Hammer to Fall

This evening I randomly walked around the surrounding forest whilst the sun set. Despite being late spring, the air was cool and humid. Over the previous 24 hours, a storm had dropped more than an inch of rain over the farm, and the ground, trees and everything else was wet.

Walking under the canopy of the wet forest, and among the huge Eucalyptus trees, I picked up fallen branches as I ambled along. A windstorm earlier in the week had caused many dead branches to fall to the ground from way up high in the canopy. Some of the older trees reach heights of 50m / 165ft or more, and clearly they have plenty of branches to spare, as I regularly have to pick up the fallen ones.

My walk was in no particular direction and I just wandered here and there. During the walk I had a good chance to look around at the plant life in the forest. Spring is a beautiful time of year, and the native sticky everlasting flowers (Xerochrysum viscosum) have only just begun producing their upright stalks. They thrive under the canopy of the Eucalyptus trees, but then so do a lot of other plants, and I was pleased to note that there was a very good diversity of plants growing.

The fallen branches were deposited onto an area in the forest where I intend to burn them off. The ash from burning off of the fallen forest materials, produces great fertiliser. Previous burn off sites inevitably become ‘Fairy Rings’ of highly fertile plants. And the various animals which live in the forest dine upon the mineral rich plants to their benefit. The manures of the well fed animals spread the fertility randomly about the landscape.

Humans have lived with the Eucalyptus forests here in this mountain range for more millennia than I can even begin to understand. And all through those long years they acted as part of the forest itself, as indeed they were. By way of contrast, European settlers have long since believed that they don’t need to be involved in the management of the forests. I guess that there is some sort of belief that an ‘invisible hand’ will somehow make the forests healthy and less prone to extreme wildfires. That sort of thinking doesn’t actually work, but then maintaining a healthy forest actually is hard work. And if people can get out of doing hard work, I’ve noticed that they will make the attempt, even if it means believing in ‘invisible hands’.

Down here people have become a bit spooked. Usually they are spooked about wildfires, but this year they are spooked about the two most recent drops in official interest rates. The Reserve Bank of Australia recently lowered its official cash rate, or more technically the overnight money market interest rate. It is now at an historical low of: 0.75%

Chapter I: Government economic policy defies community expectations

Few people discuss management of forests with me, but because of my profession, a whole bunch of people talk to me about economics and money. I’d like to talk more about forest management, but I guess people tend to feel that an ‘invisible hand’ will look after all that, so I don’t get to talk about it. Instead I end up talking to people about the two recent drops in official interest rates, if only because they appear to have spooked people. The other week a person working for a bank surprised me by giving me a candid opinion on the subject, which confirmed to me that they too were spooked. And I’ve been inadvertently involved in plenty of other conversations on the matter. It is fair to say it’s on peoples mind down here.

Chapter II: The community is crazy in love with debt

Down here, household debt to income ratios are something crazy like 190%. It is an impressive effort because I believe it is the second highest in the world. And in my opinion the prices of houses is just plain old wrong. The job of the ‘invisible hand’ of economics is always to seek to find an equilibrium. If house prices drop, people whom are otherwise now excluded from the housing market, may just be able to purchase a house without having to get into so much debt. However, for heavily indebted people (i.e. the people causing the debt to income ratio to be at such crazy highs), they might find themselves owing more than what the house is worth – and that means they’ll be unable to borrow further against the value of the house in the future (thus unable to take the crazy highs, err, to something higher). It’s all an ugly business, and in Australia people cannot simply legally walk away from their mortgages like they can in other countries.

Chapter III: The solution to a lack of mad cash – Interest only loans

However, the reality is that the situation is far more complicated than that. A few years ago the banks wanted people to borrow more money (and increase the crazy highs) for housing. Back then, something like 40% of all mortgages were ‘interest only’ mortgages. The banks love these things, because the mortgages cost less day-to-day mad cash for the borrowers (because the borrower only pays the interest on the loan, and no part of the loan balance itself is repaid – until the end of the loan when the whole lot has to be repaid all at once). This means that the borrowers can borrow more and the interest paid stays the same each year, which is great for the banks. The banks in turn can sell off the loans to investors, who want a fixed return on their investments. Everyone wins – so long as house prices don’t drop.

Chapter IV: The dark side of the loan – Negative equity

If house prices did drop, people may find that the loans are greater in value than the selling price of the house. This is known as negative equity, but the loan still has to be repaid when it ends. How is that final repayment then possible? In other markets, it is known as a margin call, which were at the heart of the Great Crash of 1929.

Chapter V: All good things come to an end – Fixed terms

There is only one other minor little problem with these interest only loans, and that is that they’re provided for only a fixed period of time – usually around 5 years. During the 5 years, the borrower may be tempted to increase their household debt to income ratio. Given the borrower has plenty of free mad cash because they’re not actually paying off the loan, banks / finance companies have been happy to loan them more mad cash, for fun things like new cars, refrigerators, holidays, expensive dog food etc. But all good parties come to an end eventually, and at the end of the 5 years, the loan finishes and people then have to reapply for a brand new replacement loan.

Chapter VI: Full up to their eyeballs – A decreased appetite for risk

This Australian Story began a couple of years ago now (the dark ages). In these now enlightened times, with so many of these interest only loans coming to an end, there are heaps of people having to reapply for their loans – for the thing which keeps the rain off their heads (i.e. their house). And the borrowers are finding that banks are losing their appetite for risk, and have reduced the supply of new interest only loans. So borrowers might have to now begin repaying the actual loan principle – and they might not have enough mad cash with which to do so.

Chapter VII: A cunning plan – Soften the blow

Without intervention, the ‘invisible hand’ of economics would probably take a really hefty axe to this set of extreme circumstances. But no. I believe that the government wants to soften the blow, so they’ve lowered official interest rates recently so as to maintain things as they are. Lowering the interest rate means that borrowing is cheaper and the folks who became caught up in the interest only loan story might actually be able to afford to make repayments. What interesting times we live in! However, I personally wish the powers that be spent more time and effort into managing the forests, but maybe that’s just me.

Chapter VIII: The dirty little secret

In these enlightened times, governments around the world appear to be spending more mad cash each year than they are raking in. Fortunately for them, they can print mad cash at will, which is an impressive effort. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that trick? Unfortunately, the government also has to use some of this printed mad cash to repay its own loans. And lower interest rates assists mightily with that little problem. The further governments get into debt, the more pressure they’ll be under to reduce interest rates. I kind of feel sorry for them, because this policy inevitably leads to hyper-inflation, but no doubts smarter brains than mine are enjoying considering the problem.

Chapter IX: In the real world

Speaking of economic matters, I went to visit the local stock feed store the other day, and the chicken feed (which lasts about a month) has increased in price to $62. Only a year or two back the same feed cost $50. And petrol (gas) prices are now hovering around $1.70 per litre (3.8 litres to a gallon – that’s almost $6.50 per gallon). And economists tell me with earnest looking faces, that inflation is low.

Early morning frost sits over the valley below the farm

Earlier in the week the days were sunny and hot. Actually a few of the days reached 35’C / 95’F in the shade, and it sure felt hot to me. It wasn’t that long ago that the farm was held in the grip of winter. Still, changeability is the watchword here, and the weather forecast for Saturday promised a very good dose of rainfall. And the thick clouds delivered on that forecast.

The thick clouds on Saturday delivered over an inch of rainfall

Good rainfall during spring is the perfect weather to get seeds and seedlings into the soil. There was one minor problem – we hadn’t yet completed the new terrace fencing. If the new terrace was not well fenced, the local wildlife would consume every single seedling planted. And we had a few seedlings ready to go into the soil:

Seedlings waiting to be planted out

After many early mornings and late evenings, the fencing was installed around the new terrace. We even managed to plant out all of the seedlings and filled the rest of the soil with seeds. Just in time for the promised heavy rain!

The lower terrace has now been completely planted out with seeds and seedlings

A cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch was also added to the garden beds adjacent to the new garden terrace project. A Black Locust tree is growing really well in one of the garden beds.

A Black Locust tree enjoys a good feed of composted woody mulch. It used to be a mop-top, however a wallaby changed its fate

I recently had a decade old Lemon (Eureka variety) tree succumb to a pathogen which kills the tree through ‘Collar Rot’. The pathogen is wide spread down under, so I’ll have to be more careful in future, and not allow thick plantings to grow around the base of fruit trees. Not being the sort to be easily daunted, I just purchased another Lemon Eureka, but this time taking note as to the root-stocks reported hardiness to the pathogen. The opportunity also allowed me to select for a fruit tree that will grow much bigger than the previous lemon (6m / 20ft). I have persistent memories from when I was a child of climbing around and high into the canopy of my grandparents huge old lemon tree.

Ollie and Toothy assists the author with planting of a new Lemon Eureka

The strawberries are growing fast, and there are plans this week to place straw under the rapidly developing fruit. The straw protects the berries from coming into contact with the soil. Commercial berry farms use plastic to achieve the same result.

Strawberries are growing fast

Despite this year being on the drier side of average, the orchards (shady and sunny orchards) are growing really well. I am of the opinion that the good feed they received in Autumn was a great success.

The shady orchard. Where is the chook pen?
The sunny orchard, but not today
The trees near to the top of the sunny orchard

Even the garden beds around the house are growing really strongly.

The garden beds are growing really strongly

Onto the flowers:

The garden beds are a riot of diverse plants
The Lavender is particularly good this year
Granny’s bonnets have become well established in this garden bed
The first of the roses in the new rose garden
How good is Nasturtium
This may well be a blue coloured Iris?
Bearded Iris’s are prolific
Horse Chestnut flowers
It’s Rhodie time!

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 12’C (53’F). So far this year there has been 642.2mm (25.3 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 617.2mm (24.3 inches).

80 thoughts on “Hammer to Fall”

  1. Chris,

    You know I like properly used technical terms. “Squooshed” truly does explain the feeling after working or walking in the intense heat.

    And yes, since I played basketball professionally, you were a professional snooker player.

    Nice discussion about forest management. Or, er, um, the unmanagement performed by the European immigrants, as opposed to those who were native to Australia (and the Americas) before the Europeans showed up. Maybe Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is diversifying into forest management now?

    Once upon a year, Allstate Insurance had the slogan “You’re in good hands with Allstate.” But I never really saw those hands outside the television ads, so I think they poached the invisible hands from Adam Smith. I tells you, his invisible hand is getting a workout in this modern era.

    Debt levels are much the same here as what you discussed. And our central bunk, er, bank, recently lowered the overnight rate, too. And housing values, and thus prices, are much too high. This will not end well.

    Congrats on getting the fencing completed. And on getting the rain. I heard over the weekend that this October was the coldest October on record in Spokane. That I believe.

    I’ve been raking and bagging leaves most of the past few days. I want to dig them into the raised beds, but the ground was still frozen from those unseasonably cold days. I’m hoping things thaw enough this week for digging, as the temperatures have been and are expected to be about 13C for a few more days. That should fix the digging issue.

    It’s always good to see the fluffies helping with the hard work. Did they help dig the hole for the lemon tree? Whenever I’d try digging a hole, Rakhi the Samoyed would grab the shovel handle and get in the hole and start digging. She thought she was better at it than the shovel. Sometimes she was, but she scattered the dirt where it wasn’t wanted. But she helped.

    It’s hard to pick a favorite from this week’s flower pictures. The colors and growth are impressive.


  2. Hi Chris,

    Good work getting those seedlings into the ground in time. Mrs Damo has had a bonanza of germination and we have run out of garden beds (not difficult when we only had two). So the rest is going into pots. Our squashes and pumpkins are already fruiting, but the triffids are a little restrained. Sadly, none of the passionfruit seeds germinated, so I will miss out I think.

    In unrelated news, I finally finished a video and explanation blog of why Mrs Damo and I were in Costa Rica a few months ago. If anyone is interested, please follow the blog roll link, or click my name, to Zeehan Manse. I think the project is very exciting!


  3. Yo, Chris – Yup. I’d rather talk about forest management, gardening, or, just about anything other than economics. :-). Your Eucalyptus burn reminded me I wanted to link to an article last week, about controlled burns. Couldn’t fine the one I was looking for, but this, I think, is even better.


    But, back to economics. Well, what is one to do, besides fret? Personally, stay out of debt (of any kind) and view any real estate “deal” with a gimlet eye. And, maybe spread the word a bit, if fertile ground is found. Otherwise…

    I do have a couple of thoughts, about inflation. It’s a few reflections on COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustments.) Retirement funds, aren’t the only thing linked to COLAs. Government workers and, even some industries (though not so much, anymore) often have established COLAs, built into their labor contracts … no matter if it’s a union contract, or just an employer / employee contract. An understanding.

    And COLAs are linked to cost of living indexes / inflation. Claim that there is little inflation, and wages (costs) are kept down. There is more profit. Of course, one could ask at this point, if it is a healthy profit, or, an obscene profit? :-). Now I do have a horse in this race, having a couple of pensions that only increase, if there is a COLA adjustment. On the other hand, I’m aware that higher wages (or, retirement) = higher costs = inflation.

    But, back to gardening. Congratulations on the rain. May it gently continue. You packs of seedlings look very promising. Do I detect a pepper, or two, in the mix? Rain is coming back here, on Thursday or Friday. Will we get anymore nice weather, or will winter set in? Stay tuned!

    Your lower terrace looks quit handsome, and well laid out. Your black locust looks healthy, even though it had a run in with a wombat. One of my apple trees, in my last place, was quit stunted and odd. It had a run in with a bear. But, before my time. A pity. It had the best apples, of the lot. A Jongold. Late apples that a bit of frost, improved. And, good keepers. But, I was working toward bringing it back up to snuff, and the last year I was there, it produced a good crop.

    I didn’t realize you had a shady and a sunny orchard. Care to elucidate on the difference? Riot in cell block garden bed? The rose looks like an old variety, but the red spot in the middle is unusual, for any old rose I’ve seen. Interesting. Very pretty.

    Eleanor had a waterfall of nasturtiums, spilling out of her flower box. Mostly, volunteers. They smelled quit nice. But, she was a bit distressed by the aphids, infesting them. Though they didn’t seem to do any harm. Yes, there are things she could have done to knock them back, but isn’t quit up to it.

    The iris. Blue … or purple. I go back and forth. Lew

  4. Hi Hazel,

    Hope you scored some serious rain up in your part of the world? A few moments ago I swear I witnessed the beginnings of a tornado which then dissipated. I reached for the camera, but by the time I got it, the tornado had largely broken up. But when the rain hit, the wind was feral and it was almost as if someone had turned a hose upon the windows. Yay for rain!

    Drought-stricken western NSW receives best rainfall in years. Good stuff, and according to the Bureau, conditions will change sometime during January. So, stay tuned.

    Oh yeah, how good is the scent of lemon blossoms. 🙂 There are native clematis vines growing here in the forest and they’re prolific. I suspect that long, long ago, the vines were a lot more prevalent in the forests down this way. The native clematis produce smaller flowers, not dissimilar from citrus blossoms. However, I never realised until just recently, how huge were the imported clematis flowers. I wanted to purchase more of the vines, but at $37 each I had to restrain myself! I’ll put a photo of the vines flowers into the next blog.



  5. Hi Inge,

    You may laugh, however the strongest wind gust I’ve recorded using the weather station here (at ground level mind you) was 50kph (31 miles per hour). The blast buffeted the house I can tell you, but the house was built with high winds as a possibility, and it has a degree of flexibility built into it. However, a wind gust of 109 miles per hour would leave me shaking in my boots.

    Glad to read that both you and your son as well as the ancient forest survived the windstorm. I tend to believe that the wind is nature’s pruning tool, and most trees recover from such storms. Sometimes they even produce epicormic growth.

    Ouch! I live with a few of those large branches caught up in adjacent tall trees. They are definitely a problem job for a professional, and it may be that someone has to actually climb the tree and sort out the situation? Not a job that I’d relish, and I only get such jobs done if the large branch is threatening infrastructure. Is the large branch close to their house?

    From my experience here, the branches can hang up in the trees for many years.

    I hope your pond has refilled? The water tanks here are full after the past few days of rain. Yay for rain!



  6. Hi Damo,

    Mrs Damo’s skills with germination of seeds would far exceed my own efforts, and it may be that her true calling involves a market garden? Seeds are relatively cheap these days. But yeah, I reckon we picked the timing just right. I won’t mention that the old tomato enclosure had not been planted out yet. In that bed will go all of the pumpkins and melons. We weeded and mulched the enclosure for an hour or so this morning before the rain hit big time, and then it was inside doing accounting work for the afternoon. At least the wood heater kept the place toasty warm.

    Passionfruit is a funny plant. Most of the plants I’ve seen for sale down here are grafted varieties and I’m assuming that there must be a reason for that? Dunno. I grow passionfruit here, however it is the cold tolerant orange variety and candidly it does not taste good. Think about fruit that tastes like a particularly boring chunk of cardboard and you’ll get the idea!

    Hey, like the Jimny! Lead me not into temptation… 🙂

    For peoples ease the link can be found here: Damo’s A Measured Interlude



  7. Hi DJ,

    Hehe! Only those that know what the term ‘squooshed’ means, know what it means. 🙂 I have to be on high alert at this time of year for heat exhaustion, if only because the weather is so variable that I can overdo things when the sun is hot and the air is cool. But 38’C on a mountain climb would be asking for trouble, although it is all a matter of pacing oneself and keeping their salts and hydration up – but I wouldn’t attempt such a feat.

    I wouldn’t describe today as being warm. 🙂 Well, it was nice up until about lunchtime when the weather suddenly turned feral. And I reckon I spotted a small tornado forming off over the valley – but it dissipated rather rapidly. I went for the camera, but no cigar. However when the storm hit here, it was most certainly feral.

    I’d like to think so about both of our professional sports status.

    Forest management is a subject that drives me bonkers, if only because people have such unrealistic expectations of the outcomes. And some of the meanest views from people that I have ever encountered live in suburbs where the trees were long since clear felled – and I ain’t considering that clear felling option myself. Mate, I’m as green as they come, but when I first moved up here, I used to speak to the old timers who were all too happy to mouth off about the ‘greenies’ living in the big smoke. It took me a while to understand what they were talking about, but I understand their point of view nowadays.

    You are very naughty! And yes there may be a bit too much working out of the invisible hands these days! 😉 My insurance company has the word “Royal” in its name, so that must mean something? They do have to apply for such things. Actually on a serious note, they do have a good reputation for paying out on claims after natural disasters, but not all insurers share such nice reviews.

    Did you just debunk the central bank? I’m impressed, I’d never thought that it was possible. Looking at it from another perspective, it is a mechanism to reduce real wealth per capita – not that anyone is noticing.

    Things are different down here and it might be cold up your way, but down here we’ve just experienced: One of Australia’s warmest and driest Octobers.

    Good luck with the digging of the leaves, and I’m amazed that you are contending with the occasional bit of frozen ground this early in the season.

    Rakhi the Samoyed efforts at excavation would put the fluffies to shame. They only dig holes when they wish to bury a bone. You were fortunate to have known such a big hearted fluffy that would happily help you in the garden. Alas, my lot barely hang around whilst I’m working, but I suspect Ollie will change in that respect as he gets older. Time will tell.

    Thank you. The growth in the orchard has surprised me too. About six months ago we placed around about ten cubic metres of compost into the orchard, and so far the results have been good. I’m a bit worried they’ll need that much feeding each autumn…



  8. Hi, Chris

    You said you would send the rain up here, and you followed through! We had over 20mm, spread out nicely over several hours. You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the plants all over town. And the temperatures have returned to something more like springtime, down from 32C last week, to 21C today, and 16C forecast for Saturday, with possible light frost(!) So much for planting tomatoes – now, where did I put the garden cover?

    The terrace looks brilliant, and the seedlings are full of promise for tasty summer meals. Glad to see the Fluffy Collective are helping with the work, though maybe Ollie just hopes to eat all the blood and bone when your back is turned!😊

    The flowers are beautiful, and the rose is really unusual. $37 per plant for the clematis! I can see why you might not want to buy too many, particularly when there are so many attractive plants that will sprout from cuttings instead.

    The economic situation is quite disturbing, and you summed it up well. I fear it will not end well. Oh well, take Lew’s advice, avoid debt, and make the best of it.


  9. Hi Lewis,

    The clematis is a funny plant with huge flowers. I use the word funny, because up until this year, I’d never seen the vines for sale. The one I purchased was a purple flowering variety and I’ll chuck on a photo of it on the next blog. There are native clematis vines here, and like the bird orchids, they are all over the place. I suspect that they seed prolifically and then hope for the best. The flowers are much smaller and probably closer to that of a citrus tree. From time to time I encounter a vine in the forest that is quite old and very thick and I can’t shake the feeling that in the past before the arrival of Europeans on this continent, these vines used to be huge.

    Alas for the loss of the sky blue clematis. We all carry around a few regrets. I had no idea they grew with blue flowers – I’ll keep a look out next time I’m at plant nurseries.

    The day began fine and cool, but by lunchtime it was feral. Half an inch of rain fell today, and in the early evening the editor and I sat on the veranda and enjoyed watching a particularly heavy storm roll in over the valley from the south west. A huge fork of lightning hit the ground in the valley below, and the thunder actually made me jump in surprise at the nearness. But slightly off to the south I swear I saw a tornado forming. It rapidly dispersed, but before that dispersal I watched a cloud at ground level join up with a thin stream of cloud to the cloud layer above. I rushed off to go and grab the camera, but no cigar, the thin stream of cloud was breaking apart by the time I got back. However when the rain eventually hit here the wind was blowing hard, and looking out from inside the house it looked as though someone was spraying the windows with a hose. Feral.

    I applaud yours and Eleanor’s common sense in kvetching, and it is nice to know that I’m in good company! Hehe! Did I mention that the previous blog about me joking about being professionally offended at the restaurant lost 20% of the readership. It’s an impressive effort and who were those people anyway? You know, in all of the years that I managed staff, I was never once faced with the tattoo question. I’m not a fan of tattoo’s myself, but if people want them… The thing is they have to be maintained, especially as people get older, otherwise they end up looking like prison tats, and who wants that look?

    Exactly, if you’re intending to plough in the peas then it is probably best they don’t produce any pods. It’s all good and if they produce pods though because you’re then ahead.

    Five books in indeed! Mr Whyte’s telling of the story is nothing short of epic. Thanks for the reminder. I looked in the book shelf and discovered that I did not have the book after Sorcerer… Might have to do something about that. Ah, sorted. I noted that the final book is notable for portraying Mordred as a sympathetic character. Intriguing. I’m about 80% of the way through the Fort at Rivers Bend, but will finish it shortly. Today, I got up and worked. Had a break for lunch. Continued working, and only stopped working at about 8pm. Not sure what I did in a past life to have to work so hard in this one, but it must have been pretty bad!

    Please be nice to the extra hour and remember to return it in the same condition as to which it was loaned to you. As to the dents and scratches in it, well don’t blame me, it wasn’t my fault.

    Yeah, your medical bills would make a sensitive and broke person opt for the no-health-care-situation with a dash of unfortunate side effects. But yeah, I speak with people about retirement and most people tell me that they probably can’t retire. It is only an anecdotal statistical analysis, but still it must mean something. My mum retired at the age of 55. That goal is so far out of my reach it is not funny.

    I too feel the same way. Why do people keep on asking me about economics? You know, I don’t understand why people can’t accept some level of managed thinning of forests? People use forest products – as evidenced by their choices in relation to toilet paper and housing. But on a serious note, if a seriously hot fire takes out a forest – not much survives. The regrowth forests up at Kinglake where the 2009 bushfires ripped through (173 dead) look and sound pretty quiet to me and the regrowth is feral because not much is eating it. A bit of middle ground would be sort of OK. But I suspect people enjoy their polarising views and it also manages to neatly dismiss the practices of the indigenous folks and pretend we are all so much more progressed than them.

    Ooo, well a gimlet eye is a newbie term for me. The description has a dark tone to it, don’t you reckon? And yes, debt is bad, but that is an unfashionable perspective in these enlightened times.

    All of what you say is true. And also commercial property rental leases are usually linked to the Consumer Price Index, and nobody wants to see such numbers reflect inflationary reality either, as businesses have to stump the mad cash to pay for the increase. I dunno, my thoughts on this matter are dark, but I reckon the game as it is currently being played can go on for a while yet. As they say: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! And of course there is usually middle ground between bonkers salaries / obscene profits / and healthy profits. Nature provides a surplus – otherwise none of us would be here today, so I see no reason why the surplus should not be enjoyed, however things can be taken too far.

    Very observant, and yes there were some peppers in the mix. They’re all doing quite well due to the excellent watering in. I can only grow the thinner varieties of peppers and eggplants – and I can’t really understand what sort of summer weather is required to grow and ripen the larger varieties. Ook! It is probably rather scary hot. I’m still on the hunt for middling varieties of chilli’s, but I’ll have a look around over the next week or so. I put down a bale of straw in the strawberry enclosure today, and got through about half of the weeding and feeding of the old tomato enclosure. Hope to finish that job on Thursday and get the seeds happily in the ground for the squashes (I’d like to believe they are pumpkins!) and watermelons. I’m going to give up on canteloupe because the seasons are just too variable and the millipedes are unrelenting. Watermelon is a simpler melon to grow and it has much thicker skin.

    I’m a bit nervous of the Black Locust and once had to get on the ground to pull a few weeds only to discover one of the thorns had embedded in my arm by about an inch. They’re wickedly sharp. However, the thorns are probably not as sharp as a bears teeth and claws. To think I was complaining about some stag rubbing its antlers on the bark of the apple trees here. That’s just peanuts compared to a bear which can rend you limb by limb. They grow an apple variety down here with the name Jonagold, and I’ll bet it is a close relative of the tree? Jonathon apples are actually quite tasty. The most well known apple varieties down here are: Pink Lady and Royal Gala. But then there is also the Granny Smith which is quite good but I find it a bit acidic for my tastes.

    Yup. There are two orchards. The sun loving trees are in the sunny orchard, and the shade and cooler appreciating trees are in the shady orchard where they receive less hot afternoon sunlight due to shadowing from the surrounding forest. Not all of the trees enjoy the same conditions and so I split them up between the two spots.

    The rose might well be an older heritage variety and I agree with you in that it is an unusual and unexpected flower.

    Aphids can be a hassle, although I have little experience with them as they mostly get eaten by other insects. Nasturtiums are really interesting plants and they self-seed here too. The seeds are tasty and a little bit like capers. Did you ever consume any of the leaves?

    Haha! The editor suggested this morning that it was indeed a light purple Iris, but I said leave it described as a blue iris as Lewis would get my bit of humour. I reckon it is blue. 🙂



  10. Hello Chris
    Too tired to comment properly, will do so tomorrow. This is just to quickly say that your tree flower does not look like a horse chestnut. I think that it is a red chestnut. For later checking, the casing of the conkers has spikes on the horse chestnut while it doesn’t on the red chestnut.


  11. Yo, Chris – We have rotation, Houston. :-). Noting more entertaining than sitting on the veranda and watching a good bought of weather. Twice in my life I’ve seen tornados start to form … and then blow out. Did the sky begin to turn a poisonous yellow / green color?

    Yeah, even if a tat is done by a skilled tattoo artist, with good materials, age does create a bit of “drift.” The one I have is showing a bit of “blur.” I think about getting it cleaned up, a bit, but it seems rather unimportant, at this point. I suppose I can consider it to be more impressionistic, than realistic :-).

    Granny Smith’s are great pie apples. You just need to chuck in enough sugar. They make a good drying apple, too.

    Nope. Never had any parts of a nasturtium. I’ll leave them to the bees, and aphids.

    Oh, dear. I’m up to chapter XI in the “Sorcerer.” But I think I’ve managed to put it down, for awhile. It’s a real barn burner. Lew

  12. PS: Forgot a couple of things. As far as peppers and hotness go, you need to familiarize yourself with the Scoville Scale …


    Servano and cayenne, are medium hot.

    Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) has a new book out. “Consider This: Musings on Writing and the Writer’s Life.” Got it on my library hold list. Gosh knows when it will show up.

    Darn sun sets at 5pm. You can have your hour, back. :-). Lew

  13. Hi Hazel,

    I’m so glad for you that you finally got the promised rain. Yay for rain! And rain spread out over several hours is the best rain of all. There has been some serious warming in the atmosphere over Antarctica over the past few months and strange things are occurring to the climate.

    Exactly about the low temperatures – and same here. It was 2’C here this morning when I woke up and fingers crossed for the seedlings. Old timers used to say get your tomatoes in the ground by Melbourne Cup day, and in a normal weather year I reckon they’d be right. Hey, I have not seen a single self-seeded tomato yet. The soil is still a bit too cold for them… Have you got your summer seeds / seedlings in the ground?

    Hehe! And thanks, Ollie can be helpful, but the blood and bone was too much of a temptation for him. Incidentally, he showed me how a determined animal could break into the garden on the new lower terrace. A few alterations to the fencing appear to be in order.

    The rose is really interesting isn’t it? I have to fess up and let you know that we picked the roses for fragrance and colour and yeah, ordered plantings are probably not our thing! Hehe! The garden beds are a bit of a riot. Plant-flation is real, no doubts about it.

    Lew was on the money, as was your good self. Not playing the game and doing something else with your time is always an option.



  14. Hi Inge,

    Hope you had some peaceful rest after the recent windstorm?

    And a huge thank you for identifying the tree. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a Red Chestnut, and the person that sold me the plant on the cheap should have known better. The person has excellent bona fides. Hmm. Interestingly, there are minor spikes on the conkers. Does that fit your understanding of the tree in that the spikes are minor unlike true chestnuts (I grow two here) which are like morning stars?

    My thoughts about the tree is that it will provide conkers which can be used as soap nuts due to their saponin chemical content. It is a superb cleaning agent and we use soap nuts in the clothes washing – something that museums also do.

    In breaking nut news, one of the two seedling walnut trees has broken its dormancy. I have had a devil of a time trying to grow these trees, and so far I’ve killed about five of them. In the end I opted for seedling walnut trees and thus threw caution to the wind.

    The almonds won’t have as good a harvest this year because they are on their off-year.



  15. Hi Lewis,

    🙂 Dare I say it, but what the heck: The Eagle Dissipated!

    PS: Hope you are enjoying my lost hour? Sleep ins are worth the early winter darkness. Anyway, winter is a time for rest and recuperation after the physical activity of the growing season.

    The sky actually was a very dark grey and night fell early yesterday. I was considering letting the chickens run through the orchard, but then observing the sky warned me off taking that particular choice. The chickens would have taken themselves to bed early anyway. I’ve never actually seen a green sky, but your mention of it twigged a memory: Green thunderstorms: there have been many theories behind the mysterious glow.

    I was hoping that the lightning strike in the valley below didn’t start a tree smouldering. They can burn slowly for weeks before flaring up. We spent most of today cleaning up a patch of forest. The conditions were almost perfect for the job: No wind and sunny but cool skies at 61’F. We burned a lot of stuff off. I sometimes wonder what the old timer loggers were thinking because there are dozens of charred tree stumps strewn around in unusual locations. Now if I had a bulldozer or an excavator to deal with the remnants of the logging era they wouldn’t be so difficult to handle, but no, all I have are hand tools (including the chainsaw). I’m almost certain that the old timer loggers cut the trees and then pulled the tree stumps out of the ground using a bulldozer. They just failed to burn the stumps off – or even clean the compacted clay off them. I guess it wasn’t worth their while cleaning up. Nothing lives in or on the tree stumps – which are charred from the 1983 bushfires. And because the tree stumps are charred and serious hardwood, they just don’t break down back into soil. I guess that is why the property was cheap.

    I’d completely forgotten that you had a tat. Out of sheer curiosity, is there a story behind when and why you got the tat in the first place? Hey don’t knock it, the impressionists championed a notable art form.

    Did you know that the Granny Smith apple originated down under as a chance seedling?: Granny Smith apple. The story as to how the seedling proliferated was quite interesting.

    I sort of suspect that nasturtiums never really took off as a salad green because the leaf has a slightly furry texture, and that might be a bit off-putting. Still, if a person was hungry, they’d be less fussy. 🙂 I once had a cat and I was advised that the cat was a fussy eater. Not so. It only took about two days for the battle of wills to fall in my favour, and the cat ate whatever I served up to it. It lived and good long life too.

    Oh my goodness! You are miles ahead of me. I’ve only just read about the wolves attacking the sows during daylight hours at the Fort. And Rufio has disappeared, but may soon be found thanks to a dream. And there is a discussion of what appears to be a wax mask.

    Wilbur is a name you don’t hear much nowadays. Puts me in mind of Mr Ed! I can still hear that name said by the horse. What a clever bloke to come up with the Scoville Scale. Mate, all of the varieties of chili’s that were for sale as seedlings were Jalapeno hot varieties onward’s to the dreaded Habanero. I’m frankly not man enough for those varieties – what can I say other than it’s a personal failing. And what is this talk of ghost and death chili’s? Frightening stuff. Who needs horror stories when real life can deal up nightmares like those chili’s?

    We did grow Jalapeno varieties last year and they were really nice, but they were also the mild Jalapeno variety. Do you actually consume the really hot chili’s?

    Fear not, I recall who Chuck Palahniuk is! His writing is an inspiration, and I did note that he had a rather amusing response to a literary critic, which went along the lines of: “Until you can create something that captivates people, I’d invite you to just shut up. It’s easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It’s a lot more difficult to perform one.” I salute his style and fine display of mettle! And ah yes, get thee into the ring literary critics! However, the book is not due for release until January next year. I’m pretty certain he’ll have something to say, and I’ll await your review (which I’ll follow up with a purchase). 🙂 Happy days.

    The chickens were out in the orchard until almost 8.30pm tonight.

    I read a really good short story in the local newspaper, but there is unfortunately no online link to it unfortunately. Oh well.



  16. Hello again
    ‘Hammer to fall’ but when? The ability to push the can down the road has become incredible. Your account of the situation is superb. I envy you the use of the correct economic/financial language. I tend to be nervous because I don’t know many of the terms/language. One can not walk away from a mortgage/ house here but I believe that one can in the US.
    Helicopters have been going back and forth along the Solent all morning and the sheer noise has been irritating, this was followed by an aeroplane; goodness knows what was going on.
    The storm didn’t cause me any real problems as it passes above me because I am down in a bowl surrounded by quite tall trees. Most of those which were dangerously near my abode, have been removed.
    Granny Smith apples are cooking apples hence the sharpness. They will keep superbly all through the winter.
    Son brought me some eating apples that he had been given. They are the largest eaters that I have ever seen and they taste great. The giver doesn’t know what they are called as he inherited the old tree when he bought the house.
    Yes, the red chestnut conkers may well have a few minimal spikes. I haven’t seen a red chestnut tree for quite a while. The horse chestnut is way more common and also larger but the red chestnut is more beautiful in bloom.


  17. Yo, Chris – I’ve never seen the green cloud phenomenon. With tornados, it’s more an all over glow. And not a clear, bright green. It’s got a lot of poisonous, nasty yellow in it. The hail vid at the bottom of the article was interesting. Looks like it was filmed off the back of a ferry boat.

    Well, cleaning up the slash from a logging operation, takes time. Which does not contribute to the bottom line. These days, cleanup is a lot more regulated. Might even be written into the logging contracts. LOL, the stumps on your place will eventually break down … or, fossilize. :-).

    Hmmm. Why did I get my tattoo? Pretty much lost in the mists of time. I’d probably seen the blue rose, when I was taking art history courses. Stuck in my mind. Then years later, I fell in among a group of tattoo artists, in Portland. Don’t know how that happened, either. Maybe at a party, somewhere? I got to know one of the blokes, pretty well. Blackie (aka Johnathan Schneider). But, I did spend a good year, thinking about it. Usually, I just write it off to “We did silly things, in the 70’s.”

    I didn’t know that Granny Smith apples, were a Product of Australia. That was an interesting story, about their genesis. Also, in the 70’s, I owned a small house in Vancouver, Washington. It had an enormous Granny Smith tree. Besides eating, I did make at least one batch of vinegar, out of the apples. Memory grows misty. I didn’t realize it was so high in antioxidents. Something to keep in mind next time I’m driven to buy apples.

    Like children, cats and dogs can be spoiled. :-).

    Read a bit further, and I’ll tell you my mistaken theory :-). I figure the wax masks will figure into the story, somewhere else along the way. Maybe? Sometimes I think Whyte has an inkling of an idea … that he doesn’t follow up on, or forgets. But some stories write themselves. And, what about the stuff that is clearly gunpowder? A momentary curiosity, or will it be used to blow off someone’s castle gates? Questions, questions.

    Onto peppers. We (as a species) to have the urge to classify and order things. Hence, Scoville’s scale. I’ve never tried a ghost chili, and really don’t want to. Really, my take on peppers is that you cook them IN things. Not eat them out of hand. But I’ve become quit enamored with the hot sauces. And, have developed a tolerance, for them. Years ago, I used to stop at a Chinese restaurant, as I had to travel, once a month. Just a little hole in the wall, with formica tables, in the hinterlands. They had a choice, on some of their dishes, of one to five stars … ranks of hotness. So, I ordered a dish, and the waitress asked how hot I wanted it. Five stars, of course. She looked rather skeptical. Well, the dish was delivered, and as the first bite was on it’s way to my mouth, I glanced up, to see four heads, observing me from the kitchen, around the edge of the door. Piled up from top to bottom. I’m afraid I was a bit of a spoiler. Took the first bite, savored it, and didn’t provide spectacle, by lunging for the water glass. I do need to look into those small, Chinese peppers.

    Well, in the art world, there’s an old saying, something like, “Those who can’t paint, teach.” I’d amend that and say, “..or become critics.” I think it applies to writing, as well as painting. Any of the arts, actually. I wonder if he’ll say much about his “compound.” I read somewhere that he had to well fortify it, due to rabid fans, tracking him down. It’s in the hinterlands, where I used to drive bookmobile, when I was 15. Long before Chuck was on the scene.

    I never use, or have even though much about those link. buttons that come with articles. I just cut and paste the URL from the URL box.

    Well, I’m going to go on an expedition to a couple of op-shops and see if there are any interesting books for our library, here at the institution. Or for me. Or, any other interesting treasures, I might find. Lew

  18. @ Damo – That was a great video of your trip to Costa Rica! See any Mayan ruins? The bird life, is incredible. I’ll take one pair each, of whatever comes in blue :-).

    The survey / computerization of the boat was very interesting. I think the same thing is being used by archaeologists. I’ve seen quit a few DVDs that use the technique to record buildings and such. The Roman Colasium, cathedrals. In fact, I think Notre Dame was surveyed, not long before the fire. And, the survey will really help in the rebuilding.

    Anyway, I’m going to watch your video, again. With my finger on the pause button, so I can take a good long look at some things. Lew

  19. Hi, Chris!

    It is so good that there is so much plant diversity in your forest. As you know, because of a very large deer population, there is very little understory in our woods. It was very different when we bought the property 30 years ago. We had wild ginseng and goldenseal and trillium, and much, much more. The only way we can keep the native herbs and plants growing is to reintroduce them inside our garden’s 8 ft. fence, and in smaller fenced areas here and there. If the enclosed area is small enough that a deer has no room to jump into it, the fence only has to be 4 ft. high. I just heard several shots outside; it is turkey season, and deer season starts pretty soon.

    That is one mighty low interest rate! I was wondering if ours was similar and I see that DJSpo says it is. I don’t know about household debt here. It has been so heavy for so long that I would imagine that it is as bad as Australia’s. That is a nice, concise lesson in economics that you have given us. Thanks.

    Chapter V: “expensive dog food” – I choked on my hard-boiled egg.

    Chapter VII: Ah, but would the government manage the forests well? I’m not sure that they manage anything else well.

    Chapter IX: I’ve heard tell inflation is low here, too . . . I love the Incredible Shrinking Boxes in the supermarket, where the boxes and volume gets smaller and smaller, but the price stays the same.

    There’s some kind of Moon rover in the “early morning frosts” photo.

    I like that different beautiful view of the courtyard. So peaceful. What are the seedlings, front row left, in the orange pot? What a cliff that is at the back of the lower terrace.

    You look rather rakish, Ollie. Hello, Toothy’s back end.

    I was going to ask if the sunny orchard produced better, but you have answered elsewhere that it and the shady orchard have different things growing.

    I am swooning at the flowers. Thanks so much. I’d say that’s a blue iris.

    I saw an interesting, though grim, sight the other day. I was walking up the driveway when a very large Red-Tailed Hawk swooped through the woods – our woods are thick with trees, I don’t know how he managed it – and caught up a squirrel. His burden was heavy at first, and it took him awhile to gain altitude, so I chased after him, planning to throw a rock. You see, I knew it wasn’t Charlene the Sacred White Squirrel, but it could have been her best friend Leery Larry. Alas, the hawk got away; his victim most likely was quickly dead. Turns out it was not Larry. It still amazes me that he could fly off with his burden so well, though he was big, with a wingspan was about 4 1/2 feet. I read that those hawks only weigh about 2 1/2 pounds; our squirrels weigh 1 to 1 1/2 pounds. Except for Charlene, who weighs more, as she hangs around the back porch where someone has been putting out walnuts . . . All this reminded me of your dingo pup and eagle story from last week.

    We used to have a lot of native black locust growing around us. It has been mostly gone for awhile. I remember one of the dogs grabbing an end of a black locust branch with those wicked thorns and swinging it at the other dogs. I think she knew full well what she was doing. They used to use black locust for fence posts around here.


  20. Chris,

    Gatorade and similar drinks can definitely be a good friend, can’t they?

    I’ve been out when the weather got feral. It is no fun. If at a safe place, it can be enjoyable to watch, depending on the level of feralness. Tornadoes fit into the category of avoidance, at least in my book.

    I get the old timers’ attitudes towards the greenies. There’s being green with knowledge, and then there’s the extremists that work out of some type of a deluded, romantic view and have little or no understanding of nature. I better stop there before I get into rant mode.

    Yes, the central bank needs to be bunked, debunked or otherwise corrected. I think that economics on the level they try to work with it is about as understandable as quantum mechanics. There are just too many variables and complexities involved. If I were the Chairman, I’d set interest rates at whatever I figured was reasonable and go take a long break somewhere without cell phones and let nature take its course so things could be allowed to fail. Only then can things get fixed. At least that’s my opinion.

    Ah, I see. Australia sucked up all the October heat and left the rest of us shivering. Nice continent you’ve got there, mate…;) Seriously, I do expect to see more extremes of both types moving forward.

    10 cubic meters of material is a lot. Hope you don’t have to add that into the mix every year. Too much work.

    Once upon a when I ate hot jalapeno peppers like candy. Then I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska and stayed with some chaps from India for a few weeks. One of the guys always cooked extremely spicy food. Even the rice was spicy! On his nights to cook I made other arrangements at a local restaurant. It was either that or my innards would boil and cook from the inside. Made the jalapenos look like angel food cake in comparison.


  21. @Chris,
    Yeah, Mrs Damo does have the green thumb. I note we are having less luck with triffids (courgettes/zucchini’s) up here then we did down south (but perhaps a more “restrained” output is desirable in this case). I must say I am not interested in bland passionfruit. Only the best for me, thats what I aspire for! I read elsewhere that they can take two seasons for fruit anyway, so I have lost interest for now as the chance of us still being in this house next year is low to zero.

    @Lew/Chris RE: tattoos
    Mrs Damo and I have some. Seemed like a why not? My one is not visible unless you are at the beach. Unfortunately a similar tattoo became popular with unsavory elements a few years later, but /shrug. Fashions come and go 🙂

    @Lew RE: video
    Glad you liked the video. It was a great time over there, and I really enjoyed working on the ship project. I am a qualified surveyor, but the current job is sales/support/training, so it is nice to get out there and do something a bit more hands on.

    We saw no ruins in Costa Rica unfortunately (Cambodia on the other hand…), but as you saw, the birdlife was fantastic. Especially for us southerners who are not used to American birds, especially hummingbirds 🙂 Almost every bird we spotted was new and unusual. Highlights were the resplendent quetzal (too distant for good photo) and scarlet macaws.

    I have a sample dataset from some sort of ancient ruin – something roman in England I think. I noticed in the awful recent mummy movie with Tom Cruise, during the initial tomb scene, they placed a competitors laser scanner in the background (boo hiss).


  22. Hi Inge,

    It is a fascinating question is it not? Honestly, I’m genuinely amazed with the new and interesting (no pun intended) policies which are getting churned out. It makes me believe that perhaps we are witnessing policy reactions to events as they unfold rather than any specifically identified long term vision. Dunno, just guessing really. You hold your own in these discussions, and I had a sort of epiphany years ago at Uni where I failed to understand what all these weird and complicated financial instruments were that they were attempting to teach me about and the terminology was endlessly baffling. Anyway, the little internal brain light went on one day and then I realised that you’re not meant to understand these things – that is the point of them. But if you apply the basic concepts of capital, principle and interest, they begin to look rather the same – except for the details.

    Have you discovered what all the goings on up and down the river was about? Last time it happened, the lost person appears to have come to a bad end.

    All very wise. Trees within dropping distance of a house are a risk because what goes up, inevitably comes back down again.

    Do you know they sell the Granny Smith apples as fresh eating apples down here, but they are not at all to my liking – and they fed me them as a kid. But as a cooking apple, I can see that. The very tart and astringent apples are great for cider, so there is a use for every apple. There used to be something like 7,000 varieties of apple, so who really knows what variety it is? There are heritage fruit clubs down here, but I’m no purist and my relaxed and easy going approach to things would be like continually poking them with a really big stick! On the other hand, they’d probably be able to identify the particular apple variety you encountered.

    Thanks again for identifying the tree as I had no idea that chestnuts had such variety. And yes, the red chestnut flowers are very nice when compared to the plainer variety of horse chestnut flowers.



  23. Hi Lewis,

    The video looked as if it was filmed from one of the many ferry’s which ply Sydney Harbour. Given the sheer number of bays and inlets in that particular city, some folks are lucky enough to get around on ferries. Witnessing a glow in the sky would be all rather ominous, and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen that, but I can recollect my surprise as a kid during the 1983 bushfires looking out of a supermarket window into the car park and seeing the smoke haze turning the daylight into this strange and odd looking burnt orange colour. It struck me as being odd at the time that disaster can be striking home hard in not too far away locations, but then here was I with my mum helping out carrying the shopping and pretending that everything was normal and OK – despite the sky being a burnt orange colour.

    On an amusing note, when a tornado actually did hit here one Christmas day (thanks for the mid summer present weather Gods) many years ago, I looked at the horizon and thought to myself: “That’s a funny shaped cloud”. And wow, and when the cloud arrived not too long afterwards the winds howled and the rain fell (four inches in an hour). Years ago I once saw a tornado at night at a safe distance. It was the multiple and very localised lightning strikes that twigged my attention that something weird was happening over there. At the time I didn’t know what it was, but the next day, the news was that the place was trashed.

    Back in the day things were a bit loose in relation to forestry log recoveries. The serious old timers used to leave the humongous tree stumps in the ground as it was all they could do just to fell the tree. And even that process involved embedded planks on either side of the tree with lots of axe and cross cut saw work. There is an old tree on the main ridge where you can still see the cuts for the planks about 10 to 15 feet off the ground. Don’t know why the old timers didn’t take the old tree out, but maybe it had a hollow core? But when bulldozers became economical after I’m guessing WWII, the used chains to pull the stumps out, but even then they failed to burn the stumps off. I guess like you say, it made no economic sense. And here I am today dealing with the repercussions of those choices. But yeah, fossilise. That sure will confuse archaeologists in the far distant future. I can almost hear them asking how the tree stumps (by now rocks) were out of the ground and had such neat cuts. Hehe! No doubt they needed a challenge!

    Ah, some stories are best left in the deep recesses of time. Your friend Johnathan Schneider the artist (if I have picked the person correctly) enjoyed using colours in his art which were slightly brighter than what would be seen in nature, and the contrast was done to good effect. But your larger point also stands that the 70’s were a strange time. 🙂

    Not to disparage the humble Granny Smith apple, but far out the fruit makes my stomach too acidic. Speaking of apple cider vinegar, Ollie has a case of the ‘casserole dog’ i.e. itchy skin. Every dog other than Scritchy has had this affliction at one point and then they get over it. There must be some sort of irritant here that they become accustomed too, but what it is may be is beyond me. Anyway, I’ve been looking around at dog anti itch stuff and a spray of apple cider vinegar was recommended. I already put Coconut fat and live yoghurt in his breakfast. Tonight I a-bombed him and fed him an anti-histamine and he’s fast asleep now.

    The plot device wouldn’t be raised unless it had some purpose me thinks. Mr Whyte rarely wastes words. I’m almost at the end of the book and poor Lucanus has met his maker in a most definite way. But yeah, I too was thinking that blowing a castle gates wide open would be a handy idea. Peter Ironhair has it coming to him, no doubts about that as does his bonkers associate Carthac.

    I applaud your common sense approach to chili’s, but also note that folks tend to want to test their limits (mine are not good in this regard and I plead palate softness). Actually it is interesting that you mention the Chinese Sichuan cuisine – and yeah, give the kitchen staff no quarter whilst displaying a fine devil may care attitude is the way to go! – but apparently the humble chili stopped off in that part of the world way back in the early days of the fruit, and became part of the local scene.

    Rabid fans would be a serious hassle, and especially for a writer of Chuck’s calibre. I did rather enjoy a quote I read about the author in that he was turned down by a publisher because his work was too disturbing (or something along those lines), so he sent them worse text. A tidy tactic. But even his book involving a downed commercial airliner did not survive real world events. How did you get to drive at the age of 15? There is definitely a story there – I can almost feel it.

    Well yeah one of the links in a recent article suggested that car leases in your country were about to extend to 7 years. I thought that was interesting because I recall the days when they were 3 years. Then they were soon 5 years. Then the balloon got refinanced, and now you guys are on the bleeding edge. It is an impressive achievement to forge your way first into a bright new shiny future! Oh, and before that people used to pay cash.

    Did you score anything on your treasure hunt? I worked most of today, but took a bit of time out this morning to keep on top of life’s administrative chores.



  24. Hi Pam,

    Ouch! Yup, the naughty deer fall into the same category as goats and wallabies in that they all work to keep the forest understory open and clear. Of course deer (and I have no experience with goats) are a boom and bust population. So yeah, they can eat every single sapling or ground plant. What do you do? Local rumour here has it that a year or two back some around here culled about 150 deer, but even so I still see them bouncing around the forests, and I reckon they’re here to stay.

    Thanks, and I tell ya, the first time I wrote the blog, the story was so overly long and complicated that I had to cut it back hard, simplify it and add the headings – thus why it was published two hours later than usual. Before that it was still the same thread of story, but a lot messier. Dunno about household debt to income in your country. I don’t believe you’re at number 1, as I believe the win goes to Switzerland. Well done them.

    Hehe! Yeah, I added in the ‘expensive dog food’ bit as a bit of a tension breaker – and I’m really chuffed that you enjoyed the laughs. One can’t be too serious all of the time! I was asking myself at the time: Do I write this – yeah, let’s do it! Hehe.

    There is a school of thought which suggests that you are indeed correct about your supposition in relation to the government. They’re not doing a good job down here with the forests, and if I had to write a school report for them it would probably include the short sentence: Could do better. Haven’t we all heard that critique? 🙂

    Exactly, quality and quantity is dropping, but hey, the prices are the same so what’s the hassle. Smarter brains than yours and I would say something like: What, me worry? And they’d probably be correct. And things can always get worse.

    The moon rover was ripped off a moon junk wrecking yard on the cheap and for mad cash – they did a deal. Hey, it works! I tend to feel that it looks like a tug boat, and it performs the double function of being the weather stations remote sensing unit.

    Yeah, different plants for different orchards. The apples, pears and citrus enjoy the shady orchard, whilst peaches, apricots, plums and almonds enjoy the sunny orchard. But I have planted trees in the alternate orchards too just to see what happens.

    Hehe! May you enjoy more flower images for the remainder of the season. Wait until you see the showy clematis next week.

    Glad to read that Charlene the special one and her mate Leery Larry (where is his lounge suit or smoking jacket I ask you? Anyway with a name like that surely he has one hidden away in some nook or cranny in a nearby tree?) survived the hawk smash and grab raid. Earlier this year I watched a Kookaburra (of the Kingfisher family) raid a blackbird nest and take off with some of the young. The world of bird is a tough and gnarly existence.

    I know black locust is a pioneering species and do you reckon it disappeared as a species because it was out competed by other larger and longer lived trees? And if that isn’t the case, I’m really curious as to what happened to them? I’ve heard that about posts for the timber, and oh my, that dog knew exactly what it was doing.



  25. Hi DJ,

    Mate the wicked combination of sugar and salts is just what one needs after hard work or exercise on a hot day. Sometimes water is just not enough, and I’m feeling like my body is in recovery mode today. I’m not sure I’d do another day working in the surrounding forest for at least a few more days. No point over doing things and causing an injury.

    Do you get tornadoes in your part of the world? I’m guessing they’d be a rare but not impossible visitor, but as I said it’s just a guess. The tornado that hit here one Christmas day years ago was an epic experience – and we were a direct hit. But on the other hand it was on the lower end of the scale and the heavy rain (100mm in an hour) was sort of appreciated at an otherwise hot time of year. Managing the water flowing about the property was a serious nightmare that day.

    No rant away, it’s all good. I’ve been cogitating lately after a recent encounter, that it is all well and good to have abstract knowledge but can the knowledge be put into practice and does the person have what it takes to learn from their failures? Therein lies today’s important question, and I noted in the encounter that a certain sort of arrogance was displayed to cover up the lack of ability to put their knowledge into practical use. So I painfully began instructing the person, and they quickly backed down and had a more humble approach. I do wonder if their arrogance was a mask that they wear – a learned mask by the way. I feel that self confidence must be backed with substance otherwise it is but a puff.

    I rather feel that the current economic goals being pursued are reached by policies which are subject to diminishing returns, and so each step in the process becomes a path of ‘no retreat’. But the road is long and winding.

    Hehe! Yeah, it is the world’s driest inhabited continent after all. The centre of the continent is not quite desert, but more of an arid land, and the difference is real. Do you know at one time in the recent past, dry adapted rainforest covered almost a third of the continent? Water is the limiting factor here, and there are many towns in the two states to the north of this one that have towns on the verge of running out of water.

    Dunno, but it is likely that such heavy soil feeding is par for course, and I can understand how farmers embraced industrial agricultural practices. That doesn’t make that path sustainable though. A bit of a shame that.

    Hehe! Ah, the bloke shook and stirred your guts with his curry skills in the kitchen. I wouldn’t eat it either! What ever were you doing in Alaska?



  26. Hi Damo,

    As a comparison for your entertainment, the zucchini and cucumbers have not yet germinated here, so yeah I reckon this season is later and cooler than previous seasons have been. Last year was early, hot and dry, and so I’m leaning towards the more pleasant conditions (here anyway) this year as being a good thing. Possibly? Who knows what January and February will hold in store.

    Yeah, I reckon the passionfruit was a big call in your garden, so it is a blessing in disguise. Years ago I purchased a huge box of passionfruit for about $20 at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne and I was so chuffed. We split all of the fruit and froze them and just hacked off chunks each week and added them to breakfast. Now, I reckon they might have made a good wine too. Speaking of which we consumed a three year old mead this evening (the editor was bitten by a bull ant the other day and mead without the preservatives is a potent anti-inflammatory) and it is smooth stuff. Unfortunately we have less than a dozen bottles of the mead left now and will have to make some more.

    Yeah, tatt’s are all an individual choice as far as I reckon. Hehe! Not for me, but I maybe just too uptight for such things. Well, yeah motifs and iconography can always get nicked. In India I recall seeing swastika’s engraved in ancient buildings and apparently they’re originally a Hindu symbol. Go figure.

    Sorry to hear that the competitors scored their gear in the most recent Tom Cruise film. Rotters!

    Incidentally we loved the video, and you two looked like you were having a blast of a time.



  27. Chris:

    Thanks for the link to Damo’s website. What a fascinating video.


    P.S. @ Damo – I commented over there.

  28. Yo, Chris – They’re called springboards. Google’s got some really good vintage photos under their “images.” Yup. I’m sure those old time loggers said, “Let’s leave a lot of tree stumps lying about, just to vex Chris up in the 21st Century.” :-).

    To take the bite out of a Granny Smith apple, if you eat them out of hand, a pinch of salt really makes them tasty. Terrible pun there, by the way. Just in case you missed it :-).

    Yup, I was sorry to see Lucanus, go. But I’ve felt like that about a lot of the characters. But Lucanus, and a lot of the rest, lived really long lives, compared to some of the Romans. OK. Possible red herring. When Merlin dreamed of where to find Rufio, Peter Ironhair was watching from the forest. I thought, perhaps, Rufio was Ironhair’s mole, inside Camolud. But I think that less and less, as time goes on. But why he made an appearance, in that particular dream … Didn’t make sense to Merlin, doesn’t make sense to me.

    I don’t know much about car leases. I never paid much attention, as it wasn’t something I was ever likely to do. But I do know that loans on used cars, are now being pushed for 7 years. And, as in the housing crisis, “they” are bundling them up, and selling them as securities. Think about it. How many used cars are even going to last, 7 years?

    I had an odd thought the other day. Even before internet business really took off, when antique malls were getting going (where they rent out spaces to dealers), if a customer inquired about whatever was claimed on the tag, the mall owner, or employee, would disclaim any knowledge. They never said it, but it’s really a case of “we’re only a platform.” We have one mall owner here in town, who I’ve heard get pretty raspy about it. Some auctions are pretty much the same. They put the stuff up, and venture no opinion as to what an item is. Anyway …

    I hit the op shop, yesterday. Found a blue bottle, shaped like a fish. To add to my collection of blue bottles shaped like fish. I have four, now. All different. Need … one … more. They’re nothing special. Just a quirky little thing I picked up. The one I bought yesterday was made in Taiwan. Decor.

    I also found (drum roll, please) a glass orange reamer. Nothing special. A nice old clear glass one, with a bit of ribbing on it. $4.

    Of course, my reason for being there, was to find some books for our library, here at the Institution. Hadn’t got anything new, for awhile. That particular op-shop sells 10 hardbacks for $15. Of course, I usually find one or two things, for me. Or, stuff I want to read and then put in the library. Found one that looked interesting. “A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia” (Keneally, 2006). Looking at it just now, I see the author also wrote “Schindler’s List.” Don’t know when I’ll get around to reading it. Since it’s mine, and doesn’t have a due date :-).

    Well, I’m off to try and get a flu shot, and then have lunch with my mate, Scott. Don’t know where we’ll end up. His birthday, his choice. Probably, Mexican. Lew

  29. Hi Chris,
    Well we are back about five days early. We decided we had driven and seen enough and we missed the dogs. Additionally, Doug still had some winter prep with the bees and as the weather has overnight turned to winter and doesn’t look to improve he wanted to get those chores done as well. On Halloween it snowed almost six inches here and when we arrived home days later there was still a little left. I was happy that my greens survived but I’ll be harvesting what’s left by this weekend as next week will have lows around 10F at night.

    Can’t say I disagree about anything you wrote this week and the situation is similar here. Can’t wait until there are negative interest rates and banks will charge the customer to keep their money there.

    Great pics as usual. Things are really popping at Fernglade.

    After the wedding we went to Charleston, NC for three days and then returned to the Smoky Mountains for several days as we had missed much on our first short pass through. When we were first there they had just lifted the fire ban and when we arrived back after driving through some driving rain which lasted another day and a half the rivers were all flooding. The main road through the mountains was closed due to flooding and downed trees as winds were 80mph at the top. We were happy to have gone to Clingsmans Dome on our first visit as it would have been inaccessible when we returned. The hike up from the road was only 1/2 mile but the high altitude (over 6600ft) and steep incline made it pretty difficult but the view was well worth it. https://smokymountains.com/park/hikes/clingmans-dome-hike/
    Elk were reintroduced there around 2000 and they are fairly numerous now. There is a field near one of the mail visitor centers that was frequented by a herd much of the time. In fact we were about to take a hike there when the herd started crossing the path into the woods. There were a couple of bulls and one started walking towards us and he had a look in his eye that said stay away so we took heed. There were many signs stating to stay at least 50 yards away as one could get injured or killed. We stayed near Bryson City, a town on the southern end of the park and were happy we did as it wasn’t very touristy unlike Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge the gateway towns on the north end. However we felt that for the residents the area was kind of depressed. We met a young woman whose job was to take and sell pictures on a railroad trip we took (on the rainy day) and she told us about a meadery about 40 minutes away. She was friends with the owners. The next day we took a drive up to it and enjoyed a flight of four kinds of their six different meads – all very good. Doug had a good chat with the owner. We mentioned the woman and he said she also worked at the school up by him. I’m guessing it’s not unusual for people to cobble together several jobs just to make a living.

    Our last stop was Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky where we went on a couple of cave tours and several hikes. Our senior National Park passes paid off well there as the cave tours were only 1/2 price. We had gotten them several years ago when we turned 65 and they were still free – lifetime as well. The second tour was the better (and longer) of the two but it was sold out at 114 people. The park ranger who led it was knowledgeable and funny. However there were so many people taking pictures that it became a real annoyance. Most of the tour was single file on narrow uneven paths and up and down stairs (around 600) and often the person would just stop in front you and start taking pictures holding up everyone. I wonder how much time they added to the tour just for this. The tour was described as moderately strenuous. We didn’t find it too hard but the paths were quite uneven and it was pretty dark. Most of the paths had handrails luckily. We noted proudly we were among just a few seniors on the tour.

    The wedding which was right on the coast at a resort beach town was quite fun but the brides parents must have spent a pretty penny. They had the best band we’ve ever seen at a wedding and apparently they traveled six hours to get there. Our youngest daughter and her fiancee also flew in for two days and while we thought it was too much money for them it was nice to have them there as we would have known very few people. They are still building there even though its below sea level but the newer homes are now on stilts.

    Well there’s more but I have a desk piled with paper and some outside work to do.


  30. @Damo
    Really enjoyed your video. What an interesting project. Brought back memories of our trip to Costa Rica in the days of airline miles about 12-13 years ago. The hummingbirds are amazing. We went on a coffee plantation tour in Monteverde where much of the coffee was brought in on oxen for drying.


  31. Hello again
    I don’t think that there is any long term vision where economics is currently concerned, they are just struggling to hold on by the skin of their teeth.
    A channel not a river. I have no idea as to what the helicopter was doing but there were planes doing aerobatics all afternoon. I was glad when it got dark and was finally silent.
    Interesting that the Granny Smith apples originated in Australia, I was unaware of that. But I am surprised that they are considered to be eating apples there. They are probably the best of all keepers.


  32. Weather- We are going through an unusual long cold spell, very early in the season for temps like this. Forecast is for 9F (-12C) tonight. Slowing, meandering vortexes do that sort of thing.

    Financial chicanery- Seems so weird that people and banks forget the big bust in 2008 because of lax lending, house price inflation, and murky financial instruments. We were very lucky the whole house of cards didn’t collapse then.

    This time, at least here in the U.S., there are more regional problems with housing inflation, the kicker this time is that there aren’t enough homes being built ( maybe the builders are the smart ones, not wanting to be left holding the bag?) But also, there are very few people left that can make mortgage payments, even with the low interest rates. Smoke and mirrors galore.

    What bugs me, is that when the hammer falls, we will all get a haircut, ( mixed metaphor, but it just felt right) whether we personally made poor choices or not. During the last dance at the edge of the chasm, there was talk about banks or even central banks taking it to the extreme of bail ins. Talk about tempting the pitchforks and torches if that actually happens this time.

    Anyway, the root cellar and freezer are full, the batch of cider is ready to bottle, and the wood stove feels cozy right now. Won’t be long till we start flipping through seed catalogues.

  33. Chris,

    I’m finding that I can work hard in the yard for 2 days and need a slow day. If I push for a 3rd day then I need many days off. Subtract a day of being able to work hard in the yard if it is hot. Methinks it’s that being unyoung thing again.

    We get funnel clouds, maybe one every year or two. If they touch down, they dissipate rapidly at category zero. Priest Lake in northern Idaho stretches roughly south to north, which is about what the prevailing thunderstorm winds want. We used to see signs, maybe 3 times, that a twister had touched down and, well, twisted the big evergreen trees around one another. We’ve had a few tornado warnings in town since about 1979, some minor panic ensues, and then there isn’t even a thunderstorm.

    I mentioned at Magic Monday a week or two ago that I’ve had to change my daily, um, practices. I really really really need to keep things at a practical level. The practical is something that looks to be disappearing in modern society, with unwarranted arrogance used as an attempted buffer to cover for the lack of skills and true knowledge.

    I like something a close friend routinely says: “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they’re not.” Gardening and yard work and carving and wood burning all aid in keeping things practical.

    Or said in another way: Miagi “Wax on, wax off. don’t forget to breathe. Breathing very important.”

    Or “Master, how do I become enlightened?” “Chop wood, fetch water. After you have achieved enlightenment, chop wood, fetch water.”

    I liked what Inge said about economics: “I don’t think that there is any long term vision where economics is currently concerned, they are just struggling to hold on by the skin of their teeth.” She’s probably correct.

    I always enjoyed visiting the forests that have adapted to dry conditions. Pine trees mixed with sagebrush is always interesting to see.

    Alaska? I was in a graduate program in petroleum engineering. After I found an apartment, the Princess joined me. I found the work to be MUCH easier than graduate level physics. Unfortunately, the Princess’s closest uncle got seriously ill at the end of the fall semester, so we moved back to Spokane and did get to visit him before he died. They held my position for me, but I decided it was time to actually quit being a perpetual student, and somehow got the current job.


  34. @marg
    Monteverde was great. I understand that Costa Rica is renowned for its coffee, although because Mrs Damo and I are heathens, who do not partake of coffee, we did not visit any plantations! We may have indulged in a lot of chocolate though. Even the cheap stuff at the supermarket checkout was delicious!


  35. @Pam

    Thank you for the comment. If you, or anyone is interested in finding out more on Ceiba’s construction their YouTube channel is worth a look as well!

  36. @Lew

    Thank you for the book suggestion a while back, Mr Penumbras 24-hour library. Just finished it today (started yesterday – although I did have couple of hours on a plane for extra reading). Quite a page turner! I could easily see it being a quirky, short TV series.

  37. @Chris

    Triffid update, a whole lot of seeds have germinated and taken off in the past few days, plus our two older residents have, well, they have greatly expanded! I doubt there will be a shortage this season, but we will have to make sure they get eaten quickly as I still have 2 big jars of pickles left from 2 seasons ago…

    Medicinal mead. Who can argue with that?


  38. @ All

    I was asked about pictures from the 2019 carving show. They are now available. The home page is here: http://www.spokanecarvers.com/

    Click on the “2019 Top Awards – Artistry In Wood Show” link near the top left to see the best of the various skill levels.

    Click on the “2019 Candid Photos – Artistry In Wood Show” also near the top left to see photos of more entries. At least in my browser, there is a blank square underneath the Pirate of the Caribbean wood burning. Clicking on the blank area revealed that some of my wood burnings were there. These were not judged this year, as they were in past shows. About 5/8 of the way down the page, on the right hand side and next to a carving of a couple of people hiking is my walking stick entry.

    Hope you enjoy the pictures.


  39. Hi Pam, Lewis, Margaret, Inge, Steve, DJ and Damo,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however the mid-week hiatus has landed. And I could lie to you all and say I’m working, but that ain’t my style. 🙂 Integrity is the watchword of the day, so I’ll tell ya – I’m off to the pub for dinner!

    Tomorrow there will be plenty of time for replies. Until then!



  40. Hi Lewis,

    Did a ‘shandy’ work-day today. A ‘shandy’ is a mixed drink which comprises lemonade and beer. By all accounts it is a questionable drop, but the word (you don’t hear it used much these days) usually indicates mixing two disparate activities (or beverages). So yeah, rain was forecast for this afternoon and so we finished off weeding and feeding of the old tomato enclosure this morning (the one with the sapling fence). You don’t realise how large the growing space is until you have to weed and feed it.

    Plus we had to bring up all of the equipment we left down the hill the other day when we did a bit of forest maintenance. The definition of heavy is dragging equipment back up hill on a 15% slope. Oh well.

    Ollie now smells of compost (he’s sitting behind me on the green couch) as he assisted us by lounging around and compacting the compost in the tomato enclosure and enjoying the sun. Probably ate some of it too.

    Then the rain hit and so off to do some accounting work. The recent rain has meant that quite a lot of that stuff has been done of late.

    I’ll check out the springboard images. Mate, the blokes who did that work would have taken their time due to the risk of injury and/or death. There was a bit of wastage during those days but not as much as you’d think. I’d read of competing saw mills and loggers dropping trees in inconvenient spots to ensure their competitors became unstuck. I tend to feel the people thought to themselves about the trees in those days: plenty more fishies in the sea. It is a complicated matter that you’ve inadvertently raised.

    Very amusing word play. Nice one! I’d never thought of doing that with the Granny Smith apples. No doubts my mum never realised that they were cooking apples. People ate them fresh, but they always made my guts churn with the acid. The high acid content may also be why they are such a good keeping apple? Dunno.

    Lucanus was sort of there one day and then gone the next. My guess was that he died of pneumonia, but not really sure. Arthur made some salient points upon funeral practices after the internment. But yeah, they did all rather lead long lives – as long as the wars didn’t take them out. And war is brewing in that land. I thought that too about Rufio, but I doubt it and Turga would have his hide for endangering Arthur and his mates.

    I’ve never had a car lease, and wouldn’t want one. If I had to choose between that monster and cheap car, I’d choose the cheap car. But I do wonder how many vehicles could last that amount of time? And down here, if someone tries to get out of a car lease, they pay the full interest for the entire term. But yeah I have known people to pay out leases.

    Gotta bounce. Will speak tomorrow.



  41. Hello again
    I woke very late, to a pure blue sky. Checked the tide table and the tide was out. So I went for a walk on the beach. It is ages since I have been there and I knew from recent noise that new neighbour has been trying to protect his land from the sea. Wow! Has he lost a lot of land! Not that his efforts will make much difference. Once walking I kept going and finally got home exhausted. Not a soul on the beach or in woodland. One couple on the road walking a dog and some vehicles passed me. Now the rain is coming down again.

    We have new plastic £10 and £5 notes. The new £20 notes arrive in February and the £50 notes in 2021. This means that those who keep money under the mattress will have to take it to a bank. Is that not a wonderful time to introduce negative interest rates?


  42. Hi Chris,

    Like last year, autumn didn’t really happen for us. Oh, most of October was pleasant enough following the very hot start to the month, but the hottest September on record in St. Louis put leaf change behind schedule. That meant that we hadn’t really gotten good leaf colors before a hard freeze on the morning of November 1 froze many leaves while they were still green. Now it’s supposed to be really cold tomorrow morning (Friday), with a low around 20F/-6.7C and even colder than that next week. We might not see a high temperature above freezing next Monday. I’m planning to harvest the remaining leeks on Sunday in case the soil freezes and stays frozen. I should harvest most of the mustard greens and arugula too. Those are all that remains in the garden as I type.

    Earlier this week I harvested the remaining beets, radishes, and turnips. In late August and early September, before the heat and the ravages of the mystery caterpillar, I was expecting a bountiful harvest. But the actual harvest was anemic rather than bountiful. I should have collected some of the caterpillars and had the state Extension service identify them for me. They will do that for a reasonable cost, and then I could have researched the critter to figure out if there is something I can do against them if they show up again. But I didn’t think of it then, only now, when the caterpillars are no longer around. But I did do something I don’t normally do this year: I left the spring-planted kale and collards remain in the garden into autumn. In earlier years that promoted harlequin bug attack so I started pulling out the spring plantings in late July. The old plants may have been nurseries for the mystery caterpillar. Next year I’ll return to the former procedure (and hope we get a real autumn for a change – a real spring would be nice too).

    As always, the flower pictures are lovely and much appreciated, and the economic commentary sadly appropriate. Yes, you can walk away from a mortgage and stay out of prison in the US. But doing so will trash your credit rating for years, enforcing living on a cash basis, and you’d better make sure you have lined up someplace else to live before walking away from that mortgage. I suspect that few of the folks who walk away from mortgages find their lives all that much better, unless they make the effort to figure out and change the habits that got them into a position where the only option left was walking out.


  43. @ Damo – I’m glad you liked “Mr. Penumbras 24 Hour Library.” I certainly did. But of course, it’s got a used bookstore, in it. :-).I haven’t been to San Francisco in decades, but, of course I hear things. It was interesting to get a peek of current life in the city. I also found it interesting to see what certain sectors of young people, are up to these days.

    I started watching a mini-series, last night. “Good Omens.” It was a book, by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman, from 1990. Gaiman is the show runner. David Tennant plays a large part. The visuals are pretty interesting. It’s got angels, deamons, the antichrist, the apocalypse, and, a used bookstore :-).

    I also have “American Gods,” season two, waiting for me. Another Gaiman vehicle. That one’s premiss, is that the old gods (Odin, Ibus, Thor, etc.) have lost a lot of their power, since no one much believes in them, anymore. They’re to fight a battle with the new gods … Media, Mr. World, Tech Boy, etc..

    Or I may watch “The Discovery of Witches”, in between. Witches, vampires, the Bodlean library. Etc.. Lew

  44. Damo – PS: We also have hummingbirds, here. Two species. Not as colorful as the Costa Rica variety, but interesting in their own way. Not very many of them, but if you put a feeder out, they show up.

    Where I lived before, I had a few feeders, scattered around. One outside my kitchen window. They are curious little birds, and not too shy. They’d come up to the window, and peer in at me, while I was washing dished.

    We get a few, here at the Institution. I have a feeder, but haven’t gotten it up, yet. Sometimes, they overwinter. I always know when they’re around, as they have a very distinctive little battle cry, when they’re squabbling over territory or mates. Lew

  45. Yo, Chris – I’d heard of shandies, and may have even made one or two, back in my bar tending days. They sound loathsome. 🙂

    What can I say. Ollie loves the smell of compost in the morning! (A tip of the hat to “Apocalypse Now.”)

    When I mentioned your problems with Granny Smith apples, to Eleanor, last night, she said, “Oh, well, you just dip slices in peanut butter. :-).

    Got my flu shot, yesterday. I’m tempted to wait a couple of days, and post to Mr. Greer’s blog … “Got my flu shot … same as every year. Even got the super charged one, for old folks. Have never had a problem.” Not that that will convince anyone. I mentioned it to someone, yesterday, and they just shuddered and said something about “live viruses.” No, said, I that’s wrong.” And then, you get “the look.”

    I’m having the same conversation, over shingle shots. About three years ago, I got the single shingle shot. Now, they have a two shot series, that is a lot more effective. Turns out, it’s on offer at the chemists, at my clinic. But … it’s not covered by my medicare insurance, and they cost $100 to $200, a shot. But … I’ve been thinking about getting some supplemental insurance, that’s not very pricy. And, they cover the shots.

    I’ve managed to keep my hands off, “The Sorcerer.” Plenty of other things, to read, right now.

    Took Scott to lunch, yesterday. Mexican. Oh, well. His choice. I’m not going to turn my nose up at a big platter of shrimp nachos. Lew

  46. @ Lew,

    I made a comment on Mr. Greer’s blog about the flu shot. My wife got the super charged one with no problems. I got no responses to that data point yet. Maybe you will.

    Regarding the 2 part shingles shot. I got the 1st shot 17 months ago. Due to a “vaccine shortage”, I never got the 2nd and will have to start over. I will skip the insurance this time and pay out of pocket for both my wife and myself. I know other people with various insurance packages who ran into the same issue.

    I also know people who successfully got both shots. How? Their clinic or doctor or the pharmacy RESERVED AND HELD the 2nd dose for each person to whom they gave the first dose. Something to inquire about, perhaps?


  47. Hi Pam,

    Glad you enjoyed the video. It is good stuff and the project is a very worthy one.

    Damo and Mrs Damo are to be commended upon the interesting lives that they lead. Year ago I had a mate who remarked to me that he’d wasted the past decade of his life. As a comparison, I would strongly doubt that Damo feels that way if only because they seize life and live it. 🙂

    Hope it is not too cold yet at your place? Spring, err like Elvis, has left the building down here. It is hard for me to understand how, but over the last week, the soil has actually cooled and so tomato seeds are not germinating. 57’F which is colder than I’d expect for this time of year – but it may actually be colder than that. Bonkers.



  48. Hi Margaret,

    Glad to read that you enjoyed your travels. Hey, sorry but I had to laugh about your returning early. By way of explanation, when the editor and I travelled around Australia, we just got to this point in our travels where we just knew we wanted to head home and sleep in our own bed. Of course we skipped an entire state (the one to the north of this one) on the proviso that it was close and we could travel back there at a later date. And here you may laugh at us, because we never made it back there… Not really much of a loss, as home can be pretty good too and like you I’d miss the dogs – and the bees (although I can’t honestly suggest that the bees and I are ever going to be friends).

    It is interesting how some greens can survive snowfall, and the two or three inches of snow that fell here during August didn’t seem to cause too many hassles to the plants other than some of the citrus trees did not like it at all. But six inches of snow would be rather a challenge (I’d be stuck here for the day that’s for sure). 10’F is bitterly cold. Brr. Hope you are keeping warm and the home fires are burning toastily.

    The negative interest rates are an interesting way to reduce the supply of money within the community. I can’t say that I’m a fan as it defies my minimum expectations.

    Hey, I’m looking out the window and it looks as though a wall of water is headed my way. Spring has cooled and become very damp down in this little corner of the continent (as well as the west coast of Tasmania), whilst up north they are having an epic drought and an historic number of bushfires. It is crazy down here.

    The Smoky Mountains are so beautiful and thanks for the link to the Clingmans Dome Hike. And the views that I can see in the images are amazing. And Elk! Far out, as you rather thoughtfully suggest: Don’t mess with their business. If ever a Stag (or a 6 or 7 foot bull Kangaroo) ventures onto the property, I treat the boss animal with respect – and send Ollie out to do his duties if that is required. He’s also learning to be careful in such encounters. Interestingly, I believe that the Elk may well be assisting to reduce the vegetation whilst converting it to manure, and so whilst they may have some costs, they also bring benefits. Hope there are things in the park that consume the Elk?

    Isn’t the term used to describe people having several jobs just to keep their heads above water: Hustling? (Far out the rain is really heavy outside right now and with hail) My thinking is that this turn of events may in fact be a return to the long term norm. I mean long ago if you were a farmer and your property was well setup, you’d hardly be occupied full time, so in your down time you’d have all sorts of obligations and tasks that were required to be done within the community, and some of those may even involve being part of the local militia. That has been more of the situation historically than working for a single entity that can keep you gainfully employed all year around.

    Travel has changed of late, and that sort of thing had not occurred to me. I tell you, last century when I travelled in Vietnam, I stopped off at the Cu Chi tunnels and I recall crawling through one of those small tunnels (all 6 foot of me) and somebody stopped in front of me, and it was at that point that I suggested to them bluntly that they had better get a wriggle on and keep moving. You know I’ve heard of some rock bands that get really annoyed when people view their performance through a mobile video recording device. One cheeky scamp used to confiscate them from people in the front row. 🙂

    We’ve spoken about big weddings before. I’m not a fan if only because the resources can be put to better uses. I have heard stories of people who suggest that they’ll have a big wedding because they can’t afford a house. Then after the ceremony, they realise the predicament their choice has produced, and then they want a house… And big weddings do not guarantee that it won’t end in a divorce. You know we had a really basic wedding because we were broke during the recession, and I just paid for a nice restaurant for my friends and immediate family to eat and drink, and I dunno it seemed to work. I do understand the need that people have to present themselves to society and make a statement and I guess deep down it is some sort of initiation process, but still it needn’t beggar the treasury.

    Hope it has warmed up a bit?



  49. Hi Inge,

    Exactly, I too tend to feel that there is no long term vision. And I do note that the policies being implemented are akin to the strange sort of policies that are also being implemented in such things as the urban planning schemes – they’re reactionary. I dunno at all, it just looks odd to me and I’m really surprised that no political party has come along and evinced a vision that people can get behind. People can accept hardship and accept loss if there is a well-defined vision.

    Oh yes, apologies and thanks for the correction. It is a channel.

    Yeah, the Granny Smith apples originated in Sydney of all places. And I sort of believe that the fruit keeps very well because they are so acidic that it reduces the number of critters that will eventually convert the fruit into feed stock.

    Glad to read that you woke late, and I am envious, because recently due to the weather (and commitments) I have been getting up early. Not really my style, but one must adapt to trying circumstances.

    Sorry to hear about your neighbours struggles with the huge waters that will eventually consume their land. Large rocks may provide a temporary stay of execution, but surely your neighbour has noted the recent changes in Greenland and Antarctica (as well as expansion of the oceans due to increased energy in the atmosphere). The only reason that the rains are falling here of late is due I believe to a recent sudden and very large increase in the air temperatures in the stratosphere over Antarctica. The continent to the north of this state is in the grip of an epic drought.

    Beach and forest enjoyed alone is a great way to wash away the cares of the world. 🙂 I too would enjoy such a walk. And I prefer the beach during stormy weather.

    Oh no! Well, that makes sense, and of course I have never suggested that there are not many further tricks up their sleeves. Smarter brains than yours or I are considering the matter. You know, I sort of feel that by going to further extremes in relation to cash transactions, the various banks may enjoy a nice unearned cut out of each and every transaction. But the downside risk is that they may reduce the overall flows of money within an economy, and stalling the flows is really their big risk – although they may not recognise it as such.

    On the other hand, I am impressed with the policy and would never have considered that option with the bank notes. A mate who is into gold, lamented a few months back that all of the large transactions were recorded and reported. Now back in the day, privately held gold was actually confiscated by the government. It happens. So, me being me, I said to him, why don’t you just purchase second hand jewellery and melt it down into ingots if that’s the way you feel about things? That would fall outside the system.

    I’m not interested in such hoards of wealth and I would have thought that the precious metal finds buried in Roman villas were lesson enough that stored wealth is found in other ways.



  50. Hi Steve C,

    Mate, it ain’t just you! Right now the outside air temperature is 3’C / 37’F and looking off over towards the horizon I can see another band of rain / hail approaching. And over the past week the soil has actually cooled. It is hard to believe that it is almost late Spring here, but further north they are in an epic drought.

    Yeah, it is a bit of a house of cards, and the stupid thing really about the debt story is that the policy is subject to diminishing returns, so it becomes less effective as time goes on. I dunno where it will end, and I’m genuinely impressed at the lengths taken so far.

    A similar story is told down this way about a lack of supply of housing. Since the Reagan era there have been entrenched economic policies surrounding the supply side of things. There are other economic stories too, but they don’t necessarily get the time of day. Like, err the demand side of the story, not to mention community expectations and narratives. I dunno.

    Well, I reckon we are getting a haircut whether we like it or no. The house price inflation story is all part of that. I tend to feel that the story may all end with a whimper – if only because the banks have the support of major political parties.

    Tidy work! I feel it important to add at this juncture that I am rather envious of this talk of root cellars! 🙂 And apple cider and wood heating are wonderful things. Hey, I may not have mentioned it but we made a batch of apple cider using dessert apples and it is a sweet drop, and possibly a bit too sweet, and the yeasties have gone feral on the extra sugar in the brew. Next time we’ll stick to cider apples…



  51. Hi DJ,

    Pacing ones self is a lost art form, don’t you reckon? 🙂 Un-young! A sad state of affairs to be sure and you have my sympathies. I was speaking with someone the other week about how way, way, back in the day there used to be a system where there were Masters, Journeymen, and Apprentices. And folks did less physical work as they went on, and spent more time training and guiding.

    Ah well, better to be prepared for an eventuality that does not happen, to an awful circumstance that was known about and not acted upon. Tornadoes are actually quite common down here, but mostly they occur in remote spots where nobody resides. You have to admit that it sounds a bit like the whole crazy: If a tree falls in the forest, argument?

    Daily practice is hard for me too. I knew that it would make me unstuck and so I offered something different instead. Your close friend has a tidy way with words! And is also very correct. The practical aspects of all skills are like that. Take firewood. At face value it appears to be a simple and easy energy source. Consider how most people use fossil fuels for heating these days, and you will soon get a glimpse that all is not so free and easy with firewood. It is bonkers complicated and a person can become unstuck rather easily at any step along the long process of tree to heat.

    I loved that film, and was regularly attending the local dojo at the time! Or how about: Talk does not cook the rice? 😉 How good is that pithy observation! Always brings a smile to my face.

    Inge is spot on the money (excuse the unintentional pun). But there are sneaky steps left to go, and I’ll guess we’ll find out what they are as things on that particular front, err, progress.

    I grow plenty of sage (Salvia varieties) in the garden beds – and they sure do love the hot weather. One thing that interests me is that the apple trees do really well when they are planted with worm-woods for companion plants. Although this is only short term observation and time will tell.

    Petroleum engineering is a very useful skill and would have been in demand up in Alaska. I’ve read recently that the locals up there are welcoming further exploration and drilling, for obvious reasons. Ouch. Mate, life can be very uncertain, but I’m glad that you and your lady had the chance to pay your final respects. Not everyone manages that, and we came very close to missing that with the editors mum. I cajoled the editor to make the final visit. Dunno why, just a gut feeling. There was nothing wrong with the editors choice either, as the surgery was meant to be fairly routine.

    Haha! The perils of the perpetual student lifestyle. Mate, it’s always a risk. At one stage I felt as if I were a rat running on one of those running wheels, and I’d run faster and faster, and the wheel would spin at ever increasing speeds. But then it occurred to me that I was in the same spot – just a bit more exhausted from all of the metaphorical running! 😉 It happens…

    Cheers and brr!


  52. Hi Damo,

    Mate, how is the soil warmer in your part of the world given that you are south of here? 🙂 Oh no. I’m wrong you are a degree north of here and at sea level. Well there you go. It is like winter here. Seriously. I checked the soil temperature this afternoon, and the thermometer was displaying 14’C which is too cold for tomatoes to even germinate. And I believe Triffids require a soil temperature of about 18’C, although you may have a locally adapted variety. Dunno!

    Pickles in the jar are a thing of excellence.

    Oh, and incidentally. I am particularly enjoying their song from the album: Holy Holy – Teach Me About Dying. The Melbourne based bloke from the duo is a prolific producer too involved with a huge number of excellent bands. They are an amazing band and artists. A few years ago I heard an interview with the bloke who lives in Tasmania (Launceston I believe) and he was having problems with Quolls eating his chickens. How cool and very rock and roll is that? 🙂

    Over the next week or so we’ll get another 3kg of honey going, but I tell ya, the three year wait is a toughie. It is a good drop, but I didn’t know that the stuff could get so good.



  53. Hi Claire,

    It is weird isn’t it about Autumn? As a comparison, a similar thing has been going on here too, but all I have are my own gut feelings and anecdotal observations. But it feels to me as if summer is expanding and Autumn has reduced in the number of weeks. It is very brief here. Outside right now the air temperature is 3’C / 37’F and it looks as though it will get colder again tonight. Not good and I’m worried at what a late frost will do to the many of the fruit trees (some of which are still in bloom). Oh well, I’ll guess I’ll find out.

    I wonder how the trees will be impacted by losing their leaves whilst they were still green. Isn’t part of the leaf colour change process, the tree reabsorbing some of the minerals from the leaves?

    Speaking of leeks, we consumed some of the leeks from the garden this evening in dinner, and to be honest when they’re cooking they smell a bit like garlic to me, however they taste closer to onions. Leeks from the market produce a very different smell, but sort of taste the same. Dunno. How does that compare with your lot? And yeah, mustard greens and arugula are very hardy to cold weather, but they have their limits.

    Would you ever consider using a cold frame or glass house (other than your veranda) in your climate?

    Beets, radishes and turnips all sound very tasty to me. But also the mystery caterpillar is not good, and the moths or butterflies may well have laid eggs in the area and will perhaps reappear next summer? Hmm, Brassica species of any form during summer is just a no-go for me due to cabbage moth (and bolting to seed), so I’ve long been suspecting that they are only a crop for other times of the year. The local gardening club leave little metal cabbage moths on sticks hovering above their Brassica species. Apparently the moths are very territorial and will move on to other locales if the yummy plants already harbour moths. That’s the theory anyway.

    Thank you and yeah real sorry to be the bearer of poor economic tidings. You guys have what is technically known as non-recourse mortgages, so there is no recourse against the borrower if they walk away from their debt. But then as you wisely point out, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to exercising the option. But then if a person played the system… However, in my experience most people rarely think that far ahead.

    Cheers and hope your winter doesn’t get too cold!


  54. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! I was subtly attempting to introduce the concept that a shandy is hardly a masculine choice of beverage. Back in the day it was generally considered to be a ladies drink. Funny stuff, and in these enlightened times people drink whatever. Now the local pub has a thing for supplying the beverages of local brewers, and rarely is there a regular menu as to what is on the taps. It is a bit like a lucky dip really, and I usually stick to dark ales. They’re complex beasties and are always interesting. But last night the editor and I ordered the Mango Beer. Yes, who would have thought that a brewer would come up with a combination of Mango and Beer? It was pretty good actually, but as I typed the first sentence of this overly long paragraph, I realised that perhaps the drink may be sort of like a Shandy? Such complex questions need to be fought over by philosophers who can discern the subtler aspects of life. 🙂

    Yeah, I enjoyed your Apocalypse Now nod. That particular line has a fair bit of Shock Yo Moma to it don’t you reckon? It was quite the movie, and I note that the cinema I like to go to in the big smoke occasionally replays it.

    Peanut butter and Granny Smith apples. Never thought of that combination myself and respect to Eleanor for coming up with it in the first place. Is it a shandy I ask you?

    Vaccinations are always a fun topic aren’t they? I get them too, if only because I’ve had the full blown Influenza, and it is ugly. Do the vaccinations pose some minor risk, yeah sure, but it is pretty minor really. People aren’t too good with assessing risk these days, and I’m pretty sure they have no idea what the term: “Herd Immunity” means. And it doesn’t work like people believe that it does. Did I mention that it took me about eight months but I finally managed to track down a TB vaccination. Not so easy these days, but given the number of people moving over here from SE Asia, and the lack of herd immunity it doesn’t seem like a bad idea. It did pose a philosophical dilemma for me though in that I’m an older fella nowadays and should I pursue the vaccination. Dunno, I had to ponder that for a bit after finding out how difficult it was to get, and I’m still unsure. Dunno. Do you have any thoughts upon the matter?

    Well, I didn’t even know that there were shingle shots. Hey, none of these diseases are a laughing matter, and you know the flu for example can kill you and it takes out an inordinate number of people every year. Doesn’t make much sense to give it an easy ride then. Did I ever mention that in a workplace where I was the boss I sent home someone who had shingles and told them don’t come back until you’re better. I had the support of my staff too, some of them were a bit frightened as they’d never had chickenpox and were uncertain as to their vaccination status.

    The thing is, I don’t particularly care if people don’t want vaccinations because that is their choice. However I have also known people who made that choice for their kids, but when the kids got really sick they took them to the children’s hospital emergency where they lied about the kids vaccination status. Clearly this is a problem because the government has now set up a database which tracks peoples vaccination history.

    Just past Chapter III and they’re on the road to Camulod and have encountered a small community where they took the chief as a hostage, err honoured guest! He’s an interesting character and tells a remarkable story about the decline of Britain after the legions left. Fascinating.

    And I’ll be curious as to your thoughts, but we spoke about core themes of the story, and I’m cogitating that the larger narrative of the story (which originally is probably based on some form of factual circumstances) is there to provide guidance as to what an exemplar would look and act like and provide a goal. Like a guide to better living, displayed in an entertaining romp which would be of interest to people hearing it over a mug of ale (but definitely not a shandy!) So, what do you reckon? There is something also tickling my mind about pitfalls and falls from grace – like an Ancient Greek Tragedy, it is also part warning.

    I too would enjoy shrimp nacho’s. 🙂 With a bit of nixtamalization, it may well be possible to cook your own tortillas?

    Had a lower key day today which was enjoyable although most people may find my sort of ‘low key’ day to be a bit tiring. I picked up the weekly coffee grounds only to find that lid to the bin had blown off during a storm last weekend and, err, yeah, the coffee grounds looked like chocolate jelly. Very unappealing, but probably still useful for the garden.

    The ‘only a platform’ excuse is beginning to wear a bit thin. I noticed recently that Faceplant has apparently had to cough over the local sales tax to the government on local advertising even when the company structure is set up in a country west of Britain. Hmm. Perhaps friendships have been stretched too far by such behemoths? I don’t know why people are so excited by ‘Disruptors’? They sound like a particularly nasty dinosaur (hope you have a whiny kid nearby that needs being fed to the dinosaurs so that the group isn’t endangered) or some sort of dodgy sci-fi weapon. Ah yes, the Evil Empire is going to use its disruptors to destroy the local publishing and newspaper industries due to loss of advertising revenue. Little wonder such folks report such unusual and odd tidings in those things these days.

    Need… One… More… Lewis, stay strong! But alas you have succumbed and increased the collection to what is it now, four pieces? 🙂 If it is pleasing to you, then the item is of considerable value and no doubts you’ll get heaps of enjoyment from the new addition.

    Have you tested the glass reamer? They’re really good, and they’re just one of those items that just works. Think of the good use you’ll put it too with the Meyer Lemons. Once you have a more or less continual supply of lemons (frozen lemon juice in the off seasons), you’ll wonder how you ever lived without the tree. I’m going to try painting lime wash on the citrus tree with the collar rot and we’ll see if that helps at all. I tried to purchase some lime wash today, but it is not as easy to do as one would imagine. And the informative person at the hardware shop told me that the lime wash they did have for sale was a replica product and did not in fact have lime in it.

    I’ll be very curious as to hear what you have to say about the book: “A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia” (Keneally, 2006). I’m sure that we also had our fair share of murderers, forgers, political dissidents, general ne’r do wells and the like. It sure made for a motley crew and the British soldiers sent over here at the time were hardly much better given the remoteness of the posting. It may have been exotic, but it was hardly good as a career move – just ask Captain (later Governor of New South Wales) Bligh who was mutinied against a second time. Thus proving that he was not of a flexible disposition, and also possibly had an inability to learn on the job. 😉



  55. Hello again
    The beach here moves along and then moves back again depending on wind direction. It has built up massively away from this neighbour and at some point it will come back to his land.
    I guess that letting the banks go under would produce such a disaster that there is nothing else to do except to stagger on as long as possible. i.e we are already at a point of no return.
    In a previous home I had an orchard in which were the sweetest eating apples that I have ever encountered. They were also excellent keepers which seems to knock on the head the idea that acidity helps preservation in this context.


  56. @ DJ – Thanks for the tips on the shingles vaccine. It’s going to have to wait, until I either budget out the money, or, get the supplemental insurance … which I’ve been thinking about, anyway. Ah, sweet inertia. 🙂

    I looked at the wood carver’s show, pics. Dazzling, as always. As far as this year’s winners, go, I quit liked the native American mask, the tower on the crag and the lighthouse. But, I’m looking more at subject mater, than skill. I think I saw your walking stick. Red ribbon? Couldn’t see much detail, on my browser. But it’s really got a nice grain and interesting form. Lew

  57. Yo, Chris – From what I gather, here, it’s all artisinal beers. Micro brews and such. Nothing “real men” have anything to do with :-).

    When my old landlord was sub letting, from me, and had his “guys” junk shop (military collectibles, tools, etc.) I’d occasionally come in, in the morning and say, “Ah. I love the reek of testosterone, in the morning!” Well, he thought it was funny.

    I also “damn near died of the flu.” Since then, vaccination, every year. When someone said they “Didn’t believe” in the flu vaccines, I didn’t say anything, but I did think that my getting the shot was protecting them. That herd immunity. And, I was a bit miffed. Mr. Greer may be right. Some of these beliefs are approaching a kind of religious fervor.

    Follow the money. The TB vaccine was, perhaps hard to find because it is so much cheaper (to the drug companies) than the full course of treatment (months) that one has to go through if you get it. There’s a cure for hepatitis C, now, but it costs something like $8,000. The drug companies flatly stated that the high cost was due to it being a cure, not an ongoing maintenance type of drug. Well, I did get the shingles one shot. So, I have some coverage. Maybe I should just depend on the herd immunity :-).

    Sounds like you’re well into “The Sorcerer.” Yes, that was interesting when Merlin stumbled on a similar set up to Camulod. But they had survived due to luck and geography, rather than (dare I say) “vision.” I think it was interesting, before they found the settlement, that they were speculating on how much population there was, if you knew where to look. Adaption seemed to be keep a low profile and fade into the woodwork. And be ready to flee, at any moment.

    Core themes. Hmm. Well, I think Whyte might have had a moment as I did. I’m 12 or so, and reading the opening bits of Loft’s “Wayside Inn” and it dawns on me that after 400 years, Rome leaves Britain and a lot of things go in the bog. And being a much too introspective young boy, I immediately made the connection between what happened there, and what could happen to us. So maybe a theme is the rise and fall of empires. Whyte was also kicking off his series with, I’m sure, an awareness of the whole “back to the land” movement. The whole prepper thing, may also have fed into it. As far as our cast of characters goes, I think there’s a lot of hubris and nemesis. When things are going well, they get a little smug. A little too comfortable.

    Cook my own tortillas? Well, it looks like a not complicated process, but something that takes a lot of practice to get right. And a lot of callas’s on your finger tips. The instructions are pretty simple (just looked them up) but the process is a lot easier if you have some bit of kitchen gear called a tortilla press. Maybe if I run across one at an op-shop. But I must admit, the cost of a bag of tortilla is getting pretty outrageous. So, it’s possible, in future.

    I think Disruptors is a fancy name for change. And all change is good, right? :-). Change is progress! All bow down to progress!

    I haven’t tested the glass reamer yet. Still trying to find the instruction manual, on line :-). As with many op-shop finds, it didn’t come with one.

    There are instructions for making your own lime wash, on line. Just search “DIY lime wash.”

    Don’t know when I’ll get around to reading “Commonwealth of Thieves.” Just reading the dust jacket bits, I think it’s a bit “softer” than Hughes “Distant Shore.” A bit of banging on about convicts seizing the opportunity for a fresh start.

    You’ve got shady on the brain. Bite the bullet and have one. Work it out of your system 🙂 Lew

  58. @ Margaret:

    I don’t know if they have reintroduced elk into the Blue Ridge Mts. yet. I am not sure what I think. I have had encounters with them in the Rocky Mts. and I’m not so sure I’d like to deal with the ones that inevitably make their way over to our Southwest Mts. They are huge and we have so much trouble with white-tailed deer already.

    It sounds like your trip was well worth taking.


  59. @ DJSpo:

    I am overawed at the carvings in the show. Every single piece that I saw – even in the candid photos – was incredible. I am so happy to know that there are still people around like you keeping up such a fine tradition.


  60. @ Lew:

    I can’t get the hang of my tortilla press. And, though I can kind of make flour tortillas – small though they always turn out – I can’t do the corn ones. I think a griddle would be a good thing to have; I don’t do well with my cast iron frying pan.


  61. Hi Chris

    You have been busy this week! Spreading mulch while the sun shines, so to speak. You have a great setup, with outdoor tasks for fine weather, and paid employment on the feral days. You definitely deserve the mid week hiatus, and its yummy food and drink!

    I still haven’t planted my summer seedlings – I was waiting for the rain, and then I spotted the frost warning, so the plan is to do it today. Coolish, sunny, the wind has died down, and it should warm up in a couple of days. So, tomatoes (five heirloom varieties), spinach, cress, dill, basil,and chives to go in, and scatter mizuna and tatsoi seeds for summer greens. I hope I’ll still be able to stand this evening.😋

    You asked about my peach tree a while ago. I have no idea what variety it is, as we inherited it with our house. But it is over 35 years old, and produces medium-sized, very sweet yellow fruit. Last year, some annoying bug got in, and caused a lot of brown rot, so I’ve netted it, and put a couple of sticky lures up, to see if that helps.

    I’m glad to hear that Ollie is helpful, especially with the invading deer. But he needs to watch out for those roos – a loud barking from a distance may be the safest option!

    Good luck with the coffee grounds, I suspect that they may be a tad more difficult to spread than usual?

    Anyway, I had better get out in the garden, or I’ll have no vegies at all.



  62. @lew

    The descriptions of San Francisco in Mr Penumbras felt right, I recognised a few areas from my visit last year. I did read American Gods a few years back. I know the internet loved it, but it didn’t really click for me. It felt like the world-building rules were constantly explained and updated all through the story, even during the climax, which sort of took away any drama and tension for me.

    You will have to let me know if Good Omens is worth watching, I have read most of Pratchetts work, including Omens (although I can’t remember it now).

    We have nearly finished Wartime farm. I notice that Ruth Goodmans website has not being updated since 2011. Is she not doing any more shows I wonder…googles… Yep, she is still working, Full Steam Ahead, 24 hours in the past and Inside the Factory sound worth checking out.


  63. @Claire and Chris

    Mrs Damo uses the little metal moths to scare away the dreaded white moths. She cannot comment on effectiveness, but we do tend to harvest something. They also look kinda cute bouncing in the breeze.

  64. Hi Chris,

    Auckland’s may only be a degree north of you, but I think the climate is closer to the mid-north coast of NSW (of my childhood at least, perhaps not today where everywhere seems hotter and/or on fire). It is almost sub-tropical here actually, indeed the mangroves thrive. Hopefully the cold snap does not set things too far back for you.

    I cracked open some “bread and butter” pickles this morning to celebrate the purchase of an excellent loaf from a nearby german baker – carroway seed with wheat and rye. Very delicious!

    Your Holy Holy link reminds me I should seek out their first two albums.


  65. Chris,

    Yes, unyoung. 59 is too young to be old, but is definitely not young. The youngsters at work that recently graduated university are young!

    And agreed, pacing oneself is a lost art. I think it goes along with knowing one’s limits, but doesn’t our society believe that limits don’t exist? Which gets into apprenticeship programs. The loss of traditional apprenticeship programs I find to be sad. When I started this job in 1992, I quickly recognized that there was no formal means in which us newbies would learn the institutional knowledge that those nearing the end of their careers had. I aggressively got “permission” to sit in on meetings that had nothing to do with my immediate job, but from which I could learn how things worked. It has helped a lot.

    Now, I’ve made it a point to chat with all the youngsters. They’ve told me they appreciate one of the Boomers talking to them. Even their bosses try not to talk to them! So they know that there’s a friendly unyoung bloke who will help them find things and learn how things work and not be judgmental. I think it’s an important thing.

    A tree falls in the forest. Because it’s a forest, there are other trees. Trees are beings, so that they hear the falling tree. So yes, a tree that falls in the forest without humans present still makes sound. QED

    Oh, I remember the challenges of obtaining good firewood, both when growing up (dad heated with wood for decades) and in my current home for 10 years. It IS complicated., no doubts about it.

    “Talking don’t cook the rice” has long been one of my favorites, too. Sometimes the pithy comments contain a large kernel of truth.

    I’ve got a book around somewhere on companion planting, but I doubt that wormwood with apple trees is in it. How fascinating!

    My wife sorta demanded that, as my parents were aging, I make some attempts to reconnect with them. (Long stories involved prior to that.) I am very glad that I listened to her, and got to spend some quality time with them in their final years. That type of thing is another important thing that industrial society has lost, I’m afraid.


  66. @ Lew and @ Pam,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Yes, my stick had the red ribbon. Unfortunately, there’s really no good way of taking a photo of a walking stick that does it justice. Lew picked my favorites out of the top awards, too. I thought the tower on the crag was really good. These were from all four of the skill levels.

    I’m fortunate that we’ve got skilled carvers that are also good at teaching. We also got a stroke of luck recently: one of the under 40 expert carvers agreed to be vice-president. He’s got a lot of good ideas, has connections in the larger art community.


  67. Hi Inge, Lewis, Hazel, Damo and DJ (and a Pam special mention!),

    The weather is still winter like and we had to work late today. Only just finished and I’d promised to be elsewhere. So until tomorrow. 🙂



  68. Hi Lewis,

    I learned a new word over at Mr Kunstler’s fine blog this morning: hebephrenia. Apparently it is “a form of chronic schizophrenia involving disordered thought, inappropriate emotions, hallucinations, and bizarre behaviour.” I must add that the condition sounds rather unpleasant – especially for other people confronted by such a display. I’ve noticed that seriously sleep deprived people can display disordered thoughts.

    Oh, and the bushfires in the states to the north of here are horrendous: NSW fires destroy at least 150 homes, two people found dead. NSW = New South Wales.

    But can you believe that it feels like late winter here? Bonkers. 59’F today. How much can a Koala Bear?

    And yup, only those that have contracted the full blown flu seem to take it seriously. It is not good at all.



  69. @Pam

    That bull was pretty intimidating. The white tail deer bucks go pretty crazy during the rut too. We had a friend who was almost killed by one some years ago.


  70. @ Pam – I’m beginning to think making tortillas is more an art, than a science. Gotta have the right corn flour. Moisture has to be exactly right. I think I’ll stick with less challenging things, like corn flap jacks and corn bread. I wonder if anyone has made an automatic tortilla maker? I imagine something like an old fashioned juke box. :-). Lew

  71. @ Damo – Hmm. “Good Omens.” Well, I’m only half way through it. Since it’s a miniseries, I’ll stick with it, til the end. If it were a series, I probably wouldn’t bother with the second season.

    Did you see Prachett’s miniseries, “Going Postal,” from a few years back? It was quit good.

    I’m glad Ruth Goodman still has a finger in. Websites seem to be getting a bit passe, these days. It’s all Tweety and Face Plant.

    Nothing as fine as a good German bakery. Lucky you. Lew

  72. Yo, Chris – I think we had a roaring case of hebephrenia, at The Club, yesterday. I missed all the action, by minutes, but I guess some fellow (not anyone known) wandered in displaying some of the behavior you described. He was bounced out, but observed. Reported to building manager, who called police. They showed up and tassed him. Turns out the police were looking for him. He’d assaulted a woman, over in Centralia, earlier in the day.

    Your fires are beginning to make the news, here. The footage you linked to, looks like Paradise, California. I read a reference to us living in the Pyrocene. The Age of Fires. We finally got rain. According to Prof. Mass, I think we set a record for an autumn dry spell.

    LOL. Took a nap, yesterday afternoon, and dreamed The Editor and You had come to the States to visit. Now the dream wasn’t long on details (thankfully) but I was living in a ranch style house (which I never have) and, apparently had relatives around (no one I knew). In my alternative dream universe, you were traveling with a large black dog (which you don’t have.) Lew

  73. Hi Inge,

    That’s good to know that the beaches near to you are in a state of flux, and can also return to their previous state. I’ve never lived near to the water so the processes of movement of sand are a bit beyond my understanding.

    I dunno really. I read an article in the business section of the newspaper on Saturday where the banks were crying poor and the underlying threat appeared to be that their future growth and returns to shareholders will be lower in the future. From my perspective I tend to believe that there are diminishing returns to the size of the chunk of the economy that the banks can consume, before there is serious blow-back. The banks aren’t the only player in town, although they have managed to hoard a huge chunk of the economy, but I’d have to suggest that it is well beyond their historic norm.

    You’ve got a point there, and my observation about the acidity was perhaps a bit hasty. Although it is worth noting that lots of sugar is also a sign of an acidic environment. The Pink Lady apples are a popular variety down here and they tend to keep pretty well, but are an excellent fresh eating apple (I grow a few of the trees myself) and are quite sweet. Dunno.

    Did you ever consider planting an orchard on your current property?



  74. Hi Hazel,

    🙂 Thanks and we have put a lot of thought (but not as much planning as you’d think) into making the place simple and easy to live with, but also aesthetic. Farms don’t have to look like an old farm machinery wrecking yard (I’m sure you’ve seen a few of those types of places)!

    How did you go after the planting of the summer vegetables (a fine choice if I may be so bold as to say so)? As a contrast, the soil temperature is somewhere between 13’C and 14’C (too cold for tomatoes to germinate) and the other night produced some serious hail – there was ice on the ground about six hours after the storm. And the seedlings planted out have hail damage.

    Yum! Who knows what variety of peach tree it is, but on the other hand if it’s well established and produces well, the details hardly matter. 🙂 Bugs are a tough one. It may be that the tree could use a good feed? Dunno. Peaches and nectarines here suffer badly from leaf curl – I use to spray them with copper spray but it made no difference and the leaves still blistered, curl and drop – and then regrow. I saw the local nursery experiment with the sprays – and the poor tree looked blue. Made no difference either.

    Ollie is learning to be cautious, but it is not his natural inclination and so he is learning by trial and error. I’ve found that it is best not to provide him with support, so that he has apply caution because he has no choice. If he thinks I’m supporting him he’ll throw caution to the wind.

    Coffee grounds this week were a total glop. 🙂



  75. Hi Damo,

    Yeah, the metal cabbage moths were sort of like what I saw at the local gardening clubs gardens. And yeah, they do look really cool and glad that Mrs Damo is onto that gear. Haven’t tried them myself, but the plants bolt to seed anyway, so I’ve sort of given up on them during summer when the moths are around. Here they are: Diggers Club – Cabbage white butterfly

    It is funny the sort of micro-climates that are about the place. The elevation here (700m ASL) puts this climate on par with the bottom of Tasmania which is something like 44’S. But then some years it can get crazy hot and dry. Incidentally, I don’t know whether you keep up with climate forecasts for your old haunt down there, but far out they are in for a wet summer on the west coast (according to the long term forecast). Not sure that I’d want to experience that volume of rain myself. Something approximating normal (whatever that is) would be nice.

    And the fires and climate up north are truly bonkers. I could see that weather here and have experienced it, but up there in the sub tropics and along the coast. Mate, I dunno.

    That is the total jackpot discovering a good local bakery in your part of the world. Rare as hen’s teeth. 🙂 Enjoy your tasty bread and pickles. Yum!

    Definitely well worth a look in. One of their very early songs was (from memory) ‘Darwinism’ and it is pretty good stuff.



  76. Hi DJ,

    Un-young indeed! Yes, it’s complicated these days… Hehe! Make sure that you check behind the couch, just to make sure that your lost youth is not to be found there? You never know. 😉

    When I was a kid people fed me the malarkey that I could do anything. I heard the claim over and over again – I guess it had to be repeated. 😉 Interstellar travel would have been fun, although to be fair the horror sci-fi film Alien sort of turned me off wanting to travel to distant planets. The locals seemed all rather unfriendly. But teleporting would have been kind of handy too, but no as hard as I wanted to do the ‘anything’ that was promised me, it all seemed to me like one big fat lie.

    Hey, you did really well to get access to those meetings and they would have been a real eye-opener. I’m just old enough to have met older accountants who learned their trade by way of apprenticeships. Please excuse the cricket (game) reference, but they were on a ‘good wicket’.

    Exactly, I ran a graduate program for a big corporate, and like your example, I did exactly the same. I sat the graduates down every week and talked to them about how things worked and what was required of them – and then we had a free wheeling discussion about the situation. I recall one of the graduates had a particular flair for people and I felt they would be a good replacement after I moved on, and so we had one on one discussions about how that side of things worked. People rarely take the time to do such things nowadays. I mean look at succession planning on a farm and you’ll see people holding on too tight and expectations that exceed lived experience. I agree it is a very important thing and you are to be commended.

    Your superior logic chopping skills surpass my own meagre sub-set and I defer to your tree-falling dialectic! 🙂 Only the trees know the truth of the matter. Hehe! Did I just dodge you? 😉

    Firewood is one of those energy sources that can’t be rushed, or sped up. It reminds me of nothing other than getting top soil life established.

    The wormwood with the apple tree was sheer chance, but the tree is growing like nothing else around it. Of course it may well be due to a vigorous root stock, but I can’t recall where I got the tree. A few years ago I visited a heritage apple tree nursery to the south and east of here and drove away with a boot load of plants. It is a truth universally acknowledged that labels blow away in the wind.

    You make a strong argument, and I may write about that story tonight which hopefully will leave a clearer picture. My lot just enjoyed chaos. Is Kaos, Kontrol? Me thinks not. What could have been is not what was, and the difference is notable.



  77. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, that’s probably more excitement than I’d like to experience. Glad that the: ‘some fellow’, did not cause anyone any hurt. Such moments are always lurking among us and without warning, and you never know. Best not to be involved is my thinking.

    We went to dinner with friends last night, and due to employment opportunities they’re possibly moving over to New Zealand. The land of the long white cloud has stolen a few friends over the years. And I always mourn the loss. What do you do, people move on and do their thing, and life presents a certain continual subtle form of tragedy. I may live in a remote spot, but I’m not a mobile person and have not moved that far from where I was born. I recently reconnected with a very old mate who moved away to the other side of the continent. Life is complicated, and change is ever present. I guess you’ve seen your fair share of that story?

    The bushfires and climate up north are bonkers. There is some talk that the climactic conditions causing this extreme set of circumstances may be changing in the New Year, but nobody really knows. I underplay my concern, but I am genuinely grateful for the regular rain being sent here via way of over heating of the air over Antarctica. The thing is, the cold and wet weather doesn’t push that far north into the continent. And further north, they’re doing it really hard.

    Two weeks without precipitation of any sort being a record is a bit of a worry. But then here is the inherent predicament: The population and plants and every other life form in that part of the world has adapted to living with continual and regular precipitation. What does it look like when the long term patterns are wrong? My last summer was crazy hot and dry – just bonkers and way off the average.

    Fortunately, no metaphorical black dog travels along with the editor or I, although to be fair Toothy is black and tan. It is funny you mention dreams, but no doubt you were reading my mind? Coincidence? Dunno. Hopefully the editor and I comported ourselves with decorum in the dream? We’re actually quite fun company when the mood strikes!

    I fell asleep in the bath this afternoon. The water was stonking hot, and I had the window wide open and the cool air blew across me. I thought to myself, I’ll just shut my eyes for a brief minute. Where did the time then go? Is this a form of time travel?

    Hehe! All beers are artisanal beers at their core. I mean someone had to develop them in the first place. When I was very young and cast aside by the harsh economic winds, the beer then consumed was basic and mass produced, but did it need to taste as if that was its heritage?

    Interesting about the flu vaccine and I did note your comment. Only those that know, know. And mate that virus laid me low on two occasions and like you I am not keen to make a further acquaintance. But there is a sort of passive-aggressive religious fervour from proponents of avoidance – and honestly, I just wish that they weren’t so deceitful when the inevitable occurs.

    I’d never considered that treatment would be a more lucrative option than prevention. So very wrong. You have to admit that it is like the whole Ford Pinto story all over again? You are cheeky, for I’m guessing you know darn well what is meant by the term: ‘herd immunity’! Hehe! Well done you. It just doesn’t mean what people believe it means.

    Yeah, it is interesting that the settlement discovered by Merlyn and his merry men (or more properly: army and cavalry) survived due to luck and geography. The bloke they called ‘Nero’ mentioned that nobody had any idea as to preparations, although when confronted with changed circumstances I did note that the characters acted decisively.

    Thanks for the sneaky book recommendation. Superb work on your part as always! 🙂 I picked up a hardback used copy for $15 and will get to the story at some point in the future. Your point is totally valid and I’ve experienced loss first and second hand too. It is hard for those that believe it to be an impossibility. And yeah, the Camulod cast sort of relax a bit when things are going well, despite what their enemies are up to. Sun Tzu would suggest sending paid spies so as to keep an eye upon the enemy activities. The characters always seem somewhat surprised when things do go horribly wrong.

    Do we have to have so much change at such a fast rate? All change is not necessarily good.

    Robert Hughes left no stone un-turned in his epic and detailed account. The colony was a far more complicated mess than people would nowadays believe. Are we progressing to more mess these days?

    Hehe! I was enjoying my writing technique of circling back to a side theme or story. It can be quite amusing, no? Speaking of which I better get writing…



  78. Yo, Chris – People are always leaving. At least, in my life. Going away. I’ve pretty much gotten used to it. Mostly. I still don’t like it, but my dislike and a buck will get me a cup of coffee. I always feel a bit (or more than a bit) abandoned and betrayed. Oh, well. Life on life’s terms.

    Some people get a little tummy upset, and think they’ve had the flu. Ha! (I say to them), Just you wait! Fie! I say. Fie! 🙂

    How’s this for good drug company practices? The outfit that came up with Oxy, then came up with the antidote for overdoses. It’s a win / win situation! The investors were happy. Quarterly reports have never been better! The family that has a controlling interest in the company, is being sued by a lot of individual States, for damage done. And, they’re not only stripping company assets, they’re going after their personal wealth. Kind of a new wrinkle.

    Nero’s lot got pretty complacent, when the sky didn’t fall. Today is like yesterday and tomorrow will be the same, right? Until it isn’t.

    Which sneaky book recommendation? I never recommend, anything. I just mention things of interest, in passing :-).

    “All change is not necessarily good.” No! Really? :-). To quote (or paraphrase … just to keep it family friendly), probably, that Great American Sage, Alfred E. Neuman, “No poop, Sherlock.” Much more poetic, in the original. Somewhere along the way, I had a job (maybe the library?) and I remember whining, “Can’t we just leave well enough alone? For, say a year? Let us catch our breath?”

    I stopped by the library, yesterday. One of the staff is setting up a seed exchange. To get it rolling, they had lots of free, commercial seed packs. I picked up a few, and will be contributing back. Talked to the fellow who’s idea it was. Youngster who mentioned his first go at gardening, this year, was kind of a wash out. So, I riffed a bit on, “you’ve got to start with the soil.” Don’t know if he was paying attention, or not.

    Went to one of the cheap food stores, the other day. Score! Two bags of Bob’s Red Mill Flour. Had never seen that there, before, but you never know what you’re going to find. One bag of the all purpose, and one of the Artisan. Expiration date was 2021, so all’s good. Also found 2 boxes of dark cane sugar. Lew

  79. Hello again
    I would not be permitted to grow an orchard in this ancient woodland. Son has planted the occasional fruit tree on his land but I don’t think that thought or nurturing goes into this. He is too busy and just plants anything that he happens to be given.


  80. Hi Chris,
    We’ve been busily working to get the last of the outside work done before yet more early snow and very cold temps starting tonight.
    I see wormword is mentioned a few time up comments so I wanted to bring to your attention the Chicago liqueur, Malort. It is truly one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever tried. Our future SIL amuses himself and others by offering it to innocent souls and usually videos their reaction. In fact he brought a flask to the wedding we recently attended in N. Carolina. Here’s some more about it https://www.thrillist.com/drink/chicago/14-things-you-didn-t-know-about-malort-thrillist-chicago

    You can google the words Malort face if you find yourself at a loss of things to do.


Comments are closed.