All Ears

A few nights ago, I awoke from a vivid dream. During the daytime, I can barely recollect visual memories, but night time is a whole different world. My dreams are occasionally vivid, and I almost feel as if I am walking alive in the dream state. I’m not immune from nightmares either, and know what it feels like to wake up in fright in the dead of night. However, my dream of a few nights ago was of a different sort.

In the dream I was sitting at a desk. The desk was of a type that is known as a partners desk, and they’re an old school desk which allow for two people to sit opposite each other. There was no one on the other side of the desk, which was fortunate because it afforded me a view out through the pane glass window onto the street. The desk was in the middle of a small Victorian era (1890’s) shop with a large pane glass window shaded by a huge verandah covering the side walk. And there was a single door from the street on one side of the building which lead into the room in which I sat at the desk.

Behind me a small fire resided in a cast iron fireplace and released its heat into the room. Next to the brick wall in which the cast iron fireplace was installed, there was a hallway, and I could hear noises from further back in the building. I knew what those noises were, and the hairs on the back of neck rose. I got up from my chair at the desk and walked towards the rear of the room and then along the hallway. The familiar noises were coming from a door leading off the hallway and into the adjacent alleyway, and then I knew for sure.

The cat has been dead for over 24 years now, but in my dream state, she was there, and it was mildly spooky hearing her wanting to be let back into the house in my dream. I woke up at that point feeling a sense of loss and disorientation.

The cat’s name was Ricey, and it is a cool name for a cat. She came into my life unbidden at about the age of 8 years old (me, not her). I can’t talk the situation up, I grew up in a broken home. My dad left when I was so young that I barely remember him, and even the birthday cards with the five or ten bucks stopped turning up after a while. My mum was a difficult lady, and she had her hands full with my two sisters, whilst she also pursued her own dreams. As a consequence I was mostly ignored, which was fine by me. Some people would be crushed by such an upbringing, I am not one such. I revelled in the freedom that was afforded me, and my cat was my little buddy whilst I was at home. We were fast friends.

There was nothing really special about Ricey, she was a white street cat with black spots, and she was of very uncertain parentage. A pedigree was not in her lineage, but then I too make no such claims! At nights she used to sleep on my bed, and over winter she’d snuggle under the covers. To be honest, sometimes she was a bit too hot under the covers and I’d wake up in the middle of the night and throw the covers off.

She liked being warm that cat, and used to love sun-baking. Alas the pink skin and thin white fur on her ears was no match for the hot summer sun with its extreme UV, and eventually she developed black skin cancer cells on her ears. It didn’t look too good and I thought she might die. We took her down to the veterinarian surgery, and they lopped her ears off. She hardly seemed to be troubled by losing her ears and she had the added side benefit of now looking like a baby harp seal. And she lived to a ripe old age.

Due to the family circumstances, we moved around a lot. I changed schools a fair bit too, and became good at making new friends. But somehow, I had learned the harsh lesson that life was a transitory affair at best, and tragedy always stalked around the corner just out of sight. But Ricey was a constant.

Eventually we settled into an old house that had an old granite wash-house with attached toilet in the backyard. Because I was a boy I guess, the wash-house was roughly converted into my bedroom. But hey, I had a room that was just big enough for my single bed, desk, drawers and tiny cupboard. And I had my own toilet. The room was the best gift ever. If I wanted to hang out with my mates at night, I just jumped the back fence and took off along the old alleyway, and away and off into the night I went.

The shed had a fly-screen covering both the door and window and when summer nights were unbearably hot, I used to leave the door and window open and let the cooler night air in. Of course the structure of the shed was granite, and on hot nights I could press my body up against the cool granite and try to get some sleep.

Over winter, the shed which was unheated and un-insulated was bitterly cold, and on those nights I appreciated the warmth from the cat, and she dived under the covers and stoically slept solidly until the sun rose the next day.

Of course at night when conditions were fine, Ricey likewise came and went as she pleased. We had this sort of communication thing going on where if she was on the bed and wanted out, she’d just wake me up by stalking around the room. If she was outside the shed, she’d wake me up by sharpening her claws on the fly-screen to the door. I didn’t even need to get out of bed, because the room was small and one arm could leave the covers, unlatch the door, before returning under the covers again. I’d know the sound anywhere if I heard it, and I heard it vividly again in my dream the other night, and I knew who was on the other side of the door in my dream world.

I miss the old cat and she lived with me for most of her life – even when I was living in share houses. The cat added a certain spice to the household, and often you weren’t allowed to have pets in rental properties, so it was a bit of a risk which could lead to penalties and/or eviction. At one point just prior to meeting the editor, I had moved into a flat (the technical name for an apartment without a lift), and the place had a firm ‘no pets’ policy and I had to ask my mum if the cat could stay at her place. And Ricey and I were separated for about two years. She was an old cat by then and knew her way around my mum’s place so it was a least worst option.

After the editor and I were married, I got a phone call from my mum telling me that if I didn’t pick up the cat, she was going to get her put down (euthanased). Within the space of an hour, I’d taken Ricey away from there and she lived for another year and a half with the editor and myself. I sure as heck miss that cat.

This week the weather was feral as several storms rolled in from the Southern Ocean. One of the storms was epic, and I even believe that I observed a small tornado forming in the valley below the farm. The tornado dissipated, but when the storm that accompanied it hit the house, it felt as if someone had turned a hose on the windows and wind pummelled the side of the house.

Yet another storm approaches the farm over the valley
Ice from hail could still be found six hours after a particularly intense storm

In between the storms, the sun shone and the weather was cold. It is hard to believe that we are only weeks away from summer. Yet the two states (Queensland and New South Wales) on the same continent to the north of here are suffering from an epic drought and very serious bushfires.

Here it is bizarrely cold. None of my tomato or corn seedlings have germinated, and so I tested the soil temperature with my trusty old school soil thermometer. Yeah, the results are in and the soil temperature is somewhere between 13’C and 14’C (55’F and 57’F) which is too cold for tomato or corn seeds to germinate.

The trusty soil thermometer declares that the soil is too cold for tomato and corn seeds to germinate

Speaking of tomatoes, we completely weeded and fed the soil of the old tomato enclosure. The space inside the old tomato enclosure is massive and we removed about 14 wheelbarrow loads of weeds. And it took a couple of cubic metres (1.3 cubic yards to the cubic metre) of composted woody mulch and compost to feed the soil in there.

One end of the old tomato enclosure
The other end of the tomato enclosure

Observant readers will note that there are many plants growing around the fence line in the above photo. The plants growing there include: Blueberries; Cape Gooseberries; Red and Black Currants; Horseradish; Tea Camellia’s; Chilean Guava’s; and Gooseberries.

The rain storms this week were a great opportunity to see where water was flowing where it shouldn’t be. We’ve recently begun constructing a path up above the house leading from the driveway to the new garden terraces. On one section of the pathway during the recent storm we spotted a bit of water pooling and flowing. It is a bit of a cautionary tale really, because a few years ago a landslide occurred near to that spot and we are keen not to repeat the experience. So rocks and a thick surface of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime were placed on the clay surface of the new path. A thick layer of composted woody mulch will be placed on the down hill side of this section of the path and hopefully that will slow the movement of any water during extreme storm events.

Another section of the new path up above the house was completed

Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (err, apologies he’s an Australian cattle dog) has been attempting to break into the recently fenced lower garden terrace. I added a 10kg (22 pound) bag of blood and bone to the garden beds there, and since that time Ollie has been doing his best to eat the stuff.

Ollie looks longingly at the soil with the blood and bone. “Let me in”
Ollie is on the other side of the enclosure as he wants to be the dog with the most cake

Eventually, Ollie out-smarted us and managed to get into the fenced off enclosure. Well done Ollie, and the smell of blood and bone on him was a dead give-away (plus we found him inside the enclosure). Anyway, we sorted out the fencing and now he is without his soil additives.

Minor additions to the fencing keeps the naughty Ollie out of the garden beds

The strawberry enclosure received two bales of sugar cane mulch. The sugar cane mulch is particularly good at keeping the slowly ripening berries off the soil. If the berries come into contact with the soil, they tend to begin fermenting rapidly. Commercial growers use black plastic to achieve the same thing, but at least the sugar cane mulch will feed the soil.

Two bales of sugar can mulch were used to ensure that the strawberries don’t come into contact with the soil

The lavender on the other side of the strawberry cage is looking really good and attracts a huge number of insects (the hum of insects is audible here):

The lavender on the outside of the strawberry enclosure is growing really well and attracting huge numbers of insects

We also spent a day in the forest surrounding the farm cleaning up a small part of the mess left from over a century of logging. The mountain range was logged since the 1860’s, and for the life of me I can’t begin to understand why tree stumps were dragged (by bulldozers presumably) into certain spots. The tree stumps don’t break down and they display signs of the last bushfire which went through the property in 1983 (Ash Wednesday). Anyway, it is hard work cleaning up the mess, which I guess maybe why they didn’t do the job.

Tree stumps on the edge of the farm left by loggers and scarred by the 1983 bushfires
Despite the cool and wet weather, the sun does shine on the shady orchard (there is a chicken enclosure and wood shed in there somewhere)

Produce up date:

This season looks as if it is shaping up to be an excellent apricot harvest
There are more quinces this year
Plums are growing really well – and you can see hail damage on the skins
Raspberries are not too far from ripening
Some American Paw Paw seeds have germinated in the nursery garden bed

Onto the flowers:

There are a good number and diversity of insects here – like this native bee
Gazania’s grow in among the local ferns
Bearded Iris look even better this week
The new rose has developed some complex colour
A local Showy Daisy Bush shrub in flower
The local native clematis vines love creeping through the garden beds (and climbing trees)
But it ain’t as showy as this exotic clematis flower (Toothy for size comparison only)

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 12’C (53’F). So far this year there has been 680.0mm (26.8 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 642.2mm (25.3 inches).

55 thoughts on “All Ears”

  1. Hi Inge,

    Ah, of course I’d forgotten about the strict conditions as to the management of your land – and yeah an orchard is not part of that story. Do you get anybody asking to study the forest at your place? There would be fascinating things to learn, and as a base comparison to the land around, it would make for quite the interesting contrast.

    Have you heard about the fires up north from here? Bonkers, and tomorrow is meant to be a very frightening and dangerous day for them.

    Your son may well be following a random chance methodology with his occasional fruit trees, and you never know what fruits the strategy may bear (please forgive the unintentional pun because I am serious)? The people I know who also enjoy small holding status tend to focus on animal systems. I can’t really say why we tend to focus purely on plants here (plus I guess the chickens and bees). Dunno, but there is something in there – of course I’m not even remotely considering the financial returns from this enterprise, and animals do tend to concentrate energy. Dunno, really, but there is something in that. What do you reckon? Have you ever raised livestock?



  2. Hi Margaret,

    Far out! Yes, I too would declare a panic stations situation just to get the last few remaining tasks done before the cold weather arrived in force. Just how cold did it get? And I assume that is it for the garden for the growing season?

    It was 86’F here today, however the weather promises to turn back into late winter weather tomorrow. It is hard to believe that tomorrow will find me wearing a winter jacket… Rain is forecast here for tomorrow. But much further up north on the continent things are not good at all. The state of New South Wales (to the north of here – I’m in the state of Victoria) has now been declared in an official state of emergency for tomorrows impending disaster zone fire weather. Spare a thought for the poor folks living up there.

    Wormwood was a major flavour ingredient of the dreaded drink Absinthe. People used to go crazy drinking the stuff (which frankly tastes disgusting to my palate) but I’d have to suggest that it was not the wormwood flavouring but more something to do with the bonkers high alcohol content. Probably double or triple distilled at a guess. I may get a still next year. I don’t drink spirits but alcohol wash could be a handy thing to have access too.

    Thank you so much for the laughs. 🙂 Doesn’t it make you want to head out and try some Malort? But alas, I suspect your SIL already got you? Oh, your SIL is superbad! Nice work and she’s alright by me. Hehe! What a company too to produce such stuff in the first place.



  3. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, life on life’s terms is a good way to put it. The story certainly influenced this week’s blog, that’s for sure. Tragedy is one of our waking companions and it is a bit like a lucky dip draw where you never really know when your numbers will turn up.

    It is warm down here today. 86’F, and even now at night I’ve got the fresh and much cooler night air blowing into the house. It is quite pleasant really – thanks to Antarctica. But up north in the state of New South Wales, they’re bracing themselves for a fire disaster day tomorrow. Apparently, they’re the sort of weather conditions that caused the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires down here. I hope that the worst case scenarios do not eventuate.

    You know, I’ve heard people claiming that they have a stomach flu. I’m not even sure what such a thing is and it seems a dubious claim given that the people were working. With the proper Influenza, you are dropped to bed – and I was out for the count for two full days (as was the editor). I still encounter the person who I contracted the Influenza virus from, and they had it pretty bad too. A memorable occasion and not to be confused with the lesser cold.

    I don’t ordinarily recommend podcasts, but the editor is a fan of the podcast, and the two lovely scientists who enjoy a cocktail and then discuss the ins and outs and history of specific diseases. Anyway, it comes highly recommended: Episode 1 Influenza Will Kill You.

    Mate, oxy is a problem. Back in the day it used to be sold over the counter, but is now a prescription only supply down here (and you have to get a prescription from a doctor). I’ve heard news reports of addicts that swap heroin for oxy when they can’t get it. It is a bit of a disaster, and well done to the cheeky scamps for apparently coming up with the antidote to the overdoses. Yes, profits must be soaring on the back of such genius.

    As an opinion, the Sacklers may have made themselves into a fat and easy target ripe for the picking. Greed can do that. And personal resources can only go so far when the deep pockets of the government are turned upon a situation. As the poor souls who apparently got very squooshed in Tian-something-or-other-square. Don’t poke governments seems like good advice – ask our local Julian Assange how that is working out for him.

    Hehe! Absolutely, you don’t have to tell me. When I was a young adult I was on top of the world without a care or a worry, and then one day the news came down from on high that things were not going to be the same again. At least I had the interesting opportunity to work in debt collection for four years. As an interesting point to you, I know people who are older than I, and also younger than I, and they were not impacted by the events. In fact both groups seem largely surprised that anyone was impacted by the economics and heavy unemployment. The bad news was spread on a LIFO (Last in First Out) basis, and being a young adult I was last in. Memories can be long and sooner or later reins of control are let go by certain groups.

    Your list of interests is rather large, and I enjoy being swept along in the momentum!

    Ah yes, the great poet Alfred E Neuman knew some tidy sayings (words of wisdom), that probably require more airtime than they get these days 🙂 Incidentally one of my wheelbarrows has ‘Sherlock’ emblazoned upon the side of it, and that particular quote always comes to mind whenever I see it. I’m sure that the gentile Mr Holmes never said such a thing. I should nab a compendium of the fictional detectives stories. Hmm, the opportunity may arise in December at a little paperback bookshop in the city that you once pointed out to me (which I’d already occasionally frequented – due to the odd and as such very convenient opening hours).

    Good stuff that someone setup a seed exchange at your local library. That is something I’d get behind if it were here. Mate, when I manned a local stall at the once per year local Sustainability Festival, I handed out (and sold) seeds like there was no tomorrow. And then the poor souls paid for the free seeds by listening to me telling the entertaining stories behind the plants. It was all good fun, and people at least learned something. But your point about starting with the soil is true knowledge. Nothing happens without good soils.

    I’d be excited about the Bob’s Red Mill Flour too if I came across the stuff on the cheap. And it will be interesting for you to compare the two different flours – when you get around to it.

    The stories that both you and Inge wrote about the sort of sugar you generally have access to, sort of blew me away. I’ve never encountered any other sugars other than cane sugar. A friend recently donated some actual canes and I’ll plant them out when it warms up outside…



  4. Hello Chris
    As another vivid dreamer, I tend to be fascinated by other’s vivid dreams. I rarely have a nightmare after reading that one should confront a nightmare. I did this by turning and yelling at some horrible thing that had arrived. It fled and I seem to have been almost immune since.
    We are hearing about the Australian fires and my younger daughter, inland from Coff’s Harbour is organised for a possible evacuation.
    I have never had nor wanted a pet or livestock. Other peoples animals always seem to adore me and their owners are astonished. I can only assume that animals sense my indifference and try to beguile me.
    Small holders going in for livestock makes sense as it provides more necessary food if one has to be self sufficient. I am lucky that Son provides almost all my meat.
    No, no-one studies my woodland, thank goodness. One has to live with it to really understand it and the occasional intrusion of experts is a complete pain. At the moment I am subject to completely contradictory requirements from more than one source. What can one do other than to smile and look compliant! If I make a fuss the problems would only increase.


  5. Hi Chris,

    It’s tonight and tomorrow that the real cold will occur. 5F/-15C tonight and 17F/-8.3C tomorrow. We’ve got about 4 inches of snow now with 20mph winds so it’s blowing into drifts. I heard there’s ice under the snow on the roads so I’m staying in today.

    I have indeed tasted Malort and once is enough. It’s my future son-in-law who convinces the unsuspecting souls to try it.

    Have you ever considered getting another cat? Could help keep down rodents.


  6. Chris,

    I checked behind the couch as you suggested. My lost youth is not there, alas. However, I DID find my sense of adventure there, hale and hearty and raring to go do something. I put it back and poured myself a beer.

    Hanging out with the guys from India when in Fairbanks meant that I played a fair amount of cricket until the weather turned. So I actually understood the pun! I played a lot of baseball and softball, but the delivery of the ball in cricket is radically different. I never really got into the swing of things with cricket. 😉

    Your dodge was artfully accomplished.

    Ah yes, topsoil. I got leaves dug into the raised beds yesterday. The ground had thoroughly thawed during the week so the digging was easy. Then I placed more other good soil on top. We’ll see what happens.

    Whenever I buy plants from the nursery, they get placed in the back of the Subaru Forester. No wind to blow off the labels, right? I think there are “Label Fairies” or some such, because several of the labels have always disappeared and are never found again. They may be with my lost youth or with the missing socks from unmatched pairs.

    Nice story about Ricey. A good friend like that is hard to find and harder to replace. Your life is an example that regardless of the environment in which one was raised, choices can be made to overcome the “disadvantages”. Although growing up in a middle class, controlled setting, well, on some levels there were advantages, on other levels there were gaping holes in my education regarding how life really works. Maybe playing the cards that are dealt and moving on from there is the best option?

    That storm sounds fierce! The plum pictures really show the potential damages from hailstones and severe storms. Pointing out the hail, you were dressed much as I was yesterday!

    Nice photo of the bee in the flower! Those are always appreciated. (Bees and photos of them.)

    Good thing you have captions with the photos. At first glance I thought that Toothy was an exotic clematis. The caption straightened that out.


  7. Yo, Chris – One would hope the cat in your dream, wasn’t like the one in “Pet Semetery?” I’m always surprised you don’t have a cat, on the place, but, with three dogs, that could be a problem. But, being out in the country, I’d guess sooner or later one will be dumped, and show up at your place. A wily old Tom who knows to stay out of the way of the dogs. The day he or she shows up, the rats are on notice.

    Looks like you had a bit of weather. That’s understated Brit speak for, “We’re all going to die!” :-). It’s about half your temperature, here, today. But, the sun is shinning. I really need to get a soil thermometer. Just one of those handy bits of kit (like an orange reamer) that never occurs to me to get … til I need one.

    I do like your rustic fence. Do I see fences in fences? A regular ring fort. Water is funny stuff. Slop a bit of tea, and I’m sopping up water from one end of the kitchen, to the other.

    Ollie probably thinks he needs blood meal, for a balanced diet. Tell him there’s a pill, for that. I think I once mentioned I had a friend, who lived out in the boonies, who used fish fertilizer. Until he discovered a very large cougar, digging around in his garden, looking for the fish.

    Your Lavender is so colorful. Ours isn’t. I think whoever planted it was going for the form, and not the scent. I really need to plant a patch of the “real” stuff.

    I hate to break the news, but there were no bulldozers in 1860. Just real bulls. Well, oxen. Your forest floor looks very much like undisturbed forests, here. Only our logs scattered about are from blow downs, or, the odd volcanic eruption.

    Don’t count your apricots, before they hatch? How about them plums? Given the variety of things you grow, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet, you won’t starve, this year.

    Those iris are most decidedly purple. The roses are going through some interesting color changes. I suppose it’s an adaptation. Something to signal the pollinators that, “We’re ready, now.” My Love in the Mist flowers start off white … and then turn blue.

    Well, if Toothy ever asks the question all parents dread, “Where did I come from?”, you can tell him you found him under a clematis leaf. Cont.

  8. Cont. Only two days? You had a light case :-). I ended up in the ER at 3am, with fluids being pumped into me and anti-nausea medication crammed down my throat. Got to ride in an ambulance! Boy, that was pricey. I used to keep something I’d cut out of the paper, on the wall. The difference between colds and flu. In this country, 30 to 35,000 people die of the flu, every year. I’ll check out the podcast, later.

    I guess your wheelbarrow is your compost hauler? I’d guess the first person to say, “No poop, Sherlock” was Dr. Watson.

    Start with good soil? I think it was someone I know in Australia, who first said that. :-).

    Well, as I’ve recently found out, the “artisan” flour is for anything that needs a lot of gluten. Pizza crust, a decent loaf of bread, etc.. The all purpose flour is for stuff like cookies or pancakes.

    Well, here, if it doesn’t say “cane” sugar, it’s beet sugar. The cane sugar people trumpet the fact that it’s cane sugar. The beet sugar industry, probably arranged (bribes?) to not have to put on their package, that it’s beet sugar. Beet sugar is also, cheaper. So, I suppose people that don’t worry their heads about food quality, just go for the beet stuff. So, are you going to enslave the local wildlife, to work your sugar plantation?

    I’m up to chapter XII, in “The Sorcerer.” My gosh, chapter XI was LONG.

    Forgot to mention Toothy’s picture. If he ever asks, the question every parent dreads, “Where do I come from?”, you can always tell him you found him under a clematis leaf. That ought to hold him off, for a few years. Lew

    PS: The new Downton Abbey movie is due to hit DVD in mid December. I thought I’d check the library catalog, though I also thought it was way too early to show up. Well, there it was. I’m number 5 on the hold list. I’m sure by the time it makes the catalog, there will be several hundred holds.

  9. Hi Inge,

    Out of curiosity, do you have a good visual recall for your memories? Mine is frankly not good and mostly I see black head space, and it was only about a year ago that I realised that this skill differs greatly between people. But my dreams are extraordinarily rich and vivid, and many thanks for the nightmare tip. Top work for coming up with that technique. 🙂 My dreams are often warnings that things need to be attended to – have you ever felt that way?

    I do hope that your daughter up near Coffs Harbour is OK. If it means anything to you, I looked at the fire map and note that the fire which is near to the city (which is candidly quite a large fire) will be moving in a north easterly direction due to the changing prevailing winds, and thus away from the city. If it helps any there is a map which is very regularly updated: NSW Rural Fire Service – Fires Near Me Map. However, like what I experienced in 2009, the only real way to reduce the threat is for the rains to return and the fires to burn themselves out – and it will happen in time. Unfortunately it may then flood.

    You and I share this skill in that animals flock to us (a Pied Piper?) I unfortunately have the same thing with kids who take my lack of interest to be some sort of personal challenge – and then I startle them by conversing with them as if they were mini-adults. I find it sad that kids aren’t encouraged to work and contribute to a household as it does them no good.

    Your son clearly does a great job. Being in a more temperate climate than yourself, I can achieve the same outcome with plants, and I kind of like that because plants can tolerate the occasional chunk of neglect. Animals are very intolerant of such acts.

    I hear you about that. Can you believe the politicians are out trying to score points against each other during such a bushfire crisis? They have no sense of propriety, and even though some of them are in power – they do nothing. It is outrageous behaviour, and I feel if they can do nothing other than constantly argue, then for once in their pitiful lives they should shut their traps during such a time. I guess Brexit is a little like that?

    I have heard the so called Greens politicians on the radio decrying traditional forest management practices, but then do they offer any credible alternatives? Nope. The folks in the city do not realise that their houses once stood upon a mighty open woodland, and I feel sorrow for their lost souls.



  10. Hi Margaret,

    Brr! Hope you are on top of the heating situation in your house, as it may well be a very long winter in your part of the world? Did you ever get the wood heater sorted? It took me about 7 years to get my head around the entire firewood story, and the cold weather has been so prolonged this year that we’ve long since begun using the firewood in our reserve firewood shed (firewood being the only heating source). Spring has disappeared here, and tonight I’m using the wood heater and it is 7’C / 45’F outside, although compared to your sort of climate, it is positively tropical. 🙂 Anyway, it beats what is going on in the north east of the continent with the bushfires.

    Ah, apologies I interpreted SIL to mean Sister in Law, although it is worthwhile saying that I have known ladies who are equally capable of such naughtiness with the Malort – and well done them too! There ain’t nothing wrong with a bit of sassiness!

    I actually like our feline friends and they enjoy my company, but I sort of feel that a cat might eat many of the small birds, lizards and frogs here and um yeah, I dare not mess with the balance that is working itself out. They take the easy path those feline friends. Most of the critters that I mentioned consume many of the insects here on the plants and so I reckon they’re all OK. Would you get a cat in your new place?



  11. Hi DJ,

    Sufferin’ succotash! I was hoping beyond hope that you’d also spied and recovered my lost youth behind the same very couch. Where did it go? Not fair at all, and condolences for setting out on a failed quest. Still, one learns something even on failed quests. On the other hand finding your sense of adventure is a true thing of worth. May you stride forth boldly into the garden where you may yet discover the true source: Barley. 😉 Although I’d recommend waiting until next spring given the sort of winter weather you’re experiencing.

    Nice one, and cricket is indeed the game of gentlemen. When I was a young adult I followed the game with great interest and went to see many games at the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In fact I had the advantage of being a member of the august institution, but have long since given the privilege up. Somewhere along the line I lost interest, but like you I still would have loved to have played a game with those blokes from India at Fairbanks! They play a tough game, and last century I was cornered on an Indian train by a local cricket fanatic and we had a great old conversation. Strange as it may seem, I actually enjoyed my train travels in India.

    The artful dodger is never far from the keyboard! 😉

    If I recall correctly you used to keep leaves in plastic bags. Are you still doing that, or are you now getting all of them into compost heaps or the soil?

    The label fairies are like the little magical elves in that play tricks on us all in the garden. Be wary, and should you encounter one, I suggest that there is no shame in running.

    Thanks about the story, and I note that with costs there are benefits. It may surprise you, but it is also not obvious and I don’t make a big deal about it, but I am not burdened with their cares or dreams either. People can react by falling in a heap, or they can play the cards that are dealt them, noting that there are other alternative paths as well.

    The storm was pretty feral, but your early winter weather is no slouch either!

    You need not fear for lack of pollinators here. In the city it is a real problem that nobody seems to even concern themselves with, but up here the din is audible.

    Toothy sends his appreciation for not being confused as a flower. Dachshunds are extraordinarily grumpy dogs and fortunately I smoothed his ruffled fur because of your suggestion! Something to do with their height above ground level I guess.



  12. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, well even in my dream that thought had occurred to me about Pet Semetary. My gut feeling is that the dead are dead for a reason, and we’d do well by honouring their memories and not disturbing their rest. Need I add that zombies appear to be very unpleasant company?

    The foxes and owls take a fair bit of the rodent action around here, and I don’t have to worry about feeding and housing that lot when they have nothing else around here to hunt. The other night I spotted a fox hunting around the chicken enclosure and possibly consuming the rats and mice. And I certainly prefer the foxes to snakes. It is a complicated balance, and as I go on I understand more of the story as it unfolds and am more careful when I do make changes.

    But yeah, the main problem I have with cats – other than the dogs eating their manure – is that the felines will hunt small birds, lizards and frogs, and all of those critters work hard at keeping my vegetable beds free of insects. Few things will stop a plague of locusts like a bunch of hungry birds and other critters.

    Haha! I too rather enjoy the understated and quirky dry English humour. Half the temperature isn’t too bad and I assume that you are being spared the worst of the winter weather over on the east coast? The soil thermometer is good, but I only use it when things are clearly going awry – like this cold spring. At least it helps me put a number to the oddness. Anyway, I mustn’t grumble because it beats the crap out of what is going on up north. It is bonkers up there: NSW bushfire fight continues, gusty change brings fresh threat to Hunter, Port Macquarie, up to a dozen homes could be lost but no deaths reported. The gusty wind change of direction is a real worry and the Weather Bureau has put together a nice animation which explains just why that is: Fire weather: Cold front drags in hot, blustery air and sudden dangerous wind changes.

    A fence in a fence is a great idea and would make for a very unpleasant finish for an enemy. Wouldn’t have thought of doing that. Yeah, water always knows its true level. I use a long four foot spirit level for all sorts of work around here. A bit of accuracy never hurt anybody!

    Ollie is dirty for the blood and bone, and fortunately the rain washed a lot of it into the soil. How funny is it that two and a half weeks out from the start of summer and – nothing has germinated! I’ve seen this happen only once before, and the seeds eventually get their act together. For the next week the temperatures are not likely to top 70’F. Bonkers.

    There are quite a number of varieties of lavender plants. They all grow well here, but my favourite which you see in the photos is the Avonview variety. Are many different varieties grown and sold in your part of the world? They smell nice too.

    Very amusing about the bulldozers! Hehe! The old timers, ox teams and all, would have left the tree stumps in the ground. Hehe! Not much lives in such piles of tree stumps (you may observe the nice neat cuts on the ends) other than maybe ants, and most of the grasses are exotic varieties which the native animals refuse to eat. Mind you, the various marsupials don’t turn their noses up at exotic grasses, they just don’t want to eat those particular variety of plants.

    It is funny that you write that about the apricots, because the recent storm knocked a few of the unripe fruit onto the ground. That particular tree required a bit of thinning of the fruit anyway, and I just sort of let nature do that job. As I’m not looking for a commercial sized crop, for me it doesn’t really matter. Oh hey! One of the two walnut seedlings has taken and is now producing leaves. The other one looks rather deceased unfortunately. They are a fickle plant.

    Hehe! Well I can still recall the book “Where did I come from?” and all its rather unusual talk about sneezes whatever it was going on about. Peter Mayle the author is actually a very entertaining author and wrote a series of books about his move to France and life in a small town.

    Ah, yes, you did rather have a very bad case of Influenza to have ended up in ER on a drip. It makes for a memorable experience and salient lesson as to how dangerous that particular disease actually is. I find that people have a rather cavalier attitude to it which sort of disturbs me. I have also had that particular experience at the local day hospital and both treatments are quite beneficial – although my bill was probably far cheaper than what you had to face. After I recovered from the flu, the editor then fell into its grasp and we take that beast very seriously. I didn’t go into too many details on the blog during that time, but it was not a good few weeks at all. I even joked around about it being a ‘Man Flu’, except that it wasn’t and the joke was more for the readers benefit than our own. 🙂 Glad that you were not one of the statistics. What I’m learning is that it is not the diseases that take you out, it is often your bodies response to the diseases. That is what drove the huge death toll in the 1919 Spanish Flu outbreak (which according to rumour began in your country).

    Thanks for the correction. I’d confused the two characters names. Surely a sign of early onset dementia if ever there was one. But yeah, the wheelbarrow is used to haul poop about the place. I have three wheelbarrows you know, and one of them is nearing the end of its life. The editor mentioned something about using it as a planter, but I’m unsure what that would look like.

    Good to see that you are taking notes!!! It is a good line about the soil isn’t it? The editor tells me not to write too much about the soil and I suspect that it is good piece of advice. 🙂

    Interesting indeed. I had known that there were differences between flour mixes and varieties, but had not actually experienced any differences in the kitchen. Of course I may be using artisanal flour to begin with? Dunno. Of late, I’ve sort of settled on the untreated flour and it has a mild cream colour and tastes quite good. I suspect not being bleached is a good thing with flour. I should plant some bread wheat next autumn.

    Really? Thanks for the contrast with the various sugars. Haven’t seen such things myself. Very funny! I’m 100% certain that the wallabies will willingly do the work of harvesting the sugar cane. Oh yeah, they need no encouragement.

    Oh my. The characters have just returned to Camulod after their seven year absence. And the place is bursting at the seams as they have a population problem which they appear to be solved by entering into two wars at the same time (always an unwise move).

    Good luck with the hold. Did you put Chuck’s latest book on your hold list?



  13. Hi Chris,

    It is colder where Margaret is than here this morning, but not by much. Our morning low was 8F/-13.3C with 2 inches of snow on the ground, following Sunday’s high of 66F/18.9C. I finished harvesting the remaining garden crops (leeks, mustard greens, and arugula) on Sunday, and a good thing too. But I was not able to mulch the garlic and potato onions before this cold snap. It wasn’t until the past few days that enough leaves had fallen to gather for mulch, so on Sunday I had to decide between mulching or harvesting. Harvesting won out. I hope the snow will insulate the soil a little so it won’t freeze before warmer temperatures arrive later in the week, thus preventing frost-heaving. By then the snow will melt and I can begin mulching the patch.

    Thanks for telling Ricey’s story; I enjoyed it.


  14. Hello again
    Like you I have wonderful visual dreams but lose it when awake. In fact I have almost no conscious visual ability. When I try to recall these visual dreams I just see a bare outline of the scenes, if even that. Someone once said that they didn’t understand how I managed to recognise anyone as I couldn’t describe them at all. But I do have recognition.
    I don’t think that I have ever had warnings in dreams but I have sometimes had explanations of happenings.
    I like children and get on well with them. Have always conversed with them as adults/equals. Am also in complete agreement with the notion that they should be contributing to the necessary household work.
    Politicians scoring points off each other: it really is the name of the game and has become completely nauseating here where Brexit is concerned.
    Someone is in trouble for pointing out that the name of a flooded village here is ‘Fishlake or Fish lake’ I don’t know how it is spelt. The someone has made the mistake of asking why people didn’t consider that this name might mean something when they considered buying a house there.


  15. Yo, Chris – I hadn’t thought of the toll on wildlife that a cat would take. One cat doesn’t make much of a dent. Nell was quit the hunter. But even she couldn’t clean all the mice, out of the laundry room.

    Our NPR (National Public Radio) website has had pretty good coverage. Also, the BBC Australian section.

    A garden hose, filled with water, makes a pretty good level for runs longer than 4 feet. There were quit a few four footers, kicking around the last place I lived.

    Hmmm. There are 45 species and 450 varieties of lavender. Territorial Seed carries 8. Might want to try another walnut. I think the crop is better, with two trees. Your nut and berry book probably says something about that.

    Mayle’s books came out when I was in the book biz. We sold them hand over fist. He also had one for teens.

    The origins of the 1918 flu, are a bit of a mystery. But they think it might have started in a WWI soldier’s camp, in Kansas. Located too close to a swine farm. Pigs and people pass the flu, back and forth. It mutates. Sometimes, the mutation is lethal. There was a bad flu going around in early 1918. Not as lethal. People who got that, didn’t get severe cases of the later, lethal flu. Piecing together the origins of the flu, at such a time distance, has been difficult.

    Dementia? The other day, I was trying to remember the name of someone I talk to, almost every day. “Sits there!” “My neighbor!” “No, not Eleanor … across the hall from Eleanor!” Felt like I was playing charades. :-).

    Wheelbarrows make pretty good planters. The place I lived, before, had old wheelbarrows all over the place, buried in the weeds and brambles. I thought of pulling out six, and placing them in formation, across the lawn. Never got around to it. Also, I hadn’t quit worked out how to keep the grass down, underneath them. Maybe on a pad of wood chips? Well, not near so “cute” as the old rusty bed frame, as yard art. A flower bed, get it!? get it!? :-). (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

    Well, I’m learning a lot about the different kinds of flour, as I go along. But it’s hard to keep it all in my head. I’m glad I have my books to refer to. Ruth Goodman did quit a riff on the different grains and flours, in “How to be a Tudor.” I think a lot of recipes don’t quit work, as they’re not very specific about which kind of flour, to use.

    I made “pumpkin” raisin cookies, last night. Actually, the pumpkin was some Hubbard squash from last year, that I cleaned out of the freezer. They were very soft, and chewy, but needed “something.” Maybe frosting. Maple? I gave some to Eleanor and Susanne, but didn’t tell them it was squash. I’ll see what they have to say, tonight. Then spring it on them. Kind of a blind, taste test.

    Yup. I put Chuck’s book on my hold list. Don’t know when it will show up. I should be in the first round, of circulation, as I have a very low hold number. Right now, I’m also haunting the library catalog, as “Orville”, season two is coming out on DVD in December. I started reading “Hadrian’s Wall” (Goldsworthy, 2018). A little book, but very interesting.

    It occurred to me that Merlin is setting up a rather benign, feudal system. What with all the outlying areas contributing food for protection. I’m up to XIV. Lew

  16. Hi, Chris:

    That was as fine a story as I’ve ever read. Thanks! It’s funny – we had lots and lots of cats and dogs and gerbils and such when I was growing up, and as adults my husband and I and our sons had even more quantity and variety of pets and I loved all of them, but it wasn’t it wasn’t until I was 40 that I had a special one, that I really bonded with, which was Mr. Jackson – a Shetland Sheepdog/Jack Russell Terrier cross. He was bad as could be; we were quite a team – not to say that I was bad as could be . . .

    Goodness – what ominous clouds. Look at you all bundled up for winter. After that did you have on your Bermuda shorts? Or was that before? Scroll down to red shorts with argyle socks:

    As long as it warms up pretty soon and stays that way, I think your tomatoes will eventually germinate. It seems late to start any inside. The tomatoes are going to enjoy that enclosure.

    Your new path, and the usual rocks in evidence make me wonder if you should be Rockglade Farm, or maybe Rocky Ramparts. They just don’t have the appeal of “Fernglade”, though.

    The sugarcane mulch looks like wonderful stuff. I loved chewing on a piece of fresh sugarcane when I was a girl. We could get it in Texas.

    The apricots and plums look perfect – except for the plums, with the tiny hail spots, which hopefully will stay tiny. Your baby pawpaws look just like ours. Some of ours are getting pretty big and have been moved into large pots as we don’t have a spot for them in the garden yet. Ours seem to like a lot of water and some shade.

    Every years your gazanias are so wonderful. I just looked outside – I thought I had a perennial marked “Gazania”, but I can’t find the label in the garden bed. I have marked most of my perennial flowers with labels as this was the first year that I actually had enough sunny space to plant some (not counting herbs) and I went crazy. I don’t want to dig any up by accident next spring.

    My one clematis plant – a very old one – died this last summer. I definitely plan to plant another. I like your native one, especially the native Toothy Flower (I think DJSpo covets one, too).

    I am fond of spirit levels myself. I always use one if a project has to be level. I have no eye for levelness. Do you think that comes comes seeing everything on a slope?

    I enjoyed the Peter Mayle Provence books. Winter is a good time for reading them.

    Thanks for the updates on the NSW fires. There are few things more devastating.


  17. Chris,

    As you said, although the quest for my lost youth failed, it wasn’t a total loss as I found the sense of adventure. It served me well, assisting in my climbing the ladder and using the hand pruning saw to lop off a few limbs from an invading maple tree. Said limbs were overhanging the raised beds and preventing light summer rains from watering the veggies. More fermented barley products followed.

    Our weather came back to normalish November weather, and the wintery stuff has disappeared for now. Or, said another way, winter is being shared with Margaret and others. She has it much worse than what we’ve even hinted at yet this season.

    The Princess has decreed that we WILL take a vacation after I retire. I’m thinking travel via train. I’m not surprised you enjoyed the train travel in India. I found the professors and fellow students from India that I met at 3 different universities to be generally pleasant people with good senses of humor.

    I do 3 things with the leaves. Some have been added to the compost bin. Some were dug into the raised beds. The remainder is in bags, or will be bagged this coming weekend. The bags are being piled around the foundation on the windier side of the house, in the hope that they will provide a bit of insulation. I never noticed much assistance from them before, though, but it’s as good a place as any to store the baggy leaves for the winter.

    Run from the fairies? But, but, but then I’d be turning my back to them and who knows what would happen?!?

    Yeah, dachshunds can be grumpy. Must have something to do with having to crane the neck to look at basically everything and everybody. Chronic neck pain and all that.


  18. Hi Chris,

    What a great story about your old cat. Sounds like a real trooper! That is the great thing about cats, they are reasonably self-sufficient and can be left alone for extended periods, but don’t hesitate to let you know when conditions are sub-fluffy optimal. The downside, is all the rampant killing and murder. This varies cat to cat though, and the pack of fluffy canines must extract a toll in frogs, lizards and slow birds as well. I think in 7 years, our pair of cats only dropped the remains of one bird on the porch for us (compared to a dozen rats). They were particularly lazy cats though, who preferred to spend their time sunning and sleeping. It also probably didn’t help they were Siamese, with a bright white coat. Not the best camouflage! They were also locked up inside at night, which might have made a big difference to the murder count.

    Thanks for the indirect podcast suggestion from the editor – I wouldn’t mind a new podcast. I have a lot of driving to do in this job, so they can be good to have on hand. I think Mrs Damo might be interested in this one as well!

    A lot of the fires are quite close to my old stomping grounds. So far, no extended family is in trouble, but that dry, tangled forest on the north coast is a tinderbox. Lots of stories coming out blaming one party or ideology for the fires. I can’t help but feel even extended fuel reduction fires is not enough to prevent this sort of thing. As a landowner in a risky area, what are your thoughts? Are there rules in place that prevent you thinning out the surrounding forest? Should landowners (and the government for national/state parks) be required to maintain maximum tree density rates, encourage grass/open woodland in high risk areas?

    I keep remembering the descriptions in “The Worlds Largest Estate” about what a lot of Australias east coast looked like before white settlement, and it is wasn’t what you see from a car window when you drive down most of our highways and forest trails these days….


  19. Hi Claire, Inge, Lewis, Pam, DJ and Damo,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however it is the mid-week hiatus and the editor and I went to see the film: The Joker, this evening. All up it was quite good and not nearly as disturbing a viewing as I was led to believe. Frankly I was a bit nervous about watching the film s I tend to avoid such things.

    Until tomorrow!



  20. Hi Lewis,

    Went to see the film the Joker this evening. To be candid, I’m not sure what it says about your country that such a film was produced and has also been largely successful (I accidentally typed successdul whatever that means?) The film painted a fall from grace and into anarchy, and it was interesting to see that the bad guy actually had some depth, character and actually a reason for being an all round bad dude. And the film followed his journey into darkness. But the background story showed a fall into a dystopian future (including shock horror – tube televisions!)

    It was the editors idea to see the film as it wouldn’t have been a choice I’d make – but it is the dreams of the population that was the most troubling aspect of the film. And I’ve seen such dreams playing out in some music video clips from over your way. Not sure that I feel the same way, but I can understand how people may be comforted by such inflammatory images and stories. Plus the end of the film appeared to be the beginning – although the film never explicitly stated that.

    For some reason my mind keeps coming back to a Fight Club sort of story, except it requires a certain unreality in order to be produced. Dunno, but it was interesting that’s for sure.

    It is 11.30pm so I’m off to bed! 🙂



  21. Hello again
    Wind has changed and daughter is okay at the moment.
    Son also has vivid dreams and asked if I had ever dreamt about a banana and custard machine. Of course I haven’t. He said that it was 40 ft high, painted yellow and churning; bits were flying out of the top. He says that he loved it in the dream.


  22. Yo, Chris – Well, I guess I can start by saying that I was never a Batman Fan. Even in when a wee small lad, rolling in comic books. So, the Joker, has -0- appeal. I gather from the reviews I didn’t read, that there’s something disturbing, about the movie. Let’s say, the titles of the reviews. Because I wasn’t even interested enough to read a review, of a film I knew I’d never see. See? 🙂

    Very foggy, this morning, but it’s supposed to burn off and be a nice day. Time will tell.

    Both Susanne and Eleanor thought the cookies were good, and really didn’t need any frosting. They weren’t appalled that I’d slipt one over on them, and subjected them to Hubbard squash cookies, instead of pumpkin (round, orange).

    Off to have my weekly gas with Scott. The library. Hit the High Street, and see if I can flog a bit of old silver, etc.. The veg store. I go here, I go there. I do this, I do that. Lew

  23. Hi Lewis,

    Not much of a fan of the Batman series either and I wouldn’t have gone to see this film other than the editor was intrigued by the reviews and wanted to make her own mind up. On the other hand the film was rather fascinating.

    The reason I suspect for all the horror that people put into the reviews was that the Joker came off looking pretty good, and the Wayne family and all other respectable members of polite society were portrayed as the bad guys. In fact the Joker was a character who you developed sympathy with, and there were any number of lost chances for society to assist the character from taking his slide into darkness. And the lower echelon’s of the population were sort of rooting for the Joker. What the heck does that say about your society? I didn’t at all feel the horror that people expressed, but I can see how the film might make people feel uncomfortable. See? Well it might do you no harm to see it – and there wasn’t even a batman in sight! 😉

    I quite enjoy a good fog. I wouldn’t use the term ‘warm’ to describe the weather here. Overcast with occasional drizzle, and an absence of tomato seedlings.

    A fine test of the ladies palates, and best of all, you passed muster. Dare I mention again that the difference between a squash and a pumpkin appears very blurry to my mind? Oops – I mentioned it again? 🙂 Hehe! It is true though, I have never understood the story.

    Best of luck with the hunting, gathering, and disposing of oddments of silver. Did you score any good vegetables? And is the new store still running?

    I reckon the wildlife would adapt to a feline, but I’m really not sure how it would work out and so I’m following my gut feeling and conservative nature – and doing nothing on that front. There is some sort of vague memory tickling my brain about the name for that sort of a rule of thumb which more or less suggests that if you’re not sure – go easy on any changes? Dunno, can you recall what it might be? I’ve seen management fads sweep through businesses.

    The fires are messed up and the political responses have been very unhelpful. One notable politician began making some good points, and then appears to have blown it by talking about magnetic fields on the sun. Yes, I guess it may be hard to accept personal culpability in such matters, and feel good stories don’t tend to upset the tummy and agitate the personality…

    Years ago when I restumped a house (replacing the rotting timber stumps with concrete) I used one of those clear hose spirit levels, and they’re really good and accurate over very long distances.

    Mate, it is all I can do to get a single walnut tree established. They just keep dying on me, but this seedling tree looks like it may take. I may try to raise a few seedling trees myself in the future, but for now, my plate is a bit full with other projects. Spotted a new site for a new shed the other day. Woo Hoo! New shed.

    Never saw the Peter Mayle book for teen’s, but I was probably a bit young in those days and the only book I saw was the kids version. There was need for some information back then on the matter as it was scant and very thin on the ground. In these enlightened times I have heard a credible report that the kids are using porn to inform them on such matters nowadays. Not good. A little bit of middle ground and a sensible approach might be not a bad idea. However, there are just too many groups poking their noses into other peoples business and some of those groups, dare I say it, get-off on messing with peoples heads over the subject. Would you suggest it is a power and control move?

    The Kansas story was one that I too had heard, but I hadn’t realised that the flu could travel between swine and humans. We’re doing our best here to keep African Swine Fever out of the country, but people are continually trying to bring in pork product. Two people have been deported from the airport recently for allegedly not declaring their pork based products. And it is probably the best use for sniffer dogs who go through peoples baggage.

    Don’t you reckon sometimes that your brain just gets full of stuff? It is like a tube of toothpaste with the cap still on. A squeeze of the tube here or there will inevitably find the weakest spot. And the tube is full and so not much more product can get squooshed (I was hoping to get that word in somewhere!) in. Maybe it is just me?

    Very amusing about the flower bed!

    Flour and grains are a very complicated story, and things are less diverse these days, what with the concentration of seed ownership and distribution. I’m not sure that I’m entirely comfortable with the scenario.

    Chuck’s book maybe early next year. How did you enjoy Orville Season 1? Have you learned any new bits of information on Hadrian’s wall? And yes, I too agree with you that Merlyn is establishing a benign feudal system – and what interests me about that (and I’d be curious as to your thoughts on the subject) is that the character takes himself to task when he does not know the people who report to him in the function of officers and/or councillors. The Lance book turned up in the mail today.



  24. Hi everyone,

    The mid-week hiatus will continue today, and break tomorrow. It is a dangerous beastie the hiatus thingee. ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves. So yeah, watch out for updates and keep away from slavering monsters looking to devour chunks of text! Apologies, I’m rabitting on…



  25. Yo, Chris – I’ll see your Joker, and raise you Ned Kelly :-). Bad boys (and girls) often become heroes to the common folk. Sticking it to The Man, and all that. Product of his (or her) environment. No personal responsibility. See: crim dying on the floor of a convenience store in “Repo Man.”

    Finally! Got a couple of blossoms on my peas. Wonder if there’s any pollinators around?

    Didn’t get as much as I’d have like, for the stuff I flogged. But, it’s money, and the stuff is out of my hair (so to speak.) I don’t know if the veg store is going to make it, or not. Now I always go on the same day, at the same time. Under the previous owner, there were always been people in the store, and running in and out. The last three times I’ve been there, I’m the only customer. Not quit as wide a selection, doesn’t look quit as good. Slightly higher prices.

    Rule of thumb? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Another shed? Junk expands to fill the space, allowed.™ Which reminds me. Did I miss the memo? About the mystery machine?

    Animals are reservoirs for disease. They mutate, and come back around as, maybe, something more lethal. Or, more easily spread. Swine, birds, bats, rats, prairie dogs. Of course, it works both ways. Humans can perculate something benign, to us, that will kill animals.

    Smuggling pork didn’t make any sense, to me, until I remembered that my Dad always used to bring back a suitcase of sausage from Nebraska.

    Lance book? Maybe, Lofts book? That puzzled me for a good long time. But the say I shed mentions of books …

    Can’t really remember much about “Orville”, season one. Other than that it was funny, and I enjoyed it. Sometimes, after a year, I have to go to Wikipedia, and refresh my memory. Speaking of media, continuing the Chehalis International Australian Film Festival, last night I watched “The Sapphires.” I see it’s from 2012, and why we’re getting it now, I don’t know. I quit liked it. But, consulting the Net, after, the film had very little relationship to true events. Oh, well.

    “Hadrian’s Wall” is pretty good. But there’s still a lot we don’t know. Seems like they were always tinkering, tinkering with it. I suppose every incoming commander, or, new administration in Rome, had a better idea :-). Sometimes, they think there may have been attacks on the wall, and that was a response, But, they don’t know for sure. Whole centuries are silent on what was going on in Britain.

    Well, how’s this for a dream. A raven and a crow are looking in a shop window. I sneak up behind them, grab the raven by the feet, and smash him twice on the pavement. And, I quit like ravens. Suzanne grabbed her I-Whatever, and such a dream indicates I will avoid misfortune. Well, I’m all for that, but not at the expense of a raven. Lew

  26. Hi Chris,
    Been a busier week than I expected so haven’t been online too much which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We always had cats at the old house and they lived in the barn. They never caught all that many birds but when they did it was usually
    migrating songbirds not the pesky bird residents of the barn. Voles were a favorite. We won’t get any here as we don’t really have a barn.

    Doug and I saw The Joker. Even though it was disturbing it wasn’t what I was expecting and we both liked it. Frankly I’ve seen much more disturbing stuff on tv.


    migrating songbirds

  27. @DJ

    It is indeed winter here. We’ve had eleven inches of snow over three different occasions. It felt quite balmy on our walk this morning at 25F with no wind. Supposed to moderate some but still significantly below normal.
    Heard there’s a road salt shortage plus the cost is three times more than two years ago.


  28. Hi Claire,

    I see that you have a new blog up: An Opinionated Person’s Guide to Growing Fruit and Nuts, Part 1 . Top work with the title and I’ll aim to read it tonight or tomorrow night.

    Such cold temperatures are outside of my regular experience and I have no idea what to make of them, however the season is err, progressing in its usual fashion. This week marks the shift between Very High UV to Extreme UV. And 3 corn seeds have germinated! Yay! A couple of hundred to go!

    How do you reckon the garlic fared in the cold snap? They seem pretty hardy and being a bulb I reckon they’d be OK, other than the difficulty of extracting them from frozen ground (imagine frozen ground…) Like your choice, I’d go with the harvesting option as well. Mulching is either done or not done, and there is time for it next season, although it does lock in the cold weather into the soil in early spring. Did you manage to mulch the garden beds in the brief interval in your cold weather?

    My pleasure and Ricey was a real character of a cat. Most of the animals that end up living here are free independent thinkers, but I do sort of encourage that outcome – and she had her own thoughts by the tonne! 🙂



  29. Hi Inge,

    I hear you, and likewise I have very limited visual recall. That does not mean that the inner workings of my brain is an entirely blank slate. Far from it, it is just that I don’t recall memories in terms of visual images.

    The recall question is an interesting one isn’t it, but at the same time it is a moot point because like you, I just know, and have solid recognition. I doubt a person could cope in society without recognition as a day-to-day tool. It would be a nightmare for me to be plonked in front of a person working for the police who drew people based upon peoples recollections as to what they looked like. But then show me an image and I’d point at a person and go, yeah that was the person who did it.

    And yeah, I too recognise that my dreams are my brains way of interpreting and processing upon the events of the day. Although sometimes I can wake up after a dream and have the answer to a particularly complicated matter – or it can be a touch of inspiration which may lead me in unexpected directions that I may not have considered during my waking hours. The farm here is less planning and more of an unfolding process. I suspect that if the end plan were known in advance, I may shy away from the work involved.

    I do occasionally worry that in people sparing their kids the effort of contributing, they also neglect to consider that at some point in the future the kids won’t know how to contribute when it is expected of them. Knowing how to do so is just another set of mental tools for them to learn.

    How old were the houses in Fish Lake? I once rented in a project housing estate that was located on an old creek bed and never thought about it until the normally dry creek bed flooded. 🙂



  30. Hi Pam,

    Thank you and it was a pleasure to bring the memory of Ricey back to life. She was a bit of a character the cat, and once jumped onto the kitchen bench-top, and whilst we weren’t looking, hooked a steak and sent it onto the kitchen floor, where the dogs scoffed it down. That was a mystery because we never really knew what happened but it may also explain my preference for vegetarian food nowadays! It’s complicated.

    But of course your trusty side kick: Mr Jackson, only set the tone and was of no reflection upon the character of your good self. I shall quaff a small cup of sake this evening in salute of such fine animals as Mr Jackson. I’ve known a Jack Russel in the long past and she was also a fine dog.

    I’m not suggesting that the blokes looked as if they were on their way to a Highland gathering in those red shorts, but it sure looked that way to me. And you’ve forced my hand here, so I’ll make a prediction that the Madras sportscoats may make a comeback. Need I point to the grunge era of the early 90’s when flannel shirts were all the rage?

    Well, 3 corn seeds have germinated and that is a reassuring sign. Still no tomatoes though. Tomorrow I’ll get the watering systems installed. It involves a robot. Everyone needs a robot and I hope this one will like me?

    The ferns would be offended by the name change, although I take your point on board. This sake is strong stuff and all one can hope for is to continue to make sense…

    A mate dropped around a cane of sugar cane the other day and suggested that I plant it. The mulch is good stuff and I use it in the chicken enclosure for their bedding straw. I’ve found that the chickens – who like Mr Jackson are usually up for mischief – aren’t able to kick it around as easily. But the sweetness of sugar cane is hard to forget.

    The American paw paws have germinated in full sun, but they did so in the soil of a very rich raised garden bed which gets some watering in dry periods, and who knows how they’ll grow over the summer months. I’ll plant them out in late autumn.

    Labels have a habit of disappearing when least expected! The Gazania’s on the other hand look well entrenched and I do hope that they expand their range. And I hear you, sunny space is a rare commodity when near to a forest.

    Toothy sends greetings to you and also believes that he is worthy of being considered as a flower. The native clematis are everywhere, and I sort of suspect that long ago they once played a bigger part in the forests here.

    A person can only adapt to living on a slope and so spirit levels are great guides to better outcomes with projects! After having corrected the timber floors of several buildings in the past I can sort of feel when things are a bit off level. Is this a secret super power? Possibly not, if only because I have now disclosed it to you.

    I too loved the Peter Mayle Provence books and I really enjoyed his tactics for getting the house finished, by inviting the spouses of the tradies over for dinner to see how things err, had progressed. Wouldn’t have thought of doing that myself… But the stories of the food were great!

    Yup, and late next week they’ll be enjoying a heatwave.



  31. Hi DJ,

    A mate of mine fell off a ladder doing just that recently, so be careful. Since then I have mentioned to him that pole saws are ingenious devices and he appears to have taken up the challenge and obtained one. However, years ago I read a story about Centenarians on the isle of Sardinia, and one story was of one such who was climbing into the branches of a lemon tree to do just what you were doing with the pruning saw. You’ve reminded me that it is about time that I’ve purchased an orchard ladder. And I salute your fine recovery protocols. It may not pass the usual occupational health and safety biz, but if it works?

    Train travel is a fine way to get around in style. And need I mention that the rocking motion of the trains inevitably put me to sleep, although I would always opt for a sleeper cabin than a chair. Standards must be maintained, ol’ chap! And the shadow of the English has long been cast over the sub-continent and I enjoyed my brief travels there across the north of the country. The people were lovely but one must always recall the outliers because back in the day there were the: Thuggies.

    Yup, plugging up windy gaps with insulation is an effective strategy to staying warm over winter. Under the timber floor here, I hung 200mm thick glass wool insulation bats, and it is worth it. The wind steals heat over winter.

    I defer to your greater knowledge of the elder folk, whilst also pointing out that there is no shame in running for your very life! Hehe! But yeah, what a pickle of a situation they’d put you in.

    You’re probably right about the Dachshunds but it is something of a breed trait. Although I once went to pat someone’s small Pomeranian (I have no experience with dogs that small) and it looked at me as if to say: I’m feeling really vulnerable here, although I’d really enjoy the pat. So I went in to pat the dog who was waiting patiently for me, and then the little blighter bit me. I couldn’t believe it, and the dog looked pleased as with the ruse.



  32. Hi Damo,

    Ricey was a fine specimen of our feline friends. Hey, I went today to the Serendip Sanctuary and they had a Spotted Quoll (native marsupial cat) running around and climbing all over its enclosure. Far out, a Quoll would give a cat a run for its money. The weather wasn’t so good, so we had the huge place to ourselves, and I noted the signs to alert visitors to not put their fingers through the steel mesh of the enclosure where the Quoll was. Strong jaws and perhaps no finger after such foolish acts.

    But yeah, I hear you and mileage can vary with cats. And you never know what sort of cat you’ll end up with. To some degree the dogs accept a bit of training which is a form of self-monitoring, but then there is another word for that: Socialisation. I do recall your Siamese cats had one of the best views (from their sleeping position, albeit otherwise known as number one fighting stance) overlooking the harbour. 🙂

    There has been a fox lurking around the chicken enclosure late into the night of late and I’m pretty sure it is working hard to consume the rats and mice. But any rat or mouse caught by the chickens is in for a hard time. You’d hope that the makers of Jurassic Park spent some time observing a group of chickens destroying a nest of mice before CGI’ing the dinosaurs? Some people believe that chickens are vegetarians. Au contraire!

    Hope you are enjoying the podcast, and the editor is a real fan. No doubts Mrs Damo will love it too.

    Exactly, the fires up there are close to your folks part of the world. Hope they stay safe, although I’m certain by now they’re alert. Later in the week a heatwave is rolling on in. Thursday is set to be 35’C down here, so who knows what it will be like up north.

    I definitely have some thoughts on the subject and may write about it next week, but then I had another subject I was considering writing about. It is a complicated business, and you’ve seen how big the trees are here. As an observation, there is no ‘one size fits all’ response and that is unfortunately what people are looking for. People who live in towns and cities that were once covered by open woodland tend to exert their guilt by suggesting that enough is enough and nothing shall happen from that point onwards. The thing is I noticed that on the outskirts of the Sanctuary today, there is a housing estate being built on what would have once been fertile grasslands. Years ago I spoke with a state politician for this area, (I was a volunteer firey at the time) and she said that there was a huge amount of whingeing from constituents whenever controlled burns took place. You would be amazed by the story that was recounted to me.

    There is a beautiful painting of what one of the early talented settlers saw: Rethinking Indigenous Australia’s agricultural past.



  33. Hi Inge,

    Surely your son is taking the piss with that description? 🙂 Although I accept that he may be a fan of such a machine. The only machines I dream of are ones that are not fans of humanity…



  34. Hi Lewis,

    Oh yeah, it is funny that you mention old Ned, but by all accounts the local constabulary pushed things too far with him, his neighbours and his family. Having read a few accounts of the story, reading between the lines I get the feeling that there were numerous occasions where cooler heads may have intervened. Instead that didn’t happen, and matters escalated. It was always of interest to me that after the events, cooler official heads were stationed in the area, and despite the lingering tensions between the settlers and officialdom, there were few flare ups. Put it simply, the officialdom in the area at the time appear to have been a bunch of numpties.

    And I didn’t quite mention all of the facts of the Joker film. There was one or two brief glimpses of the young Bruce Wayne, but far out his folks looked like a bunch of numpties who were first up against the wall come the revolution. Whatever they were doing heading out for a night on the town during a riot, well let’s just say that it didn’t end well for them.

    Oh my! I’d forgotten the memorable scene from a truly astounding film. Yes, society did indeed make him do it – and was to blame for the crazy goings on. 🙂 How is this for an understated line: “You’re gonna be alright man. … … Maybe not”. Cool. Ah, Repo Man. I have often wondered whether Quentin Tarantino hadn’t watched that particular film more than a few times.

    You can always hand pollinate the pea blossoms? I saw some very seriously dense stands of sweet pea today, and I was really impressed with the many shades of colours of the flowers. My lot tend to be of a purple colour. I never planted them, but once long ago I brought in a bale of pea straw mulch. And I’ve never looked back, the plants are feral. Maybe, they’re the true Triffids? But I admire your confidence, but hmm, yeah, growing seasons and all that…

    And you may laugh, but I discovered that 3 of the nearly 200 corn seeds have finally germinated today. This season is truly bonkers. The extreme heat and dry last season made things look easy. There are still no tomatoes anywhere yet. Not as late as they’ve been, but it is right up there in terms of seasonal anomalies.

    Bummer, but selling stuff is like that – which I’ve noted may be why other folks hang on to their stories about how much their stuff is worth if only they sold it. I’ll bet you’ve heard that story before having been in the tat trade? People tell me such stories and my inner warning klaxons begin screeching. If ever I put something up for auction I price it at $0.01 for about a week with a no reserve in the title. I learned a long time ago that I have no idea how much things are worth second hand – and it can always be surprising to discover the truth of the valuation. In the last month I sold something, only to discover that the price for it had doubled since I purchased the item only five years ago. What’s with that?

    Ouch. Sorry to hear about the change in the veg store. They might sort things out in time – or ask for the help of the previous owners? You mentioned that the old bloke had a good handle on the supply side of things.

    A fine rule of thumb. It is tickling my brain – something about not making changes, I dunno, my brain now hurts. 🙂 Yes, yes, it is true. Another shed. Nope, about the junk / expanding space matter. I’m really not sure what other things are in our future on that front, if only because there is no pressing need. The mystery machine is still something of a mystery. Although I have plans to install the watering robot tomorrow. Everyone needs a robot. Although I wouldn’t want the revolting robot in the Alien film. Or thinking about it a bit, Robocop and the Terminator appear to also be very bad news. In fact, if I had to call it, and I’m up for that, artificial intelligence is really bad news. What if they decide they don’t like us humans?

    There was a news report about the plague the other day. Your mention of prairie dogs brought the story to mind. These things are with us always.

    The pork from Nebraska may have been better? The pork from Vietnam or Timor may be better, but they may also be infected with swine Ebola. If you have a moment, here is an article on sniffer dogs in our airports: Sniffer dog Suki finds pork and other biosecurity risks during first month on the job in Darwin.

    The Lance by Jack Whyte. The book has a different title in other countries. Glad to hear that the Chehalis International Australian film festival is roaring ahead! I have not watched the film, if only because of the threat of music. Yes, I disappoint myself sometimes too. Glad to read that you liked it. Certainly the story was loosely based, but the Stolen Generations bit was unfortunately very real. But then I have known a few folks over the years who were adopted as they were taken from their single mothers at birth by the acts of the Catholic Church. Things were weird back then, and I was lucky indeed to have avoided such a fate.

    A better idea. Hehe! Nice one. Is that code word for: It seemed like a good idea at the time?

    Stay safe, and remember to be nice to the Ravens, you never know when they may come to your assistance? Suzanne may of course be right as I have not engaged my I-brain to interpret the story.



  35. Hi Marget,

    A digital detox is not a bad idea. You know people actually pay to stay for a weekend in such places where they can do just that? And I saw an article about someone who took a trip aboard a container vessel so as to break their digital habits. It seems much easier not to get addicted in the first place don’t you reckon? Or better still, like you, just be busy. 🙂

    Hey, that’s what I heard about the film, and also what I thought about the film. It was hardly disturbing, except that the good guys were the bad guys in the film. And you have to admit that they weren’t portrayed well? And who would willingly head out into a riot for a night on the town? Something, something about hubris leading to nemesis…



  36. Chris:

    How can you tell a robot from just a machine?

    Oh – the new shed will house the mystery machine?

    I love the painting of the Indigenous agriculture and the article with it is great. Thanks.

    I know that the germination of 3 out of 200 corn seeds doesn’t sound like much, but it seems a good sign. And I think that corn seeds germinate at a lower temperature than tomatoes, so that sounds about right.

    @ Chris and Inge:

    It seems that I only recall memories visually.


  37. Hello again
    I understand that the flooded houses are post WW2. Builders love building on nice flat flood plains; the planners should refuse permission but no doubt it is made worth their while to give approval.
    Son only said that his dream self loved the machine, his waking self was highly amused.
    I mentioned the huge eating apples that Son had been given. I eat only a quarter at a time and it occurred to me that I could measure one of the apples. So here we are:- the circumference is 12 ins and the top to bottom circumference is a smidgen under 12 ins.
    Son is in potential trouble, his wretched dog has managed to escape taking the other 2 males with him. Son has phoned around but each time the dogs have gone by the time that he gets there. He reckons that he may have to get rid of Flynn the leader who is the only dog that he hasn’t had since a puppy.


  38. Yo, Chris – All this talk of outlaws, reminded me of a local story. TheWild Man of the Wynooche.

    There’s been a couple of books written, about him.

    I’ll leave the peas, to their own devices. I’ve got them sandwiched in between two layers of fence (deer). We have sweet peas that pop up in odd places, here. But, given that our gardens are fairly well controlled, they’re not much of a problem. Are you sure it was three corn kernels that germinated and not four? :-). I get it. I’m equally excited by my two pea blossoms. Not three. I checked, this morning.

    People selling stuff in the tat trade, can be pretty bonkers. Of course, there’s the entire “previous investment” syndrome. Or, “My brother-in-law told me this was worth (insert some outrageous amount of money, here.)” I’d ask those folks if their BIL was waving mad cash around. And that, if he offered even half the stated amount, they should grab it and run. The you have “It’s exactly like…” Only, it wasn’t. Also, there’s the old rule of law that people selling think condition makes no difference. It’s only buyers who think condition is important. Another law of the trade: Just cause it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s valuable. I did a bit better, yesterday. I had three items … two I had picked up on my trip to Packwood, and one was in a box of stuff I bought at auction. Total cost: $10 or $12 dollars. I got $25 for all three pieces. Well, it paid for my gas to Packwood :-). And got them out of my hair. (So to speak). Your sad tale of flogging second hand something? Supply and demand? Madness of crowds? Phase of the moon?

    Well, the fellow that owns the veg store also owns another fruit stand and organic restaurant, that I think do quit well. He’s been in the biz, for years. Might be he’s split his own customer base, and not picked up enough of the previous owners customer base?

    That was quit a tale of the sniffer dog, Suki. I was a bit surprised at some of the banned stuff, on the list. Sometimes, in some of our seed catalogs, I’ll see, “Cannot ship to….” and then a list of states. Usually only applies to plants. California has agricultural check points, at the main roads in. Noticed those when I was a kid. I checked, and they’re still there. Our borders (both state and national) are so permeable, it’s kind of pointless. Someone always breaks quarantine. Only a vanishing small amount of containers, from overseas, get checked. There’s some kind of super termite, devouring New Orleans (as if they didn’t have enough problems). It came in on some lumber, years ago, from SE Asia. And, they’re spreading. My dad just swore that no one made sausage like, “those old German ladies.” :-).

    Well, there’s musicals, and there’s musicals. This was more like a concert. And, being the 60’s, it was mostly Motown.

    Well, I checked Suzanne’s dream analysis on line. It’s if you dream of a dead raven. Didn’t find anything about killing a raven.

    Our two Magic Food Boxes, show up today. Treasures! Wonder if they’ll be any extra goodies, as the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up? Lew

  39. @ Margaret,

    You know it ahs been cold when 25F feels warm! 11″ already? Even where you are it’s early for that much snow, isn’t it?


  40. Chris,

    I hear you about the ladder. I have a limit for how high I climb and that decreases as conditions warrant. For the maples, I’ve exhausted what I can safely and confidently reach from the ladder. Next up is either buying or rigging up a pole saw. Appreciate the idea.

    Thuggees? What a reminder of the darker side of life. The American Old West had its version: Road Agents. If/when we travel by train I will keep a sharp watch out for both!

    I’ve placed thick fiberglass insulation in the areas between the main floor and the top of the foundation. Well, in parts of the house. There are some areas of the basement that had walls placed over the concrete foundation by previous owners. I doubt that they bothered to add the insulation first. Redoing that is a future project in my days out of the work force.

    I know piling the bags of leaves around the foundation adds something. The best luck I’ve had with that was when we had a season’s wood stacked under the old back patio awning and a the sides of the roof tarpped off to keep rain and snow off the wood. That was layers of insulation, albeit not directly against the house, as well as an effective wind break. The rare years with record setting snowfall required raking snow off the roof. Snow was about 1.75 meters high around most of the house. It actually added quite a bit of wind break.

    Thor had a saying, allegedly:”When in doubt don’t muck about, pull a bigger hammer out.” That’s all well and good for him, but I agree with you, said slightly differently: “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.”

    My limited experience with Pomeranians and related breeds of similar size is that 1) they are incessantly noisy and 2) they will bite the very hand that feeds them if in a foul mood. And the foul mood could be prevalent. Larger dogs for me.

    Had some rain and some light winds today. So, most of the leaves dropped from the hawthorn trees this week. Getting those raked and bagged will be the last of the required outdoor stuff before winter.


  41. Hi Pam,

    What a question – and I have no idea what the difference may be? On the other hand I feel that the term ‘water robot’ appeals to my inner geek and so will continue to use it. 🙂 Like most jobs here, installing the water robot took many more hours today than expected and I’ll hopefully get it all sorted out tomorrow, with maybe a lamington and sausage roll thrown in for good measure.

    Too good! Yes!

    The painting is amazing, and the book is a truly fascinating and exhaustive compilation of early eye-witness accounts. The historian knew that the contents of the book might be dare I say it? Inflammatory. 😉 Anyway, he went over-board with examples so that claims as to cherry picking were not possible. The original folks of this land, just looked at it differently than the current culture does. A bit of a shame that.

    Thanks for the ‘buck up little camper’ reminder as I was feeling like the growing season would never get underway. I spotted the first really tiny tomatoes today. It will be interesting to see whether the growth of the seed raised tomatoes exceeds that of the seedling varieties. Dunno. Hey, the more I learn about chilli plants, the less I feel confident that I’ll ever get them to self-seed and produce the plants from sown seeds in the ground. The soil temperature for their germination is just bonkers hot.

    It is endlessly fascinating what a different continuum of experiences and skills we all have. The inner workings of my mind on a visual front produce mostly a blank. But all of the other senses produce strong memories. Who knows what it all means? I only became aware that other people recalled memories differently about a year ago. Who knew?



  42. Hi Inge,

    Oh my! I had no idea the flooding was as bad as it is. The Guardian had a photo essay on the flooding in Fish Lake (and yes, the name is a dead-giveaway). In a serendipitous moment (please excuse the pun), yesterday I visited the nearby Serendip Sanctuary which is an amazing haven for birds. There are two large lakes within the sanctuary, and one of the lakes dries up over summer. When there I learned that there are patches of land which are technically known as an Ephemeral Wetland, in that most of the time they are quite dry, but every now and then the wetland fills up with water. Fish Lake is probably a lot like that. In the sanctuary, there were even a couple of emu’s grazing upon the lush green grass on the edge of the lakes. As far as birds go, emu’s are huge – and they leave half sized cow pats all over the place.

    That is a big apple. My math tells me that the diameter of the apple is about 4 inches, which is about an inch bigger than what I would expect from an apple. Out of curiosity is the tree located near to a water course (either visible or invisible / underground)? Given the dry year you had during the growing season I would have expected the apples to be smaller rather than bigger. That’s what happens here to fruit during dry and hot summers.

    I did a bit of digging today and was happy to see that whilst the soil surface is dry, not far underneath is retaining a huge quantity of water.

    Flynn, matey, you had it good and you may just have blown it.

    Inge, it happens although none of mine have dared such an adventure. Although once the occasionally naughty Toothy took Sir Poopy off on an adventure. I made sure that when Sir Poopy came back alone later in the day, that he knew that he’d done wrong. Toothy turned up again in the middle of the night. I suspect that he’d been cornered by a wombat in a wombat hole and was lucky not to have been crushed.

    Did the errant Flynn return?



  43. Hi DJ,

    I have a mains powered pole saw and the technology is very good. Much better than falling from a ladder, although pole saws are not without risk and a person needs to ensure that branches do not fall upon their personage. That happened to me and it sure did hurt.

    My mate fell off a ladder whilst he was pruning and taking an interview – as you do. We have a simple rule about ladders: Whoever is up the ladder is in charge of the job and they are to be left to their own devices and not disturbed. I once fell off a ladder (as has the editor) and so we need not be told a second time…

    I’d never heard of the term ‘road agent’ before, but yeah. Avoid them like the plague and be wary when travelling in unfamiliar territory. They were also known as ‘highway men’ back in the day.

    Good to see that you are considering life after work. Hobbies and projects are a great way to keep ones mind sharp, although time does blunt that keen edge. But then, with time you earn a bit of experience and can know in advance how things will turn out. So I reckon that evens out the playing field a bit? Maybe? What do you reckon about that? There has to be some advantages to this getting older business. Hehe!

    Your winters can occasionally be very brutal. Out of curiosity do people attempt to burn frozen firewood? And does it actually burn? I keep all of my firewood for use in sheds just to keep the moisture content low. Having burned one steel firebox out I’m not keen to repeat the expensive experience. I suspect that quite a few people around here ran out of firewood this year.

    Thor displays a devil may care attitude but I prefer caution, and reiterate that there is no shame in running to the hills!

    No worries and yeah everyone has different expectations in relation to canines. I’m aiming for a small, medium and large dog and that might cover most bases. Scritchy is a very small dog.

    Lock down for winter! I spotted the very first tomato seedlings today. They are tiny and the season is very far behind the normal turn of events. Oh well. I gave everything a big water today to try and get the seeds to germinate in the sun (but very cool air). Oh well.



  44. Hi Lewis,

    John Tornow – The Wild Man of the Wynoochee, Washington got a raw deal. Thanks for the story, for some reason it made me sorry for the fate of the bloke, although he clearly didn’t want a bar of society and took advantage of circumstances as they presented themselves – without understanding the consequences. But that meant that he also lacked the ability to discriminate and make different choices.

    That’s an option with the peas, but by May (if things were upside down here your November weather would be my May) there are few pollinating insects around, although to be fair the European honey bees will forage if there is a warmer day, and it doesn’t take that much for the plants to pollinate. One year was so warm that I had fresh tomatoes into June, so you really never know how such things will turn out.

    Hey, I spotted the very first tiny little seed raised tomatoes today. I let out a big sigh of relief upon seeing them, and then spent the remainder of the day getting the water robot working. I put a bit of water down so that the remaining seeds began breaking their dormancy. Of course most jobs take far longer than a person would imagine and the water robot was one of those. And as I dug a few trenches for water pipes I noticed that there was plenty of water in the top soil. The soil surface looks quite dry now, but it is only skin deep at this stage. There may be now about 10 corn plants…

    Mate, I’ve sold stuff and had people tell me those stories afterwards. It goes a bit like this: “Oh mate, you got ripped, as I reckon that the item is worth at least… Boozit, boozit, boozit (say it fast and you’ll know what I mean)!” Except you never see people offering such amounts of mad cash in order to purchase the items. I mentioned the other day to someone that opinions are like rear ends and everyone has got one. 🙂 You are made of staunch stuff to have played the tat trade. And I really liked the rule of thumb about: “people selling think condition makes no difference. It’s only buyers who think condition is important.” Yeah, too true.

    Some older stuff is also out of context and has no use. I mean horse-drawn ploughs are no good at all without draught horses to pull them. That is why people leave them out in the rain and pretend that they are garden ornaments.

    Probably a phase of the moon – at a guess! 🙂 Otherwise known as The Dark Side of the Tat Trade.

    Out of curiosity, how do prices and quality compare to the old veg place? Lack of a regular supply can put people off. I know down here, the farmers markets circulate through the towns, but that can mean that you don’t see the sellers again for another month – and um, well, that probably doesn’t make for a consistent availability of fruit and veg.

    I checked the almond trees this morning and the nuts are huge this year. Possibly due to the wet winter? Dunno, but the trees also seem to be doing pretty well. And the early Asian pears seem to be getting larger by the day.

    That happens here too, and the tyranny of distance can achieve a fair bit of quarantine. Outside of the capital cities we don’t really have that many large towns. I mean it is a huge distance between here and say the city of Perth over on the other side of the continent. And there really isn’t a lot out there on the Nullabor Plain (that is Latin for Null Arbor which is a dead give-away really). But then the island state of Tasmania also enjoys natural quarantine borders. Mind you, as the climate warms up, the dreaded fruit fly is heading south and has apparently made it as far south as the apple growing area to the north of my place.

    Termites are a thing here too, and those ‘super termites’ looked an awful lot like the ones here. I keep a close lookout for the pesky little critters, but there are also steel ant caps on the top of each of the concrete stumps that the house sits on. But yeah, you can never be too certain that the termites haven’t broken through the protection. You may notice that the sheds here are constructed largely using steel?

    Your dad was probably right about the sausages. Years ago I knew a bloke who used to bake sausage rolls using traditional bratwurst sausages. They were a thing of excellence, but alas he moved to the state of Queensland… I’m yet to see his rival, but sooner or later someone may crack the secret baking code to true sausage roll excellence.

    I like Motown music.

    Do you recall why in the dream the Raven had to be killed? It may signify something other than the actual act itself. Scritchy almost killed herself today. She was being an idiot (at 18 years old mind you) and she jumped off the veranda and landed on her face. I thought she’d broken her neck as she was very odd for a short while after that. But really weirdly, she’s now back to normal – whatever that is in her case. She just refuses to slow down and old age has made her slightly bonkers.

    You may find some pumpkin flavoured items in the magic food box? Did you score and/or swap anything good?



  45. Hello again
    I hadn’t thought of measuring the diameter of the apples, have now done so. Less than you reckoned, it is 3 1/2 ins. I have seen large cooking apples but never an eater that even approaches this size. Weather doesn’t seem to affect the apple harvest in this country, we seem to provide the ideal climate whatever. The only difference is due to them being biennial. Odd that none of them seem to get out of line i.e different trees alternating which would be handy. I don’t know about this particular tree’s site, I’ll ask Son but he may not know either.
    Poor Son is seriously stressed about the dogs. Yesterday evening he reckoned that they had probably been shot and there is the possibility that he is in a lot of trouble. Anyhow, Ren returned this morning. Flynn and Woody are still missing.


  46. @DJ

    Yes this unusual for us. A dusting or an inch that melts fairly quickly is normal (whatever normal is anymore).


  47. Yo, Chris – Bandits and highway men. Here, the stagecoach or train robber was a kind of cultural icon. One of the first “feature films” was the silent, “The Great Train Robbery.”

    Warning! Digression Ahead! There are things out there in the tat trade, called Staffordshire figures. Mostly known are the infamous chimney dogs. The were English made, mostly in the early, to mid 19th century. Sometimes called “fairings”, as they were often sold at country fairs. Besides the dogs, there were hundreds of other forms. In a way, they were kind of like our Currier and Ives prints, in that they were a form of media, before there was mass media. Famous people, historic figures or events. They were mostly bought by the middle class, to give the parlor a bit of culture and flash. But my point is (there is a point) that there were figures of notorious highway men, usually on their horses. Dick Turpin, comes to mind. There were also “murder houses” or barns, where infamous crimes took place. I’ve got a couple, and always have my eye out for some. I’ve got “Little Red Riding Hood” (with wolf) and Little Eva from the book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” If you do a quick search at E-Bay, under “Staffordshire Figures” you’ll get an idea of the vast amount of subject matter. There are reproductions floating around, out there.

    And now back to our regularly scheduled programing … On second thought, I may try to hand fertilize a small amount of peas. Just enough to save seed for next year. I don’t know about peppers self sowing, but being lazy and not paying attention to detail, I ended up sowing seed into the ground. Well, the Jalapeno produced a bit, but the Beaver Creek only produced one plant … that hasn’t produced a pepper, yet. They’re both in my bedroom. I sowed seed from my last years tomatoes … and had some volunteers come up. They all caught up with each other, and did produce a good crop. But, didn’t ripen, except inside. But then, about half the varieties planted by The Ladies, didn’t ripen. It just wasn’t a good year, for some varieties of tomato. I saved more seed from tomatoes, last night. The green ones continue to ripen, inside.

    I passed the veg store, today. Noon on a Saturday. Only two cars in the lot, and one is probably an employee. As I said, quality and selection is slightly less than before, and prices are slightly higher. But they’ve got good prices on bulk purchases. They get huge bins of produce, that the previous owners didn’t have so much of. They may do ok, as I heard (rumor) that they sell a lot to restaurants. They were also very slow at sourcing local eggs. And, to set up to take ECB cards … aka, food stamps. Those two things just came in, last week. But they’ve got it on their reader board, out front, that they’re up and running on those fronts. I mentioned to them twice, about getting bulk oatmeal, but so far, none has appeared.

    When I mentioned your almond trees to one of the wags, around here, they asked if you were going to milk them. Ha, ha. :-(.

    I see there’s two cases of pneumonic plague, in China. That’s the air borne stuff, that’s about 100% lethal. Without treatment. The two cases came out of central China, where the folks eat raw Marmot. Which is a reservoir for plague. They think that’s where the Black Death started, and moved west, along the Silk Road, to ports and then, onto Europe. We get about 7 cases, a year, here in the States. But, the less lethal bubonic. The last big outbreak of pneumonic, was in Madagascar in 2017.

    We don’t have much of a problem with termites, here. Too cold and wet. But we have a variety of flying ant, that burrows through wood. I lived in a rental, when I first moved here (a grand old Victorian) and they had to pull off the whole back end and rebuild it, due to those ants.

    Well, in my dream, the raven and the crow were minding their own business, looking in a shop window. No idea what set me off to do in the raven. I could speculate, but I’d descend into pop psychology. Honestly, haven’t a clue.

    Well, they changed the distribution of the first round of boxes (Suzanne had a better idea :-(, so there wasn’t much opportunity to swap around. And, the second round of boxes is never quit so interesting. But I did all right. Other than one sweet potato and a small bag of some kind of dodgy turkey dressing (has the turkey right in it! Just add melted margarine!) nothing screamed Thanksgiving. Not even canned pumpkin. But I’m covered. I’ve got that fresh, frozen and canned. There was a bottle of some kind of Hawaiian hot sauce. That might be interesting. And, quit a bit of dodgy, processed stuff, that I tossed back.

    I’m feeling pretty cleaver (doesn’t happen very often). I think I mentioned that there were little packets of dried cranberries. Most of the Ladies put them on the swap table (more fool, them), so I have quit a stash. When I make my oatmeal, I’ve been laying down a layer, under the blueberries. They’re healthy, and extend my blueberry stash. Got some raisins, yesterday, and it occurred to me I can do the same, with them.

    I picked up a book, today, from the library, that I saw in a catalogue, and it sounded interesting. Also, a tale from your part of the world. “Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World” (Druett, 2007). In 1863, two ships, unbeknown to each other … I think, crashed on opposite ends of Auckland Island, (south of New Zealand. “The dismal conditions prove a test of leadership, as one crew band together and the other dissolves into chaos, revealing human nature at its best and worst.” Anyway, it sounded interesting. Lew

  48. @Lew
    Let us know how the shipwreck books turns out – those stories are always fascinating. And I see Auckland Island is a sort of tourist spot now for those who can afford the special boat cruise or charter flight. Back in the day it was a bit of a hot spot for shipwrecks, so much so, they ended up placing permanent supply caches all over the island

    All this talk of bush fire has finally got me to order “The Biggest Estate on Earth”. I am in Australia (in particular, north coast of NSW) for Christmas this year, and it feels like an appropriate holiday read with current events what they are…

    LOL @ number one fighting stance. Like the fluffy collective, those two cats had it figured out!


  49. Hi Inge,

    There was a bit of rounding in my calculations of the diameter of the apple, but it is still about 15mm wider in diameter than I’m used to seeing. My apple trees are not provided with additional water over summer, so the fruit is usually smaller than commercial varieties, but with the added side benefit of having more concentrated flavours.

    The apple trees here likewise compare notes and have some form of communication because they are usually all biennial as well. Commercial orchardists must have some way of counteracting that, and I may ask later in the year when next I encounter such people.

    Fingers crossed that your son is incorrect and the naughty canines have just been on an extended adventure. But time will tell. My gut feeling is that if the dogs were shot, it is possible that your son may never discover their fate. Give it a few days.



  50. Hi Lewis,

    I finished up work late this evening. The watering robot is now installed and running on the corn / strawberry terrace, as well as the next higher up terrace. It was one of those jobs which I believed would be simple, but was anything but that. Still, I managed to grab a lamington earlier in the day which I enjoyed with a coffee once we’d done as much work as we could. We ran out of materials! I couldn’t believe it. The two terraces used 330ft of drip lines. Who knew that it was that far? And that left two terraces with no drip lines, and no watering systems at all.

    I didn’t know that about the 1903 film. And it must have inspired crims because there actually was a Great Train Robbery in 1963. And Scotland Yard had a bloke back then with the title ‘thief-taker’. By all accounts the bloke was a monomaniac, and I’m pretty certain that I would have struggled working with him. But then he produces the results…

    A fine digression. I’ve never read ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, and it was curious to me that the book sold better in the UK than in the US. At a lunch long ago I encountered a lady who lived overseas and had a domestic servant. The families economic fall upon returning to Australia was a difficult experience for them, as access to all sorts of benefits they enjoyed overseas, suddenly disappeared. What was quite interesting to me was that I was hardly judgemental of their experience, but then they offered the unasked for side story regarding their domestic servant which was: ‘at least we didn’t beat her’. I’m reasonably easy going, but I was sort of wondering how I ended up in that particular conversation unasked for. Things that make you go, hmm. The thought popped into my head that maybe they wanted to? Dunno.

    I note in the Camulod series that news travels very slowly. However, what is interesting is that despite that, the news still travels and it seems like the activity of disseminating news was the purview of the travelling priests and druids.

    Well yeah, hand pollination is probably the way to go given how late your peas are in the growing season. You never know how things will turn out and they’re very cold hardy plants. Incidentally, some of the best experiments and results come from the school of: Just give it a go and see what happens. I’m yet to crack the secret for raising capsicum, eggplant and chilli’s outside in the soil, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not trying. I suspect that cold frames will assist the story.

    Jalapeno’s can be both hot or mild varieties, so there is a bit of diversity in that variety of the plant. I’m looking around for punnets of the milder varieties of chilli’s but I reckon it is still too early. If I had more free time, I’d set up my own seed raising building, but alas there is too much work before that occurs. It is on the cards eventually, just not in the short term.

    Restaurants have to purchase fruit and veg from somewhere, and if you can get into such a deal, it is not bad. A year or two back I encountered a bloke who did exactly that, but with bread. The returns are not exciting, but they’re guaranteed, and more importantly, they’re regular.

    Hehe! I like your style. The EBT (!) cards are fascinating little things. I have heard rumours that such cards are being considered down here. Call me a cynic, but I’m reminded of nothing other than people being rewarded for their labours by being able to purchase stuff at the local commissariat store using some sort of tokens which are not redeemable for hard currency.

    You have to love the cheeky wags and their politically incorrect talk. Which reminds me that the venerable old Scritchy enjoyed several chunks of lamington this evening, and then just because she felt aggrieved, she took a slash in front of me. Oh, Scritchy, don’t push your luck matey.

    The plague over there is a boondoggle. China has some serious issues with swine Ebola. Not much news comes out of that front, but in a weird twist of fate I know someone who is involved in the commercial pig meat industry, and they told me about the situation well before it was on the news.

    Termites are fans of damp timber, believe it or not. But on the other hand they enjoy warmer climates, and up north I observed huge termite mounds constructed out of the surrounding mud. Termites are like the worms of the dry country, and they perform similar functions. Personally I prefer the worms if only because the ants bite me and are highly aggressive. To the east of here there are huge worms. These things are feral big. Now where did I read about them recently? … … Giant Gippsland earthworms get council protections to preserve precious habitat

    Mate, I gotta bounce and get into some writing, otherwise things may be blank tomorrow. Ook!



  51. Hello again
    Two dogs are still missing. Farmers are legally allowed to shoot dogs on their land but they are supposed to inform the owners that this has happened. But who would know if you shot and buried?
    Here is a book recommendation for you:- ‘The summing up’ by W. Somerset Maugham. It is the best thing that I have ever read on the subject of writing.


  52. and again
    Son just rang me, all dogs are back! He got a phone call from someone who had just picked them up. Someone else saw them in the back of Son’s truck and said ‘oh you’ve found them, I saw it on the internet’. Goodness knows who put it there. Difficult to lead a private life these days!


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