Heavy cross to bear

Smoke, thicker than the very air itself, obscures the usual blue summer skies. The colours are washed out by the smoke and things take on a yellow and brown hue. Every breath is an exertion, and the extreme summer heat does nothing to make it any easier. Plants wilt under the intensity of the sun, and I’m left wondering if I’ll run out of water before the summer is done. And more importantly, I wonder when it may rain again.

A sort of low level sense of alertness hovers just below my awareness. I feel vaguely uneasy whilst other people I encounter are outright edgy. Or they cover up their concerns with an exaggerated jocularity. And I’m sure that it is not only me that looks for reassurance in the weather forecasts. However, I’m not reassured by what I glean from the forecasts. And despite it all, the sun beats down on your skin, baking it.

We have no air-conditioning inside the house – by choice, and so the readings from the thermometer take on a whole new level of importance. Has the cool change arrived? Or is it still hot outside, but perhaps the difference in temperature is no longer that great and we just are in need of fresh air? Some nights when the wind is blowing in from the centre of this hot and dry continent, the cool change doesn’t arrive. You go to bed hot and you wake up hot.

Adaption to the heat means early mornings. Work until midday. Lunch. And then a short nap to recover from the physical exertions. The there is the inevitable wait for the cool change. And summer still has several months to run before it releases its grip over the land.

Smoke in the air from distant bushfires has reduced visibility

On Saturday morning, on a whim, the editor and I visited the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross. The monument is a huge cross originally constructed in 1935 by a local wealthy landowner as a dedication to the deceased during World War I. The construction took place during The Great Depression and it would have provided much employment at a time when such things were needful. The cross is located on the very western end of the mountain range at a very high elevation, so it can be seen for miles around.

As the years went on, the cross was hit by lightning more than a number of times and also survived a few bushfires. But by the mid 1990’s enough was enough, and another wealthy family stumped the cash to have the cross replaced with more durable materials. And here it is today:

The author approaching the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross

The cross may have survived the few bushfires that swept over it since it was constructed, but the surrounding forests still show the scars from the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires.

Snow gums recover slowly on the exposed plateau

The memorial cross is placed on the most westerly end of the plateau, and the forests on the more exposed northern side are dominated by Snow Gums. In the above photo I’m guessing that the two larger trees in the centre of the image germinated following the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. They’re very slow growing plants. The brutal winter weather and hot exposed summer weather they deal with, means that few other Eucalyptus species would grow there. In the above photo there are two fire blackened tree stumps and those trees possibly died in the 1983 bushfires, and looking at the size of them, I expect that the original trees may have been several hundred years old.

A bit further along the walking path away from the memorial cross, you stumble upon the Major Mitchell lookout. It is an impressive view looking across to the Tretham plateau.

Major Mitchell lookout looking towards the Trentham plateau

The lookout affords an extraordinary view from the plateau of this mountain range and was named after Major Thomas Mitchell. He was a Scottish bloke who in 1827 was appointed as Assistant Surveyor General of New South Wales. He must have been good at his job because the following year he became the Surveyor General. He was one of those blokes that possibly enjoyed spending time out of the office, because he travelled all over this corner of the continent back in the day when that would have been a very challenging proposition. He named this mountain range Macedon, and a nearby and lesser mountain range after Alexander, and the history buffs can discuss why that may have been.

Unsurprisingly, the vegetation from the lookout is even more sparse at the lookout due to the exposed conditions. I can assure readers that over winter, the lookout can be a reasonable facsimile of alpine conditions, and I note that the Eucalyptus species Alpine Ash grows just over on the more sheltered southern side of the plateau. Those plants grow like telephone poles, as I’m certain many of them have become.

The mountain range is quite long end to end, and it sticks up like a sore thumb out of elevated plains. As far as I understand the geology it is comprised of one very large and very old extinct volcano and a number of lesser volcanoes (hopefully also all extinct). The farm sits in about the middle of the mountain range and on the sheltered southern side on a saddle leading down from one of those extinct volcanoes.

The farm is of course in the less fashionable end of the mountain range. However, the other day when I was struggling with some task in the awful summer heat, I looked up from where I was standing near to the very highest terrace garden, and blow me down, because there was the memorial cross staring right back at me.

The memorial cross as seen from the very highest terrace garden (zoomed in a bit)

The summer weather has been a bit of a worry. I hope the farm survives the summer unscathed because there are all manner of interesting creatures living here. The other night I spotted a Southern Brown Tree Frog clinging to the outside wall of the house. It appears to have just consumed a winged insect.

A Southern Brown Tree Frog clings to the side of the house

Nighttime can bring out all manner of unusual critters. A few nights ago, the editor spotted a scorpion casually strolling across the path.

A scorpion meanders across the walking path

A huge diversity of birds enjoy life on the farm, and of late a small family of the very rare Black and Yellow Cockatoos have been hanging around – they’re not quiet about things either. It isn’t always work for the birds, sometimes I observe them playing, and one of their favourite show-rides is the whirly bird ventilator on the worm farm sewage system.

A Kookaburra enjoys being spun around on the whirly bird ventiator

Despite the heat we did a fair bit of work in the mornings. The new yellow powered wheelbarrow was used to bring rocks back up the hill. The large rocks are being used to construct a small terraced succulent garden. It is still a work in progress, but we’ve made a fair bit of progress on the job.

Large rocks are being used to construct a terraced succulent garden

After a lot of firewood work, the primary (and larger) firewood shed is now almost full. Summer is the time for splitting, cutting and storing seasoned firewood. There is little point in trying to store damp firewood – even if it seasoned – and nothing dries firewood out like the summer sun.

The primary firewood shed is almost full

The staircase leading up to the highest terrace has now been completed.

The staircase leading to the highest terrace has no been completed

Earlier in the week, we visited the nearby town of Sunbury to marvel at the displays of Christmas lights. One street in particular puts on an amazing show, and here is a sample of the displays:

A Christmas kangaroo
A family of deer frolick whilst two kangaroos may collide at speed
People turn out en masse to see the displays

The local displays in the mountain range are far less ostentatious but possibly more grand, and one notable example involves stringing huge globes in one of the largest Western Red Cedars in the Southern hemisphere. As the tree and lights are located in the more fashionable end of the mountain range (just like the memorial cross), you can see the lights from miles away.

Lights are strung up in an enormous Western Red Cedar. The local pub looks tiny in comparison.

Now ordinarily, at this point in the blog I’d wheel out some flower photos from around the garden. There are plenty of flowers, and even some new ones. But I thought to myself, stuff it, this is the final blog entry for the decade, so what the heck let’s go crazy and I’ll chuck in some random photos from the past ten years. Here goes (in chronological order of course):

December 2009:

The house frame had begun to be constructed. Note the site shed to the rear of the house frame

Earlier that year the earthworks had been done. Once the earthworks were complete, I was able to construct the footings (all 115 of them) and begin making the house frame. As you can see, it is a small house. One thing I would do differently now is demolish the small site shed and move the house further back. And maybe get a large rock blown-up. Yeah! I wanted to do it. The earthworks guy wanted to do it. But the editor suggested it was a bad idea, and cooler heads won the day. Still, it would have been fun. Note: The editor has since changed her mind about the rock!

December 2010:

The initial chicken enclosure and hen house

Chickens came into my life on a 40’C / 104’F summer’s day. I’d mentioned to a local lady who raised chickens that I’d be interested in purchasing a batch from her. I didn’t think much more about the discussion, until I received a phone call telling me to come and get them. We didn’t have a chicken house or enclosure ready and so had to put one together in a short space of time. It wasn’t good, but the chickens lived happy lives in there, that is until the parrots learned to break into the enclosure and consume the chicken feed. Unfortunately the parrots didn’t know how to break out of the enclosure once in there. That was when the parrots got a thorough introduction to the fluffy collective and the real problems began. And we haven’t even discussed the rats!

December 2011:

A squashed water tank led to re-purposing as raised garden beds

I accidentally squashed an expensive round steel water tank. No matter what I did to repair the water tank, it always leaked water. In a fit of inspiration we cut the water tank up and used it to make 3 round raised vegetable beds. They worked so well that we have over a dozen of them now.

December 2012:

A cantina shed came into being

In the 2009 photo, there was a site shed. That shed was slowly dismantled, all the materials recovered, and it eventually became the cantina shed. I reckon it looks better. The two olive trees in front of the shed were purchased as ex-hire trees, and today they are monsters and produce an extraordinary amount of olives.

December 2013:

A large rock wall was constructed below the swale

Our love affair with rocks and rock walls runs deep. Some loves know no boundaries…

December 2014:

Need more sheds

By this stage we could no longer deny the truth. We needed more sheds. This one was constructed using entirely scrap materials, and it is very sturdy compared to the sort of flimsy sheds that people construct nowadays. Even the window is double glazed, and someone was chucking the window out and only wanted a few bucks for it. Crazy stuff. It is covered with stainless steel mesh to protect it from bushfires.

December 2015:

The summer was hot and dry too and the trees in the sunny orchard look so small
The chickens scored a new shed that year too. And it required additional modifications to keep out the rats

The fruit trees in the sunny orchard were still very young that year, and they still are today. The chickens scored a brand new shed that year due to inherent parrot and rat problems with their slapped together housing. The rats still managed to break into the new shed, but with many modifications, I seem to have beaten them for now. The mice are a different story.

December 2016:

A firewood shed but with no rock gabions… Note the berry bed above, which was doubled in size at a later date.
The original tomato enclosure

A firewood shed became necessary – especially after using damp firewood burned out the steel in the old wood heater (an astoundingly expensive error). And we were discovering that we needed more growing space. A dedicated tomato enclosure was constructed just above the swale that can be seen in the 2013 photo. This enclosure was doubled in size in the following year.

December 2017:

Steel rock gabions were put to good use
Access paths were constructed – and still are being constructed

The clay behind the firewood shed had to be retained, and so we came up with the idea of using steel rock gabion cages and filling them with small rocks. And they just work. Also access was becoming more of an issue, especially over winter so we began constructing access paths – and still are at that task even today.

December 2018:

More rock gabion cages were constructed
The strawberry enclosure was covered over with steel in order to keep everything out

More rock gabion cages were constructed during the year. And the strawberry enclosure was doubled in size (this may be a pattern), and we placed steel wire mesh over the roof. Everything loves eating strawberries, and if we hadn’t gone to such an extreme, there would be little point growing the tasty berries. And it has paid off this year with a bumper crop.

Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane, and thanks for reading!

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 30’C (86’F). So far this year there has been 716.0mm (28.2 inches) which is the same as last weeks total of 716.0mm (28.2 inches). A somewhat dry year.


60 thoughts on “Heavy cross to bear”

  1. Chris,

    What an enjoyable journey into the past! Thanks also for the Mount Macedon Memorial photos and history. It’s neat that you can see the cross from your place.

    The Princess laughed and laughed at the Christmas kangaroos! The Australian flavor to Christmas decorations was appreciated.

    Hopefully the fires don’t get too close! I know from experience that the intense heat and the smoky air and trying to get any work done – well, it’s not a good mix whatsoever. I wish we had any moisture to send your direction, but nearly all of the storms are hitting California and then the Rocky Mountains through the northern Atlantic states. We are far behind normal for rainfall this season and have no snow on the ground or in the immediate forecast.

    So you mentioned a Scooby Doo Christmas decoration. Our neighbors have an inflatable Minion outside. Perhaps the Minions escorted the three wise men to the original Nativity at which Scooby Doo was the watchdog?

    Some of our wasps nest underground or in fallen logs. These usually have the largest nests, as they’re nearly impossible to find. I’ve taken out a few of these. The ones under the house eaves are easier to spot, so I eliminate them before they become a problem. The nests in a neighbor’s abandoned sheds seem to be home to many nests.

    “The power wheelbarrow on the other hand is a bit of a beast and has to be used with respect.” Ditto the big snowblower.

    Yes, we’ve both seen it with humans and dogs and chickens. It seems to be true of every animal species: we all need to find our place in the local society. We may believe we’re different as humans, but those old animal needs are still part of us. A pecking order exists whether we like it or not.

    Glad you enjoyed another night out! The ginger beer and parma sounds like a wonderful experience. I’ve been mostly on my back with a nasty cold for 2 days. Feeling better, but really no pep in my step right now.

    Seriously, I hope the fires avoid you.


  2. Hi Inge,

    Cod Liver Oil would be a great tonic for your skin and immune system. I guess it’s like anything though, you have to work at getting past the taste. Out of curiosity, has it always been part of your diet?

    The heat has taken it out of me today. At 9.30pm it is 81’F outside and 82’F inside. Other parts of the state have not fared so well today (106’F here), and interestingly the fire on Kangaroo Island (where I believe your daughter may have visited only recently) was quite large. At least the smoke was billowing down this way from there.

    I hate missing breakfast too, and it is a situation that just does not work for me. Plenty of people do though, and I have no idea how they cope with that.



  3. Hi Lewis,

    I do hope you have some thoughts on the mountain range naming by the well-read Surveyor from back in the day? It was much discussed in the Camulod book, and so I was surprised that Alexander scored the lesser mountain range.

    Yeah, it’s a personal failing that’s for sure. I should be aiming for the stars, and yet here I am with my fingers in the dirt. It’s not so bad though. 🙂 On the other hand, I’d probably make a really poor King and I do something stupid like be even handed and perhaps even worse, do something like set limits on the population – and everyone would hate me for doing so. Mind you, nature will have her way along similar lines anyway, so maybe I needn’t fill up so many gulags in my quest for power? Yeah, it’s probably all a really terrible idea. How do you believe that things would go if you were King?

    Fair enough, and I get that. What do the old timers say about no point crying over spilt milk? My mum once gloated to me that she was a star once long ago. And I was internally thinking to myself, yeah a monstar (sic). Probably not a nice thought, but a person can’t be nice all the time, and pithy or sententious comments can be excused as long as they’re not over-done. That would be awful.

    On an interesting digression I was looking up the definition of the word: ‘laconic’ the other evening in the hardback 1953 Oxford dictionary. A fine reference book. And I noted by sheer chance that your name had several different definitions – all of which I was previously unaware of. Fascinating stuff, as I’m sure that you are well aware of.

    Far out, my brain is like scrambled eggs today. The weather began awful and ended up awful – but now somewhat cooler, although I’d hardly claim 82’F inside the house as being pleasant. There are times when I wonder at my own sanity. Whilst people party away and use energy like there is no tomorrow with air conditioners cranked to the max, here’s us sweating it out. And meanwhile the weather is just beyond extreme. I dunno what it all means, but it sure ain’t good. Even Hobart the capital of the island state had its warmest December day on record, so it was hardly any cooler down there. Bonkers.

    Oooo! All this talk of coffee scrolls and I’m beginning to salivate, although I have bizarre and unsatisfied hankering for chocolate tonight. Dunno why. Anyway, the scrolls are good, and I had no idea that they were not be seen outside of down under. Your fortune is sure to be made. And I hear that Australian style coffee is winning ground in your part of the world too. Just to be sure that you and I are talking about the same item, this is the real deal biz: Aussie Coffee Scrolls. The short story that goes along with the recipe is quite sweet too.

    Not good, and I know that plenty of disposed clothes end up in bags of rags which are generally for sale. It is not a good ending for clothes but, you know it is better than landfill on the first run – which they’ll end up in anyway after being used as rags. And absolutely, I 100% agree with you in relation to the quality of materials used in clothing. A lot of the materials are downright combustible because they are derived from oil. And the real joke is that the synthetic materials aren’t even that warm, so they miss on several functions. But you know, people want cheap clothes, and that is what it looks like. The editor is a stickler for choosing natural materials, and don’t mention the fit and finish of clothes which leaves a lot to be desired. A few years back I read an opinion that because people no longer knew how to sew (unless they have an interest), so they’ve lost the concept of fit with clothes. And repair is a problem too. Mate the waste is bonkers. We used to have tariffs protecting the textile industries down here, and surprisingly it was the left leaning labour movement that reduced them and opened the flood gates to the crap that arrives on our shores nowadays masquerading as clothing. Not all of it is bad, but a whole lot of it is. I’m ranting…

    Didn’t know that at all about the word “shoddy”. Wool as a fabric is pretty difficult to damage, and I’m old enough to recall people unpicking woollen jumpers and reusing the yarn. You might be surprised but we use woollen blankets for sleeping under. I like them better than the European quilt which most people prefer, if only because I can select between one and three layers, and just mix them around. Some nights I need more blankets on my feet (I sort of recall cold weather) and other nights one blanket will do. Dunno, but I reckon it is too hot down here for European quilts (AKA doona’s).

    Interesting about the auction site software. Yeah, if you were having troubles, I’d imagine other people were too. Interestingly, the banks down here don’t validate credit card details with addresses, but things could be different in your part of the world. Remember to be nice, I mean after all, it is possible that it was something that you did which caused the hassles? Dunno, but that has happened to me and it is embarrassing and of course there is always the smug reveal of the error. But then a lot of software isn’t that intuitive and inconsistent. I have not complained about the phone for at least a few days, but there are complaints there. What annoys me about the device is that the options to do stuff that you know it should do – are hidden and not immediately obvious to find. Pah! I’m yet to turn my mind to the hidden applications, but I’ll get there and am knocking off one problem per day – which is about all my brain is up for.

    Hey, a software update here the other day caused the font sizes to go all crazy small. It took me a while to correct the problem too.

    Mystery icons. Yup, I hear you. What does this stuff all mean?



  4. Hi DJ,

    Seeing the memorial cross from the upper garden terrace was quite surprising to me. It is not far as the crow flies, but to get there from here is quite the journey. And it was on the road leading to the cross where the dirt rat spun around in the snow a few months ago. Note to self – engage four wheel drive when on the snow.

    The memorial cross is huge and you can see it from miles away. But what is weird about it, is that the vegetation is being allowed to block out the view from the base of the cross – and eventually the cross itself won’t be able to be seen. Sort of defeats the purpose of the thing I reckon. A couple of hours and I’d have that problem sorted, but I wouldn’t do it because I’d end up the most controversial person around – and who wants that? Not worth the hassle.

    Hehe! Yeah, they’re pretty funny those Christmas Kangaroos. We get Christmas Koala’s too, although I noted that the light had blown on the koala and so couldn’t get a photo. There was also a huge green Christmas Dragon. What’s with that?

    The cold change just swept into area. Yay. Me tired. It is now only 22’C / 72’F outside. What a day, but it could have been far worse as it is in other parts of the state and country.

    I didn’t realise that your weather was drier than usual. Ouch. Hope you get some snow soon. Just watch out for the yellow snow, just sayin… 🙂 Far out the weather is crazy, I hear you.

    It makes you wonder what they were thinking with the inflatable Minion – possibly the same thing as a nativity huge green Christmas dragon? Perhaps it is best not to know? Dunno, but your theory is as good as any, and no doubts at all Scooby Doo was onto the case in those days courtesy of some dodgy physics and a time machine – possibly in a Delorean. Sorry, I’m mixing my dodgy references.

    Have you ever disturbed an underground wasp nest? I have and it was not good, but fortunately the wasps were too disturbed to take it out on me. Interestingly too, the rats moved in once the wasps cleared out. And Sir Poopy the Swedish Lapphund (who can be seen in the old photos this week) ripped the rats nest apart and dug it up. That dog was lazy, but when he put his mind to something he just sorted it out. I actually realise now that I need a mid-sized dog to do that sort of work around here. Ollie is better for the larger animals when they become a nuisance and the other two are too small.

    Exactly, we’re wired to fit into a hierarchy and we fit in as well as the dogs do to a pack. I dunno why, it is just how it is.

    Sorry to hear that you aren’t feeling well, and best wishes for a speedy recovery. Colds are not much fun at all. The last one a month or two back lingered for about two weeks, so hope you get an easier time of it.



  5. Hi Chris,

    I’m glad you survived the day and that it did, finally, cool down.

    If I could do it, I would give you all my excess rain for the year. (If you wonder where your rain went, check the US Midwest. Most of it fell here.) We got almost double your yearly rainfall in 2019, about 54 inches, about 14 inches over average. In the last couple of days we got enough rain for the sump pump to operate yet again. That pump got a workout in 2019!

    DJ – why do you remove wasp nests? Wasps are predators and will eat troublesome insects for you. We get yellowjackets nesting in the ground most years – none in 2019 however, I think because of the excessive rainfall. There is a good-sized hole in the back yard where a yellowjacket nest was a few years back, before raccoons or possums broke into it. I look for the nests in August, when enough wasps have hatched that I can see them enter and leave the nests, and make a mental note of where they are so I stay several feet clear of them when mowing the yard or walking around. If they are nesting where I usually mow, the effect will be good-sized unmowed patch around them so they can enter and leave their nest in peace. They repay me by not bothering me when I garden around them. The mud dauber nests on the walls and porch ceilings we leave alone as well, and the wasps go about their business and don’t bother us even when their nest is within a few feet of the door.


  6. Hello Chris
    I much enjoyed the trip down memory lane. We are getting horrific accounts and pictures of the Australian bush fires, I do hope that they stay away from you. Both my daughters and grandson are on Kangaroo Island at the moment.
    I like the taste of cod liver oil and it has always formed part of my diet in winter. People suffer from a lack of vitamin D during the winter in this country. This is particularly a problem for immigrants who are unaware of the fact. Efforts are made to educate them about this.
    Son is finding it impossible to get his wine bottles clear of old stuck on dregs. Do you have any suggestions?


  7. Yo, Chris – Rubbish weather, where you are. But, I see you mentioned to DJ that things had cooled, a bit. I’m sure you’ve looked into it, but I seem to remember something about low/retro tech cooling devices. Maybe at Green Wizards. I even think they were an Australian invention. Dripping water and burlap bags? Your place is so sensibly small, they might do some good?

    The Mount Macedon Cross is really something. Interesting that it’s a WWI monument. I think I mentioned, one of our rich blokes built similar. Only he did up a 1/3 scale stonehenge, out in the middle of nowhere. Maryhill, down on the Columbia River. It’s cool you can see it, from the farm.

    You can keep your scorpions. I saw some, down in California. Ripping up some old flooring, and these albino (because they lived in the dark) scorpions, scattered, everywhere. After that, I always shook out my shoes, before putting them on, in the morning. Not that I ever saw another one. Some one mentioned, over at Mr. Greer’s, that Giant Asian Hornets, have been discovered on our northern state border.


    So, after the Kookaburra takes a ride on your whirly gig, does it manage to fly off in a straight line? 🙂

    Stone terraces and firewood. Looks like a lot of man (an woman) hours, there.

    Health and Safety would never write off on those stairs. No handrails or fluoresent strips on the edges. In case of a power outage 🙂 . They’re quit stately, and always remind me of that old song about stairways, and heaven. More so, now that you’ve discovered you can see the cross, from the top. Soon to be a major pilgrimage route. But you’ve got to do them on your knees 🙂 .

    The Christmas lights are just bonkers. In an impressive and Australian kind of a way.

    Well, that was an impressive walk down memory lane. A great way to mark the end of a year, and an end of a decade. Frightening how many of them were familiar, to me. Guess I’ve been hanging about, for quit awhile. Cont.

  8. Cont. On the naming of mountain ranges. Well, clearly Maj. Mitchell had a classical education. As to size and naming things, he probably didn’t give it a thought. Named one, and then just decided to stick with the theme.

    If I were king, I’d be a benign despot. And, no weaseling out of responsibility. I’d be taking names, and heads would roll. Creators of crap technology would be put to work in the mines, or, galleons. But they’d be clean galleons, unlike the one’s in the Camalod books. That’s where the benign part, comes in. Captains who didn’t keep up their galleons, would find themselves on the rowing benches.

    Well, poking into name origins provides a few moments of innocent entertainment. Similar to, who was also born on my birthday. It’s quit a line up. I am not worthy. 🙂 .

    The weather in Alaska, has been about as bonkers as yours. 90F (a record for the State) one day, and 65F below -0-, the next. I meant to mention that I did read the Gippsland article. Oddly, I had just read it on Yahoo news, before your blog.

    In related odd coincidence, when I was looking up coffee scrolls, I went to the exact website you linked to. If I were making them, I’d make sure the frosting said, “COFFEE!”. Maybe use some thick Kona. I hear The Club is getting an expresso machine. But, of course, not a “real” expresso machine. It’s something that uses little plastic pods. I was teasing Scott that he’ll be able to add barista, to his resume. He was not amused, and said he’d been looking for an excuse to quit.

    Well, if your synthetic clothes don’t keep you warm, just get some synthetic polar fleece to warm you up. 🙂 . Also made with oil. And, the stuff is decimating the shoddy industry.

    The tariffs and labor party doesn’t surprise me. At least, not now, after reading Mr. Greer’s take on how the more left leaning parties talk a good game, but throw the workers under the bus. To maintain there upper middle class lives. On the other hand, who flocks to buy all that imported stuff? There’s enough guilt, to go around.

    There’s a two hour, early preview, of the auction, tomorrow. So, I’ll just sidle in, and off hand, ask if there were any reports of people having a problem signing in. If so, then I’ll pounce. Otherwise, I’ll just maintain my cool, and mention it in passing.

    In other news, flights of multiple, giant drones, have been seen, at night, over Nebraska and Colorado. Upwards of 30+, at a time. The military and aviation authority haven’t a clue, as to where they’re coming from. People have been warned not to shot them down, as they’re highly flammable. If they hit your house, they’ll burn it down. They seem to be flying some kind of a survey grid. We do live in interesting times.

    I’ve been watching the Tocqueville lectures. Interesting stuff. And, I’m glad I didn’t tackle the 700 page book. It’s really not a travelogue, but is more a political theory book. And for the time, it was a new political theory book. Tocqueville believed that democracy, was going to be the natural trajectory of politics. But that democracy would come in many flavors, and really depended on the geography and history, of a country.

    According to the professor, most of the time, you can’t tell where Tocqueville is, or who he’s talking to. But, there are journals and letters, so the professor can place the writing in time and space. Along the way, he met two presidents (one retired, but a congressman … the only one that pulled that off) and the other sitting. He also spent time with the last living signer of our Declaration of Independence. Anyway, interesting stuff, to me. Lew

  9. @ Claire,

    I sincerely wish that I had the same relationship with the wasps that you do! The Western yellowjackets are the problem. The Western yellowjackets seem to be more aggressive than some of the other varieties. I am the only yard in the area (over 500 ft radius outside my yard – I’ve watched them fly that far leaving my yard) that does NOT spray for insects. So I end up with literally hundreds of wasps sorting through my lawns and shrubs at any given moment eating on the prolific amount of bugs in the lawn and elsewhere. This I don’t mind, and they are not very aggressive until late August and September.

    However, when allowed to nest in my yard it’s another story. They’ve attacked me when nesting underground near my compost area, even though I was over 10 feet from the nest. They’ve taken out several bumblebee nests in my yard. They’ve stung adult nesting birds to death in my yard and where the yellowjackets have no nest. Nests ignored near the patio make the patio unusable: they attack humans. Nests within 20 feet of doors lead to battles to keep them out. By August and hot Septembers, they are very aggressive, and tend to attack, period, if their nest is within 30 feet or so, which would make harvesting my vegetables impossible if allowed to nest in my yard.

    I’ve found that by keeping water out for the birds, which the yellowjackets and bees will then drink, helps quite a bit. Not having nests in my yard also has helped immensely, as the yellowjackets are not in the mode of protecting their nests, but are foraging. If they could work with my preferred “I leave you alone, you leave me alone” attitude, I wouldn’t care where they nest.


  10. Chris,

    Ah yes, the “as the crow flies” vs “the reality of travel by road” conundrum. At least the view is good, well, until the cross is overgrown by the underbrush. I tells ya, if I tried to clean up the undergrowth to maintain the cross, I’d get arrested. Avoiding the controversy is probably a wise choice.

    Christmas Koala? How cute! But a Christmas dragon? That is right up there with the Minion. Puzzling.

    Down to 22C? Good! At least you might be able to get things cooled down and get some decent sleep until the next heat wave.

    Yeah, this November tied November 1976 for the 2nd driest on record. I remember that year – dry. 40cm snow total. 30C in April 1977. Drought year. And the current December is nowhere near normal for rainfall either east of the Cascades. Mt. Spokane ski area was able to open all of its runs today, which is a very late start. Supposed to be +8C on the 1st. Normal high is -1C. And dry after tonight’s small storm.

    I’ll see your dodgy reference and trade the DeLorean for a Wayback machine and some adventures with Fractured Fairy Tales.

    I thought I recognized Sir Poopy in a photo! That curly tale, you know. But, ummm, I’ve gotten close to an underground nest, which bothered the yellowjackets, but I’ve never stepped on one or willingly disturbed one. I was counsellor at a youth camp for several years. One year a young lady ran right into an underground nest. She was wearing jeans and they flew up the pant legs and got angrier and stung more when they couldn’t find their way out. Fortunately, we had a good first aid kit and 2 nurses on staff. They did take her to hospital, but she was fine and hospital was only a precaution.

    Thanks for the well-wishes. I’m mostly over the sneezing and coughing. It’s the waves of weakness that come on suddenly. Some friends have had this and it seems to last about a week from first onset until one is able to return to action. If so, two more days of relaxing and maybe…


  11. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for your kind words, and my thoughts go out to the people who are suffering at the extraordinary fires over in the east of the state. Yesterday was not good, and as I look out the window as the sun sinks below the horizon, there is a dirty scud of thick smoke cloud hanging in an almost flat line just above the land.

    A kind thought and I’d appreciate some of your extra rain. Surely a garden does not require 54 inches of rain? 🙂 Water pumps are actually very hardy machines and I’ve long been impressed with the technology. Over the next few days I plan put some of those pumps to good work – all powered by the sun.

    As a bit of advice, I give the switches of water pumps (where they have mechanical components as distinct from predominantly solid state electronic devices with a solenoid (which is a fancy name for an electrical valve)) a bit of TLC once a year by squirting in some WD40 and cleaning out the dead bugs and cobwebs on the basis that it wouldn’t hurt. 🙂



  12. Hi Inge,

    It seemed like the right thing to do given that tomorrow is a brand new decade, although a sensitive person may suggest that it is merely another day. 🙂

    As far as I understand things, the emergency warning for the bushfire on Kangaroo Island has been downgraded to I’m guessing a ‘watch and act’ status, so hopefully your family are remembering to enjoy their time on the island. And most importantly take some time to enjoy the sheep dairy. That dairy produced some of the nicest tasting cheese that I’ve encountered, and sheep’s milk produces much less tart tasting cheese. I recall that they mentioned to us that some of the dodgiest looking of their flock of sheep produced the best milk. They breed sheep with the dairy outcome in mind. Oh no. It seems that the business closed last year: Island Pure Sheep Dairy workers, owner remain committed to island life . That’s a shame, hopefully the folks that produced the cheese turn up somewhere else on the island. It was good stuff.

    We may have discussed Vitamin D deficiencies before, and I get that it is possible in your part of the world due to the northern latitude, but far out when I looked at Rickets condition, it was a bit shocking. Incidentally I have noticed people who’s legs display such bowing and I often wonder what happens to folks who spend too much of their lives indoors – even in this sunny corner of the planet.

    Ah, may I suggest placing some fine crushed rock into the bottles, add a bit of water and swill it all around. That’ll sort it all out, at least that is how the old timers used to do it.



  13. Hi Lewis,

    Thankfully the weather was cooler today, and the cool change swept through as I was typing a reply to DJ. I could feel a cold breeze blowing into the house from outside – and it was a relief. Last evening it became so cold that I had to chuck two blankets on the bed. The heat makes you feel tired and my head spins and spins. Fortunately we were spared the sort of weather and fires they are having in the east of the state. It must not be good over there because the military has been called in.

    The house is designed and constructed to be resistant to temperature changes, but like a cave, when the average temperature tips beyond a comfortable point, it is not comfortable. Insulation can only do so much and without heating or cooling devices the insides of the house would vary from 50’F in winter to 88’F in summer at worst. It’s not so bad really, but I prefer winter when I can run the wood heater and rapidly warm the place up.

    Incidentally I have been in caves in tropical locations and they are hot places. Not nice at all. I’ve read that in the deeps of some mines the temperatures are quite high and unpleasant, although Damo can probably confirm such stories (when he pops by again for a chat).

    Ooo, that Quaker bloke (and they seem like pleasant sorts and at least enjoy some quiet time) had an interesting take on the original Stonehenge – with the morbid altar. At least he arranged it to align with the summer solstice. Was that the general consensus at the time of the original purpose of Stonehenge? Whatever may be the case, it looks really good and it is also nice that it is open to the public.

    Can’t say for sure that I’ve been stung by a local scorpion and I’m unwilling to deliberately offer myself as a guinea pig just to see what sort of reaction may ensue. One of the neighbours was once hospitalised due to excessive inflammation from an unknown bite. And we still to this day don’t know what bit him. A mystery, so yeah please keep your albino scorpions in your country where they are probably happier among the Eucalyptus trees which we donated to that part of your country back in the day… What do the old timers say about one good turn deserves, I dunno, possibly something or other… Ook!

    A truly fearsome wasp, but I’d imagine that the European honey bees and Asian honey bees (a close relative) have lived around these giant wasp foes for long enough that they can give them a hard time? Maybe? The article sort of indicated that they weren’t as tough as perhaps their size may indicate. Speaking of which, Gunthar is now dead and Brach (who must be modelled on Conan if ever a character was) is now King. And young Clothar has earned his stripes and gotten involved in some serious scrapes. I was out in the orchard tonight with the chickens and couldn’t put the book down, but alas the sun deemed a finite end to my outdoor reading activities.

    Hehe! Possibly about the Kookaburra. I’ve watched parrot species turn themselves upside down on trees and then flip themselves upright again, only to spin around the branch all over again. They clearly have never suffered from an inner ear infection…

    That’s a goodie. Let’s just hope that health and safety have no reason to visit – and every reason to leave if they do so. Ooo, I felt like Dirty Harry saying that.

    Knees, Pah, I’m demanding belly crawls. There are far too few callouses on bellies these days – and we must remedy this lack in the population! Hehe! You are on fire tonight. Great stuff.

    I’d like to think that many of them would be familiar to you, and I once joked around that I only began writing the blog so that we could enjoy a daily yak without taking up all of Joel’s airspace – except maybe I wasn’t joking! How much fun has it been. 🙂

    It is possible about Major Mitchell as he did arrive via way of the north and the imposing range off in the distance does look a bit small from the summit of Mount Alexander. But then maybe Macedon was the better of the two and he just got unlucky as to his choice of horse? Our academic careers are made if we but argue endlessly on the subject.

    Yeah, the Roman galleons did not sound at all like nice places to be, especially for the oarsmen. We never got to find out how Arthur coped with the mass invasion. Anyway, I’m warming to the character of Clothar, he seems alright but with a dash of foolish idealism. It’s a curse that.

    You’re worthy. 🙂

    Freaking heck. The Daily Impact mentioned the weather in Alaska and how the climate has shifted to the extent that crops are being grown that were not previously possible. Such is the case with Greenland too, although they get droughts. Bonkers. Things that make you go Hmm. Incidentally, the newly planted Lemon Eureka has begun growing leaves now that the soil is warmer.

    Plastic pod coffee to my opinion is the spawn of the devil. Lots of waste, and to my palate it tastes like instant coffee (of which I have suffered possibly more than five but less than ten servings in my entire life). The editor once fed me one and I was outraged: What is this, thing…

    That was the surprising thing about the whole modernisation of the economy thing that we just had to have. Jacked up interest rates so money flowed into the financial economy and tariffs dropped throwing industries to the wolves. And it began with the Labour left leaning Hawke – Keating governments. I dunno, people forget their history.

    Good luck with the auction tomorrow and I hope they get their act together. Can you bid off line and in the real world?

    Serious outlets are reporting the drone swarms. I wonder what it all means? Drones have caused some serious havoc around the world. I wouldn’t have released the technology into the hands of the public. Interestingly last evening I was walking Scritchy out to do her night time business before bed. Anyway, she is an old girl and was taking her time of it when a very large aircraft at about 11.06pm roared up the valley and did a turn over the house then head south easterly – possibly towards Tullamarine airport. I was pretty annoyed as they were very low and I wasn’t exactly sure whether the thing had enough elevation to clear the saddle ridge. Honestly at one point if I’d turned my torch upwards I could have illuminated the guts the thing. I have never seen that happen before.

    Interesting. What do you think about Tocqueville’s theory about the politics reflecting the land that originates and sustains it? The argument is not without merit.



  14. Hello again
    Just to elucidate further. Son says that these are very old, beautiful wine bottles of exotic shape, the shape making them particularly difficult to clean. The dregs are like tarmac. He wouldn’t be bothering if they were ordinary bottles.


  15. @ DJ,

    Apparently your species of yellowjacket are more aggressive than the eastern species I deal with. As with yours, ours don’t get aggressive till August and September. At that time it is not a wise idea to run a lawn mower over their nest, as I discovered one year to my dismay. But still, I only got stung by about 4 of them. And I have been stung perhaps twice by single yellowjackets far enough away from the nest that they should have allowed me to pass. Who knows what their beef was. However, considering that we usually have at least one, and sometimes two or more, nests in the yard, and how close I have mowed to them without getting stung, maybe our species is less aggressive than yours. I do talk to them whenever I am near their nest, letting them know how far away I will stay. Maybe it helps, maybe not. What may help more than that is that nobody sprays for insects around here (the only lawn maintenance anyone does is lawn-mowing, and that’s only to comply with code) and we all have acre yards on this street, so the yellowjackets can spread out and forage as they need to.


  16. Yo, Chris – I’m glad your weather is cooler. I saw the article about the thousand (s?) of tourists trapped by the fire on one of your eastern beaches. I guess they’re evacuating them by ship and helicopter. I joked that Australia was going to be hit by a floating glacier, and sink. Now, I think it’s going to burn to the waterline. We are having heavy rain, here, with wind gusts to 30mph. I forgot to mention, on 12/24, Prof. Mass had a post (“Green Heroes”) that has garden gnomes. Take a look. Maybe you’ll get inspired 🙂 .

    Yup. Ambient temperature below the ground is pretty steady. Then it starts climbing, the deeper you go.

    Well, the Maryhill Stonehenge was built about 1920, and the narrative followed what was known at the time. Which was pretty speculative and fanciful. But from early on, they knew it had something to do with astronomy. Beyond that, everything else was wild speculation. And, some of it was pretty wild. Now, archaeologists are looking at the whole landscape, for miles around. And are finding all kinds of interesting things. Like a processional way, up from the River Avon. Other henges, sometimes made of wood, scattered about. National Geographic had some pretty good articles about the current work and speculation. Might be behind a, well, not a pay wall, but they want you to register, so they can flood your mailbox with ads. I guess the Maryhill henge is a mob scene, at certain times of the year. A large contingent of druids, troop out from Portland. Other New types. I think I went there, a time or two (in the off season) in my misspent youth. Road Trip!!! I remember you had to be careful to dodge the rattlesnakes. 🙂 .

    Ah, Gunthar’s war is over. Now I can mention what I was going to mention, when the whole thing kicked off. I think Clothar really had a good grip (from the point of view of advance age) of the importance of the war in the grand scheme of things. Not much. That it was pretty much a family squabble, and people beyond their own borders really didn’t pay much attention, and had problems of their own. Yes. Seems like all of Wyatt’s heroes are big … like their horses. Would be nice if he’d trot out a small and scrappy hero, from time to time. 🙂 .

    How much fun? Great fun! 🙂 . Plastic pods and instant coffee are the work of the Devil. Ditto, decaf. My take on all that is, “Why bother?” I guess someone donated, the “expresso” machine.

    Tocqueville and land reflecting politics. Well, he speculated that one of the things that contributed to our form of government was that we had “no near enemies.” Unlike European companies that could be entirely surrounded by enemies. He also speculated, that sooner or later, the US would stretch from “sea to shining sea.” As it did. He was very aware of a frontier that moved ever westward. At the time he visited, the frontier was about to Wisconsin. He also speculated (and was thought quit mad) that in future, the two great world powers would be the U.S. … and Russia. Makes sense, when you think about it. The U.S. was moving ever westward, and Russia was moving ever east. They had outposts as far as Northern California. And, you may know, we bought Alaska, from them.

    Well, I’ve got to head for the library. They’re closed tomorrow. At last, we’ll be past all this holiday nonsense, and I can get back on a schedule, again. Also, the auction is having a two our preview, of the auction, tomorrow. So, I can go down and poke around and take a good look at the stuff I’m interested in.

    I discovered that the glass I’m interested in is not Loetz (probably). It is Kralik. Same time period, but Czech. Not quit as pricey, but, still collectible and quit pretty. But, I see from the photos, they’ve chucked it in a box with a lot of other green glass. Nice, but nothing I’m interested in. I may know where to flog the unwanted items. We’ll see. Lew

  17. Hi Chris,
    I’ts hard for me to imagine what you are going through. There is so much coverage in the news around here. I thought I read that there may be some rain in the forecast. Is that true for you? It also must be very draining just working in that heat and now you have to get up early!! Air conditioning is a mixed bag. It’s certainly nice to get cooled down but I don’t think you ever really become acclimated to the heat. It’s been much more humid here of late in the summer so the AC doesn’t have to be turned very low at all to feel some relief.

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane. Wow you and the editor have accomplished so much in the past decade.

    Do you and the editor do anything for New Year’s? We’ve been spending it with our friends of the retirement home (which they no longer own). We take turns going to each other’s house and eat too much food. My parents had epic New Year’s Eve parties. I still remember looking down from the landing on the stairs at the wild festivities. We would all get up on New Years Day (us kids) and play with all the noise makers and look for unused streamers. Let me tell you the place looked like a disaster had hit. As our parents slept in we had quite a good time ourselves.

    We finally got some snow last night and it’s quite cold and windy so I’m trying to send some your way.


  18. Chris and Inge
    I’ve found that as soon as I start eating I get hungry and if I hold off the hunger just goes away. I’ve battled weight since I stopped growing around age 12 and have found the intermittent fasting works quite well for me. It’s at the peak of popularity right now but I’ve done it for the last 5 or 6 years especially if a few pounds have crept up. I generally don’t eat until noon or later. As I’m old, small and not as active as I used to be I don’t need to eat a lot. Calorie counts are now being posted at many restaurants and that’s been a bit of an eye opener.

  19. Welcome to the New Roaring Twenties. The background sound being not from industry or flapper parties, but from bushfires…
    Glad to see the Victorian dramas seem to be avoiding you thus far. Let’s hope it stays that way…

  20. Hi DJ,

    Growing out the memorial cross just seems a little bit odd to me, and it sort of defeats the purpose of the memorial in the first place – in that it can be seen from afar as an act of remembrance. Your guess is as good as mine as to why that is being allowed to happen and no doubts ideology has edged its way in and is vetoing the lesser recognised common sense. But yeah, it is quite a distance to travel to get there from here – as there are only four roads leading up and over the mountain range and two of them are not that great – and in fact they can be a little bit exciting in a really bad way. The editor almost bogged the dirt rat Suzuki on one of those roads during a particularly wet winter. She was happy to hand over the reins of the dirt rat. Emotions were quite elevated on that day, but it all ended up OK in the end.

    The green Christmas dragon looked quite friendly in the way that some advertising signs up in the northern tropical part of the continent portray the salt water crocodiles – like with pink ribbons and fat red lips – which is a detour from reality. The warning signs stuck on the side of rivers warning people not to swim, tend to draw crocodiles as they look with big pointy sharp teeth, that’ll do you up a treat mate (Killer Rabbit Reference)! Bizarrely enough I have seen a person ignore the sign and enjoy a good splash in the water. I dunno…

    Today and tomorrow were/are relatively cool days, but the fires in the eastern part of the state have been horrendous. News is only slowly filtering in today and yesterday from that part of the continent and it is not good.

    Wow, 30’C in April 1977 for you would be quite the horror year and it would wreak havoc on the plants, especially after a prolonged dry spell. Your April is more or less my October, and such temperatures are hot but not out of the normal extremes. Did you have a garden in those days and how did you cope?

    You win hands down. Who can forget the Wayback machine and Messieurs Peabody and Sherman (who Sherman frankly seemed like the brighter of the pair)? Oh yes, I grew up watching that devious program and it was good. 🙂

    Ouch! I know of someone who sat on an ants nest and was stung. It would have been an horrendous act of pure horror on the part of the ants. Speaking of which, we accidentally upset the entrance to an ants nest today, and the bull-ants came out throwing punches and looking for targets – and neither of us were bitten. Take that, ya little varmints!

    Hope you are feeling better today? And remember to take it easy whilst you recover.



  21. Hi Inge,

    It is perhaps serendipitous that you mention your son’s issues with the wine bottles. Of course there are always stories attached to these events, and it turns out that we had accidentally lost to a burn off (another long story) a proper old school bottle brush. It was so good that we had not realised that the old school bottle brush was as good as it was.

    Anyway, after it was accidentally lost to a fire (a long story there), we set about replacing it and the bottle brushes these days are not so good. For a start the metal bends on the arm of the new ones and that sort of defeats the purpose of the tool.

    It was with much relief that we discovered (and it should have been obvious from hindsight) that the local home brew shop sold really good quality bottle brushes – as they probably had to. I reckon your son needs to take a trip to the local home brew shop and avail himself of one of these items.

    Or, use the old school cleaning method that I mentioned which involved scouring with tiny crushed rock swished around.

    Or, the dried yeast on the glass may still be viable and you can use it to inoculate the next batch of brew. I note that books on home brew from your part of the world seem excessively concerned with sterilising the daylights out of every item used in the process. I tend to frown at such methodologies and instead concentrate on getting the temperature right – which is how things used to be done. Seriously, back in the day this was not possible to sterilise so heavily with the sort of cleaners used nowadays, so clearly methodology has changed somewhat. Is it for the better? I beg to differ.



  22. Hi Lewis,

    It is not in my nature to recommend other websites, but I thought that you might particularly enjoy this one: Things I find in the garbage. The editor has been reading this blog for many years now and I am genuinely amazed by the stories of the collectable stuff that is thrown out, and I guess that is how the bloke makes a living.

    Yes, I believe the article did not exaggerate the numbers of people stuck on the shoreline (at a boat ramp I believe), but they weren’t all tourists, there were plenty of locals. To be candid, the advice given in the days leading up to that fire was to not travel into the area and in fact to leave it. I try not to provide too many links, but a local journalist wrote about her experiences during one of the nearby towns that came under siege from the bushfire: NSW bushfires: Batemans Bay fire front was like no other bushfire for me. It pretty much tells it like it is.

    Actually the huge floating glacier (calved from Antarctica no less) would come in handy about now. 🙂 They have to go somewhere.

    He’s alright the good Professor, and I particularly enjoyed the story – and the work of the volunteers. And I totally agree with him in that the stewards are getting real world experience backed by support. Great stuff with gnomes too. 🙂

    Stonehenge is amazing, and you summed the findings up quite nicely. I did a bit of reading myself as I really don’t know very much about the site. It would have been something to see back in its heyday. I wonder why activities slowed and ceased around 4,000 years ago? Do you have any theories (or have read any theories) about that?

    Rattlesnakes!!!! Yikes! Makes for an exciting road trip, perhaps a little bit too exciting for my tastes.

    Yeah, the point about Gunthar’s war being a family squabble which other kingdoms were not interested in aiding or abetting was pretty interesting. It was notable when another local lord turned up and provided 600 infantry and clobbered the archers causing havoc at the drawbridge, and I was fascinated that Clothar had looked into the future and noted the slow attrition and losses on both sides and how it turned to unsustainable lengths.

    But then, curiously young Clothar after witnessing the unfolding disaster and loss from the Gunthar War, had decided to take back his own ancestral holdings despite enjoying a senior place in Conan / Brach’s court. One would believe that the lesson learned would be that he would be treated as a rank outsider and given short shrift and that the price paid would be high indeed. I tend to believe that the author used that as a story device, if only because it was inconsistent with the character. And now Ursus is back on the scene and Clothar is going where he should have gone in the first place.

    Exactly, where is the plucky anti-hero thief who dines upon good fortune and escapes every scrape largely unscathed? I guess it might not fit too well into the story, but the attempt could have been made.

    It has been good fun! I read somewhere that the inventor of the pod coffee machine regrets his creation – and didn’t earn too much cash from it either. Yup regrets, we’ve all got a few of those, but perhaps not on that sort of scale. And decaf, is an unknown thing to me, and I’m frankly not even sure what it is but my mind shies away from considering it. Anyway, the whole coffee problem will sort itself it out in time because the plants are under dual disease and climate threats. Plus the soil here gets huge quantities of minerals from some of those growing areas – and that story should not be, because farmers can’t ship off minerals forever to unknown ports with no thought of tomorrows harvest.

    Wisconsin isn’t as far west as I’d imagined things had gotten to in those days. Interestingly, the English were concerned that Russia and the French had interests in the land down here too. And yes, I was aware of the sale and purchase of Alaska – a bargain, although not everyone was convinced of the merits of the purchase (although from hindsight I’d have to suggest such naysayers were wrong).

    Have you ever visited the site of Fort Ross? I wonder if much of the history even remains today.

    Public holidays have a way of putting plans on hold! Hehe! Did you get any sense out of the auction folks about their website? And did the items look better in reality? How do you even check out a lot without displaying too much interest in it?

    Filled up the primary (and larger) firewood shed today and put a whole lot of the crushed rock with lime about the place. One of the rock gabions is nearing completion and so we back filled the terrace behind it to give it a flat surface. It took an extraordinary amount of rocks as fill. We’re now short on small rocks. What a nuisance. Met the neighbours dog this evening. It’s a Labrador, and for some reason that particular breed of dogs seems to have a bad attitude to other dogs and I’m not really sure why. Possibly they feel that they are better than their canine peers? Dunno.



  23. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for your concern, and there is a bit of low level anxiety during these sorts of years. You kind of just do your best and keep going on. After the previous shocker hot day (i.e. yesterday), 1/8th of an inch of rain fell, but it is dry now. Some rain looks set to fall on Sunday morning, and that will be well received. It’s not much rain in the forecast, but over in the eastern part of the state where the big fires are, they might get up to an inch of rain. We had a grass fire on the southern side of the range today, but it looks under control now. What a year.

    Getting up early and getting into it, is the only way to go now, and we’ve done that over summer for many years now. Winter is really the best time for sleeping in. We filled up the larger of the two firewood sheds this morning, and that is hot work, but there is little point putting away firewood when it is damp (unless of course you’ve run out of the stuff – been there and done that)!

    It is interesting that you mention AC, but after the 45’C / 113’F day (measured in the shade) it made us wonder why we drew the line at AC. Still 99% of the time, the place is really nice, so I dunno we’ll just acclimatise and hope for the best and expect the worst.

    Thanks, and glad to take you on the journey. A new shed is in the future… Plus I really need to store some more water – somewhere. Not an easy task when one lives on a slope.

    Nope and I think we went to bed early last evening, and were woken up by happy text messages. I worked on paid work yesterday so I wasn’t really feeling like the party vibe. And um, many long years ago I used to have friends who could chuck a serious party, and then as the years went on the parties got smaller until they finally petered out.

    Hey, knowing how to host a good party is a serious art form, and I’ll bet you picked up a thing or two from your parents? From what I’ve seen, people don’t know how to act as the host.

    Thank you, and I look forward to receiving the snow and rain with pleasure. I’ll happily send you a little bit of warmth for the winter, we’ve got plenty to spare. 🙂



  24. Hi Margaret (cont),

    Thanks for sharing your story. Food is a really complicated thing, and it is often not at all what people think that it is. I’ve heard good things about fasting, so you’re onto something and I doubt very much that our ancestors enjoyed three solid meals per day.

    Many long years ago I looked into how much energy is in the stuff we eat, and it was always surprising. Nowadays we mostly cook from raw materials so we know what is going into things, but yeah as you get older that ol’ gravity thing tends to suck you downwards anyway… Oh well.



  25. Hi Les,

    Long time, mate. How have you been?

    Yeah, I hear you. The smoke from the NSW fires worked its way down here last week, and it was pretty epic. Looking up at the mountain range from the town in the elevated plains below, the smoke was so thick that you wouldn’t even know there was a mountain range there. I assume it has been endlessly bad up your way?

    Thanks for the kind thoughts and yup fingers crossed and all that.

    We’re having a good apricot season this year, although I’m told other people aren’t, so I’m not sure what is going on there, but may find out more about the story on Friday. Hope your place is productive and likewise stays out of the fray.



  26. Hi, Chris!

    Happy New year to you and the editor!

    A frequent threat of bushfires is a really uneasy way to live. At least you and the editor have done everything that you can manage to try a make your place fire-resistant. Even the chicken house . . .

    That is a very impressive monument. I am glad that we have a Chris to use as a scale for it. How amazing that you can see it from your property. The Major Mitchell lookout is impressive, too, but – to me – the view from your house overlooking the valley is just as impressive, and more beautiful. I enjoyed the Major’s biography.

    What skinny legs that frog has; one wonders how he hops. Very nice little suction cup feet, though. The fact that you have scorpions is creepy. Have you or the editor ever been stung?

    Are you happy with the yellow powered wheelbarrow so far? I told my son about it and for some reason he just laughed and laughed because I want one. Something to do with it running away with me . . .

    Firewood almost to the roof is a great accomplishment. Not to worry, you, when winter comes back. We have had an incredibly mild 2 weeks.


  27. Yo, Chris – “Things I Find in the Garbage” is a great site. They guy probably has a regular route, and does it 7 days a week. I’m going to go back and read more of his posts. The brush fire story was harrowing. Both good articles.

    Hmmm. What was I dong 4,000 years ago? 🙂 . Could be all kinds of reasons why Stonehenge fell into disuse. Usually, when something like that happens, it’s because the folk have lost faith in their government or religion. There’s some kind of a revolution. Or, there’s an invasion of some sort. But I don’t remember reading anything about that.

    Had a picnic at Maryhill Museum, and I’m glad they kept the grass short. I can remember we could watch the rattlesnakes, crawling across the lawn.

    Well, Clothar’s being all wound up about avenging his family, is youth speaking. We really don’t know, yet, how that all plays out. Or if it does. But, honor, and all that.

    I’d never been to Fort Ross. There’s been a bit of archaeological work there, and I think they’ve rebuilt a bit of the fort. Our National Park Service is great for that. They did the same, down in Vancouver, at Ft. Vancouver.

    I did talk to the auction people about auction software problems. Mine was the only complaint, so far, but there have been problems, in the past. Which they have brought to the auction software companies attention. But nothing seems to have been done. And, the problem has even been isolated to something in the addresses of the credit card information. But Kendra, one of their clerks I’ve known for awhile, told me that if there’s a problem, to call, and she’s got a work around.

    The two lots I’m interested in, look pretty good. So. Disinterest? Well, you look at a lot of things that your not too interested in, don’t pay too much attention to the stuff you really want. Maybe shrug a bit, or go “Tsk, tsk.”

    The couple that own the antique mall, were there, and we struck a bargain. They won’t bid on the box of green glass, and I won’t bid on a seal skin coat, she wants. :-). Not that either of us, was the least bit interested in those items. She’s also interested in buying all the rest of the green glass, in the box, if I win it. Actually, there weren’t that many people at the preview. Rubbish weather, and a holiday.

    Labs used to have such a reputation of being big slobbery loves. But, I had heard that they got popular, at one point, and there was a lot of inbreeding. Or, maybe the lab you met is just bonkers.

    Well, I’m off to the auction. Tally-ho! Lew

  28. @ Claire,

    I’ll try talking to the yellowjackets more. I do well talking with birds and animals and plants, but the entire bee/wasp family of insects is different and we really haven’t been able to “connect” much. But your talking with them leads me to think I’ll continue trying to communicate…

    Besides the species difference, there’s a difference in moisture also, that seems to exacerbate the issues. Mid June through mid October gets maybe 2 inches of rain total unless we get some good thunderstorms. It has been less for most of the past several years. And when it’s hot here, it is dry, humidity at times dropping below 10%. (I originally typed “drooping” rather than “dropping”, which isn’t far from the truth.) When the weather is like that, everybody and everything gets crankier, which likely adds to the problem. Keeping water out for the birds and whomever has helped some.


  29. Chris,

    I’ve noticed that emotions often jump to the extremes when one is getting a vehicle stuck due to weather, especially when out in the boonies in winter. Once upon a when, I was known for “It’s dire now, DJ isn’t joking any longer!” Which means that I also irritated people during not dire situations by my incessant jokes, which basically were a cover for my observing and thinking and figuring out what to do. I have since learned to keep my jokes to myself, stay a bit aloof from the group, and say something only once I’ve got something pragmatic to say.

    Swimming with crocodiles? No thanks! A now retired coworker and his son were radically into white water kayaking. The son took his kayak with him on a business trip to Florida. No whitewater, but he had fun in some slack water he found. There was quite a crowd when he was done playing an hour or so later – not all of the crowd was human. He actually cut his play time short because he saw a few alligators and was told upon exiting the water that nobody went near the water because of all the alligators who live in it. THEN he saw the signs telling people to stay out of the water.

    Reading over your shoulder about the Maryhill “Stonehenge”… Most of the eastern part of Washington (and Oregon and California) is desert. Rattlesnakes are common. The rest area near Sprague, WA on Interstate 90 (the main east-west highway between Seattle and Spokane) gets closed to the public every few years because of a rattlesnake infestation. I watch where I put my feet in the desert!

    30C in April was horrid. And it lasted for over a week. The garden did surprisingly well that year, mostly requiring extra water. It also helped that 1) there were many tall trees around the veggie area that provided enough shade from the worst of the sun and 2) the sun “sets” earlier in that neighborhood because the elevation west across the river is about 90m higher, the bluff blocking the sun over an hour earlier than in my current neighborhood. All the additional shade helped, as well as the very good soils.

    Good observation. Mr. Peabody allegedly had book smarts, but Sherman had more common sense and often seemed to know more about the topic than the professorial Mr. Peabody. I spent way too much time watching that show in my formative years; my sister would likely argue that my humor (if not more of me) is warped as a result.

    We were supposed to get maybe 5cm of snow maximum Monday night into Tuesday morning. Wrong. We got 10cm of wet, icy snow. I was glad I took the day off. The snow turned to rain, the temperature kept rising. There was about 1.5cm of snow left this morning, with temperatures over 6C. It should all disappear by this evening.

    I’m feeling better today, thanks.


  30. Hi Chris,

    I hope things are OK for you and the editor with the heat. Mrs Damo and I are heading back to NZ in a couple of hours, and not a moment too soon! The heat here in Brisbane made it very difficult for us to sleep last night, and even at 9am this morning you can break out into a sweat just standing still in the sun.

    Family visitation duties are completed. Wwwaaaaayyyy too much ham, pudding custard and alcohol was consumed. In short, a great time! However, from the news it doesn’t look so great for those further south in VIC and NSW.

    I am halfway through the estate book on aboriginal land management, such a fascinating read. But also a bit depressing. Climate change or not, Australia doesnt have to be like this. The first hand descriptions of what the rivers and valleys looked like contrast so much with what I saw from the car window the past week. I see that most discussion focuses on how we need to reduce carbon usage. A worthy goal for sure, but I can’t see how that helps us with handling millions of acres of dry eucalyptus forest. Oh well..

    Best wishes to you and the editor for 2020 🙂


  31. Hi Chris,

    RE: underground

    Yes, it is very hot underground – if you go deep enough. The geologists called it a thermal gradient. For the mine I used to work at, which was a hard rock mine, the heat came from the low level radioactivity of the granite. At about 250-300m deep, everything was still very cool at maybe 15 degrees C. By 900-1000m deep, water would come out of the cracks at a scalding 45-50 degrees C. The tunnels at that depth (technically called ore drives or headings), with the aid of massive ventilation systems would hover around 30-33 degrees.


  32. Hi Pam,

    And a happy New Years to you and yours too!

    I forget, but do you get summer rains (usually) where you are? Here it is a difficult question because sometimes we do get them and sometimes not, and it makes a world of difference. Thanks for your vote of support and we were looking at one of the sheds which has a timber frame and discussing how to make it a bit more resilient to fire – just like a dragon’s tender under bits the shed has a weak spot which we don’t really want to put to the test. And more needs to be done on cleaning up the surrounding forest.

    Large parts of the east of the state and the south east of the state to the north (along the coast mind you, are in the process of being evacuated). As you can imagine, it’d be a big job.

    Hehe! Someone I know once told me in all seriousness that guys were not meant to pose in the photos – I didn’t get that memo until that point – but how else can anyone put anything into context with the images? The trees here are huge and quite a few are well over 150ft (and growing), and out of context in an image they make no sense at all.

    I’d like to think so too about the view, but let’s not tell everyone. Hey, there is one other house in the mountain range that has an even better view and it is about 900ft higher in the range, but I dunno about living that high in elevation and the ownership has changed two or three times in my awareness. It is a beautiful house though and dates back to around 1880 – 1890 and was once a health resort. Go figure, it is a remote spot.

    If I put the frog and the scorpion in a cage to see who’d survive, my money would be on the frog. Not that I am aware, but if you are offering your services to see what happens with a scorpion sting, well I can’t say that I’d recommend it, but you know, you’re an adult and all… 🙂 Me being a smarty pants probably means that I’ll get to find out one day, and it is probably not going to be good. I’m absolutely flabbergasted as to why things need to be quite so lethal down here.

    You may have the last laugh. Incidentally in your case, I would consider an electric power wheelbarrow. They’d be a lot less temperamental, and the loads they can carry are just bonkers. We considered that option, but erred on the side of caution due to the crazy heavy loads (rocks) that we bring up the hill. The dead mans grip means that it can’t get away from you, because it comes to an immediate stop if you release it. The gearbox on the machine I have is a little bit fiddly, and electric ones probably won’t have a gearbox.

    Actually the year was quite cold up until the beginning of December when everything suddenly changed – and as a consequence we used a lot more firewood than in previous years. Bonkers huh? And fingers crossed for a normal winter for you. You may be able to yet keep those geraniums (and citrus) outside all year around…



  33. Hi Lewis,

    Glad you enjoyed the website, and the editor has enjoyed it for many years. He’s a well read bloke who writes well too. I’m always fascinated when he gets into trouble with the authorities who want to stop him from doing what he does best. It seems extraordinary that such things happen given the nature of the stuff that he is rummaging through. Possibly it may be an affront, and I’d be curious as to your opinion. From time to time I’ve occasionally offended people just by doing the things I do here, and some of the offended comments sound very peevish to my ears.

    Things have gone from very bad to possibly far worse than that with the fires as a state of emergency has been declared for the area over in the far east in the state to the north, and yeah that means forced evacuations: Bushfires relief arrives in Mallacoota as holidaymakers and locals register to evacuate on HMAS Choules

    4,000 years – I must say that it is nice to hold a ring of power, although I wouldn’t announce such things myself! 😉 Hmm, it is a fascinating question and you’re probably close to the core of the matter with Stonehenge. It could also have been disease or pestilence and the population had a backlash.

    Far out. How do you relax at a picnic with rattlesnakes cruising across the lawn? Given their deadly nature, encounters with snakes leave me feeling a touch uncomfortable, but then I have read many Conan stories (all of them in fact) and Set made a regular appearance. Interestingly though Set was usually a disinterested character and just did what it did because that was what it did. The Sorcerers on the other hand, were just sort of bad to the bone. Interestingly, Clothar has returned to the fold and is now conversing with Germanus who will no doubt send him to Britain. I twigged yesterday that Percival (Ursus) finds a place at the round table when his true name was mentioned. He didn’t seem to fond of the area he originated in and the family. I hear you bro. 🙂

    Fort Vancouver looks quite interesting with its timber palisades. I’d read about the Hudson’s Bay Company, and yeah the sealers worked the southern coasts of this continent (and islands) long before it was officially settled. The thing is though, if they constructed outposts and places to over winter, isn’t that a settlement?

    Ah, nice to be known to the auction company and they’ll look after you (I enjoy similar perquisites about the area here – but it is a two way street), and hope you don’t have to fall back to plan B?

    Hehe! You’re an old campaigner to know such tricks, and I wouldn’t have thought of doing that – thanks for the tip. And top work on sorting out the deal with the excess to needs glassware. Even more incentive to get the vase. It is a tough time of year to do such business as peoples attentions are focused elsewhere – but then you guys probably don’t break for holidays as it isn’t summer. Mind you, summer ain’t what it used to be…

    Speaking of which , I began moving water out of the reserve water tanks today. It doesn’t take too much effort as the systems are in place to do that. Speaking of which I’d better go and switch them all off. Ook!

    Also constructed another steel rock gabion cage today and dug it into its location. The cage is the final one on the (there is a lower and upper gabion) on the entire row. I’ll have to work out where else to put a new set of rock gabions once this lot are filled… What a problem!



  34. Hi DJ and Damo,

    It is the mid week hiatus and I promise to reply tomorrow. Something about pub and pint waits for no man. Plus the kitchen shuts at 8pm sharp… Best not miss out on dinner.



  35. @ DJSpo and Claire:

    We usually have a couple of yellow jacket nests in the ground each year. It’s odd how often they are right where I work or walk. I always tell them: ” I am just a deer passing by; no need to bother me.” They’re pretty gullible little things.


  36. Chris:

    In a “normal” summer we get rain at least once a week. Last summer was very dry. Fall rains made up for that and it has also been raining about once a week this winter, no snow or ice so far.

    Where would you go if you had to evacuate? Would you take the chickens? I could see you loading them all up in a couple of big dog crates.

    Well, I am glad to know about the wheelbarrow’s Dead Man’s Grip. At first I thought you were telling me that once you took hold of the thing you couldn’t let go! Electric, eh?

    I was daydreaming of rock gabions the other day.


  37. Chris,

    Hope dinner was grand! I’ll catch up to you next week. Something has come up. We are both fine.


  38. Yo, Chris – Well, some people are just Professionally Offended. It’s an avocation. 🙂 They are best, just ignored.

    Your fires are very much in the news, here. Lots of photo articles. Horrible. I think it’s interesting that Koala, seem to seek human help, when they’re in distress. Like the little chap showing up on your doorstep. But, he waited too long …

    Well, rattlesnakes generally steer clear of humans. The only get rilled up, if you stumble on them. So, keeping the grass cut, they can see you, as well as you them. But, there’s a twist. They’re blind for a month or two, every year. I think just before they shed their skins. So, they’ll strike at anything. Around June and July, I think.

    Are overwinter outposts, settlements. Well, just off the top of my noggin, I’d say, no. I think you need a certain amount of permanent infrastructure, and maybe formal government. There’s probably a formal definition, somewhere.

    Well, the auction. I got everything I wanted, at a good price, but I suppose I should get the rant out of the way. I was there 4 hours, damn near froze (even though layered) and I think the seats were liberated from a nursery school. All crammed in, tight, together. Glad I wasn’t stuck between two wide bodies. Knees tucked under chin. But, I was fairly lucky, as I was on an aisle, and, had saved a seat next to me, for a friend who didn’t show. I thought I might get flack, for that, but, no.

    There were about 200-250 people, but I wonder how many were there, just for the entertainment? But, money was spent and bidding, lively. Per usual, large pieces of furniture went begging. Smaller pieces were ok, but prices nothing like “the old days.” The ironstone set went for $350, which pleased me. No temptation, there. And, at the preview the day before, I did notice they had the diamond shaped British registry marks, on them.

    I got the jewel box, early on, but it was another three hours before the box of green glass, came up. So, what did they do? There’s a thing called “Buyer’s choice.” They split the contents of the box into three lots. The bidding begins. The winner can either just pick out one lot, or get however many lots they want, for the same price. I won the first lot, but decided I’d see what happened the second time around. Got the second lot, but only $5 less than what I paid for the first. I (and everyone else) hates choice. But, I suppose, the auction squeezes a few more bucks out of us rubes. By the way, the fruit press sold for $40. Probably smaller than yours. Looked to hold about 2 or 3 gallons.

    Check out this story about runaway tumbleweeds in easter Washington. Somewhere, I’ve seen a painting where blazing tumbleweeds are being blow ahead of a fire line.


    I thought of an appropriate ear worm. I’ll add it later.

    Well, yesterday I made Hoppin’ John. There’s a Wikipedia entry. Basically, it’s a southern dish, that I had heard of, vaguely. Well, a couple of months ago, there was a can of the stuff, in our Magic Food box. Your supposed to eat it on New Year’s Day, for luck. With cornbread (symbolizes gold) and greens (for money.) Well, the can had the beans, but was rather tepid, when it came to other ingredients. So, I fried up some sausage (that was a surprise) onions and yellow pepper, spread that over rice. I’d made cornbread, the night before. The only greens I had on hand, was frozen spinach. I don’t know about luck, but it was a tasty meal. Stay safe, Lew

  39. Hi DJ,

    Glad to read that you are both OK and thanks for your understanding. Mate, I am unable to respond to every comment, every day regardless as to how delightful the comments are, and I have to ignore even my personal inclinations to want to do so.

    And at the moment, I’m finding that I need a bit of extra quiet time to recover due to the ongoing background risks. Things are getting a bit crazy down here in relation to the bushfires and there are a few burning not too far from here now. Fingers crossed and all that, but I’ll keep the active water tanks all filled up and ready to go just in case. Still I have no desire to test the systems here, although I’d hope that they’re good and up to the challenge, but nobody really knows.

    I hear you, sometimes I also find joking around to be helpful in providing the tension breaker when it is needed. But yeah, people can get a bit miffed by it. I’ve heard salespeople describing what you mentioned as the act of “shutting the suitcase” – i.e. Knowing when to keep quiet and shut up. I’m not much of a salesperson, as I’m guessing you’re not either…

    The Alligators down in Florida pose a similar risk to the salt water crocodiles. Dunno about you, but I reckon 300 million years unchanged is something to fear and treat with seriousness – like sharks.

    Snakes are part of the environment, I get that, but why do they have to be so lethal?

    Well yeah, that is the upside to hot weather in that as long as the plants have access to water, they’ll grow faster with the extra energy. Ensuring that hot weather and water are available at the same time is the real trick with that scenario. I spend a lot of time trying to get the water systems working just right – and then ensuring they continue to work. It’s 34’C outside right now.

    I tend to feel that the correct word with your humour would be: “fractured” rather than warped!!! Hehe! I loved that show and it was highly subversive.

    Your weather sounds like a giant slushie drink experiment. Hope things have settled down now weather wise?



  40. Hi Damo,

    Thanks for your thoughts and fingers crossed that tomorrow is OK, but who knows until it is done and over. There is a fire burning right now to the south west of us at Dales Creek, and fortunately the wind is calm today. That one is a worry due to the prevailing forecasted winds, but we’ll see and about the best I can say about it is that we have line of site to that part of the world and I can’t see any smoke right now.

    Brisbane has been hotter than down this way – and for far longer. Hope your family are doing OK up there. I hear that the smoke from the bushfires is making its way over onto your island? Your family trip sounded quite nice, and Christmas pudding and custard is a delightful feed. Yum!

    I’ll tell you a strange story. After the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, the state government had aircraft drop the seeds for mountain ash (Eucalyptus Regnans) trees over the fire affected areas. In the mineral rich potash beds the seeds would have happily germinated (I believe their dormancy was broken as part of the seed drop operation). And so the seeds for the next big fire look set to have been sown. We could have done anything in that giant blank slate – like plant shady oaks and nitrogen fixing trees, but no we recreated the same mess that produced an horrific outcome. I’ve driven through those areas an observed the regrowth forest, and because nothing is there to eat the plants (it is hardly a surprise that all the animals, birds and insects die during such a massive inferno), the forest is choked thick with plant matter. Things that make you go hmmm.

    As to carbon: Bushfires spew two-thirds of national carbon emissions in one season. WTF? It would be far easier to manage the forests in the first place, but it offends peoples sensibilities and few want to pay for the job to be done – so nothing happens. Mind you, historically the fires were even bigger like the 1851 fire in Victoria, so despite their size and terror today, things actually were worse in the past.

    Mate, your description of the deep mines makes me take my hat off to people who work in such conditions.



  41. Hi Pam,

    If the yellow jacket wasps get too close to me, I tend to shoo them away, and to date I have not been stung by one – although the editor has been – but she disturbed a nest. The bull-ant bites are worse and take longer to recover from. You might be onto something with tricking the wasps with magic, and I’ll follow your lead next time I encounter one (which I haven’t so far this season).

    Rain at least once per week during summer is a fortunate turn of events, but if it fails then… I’m used to two inches of rain per month on average, and that disappeared about four weeks ago. Ook! We’ve been chatting for many years now, and I’m not really sure, but I get the impression that your part of the world is becoming warmer and drier, but with good winter rains, but maybe that is just the impression that I get? Dunno.

    Ah ha! Well I can head south west, south east, and north to leave here, so there are a few choices available to me (a chainsaw would be handy to have access to during such escapes), although no fire truck will ever come down my road during a forest fire due to there being only one exit. It was one of the first things that I was told when I joined the local brigade and it was a bit of an eye opener. Best to know the truth of these things because then you can make appropriate decisions.

    Unfortunately the chickens will have to fend for themselves, but they’d probably be OK if only because if steel burns (and all of the enclosure is constructed entirely from steel and concrete) then things are bad indeed – and that is unlikely from what I’ve observed of how the material responds to fires. And they have lots of water and a low pressure sprinkler to keep their enclosure cool and moist during a fire. All up I wouldn’t worry too much about them. On the other hand I have seen aluminium or some other alloy engine blocks melt in a burnt car. Hmm.

    Yes, electric would be a less finicky beast, and if I wasn’t bringing up such huge loads (large rocks) I would have chosen such a device, but I really needed the slightly extra grunt that fossil fuels provide.



  42. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for your insight. I was wondering as to what people actually get out of being professionally offended? There must be something in it for them to be motivated to whine so publicly? I usually ignore such folks, or if I’m confronted by their outrage, I tend to divert their energies by asking them the hard questions like: “So what are you intending to do about it?” Whining seems to be about the extent of their activities, so they can be largely ignored.

    Years and years ago when I was in the big smoke I had a neighbour who was a bit older and he had a younger wife and a couple of young kids. Anyway, I was having a chat to him one day, and both of his kids ran up to him complaining of some ill or other, and he took a quick look at them (I guess he was assessing the veracity of their claims) and then blithely ignored them and continued the conversation as if nothing had just happened. I was in awe of his skills and took note of that particular technique. It has served me well from time to time.

    Things have gone into bonkers factor 11 overtime over the next few days. It is sort of like the crazy overdrive 3000, but not as easy going. Sensitive folks can discern the difference between the two states of being. Still, things could be worse I guess. There is a fire burning now to the south west of me, although it is a fair way away. It is a bit of a problem for me personally due to the forecast winds tomorrow, and I had plans to head down to that part of the world to avail myself of some scones and home-made jam on Sunday. I might have to rethink that journey. And I hope the winds don’t drive the fire in this direction.

    As far as I understand the origins of the word: “Koala” it is from a local dialect which apparently means: “Old man, no drink”, because koalas rarely if ever drink water – their metabolisms are such that they derive water from the leaves of their favourite Eucalyptus trees Manna gums. Interestingly the tree is cold hardy to 5’F (Brr!) and the sap sugar content is between 5% and 15% which is massive compared to sugar maple sap which I believe is only around 2% to 5%. I recall reading that colonial kids ate the tree exudation’s as if they were candy. I have two sugar maple trees growing here and one is not far off a decade old and maybe about 17ft high. Not bad, but not good enough to tap for sugar. The manna gums on the other hand grow along creek and river beds (dry or running) and I’d have to walk right down to the bottom of the property to find any trees.

    The snakes here are bit the same way, and you have to really annoy them (or if they end up inside a house or shed) for them to become actively distressed. At the agricultural show I attend there is a snake catcher and I listened attentively as he said the best thing to do when encountering a snake is to not annoy it and keep very still. You can apparently shout for help to your hearts content as they have really poor hearing and eye sight. The logic behind keeping very still was that snakes are rarely inclined to bite trees and sticks and they only have small (but highly effective) brains and they’ll most likely mistake you for such if you keep very still (easier said than done).

    Ah, I accede to your definition as to what is meant by a permanent settlement.

    Sorry to hear that the auction was not heated during the depths of winter, and I hear you about the seats and would also have aimed for a row seat too. That does happen with people doing a no-show, so it is plausible and I guess much depends upon how you conveyed the situation.

    Good to see that someone valued the English ironstone dinner set. You know, I reckon people expect brand new for many things nowadays that not that long ago people would happily settle for second hand. And furniture is one such item. On the other hand, and it’s a bit of self-interest here, if the value was not that way, then there is no way that I’d score all of the great tables that we’ve repaired and restored here for not much mad cash at all. Some of the table prices were of the sort that suggests: “get this thing out of here, prices”.

    Interesting, and I guess the auction choice tactic is all about earning a few more chunks of mad cash from the commissions? Incidentally, $40 is a pretty good price for such a machine, and yeah not saying I told you so, but people don’t value such things at all. It looked lovingly made and as if it was in for the long haul.

    Wow! The tumbleweeds look exactly like smoke or snow in the night photos, and who’d have thunk it possible? Plants have developed all sorts of ingenious ways of moving around the landscape.

    Speaking of which, thousands of people over in the very far east of the state and along the coast in the state to the north have been stranded and are in the process of being evacuated. It’s unprecedented: Mallacoota evacuations begin as thousands trapped by bushfires are transported to Navy ships. I do wonder what people were doing in that part of the world holidaying – given the advice beforehand, but at the same time I can understand that they would not have believed what happened, actually happened – especially in such a place along the coast. Everyone worries about such things happening where we live.

    The dish sounds exquisite! Yum! I do hope that you plan to have made ‘Skippin’ Jenny’ today? It looks like a fine dish and I would enjoy it thoroughly and applaud its humble origins. It is interesting that you mention peas and beans because I reckon all being well, the very highest garden terrace will be turned over to various varieties of beans and peas, possibly beginning with a large and densely planted crop of broad beans. The beans seeds are drying in the sun as I type this, but I have to do something about the soil fertility up there as I can’t provide too much regular water at that level.

    I’ve been contemplating cornbread of late, although bread wheat will be an easier plant to grow here. Dunno.

    The wallabies did a smash and grab on the editors roses last evening. We’re planning an expedition into the hot and smoky late afternoon air soon to sort out the fencing so that the poor plants can recover. Even the tomato plants were not left unscathed.

    Thanks for the Roy Rogers tune about tumbleweeds. And the bloke lived a very interesting life – with tragedy.

    Hey! I just read that the fire of concern to me is now contained, so fingers crossed that it doesn’t escape containment lines tomorrow. They’ve done a lot of back burning in that part of the world over the past few years so that might help the situation.

    Now I better get outside and deal to the wallaby fencing on the garden terraces. The editor is not happy about the marsupials.



  43. Hello again
    I do hope that things remain okay for you. Daughters have just left Kangaroo Island. It appears that things are about to become terrible there and the only safe places are the 2 easterly towns.


  44. Yo, Chris – The Professionally Offended seem to think they’re taking some moral high road. It’s just a cheap knock off of virtue signaling. 🙂 .

    Children should be ignored, as much as possible. And, encouraged to play in the road.

    The Koala must have been thirsty, to approach a bicycalist, for a swig of water. He’s a new internet star. Ought to start his own blog.

    I’d seen several articles about the Mallacoata evacuations. But not the one you linked to. Two things struck me as quirky. The guy with the rabbit. Now, it said he was a tourist. So, what? He travels with his rabbit? Is it an Emotional Support Animal? The whole Emotional Support Animals fad is just bonkers, over here. Ever since Paris Hilton tucked a small dog, in her purse. I’m not for more government oversight, but in this case … Call someone on it, and they get all weepy and claim an animals is for emotional support. What a load of horse apples.

    The other thing that seemed quirky (to me) is that people had to “register for evacuation.” Reserve your spot? Get the best seating? It just seemed so … British. :-).

    I missed the Skippin’ Jenny reference. Missed it by a day, but I have all the leftovers for another round of Hoppin’ John. Which I plan to wallow through, tonight. While watching Wim Wenders, “Until the End of the World.” Started it, last night, and, as it is almost five hours, long. Interesting story. It was made about 1990. The film company told him he’d contracted for no more than 2 hours, and that’s what they wanted. So, he cut the film, but kept a secret full negative. And, that’s what Criterion Films has released. When he had to cut the film, it lost a lot of it’s humor, and, a lot of the soundtrack. Which has everyone from Talking Heads, to K.D. Lang, to Lou Reed. The cut movie did very poorly. The full soundtrack, sold very well. Filmed on four continents and ten countries. There’s quit a large Australian segment, coming up, tonight. Sam Neill has a very large roll.

    I went to one of the cheap food stores, early this AM. Ought to call it “Luck of the Draw.” Though not so much as the other store. Didn’t have a lot of what I was looking for, and I think it’s better to shop mid-week, rather than end of week. But, as we had two holidays, back to back, mid-week. But, we’re past that now. Things can get back on schedule. Since boycotting Safeway, it will take me awhile to pick up on the rhythm of the place.

    (Very) bad wallabies!!! I’d call out a drone strike, in retaliation.

    Really useless to say, but try not to worry too much. You’re well prepared, and have a plan. What will happen, will happen. And, you’ve got people all over the world, sending you the best wishes. The Editor and you will be in all our thoughts, over this dicey weekend. Lew

  45. Hi Inge,

    Glad to read that your daughters and grandson made it back to the mainland via the ferry. The weather over the past few days has meant that the risk from fire has increased for the beautiful Kangaroo island. There is an update on the situation there: Fire claims lives of pilot and son as blazes rip through more than a third of Kangaroo Island. The island looks like it is getting some much needed rain – right now – and that might assist with the fires, although they are epic in scale.

    Thanks for your kind thoughts and it is pretty smoky here, but so far at this time there is no immediate fire threat, although the wind is blowing. It may rain tomorrow morning and I look forward to that.

    Still life must go and we made a huge batch of strawberry jam today and bottled about a quarter years supply of apricots. I’m feeling tired though and am having a quiet night this evening.

    How did your son go with the process of cleaning the bottles?



  46. Hi Claire,

    Many thanks for your kind thoughts, and it appears that both nearby fires have been contained – despite the blustery wind. A cool change swept through this afternoon and I feel relieved although also a bit emotionally drained.

    The fires in the east of the state are an entirely different matter, and things would be pretty bad there about now. I notice on the weather radar that the fires are generating their own weather systems, so it is not good over there.

    I hope people managed to get out in time.



  47. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the laughs as I’d slept rather poorly last night and woke up with a headache and have felt a bit ‘off’ all day long. It was pretty hot too, 75’F inside and outside the house this morning. A cool change has now swept through the area and things have cooled down now. And the nearby fires appear to have been contained – which is an amazing thing.

    I noticed on the far eastern end of the state, the weather radar shows that the big fires there are generating their own weather systems. There are even lightning strikes which won’t help anybody. At least it looks like a bit of rain is forecast for here, and also over there tomorrow and Monday.

    We have had some amazing offers of assistance should the worst come to the worst, and I’m grateful to those people. The coming week of weather looks more pleasant and back to more normal summer conditions – whatever those are.

    Yes, yes, it is true that we do queues well. And yeah, they really had to register their interest to be evacuated, as there were about 4,000 people (at a guess 75% were tourists based on the towns permanent population) and there was only about just under 1,000 berths on the ship. The process appeared to look all very orderly from all accounts and even pets were evacuated, although I can’t really understand why someone would take a pet rabbit on holiday with them. It makes no sense to me at all, and is frankly a very rare event down here. I have heard of animals being used to provide therapy and companionship for seriously traumatised people, but have never seen or heard of anyone actually doing that. Although once long ago I was at a wedding reception where some bloke had brought his dog. I wrote that episode off as weird, but the dog and person were no friend or associate of mine.

    Hoppin John is not a dissimilar meal from some of the rice and vegetable meals we make. I actually really like the meal. Yum!

    Did you enjoy the film? I read a synopsis of the story and it read like a great road movie, and somewhat dystopian. Ouch. The film appears to have cost far more than it recouped at the box office – which is not indicative as to the quality of the film. Hope the extended directors cut was a more cohesive story? Sam Neill is a great actor and has been around the traps for many years. Who can forget Hunt for the Wilderpeople – although I’m guessing that you’d vote for Jurassic Park?

    Just picked the first zucchini of the season, and today we canned (bottled) about a quarter year’s supply of apricots. Plus made a huge batch of strawberry jam. Plus I napped twice today trying to throw off the lethargy that is making me feel a bit off. Oh well. Later in the afternoon I picked a couple of apricot trees clean of their fruit, although this year I am allowing the birds to take far more produce than they’d usually enjoy. They’re doing it really tough, and I have access to quality organic orchards which the birds won’t have access too.

    Hey, I get that too about learning and then knowing a stores delivery rhythms. I have the exact same issue with the organic fresh milk supplies (for my coffee and yoghurt making of course) and without asking too many questions of the store, I just sort of learned over the years that they seem to bring the fresh stuff in on Wednesdays – but I could be wrong. I’d hate to think what happens to the stuff that is not sold – although you could probably enlighten me about such practices given your recent literary choices?

    I’m getting near to the end of ‘The Spear Thrower!”, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Young Clothar has picked up an interesting bunch of travellers – and they’re not excited about rainy old Britain.

    Pah! Bad Wallabies, but also bad Chris. Ollie woke me up that evening to let me know that something was amiss, and I took a quick look around in the wee hours of the morning, but it was not a good enough look. The roses have been, extensively pruned, although I’m sure they’ll bounce back. The garden terraces are now far better fenced, and I will have to do something more permanent once the growing season has finished.

    Thank you very much for writing that and I really appreciate your words as they mean a lot to me.



  48. Hi Chris,
    Relieved when I check on here each day and you,the editor and the fluffies are OK.


  49. Hi Chris

    I’m glad to hear that the fires near you are under control, and that some rain is finally falling. Yesterday was pretty epic in this part of the country, and not in a good way! Fires to the left of them, fires to the right of them – Canberra is ringed with fire, though we are in no immediate danger. We actually had a fairly smoke-free day, but couldn’t open any windows because of the extreme heat. 44°C, a new all-time record! Then, when we finally got a cool change, it brought back the smoke from the fires on the South Coast. Canberra today has the worst air quality of any city in the world! But the general mood is one of thankfulness that we are not facing the fires – we remember 2003 quite well!

    I loved your trip down memory lane, as it is always fun to see how much has been accomplished over the years. Well done!

    Hope you and the editor and your Fluffy Collective stay safe.


  50. Yo, Chris – I’m glad your weather is taking a turn for the better. Cooler and wetter. May it continue the rest of your summer.

    You heard it, here, first! 🙂 I see Prof. Mass has a post about the Great Tumbleweed Invasion of 2020.

    “Real” registered service animals have a sporty little vest, they wear.

    I finished off the Skippin’ Jenny, last night. Tasty. So, being a crusty old Scotsman (or, at least descended from such) did you celebrate Hogmamy? Throw a little Cock-a-leekie soup, Rumble de thumps, or Tatties and Neeps on the table? Hmmm. Shall I save you some time, or let those lay on the table like a dead fish? Oh, all right! That’s chicken soup, potato and veg bake and potatoes and turnips.

    I finished watching “Until the End of the World”, last night. I must say is was pretty engrossing, and I fast forwarded through very little of it. Got to see a lot of Australia, in part two. I think I liked “Wilderpeople”, better. “Jurassic” was entertainment, a good romp. A pop corn movie. But “Wilderpeople” was more … thoughtful. More meat on the bones. While still having it’s really funny bits.

    Well, as far as past date items from food stores, one hopes there’s pigs, handy. Of course, some of it ends up in our Magic Food Boxes, and, perhaps goes to other charities and food banks.

    Most of Clothar’s mob end up as Sir this or that, in later Arthurian tales. When Ursus was revealed to be Percival, the penny dropped.

    The first seed catalog, showed up yesterday. Ohhhh! All the pretty pictures. 🙂 Mustn’t get carried away. Lew

  51. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, I am too. And today’s weather has been nothing short of awesome. 48’F maximum and cloudy and rainy with almost 0.3 of an inch of rain falling over several hours. It is not much rain, but given it pretty much hasn’t rained at all for the past four weeks, it’s a lot of rain!

    Things in the far east of the state and along the coast in the state to the north of here are not good. Here’s an update from earlier today: Fires still burning in NSW, Victoria and SA following day of record temperatures.

    The rain has made it over to the east of the state, but they had a much drier winter than here, which is highly unusual as that south eastern part of the continent is normally very damp.



  52. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks, and um yeah, we’re all glad to have kept out of harms way so far this season. Yesterday was an absolute nail biter of a day weather wise. It rained here today and honestly it feels like an early winters day outside, although I am extremely grateful for the change – and the forest is soaking up the drink. It smells nice.

    The fluffies send cordial tail wags to Leo and Salve, and as a break from thoughts of all things fires I’ll write about Dame Scritchy this evening.



  53. Hi Hazel,

    Oh my! Record breaking hot weather combined with smoke is not good at all.

    Some of the readers may not realise that you just enjoyed the hottest day on record at 44’C which is 111’F: Canberra hottest ever temperature recorded, but the smoke has been epic. And I saw the images of the nation’s capital city (looks more like Beijing on a really really bad day) but the images have to be seen to be believed: NSW fires blanket Canberra in thick smoke, leading to orange skies and poor air quality.

    Truly bonkers and yup, I hear you about not being able to open the windows despite the heat.

    I recall the 2003 fires through Canberra too, and if memory serves me correctly, they were so intense they created their own intense weather as they ripped through the city. Not good.

    Thank you! We kept up working despite the fire threat, although I slept long and deeply last evening once the cool change had arrived and the fires hadn’t been swept up by the wind change.

    I hope you and yours continue to remain safe too during this crazy summer.



  54. Hi Lewis,

    I had plans last evening to begin writing, and also to continue reading a very long fictional story that a mate sent me. Alas, by the time 9pm rolled around I was done and could barely keep my eyes open. I woke up this morning at 8am and felt refreshed.

    Despite all the dramas, a person has to recall that life goes on, and so we made the short journey west to a place I know of that makes superb scones with homemade jam and thickened cream. The place is about a mile from where the fire that threatened here was, and I had a short chat to the bloke there. And he summed it up nicely by saying that they were all a little bit ‘spooked’ by the turn of events yesterday. Anyway, the scones were better than ever, and I just thought they might need the support because despite it all they are running a business and it needs customers.

    Anyway, the day began cold as, and just never warmed up. 48’F and almost 0.3 inches of rain fell over many long hours. I breathed a big sigh of relief, as did probably most people in this part of the world unaffected by the fires (so far at least – no point tempting the weather Gods). The rain originated over the Indian Ocean far to the north west of the continent where apparently the Indian Ocean Dipole has now gone into a neutral phase (it’s a bit like the El Nino phenomena but for the Indian Ocean rather than the Pacific Ocean) and the rain travelled down over the continent in what looks on the radar like a huge river of rain. It’s amazing to see. Fingers crossed that we are now in an entirely different season – which is a distinct possibility. To put out the fires in the far east of the state and along the coast line will require a lot more rain than what fell today, but you never know.

    I see that the Good Professor is stocking up on milk and bread. Is this a sign or call to action from one who knows their way around the weather? The tumbleweed post was great. I really enjoy the Professors writing.

    Wow. So the only dogs wearing coats that are allowed where pets usually aren’t allowed are the seeing eye dogs – and they are a necessary assistant to the people requiring them and are protected under law. All other animals have no such legal protection down here – which is probably why we don’t see such companion animals. Interesting since you mention this matter I bumped into a neighbour the other day who had a new dog, and the dog is five years old and used to be part of the seeing eye dog program. I dunno why I blurted this response out, but maybe I have spent too long in the country doing straight talking, but anyway I blurted out: “Oh, so the dog’s a reject?” The owners kind of looked a bit offended by my comment, but still the facts sort of speak for themselves… The story was that the dog had been involved in the breeding program and I noted it had a very bad attitude to other dogs.

    Don’t laugh, but occasionally you still hear the word ‘tater’ substituted for potato, although it is becoming much rarer. Speaking of that part of the world, have you ever tasted nettle soup, or bubble and squeak? The editor was horrified to discover that bubble and squeak was sold as a frozen pre-packaged meal – some things just aren’t right.

    It’s a big place, and most of it is extraordinarily quiet, although the cities are much the same as cities elsewhere. Yeah, I see what you mean about the Wilderpeople being more thoughtful and wouldn’t have considered that aspect unless you mentioned it. It did actually raise the issue of man’s relationship to nature – and also the sheer craziness of attempts to subvert that. I was kind of taken too with the concept of the hot water bottle being a regular cozy nighttime routine for the young bloke. I reckon folks have too much stuff these days and a bit of hardship can breed appreciation for when things aren’t so hard.

    When I used to shop at the Queen Victoria market, some of the stall holders used to sell off their excess produce at the end of trading (stuff that couldn’t be sold the next day) to what I’ve always thought were pig farmers. You’d see them driving away with trailer loads full of manky looking fruit and vegetables. There’s not as much waste in those arrangements as there may be in corporate businesses that don’t want the hassle of dealing with the people who want the waste for agricultural or other purposes. Need I mention the extraordinary volume of used coffee products that have ended up in the soils here? But that requires a relationship and it is hard to develop a relationship with a corporation – which generally favours simplicity of operations.

    Exactly, when I read what Ursus’s actual name was I did a double take and went, hang on a sec…

    Go the seed catalogues. Stay strong Lewis, but indulge your whims just a little bit at the same time. Oh, it’s complex, but they tempt me too. 🙂 As an act of gratefulness for the abrupt change in weather today I purchased a: Quercus ilex to plant tomorrow.

    I read an article in the business section of the newspaper yesterday that was suggesting an unlikely possibility of feeding 10 billion people. It is nice to have goals I guess, anyway as things turn out in the real world, this agriculture thing is tough as: Tasmanian cherry growers struggle with workload as fruit ripens at same time. Things that make you go hmmm.



  55. Yo, Chris – Eleven hours of sleep? Sounds like some of the stunts, I pull 🙂 . Brushfires, floods … you sometimes don’t realize how much stress you’re under, until the threat has past. Spooked, is the least of it. I don’t know what Prof. Mass hinted at. The seven day forecast, from our National Weather Service doesn’t have any temperatures, anywhere near freezing, at least for the next 7 days. At least, here. We may have flooding, Monday and Tuesday. Right now, it’s really coming down.

    We hear “tatter”, quit frequently, here. Due to the frozen product called “Tatter Tots.” Been around for decades. It’s some kind of potato mash, that’s extruded into small cylinders. Actually, quit tasty with a thrown together dip. Maybe mayo, catsup and mustard.

    I’ve never had nettle soup. Frozen “Bubble and Squeak” sounds diabolical. Horrors! Can “Toad in the Hole” be far behind? No wonder Western Civilization is going down the tubes.

    I ran across a phrase, yesterday. Had heard it before, but I think it describes some of the going’s on in Whyte’s books. “Dynastic squabbles.” Now, I don’t think the following is exactly a spoiler. It’s from the later tales, and Whyte’s likely to throw in a curve ball. At first I thought our favorite skivvy and all around dog’s body, Bors, would end up like “crewman #3”. That’s not casting shade on poor Bors. Someone’s got to polish that armor and curry those horses (and I understand curried horse is quit tasty.) But something nagged at my memory, and, in the later traditional Arthur cycle, Sir Bors gets a seat at the round table. We’ll see.

    Well, I’ve got to go through my seed stock, before I go crazy with the catalogues. No sense buying stuff I have on hand. I always like the Nichols catalog. Unlike the splashy Territorial Seed, to date, it doesn’t have pictures. Heck, I can remember when it was mimeographed. LOL. “We’re not flash, we’re for SERIOUS gardeners.”

    The Ilex looks like a very stately looking tree. Might grow truffles, too. Pack Ollie’s bags for truffle school. They do exist, but I think are quit pricey. Like every proud parent, you’ll have to save for his tuition. Will he be accepted? I understand, if you slip a few bucks to his counselor or testing agency, his scores can be fiddled, a bit 🙂 .

    Well, we may be able to feed 10 billion, but I doubt it will be tasty. Soylent Green, anyone?

    The cherry people are showing a lack of imagination. The excess could be dried, or turned into jam or jelly. I dried cherries, decades ago, and they were tasty. But, I suppose, on an industrial scale, they’re not set up for dried or preserves. Capital investment might be steep for a now and again kind of a thing. Lew

Comments are closed.