Getting away with it all messed up

The recent horrendous bushfires have been dominating my thoughts. I mean, for a start, the media attention has certainly been focused on the fires. And fair enough too, the fires have burned through nearly 11 million hectares (that’s 27.5 million acres). That’s a lot of land burned, and a back of the envelope calculation suggests that it is about the equivalent of half the landmass of the UK (about 60 million acres).

Day to day life here at the farm has meant that the fires are never really far away. When the winds blow in the right direction, they bring thick smoke over the farm. For about half of the week, visibility has been very poor, and you can taste the acrid burnt organic matter on your tongue.

But it’s not until you see how it looks, that you can begin to understand what it may even mean.

A bushfire sprinkler stands ready as thick smoke reduced visibility for days

It looks exactly like fog, but tastes like smoke. The thick smoke makes it hard to get a deep breath, or even work outside. But life goes on here.

True believers and hardcore fans of renewable energy systems will be dismayed to learn that for three days, due to the thick smoke, the solar photovoltaic panels enjoyed less than an hours sunlight per day. We survived on the little electricity produced by less than an hours sunlight per day for several days in a row, but I have strong reasons to believe that an average household could not replicate such a feat.

Thick smoke reduced the sunlight received by the solar panels to less than an hour per day

Fun Fact: ‘Shut Yallourn in three years,’ green group says – Yallourn is a large coal fired power station in the state of Victoria (where I live). Coal may not be good for the environment, however unlike wind and solar, coal provides electricity on a consistent 24 hour per day basis. Renewable energy systems are good, but they cannot replicate what coal does for the same price. And from a greenhouse gas perspective, Yallourn is probably of concern, but the bushfire green house emissions are: Far worse

Thankfully after about four days, the thick smoke dissipated. But it hasn’t completely gone away. The view to the horizon shows that a grey haze has settled over everything.

The smoke has reduced to a grey haze that is never far away

I mentioned the media concern above, and they’ve done a fine job of reporting on the bushfires. The firefighters, who are mostly volunteers (both the editor and I were also volunteers many years ago), have done an amazing job given the circumstances. The military has also assisted to good effect. The state and local politicians aren’t looking too bad either. The federal politicians have been frankly kooky, but lets ignore them. All up, most of the responses have been pretty good.

What has interested me is that questions as to how this situation has occurred and how to prevent it from happening again in the future are being aired and discussed in the media. It is good to see people throwing ideas around, but there are also people debunking new ideas and suggesting to stick to the tried and true path. So what is playing out in the media, reminds me of nothing other than when I worked in the big end of town in the aftermath of an epic fraud – except with a different outcome.

I was new to the job and as such had little emotional investment in the fraud. Other people clearly felt differently about the fraud and emotions ran high. The person who had caused the fraud was obviously no longer employed, but the repercussions of their duplicity were everywhere. In the first meeting with my new team, I managed to sack someone, which was a surprising turn of events, even for myself. I had to set the tone though, and just focus the team on sorting through the mess and repairing the damage. Then basic processes were set in place to ensure that the opportunity for fraud did not arise again.

It’s not a complicated process, but then I had complete control over, and also drove that process. This meant that there was little hindering me to ensure that the changes got implemented properly. And as I instituted the changes to the business, it became abundantly clear to me that the reason the fraud occurred in the first place, was because the systems were so poor that the fraud was an almost inevitable outcome.

The bushfires look a lot like that to me. The current policies and procedures in place, inevitably lead to the outcomes we are seeing today. And they’re not good outcomes that can be lightly brushed away.

Over the years I have stuffed up (the technical description for getting something seriously wrong) many things. On the other hand, I have gotten a lot of things right too. However, if I stuff something up, I have to acknowledge that that is indeed the case. After acknowledgement, I require a bit of quiet self reflection on how the failure occurred. I also find it helpful to seek some advice from other people who have encountered a similar situation. It is also good to consider what can be done to prevent the failure from happening again (or at least minimising the impacts) . Then comes action time – when ideas hit the hard road of reality.

The thing is, the state government down here controls, resources and enforces land management policy. And it appears to me that it is these very policies that have created the environment for such epic bushfires. If I was going to write them a school report card, I would give them an A+ for the response to the bushfires, but an F- for preventing the bushfires in the first place, with the note to their parents that they: ‘could do better’.

Fun Fact: What are hazard reduction burns, are we doing enough of them, and could they have stopped Australia’s catastrophic bushfires? – A hazard reduction burn is akin to what the indigneous folk did before people of European descent arrived on the scene and changed land management practices. As far as I understand things, every inch of land on the continent was burned by the indigenous populations in small patches on a 3 year (grasslands) to 15 year (tall forests) cycle. In Victoria, the state was settled in 1834. By 1851 only 17 years after settlement a quarter of the entire state burned within only a few days – which by all accounts was unprecedented. I have heard old timers quip that where there is no fuel, there is no fire. Seems like common sense to me. However, the article I linked to shows pretty clearly that there are a whole bunch of opinions and agendas.

In the real world, I guess policy is a messy thing which incorporates years of culture, cost and varying points of view – and not all of them have to make sense or even work. Possibly policies will please nobody at all. But in the face of the sort of epic failure we’re seeing with these bushfires, perhaps existing policies need to change utterly.

Fun Fact: Scott Morrison (Prime Minister) to take proposal for bushfire royal commission to Cabinet – A Royal Commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue in some monarchies. We had a Victorian Royal Commission after the horrific 2009 bushfires – but the findings and recommendations of that Royal Commission didn’t seem to prevent these current fires in Victoria. There was another Royal Comission after the horrendous 1939 fires too. There may have been others. I guess governments need to be seen to be doing something, and there will be plenty of people who have never seen a forest set to make heaps of mad cash courtesy of the Royal commission.

So far, the best suggestion I’ve encountered is to create: nationwide fire-resistant planted landscapes, a mosaic of thousands of kilometres of fireproof walls, and burning regimes suited to each ecosystem, not one size fits all. You can read more about it here: From fire evacuation rooms, Diary of a Wombat author pens her message to Australia. Is it going to happen, probably not, but it would work.

Despite the inability to take a deep breath due to the smoke, work continued. We discovered six large rocks and relocated them to the terraced succulent garden.

Six large rocks were moved over to the new terraced succulent garden. Smokey haze keeps us company.

There, the rocks were put to good creating a new level on the terraced succulent garden. Incidentally, that area used to be where the original strawberry patch was located – and that strawberry patch was an epic failure involving leeches and wallabies. The new terraces look better, and more importantly, they work better.

Progress on the new terraced succulent garden continues

A few more trailer loads of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime were placed onto paths and also near to the rock gabions.

Locally quarried crushed rock with lime were placed on the paths above and below the steel rock gabion cages
The new path above the house is nearing completion – but may be widened at some later time

Time was also spent cutting, splitting and hauling firewood. The firewood bay next to the house (which is used during winter emergencies) is almost full. The secondary and smaller firewood shed is now about 20% full.

The firewood bay next to the house is almost full

It is very hard work managing firewood. Anything less than dry and seasoned firewood will damage steel in fireboxes and clog flues and chimneys. For firewood to burn well, it has to have a moisture content less than 14%, which means storing it out of the rain. It definitely needs at least two years seasoning beforehand (the technical name for storing the firewood after it has been initially cut) – during which it can be kept in the rain.

Much of the smoke from the recent bushfires would have been the result of burning green and unseasoned organic matter, and I’d really hate to think what I’ve been breathing in over the past few weeks.

I don’t ordinarily plant trees during the summer months, however sometimes I make an exception for special trees. After the bushfires I purchased an evergreen Holm Oak, and planted it on the farm. I have high hopes for the various Oak species and noted many specimens after the 2009 bushfires that appeared to survive and resist bushfires. An impressive achievement when you consider that I’d also seen photos of alloy vehicle engine blocks which had melted due to the heat from the fires.

A Holm Oak was planted this week

The editor also purchased a very attractive apricot coloured rose.

An apricot coloured rose was planted this week on the rose terrace

Regular readers will recall that the wallabies (a forest dwelling kangaroo) did a smash and grab raid on the rose terrace recently. Well the wallabies have been feral, because this week they flattened a five year old apple tree. I have been introducing Ollie the very large Australian Cuddle Dog (alright, alright, he’s an Australian Cattle Dog – and not feeling very well tonight) to them and they are frightened to make his acquaintance. The wallabies enjoy produce from the garden and orchard, but acts of vandalism are met with unexpected acts from me.

A wallaby flattened and destroyed this five year old apple tree

The corn is doing well, however germination rates were very low, and we intend to completely review and overhaul our seed raising processes this coming winter.

Corn is growing well, but germination rates were too low this year and something will have to be done about that

The three Kiwi fruit vines have enjoyed the crazy weather this year. The vines are dripping with fruit.

Kiwi fruit are growing really well this year

The crazy weather this summer has not been kind to either the tomatoes, capsicums or eggplants. Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to harvest at least some fruit by mid-March.

Tomato plants are so far behind that I believe the harvest will be very poor
Eggplants have likewise only just begun to flower

Raspberries were a disaster this year due to the crazy December heat. However, blackberries are making up for that and it looks like it will be a bumper crop.

Blackberries are thick on the thornless vines

The other day I noticed that a watermelon had self seeded (produced a volunteer plant) despite the crazy weather and lack of watering.

A self seeded / volunteer watermelon

The recently planted replacement Lemon Eureka has loved the sunny and hot conditions. As it is a recently planted tree, I do occasionally provide it with some water, however, both orchards rely purely on rain water.

A recently planted Lemon Eureka is growing well despite the minimal care

Onto the flowers:

This scented geranium enjoys the hot and dry weather
And geraniums just keep producing colour in the worst summer conditions
This rose pokes its flowers out from the depths of one of the garden beds
Creeping roses are one of my favourite plants. And this variety has a beautiful aroma
Agapanthus flower in even the hottest conditions. And the bees love the flowers
The roses on the rose terrace are beginning to bounce back (please excuse the pun) after the recent wallaby smash and grab raid
Californian Poppies also seem to thrive in very hot and dry conditions

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 15’C (59’F). So far this year there has been 28.2mm (1.1 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 16.4mm (0.6 inches).

67 thoughts on “Getting away with it all messed up”

  1. Chris,

    I noticed that both the Holm Oak and the new lemon tree still have their plant tags. What’s up with that? Aren’t the tags supposed to mysteriously disappear before you arrive home from the nursery?

    Ick, that is THICK smoke. Been there and will likely experience much the same again. The continued field notes about the limits of solar power are appreciated. Also, my experience has been that even if the hideously thick smoke doesn’t reappear, that haze will likely remain until enough rain extinguishes the fires.

    I can tell you, as I’m sure you’re already aware, a Royal Commission to determine what to do to prevent bushfires in the future will not work. It’ll be another ongoing government agency that talks big without many results.

    Alas! Most years a bushfire gets into some wheat fields. There’s no stopping those fires! Sometimes they get into the scrub brush as well as the pines in the unplantable areas. Sad, really.

    The fleshy part under the arm? I’ve heard before that it’s tender and tasy. Tastes like chicken, right? 😉

    Oh, yes, I held onto the vehicle door as I exited. DJSpo may wobble, he may slip, but he really tries very hard NOT to fall down. That can hurt.

    Sorry about the doggy math, or, as I call it, Dogmathics. Sometimes my jokes get so abstract I lose track of where I was going. The Dogmathics joke fits that category.

    Are we Enjoying the snow? Well, mostly. Spokane in the winter, without snow, is 50 shades of grey. I appreciate the beauty of the snow. We maxed out at about 17cm, then the temperatures got above freezing. Still at +1C. Snowed much of Sunday but no additional accumulation. So, we’re at about 7cm total currently on the ground.

    I DID get Big Bertha Snowblower out Saturday morning. And the snow shovel for the areas Big Bertha cannot access. It was wet and heavy and a good workout. 45 minutes of Big Bertha, 30 minutes of digging – a good workout. Then the snow plows came by Sunday morning and plugged up my driveway with a berm when they plowed the street. So, out with a smaller shovel to move the big blocks of icy, slushy stuff. That’s harder work than simply moving snow from the sidewalks and driveway, and it had to be done before the stuff freezes solid with the upcoming cold front.

    Oh, and they’ve backed off on how cold it will get. Perhaps -10C will be the coldest. Cold but 8C warmer than what they were thinking even Friday.


  2. Yo, Chris – 9:45, Sunday evening. It’s snowing! Sticking to everything, except the pavements. Lew

  3. Yo, Chris – That smoke looks thick enough, to eat. Not near as tasty, as the tucker that comes out of your kitchen. That picture where you can hardly see your solar panels, should be spread around the net. Overcast, short days, snow, smoke … thoughtful people could connect the dots.

    I see a few American firefighters have come over. I suppose you’ll be getting a new prime muppet, any day now. Oh, yeah, let’s throw a Royal Commission. Will there be any indigenous people on it? Jackie French? Or just more lord high poo-bahs, with money stuffed in their back pockets, by people who want to keep things exactly the way they are?

    Just because I fret, and, out of curiosity, how do you protect the firewood bay from ignition. I’m sure you’ve got something in place, that isn’t apparent in the photo. Under deck sprinklers?

    “Mighty oaks from little acorns, grow.” Said some one, some-when. Smart of you to observe what trees and plants, ride through fires.

    The corn germination may have been off, but what’s come up looks very robust and healthy. If tomatoes weren’t so tasty and useful, they wouldn’t be worth the trouble 🙂 . I’m sure I mentioned that over half the varieties, grown here at the Institution, last summer, never turned red. Including mine. Good crops, but no color.

    Boy, you’re wallaby ravaged roses, bounced right back! Not that I thought that they wouldn’t. Kudos, to the Editor. The apricot rose is very pretty. The Editor and you must be strong, when it comes time to prune the roses. You hack them down to 3 – 5″ and mound them up, a bit. I’m sure you’ll be up to the task. Your Australians! 🙂 Lew

    PS: About half past midnight. Snow still coming down, very gently. Car roofs and windshields are covered.

  4. Hi Margaret,

    I couldn’t quite manage to get to reply to your comment yesterday. Believe it or not, in order to create the little yellow ‘fun fact’ boxes in this week’s blog, I had to learn how to use the new style WordPress blog editor interface. I liked the old style blog editor interface and had been resisting change for a few years, but the time had come and last night was the time. It’s not so bad the new interface, although there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth about it on interweb forums.

    Barred Hollands are great looking chickens and they remind me a lot of the Plymouth Rock variety which are as tough as. I haven’t seen the Brown Leghorns at all, but maybe I needed to look harder. I’ll try and attend the local quarterly chook auction a bit more regularly in future.

    Exactly, plenty of people ride upon the backs of volunteers, and I tend to feel that the work could be more evenly spread in the community. Up here it should be compulsory to do a stint. We learned heaps about fires by volunteering for the three years.

    Hehe! I hear you – the state fair food is a race to the bottom to come up with the next outrageous combination. I’m not man enough for such rich food and I can only salute those that are.

    Thanks for your story. Yup, the editor smoked for a couple of years too, and went cold turkey when quitting. Interestingly, it took her ten years before the appeal passed, so that stuff is not good to become addicted to in the first place. But then I know people who used to get told by doctors to go and have a ciggie and relax in the waiting room. It happened, and I too recall working with smokers in offices. Maybe it is just me but the ashtrays used to have little smoke trails drifting off them and I was always amazed by the sight. Hey, a house mate once left such a full ashtray that the thing ignited spontaneously. Glad the house didn’t burn down as that would have been hard to explain to the real estate folks. 🙂 Things were different back in those days, that’s for sure. You may have seen a problem, your mum clearly saw an opportunity. Smart lady and for Michael and Patrick it may have been party time as the fun police were elsewhere? 🙂

    I’ve been through those hoops before with Ollie too – we took Scritchy along to see whether Ollie would try to kill her – I believe the risk may have been the other way around as Scritchy is one bad girlie dog. But no, everyone was on their best behaviour and Ollie was very small compared to nowadays (I feel they overstated his age due to him being such a big dog). But a home visit is way over the top, not to mention giving the shelter folks (whom I don’t know) so much detail that my ID could be ripped off. No thanks and it is bonkers.

    Your deal with Salve was a sweet deal, and I’d certainly be happy to borrow her for a bit to deal with the rabbits. She’d have a bunch of fun with the other fluffies! I was speaking about the subject with a mate today and I may have to just bop the rabbits. It is not in my nature to do such things, but neither do I shy away from what needs doing.

    It’s not a competition, but we really do things bigger down here when it comes to downed trees: On fire-damaged roads in Victoria, Army crews face the daunting job of removing ‘killer’ trees.



  5. Hi Inge,

    I’m not sure what to think about the smoke in the water taste, but it is probably of only minor concern. As Lewis observed: humans, fire and smoke have coexisted for quite a while, so if there were serious health complications, someone would have noticed before now. When I visited Kakadu National Park I was truly impressed that the indigenous folks knew exactly which watering holes were mildly radioactive (from the uranium deposits in the ground) – and kept away from them. That’s observational skills taken to the whole next level, and identifying the exact source of radioactivity would have been a devil of a problem to solve.

    I’m pleased that both your daughters and grandson made it safely off Kangaroo Island without incidence. The fire on that particular island was bonkers. The island was abandoned by the indigenous folks long ago, and one can only speculate as to why that was. Incidentally, I read that after the departure of the Roman legions from your island, it was largely deserted. Do you have any thoughts on that subject?

    One can never be too sure, but it looks like the summer rains have returned up in your northern daughters part of the continent. Dunno about your part of the world, but the rain washes the atmosphere down this way. It’s pretty smokey again here today. Oh well.



  6. Hi DJ,

    Give it time, give it time, and the only reference to the exact descriptors of the plants will be recorded in my head. 🙂 Not a safe place to be when it comes to exactitude, but the plants have to deal with the repercussions of that space. Most of the time I baffle visitors by pointing at trees and saying: Yeah, that’s a lemon – and then I hope they don’t ask for the exact variety of fruit tree. Knowledge is generally so very poor in the population that it only serves to make dilettantes such as myself look good.

    Thanks and that is the word on the street. The smoke is here to stay until the rains wash the atmosphere clean again. As the sun sets this evening, I can only just make out the two mountains on the horizon and that is only because I know that they are there. The casual observer would miss them completely.

    The naysayer folk in the article are I believe charged with extinguishing fires. They possibly have an inherent conflict of interest with the awful concept of preventing fires in the first place. That responsibility is I believe another government department who are keeping a very low profile in the media, but I see them out and about in the country quietly doing their thing. The legal folks who possibly get involved in Royal Commissions must be chomping at the bit to get a score of the action – and hence the mad cash fees. Snouts. Troughs. Yup. The money could be better spent preventing fires, but you know what will be, will be.

    Well that is the thing too. There are plenty of grass fires down here too, but it is the forest fires that burn the hottest and are the hardest to put out because they have the fuel to burn crazy hot. As to the wheat fires (oils in the kernels), can you imagine telling a farmer they have to burn their fields every third year? I reckon agriculture is a tough school economically and I doubt such dormancy cycles could be financially sustained.

    I’ve heard that about everything tasting like chicken in the end. I once enjoyed a crocodile burger – and it tasted like chicken. It was quite nice actually.

    Your traction is good in the snow and ice my friend! One hand for the curb and another for the car. 🙂

    Dogmathics is better than the dark science of Chooknomics. True. That is where a person learns that bantam chickens produce only slightly smaller than the usually expected sized eggs, but the chickens eat substantially less food. Practitioners of Chooknomics have also been known to house only smaller dogs. But the science falls down when even larger animals become involved and the canines are required to steer the larger animals off a property. That’s when bigdognomics comes into play. What is this you ask? Well it is not quite a science and a bit more of an art usually involving larger fluffies such as Finnish Spitz’s, although as I mentioned it is an art, but it works.

    Go Big Bertha, and sometimes you just need a bit of help from machines to get stuff sorted.

    -10’C is still bonkers cold from my perspective. Brr! Good luck!



  7. Hi Lewis,

    Glad to read that you are enjoying some lowland snow. I see that the Good Prof has stepped back gracefully from earlier hints as to the extreme weather in your part of the world.

    Yup that particular poochie adoption folks were bonkers from my perspective. At the end of the day, it is a dog and I’ve known plenty of good dogs and few not so good dogs. But they’re complex, but not that complex. I’m beginning to think that the process has become some sort of ‘poo test’ just like the initiations into the Fight Club manse. All techniques can be taken too far.

    Incidentally I have now begun reading ‘The Eagle’ and Arthur appears to have grown in stature, but he appears to have troubles taking advice. That is a bit of a worry, although to be honest it is a common problem these days. Lancie (you still hear the addition of ‘ie’ to a name down here although I was unaware of the origins of that) and Arthur are stuck in the cave whilst Danes and heavy snow frolic around outside. There was a philosophical discussion about the word ‘perception’ and it gives a person reason to pause and consider. I read long ago that a person must not just have integrity, they must also maintain the perception of integrity – and that is the harder task.

    Thanks and I had wondered how you manage your hold lists. It’s a complicated business.

    Yup! That was how the old dial up modem system rolled. There was a bit of discussion on Mr Greer’s blog recently regarding the revenge of analogue and vinyl records. I reckon vinyl will make a comeback, but I’m no real purist and got into compressed music well before mp3 files were ever dreamed up. I used to have a DBX tape deck before anyone had even heard of the things. As a technology it worked really well, it is just few people had compatible technology so it all quietly faded away. Back to mp3’s though, they’re not as good as vinyl or even CD’s due to the data compression, but they’re good enough for listening too. However, I recall the days when a computer had to work overnight processing ten songs from the raw data into a compressed mp3 file – that was back in the mid to late 90’s. Nowadays it takes about 30 seconds and the result produces a better sound, but nowhere near as good as vinyl or even CD’s.

    Hehe! You couldn’t read your notes, and I was confused as to the exact fort. Lots of similar sounding names from up that way. Would that be words heavy with consonants? Bizarrely enough my English education rarely discussed structure and rules and not sure how that may have compared to your education?

    Fascinating and unfortunate for the second Yardbird structure. Hey, military surplus stores used to be a thing down here too. Back in the day that was where people used to go if they wanted proper outdoors equipment and I reckon the stuff was the real deal too. Down here we used to call them ‘Army disposal’ stores. They’re still around, but nowadays I note they do very little of the ‘disposal’ side of the story as it is mostly new gear.

    Mate, been there and done that as a Yardbird. The beginning of the end for us as volunteers at the local brigad began when the editor organised a night out at the pub for the volunteer members. Everyone that went had a lovely time, but what a stink it created and official support was withdrawn for the event which still went ahead, and we got the cold shoulder from then onwards. Anyway, the stink was big enough that I mentioned to the editor that on the next roster, she’d have to clean the toilet. She thought I was joking, but sure enough that is what happened. Volunteers volunteer for all sorts of reasons, but unpaid work is rarely one of those reasons.

    Did you have a good chat with Amanda at the Club? Go the snow!!!! I’m jealous and would enjoy a bit of snow. The weather this week looks pretty good here though, so mustn’t grumble as things could be worse despite the smoke.

    I’m not entirely certain that there are all that many thoughtful folks out there. 🙂 And people want to believe some really strange things about renewable energy systems. Dunno. The breeze wasn’t blowing either during those really crazy thick smoke days. The editor sounds very husky due to the long term effects of the smoke laden air. Today the smoke returned after a brief absence and the news is suggesting that it may hang around for many more weeks. Oh well, it takes the edge off the sun so I can’t really complain.

    I had a funny story today with the watering robot. For some reason one of the terraces didn’t appear to be getting watered when it was meant to be. It was only today that I worked out that there was an AM and PM setting for the program. Oops! The terrace was being watered in the wee hours of the morning. And speaking of strangeness, my so called smart phone’s alarm is regularly three or four minutes late. It appears to be an impressive achievement in terms of programming. Anyway I don’t seem to be the only person suffering from this bit of software dodginess, so I followed the suggestions and made the background operating system more manual. I’m not that impressed by these devices and I fail to see why people are so engrossed by them.

    The US firefighters are greatly appreciated and received. Prime Muppet! Very funny!!!! 🙂 Both parties changed their internal rules to put an end to the ongoing mischief as they both received a serious backlash at the polls.

    Hehe! You are so right about the Royal Commission. I once read an amusing comment about the brave abalone (a very expensive sea food) divers supplying the poor people who worked on the last Royal Commission. The facts speak for themselves, the last Commission did not stop or prevent these fires. How hard can that be for the government to understand?

    Ah ha. I’ll let you in on a little secret about the firewood bay. I have a steel cover for it, but have not put it on due to the fact that it had no firewood in it until only very recently. It would be a potent ignition source.

    Mate, I’ve travelled up to the fire affected areas and just stopped and looked around to see what worked and what didn’t. Plenty of things worked and Oak trees was one of those. Someone mentioned somewhere that the leaves have a higher mineral density and lower oil content than Eucalyptus trees.

    The first corn tassles appeared today, so here’s hoping I get something out of the plants in the enclosure. The soil there is only one and two years old (the original enclosure was doubled in size) so I really don’t expect terribly much this year. Something would be nice though. We’re thinking corn bread.

    Ouch about the tomatoes and I recall you mentioning that. You had a cool and moist summer, which is hardly ideal for larger tomatoes. So far here, no fruit at all, but there are a few flowers now.

    The roses are feral, and I gave them a good feed of rose fertiliser before the last rain – and they boomed. Compared to getting plants to grow in the first place, pruning from my point of view is the easy bit. Incidentally I’m getting a bit more ruthless with pruning, and it gets easier to see where the plants are going to go. It would be fascinating to have grown up and been involved in this sort of environment and know where things are going and what to do – and what not to do.



  8. Hi Chris,

    Once again we who do not need more rain got more precipitation, 4.3 inches / 109mm of it to be sort-of exact last Thursday through last Saturday. All but about the last 0.3 inches of it fell as rain. That last bit fell as about 2.5 inches / 6.4cm of snow, quite a bit more than had been predicted. It was much warmer than normal during the rain, then returned to about normal winter temperatures by Saturday afternoon through yesterday and continuing through today. As with DJ, we were initially predicted to endure much colder than normal conditions late this week; now it looks like it’ll be warm and rainy again. Not sure what that’s all about.

    The kind of burns you are talking about were done here too before the Europeans arrived, though they seem to have been done less for wildfire control than because creating a patchwork of land at varying stages of succession allowed for a wider variety of food plants and animals for people who didn’t have metal tools to do land clearing work. Our state conservation department does controlled burns on some of the land it manages, to provide habitat for plant species which would otherwise be out-competed. Interestingly, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology had an article in their magazine that claims that some birds (in the US, at least) actually require the highly devastating crown fires to successfully raise their families. Apparently whatever they feed on (probably insects) are in abundance following the fires but their predators are not around. It goes to show you that things are complex.

    When you’re ready, I’ll share info on how I raise seedlings. By now I have a good routine worked out. While you’re looking for equipment for your farm, also look for heating mats for seedlings. They are essential to creating the soil warmth you’ll need for germinating peppers, and will help with corn, eggplants, tomatoes, basil, and other seeds that germinate faster with warmth but can still germinate at lower temperatures than peppers. You could easily raise corn as seedlings in order to get better germination and fill the corn terrace with plants. Young enough corn plants transplant well, before their root systems get too large. You would transplant them at about the time the seedlings are an inch / 2.5cm tall. I have done this before when I had a smaller patch of corn.


  9. Yo, Chris – It came, it was pretty, it’s gone! The snow, that is. None to be seen, when I got up, this morning. We may see more, later in the week. The National Weather Service forecast is full of “chance of snow”. When they aren’t saying, “snow likely.” The next two nights are going to be very cold. Too cold to snow? I was watching the snow come down, last night, and noticed that, from time to time, a snowflake would race far ahead of it’s fellows. I wonder what that’s all about? Heavier mass? But you’d think it would be bigger, hence, more wind resistance? These mysteries keep me awake, at night. 🙂

    Well, I asked Amanda about dogs and rabbits. The first thing she said was, “Google is your friend.” 🙂 . She later opined, that any dog that is long, low to the ground and has a German sounding name, was, perhaps, a good rabbit dog. Beagles are high on the list … if you can take the baying.

    Well, the timing is good for me to pick up “The Eagle.” I finished “Second Sleep”, last night. Not a bad read, but I thought it had a very unsatisfying ending. Can’t say much more. Spoilers.

    Well, I don’t know about structure and rules, as relatable to your education. We covered that, a couple of decades before you hit the same level, in your education. And, we’re dealing with two different education systems. I’d guess, at least here, diagraming sentences and grammar rule teaching, probably bit the dust, sometime in the interim. As we’ve talked about, before, there’s also been a steep decline, in the number of words in a child’s vocabulary, when compared by grade level, past and present.

    There’s a military axiom (that my father often repeated), “Never volunteer!” 🙂

    Your struggles with the watering robot reminded me of my struggles with the chicken light timer. Length of day, number of hours of light that needed to be added, to keep them at about 14 hours of light, so some eggs would keep on coming. And throw the time shifts, twice a year, on top of all that. Made my head hurt. Speaking of tech, my friend in Idaho had a very frustrating day, recently. No matter what she tried to do, get gas, pick up medication … doing some banking, the systems were down. And, no reasons given, of course. I told her it was probably Iranian hackers. 🙂 . She finally gave, up, went home and had a stiff drink. Would give it a whirl, another day.

    I figured you had a secret defense, for the firewood bay. Just too glaring a liability, to be overlooked.

    Yeah, I really paid a lot of attention to the soil, where the corn was going to be planted. Given my lack of space and the layout, there’s really only one place for the corn, year after year. So, I really chuck a lot of “stuff” at that end of the bed.

    I’ve been watching a series, that The Editor (and, perhaps you) might find interesting. “Miss Friman’s War.” It’s a Swedish series (so, subtitles) that takes place in the early 1900’s, in Copenhagen. The first season (three or four long episodes) concerns the women’s attempt to open a food co-op. The second season has to do with trying to get the vote, for women. According to Wikipedia, it’s lightly (very lightly) based on real events.

    Our auction house is having an online “art” auction. Part one of two. Lots of limited edition prints, and some original art. There’s a pencil sketch, claimed to be by Gustav Klimt. Hmmm. How would such a thing end up here? The only thing I find interesting is a WWI bond poster. But, I think I can talk myself out of it, as I think the borders have been trimmed. Which impacts value.

    I have no junk or snack food, in the house, right now. So, I’m getting the urge to bake some biscuits. Something simple. Though you never know what might happen, when I let myself loose in the kitchen. Lew

  10. Hi Chris,

    Have been lurking on your blog off and on for a while but thought I would decloak to say that I visited Peter Marshall’s farm once about 10 years ago that Jackie French mentions in her article. The before pictures compared to the after were amazing – typical dust bowl paddocks with eroded dry gullies big enough to sink double decker buses now lush, spongy green turf interspersed with small, long billabongs used as fencing for his goats.

    It was part of a tour of Natural Sequence farming methods. The nativists hated that farm because of all the poplars and willows he’d planted – but he said they were the only tree species he could get to grow at first in the gullies – he’d just stick green cut poles in the gully soils and they’d eventually sprout and root. He’d later planted some native stuff (and oaks) interspersed as well but he found that the poplars and willows were still the best in terms of quickly producing plant materials for gully remediation and coppice feed for his goats.

    Now I’ve worked on a few big erosion areas, I’d say he had a point – it’s at least 10x more work, 10x more losses and 10x more expensive to get native seedlings to survive in dry gullies we planted out for Landcare compared to when I’ve planted poplar poles in gullies on private land (willows mostly being illegal now). Nice to hear Jackie French saying in her article that Peter’s system has also proven to be a decent fire break, as opposed the Landcare plantings which seemed to be designed to go up like a bomb.

    Anyways, have been rambling on too long for a first time comment. Just wanted to also say, I really appreciate reading about your doings and experiments – I feel like I’m still stumbling around working out the very basics and it is helpful to see what has worked and hasn’t for other people.

  11. Chris,

    Yes, we are living in the age in which there is enough ignorance that dilettantes appear to know everything. Sigh. I get accused at times of being an arrogant know-it-all simply because I’m neither stupid nor ignorant and can actually think. I typically ignore such comments.

    Glad I could confirm your (and others’) suspicions regarding the smoke. Rooting for a lot of rain is your best bet.

    Hehehe. Glad my mouth wasn’t full when I read: “Snouts. Troughs. Yup.” Good one. Short and to the point. Or, to misquote forest Gump, “Government is as government does”, at least where committees are concerned. (Speaking from experience and close observation.)

    The wheat farmers here have finally learned that erosion control, meaning plowing the fields properly, is important. And crop rotation is another thing that has been learned, the wheat rotating every few years with chickpeas, lentils or other legumes. It has been interesting to watch the transformation.

    Chooknomics, dogmathics and bigdognomics have to be related. Some basis in numbers and science, but an awful lot of inspiration and intuition required.

    Oy, Sunday into Monday got nasty. There was a skiff of snow Sunday evening with the temperature at +1C. Then it started snowing harder over night, so that I awoke this morning with 1.5cm of ice underneath about 2.5cm of snow at -5C. Three of the Subaru doors and its hatchback door were frozen shut. So, I thawed the car while starting on the sidewalks and driveway. No Big Bertha for this. Elbow grease and the flat bladed shovel were required. Scraped as much of the ice/snow mix off the concrete then added ample amounts of non-corrosive de-icer. And the sun came out so most of the ice disappeared from where I slogged. The sun made it worse where people had ignored the ice. Ice and public sidewalks don’t mix very well.

    5cm or so of snow expected into Tuesday morning. 8:04 p,m. Monday and it is snowing. The silver lining is that it should be pushing +4C or higher with rain Saturday into Sunday. Any residual ice remaining should get blasted out by that.


  12. Hi Lew,

    Thanks for the Nic Cage movie suggestion – the reviews say it is actually pretty good for a B-movie, and who doesn’t love Lovecraft?


  13. Hi Chris,

    Yellow highlight boxes! All very high tech. I had a go with the new wordpress editor on my site a while back, got very confused and went back to the classic version 🙂

    Thank you for your thoughts on the bush fires. I noticed the same thing in the media, most of the conversation seems to be focusing on hazard reduction burns, but at a laughable scale. No one is really talking about changing the very nature of the landscape to prevent big fires in the first place. And descriptions of what Australia looked like in 1788, when Aboriginals prevented trees growing in the first place across many areas now covered in dense forest, are very nice. Lots of trees don’t always equal good for the “environment”!

    I think the planned hazard reduction burns in NSW for last year was ~150,000 ha, but they were stopped doing most of that by poor weather conditions. The fires have burnt nearly 10x that amount, so how exactly would 150,000ha help us even if they managed to do it all? If most land types need burns every 3-5 years, well the maths is pretty easy….

    And the deeper question of timing – the woods will burn eventually. At some point you just have to swallow the risk and do the hazard reduction burning even if conditions are not ideal. Otherwise it will definitely burn a few months later in summer – if not this year then the next.


  14. Hi Claire,

    Too much precipitation can be as difficult a situation as too little, but if you’re inclined to send some down here, please don’t hesitate to share your rain.

    Oh no! You may have gotten the incorrect impression from my story. The burns nowadays are undertaken in order to reduce the fuel load of forests. But back in the day i.e. pre-European, the burns were conducted for exactly the reasons that you wrote about. Grasslands were burned on a 3 year rotation, with tall forests having the longest rotation of 15 years – but every single inch of the continent was regularly burned and everyone was involved in the task. That is what sustainability looks like. Mind you, the indigenous folks knew what they were doing because there are credible historical accounts from learned folks that soil organic matter was as good as 22% upon settlement – which is virtually unheard of in these enlightened times. Plus a diverse range of plant communities tends to allow for a diverse range of critters. And if I had to be critical of government burns – it is that they are too large in scale. It needn’t be the way it is, it is just nobody wants to pay for it to be done otherwise or properly.

    Thanks for the tips, and it is a job that I have allocated for the winter months. Before then I have to bring in the firewood and feed both orchards.



  15. Hi Lewis,

    It came, you saw, and it was good whilst it lasted! 🙂 When snow is an irregular event, it is a very nice thing. However, I can’t even begin to get my head around what it would mean to live with snow for weeks or months on end. It would be challenging to say the least. And dare I say it? Yes, perhaps I will – the solar PV panels will not work in seriously snowy conditions. There, I feel much better now having said that. 🙂 What does it mean to be ‘too cold to snow’? I always believed that cold weather meant snow? Your snow mystery is beyond my ken – I’m just amazed by snow whenever it occasionally falls from the sky, but will take better notice the next time I encounter the stuff (August probably) and possibly form some coherent thoughts.

    Arthur is chafing at the thought of marrying his Queen, and Merlyn is pushing for a match to be made. I see the beginnings of the inherent tragedy of the story. What dark events get set in motion by that single error. On the other hand, Arthur and his companions are forging ahead on a bright shiny new path. I feel a bit of empathy for poor Merlyn who is shunned and feared by most folks. He’s alright by me.

    Thanks for seeking advice from your friend Amanda regarding the dog / rabbit issue. I’ll do as your friend suggests. Beagles are undoubtedly the best of the best when it comes to rabbits, but they have this unfortunate and well known streak of wandering off on an adventure of their own choosing. That would be a pain to live with. A plan B is being instituted shortly. I spotted three rabbits on the road above the house this evening. They are multiplying.

    Please, no spoilers! 🙂 And being early days I’m probably ahead of you in the Eagle book, but I have absolute confidence that you’ll shoot past page 70 by the end of the evening! I am so enjoying these books – it has been a long time since I have delved into such an enjoyable series of books. The characters are great and the pace of the story is very fast, and the scope is epic. No doubt, I will feel the loss of the story at the end of this book – but the ‘to read’ collection has grown substantially. What to read next is a serious dilemma… I may put the options to a vote. 🙂

    Most certainly it was my experience that construction of the language in developing a form of communication via way of understanding of the structures that go into defining the language was not provided to me in my education – and it possibly shows. I had to learn the language and its rules by reading – lots, and lots, of reading. Osmosis is a slow way to learn, however it is better than not learning at all. And um, yeah, the ability to write coherent thoughts in an easily absorbed structure so that somebody else can understand them – is most certainly a dying art form. Fortunately, I can speak jive (Airplane film joke)! Therefore, I have to often interpret what ideas people are actually attempting to say. It is all very 1984 and Orwellian.

    Your dad was very astute, and it was fortunate that you were able to absorb the lesson. Nobody told me that lesson, and I had to learn the truth of the maxim, the hard way.

    It is funny you mentioned the systems being down, but the Reserve Bank of Australia appears to be rather flummoxed by the public outrage as to the recent proposed changes to the law which would make illegal (and an act which will result in prison time) for cash transactions over $10k. An example was given of an underpaid and under-trained junior retail employee accepting a cash transaction over that amount and inadvertently winding up in the slammer. I can’t say that I’m a fan of these proposed laws, but I have strong doubts that they will pass the Senate. Proposed cash ban is not about controlling your money, says Reserve Bank. I guess the Reserve Bank has a point of view, but I can in all honesty say that I vehemently disagree with their point of view.

    The firewood bays are an enormous source of dry fuels – so they have to be protected from fire. I just don’t go into all of the details for every system here.

    It isn’t just you with your soils and the corn. The difference between the two year soils and one year soil in the corn enclosure is marked. The plants in the older soils are twice as large as those in the newer soils. I’m sort of at the point now where I have written this growing season off and I just appreciate anything I harvest. The investment in the soils and systems are something to reap the gains of in the future. One day, people will wake to discover that the only thing that they are short of is time. It takes a minimum of three years to produce quality soil – and I chucked everything I could think of at the soil in the corn enclosure. Oh well.

    The editor has loved No Offense thanks to your suggestion. I have forwarded on the suggestion for the Swedish series.

    I knew of Gustav’s work as they are quite distinctive. As a general observation, he seems like a bloke who knew that he was onto a good thing. The Victory bonds poster sounds interesting, but who can tell whether these things are reproductions, but perhaps if it is cropped it might be best to stay away.

    Go hard, or go home! Hang on, you’re already home, so that means you should probably go hard in the kitchen and produce some biscuits? Or maybe muffins? I have plans for consuming a muffin tomorrow…



  16. Hi TamHob,

    Welcome to the discussion.

    You’re most certainly not alone in lurking on the blog. I am genuinely amazed at the size of the readership. Honestly, I began the blog because I enjoy writing and also just enjoyed my regular chats with Lewis. Before this blog, we’d probably taken over the original blog were we used to chat. 🙂

    I agree with your observations, and you just have to use what works. Does it offend people – you betcha! The local water authority ripped out all of the willows along a local creek which originates at the bottom of my property. They should be paying me for all of the water I’m getting into the subsoil, but that is another story. Anyway, the creek is now exposed to the hot summer sun and what a surprise – it is bone dry. Even the water holes and pools have dried up. Totally bonkers, but they did put up a nice very huge sign talking about healthy waterways – I guess they know about such things…

    Near to the town of Castlemaine which is north of here (and hotter and drier) some of the properties along the water courses have enormous poplars and they happily grow in the dry conditions. I reckon that we are at the point in time in history where you just have to grab what works and then use it.

    I was impressed at the mention of how good a firebreak the property was too. After the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires I made a point of regularly travelling into the fire affected areas to see what worked and how the plant communities were recovering. Really large and old Oak trees moderated the fire conditions at the point of the tree, and shortly after the fires I noticed that the half of the trees that faced the fires was burned and the other half was unburnt. What does that tell you? I don’t need to be told a second time. And the Oak trees have since fully regrown.



  17. Hi DJ,

    Like you, I tend to believe that knowledge of practical things and the implementation of that knowledge is perhaps a bit lacking in our society. I have heard of agricultural short courses where people did not know how to go about digging a hole. Imagine that! That observation was an eye opener. I know about digging… However, I tend to also believe that learning how to learn how to do basic practical skills is something that people believe is not entirely necessary for them to know. I tend to disagree with that point of view.

    The smoke has never gone away, but some days are worse than others, and today was not good: Bushfire smoke plume destined to reach Australia again after circling the globe, NASA says. I’d call that an epic plume of smoke!

    Hehe! I always appreciate a mixed and made up Forrest Gump quote. I thought the film was really good and enjoyable. Life is like a box of muffins, but not dodgy muffins, they have to be good ones. I have a deep fear of meetings – and I wrote about one of my more memorable meetings this week. The team was feral and someone’s head had to roll. I was surprised that a duplicitous person caused such other unusual damage to a business, but it didn’t take long to get them all into line.

    I’ve heard of seed drills being used instead of ploughing, and also people seem to be getting better about retaining cover crops – or at least leaving the root systems of dying plants in the ground. The soil life is a truly amazing place. And absolutely crop rotation is an issue of utmost importance. I can only dodge it for the moment because I bring in huge loads of organic matter, but I’m setting up the place for that process.

    I was personally more inclined to study bigdognomics, as it seems to be a fruitful area of further study, and frankly it is more pleasant than smalluptightdognomics. No disrespect to Scritchy, but she took a wee behind my chair tonight, and just after I fed her too – and the open door was only a metre and a half away. Oh my, she is one bad apple.

    How do you go about defrosting something the size of a car? And do the doors stick to the frame of the vehicle? So many questions… Your weather is a bit two steps forward and then one back.

    Apparently a bit of rain will fall here tomorrow. It is quite hot here tonight, but not as hot as it has been of late.



  18. Hi Damo,

    Yeah, much has been written elsewhere about the new WordPress editor (as distinct from the actual person – the editor – who is still the same the last I checked). Mate, I had to take a deep breath and say to myself, if I want the coloured boxes I just have to deal with the block format and push through the pain of the patterns not being right. 🙂 Now, I must add that I still have the Classic Editor plugin still installed.

    I’ve got lots of thoughts, like I reckon: Mallrat – Charlie might just win the Triple J Hot 100 this year, but it probably will be Dance Monkey. You heard it here first. Incidentally the film clip is the artist cavorting through what looks like the streets of Fitzroy to me.

    Exactly, with the hazard reduction burns it is to my mind a case of better than nothing, but it ignores what might be possible if we took our blinkers off and just tried to do something a bit different with the environment. But it really offends people’s sensibilities. After the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the forests were reseeded by aircraft with the same trees that produced the fires. Did we not learn nuffin?

    Most of the hazard reduction burns are conducted on too large a scale anyway to have any meaningful level of control. And that in itself is a hazard. And sustainability means that everyone has to be involved in the effort – imagine that happening! It has been the case in the past.

    Exactly, I could not put the dilemma better. I’d be curious as to your thoughts, but I do wonder if there is something to the story of why the forests are locked up and untouched in the first place – especially when these are the outcomes? It makes little sense to me, but the locked up and untouched bit of the story produces some extraordinary reactions in people – and that’s when you can detect that there is more to the story. Who knows what it all means?

    The smoke may be coming back around to visit your part of the world again. It was pretty thick here today.



  19. Hello Chris
    How on earth could the indigenous people have known which water holes were mildly radio active? The idea staggers me.
    I don’t know why the departure of the Romans had that effect on my Island perhaps Lew can help here.
    Rain and a serious wind outside. Do I walk through the woods to check my postbox? Don’t know as it is looking somewhat dangerous. The weather is very warm for January but I like it.


  20. Yo, Chris – Snow here is about as much of a novelty, as snow there. I do not envy your other readers, or, my friends in Idaho. We had a skiff of snow, sometime overnight. Which is odd, as from midnight til now, it’s been a steady 34F (1.11C) But, Prof. Mass is always banging on about how above ground temperatures can be lower. “Too cold to snow.” Our cloud cover, generally, keeps heat in, so no snow. We get colder temperatures when it’s clear. So, when it’s clear and the temperatures plunge, there’s no moisture in the air to fall as snow. See? 🙂 . It’s when the two states shift back and forth, that we usually get snow. Right now, it’s blue skies and sunshine. But, cold.

    I’m up to chapter 8. I think Merlyn enjoys his status as an outsider, a bit. Probably doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in idle chit chat. 🙂

    “They are multiplying.” As rabbits do …

    We have some similar cash ban and tracking set up. Nothing I have to worry about. 🙂 . Part of it is for tax purposes (mostly, I think). But to convince the populance, (sic), they trot out the criminals, real or imagined. Who, occasionally fly under the radar by … paying taxes.

    I think I remember that, as I do, you chip up your corn and work it back into the soil. You have a machine, I do it by hand. Very zen. The root balls are a problem, as they don’t break down, very fast. So, I just dug a couple of deep holes and chucked them in.

    I’m glad the Editor is enjoying “No Offense.” I sure liked it. Lew gets an F for European capitols. “Miss Friman’s War” takes place in Stockholm. I’m finding the Scandinavian aesthetic, very interesting. Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts high notes, but lots of very clean and highly reflective surfaces. I suppose as a reaction to their short days and long winters.

    The war bond poster. Well, first I’d take my magnifying glass and see if it’s a litho, or, if the colors are made up of small colored dots. That’s an indicator of later, and cheaper reproductions. Then I’d look at size. Our Library of Congress has original posters, with very specific measurements. If the poster doesn’t match, it’s a reproduction. The L of C measurements don’t include borders. But, I think I’ve worked that out. The upper border looks intact, but I have a feeling if I measure it, and compare it to the lower border (which is part covered by the frame) I think I’m going to find that my measuring tape extends quit a ways beyond the edge of the frame. Indicating that the lower border was trimmed. If I bid on it, it will be a low bid.

    After looking through a few cookie books, for inspiration, I ended up making my hybrid Anzac biscuits. About 6 dozen. We won’t inquire too closely, into how many I ate, last night. Hybrid, as I replaced the coconut with plumped up dried cranberries. And, replaced 1/4 of the sugar, with brown sugar. I also tossed in a tsp. of nutmeg, just cause I have the nutmeg monkey on my back. 🙂 . What was unintentional was that I ran out of butter, and had to replace 1/4 of it with margarin. (Ugh!). We always get a box of that in our Magic Food boxes, and no one likes it, so it piles up, in the community fridge. Oh, and I didn’t have golden syrup, nor maple, so I used molasses. They turned out thin and very crisp. Really need to be eaten with a cuppa … something. LOL. Don’t know if I can even call them an Anzac biscuit.

    I got so far in the Arthur book, as I read it while the biscuits were baking. Lew

  21. Re the hazard reduction, I reckon that the indigenous populations also used a humungous amount of vegetation each year – firewood, huts, cordage, fabric. That must have also helped a bit.

    Was it you who recomended Dark Emu on Greer’s blog? Anyway finally got around to reading it. I think some of the socio-political stuff is a bit idealised but the stuff about land use was pretty eye opening. I can see why it got a lot people upset, though most of the rants I read seemed to be based on second hand info.

  22. Hi Lewis,

    So it was pretty hot today and I worked in a hot warehouse. It was all good no complaints and all, but I’m tired tonight. There was a minor coffee drama this morning, which I sorted out and cleaned up, but what did Monty Python say: Cheer up old chap, worse things happen at sea you know. 🙂

    People are often a bit down in the mouth about things and events, but then I was listening to a podcast about the Black Death in the middle ages, and I have to say that things actually were worse in those days, but probably not so bad once the disease had run its course. So yeah, we’re all doing pretty good these days relatively speaking.

    Incidentally your nice words about the rain produced some good results and about two thirds of an inch of rain fell today. Yay!!!! It was a monsoon if ever I have seen one, and the downpour was torrential. The forest sure does smell nice now, because this morning the smoke was very thick and intense – and because I had windows opened trying to keep the place cool, the burned plant smell worked its way into the house. You could say that the air was far from fresh!

    Had a burger tonight for dinner which had beetroot in it, and I also got to enjoy the strawberry and white chocolate muffin this morning. Very tasty and I’d call that a successful day! But then my expectations may be lower than most people. 🙂

    Mate, I’m going to hit the sack. The inside of the house was 77’F when I got home this evening – and that is too hot for my liking.



  23. @ Inge & Chris – As I remember, the island was abandoned because, by the point Lancelot returned to England, there were still big boats and long distance traders, about, but the building of smaller boats for the coastal trade had ended.

    I couldn’t help but think of the villa, with the mosaic of the chicken-headed man. Probably a spooky ruin, by then.

    I wonder if the mystery of the mosaic, will ever be solved? Not many bird headed gods around. Except the Egyptians. And, the mosaic doesn’t have any kind of an Egyptian “feel” to it. Maybe it commemorated a famous cock fighter? Would have been nice if they had slapped a name on him. But, maybe the fellows who put together the mosaics, charged extra, by the letter. 🙂 Lew

  24. Yo, Chris – Cooped up in a hot warehouse, all day? Doesn’t sound like much fun, at all. But, you’re right. Other people do it a lot harder, both in history, and now. I try and remind myself, of that, when I get a bit down in the mouth. All it takes is a look beyond myself.

    Strawberry and white chocolate muffins? Sounds, yummy! Now that ought to distract you, at least temporarily, from the Big Problems. Not as tasty as muffins, but the sun is coming up, and the peak I can see from my window, is snow capped. And, pink in the sunrise. A train is rumbling by and the traffic is zipping along I-5.

    It was a steady 34F, last night. No new snow. I wanted to go gas with my friend Amanda, at the Club, about 1, yesterday. Just as I put on my coat, it started to come down. Couldn’t even see across the street. But, it wasn’t sticking to the pavement, so, I decided to chance it. By the time I got down to the library (four long blocks, away) it was blue skies and sunshine. Several times, yesterday, there were snow flurries, and bright sunshine. Bonkers.

    I’m headed out to gas with my mate, Scott, at the Club. Forecast is for snow (maybe) before 11. There is an ominous bank of clouds, off on the horizon. But they could portend, nothing. Lew

  25. Hi Chris,
    Fancy stuff – those yellow boxes. Oh my – that smoke!! I imagine it was hard to drive in that like a heavy fog.

    I am happy to read that you got a decent amount of rain.

    I would like to read more about the practices of the indigenous people of Australia. Do you have any book recommendations?

    I don’t recall you having the wallaby destruction that you’ve had this year. Is this due to the fires?

    I will have to tell you how I finally was able to stop smoking for good later as I still have quite a few things left on my to do list for today.


  26. Hi, Chris!
    First – what a fantastically written, and moving, article by Jackie French. Thanks for the link; I shall have to read it again. It helps me realize just how lucky you and the editor have been even as unpleasant as the heavy smoke is, and with the things that aren’t functioning well, like hugely diminished solar power. I am afraid that I have a fatalistic attitude about how any of our federal governments will handle any these kind of recurring calamities. I just don’t think they have a clue. Maybe state, county, and municipal bureaucrats will do better; they have a greater stake in the thing.

    You mentioned forests being locked up and untouched; we have that here. I think they are being hoarded, so that there will be something left when we have messed everything else up. Perhaps as a refuge, but will history repeat itself? “All messed up” – that sounds familiar . . .

    It is incredible what a wallaby can do. I don’t think a deer could do that to a tree unless it stumbled and fell on it.

    The kiwis are so nice. We had unending trouble with tomatoes last year, though they started out well. Finally, at the end of the season, they made a concerted effort and we got a late harvest, though not enough to bottle. I have just set up one of my indoor seed-starting stations. It is too early, really, but I can’t resist fiddling around, and maybe starting some flowers. Speaking of which, any of your flowers could win all of the prizes at the state fair, especially the geraniums.


  27. @ Margaret:

    I would be very interested to hear how you stopped smoking. One of my sons smokes, and my husband uses smokeless tobacco. Not that either one shows signs of wanting to quit . . .


  28. Chris,

    People don’t know how to dig a hole?!? There’s YouTube videos galore. I totally agree with you that learning how to learn is an important, but lost, art. Very necessary, like “Don’t forget to breathe”. Don’t know how to dig a hole?!? Ummmm, watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to see how the Ugly digs holes? Or any pirate movie where they bury treasure? Don’t know how to dig a hole. I’m shaking my head at the idea, but I’m really not surprised.

    Thanks for the smoke plume link. More proof that what comes around goes around perhaps?

    Lots of lost ideas with soil preservation and crop rotation. Seed drills are interesting and make a lot of sense. And letting an area go fallow once every few years while adding organic material to it is something not done often today.

    Glad that you decided to recover after a hard day in the heat. And congrats on some good rain!!!

    Poor Scritchy. The neighbor across the alley has a fluffy collection – 3 small dogs. Bigdognomics is more my thing. Those anklenibblers seem to me to be rats that bark. 😉

    How to thaw a frozen car…As you surmised, with enough ice, the doors are frozen to the frame. While I’ve never gotten that much ice in Spokane, some areas get so much ice that the car is encased. (I’ve seen pictures of cars entombed in 15cm or more of ice from an ice storm.) That’s gotta be a chore just to chisel to the door! Fortunately, my driver’s door opened. Then it was start the car and crank the heat and rear window defrost. A broom is usually needed to remove snow from the car. I am a firm proponent of removing snow from all surfaces, the windshield being last. Don’t remove snow from the hood? It melts and coats the windshield again. If icy, like this was, slabs of it can fly off the car into the windshield, inhibiting visibilty. Snow and ice on the roof can slide down blocking any visibility out the front. Slabs of ice might also break the windshield wipers due to their weight.

    Okay, I digress a smidge. So the snow and ice is removed from all the surfaces, then the ice scraper is used to scrape the ice off the windows. I always leave the windshield for last, and even leave the snow there until I’m ready to scrape the windshield: the snow adds insulation and keeps the defroster heat on the glass, rather than dissipated into the air, and any ice under the snow melts faster. Sometimes I don’t have to scrape ice off the windshield as a result, and can simply sweep the snow and melted ice off with a broom.

    Then, as was the case this week, it is bang on the doors that were frozen shut to hopefully break the ice “around the seams” as it were. The top of the rear bumper had ice several inches thick and it had to be slowly and carefully chipped off so that the rear hatchback could open. 20 or 30 minutes later, all doors were functioning.

    Meanwhile, the other hazard this time of year is car batteries. We got cold for 2 nights, but not frigid. -10C one night was the worst. This week is the Princess’s monthly visit to her brother. I had used her car Saturday and the battery got charged via use. (Cold weather will slowly drain a car battery if it the car is not driven.) Tuesday night I started her car in the garage (both doors open for ventilation) while clearing snow off mine and clearing 5cm from the driveway. Her car was sluggish to start. So I took it for a drive. It started okay Wednesday morning before I caught the bus to work. She called at 10:30 a.m., the car was packed, Princess was ready to go. But the car wouldn’t start. So a neighbor gave her car a jump start and Princess drove to a local mechanic shop that had a high quality battery and they installed it. So, the original battery in her 2015 Honda CRV was a casualty of winter. She DID get to her brother safely, but left here an hour later than she wanted to AND had to cancel our lunch date. More casualties of winter.

    More snow on the way Wednesday night, then Saturday should be warm with at least 5 days above freezing and over +5C to follow.


  29. Hi Inge,

    Err, by observation of the outcomes from hanging around the water holes I’m guessing. I had a look around for the stories pertaining to this history, but unfortunately actual uranium mining wastewater stuff ups dominated searches. Generally the watering holes were considered to have bad spirits from what I recall, and you can’t argue with such wisdom.

    I read that your part of the world is receiving a lashing from the weather. Apparently the oceans along the coast were pretty feral too. Hopefully erosion near to you wasn’t too bad? Has the weather calmed down yet?

    The monsoon has finally arrived and the rains have returned. The forecast is predicting something up to two inches of rain over the coming week. Add in a bit of summer heat and the place will grow like a jungle. It’s real boom and bust stuff.



  30. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, I don’t really envy folks who live in very snowy areas either – and the experience of snow is novel enough here (just like your place) that it’s enjoyable. I have absolutely no experience of what it takes to live in very snowy areas. Thanks for the explanation as to the saying. Makes sense too about no cloud cover providing no snow. Have you ever noticed how the best night skies for star gazing are the clear and cold nights over winter? Brr! You just need to rug up – and perhaps wear a woollen jumper or twenty that otherwise dare not be seen in public!

    Chapter 2, but I have noticed that the author appears to now be using sub chapters, I guess demarcating different scenes. It is noteworthy that Arthur has difficulty being ‘told’, but then I guess it comes with the territory, and he is the King after all. Dunno though, the ability to be able to listen and take advice is part of being able to grow as a person – and you can’t know everything.

    The rabbits are an interesting problem and I was speaking with a mate about them and there was a suggestion that the rabbits are recovering from the many viruses that are regularly released into their population. Footage of plagues of rabbits during the Great Depression era are quite horrific to see. Are they much of a problem in your country or is it a down under thing? We lack toothy predators, although the other day I did observe a fox hunting rabbits locally.

    Me neither about the cash ban, although I do go out of my way to pay things in cash where I deem it to be appropriate. People tend to be horrified by the suggested legislative turn of events, but at the same time I notice that they want to pay by card – even those people who I have raised the issue of paying by cash with. I dunno, like everything I feel that it is a case of use it or lose it. The banks would love to get a cut of every single transaction in the country – and getting rid of cash would suit their purposes in that regard. I tend to feel that the crims will move to other currencies, and I can even imagine that foreign currencies will become popular because they won’t be regulated, but you know things will happen and there are always consequences. I don’t believe that the legislation will pass the Senate. Exactly too about crims. I’ve often wondered whether they donate money to causes that further their own ends? Abolition in your country proved to be a huge economic boon to the nefarious end of town.

    I believe the corn root balls here broke down in the soil, but I could be wrong in that belief. Your garden zen – do it by hand approach – is to be applauded. Mostly I can use the sun’s energy to run these machines. Most of the firewood is processed (cut and split) by electricity, but it did take many years to work out how to do that. With any cuttings that won’t get back into the soil, we chuck them into garden beds and that breaks them up eventually too. But I do have to keep extending garden beds for the flowers so that there is room enough to take all of the cuttings.

    I didn’t pick up on the incorrect capital city for your Swedish show reference. I might have noticed that something was amiss if you’d written Londinium. 🙂 Mate, dunno about you, but the dark winter days there could affect a person’s mental and physical health. I spend a lot of time outside so have never felt a lack of winter sunshine on my skin, but it is hard not to notice that winters bring down the general vibe of other people. I’d imagine it would be a more challenging situation in your part of the world?

    Did you nab the war bond poster? And more importantly, were the measurements for the upper and lower borders consistent?

    Winter does call for the use of nutmeg! Yum! Rather than hybrid Anzac biscuit, and I did note that many of the ingredients appear to depart from the tried and true path 🙂 (cranberries are very rare down here due to them growing next to swamps and all that business) that the biscuit may indeed be closer to a ‘illegitimate love child’ Anzac biscuit. Hehe! Incidentally, I always stick to using Raw Sugar. I believe the white sugar may have been bleached somehow, but I could be wrong in that belief.

    Ah! Thank you for the explanation regarding the small coastal boat building business. I recall some in Derek’s harbour, but they may have been much smaller locally produced fishing boats rather than small boats that could have plied minor coastal routes. Dunno, but heading further afield seemed like a dangerous endeavour in those days.

    We’ve got it pretty good all things considered, and I can’t really complain about the occasional hot day in a warehouse. I’m one of the very few in my profession that gets out of the office and gets into the trenches with businesses. It is the unglamorous and not well remunerated side of the profession, and I’m guessing (and have long been suspicious) that the office side of the profession is coming under attack from different folks wanting to get a cut of the action.

    You’ve got a nice view from your place. I have a vague memory that there is some significance to snow settling on the peak that you can see? Also the old timers used to say: Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning. How is the weather going there? Oh yeah, the switch between snow and sunshine would be a bit of a trip to accommodate mentally. No updates from the Good Professor.

    It was cold here today at about 59’F and cloudy. Brrr (from one who is now summer soft acclimatised).



  31. Hi Tam,

    Absolutely, and that makes perfect sense. Our society uses a lot of organic matter too in ordinary day to day situations. I myself wipe my bottom using toilet paper derived from reprocessed office waste, but plenty of people don’t and that timber pulp product comes from somewhere…

    Nope, I have not yet read that book but was intrigued by the reference to it and also the discussions surrounding it. Thanks for your thoughts on the book.

    This interweb thing is a vast echo chamber, and so I have noted that (as you yourself rightly point out) second hand thoughts tend to get replicated over and over again. The ability to step outside such thinking is one of the great challenges of our time.



  32. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks and I was reasonably pleased with the technical stuff that I appear to have gotten my head around with the yellow boxes. The fun facts didn’t fit into story telling and they were quite jarring, so something had to be done.

    The smoke was crazy thick. You couldn’t see more than a couple of hundred feet, and the taste of burned forest was on your tongue. I can still taste it in the water, but it is settling down now.

    The rain was good, and bizarrely enough it looks like the monsoon has returned up in the tropical north of the continent – and is beginning to extend south. Two inches of rain is forecast here for the next 8 days. Bonkers huh? How’s your weather going? Are you still getting snow?

    Yes, an historian recently wrote an excellent book which details early settlers and explorers observations of the land and indigenous folks practices. Damo has been wading his way through it over the past few weeks: The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia – Bill Gammage. It is an excellent read.

    I’m not honestly sure what is going on with the wallabies. They have never flattened a six year old fruit tree before. Incidentally the wallaby was attempting the same trick with other fruit trees. I’ve introduced Ollie to the wallabies and they’re not friends. I’m contemplating grafting the damaged tree by taping up the wound. What do you think about that? The editor reckons the tree may never recover from the damage, but I believe it may be worthwhile attempting a repair job.

    I will definitely be interested in hear your story. The editor went cold turkey and it was touch and go there for a while, and took about maybe 60 days before she stopped thinking about them. A very tough school those ciggies.



  33. Hi Pam and DJ,

    The dreaded and ever continuing mid-week hiatus is here. It is a dastardly time of no replies because I’m slack. Yes, yes, it’s all true. 🙂 However, I will reply tomorrow, because then I will be less slack. Is this a good thing being less slack? I’m personally unsure? However, it will differ from today if only because there will be replies. I now rest my case in the knowledge that there is logic to my logic! 🙂



  34. Hello again
    I was thinking that the time lag between using the water and getting ill would be too long to make any association. Stupid of me. I was not looking at very long term usage and therefore the knowledge that only people in certain areas were getting ill.
    We had one heck of a storm, quite a lot of heavy stuff came down in the woods. Son has an old abandoned vehicle of his here and a branch made a serious dent in it. As Son says, that is not thin metal on that vehicle. The weather is supposed to come in again later today but I don’t know whether wind will be accompanying the water. The tides were high but I can’t tell whether there has been much erosion, shall ask Son.
    Son is currently lifting my patio in order to clean up and relay it as it has become overgrown with just about everything. Until this summer I have always been able to clear it myself because extreme wet means that growing things just pull up easily. This summer was so dry (which didn’t impede growth in the slightest) that I couldn’t budge the growth.


  35. Chris:

    Another thing – you are doing an excellent job on your part with this blog, letting people who are lucky enough to find it know the reality of our plight, with practical solutions. And keeping us entertained in the bargain (and it’s quite a bargain on our side!).

    I like your yellow boxes; it is a nice way to insert useful information.

    I have never seen the like of those wallabies. Might they squash small dogs as well as trees?

    I am glad to hear about the rain forecast.


  36. Yo, Chris – Oh, yeah. Those clear, cold nights when we can see the stars. But, never when there’s anything interesting, going on in the sky.

    Yup. “The Eagle” has nice, bite sized chunks, unlike “The Lance.” Maybe, we weren’t the only ones to complain?

    I haven’t seen a rabbit, here. Where I lived before, the rabbit population seemed to rise and fall, with some regularity. Mostly due, I think, to toothy things with appetites. I think I mentioned we had a sizable squirrel population, here, a few years ago. Now, almost none. Last year, I saw two, a few times. Then, by the end of the season, just one plucky fellow who hung around the gardens, a bit. But, he seemed to do no damage. Disease, or owls, it is a mystery.

    Sometimes, if I get to the Club, early, I buzz around behind the counter, stocking up coffee, and such. Channeling my inner hash slinger. Yesterday, before Scott showed up, I was doing that and someone asked if we took cards (for a buck cup of coffee). I was a bit short. “We tried that, lost money. So, we don’t.” I just don’t like anyone, government or otherwise, poking about in my affairs.

    Abolition is freeing the slaves. Prohibition is locking up the liquor :-). But that’s only when they’re capitalized. Prohibit and abolish are useful words.

    The only thing I toss in the tip, is invasive, root stuff. Or, invasive stuff that’s about to go to seed. Every thing else goes back into the soil.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Often found in dark, northern climes. Suicide rates are higher. They’re doing things with lamps, these days. Takes the edge off.

    The on-line auction for the war bonds poster, doesn’t end until the 28th. And, I haven’t taken a look at it, yet. Maybe, today. Gives me some time to talk myself out of it :-).

    Motown once did a song about illegitimate Anzac biscuits. Today’s ear worm …

    A little Motown will put a bounce in your step!

    Our weather forecast, today, is for “on and off sun breaks.” Which I always think sounds a bit odd. Oh, I suppose it’s related, somehow to “a break in the weather.” It only got down to 37F (2.77C), last night. Late afternoon, until last evening, we had wind of up to 30 mph. Wasn’t that cold, temperature wise, but the wind chill! Brrrrrr! Lew

  37. Hi Chris,

    Very glad to hear that you’ve not been directly effected by the fires! I have been wondering how you went.

    Yes, coal power does produce power 24 hours a day, but I think your comment doesn’t capture the whole truth. Coal power plants have a nasty habit of failing at the hottest times of the year (when we need them most). To a lesser extent, this is true of gas plants as well.

    Also, coal plants in particular consume quite large quantities of water.

    Also, although coal does produce power 24h a day, this is not really what we want. What we actually want is electricity production that is responsive to electricity demand (“dispatchable”) — coal is very clearly NOT this — it takes days to ramp coal production up or down.

    Finally, although solar and wind are intermittent, we now generally have very good forecasting out at least 24 hours that allow us to accurately predict (and thus plan around) what renewable generation will be. This is not true for coal in particular, which has a habit of failing with no warning at peak electricity demand.

    Are wind and solar perfect and the answer to everything? I don’t think so. However, I think wind/solar could easily be a much greater part of Australia’s electricity supply than they currently are — and we could do so at lower cost, with better reliability, and lower carbon emissions.

    As a datum, SA is now about 50% renewables, and is not especially relying on imports from interstate (any more than other states do). There is nothing to stop VIC, NSW and QLD doing the same.

    All the best for 2020,
    Cheers, Angus

  38. Hi Pam,

    Jackie French is a great author and has written dozens of books. Her most famous book is ‘Diary of a Wombat’, but she has a lot to say about integrating gardens into nature – or nature into gardens depending on how you see the world. 🙂 It seems that the closer the government body is to people, the better the response to the fires has been. What do you do other than just get by and keep your own backyard neat and orderly and prepare for the worst. The rains are returning now in force, so the next few months will be interesting, and the trees are certainly going to enjoy the drink from the heavens!

    That’s a possibility, but there is another perspective which suggests that there is far more life, and far lower fire risk in well managed forests. If given the chance, the trees will dominate their entire domain, and not much else can or will live in such places due to the lack of light at ground level. No light means that there is little for various critters to eat. The best ecosystems are the most varied and diverse in plant and animal communities, and I see very little wrong with meadows within forests. The animals can live in the forest, but they’ll most certainly eat in the meadow. 🙂

    I have no idea what to make of the wallaby damage but it seems a bit on the extreme end of their activities. Someone suggested to me today to repair the damage with a graft repair and I might just try that.

    Well done you with the seedlings, and you’re off and racing!

    The lack of bottling might be a problem here too this year, but we’ll focus on dehydrating some tomatoes as we can always purchase quality passata (tomato sauce).

    Thanks about the flowers. 🙂 And thanks too for the kind words, and I do aim to entertain – whilst chucking in some interesting chunks of information. Solar power is good, but it is not good enough to replace the base load power people are accustomed to enjoying today. Oh well, I do hope people give it a go though as it would be nice to see them try.

    I might stick with the new blog editor software and just deal. I mean I’ve already been through the pain of learning how to use the thing.

    The wallabies might be able to deal to Scritchy, but Scritchy has back up in the form of the monster huge Ollie. Scritchy rarely travels far from home these days.



  39. Hi DJ,

    I’d like to suggest that I was making up the claim about people not knowing how to go about digging hole, but I’m serious. It is not good. I tend to feel that if ever there are any large scale civic troubles, people will stick mostly to what they know, which are the cities. That’s what happened during the Great Depression, and whilst there were the odd few that hit the road in search of agricultural work (we called them swagmen – as in ‘once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong’ etc.), but by and large they were the exception.

    The remote sensor for the weather station stopped reporting rainfall last week. And fair enough too, it had been a while since it had rained. Anyway, I had a spare hour today so thought that I’d pull the remote sensor (which looks like a small plastic tugboat) apart and see what was going on. Well, it was an interesting experience for sure. I stopped counting the spiders after about the fifth spider, and the inside mechanism was completely coated in spider webs.

    Not good, but after washing it thoroughly I must have accidentally splashed some water onto the electric circuits. Hmm, things were not going well, and the one hour rapidly turned into two hours! I hit the circuits with a hairdryer and that seems to have got the thing working again. I put it all back together again and gave the insides a squirt of insecticide (one of the few uses I put that stuff to) and some WD40 for good measure. That should keep the spiders out of it for at least six months…

    Oh, that’s funny about the smoke plume circumnavigation! Dare I suggest that your joke could possibly go around in circles? And it is also worth pointing out that circles are a revolutionary concept! 😉

    It is hard to leave land fallow because of economic considerations on farms – and large farms often carry large debts. But yeah, it would work leaving land fallow then chopping and dropping the weeds and/or ploughing them in. Interestingly, the rains appear to have returned down here and the soil life and plants are loving the increased humidity.

    The heat knocks you around, and Wednesday it was right up there in the high 30’sC during the day. As I left that business the heavens opened and crossing the road was a difficult proposition as I was wearing sandals and was a bit worried they’d get washed away off my feet in the two inch deep water. Bonkers. I kept a change of clothes in the car just in case the rain hit as per the forecast, and the clothes were so hot (they had sat in the car during the day) that they felt like they’d just come out of an electric clothes dryer. I was done by then…

    Rats that bark! Naughty DJ, they might have lovely personalities, just keep your fingers away from their teeth – especially when making such observations about their allegedly deficient personalities.

    15cm of ice over a car means that a person ain’t going anywhere that day – unless they walk or ski. 🙂 Wow, what a nightmare of a problem, and thanks for explaining how it all works. Yes, those are unfortunate side effects of winter – and I too have noticed that the really hot days and the really cold days tend to show up all of the weaknesses of vehicles.

    For your interest too, I believe that car batteries (technically known as starting, light and ignition batteries) only last about 5 years anyway, so that’s about right. It is interesting you mention cold weather and batteries, but at one point in time I was considering adding a hydronic radiator to the battery room so as to keep the batteries a bit warmer over winter. People always think that batteries are fuel tanks, but they are much closer to chemical reactors – and cold weather robs them of energy and the ability to move those electrons.



  40. Hi Inge,

    Well from our point of view, your observation is correct, but then our culture prompts us to move around a lot and so generational length observations about the local ecology are not made. Hey, I was reading about your island today. It was a by-line in an article that I was reading which mentioned that: the first woman to run a marathon was Dale Gregg, who competed in the Isle of Wight race in 1964. It is an impressive achievement to run that far, and I have only ever run half that distance.

    Did you discover any storm damage?

    Today was very cool and overcast here. It barely scraped past 58’F. I plan to get up early tomorrow and start hauling firewood to the smaller firewood shed as I feel that the season may have turned into a far more humid season.

    I have a theory about why the plant growth was not affected at your place during the dry summer you just experienced. It is possibly due to your soils holding vast quantities of water within them. More top soil = more water held in the ground, and your soils (given the centuries of lack of disturbance) would be very good quality stuff. What do you reckon about that?



  41. Hi Lewis,

    Hey mate, believe it or not I’m typing this to you on a bus trip into the big smoke. I had plans you know that didn’t involve typing on a bus that’s travelling along a country road, but you know and I may have mentioned this to you before, but plans are regularly subject to change. The train was cancelled as apparently a truck had hit a bridge. I have to confess that it is much easier typing whilst on a comfy country train. No such luck though.

    Oh yeah, so the bus and all that. The editor went with a mate to see a US comedian (David Sedaris) in the big smoke and I assume they hit a bar and there are dinner plans afterwards. Cocktails may have been involved. Being the gentleman that I am I offered to jump into the city on the train and drive her home again. It is all very civilised, and the editor gets to enjoy her girlie nights out. Girls need girlie nights, as much as I enjoy catching up with my mates (sans editor). And we do live quite a ways out from the big smoke, and not point her losing her license.

    So yeah, that is how it is rolling and I’m enjoying the back country roads that travel near to the train line. Bounce, bounce go the bus wheels. Probably nicer than the carts they put people into in the Camulod story. Suspension may have been a bit lacking in those contraptions.

    Certainly the heavens have turned against us. That happens here too, in that whenever an interesting celestial thing is portended, the clouds roll in. Other nights when nothing is going on, the skies are clear as. Mind you, I tend to feel that the humungous meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs would not have been a good thing to see. Opinions may vary, and people are entitled to those, I just feel that it might be an awful spectacle to behold. And probably quite fast too.

    I looked up the author, who is something of a mystery. I discovered that the author Mr Whyte had engaged with the reading public over the early interweb, well before other authors had jumped on (or more likely pushed in that direction by publicists). I have heard that publicists demand interweb presence for authors – twits (is that what they call the 100 character limited thing). Didn’t it double the limit at some point? Anyway who cares? I’ve got a great view of the mountain range from the Clarkefield railway station and a cloud has draped itself over the range. The small one horse town has a haunted pub that was an old Cobb and Co depot. All very scenic. Oh, I digress, should one engage the public when it comes to authorship? I reckon that’s a complicated question.

    Glad I don’t get motion sick because the bus is bouncing all over the place.

    Rabbits are interesting and I do wonder if one of my neighbours weren’t taking matters to hand this afternoon. For several hours I could here gunshots going off way down in the valley below. The rabbits on the farm seemed oblivious to the noise, but just to be safe I kept the fluffies inside. Ollie wanted to investigate and that level of curiosity is something of an error. He sat on the veranda sniffing the air. I’d like to know what he could smell. Apparently his particular breed can smell a pig 4 miles away.

    What? A card for a buck coffee? The bank fees on that would wipe you guys out. Don’t know about your part of the world, but credit card commissions are higher on amounts below $10. Plenty of shops down under have signs telling people that it is cash only below $10. A mate wrote an amusing story about cash and a couple of stoner anti-heroes. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and it reminds me of the genre of John Birmingham’s: He died with a falafel in his hand.

    We leave giant data trails these days. You’d be amazed at camera footage coverage too. I’ve been slowly locking down my new dumb phone. It ain’t so bright that thing – I mean it can’t even get the alarm function right. Sometimes it is up to 4 minutes late. How hard could that program be? Not a fan.

    Oh yeah, not good, and it is nice that nobody was professionally outraged by my slip up with mixing up the two words. We didn’t really need slaves down here because we had the never ending supply of convicts. It worked for the landed class, up until people actually wanted to come here for the gold-rush in the 1850’s. It being not that scary to send people were they willingly want to go. Of course the parallels are not the same, and the convict system worked closer to that of debt servitude. A lot of that stuff still goes on these days, which I can’t say that I agree with it. You hear stories of people having their passports held, and if they complain to authorities they get deported. Hmm.

    Actually, I’ve heard of people suffering from SAD even in this country. Too much time indoors methinks. I’ve read that sun exposure is good for peoples immune systems, and I don’t doubt it. The body is a complicated thing.

    As an impartial person to the war bond poster situation, and as a general observation on the subject, I tend to feel that the poster has meaning for you.

    There is a deep gorge running along side the road, and at some point there must have been a huge quarry cut into the face. Anyway, it is a commercial tip now. I’ve read that we are running out of tip space down here. And as an anecdotal observation, I’m removing far more plastic of late from the composted woody mulch that we purchase. I’m sure it means something.

    The Supremes were indeed Supreme. I read about their history and back story. Fascinating, and what great voices they have. Who would have thought that there were jealousy’s at Motown? The ladies would have earned their stripes that’s for sure.

    I’ve never heard of “on and off”. There was always a bit of UK – US rivalry, and need I point out right hand drive vehicles? Hmm? Down here we say: “off and on again”. Language is a funny thing. Have you come across any new words lately?



  42. Hi Angus,

    Good to hear from you mate, and mention of coal and solar power is like catnip for your ears! 🙂

    Thanks for your concern and there were three nearby fires of concern, but they were put out reasonably quickly. The worst of the lot occurred near to an area where a lot of hazard reduction burns had taken place. I know a couple of people that live near to there and they used the word ‘spooked’ to describe their feelings. Hope you and your family were OK too. There was plenty going on in the Adelaide Hills, and far out Kangaroo Island was a major disaster.

    That is true, and many of the coal plants slated to be closed are being closed because they are either nearing or beyond their economic life span. People have a belief that these things go on forever, but that isn’t the case at all. I worry about entropy with the solar power system here – and I treat the system with kid gloves although I have occasionally pushed things too hard – once when there were visitors and one of the battery interconnectors melted. 250+ Amps will do that. Hehe! It was a maintenance issue which I was unaware of but are now onto.

    True, and it always amuses me that with desalination we use a lot of water in the electricity generation process to create fresh water from sea water. It’s a little bit odd and hard to explain!

    I hear you, but when the thick smoke settled over the farm, the wind wasn’t blowing either – otherwise there would be no smoke in the first place. I can live with an hours peak sunlight per day, but it’s taken a decade to learn how to do so. Do you know how much electricity a 40’C wash will consume? Nope, it pulls just under 100A from the batteries. I had no idea, and it is even weirder because I can heat water directly using the sun (as can you). Although solar hot water wasn’t working on the smokey days either. I don’t overdo it mate and I can restrain myself, but can other people? Where are you proposing that the electricity is sourced from if the sun ain’t shining, the wind ain’t blowing, and you’re stuck in a drought? My mind really struggles with that story, but I see people pulling 40KW and 50KW per day from the grid without the slightest thought. Dunno, I’d like to agree with you, but in my mind I just can’t see it.

    Mind you, we’re going back to renewable energy systems whether we like it or not. Most of human history has been powered by renewable energy systems and we’ve done some amazing things in that time.

    I do like your vision of the future, and also the possibilities and would love to see it eventuate, however my gut feeling just says no. My basis for that is that the systems can’t produce enough concentrated energy with which to replace itself – and at the same time do all of the other many things that people demand from it. Dunno, but by all means I won’t stop anyone from giving it a go.

    All the best for you and yours and your garden! And fingers crossed for continuing rain.


  43. Chris:

    You have said it all in a nutshell:

    “That’s a possibility, but there is another perspective which suggests that there is far more life, and far lower fire risk in well managed forests. If given the chance, the trees will dominate their entire domain, and not much else can or will live in such places due to the lack of light at ground level. No light means that there is little for various critters to eat. The best ecosystems are the most varied and diverse in plant and animal communities, and I see very little wrong with meadows within forests. The animals can live in the forest, but they’ll most certainly eat in the meadow.”

    Which is why when humans like you and I come into a forest and clear some land there and build a house, garden, and accoutrements we end up with an abundant variety of wildlife. They all love the place, which is why we – and you – have to fight them over the garden. They even love the buildings; they are always crawling, running, or just lying around on things. When it rains, all sorts of critters sit on our porches together to get out of the rain.

    All of which is why I have never felt guilty about opening up this little space in the forest.


  44. Yo, Chris – Girl’s night out. As the old, aboriginal auntie said, several times, during the film I watched, “Until the End of the World” …. “Women’s business.” 🙂

    As we say, you’re taking the “scenic” route. Which is taking the round about way, from point A to B, that may (or may not) have interesting things to look at, on the way.

    I read an article, a couple of months ago, about a dinosaur bed find, in I think, South Dakota. It was a snapshot of what happened when the meteorite, hit. They could work out a time line of the incidents that happened. Sounded horrific.

    I made a suggestion, when the credit card machine arrived, that they might think about figuring out their break even point, and posting signs. It wasn’t done. Oh, well. It got the darned thing out of there.

    Yup. Ya’all drive on the wrong side of the road, down there 🙂
    I can usually tell when I’m looking at a foreign film. I just look for the right hand drive.

    I really don’t consciously look for new words. I suppose, I run across them in context, reading. And then they pop into my head as I write, or speak.

    I picked up a book about the Japanese director Kurosawa. Read it over a couple of nights. I’ve seen some of his films, over the years. The library has quit a few of them. I may dip into them.

    The first of our two Magic Food Boxes, showed up, this morning. Not much to keep, this time around. But, there were a couple of bottles of pickled veg. Beets, a three bean, and something else.

    Well, girls and boys. Today on Sesame Street, we’re looking at the letter “P”. Prehistoric pines, the poster, and the film, “Pyramid.” There might have been pumpkins, but I didn’t get to them.

    NPR had an article about your prehistoric pines, and the fires. Due to the efforts of firemen, foresters and scientists, the pines were saved. There was a startling picture. The Y shaped canyon, they are in, entirely surrounded by burnt forest. A slash of green, across the landscape. For a few days, the smoke was so thick, they didn’t know if they’d make it. They did. The rescuers had to rappel in from helicopters, as there’s no overland access.

    I took a look at the print, yesterday. I think it’s a later reproduction. No little dots, so, I think it was a litho (or, some other printing process), but the size was a bit off, and it lacked the name of the printing company. And, yes, the lower border was trimmed.

    I tried to watch a movie, the other night, called “Pyramid.” Some lurching, mummy movie. Well, my DVD player rejected it as “not being in your region” (hadn’t seen that, in awhile), and even my computer spit it out. But I got to wondering (’cause, inquiring minds want to know). Are lurching mummies, the same as zombies?

    Snow popped back into our forecast, and, this Friday morning it is coming down. But, not sticking and is supposed to turn to rain in an hour or two. Lew

  45. Hi Chris,
    you getting any of this lovely rain?
    100mm in the last couple of days and the fires near us *must* be out by now.
    Now for some follow up that will recharge the soils as well as fill the dams. With the monsoon starting at last, there may even be some chance of that this year…

  46. Hi Pam,

    🙂 An old timer farmer around these parts remarked to me that we had created a supermarket for the wildlife. And to be honest I was a bit taken aback by the comment at first, but from hindsight, it was a fair observation.

    Hey, even the worms will climb up under the verandas when the rain is heavy enough. I hear you, and it is one of the best aspects about living in such a place.

    I’ve never felt guilty about it either. People who promote the guilt have never stepped one foot into a forest for any length of time, and such comments are usually all about them anyway – and their personal guilt. They just try to project so as to lessen their personal burden.

    There was yet another good article in the news today: Indigenous cultural burn a factor in helping save home from bushfire, as fire experts call for more investment. I suspect the authorities shun the practice because it makes them look bad, and also it is very labour intensive. Sooner or later, it will be the norm.



  47. Hi Lewis,

    Secret women’s business is a real cultural thing, and being a guy I have no idea what it is all about, but I respect the practice and know enough not to enquire.

    Unfortunately, for the first time in a decade of assisting the editor with her girlie nights out (as designated driver), I accidentally left the second set of car keys at home. Then I had to interrupt the girlie night and get the editors set of car keys. That is where things get complicated as I was asked if I wanted to stay for dinner with them, but no way that ain’t happening on my watch, and anyway it would change the tone of their night. Nope, I headed off in search of a proper hamburger and the quest was worthy of my time. No beetroot this time around, more mustard and pickles. Yum!

    I was absolutely gobsmacked by just how many people were out and about in the city last night. I guess there is the Tennis going on, but the crowds were epic. Due to the detour to pick up the car keys, I must have walked an hour and a half witnessing the sights and sounds.

    Speaking of walking, we put away a couple of hours worth of firewood. I moved 28 wheelbarrows to be precise and all by hand. I like to know how many wheelbarrow loads the firewood shed holds so that I can judge how long the job will take to complete and how much firewood has been stored. The climate is variable enough here that I just don’t really know how much firewood I need for a year. It is not a hard problem to live with if you put away far more than you need. Incidentally all systems that harvest outputs from nature are like that. Just in time or assume the best case scenario is a recipe for disaster.

    The trip into the big smoke was pretty nice, and the bus journey takes me past areas I don’t normally travel past. Out that side of the city, it is pretty quiet with paddocks and farmland because some of the creeks and rivers have cut epic gorges, and there are few bridges spanning the distances. The nearby freeway cuts across an epic gorge that Jacksons Creek cut. The land has been stable for so long that the creeks and rivers have just had time to cut the gorges properly and hugely.

    Ouch! I’d imagine that South Dakota would still be a bit close to the meteor impact site to have escaped a dinosauric messy end? I’ll see if I can hunt down the article.

    The hunters are still bopping away in the valley below this afternoon. I hope they know what they are doing.

    Good to hear that the card machine has left the building! 😉 It takes a lot of $1 coffee (a dubious proposition from someone who is a coffee snob – yes, yes, it is true and I can’t deny it) to pay for the monthly fee for the machine with a lower margin from every coffee sale. And yes, you were exactly right with how to deal with that story.

    Really? I thought that it was you guys who were on the driving on the wrong side of the road? 🙂 Don’t laugh but in major tourist areas there are signs reminding tourists that this is the case. One story I read was of a locals outrage due to a tourist stopping in the middle of a busy road to get a selfie. Hmm. It wasn’t quite a Darwin Award contender, but it got pretty close.

    You have a knack for words.

    Thanks for the timely reminder as I have long since thought it was past time that I watched: Seven Samurai. The pyrrhic victory has become a constant background story in the Camulod tales. Yup, entropy and attrition. You know I tend to feel that you have to fight hard and work hard just to stay where you are these days.

    Beets, a three bean, and something else. For a start, the something else sounds a bit eerie. And can I suggest that the beetroot be used in a hamburger? You won’t regret it! 🙂 And the three bean mix is certainly worth a retry of the famous KFC three bean salad. It is a fermented product so needs a day to ferment away before it is tasty – but well worth the effort. Humble origins – maximum taste.

    I’d heard about the Woolemi Pines but was unaware of the efforts to save them from the fires. Turns out there were quite a few plant tragedies with the fires: Gondwana-era rainforest stand of nightcap oak devastated by unprecedented bushfire. In the article I linked to in Pam’s reply, one of the indigenous leaders made reference to the forest canopy – and I’d be thinking similar thoughts about forest canopies based on what I’m observing here. Lot’s to learn.

    Ouch. Well, you could enjoy the war bond poster for its own sake – and know not to pay too much for it. 🙂

    Holy Sheet! I don’t know at all about that and will have to cogitate upon the question. But it is possible.



  48. Hi Les,

    Congrats on the rain! And it must be something of a relief.

    50mm so far down here with more to come tomorrow. I’m hauling the firewood in for the year no just in case things get too wet. Plants have begun growing again! Yay!

    You know, my gut feeling tells me that we may be in for a very long Autumn this year.

    Cheers and best wishes for chocko full dams for you! 🙂


  49. Chris,

    Yeah, I know you weren’t joking about the holes. I think your reasoning is spot on: people try to stick with what’s familiar regardless of the changing situation. My dad and uncle grew up during the Depression. It was TOUGH! Granddad found a job in Prescott, Arizona, which is at 5,367 feet. They had to live in 2 tents for 2 years, which included winters. Less snow than here, but it gets cold at that elevation.

    Spiders get everywhere. “Air tight” sure doesn’t always keep them out.

    Hehehe! Good one. Yes circles ARE a revolutionary concept. If you look closely at nearly anything in nature, it becomes apparent that straight lines are very rare. I better stop there before my reasoning turns elliptical.

    I hear you about the heat! Temperature extremes at either end simply sap the energy out of me, too. Barring hypothermia (which I’ve successfully avoided – knock on wood), I’ve fond it much easier to recover from being in the cold than the heat. It’s a small move from the heat knocking you down to the start of heat exhaustion or worse.

    DJ can be naughty indeed. I just pulled a naughty at work. In our ongoing (and useless) morale/culture improvement program, we were all given expensive business cards with our mission statement on one side and our alleged values on the other. I’ve got a bulletin board full of cartoons that I’ve labelled “Jokes and Miscellaneous Inanities”. The new card is “hiding” in plain sight among the cartoons. Be interesting to see when management notices…

    I’ve got it on good authority (the guy who hired me at that place and retired 20 years ago) that if an organization has to hire an outside consultant to tell them what the problems are, then the organization is beyond fixing…

    An era just ended at the job. My entire 27.5 years as a senior tech, I’ve worked closely with the junior tech in my program. The 16th was her last day. Out of the 3 of us in the program when I started, I’m the only one left. She left me a cartoon: a picture of a tensed up little girl with a very angry face. The caption reads “Ten minutes at work and I use %(#$ as a comma.” That is SO my coworker. The cartoon is NOT visible outside my work cubicle. I had to consult on something with the Big Boss today, the head of our organization. He mentioned that he saw coworker yesterday and she flipped him off. No, DJ is not THAT naughty.

    We kept getting 3 to 5cm snowstorms throughout the week. The past 7 days, I’ve had to shovel and/or Big Bertha snow on 5 days. The snowplows came by again on Thursday. It was above freezing, so the berm and chunks in the driveway were soft. That is precisely why I purchased Big Bertha. Maybe 35cm of snow in a week, which is typical for Spokane winter – it all comes in weeklong bursts like this. 20cm on the ground, with 5cm expected Saturday. Then comes the thaw for about 10 days. Bertha is low on petrol, so I’ve got to buy more when I’m out on Saturday.

    You KNOW batteries. They really are chemical reactors. Temperature extremes saps them, much as the extremes sap our strength. Although cold bothers them worse than heat in my experience.


  50. @ DJspo – The list of new purchases, for our library, came out, tonight. Saw two books that I thought might interest you … if you aren’t already aware of them .

    “The Art of Woodburning” by Wright. A new edition.

    “Woodburning Realistic Animals” by Robinson.


  51. Chris:

    Thank you for the article on cultural burns – that was so interesting. It was also encouraging in that people are taking more notice of the practice because that family’s house was spared. It got me to thinking of some of the studies we made years ago concerning wildfire prevention when we were considering moving back west, where fire risk is greatest. One thing we thought about was building a pond. Has that ever been in your plans?

    What do they hunt there in the summer? Most of our hunting seasons are fall and winter.

    I just saw a fox sneak past the house. No dogs here anymore, but about a dozen squirrels were sounding an alarm. Foxy had to go on to the neighbors, where he probably won’t see a squirrel, as they have all moved to our house . . . Goodbye next summer’s tomatoes.

    My mother passed on to me a secret phrase with three words, that had been passed on to her. Sorry – for women only. 🙂


  52. Hi Chris and Pam,
    So here’s the story. Around 30 years ago after many unsuccessful attempts to stop smoking I, along with some other teachers, decided we’d try hypnosis in a small group setting. I didn’t tell Doug until afterwards as he’d think it was a dumb idea. I do think it helped and I quit for quite awhile but about three months later I did cheat a little now and then. On St. Patrick’s day I went for the first time since quitting to a bar. Anyone who has smoked knows that drinking and cigarettes go hand in hand. This particular bar had quite the St. Patrick’s day celebration including bag pipes and plenty of green beer. Needless to say I had way too much beer and shortly before we Doug and I were to leave I was outside with a friend who offered me a cigarette which in my weakened state accepted. Well right after I smoked it I felt terribly nauseous. In fact all that night and the next day I was violently ill. Now I know it was more due to the beer but it was the cigarette which really tipped it off so I guess I just associated cigarettes with that experience because I really never wanted one again. It was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me as I often wonder if I’d still be struggling to this day. Not sure if this experience could be replicated though – at least not intentionally.


  53. Hi Chris,

    Thanks so much for the book recommendation. It appears that my library system doesn’t have it though so I may have to try Thrift books or something of that nature.

    We had about 4-5 inches of wet snow topped off with freezing rain leaving a thick crust on top. Snow removal is difficult. High winds and much colder temperatures are on the way shortly.


  54. @DJ & Lew

    During the winter of 1978-79 (often cited as the 2nd worst Chicago area winter historically) Doug and I had to put blankets under the hood over the motor and battery around 10 PM after running both cars until the engines were well warmed. At 2 AM we took turns getting up, taking the blankets off, running the cars and replacing the blankets just to assure that the cars would start so we could go to work. At work I went out at lunch time to run the car for 15 minutes just to be sure it would start to get home. That winter we had over 80 inches of snow and more than half of January was zero or below. You felt like you were walking and/or driving in canyons of snow.


  55. Yo, Chris – There were several Greek stories, about men stumbling or spying on Women’s Business, and getting ripped to pieces. Your retreat was well advised 🙂 . I generally steer clear of most of the functions, here at the Institutions. Besides my inclination to not be a “joiner”, I think your right. Changes the tone. Although Eleanor thinks having a few men around, that the Ladies, behave better.

    Are you sure it wasn’t 29 wheelbarrows, of wood? Or, even, 27? 🙂 . Well, any left over wood will be REALLY dry, the next season. These days, seems like even planing for a worst case scenario, might not be enough.

    I quit like Kurosawa, but my all time favorite Japanese film is “Kwaidan” (1965) from director Kobayashi. It’s a collection of four traditional Japanese ghost stories, collected by Lafcadio Hern. An interesting fellow, in his own right. I’ve got a couple of books by, or about, him.

    Oh, the pickled “something else” was the pedestrian dill pickles. I just had a senior moment, and couldn’t remember. The afternoon food box brought 1 1/4 pound bags of dried cranberries. By keeping an eye on the swap table, I ended up with 5 pounds. I may make some cranberry jam. There was also a couple of cans of really good chicken. I picked up another six. There were other, odds and ends, but those were (to me) the high points.

    Here, KFC cole slaw, is mythic. I guess the “secret ingredient is butter milk. We talked about tatter tots, awhile back. My friend in Idaho mentioned she was going to make a tatter tot casserole. I’ve inquired as to what she puts in it. I looked on line, and there are many variations. But the basics seem to be, the tots, canned green beans, and canned mushroom or cheddar cheese soup. Sounds like one of those recipes, from the 1950s, when packaged food became the rage.

    The story about the Gondwana Rainforest, was tragic. From what you’ve said, maybe more of the oaks survived, than is first apparent. One can only hope.

    When I took HRH out for her nightly stroll, we spooked a small dear, that shot across the back lawn. Scared off by her fierce barking. What’s really funny is, she must have a hunting dog, somewhere way back among her ancestors. Every once in awhile, she goes into “pointing mode.” Nose to the wind with one paw raised. I try not to laugh. Being a small, black dust mop, it’s not quit a look she can pull off. Lew

  56. Hi DJ,

    Yeah, that is it exactly. People stick to what they know, and I sometimes suspect that this may be part of the reason why people heap so many beliefs onto renewable energy systems. I mean people are used to electricity at whatever volume at the flick of a switch, and nature doesn’t provide anything like that at all and so people are unfortunately confused when faced with a supply from nature.

    Wow, I have never visited a high desert environment, although the MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory are a rough equivalent. Day time temperatures squoosh you, and then the night kicks in and it is cold as. The coldest at night that I’ve ever felt was at Wilpena Pound and I felt frozen in a tent although the elevation was lower than what your dad experienced.

    I’ll chuck a photo in of the spiders and you can judge for yourself!

    Are our ongoing jokes going around in circles? Hmm! Hehe!

    Either hypothermia or heat exhaustion are bad news. One, you can possibly lose extremities, and the other you can inadvertently scramble your brain. And at each end people speak serious nonsense and can get quite aggressive.

    Hope they don’t notice the card. Mate, to me a job is a job and work is work and that is how things roll. There is a story going around that somehow work should be fulfilling, but I am seriously uncertain where it originated. Anyway, I tend to think that work can fill a firewood shed and for me that is fulfilling. I scratch my head in wonder at that particular story. Good to hear that you don’t burn bridges, although I have heard it said that: “may the bridges I burn light the way forward”. It is a point of view I guess, but I try not to subscribe to such philosophies.

    That is a lot of snow from my perspective. Mate, I’d be snowed in and not going anywhere any time soon. Here’s for Big Bertha!

    People don’t realise that batteries can get too cold and/or too hot. They just don’t get it, and it effects their efficiency which I might point out is measured at 25’C. The battery room here is rarely that warm. Each of the battery charge controllers has its own temperature probe as the charge has to vary according to temperature. It is truly bonkers how precarious this stuff is.



  57. Hi Pam,

    It is a weird story because I’m not entirely convinced that a postmortem examination as to what worked and what did not work will ever be conducted. After the 1983 bushfires (and I was a mere little tyke then), that actually did happen and I believe a huge amount of undergraduate students were turned out into the field to report upon what they observed. Reports were written and subsequently ignored. I dunno, but I’m listening and taking in any and all positive experiences as it would be utterly foolish not to.

    As to ponds, well I observed that in a nearby fire the vegetation burned down to the waters edge and then right around the pond. What does that tell you? A moat might be a better idea. 🙂

    Late last evening I spotted a doe running for its life. Interestingly I observed that the police had visited a local property near to where the gun shots were occurring. Curious. And today the hunt has not occurred. The hunters from my perspective (and I have no involvement in any of their business) had been rather foolish to advertise their allegedly dodgy weapons. It may be a lesson to them to not assume that everyone around them is stupid.

    Foxes are a complicated dilemma for me. Sir Poopy used to hunt the foxes and rabbits but now he has gone the fox population has been decimated, but the rabbits breed faster than the foxes. Thus it has always been I guess. Your squirrels lead a charmed life and it may surprise you that the other day I spotted an Albino rabbit. Should it be called Charlene?

    Your mother was a wise woman, and I dare not poke my nose into such business but at the same time I can respect it.



  58. Hi Margaret,

    I do hope that you can track down a copy of the book as I suspect that similar land management practices were conducted in your part of the world before us folks of European descent stomped the daylights out of them, possibly thinking that we knew best.

    Far out! I’m really sorry but I can’t even put 4 to 5 inches of snow into context as to how to manage such climactic events. I note that DJ uses some machine called a Big Bertha, but if I were confronted with your experience I would be snowed in for days… And probably have an enjoyable time of it.

    Thanks for your story (which was not lost after all) and yeah I can see how such a situation may have worked in your favour. And yes, my money would be on the green beer too, but with breaking addictions I sort of think that it may be a ‘whatever it takes’ or ‘whatever works’ approach. 🙂 Been there and done that too with St Patrick’s day. I’d like to chime in and suggest that he seems like a good Saint to commemorate if only for encouraging the drinking of green beer, and on one memorable occasion I lived near to a proper Irish pub (not a fly with the times Irish pub, but a real old school one) and a mate and me got rather ripped drinking green beer and bouncing away to a U2 cover band. It was a truly great night, and I felt very messy the next day, but here’s to Saint Patrick for the good times!

    For your info, the editor took about ten years before feeling such revulsion for the nicotine stick. Your method sounds a lot more fun!



  59. Hi Lewis,

    Well, in such matters I’ve always gone with my gut feeling and steered clear of intruding upon ladies group chat time. I know of a few blokes that are happy to engage in a prolonged chat with me, but when their ladies enter the fray, they sort of clam up and then the conversation is dead in the water. Me, I’m a total and absolute chat box (it is hard to shut me up), but I need quiet time afterwards to recharge the social batteries. The past week has been very intense on a social front (five nights in a row now), and tonight I’m done and there ain’t anymore to give. So I’ve locked the door and put up the writing flag and am just enjoying some quiet time to myself.

    It might be possible that you are both right in that instance. It’s complicated, but there is benefit to being a bit of an enigma, but then as Eleanor quite rightly points out – any policy can be taken too far, and sometimes and in some circumstances a bit of moderation is a worthy thing. Where is the middle ground here though? I can’t rightly say that I know, so I just go with my gut feeling and avoid over staying my welcome. What is your take on this matter? I can’t in all honesty suggest that I was provided with useful examples or advice when I was growing up. I don’t actually recall my mum entertaining anyone, and she was quite rude to my friends mostly because she was a difficult person by her nature.

    Hehe! I’m glad you latched onto that, and what can I say I’m a numbers guy and yeah it was 28 wheelbarrows!!! Funny stuff and glad you enjoyed my little joke. Nah, I’ll get the firewood stored away over the next few weeks, if only because the monsoon has returned and I’ve noticed that, but I’m unsure how many other people have noticed. This afternoon thick clouds boiled over the farm, lightning flashed and the thunder rollicked and a little bit of rain fell. Tomorrow it looks as though the heavens will open and up to an inch of rain may fall.

    Hey, I noticed wood lice (slaters) were consuming the bark on one of the citrus trees. I was absolutely filthy and cleared the soil away from the bark, but hopefully the tree has not suffered unduly. The slaters are a right nuisance.

    Wow! You’ve got me there, Kwaidan is goose bump stirring, and also a call to moderation in behaviour. I am definitely intrigued. I agree he is an interesting fellow, who I shall follow up upon based on your advice.

    Ah, fair enough, your comment about ‘something else’ reminded me of the time that I was in Laos where the menu referred to ‘rice with chicken’, ‘rice with beef’, ‘rice with pork’, and then the ever mysterious and truly unknown: ‘rice with meat’. I’d visited many of the local markets and noted the quantities of intriguing bush meat being sold and decided that I wanted no part of that story. Yes, I am soft.

    Cranberry jam is probably quite nice. Have you made it before? Hehe! Actually I too recall the ‘slaw’ from the 70’s. It was very good, and back in those days there was nobody around to ask as to what the secret ingredient actually was. I quite like the taste of buttermilk, and it is a by-product of the organic milk that I buy – and I feed the stuff to the dogs in their breakfast. They have quite luscious and healthy looking coats.

    If the fires through those areas weren’t hot enough to burn the seed store – or the soil life – the ancient oaks will probably be OK. I’m saddened that indigenous practices aren’t adhered to, but the whole mess is but a moment in time, and I follow my own path here and it works for me (so far).

    Pomeranian’s are an ancient breed of dogs and the breed was used to herd reindeer and other deer in far northern climates. Respect to HRH, and Sir Poopy was a larger version of HRH and they know a thing or three about herding deer. He was amazing at the task and would happily sort out a dozen deer. I’d get another such breed, but the grooming over the summer months was a hard thing for the dog who was bred for a cooler climate than here. Sir Poopy hated the summer months with a passion that was his eventual undoing.



  60. Hello again
    I haven’t seen any storm damage round here. I actually don’t understand why we had so much growth during this dry summer. Usually the clay ground cracks when the weather is dry and you can put an arm or leg right down in these cracks. This summer there were no cracks so yes, the ground must have remained wetter but I really don’t understand why as the weather was far dryer than in previous years. It remains a puzzle.
    The ground has been white with frost over 36 hours and the sun is shining.


    @ Lew
    Cheddar cheese soup? Ye gods!!


  61. @ Margaret – I can’t imagine dealing with snow, at my age. I’d move to Idaho, to be with my friends, or, at least think about it more seriously, if not for the snow. They sent a picture of their backyard fence “4′ tall?, entirely buried in snow. Their daily e-mails are full of tales of shoveling walks and roofs. No thanks.

    I see there was quit a bit of lakefront flooding, a few days ago. Looked pretty awesome. Lew

  62. Chris:

    One would have to have a mighty good foundation to support a house surrounded by that type of water structure.

    Down Under Charlene it is.


  63. @ Margaret:

    Thank you for the quit-smoking story. I think you were very lucky. How many people would make themselves violently ill on purpose?


  64. Yo, Chris – In social situations, best gage which way the wind is blowing, and to with your gut instinct. As social animals, we’re pretty good (sometimes) at reading social cues.

    “Kwaidan” has some stunning visuals, that have stayed with me, for years. Especially, the tale called “Hoichi the Earless One.” Can’t be too specific. Spoilers.

    I think you were wise. “Rice with meat” sounds, just a bit too generic. Yeah, I made cranberry fridge jam, at Thanksgiving. I got to thinking (always dangerous in the kitchen). I scored another bag of dried cranberries, last night. I may try to make a crisp. Plump up the berries, and do the bit where you start to boil them up. I think I’d better do that, or, they might explode and I’d have cranberries all over the inside of the oven. Maybe throw in some orange juice or zest?

    I got the tater tot casserole, recipe. Fry up some ground beef (with I presume, an onion) and then make some brown gravy, right in the pan. Mix in a can of green beans, and a can of corn. Turn into a casserole dish, top with tatter tots and bake. Pull it out of the oven, the last ten minutes, and grate some cheddar cheese, on top. Hmmm. Instead of tater tots, I wonder if you could use shredded potato. As you’d use for hash browns?

    I usually steer clear of the boxed stuff, that comes. Expecially, the mac and cheese. There’s always a lot of that, from many different companies. But, one box stood out. Now back in the 60’s, I think half the crunchy granola, earth mothers, were named Annie. Don’t know why. There were even several songs … But, I digress.

    So, there was Annie’s mac and cheese. Certified organic, and the “same honest food.” The box promises that if I use this product, I’ll be “enhancing soil and water quality, improve habitats, conserve biodiversity and support organic farmers.” Take that, global weirding! There was also the tale of the company mascot, a bunny named Bernie. Oh, and there was a personal not from Annie, to me, on the back.

    But, of course, I had to gild the lilly. So, I nuked up some seeds, garlic, peas, parsley, mushrooms and, the nicest slab of tuna, I’ve ever pulled out of a can. Some gourmet brand that turned up in my Magic Food Box. Then I made up the mac and cheese, and mixed it in. Pretty tasty. Lew

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