Goodbye Yellow Rock Road

The climate in Australia could best be described in one word: Variable. From one month to the next, I really have no idea as to the sort of weather that the farm will have to endure. However, just because I don’t necessarily like the sort of weather that I’m enduring, doesn’t make it go away.

Large parts of this island continent are in the grip of an epic drought. The stories and photos I see coming from that large part of the continent are heart breaking. There are towns that are now within only a few days of running out of water, and they’re now trucking water in (at huge expense) for the residents. You can be pretty certain that in those towns, few if anyone, would waste a single drop of the precious life giving stuff. And some of those parts of the continent have received only a couple of inches of rain (25mm) over the past year. Chuck in some unseasonably hot and extreme weather, and they’re doing it tough. Most crops grown in western cultures require at a minimum 600mm+ (23 inches+) annual rainfall, and even that is stretching the friendship a tad too far. Droughts are a normal part of the land in this country, but this particular drought has proven more extreme than previous droughts.

Annual rainfall for the continent for the past 12 months

At the farm, last summer was really hot and mostly dry. From memory there were about 10 or 11 days above 40’C / 104’F. Those sorts of days are accompanied by a low level of anxiety because the Eucalyptus forest is extraordinarily flammable. But by autumn the rains returned over the mountain range, and so now the farm is one of only a few spots on the continent that has enjoyed more or less average rainfall for the year to date. However, it is not lost on me that I have no idea as to the sort of weather conditions that the coming summer will soon bring.

A few years ago during the summer of 2016-17, and a day or so just before New Years Day of December 2016, the summer rains dumped four inches (100mm) of rain in under an hour. I’d seen such heavy rainfall before in previous years. And my experience with other such extremes of weather tells me that they can produce sudden and unexpected outcomes. Long term readers may recall the now infamous landslide incident.

The late December 2016 landslide incident

During the heavy rainfall on that infamous day back in 2016, water pooled above the house and then funnelled into small area at the top of the cutting. A huge volume of water poured down the face of the cutting and washed away all of the soil and vegetation. It took about three days to rectify the mess that was caused in a matter of mere minutes during the storm.

In the month after the storm, we decided that the best way to ensure that such a landslide did not occur again was to cut a path in the land above the house (at the top of the cutting). The idea is that the path slows the flow of water which may pool up there during heavy rainfall. Furthermore, the rocks and vegetation placed on the downhill side of the path would break up the flow of water and spread the energy, thus ensuring that the water was not concentrated in any single area along the path.

In the month after the storm, we put the theory to the test and constructed one metre (3.3 feet) of path. Then some other things happened and the path stayed that way. It was truly the short path the began nowhere and led nowhere! We’ve just been fortunate since then that the rain has not been heavy enough to recreate the potential for another landslide.

The original one metre (3.3 feet) of path constructed in the land above the house

Sometimes projects just don’t feel right, and the original path that we created up above the house was one of those projects. In this uncertain circumstance we decided that it was best to do nothing and await inspiration – and just hope that there was no seriously heavy rainfall in the meantime.

This week, inspiration struck and it became obvious that the original metre of path had been cut too low in the clay, and also too close to the edge of the cutting. We just needed a whole bunch of extra clay to correct the deficiencies of the original path. Fortunately over the past month or so, we’ve been excavating the three additional terraces, and so had plenty of spare clay.

This week, work continued on the excavations for the three new garden terraces, and the excavated clay was put to good work on creating a wide path up above the house.

On Thursday, we got up at daybreak and set ourselves the goal of completing the excavations on the lower of the three garden terraces. We got close to completing the excavations, but close is not the same thing as finished.

The end of another long day of digging almost completed the excavations on the lower garden terrace

However, all of the excavated clay was used to construct a new and improved path up above the house – which coincidentally also leads directly off (and onto) the lower garden terrace.

The clay path up above the house had begun to be constructed

It was disappointing not completing the excavations on the day, but after another days work on the project, the job was done – and all was good with the world!

The lower garden terrace excavations – DONE!

And all the extra clay was very useful for extending the new path up above the house. The original rock path is now under a very thick layer of compacted clay.

Say goodbye to the old rock path and hello to the new and much higher and wider path

It was unfortunate and also hard to believe that we could actually run short of clay for the new path, so I had to excavate clay from the third and highest terrace and then move it downhill using the wheelbarrow. The path project took about a dozen or maybe more wheelbarrows full of clay from the third and highest terrace. And whilst we were working up on the third and highest terrace, we ground out two very large and very old tree stumps.

Clay was excavated from the third and highest terrace and two tree stumps were ground out

Hopefully, the excavations on the third and highest terrace are completed over the next week or so.

The stump grinder was also used to remove two tree stumps from the middle terrace. And that terrace, which has all of the roses growing on it, is now also complete.

Two tree stumps were ground out of the middle terrace which has the many roses growing on it

The plants growing on those three terraces will have what I believe is one of the best views in the mountain range.

The three garden terraces have an amazing view

The excavations have proven to be a bonanza for rocks and during the week, we continued to correct the rock wall in the courtyard (which is just behind the house). The original rock wall there was set in the wrong place and the rocks that we used were just too small. The recent excavations have provided us with many much larger rocks, and so the wall has been upgraded and realigned to provide another four or five feet of courtyard space.

The rock wall in the courtyard behind the house has recently been improved – and is nearing completion

On Tuesday morning there was a late minor frost and the outside air temperature was 0’C / 32’F, and it sure felt cold!

Tuesday morning brought a light frost

Fortunately the frost was only light, and I noticed a strange and psychedelic, but also really cool (excuse the pun) ice pattern on the roof of the Dirt Mouse Suzuki.

The frost produced this psychedelic ice pattern on the Dirt Mouse Suzuki

I’ve been daily checking upon the early blooming fruit trees to see whether they were affected by the light frost, but so far things seem OK. The biggest risk at this time of year are the almonds and apricots, because most of the other fruit trees are far more sensible and are only now slowly breaking their dormancy.

Tiny fruit are forming on this Apricot

Some other fruit and nut trees are only just beginning to break their dormancy this week, like this Horse Chestnut:

This Horse Chestnut is only slowly producing new leaves

The Broccoli that was sown in the corn enclosure is growing strongly, as are the kiwi-berries that were planted in there and the vines will grow along the enclosures fences.

Broccoli and Kiwi-Berry plants are doing well in the corn enclosure

Onto the flowers:

A Japanese Maple produces leaves and flowers
The first of this seasons Blackberry flowers
How beautiful is this Grevilliea
There are bulbs everywhere!
Not much beats a weeping ornamental Cherry tree for a spring display

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 5’C (41’F). So far this year there has been 585.6mm (23.1 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 576.2mm (22.7 inches).

68 thoughts on “Goodbye Yellow Rock Road”

  1. @ Pam,

    Well, my neighbors thought they were about to be murdered BY crows!

    Reading over shoulders, I see that you spent time at UTEP. My physics graduate school year was just up the road at New Mexico State in Las Cruces. I drove by UTEP many times.


  2. Chris,

    The galah is certainly pretty. Since they can live 80 years, one would hope that they are smart and get smarter with age.

    No, the trip to the principal’s office should be fine. When my immediate supervisor retired at the end of February 2018, the program was left in a bit of a shambles. His position was never filled, so I answer to his boss, who answers to the County Engineer. The elected tasked the CE with getting the program moving, so we came up with a program that was implemented in February this year. We’ve been making progress, but the electeds want an update. Since I’m the “face” of the program, they want me there to add clarity and background to any questions they might have. They also would like to put a face to the name that they’re hearing a lot. I told my boss that if it turns into a grilling session and I’m the scapegoat, that’s above my pay grade and I’ll walk out of the meeting. He knows that 1) I don’t make threats, and 2) there’s nothing anybody can do to me if that happens.

    Pottering. Good word. I’ve pent parts of the past two days doing that also. I enjoy that more than tackling a large project due to the variety of tasks involved.

    The very first thing I noticed with this week’s new post was the frost patterns on the buggy. That’s the type of thing I get to see quite often – I appreciate them and the patterns never get old.

    Ouch! That is what a true drought looks like. The dampish August and wet September have gotten us back to normal, but we weren’t anywhere near drought conditions. I can’t imagine 25mm of rain in a year!

    Good work on the path. It looks like it just might channel water into a preferred direction?

    Your camera hounds look very happy.

    Your plants are starting to bud. Our growing season is winding down. We are both hoping that our single and undersized watermelon actually gets ripe. Ditto with the lone and undersized cantaloupe. This year was my last attempt at growing these. Even with a head start for these, the growing season is just too short.

    Cherry trees are always fantastic when in bloom. We have flowering crabapple tree that has spectacular pinkish blooms for about two weeks each spring.


  3. Hi Inge,

    Ah, I had not understood that aspect of your concern. As far as I understand the situation, the various players over there have been at the art of peace for far less time than they’ve been at war. And I’d have to suggest that the hot weather over in that part of the world makes them all unnecessarily irritable! 🙂 People talk about hot heads, but if I had to live with sort of temperatures that lot do, I’d sure be grumpy. Sorry to be flippant but the area has serious concerns regarding fresh water, and desalination is a very energy expensive option. I’m curious as to your opinion of the rainfall map in this week’s blog?

    Absolutely! That would make for a very different story. I’m glad that your island received a good soaking rain. Today alternated between rain and sunshine.



  4. Hi Pam,

    No worries and roll over bars are usually pretty handy items in that they’re simple and they work when needed – which is what you want. I noted the machine in the photo did not have one. You may note that I do not own a tractor and it is not because I do not wish to own one. Although I’ve been considering that story of late and there may be a development down the track a bit.

    Your son clearly wants to turn the beast into an all weather machine. With the tracks it will probably work really well in the snow and mud.



  5. Hi DJ,

    Mate, given the birds live for 80+ years, like most Cockatoo species, I just hope not to annoy them because long memories can breed painful acts of vendetta over a hugely prolonged timescale. After a few decades of the birds chewing upon the house and/or solar power cables and/or outdoor plumbing, I sort of suspect that the vendetta would only be prolonged because the birds recalled that they had it in for me, although the details as to why might be a little bit sketchy. 🙂

    Word on the street is that the worst thing you can do for a Cockatoo is to feed them, for if you stop feeding them, you’ll know about it. The birds beaks are strong enough that they can chew timber, and I’m talking hardwood species of timber. It is not good.

    Good for you! You’re in an enviable position, but also be aware of not motivating the power that be, if only because they can sometimes do unexpected things if so motivated. A potential escape option upon the horizon is always a wise choice to maintain as a possibility.

    Pottering is an enjoyable pastime and who can argue with such a pleasant program? However, my ambitions (and the editors too, she is as guilty of reaching for the stars as I) here require mountains to be climbed and depths to be plumbed – and that unfortunately takes a lot of sweat equity. I should do a photo comparison one week of ‘then’ and ‘now’ images. Just for laughs sometimes I look back at the earlier photos.

    Respect for your talent of enjoying a grasp on the subtleties of math and physics. The ice fractals are nice, and I was wondering whether the buffing of the paint at the manufacturer influenced the ice show?

    Yeah! Oh yeah! It’s not good. People (even ones that live down here) look at this under populated island and think big dreams. Mother nature puts the stomp on those dreams. You can see why the lower east and west coasts are the heavily populated zones, and even then… Add the rainfall deficiencies to old and very phosphate depleted soils and the results are not good.

    Well, best not tempt the weather Gods with talk of getting the path spot on, we’ll just see how it works out. Hehe! You’ll see it develop over the next few months. It takes a lot of fossil fuels to bring organic matter back up the hill, but a little bit at a time doesn’t seem like too much of a bother to me.

    The weather baton is being handed over from you guys up there. Despite the occasional chunk of extreme weather (hot in my direction and cold in yours), our environments are remarkably similar.

    Mate, cantaloupe is hard here too. Thick skinned and smaller varieties of watermelon are far more reliable plants and I’m concentrating on those. I’ll be interested in your description of your watermelon because I grow smaller varieties and they do well. Cantaloupe is good one year and a pain the next. Like most things in agriculture, it depends…

    Crab apples are beautiful trees – and well worth planting just for their flowers and the fruit which can be used for jams / jelly (although I’m unsure what a jelly is).



  6. Hi Lewis,

    Dare I mention that the Dexter series also followed a similar premise? I loved the books of the series, and it must have been a complicated matter for the author to get into the head space of the protagonist. I’ve read accounts of actors that have to get into the ‘head space’ of certain extreme characters that they play and I recall that the now deceased actor Heath Ledger who last played the Joker character in a Batman movie alluded to the dark inner conflicts that is the world of the actor. And yeah, supporting actors are often cast as two dimensional, but good stories always bring in those characters and test their mettle.

    Your observation of the latest instalment of the Men in Black series is now how I feel about the zombie flick which we discussed the other day. Still, there is always Zombieland 2 to whet the appetite for sheer brain devouring enjoyment! Plus the characters in the film take over the White House. I just hope that there is again no beginning and no end to the story. Would you describe such a story as a ‘middle of the road’ story? Hehe! Words are fun.

    The Hemsworth brothers are dangerously good looking. Good for them, someone has to travel life with such a heavy burden to bear. I’ll bet they’re having fun though.

    The special effects in Scanners was very interesting to see, and I just read about how the film makers produced the iconic explosion scenes. It was all very hands on and up close and personal. Interestingly one of the film reviews suggested that the film could be viewed: “as an oblique reflection on what might happen when the counterculture becomes the dominant culture”. BAM! And perhaps a more prescient observation than what is first believed.

    Our culture in particular has a long and rich history of utilising a ‘divide and conquer’ mentality. Separating cultures from their land is an easy way of destroying culture and it has been used to good effect for a long while. A weakness with that way of thinking is that it assumes that everywhere is the same and that people can just move on when they’re no longer required. Some can do that, but not everyone can. And not everywhere can support the same culture – that should stand out from the briefest of brief glimpses of the rainfall map which I included in this week’s blog.

    What a commute, but then I’ve heard anecdotal reports of the crazy property market in that city. Oh. You’re almost half way between Seattle and Portland, so I’d imagine there’d be people moving in both directions. Such commutes are only a drop in time, but at the same time they’re frightening.

    Probably it does, and you may have been on the receiving end of one of those dead-end cultures. 😉 Mate, the Spartans seemed like a humourless bunch of numpties and their desire to seek advantage over others was also their built in weakness.

    The rate is for a business account – with no cheque book and no credit card. Credit card account fees are a bit higher than that, but they’re charged annually instead at about $150. You can get a free bank account, but there are rules to follow otherwise you pay fees, and you can trip up on the rules easily enough that you’d possibly describe them as mostly free accounts. One of the rules is ensuring that you transfer enough money into (and then out of) the account every month to not incur a fee. It’s a game really, and you just have to play by their rules.

    Good stuff with the early jalapeno! Yum. Do you reckon they’re a hot variety – I’ve always believed jalapenos were middling varieties, but I just don’t have enough experience. Incidentally, we plan to give them another go this year, although it is impossible to germinate them outside, and it sounds bonkers although it is true – it is just not hot enough for those plants…

    Oh my! The article on the Street Newspapers is fascinating – and yes it is exactly like one of those. The magazine I get, began in the UK I believe, and has been a theme in a film and book: A street cat named Bob. I quite enjoyed the film. The folks selling the magazine often enjoy a chat, and the bloke I get the magazine from, he knows my patterns and ensures that I always have the latest edition. It is a good magazine too. When I used to work in the big smoke I used to purchase the magazine off a lady who worked in the top end of town. It was all very sweet, but she was quirky.

    Haha! You are so busted. Hehe! So it is you who does the organising for the food swap. Nice work, and now you’re getting two boxes. What is wrong with brown rice? It’s good stuff, and there are hundreds of varieties of rice – even dry land rice that I may have a go at some point in the future. What an excellent system you have going there. Total respect.

    No spoilers thanks very much! I’m looking forward to reading the book when it turns up in about four weeks from now. It’s probably on a slow boat.

    The dairy industry has been thrown to the wolves down here, so I’d be curious as to whether that is happening in Wisconsin?

    Well, as to plans for the abandoned railway station… It’s on a working line and surrounded by a very small town – and more importantly on the side of a very fertile hill that produces something like 40% of Australia’s apple crop. Why the station isn’t being used is a mystery. Fortunately, a steam train society runs a working steam locomotive from the next station out along a disused line, however, the drivers have to keep their hours up so I’ll sometimes hear steam locomotives running along the line in the valley below. It’s a bit surreal but also rather pleasant to know such technology is being maintained.



  7. Hello Chris
    I guess that if one and ones far back ancestors have always lived in very hot climates, one would be adjusted to it and so not likely to be made irritable.
    The potential for landslide has always worried me where your land is concerned. I reckon that you need to create a dry river bed, placed so that it would take any large influx of water down the hill away from your home.
    The map of Australian rainfall is much as I would have expected.
    It is raining here at the moment but it kindly stopped for my trip into town this morning.


    @ Lew
    The Jerusalem artichoke has 5 flowers now.


  8. Yo, Chris – Happy autumn equinox, at least to all of us, up here in the northern hemisphere. Drought or heavy rainfall. Not much of a choice. As if we have a choice.

    That’s quit a bit of excavation work, you’ve accomplished. Kudos. What with contending with unexpected rocks and old tree stumps. The picture captioned “Lower garden terrace – Done!” Is that a thumping big rock next to the steps? Let’s see. Carve out a couple of convenient cup holders? :-). What do you do to stabilize those dirt (clay?) faces? Peak clay? Just one shortage after another. Failure of supply lines? 🙂

    Jack Frost on psychedelics? Now there’s a thought. We’ll be seeing a bit of that, pretty soon.

    I guess the apricots and almonds, just want to get their party on. Beat everyone else to the punch bowl. And may pay for it, with a bit of a hangover. That is one healthy looking broccoli. The Japanese maples, always put on a fine show. And each, so different. The blackberry blossoms are pretty, but I take little joy in them. Past bane of my existence! :-). The Grevilliea has pretty flowers. But the foliage reminds me of aquarium plants. And who doesn’t like a good display of daffodils? harbingers of spring. Cont.

  9. Cont. Well, no comparison. To me. “Men in Black” was a bit slow at points, but they were rare. I didn’t have the urge to hunt down every copy and destroy it. Nor did I feel like any of the cast and crew needed to be sentenced to hard labor. :-). You may want to check out a trailer for a new movie called “Dark Waters.”

    It’s odd that I never really hear of anyone commuting to Portland. Maybe as far as Kelso/Longview, which is 45 minutes, south. Odd that, as there’s not near as much congestion to fight through. Next time I see my friend, I’ll have to ask her if her husband has ever thought about taking the train. But we never seemed to have developed the habit of train commuting, out here in the west, as they did on the east coast. No easy answer comes to mind.

    I’ll pass along what you said to my friend in Idaho, about business accounts. I’m sure she’ll have a pithy comment, or two.

    I think I got really lucky, with sowing my jalapeno, direct. I laid down quit a bit of seed, and just had the one develop and flourish. I’d say the seed from that plant will be a keeper.

    That was an interesting article, about street newspapers. We’ll see if I’m on a roll. Here’s an article about how our crazy medical insurance system, impacts small business. The statistics are rather startling.

    The food boxes are all well and good, but sometimes I have a hard time resisting the siren call of “bad” food. :-). I don’t “get” the resistance to brown rice. But I think a lot of it is cultural. Some people look at white foods and see “purity.” I see white foods and think “excessively fiddled with.” Or, low nutritional value.

    I don’t know too much about the dairy industry, except that a lot of it is on an industrial scale. The old “get big, or get out.” And that it’s heavily government subsidized, to buy up surplus and keep prices, for the consumer, low. But with shortages of resources of all kinds, that whole system seems to be under stress.

    And, in news of the world … I was a bit shocked to see that the Cook’s Travel Agency, collapsed. The statistics were a bit staggering. A firm that had been in business for 170+ years. 21,000 employees thrown out of work. 150,000 Brit travelers, stranded.

    The weather people in three states, back east, were puzzled by huge clouds on their radar, where no rain was falling. Turns out it was huge swarms of dragon flies. Migrating south, following their favorite nosh, mosquitoes. Lew

  10. Hi Chris,

    I really like your approach to using rocks. With your gabions, do you buy the kits or wire up appropriately gauged steel in a more diy fashion?

    Thanks for the blog, I really enjoy the read.

  11. Hi Chris,

    Happy spring equinox to you! The hard work you and the editor have put into the land shines through in the pictures you include.

    It has not been a good week here. My mother-in-law fell, for the third time in about a two week span, at the rehab center which is part of the complex at which she’d been living independently in an apartment up until the last week of August. This third fall was on Sept. 15 and resulted in a dislocated shoulder and a cracked rib, which sent her to the hospital for the third time in a month. Even before the last fall, we realized that she’d gotten worse instead of better during the supposed “rehab” stay and that she could no longer live independently. After the fall we knew it was time to find a nursing home for her. I don’t know how the process works in Australia, but having gone through it here, I can tell you that it’s not at all easy. We found out on the 18th that she would be released from the hospital in a day or two, which meant we had a day to find a nursing home that was decent, not too expensive, and had an available bed. Mike visited one place on his own and we went to 5 places together within 6 hours, only one of which actually had an available bed. Fortunately, that place met all the criteria and is about equidistant between us and her other son besides. Her move to the home was delayed till Saturday, but she is there now. The sad thing is that she’s in a lot of pain from the cracked rib, but she can’t take anything except the NSAID pain relievers for it (anything stronger makes her vomit). It makes the change more difficult for her and us than it already is. Mike and I will be meeting with some hospice providers tomorrow to see if she meets the criteria for that. I’ve heard good things about hospice; hope it can help us to do what we can to make the remainder of her time as comfortable as is possible at this point.

    All this has me thinking a lot about what Mike and I need to do to make things as easy on whoever winds up taking care of the other as possible, once that time comes. It seems to me that many people live by themselves in too large a place for too long, making a too-abrupt transition from a house or condo to an apartment or from independent living to a nursing home. Mike and I think we’ll move from the house we’re in sometime in the next 10 to 15 years at the most. Something has changed for me in the past year or two in that regard. When we first moved here 17 years ago it was an exciting project for me to work with an acre of land, to plant it up in a way that would produce lots of food for us and also be a place for many kinds of wildlife to find a home. Each year I enjoyed reading nursery catalogs and then buying and planting trees, herbs, and flowers. But now I’ve realized that I’m done with that, that it’s time to let the land decide what it will grow and allow it to do that. This doesn’t include the vegetable garden as that still requires more active planning and planting, but it’s small enough and successful enough to be worthwhile. The rest of it? I’m reducing where and how often I mow so that some plants that might not otherwise come up can do so. I may be willing to move some already-existing plants around. But no more attempts to plant some of the species that I’ve already tried several times and have been eaten by rabbits or shaded out or just can’t make it in the conditions I have. It’s time to start the slow process of detaching from the land so that when the time comes younger folks can live here, enjoy what we’ve done to make this a good place for decline, and continue the conversation with the land that we started.


  12. Hi Chris and fluffy collective,

    Apologies for my lack of wit or insight today, I just wanted to fly through and leave an electronic calling card so I get the email digest of everyone’s lovely comments 🙂

    Lew – I watched the new rambo movie last week. Very bloody at the end, very dumb in places, but /shrug I was entertained. Apparently it is causing some sort of internet contraversey for not being woke, or smartly written or something…


  13. Hi Inge,

    I have observed that people who move down under from other cooler parts of the planet, tend to acclimate rather rapidly, and before too long, and many that I’ve known have mentioned to me that their own parts of the world are rather cold. So, my gut feeling is that we are a very adaptable species.

    Very astute, and such bits of infrastructure are already in place. The fern gully is one such, there is also a swale (dry river bed) below the sapling lined tomato enclosure, and another swale in the land high above the chicken enclosure. They work well, until something unexpected happens – and that is what caused the landslide. It is a hard way to learn but I hadn’t anticipated the particular failure that day. The underlying clay appears to be very stable (hopefully this remains so).

    The centre of the continent is not so much a desert as an arid land, plus there is a lot of evaporation in the warmer part of the continent. There are many parts of the UK that do not fare well with average rainfall, and but for the cooler climate they stay green… David Attenborough was on the youth news radio program today.

    The weather Gods were smiling upon you! 🙂



  14. Hi Cally,

    Welcome to the discussion.

    Thanks, and rocks are valuable assets. Beware the dreaded time of Peak Rocks! The steel rock gabion cages are produced using flat sheets of one inch by one inch square welded mesh. I can’t recall where but the last rock gabion cage was produced only a few months back and you can see how they’re put together.



  15. Hi Lewis,

    Happy Autumn Equinox to you too! 🙂 What did the old poem suggest: “Of droughts and flooding rains”. Truer words are rarely spoken.

    Thanks. And I’m pretty chuffed at how the project is coming along. It is a huge space, and now all I have to do is finish the project and start bringing in loads of organic matter. And yeah, the huge rock in the photo defined the outer dimensions of the project. On the lower garden terrace, there is one at each end of the terrace, and so we just sort of blended them in so that they look natural. A stauncher person would blow them up, but it is easier said than done. And who knows, you mentioned the Romans beliefs about such matters, and for all I know, the huge rocks are meant to be where they are. In this instance, the facts speak for themselves in the matter.

    Hehe! Mate, if that is the worst supply line failure which I encounter in my lifetime, I’ll die a happy man. Now of course like a story which contained very naughty fairies once advised an unthinking human, they could achieve that end by finishing the person off then and there. Something to think about.

    The clay is quite stable, but if you look really closely at the photographs, you’ll notice that the clay face has what looks like clay sandbags. We call them clods, and a spade is used to cut a more or less square shaped chunk of clay, plants and plant roots out of the ground. The clod is then flipped upside down and pressed in to the face of the clay. It works just like a sandbag and they’ve been very stable over the years. Plus the dead plants and soil life in the clod inoculate the soil with all sorts of flora and fauna on the garden terrace. It is a multi faceted project. All the same, the terraces probably won’t produce well this summer, just because the soil is so fresh. It takes about three years for things to kick off in a big way, and then you have to keep feeding the soil – every year. I can understand the appeal of applying minerals to the soil as initially the farmers would have produced bumper crops. It would have been amazing, but diminishing returns snuck in whilst attentions were directed elsewhere.

    You may take the baton now, and enjoy your low land snows. I see Cliff Mass has speculated about your coming winter. It couldn’t beat the Camulod winter I just read about. Far out, folks were dropping like flies. And Luceiia finally turned toes up and peacefully too.

    Late frosts are always a risk here, and some plants can take the chill, but others struggle. Apples are a very sensible fruit tree in that regard, as they hold off until Jack Frost has gone to cooler climates, like err, Washington!

    That is so true about the Japanese maples in that each plant is subtly different from its peers. They self seed here, and are as tough as old boots. In the town of Trentham to the west of here I see a very old example of such a tree. In a really bizarre coincidence, my old Sensei rented a store (he specialised in attending to sports injuries) right next to the Japanese maple. For some reason and I know not why, I never poked my head in to say hello.

    Blackberry jam is the biz, but I hear you and it is a noxious weed down this way, although it only ever grows in very disturbed soils.

    I liked the Men in Black films too, and it is good that they have not lost their touch. Thanks for mentioning the trailer. Dark indeed. And rather a David and Goliath story.

    The Portland mention was just me looking at the map and noting the incongruence and possibilities. Sometimes there may be a status gained to working in such a city that is not entirely obvious until you hear a person speaking of their enjoyment of such a gain. The thing with the trains, I’m guessing is that in a car you get to enjoy your own space, whereas in a train you have to accommodate other people and everything that goes along with that. I’ll be very curious as to learn their perspective.

    What with all of the monetary games that are now in play around the planet, it is really hard to understand and know what prices actually mean. I mentioned the other day that petrol is now up around $1.70 per litre (3.8 litres to the gallon), but what does almost $6.50 a gallon mean? Dunno.

    You’ve struck gold with your jalapeno, and I like your strategy. We tried a similar thing by leaving the plants and some fruit in the old tomato enclosure, so hopefully (fingers crossed) something turns up. Plants are very adaptable.

    Rice, vegetables, fresh garden greens and a couple of eggs are for dinner this evening. Yum!

    Your health industry stresses me out. The article cited those costs as accounting for 22% of payroll. We have a similar situation with retirement funds which channels 9.5% of an employees wages into the financial markets. I’m very uncomfortable with that story although the system began with good intentions. But, I’m honestly not sure whether this is speculation or investment, however it props up the financial markets, that’s for sure. Years ago in the big end of town where I worked as a CFO equivalent, and before taking on the role, I took a pay cut and distributed the funds around the team. It was an unusual team as the payroll had been an open book and there was nothing I wanted to do about that to change it. The move bought the teams loyalty in one swoop, and they worked hard towards common goals which I made sure where communicated. Did the blokes in the article consider doing that before they shipped the jobs off to another country – or are they just whingeing?

    Don’t we all suffer from the attack of the killer yummy? 🙂 Hehe! Funny stuff, but yeah I hear you. I recall an incident where the chickens failed to notice that a friendly gift of white bread was in fact food. The stuff eventually ended up in the worm farm, where I assume the worms consumed it.

    The dairy industry down here has also suffered from the get big or get out story. However, the capital costs of getting big, make making a profit a real tough story. Especially when the price of water goes way up in a drought.

    I saw that too about the agency. What a horror story. I’ll bet in the background there is a story of debt in there?

    Cool! Attack of the killer dragon flies. It is a bit ‘The Birds’ is it not?



  16. Hi Damo,

    I hear you mate. Sometimes wit has left the building – possibly with Elvis… The comments are lovely aren’t they? Me feeling tired this evening. I may have made an unusual purchase, but more on that story later. Keep well and best wishes to you and Mrs Damo.



  17. Hi Claire,

    Happy Autumn Equinox to you too. Can you believe I got the date wrong and for some strange reason thought that it was on Friday, but in fact it was yesterday which was just fine! My brain hurts… 🙂 And no doubt all of the hard work is part of the reason. Actually paid work has also been pretty full on, but you know, I’m still swimming.

    So sorry to hear about your mother-in-laws trials and tribulations. It’s not good. I’ve seen a bit of death in my time, and sort of what you’re touching upon in your comment is the acknowledgement that a person has to remember to live. But also that there is the pragmatic side of the story which is that nobody escapes what fate has in store for them, and everyone meets the final curtain call whether they’re prepared or no. Better to be prepared for the eventuality.

    As a deeply pragmatic bloke, you may note that I’m making the infrastructure here as simple and resilient as possible whilst we have the time and energy to do so. It would be nice to be able to afford a flat chunk of land in a reliable rainfall area, but life proves that just because you want something, does not necessarily equate with getting it. Anyway, life is not easy, and all of our trajectories and stories follow the inverted bell shaped curve. So absolutely, I agree with your analysis of what the future holds in store for you and Mike and how you’re intending to respond to the challenge of it all.

    I’m really touched that you too hear the land, and all other considerations to the side, it will continue to delight and communicate as you release the grip upon your stewardship. 🙂



  18. @Lew
    My sister, Mary, had an hour commute from her home to her job at a large hospital which she endured for over 30 years. She called every Monday morning on her way to work at 7:10 after the traffic report. After listening to the report she would decide which route to take depending on accidents. If all went well she made it in about an hour but accidents, weather etc. very often made the drive stretch into hours. We did enjoy our weekly chats and kept caught up that way. My BIL finally got the official autopsy report and they can only say that it was some kind of cardiac event. There was blockage in some arteries but not enough that it would have warranted surgery and no damage to the heart so they couldn’t say it was a heart attack. I personally believe that at least part of the cause was stress caused by her job and the drive certainly added to that.

    When we decided to move from a closer in Chicago suburb a major factor in the decision was that it be close to the train line as Doug was working downtown then. We are the last stop – an express train took a little less than an hour and a half so Doug spent a lot of time commuting to work but it surely better than driving.


  19. Hi Chris,

    That is one scary map as is the landslide photo. The excavations continue to impress!! Regarding taking precautions we’ve hired a tree professional to remove branches over buildings and/or to make a particular tree fall in a particular way as in away from the house. We have many beautiful oak and hickory tree but one in front of the house would be catastrophic if it fell. You may recall that two tornadoes have come through this property – one in 2008 and the other in 2011. We’ve decided to change insurance carriers and our new agent is someone of Doug’s acquaintance and the agent for a few friends as well. He came by yesterday to go over our new policies. He noted that rates have risen significantly the past few years due to weather events (surprise). Here the weather events are either flooding rains and/or wind damage. As I don’t suppose things will be improving in that area we’ll be expecting more increases. The one area he was able to save us money was auto insurance which has more than doubled in the last 4 or so years. Now we did also get lightly used new vehicles last year which accounts for some of that. Some other reasons are all the fancy bells and whistles on new cars that are so expensive to replace. The agent also said there are many more rear end collisions due to people texting (even though it’s illegal to do so here). He said it used to be that elderly people had more accidents and thus higher rates but now that’s changed as older people don’t tend to be texting so are actually having fewer accidents.

    We had another 1.5 inches of rain over the weekend. We are just under 12 inches of rain for the month of September with another week to go. Speaking of excavations. This weekend the pigs, which are now over 300 lbs each) really stepped up their excavations in their pen so much so that they have completely dug down to the bottom of one large metal post causing concern that they could push the fence down and break out. I discovered this while Doug was out of town much to my joy. I had to use our post driver to set another post, wire it to the loose one so things were at least secure for the time being. Their “one bad day” is scheduled a week from tomorrow.

    I really got how large Ollie is from the picture of him with you. He’s one big boy.


  20. Yo, Chris – Ah. The construction of the clay slope, reminded me a bit of a “Soddy.”

    I saw a few on vacation trips to Nebraska, when I was a kid. Usually, in pioneer museums. In Wilder’s “Little House” books, the family lives in a couple, during the course of the books. “Little House on the Prairie?” Snakes occasionally fell out of the ceiling. Kept things lively.

    Yes, I saw Prof. Mass’s post. Time to keep a sharper eye on those overnight lows. I see our National Weather Service is forecasting lows in the 40sF. And next Sunday night (which is a bit far out for a forecast) is supposed to get down to 38F (3.33C).

    Yup. That Camulod winter, was really something. One of those “worst case” events, that’s so hard to plan for.

    Twice, that I can think of, someone (usually from out of State) has bought an old building in downtown Centralia, with the idea that they’re going to be turned into (fairly) luxury condos, that rich people will buy, and commute to their jobs in Seattle. Train connections from here to Seattle (Portland, for that matter) are good. But, it’s never panned out. One of those ideas that pencils out on paper, but, probably due to some social forces, never work out.

    It’s interesting where people see the “draw”, geographically. Part of it might be that Oregon has a State employment tax (but no sales tax). Washington is the reverse. Most states have both.

    Generally, I think it’s been a “bad” year, for tomatoes, here. My San Marzano have not ripened up. Looking at what the Ladies grow, some varieties have ripened, but several haven’t. One or two of my tomatoes were volunteers, from last year. Which was a surprise. I didn’t realize they volunteered, so readily.

    My dinner sounds like yours. Rice, three eggs fried and diced. Some garlic and tomatoes, out of the garden (cherry tomatoes, which seemed to ripen, this year), some frozen peas, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, mushrooms. Nuke the whole thing and put cheese on top. Pretty tasty.

    Here, most jobs require the employee to put 6.2% of wages into a Social Security (retirement) fund. Also, 1.45% into the Medicare fund. The employer, matches those amounts. I paid into those funds, my entire working life. They’re in a “lock box” and can’t be use for anything else. They don’t go into the general revenues. Wall Street has been chomping at the bit, to get into those funds, for decades. Every time they get close, the market goes wonky, and enough of the population rises up and says, “Maybe that’s not such a good idea,” to squelch the plan. They put out a lot of misinformation about how the social security plan is due to go bust, any minute now. And how Wall Street could do SO much better at managing our retirement accounts. Seems like a good idea. What could possibly go wrong? :-).

    Well, I’m off to the Doc, this morning. I forget if I mentioned that that thing on my back (cyst? abcess?) is back, again. Almost exactly a year from the last go around. I hope it isn’t as long as an ordeal, as the last go round. Lew

  21. @Claire

    I’m very sorry to hear about your MIL and the ensuing challenges. We had similar experiences with both Doug’s mother and my brother, Michael. Did you have a social worker from the hospital help find a nursing home? When Michael had his long hospital stay before he died we had a very helpful social worker setting up services he may have needed had he recovered. As far as my MIL, Doug had been on the board of our local hospital for many years and a good quality nursing home was attached to the hospital so we were able to get her a spot right away. She had mobility issues and needed oxygen but remained sharp as a tack until the day she died. She was also only ten minutes from our house so we could visit frequently and bring her some of her favorite foods. She really didn’t like the food there. She was able to go out with us in a wheel chair and worked hard with the physical therapist so she could go short distances in a walker. When she first got very ill she needed a caretaker 24 hours a day (she had just moved from our home to an assisted living facility which wasn’t close by) and she had hospice services as no one thought she was going to get better but she did and “graduated” from hospice. About a month or two before she died she had hospice again and they can provide special services covered by Medicare that one wouldn’t be able to get such as massage and aromatherapy. She had pulmonary fibrosis and they gave her small doses of morphine which was to relieve anxiety more than pain. Interestingly she also couldn’t take anything stronger than NSAID pain relievers either. During her first time with hospice they gave her Tramadol for pain and it was like she suddenly got dementia and it also affected her hearing.

    Sometimes I think we moved to a place that’s too big for us though much smaller than our last home. I can’t see us being here more than 10 – 15 years either and that’s if we both stay healthy. The last owners were in their early 80’s when it became too much for them – about 15 years older than us. I’ve cut way back on the outdoor work and we’ve let much our property just do it’s thing. I’ve added some native plants but just a few at a time and ones I’ve had success growing before. On the other hand having physical work to do keeps you in shape as long as you don’t overdo.


  22. Chris and Lew,
    Our town was known as the “Milk Capital of the World” as there were so many dairy farm around here but not so anymore. There’s still a few smaller dairy farms but that number continues to decrease. We have the Milk Day Festival the first weekend of June and the parade starts off with the fiberglass dairy cow, Harmilda.
    It is a tradition to have your picture taken either with her or riding her (if you don’t get caught).


  23. Hello again
    I absolutely agree that we are a very adaptable species, but serious adaption takes time.
    Am very impressed at the work you have done to deal with sudden amounts of water flowing down; I’ll relax on that one and will just fret about the stability of clay.
    Masses of rain here and though I am fine, there are parts of the Island that are flooded and have had their electric supplies cut out. Some places have lost their water supply but I don’t know why.
    ‘The big issue’ is sold on the streets here also; I don’t know what the price is.


  24. Chris,

    Ohhh, so the Cockatoos are much like humans. They remember they dislike someone but can’t remember why.

    The trip to the “principal’s office” was, as my boss said later, “rough and tumble”. I got asked a lot of hard questions, but there was no grilling or trying to blame me for the disarray the program is in. So I answered truthfully, which is always my way and is always the best policy . The boss said later that I did well. The result is a minor modification to how we’re doing things.

    So you have to climb mountains and plumb depths. For me to climb a mountain, first I need to find a molehill, then turn it into a mountain, then climb. Plumbing the depths I left to the young contractor employees who had to dig holes 2/3 of a meter deep to meet code for the new “corrected” concrete footings they will pour tomorrow. The inspector showed up soon after they left and approved the holes.

    Ugghhh! I read over the shoulders and found the Cliff Mass winter prediction. Then I checked the longer term climate forecasts for Spokane. For the fall and winter, wetter than normal and slightly warmer than normal. In other words, we call that “neutral”. The last “neutral” winter was a sloppy mess that dumped 1.5 meters of snow over 4 months or so, followed by a nasty fast thaw with more storms and wet, resulting in flooding and washed out roads. In other words, the usual.

    The ice patterns on the buggy roof? If my memory is accurate, there are several variables. One, as you surmised, would be any imperfections of the paint job, likely caused by weathering. These might cause some areas of thinner paint which would cool differently from other spots. Ice and frost patterns were actually referred to as “thermal patterns” by Al Bartlett from University of Colorado. (I think we’ve discussed him once upon a when.) So what I’ve noticed on my vehicle roofs is that the patterns change due to proximity of trees and buildings, any even momentary wind patterns, cooling rate differences due to the thin material on the ceiling of the vehicle, things like that. Like snowflakes, the pattern is never repeated exactly.

    I’ve known a lot of Americans who wanted to move to Alaska for various reasons. The months of darkness and the months of no darkness, in addition to the climate, break a lot of people. It takes a certain type of person to thrive there, or in the rainfall deficient areas of Australia.

    I thought you were passing on the weather baton to us. They’re forecasting some snow showers this weekend. It’s only September. And frost Sunday night, which is a bit early. Daily high temperatures 20F below normal for the weekend. I’ve lived through autumns and winters that follow cool and wettish Augusts and Septembers: they have NEVER been “slightly above normal temperatures” as the climate guys are suggesting. Slightly cooler to cold and wet, yes. We’ll see which happens.

    The carving club annual show is this weekend. Set up and judging Friday night, then open to the public Saturday and Sunday. It’s always a lot of work but also a lot of fun.


  25. @ Claire,

    Sorry to read about your mother-in-law’s latest fall. Falling is scary.

    I remember having to move my mother “right now!” (3 day notice, actually) from a rehab facility following a hip replacement. That was a very hectic 3 days for my sister and me, so I can sorta get an idea what the past days have been for you. Understanding and sympathy heading your direction.


  26. Ahoy there me mateys!

    It’s the dreaded mid-week hiatus, and know this ya crusty landlubbers, I spent my time my ship leave time well supping on some very tasty Chinese dumplings. Yum! So yeah, I have to fess up, that’s why I’m not replying tonight and hope to reply tomorrow.

    Until then, shiver me timbers (I’m not really sure what that means). Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!


  27. Hi Lewis,

    Exactly. I had no idea that people used sods to make houses when there were no other building materials available. Who knew? We’d known about cob houses, and that was where the inspiration came from for the sods, now of course the terraces don’t need to hold up a roof which may indeed bow with time, so they’re probably a bit more stable. It was actually the editor who observed how stable the mass of clay and plant roots were, and that’s how it all began. Just proving that everything old is new again! I’m not entirely sure that a sod house would meet the current building codes… All the same it is an interesting building technique. I’d heard of cob houses that have been around for centuries and I do love my old houses.

    Oh my! Hopefully the snakes there in the story weren’t too poisonous? I still recall Guerden’s choice. It’s a bit like the rock climber guy that cut his arm off so that he could free himself and get to help. I was speaking with a mate about two weeks ago that had attended a lecture where he presented. Ouch. I bet it hurt and you’d only do it as a last ditch, it’s that or death, sort of choice.

    Welcome to my winter weather. Isn’t it a bit early for low land snow up in your part of the world?

    The Camulod folks were entirely unprepared for such cold weather, and it was ingenious how they dealt with the corpses in the frozen ground. The author leaves, err, no stone unturned. I wouldn’t have thought of that option. If such weather happened here, ooo, it would not be good.

    There might be something in the water preventing people from running with the idea? Also I reckon an hour and half commute is probably a bit far for people who have more dollars than sense. The train from here to the city is under an hour.

    Yeah, the rivalry between the states was pretty bad here. At one point the train services had different gauges so people at the border had to hop off one train and hop onto another. I must do the overnight train trip to Sydney one day. I’d probably quite enjoy it as the rocking motion in trains puts me to sleep. I did some nice overnight train trips in India. At one point we were told to quieten down, which we did. People were very polite as a general rule. In the bottom of the toilet, you could see the sleepers passing by.

    Tomatoes do indeed volunteer, and I use those plants as an emergency supply when the more preferred plants don’t grow as well. Large tomatoes take warm summers to grow, and I can’t get them to grow, so stick to the mid and cherry sized (always reliable).

    Your dinner sounds nice! It is a staple food here, with a bit of spices it becomes a Nasi Goreng (an Indonesian rice dish with fried egg). Double yum! Had Chinese dumplings for dinner tonight. They’re were really tasty. The one with chilli and garlic which I reckon you would have loved was called ‘Wanton Volcano’ – the name says it all, and it was pretty fiery.

    Sorry to hear the cyst has returned. Hope you are OK and it is nothing to worry about.

    Will speak tomorrow.



  28. @ Margaret – That was sad news, about your sister. Sometimes I think people (due to the way we have to live) just wear out. Back when I was working jobs that had commuting involved, I always sought out the back roads. Might take a little bit longer, but at least I arrived in my right mind. Or, at least as close as I get :-).

    Harmilda, is a hoot! I think it’s great that the little kids got together and protested. Every little community, around here, has some kind of a yearly festival. Egg days, cheese days, Bear festival, loggers jubilee, slug festival. The list is long.

    Several of the big dairies, here, moved east of the mountains. Due to land prices and environmental rules. Smaller family dairies, have bit the dust, one by one. Sometimes, because none of the kids want to take over. We do have a long time, large dairy co-op, here (Darigold) which is still going strong, and allows the smaller outfits to stay in business. Lew

  29. Yo, Chris – I was talking to my friends in Idaho, last night, and we got on the topic of Soddies. Turns out Ron’s grandfather was born in one. There are plenty of poisonous rattlesnakes, out on the plains. Can’t remember if that was the case in the Wilder book.

    No lowland snow, forecast yet. Not even a frost of the radar. But it bears watching. They will get snow up in the mountains.

    When I was a kid, we visited Minnesota (where my mother was from). Now, they have real winters, there. Of course, we did the mandatory visit to the cemetery. I noticed an odd structure, on the grounds that looked like a potato cellar. I asked about it. In winter, the ground was too hard to bury anyone. So, they’d have a funeral, pop the deceased into the cellar, and come the thaw, everyone who had died during the winter was popped in the ground, all at once. I think there was a smaller service, at the cemetery, at that time. I suppose these days, they just melt the ground with a good blast of propane?

    Train gauges are interesting. I read somewhere that one reason Russia staved off Germany during WWII, was that Russia had a different train gauge, than the rest of Europe. Instituting a scorched earth policy, ahead of the advancing Germans, they either destroyed, or moved, all their rolling stock. It slowed the German advance, enough, for winter to catch up with them.

    The dumplings sound really yummy.

    I was joking with my doctor that I was there for the Annual Draining of the Cyst. And, that perhaps, it should be made a national holiday :-). I made it clear that I thought it was more my body, rather than her skill that was at fault. As an extra added attraction, this time, it’s infected. So, it was drained, patched, and I was sent home with a weeks worth of pretty heavy duty antibiotics. One caution, on the antibiotic instructions is … no caffeine. Try not to fall into hysterics :-). I did a bit of research on-line, about that point. Might create a slight decrease in uptake of the medications … studies vary … varies from person to person … blah, blah, blah. So, I’ve decided no coffee at the club, but if I get a headache, from withdrawal, I’ll have a cup of tea. Seems like a sensible course of action. Lew

  30. @ Margaret – it was the social worker at the hospital who talked with the admissions person at my MIL’s nursing home who then called us that led to my MIL being admitted there. We’re very grateful for the social worker’s help in that regard.

    While the nursing home isn’t nearly as close as the apartment my MIL was in (the apartment was a 2 minute drive, the nursing home is a 20 minute drive as long as the nearby interstate is running well), it’s worth the drive according to what I’ve seen so far. Yesterday morning when we visited, we saw four manicurists doing various residents’ nails. I like that the place understands the importance of small things like that.

    While at the nursing home we met with two different hospice companies that the home works with. They explained that they can provide services paid for by Medicare that wouldn’t otherwise be available to my MIL, or that the nursing home would provide but charge her for. The only hitch is that the rules for admittance have recently changed so that failure to thrive is no longer accepted as a diagnosis. Since she hasn’t been diagnosed with a terminal disease so far it may be harder to get her into hospice. Once her insurance company decides she’s no longer benefiting from rehab, we’ll ask for an evaluation for hospice and see what happens.


  31. Hi Margaret,

    The landslide was a real drama because it was one of those situations where things get out of control for just a few minutes, and then you spend three days cleaning up the mess. Most of the plants recovered just fine and nowadays the vegetation has re-established itself nicely.

    It is a massive conundrum isn’t it? I’ve noted that houses rarely survive having large trees fall on them, and a lot of the time, any occupants inside the building often get killed. The shade is nice, but the risk is great – and as someone once advised me: They never get smaller.

    Strangely enough, car insurance hasn’t increased the same way that house insurance has, so things are different here on that score. Even the new dirt mouse was only slightly cheaper to insure than the decade old vehicle it replaced. People are fined down here for texting and driving too, and today about midday, we went through a booze bus testing area. Tomorrow is a public holiday for the grand final to be held on Saturday, so there is police presence out on the streets.

    12 inches of rain for the month is a lot. How is the soil coping with so much rain in such a short period of time? Do you reckon you’ll have a milder winter this year? Yup, pigs can dig, that’s for sure, and respect for raising them for consumption. Have you ever smoked or salt cured any of the meat?

    Ollie, him big! And he has the loveliest nature, a real gentle giant that dog, but I can understand people having a bit of fear upon first confronting him because he is both big and energetic. A heady mix! No doubt, he’d enjoy Leo and Salve. How have they adapted to their new home?

    Incidentally, it is wise to downscale to a property that is within your capacity to maintain. I’ve found that it isn’t just the growing space, but all of the infrastructure around it that you also have to get just right so that it is easy to work and live with.



  32. Hi Inge,

    I agree, and I put it to you that our homogeneous culture which we transplant around the planet, often doesn’t work so well in the location that it finds itself in. The soils down here are very old and very deficient in phosphate for most of the continent, and adapting to organic agriculture from that position takes about three years for the soil to really bounce back so that plants can be grown easily. Our wasteful culture sends a lot of those minerals into the oceans, when we could actually be returning them to the soils (and it is a bonus if the produce or phosphate comes in from another continent – not that many think in such terms), but do we do that? Nope, we just send the minerals out into the ocean. Our patterns of the expected way to live, seem a bit foolhardy to me. And I’m sure there are plenty more examples. Oh! The ongoing recycling drama is another such story. How is the recycling drama going in your part of the world?

    Hehe! Thank you for worrying, and you never know, I may be wrong about the stability of the clay. It is certainly possible.

    I couldn’t seem to find any news on your water and electricity issues. Of course, it may be that your water supply which comes from the mainland, requires electricity on the island in order to move it through the pipes, and one does not happen without the other. Water pumps are good and useful machines. I went to a nearby lavender farm this afternoon (because it was such a nice day and tomorrow is a public holiday for the football grand final on Saturday), they have an old school well, and I noted that the water level was only a few feet below the soil surface – and the creek that runs along the boundary was flowing quite well too.

    The price has risen recently for the magazine to $9 an issue every fortnight.



  33. Hi DJ,

    Oh yeah, and I’d be reasonably sure the cockatoos can communicate their displeasure to other members of their flock, so who knows how long the vendettas can go on? Five decades later and nobody in the flock recalls the reason for the dislike (as you note) but the birds have lost themselves in the ongoing tussles… 🙂

    Exactly it is the best policy. Thanks to a book referral by Lewis, I now know that the great tragedy of the liar is that ‘nobody believes them when they do tell the truth’. It is akin to the old story of the boy that called wolf. Keep a watch out for wolves. I can’t imagine they’d ever roam into Spokane?

    650mm is not so deep a hole for them to have dug. We’ll never know the motivation for skimping on the job in the first place. Incidentally the holes for this house go down between 2000mm and 2500m. I fell into one of them upside down once and had to be rescued by the editor – who thought it was all very funny. Except I was upside down and couldn’t get out.

    Your winter sounds like it is all over the shop to me, and you’ve covered all bases and named most extremes. Two words: Good luck! 😉

    Yes, you have mentioned the good professor previously. Thanks for the explanations. Mostly, I’ve just noticed ice crystals all over the windscreen during heavy frosts. Sometimes the car doors get sticky as the door has frozen to the body of the car. Does that get bad up your way? Cold water splashed on the car seems to do the trick and clear off the ice. In Melbourne, frosts are mostly a thing of the past – if ever they encountered one, the inhabitants (well, the younger ones anyway) probably wouldn’t know what it was.

    Alaska is not for me. The light would do strange things to my body clock, and the short growing season would be a pain. There are people that move to the rainfall deficient areas of Australia for months at a time, but vast tracks of the continent are very quiet places. It is sobering to consider that for a very long time before European settlement, the continent was quite widely inhabited – even the drier chunks of it, although population varied in accordance with resources and I believe it was maintained at those levels.

    Much depends upon your perspective! 😉 But I do tend to feel that you are handing the baton onto us, but whatever!!! Hehe! The atmosphere is a complicated beast, and the Indian Ocean to the north west of the continent has cooled, and yet the Pacific Ocean to the north east has warmed. Thus your rain and our dry up in the north. I doubt our agriculture as it is currently practiced, would do well in a hot and wet jungle planet.

    Did you enter anything for the show? Hope you have a good time there.



  34. Hi Lewis,

    Did Ron mention any stories recounted to him by the grandfather about the soddie? I’m assuming that Ron is a male name, but down here I have heard Ron being used as a short hand for Veronica (a lovely sounding name). If the snakes in the book were poisonous, I’m guessing anyone bitten in those days would have not good chances of survival. Not impossible, but just not good. I’ve read that clothes can assist, and I recall from my cadet days that they used to make us wear leather gators over our boots, and they would stop a lot of mischief.

    Incidentally, I haven’t mentioned but during moving the sods sometimes I disturb the hugest garden spiders. I’m sure they’d like to bite me if given half a chance given I’m disturbing their nest in the ground. Shining a bright torch light over the paddock and in the orchard at night reveals an entirely different perspective than you get during the day. There are spiders all over the place and the torch reflects light off their eyes. I’m pretty sure the tree frogs consume the spiders, but there are only so many frogs…

    Sorry, yes, Cliff Mass did suggest that the snow was to fall at higher altitudes. Where did I get the idea that there would be lowland snow up your way? Who knows, my sharp tool of a brain has been blunted by too much hard work… It is a sad state of affairs, but there you go.

    Oh yeah, Minnesota has a reputation as does North Dakota for brutal winters. I’ll bet you’re happier closer to the warmer coast and I can see why your mother would want to move away from the area? I can’t begin to imagine how wood heating would work in such an extreme climate? I do wonder about heating in your country should fuel / energy supplies ever be intermittent. It would be bad up where I am, but most houses have wood heaters of some sort.

    They probably do use propane to melt the ground so that excavations can take place. But also excavator machines can wield enormous power, so they may be able to dig in frozen soil. The cellar house is an elegant solution.

    Went to a lavender farm this afternoon and just wandered around enjoying the early spring weather. They also did nice lavender scones with fresh jam and cream. It was nice to see that the winter weather had been kind there and I was poking my nose around and checking out their water supplies. Turns out it looks like they’d bought up a couple of next door dams / ponds, which were also full of water.

    The Russians were most clever to head east and leave nothing for the Germans to eat. I noted that they adapted a similar strategy when Napoleon likewise foolishly engaged with them. During WWII we’d decided upon a similar strategy for the Japanese who were moving in from the north, and bombed the daylights out of Darwin up in the top end.

    The dumplings were very good. Even better than the last time that I’d eaten there. It is nice to see such quality improvements in a business.



  35. HI, Chris!

    I did not realize how bad the drought had become in Australia. I appreciate this pithy comment of yours: ” And not everywhere can support the same culture – that should stand out from the briefest of brief glimpses of the rainfall map which I included in this week’s blog.” That would have the most basic of impacts on a culture.

    You have certainly put that clay – which is sometimes a nemesis when digging or planting – to good use on that path. Is it compacted using the Foot Method? I hadn’t paid attention – the roses are fenced; I am so glad. And what a view. Is a new garden seat forthcoming?

    What a charming courtyard.

    That is a Pyscho Suzi!

    That would be too early for blackberries to bloom here. The Grevilliea is beautiful, and so are the bulbs, and the weeping cherry is exquisite.


  36. @ Claire:

    You and Doug are having such a time of it, and you are certainly in my thoughts. I appreciate you taking the time to recount how you are managing things, as I have some similar concerns with my parents, whom I have mentioned are 1800 miles away. Sometimes I get a little frustrated at how stubborn they are about making any changes, though they live rather on the edge. Then I remember who else I know that is stubborn, and whose name begins with a “P”, and can understand better.


  37. Hello again
    Mineral depletion in soil goes on here too. I really don’t understand why this isn’t obvious and understood. Huge farms that just live for the moment and think not of the future.
    Our re-cycling is in the standard mess of course and as for our politics, heaven help us!
    It appears that the water problem was caused by a mains water pipe bursting. This happens regularly; our infrastructure is very old and our land is on the move.


  38. Yo, Chris – My credit union has a new president and CEO. His name? Gary Swindler. :-). Have to keep a sharp eye, on that one.

    Ronald, Deborah’s (Debbie) didn’t mention any stories. Ron is very pleasant, but rather taciturn. I figure he comes from a long line of taciturn men. The whole Western thing. Strong, silent types.

    Where did you get the idea for lowland snow? Wishful thinking? :-).

    My mum’s whole immediate family moved out of Minnesota to work in the shipyards of Portland, during WWII. All the “kids” were at least older teens. Hmmm. I just happened to think, none of them ever went back.

    The trip to the lavender farm sounds like a … restful kind of entertainment. And, also an educational experience, if one but looks around. I think new varieties of scones would be educational :-).

    I hit the jackpot, at the library, yesterday. And, as the DVDs are getting a bit thick on the ground, I watched “Rocket Man” and “Yesterday.” I also watched them both, as I lend them to Susan at the Club, and she gets them back before my due date. I don’t know if you’ve seen them both, so, I’ll just say I liked them both. Lew

  39. @ Pam,

    It was only for graduate school. I found out that the speed at which I could learn that level physics was slower than the speed that was required. It is good to learn one’s limitations.

    I did visit Albuquerque regularly, as I’ve got cousins and had a close friend there, too.

    Thanks for the interesting article! Now I wish I’d actually visited the UTEP campus.


  40. Chris,

    We get a lot of coyotes in Spokane. Once every year or two they frequent my neighborhood and dine on the local cats, stray and pets, that have the misfortune of being out at night. Wolves have been spotted maybe 60 km from here, but I doubt that they would come into the big city. Deer and moose have been in our neighborhood – I once had to clean up a large pile of moose pooh from the yard. And a cougar has been seen about 3 km from my house. They are nasty…

    The only explanations I’ve found for the size of the hole are that 1) they didn’t want to take the time to get a building permit (they said that they were doing me a favor?!?), and 2) no permit and less concrete would add a few hundred dollars to their profit.

    Yes, our winters can be all over the board. Homes built in the 1950s, like mine, were built more for retaining heat than for ease of cooling. Not perfect regarding heat retention, but much better than many newer homes I’ve seen.

    Sticky car doors? Sometimes. If it’s simply from thick frost, banging on the door usually frees it. If there was an ice storm, however, it’s much more difficult. The cold water treatment you use can be counter productive in those cases. A warm hand (that quickly ceases to be warm) can thaw the door enough in those relatively rare cases.

    The entire light thing in Alaska drives people crazy, literally. Some people are seriously sleep deprived in the summer. When the daylight hours got less than 6 hours when I was there, many people became either depressed or psychotic. We moved back to Spokane just before Christmas, so didn’t get the effects of an entire winter. I don’t know how people do it. Spokane gets hard enough to deal with if it is cloudy for 4 or 5 consecutive weeks in December and January.

    The show. I’m working on a wood burning that has a lot of detail. It might be ready for the shows in March in other parts of the state. I did make a walking stick from chokecherry wood from my backyard. That wood is HARD, so I did minimal carving and a lot of wood burning. A coworker commissioned it, but was gracious enough to let me borrow it so I’d have an entry.

    Leaves are starting to turn golden on some deciduous trees. This is 2 to 3 weeks early.


  41. Hi Pam,

    It’s nice to share pithy observations. 🙂 Another, err, pithy observation is that there seems to be a lot of heated meetings this week to discuss the topic climate change. Alas, if they but just spend less time in meetings and more time doing stuff… I’m not much of a fan of meetings. We usually start work days with a quick two minute discussion about what we are going to do, who’s doing what, and who’s in charge for the day. Any more than that is a waste of time.

    You have the same problem in your country too, and I do wonder about the future of the mega-gambling-cities in the desert. 😉

    Thanks, the clay is compacted by rolling a wheelbarrow full of ‘stuff’ over the surface. It seems to work and then the sun bakes the clay solid. Did another long days worth of excavations today and discovered that the upper terrace is a two day job. Plus there was a Moby Rock!

    The courtyard is a nice place to spend time. Sometimes with visitors on cooler evenings we’ll light the brazier and sit around talking rubbish and watching the stars and distant lights.

    Are you suggesting I get the personalised number plates ‘Bates’ for the Suzi?

    It is a bit early for the blackberries here too. The largest Grevilliea of them all is called a Silky Oak, and it is a stunning tree when in flower. The ornamental cherries are lovely plants, and I note that they produce a whole bunch of cherry friends, so who knows what they will look like?



  42. Hi Inge,

    It is a strange story about the mineral depletion of the soils isn’t it? And to me it looks like a lost opportunity. This afternoon I spread about 220 pounds of coffee grounds and husks around the orchard, and it is not lost on me that our ancestors would have given their eye-teeth for such a mineral rich bounty derived from far distant countries, and here’s me diverting the stuff from landfill. Years ago I mentioned to a mate that they could always compost their own manures to improve their soils, and I was told that it was a step too far. But is it a step too far? I think not, for our agricultural systems have relied on that source of minerals for longer than they have not relied upon them.

    The recycling mess is not good down here either. Apart from the pollution disaster that it presents, it does not make me very sanguine that any serious issues will be able to be appropriately addressed. And your politics has gone from interesting, to rather unusual. I’m watching it unfold and I do hope that you muddle through the crisis. I do wonder why nobody has asked the hard question as to why the politicians are not enacting the will of the people, and it raises the question as to whom they are beholden to?

    I’ve noticed that there is a tendency for people to believe that the land is a solid and unchangeable thing. From what I’ve observed here, it is anything but. Late today when out with the chickens, I noticed that an old tree stump was now poking through the soil surface. Now, I’ve walked past that spot a lot for years and never noticed the old tree stump. I’m sure the same thing would happen in your part of the world too?



  43. Hi DJ,

    Mate, I’m unsure that I’d want to confront a cohesive pack of coyotes at night and on my own, and I’ve read that they inter-breed with domestic dogs. The same things goes on down here, although we call coyotes – dingoes (same, same, but different), and yeah, they’re not in this part of the country, but they’re out there that’s for sure. And I could see how domestic dogs could run feral if they were let free.

    Never met a wolf, so I can’t quite imagine what that would be like (have you ever encountered one?), but it is nice that they’ve learned to avoid the big smokes! Sometimes, a herd of deer turn up in the orchard, and they’re a real pain because the stag enjoys scraping the bark off apple trees. It is really weird how the stag knows which trees are the apple trees. But your lot being in a big smoke, is a true wonder. Wildlife gets into the big smoke down here, and about a decade and half ago I had to stop a neighbour from throwing something at a large powerful owl that had arrived to snack upon some possums (I was out walking the dogs late at night). Apparently the repeated call of the powerful owl had upset his sleep. Anyway, without having a game plan, I quickly nipped into the house and grabbed the bird identification book, and then we identified the bird and stood and admired the large owl.

    Ouch! Please keep your mountain lions over in your part of the world. They would make night time strolls into a far less enjoyable and perhaps more importantly relaxed activity.

    Cement is pretty cheap, and such a small hole would probably cost less than $10 of product, but it would take a bit of labour to do. Sometimes, favours are no favour!

    Newer homes are often not good, and are often under insulated. Out of curiosity, what is the basic construction and cladding of your place?

    Wouldn’t your hand suffer from the possibility of sticking to a frozen car door during an ice storm?

    Yeah, that was what I was also wondering about with the Alaskan story? I guess people would adapt if given enough exposure? You know, I spend a lot of time outside over winter, but I have for a while now suspected that if people spend too long indoors during winter then they do suffer both upstairs and physically. I’m sure you’d see the same thing happening in your part of the world too?

    Well, if your walking stick wins any acclaim at the show, one might suggest that the item has acquired mojo, and hopefully that pleases the person who commissioned it? Out of curiosity what sort of motifs did you carve (or rather burn) into the stick?

    The weather does sound as if it has turned in your part of the world. I’m honestly not sure what a ‘normal’ season actually is! Still one can hope that we’ll all encounter the particular conditions one day! Many of the trees in the orchard have not yet produced leaves, but when I walked through it today, there were little green leaves all over the place.



  44. Chris:

    No, I don’t much care for “Bates” – too creepy, and your car is not creepy. Perhaps I should not have used “Psycho”, but “Psyche”.


    I think I give up . . .


  45. Hi Lewis,

    This talk of no caffeine sounds all a bit revolutionary to me. How are you coping on Day 2 of the ‘no coffee’ course? As a general note, I’d be enjoying caffeine withdrawal headaches on that day. 🙂 And how are you coping with the antibiotics? It is wise that you had the cyst drained again and hopefully it wasn’t too painful a procedure? Black tea is a very soothing alternative to coffee. I can’t recall if you’ve ever mentioned drinking green tea. It is from the same plant, however I believe that black tea leaves are the dried and fermented tea leaves. The tea camellia’s have not grown anywhere near enough to consume any of the plant. Regardless, I’m thinking of you during this time and you have my best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    We started excavating the upper terrace today (that’s the third highest one). Expectations were that it would take a single day to complete, but reality was that it is probably two days work. These things happen, and we’re using the excess clay / soil from the upper terrace excavations to fill up parts of the long pathway leading above the house. It’s been a big job. And I just so happened to uncover another huge Moby Rock on the upper terrace today. A chunk of it was broken off with the jackhammer, but despite my best and most heroic efforts, that was that. Oh well.

    The project is so huge, I might have to allocate a bit more time over the next few weeks to ensure that it gets completed before the growing season really kicks off.

    The name is a real hoot for a responsible person in such a position. The surname ‘Smith’ clearly came from an ancestor who worked as a Blacksmith, but what the heck did a ‘Swindler’ do? Hehe! As the most well read personage here, does the word have an alternative Ye-Olde-English definition that does not necessarily mean what the word ‘swindle’ ordinarily is understood to mean?

    I’m up to chapter XXVIII and things are hotting up for our friends in Camulod – especially after the brutally cold winter. And the good and kind physician Mordechai Emancipatus came to a very bad end. I was curious to see whether Merlyn became infected, especially given the circumstances and close contact. The character did not seem overly worried… And the Pendragon folks are showing a few surprises and the old nemesis Peter Ironhair has told some naughty lies that may cost him his head.

    Hmm, I struggle communicating with folks who are of a taciturn disposition. There is an old saying that ‘still waters run deep’, but I’m not entirely convinced that the individuals have anything of note to say – and it has been a consistent observation with such folks. It is akin to getting blood out of a stone when I encounter such folks. They do my head in. Imagine me for a minute being entertaining and amusing and chucking out all sorts of conversation hooks, and they give me nothing…

    Lowland snow: Early Cold and Snow Heading for the Region

    Quote: ” Seriously, the large scale atmospheric configuration is a dead ringer for the one that provides lowland snow.” Perhaps the good Professor was inferring that the weather was similar to the sort that produced lowland snow and I misinterpreted his words? Ah reading comprehension is a sadly dying art form!

    “None of them went back.” Well the results are in, and Elsewhere gets five votes and Minnesota gets, err, None. The ayes have it! Yup, the good old days were sometimes not that good. 🙂

    The lavender farm is an interesting place. One of the things I really like about the place is that the older buildings fit the surroundings really well because they’re probably 150 years old (at a guess) and they all use the local stone. There is a certain aesthetics that can be introduced in a small holding, but often I’ve noticed that people construct really architecturally interesting homes and then they put up this god awful and very cheap garden and farm shed – often in plain sight of the house. Context, my friend means something, but try telling them that. I tried to make all of the sheds as attractive as possible, because, well, I have to look at them. They’re not purely for function.

    I’d loved to know how the old timers dug the old stone lined well at the lavender farm. It’s amazing to be able to see the water table, and peer down into the deep well. And when I was last there the well was mostly empty and is now mostly full.

    Lavender leaves are edible as far as I understand things and they make a good flavouring.

    Haha! I heard Elton John being quoted about the films rating and he said something or other about: “Not having lived a PG life!” Very amusing. Haven’t seen that film. However, I watched Yesterday at the cinemas a few month back and likewise enjoyed the film. It was a good story and I’m glad that you enjoyed it – even though it had elements of a rom-com. But you may notice that I enjoyed the story even though it had elements of a musical. We may be progressing here! 🙂



  46. Yo, Chris – October 1st is International Coffee Day! Have you laid plans for celebration? Maybe, aerial displays? :-).

    Yeah, there was a bit of pain, in dealing with the cyst. Just one point that made my eyes water, a bit. Nothing I couldn’t handle. I drink far more tea, than coffee. I only have a cup or two of coffee, if I go to The Club. For the duration of the cure, I’m cutting back my tea consumption, at home, considerably. I have a cup of green tea, in hand, as we speak (?). The brand I like is getting pretty expensive, even on sale, so, I switch it up with black tea. Different varieties. I quit like Earl Grey, with bergamot, but that got expensive, too.

    There doesn’t seem to be any side effects from the antibiotics. Other than being more sleepy, than usual. Had a bit of bloat, but that could be from any number of sources. Hadn’t had brussels sprouts in a long time, and went on a binge. Not from my garden. Too early, yet. Can’t have any dairy on the drug. Luckily, I switched to almond milk, awhile back. But I picked up some phony (plant based) cheese. Tasted good, and melted, a charm. But, that might be where the bloat is coming from. The worst part, so far, is changing the d—–d dressing.

    So, what are you going to do with yourself, when all the excavations are finished, and the land is sculpted, to your liking? I’m sure you have some big projects, simmering on the back burner, in your mind? Another Moby Rock? It’s a pod! Well, you can take a few more hiatus days, to get the work done, on schedule. Needs must.

    “Swindler” might be a nickname from the Middle High German, Swindeln. Which, means, to swindle. But more likely, it’s of Lancashire origin, found among some of the landed gentry, back in the 1500s. Might mean “valley where boars are found”, or, “valley where pigs are raised.”

    Ironhair does turn up, here and there, to just stir the pot. Hope he comes to a bad and gruesome end. That was very sad about Mordechai and his people. But what’s the story with the fellow hung in the woods? “Oh, well, Merlin’s going to need a long rope, further up the line, so let’s hang Fred. He’s rather bothersome. Then Merlin will get his very convenient rope.”

    I think I mentioned before, that sometimes if you’re as taciturn, as taciturn folks, you can sweat them out. Get them babbling. But not usually. Usually, I think, they’re happy that you’re as taciturn as they are.

    I think what Prof. Mass was saying was that the configuration is set up for snow, but the temperatures in the lowlands are low, but not low enough for snow. Except in the mountains. It will fall as rain, here in the lowlands. DJ mentioned his leaves are turning. There are a few coming off the trees, here, but no real change in color, yet. No snow, yet, on Baw Faw (aka Boisfort) Peak, yet. Which I can see from my window.

    Every once in awhile, when my Dad got older, he’d say “Maybe I’ll move back to Nebraska.” (Pause). “But, oh, those winters!” And that was the end of it.

    Since you haven’t seen it, all I’ll say about “Rocket Man” is that both of his parents were monsters. Maybe you could tolerate “Yesterday” as a kind of musical, as, well, you know, The Beatles. I watched “Across the Universe” and was able to ignore the rom-com part, as, you know, The Beatles. :-). Lew

  47. @Claire,
    I wasn’t aware of that change in hospice policy. My MIL did have Pulmonary Fibrosis which is considered terminal though she stayed pretty much the same for almost two years before declining fairly rapidly the last six months.

    I agree about the importance of providing the little niceties. My MIL loved playing Mah Jongg and in fact had taught a group of women at the senior center how to play. Each Monday the activity director set up a table for her and her friends (who were still living independently) so they could have their weekly game. I hope things work out well for you MIL.


  48. Hi Chris,
    The soil is now quite saturated and we are now getting yet some more rain forecast to be 1 to 1.5 inches. We haven’t smoked or cured the meat ourselves but the place we take the pigs for processing does a wonderful job on ham and bacon. Doug sometimes smokes some of our turkey or chicken. He has won some awards in the past in BBQ contests.

    Salve and Leo seem to love it here. They are out much of the time and they rarely venture off the property which pleases us a great deal. There’s no end of squirrels and chipmunks to harass.


  49. @ Chris and @ DJ – I have more experience than I would like at breaking into cars whose doors have been frozen shut by a sleet and/or ice storm. In all of these I’ve so far encountered, the door(s) that the wind blows onto is/are the one(s) that freeze shut enough that you can’t open them from the outside. So I go to the side door that was away from the wind, or the rear door if that is the only one that didn’t get so iced up that it can’t be opened, and get into the car that way, crawling over whatever is in the way to get into the front seat. Then I unlock the driver’s side door and start giving it hard kicks from the inside. Eventually this breaks the ice loose and frees up the door. If the passenger side door is also frozen shut I repeat the same treatment on it till it gives way. I only need to go to this trouble if the car is away from home, as we have enough space in the garage to keep the car in the garage when it is at home. So now you know what to do if your car doors ever get iced shut.


  50. Hello again
    There is no need to ask, because we know why the politicians are not enacting the will of the people. THEY DON’T WANT TO. Thus demonstrating that we are no longer a democracy.
    You mention the tree stump that has appeared. Yes, things appear here also and it is always fascinating.
    Very heavy rain showers today which I am finding pleasing.


  51. @ Claire,

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll remember that the next time I’ve got a door totally iced shut.


  52. Hi, Chris
    Just wanted to say, your place is an absolute picture. You and the editor must be so proud of the results of all your hard work!

    I’m potting up masses of vegetable seeds, and watching with bated breath for tiny green shoots. I fully understand why the big supermarket’s latest giveaway is so successful. There is nothing to beat the feeling of growing new things from scratch.😊

    And thank you so much for this week’s earworm. I’ve spent the last few days singing “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road”, and completely failing to make the key changes. My husband begged me to find a new song that’s in my range! Just for that, he can put up with me singing the entire play list of the album.

    Moby Rock has a mate. Maybe they’ll produce baby rocks. No more peak rocks!


  53. Chris,

    Lone coyotes ae somewhat skittish, but the word is to never turn your back on one. Meeting a pack of them could be a problem. Once upon a when, meeting up with a non-rabid wolf or pack was possibly okay, unless they viewed you as a threat or were just plain starving. I have never encountered a wolf. I don’t want to. They seem to be more aggressive toward humans than they once were.

    A friend of mine when I was about 8 had a dog that was half collie and half coyote. NOBODY turned their backs to that dog, as it would immediately attack.

    In 1986 I was camping in a remote area west of teeny little Twisp, Washington. A weird looking animal, somewhere in between a weasel and a wolverine, was near my camp one morning. I asked a lot of people and nobody knew what it was. A few years later, I discovered that it was a fisher. A year or two ago, the Washington Wildlife people announced, rather proudly, that they had just seen the first fisher seen in this state for 70 years or something. Ummmm, I saw one 30 years earlier than they did. Maybe they needed to get out of downtown Seattle once in a while.

    My home. On three sides the outer wall has aluminum siding, then wood, then 1/2″ drywall, then a layer of lath and plaster with horse hair on the inside, then 2″ air space, then the horse hair, lath and plaster, and another 1/2″ drywall. The front has brick rather than the aluminum siding. I think these walls are R-5 on the American scale. All the windows are R-7. The ceilings are drywall, but the attic has R-52 insulation blown in. I need to upgrade the doors. They’re pretty thin.

    My hands never froze to a door as the temperatures were never cold enough for that, nor did I do that if the ice was too thick. We have plastic ice scrapers in the cars to scrape frost off the windows. I keep a spare in the garage for the extremely rare cases in which it rains, then freezes, then snows. That means that all doors and the hatchback are frozen stuck with a thick layer of ice. So the spare scraper is used to chip away at the ice around the door until banging on the door and chipping away allow the door to open. Thankfully, that only happens once a decade or less.

    Absolutely we have problems due to lack of sunlight here. Getting outside, even in rain or snow, helps a lot. But most people stay inside all winter. Vitamin D deficiency is easy to get in our winters, so a lot of people suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which presents as a mild to moderate depression. We take a lot of vitamin D supplements all winter, which helps immensely. That reminds me: it’s time to increase our dosage.

    The walking stick motifs? I burned a lot of feather designs into it. Worms had worked under the bark and left grooves in the wood. Those all got wood burned and turned into snakes complete with hissing tongues. Faces were randomly wood burned. Anywhere a smaller branch had branched off, I left an unsmoothed “character bump” there and used it as part of a face, some of which were wood burned, some of which were carved. All of these faces looked more like a fantasy creature than a human. Any irregularities or character bumps lent themselves to another face.

    The downside is that a few of the carving marks I couldn’t smooth out properly. There were also tool marks left that were caused from removing the bark. Some of these got incorporated into wood burned designs, but some were just flaws. On the Advanced (my level) and Expert levels, visible tool marks are marked down. Just because a carving might have no competitors in its category doesn’t mean that it automatically gets a 1st place blue ribbon, either. It must meet the proper standard to get a first place. My stick had no competitors, and it got what I thought it should: a 2nd place red. It was appropriate. The judge’s comments were exactly what I’d expected. and were similar to what I mentioned above.

    It’s getting late and I’ve got to be at the show in the morning. I’ve got some duties there. You know, club president and all that, or, as I put it today, “I’m just a grunt with a fancy title.” 🙂


  54. Hi Lewis,

    Oh my! International coffee day is tomorrow! Far out, I’ll work hard at enjoying the beverage, so rest assured no stone will be left un-turned in the enjoyment of all things coffee. And I did manage to scoff down a particularly tasty tiramisu today (note: has coffee as an ingredient). Incidentally, I do hope the dreaded coffee blight does not take out too many plantations tomorrow – that would be not good. Anyway, International Coffee Day may not be all that it is cracked up to be, because when I was distributing the bins of used coffee grounds in the orchard yesterday, the wind picked up and blew some grounds in my eye. And before I knew it, I was washing my eye out with water in order to get the coffee grounds out of it, so perhaps the day down here is not cracked up to be all that it was intended to be? Of course, it need not be said, although I intend to, that everything was OK before the coffee incident! 😉 So yeah, you nailed it with your talk of aerial celebrations, just remember to close your eyes if the wind picks up.

    Earl Grey tea is a fine choice of beverage. It took me a few years before I realised the bergamot extract was derived from a form of citrus tree. I did wonder how extract in any quantity was obtained from the flowers of the same name. The herb is a very interesting plant of the mint family.

    I’m glad that you got onto the cyst and sought treatment before things got out of hand. I can well understand that bloat could be caused by antibiotics, however the draining of the cyst is an invasive procedure and so yeah being a bit more sleepy than usual is probably par for course.

    Out of sheer curiosity, what is your take on almond milk? I’ve seen it for sale as a milk substitute at the cafe I visit in the big smoke and always wondered about it. When I was a kid, rice milk was sold as a similar substitute. And I’m on the fence about Brussels Sprouts, and it may have something to do with being fed them too much as a kid, but I find them to be of a bitter taste. A mate grows them and swears they are very tasty straight from the bush, but I remain unconvinced.

    Mate, the dressing would be rather problematic for you to change given the cyst is on your back. Have you considered asking Eleanor to assist with the changing procedure? Some folks enjoy assisting with such matters.

    Surely you jest? Hehe! It’s funny regardless. The projects that require my attention here are a long and distinguished list! I guess once the major projects are done, I’ll begin the process of finessing techniques and learning and discussing that. The excavations are only the beginning phase after all. You know, I reckon that is the joke with this organic growing system – it takes a few years of hard work before there is pay off, and that is mostly because the soils are so poor to begin with.

    But yeah, needs must and I have to really balance the flow of paid work and work around here, and sometimes (actually ofttimes) my time is not my own.

    Oh you’re good! I knew you’d know the answer and that the surname had a respectable origin at one point in time. And incidentally, I could hear the word ‘swine’ underpinning the current word, and well, pigs have a bad reputation, which is unearned – unless they are like Margaret’s piggies which are undermining the posts that hold up their enclosure!

    I’m almost certain that Peter Ironhair will come to a very unpleasant end. The odds are against him, but in the meantime, he’ll cause a whole bunch of mischief and the forces are moving against him. Merlyn has just encountered the disaffected Celt commanding a goodly number of archers who has been hell-bent on dealing to Mr Ironhair. There was a very interesting discussion on the Druids and their status (and support) in society which I rather enjoyed. The Roman’s appeared to have enjoyed a solid pogrom against them, although we’ll barely know the truth of the situation. I can almost hear the last words which Fred – ready to be dangled from a convenient tree (heard echoing in my mind) – and it was thus: “Let’s face it Fred, you’ve always been a problem”. And authors sometimes require the: ‘then I woke up’, option!!!! Who can argue with such logic?

    You may have the right of the taciturn story, but do we all have the time to wait them out I ask you? No doubts the Ents would accuse me of being hasty, and they’d probably be right! On the whole though, I agree with your strategy if only because it works. I spoke with an interesting guy on the train today who hails from Fiji and was travelling down under.

    Ah, your dad may have been a romantic at heart to have uttered those words. Mind you, I haven’t met the bloke. Mate, people reckon we’re crazy for living in this cold climate. However, I like the changes of the seasons and being surrounded by all the life that also enjoys this land.

    Strangely, I’m unsurprised, although know nothing of the artists back story. Having kids is the easy bit, raising them to adulthood is probably beyond some folks skill sets. But then, at the same time, the artist produced some great works, so maybe like what you once stated about the Roman’s beliefs about where rocks ended up, maybe things are what they are because they are?

    My day tomorrow may be rather strange and beyond the normal sort of day that I enjoy. We’ll see.



  55. Hi Margaret,

    More rain! Far out, it makes for tough growing conditions. However, on the other hand, your place hasn’t flooded given all the rain, but I bet it’s flooding somewhere nearby? I once experienced ten inches of rain in five days during the summer of 2010 and I’d never experienced so much water all over the place before. And the river at the bottom of the valley which often dries up over summer was flooded very badly and I couldn’t even see where the bridge was under all the water. Fortunately there is more than one road off the mountain – but it is a long way around.

    The thought of smoked home raised ham and bacon makes my mouth water. Yum! Butchering pigs is a big job and you are very fortunate that you have a place not too far away that can do the work. My mates of the big shed fame do their own butchering of cows and then they vacuum seal the cuts and put them in the freezer, but it is an epic job. The taste of the meat is superb though.

    Go Doug, and smoking the meat is a real skill just to get the right flavours. It is nice receiving accolades for work in the kitchen. The editor once beat the local Country Women’s Association at an apple cake bake off and she scored a kiss from the former state premier (acting as judge), who’d enjoyed a second slice. The local ladies were dirty on the poor editor,and began claiming something about her adding sultanas to the cake – which apparently was not allowed in the rules! Who knew that the stakes were that high?

    Ollie is in the dog house tonight because he chased and bailed up a small wombat this evening. He is not usually allowed to run outside after dark, and the editor looked rather shamefaced at what occurred. He knows he’s done wrong, but fortunately no harm appears to have been done. Big Daddy wombat would have dealt to the hapless Ollie and things may not have ended so easily. Nice to hear that Leo and Salve are enjoying themselves in their new digs. Interestingly, now that you mention it, Ollie also hits the boundary and – stops. And I’m grateful for small mercies.



  56. Hi Pam,

    No, don’t give up, you’re on a roll! It was psychedelic! You know I can’t recall seeing such ice patterns before.

    And on a related note, the new dirt mouse is a little ripper and uses so little fuel that the recent price hikes have more or less gone unnoticed. Last week I paid $1.70 / litre (3.8 gallons to the litre) which is something of a record. Far out, how much can a Koala bear I ask you? 🙂

    Hope you are having a nice autumn.



  57. Hi Claire,

    Haha! You have some mad skillz to be able to handle ice storms and vehicles. 🙂 It is interesting that you write that, because I’ve noticed that plants are far hardier to extreme cold weather, when they are out of the winter winds (i.e. the avocado and citrus trees which made it through the recent snow). Hehe! Your car doors are clearly constructed of less hard plastics (and/or vinyl wrapped Masonite) than the ones that I’m used to – they don’t make them like that anymore. I can see the benefit of garages in such icy conditions. What happens when the vehicle comes out of the garage and encounters the icy conditions?



  58. Hi Inge,

    There is certainly a lot of hot air being expelled in your Parliament right now. I wonder what important issues are slipping by the erstwhile members of Parliament whilst they engage in their monkey business? And yes, I feel that things may not go so well in the polls for the members should they ignore the outcome of the referendum, because at the most fundamental level you spoke the truth of the matter. Their personal opinions should be put to the side and they get on with the job at hand for that is why they are paid.

    It is fascinating how the land moves and it is a far more active process than I would have previously have believed. Rocks also float to the surface. I’m not entirely sure, but given the buttressing around the very large trees here, I do wonder whether it is the actions of the trees consuming minerals in the soil which also causes the land surface to change?

    Glad to hear that the rain has returned, and that it may have a good chance of getting into the groundwater table.



  59. Hi Hazel,

    Thank you and I really appreciate reading that. Hope the recent rains up your way have begun greening the place up? A mate flew back from MacKay up in Queensland last week and he said that things up there (and much further south as well) were looking very dry.

    Good for you, and September has felt cold to me, so I haven’t yet planted out any seeds. Maybe in about two weeks time. Not sure. And yes, it is fun to grow plants from seeds! 🙂

    Hehe! You were the only one who mentioned the ear worm! Nice one! And yeah, the key changes are very complex and probably beyond most people. Way too many octaves high for me! Hehe! Enjoy your singing, and sing your heart out like nobodies listening! 🙂 I do here, although the chickens look at me rather funny like and the dogs just ignore me. Hehe!

    Moby Rock is a serious challenge, but I may be able to make some progress on it because part of the rock is moving ever so slightly.



  60. Yo, Chris – By “aerial display”, I had something more in the line of fireworks, in mind. Rather than coffee grounds in the eye. 🙂 Nothing so irritating as something in the eye. Next time, goggles! (We’ll want pictures). Maybe Snoopy will lend you his WWI flying hat?

    Well, I had used 2% milk for a long time. When I decided to bit the bullet, and switch to almond milk, I had choices. A lot of it comes sweetened, or in flavors. But I went with plane, unsweetened. Took about 1/2 gallon, to get used to it. Tasted a bit bland. Still does if you drink it straight. But it’s great on warm oatmeal and fruit, or, cereal. Cooking or baking with it is fine, so far. It’s a one to one swap, so you won’t have to resort to your local maths genius :-). The only thing I’ve found, so far, that doesn’t work, is instant puddings. There were cautions on the box that they don’t work with soy milk, and, I discovered, also almond. Won’t firm up. But, I found a work around. I just pop the bowl in the freezer, for 45 minutes to an hour. It gets a nice thick consistency.

    We didn’t eat sprouts (or, broccoli, for that matter) when I was a kid. So, I came to them, as an adult. They’re great with a bit of salt, pepper and butter … maybe on rice. Or, also good with a sprinkling of soy sauce.

    Well, even when your major projects dwindle a bit, there’s always new things to try and fine tuning. Never mind maintenance.

    I’m glad you got to the bit about the Druids. I’ve got a couple of books kicking around about them, that I haven’t got to, yet. There’s a Great Course, called “The Celts”, that my library doesn’t have. I’ll get around to getting it on Interlibrary Loan, sooner or later. But somewhere I read that Julius Caesar had a friend who was a Druid. And, I believe some of the Gaulish aristocracy had Druid roots. And, I think they hung on in Ireland, for quit awhile.

    LOL. I’m beginning to think when the author hits a plot sticking point, he thinks, “Well, we’ll just hang somebody.” 🙂 I’m still wondering about how Lot ended up swinging.

    People think you live in a cold climate? Well, I guess it’s all relative.

    Strange Days? Ahhh. An ear worm, beckons. I hope it plays in Australia. The Doors. Strange Days. There’s a place to click where you can see all the lyrics.


  61. Chris,

    Some quick updates… I see you asked Lew about almond milk. My wife must drink Lactose free milk. So do I, but I appear to also have problems with the milk protein. So I enjoy unflavored and unsweetened almond milk. The calcium in it, right? I find it enjoyable.

    Winter…We have had mixed rain and snow throughout Saturday. These are the first “official” snowflakes in September since 1926 I heard. Our house is at about 2,100 feet. The forecast for Saturday night through 11:00 Sunday morning is for up to an 3 or 4 cm of wet and slushy snow. This weather is 2 months ahead of “normal”.


  62. Hi DJ,

    You were Ollie’d last evening! The editor let Ollie outside to go to the toilet, and for the first time ever, he went off chasing a wombat. So the editor went after him, and Ollie took that to mean that his back up had arrived on scene, and off he went further into that activity without a care in the world. To cut a long story short I became involved and we eventually worked out that we had to abandon Ollie to his mischief, and once he learned that he had no back up, he raced back home. Hmm, lesson learned, and Ollie is now on a short leash at night. Sucks to be him, but he blew it.

    Lots of people are consuming almond milk nowadays, and I see cartons of the stuff in the cafes. Thanks for the feedback on the milk and yeah your health should be a first priority with such matters.

    Oh no! If it means anything to you, I feel that the September weather I just enjoyed was the sort that usually occurs during October. I’m really not sure what to make of it. Hope the brief snow was more pleasant an experience than what you expected?

    I too would never wish to encounter a wolf. I’m unsure that Ollie would be of much use, despite his size and strength, and if the wolf were cornered it would fight bitterly. Dogs / coyotes have to be socialised from day one, there is no getting around it. Dingoes were companion animals with the local indigenous folks, so I’d sort of suspect that the coyotes fit a similar role up your way – but I’m not sure? Any dog can be a problem, and I read an article from your country that alleges that a woman was mauled to death by a pack of Dachshunds.

    You may enjoy an article on the people involved in spotting the elusive and most likely extinct Tasmanian Tiger: Chasing the tiger with stealth, smarts and science.

    Thanks for the explanation as to the construction of your house. Yeah, we use a different scale for R-values so it is really hard for me to get an understanding as to what the numbers mean. I assume the aluminium siding protects the timber weather boards?

    A plastic scraper for ice is a great idea, and one that had not occurred to me. Generally I splash cold water over the vehicle windows and then run the wiper blades and that seems to get rid of the ice. Looks like Tuesday morning has a slight frost risk… Hope the apricots and almonds scrape through unscathed.

    A doctor a year or so back advised the editor to go on Vitamin D tablets which just seems bonkers given how much time we spend outdoors all year around. I’d read that there had been anecdotal reports that pathology labs were pushing the issue. But I can understand how it might be a problem in your part of the world. It is a bit like someone from the UK trying to understand why I have to use sunscreen over summer when they don’t!

    Your walking stick sounds fascinating, and I wish you the best of luck with the judging, although noting that it is the process of creating something itself that is important – and the connections such activity brings. A second place red is a worthy accomplishment and clearly you are getting a feel for what standards the judges assess the art.

    Hehe! Aren’t we all just grunts? 🙂



  63. Hi Lewis,

    Today’s watchword is this: Expect the unexpected here! Far out, I think I just mixed a metaphor with a noun, although it sort of works for me. Maybe? I had to wash the coffee grounds out of my eye last evening, and that is an unpleasant activity. Years and years ago a tiny chunk of metal lodged in my eye (from an angle grinder) and I had to go and see an eye surgeon. My head was put in a vice, he inverted my eye lid and then took the chunk of metal out with a needle. It was a most unpleasant experience, and as a result, I always use safety glasses when working with tools. At the conclusion of the procedure and after my head had been un-clamped I couldn’t get my eye lid un-inverted. Sensory overload kicked in, my vision was that of a tunnel and my ears filled with the sound of ringing, and I just passed out – cold. I couldn’t believe it, and the surgeon just wanted to get me out of there. Frankly I was a bit wobbly after that, but soon recovered. It was not a pleasant experience.

    I’ve mentioned to you before about the ‘three week’ rule for introducing new foods and tastes to your diet. My gut feel is that three weeks is all that it takes. But half a gallon may be a bit quicker than that rule. Regardless, the math is beyond me! Hehe! Thanks for understanding.

    Hey, I had an acclaimed award winning pie for lunch today in a very distant country bakery. I was dubious when I both noted the claims and the pies, but I tell ya, they were good. I had a beef and pepper pie, and the pie was fiery which meant that it had just enough pepper. The editor had a beef and bacon and Dijon mustard, and unfortunately the results are now in, and I lost in the pie-choice-off competition. The bakery is too far away for there to be any easy next time, but you never know.

    We went on a long journey today (3 hours each way, which is way beyond my upper tolerance limits for car journeys) to speak to a lady about a machine. Sorry to be mysterious but I nabbed the machine and brought it back here on the bright yellow trailer, but I have to take it to the local farm machine repair shop for them to have a good look at. The journey put me in the mood of considering writing about travel this evening.

    Inge also mentioned that she had not enjoyed broccoli as a child, so it may have been only a recently introduced vegetable? I seem to recall consuming it as a child. However, I also recall cauliflower which I feel is a bit tasteless, but there were the potatoes and beans as well. Honestly the choice of foods was limited and most of what was presented was boiled – with the green coloured water going down the sink… Soy sauce was known about, but usually as a condiment at Chinese restaurants which have always been fairly commonplace down here. The Chinese have been around since at least 1850 (when they were sent over as indentured labour to pay off failed loans) during the gold rush era up to about 1890 when things petered out. They made a good living working through the tailings, and in the largest town to the far north of me (Bendigo) there is a Joss House which is really beautiful.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you have learned in the scholarly tomes on the Druids. And book recommendations are always welcome – despite the protestations to the contrary!

    Lot of Cornwall really pissed a lot of people off just by being himself, and so the suspects in that particular case are many and varied. It may have been his good ladies guards that did him in? That is my best guess. What do you reckon about that?

    The cold climate thing here is pretty funny, but that is what the locals believe.

    Thanks for the excellent music! Strange days indeed.

    Better get writing…



  64. Hello again
    I was clamped into one of those head things many years ago. Was in trouble with an eye but kept being sent away and told that it was just an after thing from having had something in my eye. Finally I was sent to the expert because the eye was becoming inflamed although they still couldn’t see anything. That clamp looks like a medieval torture instrument and having ones eyelid rolled up is weird. Luckily for me there was nothing actually in my eyeball, it was a grain of sand firmly stuck in my eyelid.


  65. Yo, Chris – Before I forget, BBC1 is doing a “War of the Worlds” (yes, again), this fall. Looks pretty good. Looks like it’s set in Edwardian times, more true to the original book. Doesn’t look like there’s any small poppets, screaming from beginning to end … not following instructions, and endangering everybody. Feed them to the aliens!, I say. 🙂

    LOL. Unexpected? You want unexpected? Our entire weather forecast has changed, overnight. We’re now under a frost warning, for the next two nights. Today was supposed to be nice, but it’s pouring down. So, what to do about the garden. Well, it dawned on me that the four peppers are in cages, and, I have large black plastic bags, so, I’ll put those over, around sunset. Better harvest all the basil, I can. The tomatoes were a wash, anyway. I think everything else will be ok. So, I need to deal with that, while dealing with round after round of explosive diarrhea. Thank you, antibiotics. Yeah, I know. To Much Information :-).

    The meat pies sound yummy! You’re lucky. We just don’t have a tradition, of those kind of pies, here. Sounds like they’re fairly obtainable.

    Oh, a mystery machine! How exciting! Does it warp time and space? Look like a blue police box? Or, more like Mr. Peabody’s “Way Back Machine?” Probably not near as exciting :-(. One of my Idaho friends tenants, is saving up to by some $20,000 machine that presses building bricks out of dirt. He wants to build himself a house, and has another request to do one “on order.” I know no other details, nor does my friend in Idaho.

    I don’t know when I’ll get to the Druid books. The “to read” pile is high. I’m finished off “A Visit to America”. I got three from the library, yesterday. Now, I may have mentioned I have a thing for chairs. Odd I know, but I noticed a book called “Now I Sit Me Down”: A Natural History.” (2016) Much to my pleasant surprise, I discovered it’s by the same fellow who wrote “Mysteries of the Mall.” Rybczynski. I got a second book about the mountain men and fur traders. The third is “How to be a Tudor” by my old favorite, Ruth Goodman (she of “How to be a Victorian.”)

    Well, the good ladies guards is a good theory, for the end of Lot. But, like Urther, it was all a bit to neat and tidy. And why leave the ring, which is Arthur’s patrimony? My latest theory (just cooked up overnight, in my fevered brain) is that the Druids did it. They just got fed up with Lot laying waste to the land and people, and did him in.

    Still raining. Boooooo! Lew

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