Around and Around

Around and around she travelled, at ever increasing speeds. She’s once, twice, three times, but she ain’t no lady. Still, despite her less than lady like demeanour, I love the old Scritchy dog. And incidentally, she made it around the house six times that day before I put a stop to her craziness.

Scritchy the Elder snuggles up with her friend Ollie the Australian cuddle dog

At eighteen years of age, old Scritchy is physically quite well, but she really is losing her marbles.

Ollie the much younger and much larger Australian cuddle dog (all right thinking folks know him to be an Australian cattle dog) sometimes looks at his elder mate in a funny way. He’ll cock his head to one side, and put on a quizzical canine expression as if to ask the hard questions of the elder Scritchy: “Dude. Why are you trying to bite my throat? Surely you don’t think that you stand a chance of success?” And all the while Scritchy is bouncing up and down whilst she declares: “Ollie, you’re going to die, and I’m going to be the one that kills you. You will know true fear.” Bounce. Bounce.

There are times when Ollie has had enough of the rambunctious elder Scritchy, and he puts one of his very large paws out and gently presses her to the ground. He’s actually very gentle with her, and during wet weather you can see the dirty stomp marks on her back when he’s tried to tone down the worst of her excesses.

Toothy has no problems at all with the elder Scritchy. She’ll go up to Toothy and randomly (with her limited number of aged but still quite sharp teeth) attempt to bite his face. Toothy will just bow his head in submission. There is always more to these stories than meets the eye, and the two dogs have a long standing fluffy arrangement, which involves Scritchy leaving a substantial portion of her dinner to the easily beguiled Toothy. Toothy might be on a good thing though and because of the fluffy arrangement, he barely eats any breakfast. It’s complicated, but I guess they’ve known each other for many years.

I tend to sympathise with Ollie, because at night Scritchy also drives me bonkers. There I am at the computer replying to lovely comments or writing the next blog, and Scritchy bounces off the green couch and demands to be let outside so that she can go to the toilet. Except that because she is very old and losing her marbles, she forgets that it was only five minutes previously that she demanded to be let outside. Toothy of course encourages her because he enjoys the stimulation of running around outside in the early evening when the activities of the wildlife are only just beginning to get underway. You can almost hear Toothy egging her on: “Carn Scritchy! Let’s go outside on an adventure”.

Tolerance is defined as: “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with“. Yeah I hear that, but there are limits. So after about the fifth request by Scritchy within half an hour to be let outside to go to the toilet, I bring out the wooden spoon. Wooden spoons are handy items and they are generally well made if carved from a single source of timber. On the desk next to my keyboard and within easy reach is a wooden spoon with a long handle. The tool provides me with exceptional reach, and I don’t have to hit Scritchy with the wooden spoon, all I have to do is gently touch the spoon against her head and make odd sounds like: “Grrrrrrrrrrrr!”

The thing is, the sneaky old broad then pulls what is known as: ‘sad old dog face number six’. This is an even more effective form of sad old dog face than the noteworthy contender: ‘face number five’. Anyway, she’ll look oppressed and cower at the mere thought that she’d be chastised for her behaviour. Promises will be made by Scritchy to act more normally in future. For a while, peace will prevail, then half an hour later it will all be forgotten and she’ll be back to her usual mischief.

Incidentally, there are times where if I do not succumb to her wishes to let her outside in a timely fashion, she will happily do a wee in front of me (or the editor) and then toddle off with a haughty expression which suggests that the incident was somehow my fault. Fortunately the flooring in the house is hardwood and so the incidents are easily cleaned up, but still, the other two dogs look at her and you can almost hear them saying: “Scritchy, you are like, super bad!”

For a while I wondered if Scritchy had become incontinent in her elderly age, but the thing is, when required, Scritchy can hang on for many long hours at a time. During the day, I put her outside so that she can run around in the fresh air. And she’ll spend hours and hours walking around the house trying to work out how to get back inside again.

As a consequence Scritchy’s world is small, and when she is outside of the house and she spots me near to one of the entrances, she’ll get really excited and begin running towards me. Then just at the last second she’ll attempt to dodge me and continue runing around and around the house at full speed. A while back I wanted to see how many times she would run around the house, and I had to put a stop to it by the sixth circumnavigation, as she displayed no signs of stopping.

Einstein once defined insanity as: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And Scritchy sure has that act down pat. Her patterns have to be just right and most exacting, otherwise there will be difficulties – for me of course, not for her.

Over the past few days, there have been three nearby bushfires which were of concern to us. We have a written list detailing what needs to be done and taken if directly threatened by a bushfire, and the plan is to leave the house to fend for itself. The house is built to withstand some pretty serious and horrific conditions that most houses aren’t constructed to withstand. The house and most of the sheds would probably be fine in the event of the worst case scenario, but do I want to be there to find out firsthand that I stuffed something up with the construction? It is possibly not a very bright idea.

On the other hand, the purely pragmatic side of me pondered the question as to whether I was doing the right thing by removing Scritchy dog from the house, should we be forced to abandon the house during a direct bushfire threat. It is more than likely that the house will be fine if the worst case scenario was to occur, but then again it might not be fine.

And whilst I was considering Scritchy repeating the same behaviours over and over again ad nauseum, I wondered just how many of these epic scale bushfires the country has to endure before we change our relationship (and tightly held, but false beliefs) to the environment?

Smoke from a nearby bushfire obscures the two mountains that normally appear off in the distance

In the above photo, you can actually see one of the nearby bushfires. The origin of the fire is just below and to the right of the setting sun in a valley. Long term readers will notice that Mount Blackwood and Mount Bullengarook which are normally visible, have disappeared due to the thick smoke.

Despite the epic scale bushfires, work has to continue on the farm. And work (and action) it should noted are good antidotes to feelings of general concern about the environment. Winter may be far away, but seasoned firewood is best stored under cover when dried by the extreme UV of the summer sun. The primary (and much larger) firewood shed is now full. Wet and unseasoned firewood does not burn well, and such poor quality firewood will damage steel wood fireboxes and clog chimneys with gunk (technically known as creosote).

The author stands in front of a full firewood shed

Some modifications were made to the secondary (and smaller) firewood shed. The internal lining was increased in height. With a higher internal lining, we are able to stack in more firewood. Both firewood sheds have an outer layer of steel (which can be seen in the above photo), but they also have an inner layer of steel. Firewood sheds without an inner layer, inevitably fall apart due to the extreme outward pressure that a full shed load of firewood places upon the outer layer of steel.

The author standing inside the secondary and thus smaller firewood shed
The now very hot author showing off the increased height of the inner layer of steel inside the secondary firewood shed

Because the inner layer of steel is now much higher, we can stack far more firewood inside the secondary shed.

The power wheelbarrow was used to move rocks and crushed rock about the farm. The power wheelbarrow can move a quarter of a trailer load (that’s a 7 foot x 5 foot trailer) at a time – uphill.

The power wheelbarrow was used to move a trailer load of crushed rock uphill

The locally quarried crushed rock with lime was placed on the landings next to the two gates on the recently completed garden terrace project.

Crushed rock with lime was used outside the two gates on the garden terrace project

The power wheelbarrow was also used to bring two huge loads of rocks back up the hill to fill up the ground behind one of the almost full steel rock gabion cages.

The ground behind the latest almost full steel rock gabion cage was filled

The hill can be steep at some points.

The power wheelbarrow can move hugely heavy loads up steep inclines

Two huge loads of rocks were dumped into the cavity behind the steel rock gabion cage. We were then able to use the remaining crushed rock to place onto the surface. It looks pretty good and is very stable.

The surface behind the latest almost full steel rock gabion cage has been mostly fixed

Another (and the final lower) steel rock gabion cage was constructed and placed into the long retaining wall. Of course, we firstly had to dig out the site where the steel rock gabion cage would be placed.

The final (of the lower sections) steel rock gabion cage was constructed and placed

December was an extraordinarily dry and hot month. We’d been hoping that the depth of quality soil in the blackberry / raspberry enclosure was good enough so that the plants could survive such harsh conditions without additional watering. Turns out the blackberries appear to be doing well, but the raspberries have seriously struggled. We have enjoyed less than a dozen raspberries for the entire season.

This week we added an irrigation line to the blackberry / raspberry enclosure and they enjoy 15 minutes of daily watering via the dripper lines (which roughly equates to 50 litres or 13 gallons per day). The watering robot now controls daily watering on four of the five terraces and I can almost hear it claiming: “Relax’ said the watering robot, We are programmed to receive.”

Irrigation was added to the blackberry / raspberry enclosure

The editor is very unhappy with the wallabies. For those that don’t know, a wallaby is a slightly smaller brown forest kangaroo. Several of them live on the farm, and I don’t begrudge them their fair share of the farms produce – especially in seasons like this one where they’re doing it really tough. However, some plants are off limits. The wallabies on the other hand see the fluffy arrangement differently, and they broke into the garden terrace a few nights back. The editor is unhappy because the wallabies ate most of her rose collection.

The editors collection of roses were subject to a marsupial smash and grab

The crazy weather has meant that it might be a very poor tomato season, and so I am very grumpy that the wallabies also ate the tops of many of the tomato plants.

Some of the tomatoes were also eaten in the marsupial smash and grab

Poo CamTM tells no lies and the wallabies even left a cheeky calling card to announce their successful marsupial smash and grab.

Poo Cam tells no lies

The fencing was temporarily upgraded as a priority. After the growing season, a permanent fence will be installed.

The fencing on the garden terrace project was temporarily fixed

In other produce news, the first of about ten grape vines has now reached the lower stainless steel cable where it can grow along.

A grape vine reaches the lower stainless steel cable for the vine to grow upon

The first zucchini (courgette) was harvested this week:

The first zucchini (courgette) was harvested this week

We have left a large portion of our tree crops for the birds this year. The tough climactic conditions means that they need a hand, and the birds live here and can’t travel far, whilst I can travel to nearby organic orchards and purchase quality sun ripened fruit. However, this apricot tree looked so juicy that I picked it:

Sun ripened apricots. Ollie says yum!

Despite the amount of fruit consumed by the birds this year, we still have plenty of stone fruit. I have a box sitting inside the house slowly ripening. The fruit has flavour, it just needs to soften up a bit before consumption or more likely it will be bottled (canning).

Broad beans dry whilst tasty stone fruit softens inside the house

We also bottled (canned) a quarter years supply of sun ripened and very tasty apricots as well as converting the 3kg (6.6 pounds) strawberry harvest into 16 jars of tasty strawberry jam. Both will be enjoyed when winter finally rolls around again.

A quarter years supply of apricots was bottled (canned) and 16 jars of strawberry jam were made

Onto the flowers:

A new variety of geranium has produced flowers this week
More spectacular geraniums flower despite the heat and utter lack of care
The herb Feverfew relishes the hot weather
This creeping rose is spectacular and smells great

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 9’C (48’F). So far this year there has been 16.4mm (0.6 inches). Last year there was a total of 719.6mm (28.3 inches). A somewhat dry year.

72 thoughts on “Around and Around”

  1. Late comment for last week:
    yeah, it’s been a while, I only seem to get to drop in on you “every so now and then” as my clog wog dad used to say…
    Glad to hear the fires are avoiding you for now. Let’s keep it that way, shall we?
    As for your apricots, I’m jealous. We managed to bring off a decent crop of early peaches, nectarines and mulberries, but everything else that isn’t already dead is being trashed by starving wallabies. They break in through the electric fences and particularly favour eating the new growth in the apples, roses and greengages, but aren’t really being fussy about what they demolish…
    As for fire, the first dozen houses lost in the current fires were just up the road from us. We know way too many people who’ve lost everything. We came under ember attack three times, but each time the wind changed as stuff was getting real and the fires went and visited our neighbours instead. Our luck, not theirs. It still makes me sick thinking that.
    In this latest sh!tstorm, we’ve been fortunate. Lots of heat (multiple recordings north of 45°C), but the big winds down south have not come here. So the fire running 50km in a day and overrunning three communities in the process only happened on the first day, not time after time after time like in southern NSW and Vic.
    So drought is a bigger problem for us than the fires just now. All bar one of our dams are empty, we’re watering trees using fertigation buckets and livestock are down to two house cows. Steers are long gone, the last of the pigs went three weeks ago and most of the chooks have karked it with heat stress, as we don’t have the water to throw sprinklers on their sheds when it’s too hot for them. While they have good shade from trees, it’ just not enough.
    Still, we’re way better off than a lot of our neighbours, who haven’t sold enough animals, so are either spending a fortune on trucking in feed and water, or watching them starve in the paddocks, while waiting and hoping that the monsoon doesn’t fail two years running…
    And if it does, I have no idea what’s going to happen to the people in this valley. The famous Ellenborough Falls are still running, but look like someone is having a p!ss at the top.
    Wingham Brush used to be home to the largest colony of grey headed flying foxes in the southern hemisphere, estimated 250,000 individuals at it’s peak four years ago. I took my sister around the brush last week; there’d be lucky to be a thousand left.
    The towns are on stage 4 water restrictions, and will run out entirely come February – Gloucester (pop 2500) is already being supplied by B-doubles, as their reservoir ran dry a month ago.
    If the monsoon fails again, we really are in deep do-do.
    In positive news, the garden has more species of birds come in than we’ve ever seen, especially the small ones like finches, fairy wrens, quail and the like. Annette has been buying and making bird baths as fast as she can. At least we can help some of these critters weather the weather, so to speak.

  2. Oh yeah, and as for rainfall, 719mm????
    you lucky lucky bastard…
    348mm here for ’19.
    the average for this part of the world? 1000-1200mm…
    A guy 5km down the road recorded 220 for the year.
    worst drought ever…

  3. Hi Lewis,

    Stress is different before, during and after an event, and I can’t say that I’m a fan of the feeling. Who is though? Although, I have noted that some folks live for the fight, but I don’t really understand what motivates such folks and can’t relate too well to them. I assume that you’ve met a few of those in your time? The sleep helped my brain recover, and it worked a treat.

    Today we are almost completely socked in by thick smoke. Visibility is down to maybe 200ft, and at least up here in the mountain there is moisture to the air (the smoke appears to have brought fog moisture with it). Down in the valley below the air is acrid smelling and dry. Wow, this is a new one. If I had to give the weather phenomena a fancy technical name I’d call it Foke (a fog – smoke combination). Not to be confused with the dreaded folk singer (or collective of morris dancers). The solar power has really struggled today and yesterday and I have used far more than the panels have generated.

    Well, I dunno about you, but the good Prof wrote – and this here is a direct quote: “The irony of all this is that we are about to move from the frying pan into the cooler.” Grab your scarf, hat and wellies as things are about to change rapidly for your part of the world. That’s my take on what such a comment may possibly mean. A woollen jumper that dares not leave the property (but did the other day without the editor being aware of the break in protocol) may not be a bad idea for you too. 🙂 Everyone needs some home only comfy clothes, but they possibly should not leave the front door, thus freaking out the general neighbourhood.

    Please send some of your rain down this way, we can use it. And Les’s comment may be of some interest to you as it gives a first-hand account of how things are in the drought ravaged parts of this continent. I exercised discretion in relation to the comment as an acknowledgement of the continuing and prolonged stress that they have been under.

    Far out, Tatter Tots takes waste not – want not to the whole next level. I’d have to suggest that the sheer volumetric production of the things at reputedly 32,000 metric tonnes per year (Holy Sheet!) means that maybe all sorts of stuff goes into the mix these days as distinct from scrap product. It’s an intriguing concept, and I have never seen them before. Which reminds me that I have heard intriguing references to a product not seen down here called: Cheez Doodles. The closest amalgam down here are: Twisties, and I noted that apparently there are some people who add these between bread slices and describe the result as a sandwich. Not sure what to think about that.

    Far out, Toad in the Hole is the whole next level. If you’d left me for a hundred years to come up with such a food combination, well it would have been time wasted. 😉 And yeah, The Decline of Western Civilisation, The Snack Food Years. Actually, down here we have something called a Sausage roll which you may never have seen. I quite enjoy them covered in a bit of tomato sauce, although one shouldn’t look too closely at the meat content. I reckon they are mostly cereal content anyway, especially given how they taste. Years and years ago I knew a specialty pie shop. And the bloke used to make sausage rolls using bratwurst sausages surrounded by pastry. Best ever, and I have never seen their like since. The bloke was an artist and he even cooked up his own special tomato sauce – and the pies were so good. Alas, many contend, but the true excellence has not been seen again by me – and trust me, I’ve been looking. It is a worthy way to spend one’s free time. 🙂

    Thanks for the term: ‘Dynastic squabbles’, and yeah, it makes sense and there are plenty of them going on right now and playing out in the world. It gets down to the basic dilemma, how to split resources among a growing population? You can even see it play out in farm succession planning when there are competing siblings for a finite land resource. There are simple answers to this problem, however our European and Middle Eastern based derived cultures refuse to tackle the basic problem – and so we go around and around and pretend that it is otherwise. There are hard ecological limits that we will find, and we will find them the hard way, although even beyond that time our culture will pretend that it is otherwise. You can see the story playing out in the Camulod series of stories as the background motivator to all those peoples on the move. I provided some cheerful and free advice to a guy I know and met by sheer chance today, and the advice was: You can’t help those that won’t help themselves.

    Hehe! Bors as the special guest death ensign. Not to bring the story of Bors back to Monty Python, but I twigged to the possible fate of Bors due to: Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Bunny Attack Scene. My education may not have been as poor as I first imagined it to be! Of course, this subject is a matter open to public debate, and Mr Whyte may have a very different fate in store for Bors – but I’m 99% certain that whilst he may be knighted, he’ll come to a messy end, as will all of them, other than perhaps Merlyn who has to endure living with losing it all. In a way his story is kind of like Frodo undergoing the huge quest, and at the very precipice of the inferno of Mount Doom, he fails utterly and is only saved by the greed of Gollum. However, it’s not the success or failure of the venture, it is the forging of the path away from the Dark Lord Sauron that was important. I read other Tolkien pre-Lord of the Rings books and Sauron and his former ilk dominated all. Our cultures relationship with the environment is a very similar story in some ways.

    The website for the Nichols garden nursery provides not dissimilar vegetable seeds to the garden club that we’re members of: The Diggers Club. Interestingly, most of the vegetable seeds I looked at (all of them to be precise) were for this sort of climate, so I reckon they’d do well at your place too. Are you intending to grow any new stuff this year? I planted the Holm Oak today – which I purchased from the Diggers Club. I’m going to have to expand my oak collection as they seem like very useful trees for this climate. Hehe! Yup, I hear them too: Serious is the word!!!!

    It is possible, but will the effort to do so break the fertility of the remaining soils? Dunno. And what are all the other critters that share this planet with us expected to eat? That is not as simple a question to answer as it first seems. Soylent Green may be tasty, it all depends upon the condiments and sauces, although my gut feeling (excuse the dark pun) leads me to believe that it may have a somewhat high offal content.

    Managing a harvest is as much of a problem as growing the plants in the first place. I dunno and I’m glad that none of the stuff here has to turn a profit. I’m not sure that I could invest in building the topsoils if I was required to turn a profit, and it remains something of a mystery to me as to how people could do such a thing. Although with my broad beans (Fava beans) and getting everything that was once organic and enters the property back into the soil, you may note that this matter has not eluded my attention.

    How did the peas at your place go, are they still growing?



  4. Hi Les,

    Thanks for the amusing Monty Python reference in relation to the rainfall.

    The climate driver here that spared me from your rainfall fate was the: Antarctica’s “Sudden Stratospheric Warming” Has Started Impacting Australia . Unfortunately, the sudden warming of the atmosphere over Antarctica has caused your corner of this continent to become even hotter and drier as it is combined with poor El Nino (east coast) and poor Indian Ocean Dipole (west coast) climate drivers. Normally I’d joke about winning the trifecta, but some things aren’t funny. But believe me, I too have felt the effects of that hotter and drier climate and you have my empathy as to what you’ve been enduring. If it means anything to you, I watch the weather indices as a hobby and I’ve noted that the Indian Ocean Dipole (i.e. cold water off the north west coast of Australia) has suddenly changed, the waters have warmed up (increased evaporation and air pressure differentials) and the monsoon looks set to arrive in that corner of the continent and extend its reach. Fingers crossed that things change – and none too soon.

    The average rain for this area is about 800mm, although people claim that it is higher. The rainfall records tell an interesting story, and 2010 was 1437mm (which was bonkers and at one point that year I was cut off by a flood) and I’ve noted that it can get down into the low 400mm’s. Extreme variability is the word – and big fires are never far away.

    ‘Clog wog dad’ is an amusing term – perhaps referring to people originating from the land of the ‘clogs’? He’s right too, best not succumb to hubris – look what happened to John Howard – a good example of hubris in action if there ever was one. All learned folks know that hubris turns to nemesis. And who wants that?

    Far out! Breaking through electric fences is one that I have not heard before. Not good. A mate of mine lives on a farm west of here and he has a few dogs. One of the dogs has a wandering nature and at first he put an electronic zapper collar to desist the terrier from wandering. Hmm. Dog rides through pain to get what dog wants and goes wandering – is probably the best way to describe how that experiment turned out. But wallabies also riding through the pain is not good. The wombats can seriously challenge fencing too, and they can crush the unsupported heavy gauge chicken wire fences.

    Yeah, it is the wind to watch for. The heat and lack of rain dries everything out, but it’s the wind that does the real damage on such days. Yup, that is why I was a bit stressed out on Saturday. It was not good. Hope both of our luck continues for the remainder of the summer. And ember attack is no joke either and it can burn your house down as easily and as quickly as if the fire front hit it. It is the roof design that lets houses down as embers can either ignite dry organic matter in guttering which allows flames to be sucked into the roof space, or embers can get sucked into the roof space and ignite already dry roof timbers. Not to put too fine a point on it, I have been told by reliable sources that a house can burn down in about four minutes.

    Ah, I hadn’t encountered a fertigation bucket before, but it is a very clever idea. Have you discovered any wildlife living in your buckets? Back in 2009 when this place was crazy dry and the mountain range only just survived spotting from the Black Saturday bushfires due to a sudden wind change, I put watering bags out for the fruit trees. In one bag I discovered two frogs and a huntsman spider all happily co-existing.

    Sorry to read about the loss of your livestock. What else do you? And thanks for mentioning the heat stress and your chickens, because I’ve had seven losses this year – and another this morning. They’re not coping with 45’C days – even though like yours they are in the complete shade. Imagine how chook tractors would fail abysmally in such weather? I’m noting which species survive though and will restock next month.

    Hold your hat mate, you’re about to score a free drink of water from the skies! Anyway, that is what the Bureau of Meteorology rainfall forecasts are telling me about your area.

    Great to hear that you’re enjoying a greater diversity of bird life than you’ve previously experienced. The small ones really enjoy having some protective dense vegetation, if only because the larger birds try to eat them. Years ago I had an old timer from around these parts help me with the bees, and he took a look around and told me in the blunt way that old timers often have: Grow more flowers. Works for the birds too, and some of the flowers here rely on nothing but rainfall – and even then they survive the 45’C days.



  5. Hi Chris,

    I’m glad you (and reader Les) have been free of fire; may it continue to be so. And I hope the monsoon begins ASAP and rains out all the fires. I saw a photo of Australia at night with the fires burning, and then a graphic with the shape of Australia superimposed over the US to get a better feeling of its size. I hadn’t fully appreciated that your country is not that much smaller than our lower 48 in terms of area. And that made the scale of the fires more apparent as well.

    It’s been warmer than normal the last few weeks, so the soil hasn’t frozen yet. We had a bit of snow Saturday morning, just enough to see it on elevated surfaces like railings and roofs. I’ll soon be turning my attention to planning this year’s garden, checking the seed stores and purchasing any new seeds I need or want to try, raking up more leaves for compost piles, and doing winter pruning. Will also be writing the post on last year’s garden when the weather is too poor for outside work.


  6. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for asking, so far my family is doing fine. Mother had an evacuation request a few weeks back (Near Ipswich, QLD). She chose to stay and defend as the tree cover is minimal and plenty of roads to egress along if things go dire. Luckily, the fire moved in the opposite direction anyway. Other than that, just a very eerie looking Sunday here in Auckland due to very thick smoke from Australia. Around 3pm the automatic street lights came on, it was that dark (don’t forget, at this latitude we currently have light till 830-9pm normally).

    If anyone is interested, the website has a very nice interface for viewing the latest available satellite images. Move over Australia, set the time for midday and scroll back the past few days. Sobering images.

    I hope your stress levels are coming down with the easing conditions and chance of more rain. It is a grim business and I would be lying if drought and fire risk was not a significant factor in my decision matrix for the next location to live. Of course, NZ is seismically active and regularly experiences large quakes with major damage to structure and lives so who knows how to weight these things….

    For me, as you hinted at above, the saddest thing is it doesn’t need to be this way. Drought, eucalyptus and fire will always be with us, but we can choose what form the landscape takes and how those things will impact us. Unfortunately, the discussion seems to be only focusing on climate change and hazard reduction burns. Both helpful and relevant, but only at the margins.

    In nicer news, over the past few weeks we have harvested pumpkins, spaghetti squash, triffids (courgettes) and now tomatoes – included a heritage variety called Black Krim. They look great, haven’t tasted yet though. I am also getting a nice helping of blackberries every night when Mrs Damo and I go for a walk. I hope they haven’t being sprayed, taste delicious anyway 🙂


  7. Yo, Chris – Your Dog Tales had me in hysterics! Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. With your permission, I’d like to copy that bit out, and pass it around to some of my mates. But, you forgot the bit where she peed on your foot. How quickly we forget the memories of life’s little indignities. 🙂

    I’m glad you’ve decided to evacuate, in a worst case turn of events. I’ll sleep better, at night. I don’t see Julia, quit as often, now that she’s not working the counter, at the Club. But, I ran into her yesterday morning, and the first thing she said was “How is your Australian friend, doing?”

    Looks like your moving right along, on the firewood front. The power wheelbarrow is proving it’s worth it’s weight, in gold. The finished off rock gabion is not only useful, but looks all neat and tidy. A real “landscape feature.”

    The wallabies are very naughty. Dare I say, evil? Nice of them to leave their calling cards, as far as soil amendments go, but not near enough of it to be considered a “fair trade.” Looks remarkably like the alpaca poo. Time release? Our deer also have a taste for roses. But there’s enough coming and going, around here, that the damage isn’t too bad.

    That’s sad about the raspberries, but, looks like you have enough apricots and strawberries to see you through.

    The multi colored geraniums are quit pretty. Not something you see, every day. Cont.

  8. Cont. What is it about Morris Dancers that inspires such loathing, in so many people? Myself included. In a recent “Father Brown Mystery” episode, the lead Morris Dancer (a very bad man), fell frothing at the mouth, mid performance. Someone had slipped rat poison, in his snuff. Something to keep in mind, for future reference.

    Prof. Mass revealed more, in his post today. Apparently, we’re in for a cold snap, starting next Sunday. Too far out to make any accurate predictions. Right now, all of western Washington is under an official flood watch. Near as I can figure, it will be moderate flooding, as a few weeks ago. But you never know. The ground is a lot more soaked, this time around.

    I washed my good winter coat, and, for a couple of days was seen around in a denim coat, similar to your jumper. Not to be seen in public. Faded, out at the cuffs and leaking quilted stuffing, where the fabric has entirely worn through. LOL. Got a few sideways looks, but no one dared say anything about it.

    Les’s post was truly horrific. Can’t say much, except I’m truly appalled by what he and his neighbors are going through. Could be us, next summer. Or, the summer after.

    Cheez Doodles seem to be the same as your Twisties. Except ours seem to be more orange. So orange that the color comes off on everything, and leaves indelible stains. I found a handy guide over at Huffington Post: “15 Australian Snacks We All Know and Love.” Kind of a field guide. I may have to add it to my favorites list. 🙂

    I was excited (doesn’t take much) to discover when I made Toad in the Hole, that I then also learned how to make Yorkshire pud. I can’t see the pud part, translating very well to a frozen form. Too delicate. Not that they won’t try. The sausage rolls look really tasty.

    If you look down the sausage roll link, there’s a link to “pigs in a blanket.” My mother used to make those … kind of. She’s get frozen crescent roll dough (found in handy tubes in the dairy case) and tease apart the triangles. Then roll a wiener up, in them. Bake. The dough is a bit like pizza dough, except it puffs up. I might make them, every two or three years. When I get an attack of comfort food nostalgia, and don’t care what I eat.
    Depression, helps.

    Not to be confused with that favorite fair food, “corn dogs.” Also found in the frozen food case. Eleanor has a weakness, for those. So do I, but probably indulge at the same rate as pigs in a blanket. Or, I could just order one at The Club. I think there’s a box, lurking in the freezer.

    About Sir Bors. Here’s an interesting site I found, relating to the traditional knights in King Arthur’s stories.

    Don’t know if I’ll try much new, this year, other than the Meyer lemon. Probably just stick with the tried and true, and attempt a few of the failures, again. The peas are still blossoming away, and I’ve hand pollinated, twice, but no go on any pods. Oh, well. There’s always next year. Lew

  9. Chris,

    I totally get that you have a life outside of replying to posts. My job enters its insanely busy season in a month or so – nothing but working with the public on the phone and getting yelled at, in addition to my normal work. I prefer NOT to work with the public and find too much interaction with people to be draining, requiring more alone time to recover. Meaning that when the stress hits, whatever the cause, it is more important to take care of yourself than it is to reply to all and sundry posts. Besides, if I ever get in a snit about it, I can always demand the promised “double your subscription fee returned if not satisfied” guarantee that you never offered. 😉

    Thank you! Describing my sense of humor as “fractured” is perfect. Sounds much better and more unique than the typical “warped”.

    So the holiday season is now over. We had funerals to attend at both ends of the holidays. Our 97 year old neighbor was buried the Friday before Christmas. Not unexpected, very peaceful ending for him, but he will be missed. Then a cousin (41 years old) disappeared on Christmas Eve when he went hunting. They found him New Years Eve frozen solid. So, up to my wife’s home area this past Friday for 2 days of traditional Native services. Most of the drive home Sunday afternoon was in light snow and heavy winds, the only nasty part being going over the mountain between Omak and Nespelem, WA. We are both glad to be home and grateful that for the next 13.5 months I never have to work Mondays again.

    The tumbleweeded stretch of highway? We drive that road occasionally. I’m glad we were home that day. During a January windstorm in New Mexico, I saw a single tumbleweed that was nearly 2 meters in diameter. It had blown against a Toyota sedan and dwarfed the car.

    Nice stories about the fluffies. Your are fortunate that Ollie gets it regarding Scritchy. A lot of animals get it. A badger once entered my dad’s yard about 5:00 a.m. one summer. The old and nearly blind dog went to investigate. Rather than effortlessly tearing her to shreds, the badger (apparently) recognized that she was old and blind and harmless and simply growled at her. She made a beeline for the door while whining in fear.

    When will we change our forest management policies? I doubt that we will unless someone can show that proper forest management will cost the governments considerably less than what is being spent under the current system. That might not be enough, either, as a lot of the environmental crowd, the urban variety, are firmly anti logging, anti hunting, all wild creatures are cute and cuddly, etc. Until that changes, not much can be done.

    Good job on getting the large firewood shed full already! The interior of the small shed is looking good, too. And the new path and terraces and steps look wonderful. It’s always nice when one has been working hard and has something concrete to show for it.

    I bet you’re really glad you got that petrol wheel barrow! Maybe next you need a power robot to chase the wallabies away from the roses and veggies? PooCam showed what I would’ve thought was elk poo if I hadn’t been reading along with the story.

    Sad about the raspberries. I showed the Princess how you’re letting the birds eat a lot of the tree fruit so that they can survive even though it means buying some for yourselves. THAT is what living in and with Nature means: share with the critters. We both appreciate your actions in that regard, but not as much as the birds do, I’m sure.

    Hope you get some rain soon!


  10. Hi Claire,

    Yes, it is a relief to have so far survived the carnage. It’s really bad in the east of the state, and there are towns where the only escape is by way of the ocean. I would never have expected such ferocity in those places, and candidly I had them on something of a pedestal as being a very special and sacred place. I have a very soft spot for the ancient rainforests in the: Errinundra National Park. When you are there, civilisation feels as if it is a million miles away and you can be there for days and encounter nobody.

    Yup, it is about the same land mass as the lower 48. Incidentally, the state I live in is about the same landmass as the entire UK, although there are only about 1/12th the number of people – but even so we are far past our carrying capacity. Water sets the upper limit down under, and during the last drought a desalination plant was constructed.

    Thick acrid smoke has blocked out most of the daylight over the past three days. The solar panels have brought in far less than we’ve used, and we are really taking it easy on the electricity front. Mind you, the rain from a few days ago has not evaporated due to the lack of solar energy, so it is a really bizarre positive ecological feedback loop.

    What a delightful time of year you are in, and I look forward to reading your plans for the coming growing season. I intend to do a deep dive into all things seed raising this winter and would like to discuss this matter with you later in the year. And hmm, I now have some free space due to unforseen and mysterious New Zealand circumstances…



  11. Hi Damo,

    Nice to hear from you, and glad that travels in QLD with you and Mrs Damo with your family were good – despite the risk from the inevitable over indulgence which marks this time of year! It’s a tough row to hoe, but what would Cudgel the Clever do given the same circumstances? Glad that your mum was OK up there, and things look like they’ve settled down now for coastal QLD.

    Mate, you ain’t seen nuffin yet! For three days the smoke and thick clouds have hung over the farm. My eyes sting, and I can taste the smoke. The solar power generation (water and electricity) has been dismal, and the very air stinks of acrid smoke. Given how far away your delightful city is… is amazing! How did I ever miss such a website? Did you notice the cyclone developing off the coast of Broome? Anyway, the English comedian Ross Noble (who is an extraordinary talent and was wise enough to marry an Australian girl) once remarked that the after effects of a bushfire is akin to visiting a cigarette ashtray – and he should know as he owned property in Kinglake during the 2009 fires and almost lost his wife to those.

    Perhaps you have enough experience to now know that there is no such thing as a free lunch? At the very least you can respond to the threat of fire as distinct from the randomness of seismic events. After Saturday I purchased a Holm Oak and planted it, and may continue planting more oak trees in the future – and their nitrogen fixing support trees.

    I rarely have any advice to offer, but I could make the observation that: Things continue as they do, whilst they can. All very enigmatic, but I am often guilty of over subtlety.

    Black Krim (an amusing name) are tasty tomatoes. You are so far ahead of the season here that it defies belief. And the wallabies ate the tomato flowers…



  12. Hi DJ,

    It’s hard sometimes to get to all the replies – even if I really want too. Tonight I worked until 8pm, and that’s just how it goes sometimes. Of course, I realise that you are joking, but you know I might feel pressure if there were subscription fees. Imagine the tantrums: I can’t perform under these circumstances!!! 🙂 Hehe!

    Well, it all seemed to fit the whole Rocky and Bullwinkle thing – so subversive, it was good. Even as a kid I got and enjoyed all of the subtexts. Funny stuff.

    Man, far out. Two funerals. What do you? Hope you two are OK?

    Yup, them Monday’s are no good at all. Well done you and respect!

    Hey, I had no idea that the tumbleweeds were introduced plants from the Ukraine. It is amazing how plants hitch a ride across the planet. 2m in diameter though is a fearsome beastie though and might bowl a person over. I observed the images on the Good Professors blog with something akin to the feeling of horror. Please keep the plants in your part of the world.

    Ollie’s breed has a bad reputation, but I suspect that a few bad people eggs train the dogs to do unspeakable things for unspeakable purposes. Ollie has never been anything but a gentle giant, even when the two much smaller dogs are being right little ratbags with him. And hey, speaking of Badgers, did you know that Toothy’s particular breed was developed to flush out badgers? Badgers sound pretty fearsome, but glad to read the older dog survived the encounter – and animals know. I used to have a silky chicken that used to sit with the sick chickens and be with them as they took their final journey. That’s what I’d call compassion.

    Yup, there is so much noise in the forest management debate, that nothing ever gets done and the arguments go around and around. Perhaps Majikthise and Vroomfondel were onto something as they became pundits of renown. Us lesser folk might want to consider something different with the forest – and perhaps looking far backwards wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    Thanks! And yes, we do neat. 😉 I hope to get the next firewood shed full before the weather turns – as I am completely in the dark as to what is going on. Socked in by fog and thick smoke for three days too, so it has actually been dark these past few days. Bonkers.

    Well elks and wallabies fill the same ecological niche. Were you aware that wombat poo is a square shape? The only critter on the planet to do so, and it was only just recently discovered how they did it. Your quest…

    The birds are pretty happy and we have a fluffy arrangement in place, but they’re fickle things those arrangements and occasionally boundaries are pushed, but then they’re pretty healthy and happy.

    Fingers crossed for some rain! Thanks for the kind thoughts!



  13. Hi Lewis,

    Many thanks and I appreciate the high praise. I was feeling a bit out of sorts due to the fire risk and so decided to tell an entirely different story of the fluffies. I’m not really wired to wallow in feelings, although I accept and acknowledge that things sometimes don’t turn out well and you just have to accept it as part of the journey that is life. Dunno. But absolutely, go hard and share the story. Scritchy is no doubts up for the fame. 🙂 And yup, that happened too. Forgot about that little incident.

    Please accept my thanks and also extend them to Julia. Mate, we’ve been socked in by thick fog, heavy cloud and acrid smoke for three solid days now. You can taste the smoke in the air, and also it managed to work its way into the water tanks because I can now taste smoke on the water (sorry for the bad Zappa pun – it’s a really bad groaner, but I can actually taste the smoke in the water).

    You may laugh, but we’ve been scratching our heads and wondering where the next rock gabion cages might be placed. Most certainly peak rocks is here, but peak rocks does not mean no rocks… It’s a conundrum. I have plans to get the second firewood shed full over the next few weeks just in case the weather turns. Apparently there are two tropical cyclones forming off the north coast of the continent, and their reach can be very far, so I really don’t know what is going on with the immediate weather. No doubt, it will be very changeable, as it appears to be in your part of the world too. It is good that the Good Professor elucidated upon his enigmatic earlier comment. One can take mystery too far, and leave us all wondering what the heck did he mean? You mentioned a Roman emperor who pulled that trick on his death bed. What a prankster.

    Ollie showed us that a determined animal could get into the garden terrace project. And we patted Ollie on the head and thought the wallabies could not possibly reproduce the trick. Turns out they could, and we were wrong… I have to wait until the eggplants have been harvested to be able to put in permanent fencing. Mate, the marsupials must be just testing every boundary all of the time. One of them appears to have consumed some of the leaves off the North American paw paw, although I’d have to suggest they didn’t like it. I’ve got four of them growing from seed now and have high hopes for the plants. The many random recommendations, suggestion and ongoing delightful dialogue are all the payback I ever need for writing the blog.

    Yeah, the animals are enjoying a feed from the farm as are we. There’s plenty to go around, and every year it gets a little bit more productive. This winter I’m seriously going to have to put some brain cells towards raising seeds. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions along this matter of inquiry?

    Those geraniums are stunners and I have that garden bed set aside just for them. For some strange reason, the King parrots decided they were tasty, and they began sampling the plants. But so far, so good as the King parrots seem to enjoy the better watered specimens in a different garden bed. I have wondered if the geranium plants have some sort of gel inside the stems which the King parrots find tasty, but I don’t really know. The other parrots show no interest in the plants.

    Good stuff with the Morris Dancers and I applaud such audacious actions – and in a good cause too. Thanks for the insight as I always knew there was something fishy going on with them.

    I just read the story where Perceval fell off the cliff and broke his leg and Mr Whyte goes into serious detail as to how his brother sets the leg straight. I like how he was immediately knocked out – an effective anaesthetic when one can’t get to the bone setters in a timely fashion.

    Your denim jacket has serious mojo, just like the dodgy woollen jumper that dare not leave the property. The reason that nobody dared comment upon the condition of the denim jacket – or the fact that your deportment had somehow slipped, was that they recognised the intrinsic mojo of the denim jacket. People know and they respect. Did you get any side-wise slight tilts of the head in acknowledgement of the extra mojo you were packing?

    Les is doing it tough, and the fires are a double whammy after the incredibly two dry years they’ve just endured.

    Indelible stains from the Cheez Doodles. Far out! Sounds like an intriguing product possibly containing materials not found in nature? Best ask no questions and just enjoy the ride.

    The Huffington Post is a good read, and I’ll check out the article.

    It sounds tasty and I hear you about reminiscing and comfort food. Although I had to look up what you meant by ‘frozen crescent roll dough’. I must say that they look like croissants, but I have an odd hunch that they are not like the French pastry that I know. What is this pastry? Is it a bread dough or more like a very fluffy almost flaky croissant? Curious minds want to know! 🙂 But pigs in a blanket are not dissimilar from sausage rolls.

    Corn dog. Awesome! I have never seen such a food thing. Apparently it is quite widely recognised in your country. For some reason I thought that it was actually a corn filled product deep fried in batter which is what we call a Corn Jack down here. Although you rarely see them for sale these days. It was good friends with the mysterious Chiko Roll of my misspent youth.

    I’ll be really curious to hear how your Meyer Lemon goes. After all, you introduced me to the man behind the introduction of the plant to your country (Frank Meyer) and they really are very cold hardy citrus as long as they are kept out of the wind. Mine easily brushed off 28’F and under a thick layer of snow, so you never know.

    Thanks for the link too.



  14. Hi, Chris!

    I am glad that, as of this point in time, you are still unscathed by fire. Is the smoke bothering you? I am afraid that it is the same old thing, that until enough people – a lot of people – are personally affected by bushfires, and for more than just one brief incident, nothing much will be done.

    That Dame Scritchy seems bent these days on setting records. Old pets are worth a lot in entertainment value, which maybe mitigates all the extra work involved. We had an old cat a few years back named Tommyrot. The name will tell you a lot. We also had five dogs at the time. Tommyrot came out of the woods when he was a feral kitten and chose us to live with; a life of luxury was what he craved. He was a big cat, besides having the feral background, and kept all neighborhood dogs, not just his own, in line. When he got old he developed a disconcerting habit of tottering over to any sleeping dog (mind you he was being kept mostly inside by then) and standing over it, just staring at it. He no longer attacked them, but to wake up to that old stinkeye cat eye seriously unnerved the dogs. We finally had to set up two baby gates so that he could see what was going on in the front of the house, but not get to anybody. I tell you, hopping over baby gates all day kept this family in shape!

    I hadn’t thought of moving the crushed rock that you so frequently use with the power wheelbarrow.The rock gabions look more than pretty good. I just don’t know how you guys work in that heat.

    I am so sorry that the wallabies got to the roses. Please give the editor my condolences.

    I could eat your bottled apricots and strawberry jam right this minute. Yum!

    Thank you for the flowers. We are flowerless right now except for one Johnny Jump Up flower.


  15. Hi Chris,
    Enjoyed the fluffy story. Scritchy does seem to be getting more challenging but at 18 I guess she has a good excuse. Dogs do train us too don’t you think? Salve and Leo play the in and out game with regularity too. Floors without carpeting are the way to go with animals. Unfortunately many of ours in the new house are carpeted – in fact all but an entryway, bathrooms and kitchen. Lately Salve has vomited a few times on the light colored bedroom carpeting leaving a nasty stain – I am not amused. There is just plywood beneath the carpeting so it would be a major expenditure and work (if we did it ourselves) to change the flooring. The prior owners did put in good quality carpeting but when it finally goes I wouldn’t be surprised if we went with something else.

    I imagine you had some sort of plan even before these fires. It really sounds quite unpleasant – all the smoke and not very healthy either.

    How frustrating for the editor losing all those roses. I see there’s still a fair amount of plant left near the ground so suppose they’ll grow back in time.

    I was under the impression that tomato plants being in the nightshade family were pretty safe from getting eaten. I’ll find the tomatoes themselves eaten but the leaves are left along.

    Wonder how many people would do as you and leave fruit for the birds.

    I assume you’re losing some of the chickens due to the heat. I know when I had chickens they didn’t do well in heat at all especially if it lasted more than a couple days. The meat chickens being the hybrid frankenbirds can’t tolerate the heat at all. We try to schedule them so they aren’t at their largest during the hottest part of the summer. However they don’t do well in cold either so it can be kind of tricky. Actually getting them early in mid July works pretty well as it’s warm when they’re small and if the weather is typical it’s started to cool by the time they’re at their maximum weight.

    It continues to remain above normal here and very little snow so no complaints. Like Claire and Lew I’m going through the seed catalogs as well.


  16. @Pam

    Your story of tommyrot bought a smile to my face 🙂 Mrs Damo and I refer to all cats as “bad”. We say it only half in jest, but they sure do have a way of arranging the world to their preference! One day we would like to have a pair of cats again.


  17. Yo, Chris – Not only Julia, but my friends in Idaho, inquired this morning, how you were doing. We swap short e-mails, daily. They want to make sure I’m still alive 🙂 .

    Yup. That pun was a real groaner. I’m glad I approached the keyboard, this morning, with an empty stomach. 🙂 . Well, a little charcoal in the water … isn’t it supposed to be good for you? Laundry might be a problem.

    Last gabion cage and still have rocks? Then it’s time for that folly! Of course, I’m plumping for a tower, but a nice little temple for the Little People, might be nice. Maybe a cloister walk?

    Our Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers went slightly over flood stage. So, we have moderate flooding, around the county. Several roads are closed, but a lot of them are “water over road / passable.” It’s still raining, on and off, but the river levels are falling. Now, onto the arctic blast!

    I don’t have much to say about starting from seed. I’m mostly a “throw it in the ground and hope for the best”. But, I really should do the peppers and tomatoes. Any time I’ve tried, I’ve always seemed to have problems with the soil, in the pots. Tends to crust. Even when I use “seed starter soil” out of a bag.

    Well, now if your ever out in the bush, and someone breaks a leg, you’ll know exactly what to do. It was almost a set piece, in the old westerns. You need to set a bone or dig a bullet or two, out of someone. If there’s not a bottle of whiskey handy, a good clip to the jaw, seemed to settle things down. Put a stop to all that screaming and thrashing about, so the designated medic could go about their business.

    Well, Cheez Doddles are an orange color, not found in nature.
    Just to be clear, the crescent roll dough is not frozen. It’s kept in the dairy coolers. The packaging is quit interesting. You have to peal the label off that cylinder and give the cardboard tube a smart whack on a table edge. They’re packed under pressure, and the dough kind of explodes out of the seam of the tube. Then you twist to free it from the container. There are all kinds of “flavors”, that are packed, so. Cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls of various varieties. Orange rolls. That’s not to say that there isn’t bread products, in the freezers. Usually bread loaf or dinner rolls. All the stuff has ingredients lists, as long as your arm. With very mysterious contents. The crescent rolls have a very soft interior (like Wonder bread) and a slightly crunchy crust.

    Yeah, a corn dog is a wiener on a stick, dipped in a corn batter, and deep fried. It was invented at some county or state fair. Or, maybe one of our world’s fairs. World’s fairs were great for introducing some new junk food to the unsuspecting population.

    Odd bits and pieces from around the net, or stuff I’ve read. Housekeeping, I guess.

    I finished “Secondhand.” There are 8 million unoccupied houses in Japan. Given their falling population and demographics. I suppose a lot of them are on the less populated west coast. Dying villages, up in the mountains. If it weren’t for the rampant xenophobia, might be worth a look-see. 🙂

    Also, in “Secondhand”, there was a chapter on “the right to repair”, movement. There was an interesting bit about a website, that you might find useful. iFixit (.com). They have free manuals, on just about everything from electric toothbrushes to coffee pots. So, how do they make their money? By selling parts … and also little tool kits for those odd screw heads, nuts and bolts, that manufacturers are so fond of, just so you can’t repair items.

    I also thought about a movie, that I’m not sure I mentioned to you. “Antiquities”. (2018). If you want to see the inside and the inside workings of an American antique mall, that’s the movie. AND it’s a rom-com. Check out the trailer. It’s a hoot.

    I watched a new Brit comedy series called “Pitching In”. Not all that good (not as good as Doc Martin), but it has it’s moments. It’s set in a caravan park, up on the Druid’s last stronghold, Anglesey Island. And, the nearby village. The scenery is spectacular. And, Hayley Mills is in it. (Where’s she been?) You may be unfamiliar with her, but she was the pre-teen heart throb, back when I was a pre-teen. As an extra point of interest, “Grand Designs” is used as a punch line … twice.

    In case you missed it, the 5th was National Bird Day. That’s captive birds. The 6th was even more interesting. It was National Technology Day, and also Bean Day. And, Shortbread Day. Of particular interest (maybe) to Ollie, it was also National Cuddle Up Day. 🙂 Lew

  18. Chris,

    Yup, we’re both fine. Just do what needs to be done and muggle, er, muddle, through, that’s what we do. And just be there for the immediate family and for each other. What else can you do?

    That 2m tumbleweed WAS fearsome. I saw someone trying to get it away from the car, but the wind was still blowing hard, so it couldn’t be pulled away from the car. Those things are tough and have lots of sharp thingies, so dragging it along the car would ruin the paint job. Dunno what they finally did. IIRC that wind storm lasted into the next day. I hope Australia gets spared the Great Tumbleweed Scourge.

    Cool chicken!!! My friend has a lot of chickens. One adopted my friend’s wife – it’s now her Comfort Chicken and must get in the house whenever she has been away and returns home. They used to have a duck that wouldn’t let anybody drive out of the driveway. And people think birds don’t have personalities…

    No, no, no! I’m not going on the Square Wallaby Poo Search (SWaPs). I read your prior posts about why it’s square. So no SWaPS for me!

    Mate, you can TASTE the smoke? Coo, I’ve been there many times the past few summers. That gets miserable fast. A few years ago it was fiercely hot and then the smoke rolled in. It was supposed to be 40C for the next 5 days, but the smoke was so thick and blocking the sun that it never got over 35C. But that was the only good thing about smoke that thick. Everything smelled like smoke, everything tasted like smoke, everyone’s eyes were burning. Ugh, I feel your pain, the memories, the memories are dragging me down and…okay, I got a grip. I’m better now. 😉 Hope your smoke eases up soon.


  19. I have to say I am a little envious of your 719mm of rain last year. We get 680mm in an anverage year, and last year we got 480mm. Just not enough. So far this year we have had 3mm. I am hearing rumours that the cyclones forming off WA will bring us all some very much needed rain over here in the east. What a blessing that would be. Like you, we have had some very smoky days here in Tas, both from our own fires and from yours. A very apocalyptic situation for many. Paul and I are going over his fire plan again. There is a lot to think of, but like you, we think leaving is the best option.. all I am hearing from the bushfire survivors is.. we should have left. Early. Pays to listen to experience..

  20. @ Damo – Seen on a t-shirt: “If the world were flat, cats would have pushed everything off the edge.” 🙂 Lew

  21. Hi Pam,

    Me too, and the smoke is not bothering me too much, but when it is really thick – and I took some photos for the next blog – I am a bit short of breath. I’ve never smoked, not for any real reason other than it just never appealed (how about you?), but I’m guessing that is how smokers must feel. Dunno.

    But yeah, for any real change, authorities will have to let go of their domains of control, and they are notoriously poor at doing so. I would have thought that the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires would have knocked some sense into people because 173 people died, but no. Changes were made, but preventative measures sort of never got much of a look in. I think it offends peoples sensibilities that the indigenous folks did a whole lot better than we can with all our energy and technology we can bring to bear on the problem. It’s frankly something of an embarrassment how badly we as a society are doing. Once energy is less freely available things will change on that front.

    Oh, Tommyrot sounds super bad! I hope he never attempted that staring-you-down-stink-eye-face-number-three on you? I reckon such a character would give it a go. 🙂 Thanks for the great story, what a cat! I used to have a cat too when Old Fat was the boss dog. The cat thought that Old Fat was his mum and they were best mates, but sometimes the cat would stand in the hallway with a paw extended. As Old Fat walked past the cat, he’d pounce on her just to show her who the real boss was. The dog was three times the size too…

    Yeah moved a load of crushed rock today and recovered a huge stash of large rocks (does this make me a rock star? Hehe!). I tell ya though, I’m feeling it tonight and had a hot bath with the window open just letting in the cooler (and smoky) early summer evening breeze in. The warmth of the water gets into your bones, and I often wonder why people suggest cold packs instead. Party poopers. 🙂

    The wallabies are now excluded from the new terraces project. Ollie told us that the animals could get in and we ignored his advice…

    Double yum! Did another batch of 12 bottles of apricots this afternoon, and I might try bottling plums this year just to see how they go. Have you ever canned plums?

    Viola tricolor is a lovely plant – and clearly very hardy to be flowering now for you. I hope to bring you more flower photos over the next few months too.



  22. Hello Chris
    I am still here; human beings are keeping me over occupied. I don’t know whether or not Son has further tackled those wine bottles. He is not a chatty person and parental questions are often regarded as nagging.
    I note that you have planted a Holm oak, this is forbidden here as they are extremely invasive. Still, better than those oily eucalypts I imagine.
    Am surprised to see that I only get 900 mm rain a year, this doesn’t seem much more than you get, yet we are soaking wet most of the time. I don’t understand!


  23. Hi Margaret,

    What a lovely way to put the situation. Hmm, yeah Scritchy is training me to accommodate her needs and desires, and not the other way around. Dogs are pretty clever creatures, and they have big personalities. Hey, I tell ya that in the rental house where we rented whilst building this house, the carpet cleaners came in at the end of the lease and pointed out on the nylon carpet where the dogs had naughtily and hopefully only occasionally done their business. The carpet cleaning folks thought that it was very amusing and they did their best to waggle their fingers at us and try to make us feel bad. Still, it all ended up very clean – although the nylon carpet began breaking down where the summer sun hit the carpet. I’d hate to think what interesting gases were being released by that chemical reaction… Best not to think about it too much. But yeah, not much beats tongue and groove hardwood. Plywood can be difficult to remove and replace without making a huge mess, but the stuff is as tough as. I’ve seen people paint and / or oil it, and it looks good, although the carpet nail strips would have made a mess of the plywood.

    Yes, exactly. There is a fire plan in place, it’s written down and we will follow it studiously. It may surprise you to know that there is also a Plan B and C which can accommodate different circumstances.

    The wallabies can no longer break into the garden terraces, but I believe the roses will grow back. Just prior to the rain last weekend, I chucked down a whole lot of rose specific fertiliser, so they should do fine – although it doesn’t look so good right now.

    The nightshade family of plants are also local plants (Australia was once connected to South America) and so the wallabies can eat tomato and potato leaves which is very disturbing. One of the local nightshade family of plants is the edible: Solanum aviculare. To be honest, the fruit tastes a bit soapy to my palate.

    Probably not that many do that as an active policy. When people learn just how many hundreds of fruit trees there are here, one of the first comments I get is: What? Are you trying to supply a football team. Hmm. Well, the answer is not really. Fruit trees take at least ten years to produce fruit in quantity, and there are a couple that are that age, but not many of them are.

    Thanks for confirming what Les wrote about his chickens. It never occurred to me that they might be dropping off their perches due to heat stress, but it makes sense. I plan to stock up on new chickens next month and the longer I enjoy the company of laying birds (I totally understand your choice of meat bird) I’m sticking to the heritage breeds as they are overall lower stress. What do you reckon about that choice?



  24. Hi Lewis,

    Blessed are the verbose, the long winded, and those with much to say! 🙂 Hehe! It’s nice that your Idaho friends are concerned about both of our well being, and so far so good, although all things are subject to change at short notice and without warning. Actually, I hope you feel good and I feel better today too, and the weather was kind and gentle, but it is still smoky here.

    We recovered some monster rocks and placed them on the succulent terraced garden. It was a lot of hard work, but I quite enjoyed it. Plus a trailer load of the crushed rock with lime was placed on some surfaces. The stuff is so good, and what interests me about it, is that the plants growing near to the paths that have the crushed rock on them – grow better. I probably should chuck out a load of agricultural lime one day. Don’t laugh, but I saw a small manure spreader for sale that could be towed behind the mower, and I did wonder if that wouldn’t be a bad idea. The plan is at this stage, to fertilise all of the fruit trees once the firewood is put away for the season. I’m coming around to the opinion that autumn is the best time to do that particular fertilising job.

    Well, I’ve actually heard of folks adding small quantities of wood ash to their water supplies so as to soften the water. I tend to feel that it might do little to no harm, and I can’t see how I could change the situation anyway. The air is thick with smoke. At least today the sun peeked through the smoke and put some charge back into the house batteries. And thankfully there was enough electricity to bottle another dozen bottles of apricots. Yum! I’m thinking of trying to bottle some plums this season, as I dunno about you, but as I’m ageing I’m discovering that plums are really tasty fruit. When I was a kid I hated them. No doubts taste receptors or brain receptors are now in lesser in availability… 🙂

    I had to look up exactly what you meant by a cloister walk. Very attractive, but perhaps a bit beyond my stone (or bricklaying) skills. Now a tower, there’s a project I could get my teeth into.

    I see Cliff Mass has suggested to hold off running to the store, just yet. I hope the Arctic blast is not too severe, and make sure your jot down a note to your good self: Do not attempt to cross a flooded bridge. Such things usually don’t end well. I recall in 2010 when the local river flooded, and I couldn’t even see where the road was beneath the water, so there was no way that I was going to travel in there. But off in the distance was someone struggling to get through the floodwaters and having a lot of trouble. I do not get that at all.

    Hey, that’s my strategy too with seeds and it is usually fine when the season is less variable than this crazy one, but clearly I have to do some more work into this science. Interestingly, three of the few corn plants fell over today. I could see the root systems of the plant and so built up the soil around them and now they are all upright again. Yay! I can get tomatoes going sown into the ground, but peppers have always eluded me. Dunno why, but it is probably the variety we grow – even the saved seed did not germinate.

    Had a raspberry this evening. Turns out I should have begun watering them all weeks ago. Oops.

    I may have the whisky business sewn up, so that one is a no brainer. It is good to be able to produce a supply of quality medical wash. The description really went into specifics, so I can imagine that Mr Whyte must have somehow researched the process.

    You don’t see the colour orange much in nature. Although to be fair the setting sun as it neared the horizon today burned orange. I sat outside today and enjoyed the spectacle that nature put on for free.

    Fascinating stuff about the rolls / loaves. Really interesting. At Christmas lunch someone brought loaves from a specialty baker and they were very good, but I was examining the insides of the loaf and I did wonder what chemicals were used to produce such light and fluffy guts. I read a story in one of the grain books about the chemicals in use and what they all do, but I couldn’t for the life of me recall the details mostly because I don’t use them.

    Housekeeping is a fine art, and a worthy way to spend one’s time. Sadly I hear from a number of people who are vocally proud that they are unable to keep a good house and/or do basic tasks like cook. It seems like misplaced pride to me, but it is a common enough affliction. I enjoy food way too much to put up with such nonsense, and both the editor and I can cook from raw ingredients. We don’t always hit the right notes, and the red Thai curry the other evening was a disaster. Not because it didn’t taste good, but to be served it regularly is possibly tantamount to murder. The paste which we purchased as this was our first attempt at the dish was 24% salt. OMG, too salty for both of us, plus the heavy coconut additives and it is right off the menu, and my guts were not settled after such a meal. It didn’t take long before my guts ejected it. 😉 I’m not tough enough for such rich and salty food.

    The Japanese are approaching the future with an interesting perspective. Too bad about the nuclear reactors, but even so there are people apparently moving back into the Fukushima district. I have never forgotten the fictional book that Damo read recently about some of the first English to interact with the Japanese back in the day and how they were viewed. It was a great story.

    Hey, we’ve spoken before about tractors and how complicated those things are nowadays to repair – and who needs a break down during a harvest and have to wait for several days just to get a technician out to have a look at the broken thing. I’ll check out the site tonight.

    Rom-Com! 😉 It’s on the to-watch list. Haven’t yet seen the Goldfinch yet, but I will.

    Anglesey Island hey? Another intriguing reference neatly slipped in. 😉 You have not yet dared the cautionary tale that is Grand Designs UK, but perhaps you may not find it to be that way?

    Blessed are the birds (caged of course – go chooks), Gizmo’s of assorted designs (both useful and useless), Beans (always a worthy note), miscellaneous shortbreads (and other bakery products of note containing butter), and also to all, I hope that we can all enjoy a quiet cuddle with a cattle dog. Hehe! Who’d have thought all that was possible in such a short period of time?



  25. Hi DJ,

    I hear you, and that is about as much as anyone can do given the circumstances. The skinny bloke with the wickedly sharp looking scythe comes for all of us sooner or later.

    Heck yeah, I really don’t want to see those things about the place. Of course, the tree coverage here is dense enough the the tumbleweeds may not get past too many trees. Now are they even here… … Ah, we’ve got our own variety: Panicum effusum. Interesting. But 2m is huge and would bowl someone over – especially in the wind.

    Any threat of cold Arctic weather over your side of the mountains? It was a beautiful if somewhat smoky day today.

    Birds have personalities. Hey, have you ever ended up on the wrong side of an angry Goose – or pack of angry Geese? Those birds are vicious and they hiss and get ready to bite at a moments notice. Incidentally, ever single chicken has a different personality – they really are very different from one another. I’m going to pick up some heritage chickens next month. I’m down to 11 chooks now.

    You did not fall for my square wombat poo digression and interweb rabbit hole. Speaking of rabbits, I spotted two of them tonight bouncing around the orchard with not a care in the world. Hmm. I started looking into dog breeds that can deal with rabbits, but they come with some serious downsides.

    The smoke leaves an acrid taste in my mouth, and I can now taste it in the water. It is a reminder though that there but for the Grace of God etc… Only those that have experienced such thick smoke for days on end know what it is like, and yup I tend to believe that the particles in the air are a positive feedback loop that attracts clouds and cools the atmosphere.

    Thanks for the kind words.



  26. Hi Jo,

    Thank you for the gentle reminder and many places on this continent are doing it really tough this year. Believe it or not, 719mm is just enough here too given the vegetation community – the local creek and river has completely dried up. It is bone dry.

    That is my belief too about the two cyclones forming up north – and looking at the rainfall forecast maps, they may extend rain all the way across the continent and down to here. And I absolutely agree, it would be a major blessing.

    When the national open garden scheme ran better due to a wealthy patron who I’m guessing footed the bills, I got to visit some of the recovering gardens up in Kinglake (2009 Black Saturday fires). The thing that I got most out of speaking with the various gardeners up there was that their recovery and mental state was far better if they weren’t around to see what happened. Plus I was a volunteer in the local brigade in those days – but never got out on those fire-grounds as I was too green – and I heard stories. It is something to think about for sure and you two sound like you have level heads.



  27. Hi Inge,

    It would be nice to disappear up into the forest for a while for some quiet. 🙂 I hear you.

    Yeah, isn’t it a fine balance between suggesting a course of action and nagging? Sometimes you just have to let be, and keep quiet. I hope he gets the bottles cleaned, but I don’t think a few chunks of old lees is a problem for wine making.

    My point exactly. A bit of diversity in the plant community would be a good thing here. Oaks have been long established in this part of the continent, as are a whole bunch of other exotic tree specimens and they don’t seem to be taking over. The Eucalyptus trees can apparently adapt to entirely new conditions within three generations – they are a fearsome competitor.

    Your latitude is further north, so the air is cooler and I’m guessing the UV from the sun is not as extreme as here. Plus your forests – where they exist – provide far more shade due to the leaf shape and thus evaporation is lower. Dunno, but that is my best guess. I’m at 37.5’S latitude, but given the elevation I enjoy a climate closer to 44’S latitude.



  28. @ DJ – my sympathies. Your cousin’s death was a tragedy. I’m thinking about that today because Mike is hunting deer for the first time by himself. And it’s cold today, maybe 25F when he left, in the low 40s as I write. I expect he’ll be fine, but a few brain cells will be on edge till he gets back home.


  29. Yo, Chris – Going all “Sermon on the Mount”, with us? 🙂 Well, you do live on a mount. Maybe it comes with the territory. High places seem linked to a lot of spiritual traditions.

    Speaking of things kind of, spiritual … Peter Dinklage has a new movie coming out, that I may pass on. Saw a review (very bad) and the trailer. That didn’t inspire, either. “Three Christs.”

    You must be sick to death thinking about brushfires, but I saw an interesting article, that might have some useful information in it. Or, maybe the links.

    Well, plums are important in the diet, as one ages. Keeps you regular, you know? 🙂

    Snow (?). We’ll see. Maybe yes, maybe no. Wonder what the Vegas odds are?

    Sure, orange is found in nature. I’ve got three pumpkins in my kitchen, that are very orange. Time to get them baked up and the mash in the freezer. I’m holding off til the weather gets cold. As long as I’m heating up the apartment. Do a bit of dual duty. Get the most out of my BTUs, as I can.

    One of the Ladies, here at the Institution bakes bread, to sell, about once a month. She orders in these cases of frozen loaves. Keeps them in the community freezer. I took a look at the ingredients list. Nothing I’d want to eat, but it sure does make the building smell good, on bake day.

    One of Mr. Greer’s contributors, lives in rural Japan. She hints, occasionally, at the xenophobia she encounters. I’ve read western hikers reports, of hiking in areas where westerners are seldom seen … and being chased down the road by stone throwing children.

    The whole tractor repair problem really kicked off the “right to repair” movement, especially in this country. Farmer’s have always been pretty self sufficient, when it came to tinkering and repairing their own equipment.

    I had a puzzling dream, yesterday. Now, there’s nothing so boring, as other people’s dreams, so I’ll leave out the boring bits. Some one was quoting something to me (which I can’t remember, and I said, “Sheridan?” And, they affirmed that’s what it was. Now, Richard Sheridan was a late 1700s, English playwright (etc.) The name, and “playwright” was about all I knew. I don’t think I’ve ever seen, or read a play by him. What dark corner of my brain THAT was dredged up from, I’ll never know.

    Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” hit the library catalogue, yesterday. I’m #3 on the hold list. Also, an Australian movie I’ve been watching for. “Nightingale.” About your early settlement days. Have you seen it?

    Hit one of the cheap food stores, this morning. Did better with my shopping list. But, still no almond milk. So, we’re giving coconut milk, a whirl. Living life on the edge. Lew

  30. Hi Chris,

    Yes, definitely go with the heritage breeds. They are better foragers, more predator savvy, lay longer and are just more resilient overall.

  31. @DJ

    So sorry to hear about your neighbor and especially your cousin. My condolences.


  32. Just wanted to mention that Mike came back from hunting, without a deer. He didn’t see any deer while he was out so there was no chance to harvest one. But he was pleased that he went and says that now that he’s been out once by himself, he will find it easier after this.

    Also, 2020 is starting out with rain here; 3 to 4 inches of rain are predicted over the next three days. I wish I could send most of it to Australia, because there will be more than can soak into the ground.


  33. @ Claire,

    Thank you.

    When I hunted, I always carried enough survival stuff so I could survive for 3 days. In high elevations or in winter hunting, I always carried a pack with extra wool socks and sweaters, a wool blanket and a high quality space blanket. And candles and sterno and various varieties of fire starting things. A candle under a foil space blanket cooked me once when it was 25F.


  34. Chris,

    Yeah, that black clad dude with the scythe always wins in the end.

    Your effusive panic plant looks and sounds beastly. My guess is that any variety of tumbleweed likes to roll and roll and roll until it gets to the most inconvenient place and then drops its seeds and spreads.

    Arctic weather? Well, after the allegedly big snowstorm Friday and Saturday, yes. We could get up to 30cm of snow later this week. Wet stuff at slightly above freezing. Then after some rain, we should hit the deep freeze. We might hit -18C Tuesday, then “warm up” starting Thursday next week to -4C for the highs and -11C for the lows for about a week or so. Maybe some light snow occasionally after that “warm up”.

    Good luck with the new chooks. And yes, I’ve encountered many angry geese. They frequent the downtown Riverfront Park, and can get aggressive. Whenever they would hiss at me and enter attack mode, I would mimic their posture and hiss back. That always scared them and they’d turn and run.

    One time we were at Princess’s family home in the mountains. Youngest brother’s house was across the highway, and his turkeys and geese were in our yards, the turkeys in front and the geese in the back where all the humans were. 3 year old great nephew wanted to wander, so he and I walked laps around the house, saying “Hi turkeys” to the turkeys and “Hi geese” to the geese. The turkeys were friendly, so youngster thought the geese were too. We told him to leave the geese alone, but he got too close. Two of them attacked him, so he ran behind me. Naturally, I did my goose mimic and hiss thing and the entire flock ran away.

    We had a rabbit once, and the collie mix (Cindy) would chase that thing all over the yard whenever the rabbit got out. Rabbit would let
    Cindy get right on its tail then take off like a rocket. Cindy never caught the rabbit. A pack of coyotes would take care of the rabbits. And create a plethora of other issues, like feast on the chooks and dogs, and…

    Oh great, now you have smoked water. Smoked meat is one thing, but smoked water? Hmmm, I brewed some Scottish Ales back in the day, and was able to get a slight smoky flavor in them. Doesn’t fit with water, though. That’s brutal.

    Dunno if you’ve looked at all of these breeds? Dad’s next door neighbors had a beagle. It was a wonderful dog. I wouldn’t touch a basset hound, though, as they drag on the ground and can have mold problems on their bellies in wet conditions.


  35. Hello again
    Holm oaks are evergreens and quite different from other oaks, as far as I know.
    I dared to question Son again and he has dealt with the bottles. He said that he used every single method including scraping with a wire. He got the bottles ALMOST clean so we shall see how that goes. He bottled eleven bottles of damson wine.
    I guess that our humidity must make a difference as it reaches 100% often in the winter.


    @ Lew
    I would certainly recommend an acquaintance with Sheridan.


  36. Hi Lewis,

    In these difficult days it’s not a bad thing to be able to bestow some blessings when you have some to spare. Yeah, I wonder what it is with elevated places? The pragmatic side of me tends to feel that it may be because it’s quieter at such places, and the other noise of the world can be heard – not just all the human generated noise. Dunno, what do you reckon? It might also be because real estate is cheaper due to it being unappealing and all at such locations – and costs need to be kept low if one wants time to contemplate other matters. Dunno.

    Thanks for mentioning the film and I watched the trailer. It’s an interesting story. Hey, speaking of interesting stories from the past but this time involving archaeology as distinct from psychiatry, I thought that you might enjoy this article: Relics of Victoria’s criminal history are being buried in sand at Melbourne’s Brighton Beach.

    Thanks for the article on ember attack. Yes, I am absolutely 100% onto that story. The house itself was designed and constructed with ember attack in mind – as well as direct contact with flames. The embers destroy houses by igniting timbers in the wall frames or more likely, the roof.

    So in a tile roof, it might as well be open to the outside world for all of the air that flows into and out of it. Yes, thin membranes are sometimes used under the tiles, but the battens that hold the tiles in place are often made of timber. They burn. In a roof with steel sheeting, it is a bit better sealed, although all of the edges are open and embers can get into the roof, or under the roof – with similar results.

    What I had to do was to place thick flooring plywood over the entire roof surface. All of the edges, like between the walls and the plywood on the roof are sealed with sheet metal. The sheet metal covers up to and over the first roof battens that holds the steel roof sheeting in place. Blast furnace commercial rock mineral wool blocks all of the entrances from the outside edges and that sits on the sheet metal. Then a flexible metal product is layered right over the entire plywood and timber roof battens thus protecting any minor ingress. Nope, embers can get into most houses, but possibly not this one. Although I or the plumbers may have stuffed something up.

    The things and red-tape-hoops I had to jump through to construct this innocent looking small house was bonkers. The walls are 90 minute fire rated walls used in apartment dividing walls and commercial buildings. And the firewall is on both the inside and the outside of the house – not that anyone could see such efforts. And the 10mm glass in the windows is protected by heavy duty stainless steel mesh – really strong stuff. The whole thing was bonkers, but it’s done now, proving that I can do bonkers. Is this a good thing though to be able to do that? The cost almost took it all for what is frankly a very small house, thus my fascination with the ongoing stories in Grand Designs UK. The ongoing cautionary tales in them hold a certain sense of morbid but entrancing fascination for me.

    Yeah, I’m holding off consuming too much fresh fruit (most particularly cherries) as I have been a bit too regular, although that is probably compounded with stress regarding the fires.

    Hope you get some snow. I like snow! Lots of fun.

    Thanks for the correction regarding the colour orange, and now that I dwell upon it, the King Parrots wear orange pantaloons. Speaking of wildlife, yesterday evening, an animal flattened a five year old apple tree. Broke it off clear below the graft at ground level. That’s a first and we had a really good look at the crime scene and couldn’t work out which animal did the job. I really do hope that there are no three tonne wombats out there, but you never know.

    A few years ago I read about just how far away bread dough can be made before being shipped around the planet. It just makes no sense to me. And claims to being baked fresh daily does not in fact mean that the dough was mixed the same day or at the same location or even the same week. The supply lines for that story are truly bonkers.

    Is that Patricia? Her comments are usually lovely, but hmm, I have heard such stories too. I forget which Asian country it was, but once I was apparently described as a foreign white devil. It sounds all very sinister, but when in Rome and all.

    I can well understand why you may have dreamed a dream involving the great Richard Brinsley Sheridan. After all he received what appears to be a classical education in many respects, although that may not have prepared him to be able to manage his finances. He was handy with the sword too by all accounts. Who knows what the dream means, but I do know that you are travelling in hallowed places.

    Ooo, I look forward to reading your review of both the book and the film. The film in particular travels through some fascinating and remote parts of the country. Ah, I’d heard of Mr King’s book, sounds pretty scary – is it a sequel-ish to the Shining?

    Are you enjoying the coconut milk? Almonds are in short supply due to increases in demand. I actually enjoy the taste of coconut, but have never tried coconut milk. Although in some parts of Asia you can purchase coconuts which have a drill hole and people chuck a straw in them and drink the contents.



  37. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for confirming my thoughts about the heritage breeds. I was once a bad chook owner when I obtained several commercial layers (Isa Browns) and I never understood just how much extra protein they required in their diet to produce so many eggs. Two of those chickens went psychotic and began eating other birds – I had to put an end to all of that which was a messy day. The other two birds were very short lived (about two years). I don’t touch the breed nowadays, but I freely acknowledge the breed can pump out the eggs. We’re down to about two to three eggs a day now.

    It is still smoky here today. One of my favourite authors who has been affected by the fires wrote a thoughtful article on the subject, and I thought you might be interested to read it: From fire evacuation rooms, Diary of a Wombat author pens her message to Australia.



  38. Hi Claire,

    Glad to hear that Mike returned from the journey safely and appears to have enjoyed himself. Sometimes guys need alone and quiet time, even better when it’s in nature, and anyway I reckon that’s what fishing and hunting is about. Helps recharge the batteries so to speak, well at least that is how I feel about such things.

    I wouldn’t be the only one to greatly appreciate the rain, and so please don’t hesitate to send it down this way. 🙂 Thanks for the nice words. It is still smoky here today for about the fifth day in a row. I believe that the stress is weighing down on everyone.



  39. Hi DJ,

    Mate, the thing with that scythe guy is that you never know when he is coming for you. It adds a little bit of spice to life, although I would feel that it would be a very boring weight to be immortal, or even worse the trauma in knowing the exact time of your passing.

    Hey, you might be interested in this: Indigenous fire practices have been used to quell bushfires for thousands of years, experts say. When governments control forest management practices and demand exacting obedience – and then the results are truly frighteningly awful – and we the community have to pay for their ineptitude, well it might not be a bad idea to try something entirely different that has worked in the past. But you know, that would be an acknowledgement of defeat for the governments and that things were done better back in the day.

    That plant was widespread too, I’m just glad that your tumbleweeds are not present down here. What a nightmare. But yeah, they probably all act that way, but 2m! Far out, does it have to be so big.

    -18’C is very cold from my perspective, which is frankly a bit summer soft. I walked outside today and it was 31’C in the shade I was thinking to myself, yeah, you know it just doesn’t feel that hot to me. The smoke is making deep breathing a bit harder, but I feel it is deflecting some heat back into space.

    The downtown Riverfront Park crew sound like a tough bunch of nuts to crack, but you showed ’em. Nice one, and honestly I never would have thought of doing that with the geese, but will try it the next time I encounter a flock. Consider it a DJ-experiment and hopefully the birds do not sink their mouths into my flesh. Geese are very grumpy, but I guess they have to be.

    Ah, yes this is what is occurring with Ollie and the rabbit. I was on the phone last evening and sitting on the veranda when down below in the orchard I spotted not one but two rabbits happily bouncing around. The magpies ignored them. The cheek.

    Yeah, peat can produce such smoky flavours. Nice. It surprises people when we have peat fires down here, and they are not impossible to extinguish, but it is not easy either – and the burns from encountering one unexpectedly is a real problem. I read of a lady who slipped into an ash bed in one of the recent fires and now is waiting for skin grafts. Not good. I’m thinking about getting some old school gaiters. When I was in cadets at school we used to wear them over army boots and they were really handy when you were ambling around the forest doing whatever cadets were meant to be doing in the forest. They were tough old, some sort of, dried canvass and I haven’t seen them around for a while.

    Yup, smoky water. I heard a scientist Dr Karl, today on the radio and he suggested that it was probably OK, but incomplete combustion can produce the extraordinarily toxic dioxins. Not a calming thought, but there you go.

    Ha! That was the very website I had a look at. Beagles in particular have some serious downsides, despite their reputation.



  40. Hi Inge,

    I was aware of that with the Holm Oak. Incidentally some of the more traditional oaks do not go entirely deciduous when there is a mild winter. They’re almost deciduous, but then the tree decides that it wants to hang onto a few leaves. I have a suspicion that the oak species can hybridise easily. I intend to plant many more of these trees over the next few years.

    Hopefully your son was understanding of your natural curiosity to see how the cleaning process went? As far as bacteria go, almost clean won’t cut the mustard, but I tend to feel that the dried lees will be fine and may even produce a very fine damson wine. A nice choice too. Plum season is not quite here yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

    The same here with winter humidity hovering in the 90%+ for most of the season. Although it looks damp at such times. The other day it was 99% humidity and the ground is still damp in places. I always watch how the water travels around the farm.



  41. @ Margaret:

    Our deer here eat the whole tomato plant. In a bad winter they also eat English ivy leaves and holly leaves, both of which I think are pretty toxic. Our English ivy, on house and trees, never has any leaves until starting about 4 feet up.


  42. @ DJSpo:

    I am so very sorry to hear about your cousin and, of course, your neighbor. It is especially hard to lose someone so young, and so suddenly.


  43. Chris:

    I smoked cigarettes for one semester in college. Boy, was I cool. Then my sinuses said: You weren’t meant to be cool.

    It kind of gets me that people don’t understand that humans have always had this magnificent brain power that we have now. Each generation has merely had to build – as we still do – on the developments of technology of the generation before. Which does not make the practices, or the thinking, of anyone’s ancestors any dumber than we are right now.

    You are indeed a rock star – in more ways than one!

    We get about one plum per year from our plum tree. No, I have not canned it.

    Wood ash to soften water – interesting. I have just spread wood ash on the front steps as they are icy. We had 3 inches of snow in 3 hours a couple of days ago, then the sunny sun came back out. It’s below freezing at night, but nice in the day. That was our first snow this season, after 3 weeks of weather in the 50s and 60s.

    I will now be searching for orange in nature. Are we allowed to count things like Lew’s pumpkins? Or does it have to be Really Wild Nature?


  44. @ Margaret:

    I see that Chris mentioned wild nightshade plants where he is. We have those, too, including Deadly Nightshade. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that our deer have adapted to eating that.


  45. Yo, Chris – Oh, elevated places were “closer to the gods.” A lot of ancient cultures, if they didn’t have a mountain handy, would just build one. That reminds me. I ran across the fact that my “Sibyl’s Temple” print was real place, in Tivoli, Italy. Apparently, it was high on the list of “must see”, for 18th century Grand Tour, folks.

    That was quit an article about the criminal’s gravestones. Not so unusual. Nice dressed stones, are hard to come by, especially if you’re doing something “on the cheap.” 🙂 Many Roman gravestones were preserved, because they ended up in later church construction.

    Well, considering crimes, or, more accurately, crimes against cuisine, todays link is on a lighter note. In fact, guaranteed to be lite, cholesterol free, with no trans-fats, sugar, or MSG. Natural, healthy and organic.

    Might give you an idea. Set up a stand, and rake in the bucks, at your next agricultural show!

    Forecasts are getting more serious about snow. Probably, Monday.

    The Greer Japan poster is Ormsby, I think. I also find her posts, fascinating.

    “Nightingale” seems to just be a movie. No book. I don’t know. Reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, I don’t know if I’m going to make it through the whole thing. I predict the fast forward button will get a workout.

    Yes, “Doctor Sleep” is a sequel to “The Shinning.” Or, at least, it’s about what happens to the boy, Danny, when he grew up. I read the book, quit a few years ago, when it first came out. I remember I quit liked the book, but then, I might have to opt out of any recommendations. Or, at least take my opinions, with a pound of salt. Like his father, Danny is a raging alcoholic, with a side of other chemicals. As I remember, at the start of the book, he’s getting on the road to recovery, with all the ups and downs of that. So, any reviews I would do, tend to be slanted. My “take” is not everybody’s “take.” I may read the book, again, if it’s not to hard to run down a copy.

    Even though I don’t care for shredded coconut, the milk wasn’t half bad. Had it on my oatmeal and fruit, yesterday, and it’s serviceable. Mysterious ingredients list, is pretty long. Not that almond milk isn’t. 10% added sugar? Hmmm. At least it’s cane.

    I watched “Collet”, last night. She was a famous, early 20th century French literary figure. Some might find the film a bit “racy.” But then, so were her books. For the time. Not much that would spook the horses, these days. Today’s horses seem a lot more resilient. 🙂 Lew

  46. Chris:

    Nature’s orange, where I live, though not necessarily in this season:

    Bittersweet berries
    Egg yolks (ok, it’s my neighbor’s chickens) – wait, chickens are
    domesticated. Maybe chickadee eggs have orange yolks . . .
    Chicken of the Woods fungi
    Baltimore Orioles – the bird, not the baseball team

    There we have some minutia that nobody needs to know . . .


  47. Chris,

    Thanks for that link. That was an interesting article. Some of the Natives in the USA and Canada still remember some of the old forest management techniques, but I fear that many have lost the traditions. They appeared to have worked well for millennia, however.

    But, governments have a hard time acknowledging that they are doing something that doesn’t work. First hand knowledge, that is, from an insider. One of the primary research computer programs I am supposed to use broke exactly 2 years ago this month. The fixes didn’t work. The rewrite worked briefly, and something decayed and it now has all the problems the original had immediately after breaking. Naturally, being government, they will spend considerable effort trying to fix the broken rewrite. I predicted shortly after it originally broke that it would not be fixed before I retire. 2 years down, one to go and I will be proved correct.

    Most of those things are much much smaller than 2m diameter. Around here 30cm to 50cm diameter is close to normal size, perhaps.

    -18C is cold from my perspective too! Heck, it was +10C just a couple days ago. I am not acclimated to Arctic weather yet this year, so it will be cold. It’s not supposed to be terribly windy after the Friday-Saturday snow, but there will be light breezes throughout this cold snap.

    Please, let me know how the DJ-experiment goes! If it doesn’t work for you, maybehaps the geese in these parts thought I was a predatory animal and was trying to eat them or something.

    Of course the magpies ignored the rabbits. They’re probably amused by the Chris versus Rabbit scene. What you need are a few hawks and other raptors. Magpies and the rest of the corvids will frolic with the rabbits if they know that the rabbits irritate you by their feeding habits.

    Maybe you don’t need a purebred rabbit hound. A crossbred dog might diminish the unwanted characteristics whilst keeping the desired hunting ones. Cheyenne the Finnish Spitz was a mix. While she showed a few of the downsides of the breed, they were less pronounced than what I understand the purebreds have. And she would be walking her perimeter and snatch an unsuspecting bird right out of the air as it was flying by, so the main trait of being bird hunters bred true. So a beagle/dachshund mix? What would you call it, a Beaghund? A Dachsle? A Beagdach? A Hundle? A Beagweiner?

    I once knew a lady who fought wildfires for summer jobs during her college days. After a fire was out and the mop up crew went into the burnt area, they all had long poles that they prodded the ashy ground with before taking a step. Why? A burnt out tree could’ve burned several feet below the surface and still be full of active and immensely hot embers. Live things fall into those and perhaps a crispy critter is pulled out. Similar to the peat fire problem.

    Maybe there’s toxicity added to the water by the smoke, maybe there’s not. And how much has been added? Not that you’ve got many options. People have been drinking significantly more questionable water forever. My take is that inhaling the smoke is worse than drinking the smoked water. And that’s another thing that humans have dealt with forever, inhaling wood smoke. It happens.

    It looks like The First Big Snow Event of This Winter will hit just in time for the morning commute. I’m glad I ride the bus! A good friend at work lives nearby. If the roads start getting bad in the early afternoon, we will both leave early and she’ll drive me home. Meaning, she’ll drive by my house, automatically open the passenger door and give me a good kick to eject me. 😉


  48. Hi Pam,

    These things happen, oh and, I rather suspect that the uncool eventually become cool, if only because the cool become uncool over time, and the uncool then become cool by default just because they live their own lives – and that’s always interesting. 😉

    Exactly, and I totally agree with you. Technology in some ways I reckon is a crutch and it allows us to believe that we are somehow smarter than our ancestors. However, we’re just using more energy – and creating far more waste in the process than they ever did, and I ain’t gonna call that smart.

    Shucks! 🙂 Hehe! I took the day off any and all work today, and it was quite a pleasant experience. I figure I’ll write a bit tonight – and yes, there are rocks in there… Plus, it’s raining right now. Yay for rain.

    I see, the birds enjoy plums, and the plum trees enjoy lots of sunlight. Hmm. Difficult, I hear you. The birds stripped my green gage plum tree last year.

    What effect does the wood ash have on the ice? I’ve never tried that. Ouch. 60’F-ish is quite warm for winter. No doubt you will feel the cold weather over the next two months. Maybe? Other than that your winters are beginning to sound like my sort of winters which are cold, but not that cold.

    I was entirely wrong about the whole orange thing. Turns out orange is all over the place. I once years ago made a similar comment about blue, yeah, well I was wrong about that too, as we have all sorts of blue flowers. Hey, speaking of which the agapanthus are just about to produce their flowers. The bees love the plants and they are super hardy. Thanks for the list and I stand corrected. 🙂



  49. Hi Pam and Margaret,

    Deadly nightshade is not present down under. It’s close relative Blackberry nightshade is present and quite common. Apparently the berries are edible, although I’m not sure that I enjoy the taste of them. I have it on good authority – and please correct me if I’m wrong – but it is very hard to tell the difference between the two plants and the only reason I tried the berries was because I was 100% certain that it was not deadly nightshade – the name is a (please excuse the pun) dead-giveaway as to the outcome of consumption.



  50. Hi Lewis,

    Oh, that’s all quite pragmatic and sensible about higher places. Never quite thought about it that way before. However, I have a vague memory that some cultures revere Gods in caves and water spirits, so perhaps it is only certain Gods that like the air at higher elevations? Dunno.

    Curious minds wish to know. Is your engraving the Temple of the Sibyl in Poland or Temple of Vesta in Tivoli? One was modelled on the other. The Polish temple looks as though it is set in lush grounds with ancient trees. Very attractive. It is funny to think that there may have been tourists in the 1700’s… You’d hope they were less clueless than some of the tourists I’ve encountered over the years, but possibly not. There was a song from about two decades ago where one of the lines was: ”Everyone hates a tourist. Especially one that thinks it’s all just a laugh.”

    It was all very practical re-using the dressed stones, and did you notice that archaeologists observed that the work crews turned the grave marker stones outwards? The implication was that the work crews must have known what the dressed marked stones represented. I tend to believe that someone would have been curious at the inscriptions and word would have spread around the work crews pretty quickly. It would have been no easy feat moving the dressed stones from the old Melbourne Gaol to the beach – although they probably used the train line. Train lines were more extensive in those days, although the train still does reach down into that part of Melbourne, but not too much further south along the coast at that point than there. I mean back in the day people used to go there for their holidays. It was interesting to read that many of the dressed stones may have made their way into private buildings of humble size.

    Bonkers, but intriguing all at the same time with so many unanswered questions. The editor and I were laughing hysterically at the state fair food. My favourite line from the article pretty much summed up the food tradition: “Ready for something that is a combination of two things that don’t seem to go together?” And lots of deep fried yummy-ness, although I did note that some vendors were going in the entirely opposite direction through the use of liquid nitrogen. As they say, same, same, but different! Thanks for the awesome link, we genuinely are in awe. It makes the food on sale at the agricultural shows down here look quite tame. I did also notice that there is a certain one-up-man-ship to be observed in the mixes.

    Fingers crossed for some snow. Hey, it’s rained for about three hours now and about 1/3rd of an inch has fallen. Yay for rain – it’s all arriving by way of the cyclones up in the north-west of the continent. The radar looks rather impressive.

    Always wise to keep the remote handy just in case there are boring bits – or bits you don’t want lodged into your imagination. Of course this is one of the downsides of watching films at the cinema. Do you have a local cinema in town? Or was there one in the past?

    I was wondering about that aspect of the story and what would your take on it all would be. Was Danny’s road to recovery a central theme of the story, or background to the story? And fair enough, we all come at stories from different angles and I reckon that’s a good thing too. After all is said and done, it would be a rather dull world if we all enjoyed the same stories.

    Hmm, thanks for the words on the coconut milk, and I actually add desiccated coconut (much finer than shredded coconut) to the dogs biscuits and also the Anzac biscuits. I can’t say I’m a fan of shredded coconut either. Incidentally I add a teaspoon of raw coconut to Ollie’s breakfast most days as it seems to help him with skin conditions – perhaps he was bottled fed as a pup? The grass seeds gives him irritated skin, but I suspect he was weaned and separated way too young.

    What a character was Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette! And I’m genuinely surprised that her husband also appeared to be inept at managing the household finances (I’m observing a pattern). Ah, the author suffered the fate of the successful ghostwriter, but locking her in a room until enough pages were written seems a bit of an extreme act to me, although nobody really knows what was going on there, and it is possible that the lady needed quiet time in order to write.

    In the race to titillate, the horses always run to extremes.



  51. Hi DJ,

    That’s the case here too, but it is great to see that some folks recall the firestick traditions. However, given the task originally involved everybody on the continent, I’d have to suggest that present resources are probably a bit thin on the ground. Incidentally, the thing was, the environment looked different in those days given the early historical accounts that I have read. I’m coming to the thought that unbroken thick forest from horizon to horizon is perhaps not such a bright idea.

    Exactly. They hang on past the point of it making any sense, if only because they are spending what is known as OPM – or more politely ‘Other People’s Money’. Why would they admit to failure when resources are just a quick cheque away? So yeah, I can see how there is little accountability for such failures.

    That’s not too bad with the tumbleweeds. I assume given the side of the mountain range that you’re on, they occasionally work their way into towns there?

    Hehe! I was just checking about your take on the -18’C temperature, you never know. 🙂 Mate, I would be whingeing about it at serious volumes that you’d hear it all the way up in your part of the world. -2’C is as cold as it gets here, although I could be proven wrong. Any snow yet?

    I took today off any and all work and intended to go to a place where there are geese, however the geese were absent. I’d read that tourists had been complaining about the geese of late, but they’re gone. When I was younger, you used to see Black Swans (it’s your white swans that are the real problem!!!) on the lake, but no I didn’t see any of those either. There were a few ducks, but not as many as I recall.

    Ha! I will not let the magpies know my frustrations in this regard. They may warn the rabbits just for a bit of fun, and they are already frankly edgy and fast.

    You’re probably right. A bit of extra bloodlines does a lot to take away the worst personality traits of some dog breeds. I’ve never purchased a dog from a breeder and have a fairly easy going approach to new rescue dogs, but things have gotten confused with that plan of late because Sir Scruffy and Sir Poopy seemed to have kept the rabbit population down. What I’m now thinking is one of each size: small, medium and large. That should cover most bases. At the moment I’m at small, small, large. There is a piece of the puzzle missing there, although it alludes my understanding! 😉

    A wise suggestion with the stick, and a walking stick could provide similar services. Hmm. Thanks. It is often the things you don’t think about that get you unstuck. Incidentally, the amount of energy required to burn a tree stump is a mind boggling equation and quantity of energy. You may note that I have a stump grinder and carbon steel teeth trumps volumes of energy. I did try burning one once. So much firewood was used, that I never did it again. Still the experiment was worth the while.

    Yeah, that was what I was thinking too. And being able to detect particles in the one or two parts per million range, does not in fact necessarily make them a problem.

    Being ejected from a moving car all sounds a bit James Bond to me. Carry on ol’ chap, keep a stiff upper lip, and please do be careful! 🙂



  52. Chris:

    Yay for rain!

    Wood ash on ice makes it way less slippery. There must be an awful lot of bits of wood particles still in it. We get charcoal from wood in our fireplace that is not completely burned up – and I use it to grill with, just as an example of incompletely burned wood. Our wood stove burns hotter and we do not get charcoal from that. Ash is dark, too, and if not layered too thickly, absorbs the sun (should it be out) and melts the ice a bit quicker.

    On two things DJSpo mentioned:

    Do you not have any raptors? We have many.

    We had a beagle/chow cross – acquired as an adult – who loved bunny rabbits more than any thing else. I mean – she ate them whole.


  53. @ DJSpo:

    You were so right to mention beagles to Chris. We had a beagle/chow cross that just loved rabbits. She bayed like a beagle, too – what a great sound – though she was orange with a very thick chow coat. And her tongue was purple.


  54. Yo, Chris – Well, I’d suppose the workers knew the stones, were gravestones, and showed a certain respect. Or, just an urge to keep everything neat and tidy. Well, I suppose if you can move huge bluestones from Wales, to Stonehenge, a few tombstones is a walk in the park 🙂 . Rail lines, both there and here, used to run everywhere.

    I’m glad you got some rain, and I hope it keeps coming, for awhile. I went out and did a bit of shopping, this morning, just in case we get snowed in. Don’t want to have to resort to cannibalism. 🙂 . It’s raining hard, today. So windy it’s coming in sideways. Possible snow, very late Sunday night, or very early Monday morning. And then off and on, all week. Maybe.

    We have a five or six screen multi-plex cinema, in our old semi-abandoned shopping mall. That’s the one I’ve been to, on rare occasions. Way too expensive. I forgot to mention, also on my hold list is “Color Out of Space.” Nick Cage in an adaptation of a Lovecraft story.

    It’s been too long for me to remember the details of the book, “Doctor Sleep.” But, I remember being favorably impressed by the recovery aspects of the book. I looked around, for a copy, yesterday. No dice. The library has it, but my hold list is full, and until I get a few more slots open, it will have to wait.

    Speaking of books, I picked up “Second Sleep”, (Harris, 2019) Stayed up way to late, last night, and am over half way through it. One of the blurbs on the jacket is from Tom Hanks, and he says it’s a “barn burner.” Probably angling for a part, if it becomes a film. 🙂 . Well, it is engrossing. Something you would read in “Into the Ruins.” It’s 800+ years in the future. There was some kind of collapse, then a 200 year “dark age.” Civilization has clawed it’s way back to a standard of living, circa 1800. But no further. The Church has a grip on the people, and discourages most science. A young priest is sent out to an isolated parish, to bury and old priest (who may have been murdered) and discovers all kinds of heretical books and artifacts. And, he gets curious …

    Well, after yesterdays horrendous link, I thought I better throw up something interesting … and pretty. Due to National Bird Day, several of the archaeology sites I visit, had articles about the Roman, House of the Birds, in Spain.

    Colette’s husband was very much the man about town. A bon vivant, a flaneur. Very concerned with the appearance of being successful. A spendthrift, who would always stand drinks, for the crowd, had a serious gambling problem, and, a mistress or two, to support. He’d lock her up, from time to time, when under money pressure and she didn’t feel like writing for the four hours a day, he demanded.

    The End of the World as We Know It? Yardbirds (the abandoned cheese warehouse) has been sold. To some investment company out of Everett, Washington. An LLC (Limited Liability Company.) I’d guess The Club, my mechanic, and the auction house will be impacted. Never mind all the vendors, in the flea market. Mostly old retirement folks, squeezing out a few extra bucks from the economy. Change. Hate it. Lew

  55. PS: The one in Tivoli. It seems the only reason the temple was attributed to Vesta, is that it is round, and so is the Vesta Temple (well attributed), in Rome. Another contender is Hercules, for no apparent reason. But, from classical sources, there was a well documented Temple of Sibyl, in Tivoli, and this is either it, or, it hasn’t been discovered, yet. Lew

  56. @ Pam,

    That sounds like a totally wonderful dog. The purple tongues on the chows and chow mixes are cool.


  57. Chris,

    Precisely. Wall to wall forests will not work. Eventually they become “old growth” and the light is choked off before reaching the ground. Then the plant life at the ground diminishes, followed by a dearth of animal life as their food disappeared. A mix of forests and prairies and stuff is better. Besides, the most interesting stuff seems to occur at the interfaces of the different ecosystems.

    Tumbleweeds in towns on this side of the mountains varies. Some areas, like the Palouse south of here, have few tumbleweeds as nearly every inch of soil is planted with wheat or chickpeas or lentils, the remaining areas being too steep to farm, pine trees growing there. West of Spokane and west of the Palouse, there gets to be many regions that are a mix of farms and “scrubland”, the scrubland sporting sagebrush, various other desert plants, and, of course, tumbleweeds. Spokane sees few tumbleweeds in town, but pretty much all of the other towns and cities east of the mountains can get inundated.

    Yay for rain!!! And Pam is correct about wood ash on ice. Good for traction. Under sunny conditions, the ash can help melt the ice as it is darker than ice and snow so can soak up what solar radiation is there.

    Snowing yet? Bah! It was supposed to start at 7:00 a.m. The snow gods decided to tease us, delaying the storm until 8:45. It was supposed to start snowing HARD about 4:00 p.m. Nope, that started about 2:00 p.m. You know arrive late, come down hard early to make up for starting late. 10cm so far. And it came in a few degrees colder than forecast, so it might not get above freezing today, but it’s supposed to be about +4C tomorrow.

    I left work at 3. The coworker who lives nearby drove me home. She was very nice about NOT kicking me to the curb while the truck was moving, but actually stopped her truck and patiently waited for me to fall out all by myself. 😉

    So, if you obtained another large dog, you’d have 2 large and 2 small. Averages to 4 mediums. Conversely, rather than having a small and a medium and a large, which averages to 3 mediums, wouldn’t 3 medium dogs do the same thing as 1 small, 1 medium, 1 large? And THAT explains why statistics doesn’t always work out so well.

    I’ve messed around with tree stumps, too. Can’t burn them in town, so I’ve dug up the smaller ones. Oi, but those roots can go down forever and spread all over the place with some trees. When the old apple trees died, I sawed them off at ground level and let Nature take over. Princess’s brother had cut down a large evergreen tree. The stump was a problem. Every time we changed oil, he had us pour it onto the stump and light it. Never made a dent in the thing. Stumps are TOUGH.

    Just had to go outside. Just enough wind in town that the snow is drifting. Everywhere. There’s a covered breezeway between the house and garage. It has several cm in it. There’s snow under the patio roof. I heard that the drifting is getting bad south and west of here.


  58. Hi Pam,

    Your beagle mix sounds fascinating. There are rumours circulating around the interweb about beagles in that they wander. I realise yours was a chow mix, but did the dog wander? A dog that wandered could go a long way away here, so that breed trait was the one that was putting me off beagles as a possibility.

    Ah, thanks for the explanation about the wood ash. Makes sense. On the stairs here I mixed a bit of sand into the paint, but even so they can be a little bit slippery on icy days. Even the fluffy collective can struggle with the stairs on such rare days.

    Absolutely, wedge tail eagles can be seen at least once per day flying overhead, all year around. And during the night there are many species of owls. I am going to have to do something about the rabbits. I flushed one out today, but the fluffies were a bit slow. From here onwards Ollie and I will conduct regular night patrols. Incidentally, the wallabies have pushed the boundaries and they completely flattened a six year old apple tree. Not happy at all.

    Better get writing!



  59. Hi Lewis,

    I’m feeling it tonight as we chopped, split and hauled firewood for most of the day. Yeah, firewood is a big job, but at least today was very cool after yesterday’s rainfall. The little tugboat looking weather station thingee had a spider move into the rainfall section of the gauge, so I had to do a bit of cleaning with it as it hadn’t recorded any rainfall at all. Not an easy job to do, but with a bit of WD40 squirted into the rainfall gauge the spider was not impressed at all. The spider left a lot of cobwebs in the machine. Oh well, I guess it was a very hot and dry December and the machine remained unused during that time.

    I’ve been thinking about the rabbit situation of late and have come to one conclusion in that I need to get another appropriately mid-sized dog. Now, you may recall that I mentioned that things with adoption places were a little bit weird due to what I believed to be excessive red-tape. Well, it’s only been two years since I got Ollie, but things have gotten worse. I looked at one adoption place and they wanted to do a site visit and the form had so much detail I swear that they could rip a persons’ ID blind and sell it on the black market. It even asked for two references, like one isn’t enough. In recent years puppy farms were shut down and put out of business, and so I suspect the lack of canine supply has meant that these adoption places can really let their freak flag fly – or maybe they are so exclusive that nobody can get a dog, even A grade celebrities?

    Ah of course, Stonehenge is the ultimate stone relocation project. Moving a couple of chunks of small dressed granite down here ain’t nothing compared to that! 😉 Which reminds me that a couple of decades ago the local councils used to remove cut stones from old cobblestone lane-ways and drains, and back in those days they used to virtually give them away (replaced by concrete, as you do). I certainly availed myself of some of those back in the day.

    It is a shame about the railway lines, but interestingly the land was rarely sold from what I can understand of the situation. I always wonder what happened to all of the old sleepers and rail lines – they would have been a source of seriously high quality and high grade iron.

    If worse comes to worse, just cook the meat longer. What else do you do, the meat would most certainly not be spring lamb given your fellow residents. 😉 No snow yet for you, but maybe tomorrow? The latest blog update does not sound like fun weather for you and I hope that you stock up beforehand?

    The Nicholas Cage film has not even been released yet down here. Next month apparently. I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say about the film? Keep your eyes peeled for tentacled horrors. 🙂

    Watched an Australian film last night: ‘Red Dog’. It was very good, and I enjoyed the story immensely. The story involved a Red Heeler dog who had attached himself to a mining community back in the 1970’s, and then due to unfortunate circumstances the dog went on an epic road trip before returning home again.

    A full hold list is a notoriously complicated situation. What to cull from the list, is perhaps not as easy a question to answer as it first appears.

    You’ve mentioned the author before in relation to his work on Pompeii, and he sounds like a truly fascinating individual. Half a book in an evening is a feat I am unable to reproduce, but not by lack of skill, but more by being rudely interrupted by life’s little necessities such as getting up early and working all day on the firewood for the secondary firewood shed. 🙂 Hehe! I feel the season has turned and I am into an entirely new season, so I must bend with the winds or risk being struck down like the six year old apple tree that one of the wallabies squooshed. The wallabies went for a second tree too, so I intend to introduce Ollie to them, and hopefully they all get along well? Maybe not though.

    The mosaics are amazing – and most of the birds are immediately recognisable. Out of curiosity, why was the villa excavated? And perhaps I mean why did it end up under the Earth? I sense that there is a story there.

    What a fine couple they were, and my heart bleeds for both of them. Perhaps it may be due to having spent the day cutting and splitting firewood, that I lack a touch of sympathy for people who can’t seem to get their act together financially – despite wanting to maintain appearances, and four hours at the task of writing is hardly a sore trial – unless other diversions were preferable as I suspect they may have been? I dunno, perhaps I am being far too harsh, but my lot were of humble origins, and I have never shied away from what needs doing. It would be nice to pretend that it was otherwise, but I have long suspected that the easy path is actually the hard path, but dressed up much nicer than the hard path looks. When I read the words ‘locked up to write’ I actually thought that had referred to a time period extending into days, weeks and months. But then, I guess the yoke is a matter of preference, and all of us are required to put one on from time to time.

    Oh no! So sorry to read of the sale of the building. On the other hand, investors often seek a return on their investment, so it may not be a short term problem. The only hassle you all face is whether the potential ‘improved’ land value brings a larger return than simply renting the premises out to the current tenants. You had mentioned that the Club was previously considering alternative accommodation. Ouch. I noted as interest rates dropped here twice recently (and I wrote about why that may be), I noted that several landlords had jacked up their rents – which is contrary to current economic theory, but more closely resembles the actions of a wealth-pump.

    Better get writing…



  60. Hi DJ,

    Yup, I couldn’t put the situation any clearer in relation to the succession of forests. People just don’t get it (or more likely don’t want to get it) and they want what they want for their own reasons. There is a thick forest of Californian Redwoods to the south west of me and located far closer to the coast. The trees were planted almost 90 years ago and nothing else grows in their shade, and nothing else lives on the forest floor. It is a beautiful but very quiet place though, it just lacks much life. And absolutely, the edges are where the interesting things happen in ecosystems.

    I have a suspicion that people want locked up and locked out forests because it is some sort of complex bargaining process due to cities being so horrendously unsustainable.

    Oh my, I hope that no fires ever get into those pine plantations on the steep ground? Ook – not good! On the other hand, what an interesting mix of land that is around you. Sagebrush and some of those desert plants are very slow growing, but they pack a nutritional punch – if animals can stomach the plant matter in the first place.

    Pam, mentioned both uses of wood ash, and I never would have considered such a use, says he mentally jotting the option down if the need arises. 64’F here today and cloudy, so we cut, split and hauled firewood all day long. I intend to write tonight so hopefully the experience hasn’t marred my words! It’s possible…

    I read Prof Cliff Mass’s latest blog post, and was wondering if such cold air would make it to you part of the state? Hmm. Stock up, and Lewis has hinted at the darker side of that particular story. 😉 From historical accounts, the fleshy bit under the arm is the tastiest, but this is definitely not personal experience.

    Hopefully you kept your footing as you exited the vehicle in the snow and/or ice? Not as easily said as done.

    Your math is beyond my ken, and I was frankly lost at your first supposition. Was that four large dogs or two half dogs? I get so easily confused! Hehe! Mate, the paperwork for adoption dogs is bonkers. When I was kid, unattended dogs used to walk the streets. Nowadays it is all a bit excloo.

    Apple wood can be extraordinarily hard and take a while to break down. It all depends upon what life you have in the soil, and also moisture. The fungi will do the job, but down here it may take many decades to do so. I still find tree logs on the ground which were burned from the 1983 fires. Bonkers. And yup, it is a waste of energy to burn a tree stump.

    Oooo! Your snow sounds really nice to me and hopefully you two are enjoying it?



  61. Hi Chris,
    I remember the Isa Browns. I had two heritage breeds I particularly liked, Barred Hollands and Brown Leghorns. They aren’t very friendly though.

    Thank you for the article. I’ve passed it on to a few people. What would the world be like without volunteers?

    I never saw the appeal of corn dogs which are always in abundance at county fairs and other festivals.

    I was a smoker for maybe 15 years or so. I quit once for 5 years when I was pregnant with my first but going through a divorce and having an office mate who smoked (you could smoke everywhere at that time) got me started again. It was like I had never stopped. There were times when I was a very heavy smoker as well though many intervals when trying to quit which I finally did around 30 years ago. My mother and many other family members were smokers as well which didn’t help. Now my youngest daughter smokes as do a few of her cousins – I can’t believe it!! I was quite cool to smoke when I was in high school. We hid in the bathroom and hung out on cancer corner after school. I did get caught once and suspended for three days. My mother’s comment (she knew I was smoking) was “why did you get caught?” Then she left me to watch Patrick and Michael for those three days while she had some much deserved time out on her own.

    I remember jumping through a few hoops when we adopted Leo. We had to bring our other dog for a visit to see if they got along. However, it was nothing like what you described though it was seven years ago. When Salve was abandoned on our road we had animal control pick her up. They had to keep her for awhile in case someone claimed her and they spayed her and fixed her prolapsed uterus. After the waiting time we adopted her for only $80 and no hassles. Of course we had no information about her but she’s turned out quite well. Btw she eats entire rabbits that she catches as well as chipmunks and mice.

    We’ve had some ice this morning and from all reports there are lots of cars off the road. We were supposed to get about a foot of snow but that’s been downgraded fortunately to only a few inches. Wet snow on top of a film of ice along with the pretty high winds we’re having means downed trees and power lines. So far so good.

    So happy you got some rain – maybe breath a sigh of relief for a bit.


  62. @Lew
    Thanks for the iFixit site. I passed it on to Doug and he sends his appreciation.


  63. @Pam

    I spent quite a bit of time taking down the deadly nightshade twined all through the chain link fence last summer. It does have a distinctive smell. I’ve never noticed anything browsing it though. Your deer and made of pretty tough stuff. The ones around here a pretty soft dining on hay and corn though things can get dicey if it’s a particularly harsh winter.


    We inherited a Beagle/Chow mix from our youngest some years ago. Your description sounds just like Mercedes. She went and adopted this dog as soon as she got her first apartment and she was very protective of her – growling and even snapping at people. I said we’re not taking that dog if you ever can’t keep her. You see how well that went. She turned out to be a pretty good dog though but did she ever shed!! The worse I’ve ever seen. She was the dog we had when we picked out Leo so she could have a buddy (another dog had recently been put down) but sadly was diagnosed with Lymphoma and didn’t last too long after we got him.

  64. Yo, Chris – Well, you’ve had a work out. Just try and keep your eye on the prize … being toasty and warm, next winter. I’m glad it got cooler, for you, to be minimally more comfortable.

    Ollie’s two!??? How time flies. I always describe him as a year old pup. Let the Good People (I’m sure that’s what they tell themselves), keep their hounds. Ask around at the pub or the cafe. Network. The Universe will provide.

    The old iron rails were probably sold off for scrap. Less costly to reclaim iron, then to start from scratch with ore.

    Probably get snow, day after tomorrow. It seems to be all people are talking about. We’ll see.

    I’ll keep an eye out for “Red Dog.” The new list went up, last night, and I had to take two things off my hold list, to squeeze in two new items. 🙁 . I keep track of what I cancel, and may get back to them, later. I read a few more chapters of “Second Sleep,” last night. Some bits are a tad contrived. But, I still find it interesting. A mystery, archaeology, a treasure hunt, speculative future history … what’s not to like?

    Here’s how stuff gets buried …

    I was going to look into the “Villa of the Birds”, specifically, but the net decided to get balky and slow as molasses. I check into it later. By the way, some very nice people up in Northumberland, decided to give a chunk of land, to the National Trust. It contains the wall fort of Carrawburch. Never been excavated, to any great extent.

    I did a bit of poking about on the net, as far as the sale of Yardbirds, goes. It’s frustrating, as there’s probably a lot of information, but, mostly behind pay walls. And I’m not a good enough hacker to get around them. What I could find out makes the whole thing a bit fishy. The LLC that bought the property has only been in existence for less than a year. In the previous 10 years, there have been two other, short lived LLC’s at that address, with the same owner. I can find no background on any of the three LLC’s. So, I decided to take a look at the office. It’s a very well kept Victorian house, that is a four-plex. A housing four-plex. I checked into the one corporate officer listed, but, there’s several people with the same name, in the Puget Sound area. Most likely suspect is a fellow who’s a financial analyst for a gaming company. From what I can see, nothing indicates that they have the where with all to pull off a 2 – 3 million dollar real estate deal.

    Maybe they’re a shell or front for a real buyer? Possible. Speculation and rumor, around the mall is that they’re just going to turn the whole darn place into storage units. Quit a bit of it already is, and that’s what makes the money. According to reports. I think it’s interesting, that the local newspaper, as of this morning, hasn’t said a thing about the sale. Not that they’re quick off the mark. But, I wonder if they’re poking about, too? If so, they may have more information, as their resources (scant though they are these days, for a newspaper) are beyond mine.

    By the way, if you search “Yard Birds, Chehalis” you can get a look at the bird. Often shows up on must-see roadside attraction lists. Wonder what will happen to it? Lew

  65. Hi Lewis,

    My thoughts exactly. Anyway, what do the old timers say about firewood heating you many times? I went to stack some this morning, but moisture had dropped over night and so the firewood from yesterday had become a bit damp. Hmm, the season has shifted, that’s for sure. I should get the second shed filled before the end of the month – unless something very strange and unexpected happens in the meantime. Always a possibility. The weather for the next week however looks quite nice.

    Too true and the informal network can often pay dividends with such matters. The processes in the adoption centre sounds a bit kooky and over the top to me. Can’t say that I’m a fan of such red-tape, but I guess they have their reasons and agendas for acting the way they do. Some people I have noted, revel in such journeys. I on the other hand tend to think: It’s a dog.

    Dunno about your part of the world, but down here I believe the railway lines were dismantled many years after WWII and right up into the 1960’s. I guess that car was the king and wouldn’t tolerate competition?

    Your hold lists always amaze me, and it really is a good service – as you’re probably already well aware. Unhappy days for you, limits are a pain and when they mean you have to remove two items off the list… How did you end up choosing which items to pull from the list? A difficult choice that. Sounds like you’re enjoying Second Sleep. What was their future take on technology? We are surrounded by all sorts of technology and tools that it is hard to imagine that the future folks get all uptight about the stuff?

    Thanks for the link on how stuff gets buried. A very thoughtful crew of commenters there. Very impressive discussion, and I’d never have considered many of the replies, but yeah. Good stuff.

    Ah ha! You were forced to wade through the murky sludge of a slow interweb connection. Hmm, yeah I recall the days of the BBS and the stupid sounds that the modems made upon connection were memorable. And speedy connections were merely the stuff of dreams – although nobody seemed to mind. There must be something in that. I recall in the early days of the interweb that people used to run servers from their houses. I guess things have moved on a bit since then.

    Did you mean: Carrawburgh? The poor interweb search thingee barely scraped anything from your spelling of Carrawburch. I see that Field Marshal George Wade destroyed some of Hadrian’s Wall so that a military road could be constructed.

    The thing with the Yardbirds story is that nobody will know how these events turn out. Sometimes property is purchased for the purposes of land banking, but that assumes that there would be some sort of gain to be made for doing so. It’s a gamble, but I’d keep a sharp eye out for rezoning applications, or any applications really. And hopefully nobody is on the take.

    No way! There really is a large black submarine shaped bird. Whatever will they think of next?

    I better get writing – and I doubt I’ll be able to top large black submarine shaped birds…



  66. Hello again
    Younger daughter, who lives inland from Coffs Harbour, says that her water is also tasting of smoke. Like you, she does not have a mains water supply.
    They were staying in the extreme west on Kangaroo Island and a ranger told them to evacuate to the east before the road was closed.


  67. @ Margaret:

    What a strange coincidence! Our Cheagle, Baby Sue, was very protective, but only from a distance. She was very timid and would get near no-one but my husband and I, but she just loved us. It took years, till they were older, for our two sons to become friends with her. She seemed to have come from a home where she was abused and I often wondered if children were the cause. Oh, how she loved living in the country!

    Our neighbors, who recently moved here, have a tiny, 15-year-old, blind-in-one-eye white poodle. Every chance Lindy gets she runs off to chase deer. It is one of the funniest things I’ve run into when out in the woods. My new neighbors send out a neighborhood email alert when this happens and we all comb the woods. It wouldn’t take long for a wandering dog or a coyote to eat Lindy up. Dogs certainly do love living in the country.

    I think they have finally built a fence that will hold her.


  68. Yo, Chris – Yeah, the dog adoption song and dance was just bonkers. Not that some places here, aren’t the same. We have a County Humane Society, which is a lot more reasonable. They adopt out animals that have been fixed, with a clean bill of health and all their shots. Pricey (I think) but still less than a trip to the vet. I’ve been out a time or two. A well kept facility.
    Silly people, so often take on an animal, on a whim.

    I cancel stuff off my hold list, that I occasionally have second thoughts, about. Do I really want to put in the time, etc.. I’m also likely to cancel something that I don’t think will have a long list of other holds. So that if I get back to it, I won’t have to wait to long to get it.

    Oh, I remember the old dial up. Get it rolling, and wander in the kitchen for a cuppa, or to get dinner started. I’m pretty happy with the wi-fi speeds, I get here. I’d say, some of the problem, yesterday, was too many people in the building, streaming something or another. Sometimes, things get bogged down, because I’m asking my computer, to do too many things, at once. I’m moving a bit too fast. What happens a lot is, I’ll open a site, read a paragraph, leave the site … and, ads and such are still loading, and it gets boggy and cranky if it isn’t allowed to complete that oh, so important task. Generally, if I clean out the history and browser, close and reopen the browser, than all is right, again.

    Yup. That fort 🙂 . Couldn’t read my own notes. A little more investigation, and I see there have been some investigations, there. But, pretty targeted, and mostly outside the fort. Mostly, shrines and temples. Wonder if they’ll at least do radar surveys, this coming summer?

    Yeah, those birds are really something. There used to be two, but in the golden days of the mall, there was a restaurant and bar, in the place. One night, a drunk burned one down. Two local fellows, after WWII started a military surplus store, there. It was the thing to do, in several places in the US. I haunted one, in the 1950s, in Portland. “Yardbird” was military slang for a low level soldier, assigned to some menial duty, sometimes as punishment.

    Well, I wonder if I’ll wake up to white, tomorrow morning? We’re supposed to have two nights of 28F (-2.22C) this week. I’m headed to the Club, to have a cuppa, with my friend Amanda. The vet. I better soak up all the ambiance I can, as driving may be a bit dicey, at times, this week. Lew

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