Things don’t seem

Intriguing events can sometimes coalesce when a person gets off the couch and goes to the pub. Mind you, I can’t recall the last time that I actually sat on a couch for any length of time. For one reason, the green couch behind me has no room. Ollie the Australian cuddle dog (by now everyone who is anyone knows that he is an Australian cattle dog) dominates the green couch and there is little space for me. He’s a big dog, and a big dog needs a big couch. Such times of no-room-on-the-couch, calls for a trip to the pub instead, leaving Ollie to his couch.

A few weeks ago the editor and I went to a pub to attend a farewell dinner and drinks. I lost another friend to the land of the long white cloud a.k.a. New Zealand. There must be something in the water over there, because I have now lost a few friends to that country. And friends are hard to come by, they don’t grow on trees you know!

For those that are curious, whilst at the non-local pub I enjoyed a chicken schnitzel (occasionally heard incorrectly pronounced as a ‘chicken snitchel’) and a pint of apple cider. Apple cider is not my usual preferred beverage of choice. It is worth noting that my local pub has a beer board full of chalk scrawls well defined in a four by four matrix (not a matrix as in the film – that is something different again). The beer matrix lists the wares on offer produced by small local independent brewers. I frankly never know what beverages I’m going to be presented with. It is a bit like receiving a birthday gift where you’re unsure what the gift will be, but you know you are going to like it.

However on this occasion I was not at my local pub, and there was no beer matrix anywhere in evidence at the establishment. Upon facing this dreaded situation, I admitted to myself that I had become spoiled when it comes to choice of beer. As things stood, I was most unimpressed with the beer offerings presented to me. So I chose a pint of apple cider instead, and it was very good.

So my mate was leaving the country for greener, cloudier shores. And it is an apt description because New Zealand is a physically greener country than Australia. This contrast is especially so after the vile summer we appear to be experiencing. My mate might not be making a bad move from that perspective.

My mate’s wife is one of those people who is the consummate networker and just seems to be able to make lot’s of friends. I personally lack such easy social skills, probably due to a deficient personality or some other rubbish like that. Anyway, I’m going to miss those two, and on the night there were a good bunch of people in attendance all along for the farewell drink and feed.

During the evening, and by sheer chance, I spoke with a lovely bloke who offered me some solar panels. It was an unlooked for and greatly appreciated offer. I didn’t need to be asked a second time, and without consulting the editor (as is my usual wont), I graciously accepted the kind offer of the solar panels. The editor later agreed with the turn of events.

A good motto for Fernglade Farm might be: “We don’t muck around”. Another motto might also be: “if its free, it’s for me and I’ll have three”. I am an adherent of the belief of not mucking around, and as the old timers might quip: Strike whilst the iron is hot! The solar panels have now been picked up and are now residing at the farm.

The freebie solar panels enjoy a clean and test

The situation got me wondering about solar panels. I am aware that these solar panels were recovered from a house that was demolished, and so it is great that they didn’t end up in the tip. Regulations are such that these particular solar panels are unable to be used in a new grid tied solar power system. It is a bit of a bonkers situation really, because the solar panels may have up to a 50 year life span – and these ones don’t look that old to me. You can tell really old solar panels because they have molds and lichens growing on their discoloured glass!

There is always more to these stories though, and another mate said to me about a month ago that recycling solar panels was a very difficult proposition. And given there are about 2 million rooftop solar installations in Australia, well that may be a lot of high technology items that will end up sooner or later in the tip. This article tells more about that particular story: Australia’s solar industry is booming, but so is the amount of valuable waste going to landfill.

The waste is not a good outcome, and it hardly fits the sort of ‘pie in the sky’ talk of a future entirely powered by renewable energy systems. It is worth noting that there are some exotic minerals in solar panels that it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to try and recover.

The economics of the situation is a bit odd too. Over a decade ago I paid $750 each for the first few solar panels which I installed on the house. Back then I thought that was a reasonable price. Now it appears that these items second hand don’t have much value at all.

Interestingly, the last solar panels I purchased a year or two back were $200 each, and that seemingly cheap price defied my imagination. What really interested me at the time was that the nice folks at the solar stuff shop remarked to me in passing, that manufacturers were now making solar panels with less cells (the fancy name for the little individual black crystal things on solar panels). The guys there have known me for a few years, and they know the type of solar panels that my system requires. The manufacturing change they mentioned was from 72 cells per panel to 60 cells per panel. And believe it or not, these newer 60 cell panels are incompatible with my system. It is worth noting that the vast majority of solar panels installed out there (excluding the more recent installations) will be the same 72 cells as my lot. However, the sheer scale of the product obsolescence is simply beyond my capacity to comprehend. It is bonkers, but I guess someone, somewhere must have asked for the change? Maybe?

People talk such a big game about a future based on renewable energy systems, and I would love to see such a vision materialise. However, what I actually see in it’s place is waste and lost opportunity.

Observant readers will note that in the above photo of the solar panels I am holding an umbrella. On Saturday afternoon a monsoonal rain dropped almost an inch of rain over the farm. The combination of the heat (42’C / 108’F) and high humidity build up in the days before the monsoon hit was almost unbearable. Life over those several days was akin to living in the tropics.

Fog settled in the valley below the farm on several days
The sunsets on hot humid nights were glorious
To enjoy 28’C / 82’F outside and 26’C / 78’F inside at 7am in the morning was a special treat for me

Work was pretty hard in such conditions, but as I mentioned above, we don’t muck around!

One shed has a timber frame, and of late we were concerned that this could pose something of a fire risk during a bushfire. The wall timber was protected from fire, but the roof timbers were a little bit exposed.

Aluminium flashing is used to protect vulnerable roof timbers from bushfire

The aluminium flashing seen in the above photo was used to protect the roof timbers – which can also be clearly seen in the above photo. The flashing is used as a physcial barrier for direct contact with bushfire embers and any other fires which may settle in the guttering.

The aluminium flashing is now installed and the guttering re-hung

Every year we do a bit of maintenance on the bright yellow trailer. The trailer almost works as hard as we do lugging stuff (like solar panels) around the place. This year we repaired a few rust patches and gave the trailer a solid lick of paint.

Rust patches on the less than bright yellow trailer. The trailer works hard!

Rust repair sections were cut from some scrap steel checker plate that I have on hand for such occasions.

Rust repair sections were cut and ready to be installed

The trailer received a thick coat of metal primer paint. That metal primer paint sticks to anything – including previously unpainted steel.

The trailer and the rust repair sections are even less bright yellow now that they are covered in metal primer paint

The rust repair sections were attached to the trailer, and then a thick coat of bright yellow metal epoxy paint was painted onto the metal surfaces. It’s as good as new (well almost).

The bright yellow trailer now looks spic and span!

A great job to do on a seriously hot day is to use the electric pressure washer to wash down the walls and veranda’s of the house.

Washing down the house is a great job to do on a hot day

During the washing process I disturbed a few insects and spiders, such as this stick insect:

A stick insects enjoys feeling cooler after the house wash

In a really fascinating (well for me anyway) observation about the local forest. This is the second year in a row that the hugely tall trees (Eucalyptus Obliqua) surrounding the farm, are now in flower here and not elsewhere. From time to time, you can smell the honey scent emanating from the huge trees.

The local Eucalyptus Obliqua trees surrounding the farm are in flower for the second year in a row

In fluffy news, Scritchy hates the heat:

A most unladylike pose for the elderly Scritchy

The corn stalks have only just produced their corn silks (this is the female part of the plant). The tassels (the male part of the plant) formed last week. The growing season is getting on now, and I do hope to get some produce out of these plants.

Corn silks have formed this week

Cucumbers have formed as the plants seem to enjoy the combination of heat and humidity.

Cucumbers are ready to eat this week

We have eaten some of the globe artichokes and they are a very tasty and filling vegetable.

Globe artichokes have been consumed

Onto the flowers:

This geranium is a stunner
The soap wort herb has begun flowering again
Delicate yarrow flowers
This third year garden bed is growing really well
This nasturtium creeps around the raised vegetable and plant nursery beds
Blue Hydrangeas produce lovely flowers and are incredibly hardy

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 9’C (48’F). So far this year there has been 124.8mm (4.9 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 98.6mm (3.9 inches).

61 thoughts on “Things don’t seem”

  1. Chris,

    We got to +12C both Friday and Saturday, although Saturday was very windy. The sustained winds were between 40and 60 kph. The peak gusts were nowhere near the alarming levels that had been forecast. Spectacularly sunny on Sunday and +5C, so I got some brush trimming done, a rarity in winter! And added 6 weeks worth of kitchen stuff to the compost pile, which, surprisingly, has been decaying the mix of grass and leaves that I placed there in the autumn.

    Mate, eccentric nailed it! Orbital and cyclonic taxed me to the max. I bow before your verbal expertise. 🙂

    The gut is at least the 2nd brain. Sometimes I think it’s the first and that our logic circuits are an afterthought, so to speak.

    I don’t recall who fingered Capone. He was sent to prison for failure to file an income tax return, that I know.

    Yup, I saw that there’s been some transmission of the virus. Still keeping an eye on things.

    The Princess watched both the women’s and men’s finals. I was asleep. Sleeping seemed prudent and necessary.

    I’m not surprised at the need for 50 SPF. Ditto sunburns occurring through clothing. My dad had that happen to him in the California deserts, too. The Princess tans through glass windows, which are supposed to cut out all of the UV.

    Congrats on the rain!!! That amount should help everything.

    I hear you about friends. I’ve always had difficulty making friends, too. It’s hard when they move away, so I totally feel your pain.

    Mucking about is rarely a good idea. I think it was Thor (son of Odin) who had the attitude, “When in doubt, don’t muck about. Pull a bigger hammer out.” Good advice.

    Nice grab of more panels. But your info about the changes and compatibility issues with the newer panels is disconcerting. There had to be a way to make the new ones compatible, but that wouldn’t maximize profit. Someone, somewhere, will come up with an adaptor kit.


  2. Yo, Chris – At first sight of this week’s blog post, I wondered if you were channeling some Australian version of Mary Poppins? Brolly clutched tightly in your fist, ready to take off.

    So, I wonder why everyone is running of to The Land of the Long White Cloud? Better economic opportunities? Less bureaucracy and taxation? More “elbow room?” The never mentioned in polite society, white flight? Our version here seems to be, everyone running off to Idaho. Or, Montana.

    During your recent drought and brushfires, I saw several articles along the lines of “Is Australia Still Habitable?” “Is it Time to Throw in the Towel, on Australia?” I figured you didn’t need to see that kind of stuff.

    As time goes on, losses mount up. You either find a way to deal with it, or, just stop making new friends. Why bother when they either die on you, or drift off? Not a healthy outlook, but it avoids future pain. If we only had such foresight, when it comes to recycling? 🙂

    That was quit an article about solar panels. “…recycling was something that was overlooked…” How often are we becoming aware of that, these days? Some of the sidebar articles, were also thought provoking.

    “Product obsolescence.” Waste. I suppose, someone, somewhere, is raking it in. Just business. Nothing personal. So, I’d say you might think about building another shed, and start stockpiling solar panels that are compatible with your system. 🙂 . I had an interesting reveal, the other day. The computer I’m sitting in front of, cost me several thousand dollars, oh, maybe 15 years ago. One identical was in a recent auction. It went for $35.

    That was a wizard job, you did, spiffing up the yellow trailer. Just out of curiosity, do the repairs add much to the weight? It’s kind of like, here, you can throw a new roof on an old roof. To a certain point. Then it all has to come off (due to weight) and you need a fresh start.

    That is interesting about your eucalyptus flowering. I may be wrong, but I’d say those are happy trees. And, maybe, it says a lot about the fertility of your land, and your land management skills.

    Your corn is looking really good. if you don’t get much wind, you might give them a little shake. So the pollen falls off the tassels, onto the silks. Your cucumbers are looking good. I don’t bother to try and grow them. Usually, like other people’s money, there’s a bit of other people’s cucumbers, floating about. I saw an article, maybe on one of the seed catalog websites, about cucumbers. They can really be finicky plants, to grow. Some of the Ladies, attempt cucumbers. Seems to be real hit and miss.

    The flowers, as always, are lovely. We have several, in all colors, growing around the Institution. There’s one bush that is the deepest blue. It always stops me in my tracks. There’s been some loose talk, about snapdragons. Eleanor has some in her patch. They always seem to reseed, themselves. I’m not much interested. You know, they don’t come in blue :-). Cont.

  3. Yo, Chris – The last place I worked, we’d dump the deep fryer oil in a 50 gallon drum, back in the alley. From time to time a man showed up, picked it up, and left an empty barrel. I don’t know where it went, or what he did with it … I’m sure you know that vehicles can be adapted to run on that stuff, with a little filtering. I guess the exhaust smells like french fries (crisps?).

    Gentrification. Cities change. I recently read a collection of essays by the author, Bret Easton Ellis. (“White”, 2019). Part of it was moaning about how much New York City had changed, since his youth, running about the city in the 1970s. The area I grew up in in rural Vancouver, Washington … Seattle and Portland, are unrecognizable to me, now. It’s not a pleasant feeling. I suppose it’s part resistance to change, part intimations of one’s own approaching mortality.

    LOL. Well, when I slung hash on skid row in Seattle, that was over 50 years, ago. Most of the “interesting” characters and situations I remember, are not fit fodder for a family friendly blog :-).

    Yup. After the fires come flash floods and landslides. That was quit an article about the wind, you had. Crumpled electrical towers, are never a good look. Seems like most of the weather action here, flooding and snow, has been north of Seattle. Overnight lows have been right around 32F (-0-C), but that’s just for a couple of nights, and then back to warmer temperatures, again. No snow, last night (as forecast), but we might get a light dusting, tonight. Maybe.

    I didn’t quit “get” how a dumb phone could connect you to the internet, but my dumb phone very carefully monitors use. For the base rate, I get 200 minutes a month. Which I never exceed. I think if I connected through the phone, to the internet, the cost would really pile up. Fast.

    So, unless I want to subject myself to the tender mercies of Comcast, again, which I swore I’d never do, I’m a bit dead in the water. Maybe. There will be a wired in computer, down in the community library, but that has it’s own problems. Never mind that it’s a Windows machine. I can use the computers, at the library. Or, another possibility, is a bit underhanded. Kinda. Sort of.

    When I open the wi-fi here, there’s quit a list of other stray wi-fi signals, from around the neighborhood. If not all of them are password protected …

    LOL. My life is a bit of a shambles, right now. When I was at the library, yesterday, I took a quick look at the books on the “Lucky Day” shelf. The stuff that has long hold lists, but, a few copies are released into the wild, that are free of the tyranny of the hold lists. And there was Stephen King’s latest. All 500+ pages of it. “The Institute.” Read all night, slept all day. I’m about half way through. Before plunging into that, I knocked off a couple of chapters of “The Eagle.” I figured I wouldn’t be able to get back to it, for awhile. Lew

  4. Hi Inge,

    It’s a good way to go. The weather turned here today. Cold and windy. It is hard to believe that only a few days ago that I felt as if I lived in a tropical environment. The heat and rain has cause the plants to grow in a short period of time. I often wonder what you make of my stories of unrelenting heat and humidity when you are in the depths of winter?



  5. Hi DJ,

    That’s not too bad weather conditions for winter – actually it sounds pretty mild other than the strong winds. And your experience of wind is as a comparison, as windy as it has ever gotten here at 50km/h. And wow did that wind blast hit the side of the house with a thud. Speaking of strange noises I had some animal bouncing all over the roof last night. The animal made the error of waking me up, so I went to investigate but couldn’t see anything. I suspect that the noise may have been either a marsupial bat or a sugar glider attempting to break into the roof. I fail to believe that a rat could have climbed up onto the roof. Maybe…

    Composting grass produces a lot of heat, and years ago I read about a bloke (he may have been French) who used a huge compost pile to heat his water. The water pipes ran through the composting mass and the whole thing worked like a huge heat exchanger. So yeah, I don’t doubt that your compost pile is still warm and active. I’ve seen piles of grass clippings get hot enough that they spontaneously ignite.

    Sorry, yeah perhaps we did perhaps take the circular jokes a bit far. 🙂 I was scratching for answers (I almost inadvertently wrote scratching around – which is just not funny) and was also close to running out of witty banter. Your observation proves that limits apply here too!

    I’ve been slowly reading a book on ‘The Gut’ and it is very good, but hardly light reading – thus the slow speed. There was mention in the book that the chemistry produced from the gut can affect a person’s mental state and well-being. Talk about taking eating healthy to the whole next level.

    Exactly, it was the tax man that got him. Don’t mess with that lot is my thoughts on the matter.

    Sleeping is a wise move. Hope wild animals don’t disturb your sleep? I’m always amazed by videos from your country of bears breaking into houses and cars and just generally getting up to mischief. Not sure that I would want the job of stopping the bears as they seem very capable of responding to any thoughts that I’d have on the matter. The best we can come up with was the wombat that was doing similar things. A mate who owns a cat told me that another cat used to break into the house via their cats door and then proceed to eat the cat food. Smart cat.

    SPF50 is very necessary as the sun has bite. Hey, when I was a kid companies used to sell tanning oil – it smelled like coconut oil – and people used to go out in the sun and bake themselves. I could see that with the high desert.

    Well there you go. Your mention of glass and sunburn piqued my interest and it turns out that UV-B radiation which causes sunburn is apparently mostly stopped by transparent glass (note the use of the word ‘mostly’). However something like 75% of UV-A radiation makes it through glass. Turns out that perhaps glass is not as good a shield as you might think. Also I have noticed that older windows generally have thinner glass. Down here I’ve seen 3mm glass, which is pretty thin. Tinting may be your choice here?

    The rain is very well received, and the plants are growing strongly. Yay! The rain has made up a bit for the lack of rain in December. Honestly, I wish that I’d watered the raspberries more this year, but you can’t do everything. I reckon next year I’ll plant out the raspberries where the corn now grows.

    Thanks, and yeah it is pretty rotten, but what do you do other than accept a gracious defeat and move on with your life? Dunno, if you find a better answer, please don’t hesitate to let me know?

    Hehe! Thor was onto something, and I can see how such a character may have inspired your former pooch’s name. 🙂 Ugg!

    Maybe about the solar panels. The thing is in order for me to use the physically smaller 60 cell solar panels, I’d have to step the voltage up to account for the loss of the 12 solar cells on the panels (down from 72 cells). I note that it is always easier to step voltage down. The inverter in my system steps up the voltage and converts it into a pure sine wave at the correct frequency, and that is not an easy or cheap trick to do. There are cheaper machines that do such tricks, but longevity is an issue for them. Putting in the new solar panels into the existing system involves a bit of an upgrade and steps have already begun upon that journey. Everything is difficult with these systems and the huge currents that the existing system handles are already huge without adding on an extra 40A from these new panels.

    To quote a higher power relating to the tricks I’ll have to apply to the existing system: Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!



  6. Hello Chris
    Of course I liked the stick insect. I don’t know much about solar panels but my previous home bar one had them to heat the swimming pool. Quite ridiculous really as they only worked in the summer when the sun warmed the water anyhow. I mention them because they were breaking down and I reckon that they were about 25 – 30 years old.
    No depth of winter here so far this year. It is ridiculously warm and I am beginning to wonder whether I will ever wear my warmest winter clothing again. Mind you I do like this weather.
    Moving to New Zealand seems to mean swapping fire and earthquakes.
    My friends are few now because most have died of old age or become demented. Leading a solitary life makes me less likely to make new ones.
    Off to town to shop shortly.


  7. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! Well there’s a thought: Mary Poppins down under style. 🙂 We could use the name Marty Poppins (not quite blokey, but close enough) and I need to have access to a huge and visible knife and rather than looking cheerful and chirpy like Mary, I could do a good natured scowl with a dash and air of slight menance. Do you reckon it would work? Mary on the other hand might be tougher as she managed to hang onto the umbrella as she was swept away in the cyclonic winds… 🙂 Sorry, all a bit silly.

    All possible, although I feel that the land of the long white cloud is perhaps as equally well past its resource base as are we over on this side of the Tasman Sea. For your interest, there is a very strong Maori culture in New Zealand. My New Zealand mates tell me that the language is taught in schools, and the cultural traditions are very strong. The English met a fierce, canny and warlike folk back in the day, and I tend to feel that a bit of divide and conquer strategy was applied (the English were very handy with that tool). Accommodations had to be made.

    Inge raised an interesting and highly valid point about swapping bushfire risk for earthquake risk. When I travelled to the land a couple of decades back I thought to myself that I could have happily enjoyed living in Christchurch – and mate that copped an earthquake not that long ago. Lot’s of damage.

    You’ve mentioned Idaho and I mentioned Montana before, but really I tend to feel that it is a serious commitment to head into the boondocks and not something to be undertaken lightly. But you know, I tend to feel that such places act like the sales pitch for SUV’s in that they promise an escape from the everyday, but do they deliver the goods? Hmm. Dunno. I suspect that often people have a thought in their head about such dreams which suggests: Yes, I could do something different, but at the moment I’m really busy and there’s all these other distractions.

    Oh! Speaking of which, I noticed that there was an article about the ‘Biggest Little Farm’ was in our media the other day: How Molly and John Chester quit their city life and built a farm from scratch. I must add that film to the ‘to see’ list. Visually stunning and total respect for the two of them to carve out a niche.

    As to the habitability of this land, well it’s a good question that deserves greater attention than it gets. She’s a harsh mistress this land, and if we neglect her, it is at our peril. In the first month of summer during the bonkers heatwaves, we were asking ourselves the same question. In our naivete we’d considered that perhaps the far east coast of this continent was not a bad option. Turns out we were wrong. I don’t reckon anywhere here is ‘safe’ whatever that means, but all I do know is that I treat the forest respectfully, give it my time and energy, and I continue to plant oak trees and improve the soil.

    The news down here read like a horror story, except that it was the news. What do you do, when faced with such ferocity and environmental blow back?

    🙂 All true. Acquaintances are many, friends are few. It is a difficult and complex formula to navigate. It may sound a bit corny, but I take a bit of inspiration from Merlin. Sure, he made some epic blunders, which cost him personally, but you know despite it all he kept his chin up and just got on with the job at hand.

    My grandfather confided in me (in a rare poignant moment) towards the end of his life how much he feared retirement and loss of status. Of course he’d married a much younger lady, who appeared to have sewn up the inheritance (an excellent seamstress – total respect), and facing the possibility of further loss may have been too much for him to bear. Anyway, he made a really odd observation to me one day, that his retired friends were complaining to him about the minor quibbles of their day to day existence. Even as a young teenager I was a not insensitive to the under currents of what he was trying to communicate to me.

    Your supposedly unhealthy outlook seems far closer to acceptance than he ever got.

    Oh yeah, I really enjoy and respect renewable energy technologies. It is unfortunate that they just don’t work like anyone expects them too. Over a decade ago, I had high ideals too. Nowadays, and after years of living with the stuff I know what I have to do to continue living with it. Incidentally, that is the same story with any harvests from nature. One must first respect the source, then work out how to live with it. And oh boy are we giving it a bash in truly epic style down here: Solar farms asked to reduce output as uptake challenges remote West Murray power grid stability. I must say that I am utterly impressed that the considerations of investors and the thoughts of politicians want to seek to trump the realities of nature. I am not so sanguine that their considerations figure that greatly in the equation.

    The obsolescence story is crazy isn’t it? I wish it weren’t so. A few months ago I had to soup up some of the components in my elderly decade old laptop so as to keep it working. Mate, the machine flies now, but like you I do wonder for how long it can continue to perform its tricks? Dunno.

    What a great question! Yes, the trailer does get heavier with the repairs. I use 2mm (about 1/10th inch) thick steel plate on the repairs on the understanding that if damage has happened once, it will occur again. The original steel does not look as thick as the 2mm stuff. However, even the paint weighs the trailer down, and in some parts the paint is thin, but in other parts the paint is much thicker.

    Thank you, and the trees flowering is also high praise. You can smell the honey outside the house when the wind is calm. I recently read an indigenous fella explaining to a reporter that it was crucial to maintain the higher and older canopy in the forest, and as I read that I thought to myself, mate I hear you. The European honey bees are feral happy as they are gorging themselves on the flowers.

    Today is a bit windy, so I reckon the wind will sort the corn fertilisation matter out. Thanks though as I would never have considered shaking the plants to release the pollen. So obvious from hindsight.

    Too true about the cucumbers, and I must have lost some taste buds because when I was a kid I used to loathe the taste of cucumbers, although I enjoyed pickled gherkins – not understanding that they were of the same family of plants. Nowadays I don’t mind the taste… What’s going on? 🙂

    I have heard of, but not seen snapdragons. Down here we grow a similar plant by the name of Russel Lupin, but also the hollyhocks seem really similar as do foxgloves. I reckon most of them are great pioneering plants and can improve soil. Russel Lupin’s provide blue flowers… I put that Hydrangea in for your general edification.

    Bio-diesel is a mysterious beast of an energy source, and I don’t frankly know enough about the fuel to make any comment. My mate that departed to the land of the long white cloud was a trained diesel mechanic and could probably make more sense out of the technology. But yes, I have heard the ‘chip’ exhaust smell claim before from numerous sources, so I can’t argue with the sheer weight of opinion.

    I have heard of Mr Ellis, and I accept your opinion, if only because I felt the same things driving around the area where once there were paddocks and grasslands on Saturday on the way to pick up the solar panels. However, I’m grateful for every day that I am alive. Plenty of people throughout history have done far worse, and who knows when you’re going to get chucked off the carousel? It is an eerie thought.

    Oh well, that does it then. The stories are not fit for family friendly something or other. It makes the stories all the better in the not tellings…

    The house here has its own little micro-grid, and so I truly empathise with the craziness going on in the larger electrical grid. And I have no idea how such a complicated beast can even be managed, and it impresses me that it is. I do wonder about the quality of the steel used in the construction of such huge electrical transmission towers and it ain’t the first time one of them has blown over in the wind. Everything needs to be maintained whether we acknowledge that fact or not.

    Your winter is really starting to sound like the sort of winters that I enjoy. How is the Meyer lemon handling the cold weather?

    Fair enough about the phone. My old dumb phone had a software function that allowed it to be connected to the computer (read laptop) by a cable and used as a modem for the interweb. Newer phones do this using wifi so there are no cables. All depends upon your data limits and your phone. And your Mac world is an alien place of unknown stuff to me. I do hope you sort things out, I’d miss our regular chats.

    Hehe! Don’t laugh but I used to have friends who lived in a very dodgy house that use to get interweb connectivity from their neighbours…

    Total respect, and you neglected to mention whether you enjoyed Mr King’s latest instalment? I read a bit of The Eagle this morning, and Clothar is in France sorting out a complicated trading alliance. And his old mate Cato is back in the scene and looking forward to a new challenge.



  8. Hi Inge,

    I see a very wide diversity of insects, but in the big smoke things are very quiet on that front.

    Well, I guess the attempt can be made, but heating using solar electricity is an uphill battle. At the time of year you need heating, there is not that much sun to be had. And when there is plenty of sunlight, the last thing you want to do is heat the house. Of course I use electricity to heat in the form of baking, cooking and preserving. But a pool – that’s a big ask.

    You know, a 25 to 30 years lifespan is well within possibility for solar panels. I know of no rule that suggests that they must continue for 50 years. There is an environmental park in Melbourne and they have solar panels on their roof, and some of them are frankly quite old and I see moss, lichen, and discoloured glass. What to do with the things when they inevitably fail?

    Like Lewis, your winters are beginning to sound like my winters. All very mild and quite pleasant really. Incidentally folks down here, fear the sort of winters I have to deal with – and I am totally OK with that. They’re just not that cold.

    An excellent point about the earthquakes that I had not even considered. It is supposedly geologically stable here and so the possibility is not on my radar. Yes. Double yes! Top work on the observation.

    My mates aren’t quite at that stage, but at the same time I’m realistic enough to know that that is how things roll. Dunno about you, but I just try to face life with good grace in the acknowledgement that one day it will be taken away from me. There doesn’t seem to be any prizes for being a miserable sack…

    Hope the trip into town was nice? I had a lovely Devonshire tea the other day. Good scones are a blessing.



  9. Hi Chris,

    Your talk of inverters and sine waves made me recall the elegant (but heavy) trick airplanes used to use to turn DC into clean 400VAC. It was simply an electric motor driving a generator. Nothing makes a sine wave better than rotating magnets! But yeah, terribly heavy. Nowadays, there is solid state trickery afoot, but hey a giant spinney metal thing also works!


  10. Hi Chris,

    Re: barbarians in Japan. Mrs Damo and I just accept we are uncultured, clumsy oafs and act accordingly. A few arigato’s, sumimaisens keeps things running smoothly. Of course everyone is terribly polite, even when we make some terrible faux paus (in the onsen today, Mrs Damo let her head towel fall into the water, shock!).

    I am still full from what felt like an infinite serving of crabs. We are staying in kinosakionsen, a 1000 year old onsen/resort town. This time of year is crab season, so our in room dinner consisted of crab prepared a dozen different ways. We then stumbled down the willow tree lined canal in Bath robes and wooden clogs because that is what you do apparently. Great fun, but I do wonder how many tourists have ended up in the canal, those clogs are treacherous!

    Re: coronavirus, the face masks are everywhere. Apparently it won’t stop you getting sick, but it would help stop the wearer spreading a cough, so that is something I guess. Death rates are not scary yet, as you mentioned, it is unlikely to kill anywhere near the number that influenza does in a season, but it has a scary name and bad news sells.

    I note Japan only recycles glass and pet bottles. Everything else is incinerated. Space is at a premium here, and you can probably generate power or waste heat from the process?

    Nice score on the new panels, free as in beer is a great price! Have you seen the lighthouse yet? Remember I neither condemned nor condoned watching that movie 🙂

    Weather here is pretty good, ~10 degree days. Blue sky mostly and some early cherry blossoms were out in Hiroshima, but not Tokyo yet. I am hoping they might be starting in Kyoto later this week, but really we are a bit early for them.


  11. Hi Lew,

    Horrible histories sounds great! Did you watch the stuff that Edgar Wright (whom I believe co-wrote some stuff with pegg and frost) has made? He did a scifi comedy horror set in a low income housing block in the the UK that was pretty good, ‘attack the block’ I think?


  12. Hi Chris,
    Cell count in the PV panels is not a big deal, as far as I understand. (I have 60 count panels.)
    Each cell gives approx 2 volt, and what is interesting is the total number of cells / total voltage. If you have 5×60 or 4×72 cells does not really matter.
    However, the current is dependent on the efficiency of the cells, which varies between brands/makers/models.
    Since all panels on a given “loop” have the same current, the current is limited by the lowest current panel, so I recommend to use one kind of panels for each loop you have on the roof.

    And a question: What do you think about the “Daylight Drive DC”-system that Alexis Zeigler is using on ?
    I am still in suburbia, but for my next place, I plan to make a 200V DC “daylight drive” system.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  13. Hi Chris,
    Congrats for the solar panel score especially with the change in the number of cells (not that I understand a whole lot of what you’re talking about with your system).

    That’s the thing about summer rains – all the humidity. I’ve probably mentioned before that it seems our summers are becoming more and more humid. I just love how any crisp food becomes soggy in that weather.

    Good looking corn and cucumbers. I’ve always had good luck with cucumbers but they can get infested with cucumber beetles which than move on to squash and even beans.

    Doug has been on his annual trip to see his friend in Kansas City (whose team just won the super bowl – not that I care) and will be returning in a few hours. So his absence meant it was time for a ladies overnight which I hosted on Saturday. Youngest daughter had to bring her karaoke machine. My two nieces decided that it was a good idea to do shots of Fireball even knowing full well what the result would be. So on top of getting to bed 3 hours after my usual bedtime of 9 I was visited twice in the night by one of the nieces trying to get in bed with me. She remembered nothing in the morning. Anyway I have caught up mostly on sleep and it was a good time with three generations of family members.
    Speaking of the super bowl all the talk around these parts was of Bill Murray returning to the next town over to do a Jeep commercial for the super bowl in the same location where the film, “Groundhog Day” was filmed complete with some of the same actors. They didn’t even finish until January 26th. Anyway it was up on You Tube yesterday afternoon before the game so all us ladies got to watch it without having to watch the game. Oldest daughter told how she and two other friends and band members went to the town (Woodstock) to audition as extras for the band. They didn’t make the cut sadly and were admonished when they returned late, missing the warm up period, for their chorus concert.

    In other news, I am quite annoyed (well that’s not really a strong enough word) to find out that my brother, Marty, can no longer use a money order to pay his rent but rather is supposed to pay online which he cannot do. He lives in subsidized housing and I imagine others like him do not have credit cards or even a checking account so he is not the only one who will have an issue. He only has a savings account that I assist him with. Anyway calls will be made. At least there’s a few weeks before his next rent payment is due.

    We’ve had two warm days in a row so some of this hard frozen snow has finally melted. Tomorrow will get cold again but still the temps remain a bit above average with no polar vortex or significant snow events in the forecast.


  14. @ Damo – Yup. I saw “Attack the Block.” Quit awhile, ago. But Wright wasn’t involved in that. But, until you mentioned him, I wasn’t aware of Wright.

    But, I see he was involved, in quit a few movies I have seen, and enjoyed. And, he seems to have had a long connection to Pegg and Frost.

    I’m envious of your sojourn, in Japan. Lew

  15. Yo, Chris – Yup. The earthquakes in Christchurch, were really something. And, the aftershocks went on, and on. Sometimes, they do. It reminded me of our New Madrid earthquake, back in the early 1800s. They were still having serious quakes, more than a year after the initial quakes.

    As with a lot of other things, I think living in the boonies really depends on expectations. It seems like my friends in Idaho, are always on the road. Of course, they were like that, here. Trip to town at the drop of a hat. And, I think a lot of people, here, are like that. Hmmm. Just for poops and giggles, I think I’ll ask them how many miles they drive, per year. Sometimes, it seems, people who move out to rural areas expect things like … well, say health care, to be as convenient as in the cities. For one reason and another, there’s been a lot of rural hospitals closing. Lots of play, in the media. Or, some at least. Gasp! People have to drive a whole hour to have a baby or get a cancer treatment. I think if you’re moving into the boonies, you’d better be comfortable with your own mortality.

    What?! “Biggest Little Farm” wasn’t on your “to see” list? And, I gave it such a glowing review! 🙂 . I wondered a bit about the financial arrangements. What happens when these “investors” maybe want to see a return? Or, cash out? And, where do all the “helpers”, in evidence come from? How are they paid? But, otherwise, it’s a pretty amazing film and the photography is spectacular.

    Maybe, you should sign up for as many farewell parties, as possible. The food, the booze … the networking to score free solar panels. 🙂 . But, yeah, I have lots of acquaintances, but friends? Hmmm. Not like in the past.

    The article on the solar farms was interesting. Is it really so much technical issues or, “prices lower than wholesale energy market?” That must disturb a few people in high places. A few percentage points, off the bottom line, can awake the sleeping beast. I’m sure a lot of the gray old men, just wrote the whole alternative energy movement off as pointless “hippie” stuff.

    As far as the taste of cucumbers goes, tastes do mature (and, sometimes dull). I think it’s kind of complicated, between exposure and preparation. And sense of adventure.

    Ellis, as an author, never really interested me, much. He was a big deal, when I was in the book biz. So, I read a couple of his things. He did touch on how amoral Wall Street was (is?). Masters of the Universe, and all that. There was a literary “brat pack”, at that time. But, I find his latest book, pretty interesting. As a social commentary. Where we’re at, now, and how we got here. From one person’s point of view.

    Oh, I haven’t gotten the Meyer lemon, yet. I don’t think I’d plant it, until spring is well and truly here. And, I need to do more research. If it flowers in winter, and, I have the same problems as I have with the Alaskan peas, it seems kind of pointless.

    Am I enjoying Mr, King’s book? Nope. Hate every moment of it. Which is why I keep plowing through, it, way too late, night after night :-). I’m about the same place, as you, I think, in “The Eagle.” Lance is trying to sort things out in Gaul, and things are getting very complicated.

    Well, things got exciting, last night. I took HRH out. Hmm. Should set the scene. I take her outback, and, there’s pretty much the blank wall of the building, with a very shallow doorway to the garden storage room. Always locked. There’s a steep, grassed bank, up to a road, and then the park. Any-who, she had just completed her business (thankfully. She’s easily distracted), when a German Shepherd, who was being walked up on the road, came charging down the slope. I grabbed Princess, hugged her to my chest and squeezed as tight as I could into the door frame. Back to the charging dog. Well, luckily, he finally obeyed his master, and returned to the road. I was surprised that a.) I moved so fast and b.) I wasn’t … upset, at all. No pounding heart, no gasping for breath. On reflection, I suppose I shouldn’t have turned my back, on the dog. But, I was wearing my very heavy winter coat. I’m sure it would have protected me, until his master would have pulled him off.

    We had a slight, snow flurry, last night around 11. Nothing to write home, about. We’re supposed to have a replay, tonight. And then rain, rain, and more rain. Flood watch, through Sunday, for all of western Washington. Lew

  16. Hi Damo,

    I fell for your predictive text bungle, and was scratching my head about your word ‘aircraft’. Don’t test me, if only because I may fail your test! Hey, did you mean ‘alternator’? Hadn’t heard of people doing that and will have to consider it.

    Well yes, Ugg Damo and Mrs Damo! 🙂 The comparison in the book left me feeling very uncomfortable for how our culture is viewed, but ugg! Hehe! Lewis recommended an excellent book on Edo period Japan and it is a great book. My mind only wandered from the text when the author began enthusing about transplanting the culture into a Western setting. Ugg?

    Mate, your trip sounds awesome. I would love to see such a place. And who hasn’t heard of the old seafood joke – yeah I have ‘seen food’ too… 🙂 And Japanese cuisine is usually superb. Yum.

    Dunno much about the transmission of the virus, however unlike measles which can hang in the air for two hours, I believe this coronavirus requires contact with fluids. But I’m no expert. I’m amazed that several cities were put into lock down. Think of the logistics of such an operation?

    Some of the incinerators are tourist attractions in their own right: Osaka rubbish incinerator Maishima looks like Disneyland but is part of Japan’s waste strategy. Your mission should you choose to accept it…

    Nope, I haven’t yet seen the Lighthouse yet, but read a glowing review, and both the editor and I are intrigued. The biggest little farm may sneak in ahead of the Lighthouse. You are one part Elf because you said both yes and no to your recommendation. 😉

    Hope you get to see some more cherry blossoms before you leave. Japanese maples are one of my favourite plants – and they self-seed here.



  17. Hi Goran,

    Welcome to the discussion.

    A quick background for you on electricity:
    -Voltage is like pressure (and it moves electrons from high voltage to low voltage)
    -Amps/current is like the volume of flow.
    -Watts is basically Volts x Amps (i.e. Pressure x Flow Volume).

    So when you say it is no big deal, what you actually mean is that it is no big deal for you. Please excuse the correction, but it is a big deal for me.

    72 cell panels produce a Voltage under load of about 36V

    60 cell panels produce a Voltage under load of about 30V

    I understand that you are grid tied, and such systems can tie together in series 30 panels to produce something crazy like 1,000 Volts.

    Off grid is different, because you are trying to push the electrons into a battery – not a high voltage grid. Now a 24V battery can vary from between about 21V to 29V, with 24V being somewhere in the middle of that range.

    Given voltage moves electrons from high voltage to low voltage, well 36V will push more electrons into a 24V battery than will a 30V panel. Mate, it is chalk and cheese from my perspective.

    Your inverter is different because it is pushing electrons into the grid. There is more to this stuff than meets the eye. 😉

    I candidly don’t know what to think about their systems. If they can work with the technology that is great. Any cloud cover may interrupt their supply. A lot of devices require very specific tolerances to work and mate I just try and walk the middle ground, and that requires batteries and an inverter. Incidentally, down here I am banned by legislation from working at DC voltages in excess of 110V so I wouldn’t be able to set up a system like that, and very few people would know about such technologies. But if they can live with such technology then total respect.



  18. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks, I was amazed at the score of the freebie stuff, whilst also acknowledging what it meant. But hey, if it is free, it’s for me, and I’ll have three!!! Hehe!

    Your more humid climate really does make growing plants difficult, and I read an article the other day that talks about the opposite end of that continuum. The sometime commenter Hazel, lives not far from that part of the world and I’m waiting for her to pop up and give us an update. There were epic sized fires in her part of the world only very recently. But anyway, here is an insight into how things are working at the polar end of your story (and I had my very first and only ripe tomato this evening): Urban farms feel the burn as climate change, water restrictions force gardeners to shut up shop. I’m absolutely gutted for them. However, your area is doing it tough too, and I have noted that in dry years when you have access to lots of water, growing plants is much easier – unless the temperatures get crazy hot like what is reported on in the article.

    Plans have been made to convert the current corn enclosure into a raspberry enclosure for the next growing season. This year was a great one for strawberries, but absolutely rotten for raspberries. Something has to be done otherwise I will definitely run out of raspberry jam and err, soon.

    Oh. Never seen or heard of such cucumber bugs down here. They might not be present in the environment here? Have you ever pickled cucumbers? I have had mixed results from that activity.

    Incidentally, the beans have been terrible this year other than broad beans which are a solid winter/spring producer. Dunno. It may have been too hot in December and I left the planting too late for the other peas and beans? When do you normally get peas and beans in the ground?

    Thanks for letting me in on secret women’s business. You ladies sound as if you had a lot of fun. 🙂 Oh yeah, they knew the result all right before commencing – messy with a touch of ‘off note’ singing combined with raucous laughter. 🙂 What a fun time, but like you I enjoy my regular sleep times and also not being interrupted. The other evening an unknown animal was bouncing around the roof space and despite climbing up into and onto the roof in the middle of the night, I have no idea whether it was inside or outside the roof space. All I know is that it is no good idea to wake me up from deep sleep…

    Groundhog Day is a total fave, and I note that Bill Murray did a cameo in the credits of more recent Zombieland 2 film. Your few days sounded like girlie mayhem (respect) and if I encountered such activity I would need many days to recuperate!!! Well done you.

    Things are heading in that direction. However, in the past three decades I have only ever encountered a money order on one occasion. Dunno about your part of the world, but can Marty cash the money order at a Post Office? And then somehow give the cash to you? There are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ in that scenario.

    I buy the Big Issue magazine off a homeless dude that I’ve known for years. I have no idea how he conducts his finances, but recently because people don’t carry cash (a very foolish policy, but there you go) he’s had to take payment for the magazine in card. Bonkers. Not everyone fits into the current economic arrangements, and I sympathise with Marty’s plight. How’s he going in his new first floor pad?

    Yeah, DJ was saying that he’s getting rain over in his part of the world too. The monsoon rains have arrived late, but picked up here, and in a really bizarre twist, it is greening up here – which is so odd for this time of the year. It is strange how the environment can take action to protect and repair itself, although we might not like how it goes about doing that.



  19. Hi Lewis,

    Oh yeah, the earthquakes there were an unexpected event. Before them, I believed that that part of the islands were safe from seismic activity. Mate the city was rocked hard. I saw the city before it was smooshed, and it really was a beautiful old city, and had a very English flavour to it. There was even a small river running through the city and from memory it was called the Avon river. Like I said, all very English. I dunno how it would look now, and maybe I’ll just enjoy my memories. Some NZ mates said stories about outsiders from the area profiting from the rebuild, and I guess such things happen. The same thing could happen here, and I note that when our recent Prime Minister visited a bushfire affected town, he turned up in a very shiny and large BMW SUV in a suit with a couple of minders in tow. I can’t say that it was a good look, and I certainly wouldn’t have done such an entrance. The locals looked very unimpressed given the circumstances and it displayed a complete lack of empathy.

    I recall reading a story years ago about a Federally funded fox taskforce operating in the island state of Tasmania. The island is apparently fox free which is a great thing for the wildlife there. However, there were reports of foxes and I guess something had to be done. What interested me about the story was that the locals reacted very negatively to a whole bunch of outsiders displaying considerable wealth and intruding into their business, and apparently not engaging with the local hunters and community who would have known the land far better than the outsiders ever could. I’d never quite considered that reaction before, but I can understand it and it also displayed to me that there were limits to what can be done by bureaucrats.

    Earthquakes are a reality in your part of the world. Mate, even I have felt tremors whilst in a nearby town eating dinner. I could feel the ground beneath me shifting and the walls were ever so slightly moving, so a really big one would be frightening to behold – and possibly hard to survive.

    Hehe! Yeah, exactly about being on the road all of the time. I enjoy time here where I’m not required to be elsewhere. However, I can’t speak for your Idaho friends, but the economy and system requires its pound of flesh, and so I have to go and give it my time and feed the beast. It would be very nice not to have to go anywhere.

    We have definitely spoken about this before, but when I was a kid, people used to drop dead. It was uncanny and a great surprise to everyone. The changes in the decades since then has been remarkable, but the results are generally the same. But yeah, you can’t head into a rural area and expect services at the drop of a hat. One of the appealing things about where I live is that there are no services. I like that and the challenge it presents to my brain. I’d probably be bored otherwise, but do the costs have to be the same for me given that this lack of services is the case? I think that it should be otherwise as I must be subsidising someone…

    It was on my ‘too see’ list, however the cinema release date was only just recent down here. You guys get films far earlier than we do. It looks delightful too, and I might have to just turn a blind eye to the investors and free labour. I’m not sure that I would sleep so soundly at night with those two situations.

    Hehe! Mate, at this loss rate I’m rapidly running out of friends… Ook! But yeah, acquaintances aplenty, but friends, ah, but a few. It wasn’t always that way for me either. Like everything else I’ll man up and just get on with this thing called life. Far out, what else can ya do? Beats me…

    I’m with you too in relation to the economics of the renewable technologies. The thing is, the really large fossil fuel generators are owned on the premise that they supply continually 24/7/365 – and are paid for doing so. As a wild guess, if the wholesale price for electricity falls below a certain point, it ends up being kind of like the relationship that shale oil has with the price of oil. Below a certain price point, they can’t make money. The thing is though, solar panels produce no power at all at night, and then you need the other large fossil fuel generators to work, otherwise the whole system doesn’t work. But then those guys aren’t making any money because of the renewable energy generators occasionally producing power. And around and around it goes. We need both, we just might not be able to afford, or more correctly want to afford to do both.

    It is definitely not old man hippy technology, it just doesn’t scale, although people really, really, want it too.

    We do social commentary! Hehe! Your mention of the book is intriguing, and it may find its way into the ‘too read’ pile. The spear chucker is doing quite well, although he is discovering layer upon layer of intrigue and complexities in his old stomping ground. He may even get the trading arrangement off the ground. Maybe? And old scores and grievances are being aired with King Pelles (sounds like the name of a famous soccer player to my ears).

    There are no pollinating insects about at all when the Meyer Lemon is in flower. And despite that it produces plenty of lemons. Claire mentioned the mechanism behind how that works, and so I reckon it is a worthwhile project – although I’d keep the plant out of the cold winds in your part of the world.

    My decade old Eureka Lemon is rapidly succumbing to collar rot disease. It’s a bit sad that. A replacement (and disease resistant) tree has been replaced, but it will be many years before it produces fruit.

    Hehe! Is engrossing the correct terminology for your enjoyment of Mr King’s new book? Hehe. Funny stuff, and who knew you did sarcasm? 🙂

    Ouch, an Ollie dog would fend off any and all German Shepherd’s. They’d know true fear. Actually, I don’t really like that breed of dog as they have this sort of slinking look to them that makes me feel that they are up to mischief. The Fluffy Collective is generally up to mischief, they just don’t look like they are. That was a close call for you and HRH, and glad to read that you kept a cool tool. The thing is, in order to pick HRH up off the ground, you have to lower your head and body, and that is possibly when you were vulnerable to an aggressive dog. They do go for faces if they are of an aggressive mindset, so you got pretty lucky that you could act as swiftly as you did. Some dogs should not be off leads, and part of socialising a dog is to train it not to run at people and other dogs.

    Your coat would have been good protection, although I’m not sure I’d want to be bitten by a dog in your country as hospital visits could be expensive.

    Next time grab a stick and beat the dog, and if the owner complains, well, you’re holding a big stick with good reach and so have a tactical advantage. Walking sticks can double for all sorts of unexpected activities. I recall that Gandalf was once told off in Rohan for carrying his staff. That’s an offensive weapon that is (Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference)!

    Did you get any more snow flurries? The monsoon rains are pushing south again and every day from Thursday through to Monday looks set to bring at least some rain. Bonkers given how hot and dry it was only a few weeks ago.



  20. Hi Chris,

    No autocorrect bungle (I think). Most aircraft run their primary bus at 400Hz, AC. Can’t remember voltage, I think 120v. AC has all sorts of weight saving tricks available and is very easy to step down or up. But, back in the day, making AC from DC was tricky, so they just basically stuck two electric motors together and called it a day. Can’t remember if they were alternators or generators, the technical differences escape me right now 🙂

    Ohhh, theme Park incinerator. I like it. Unfortunately tours are Japanese only and require an interpreter, and 1 week notice. I might still get a look from the outside though…

    I notice that this podcast will kill you has a coronavirus special out, could be a good listen tomorrow on the train to Kyoto.

    All will be clear when you see the lighthouse, or like me, you might be slightly unsure what to feel. However, I am pretty sure I enjoyed it. Will watch again.

    Today, in one of the onsens we visited, there were 3-4 young men with tattoos. Kinosakionsen is somewhat unique in that people with tattoos can visit an onsen (tattoos are viewed with a mix of fear and revulsion, or at least suspicion, perhaps due to Yakuza history?). Were thesw young men Yakuza? The story is cooler if we say yes. Of course, I couldn’t show weakness in front of such types, but the mineral water was so very hot as I sat in it up to my shoulders. Possibly, I may have stayed in the very hot bath longer than advisable! Afterwards, I was a little woozy walking the streets in wooden clogs, but didn’t trip over anything or fall into the canal so I call it a win!


  21. Hello again
    I have never encountered any cucumber bugs either. Have just discovered a whole lot of self seeded potatoes in the ground. They are already madly sprouting; this warm winter is becoming interesting. I have re-planted the largest ones and have to hope that we don’t get any bad lasting frosts. Son’s pigs can have the tiny ones.
    Land registry has taken almost a year to land register the piece of land that I sold. The buyer turned up today and told me that they had done it incorrectly (I hadn’t noticed!). Anyhow he got on to them and it has been corrected with apologies. They had already apologised for the time lag, Bureauocracy (can’t spell it) is becoming more and more inefficient.


  22. obsolescence- The system is slow to react, but I think that recycling solar panels will improve. Probably not the case for wind turbine blades however. Do you follow this website? Here is a recent post on the difficulties and huge looming problem with recycling composite wind turbine blades.

    I don’t know for a fact, but my guess is that cheaper solar panels would not exist now except China placed a huge bet on deciding to corner the market. One also wonders how cheap these current panels really are if one could ferret out the subsidization that took place there.

    Howsomever, I have taken advantage of the market price, knowing full well that they may be a temporary phenomenon, depending on which way the chips fall.

    Overall, when profit motive and sincere intention to do right intersect, profit motive usually skews everything.

  23. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for sharing your experience with your solar PV-battery-inverter-use-system.
    Indeed, it is not possible to drop in a 72 cell as a one-to-one replacement for a 60-cell, and I guess the charging for 24V will be like chalk.

    DC is more difficult/dangerous to switch on and off, while AC is very simple. Therefore, I think that the most critical aspect is to install safe switches that don’t arc.

    Most appliances nowadays have stupid electronics that just make them more brittle and much more sensitive to input voltage. Instead of a thermo-bistable switch like the old kettles used to have, there are now more and more kettles with pt-100 style thermal sensors and electronics to switch on and off.

    I lived in Russia in the 1990s and was amazed at the ruggedness of most of the equipment. Everything was serviceable. Nowadays most of the gear I can find in shops here in West Europe is very brittle.

    Maybe I am just turning into an old fart.

  24. Yo, Chris – Australia, being an elderly continent, I thought like so many things elderly, that it would be past all that. Earthquakes, I mean. So, I did a quick Google search, “Does Australia have earthquakes?” Well, that was an eye opener.

    What your friends were talking about, in New Zealand, is disaster capitalism. I ran down the reference. A few years back, a book came out, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” by Naomi Klein. Wikipedia has a good outline of the book, under the title. Basically, there’s money to be made out of disasters, natural or man made.

    The Prime Muppet visit. The ruling class is a bit tone deaf, when it comes to visuals. 🙂 . Now here’s a rabbit hole, to go down. A few years ago, a film came out, called “American Ruling Class.” It was put together by Lewis Lapham, who was the editor at Harper’s Magazine, for years. I looked forward to his monthly essays. The library had a couple of copies, when it first came out. They must have wore out, because they’re no longer in evidence. Well. Last night, I checked, and the whole thing is on YouTube. You might check out the first five, or ten minutes, to see what it’s all about.

    I asked my friends in Idaho, about yearly mileage. 10,000 – 12,000 miles a year. That’s around 16 – 19 thousand km. I think they may be fudging, a bit. That might just be for one vehicle, and, they have two (or three?).

    Your mention of costs and services reminded me of our property tax situation, here. Which funds services. In theory, they are linked to the value of the property. At least, that’s what everyone thinks. But, after the crash of 2008, someone at the assessor’s office let slip that it was more, “we need this much to run the county.”

    I envy that you’ll see “Biggest Little Farm”, on the big screen. Better step lively, and stay alert. I doubt it will last long.

    Before investing in the Bret Easton Ellis book, you might check out his extensive web site. There’s an interview, there, with him (in print) with “Viper” (magazine? website?). I think it’s under “news.” It gives a more detailed look, at what the book is about.

    I’m still plowing through King’s book. Yup. Engrossing. There’s a whole plot point, which is kind of interesting. It’s how freight trains, work. Freight into a box car, freight on, freight off. Boxcars shuffled around to be attached to this engine or that, heading in one direction, or another.

    Sure, I do sarcasm. And, irony. Remember, I’m a (recent) devotee, worshiping at the alter of Momus 🙂 . I suppose his preferred offering is … lemons?

    Well, I want a refund. Snow is supposed to be coming down, right now. “Snow, 10am-1pm.” That’s what was promised. Not a sign of “raining feathers”, as one of the Ladies, put it. But, something is stirring, out there. I notice the wind is coming up. Starting sometime this afternoon, or evening, the rain will start, and run through the weekend. See, Cliff Mass. We may have flooding. Maybe. Time will tell. Lew

  25. Chris,

    Things that go bump in the night? During Princess’s January trip to visit her brother, I was home alone. One evening I heard some noises from the north end of the house. Thought they were just extra weird house cooling noises, as the weather was a bit more abnormal than usual. Went outside the next day and noticed human footprints in the snow coming from the street to that end of my house. So I said several choice and unprintable comments. I had to go into the back yard for something and saw tracks from a cat that had run from the south end of my yard to the north end, eventually climbed the fence into the front and went to the neighbor’s front porch. I decided that the neighbor was out trying to find his cat, cat heard him, neighbor heard cat and slid in the snow and banged into my house a couple times. Oh, and that neighbor and his wife, both under 30, have terrible boundary issues regarding other people’s yards.

    I’ve seen an “ideal” mix of grass and leaves composting. Very hot, that was. Harnessing that for heating water is a grand idea. My pile doesn’t get that hot, so I don’t need to worry about it catching fire. I’ve found that adding the kitchen stuff just below the layer of leaves does a good job of getting the leaves to get processed. With out that proximity and light mixing, the leaves can take over a year.

    Limits are good.

    My gluten problem brought home to me what your gut book says. My brain chemistry was totally bonkers due to the reactions to gluten, which had screwed up the gut chemistry and biology and…There’s a lot to be said for getting and maintaining a healthy gut.

    I’ve been closer to black bears than I’m comfortable with. Generally, if you don’t startle them, or if you don’t get between mother and cubs or invade their berry patch, they want to leave us alone as much as we want to avoid them. One trip as a counsellor at a youth camp, a small black bear wandered into the women’s tent area mid morning. A counsellor was there and did she scream! Then she started blowing her teacher’s whistle. That bear lit out running like the nine Nazgul were hot on his tail. I guess it thought the teacher was going to send him to the principal’s office or something. Grizzly bears are a different matter. They’ll hunt you down for food.

    I remember that coconut tanning oil. Lots of people used to use it. They seemed to want their skin tone to match that of a coconut shell or something. I always thought they were dumb, but that’s probably because that stuff made me sneeze.

    Princess and I both tend to wear a long sleeve “sun shirt” even in the car. Those things are expensive, but they do keep the UV off the skin. Wearing one of those in the summer in peak sun outdoors not only protects the skin, but I stay cooler than if my arms were soaking in the sun. They are lightweight and breathe but protect.

    Raspberries need water. I don’t water mine enough, but the now deceased neighbor used to give mine enough water with overspray of his raspberries so that mine did ok. I’ll have to remedy that this year.

    No, graciously accepting defeat and moving on is the best I’ve come up with also. My closest friend lives at the north end of the Puget Sound metropolitan area. We chat via the phone every Sunday. It’s not as good as being in the same town, but it helps us keep in regular communication. But I’ve had other friends move away and that was the end of that.

    Ok, I see your solar issue better, especially after your comments to your other guest. Nasty problem. Getting the correct frequency and in phase is not simple. While the lower voltage panels *theoretically* can fully charge a 24V battery, there’s always inefficiencies. That darned entropy always pops up somewhere. (In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re not.) And stepping up the voltage also comes at an efficiency cost. Keeping the new panels on a separate circuit probably fails for several reasons, increased overall complexity and thus even functionality being foremost.

    You mentioned to someone else my rains. Well, that ended. A couple of clear nights and I awoke this morning to find -11C. Then the winds hit, the clouds rolled in and the snow began. Just enough that I call it a “slick” of snow. I scored a ride home from a work friend, but the normal 15 minute ride took over 20. Then she had to take her daughter back downtown for something (no, daughter truly could not have taken a bus) so I walked about 0.75 km to get home. The snow wasn’t too slick for walking. Their drive home took over 45 minutes. We’re supposed to get maybe 10cm overnight. Most of it will be melted by Friday afternoon.

    We felt a large earthquake in Spokane from near Boise, Idaho in about 1983. The earth shook a bit. In June 1992 my wife and I were visiting my rellies in southern California. There were two 6.5 earthquakes about 2 hours apart. Naturally, these started about 5:00 a.m. The first one literally threw The Princess out of bed onto the floor. She jumped up in fighting stance, thinking I’d tossed her out as a joke. Then more shaking knocked her down again and she realized what it was when people started yelling outside.


  26. Hi Lewis,

    Did some Southern American food for dinner this evening. A chicken pattie with coleslaw in a brioche, plus two soft taco’s with coleslaw and black beans. Yum, liberal sprinklings of hot chili sauce were dabbed on both, and there was a plate with fries. So good, and the lovely waitress was even from your country just to add to the general authenticity of the place. The accent was a dead giveaway, but she also outed herself (unasked for).

    There have been some big earthquakes from time to time and the Newcastle one was in living memory. Yeah, you’d reckon we’d be safe from such shocks, but no. I do hope that the mountain gods in this old volcanic range continue to enjoy their slumber. I reckon if they awoke they’d shake us off the mountain like a dog might scratch off a flea. And it would probably take about as long (i.e. very quick)… The part of the state far to the south east of here seems to be rather earthquake prone – nothing big, but plenty of action.

    What a great explanation – yeah, disaster capitalism. I heard anecdotal accounts of people swooping in to pester grief ridden folks to sell their land after the 2009 bushfires. Some folks see money and opportunity in everything.

    Prime Muppet!!! 🙂 Funny, and yeah he kind of looked really bad. I was surprised too because he used to work in the advertising business, but then I note that that was a former occupation as distinct from a current occupation. Speaking of politics today the Federal government has announced a commissioner with wide ranging powers to investigate and make recommendations into the mental health of returning and retiring veterans. Suicides have been notably high as have the incidence of PTSD, and that isn’t really on. I suspect that the government didn’t want this role, but provided it as a demand from an independent senator so that they could get some other legislation passed.

    As a comparison I do about 15,000 miles per year. It might not be a same for same comparison because a little 73 cubic inch motor in the Suzuki Swift hardly uses much fuel at all. Under ten gallons gets me about 435 miles. Not bad at all. On the other hand I wish it were not so.

    Property taxes are a similar story here. The state government capped council rates to an increase of 5% per year – and the local council seems to have reached that amount every year. It is quite horrendous and I suspect that the next credit crunch will come about because people have flat incomes and face rising costs. It will work about the same as how the margin calls in the Great Depression worked. There might be cash around, but nobody has any…

    I intend to get onto the big screen viewing. 🙂

    Did the snow continue to do a no-show?

    Gotta bounce, speak tomorrow.


  27. Yo, Chris – I’m thinking, “that doesn’t sound very much like Southern American cooking (SE United States) and then I figure out you probably meant, South American cooking. As in, somewhere where they speak Spanish, instead of Ya’all. :-).

    I had a few more thoughts on tastes, and flavors. The chamomile I grew and dried for tea, has a different flavor than the commercial stuff. Hmmm. Let’s see if I can describe it. A deeper note? Wilder? Quite nice, really. Same variety of chamomile, too. German. Our local veg store has started carrying a local made yogurt. I tried it, last week, and will continue to buy it. More expensive, but, support the local team, and all that. Live cultures, etc.. But, I find it’s not as … sharp or flavorful as the commercial stuff.

    I had a craving, the other night. For pancakes. Home made, not from a mix. So, I fried those up, and, still had that bottle of fridge jam, from the cranberry crisp. So, it was that, between layers of pancake, with plenty of butter. And, I toped it with a few globs of the yogurt. Yummers!

    I’m surprised you drive so far, each year. Must be all those trips to the pub and coffee and pastry runs to the cafe :-).

    Not a flake of snow, yesterday. And, now the rain is here. Warmer temps, too. We had a couple of nights of 32F (-0-C).

    I finished the Stephen King, last night. Now we can return to our regularly scheduled programing. :-). Not a darn thing moved on my library hold list, this week, or last. What ARE those people doing? Oh, well. Plenty to read in the “to read” pile. And, there’s always “The Eagle.”

    I saw a film you’ll probably like, Electric Boy :-). “Current War.” It’s just coming out on DVD, here, so, must of hit the screen last year. So, given the lag time, it might be playing your theatres, soon. It’s about the battle between Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla, for electrical supremacy. Cumberbach plays Edison.

    I saw an article, yesterday, that Britain is going to ban the sale of all petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035. Interesting. Lew

  28. Hi Lewis,

    The technical word for the restaurant might be: Fusion. A dubious concept that pulls a bit of food from here and a bit of food from there, but the quality was beyond good, and they didn’t shy away from exercising a free hand with the chili sauce. Hot dawg! 🙂

    Fluffy rule number 8 is: Every now and then reward yourself by taking a day off work. 😉 It is a good rule that should get more respect generally within the community than it actually does these days. It wasn’t always thus. Sad days indeed… Your most excellent suggestion of watching “The Biggest Little Farm” on the big screen had been banging around inside my brain for a few days. So today, I thought to myself: Why the heck not? And went into the big smoke and enjoyed a daytime cinema experience.

    What a completely lovely film. And the cinematography was beautiful and moving. The shot of the eagle swooping in on the starling was nothing short of amazing (although it included a bit of editing – and fair enough). And everyone needs an: Allan. He sounded to be OK to me, and I really enjoyed how they got their soil started so quickly. Yes, there are unanswered questions which you rightly raised, but far out they did wonders in a decade. And the comparison to the nearby farms was stark indeed. I’m almost certain on one of the nighttime footage scenes I watched a mountain lion slink past the gate. A truly beautiful film.

    Allan provided a lovely Southern quote (as he claimed in the film): “There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.” I was thinking to myself, mate I hear you about that!

    German chamomile is a very tasty tea. Did you dry any of the flowers into your dried tea? The flowers I reckon would add a touch of nectar and pollen to the brew, and that would really make a difference. Dunno about you, but I find the tea to be quite a soothing drink.

    Great stuff, and I would purchase such yoghurt too. A few years back we were having a lot of trouble with yoghurt, before chucking out everything we thought we knew about the stuff – and just starting all over again. I tried a couple of different starter cultures and like what you noticed, they’re all different. My absolute favourite was the Finnish culture called: Viili. The yoghurt is really smooth and has an almost cream like consistency, but the taste lacks the sharp bite that you may be accustomed to. It is funny you mention the taste, but when I was younger I hated the sharp taste of natural yoghurts, but over the years some brain cells and taste buds have clearly err, gone somewhere such as behind the couch, and the stuff tastes great to me now. Mate, where have the years gone? It seems like an important question to me. 🙂

    Yummo! Pancakes and jam are a special treat which is really nice. When I was a kid they used make a pancake and then sprinkle raw cane sugar over it and then drizzle fresh lemon juice over the top. And you’d end up mopping up the sugary sour syrup with the pancake. So good.

    Hehe! It probably is all those trips to the pub (speaking of which). I felt a built guilty about the distance, and wish it was not so, but it is, and render unto Caesar and all that. I had to reflect quite a while on the response to your friends mileage, but the number I gave you was honest and that is it for the household too – there ain’t no more hidden away by some special sleight of hand. I see no point in losing credibility by throwing integrity aside – that’s a devils bargain.

    No snow? No good! The rain will be well received though. You may have an early spring this year, but beware late frosts. You never know about them. The next couple of days look like they’ll be monsoonal. Outside now the rain didn’t deliver much in the way of rain, but the tall clouds have put on an epic thunderstorm. I sat in the hot bath with the window open and just watched an listened to the power of the storm. From such a position it is very relaxing.

    I feel that I should at least watch Picard out of respect for the Next Generation. Is this an error? Damo may feel that it is so.

    Hehe! Glad you enjoyed the latest installment from Mr King. Good luck with the hold system, and I do hope that the library computer brain system is not enduring the same sort of loss of brain cells and taste buds that I can attest too? AI ain’t what it used to be as expectations have lowered. I’m still unhappy about not getting a hoverboard as in Back to the Future film franchise. Slackers, they just have to get on with it.

    I saw a reference to the film, and so appreciate your review. I wonder if any of the three had considered micro-grids? Dunno.

    I read about the ban on petrol and diesel car sales in the UK by 2035. As a general observation from a cynic, it is a long way into the future and I note the use of the interesting word ‘new’. So does this mean that the UK will continue to keep its current fleet operating after that year a-la Cuba style? Dunno. But having restricted access to fossil fuels will ensure that situation happens regardless. The plastic bag ban seems to have had odd effects down here, and I note consumers are now purchasing thicker plastic bags at super markets where before they got thinner plastic bags for free. What’s going on?

    We just had a very close lightning strike.



  29. Hi everyone,

    I’m a worm – it’s true, I have elected to go to the pub this evening rather than replying to your lovely selves. Sometimes I disappoint even myself. Not to worry though, there’ll be plenty of time to chat tomorrow night. But until then. I leave you with some interesting articles:

    Wallaby rescued from sea off North Stradbroke Island

    Snake cannibal romance drama ‘not unusual’ for copperheads, expert says

    What can I say? The wildlife down here is bonkers.



  30. Hi Chris,

    Shame on you for enjoying a pub meal instead of chatting to us 🙂 The shinkansen has free WiFi, otherwise I would be silent as well. We visited Himeji Castle today, the best preserved medieval castle in Japan. Truly awesome, and such a combination of beauty with pragmatic, deadly defenses. It even snowed a little as we walked the castle grounds which was nice.

    Picard, well, the character that Patrick Stewart is playing today is not the TNG Picard 🙁 Instead of Star Trek, view it as “Mediocre Space Action Show: starring Patrick Stewart” and your disappointment will be minimised!

    Enjoy your pub meal! I spotted a narrow alley just wide enough for two people yesterday, full of cooking smoke, lanterns, bars and food outlets that looked like something out of Blade Runner. Plan to check it out tonight!


  31. Yo, Chris – He’s back! Mr. Greer posted, yesterday.

    I suppose if the food’s tasty, who cares if it’s a bit of fusion? Something I made a couple of weeks ago (can’t remember what), I was wondering, “Is it Mexican, or, Italian?” 🙂 .

    I’m glad you liked “The Biggest Little Farm.” There was just a glimpse of some long building, where they cranked out tons of composted soil. I wish they’d spent a bit more time, looking at that. Looked like quit an operation. Wonder what went in the front end? And, where they got it from? Yup. That night photo looked like a glimpse of a mountain lion, to me. I agree. Alan was a lovely fellow, who was just full of country wisdom.

    When I picked my chamomile to dry, I just picked the flowers. I really like my yoghurt when it has a good sharp bite. I want to know it’s there.

    Where have the years gone? Down the memory hole. Talk about a walk in the past, the last couple of nights I’ve been watching a documentary, “Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge.” A six part series, made for it’s 50th (!) anniversary. Rolling Stone magazine, 50 years old? How did that happen. The documentary had some great music, but, also, as people often don’t think of, they cover a lot of culture. And, launched a lot of great writers. I was particularly interested in Cameron Crowe. There’s quit a Wikipedia entry, on him. He really wasn’t on my radar. Started writing for the magazine when he was 14 or 15. He’s also put together a fair amount of films, a small ouvre, but all gems. Starting with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Rolling Stone also helped to launch Matt Taibbi. Probably among the best political writer, we have, now.

    Well, you may not have got your hover board, but I think there’s something else out there, that’s similar. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a young (hip and with it) man, zipping along on …. something. I was driving, so, didn’t want to rear end anyone, and, there were cars in the way, when I got an occasional glimpse. Some kind of a single wheel. But nothing he was peddling.

    I think the early electric companies had some kind of micro grids. But, I don’t think they really thought of them, that way. New York City, was an early small system. Several of the early Worlds Fairs had contained systems. That series I watched, “Miss Friman’s War” had several amusing scenes, where the characters were getting used to different kinds of new technology. Everything from phones to vacuum cleaners.

    Not to nag (but just to nag), should you really be fooling around on your computer, during an electrical storm? Lew

  32. Hi Chris,

    Yes, of late we’ve been getting above average precipitation. It’s hard to imagine gardening in the urban areas with restrictions and also high water bills.

    Here’s a link describing the striped cucumber beetle

    I have pickled cucumbers and in fact did so this last summer. We don’t use a lot but they’re nice to have around. I also put up sweet pickle relish which we use in different salads such as egg salad.

    Peas I put in sometime in April depending on the weather as they like the cooler weather. I sometimes try a fall crop but that doesn’t produce near as well. Beans go in later – sometime in May.

    Marty gets his government benefits direct deposited into a joint savings account with me. Once a month I bring him his monthly cash and he goes to Walmart to get money orders to pay various bills including his rent. The management company told him they would no longer accept money orders but he had to pay online. The good news is his case manager who is wonderful has set up a way for him to pay be e-check so problem solved at least for now. His case manager had another client in Marty’s complex with the same issue.

    The town of Woodstock has a Groundhog Day festival every year since the movie was filmed there.

    I drive less that 1000 miles a month – sometimes way less but Doug does more tooling around. Of course we live near nothing. Our new little town has very little, one bar, one pizza carry out place and a post office and that’s all 3 miles away. Our old town which we still consider home is ten miles and Rockford a much bigger city to the west is 20-25 miles depending where you’re going so the miles add up. I have to say I’ve gotten quite good planning trips places so I accomplish many things in one trip.


  33. @Damo
    Our librarian was able to get the book, “The Biggest Estate on Earth” from a library outside of our system. Woo Hoo!! Now I’ve got to get it read by the end of the month. As it’s still too cold to do too much outside I think I’m up for the challenge.


  34. Hi, Chris!

    I hope those nice looking solar panels are as good as they look; the whole solar panel tale was fascinating. My, that’s a big umbrella. I think everyone at Fernglade Farm could get under it.

    What a shame about your friends. It reminds me of an old commercial that goes something like: “Is there something that your friends are afraid to tell you?” I think it was deodorant or mouthwash.

    When I think of the tropics, I think of hot and humid, but not really extreme heat, like you have been having. Maybe I’m including ocean breezes, which not that many tropical places have.

    An ocean of fog and a red hot sunset; so dramatic.

    That’s a neat job with the flashing and guttering. It looks like it should do the trick.

    The only thing that works harder than the yellow trailer is you.

    Eucalyptus loves you.

    Scritchy has turned her back on the heat. I must try that come summer.

    Oh, I wish I had a cucumber. I like globe artichokes, too.

    What a charming floral scene by the steps.


  35. @ Damo:

    This is very interesting – thanks:

    “Re: coronavirus, the face masks are everywhere. Apparently it won’t stop you getting sick, but it would help stop the wearer spreading a cough, so that is something I guess.”


  36. Chris:

    I read your link to the cannibal copperhead snakes; you know I am interested in copperheads. It may not be fair, but I wish our copperheads would all eat each other up. Their bite makes one awfully sick.

    I wondered if ours and the Australian copperhead were related. Apparently not.

    “Is there a difference in the Australian Copperhead snake and the Southeastern United State’s Copperhead snake?

    They are two totally different snakes, sharing the same colloquial name.

    The Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) in North America is a pit viper (related to rattlesnakes) with hemotoxic venom that is rarely fatal to adults, even without medical attention. (Of course, common sense dictates that you get medical attention right away, because the possibility does exist that it can kill you, or cause the loss of an appendage or even a limb.)

    The Australian Common Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) is in the elapidae family (the same as cobras) and has a potent neurotoxic venom that can kill an adult with one bite without prompt medical treatment.

    There are two other species of Australian copperheads, the Pygmy and the Highland Copperhead. They are found in different regions in Australia and vary in size, but they all have the same type of deadly venom.”

    Lucky you.


  37. Chris,

    You mean you have a life outside of this forum?!? Wow! Hope the extended Dread Midweek Hiatus is enjoyable.


  38. Hi Chris

    It’s your pop-up commenter, here!😊 Just wanted to let you know that I’m still in the land of the living, and Canberra hasn’t burned to the ground (yet). It has been tense here for a week or so, but we were fortunate that the fires started to the south of us, so the prevailing NW winds tended to blow the front away from the suburbs. It came close, though. The village of Tharwa was about 1 km from the front, and the most southerly suburbs were about 5km away. The saddest thing about the fire is that it was started by a military helicopter in an operation to protect the national park. Oh well.

    We are having some of the bonkers weather you are receiving, though with less rain. We had 42°C last week, and tomorrow is forecast to be 19°C. Hopefully, some of the mass of rain on the coast will fall on us. It might even put the fires out! (Oh please, oh please!)

    I have been told by my husband, a Star Trek fan from way back, that Picard is not standard ST, but more of a darker, spy/mystery type. But he really likes it, so it’s probably worth watching, if you go in with an open mind.

    Well, I must go now, and prepare the several kilograms of peaches which fell off my tree in the last couple of days. Freeze them? Bottle them? I’ll think of something.


  39. Hi Damo,

    Apologies as you are entirely correct about the aircraft electrical systems. An entirely new way of looking at the systems for me. Good stuff, and an eminently simple technology. I see folks are doing similar things with basic alternators at low RPM. Clever stuff.

    Congratulations too on the mayhem that you appear to be causing on the north west coast of Western Australia: Damien to become first severe tropical cyclone since 2013 to make landfall in WA. An illustrious and also perhaps momentous namesake? Well done you. 😉 My thinking is that if you are going to do something, then it is best to be done proper and well.

    Who would have thought that a tour to an incinerator – co-generation plant would be so popular? But then how cool does the building look? Perhaps it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

    Thanks for the heads up and I listened to the podcast on the coronavirus yesterday and noted that in the US alone 6,000 people have died already this season from complications arising from the influenza virus. However at the same time, viral pneumonia sounds pretty unpleasant. Mortality rates for folks above 65 years of age currently stand at 50%. A truly unpleasant statistic, and in such cases I use the aircraft test which is: This plane has a one in two chances of crashing, therefore the question is: Do you get on board for a flight knowing the statistic? I do not fall into that category, but at the same time have no desire to test my DNA against either virus. Being found wanting seems to be rather unpleasant and as of a few days ago, only as many folks have recovered as have died. I have felt the hammer fall from the influenza virus twice in my life and the experience makes me run every year to the flu shot. Other people can feel differently, and that is their call.

    The editor and I were not strong and so we went to the cinema yesterday and instead saw: “The Biggest Little Farm”, which was an astoundingly beautiful film which I recommend highly. The Lighthouse may be seen in other venues…

    I’m with the Japanese public in that regard and also am not a fan of tattoos. But at the same time I acknowledge that there is a place for such story telling, and have known plenty of folks with tattoos. I’m torn on the matter and would be torn by the emotion of what is commonly known as ‘buyers remorse’. Laser treatments are very expensive and apparently leave considerable scarring.

    Nice to read that you didn’t fall into the canal. The locals probably expected such things from you both? Hehe!!!

    Guilty as accused! Hey, the pub was conducting a ‘feed off’ test between the chef and the sous chef over the issue of the chicken parma. I read the menu incorrectly and failed to get involved in the feed off test, but there was a chicken bolognaise chicken parma that was crying to be put to the test (chef) and the sous chef had a Hawaiian chicken parma that also demanded proper testing. There may have also been a Mexican parma. Alas for the brief interlude that is this thing called life… No doubts you are feasting on excellent Japanese cuisine?

    I bow to your greater knowledge of the Picard series and will provide an update in due course.

    The narrow alley sounds exactly like the sort of dark and interesting eating places found in the big smoke. Was it any good?



  40. Hi Inge,

    Nothing eats cucumber flowers down here either. I do hope that cucumber bugs stick to the North American continent? Not good. And oh yeah, potatoes self seed here too. The plants reproduce from tubers as well as seeds. If I chuck some old potatoes in the ground they will happily produce new tubers, and I do believe that the Phytophthora fungi (blight) is present in my soils. From what I understand the varieties of potato I grow are fairly resistant to the fungi. Do you know, I have occasionally encountered folks of Irish descent and mentioned my thoughts that perhaps historically growing only two varieties of potatoes (out of the thousands that were available) was a bad idea from an ecological perspective – and far out, they go off their trees as a response. From hindsight, it seems best not to poke such folks.

    The occasional frost knocked the plants back (as well as the occasional cropping from the wallabies) but they’ve all grown back. I have three raised garden beds full of potatoes. The plants are heavy feeders though and I can see the soil levels falling in the raised beds. I’ll bet the pigs love the small potatoes. We call such potatoes ‘chats’ down here.

    Part of my income producing job is dealing with bureaucracy (it sounds like a French word to my ears?) and recently over the Christmas break one department installed a robot – and unfortunately the robot thinks that it knows best. Dealing with the fall out from that has eaten a lot of time that I have been unable to charge for and taken an extraordinary amount of time.

    And what could possibly go wrong with electronic land title records? I have a paper copy of such things kept safely. Such records will become more important in the future.

    The surrounding forest here is almost in full flower and so just outside the house the very air smells of honey. Lot’s of pollen.



  41. Hi Steve,

    Possibly about recycling solar panels. At present I have read that there is only a single company on this continent that does that recycling job. Not good. And as to the wind turbines, yes I read the article. I quite enjoy the authors handiwork.

    I suspect that we won’t really ever know the answer to that question. Interestingly, about the time I purchased the first solar panels, manufacturing of them ceased down under. They’re an amazing technology, they’re just not a one for one replacement for fossil fuel generators. I wish it were otherwise.

    Yeah, me too. And enjoyed your word! Anyway, I reckon that is where the smart money is at these days. There is a huge amount of waste.



  42. Hi Goran,

    Exactly, the switch from 72 panel cells to 60 panel solar cells is a big deal for folks who are using old school style batteries and set ups.

    DC circuit breakers and fuses are readily available nowadays. And yes, AC switching at high frequency allows for simpler switches and fuses. AC is much the same as DC except that the polarity switches at a set frequency each second. Of late I have heard anecdotal accounts that there are occasional glitches in the grid on that front.

    Respect for the simple devices with proper longevity. I chose predominantly locally manufactured battery charge controllers and an inverter for the very reason that they are simple, rugged and built to local conditions. You won’t find much better, although there will be more efficient items with better interfaces.

    Nope, there is a school of thought that suggests that durability was disposed of a while back. The trick these days is learning what is durable and what isn’t. 😉



  43. Hi DJ,

    Hehe! Yup, and the pub was good. Linguini Bolognese and a pint of ‘Golden Stout Time’. The name of the stout was an amusing play on words of an old school ice cream from down under. And the stout tasted exactly the same. Think dark ale with golden syrup and a touch of vanilla. Yum!

    The film yesterday was excellent too. If you get the chance to see it, I thoroughly recommend it: The biggest little farm.

    What? Wow, that’s crazy about the property boundary issues, but maybehaps it also speaks to a lack of life experience and ability to empathise with others? Mind you, one day the editor was in the bathtub when a bloke walked onto the veranda to admire the view into the valley (thus missing the bathroom). The editor squealed, and I confronted the bloke (who was old enough to know better) and said in my best Dirty Harry voice: Who are you and what are doing here? Then ‘get lost’, seemed appropriate to me. People have been shot for less.

    Yeah, the compost piles rarely get that hot here either, and I agree with the mix. You want a little bit of everything without the spontaneous combustion. Spontaneous combustion is not good. 😉 Nowadays I chuck the cuttings onto garden beds and/or leave grass cuttings where they fall. Interestingly, the deep litter beneath the chicken enclosure is warm to touch. There is a lot going on there, and the nearby fruit trees grow faster than anywhere else.

    Exactly. Heck yeah, what you eat can end up affecting how you feel and your moods. We mess with our guts at our peril. I see Mr Greer has written this week about the perils of MSG – and that stuff gives me headaches which only serious amounts of fresh water do anything about.

    Send the black bear to the principal’s office!!! Hehe! Thanks for the image, but please also remember to keep your bears over in your country. I had an uncanny thought today that with all of the feral cats down here, they’ll eventually grow into much larger predators over a long enough period of time.

    I have to admit to having enjoyed the smell of the coconut oil stuff, but never used it myself. Nobody cared if you your skin was burned when I was a kid, although I can only once recall getting seriously burned on the tops of my feet once. I got a lot of sympathy from that as my feet swelled. I had sunscreen on everywhere else and just missed my feet.

    Good call, I also wear a straw broad brimmed hat whilst working out in the sun. They work – an elegant technology.

    Raspberries are thirsty, and lucky you for your neighbours watering efforts – which I’m assuming are now done with? I’m planning to move all of the raspberries into the corn enclosure during early autumn once the corn is done. I missed getting enough raspberries for raspberry jam this year. Yum, but now sadly lacking this year. The blackberries are doing really well (surprise, surprise).

    Mate, if I knew what else to do that worked, I would do it, but people move on, and so what do you do?

    That’s the thing, it is in the inefficiencies that the charging problem shows up with the 60 cell solar panels. When you’re trying to force electrons into a 28.8V environment, it is much easier to do so when you’ve got 36V (72 cell panels) than 30V (60 cell panels). It is possible that despite the rhetoric, there is little support for people going off-grid with their electricity? Due to the extra panels I’m planning a major upgrade of the system this month and taking it from 24V to 48V, which fortunately halves the current (Amps) and thus brings in all sorts of unlooked for savings. Adding in an extra 40Amps of additional solar charging would work, but when the system exceeds 200A, there is potential for things to go really wrong, really quickly. Is this a good thing? Me thinks not.

    Holy Sheet! -11’C is bonkers cold. Hope you had plenty of blankets to chuck on the bed? Mate, you would hear me whingeing about those temperatures from where you are!!!!

    Do you remember how did the building tolerated the shaking from the earthquake? The editor remarked to me (we were at dinner at a restaurant at the time) that my senses were deceiving me when I mentioned that walls and floor were moving during the minor earthquake all those years ago. Sangria may have been involved, but only one glass – how bad can that stuff be?



  44. Hi Margaret,

    Exactly, I have no idea how such things are done. I note that one of my favourite commercial organic orchards seems to have produced smaller fruit this year, and I was wondering (haven’t had the chance to ask them yet) whether that was due to more expensive water this year due to the crazy weather? Water tanks are not cheap either and large ones are about $1/litre. Smaller tanks are about twice that rate. And nobody else appears to be doing agriculture using water tanks as there are serious limits. I’m doing a lot of plant breeding and improving of soil to get around that story. People water crops a lot because they can, and it makes growing easier and less fraught with hassles.

    Please keep your cucumber beetle in your part of the world! Hungry little critter, but I do note that having a large number of predator insects is one option of control.

    The cucumbers look like they’re having a good year, but I’ll probably leave pickling until next summer (too much to do). A bit of a shame, as like you say they’re really tasty. Yeah, I did notice that peas can germinate at lower temperatures, and I have been wondering whether I’ve been growing them at the wrong time of the year, so I appreciate hearing your experience.

    Good stuff that Marty has responsible people such as yourself (and his case manager) looking out for him. I have no idea what an e-check is, and have never encountered one. What is this thing?

    Like you, I also live near nothing, and so if you want something when you live in such a place, you have to drive to there. You might get a laugh out of this, but people have occasionally asked me what shops are in the nearby area – err, nothing at all readily springs to mind. And I bake bread from scratch because it is quicker than driving to the nearby bakery which is a 20km / 12.5 mile return trip. It is a necessary evil – and what do you do, if I don’t pay property taxes, then there will be consequences. It is an old story that one and every which way you turn you are dragged back into the economy. It’s an effective an all-encompassing web. And yeah I do exactly the same, if I have to head out, I have a list and do all of the trips on the list. There is no just popping out to pick up some milk, because if it ain’t already there, then it ain’t there. Such living requires a bit of organisational skills… What else can you do?



  45. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, it is an interesting story with the solar panels, and my style of system is clearly not the favoured outcome. I’m now keeping my eye out for other second hand panels. A few spares might not be a bad idea.

    The umbrella is a goodie – there not what they used to be, and I had to hunt around for a strong example of the breed.

    Hehe! Who wants to be the stinky kid in the classroom, although now you mention it, I do hope they didn’t move overseas due to a lack of deodorant on my part. Fortunately I have good personal hygiene. This is a good thing.

    The heat has come with humidity this past week. And last week the heat was out of control bonkers. 105’F is just not cricket! Although the views into the valley below are pretty amazing with the extreme weather. I reckon I’d prefer the weather to be a little less bonkers though.

    Hope so about the shed and the aluminium flashing. It is always the little things that get you unstuck during a fire. Who knows how the place will go, but sooner or later it will be tested.

    Hehe! The trailer is looking good and the paint has been curing in the sun this week.

    The eucalyptus flowers are a really interesting story because the tall trees are flowering here, and nowhere else. What do the trees know is the question here? Or are they just enjoying themselves? Dunno.

    Pam, please do not follow the path of the Scritchy – she is one bad egg that dog. Not nice at all!

    There’s plenty of produce to eat, and I reckon artichokes are all in the cooking – adding a bay leaf to the boiling water for flavour seems to be the trick.

    How come the stuff down here kills you seriously dead? Venomous little critters, and I doubt that we can be friends even if copperhead snakes down here kill the even more aggressive tiger snakes. The whole thing is bonkers, and I’m glad to read that adults can usually survive a copperhead bite (different species of course as you rightly note) in your part of the world. Still, you do have cucumber beetles and that does not appear to be a good thing.



  46. Hi Lewis,

    How good is that? A month travels by in the blink of an eye. Although that may be due to my failing memory, and it might have been far slower than I can now recall. Hope Mr Greer had a good holiday and I read his fine essay today (and can so relate to the MSG mention – rotten stuff) and hopefully will have some free time to post a comment there tomorrow.

    I must say though, we had another slack day today and visited a local open garden. The visit occurred in the morning and it really was beautiful as they had a big rain over in the more fashionable part of the mountain range last evening. There wasn’t much rain, but it fell with a ferocity. Lot’s of lightning and thunder (which I enjoyed from a safe distance). Honestly I thought that they were experiencing a super cell there was so much lightning. And it went for hours. In bed at night I opened the window and enjoyed the light and sound show.

    Incidentally, I’m not connected to the electrical grid so unless the house or solar power infrastructure gets a direct (or really nearby) hit from a lightning strike, then it is probably not much of a worry. A direct hit would fry the system regardless, although it is properly earthed on both the AC and DC side of the story. Not sure what to do if that happened, it probably wouldn’t be good and possibly very expensive to repair.

    I’m planning a major upgrade of the solar power system so that I can add in the extra panels. It would currently take the extra panels, but I’m seriously uncomfortable with the sort of possible electricity current that is flowing around in the battery room. Welders produce far less electricity.

    Note sure which cuisine the food relates to. Hey, at the pub they had a special offering of a Mexican chicken parmigana. All very authentic!!! But possibly very tasty. I would have ordered it had I noticed it, but it was right at the bottom of the chalk board and people were sitting in front of it.

    Allan was alright wasn’t he, but I did note that even before mention of the illness, he was less seen about the property. It would have been challenging for him to be there when the owners were going through the ‘phase they had to have’ before all of the ecosystem balancing predators turned up on the scene. And yeah, the big compost tea digester was a fascinating machine – and just the thing for larger acreages. The summers looked way hotter and drier than anything I’ve yet experienced – and the wind. I believe they called that season: Lent, and I’m unsure of the origins of the wind, but it may be just that part of the world. Dunno.

    Fair enough, hey, better and richer soil makes plants taste better. The plants get to consume a greater diversity (or perhaps a better volume and mix) of minerals. Ah, the Finnish yoghurt is not for you then. Have you tried a proper Greek yoghurt? It is good stuff and has a sharp bite.

    Thanks for mentioning the Rolling Stone series and I’ll see if I can track it down. Yeah, how did that happen? The magazine does a lot of cultural critique and serious investigative journalism when all others have fallen into the trap of opinion pieces (which I note are cheap to pen). Intriguing references! Thanks. 😉 I note that Hazel has a positive review on the Picard series.

    I was mucking around with the hoverboard comment, (thus disproving my earlier claim that ‘we don’t muck around here’). It’s complicated, but like the Galah’s (a local cockatoo bird species) which enjoy a bit of playfullness every now and then, well so do I. Can’t be serious all of the time. 🙂 But yeah, some younger folks have electric skateboards, and those things fly. I have seen them dragging off push bikes – easily and effortlessly. It is probably not a bad way to get around in the city. Dunno about you, but I never really enjoyed the balance to be able to use a skateboard (or surfboard) for that matter. I’m always in a bit of awe when I see people ripping around the city streets on those things.

    Hehe! I must check that out. It sounds amusing. I rather enjoyed the old dial phones and don’t really appreciate being contactable all of the time. Over the years I have come under pressure to be able to receive emails on the run, and that is right out for me. People would email bomb me, and it would be a distraction. I hid behind confidentiality concerns in that mattr – and they’re real concerns.

    Thanks for the nag, and the answer is I don’t really know the answer – and possibly don’t wish to find out what happens. Gonna be expensive…



  47. Yo, Chris – I found Mr. Greer’s discussion of MSG, a bit interesting. In my case, just makes me thirsty, and I generally steer clear of it. But what I found really interesting was all the talk about middle management and “experts.” But no real blue print on how to get rid of those entrenched people. I guess it’s just waiting for the general decline to take care of them. Or, wait for them to take a really bad misstep.

    Just remember to count the seconds, between the lightening flash, and rumble. Then you know if it’s far off, and nothing to worry about … or, right on top of you.

    So, when you go to the battery room, does your hair stand on end? 🙂

    I think coastal California, has a climate, more like where you are. Inland (where The Biggest Little Farm, is), is hotter and dryer. California has fairly predictable seasonal winds.

    Well, I don’t know if I’ve had “proper” Greek yoghurt, by I’ve had stuff claiming to be Greek yoghurt. Generally, a lot thicker.

    Skateboards were a bit after my time. We were more the bike, generation.

    I’m up to Chapter 8 in “The Eagle.” I watched an interesting film, last night. Now. Back in the early 40’s, the author Soroyan wrote a book called “The Human Comedy.” It was made into a movie, about that time. Staring Mickey Rooney. I saw it, just a couple of months ago. Well, last night, I watched a recent remake of the movie, called “Ithica.” Meg Ryan, Sam Shepherd, and Tom Hanks has a small part. Clear? Clear.

    Any-who. It’s right at the beginning of WWII, just after Pearl Harbor. A small, upstate New York town. A 14 year old boy has just got a job, as a telegram delivery boy. Can you imagine? Some of the telegrams he delivers have VERY bad news. Can you imagine being 14 years old, and having a job like that? Any-who. Both film versions were VERY good, and, as you seem to have a lot of slack time, laying around right now :-), you might want to put it on your “to see” list.

    I haven’t read the book. Might be something I want to do. Lew

  48. Chris,

    That stout sounds wonderful.

    “Biggest Little Farm”? It sounds interesting. I’ll poke around and see if I can’t give it a view.

    Someone came onto your veranda?!? Holy smokes! As you said, people have been shot for less.

    I was at our pharmacy yesterday to pick something up. It’s “pick a number and wait”, so I was waiting. My long beard, normally braided in public, was loose. A “lady” started crowding me as I was looking at the over-the-counter drug section. I moved. She walked past me, crowded me, reached around me. She looked somewhat like she’s not all there. Then she said, “Can I touch your beard?” “#$%^ no”, I replied, “only my wife and I touch me beard.” As I was sidling away, an arm shot out and my martial arts ward off block swatted her arm away. “I touched it, I touched it!” she crowed. (If she did, it was barely grazing it.) Then she patted my shoulder and thanked me for being a good sport. I told her that that was her only “mulligan” and to leave me alone. I started walking away; she followed me while gleefully saying that she was chasing me and my sexy beard away. I finally plopped into a chair and was in an obvious “touch me and I’ll break your body” posture. She eventually said “If I did something that overstepped boundaries, I apologize.” Which is a meaningless statement. She then sat across the room and started crying. She has some serious boundary issues. She’s also lucky the Princess wasn’t inside!

    Dad once purchased way too much fresh chicken manure for the garden. What he didn’t dig into the ground was stored in corrugated metal barrels. That stuff was so potent it ate through the bottoms of the barrels.

    I’ve been reading the MSG comments with interest. It unsettles me and causes some digestive grief as well as the need for much more water than normal. Maybe headaches. It gets the Princess out of sorts. Bad stuff it is.

    We get feral and unsupervised domestic cat issues here. My friend lives 1km away and has almost no cats, feral or domestic, running loose. The coyotes come in from wild areas and have a feast. They go through my area once a year or so and thin out the population. Have I ever mentioned that I like coyotes? 🙂

    I wear one of those broad straw hats when working in the sun, too. They are wonderful!

    Sadly, having my neighbor water my berries is a thing of the past, as that neighbor is the ancient gentleman who died a week before Christmas. My berriess are actually plants that spread from his patch into my old garden area, which is better suited for berries than vegetables anyhow. I’ll always think fondly of my neighbor when watering and harvesting raspberries.

    When we bought this house, it was on fuses and 100 amp service. I got it upgraded to circuit breakers and the standard 200 amp service. I think you’re on the right track wanting to maintain at or under 200 amps. I also admire your practical knowledge of electricity. Yes, charging a 29 volt battery is easier to do from a 36 volt source than from a 30 volt source. 36 volts with the same current as the 30 volts has 20% greater power aka abililty to get stuff done. (power = watts = volts multiplied by amps for the readers who don’t know.) It’s really similar to keeping a house warm: the greater the difference in temperature between inside and outside, the faster the heat transfer. The greater the power, the faster and more completely the batteries will charge.

    Holy Sheet?!? Our sheets are in good repair, thank you very much! 😉 -11C was not a big deal as the house is well enough insulated that the furnace never had to kick on overnight. No extra blankets needed. Temperatures another 2C colder start to cool this house more and an added blanket is welcome.

    The California earthquakes were centered 200km from us. The hotel and most buildings were fine. There was some minor damage to some of the Orange County concrete highway system. The one we felt here in the 1980s was centered so far away (500km) that there was no damage in the Spokane area.

    Vacation time! I’m on a staycation until the 19th. With the activities the Princess has lined up, I may not be able to chat here for awhile. She has a busy agenda set up. So if I’m absent, it’s because we’re totally enjoying the planned events. Consider it my version of the extended Dread Midweek hiatus. 🙂


  49. Hi Chris,

    Just a short comment today, I thought you and others might be interested in this article :

    In my suburb, everyone is on tank water. But it seems, rather than keeping an eye on, and tightly managing such a crucial resource, people just use it willy nilly, then call the water truck. Now, with low dam levels, the tankers have limited filling options and people have no water.

    I heard on Facebook one family moved into a hotel so they could have water! (surely some 20 litre Jerry cans would do for a few weeks….).

    Far be it for me to judge, and we have a house sitter at the moment, so hopefully they are easy on the taps! Still, it just bemuses me people act this way.


  50. Hi Hazel,

    Good to see that you survived, and I was a little bit worried about the Canberra fires and how you fared. Probably like you, I can distinctly recall the 2003 disaster.

    I hope that you have your gumboots handy for tomorrow and Monday? Far out. At least your garden will positively bounce out of the ground with the extra wet stuff falling from the sky for you. There has been some talk of the weather pattern for you being an ‘East Coast Low’. Today here has been nice and sunny although very smokey. You can taste the acrid stench of seriously burned forests, and the air has not cleared all day long. This morning the smoke was as thick as fog.

    Fingers crossed that the rain puts the fires out. 🙂

    Thanks for the Picard review, and I’m keeping an open mind and just hoping that they remember to tell a good story…

    Last year I had a huge crop of Anzac peaches and they had plenty of flavour which made for a tasty jam. Although I’m a bit spoiled on that front, and much prefer berry based jams (strawberry, raspberry and blackberry). The peaches would make for a good country wine. It would be quite the delicacy in Japan.



  51. Hi Damo,

    Mate, you are up to some serious mischief over in the north west coast of this here continent. Last I checked you and Mrs Damo were in Japan, but no, tis not so: Tropical Cyclone Damien brings rain, gale force winds to WA’s Pilbara.

    Not to be flippant, but I was a touch disappointed. I thought that your namesake would reach a category four cyclone. It somehow seemed appropriate! So far there doesn’t seem to be huge amounts of damage from the cyclone, but it is delivering some solid rain up there. All good for the land in that part of the world.

    Oooo! Well that article riled me up a bit. My mate who just moved back to NZ once amusingly remarked to me that if it hadn’t rained for three weeks then everyone over in NZ believed they were in the grip of an epic drought. His comment, not mine. As a comparison, last summer here, nature did not provide decent rainfall for at least three continuous months.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret, resilience means deliberately forgoing and choosing to be inefficient. So how is that working for folks in Auckland? You may note that every single year I have added additional water tanks because it is not lost on me that a population is only ever as good as the weakest link or the harshest conditions. There is an apt analogy floating around that bull markets convince investors that they know what they are doing.

    Quote: “Put simply, it’s because of the exceptionally dry weather combined with a soaring population.” WTF?

    How’s the trip going, and I do hope that you will indulge us with a few photos?



  52. Hi Lewis,

    That’s the thing with MSG, in that it affects everyone differently. You’re made of hardy stuff, but for me, too much salt dehydrates me, but also has the effect of raising my blood pressure, which in turn gives me headaches. It is a situation that is perhaps a little bit further progressed from your experience! 😉 I try to steer clear of the stuff knowing that I’ll encounter it and just dealing with the fall out. Some restaurants add it in to their food, and I’m guessing that is done so they can sell some high margin drinks to customers. Life is tough in the food biz.

    I like how you think, and yeah I likewise wonder the hard questions of our time, which may also be expressed in the perhaps more base terms of: Yeah? So then what?

    Although I note that the Camulod story – which I have been thoroughly enjoying every single page – touched upon that story. You may recall the Seneca character who’s family wielded vast wealth and influence, to our heroes poor luck. Was it just me, or did you notice how the character who wrought so much early carnage, just disappeared? I tend to believe that what Mr Greer is writing about is the same story, but from a different perspective that Mr Kunstler is also writing about. And that is a vast relocalisation of activity.

    I have to say for the record that I have enjoyed the perquisites that accrue from the policies of globalisation. But on the other hand, what cannot be sustained, won’t be sustained – and that is mere common sense. Every week I read the vehicle and business sections of the newspaper (the physical copy to boot) and I noted that car manufacturers in other countries are being starved of parts out of China due to the no small matter of the novel coronavirus. I suspect that ‘just in time’ is an inventory policy that may be efficient, it is just not very resilient.

    The lightning strikes were a bit removed from here, and they appear to have struck over in the more fashionable western end of the mountain range. I popped over there this morning to pick up the newspaper and I could see that several gravel driveways had been washed onto the road in the brief but severe storm. The gravel washed onto the road would make it very difficult (read slippery as the gravel is like roller bearings) for folks on pushbikes. I’ve never seen a local ride a pushbike to get anywhere around here as a practical form of transport.

    Did you get a chance to see Damo’s article link to Auckland’s water woes? It amazes me that so many city folks there are using water tanks and have no access to town water. Over here, it would be very odd to have a town not connected to town water, although there are some towns in the state of New South Wales that have run out of water altogether. And the state of Western Australia has some towns that have joined those unfortunate ranks: Drinking water to be trucked into more than a dozen West Australian towns due to ‘unprecedented’ dry. However, just as a comparison, folks living in such towns already probably use far less water than our New Zealand friends over the other side of the Tasman Sea.

    Damo just happens to be the name of the latest tropical cyclone to reach our north west shores, although Damo is not engaging with his moment of infamy. 😉

    Very funny! Not at all, although if someone were to be foolish enough to stick their tongue across the contacts, well, yeah it might not be good. I once got zapped using my teeth to strip some wires off the old copper landline phone cables. That was an interesting experience and may just explain a thing or three. My mum plugged the phone back in without me realising what had happened… Ouch.

    Ah, that makes sense. Where the biggest little farm was located, raised a few alarm bells for me because of the hot and dry winds. The winds would strip the remaining moisture out of the environment. But total respect to those folks as they created something really special – and on scale.

    I try not to think about it too much, but this continent has drifted north over the deep years of time from when it was once in an embrace with Antarctica, and nowadays the farm sits on the southern latitude equivalent of the southern borders of Utah, Colorado, and Kansas, and the northern borders of Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. And yet here we are today with tall trees, deep volcanic soils and bizarrely enough the paddocks are turning green. But when the heat and dry hits, it hits just as hard as the same places in your country. Such experiences makes for a nervous existence, but when things turn out OK, things are good.

    Oh, I assume you are enjoying ‘natural yoghurt’ (whatever that means) and I’m curious as to how do you get the sharp bite into the taste of your yoghurt?

    Me too, I had no aptitude for skateboards, and perhaps too much fear of the consequences of not stopping quickly enough. But like you, bikes were a necessity and not an affectation and more commonly seen. I sometimes see people in the gym or riding up and down the mountain, and wonder how I could put such energy to use pulling rocks back up the hill here?

    A few years back I was at the funeral of a lady (on the editors side of the story so I’d never met the person) and she had done exactly that job during the war of delivering bad news through employment in the postal service. It would take a strong soul to do such a job, and so I am intrigued by your reference to the film.

    And people ‘man up’ when they have to do so.

    Thank you and it is on the ‘to see’ list, although things being what they are I may have an easier time getting to the more recent film.



  53. Hi Chris,

    I for one am quite disappointed my namesake in the North West of our country is petering out. I mean, rain is good and all, but if my name is attached, I want some memorable action attached. Make sure the plebs know who I am, and tell stories to their children! Cugel would agree with me 🙂


  54. Hi DJ,

    The efforts of the local brewers, are a memorable and always unexpected experience. And it is hard to know where to land on the beer board matrix, if only because it constantly changes.

    Exactly, talk about cheek. The bloke walked onto the veranda as if there was nothing at all wrong with that activity. Bonkers, as we are a bit off the road, so it is not like you can just accidentally get to such a place.

    Wow. I don’t know what to say about the beard incident. That was very strange behaviour, and if I may add it was so strange that it was off the charts bonkers. Be wary of such folk – although I doubt you were not already wary by the descriptions of your actions. Your lady may have been better able to deal with such a person, without the situation escalating via the gentle art of the wrong perception? Things could have gone badly and very quickly.

    Haha! That’s funny and I have not seen chicken manure eating through metal in true ‘Alien’ fashion. I tend to add a lot of bedding straw to the chicken manure, and the chicken’s health improves, as does the eventual soiled bedding / manure mix which gets thrown into the orchard. Without the bedding straw, chicken manure is a potent force. Old timer farmers used to house their cattle in barns over winter in your very cold climate, and the cattle did their business on bedding straw. At the turn in the season towards spring weather, the soiled bedding straw was a potent soil fertiliser.

    I’m no fan of MSG either, and enjoy a similar experience, although to be honest in more moderate quantities it would probably be OK. However, we tend to live in a culture which suggests that one is good, four may be better! Unfortunate that.

    Out of curiosity, what is with coyotes killing live-stock and not eating them? In the film, the farmers had to learn to live with coyotes, but a lot of chickens were killed in the process. Fences were improved and maremma sheep dogs were put to work guarding the chickens. Coyotes fill a similar niche to dingoes. And foxes do the same thing here, although it would be very hard for a fox to get into the chicken enclosure without human assistance.

    Straw hats are such an elegant technology and they sure beat baseball caps, which hold in too much heat for my comfort levels on stonking hot days. Plus ears and the side of your head is exposed to the sun with those caps.

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your neighbour, but may I suggest that the berries continue to live on, and there is something in that which urges one to tend to the plants. My raspberries come from a similar heritage and were a gift many long years ago. I’m reluctant to move them, but it has to happen and they’ll be fine (err, hopefully).

    Of course I forget that your mains electricity voltage is 110V. Down here mains electricity is 230V. For your interest I believe a normal connection to a household (and please someone correct me if I am wrong) can provide 60A at the 230V, so we don’t generally see such large currents, but yeah the thought of 200A+ was making me rather uncomfortable, although the system could probably handle it just fine. But do I want to put it to the test…

    Good stuff on the insulation, and it is a credit to you. In such temperatures I would have the wood heater cranking along… Brr! It was very pleasant and warm here today – not too hot and not too cold, but just right – except that it was very smokey.

    No worries at all, the dreaded staycation it is! Enjoy yourselves!



  55. Hi Damo,

    Yeah, it is a bit of a bummer, but on the other hand I’m not sure I’d want to personally experience a category three cyclone. Could be a rather unpleasant experience. 🙂

    Far out, it is crazy smokey here today. When I woke up this morning I thought that it was fog, but no, smoke. And you could taste the smoke on your tongue just breathing.



  56. Yo, Chris – Yeah, blood pressure is another reason I steer away from MSG. Not that it’s been a problem, but, from time to time, I’m aware that my pressure is “up.” By the way, there’s a video at Greer, yesterday, an interview with Mike Rowe. Worth a look, about the state of education and the “trades.”

    LOL. Characters tend to drop in and out of the Camulod books, with regularity. Most Roman’s of the senatorial class, like Seneca, spent as little time in the provinces as possible. Set up the wealth pumps and get back to Rome, where the action was.

    It will be interesting to see how the virus ripples through the supply chain. Empty shelves at Wally World? By the way, I got gas yesterday, and it was still $3.25 per gallon, just like last month. I’m sure the prices will be kept low, through the election. When I get gas, I stop at the “Hunt and Gather”, store. Found some organic oatmeal (with other seeds mixed in) for .99 per lb. A gallon of laundry bleach for $2.99. 24 rolls of toilet paper (double rolls), and 1 oz bottles of real vanilla extract for $3 a bottle. Cheapest I’ve seen that, in a long time. Picked up 3 bottles.

    That’s interesting about the Aukland water tanks. I wonder, when they put the mains through, if the property owners were given the choice, of hooking up, or not. Might be apples and oranges, but here, if a sewer system goes in, there’s no choice in the matter.

    Yes, I noticed you were poking Damo with a sharp stick, over the name of the hurricane. And, I see he took the higher road 🙂 .

    Latitudes don’t seem to make much impact on weather. Oceans, and ocean currents seem to have more to do with it. If you follow a latitude around the globe, the differences are kind of bonkers. I think it’s London, is on the same latitude as Alaska. Or, something like that.

    Here’s the place I get my yoghurt, from …

    You might find the section labeled “Organic or Not”, interesting. Also, under “Media” they have a four minute film on how they make their yoghurt. I don’t know how they do it, but some organic yogurts, I’ve had, have a sharper flavor. Which I quit like.

    Well, I had an overnight house guest. 🙂 . No, I’m not about to dump TMI (Two Much Information) on you. I was up at 4am, and, noticed the fire department had shown up. Eleanor, has fallen. Didn’t seem to do much damage, but, they ran her into the hospital, anyway. I took HRH. I thought I’d walk her, and keep her overnights. But, I ran into Eleanor’s grand daughter (great?) this morning, and, when she gets off work, she’s going to take the dog home. If mom isn’t back. She’s one of the “helper’s” here. I’m kind of dissapointed. She was the perfect little house guest. Lew

  57. Hello again
    I have paper land registry documents and, even more interesting, I have a huge bunch of documents covering the original huge estate here.
    When elder daughter was living in Adelaide she was in a house which had old earthquake damage.
    A large storm is coming in tomorrow morning. It is being called a once in 10 years storm. As there is a full moon the tides will be high. No doubt there will be plenty of rain and the ground here is already a swamp.


  58. Hi Inge,

    I too have the paper documents and they are ornate, interesting, and now superfluous. Down here the whole process has gone to an electronic system. Call me cynical, but I’m waiting for the first major fraud to rear its ugly head – like property transfers without the owners knowledge.

    I’ve heard anecdotal accounts that conveyancing firms have somehow arranged to have people’s funds from sales deposited into their trust funds. The funds are then not released for another 30 days beyond the settlement date (finalisation of the property sale), which just seems weird and unnecessary to me. I’m sure in most circumstances the system would work just fine, however sooner or later the temptation will be too much for someone, and who knows how the funds held in trust will be possibly disappeared? At a wild guess such a fraud would look a lot like a Ponzi scheme where new deposits are used to cover older deposits. Such things always unravel.

    Thanks for mentioning your daughters experience. Who even knew? 1954 Adelaide earthquake.

    Good luck and stay safe, and if the ground is too moist and the wind blows hard, then keep away from large trees with shallow root systems. Hope the coastal damage is not too severe.

    An ‘East Coast Low’ is brewing down here. Flash flooding warnings as heavy rain pounds NSW coast, thousands without power. Ouch! At this remote location we should only see the very tail of that storm.



  59. Hi Lewis,

    We are on the same page with that salt. You may have noticed that we have to deal with numbers for a living? No? Oh well! Hehe! Anyway, we have a blood pressure reading device, and after a few years of readings, I have noticed that blood pressure is a very variable experience. All sorts of things can affect a person’s blood pressure, so when people tell me that they have really high, or really low blood pressure, I do wonder what they are talking about.

    The last time I was at the doctors, the doctor took my blood pressure. But the reading did not occur until after she got stuck into me about my age, and that I should undergo a whole bunch of tests due to my age, which they were happy to provide. I said I feel fine, and then she looked at me with this cynical expression and said in a condescending manner: ‘you feel fine’. I was only at the doctors to get a prescription for the anti-nausea medication in case I unfortunately encountered another tummy bug. It is a long way from here to the doctors and pharmacy, and tummy bugs are not always experienced at convenient hours. Needless to say my blood pressure reading was not good (on the high side of that story). Then I just said: ‘You are stressing me out, so what do you expect?’ And then we did not speak about the blood pressure reading or tests any further, although it was documented in the patient database records. The doctor made me feel like a total idiot. And I’ll tell you a funny story. I had a small growth on the side of my head, and being conscientious I visited the doctor three times to get it looked at as it didn’t seem like the growth was going away. Anyway on the fourth visit the doctor was an older dude and he looked at me and said, let’s just take the growth off. A quick dab of frozen CO2 and that little thing was toast, and as I left there I was thinking to myself why didn’t they do that at the three earlier visits (over a long period of time)?

    Chasing income and profits due to my multiple visits is not necessarily technically against the Hippocratic Oath, but a strong argument could be put forward that it is against the spirit of the oath.

    Ooo! A fave topic of mine. As someone who has run a graduate course, I am a strong believer of on-the-job-training. I’ll check it out, but I also do have to write tonight. I’m old enough to have met and worked for accountants that learned their trade by way of apprenticeship.

    I guess Rome would have been a more interesting place than provincial Britain, what with Alaric and Attila the Hun pounding away on the gates to the city or the provinces. Or them just being let in to the city as the case may be. 😉

    It seems bizarre to me that Wally-world can wield so much power especially when all they are, after all is intermediaries. Such a position of power is a precarious thing. And what may once have been a united team may now no longer be a united team. That story interests me because, the editor knows how to have fun when fun is called for. But then when work is called for, we both work and work hard. However, I have met some folks who know not how to have fun at all, and such folks would be wearisome. As a wild guess, I believe a bit of that was going on there in the core of that Wally-world situation, but as I say it is just a wild guess and I don’t know the people involved and it was the first thought that popped into my head when I heard the news a while back and saw a few photos.

    Far out, yeah! When we rented in the nearby township, the gas mains had been put through at some point in the past. But no, the owners of the rental property were too stingy to connect up and so we faced LPG gas tanks. Expensive then, and they’re not getting any cheaper. I avoid using gas like the plague. There is a rumour floating about that demand will outstrip supply down here by 2022.

    Damo is pretty smart and as you said, he wisely took the higher ground. It looked like a pretty strong cyclone / hurricane. There was footage of a refrigerator being blown down a street in the winds: Tropical Cyclone Damien downgraded after bringing flooding, gale-force winds and storm surges to WA’s north.

    Your creamery (total respect) has cottoned on to the Pareto principle. Purists need not apply because sometimes good enough is actually far better than being a dull and boring zealot.

    Hehe! Yes, TMI would be awkward for everyone, and would most certainly make me blush! 🙂 I hope HRH enjoys her stay, and sometimes a gentle word in the right place can sort that issue out and return HRH to you. Some folks may first need to fail and face the consequences of their decisions – and let’s hope HRH kicks up a mighty fuss. I know her breed… And I do hope that Eleanor is OK?

    Mate, I tell ya, I was standing on the sloping veranda roof today painting the gable roof ends on the house. As I was painting away in a precarious position where a fall could lead to very unpleasant outcomes, I was thinking to myself, why the heck did I install weatherboards that require painting up in such a precarious location? If I’d had half a brain I would have done as the editor thoughtfully suggested (once I was safely back on the ground again) to have clad the gable ends with corrugated steel. So obvious from hindsight, but yeah I wasn’t enjoying the experience up there and did wonder how I did that job so easily a decade ago? As a side story, the regulations stopped me from doing that installation, although I believe it would have worked out just fine.



  60. Yo, Chris – Before I forget, you were asking about The Club’s income. Where it comes from. Well, there’s thirty some meetings a week at the Club, and each meeting kicks a bit in for a small rent. I’m not sure if it’s a set amount, or, if it’s a percentage. Every meeting, about half way through, has a “7th Tradition.” “Every meeting shall be self supporting….etc.”. They pass the basket. You kick in what you can. Usually, “a buck in the basket.” But, if anyone is’t up to that, there’s no wingeing, or, even side-long looks. So, there’s a steady income, from that.

    Income also comes from our tucker counter. Basically, lot of junk food, everything from a good candy selection to stuff that can be popped in the microwave. A good selection of soft drinks, coffee and teas. We also carry a good selection of recovery books. “Conference approved literature.” Everything is sold at “below standard market value”, but still provides a steady small income. There’s also a “club membership”, either $10 a month, or $100 a year. Counter help, cleaning and management are all volunteer. We’ve managed to build up a building purchase fund. Last I heard, about $40,000. Sounds like a lot, but, given the current real estate market …

    I’m not good a maths, either, other than the nuts and bolts stuff. But, every time I go into the doc, for this or that, they take my blood pressure. Usually, it’s pretty good. Once or twice it was a bit high, but, that can be written off to just the stress of going to the doc’s. Once, it was a bit high, and medication was suggested, but, I said “Let’s see what I can do about it.” More exercise and garlic seemed to do the trick. I tend to get small nose bleeds, when the pressure is up. So, I pay attention, and take appropriate action.

    I kept expecting Mike Rowe, to maybe mention, “Shop Craft, as Soulcraft.” A book I mentioned to you, quit awhile ago. But, it’s pretty old now, not that the concepts are outdated. And, he just might not be a reader.

    Your cyclones, our hurricanes. Tomatoes, tamatoes. That was quit a bit of footage of the fridge, merrily skating down the street. There was quit a bit of footage, here, of flooding in SW Washington and NW Oregon. From our last round of rain dumps.

    I’m up early, as there’s a lot of change, on a lot of fronts. Tends to make me restless. They kept Eleanor, in hospital, yesterday. Observation. Her grand daughter (great?), took HRK, yesterday. Home for a good (and much needed) wash and trim. When, (or if) she’ll come back, I don’t know.

    The grand daughter works here, as a “helper”. But, not for Eleanor. Gosh, how to explain the family dynamics, there. There’s 6 generations, kicking about. But the one daughter and grand daughter, are the most concerned with Eleanor’s well fare. One of them will take HRH, when the time comes. I’m not family, so, about all I can do is advise and warn. More like, gently suggest.

    The next step is “assisted living.” Which Eleanor knows is coming, sooner or later. Now might be the time, or, very soon. There will be resistance. So, I might have a new neighbor, in the offing. Also, I haven’t said too much about what’s been going on around The Institution. No sense wingeing about it. But, there may be some question as to how we got into Eleanor’s apartment. Keys, and key cards have become an issue. The firemen came very close to breaking down the door, then I remembered one of the other tenants had a key. Currently in my possession. But, we’ll keep quiet, about that, and, I hope it won’t become an “issue.”

    Any-who. So, there’s all that going on. Plus, we will be getting a new night manager. But that will probably be a 3 or 4 month process. My yearly re-assessment is coming up, so, I’ve got a ream of paperwork to fill out. Permission to poke around in my bank account, and all that. I suppose, an apartment check will be done, close on the heels. Not a bad thing. Getting a little “man cave”, in here.

    The Club is having a yearly membership meeting. Election of new officers, etc. etc.. “If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.” But, I have a vote.

    AND, we have about 5 nice days, coming up. So, time to get back in the garden. Lew

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