The Littlest Little Farm

By now, long term readers will know that the editor and I work pretty hard. However, the truth of the matter is that on occasion we totally dodge work, and we’re cool with that. That was the case last Thursday.

We woke up on Thursday to a glorious summers day. The sun was shining, and the weather was sweet. Just like the Goldilocks story, it was neither too hot, nor was it too cold, the weather was just right – for dodging work that is!

With that goal in mind, we headed into the big smoke of Melbourne with the intention of enjoying viewing a daytime session at the cinema of the film: The Biggest Little Farm. It feels quite naughty to us to watch a film in the middle of the day, especially when most other folks appear to be working. However, we’re adults and we can handle those sorts of feelings! As long as lollies and choc top icecreams are involved.

The film really was beautiful, and it told the story of a couple who purchased degraded farm land in California. The couple then set about creating a 200 acre productive farm (Apricot Lane Farm), whilst restoring the natural ecosystem on their parcel of land. This noble act of theirs allowed the local wildlife to enter the farm and share some of the produce and amenities.

There were times during the film where the breath caught in my throat as my eyes took in beautiful visuals of an eagle swooping in on a starling nest. Take that, starling! There may also have been the odd tear or two, but it is possible that some tiny foreign object had irritated my eye. Maybe.

Early on, the couple in the film employed a delightful bloke by the name of Alan York. Alan introduced the couple to biodynamic growing methods and also the general concept of biodiversity. Whilst I’m not an adherent of biodynamic growing methods, I don’t doubt their veracity. And Alan gave the couple a number of guidelines, farm layout and sensible practices with which to restore the fertility of the farm.

He implemented a lot of interesting systems on the farm, and I was in total awe of the enormous compost / worm farm / compost tea digester system. It was an epic installation and I can only but dream of such contraptions. However in other areas, Alan appeared in the film to be a bit hazy about the finer details. And I believe that was the correct approach.

In recognition of that, I’m guessing Alan provided the couple with a lovely Southern saying (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.” As I heard those wise words, I was thinking to myself, mate I hear you about that!

Alan died in 2014, which was many years before the film was completed and distributed to cinemas. The turning point in the narrative of the film came about when the couple could no longer rely on Alan for advice. Instead they had the awful realisation that they just had to observe for themselves what was going on all around them on the farm. Then they had to make up their own minds about what to do.

As the couple in the film observed how the wildlife interacted with their farm, they inevitably suffered defeats and set backs. However, when the couple got knocked down, they merely got back up again and adapted, or at least they got out of the way whilst nature established its own balance. It was beautiful to see the learning and creation process unfolding in the story.

Exhibit A: Nemesis

The couple in the film were originally city slickers, but by the end of the film they looked as if they’d found their place in a rural idyll. Like those two, we were also once city slickers, but no longer. We also have our share of sometimes complicated interactions with the local wildlife. The above image is of one of the many wallabies (a smaller forest dwelling kangaroo) that lives on the farm. They can be right nuisances when they’re not being vandals!

But we’re also learning and adapting, and sometimes we get things right. The climate has shifted recently, and we are now experiencing a cooler and far more humid summer, than even only a few weeks ago. The rains have returned, and the paddocks and ground cover in the orchards have turned green. We predicted the change, and stored the years firewood away just in a nick of time before the return of the summer rains caused the firewood to become too moist to store. One notable year early on when we did just that, and we grew a lot of mushrooms (none of which are edible) on the damp firewood.

Of course at other times we don’t get things right. The early part of the summer was crazy hot and dry. We made a decision not to water the raspberries so as to conserve water. As a consequence the raspberry plants have struggled and hardly produced any berries this season. The strawberries and blackberries are however making up for the lack, but raspberries are very tasty and I feel their loss keenly. The plants are also being overgrown by the blackberry plants within the same enclosure. So after cogitating upon the poor raspberry harvest, we have decided that during mid to late autumn, we intend to move all of the raspberry plants to their own dedicated enclosure (the current corn enclosure).

The raspberry and blackberry enclosure – soon to be a dedicated blackberry enclosure

We don’t know how any of this stuff will work out, all we can do is make the attempt, observe what happens, and then make adjustments. The solar power system is a bit like that. Regular readers will recall that last week I scored a number of additional solar panels. It was a princely gift and gratefully received. However in order to add these new solar panels into the solar power system, I have to undertake a major upgrade of the entire system. I certainly didn’t expect that outcome this year.

I really understand and can empathise with Alan’s interactions with the couple. Back in the days when I worked for a large corporate, I had a wonderful time establishing and then running their graduate program (in addition to my normal work duties for the large corporate). I took the commitment on because frankly nobody else wanted to do the work, and I could see the assistant accountants languishing. The task itself was no hardship, because it was just so rewarding. However, sometimes the assistant accountants could be stubborn or believe that they knew best. At such times I’d point them in the right direction, and then – as happens – they sometimes failed. Yet in the failure they learned, and were then able to grow. The couple in the film went through that same process and it was beautiful to see.

The sun was obscured by thick smoke on Friday. The smoke had its origins in the epic bushfires over in the far east of the state. You could taste the acrid smoke on your tongue with every breath. I’d definitely describe these fires as an epic failure in forest management practices, although other people disagree and so I don’t believe anything will be learned from the situation. In the meantime we have to deal with the smoke.

Thick smoke filled the air and obscured the sun

Since the firewood was stored away for the winter, we’ve had time to begin working our way through the annual maintenance list. Painting the house was on the maintenance list.

The fire rated skirt around the bottom of the house was in need of paint

Every year we decide to paint one side of the house. It seems to be a simpler and easier way to approach what is a large and lengthy task. During the week, I filled up all of the minor gaps in the weatherboards and also painted the roof gable ends. A gable end is a fancy description for the two flat triangular shaped roof end sections above the veranda roof.

The two gable ends were painted and any minor gaps on the wall were filled

In the above photo you can see that the bushfire shutters are still covering and protecting the windows.

Before I could paint the gable ends, I had to first scrub them with a scrubbing brush and fresh water because they were covered in mold.

The gable ends had to be scrubbed clean with a scrubbing brush

Observant readers will note that I am hanging on to the house with my right hand whilst my left does the scrubbing. The water made for a slippery surface on the sloping roof.

The editor has been using the electric hedge trimmer to keep the herbs and other plants in the garden beds neat. The return of summer rains has meant that growth in the garden has been quite astounding.

The garden bed in the courtyard received a good trim
The feral growth meant some of the paths (such as this one) were in danger of being taken over by the plants

Another dozen bottles of summer sun ripened fruit were preserved this week. The bottles are a mix of plums or apricots.

Another dozen bottles of sun ripened fruit were preserved

Corn germination rates were very low this year due to the crazy weather conditions earlier in the season. However the corn that did grow, has grown well and appears to be now filling out cobs.

Corn cobs appear to be slowly filling out

The new garden terrace has finally began producing some quality plant growth. Good soil takes about three years to establish, and given the soil on those terraces is only in it’s first year, the plants are doing quite well.

(Left row) Eggplants, globe artichokes (Middle row) Australian cattle dog
(Right rows) Tomatoes and Capsicum

We’ve begun cooking and enjoying the globe artichokes, and they really are a tasty vegetable.

Globe artichokes

Only three of the many capsicum plants have produced fruit, and those are mysteriously planted next to a weed known as ‘Fat Hen’. I’m reluctant to remove the weed and feed it to the chickens because of the marked difference in the growth of those three capsicum plants. The intention is to collect seeds from the weed and grow it next season.

Yummy capsicum

Regular readers will already know that we plant a lot of lavender. We enjoy the sight and smell of the plants, and the bees regularly forage on the flowers. What has been of interest lately is that we now have enough lavender that the plants are self seeding.

Six self sown lavender plants

Onto the flowers:

A mass of Geranium flowers
Agapanthus does well even in the harshest, hottest and driest summers
Blue Hydrangeas have begun climbing high into the foliage of this Japanese maple
A lovely creeping Rose
No summer would be complete here without Californian Poppies
Vividly coloured Geranium flowers
The return of summer rain has produced many Poppies
This Rose is an absolute stunner

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 14’C (57’F). So far this year there has been 134.2mm (5.3 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 124.8mm (4.9 inches).

70 thoughts on “The Littlest Little Farm”

  1. Hi Lewis,

    I killed my clickety clackety mechanical keyboard. It’s a total disaster because most of the keys work just fine, but now some are sticky and fail to register key strokes, and of course it would have to be the back arrow and the delete key. You discover just how many key strokes those keys take, when they no longer work properly.

    The whole sad story began after New Years when I visited a nearby bakery. They make the best BLT’s. There is no better BLT to be found anywhere and the bread is sour dough, and the Bacon is locally sourced and organic, and the Lettuce, well it is the sort of green plant matter I regularly eat straight from the garden. Some people may be challenged by such a BLT, but I celebrate such care and attention to the finer things in life. Life is short and there are only so many fooding opportunities.

    Anyway, whilst at the bakery I had to go to the toilet. That’s when things went bad for me. Someone had left a resounding stench in the small enclosure. Being aware of germ theory, and not wanting to get charged by the police for urinating in public, I steeled myself to the epic stench and did my business. It really was urgent that I had to go, and it could not be delayed much longer. Fastidious hand washing took place after my business was done, but some bugs are hardy enough that all you need are ten of the little critters, and infected folks can pump out millions of them. The odds are not good in those cases.

    Anyway, living on a farm I’m exposed to all manner of ugly critters, and so the bug was more of a nuisance for me than a debilitating wipe out. My body valiantly fought off the nasties and after a few days I was back to normal.

    However, one evening before my body had completely defeated the nasties, I was feeling less than my usual sprightly self, and that was when disaster struck. I knocked my drink onto and all over the clickety clackety mechanical keyboard. Quick as, I washed the keyboard in hot water and then dried it with a hair dryer, but no, some things do not recover and the keyboard succumbed to an awful fate. I’m not usually careless with my stuff, but all I can say is that I blame fate. Yes, maybe fate is responsible? Hehe!

    Far out. It would be nice if sick people stayed home willingly and kept themselves out of the public realm.

    Mate, I tell ya, politicians could learn a thing or fifty from your most excellent seventh tradition. Total respect for the tradition, and also for the deeper meaning behind it. I read a delightful quote from the now deceased, but most excellent economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, who quipped something along the lines that: “Nobody donates money to politicians without expecting a return on their investment.”

    We do a similar thing with the Green Wizards and at the end of the meeting we all chuck in a gold coin (either one or two dollars) donation to pay for the cost of the meeting room. We don’t owe nobody, nuffin! 😉

    Have you heard any more about the fate of the club building? I despair at our societies attitude to primarily considering property as an investment. There was a good article about the increasing divide in wealth inequality: Older Australians who own their home more than 20 times better off than those who rent, data shows. I am very uncomfortable with this widening gap. I feel that hits to the standard of living and wealth can be accepted if folks share the pain equally.

    Math, I hear you. In year 9 I was busy fending off the attentions of the school bully as I was only in my first year there and had just moved from a very hippy dippy school. I was what might be known as ‘fresh meat’. It was a good lesson that some losses cannot be recovered. 😉 I heard an older favourite song on the radio today from the UK band ‘The Wombats’. I suspect the band spends a lot of time out here.

    Anyway, the lyrics went:
    You’ll never be my closest friend
    I find no comfort
    In what my mind can’t comprehend”

    It’s a valid point of view, although DJ may disagree. 😉

    But yeah, blood pressure issues can be due to a certain lack of mobility, and just hoping that a few pills will sort it all out. Some may use the word ‘sedentary’ and it sure does paint a picture. I dunno about that sort of thinking, but it is around, that’s for sure.

    The photos look eerily similar to the deluge going on in the capital of the state to the north of here: Sydney. They’ve had something crazy like 15 inches of rain in four days. People were being told not to go to work. Not much can withstand that sort of onslaught from nature. There are reports that the epic rain has finally put out the bushfires in that corner of our continent. That’s something to be grateful for.

    Speaking of bushfires, I spotted a very thoughtful article which suggests that the only way forward with bushfires is to go back to what once worked: The history of fire in Australia — and how it can help us face the bushfires of the future. I’m unsure that our culture will handle that observation well, or even act on it, but you never know, stranger things have happened.

    I have some free time this evening and so will listen to the podcast. Nothing wrong with the concept of getting your mind caught up in the activity of doing something productive! 😉

    Change? Yeah, who needs it? Pah! Although, it is easier dealing with change than pretending that it does not exist. That’s my take on the philosophy, and no doubts you have your own counsel in that matter?

    As a comparison, the only time I wash the dogs is when they are stupid enough to roll in unmentionable organic material. They don’t smell, and their coats are definitely not greasy like some city dogs. Not sure why that is? How dogs see unusual organic matter as a perfume is beyond me. Sorry to hear that HRH has been snatched away, and fingers crossed that Eleanor returns, although we all face that fate one way or another.

    It is unfortunate that the relationship you have with Eleanor and HRH is not better known to the family, but if there are too many fingers in the pie, well, people just demand what they want. Unfortunately that is how life works out sometimes. HRH is probably bored and missing her accustomed company. Dog’s are social creatures, and you never know the household where HRH ended up may already have other dogs?

    Yeah, best keep mum about that story.

    Hehe! What was it last time during the change of the guard: Was it four or six inspections within a short period of time? Neat and tidy is a lifestyle choice, it’s not for everyone, but you know it is a worthy goal!!! Don’t laugh, but we have been in this house for a decade now, and there is talk of a proper spring clean for the rooms: touch up paint, clean and re-oil the floors. You’re in good company with the cleaning, it has to happen. We realised that task needed doing when we went to visit an historic house which was open, and it was genuinely filthy. We’re nowhere near that state, but far out, I can see how it might be a distant possibility.

    Like your motto. I reckon it would sound superb in Latin! 😉 It smacks of the Peter Principle.

    Hope you enjoy some time in the garden. More rain here today – about a fifth of an inch fell. What a difference the rain makes.

    Can’t believe I forgot to click on the Publish button twice this morning. You’d think once would be enough, but no…



  2. Yo, Chris – Glad you liked the movie. Happy I suggested it 🙂 .

    So, did the corn leave a forwarding address? 🙂 . I couldn’t quit tell if you were going to relocate it, next year, or, give it a rest, for awhile.

    Yeah, you can only tell people so much. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had that start off, “Just as a suggestion…” or, “In my experience …” Again, a little gift from “the Program.”

    Well, that skirt board transformed as if by magic! No brushes involved! I imagine the Editor, leaping about like a Ninja, brandishing her electric pruner, and giving the sporadic martial arts yell. Nothing so satisfying as whacking away at stuff.

    The preserves look so pretty. Yup. This year’s crop of Australian cattle dogs, looks a bit thin. Do you think it was the weather? The lack of rain?

    I looked up the “Fat Hen” plants on Wikipedia. Pretty interesting entry. I wondered if it was, perhaps, a good companion plant. Which is where I think you’re going with your thoughts. One of it’s common names is “manure plant.” So, I’d say, someone noticed it “helps” some plants. But, it can be invasive. Also, edible for humans.

    I didn’t realize that hydrangeas could be climbers. I’ve only seen them as bushes, here. But that may be because they’re so easy to prune, once the leaves fall. By the way, the Master Gardeners were here, on Saturday, giving a seminar on rose care and pruning. They use our grounds, for seminars, of things we have in abundance. Hydrangeas, blueberries, roses, etc.. Cont.

  3. Cont. Well, that’s tragic, about your keyboard. Mine just did a “we’re tired, we’re going to shut down,” as it did, awhile back. I think I’ve figured out the problem. My computer sits on a two door file cabinet. The electric outlet is behind it. If the file cabinet, pushes against the plug, it cuts out. So, the solution seems to be, just make sure the file cabinet is pulled out a few inches from the plug. That’s all theory. But, my knees tend to bump the file cabinet, so, it migrates.

    Galbraith is right. It’s what we used to politely call a bribe.

    On property. I wish I had known then, what I know now. I never thought I’d pretty much be priced out of the market. But, here we are. There was a link, over at Mr. Greer’s, that was pretty interesting. I’m going to have to go back and take another look at that blog. It’s a pretty long post (with lots of pictures). But, you might want to skip down to the bottom, where they start talking about empty commercial properties.

    Well, we’ve pretty much become a country of, “Have a problem? There’s a pill for that.” Advertising keeps up a constant drum beat. Luckily, some of us haven’t fallen for that line of thinking (?). And, perhaps, our numbers are growing.

    We’re getting quit a bit of coverage, over here, on your wind and rain. First it was the brushfires, now this. The Australian Tourist board is upset. I surmise. As far as the brushfires go, let’s call another Royal Commission. That’s worked so well, in the past …

    Eleanor still isn’t back. Her grand daughter, who is a helper, here, brings in her new baby, every Monday, at noon. So the Ladies can oh, and ah, over it. Baby Odin (I kid you not) is quit a hit. Women’s business. But, I’ll wander down at noon and see if I can pick up any intel.

    I think neat and tidy is over rated. Beyond a certain point.

    Well, the forecast changed, again, and we might not get our nice couple of days. Booooo! But, I got out and did a few things, yesterday.

    I did my yearly re-certification paperwork. Gives them permission to poke around in my bank account. I was tempted to say, “Still poor,” when I turned it in, but those people have no sense of humor, at all. I didn’t want to risk a 15 minute lecture, on why the paperwork is sooooo important. I know it is. But, can’t we poke a bit of gentle fun? Lew

  4. Hi Chris,

    With my raspberries I grow them under bird netting to act as shade cloth. I’m not sure what you’ve found but the intensity of the heat is too much for them in Victoria. When you buy them the labels seem to say full sun is needed, but originally they’re woodland plants, and therefore grow in partial shade. Maybe give that a shot next year?

    Plus being European woodland plants and shallow rooted they need to be kept moist… 🙁



  5. Hi Chris,

    Enjoy the beauty of perfect summer days! It will be awhile before we experience them here. But the Ozark witch hazel is blooming (it blooms in late winter and early spring and becomes a bee magnet when it does) and a few daffodil buds are showing above the soil line. Spring will come in due time (about 5 or 6 weeks if past experience proves out).

    In my experience, too, it takes a long time to learn how to integrate book learning with what the land has to say about how to work with it. Only in the past few years do I feel have become competent at vegetable gardening. I’m still learning what native plants want to grow in my soil that the rabbits won’t eat. While I have a small suite of such plants, I’d like to add some others to increase the diversity and interest. But what to add? I’ll do some research into that next month.

    How lovely that the rain caused your land to green up! And as always, the flower pix are a sight for winter-weary eyes in this hemisphere. Enjoy the preserves!


  6. Hi Matt,

    That’s a really good call about the bird netting being used as shade cloth over the raspberries. Do you use black or white bird netting?

    It was a disaster not to have watered the raspberries this year, and from hindsight I had the water to spare. I hear you about the heat – and it reminds me of the first book I read about bee keeping (a NZ book by the way) which suggested to site the hive in the full sun. Did that. After 3 days of 40’C+ weather the bees took off for cooler (and shadier) pastures. An expensive error, and now they and the chickens reside in the full shade, and don’t seem bothered by it at all.

    With the raspberries I grow them in a thicket and so they give each other a bit of shade, but in a month or two, I’ll rip all of them up and plant them in the current corn enclosure – which will then make that a raspberry enclosure. I’ve noticed that commercial plantings of raspberries seem to be in rows, and that requires probably too much care and attention from me. At the end of the season I just trim the lot back to a third of their size and rip out the dead canes. It is hardly onerous.

    I hear stories about building up pests in blocks of planting, but I tell ya what, it is easier to harvest things when they are planted in blocks – and that sort of makes things easier for me. A big pest for me with the berries has been common blackbirds (an introduced species), but I suspect the Kookaburra’s have dined upon them recently as they now seem bizarrely absent. Dunno. Rabbit activity has declined too in the past week or so.

    How are you going with your garden?



  7. Hi Claire,

    It won’t be long at all until you are busy again in the garden. I see that you have some new posts written too, and as usual I am impressed with your approach and the productivity of your garden. Are you still continuing to add minerals to the soil?

    Discovered the first tiny eggplant fruit today. Yay!

    Ozark witch hazel looks like a beautiful plant. And are the flowers as nice smelling as the text suggests? It is nice to have late winter flowering plants. In the big smoke people grow magnolias which put on a good late winter/early spring show. A lot of the very dry adapted indigenous plants in the surrounding forest choose that time of year to flower too. Respect for the hardy bulbs. Do you allow them to form clumps? Or do you dig them up and relocate them, as I recall some folks used to do down this way.

    It almost sounds as if you are investigating the seed catalogues for your future native plants? Rabbits are a nuisance, but of late something has been eating them – although I know not what it may be. But yeah, it takes years of experience to get good at this stuff. Interestingly, I tend to feel that each variety of plant tells a story, and you just more or less have to know the plants story in order to get good at growing it. My grandfather – as far as I’m aware – never referred to any books, but he had a hugely productive vegetable garden. He’d grown up on a farm during the Great Depression, although he never spoke to me about his past. It was always about the present or future for him.

    Thank you and glad to read that you enjoy the flower photos at the tail end of your winter. 🙂



  8. Hi Lewis,

    Thank you for the film recommendation, and I really did enjoy the story and visuals of the film. I read a few interviews with the guy in relation to the film, and he consistently said that he didn’t finalise the film until he was sure of the narrative, and I get that. Your timing was fortuitous as it was released in the cinemas here way after it was released in your part of the world.

    No, I’m not sure where the corn will grow next year, but for sure it will be in a different location! Didn’t you once give me a hint (or was that a prod) that crop rotation might not be a bad idea to consider? 🙂 Well, I’m considering it. I must say that with the new terraces, there is a lot more growing space than in previous years. The upper most terrace will be extended over the next few months. There’s a plan in place…

    Don’t you reckon it is kind of like sowing the seed of an idea? I do that with people, and sometimes they come back and tell me that they’d had this great realisation – and I’m sure I mentioned something to them about that idea previously. Oh well. But you know, I don’t sweat that stuff out, all you can do is suggest, and I’m frankly always amazed by the wisdom inherent in the words and guidelines of your Club.

    Funny. I’ve heard about people painting with the magic of compressed air. I gave that spray painting technique a go, and what I noticed was the adherence of the paint to the surface was not so good. In fact after a year or two some of the paint peeled away from the surface. Before and ever since that one-off experiment, I have used brushes, and the facts speak for themselves.

    Mate, I tell ya, painting the two gable ends whilst standing on the sloping veranda roof was no joke. I was glad to have completed the job without falling off. I had to hold myself dead still for over an hour and just focus on getting the job done. It felt good to finally stand on the ground again.

    I may have heard a “Ki-Ya!” or three when the editor brandished her hedge trimmer and took the good fight to the plants in the garden beds.

    Hehe! Poor little orphan Ollie. He’s done alright that dog turning up here, and best of all, he knows it. Hey, I spotted the first tiny little eggplant today. About time, I thought the plants might produce just leaves and no fruit this year.

    Weeds that are high in protein and entirely edible sound good to me. The seeds look like they’ll provide hardy grain for the chickens. Interesting about the name, and I’ll have a look into that.

    Did you learn anything about rose pruning during the seminar? Pruning is an odd skill and I tend to observe how the plants respond to being cut back. With so many fruit trees in the orchard, I’ve become a little less precious about the task over the past few years. Dunno how it will work out though.

    Good luck with your computer setup, but I reckon we’ve all be there at some point in our lives. For your interest, I’ve had a few tools like that, and the electric jackhammer was doing exactly that just before the final few days of digging on the terrace project. You couldn’t look at the machine in the wrong way before it packed it in. Eventually the machine stopped working and I shortened the cable – and now it works again. Mind you, it worked pretty hard.

    Thanks for the link. I read the article and looked at the pictures. Hmm. Expanding the monetary supply so that some people can pay for and get stuff for nothing, is not a sensible economic policy. It’s been tried before, and every single time it leads to inflation. Now we pretend that inflation is not walking among us, but that is only because we have somehow convinced ourselves that asset price inflation (property, stocks, bonds) is a good thing – and so we don’t talk about that. It benefits some people mightily. But others get kicked off the sinking boat. Not a fan. Anyway, so that is what California is all about. Right.

    I’d hope so. I reckon people are more aware about situations than they let on. For example there are plenty of people who enjoy rising property prices (and share and bond markets). But then get them alone and they confess to having fears for their kids future. Mostly, that story plays out by the people deciding to squirrel away assets for their kids. One thing I have long noticed about folks: They strive for income, but overlook the possibility of reducing costs. Dunno why, it’s probably deep. But if everyone is heading in one direction, it might not be a bad idea to head in different direction altogether.

    Yup, but the Royal Commission sure will cost a lot of money. Sydney did it tough over the past few days. Truly bonkers weather. A bit of middle ground wouldn’t be too bad. And tourism has apparently hit the pooper down here. Even your country was giving travel warnings for down here! Oh well.

    Sorry to hear that Eleanor is not back. That’s not good. Wow, what kind of burden is that to place on a kid? Tolkien certainly borrowed a chunk of Odin for his Gandalf character. Anyway, it’s a big call in anyone’s language. I’ve heard some stupid kids names in my time, and over in NZ some kid apparently had their name legally changed from ‘Bus Stop No 16’. Yes, a dodgy memory if ever there was one.

    For some reason, every time I read the Spear Chuckers name, I tend to think of Tolkien’s Legolas Elf character. There is more than a passing similarity there. What do you reckon about that?

    And Arthur’s marital dilemma sounds a bit silly to my mind. Yeah, I reckon silly is the right way to describe it. I can imagine the difficulty Mr Whyte had introducing that particular side of the story. Bonkers.

    Oh no. I see the good Professor is talking up weather apps. Don’t use them myself. It’s continued to be monsoonal this week. Warm sunny mornings and days, then a build-up of clouds and then a little bit of rain. Fortunately nothing like what Sydney has just been through. There can be a thing as too much rain.

    Hehe! Not all officials are busybody, ill-humoured pedants. I recall working at the elections and getting to enjoy all the fun comments (and drawings) that disgruntled compulsory voters left for us all to read. I’m actually for compulsory voting. It gets people off their couches and reduces the costs and length of time of elections.



  9. Hello Chris
    That is an unnerving photo of you dealing with the gable ends. The editor must be a calm lady, I think that I would have objected.
    Our storm is over, no very big stuff came down. Still quite a bit of gusting wind at intervals.
    I also didn’t know that hydrangeas could climb and can only assume that they don’t get the chance here as they are normally bushes surrounded by lawn.
    I really must learn how to pass on access details to an article. There is an article in the Daily Mail about an object find on an Isle of Wight beach. The finders think that it might be a cyanide capsule, the police weren’t interested. Comments have suggested that the finders should take it to the Imperial war museum for identification. It is certainly not a cyanide capsule.
    I do occasionally spot things on the beach which I leave alone.


  10. Yo, Chris – Well, corn is a heavy feeder. I’m sure if you threw enough organic “stuff” at it, it could probably be grown in the same patch, year after year. But, what if you missed something? Some vital nutrient. Comfrey is supposed to be good, for restoring soil. I’ve got such a small patch that I can micro-manage. But, it will be interesting to see what happens when I try and grow corn, in the same spot, for the third year in a row. Of course, I’m always pitching stuff at that end of the garden.

    I was in our local all purpose store, the other day. They’re getting in their garden section, and stuff, right now. As a point of interest, I noticed an entire end cap, devoted to beekeeping. That’s new. There was an enormous box. I don’t know what all was in it, but it was a hive. $199.

    Words and ideas are like seeds. Might fall on fertile ground. Might not. Might impact the sower, might impact the ground.

    Ladders and heights. Not something I want to think about. Decades ago, I knew someone who did a miss step, on a ladder, and ended up in hospital, for close to a year. While the multiple breaks in his legs and pelvis healed up. It’s a memory that gives me the fantods, and one I don’t like to contemplate.

    Oh, I don’t go to the Master Gardener seminars. They’re generally open to the wider public, so, it’s a mob of people I don’t know. And we who live here, don’t really have truck with the roses. I did go to the blueberry one, last year. More for support of the Master Gardeners. And, since I raid them heavily, I thought I ought to know something about them. There were several people who attended, that were going to be starting blueberry farms. Or, wanted to.

    Here’s an article on our economy, that you may, or may not find interesting. Has to do with inflation, etc..

    Reducing cost, and, also, not taking on new ones seems to be a good course of action. And, something beyond “skip that daily expresso.” It’s something I think about.

    Well, the Tolkien reference is lost on me, as, that’s a gap in my cultural education. By choice. Back when we had a better functioning local newspaper, once a year, usually in January, they had an insert of all the babies, born in the county, the previous year. Some of the names were just (to me) down right weird. Heavy on the country western theme, and very, very obscure characters, from the bible.

    I’m up to chapter 10 in “The Eagle.” Once again, I need a spread sheet to figure out Arthur’s convoluted family tree. 🙂 What I find interesting is how family connections, even at such an early date, were so intertwined. But, so it has always been. I think I may have mentioned, I was surprised to discover that ALL of Henry VIII’s wives, were related to one another (and, to him) by one means or another.

    Another thing I find interesting, is that there always seems to be a handy Roman fort, around. Ruined, but still useful. But, that’s not a Wyatt literary device. That’s how things were.

    I’ve always wondered if compulsory voting, leads to a more politically engaged population? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? Probably, a bit of both.

    No news on Eleanor. Lew

  11. Hi Chris,
    Read your comment to Lew (I think) about your doctor pushing many tests. I think, unless they are in private practice, doctors are required to do that. I am fortunate that my doctor never pushes for any test. He always brings up a bone density test and I just tell him I wouldn’t take the medication and I do all I can in that regard. I have white coat syndrome where my BP spikes whenever I go to the doctor so I have my own monitor and take it regularly. I also bring it in to the doctor to compare it’s reading with his.

    After Lew brought up the movie I checked to see if I could get it online. We do have Hulu (which is less than $6/month) and turns out they had it. We both enjoyed it very much. Where did they get all the help though.

    Have you, or anyone else here, read any of Masanobu Fukuoka’s books?

    I am 1/3 of the way through The Biggest Estate on Earth. I feel there are many parallels between this book and 1491 by Charles Mann. I read that book quite awhile ago and think I’ll get it again for a reread.

    You look very precarious up there on that roof. I was none too pleased when Doug decided he would clean our chimney himself last summer. He did at least go out and get a safety harness. I pointed out that having it cleaned professionally wasn’t that expensive – much less so than if he fell.

    We had another 2 inches of snow with another couple inches expected tomorrow night followed by two days of very cold weather with a low of -9F (-22.8C) on Thursday night. It’ll be very short lived though with some rain in the forecast for Monday. No sign of anything growing but Cardinals and Red Bellied Woodpeckers have started vocalizing.


  12. Hi, Chris!

    That sounds like a wonderful movie. If only the audience had realized that they had the Fernglade Farm celebrities in their midst, all their attention would have been drawn away from the show.

    I had thought that rain had put out most of the bushfires. It is not easy living with so much smoke. Is it bothering Scritchy and Toothy since they are old dogs?

    Your house skirt looks fantastic. And that is brilliant – to paint only one side of the house each year. Brilliant! I love breaking up a daunting task into several smaller ones. I am glad to see a photo of how the bushfire shutters look when closed. A brush and fresh water to scrub the gables – is that all, no soap?

    My favorite photo this time is of the pathway leading to the secret garden through the lush and enticing growth (and there is a hose hanging nearby just in case it was too much of a secret).

    I think that you are actually going to get some corn – if some critter doesn’t get it first. The new terrace looks great, and that’s some big crop of AC Dog! I have seen Fat Hen growing around here, though not lately. We call it Lamb’s Quarters. I will certainly eat some next time I do see it.

    So – your soil must be fairly acid to have those beautiful blue hydrangeas? That rose IS a stunner with the white center.


  13. @ Lew
    Re: the affordability crisis. Things are similar here except, thank goodness. for our health service.


  14. Hi Inge,

    To be candid, I was not feeling entirely safe up in that precarious position – especially when painting the very peak of the gable end. Not nice at all. However, we worked out that we could extended the ladder to its highest setting, and then I had something to grab hold of and steady myself.

    I tell ya, ten years ago when last that gable end was painted, I was either more nimble, more fool hardy, or just had better balance. What happened in the ten years?

    Nope, the editor was not calm, but at least she was quiet. We have a rule about talking to the other person who is at the higher end of a ladder. I fell off once due to too much good advice whilst at the higher end – thus the reason for the rule and it works both ways too. It was weird because I when I fell, I was totally unharmed by the fall. Dunno why. Luck more than anything else.

    Good to hear that no big stuff came down in your storm. From memory you have had a bit of strong winds over the past year, so maybe anything that was due to fall, already fell? Sometimes some trees here fall on calm days, and that is always a bit unnerving. You get a bit of warning by the cracking or groaning sound as the cellulose in the tree splits apart, but not much warning, and so I keep my eyes and ears open when out in the forest, although there are other hazards there too. I hope one day never to encounter a rusty old trap. I’ve seen all sorts of odds and ends left over from the old logging days.

    I’ve never seen a hydrangea climb that far into a Japanese maple either. The growth in that garden bed is reasonably thick, so the hydrangea is reaching for the sun. It’s about six foot or more off the ground now.

    You sound to me as if you have a theory as to what the mysterious item on the beach is? Better than an old WWII bomb – which occasionally turn up in unusual places.

    You can just leave the title of the article and that is usually easy enough to find the source.



  15. Hi Lewis,

    Well that is the thing I wonder about, and it is a larger problem within industrial agriculture. What is worse is that from what I understand, nobody really knows the full spectrum of minerals required by each plant, and like us humans, some plants can get away with missing out on some minerals and yet they still grow – but does anyone really want scurvy? Like you, I dunno either, and I chuck a lot of organic matter onto the garden beds and just hope for the best. Claire has a much better handle on these soil matters than I do, and she also gets her garden soils tested. I would do so here too if someone else coughed up the money for me to get the tests done. They’re not cheap down under. Until then, I just keep chucking on organic matter and hoping for the best.

    I’m doing corn in the same spot for the second year in a row, and interestingly, the second year corn is well outperforming the corn planted in first year soil. The difference is very marked.

    Wow. There has been an upsurge in interest in beekeeping – which is good because most small scale beekeepers aren’t the sort to lease their hives out to commercial orchardists trucked to distant locales. That means that the bees can get established in an area – and possibly even escape to a more congenial spot in that area. I know there are wild hives here because I can smell the honey when walking around the forest. The genetic diversity is good for the bees, and they can grow worker bees to their preferred size (something bees can’t do in normal managed hives).

    Well there you go, my bee supplier: Bee Sustainable is offering hives for $285. Your lot is a bargain. I see bee-flation has kicked in, but the bees have done it very hard this year due to the crazy hot and dry weather and I’m guessing numbers are down.

    That’s an eerie thought about impacting the sower, but yeah – I see politics folks drinking their own kool-aid. Nobody wants that drink.

    Ouch. Yeah, such thoughts were on my mind when I was up on the veranda roof painting those gable ends. It doesn’t look high off the ground, but it really is a long way up there. I don’t know how I put all the fire rated plaster and then nailed in the weatherboards up there a decade ago. I must have had better balance – or maybe less fear? It’s a bit eerie, and hope your mate eventually recovered from his fall? I’ve also known people to fall off ladders and end in hospital. I mentioned to Inge a rule that we have in place here to protect the person working at the top of the ladder. Bad vibes from falling off a ladder previously – but miraculously unharmed, which was so weird. Nobody wants to be the dead dude in the creepy Sixth Sense film, but after what happened to him…

    I would have gone to the blueberry class too. I have a bit of a regret that I was so busy last year that I missed out on attending a citrus master-class run by an old dude that has written a book on the subject and had been growing the trees for many decades. Ya can’t do everything, and that’s what regrets are about.

    The article read like a car crash. Thanks for linking to it. I can’t believe the average price of medical insurance. OMG! Who can afford that? And how the heck can anyone afford a $1.6m middle of the road house in San Frandisco? Bonkers. And absolutely, it is a step beyond just skipping the daily espresso. Interestingly, no solutions were offered in the article and I thought that was interesting. It had a kind of defeated air to its tone. Anyway, reducing costs, and accepting limits is all about heading in a different direction than the herd. It might not be a good direction, but at least it is less crowded.

    Actually old school names are making a comeback. I know someone who named their kid Noah. Calls for a return to tradition always piques my interest. What do you reckon about that?

    Did Henry VIII really get all of his wives executed? It seems a bit extreme if true? And I read recently that there was a school of thought which suggests that he may have been suffering from type II diabetes.

    I look forward to mentions in the story of the general condition of the land and peoples during those days. Literacy certainly dropped off the radar, was it wide spread in Romes heyday?

    It’s a bit of both. There’s a bit of grumbling about compulsory voting, but then people turn up and make their vote, and despite what they say in public they’re pretty passionate about it all. And we end up getting a representation of what the society wants.

    The vote counting process is extraordinarily honest – all paper for a start.



  16. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks, but yeah at the back of my mind I was thinking they were hoping to get either repeat business or pay off the expensive as pathology lab. Going to the doctors stresses me out too, and so I totally get what you mean about the BP. Oh yeah, I think I scored 160 over 100 or some other horrendous number. It didn’t look good, but stress and all – and I’m pretty relaxed away from that place.

    I work with a lovely lady who tells me that back in the day her doctor used to tell her to go and relax and enjoy a ciggie in the waiting room. We have a bit of laugh about it, but can you imagine some doctor saying that nowadays? Far out.

    Not sure that you can add bone density, the best you can do is slow the rate of loss. Entropy is not our friend!

    Lewis mentioned the help the farmers received too. To be honest there looked like there was a bit of money sloshing around that farm. But all the same it was beautiful and they held me in thrall the whole way through the film. Glad you and Doug enjoyed the film too. Good stuff.

    Total respect for Masanobu Fukuoka. He is one clever bloke.

    Thanks for mentioning the 1491 book, and it hardly surprises me that there are parallels. The author does repeat himself, but I can see why that was necessary so as to avoid claims of cherry picking of the historical accounts. I skipped over those paragraphs. Interestingly the author mentioned this mountain range, and to my ears it sounds different than today.

    Yep, I hear ya and take that concern on board. Well Doug may want to recall that chimney sweeps need to earn a living too. I’ve actually employed them when in the big smoke. Old houses are full of working fireplaces. One even had a nest of yellow jacket wasps. Big job, and sometimes you know when the job is not for you…

    That is so cold. Brrr! 66’F here today and I was thinking to myself that was cold. Hehe! Spring will be just around the corner for you.



  17. Hi Pam,

    It may surprise you, but I’m a very private person in public. Not for any good reason, just that is how I am. Sometimes when I seek a bit of quite time whilst in public I act affable, but with a slight air of bamboozlement – like what an old school scientist might effect. Yes, the distant problems of the world are worthy of great consideration, although I just probably want to be not hassled when supping on a coffee or munching down on a tasty muffin! They’re really good muffins.

    The movie was good, and I recommend it highly.

    Yes, the word on the street is that the huge rains in that corner of the continent has finally put out the fires. I can’t even begin to imagine the conditions in that part of the world now after the heavy rains.

    Great question. No, Scritchy and Toothy are just kicking along and they hardly notice the smoke. Ollie gets a bit more short of breath, but he runs around at great speed, although the old Toothy can almost keep up with him. Can you imagine the effort involved in that?

    No soap up there. Can you imagine how slippery the steel roof sheets would be with soap added into the mix. Ouch. The painting was an interesting experience which I’m not keen to repeat any time soon. And yeah break the job up into smaller and more manageable parts.

    I like that area too. There is a big rock in there that I wanted to blow up over a decade ago. No fun. Not allowed.

    AC sends cordial tail wags to you! He is sound asleep behind me right now with his paw over his face. Dunno why.

    The Fat Hen is apparently similar to spinach, but with more minerals. And it grows with little assistance or watering at the hottest part of the year. How good is that? Definitely saving seeds from that plant.

    Yes. Acidic due to the forest, but the clay here is acidic. The lime paths add a lot of lime for the orchards, and I’m sure the trees are eating the paths. That rose was saved from another part of the garden and earlier in the season it looked very dead.



  18. Chris:

    Oops – I forgot that you were on that slope and that soap would be a very bad idea. We have a power washer for certain jobs and hard to reach places.

    That Toothy is a dynamo!

    Our county uses paper ballots. The choice is up to each town, city, or county.

    I, too, occasionally hear a tree fall on a still day, and it is eerie. You are right about hearing a crack – sometimes pretty hard to notice – before it falls. Once I heard that crack when I was walking next to our barn and threw myself under its eaves. A huge branch fell and actually grazed me, but I was unscathed. From this I learned: 1) Always be listening when in the woods (you mentioned that) and 2) Dash forward because it can give you the split second you need which might be taken up by turning around.


  19. @ Margaret:

    Have you settled what Marty is going to do about paying his rent? I found that very concerning, not just for Marty (and you having to deal with it), but because we use cash for everything except checks for paying bills – though we use a credit card occasionally just to keep it going – and we are slowly losing the privilege (!) of using the cash. The gas station where we buy ethanol-free gas (such places are rare) has gotten rid of the nice cashiers and put in a robot that only takes cards. And twice lately I have run into parking garages that only take cards.


  20. @ Inge – Keep an eye on your health care services. There was some noise, over here, that as part of a new treaty, Britain was going to be opened up to the tender mercies of our industro-pharmo health care system. Watch the fringes. Much to my horror, I found that the appeals process, for our old age medical system (Medicare) has been farmed out to a private company. Noridian. Which pretty much acts like our insurance companies. Reject a first claim out of hand, and then delay for as long as possible. As the medical bill rapidly moves toward collection.

    Your beach combing adventures lead me to mention a book I’m reading, right now. “Mudlark: In Search of London’s Past Along the River Thames.” by Lara Maiklem. (2019). Fascinating! (To me.) Lew

  21. @ Margaret – I read Fukouoka’s, “One Straw Revolution”, about five years, ago. I won’t say it changed my life, but I found it quit interesting. I think I still have a copy kicking around, here. Lew

  22. Yo, Chris – Actually, there are soil test kits, that aren’t very expensive. Fiddly to use, but the Master Gardeners showed me how to use one. I keep meaning to get around to it. When I was at the general purpose store, looking for shoelaces and a soil thermometer, I checked to see if they had one. Well, they’re just getting their garden kit in, now. I ended up with a PH test kit. 🙂 (and, shoelaces.)

    Backyard beekeeping will probably end up being a bit of a fad. Like backyard chickens. But, enough people might stick with it, to make a difference. I don’t know what all was in the hive “kit”. They had a lot of other bee gear, on the shelf. The more expensive kit you mentioned, is probably of better quality. Dollars to donuts. 🙂 .

    Do the Tree Guys have any relatives in the clan, that swing a brush? My friend, as I remember, was in a cast from his waist down, for over 6 months.

    I’m sure we’ve talked about, how here, even if you have health insurance, it’s easy to make a miss step, and not be covered. And that some horrible percentage of bankruptcies are due to medical bills … of people who had insurance.

    LOL. Noah. Hmmm. Wasn’t there a guy in the bible, that was kind of like Dr. Doolittle? Which reminds me. The Currier and Ives print company did several different prints of Noah and his ark, over their long history. I’ve always wanted one. Don’t know why.

    Estimates on Roman literacy are all over the place. 10-30%. When I was looking that up, I wondered if it held true, for the Romans, as Ruth Goodman speculated about the Tudors. That maybe a lot of people couldn’t write, but many of them could read?

    Nawww. Old Henry only beheaded two of his wives. Out of six. There’s a cleaver memory aid to remember what happened to them, in order. “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.” I’d say there was a good chance he had diabetes. He was quit svelt and athletic, and then a horse fell on him. His mobility was much impaired, and instead of all the athletic things he used to do (tennis, etc.) he pretty much just sat around, ate, and packed it on. Overweight and lack of exercise. Pretty much the recipe for diabetes.

    I see our prez, in his infinite wisdom, wants to sell half our oil reserve. To offset the federal debt. Wonder how the military feels about that? As, that is one of the reasons why we have the reserve. The last two times I was at the pumps (usually, less than once a month), the cost of our gallon of gas was $3.25. And, we have one of the highest state taxes on gas, in the country.

    No word on Eleanor, yet. I made banana / cranberry / seed muffins, yesterday. Not bad. Lew

  23. Hi Pam,

    Oh my, but the soap would have definitely spilled me off the sloping steel roof.

    Yeah, we have a power washer too, and don’t they work a treat? But the mold was resistant to the charms of that machine.

    Toothy is an old dog nowadays, and Scritchy is far older again. They’re pretty sprightly, but time halts for nobody. Unless you happen to have a ring of power. Good stuff if you can find one.

    Ah, paper is good and has a nice audit trail. Electronic audit trails can be a bit slippery. Down here the Federal public service has a department that manages the count process, and the political parties send people to scrutinise the count process. It is rare for counts to be contended. Mistakes have occasionally happened though, but they are very rare.

    Very wise to keep alert.

    There’s breaking fluffy news today… Ruby and Plum have joined the fluffy collective.



  24. Hi Lewis,

    Nice one, and did you obtain the soil thermometer as well? I reckon those tools are extremely useful items for knowing when to plant out seedlings. How is your winter faring anyway? Mention of snow and frost have been almost unheard of – other than a light dusting here and there, and one early heavier snowfall. Did you give the pH soil test kit a go? I reckon your soil will lean towards the acidic side of the scale. Funny about the shoelaces – what are these things? 🙂 Like shoe polish, which I doubt many people would know how to use these days.

    I’ve seen backyard beehives and it was a bit scary going out into the backyard due to the sheer mass of bees flying around and coming and going on their business. There may have been bee-stings (not the cakes). I’ve also heard of neighbour complaints, so a gentle Queen would be a necessity. But you know, the big smoke needs bees. The gardens that I see in the big smoke are very quiet places with a lot of plant life, but not much other bird and insect life. I hope more people keep hives though as it just helps the species, and people might begin to start relying less on poisons in their gardens.

    Hey, a few years back I wrote about someone putting a vegetable planting box on the pavement outside their house. At the time, the front yard was full of ornamental plants, and I may have scoffed at the discordant nature of the two situations. Well, but blow me down, the folks appear to be installing two large raised garden beds in their front yard. Well, I never.

    It’ll get to that, I have no doubt. Somehow with the Tree Guys I’ve become intertwined in local Samoan business. They’re a good bunch, and we all get along, whilst acknowledging that there are different cultural ways of interpreting the world. Their sense of time, makes me look pretty uptight, but you know…

    Interestingly, I’m hearing such stories down here too, and young folks in particular are jettisoning private health insurance. Everyone pays into the public system anyway, and often people with private health insurance find themselves in the public system. And insurance premiums are rising for those who remain in the private health insurance system. As a disclosure, I don’t have private health insurance (although I’m a member of the ambulance service for good reason – if you need it, it is going to be expensive). For a good summary of the story from a younger persons perspective: Without young, healthy people, private health care will fail.

    Hehe! Yeah, there might have been one such dude in the bible, but honestly the story smells a little bit odd to me because of a lack of population size to maintain sufficient genetic diversity in the breeding pool. I may be taking too literal and interpretation of the story, but still… 🙂 Your free wall space may be in short supply? Have you heard anything about impending inspections?

    Interesting about being able to read, but not being able to write. It’s a whole different skill set I guess, and Merlyn in the Camulod series did recount to the young Arthur as to how to produce a rough plan of the text to be committed to paper. I don’t believe kids are being taught cursive script these days, so we may be heading back to the historical long term average in that matter.

    I gotta run, but before I go. There has been breaking fluffy news… Cue news music of some sort… You called it again. The bush network provided when all else looked pretty crazy by way of comparison. So I was at the local independent supermarket this morning and saw on the community notice board an ad for two kelpie pups. Rang the guy up, and only one pup was available. Went to meet them, and the other interested did a no show. So we got two pups from the same litter. Being girlie pups, they’ve taken on Ollie as their mascot, and are already pushing him around. They even took a chunk of beef jerky off him. I admonished Ollie and told him to get some self respect, but no…



  25. Chris:

    Ruby and Plum – what delightful names, for what I am sure are delightful girls. Congratulations on your good fortune and may they drive Ollie nuts.


  26. Yo, Chris – Congratulations! Mom & Dad! Well, that’s exciting. I looked up kelpies. They look a bit like German Shepherds. Those ears are something else. According to the net (where all things are true, under all circumstances), the kelpie (as a breed) personality is “intelligent, energetic (they’ll run you ragged), loyal, eager, alert and friendly.” I’m sure “the girls” will have Ollie wrapped around their little dew claws. 🙂 . I wonder how Scritchy and Toothy will get on, with them? You’re going to need another couch.

    I ran across an article about a fellow down in California, fire proofed his house in a similar way, to what you did. The video is about 10 minutes long.

    The didn’t have the soil thermometers in, yet. Haven’t tried the ph test kit, yet. Need to do a bit of dirt turning and diggin’ in, but, the soil is still too damp. Our sunny days didn’t turn up. Not too much rain, but, enough. Fogs and heavy mist. No freezing. Just generally damp and gloomy.

    So, your public system of health care doesn’t pay for your ambulance system? That’s interesting.

    Wall space for pictures isn’t a problem. As with the tat, I rotate things. Speaking of tat, the big antique mall is having a 10-50% off, President’s Day sale, this weekend. I’ll go and take a scout, today.

    Eleanor is back, but I haven’t seen or talked to her. HRH is not back. All things will be revealed, in time. Lew

  27. Hi Chris,

    I will look forward to meeting the new members of the fluffy collective! How are Toothy and Scritchy responding to the new members?


  28. @Pam
    An eCheck is an electronic check usually through a checking account though Marty doesn’t have a checking account only a savings account which I control. Apparently he can go to Walmart with his cash for his rent and as he has the account number for his rent payment they (walmart) will issue the eCheck. As much as I don’t like Walmart Marty has been able to function with his cash there. He also pays his electric bill there. All these ways cash is discouraged is really making it difficult particularly for low income, disabled individuals like Marty. As I said he has a wonderful caseworker he helped him with this. Marty’s apartment complex has a pool and a health club where he can take a guest for a small fee. He used to take his girlfriend, Gwen, but then they would no longer except cash so he was out of luck. The push towards a cashless society is very disturbing not just because it can be inconvenient but the fact that TPTB will be able to track your purchases. I use cash most of the time for everyday expenditures but most people I know just pull out the credit or debit card for even a small purchase. How do you even check your statement for all these purchases? Doug almost always uses his credit card for his purchases because he would never keep track of the cash he spends for the recording of our expenses which I do on Quicken. We developed a pretty good system early in our marriage where we both receive a weekly cash allowance for our own expenditures like Doug’s golf, lunches out on our own or other miscellaneous personal discretionary expenses. Allowances go up or down depending on our income. This system works quite well and cuts down on disagreements about how to spend money as the deal is neither of us questions the other regarding our own personal expenditures.

    I haven’t run into the lack of cashiers yet but I imagine it’s coming. I have run into confusing parking machines but so far I’ve managed to pay cash but they don’t make it easy.


  29. Hi Chris,
    Well supposedly the bone building drugs do add some bone but not high quality but actually somewhat porous so what’s the point except to sell more drugs. I can imagine there’s some people that it would be appropriate for but probably not many. My youngest sister who has suffered from Crohn’s disease for decades has pretty severe osteoporosis due to all the steroid treatments she’s had and I think there was some kind of injection she received for awhile. She’s been told not to go out when there’s a lot of snow or ice due to possible falls.

    Yes, I saw your mountain range in the book. If I had never started reading here it wouldn’t have had much meaning to me like many of the locations discussed in the book.

    What – two puppies!! You and the editor are gluttons for punishment. I looked up the breed, Kelpie, and they sound like dogs that could thrive in your location but poor Ollie. He probably doesn’t know what hit him. How are Scritchy and Toothy doing with their new friends?

    We did get about 3 inches of fluffy snow with wind – perfect conditions for drifting. Consequently, I passed on the monthly Jr. High breakfast which I enjoy. The wind was coming from the north and the way to town is ten miles of mostly east/west open roads which will continue to blow over until the wind dies down. As it’s quickly gotten much colder and it was just at or above freezing yesterday there could very well be ice under the snow as well.

    Doug racked our first ever elderberry mead. We tasted it even at this early stage and it was good even now. Guess I’m going to have to pick a lot more elderberries this coming summer as he used most that I picked and I was only able to make a little elderberry syrup. I’d like to have enough to last through the cold and flu season.


  30. Hello again
    I have no idea what that object found on the beach is. You will see photos of it if you google ‘images for cyanide capsule found on Isle of Wight beach’. It is of course no such thing as it is too large.


    @ Lew
    I do wonder how long we will keep our free health service as it is certainly overstretched. Privatisation tends to be the name of the game these days here. The worst so far was the privatisation of (most?) of our social housing.


  31. Hi Chris,

    I use the white bird netting on the basis it will reflect some of the heat. Not sure if that just my imagination or not.

    My current raspberry plantings are in blocks but I’m thinking of redoing them in rows. I find harvesting and pruning is much easier in rows.

    My garden’s doing well in this hot humid weather we’re having. A lot of problems with mould and mildew though. A significant portion of our nectarines were lost with brown rot, even with spraying with Bordeaux mixture.

    Cheers, Matt

  32. Hi Pam,

    Hmm, at first Ollie was very angry at the intruders, and may have meant them harm. Now, they appear to have him under their spell and he is playing with them. I suspect that Ollie will become their mascot and muscle, but Plum will be the boss.

    Got four new chickens today too. It doesn’t rain but it pours.



  33. Hi Lewis,

    The pups are pretty delightful, but need a fair bit of training. Although, they learn pretty fast and within their first day they were already running around the place off the lead and had mastered going up and down the stairs. They also are getting the need to return when told to do so. And they are about 50/50 on the whole sit thing. Not bad for ten week old pups. Ollie seems to have taken them under his wing, and despite him being only two, he’s plum tuckered and soundly asleep on the green couch behind me. Scritchy and Toothy are outright exhausted, but they are very old dogs and I don’t expect them to last through the coming winter.

    Plum and Ruby are: Australian Kelpie’s and of the Black and Tan variety. They seem like pretty smart dogs and have very different personalities. Time will tell as to how it will all work out. Plum is the naughty one, but more intelligent and shows the most curiosity, whilst Ruby is a bit more reticent – which is not a bad trait given the wildlife risks here – i.e. snakes.

    Ollie has become exactly like the character Donuil as he just has to keep it together and keeps the home fires burning.

    Went to the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo today. It was good fun, although very hot and humid. Saw a lot of interesting things, and got plenty of good ideas. Picked up four chickens at the local poultry group’s chook sale. Two cross breeds and two Golden laced Wyandottes. And already two of the point-of-lay birds have produced two eggs, whilst the cross breeds are probably a bit young for that yet. Yay for the extra eggs! I’m torn about whether I should train Ruby and Plum to work with me as chicken dogs. Dunno, but I might just give it a go tonight and see what happens. They’re still too small to do any real damage and the bigger chickens will stomp the daylights out of them if they give it a go. Chook-flation is real and I noted more than a few trio’s (that’s two girls and a rooster) for $220.

    The Californian bloke was onto something by creating a place to endure the worst case scenario that the environment could dish up to him. Smart bloke – and very focused. The house here is a bit more passive on that front and doesn’t really require the active water pumping that he did, but it’s a great idea – especially given he had a reservoir in his pool. Some locals use cheap above ground pools for that purpose. And it’s not a bad idea at all.

    The video raised some pretty intense considerations, and mate I treat that risk seriously and each year are a little bit better prepared. But yeah, long term I suspect the support of insurance will disappear, especially if the costs keep escalating at 18% year in and year out. Few people can absorb such financial wreckage. However, it is also worth noting that intense rain storms generate ten times the number of claims that a bushfire will. So in the short to long term, I suspect the insurance industry may well be complete toast, although I could well be wrong.

    Incidentally, that engineering bloke lived at the most dangerous of all locations which is the natural ridge – and it was very steep which would give the fire speed and ferocity. I’m impressed and unfortunately, like that bloke, there is no way to test preparations, building systems and responses without undergoing the trial under fire.

    Fair enough, keep your eyes out for a soil thermometer as they really assist with getting planting times just right. Apparently the old timers used to use their bare backsides on the bare earth and if they could endure the experience, then it was time to plant out the seedlings. Can you imagine how the ladies would cope with you doing such a thing? Mate, you’d never hear the end of it… And thirty years later they’d still be talking about the day when Lewis… The soil thermometer is a more polite way to conduct the experiment, but either way works just fine.

    Incidentally I’m having to get started planning for the next growing season. Do you know of any good books on the subject of seed raising? To date I could not honestly suggest that I’m on top of that particular story.

    No sunny days for you, one year! 😉 At the farming expo I enjoyed a very tasty bratwurst sausage in a roll with onions and cheese. So good, and the bloke had a Germanic accent to add to the authenticity. Hope you get a break in the weather soon. In about ten minutes it looks like an epic storm will arrive here. Flash flooding, hail and damaging winds hit Melbourne as storms sweep across Victoria. Something, something about insurance… The worst of the storm has bypassed the mountain range, and I’m quietly grateful for that. Despite the occasional serious wildfire, this mountain range has a very moderate climate.

    You’ll be out of winter before you know it. If it hasn’t snowed by now, and doesn’t in the next two weeks – I doubt it will for you.

    Yeah, the ambulance service down here is a subscriber pays service. Much like how the old fire service used to be way back in the day. I have heard that people are very alarmed at the scale of the bills, but membership is quite affordable. Of course it is only when people need the service and are not members that they discover the horror bills. Imagine being airlifted… Bonkers.

    Ah, I never realised that you rotate the tat. Very wise and I assume you can store the tat in the mean time?

    Man, the rain is pelting down. Better go outside and check the drainage! Yikes!

    Far out! 3/5ths of an inch in about ten minutes. I had to go and dry off after having run around and clearing drains. Wow. Spoke to soon about dodging the worst of the storm.

    Good to hear that Eleanor is back, and I hope that you get the chance to have a nice chat now and again into the foreseeable future.



  34. Hi Claire,

    The fluffies were very upset when the young upstarts appeared on the scene, but within a few hours everyone appears to have adapted. Toothy and Ollie today have been both minding and generally looking after the newest members of the fluffy collective. They appear to be very tolerant of the puppy antics and Ollie is even playing with them.

    Toothy and Scritchy are both really old dogs now (16 and 19 years) and I have serious doubts that they’ll make it through the coming winter.

    The northern tropics have dragged down a whole bunch of moisture to this southerly locale today. So far, 4/5ths of an inch of rain. It is very wet outside now, but a really excellent thing for this time of year.



  35. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for the explanation to Pam regarding the e-check. I’d never encountered such thing before and so was curious.

    We went to the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo today and had a great time. I’m a bit of a sucker for small farm expo’s. Picked up four new chickens from the poultry sale: 2 x Golden Laced Wyandottes and 2 x Mixed breed Araucarna’s. The new chickens appear to have settled in quickly and in the process I discovered that the two very large Light Sussex chickens have now taken charge of the hen collective from the Plymouth Rock (former boss chook of about five years). Already the two Wyandotte’s have both laid eggs, so I’m pretty happy with the choice.

    Believe it or not, I spotted several pens with trio’s of birds with the asking price of $220. I can’t really justify such prices, but chook-flation is walking among us!

    In the exhibition oval there was demonstrations of working dogs – and um, yeah, have to fess up to not expecting such great things of the fluffies… And also some dudes were jumping quad bikes into the air, doing flips and then landing them on a giant inflatable landing pad. Bonkers, but really fun to watch. 🙂 I’m guessing their mum wasn’t there to see them doing those tricks!



  36. Hi Inge,

    I’ve never seen anything like that capsule either. I understand that some hospitals have a toxicology department where such items may be tested? The item is very ornate for such a possibly toxic item.

    What a rabbit hole your story led me down. One minute I was reading about Nazi cyanide capsules, the next was onto Russian’s shooting down U-2 spy planes. What a convoluted world we live in.

    And at the end of it all, we still have no idea what the mysterious beach find was.

    It rained very heavily a while back. You can never be too sure, but I suspect that we are entering a very damp year. Has it dried up at all over the past day or so? It is extremely hot and humid here, which is very unlike more ‘normal’ summers.



  37. Hi Matt,

    Dunno at all, but at a guess I feel as if you are onto something with the reflective possibilities of the white bird netting. Over the years I’ve used both, and I can’t help but shake the feeling that the black bird netting is a stronger weave.

    I have no experience with growing raspberries in rows, although I note that the Diggers Club recommends growing them that way. It is possible that the increased sunlight on the canes will produce more berries. But I have to balance that up with water loss and heat stress with the plants and soil, so I really don’t know and haven’t had the time to experiment. In the old hill station gardens up here, the berries are usually seen growing in blocks, but I don’t believe that those productive gardens get the same sort of attention that the ornamental gardens get – if you know what I mean. It is telling that the productive side of the old hill station gardens is usually in an out-of-the-way-corner, although I suspect that it was not always thus. Technically my lot are in rows, although the rows can be about six or seven canes wide. I’ll be curious to compare notes with you for the next season. With the abrupt turn of this season this year, I may begin planting earlier this year. Did you get much rain? Almost 20mm here.

    It is funny you mention that, but years ago I grew a lot of companion plants around the base of the orchard trees. Nowadays, I’m tending to keep the growth low around the trunks of the fruit trees – and also pruning off the lower branches. I’ve noticed that with greater sunlight and airflow, I’m seeing less fruit tree dramas. The fruit trees are between about six to twelve years old now. The annuals on the other hand – particularly leafy greens – appreciate being densely planted. At the moment I’m clearing the summer greens so as to make room for the winter greens. Every day the chickens are enjoying several plants worth of leafy greens. In past years I’ve made the mistake of planting winter greens too late. And incidentally, I’ve spotted the first two broad beans growing and may plant them out early this year. It’s complicated, as you are probably all too aware! 🙂

    I have never found that Bordeaux mixture or any other copper based sprays work with nectarine or peach trees. And I have no idea why this is the case, and many years ago I really spent a while trying to time the sprays just right (admittedly not always easy to do). Nowadays I have completely given up, let those trees drop their first set of leaves and then just feed the daylights out of the trees. The orchard gets about 10 cubic metres of compost every single year (not mentioning the 3 to 4 tonnes of coffee grounds). The leaves grow back and the trees fruit, so I’m guessing that they are just way outside their natural range, but I’m no expert.



  38. Hi Margaret (again),

    Your original comment ended up in the trash due to an over zealous robot. Never fear though, I check the trash every day here and comments that are not meant to be there certainly stand out. You’d be amazed by the number of robots commenting on this website. The grammar is a dead giveaway.

    Oh! Well, I had not known that there were bone building drugs out there. Far out, nobody wants Crohn’s disease, and you piqued my curiosity and yeah I saw the steroids and my warning bells were clanging. I have heard it from someone who once worked on research into those areas that it was very hard to recover from any gut issues.

    The mention of the mountain range was brief, but it doesn’t read like what it looks like today – which is thick forest. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that under the big mountain ash (Eucalyptus Regnans) trees growing over in the more fashionable end of the mountain range, an understory of Sycamore (maple) species has grown. I have no idea what to make of that change. The mountain ash trees are remarkably all the same size as they are regrowth after the 1983 fires.

    We only wanted one puppy – and the other (that’s plum) was already taken. However, the other person did a no-show and so we took both. Scritchy and Toothy are exhausted, and I saw Scritchy giving them ‘what for’, but I can see just how old she is. Toothy is pretty gentle with them too, but he’s about 16 years and is no spring chicken.

    Ollie is rising to the occasion and I suspect he will be their mascot and muscle and they will manipulate him mercilessly. Ollie is incidentally the best behaved dog here.

    The two youngsters are being trained and within a day and a bit (at 10 weeks) they know how to sit, come when called, navigate stairs and be off the lead around the house. They are yet to learn the difference between inside the house and outside the house – and who would have thought that two puppies could need to go to the toilet so often? And they eat like horses.

    Best to be careful in such treacherous cold conditions. It feels like the tropics here today. This morning was stonking hot, and this evening the heavens opened – with force.

    Oh yeah, elderberry is a superb flavour but with mead you have taken it to 11. And yup, it will get better with age. Elderberry is a fave of mine. Not to make you jealous but the elderberry bushes are dripping with fruit. You can easily start more plants from hardwood cuttings planted in late winter / early spring.



  39. @ Margaret:

    I’ve known a good number of low-income people who had no bank accounts at all. Cash is how they manage, though they sometimes have SNAP cards (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for those who don’t know).

    I was so put-out when the behemoth Walmart came in and displaced so many small businesses. Walmart almost begins to seem a sort of salvation now that things have turned the way they have. There are things that one can do (or only get, and cheaply) at Walmart – when shopping locally, that is. I try to order as little as possible online, books being a particular weakness.


  40. Chris:

    Our neighbors have a Kelpie. Dolly is black and tan, without very much tan. She is one of the smartest – and fastest – dogs I have ever known. She used to talk when our dog Bob the Tailless was around because he taught her to speak English (Doglish?). They had a regular language. I hope Ruby and Plum will have the opportunity to learn that. Somehow I am afraid that Ollie’s language may not be suitable for minors . . .

    It seems like a good age for training chicken dogs. I hope their ancestors don’t hear of it.


  41. Chris:

    Speaking of language – I want you and Lew to know how much I appreciate you letting us in on what originally was to be a place for your personal conversations, and the fact that you keep the language gentle for those with tender ears.


  42. Hello again
    I am constantly dragged down rabbit holes by the internet and love it because I learn so much.


  43. Yo, Chris – Decades ago, I got a dog (Westie) that just didn’t want to house break. But then, at that time, general thinking was that a dog wouldn’t train, before 12 weeks. Not that anyone told me that. And, of course, I HAD to have an 8 week old puppy. I just checked the Net, and, current estimates are all over the place. You might have an easier time of it, as, the pups might copy the older dogs. Maybe.

    Donhil and his wife have pretty much disappeared, from “The Eagle.” I kind of miss them. Oh, well. The story moves on.

    That was a bit of change for three chickens. Must be show birds, or, pure breeds, of some sort. I think you’ll really like the Wyandottes. That’s pretty much what most of my last flock was. Very mellow birds, and good producers. And, if you were so inclined, they have a lot of meat on them. There was always a problem child, or two, but over all, very good birds. I had one who was broody, and I could never seem to get her broke of that. But, I think there was more to that story. Then there was one that was an escape artist. But, once she learned that she’d get no afternoon treats, if she was off wandering around, she got with the program. For awhile. But in general, really nice birds.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if you could cancel your insurance, instead of the other way around? There are times when I’ve been able to cancel a tel com or credit card, and it feels so … liberating. I thought you’d be interested in the fellow in California, as, he’s doing something similar, to what you’re doing.

    Well, this will be the first year I’ll be doing any serious seed starting. I’ll be depending heavily on a book called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Seed Saving & Starting.” And, of course, a few dips into the Net to see if there’s finer points.

    That’s some weather, you’re having, down there. Fairly clear, here, today (at the moment) but last night it was a steady drizzle. Not a down pour, just rain, all night long. My friends in Idaho pay $100 a year, for emergency air lift. Everyone in their little town, who has any sense, kicks in.

    Yeah, I keep a tat rotation going. That way, everything gets a good dust, from time to time. And stuff gets more “themed” rather than just being a mish mash. I think I’m loosing my tat mojo. I went scouting, for the President’s Day sale. Didn’t find a thing, to wind my clock. I also stopped at the auction, as I wanted to look at something I saw, on line. Not what I thought it was. Oh, well. Money in the bank. There is an on-line print auction, that ends, tomorrow. There’s a nice old map of Wales, that I’d like. I’ll bid on it, but no an outrageous amount. We’ll see.

    Eleanor is back, but, I haven’t had a chance to talk to her. I walk HRH, but, generally, just open the door a bit, retrieve her and her leash, and do the deed. There’s all sorts of rumours floating around, but I ignore them. I’ll be glad when we get back on some kind of regular schedule. Lew

  44. @ Inge – It didn’t look like a cyanide capsule, to me, either. But, maybe I’m just a victim of Hollywood, or TV. Looked to big and complicated, to be used in a tight spot. Lew

  45. Hi Chris,

    Gratz on the two new kelpies, I like that breed a lot. We had a kelpie cross (can’t remember with what) that left chickens alone. No doubt, with a firm hand, your two can do the same!

    Just got back to NZ today, still no rain, so we are moving to defcon 5 water restrictions as the tank is now pretty low! There is another 8k litres on the property which can be pumped over , so things are not dire, but better safe than sorry, and navy showers are no real hard ship (we will make tactical retreats on parts of the vege garden as well).

    Re: parmies
    They all sounded delicious, I am partial to one with ham and pineapple myself. It is possible I also had a great Mexican version in the past. Will the pub do a “parmie off” again you think?

    The Japanese food was amazing, highlights, a dipping soba noodle dish and Okonomiyaki cooked in front of us. Fun fact, Okonomiyaki in its current form was developed in Hiroshima after the bomb. It is a very flexible dish (noodles/cabbage/egg) that can incorporate almost anything to hand. In truth, the best one I had was in Tokyo, but the fresh oyster version in Hiroshima was still great. I will pop some photos up soon for anyone who wants to see some holiday snaps.


  46. Hi Marg,

    The biggest estate on earth also makes a brief, passing mention of Dorrigo, where I grew up. The book helped me piece together a little history of the family farm as there was nearly a 100 acres which didn’t need to be cleared (but the entire plateau is climax rainforest territory). Makes more sense now!


  47. Hi Pam,

    Have no fear on that score. Ollie is a very quiet dog, and when he does bark I sit up and take notice. They have a lot of energy the two littlies, and I do hope that they don’t learn to speak doglish. Ollie is in love with both of them and watches out for them all day long (except when he has had enough of them) and they are now fighting whilst on Sir Scruffy’s old blanket. In between fighting, they are chewing on firewood. Needless to say that there is bark everywhere in the house. Shoes have not been safe.

    Ollie is a gentleman of the highest standing, although he is trying to join in on their play fights. He’s a bit big, but is gentle enough.

    I might try them out individually with the chickens and so who is the better of the two. Let’s hope their ancestors don’t come and get me…

    Thanks and it is my pleasure. You may have noticed that there are a few rules of conduct here, but mostly it all boils down to ‘don’t be an idiot’ – and it seems to work. Hehe!



  48. Hi Inge,

    I too learn all manner of interesting things via the gentle art of digression (the internet version of that story).

    The wooden spoon was just brought into play. The two puppies were annoying Scritchy and trying to usurp her bean bag. There was a yelp of surprise that such behaviour would not be tolerated – and now they’re sound asleep. Scritchy can’t move that easily these days and those two little whipper snappers need to pull their heads in and be a bit more respectful.



  49. Hi Lewis,

    I hadn’t heard that about training and puppies. Did you have your westie for long? Those are smart dogs.

    The two newbies are copying the older dogs, and Ollie has taken it upon himself to show the two youngsters the ropes. He has been taking them on small walks, and I follow along to make sure that things don’t go too far – and they haven’t.

    Unfortunately the copying extends a bit too far and Scritchy is a bit incontinent and they’re copying that act. When brought to account for their act, there are cries of: Not fair! Not fair at all! But yeah too bad, so sad for them.

    They’ve just been ‘trained’ not to annoy Scitchy. The two had evicted her from her bean bag throne by the act of fighting over the top of her. Then they began biting the bean bag and teasing her. Scritchy came looking for help, and so I gave them a tap with the wooden spoon. They didn’t expect that reaction from me. And bizarrely enough, they’ve just toned it down and gone off to sleep.

    They’ll be fine, and if it wasn’t thick fog I would have begun training them for chicken duties. Doesn’t seem like much point in delaying that – although it is very wet outside and unappealing. I am quietly grateful that the firewood has been put away for the year. I actually don’t know what other people are doing – but this year looks set to be rather damp if it continues as it has been so far.

    Donuil and Shelag were good characters, and I imagine they’ll come to a messy end. There was one mention of Donuil earlier in the book who was described as a grizzled veteran. The character was probably younger than I am today… Ah, and I’m now getting to the meat in the sandwich as to the story of Arthur and his unfortunate early love. The Gods were certainly chuckling to themselves about that little encounter. Hey, if you were the Spear Chucker and learned the awful truth, why wouldn’t you just keep it to yourself?

    Prices were up across the board. My four chickens set me back $160, which is a pretty hefty price. The two cross breeds were a form of reducing the average unit price (to chuck in a technical term). Some folks have used the phrase ‘dollar cost averaging’ and that’s probably true. I’m going to hit the local poultry auction in future.

    I remember you saying that you had Wyandottes. Do you still encounter your friend who took them? And is the boarder working out? It is not a bad option as you get older. Quite sensible really. And I hear you about the problem child or two. I’ve lost eight chickens in the past year and a half. Mostly they died of natural causes, although you may recall that a fox killed one, but didn’t manage to snatch it away.

    Beware the escape artist chicken! Far out, what a nightmare that would be. Interestingly, now that you mention broody chickens, I haven’t had too many of those this year – and wonder whether it may be a heat related thing? Have you ever heard why chickens go broody?

    It is such a feeling of freedom to off load bills. 🙂 Happy days! In some ways you are almost forced to have insurance simply because the costs of not doing so are so bonkers high that they’ll be ruinous. But the premium increases year in and year out is a story that I just don’t get. It would be akin to a python strangling itself (if that was even possible).

    Did you notice that the bloke was an engineer – and also willing to experiment? One thing that strikes me as being consistently odd about the whole wildfire story is that there is no room for experimentation with forest management practices. On the link to the Californian dude, there was also a short video on indigenous fire stick practices up north. The comparison to the official efforts was notably not good.

    to be continued…

  50. Hi Lewis (the double secret coffee break interrupted reply),

    Coffee is important! The fluffy collective are now hiding in my office and seeking respite from the two pups. A wise move on the fluffies part.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. An excellent beginning point. I am actually a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of books on the topic of seed raising and collecting. I’ve got the seed collecting bit down pat, but the seed raising is a whole different ball game. What I’m trying to get my head around is how to go about raising the volume of seedlings that I use each year. The farm is at a complicated stage where it is bigger than a back-yarder but not as big as a commercial farm. It would be nice to know how they did this task way back in the day on small holdings, but alas I was too young to know or even notice what my grandfather was up to on that side of things. A few years ago I was mucking around and decided to direct sow the seasons seeds and that mostly worked, but it isn’t good enough even with plant breeding for the local conditions because of their climactic variability. I’m seriously scratching my head about this topic.

    In other news I began upgrading the solar power system today and turned the two 24 Volt batteries into a single 48 Volt battery. And then began re-wiring half of the panel arrays. I’m actually glad that I undertook this task as one of the battery connectors was displaying damage due to excessive heat. The upgrade will halve the stress that the system has been under, and that is a good thing. There are limits to what this stuff can do, and clearly I’d been reaching them. Best to discover it now than in an emergency.

    Yeah, the here weather is crazy. So, Ollie and I were in the paddock this afternoon in the rain. I was re-wiring the solar panel array, and Ollie had my back and kept watch for any 7 foot kangaroos that happened to want a feed in all of the rain. They usually turn up at such times. But it is now crazy wet here and with the combination of summer warmth the trees are growing.

    That is about what it costs down here per household to be an ambulance member. As far as investments go, and like you say: it’s a no-brainer. Imagine getting airlifted out and enjoying the after effects of the bill? The nearest hospital is not too far from here, and I doubt they could even land a helicopter on this mountain range.

    Dusting is such a pain, but your technique of having no fixed display is a nice way to incorporate the necessary into the day to day experience. Nice one. You’ve never mentioned the concept of themes before, but it sounds deep, and now I wonder as to the methodology?

    Dunno about you, but I’m old enough to recall classrooms with the huge world maps displayed on the walls. Not sure that I’d enjoy travel these days. But the large maps always evinced a sense of wonder at places that I’d never get to.

    Ignore the rumour mill. You know I always reckon people talk such nonsense to cover their own tracks and soothe their own guilty conscience. And all other considerations to the side, HRH would appreciate the walk.



  51. Hi Damo,

    On Friday we went to the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo and there was a working dog exhibition, and yeah, I have high hopes for these two dogs. I only wanted one of the pups, but do you break up a pair, and the other interested party did a no show. Fate sometimes steps into a void. Thanks for the thumbs up on the breed, and I intend to begin training shortly. The pups are small enough that the chickens may scare them, although the huge Ollie dog does not scare them. Might be a problem there…

    Hope you get some rain soon – believe it or not, the water tanks here are now mostly full. Bonkers for this time of year and usually I’d be facing your situation. Looking at the weather reports it looks like Ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi is going to swing south of you and hit the South Island.

    And yup, I hear you. Last century we were in Nepal and did an 18 day walk through the quiet Annanpurna region. It is rated as one of the finest walks in the world. Who knew? We didn’t meet any other farangs during the walk. Anyway, that also means 18 days without anything other than a small amount of washy-wash water each day. We drank boiled water and so had to conserve every single drop. However, I could never quite get my head around being able to purchase soft drinks and chocolate bars in really crazy remote locations. Of course it was a saner place because the glass bottles must have been washed and reused umpteen times.

    I guess the point of my rambling is that like you say, hygiene can be achieved on minimal water usage. And yup, by the end of last summer we too had to face the inevitable garden losses.

    Oh yeah, the parmie cook off continues. The editor enjoyed a Mexican parmie last Thursday and it was good – and the chili’s were toasty hot. Left me reaching for a beer it did.

    Please do, Japanese cuisine is a fave. Yum!



  52. @ Pam – Glad you’re here! I’ve never been east of Minnesota, so I find how ya’all live in other parts of the country, very interesting. Globe trotting Damo, Margaret and her tales of Illinois & Chicago. Inges life is fascinating. And, St. Louis … who’s in St. Louis? Having a senior moment, here ….

    I am never bored at Fern Glade Farm. Lew

  53. Hi Chris,

    The book I learned how to raise seedlings from is The New Seed Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel, copyright 1988 (not all that new these days), published by Rodale Press. Rodale is the US organization that promoted organic gardening and farming practices starting in the 1940s. They are still at it, and not far from where I went to college.


  54. Yo, Chris – Let’s see. I bought the Westie, in the late 60s, when I was in Seattle. When I moved to California, four or five years later, my folks took the Westie. I couldn’t make a trip home, from Seattle, unless I brought the dog along. But, when I moved back from California, they weren’t willing to give it up. I really don’t remember how I felt about that. Probably, ok. He lived to be about 15. By the way, he was a “registered” Westie, so, I had to pick a name for him. His official name was Arthur Pendragon. 🙂 .

    A little doggy training goes a long way. Pretty soon, you’ll just have to wave the spoon around, and they’ll fall into line. I’d like to see a picture of that 🙂 Or, as they pick up English, just the mention of the word “spoon” will have an effect. Maybe.

    Well, Lance probably just wanted to forget the whole thing, but, with a spare, to the heir wandering about, best be forewarned. Too easily used as a pawn. A worse king would have just quietly disposed of him. The Morgan le Fay character is pretty interesting. Sometimes she’s related to Arthur, sometimes not. Sometimes she’s good, and sometimes very very evil. If you read this, you can kind of see how Wyatt cherry picked his way through all her different personas. There’s also some very cool pre raphaelite paintings of her. That group of painters were very “into” the whole Arthur thing. Seems like everyone had a go at Morgan.

    I don’t know what happened to the Wyondottes. I gave them to someone I worked with, at the library. She retired, soon after. But, she had a nice set up, out in the country. There was more to the broody hen story, than I am aware of. When I went to Idaho, the Evil Step Son was supposed to look after the chickens. Well, when I got back, everyone was alive, but that’s when the hen went broody. And, never got over it. Something happened, but I don’t know what. What’s interesting, is also, suddenly, all the other hens hated her, and would go after her. Why, I don’t know. So, she hid in one of the nest boxes. In the middle of your discourse on Wyondottes you asked “…. is the border working out?” What? Who? Kind of a non sequtor (sic), there.

    Well, insurance keeps going up, as they’re multi national companies, and losses in one part of the world has to be made up, from other parts of the world. And, as things are going, it just gets worse and worse. The smaller companies that aren’t international, are going broke, left and right.

    Two batteries into one? All your eggs in one basket? Not that I have a clue as to how that all works. No! Please don’t explain. My head might explode :-).

    Well, my two major themes are Victorian / Arts and Crafts. That gets trotted out in the fall, and through Christmas. The rest of the year, it’s Art Deco. The Asian stuff goes with either, but I tend to corral it in spots. The Halloween stuff is out for the better part of October. It displaces some of the Deco.

    Then there’s just stuff I like, that is out, most of the time. Like the avery (birds, of all periods and materials … figures, prints, a small quilted wall hanging.) on the dresser, in the bedroom. It’s really not all that hard and fast. Just what I think looks good.

    Got a lot of rounds to make, today. Library, veg store, Club, etc. etc.. Just waiting on puppy, to get my day started. Lew

  55. Hi Chris,
    The farming expo sounds like great fun. Congrats on the addition of new hens. The last chickens I bought before we move was a pen of Black Australorps, one rooster and two hens for $45. I imagine as raising back yard chickens becomes more popular the price will continue to rise.

    I knew nothing about eChecks until Marty, in his manner, explained it to me and I looked it up for further clarification.

    I think Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal disorders are becoming more prevalent – probably from the less than optimal diet of most people. Since my sister was diagnosed the treatment regimen has changed quite a bit but she’s been treated with so many different drugs that she suffers from several permanent effects. To top it off she also has a mental illness and she suffers from a vicious cycle where one affects the other. However, she’s gotten off many drugs for both disorders and actually seems to be doing better both physically and mentally so there you go.

    It sounds like a circus at your house now. The pups will wear out Ollie and vice versa. Both Leo and Salve love to chew wood. Salve still chews occasionally probably due to anxiety when we’re out and it’s always wood furniture. Thus she’s usually crated when we’re out for any length of time. She doesn’t mind it and in facts runs right in at the first indication that we’re leaving. Have you ever crated any of your dogs?

    We actually have quite a lot of elderberry growing on our property and on the road sides around us. You’ve got to be fast though to beat the birds.

    I was going to drive into the next town where Marty lives to bring him his monthly money and go to the indoor farmers markets but the winds are so high that snow is drifting again on the east/west roads so stuck at home again.

    A woman from my Friends of the Library group was telling us about her trip to Cuba. She noted that even though they had so little they were quite happy. I’m thinking that as they never had all the stuff we do they don’t miss it and are content. Of course one of the other women thought it would be very exciting if they came to the US and could see things like Walmart. Well I figured I would just keep my mouth shut. They only use cash and have no internet. My friend had to bring only cash as there are no ATMs or credit cards. She didn’t have a problem at all except she felt somewhat uncomfortable carrying all that cash around. Anyway it was quite interesting.


  56. Hi Pam,
    I feel the same way about Walmart. It put many small places out of business here but the services they provide help Marty immensely.

    I also try not to order too much online but it’s getting more and more difficult to get certain items. I especially stay away from Amazon and have found that one can often find the same item cheaper from another company if you can wait a bit. Usually you can get free shipping too if you spend at least $50 which isn’t hard to do.

    We’re now part of a larger library system so I can get just about any book I want and I even got that book Damo and Chris wrote about though it was through worldcat. Sometimes I’ll get a book from the library and later decide it’s good enough to add to my library.


  57. Hi Lew,
    So glad to hear Eleanor is back.
    Fukuoka’s books are quite interesting. I have “The One Straw Revolution” and recently borrowed “Sowing Seeds in the Desert” which described some of his travels to other countries to present his methods. I found his observation that fruit trees that had been pruned needed attention and those that had never been pruned did fine without any interventions. The young men (I don’t recall any women) who lived with him seemed to be able to subsist on pretty little food considering the physical work they did. Makes me think we live in a pretty gluttonous culture.

    I think you’re right about back yard bee keeping being somewhat of a fad. The bee club Doug is involved with had a huge surge in members once the issues with bee mortality became publicized and also when one of the members gave numerous workshops at the local community college. Thing is though is many quit after one year only to be replaced by new people the next year. It’s frustrating for Doug to lose bees year after year and he’s been doing this for at least 15 years.


  58. Hi Damo,
    I looked up Dorrigo – what a lovely area. Of course the vast majority of places described in the book didn’t mean a lot to me other than major cities but I’m still finding the book very interesting.


  59. Hi Pam,

    Who knows what the little monsters think, but they clearly like Ollie and follow him around. From what I can observe, he’s teaching the two of them the way of the farm dog. Sir Scruffy taught Ollie back in the day. It’s a bit of a shame that Scritchy won’t be handing on any girlie dog knowledge, as she’s a bit aloof, grumpy and crunchy. Oh well.



  60. Hi Margaret,

    The farming expo was fun, and I always see interesting items in strange places. Believe it or not, one of those items was a wire bottle holder in an old restored army jeep. The walk behind mower can go for hours and with all that walking around – during summer – it is thirsty work and a water bottle holder wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    Your trio of Australorps was good value for money. A trio here would be around $75 at the auction, and way too expensive at the poultry sale at the expo. That was my take on matters too, and increased interest leads to higher demand, lower supply and higher prices. Backyarders have a minor problem with roosters.

    I totally agree with you about the food quality issue. Nobody seems to notice that story, and gut issues are very hard to correct once a person enjoys such a gastrointestinal state of being. There is also a school of thought which suggests that the heavy handed use of very heavy duty cleaners in homes is also contributing to peoples poor internal flora and fauna – much in the same way that antibiotics kills the goodies and the baddies. I have noted that many people suffering from gut issues also have pets that suffer from gut issues – and that can’t be a coincidence. And exactly, what your sister consumes affects her mental outlook. The Chinese describe the gut as the second brain, and it is a wise description.

    Exhibit A: Ollie sound asleep behind me on the green couch. Exhibit B: Two pups sound asleep on Sir Scruffy’s old woollen blanket. The facts speak for themselves.

    We have a dog enclosure attached to the house. It is all weather and the dogs can get up to whatever mischief they want out there. Same, same, as a crate, but larger. 🙂 They have two kennels out there and the little ones have taken over the smaller kennel. Ollie is far too big for either kennel, and he destroyed the woollen blankets that used to keep the dogs comfortable on cold winter days. What do they say about act in haste and repent at leisure? Dog bedding is not dissimilar to chewing on timber. I have a handy source of free hessian sacks and they provide excellent dog bedding.

    The increased rain and humidity has reduced bird pressure on the plants here – due to increased food elsewhere. And I suspect that some of the more nuisance birds such as the pesky blackbird (nice song, but they eat too many berries) have been eaten by the Kookaburra’s. The world of bird is a rough and tumble place. As a comparison, the elderberry shrubs are dripping with uneaten berries. I have not seen a parrot for a few days now which is a bit odd. I do hope that nobody around here is poisoning the birds.

    A wise choice.

    Far out! The Cuba story reminded me of an old marketing tale I heard about the innocuous product ‘toothpaste’. Apparently the story goes that back in the day there were very few varieties available. Then someone cottoned on to the fact that people are easily concerned when faced with many choices of a similar product. Have you ever looked at the display of toothpaste in a supermarket and felt the uncomfortable feelings that that activity brings? You’re meant to feel that way. In summary, there is probably less ‘toothpaste choice’ in Cuba, and people are happier by being not faced with such choices. 😉



  61. Hi Lewis,

    It is a difficult and fraught subject, and it also highlights to me that perhaps folks with a few years under their belt are possibly more likely to be more stable, than perhaps younger folks are? Dunno. But yeah, like your ‘Westie’ I had a similar experience with a cat – and may have written about that story in the past. As a young bloke you move around a lot, and pets / companion animals are hardly the stuff of getting easy access to a rental property. I believe that landlords don’t want to have to deal with tenants who have animals due to real or perceived risk to their property. And the lack of easy supply for places to rent down here means that landlords can perhaps push people around. The last rental I lived in when building this house I under stated the amount of dogs. But every time they did an inspection I was on tenterhooks and had to haul the dogs out of the yard. The rental market was so tight that it ended up being that house – or a tent or shed on this block of land. Nowadays I would do that, but back then we were a bit softer.

    So I was given a cat as a kid, but I left home early and moved around – as you do – and had to leave the cat at home. Around the age of 25, I was told to pick the cat up or it would be put down. Within an hour I picked up the cat, and it lived with me for another two years. It was a good cat that one, and we were close. That was the last time I saw my mum. Not a nice person.

    What a great name for a dog! The next boy dog I get will enjoy that name. 🙂 And hope that he lives up to it.

    Well, the pups are keen to learn the ropes, and we’re all intensively training them. I swapped the wooden spoon for a fly swat if only because I had it readily to hand when the two pups were having an epic fight last night. Ruby came off second best out of the fight and there was much squealing and all that unnecessary gnashing of teeth. I suspect Plum did the dirty and bit Ruby’s ear during a tussle. I swept in because I’d had a gut full of their antics. I am more alpha than those two despite their opinions. Today, the two pups have been happily running around the garden and investigating their world – and tonight they are done and exhausted into submission. Some of your politicians could use such a treatment! 😉 Hehe!

    I’m getting Goosebumps. I assume that the English word ‘Fey’ has its origins in the word ‘Fay’ or ‘Fairy’? The Morgan le Fay character is interesting and I do wonder as to the origins of the fear of such a character? Morgan le Fay as far as I can understand things is the other and she has her own power that is not of Arthur’s ken or abilities, but it is no less commanding. Mind you, the several Arthur characters which I have encountered in words have been a bit lacking in that power, and the contrast between the two is marked as I suspect is the intention. All the same reading about the Morgan le Fay character leaves me with Goosebumps.

    And I too reckon the pre raphaelite paintings were very cool and the very perceptive artists really achieved their goal.

    Talk of the Evil Step Son always has menacing possibilities. There is a rule of thumb which I employ which suggests that people who can be very mean to animals, don’t see people any differently. In fact, I have read that such folks tend to view people as objects and unfortunately put their own needs above all else. Best hope that we all never encounter such nefarious folks.

    Insurance is one of those canaries in the coal mine industries, but I note that after the many natural disasters down here, many of those industries still reported a profit. Doesn’t stop my house insurance from going up 18% a year though. The compounding implications of that story are not lost on me.

    Yes, and I agree it would be most unpleasant for everyone if your brain exploded ‘scanners’ style (as in the film of the same name). I watched that film as a kid and it left me with nightmares. Anyway, who is going to pay for the clean up bill after your head pops? Actually I do wonder who does pay for crime scene clean up folks? What a morbid, but somehow curious thought.

    Stay safe when you see the picture of the batteries. Even better, skip over that image on the next blog. 😉

    The Victorian era had a lovely aesthetic. Respect. I was always drawn to the buildings of that era. You’d probably enjoy: Montsalvat. I find the surroundings there to be very pleasing on the eye, and it is not far, but perhaps also too far from here.

    Has the hold list with your library got a wriggle on and released a few of your items on hold?

    Better get writing! 🙂



  62. @ Margaret:

    I used to do a lot of shopping at Whole Foods – until they were bought by Amazon. Now I buy a very few items that I cannot find anywhere else, that we really don’t want to do without, like organic corn tortillas (we try never to eat non-organic corn) and organic flour tortillas (the ones with chemicals cannot compare in taste). Being ex-Texans we still eat a lot of Mexican recipes. I can make both of those kinds of tortillas, but, umm, well, they would be hard to describe . . .

    That was an interesting anecdote about your friend’s visit to Cuba. The thing is – we can be just as “happy” here. It just takes the right frame of mind.


  63. Hello again
    We had one heck of a storm last night, it was slightly unnerving. No Sunday newspapers today so the ferries can’t have been running. Wind has dropped now but it is still raining.


  64. Yo, Chris – Well, the pups will provide you with a lot of entertainment … and aggravation. 🙂 . Looking forward to seeing their pictures, tomorrow.

    Yup. I can see some of our politicians getting flogged or whipped. And, not with a wooden spoon. Maybe, a bull whip. In the early days of our country, Congress was pretty lively. People beating each other with canes, and challenging each other to duels. Good times!

    Maybe that’s one of the reasons the Arthur stories have such staying power. So many of the characters can be molded, to different personalities. There are times when I’ve thought King Arthur (in some books or movies) has been a bit of a dim, goodie two-shoes. Sometimes, other characters are a lot more interesting.

    What may have happened, with the Evil Step Son, is that the chickens might not have been let out, for a couple of days. Oh, they had plenty of food and water, but, being confined might have got on each other’s last nerve. I really didn’t have any other options, at the time. And, he was well paid and could have all the eggs he could eat. But, let’s just say the young man is … scattered.

    Insurance companies report a profit, BECAUSE they jack everyone’s rates up.

    Montsalvat is quit a layout. I got to see quit a bit of it, in one of the “Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries.” They had it tricked out to be a ski lodge.

    Not much moving on my hold list. I did get “Dr. Sleep”, yesterday, and watched it, last night. Starred Ewan McGregor. I really liked it. It’s been so long since I’ve read the book, that I can’t quit remember if it follows it closely, or not. But, in general, yes. If you happen to see it, yes, the bits about AA are accurate. Yes, our meetings really are that hokey. 🙂 . But, as we say, “Whatever works.” There is one bit where a young boy is tortured and murdered by The Bad People, that’s pretty rough. But, that’s what the fast forward button, is for. Worth seeing, if you like Stephen King. And, we return to the Overlook Hotel.

    Exciting times, around here, last night. I was out pretty late, getting some parsley for dinner. There is a huge, alcohol and drug treatment center, across the street. Four stories … it’s the old city hospital. A lot are court remanded, but, not violent offenders. The alarm went off, and here came a runner. Charged across their parking lot and headed up behind our place. At the top of 4th street, he slipped and fell hard. Up he came and kept on going. Just a little shite. I hung out awhile, expecting the guards to be beating the brush and calling out the hounds. (Not that they have hounds.) Nope. I talked to one of the workers, this morning, and, I guess they don’t do that. They just call their corrections officer. If they’re court remanded, they go to the pen, if caught. The center is a last chance outfit. It’s for profit, by the way. There’s about 200 inmates, there.

    Not much moved on my hold list, last week. Other than getting the King film. But, I did get first on the list for the new “Jumanji” movie, AND “Current War.” They’ll show up, eventually, probably in a month, or so.

    Yup. Lost the ju-ju. The map I wanted, I bid $25, someone else bid $30, and I would have had to bid $35, to, maybe, get it. Nope. Not going there. Lew

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