-hochie). Needs must, I guess.

    I’ve done without a car, for two long periods, in my life. Mmm. Three. There was a good deal of walking, involved. And then I got lucky and lived where there were really good transit systems. Seattle and Portland. And, yes, I still think about giving up my truck. I can only claim dotage, as an excuse to hold onto it :-). Sooner or later, I won’t have a choice. Either through decrepitude or, the poor thing will finally die and I won’t be able to afford to replace it.

    Ollie is very smart. He’s figured out if he pulls off the impressed look, there may be treats! But all your earth and rock moving IS quit impressive. I wouldn’t worry too much about your roses getting enough sun. Portland is quit gloomy, most of the year, and the roses do fine. The few times we had high temps, and clear skies, it didn’t seem to phase them. As long as they got adequate water. Unless over hybridized and a bit “precious”, they seem pretty tough.

    By the way, you hit “that note” again, in your writing, when you waxed lyrical about your stroll through the park, after a storm. Cultivate it. Make it grow.

    I’ve heard you can break a dog of chasing cars, by giving them a good douse, with a bucket of cold water. Of course, you’d need an accomplice…

    When I saw the picture of the hung up tree, I thought, “Well, now the Tree Dudes will magically appear.

    The rest of the flowers, are, as always, lovely. Cont.

  9. Cont. I followed the link to the wild fires, north of you. Not good, and it’s early in the “season.” The loss of the Binna Burra Lodge, was tragic. On a lighter note, I see you’ve devoted a whole national forest, to a desert. Lamington. Or, maybe that’s where the early pioneers, discovered them growing on trees? I see you even have a national holiday, National Lamington Day (7/21). You lot do take your deserts seriously! :-). Wikipedia provided a rather thorough explanation of the whole desert debate.

    I had heard that Jakarta was moving it’s government, due to subsidence and sea level rise. That’s a story that will become more common, as time goes on. The rhythms of the Eyre Basin was interesting. And how the people have adapted, to “go with the flow.”

    I did find an article as to what our winter and summer will be like, if The Blob, persists. Warmer winter and, maybe, a scorcher of a summer. But what I wonder is if a warmer ocean, off our coast, will lead to more moisture uptake, and more severe storms, as they drop all that extra water. As happens on our SE coast. Time will tell.

    All that garlic I harvested was a variety called “German White.” I may have left it in the ground, a bit too long, as most of it came out fairly skinless. But nothing sprouting. It’s a hard neck, so, not quit as good a “keeper.” I left a bowl for The Ladies, and it vanished. Also gave some to my neighbor, Eleanor. But, there’s still plenty for me. I also pulled more Elephant Garlic, out of the ground. The Safeway garlic was quit nice, and I saved enough to put back in the ground.

    Another garden mystery. My heirloom Hubbard squash is looking less and less and more and more like pumpkin! (Round, orange.) Now, it was a volunteer, from last year’s Hubbard patch. Which is quit a distance from where I grew pumpkins, last year. Or, maybe, the pumpkin’s I grew this year, (quit a distance away) fertilized the squash blossoms, and overcame the Hubbard genes? Whatever it is, it will be used, and seed saved for next year.

    From last week, I got to thinking about examples of the early 19th century. Say, 1820 or so. What life was like. I was coming up, pretty empty. I’ve got my Currier and Ives print (saucy Eliza) and my massive bedroom dresser. Tasha Tudor, the illustrator came to mind (she lived and partied like it was 1820.) But then it came to me, this morning. Of course! Richter’s “The Town” takes place in that time period. Life had to be more “worked at”, but then, there weren’t all the distractions of modern life. General health was more of a problem, but if we can maintain a bit of the knowledge we have now, that might not be so much of a problem. More frequent hand washing, probably would have gone quit a ways in cutting mortality. Such simple things.

    I doubt I’ll live to see the Western Waterway re-establish itself. But, some of those people who bought dodgy property out in Nevada and Arizona, may have the last laugh. Some may end up with valuable ocean front property :-). Lew

  10. @ Damo – It’s been awhile, so I can’t quit remember what finally tipped me off, that “The Call of Cthuluu” wasn’t a “real” silent film from the 1920’s. I hadn’t watched the DVD “extras”, first. Something slightly off about the makeup. And, silent films had a bit of a “flat” quality about them. Anyway. A great effort from some folks who pretty much made the film in their backyard.

    That’s quit an eclectic selection of books. None of which I have read. I think I took a run at “First Man in Rome”, and just couldn’t get “into” it. I’m up to chapter XXII, in “Saxon Shore.” Lew

  11. @ Inge – thanks for the advice! We’ve gotten plenty of rain but I didn’t know about misting the flowers to cool them down. Now I can try it. It’s going warmer than normal for September so I might not get any beans otherwise.


  12. Chris,

    Very nice writing about your carless year. I’ve at times been forced to be carless for a few months at a time and enjoyed riding a bicycle. Fortunately, there’s good bus service here, as bicycles don’t mix with cars on slippery, icy roads.

    Those kookaburras looked totally happy on the new horizontal perches. Before you know it, they’ll learn how to knock down other trees for the same purpose. I mean, if the wallabies are digging your potatoes for you, why can’t the kookaburras take down trees for you?

    You mentioned that you liked the Mt Spokane picture, and that the mountain is large. True. I never downhill skied there, but used to cross-country ski there a lot. One time I began in a snowstorm and it warmed up. By the time the rain started, it got very windy. I was forced to dig a hole and change into dry clothes and sit it out under a rain poncho for 8 hours. I had plenty of food and water so was in no danger of hypothermia or anything. Turns out even if I had gotten to my car, I would’ve been stuck, as several trees blew down, blocking the road out. I was late for dinner with a friend, so the park rangers unblocked the road and found me on their snowmobiles. They determined that I was too stiff to drive safely, so I was driven home by a sheriff deputy, and collected my car the next day. So, yes, you can say that I had a mountaintop experience.

    The homeless get their water during the day at libraries during the summer, I think. The restrooms are patrolled, though, as many of the homeless try to use any public restroom for bathing and leave a mess. There’s one guy, however, who is always respectful, and both our branch of the library and the nearby Walmart allow him to clean up in their facilities. He cleans the entire room when he’s done. Some restuarants have put keypad locks on their restrooms and give out that day’s code to paying customers.

    Our local library is closing in late December for about 18 months. It is being expanded, with a new coffee bar and food and comfortable seating getting added. The impetus? Homeless have been staying in the bushes at the side of the library away from the doors, and people complained, as there is a path there. So, the shrubs will be removed and not replaced, and the library will expand so there is less grassy area to lounge around in.

    Triffids? Were I to try to educate the youngsters about triffids, I think I’d be trying to push a rope.

    The Sunday rain was more or less a fizzle, as it was significantly less than what was forecast. I think maybe we got 3 or 4 mm. But Monday? Gadzooks! Probably well over 1 cm in 20 minutes. I can see a rain gutter from one of the house windows and it was within a few mm of overflowing at the top end. It rained steadily for another 2 hours after that. We might get more tonight. We likely got about 2 cm in my neighborhood on Monday, which is more than the normal monthly average, although the official weather station west of town got maybe 1.3cm combined over the 2 days.

    Ahh yes, King Arthur and large squash with hard shells. All I can think of is Club Vortigern.


  13. @ Claire
    I don’t think that it can be to cool the flowers because I do it in the evening. I had thought that either they don’t set seed when dry or the damp attracts the insects. I did get this info. from elsewhere but don’t remember the source. Son doesn’t do this and he was having trouble with his beans while I have had a glut.


  14. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the anecdotal contrast of your current summer with your previous summers. Climate outlooks are a bit art and a bit science, so you never really can tell the details that far out.

    Your discussion with Claire about peas rang a little memory bell. The local Diggers gardening club produces an excellent book titled: The Australian Fruit and Vegetable Garden. There is a note regarding peas which states that:

    “Peas prefer the cooler months, as temperatures over 25’C (77’F) reduce flowering.”

    “Broad beans … as long as they are sown so that flowering would have finished before the onset of 20’C (68’F) days.”

    “Runner beans will not set pods when the temperatures soar over 30’C (86’F) and are best planted in some shade in warmer districts”

    The air temperature may be occasionally too hot this year in both of your gardens?

    Maybe I have spent too long in this cool mountain climate because Melbourne’s winters seem quite mild to me, but I guess it is a relative thing.

    Smart thinking of the neighbour to dodge the registration taxes. They have an historic vehicle registration system here, but it is not free and it does apply some restrictions to a vehicles usage. I assume the same thing goes on in your part of the world? There is an island off the coast that is only accessible by ferry and many years ago the residents had allowed their motor vehicle registrations to lapse. The authorities swept in a few years back and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Ah, they now get concessional (i.e. lower) rates for registration fees.



  15. Hi Lewis,

    Caution is the watchword when putting ones hand into a dark post office box. It is not like we don’t have huge huntsman spiders down here, and they’d really enjoy living in something like a post office box. I accidentally brushed one of the spiders onto my arm the other day when I removed a garden hose from its hanger. The spider had been living in the depths of the hose during the winter. Fortunately, out in the bush, no one can hear you squeal!!!!

    Thanks, and you know I see people riding motorbikes wearing t-shirts, shorts and thongs (your flip-flops) and I do sort of wonder what would happen to them if they fell of said motorcycle. Someone once told me that the effect of sliding upon the road in bare skin was akin to attacking the skin with a cheese grater. Sorry for the horrid mental image, but I wore the leathers even when the temperature in the shade reached past 40’C (104’F) and out in the sun it was a whole lot worse. Riding a motorcycle I discovered that the weather was really pleasant only about 20% to 25% of the time. It just wasn’t enough benefit for the costs and risks involved.

    Hehe! I assume that they had KPI’s for tested drivers. That was bonkers testing me on a pushbike. Oh, they’ve got those testing units here. Apparently THC can be detected from some sort of swab on tongue test, but I’ve never had one of those tests. The funny thing is that the police head out to those road testing setups in a huge bus that has 0.05 and Drugs emblazoned on the side of it. You’d hope that no tourists mistook the marketing blurb…

    Out of curiosity, given a lot of the transit systems were dismantled in your part of the world, why did those two cities survive the dismantling process? We’re sort of OK for public transport and the tram network is nothing short of amazing. Although the ticketing system would be almost incomprehensible for tourists as it is smart card based and you can’t obtain a smart card onboard. Hmm, an oversight in the system?

    Motor vehicle repairs are always a compromise and then there is the economic side of the equation to consider as you quite rightly point out. Hey, the ever escalating house insurance story is the same story.

    Speaking of which Scritchy the boss dog has mild dementia and she is driving me bonkers with her antics. Mind you, it is only a mild nuisance. I’ve never had a dog live long enough and been physically hardy enough to display signs of losing the plot.

    Thank you, and yes Ollie is smart. He’s not quite as smart as the sadly missed Sir Scruffy, who was the smartest dog that I have ever encountered, but all the same he’s pretty switched on.

    The roses are doing really well, and I noted that one rose had produced the beginnings of a yellow flower. They’re growing fast, but the season is rapidly warming. The rose that appears to have died may be a little bit of a precious hybrid. All the same, I’ll move it to another location to see whether it can get its act together.

    The tree dudes have been turning up semi-regularly of late. Not to make a joke of it, but I reckon I’m involved in some rather complicated Samoan Islander family politics and it is frankly beyond my understanding, but I get glimpses of larger matters going on just beneath the surface. It is a bit lost in translation.

    Do you grow Daphne in your part of the world? The fragrance is something else – it is unparalleled.

    ‘Early in the season’ is what people up there are saying too. The Bureau of Meteorology has announced that there is little hope of rain on the horizon for those states either. Basically, it is very dire up there with the bushfires.

    Well, you my friend, may get your just desserts if ever you happen upon a proper and well made Lamington! Yum! A local bakery makes a superb Lamington, but nothing beat one that I’d sampled once many years ago which was supplied by the local Country Women’s Association who’d kindly donated some to the local fire brigade where I was a member at the time. Imagine a sponge cake, that was really good. Then add fresh home made jam and thickened cream, and you’ll know why I ate four of them in quick succession (the editor managed three). Sometimes in life you hit the jackpot, and it is hard to discern when that has happened, but I knew that day what was placed before me was pure baking gold! Have you ever felt that way about an item of food?

    The people who live in and around the Lake Eyre basin have had many years to come to such a pragmatic response of acceptance. A great deal of the landscape is a boom and bust climate, and we use technology and energy and resources to circumvent that, but it takes energy, technology and resources with which to do so.

    The Indonesian capital relocation story was rather strange, but I agree it will become the norm as time goes on. Apparently the government there is investigating a location in Borneo. Hope that doesn’t upset the locals as the city of Jakarta contains a huge number of people.

    Time will sort that matter out about your climate with the son of the Blob. Honestly the Indian ocean to the north west of the continent has cooled (the technical name is the Indian Ocean Dipole), so rainfall has diminished over large parts of the continent, but it can’t cool forever. And then there is the sudden spike in temperature weirdness in the stratosphere over Antarctica. But overall I tend to agree with you in that higher sea surface temperatures will lead to bigger storms and more clouds and rain, but I’m no expert.

    Out of curiosity, have any of the ladies who have partaken of the garlic from the bowl acknowledged the source?

    Oh yeah, that lot do hybridise very readily. On the other hand, your saved seeds may produce something truly epic. There is a variety of tomato called the ‘mortgage lifter’ and the gardener must have been truly chuffed the day that that particular plant produced fruit! One of the band members of the 1990’s rock band ‘Faith No More’ apparently grows monster pumpkins. They were a great band and they still play every now and then: Former FAITH NO MORE Guitarist Grows Monster Pumpkins .

    I can see that saucy Elzia Jane in the Currier and Ives images cut a rather smashing figure. Thanks for mentioning the artist, Tasha Tudor. I had not previously encountered her work, but I love her art. The images which I observed are rarely without animals bouncing around doing their thing. And the images of her house and cottage garden in New England are something else.

    Hehe! They might be onto something with those dodgy land purchases and the future ocean frontage!

    Mate, I had a tough day today.



  16. Hi DJ,

    Thanks mate, and I enjoying the writing process too.

    But oh yeah, the icy road was bad enough in the Dirt Rat, but on a bicycle it would be truly bonkers. Mind you, I noted on the snowy day a few weeks back in the higher parts of the mountain range that there were two riders of pushbikes up there. Things that make you go hmmm! I can’t imagine that they were enjoying themselves and they hardly looked prepared for the snowy conditions.

    Everyone enjoys a garden nemesis, mine just happens to be a collection of rather large and pesky marsupials. I forget, who wears that nemesis title in your garden? Don’t laugh, the Kookaburra’s have huge beaks and often I hear them sharpening their beaks on the trunks of trees. It sounds like a series of repeated mild axe hits on the wood, so you might be onto something.

    Cross country skiing is a good sport, as long as you’re out of a blizzard. Cars make dreadful shelters in cold conditions as they have almost no insulating properties, so you were probably better off where you were. I’ve heard of people living in caravans whilst they build their houses, and I dunno about one of those buildings during a really cold winter.

    Isn’t it strange how some people can be thrown a line of decency and they’ll clean up after themselves and generally display a general sense of appreciation. And others, well not so much. There are times when I see what other people have left for staff at cafes and restaurants to clean up and I really do seriously wonder what was going through their minds to leave such a mess. Dunno, it’s all a mystery to me. Have you got any thoughts in that matter? I always try to make light of the situation with the staff and say that: “Oh. It looks like someone has been having a party there.”

    Wow. Mate, it happens. I suspect that it is a thing that is not on anyone’s radar, but it is a fine line and a series of bad circumstances and choices can turn the world on its head for people. I’ve had the world drop out beneath me during the recession of the early 90’s and it was an interesting learning experience. Builds grit though.

    Shame about that. Triffids might just solve the impending Peak Oil crisis. The kids might benefit from recognising one if they came across one. Look at the pretty plant, gee it’s a bit funny looking, aaaaahhhhhhh! Then they’re plant food… Alas for the poor educational outcomes these days. I must have been about 7 years old when I read the book and the next time I saw fireworks I was feeling a bit silly because I didn’t appreciate the display for some strange reason. 🙂 The perils of growing up reading pulp science fiction.

    That is a lot of rain in a very short period of time. Hope nothing was washed away?

    Club Vortigern! Very amusing! Ere you, put that down, that’s an offensive weapon that is!!!!



  17. Hello again
    Big row being caused by people who took out costly loans to buy solar panels. Surprise, surprise! They are not living up to the claims made for them. People are demanding compensation.
    I don’t think that these old motor bikes have to be registered at all but shall ask some questions.
    Interesting and thanks for the info about peas, beans etc. I was actually writing about runner beans not peas but clearly they are related in some way.


  18. Yo, Chris – As far as horrid mental images go, I’ve read a few accounts of what it’s like to have gravel picked out of one’s hide. Involves a process known as “abraiding”where the raw skin must be scrubbed several times. Bike leathers in heat. A small taste of what Merlin goes through, clanking around in all that armor.

    We had another monsoon, here, yesterday. DJ mentioned a deluge, and my friends in Idaho had quit a rain “event.” Hmmm. Wonder what’s going on. But back to motor bikes. We have a few biker brotheran, who hang out at the Club. Two of them came in, just after the monsoon, and the term “drowned rats”, came to mind.

    I’m not sure about Seattle’s transit system (might have been the World’s Fair, monorail, etc..), but Portland had a dynamic mayor, Neil Goldschmidt, in 1973. He got the ball rolling. He was later President Carter’s Secretary of Transportation (1979) and later, Governor of Oregon. I was refreshing my memory, of him, and there’s quit a post at Wikipedia. His political career had some ups and downs, but overall, I’d say he did more harm than good. I wasn’t too keen on his attempt to privatize a public electric utility, or, his deregulation of some industries. But, hindsight, 20/20, and all that.

    LOL. I see mild dementia, of the two legged variety, up close and personal, every day :-). Heck, all I have to do is look in the mirror!

    I didn’t know the Tree Dudes were Samoan. Yup. Probably all kinds of cultural currents going on there, that we are not privy, to.

    I don’t know if we have Daphne, here, or not. Probably wouldn’t notice. Not blue, you know :-). Speaking of personal prejudices, Lamingtons … not keen on coconut. Oh, I’d eat one, if it were slapped down in front of me, but it’s one of those situations where there are so many other things I’d rather eat. Hmmm. Baking gold. Those Cornish pasties, I mentioned. Grandma’s banana cream pies. The Mennonite glazed donuts.

    The Ladies are having an in house bake sale, on the 20th. As a fund raiser. I’ve got too many other things, going on, so, I’m not participating. But, they had a box for donated ingredients, and I threw in a bag of sugar and a couple of bags of walnuts. I will check out the sale. But, I think there’s a lot of mixes, involved, but there may be some good “from scratch” things.

    I think the book “Clockwork Girl”, involves a mostly sunken Jakarta. It’s a bit of a futuristic cli-fi book. Several people mentioned it, over at Mr. Greer’s digs. I read it, years ago, and I think it was ok, but didn’t leave much of an impression.

    One person thanked me for the garlic. Janie, who I have a bit in common with. She’s quit the cook. Even did a stint as cook (nanny and personal assistant) to The Stars :-). Two complained that they didn’t get any, so, I’ll have to come up with some, for them. Usually, I leave stuff pretty anonymously.

    Quit an article on the mammoth pumpkins. Usually, the feed and garden stores, around here, have a mammoth pumpkin or two, on display, about this time of year. I understand they pretty much taste like ca-ca. Notice that it’s usually dudes, who grow those things. I think it’s mostly competition and “mine’s bigger than yours”, at work, there. :-). Silly. Over compensating for not having monster trucks?

    Glad you like Currier and Ives, saucy “Eliza.” Quit racy, for the time, what with her kicking up the hem of her skirt, and flashing a bit of petticoat. :-). Victorian cheesecake. LOL. Wonder if the print was relegated to the workshop and toolshed?

    Tough day? Well, some are. Today will be better. Give a thought to a friend of mine who’s going in for surgery, today. They’re replacing three or four discs in his back.

    A book, a movie. A few years ago, I read “The Goldfinch” (2013, Tartt.) It’s now been made into a movie. The trailer is up. I read the book, but might not have mentioned it. I liked it, but then, it touched on so many of my interests. Art history, art theft, antiques, furniture restoration. I hadn’t realized it had won a Pulitzer. The book was quit long, and follows a young man’s, odyssey.

    Something I was curious about, I finally checked into, last night. The painting in the book, “The Goldfinch” is an actual painting. By Carel Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt’s. He had a rather interesting story, very tragic.

    Well, I’m off to hunt and gather at the cheap food store. Treasures! Maybe. Lew

  19. @ Inge – thanks again for letting me know that you water the blossoms at night. I’ll try that starting tonight and see if it helps.

    @ Chris – it’s been of about average warmth this summer – and that means nearly every day was 30C or hotter for the day’s high for close to three months straight. What we didn’t get this summer was any highs of 100F/37.8C or hotter, which is the first summer in many that it hasn’t gotten that hot at least once. I think that’s because there has been so much moisture in the soil that the heat goes into evaporating moisture out of the soil, thus making clouds, thus keeping the air temperature somewhat lower than otherwise (but the humidity high).


  20. Hi Chris,
    Well you certainly were a cool dude back in the day.
    Ugh insurance – it’s really becoming an issue but then I must remember according to TPTB there is very little inflation. We are, in fact, planning to change insurance carrier due to the increase in auto insurance in particular. I figure the day will come when we will be down to one vehicle. With planning we could probably do it now but I don’t think Doug would go for that yet – until it becomes a necessity.

    Even out here in the country there’s plenty of noise – farm equipment, mowers, chainsaws etc. Our next door neighbor is busy chainsawing and splitting his wood for the winter as he heats almost exclusively with wood and the house isn’t small. They have the loudest mower too.

    Yep, fun times marching. I recall my sister participating in the women’s march a few years ago and even though it was in the winter it was a beautiful day. After that it was out to lunch – fun times indeed. I was in Chicago that day as well but my aunt and I went to the Art Institute instead.

    My sister is well meaning but I’d rather see her make more lifestyle changes than participate in marches. I think her next one is the march to prevent suicide. I’m not sure how that works.

    Heat and humidity have arrived again so maybe more tomatoes will ripen.


  21. @Claire,

    I can certainly relate to the caregiving duties. Next up is my aunt who is 75 – not much older than me but she does have some health issues and lives in downtown chicago by herself. Her only daughter has health issues as well and lives in California. My sister who also lives in the city will be the ones dealing with her. We’ve already helped her out when she had her knees replaced. Hope things don’t get too complicated for you.


  22. @ Claire,

    Ouch! Both mothers having problems at the same time. I feel your pain. Starting in July 2006, my wife and I, often at the same time, have had caregiving responsibilities. We feel fortunate if we get 3 or 4 consecutive weeks without drama. My role has been support of my wife since my parents died in 2010 and 2011. Caregiving is a tough road.


  23. Chris,

    With the tires I’ve got on my mountain bike, I would feel reasonably safe riding in the snow. It’s the cars that I don’t trust. I quit riding to the job over 20 years ago even in good weather, as Spokane drivers often view bicycles as a target to hit.

    My garden nemesis is called earwigs.

    Cars are bad for shelter in the cold, as you said, but at least they keep you out of the wind. However, I would’ve been fine in the car, as I would’ve bundled up in the back seat similarly to how I was huddled in the snow. We routinely travel with blankets, a high quality thick foil space blanket, and candles. A candle under the space blanket really heats things up fast. I’ve had occasion to test that back in my more adventuresome outdoor experiences.

    I know people who live in those thin-walled trailers. They go through propane like nobody’s business, and still are always cold.

    Our favorite restaurant is a Mexican food lunch counter, at which we need to clear our own table. Almost without fail, the people who make the biggest mess and have a large group leave the mess at the table. If I were a server, I’d lose my job for getting mouthy with bad customers. A lot of it seems to be symptoms of the uncaring, thoughtless society we live in.

    I spent a few months in the early 1990s living with various friends until I got my feet back under me. I’ve always had more sympathy for the homeless after that. Yet, I have no understanding for the mentality that suggests that it’s okay to be messy and ungrateful when given an opportunity to get cleaned up or to have a meal.

    I chatted with the main youngster who exchanges age related insults with me. She has “The Day of the Triffids” on her reading list. She also knows what tribbles are.

    One of my nieces is under 30. She talks so fast that nobody can understand her. Even her sister tells her to slow down. I had to speak with 4 people in their mid 20s or younger today. 3 of them talked just as fast as my niece. I’m wondering if it has something to do with the constant texting and tweeting, etc., that is their normal mode of “conversation”.

    Surprisingly, there wasn’t much damage in the Spokane area that I’ve heard about. Pullman, about 90 minutes south of here, had some moderately severe flooding that will take a few more days to clear out of. At least hereabouts, this storm wasn’t anywhere near the same level as the one last spring in which someone was kayaking in the street near here.


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

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however the mid week hiatus is here and it’s alive and kicking… Well, not really, me tired. Will speak tomorrow.



  25. Hi Lewis,

    The cleaning of the skin and then the skin grafts was a story that was not lost on me, thus the full leathers even in the scorching summer sun. Merlin was probably lucky that he did not have to contend with extreme UV, but it does seem a smart idea to use another’s hide to protect ones own hide. It looks like there will be a raid on the Eirish settlement at first light. A fools errand, but we’ll see how things turn out in the story.

    DJ’s description sure sounded like a ‘monsoon’ to me too. We get that sort of weather and the heat builds throughout the day, as do the clouds and then before you know it, the heavens open and dump some serious rain in a short period of time. Nobody wants to be caught out in such a weather event, but drowned rat is a good way to describe how it looks. I found a hole in the orchard today that looks like a rat tunnel.

    Politicians are a mixed bag. I often feel that they speak sense about only 50% of the time, but then donations don’t come cheap. 😉 More harm than good is a nice way of putting the story. He was a bit of a trailblazer as we have those very policies in place down here and they seem to have worked out well, poorly.

    Mate, it ain’t just you feeling that. I try not to be distracted, but distractions happen and they sap energy and hamper the ability to concentrate. All up they’re a pain.

    All I know is that something is going on in the Samoan community and they all are into everyone else’s business, and somehow I’m involved. I just do my best and try not cause ripples.

    Couldn’t think of a good blue retort in relation to the Daphne flowers, so the ayes have it! Some of the local Pittosporum tree species are known as native Daphne and I walked past one tree in full flower today and it was pretty good smelling. Plus they’re nice shady trees.

    Of course coconut can be a tooth pain. You’ve reached for gold with the Cornish pastie and I don’t doubt the efficacy of excellence with your Grandma’s banana cream pies. I humbly admit surrender and withdraw from the field (with dignity of course and the name of brave Sir Lamington!) 🙂

    Sugar and walnuts are a good contribution to the house bake sale. Nobody could argue that those are not useful items. Cakes are crazy easy from scratch. Whomever came up with the idea of selling the mix in a box was displaying true genius. The products themselves are usually very cheap and basic.

    Yeah, who would have thought that there’d be consequences for over pumping the ground water?

    Mate, I’m falling asleep at the keyboard. Me tired. Will speak tomorrow.



  26. Yo, Chris – I’m up to chapter XXIV, in “Saxon Shore.” I try and read a chapter, a night. But sometimes get sucked into two. You know how it goes :-).

    Ah, Prof. Mass mentioned The Blob in his 9/9 post. Yup. Warmer water, more moisture in the clouds, bigger rain storms. I really wonder how that will effect our winter storms. Flooding? Another Columbus Day storm?

    The Atlantic Magazine has a short video titled “New Zealand’s Rat Apocalypse.” How they are attempting to rid the island, entirely of rats. Good luck, with that.

    LOL. Oh, dear. I meant to say that Mayor Neal had done more good than harm. Portland had had a string of rather colorful mayors. There was Bud Clark (old, dope smoking hippie) and Sam Adams (gay, minor sex scandal.)

    Quit by accident, and from an unexpected source, I heard yesterday that my old landlord Don, had passed away. So, I got online. Sure enough, he died last February 25th. There was just a small notice in the newspaper. No larger obituary, which, given how close that family plays to the chest, makes sense. I’m sure the vultures are circling, but, he did keep his will up to date, so, things should be pretty cut and dried. I think I’m well out of it.

    I watched a couple of documentaries, last night. One was called “Cave Digger.”

    Two minute trailer. By the way, the sandstone he was digging in, is the shore of that ancient prehistoric sea.

    The other documentary I watched was about the construction of Grand Coulee dam. It was the first dam, constructed on the Columbia River, in the 1930’s. There were lots of pluses and minuses, involved in that. Benefits and deficits. I think the documentary was fairly even handed, but there’s a certain … ambiguity to the whole thing. Lew

  27. Hi everyone,

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that the mid-week hiatus continues for two days. Unless of course it goes for only the single day, or does not make an appearance at all, then it is of a shorter duration. But alas, this week the mid-week hiatus continues for two days. Until tomorrow!



  28. Hi Lewis,

    I am impressed as always by the speed of your reading. To be honest, today has been crazy for me, and I had plans, which were upturned. All the same, I got a lot of things done (some of which I had actually intended), but reading was not one of those things in the ‘done’ category. I’d even imagined a leisurely lunch, which was anything but as I scoffed down a chicken butter curry pie, although the place served my pie upon a ceramic plate with proper cutlery. All very civilised, and I may note for the record that pies rarely taste the same when served from a brown paper bag.

    I’ll check the good professor’s blog tomorrow, but I did note that one town received a lot of rain from what appeared to be a ‘stuck’ heavy band of rain. Your winter may be warmer and wetter than the usual winter (whatever that is)? Time will tell.

    Hadn’t heard about rat eradication efforts in New Zealand, but I sort of feel that the horse has sailed and the ship has bolted on that front. Adaptation seems to be the watchword! We’ve got an island off the coast that is apparently over run with rats and huge efforts are going into eradication programs. The rats of Lord Howe: What kind of biodiversity is achieved through biocide? The images of old artwork of the birds on the island is quite good in the article.

    Hehe! I thought that you may have meant that, but it was pretty funny and a delightful and amusingly accidental slur on the man’s good character. 🙂 This would make you a very good accidental politician. A bumbling yet likeable politician or diplomat would make a good character in an amusing story.

    It is actually quite fortunate that you have moved on from your former digs because following funerals, circumstances can change and who knows what could happen to a house that is being leased? Did you know the guy well?

    It is funny you mention archaeological digs in shores of prehistoric seas, but I read the other day about fossilised footprints left by a family of Neanderthals recently discovered in France.

    There was a bit of excitement late this afternoon as I went to the market on the edge of the big smoke to pick up some grains and fresh fruit and veg and a fight broke out. A couple of young blokes seemed to have an issue with another young bloke and it invovled something about a young lady. Lots of pushing, the odd punch, they crashed into a flower stall and then ran because the police were on the way. Bonkers.

    Better run, will speak tomorrow!



  29. Hi, Chris!

    You are cool! You have always been cool! What a pretty background behind your coolness.

    Food is allowed in a post office?!

    To be continued.


  30. @ Margaret and DJ – thanks for understanding! In many ways we have it easy. Mike’s mom lives just a 20 minute walk from here, we’re both retired so he has time to spend with her and I can cover at home, and she has enough money for whatever care she needs. But it is difficult, especially the first time, to watch a loved one deteriorate over a period of a year or so rather than either die suddenly at home, as Mike’s father and aunt did, or do that dying process 1200 miles away, as was the case with my father. So far things seem to be OK for my mom, who is at home as usual.


  31. Yo, Chris – Yes, I had one of “those” days, yesterday. Minor irritations that pile up, and just seem to color everything. And, not coming from one source, but from all over. The one involving the Institution, well, those just make me feel powerless. Not something I like. So, it was kind of like a kid’s book, I remember. “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” (Viorst, 1972.)

    LOL. I even caught myself looking up if Washington State still had execution for murder. Nope. Well, if one is going to indulge in silly, private, grand jestures (sp?), might as well make it a good one. So, it’s change what you can, or accept what you can’t. No fun, at all.

    Yeah, there was flooding in Everett. Which is a fairly good sized city, about half way between Seattle and the Canadian border. They got something like 5 inches in an hour.

    That was an interesting article on Lord Howe Island. The video about New Zealand? Well, the thing that struck me about it was, they’re referring to the rats as invasive species … who have “only” been there since the 1770s. At what point does a species become native? Who decides? But, I can see their point, if they want to save their bird life, something has to be done.

    Oh, I’d known Don, my old landlord, for about 20 years, before I moved out there. And, he always assured me that, even after he was gone, I’d be able to continue living there. But things just got to weird with the evil stepson, and his spawn. And, all the infrastructure problems.

    The “Cave Digger” is not about archaeology. More a Grand Designs (Delusions?) kind of a film. Caves dug as living spaces.

    I watched a new film, last night. “Serenity.” Trying to avoid spoilers, here. Well, the idea was interesting. But, way too wordy. I fast forwarded through vast tracts, just to get to the plot of the film. Can I recommend it? Well, not really. Unless you’ve got ten minutes to kill, can watch it for free and have the ability to vast forward. Lew

  32. Hi Inge,

    Ouch. Why did they have to take out loans for the solar equipment? 😉 But it is hardly surprising. Your lovely island is at latitude 50’N, whilst as a contrast I’m at 37’S, so before I’ve even put too many brain cells to the story, it strikes me that you may not get a lot of winter sunlight because your winter sun is even lower in the sky than here.

    Years ago when I used to indulge my whim of travel, we’d occasionally spend a few weeks down in the island state of Tasmania during the depths of winter. The very bottom of the island is at a latitude of 44’S. I loved the winter over there, but they had such a long twilight during the winter days. I don’t experience that prolonged twilight here, but it really left an impression on me. Anyway, my point is that solar photovoltaic panels won’t work very well during such conditions, and you’re further north than what I’ve ever experienced, so it is a true mystery to me how anyone could expect solar photovoltaic panels to work in such winter conditions.

    A general rule of thumb that I use in these matters is that if the plants are growing then there is excess solar energy.

    Makes you wonder if the people demanding compensation read the tiny little terms and conditions? Those things get printed in such tiny font sizes that I reckon that there would be quite a big percentage of the population that would have no chance of being able to physically read them.

    I’ll be interested to hear how the registration process goes in your part of the world.

    My, my, but your politics have been truly fascinating of late!

    Thank you, and I’m only just beginning my journey of learning with peas and beans. Broad beans I reckon I’ve got down pat as we’ve been growing the plants from saved seeds for many years, but other peas and beans have proven to be more difficult and problematic.

    I dug and moved soil for most of the day today. The garden terraces project is coming along quite nicely. We finished as early evening set in and so there were no photographs. I’ll get some tomorrow.



  33. Hi Claire,

    I’m quite amazed at the consistency of your climate during summer. I’m used to such climate variability that I have little to no idea as to what to expect. The long term summer average here is I believe about 26’C, so your soil and air temperatures would be much greater than here. It is fascinating to contemplate why that would be? Dunno. On the other hand I can have somewhere between 3 and 11 days of temperatures above 40’C during a normal summer, but then some days the temperature can plummet and drop below 20’C.

    Ah, of course, clouds do help moderate summer temperatures.

    In a strange bit of information gathering, I came across a reference in my local gardening club in relation to tomato seeds. Now, I generally sow tomato seeds direct into garden beds. However, the club notes suggested soaking the seed in warm water for between 4 to 6 hours prior to sowing them out in the garden. That minor reference started me wondering whether I should be paying more attention to the important matters pertaining to breaking their germination dormancy. Do you treat seeds before sowing them, or do you raise them indoors (in your covered patio from memory) and then transplant them? The capsicum, eggplant and chili plants have so far eluded my best efforts at direct sowing.

    Hope you are doing OK with your folks, and you have my sympathies.



  34. Hi Margaret,

    Yes, I’d like to think so too! Hehe! Alas for me, I was a total dork, but you know what? The dorks are actually very cool, if only because they are usually interesting people. 🙂

    Exactly. It makes no sense at all. If I have to face an increased bill of 17.3%, and the bill has been increasing each year by around the same amount, how the heck is the official inflation figure so low? The metric is clearly no longer functional. Oh well, not much to see there, move along and all that business. I did some rough back of the envelope calculations and within 5 years I’ll be hard pressed to pay for it.

    Well, you know it is not a bad idea to adapt now (or when you’re ready) and switch to the single vehicle. As an option it makes a lot of sense. You may notice that we keep one very cheap new and fuel efficient runabout and also the Dirt Rat Suzuki for hauling purposes. The Dirt Rat has now reached 15 years of age. Both machines are very well maintained, but even the Dirt Rat uses very little fuel. But yeah, I hear you, when it becomes a necessity it will be an obvious decision, and if you’ve already contemplated how it will work, then your miles ahead. People hang on too tightly, and it is not a good idea.

    We got up early today and put in a very long day of digging and moving soil on the three garden terraces project. At the back of my mind I had a vague hope that the digging would be done today, but despite our best efforts, there is definitely another day of digging and hauling. Tomorrow we’ll change tack and begin clearing a path through the firewood pile up there. The path is necessary otherwise I’ll have to lug many cubic yards of mulch and compost up the concrete stairs before we can begin sowing the seeds in those garden beds. We’ve still got a few weeks before the seeds need to get into the soil, so it should be all OK – maybe.

    There’s plenty of noise here too. A very distant neighbour (probably about 1.5 miles away) was using an excavator with a rock breaker today and I could hear the dak, dak, dak of the bit trying to break apart the rocks. As a contrast, we also heat entirely with firewood, and I would usually have that task done by now if things were suddenly upside down. By March there is a cooler note to the air and increased humidity – not good for storing firewood.

    I fail to see how a large house can be heated with firewood, unless it is zoned well.

    Ollie hasn’t chewed any furniture for a while, but I dare not mention that as it may put the ‘kiss of death’ on me! Scritchy can smell homemade pizza cooking in the electric oven and decided that I was a soft target and needed pestering. Alas for poor Scritchy as instead she enjoyed a cuddle (which she hated) and she is now steering clear of me.

    Fun times, but yeah, I too would have enjoyed spending time at the Art Institute instead. I feel that too, but the easy path is often the harder path, whilst the harder path is often the easier path – although it is very hard to convince anyone of that.

    A couple of decades ago I had a girlfriend who’s brother had suicided. The emotional scars left on the family were clear to me and I remember having dinner with them one evening I had the strangest feeling almost as if I were looking down at all of us sitting there eating. It freaked me out, and the parents were just so critical and just wanted the world the way they wanted it and were more than happy to verbalise their thoughts. The young lady and I did not date for very long.

    And after High School I had a mate who suicided, and he had an exceptionally privileged upbringing, although his dad was a tough nut and I studiously avoided him.

    Yeah, I’m not sure how a march on that issue would work either. You can’t wake up one day and say ‘I’m going to cure a whole bunch of social ills’. Walking on the other hand is very good for mental health as an activity.

    Oh yeah, I reckon you’ll still be harvesting tomatoes into next month, although by mid-next-month I reckon things will really slow down for you.



  35. Hi again, Chris:

    You are on a roll with your writing. This anecdote really went along smoothly. You have some incredible memories from the past; thanks for letting us go along as you ponder them.

    What a wonderful storm rainbow photo.

    We finally have had rain here, so I don’t have to water the fall plantings twice a day. It is still very hot, though. One of my problems in this forest at this time of year is keeping the falling leaves off of the new little plants, so I remove them every day. I planted about 30 feet of spinach a few weeks back; only two plants have come up, though they are doing well. This was from seed bought in the spring, two different varieties, that did very well in spring. I am thinking that spinach may not germinate well in the heat (though it’s funny about those two plants)?


  36. @ Claire:

    I am sorry to hear about what you are having to deal with both of your parents. I have that looming over me, too. My dad is 80 and my mom 81, she is somewhat frail, he is pretty robust, but tired. They live 1800 miles away in Colorado and I had hoped that they would move here when my dad retired at 74, but they like what they are familiar with there and are still far away. They will not fly, so when I finally have to get them here it is going to be hard. And they don’t have a whole lot of money.

    My runner beans never produce until September, though I have chosen a variety exactly for that purpose. It is Cornfield Green Beans (pole) and I have been saving its seed for 20 years.


  37. Hi DJ,

    Well, you’ll get a laugh out of this. The two dudes I saw riding that day in the snow were on racing bikes. The climb up to the top of the mountain range is quite long and steep and every weekend people pit themselves against the might of the mountain, and they’re usually on racing bikes with their tiny thin tyres. As a general rule, I reckon those small road tyres don’t work that well in the snow!

    Hey, I had the same feeling with cars when I was on the motorcycle. I gave the mode of transport a good decade, but there were just too many close for comfort calls and I was just left with the uncertainty as to what would happen if I was just feeling a bit off one day and failed to concentrate properly.

    I’ve remarked to the editor on many occasions that the situation is akin to: “not much good being in the right, and dead or seriously injured”. It is a funny feeling waking up one day and knowing that you’d used up your nine lives and pushed things as far as they could go. Did you get to that point with the pushbike commute?

    Earwigs. Not good. Those pesky little critters can get into the stones of stone fruit. No, we’re not a fan either. The small birds usually keep on top of them, but as a strategy it is not 100% effective.

    That is true about being out of the wind, if you’d been in the car. Things are clearly different in your part of the world, and whilst I keep a blanket and sheet in the car for injured wildlife, as a form of shelter, nobody down here would keep such a thing. I recall waiting for the editor one night where I was stuck in the car and it was only 6’C, and I lost core body temperature that evening. She was very, very, late, and I was very grumpy, but your brain gets a bit scrambled with either extremes of cold or heat.

    Ouch! Yes, I too would get into trouble for speaking my mind when confronted by such carelessness. I’ve worked retail and I tend to have a policy which says: “would I like to clean up this mess.” Although the other week I accidentally knocked over a small sugar container and the lady working there (whom I’ve known for about a decade) amusingly threatened to chuck the spilled sugar into my coffee… Coffee is meant to be bitter tasting not sweet. Anyway, it was a rare event but I am getting older.

    Hey, down here, couch surfing is counted as being homeless. It is an unsettling act and I knew a few people during those days who also had to make that choice. I note that it is hard not to overstay your welcome during such a time. It is funny you mention that. Hmm. There is an old adage that: ‘You can only help those that help themselves’. I’m sure you’ve heard of it?

    You know you’re in good company when your boon companions can alert you to the noxious presence of either Tribbles or Triffids. 🙂 It would be quite handy if they knew how to avoid the ‘Alien’ of the film of the same name fame. Or even Terminators – they seem like bad news.

    Hehe! I don’t actually know what is going on there with the fast talking. Some people have said that Aussie’s are fast talkers, but I’m not sure how true that is. Seinfeld had an episode on fast talkers.

    Glad to hear that the storm didn’t bring too much damage (but a lot of rain). I’m yet to get woody mulch on the clay surface of the three garden terraces so who know how that will turn out if a really big spring rain storm rolls on in. I’m keeping a daily eye on the forecast.



  38. Hi Pam,

    What can I say? It’s a gift! Hehe!

    No, just kidding around, I was a total dork. But dorks are cool if only because they’re generally more interesting and can lead unconventional lives.

    The background is some of the workers cottages that fill the inner city suburb of Yarraville (a village on the River Yarra). Back in the day it was a suburb that welcomed very heavy industry. There is even a fuel tank farm there. When I moved there, it was like a very gritty suburb where you don’t pick someone else’s fight at the local pub. One evening as we walked the dogs through the local area, we encountered a drunk patron who had spewed forth from the door of the very same establishment and he offered the editor and I, $2,000 for the now deceased boss dog, “The Fat”. She was a nice boss dog, if a little on the grumpy side, but it did seem like a dubious offer from a rather dodgy sort of inebriated gentleman. So we kindly declined the kind offer and he wobbled off down the road.

    I had friends and family that refused to visit because of the reputation of the area, but things have now changed. One day, towards the end of my time there, I noticed a young lady wearing a t-shirt with brightly coloured paint splats on it with the proclamation: “Yarraville Yuppie”, and the times they were a changing.

    A few years ago I went back there on a whim and I could barely recognise the place. It was the same, but somehow vastly and incomprehensibly different.

    Sorry, I digress. Oh yeah, the post office is a counter within the local general store. And being a general store, they provide other services other than the postal service. And so I can assure you that it is indeed a very serious hardship to pick up the mail. You may feel sorry for me, now… Hehe!!!

    I look forward to the conclusion!



  39. Hello again
    Everything stops growing here in the winter. Today however we have had a perfect autumnal day, sun shining and temperature just right. I took a long country walk and have just returned.

    A sea eagle was around here for 4 days, Monday to Thursday. I still have only heard it and not seen it. The woods became completely silent and not a thing stirred. It was quite creepy. Then today the birds were singing again and flying around and a squirrel appeared. Those 4 days were the only time that I haven’t seen a squirrel in 25 years. How strange that the creatures know that it is dangerous even though none of them have encountered a sea eagle before.

    Our politics are beyond insanity now.


  40. Hi Lewis,

    I had no idea that it was Woody Guthrie who had written and performed the song: “This Land is Your Land”. Do you know, when I was a kid, we used to do this program in school called: “Let’s Sing”, and that was one of the songs that we sung. It is more stirring that Kum-by-ya (or whatever it was called). The radio would play the music and we’d be supplied song books and all the kids would sing along. I can’t remember much else about Primary School, apart from that and standing at attention in neat rows and singing “God Save the Queen”. It is hardly any wonder that when they changed the national anthem that I don’t know a single word of it. Fortunately, I do know the melody and can make appropriately toned noises so that nobody would guess that I have no idea what the words are. Anyway, it is hardly a song to inspire the folk. During the referendum, I do recall that Men At Work’s great (and also tragic) song “Down Under” was a contender. It still holds up well today, and even better I know every word: Men At Work – Down Under. 175 million views can’t be wrong.

    Yes, there must have been something in the water. 🙂 I hate having one of ‘those’ days, but I too share your pain. The demands were coming in thick and fast and I do try to keep onto top of them, but I was left feeling overwhelmed. The demands from the ‘Institution’ are possibly doubly worse because they impinge upon your ‘quiet enjoyment’ and as such are a bit invasive really. Anyway, they’d annoy me too. Thanks for the book reference, and no doubt we both feel better than the poor schmuck who was caught up in the punch up at the market. My gut feeling suggested to me that he had brought this trouble onto himself and he had a chance to run and didn’t take it. Bonkers.

    Exactly, change what you can and accept what you can’t. A very stoic perspective on life don’t you reckon? Speaking of which we got up early today and dug and hauled clay for most of the day on the garden terraces project. I had some vague idea that despite my previous words which may have said something or other about the job taking an additional two or three days, I might actually finish the digging task today, but no the previous advice on the matter is perhaps the final word on the subject. Made good headway though and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t you reckon it is a skill to be able to see a task through to completion? I know people who seem somehow proud that they have an inability to complete tasks. Mind you, I also know people that have pride in not being able to maintain a decent house, and that pride also seems somewhat misplace to me. Have you ever heard such talk?

    5 inches in an hour would overwhelm most urban drainage systems. It would be very challenging here, and I’ve survived a few such storms, but they make me nervous, and dare I mention the landslide incident here of a couple of years back? It took a fair bit of work to clean up that mess.

    Lord Howe Island is an interesting place about 400 miles off the coast. I would like to see the place, but I don’t really travel much anymore these days. Anyway, you know my thoughts on rats!

    Well, Duh! The same argument could be applied to any species, anywhere. Even today’s sharks which have been more or less unchanged for about 300 million years could also be seen as “Johnny-come-lately” introduced species. And the changes wrought over in New Zealand by us two legged hominids are probably far worse than anything the rats have ever done, especially given we brought them to those islands in the first place. I’ve heard that story about ‘something having to be done’ and I don’t really understand the significance of it. The combined words mean more than the sum of their parts, but at the same time it is an ineffectual cry into the wind. Dunno. What do you reckon?

    Sorry to hear about Don and you have my condolences for your loss. Was Don a mate or an acquaintance?

    But I do recall your many stories of the Evil Stepson. Surely some caring soul could have sent him out into the cold on an errand to find strawberries in January? That’s how they used to sort such matters out. On a serious note, the water problems there would have been a nightmare. Water is a massive issue down here because water is life, and it will be the limiting factor on this continent.

    Up in the drought affected areas, they don’t have enough water to fight the fires, so they’re going old school and hands on using rake-hoes and bulldozers to create containment lines for the fires. The wind has picked up there today and I’d hate to think what they’re dealing with. The smoke from some of the fires has reached New Zealand.

    Oh, well that puts a different spin on things. I read your words in the literal sense, and it never occurred to me that anyone would want to construct a home inside a cave. I’ll bet the place is hard to heat… Did anyone in the documentary remark upon that side of the story?

    About the film: Serenity. It occurs to me that yeah, well ex-wives asking for favours have to also recall that they are in fact ‘ex’ and maybe not in any position to ask for that sort of assistance – which is frankly a bit extreme. No doubts, they stooge (captain) is being set up by the ‘ex’ to take the fall. Maybe I am a bit cynical. Why didn’t she just leave him and then keep well clear of him? It sounds like she got herself into some trouble and the request is err, wrong. I mean what is in it for the former husband? It just makes no sense.



  41. and again @ Dj as well
    ‘He was right dead right as he sped along but he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong’. There are a number of variants of this.


  42. Hi Chris,

    I don’t soak the pepper, tomato, or eggplant seeds before I sow them, but I do sow them into moist soil in a small wooden flat, put the small wooden flat into a larger plastic flat covered by a clear plastic top, and put that assembly onto an electrically heated mat that holds at something like 30C which is itself on the glassed-in sun-facing front porch. The result is a tiny greenhouse which sets up the warm, moist conditions that favor germination of these seeds. There is no other way for me to give these seeds the consistently warm moist conditions they require at a low cost and in time to grow plants from which I can begin harvesting in July (your January).

    @ Pam – I feel for your dilemma concerning moving your parents when you need to take more responsibility for your care. My mom is in a life care situation, meaning she can move within the senior complex from her apartment on to more structured care. But we have found this year that she sometimes needs to have one of her children come to her to take care of some paperwork she can’t understand. My youngest brother went to FL from his home in OH twice in spring to do this, because he has power of attorney and the financial means to take a sudden plane flight. Now that Mike and I are watching over my MIL on a daily basis to make sure she’s getting the right care, I can see that we won’t be able to do this for my mom should/when she undergoes a similar crisis. It’s not a good look. And my other two siblings live farther from her than my younger brother and I do.


  43. Hi Chris,
    Well we’ll see when we actually do go to one car. Doug is off on a fishing trip (his 2nd this summer) and he’ll be taking his truck so I would kind of be stranded for five days. Definitely a disadvantage living 10 miles from the nearest town. Now I could just plan to stay home for those five days and have a friend on call in case of an emergency.

    Speaking of rain we’ve received 8.5 inches of rain in three days with 5.5 inches last night. We’re up to almost 10 inches this month (normal is 3.75) and it’s not even half over. As we’re on pretty high ground we really didn’t have any issues. We did take a bit of a local tour to check out all the flooding creeks and smaller rivers around here – quite the mess with water running very fast just under the bridges.

    All this rain isn’t so good for the tomatoes as they’re splitting and starting to rot. In fact most people report a pretty bad tomato year. There’s been something strange with my zucchini plants too. They start out fine producing well and then the new leaves are shaped differently, are darker and bumpy. Some zucchinis start to rot before they’re very large and those that grow have bumps and are misshapen. They taste fine. A friend, just yesterday said he’s experiencing the same thing. I had planted one early on more in the back of the property (not convenient) but when we got the closer garden bed prepared I planted another one and it’s not nearby either. Well same thing happened.

    I’m not sure how the neighbor has his heating system set up though I do know he has a wood burner in the basement. Next time we chat I’ll ask but apparently he’s able to mostly heat with wood

    Tomorrow I’m doing a chicken class at one of the community colleges about an hour from here. A friend of mine teaches the permaculture course there and ever year she asks me to do the class. I do make $50 though. I’m just hoping I don’t run into any closed roads on the way though I imagine most will have drained by then.

    Good luck with the terraces.


  44. Yo, Chris – “Gesture” is spelled with a “G”? Who knew? I spent an inordinate amount of time, looking through the “Js”, in the dictionary. 🙂

    Oh, I remember the “Done Under”, song. It was one of those “songs of summer”, somewhere, along the way. Dorky? Most “official” songs and anthems are pretty dorky. A lot of them seem to be written by someone’s maiden aunt … who couldn’t carry a tune. Ah, opportunities, lost. We came so close to Washington’s State song being “Louie, Louie.” Should have been put to a vote of the people, instead of letting the stodgy old legislature, decide.

    Tasks, large (like digging terrace) and small (freezing up a batch of something, etc.) I came up with a philosophy, I think while moving a Timberland library, somewhere along the way. “You only have to do it once. There is an end.” (Lew, ™). Helps one get through, I think.

    Oh, I remember your landslide, quit well. But didn’t you get the idea of your quit beautiful rock gabions, out of the event?

    LOL. The unspoken, sub-text of “Something must be done!” is (by someone else.) :-).

    Caves, even basements, have a pretty steady ambient temperature. Think about Hobbit houses. I think caves, as living spaces, get a bad rap. Usually from people living in McMansions. :-).

    Well, “Serenity” made (mostly) sense to me. I mean, the cash strapped ex-husband was offered 20 million (cash) to do in the abusive husband. Then there was a kid in the mix. The dynamics of which, neither you nor I, have any skin in the game. Remember, I’m from the “feed them to the aliens” school of child rearing. :-). From what I’ve observed, the parent / child dynamic can get pretty weird. From my point of view. As far as just leaving the abusive husband, it was stated, several times, that the abusive husband was a powerful man, with powerful friends, And that she’d end up in the concrete foundation of one of his construction projects. 20 million cash to off someone? Even without all the extra plot dynamics? Can I sleep on that and get back to you? :-).

    I’m up to XXVII, in “Saxon Shore.” There’s an interesting little discourse on the Druids, coming up. Did you get a chance to poke a bit at “The Goldfinch?” You know, in your spare time. Between walking, chewing gum, and major construction projects? :-). Lew

  45. Chris,

    I agree with Lew regarding the Washington State Song: it should’ve been “Louie, Louie”. No contest whatsoever.

    Also, and you likely know it already, for a quick calculation of how long it takes the price of something to double assuming a fixed rate of increase is the Rule of 72. Simply divide 72 by the interest rate. So, a 17% rate of increase would take slightly more than 4 years to double. This is why even “innocuous” rates of inflation like 2% are killers in the long term. Of course, many necessities increase in price more rapidly than the stated rate of inflation, and a lot of the luxuries that are included in the published rates of inflation I don’t even buy.

    Racing tires on bicycles in the snow? Bwahahaha! That’s a major accident waiting to happen.

    I quit riding my bicycle to work soon after we moved into this house in 1996. There were too many hideously busy streets to either cross or ride on. The final straw was when, on a very unbusy street near the campus where I work, somebody was leaving work. He waited until I was beside him, made eye contact with me, and drove away from the curb. I still don’t know how I didn’t get smooshed.

    Oh yes, overheating or getting too cold wreaks havoc with the old brain. Neither are good, that’s for sure. At least I know enough to dress appropriately in the winter, but there is a limit to how many clothes one can doff in the summer without getting arrested.

    Exactly! Coffee is meant to be bitter! Adding sugar or cream ruins a perfectly good cup of coffee in my opinion.

    Terminators would be scary to meet. Very scary. How would one go about stopping them short of having a bazooka or a cannon?

    I’ve heard too many Aussies talk, thanks to my old shortwave days. To this day it’s easy for me to keep pace with an interview with an Aussie. Now a Weegie, aka a Scot from Glasgow. Coo! Now that has been an accent nearly impossible to understand. And I once could read, write and speak the Lowland Scots language nearly fluently (it’s different enough from English to be considered a language and not a dialect.) But the Weegies and Aberdonians? Forget it.

    We were going to eat dinner at a local restaurant once, and the waitress was from Glasgow. She could tone down the accent so was quite understandable. I jokingly asked her if she would give my wife a Glasgow kiss (aka hit her) just to see what she would do. She correctly calculated that I could more or less speak Scots, so she said something to the effect of, “Ha ya numptie, anurra idee lik thon yin an ye’ll feel whit a propir Glesca kiss is!” (Hey, idiot, another idea like that and I’ll give you a proper Glasgow kiss.) Women stick together.

    Hope you can get the material on the clay before it turns into goo.


  46. Hi Pam,

    Thank you and it is a fun journey and as a general observation, one never knows where they’ll go. I had plans for today and at the beginning of the day inspiration struck and we reached for the stars with one part of the project. 5 hours later…

    The view here is pretty amazing and it is great watching the storms roll in over the valley. Another storm looks set to hit here later tomorrow, but for now the sun is shining and the winds are calm.

    I reckon some of those leaves might just contain germination or growth inhibitors too, so it is a great idea to remove them from your garden beds. I try not to have trees near any of the garden beds or house for that matter. Shading makes for tough conditions, doesn’t it?

    I can’t really tell for sure, but the leafy greens here prefer the cooler months for germination. Over summer it is tough keeping them alive and mostly I don’t. Perennial rocket seems to be an exception to the rule as is Silverbeet (which has too much of an earthy taste for my palate).



  47. Hi Inge,

    Yeah, exactly, the winter suns rays are feeble in comparison to the summer sun mostly because the sun is so much lower in the sky. People have a really hard time understanding that issue, until they have to accommodate it at some future point in time.

    What a lovely day! 🙂

    Huge wedge tail eagles are regular visitors over the farm, and the story here is slightly different. Instead of going quiet, the local birds begin their alarm calls, and the tough-as-nails magpies will fly up and intercept the eagle. The magpies are tiny compared to the eagle but that doesn’t stop them. The eagle does its very best to ignore the indignity but every now and then the eagle will take out one of the hapless parrots and I’ll see the remains of a carcass and a spray of brightly coloured feathers.

    Hehe! Thanks for the adage.



  48. Hi Lewis,

    I’m hardly up for a critique of anyone’s language skills. English was my worst subject at High School. The creative essays in particular used to flummox me. They’d ask for a creative essay, I’d write something creative, and then they’d mark it poorly and lecture me about not writing to the request. There must have been a knack to writing creatively, but it eluded my best efforts. Just shows how creative ‘they’ are, ‘they’ don’t know nuffin anywhoo. 🙂

    Hehe! That’s a brilliant observation. Maiden aunts unlikely to carry a tune and/or create a catchy melody have no job being anywhere near the creation of an official tune. 🙂 Anyway, our national anthem is boring and hardly likely to inspire anyone – and talk of “young and free” might well irritate the indigenous folk who have a very old culture. The first time I heard Louie, Louie was sung as a cover by the Australian rock band, Australian Crawl.

    Hey, the name of the band that penned and performed such a fine song is worthy of recognition as the state anthem: “The Kingsmen”. The name says it all as far as I’m concerned. And the song is a song of longing – a worthy emotion.

    Sometimes I too see the world that way. For some reason my mind equates those tasks with: “sitting and getting through an exam”. How did the library move work out in the end?

    Speaking of tasks, we had plans this morning and then at the last second inspiration struck and we ploughed a 6 foot wide path through the huge firewood pile at the top of the new ramp. It took five hours of splitting and hauling – actually I moved huge chunks of firewood to the splitter and then threw them onto the other side of the firewood pile. And all day the spring sunshine shone. As you’d imagine the log splitter is powered by the sun.

    True, one does learn lessons well when things go very wrong. And that was certainly the case with the landslide. I’ve been seriously lucky not to have enjoyed another such wet summer for a few years and I have no idea what this summer will bring. It isn’t good up north. If the place doesn’t burn to the ground in a bushfire, growing plants is easier in a dry summer. That’s a lot of if’s though.

    Of course, the someone else, somewhere else and paid for by, I dunno somebody else. Who does pay for these sorts of demands! Anyway, it is a lot of ‘somes’.

    Oh, that reminds me, last century I stayed in an underground house in Coober Pedy and it was quite temperate now that you mention it. The days there can be excruciatingly hot, and the nights can be very cold, so most people live underground there. It is very rare for a house to have a basement in this corner of the continent, although one day I may construct an underground cool store.

    You’re right and I am wrong, and of course I have no skin in the game so can’t make a proper assessment of the emotional investment and response. I hadn’t realised that money was involved in the deal. I’m from the ‘give them a double espresso and a kitten and hand them back to their parents’ school of child raising. I’m prepared to admit that such a strategy is a bad one. I guess that such an amount of money could purchase a lot of therapy with which to deal with the inevitable guilt, and also there is the possibility that the ex-wife would double cross him. I mean it is not like such things don’t happen in the real world, and there was a now deceased crim (note the use of the past tense) who used to short change hit men that he’d hired. Can’t say the strategy worked too well for him.

    Nope, with the exception of last night I have not had two minutes for any free thought. It really has been that sort of a week, and time is running out on the excavations project now that spring is most definitely here. In other words, I’ve had to get a wriggle on. I’ll check out Goldfinch over the next few days.



  49. Yo, Chris – “Write something creative.” Well, there’s a formula to fail half the class. Who’s idea of creative? Well, the teacher’s of course. No matter if it’s writing or art, “being creative” is in the mind of the beholder … or gate keeper. About the only way to figure your way around a situation like that, is to get a good look at what the teacher considers creative, and then, without copying directly, use the elements that the teacher seems to value (even if they’re not your own). Maybe instead of rocket ships and blasters, you’d have to write about unicorns and rainbows. :-). Using lots of empty, weasel words, that look pretty on the page, but convey no meaning.

    Our national anthem, isn’t too bad. The trick is, you’ve got to start it in the lowest register you can muster, if you’re going to be able to hit the high notes, at the end. And a lot of people have had a lot of fun with it, over the years :-). Besides, it’s got cool explosions. It’s a guy thing.

    Oh, the library moves went pretty smoothly. Just a lot of brute force, involved. Libraries usually have a lot of obsessive neurotics around (Here!), so the planning is usually pretty detailed. Reminds one of D-Day. Lots of floor plans, and shelf plans. One successful event was rounding up a bunch of school kids, blocking off a minor street, and passing a lot of books, hand to hand, from old digs to new. I’ve heard of bookstores being moved, that way.

    Ah, the Ramp/Driveway Interchange. Not a bad idea to switch it up, a bit. Use a different set of muscles … take in a bit of new scenery.

    Kids: Kitten / expresso … don’t forget the tin drum!

    I’ve been seeing articles, recently, on how the 1% is preparing for “The Event.” Which is how they refer, among themselves, to everything unraveling. Cause by, take your pick. World wide financial collapse, runaway climate change, EMP, etc.. And, here’s how they’re preparing …

    I don’t know. Look more like high end mausoleums, to me. A probably fruitless attempt to preserve their comfortable and lavish life style. Rather than developing skills, to adapt to rapidly changing events.

    Meanwhile, down here on planet Earth. The new list for the library comes out, on Friday nights. Titles are divided into subject areas. Sometimes, one can detect a bit of trends, in the zeitgeist, by looking at the titles. As in a few weeks ago, when there seemed to be dozens of books on Keto cooking and diets.

    Last night there were 7 titles on surviving one kind of disaster or another. A real buffet. I didn’t see zombie apocalypse, but everything from weather events to economic collapse. Over in the business section, there was probably another 7 books on how to (maybe) disaster prof your business. Everything from staving off hackers to how to handle the PR, if your product kills someone. I don’t know. My thought is, one must remain flexible and adaptable, and hope for a good deal of luck.

    Looking at the weather, the last few days, and, the forecasts, I think there’s no denying it. Fall is upon us. Time to salvage out as much of the garden, as possible, and start cleaning it up, and buttoning it down, for the winter. Lew

  50. Hi, Chris
    As usual the blog and the comments are the best entertainment out! Loved the bike, but must admit I would never ride one – I’m way too fond of my skin!
    As far as leafy veg go, in hot weather I grow Asian greens like mizuna and tatsoi, which do well as long as they get regular water. I find that lettuce and spinach bolt to seed at temperatures over 25C.
    @DJSpo , I grew up in Scotland, and most Scots can’t understand Weegies or Aberdonians! As near as I can get, Aberdonian is a dialect of Norwegian. (Seriously!) It has the same lilt, and some of the same words.

  51. All this talk of post office boxes make me miss the days when I had a rural address and needed one. It truly did feel like Christmas when you got the little card indicating a parcel inside awaiting collection. Happy days.


  52. Chris,

    I used to own a similar vintage bike, a Honda CBX750. A real tank, and some cheeky scamp had modified the exhaust so it sounded pretty much exactly like an F1 car (and as loud). Car alarms were triggered on occasion. Unfortunately, 20 years seems to be about the time starter motors and alternators fail – so after changing the second I decided to sell and upgrade to a new bike (which, in a foolish burst of youthful enthusiasm I purchased new instead of getting something 5 years old and saving half my dosh!).


  53. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for confirming my worst fears regarding the germination of peppers, chili’s and eggplant seeds. You’ve given me much to contemplate, but for now I’m a bit busy creating growing space and will have to continue purchasing them as seedlings. There is a very good seedling supplier not too far from here and also another very good place in the big smoke (who raise their own seeds which they’ve harvested).

    On maybe one day per year, every year, the temperature in the shade can reach 110’F+ (and sometimes as high as 114’F), but despite that, it is still not hot enough in the soil to break the dormancy of those seeds. No doubts that the plants originated in the tropics where it is hot both night and day.



  54. Hi Margaret,

    Today we visited an open garden to the north of here. The town does a regular Daffodil festival and some of the gardens in the area open to visitors. After a tasty lunch, we ambled around a huge country garden for about an hour. The garden was now into its fourth generation of the same family and they had a cork oak which was over 100 years old, and it looked too. The tree was huge and had a nice spreading canopy. There was also a century old olive tree and I began contemplating the two olive Triffids in the courtyard.

    Anyway, I hear you about the two to one car situation. The thing is though as we were walking around the well established garden today which was miles out of town, I thought to myself that if not careful, one could get lost in the paddocks. But is that a bad thing I ask you?

    How much rain can a Koala bear? Hopefully there are no bear sightings in your part of the world? They would make for a nervous existence. 5.5 inches in one night is an extraordinary amount of water to have to deal with, especially given that your soils are probably quite water logged already after the recent damp summer. Those are very hard conditions. I’m on high ground too and as such the soil is well drained, but even still, very heavy rain is a serious worry. Melbourne looks set for a serious deluge this evening! The storm will only graze this part of the world (as I’m north and inland of there).

    Tomatoes do it very hard in humid conditions and that happens here too (spare a thought for fruiting cherry trees which have the same problem). It is interesting that you mention that about zucchinis. I grow them in raised beds so that the fruit enjoys good drainage. I have a suspicion that the plant is very hardy, however it can be susceptible to fungal attack. Eventually the plant succumbs to fungi in the form of powdery mildew. Cantaloupe are complicated like that too.

    I’ll be interested to hear how your neighbour gets by with just firewood for heating. That is the case here, but the wood box is actually a 25kW boiler and the hot water is pumped to six radiators positioned around the house and they distribute the heat evenly. Otherwise the rear half of the house would get too hot whilst the front half of the house would be too cold. Heating and firewood is a very complicated business and we’ve spent a lot of time over the years getting everything just right. And now it just works, but it is very complicated.

    How were the roads, and did you enjoy taking the course? Have you noticed any increase in the general interest around raising chickens for eggs and meat? The chickens here are now laying about 4 eggs per day which is fine.

    Thank you, and hopefully tomorrow you’ll see just how much work went in to the project this week. It’s been a crazy busy week, but fortunately not all weeks are like that.



  55. Hi DJ,

    Absolutely, as I remarked to Lewis, the name of the band was a dead giveaway in that regard and as such the song deserved greater official recognition. Now, if the band had been called The Paupers…

    DJ, matey, my head is spinning, and you have now confirmed my worst fears with this talk of the Rule of 72. Hmm. You have to admit that it is not good? Even 2% doubles over 30 years (or halves depending upon your perspective). Mind you the Rule of 72 may be casting a long shadow over some popular musicians, because how many popular musicians have gone toes up at the age of 27? Note that the number 27, is 72 mixed around. I now rest my case and head off feeling all smug and stuff having done a great digression segue!!!! Hehe.

    I tell ya, those two dudes on the racing bikes in the snow were travelling even slower than the Dirt Rat, which due to the spin out mishap, I had decided to engage into four wheel drive. I guess that like me, they were unprepared for what they found that day in the snow and ice. But yeah, I do wonder how they made it back downhill again. The next morning when the snow was feral thick here, that particular road was closed to all traffic.

    You were very lucky to have survived the encounter unscathed, but also somewhat wiser as to the darker sides of the human condition. As far as I understand things if a person intentionally kills another person with a gun or a car, it’s pretty much the same thing.

    Nude gardening would set tongues wagging here for many decades. Just to prove my case, I do know someone locally who walked in upon a neighbour that was ambling around their property in their garden nude, and if I heard about, then I suspect others have. The person in question has since moved out of the area.

    I like you how you think. Yes, a cannon maybe just old school enough technology in order to stop one of those pesky terminator things.

    Years ago when I was in the big bad corporate world I had a Scottish off-sider and she was a real gun. The editor couldn’t understand a word she said, whilst I understood her accent perfectly. Now here is the funny thing: Her folks back in Scotland thought that she’d dropped her accent and sounded like an Aussie. Your story was a pisser! (An Aussie-ish bit of lingo)

    I reckon there is another week or two to get the mulch and compost down onto the clay before it bakes hard in the sun.



  56. Hi Lewis,

    So true. So very true. The formula for success must then be interpreted as: Give ’em what they want! As a policy it leaves little to chance, but I have heard accounts that the sort of ‘group think review’ which goes on in higher education is a dead end. I mean what about the wild cards that turn culture on its head? And the other thing that I wonder about is, what if the ‘group think review’ becomes self referential and nobody outside the group think understands what the heck they’re going on about? Bonkers, and also a very cultural dead end.

    You did guess it correctly though. As a child who grew up on a diet of dodgy pulp fiction sci-fi, it was rocket ships and blasters all the way. But then much later the elder folk got my attention and all I can say is: who messes with the gnomes, fairies and forest dryads? It would be a foolhardy sort, that’s for sure.

    Mate, at University, once I stopped fighting, looked hard at the questions asked and parsed them apart and then answered the exact question, I did really well. I’m quite proud of the fact that I topped a subject, and received an academic prize of recognition of the achievement. However, I was seriously unsure whether I learned critical thinking skills in such a place, and further, from hindsight the process looks like a vast echo chamber which radiates its shock waves out into the population. But largely, getting through the expensive process was a form of barrier to entry for my trade. However, in these enlightened times I’m being approached to off shore my job. Fortunately I make a habit of visiting and spending time at clients, but that is looked down upon as an activity in my trade.

    Your national anthem is quite stirring. Having fun with such things is par for course really. You put me in mind of the later years in High School when I had to attend the more English than the English grammar school (after two years in a Steiner setting – my brain sure hurt at the translocation!) and in church whilst in the final year of High School we used to sing the hymns as loud as we could get away with. Many detentions were thus accrued during the year, but far out it was stirring to hear five or six hundred kids singing at the top of their lungs: “The King of Glory shall…” I fancied that the tiles on the roof shook with the noise, but I failed to see that any God would be annoyed at such enthusiasm. But as you observe, it probably is a guy thing.

    I do have to alternate the physical tasks that we do here. A few months back we did three days of digging in a week, and that was one day too many. It is easy to damage oneself if not careful.

    Oh you’re good. A tin drum, he writes as he is also busy filing away the idea. 🙂

    People seeking out a doomstead are bonkers. And that lot all looked like some sort of hotel. I have heard of people living in a hotel, but by its very nature it is a transient address. And I noted that the folks had between one and five years of food. The question then becomes thus: And then what? Bonkers, if they turned up here during the zombie apocalypse, I’d turn them into food for the fruit trees in the orchard, mostly because they’d be useless… And even worse they may have expectations…

    Thanks for the article, and yes mausoleum’s is the right call.

    The other thing is that they have no connection to the land or people in the area that they’ve chosen to bunker down in. It is a concern not lightly dismissed.

    I suspect after the food ran out, they’d be enjoying Ketosis, but for real. The stupidest thing that I read in print last year was: “Lowest liveable weight”. Almost as stupid as the quote: “Death and flies and stuff”.

    Exactly, flexibility and adaptability translates to mean hoping for the best but expecting the worst. 🙂

    The baton has been handed to us down here. Spring is here, it is hard to deny the facts on the ground. Before you know it, it shall be you who is speaking of snow and quiet and stuff!

    Had a really tasty ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich today at a nearby bakery. It was very good and I followed it up with a small chunk of cheesecake topped with blueberry sauce. Yum! I visited an old open garden to the north of here. There was even a 100+ year old cork oak (as in the oak tree bark used to produce wine corks). They’re an amazing tree and I should pick one up for here. It was a huge rambling country garden and it was a pleasure to be able to walk around it at our leisure.

    Better get writing!



  57. Yo, Chris – “…becomes self referential…” And, that, is why modern art and literature criticism are such a muddle, and make no sense.

    Why spend time with the grubby, unwashed client? Especially, when one has all the electronics to put between them and you? (Sweeping, generalized you. Not first person, you.) Hmmm. It seems like the arch of the profession of accountant, is pretty much like what happened in Library Land. A perfectly good apprenticeship program becomes academic. Because (as I was told in library school) librarians wanted to be considered “professionals”, like doctors and lawyers. Hence, the gate keeping. And, the idea that you have more status in your profession, if you don’t have to deal with the great unwashed. You also get minions, who do the actual work. They serve the dual purpose of providing a target rich environment, if something should go terrible wrong. To throw under the bus.

    Come to think of it, I’ve never met my insurance agent. Up to 15 years ago, I had a very nice fellow, who I could pick out of a crowd. Then he sold the agency and … I couldn’t pick my agent, out of a crowd. I should have figured out, early on, that was the way the wind was blowing, as I asked to speak to my new agent, and was told any question I had could be answered by the office assistant / minion. I’m just trigging to this, now. It takes a certain amount of repetition, from different directions, before I pick up on trends. I’d guess the actual agent, only concerns herself with large accounts.

    Oh, I suppose the 1% have some vague idea that government, law and order, and supply lines will soon be re-established. By … someone. Just a bump in the road, and all will return to their idea of normal. Can we sell stock in Rude Awakening? Bundle it up and sell it as securities? There’s money to be made, there :-).

    Lowest livable weight. Well, if one is on a weight loss plan, I suppose it gives you a goal to shot for? :-).

    The sandwich sounds quit nice. And, the trip to the open garden. Always interesting to see what other people are doing. Get a few ideas, maybe. I keep forgetting to mention that I’ve talked to both of the two main Master Gardeners, and it looks like their might be a Meyer lemon, in my future. I thought I’d have to use my one barrel, but there’s going to be another one, available. Good light, but backed on two south facing walls, so there’s a certain amount of protection. And, I fully intend to have a blanket handy, if the temperatures dip really low.

    I had good luck, yesterday, with a forage for pumpkin spice, whatever. I stopped up in Centralia, at an independent grocery, where last year I found Hersey pumpkin kisses. No luck, but found something new. One of those chocolate balls (usually orange flavored) but in pumpkin spice. I just bought one, as they were expensive, and I didn’t know what they’d taste like. Then I stopped at one of the big, chain op-shops (Goodwill) which has recently been bought by a department store chain (Target). So, they’re getting a mix of old and new stuff. I was on my way out the door, and spotted a candy display. And there, was the elusive pumpkin spice M&Ms. At a very reasonable price. Bought 5 packs. :-). Lew

    PS: Up to chapter XXX, in “Saxon Shore.” Read the first couple of paragraphs, and it doesn’t seem very “naughty” or adult. 🙁

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