Mountain Fastness

Besides teaching me something about human nature, my professional work has taught me to rapidly take stock of the economic health of a business. There are times when exercising my professional skills where comforting, soothing and reassuring words must be dismissed entirely from consciousness. Those words are then replaced by other less flattering words which pierce through the murk and clarify the underlying reality.

The professional always aims to observe dispassionately, and then report upon the findings objectively. An old cartoon, which I have no idea as to its origins, perfectly sums up the ideal situation:

One of the finest definitions of objectivity that I have yet encountered

Unfortunately for us mere mortals, the world is rarely perfect, and whilst the underlying reality can be clear, it is difficult to look upon such a thing with the required level of dispassion.

Saturday morning found me on the Swan Hill country train, which was heading into the big smoke of Melbourne. Swan Hill is such a lovely name for a town, and I often imagine a hill on the side of the great and winding Murray River far to the north of here. The river drains one seventh of the continent and begins in the alpine country before eventually reaching the ocean. The hill in my imagination is not a large hill, and during the summer months it is covered with long and dry native grasses. The dusty smell of summer dry vegetation pervades the air. A few short but girthy Eucalyptus trees, perhaps hundreds of years old, provide inadequate shade to the grasses on the hill, and so the inland sun bakes them all. And next to the hill of my imagination, black swans perform their stately dance in the wide old river which occasionally runs dry. Of course never having visited Swan Hill, the reality might be very different.

The usual train on this train line departs from the much closer inland town of Bendigo, and as the trains don’t have to travel as far, they’re much newer and flashier machines. The Swan Hill train is unfortunately a much older vehicle. Despite being an older vehicle, the train does have a snack bar, and there is always the allure of the First Class carriage. It is not easy for me to obtain tickets to this exclusive carriage, especially when on two separate occasions this week, the local train station appeared unattended. As such, a seat on this most exclusive carriage becomes out of reach.

The train station used to be manned. A year can bring many changes. Perhaps the station master is now working from home? Twelve months ago on my previous journey into the big smoke, the Swan Hill train required me to stand for an hour long journey, looking longingly into the fully booked first class carriage. At that time there were no seats to be had for neither love nor money in any of the six carriages, even in the coveted First Class carriage where the occupants eyed newcomers with suspicion. This time around there were available seats everywhere. Masks were required to be worn once inside the carriage.

Not everyone wore masks. Once inside the carriage and settled, three seats faced another three seats, and the bloke diagonally opposite looked as though he’d been cavorting as wildly as a drunken swan last evening. No mask was in evidence. Nobody remonstrated with him. In point of fact, remonstrating would have been difficult as his head was curled downwards almost as if he was ready to pitch forward should the train make an untoward halt. In his hands he clutched a mostly empty plastic bottle, of which the remaining contents were an unnatural blue colour. At a stop closer to the big smoke, a rather prim looking middle aged lady sat down opposite to me, but with only one seat between her and the mask-less swan. It is difficult to know anothers mind, but it is possible that we both fervently hoped that he retained the contents of his stomach.

Fortunately luck was on our side that day, and the train rolled into Southern Cross station in the big smoke without incident.

Some stuff can happen in the space of a year. Walking through the streets of Melbourne it was difficult to ignore the cool summer. And what a difference it was to the extraordinary heat of last summer. Some youthful hardy souls dressed as if it were indeed still in the hot days of last summer, and much flesh was in evidence. Most people dressed more practically for what was a cold summers day. Where were all the people of last summer though? The throngs and crowds were nowhere to be seen. This year was a much quieter affair. There was nary even a homeless person in sight.

However, during the walk, a single homeless person was observed, although to be candid the bloke looked as though he was packing up and moving on. Standing outside a closed convenience store, his respectable attire at first confused me, if only because it was hard to discern whether he was homeless or was closing the convenience store business for the day.

Brightly coloured ‘For lease’ signs were much in evidence. The advertising boards hinted at plentiful available space and possibly generous terms. On past those boards, the walk continued. Lunch was the destination.

Lunch was a convivial event, and we lingered long over food and coffee and chatted even longer, and of note there was but the single tiramisu dessert on offer. Proving that snoozers are losers, my lunch order, which incidentally had to made and paid for over the internet using my phone, included that very tasty dessert. It was of note to me that the manager, whom I’d recognised from the previous year beforehand, cleared away the plates. The food was excellent, as befitted a quiet kitchen.

Back out into the world again. The summer day was no warmer, and the many ‘for lease’ boards had not had a ‘leased’ sticker slapped over them. And on the slow walk back to the train station, a cool wind blew and no homeless folks were in evidence.

Once again aboard the country train for the return journey, a person was spoilt for choice as to their choice of seat. The train carriage was less than half full. Window seats are apparently coveted, so the journey back out of the big smoke began in one of those seats. Industrial landscapes gave way to tree lined streets filled with the tiny workers cottages of yore. Post war housing, often owner built, soon dominated the view. The journey was like an architectural time warp where at the outer edge of the city, neat suburban tracts of housing soon gave way to paddocks and fields. The damp summer sure has left many of the farm dams full to the brim, but the grasses are still summer dry and a predominantly yellow colour.

After about forty five minutes of travel, the mountain range begins to loom off in the distance. Closer and closer the train gets to the mountain range before the train has to skirt around the southern and western edges. The view is spectacular. Once long ago a train line veered off to the east of the mountain range. That eastern line was removed long ago well before my existence, all due to faith in the motor vehicle. An observant person could note where the line once deviated.

The small mountain peaks flash by to the right hand side of the train. The hills are full of green vegetation and the mystery of the unknown. Soon the train stops at the station and it is not long before I am home again.

A day was spent excavating the site for a new shed up above the house. Being on the side of a mountain, flat land is non existent and unfortunately has to be excavated.

The site for the new shed up above the house is continuing to develop

Observant readers will note that the steel rock gabion cage which is used to retain the soil at the end of one of the garden terraces is rapidly filling up. And the soil from the excavations was removed and transported to the new low gradient path project which leads into the orchards.

Excavated soil is being used to create more flat land and a low gradient path downhill

During the excavations and the process of transporting the soil I discovered that the trailer which can be attached to the mower is extraordinarily difficult to repair. The trailer had a flat tyre (tire in US parlance) and I damaged the steel wheel rim when attempting to replace the tube. As a local bloke once amusingly observed, it will make a good first trailer.

Repairs on the trailer are not impossible, just extremely difficult

During the excavations we unearthed a very large rock. It would of course not be Fernrock Farm if large rocks were not involved somewhere in the week’s activities!

Plum is impressed with the very large rock which was excavated

Not being the sort of person to shy away from a large rock challenge, I set about breaking the rock into two smaller pieces which could be more easily relocated. The first step involved drilling many small holes into the large rock.

A rotary hammer drill is used to drill holes in the large rock

An electric jackhammer was then used to split the rock along the drill holes and then into two pieces.

A jackhammer was used to split the large rock into two more manageable pieces

Eventually the rock fissured and split into two pieces.

The large rock succumbs to some loving attention

We spent a day on the chain gang breaking larger rocks into smaller rocks. The low gradient path project requires a substantial quantity of rocks. Peak rocks is real. Some very large rocks which could be rolled into place were also added as second layer of soil support.

The second layer of rocks has begun to be added to the low gradient path project

The steel rock gabion cage which retains the soil near to the greenhouse is now full to the brim with rocks. Next week we plan to sew the cage shut, and then that entire project will be complete.

The rock gabion cage behind the greenhouse is now full to the brim

A mysterious feral feline visitor has heard the recent call to arms, and has been busy decimating the feral rabbit and rat population. I’m impressed and don’t even need to feed the cat. But does the cat really need to bang on the front door to let me know that it has made a kill?

Ruby the sheep dog has discovered the workings of the mysterious feline visitor

On Friday, a huge rain storm dropped at least two inches of rain over the farm. The rain is a lovely summer gift, and not just for us, but also for the wildlife. That night the tree frogs were singing up a notable chorus.

A Southern Brown tree frog hunts insects attracted to the house lights

The rain followed two hot summer days and it was a relief to see the vegetables finally growing in the brief heat.

Tomatoes are green, but they appear to be growing

Beans and peas have grown really well this year, and they are included in our food on most days.

Beans and peas have grown really well this year

The real surprise crop this year has been blackberries. I have never before seen the canes produce so well. The harvest is being added to breakfast, but most of the berries have gone to producing blackberry jam and blackberry wine.

It has been an astounding year for Blackberries

Onto the flowers:

A huge variety of Geraniums are grown in the garden beds
Agapanthus provide reliable summer feed for the bees
And here is a bee in action
The bees love the mint family of plants like this Oregano
Pig Face is a super hardy succulent
Daisies grow quite well here
The Roses enjoyed the rainfall
This climbing Rose is spectacular

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 16’C (61’F). So far this year there has been 173.0mm (6.8 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 79.4mm (3.1 inches).

81 thoughts on “Mountain Fastness”

  1. Yo, Chris – I do hope your reader’s will take the time to read the last post from yesterday. From Goran. Truer words were never said, and, I think we all feel the same way, but, perhaps, don’t say it often enough. I figured, you being a shy and modest fellow, you probably wouldn’t draw people’s attention, to it. (What’s that hysterical laughter I hear? The hounds? The Editor?) 🙂 .

    Mountain Fastness. Todays ear worm. “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.

    I drew that cartoon, around 1985. Just after I invented sliced bread. 🙂 .

    Thank you for the lovely and informative story of your trip to the Big Smoke. Your powers of narrative, improve in leaps and bounds.

    Your moving right along, on the excavation and ramp. Are you sure you aren’t enslaving the bunnies to help out? Tyre is an ancient city, in Lebanon. A “starter” trailer?

    Given the regular shape of that rock, I’m sure it’s fossilized poo, from a prehistoric giant wombat.

    Yup. A second recent study on why wombats poop cubes. It’s strange what keeps people up, at night. They look like charcoal briquettes. Wonder if they can be used for fuel?

    The moogie is really mowing the vermin, down. Wonder if it’s any good at eradicating snakes?

    The little frogs are so cool. I always want to scoop one up, and take it home. Before reminding myself that they belong in nature, and are much happier, there. Many a childhood classroom, and shelf at home, had frog eggs to observe. Remember that creek I mentioned on my uncles farm? In spring, one could usually find a clump of frog eggs.

    Looks like the tomatoes “may” make it. At least you’ll have green ones, to do something with. The beans and peas look very good. Do you have scarlet runner beans? They were mentioned in the “Victorian Farm” book, in the kitchen garden section. They sound interesting.

    The blackberries look good enough to eat. 🙂 . I’d like to find a piece of Roseville Pottery, blackberry pattern. Had one, but sold it, years ago. One of the few regrets. I’d like to replace it, but, they’re pretty expensive.

    The flowers are really putting on a show. Lovely, as ever.

    Saw a trailer for a new movie. “The Dig.” It’s about the discovery of Sutton Hoo. The Viking ship burial that was discovered in the late 1930s, in England. Looks like it might be good.

    The big storm in California, moved right across the country. I do hope Margaret, Claire and Pam are doing ok. Lew

  2. Hi Al,

    Well a 1960’s garage band and the other activities does (dare I use the word) sound like you had a good time. 🙂 I’m pretty careful with my hearing, but in my younger days had amplifiers and speakers that were crazy over rated for the sized shed I lived in as a kid – the old laundry at the rear of the house was converted into a small bedroom (which I loved the freedom of) and so the 100W RMS amplifier could seriously pump the neighbourhood with my choice of tunes! Of course as I quickly discovered, tastes in regards to music vary wildly and responses may have been immediate.

    Pah, it is possible the utoob kids practice guitar and do nothing else with their time. I don’t necessarily believe that being the best of the best is a wise strategy, if only because someone better than you will eventually turn up and rain on the dream.

    The people who do those vintage electronic restore jobs know their stuff, and I’m learning on the job so to speak. It is a pleasure to have access to such knowledgeable folks. And yes, I’d been giving thought to the solder sucker, and back in the day I used a rubber squeeze bulb which worked just fine. Things however may have progressed since then – do you have any recommendations to make in this regard?

    Thanks for the background as to shunts, and I know little about how they are actually manufactured. The ones here can record currents up to 200A which candidly is too much current for my comfort levels (thus the move last year from 24V to 48V which halved the current). A visitor experienced the awful sight of 200A being drawn through very hot 50mm2 wires. After seeing that, something had to be done thus the expensive and time consuming move to the higher base DC voltage, which should have been the first choice. Who knew? Having spoken to many people in the industry about these renewable energy technologies, I get the distinct impression that there are more sales people than engineers.

    No. I switched to LiFePO4 batteries because the original sealed Lead Acid batteries no longer held enough charge to be useful. I have a future project for them. Bizarrely with that chemistry as they age, the internal resistance drops and the voltage rises rapidly, but unlike LiFePO4 batteries, the voltage drops equally rapidly under load and so you just kind of know that their race is done.



  3. Hi Goran,

    There is something to be said about working a forest. It is possible that the elder folk are either hiding away in the depths of the forest, or their presence lingers even today. 🙂 However, on a more practical note, to spend time in an environment that does not welcome mankind, but instead challenges the species, is to be wholly in the moment. You have to reach that state of mind because errors have consequences there. I find it quite sad that people in civilised societies look down upon physical labour, because to be lost in the activity also means to be swept away in the grandeur of background thought. The environment that urban folks prefer is historically uncommon and subject to intense distractions today.

    Goran, you so busted me. 🙂 An activist demands, but a leader by sheer definition leads in a direction. The direction may not be comforting, it may not even be viable, but off and away we go off on an adventure. To be candid, I make little demands on my fellow peers and even as a boss in the corporate world, I never requested that someone reporting to me do a project or activity that I would not do.

    Years and years ago I cogitated upon how to implement a small degree of separation between myself and the dominant narrative. It is a many tentacled monster that seeks always to draw a person back into its grasp. Its inherent weakness is the inability to manage the individual who shuns the perquisites, whilst slowly and continually reducing their demands. An activist enjoys status and reward within that system even when they don’t know that is the case, and thus is consumed by the same beast. It surprises me that the folks involved do not understand this.

    Even within a culture the value priorities are different, and I suspect the differences are played upon by the media and whomever is paying them. You know it is hard to run your own race and set your own priorities when the vast majority of your peers are doing something else. And I really don’t know the source of the inspiration for why the majority of folks do what they do. However, it is very possible that as you suggest, each culture will come up with highly different methods of adjusting to energy and resource descent, and I’d most certainly like to see that on the basis that something will work out. At the back of my mind is the awful reality that historically 90% of the population were employed in the activity of subsistence agriculture, and how could that long term state not return eventually? And every decline in energy or resources brings us ever closer to that long term average.

    Crisis times are helpful times as they allow pre-existing and well defined patterns to be altered and changed. Of course the crisis always comes with massive costs.

    Thank you very much for the lovely words and observations. 🙂

    And exactly, many indigenous cultures consider a longer time frame than our present culture does – and that highlights the weakness of the present.

    Hope you enjoyed the trip into the big smoke as well.



  4. Hi Lewis,

    Between the belches and the farts, Ollie sure did stink up the room, but respect to him because he kept that rabbit down in his guts and I gratefully did not have to clean up the mess. I was thinking of Ollie when I wrote of the bloke on the train pitched forward in his seat. It was not an encouraging sight to see him bent over like that.

    Open season. I think not… People get into a lot of trouble down here if they strike a pedestrian in their vehicles. Not worth the trouble me thinks. Oh, so I did a quick search and discovered that to be called a ‘jay’ as in jaywalking is to be dubbed a proper numpty. Who would want to be considered by their fellows as a proper numpty?

    I’ve never heard of anyone being fined for walking against the lights – the risk to their person which they take is bad enough. Sometimes mental health issues are involved and you can see it in their eyes and grim determination to pit themselves against the challenges of moving traffic. Most people make allowances for them.

    Speaking of fines though. Years ago I spotted constabulary on pushbikes fining drivers for not totally stopping at a stop sign on a inner urban back road. It was all a bit weird and technically you do have to come to a complete stop at such an intersection, but visibility was exceptional at that intersection and slowing to a dead crawl is not the same as a dead stop I guess. Witnessed a few people getting busted and was careful not to make the same mistake.

    Ah but you did, and all I can say is the defamation laws here are bonkers. Free speech is not a thing down here and I can only but look on at your country in wonder. Now spiders, we’ve got them: Do huntsman spiders really crawl across your face at night? Far out!

    Yeah, I have this odd notion that William Buckley offended the authoritas sensibilities because he not only survived, but he appears to have prospered – so they responded in kind by throwing mud. As the old saying goes, throw enough mud and some will stick. I noticed in his history that he had some troubles upon returning, but was probably an extraordinarily useful individual.

    Did you enjoy the films? 🙂 Fun topic matter at such times! After your description that became a must see. Mate, Beth copped it bad, but at least it was quick, with a side serving of foaming at the mouth. Keep away from the dodgy prawn dumplings whilst in Hong Kong – and make sure you have a British or other nationality passport too whilst you are at it. Late the previous year before everything went crazy, I encountered a family who had moved here from that city – I would have. So did Dustin Hoffman die or did it fry his brain? Meningitis would make a person very strange afterwards.

    Hadn’t heard of either of those sci-fi stories about the planet sized objects hitting the Earth. Even a close high velocity fly by would do strange things to the planet and moon. Who knows what exists out there in interstellar space. Did the author discuss any possibilities in relation to those darker parts of the universe?

    Big Sur looks awesome and I can well understand your feelings for the place. It is not dissimilar in some respects to the Great Ocean Road down here. It is possible that the repairs for that highway collapse will take a bit of time to complete and may require a bridge.

    If you’re going to be sick after consumption, you could do worse than Southern Comfort which I too used to enjoy back in the day, but now no longer. It is interesting that you mention the intentional community, but I get the impression that some rugged individualists live out in the back lands of Big Sur. I doubt very much that they’d enjoy the tourist element which the road brings. And I’ll bet the road wasn’t always as busy as it is now (well not at the moment).

    Truth to tell I’m a bit shy but long ago I realised most other people are too. Hehe! The words were appreciated, but you hit the nail on the head, I have no desire to bring attention to this juggernaut. I enjoy the intimate atmosphere and really my brain demands that I write, so I write. 🙂

    Good on ya and I’d be impressed if you had drawn the cartoon. It’s a goodie isn’t it? Objectivity is a hard state of mind to get to, and the journalism professionals these days could learn something there.

    Thank you, the story was a joy to recount, and I wrote this time over two nights and so was able to more fully edit the words. I’m surprised at the things that other people don’t seem to see. That interests me as well.

    Hey, I’d really like to get those two sheep dogs doing some digging – they have the skills if their actions in the garden are anything to go by. There’s probably another six days of digging before the site is completed, and then we’ll see what happens. A lot of rocks are there, that’s for sure.

    Thanks for the wombat article. They’re lovely creatures and enjoy the fertile paddocks here. I reckon they’re getting bigger, but I could be wrong.

    Wikipud says one thing in regard to cats and snakes and the more reliable and probably better informed Mrs Damo suggests another thing. Hope the cat continues it rabbit decimating activities – saves me work.

    I see what you mean and the frogs are lovely and I have no idea how they survive the drought years but they seem to do just fine. You can hear their chorus on a humid summer evening. And they can eat the huntsman spiders so I’m impressed with that.

    Ouch, an awful regret, but you know if you love something set it free and all that. But on the other hand it would possibly be better enjoyed in your collection? How expensive are they? OK, they are pricey items. Good luck. Hope you got a good price for it back in the day? That memory can soothe the regrets.

    Ook! The latest installment from the good Professor makes for good reading for you, but not for plenty of other folks. Yikes! And Brr.



  5. Hi, Chris!

    That cartoon is not only incontestable, it is hilarious. Thanks.

    Your Swan Hill made me think of fig trees. Here’s why:

    I think that your story has somewhat described our Great Depression of the 1930s. Except for the homeless folks, which is something that we have a lot of here now, though not as many in evidence during the winter. I think the churches open up places for some of them to stay in the winter months. They are all over in the summer, though, living down by the river and in the woods.

    I enjoyed the train ride.

    We had that tire problem with our wheelbarrow.

    We have a mysterious feline visitor – let us say “friend”. Don’t know if it’s feral or a neighbor’s cat sneaking over (which I doubt; they seem to be indoor cats). I haven’t seen it as I am never out late at night, but my son has numerous times. He says that occasionally it gets into a fight with Petey the Possum. Petey loves cheese toast. I imagine cats do, too.

    I couldn’t find any pig faces, but the roses made up for it. Thanks!

    We had 5 inches (12.7cm) of snow yesterday. It was enough, with some ice on top now, to make our dirt road, with its steep hills, too risky to drive on, though I’ll bet Mr. Dumpy could do it, especially with his snow plow. It is too bad that he is still putative. 🙂 Actually, we the neighbors kept dragging our feet about calling the fellow that plows us out. We may be last in line now. Or it may melt.


  6. @ Lew:

    Thank you for the cartoon and the sliced bread. And thanks for mentioning Goran’s comment end of last week.

    We did have 5″ of snow and can’t get out at the moment, though I imagine it’s not impossible with 4W Drive. It’s the icy hills that get you. No weekly Monday shopping day for me, but it’s very nice at home.


  7. @ Goran:

    What a perfectly wonderful comment of yours at the end of last week. You have stated the truth so well.


  8. Chis:

    This is a bullseye:

    “An activist enjoys status and reward within that system even when they don’t know that is the case, and thus is consumed by the same beast. It surprises me that the folks involved do not understand this.”

    But perhaps sometimes, even if realized, the sacrifice is worth it?


  9. I’ve got to echo the plaudits from Lew and Goran on this post and your overall journey. Of interest to me was the setup at the start of you essay that surely portended an incisive ( and objective, dispassionate, of course) assessment of the world’s current condition.

    But no, you veered from that to a well paced narrative of a train journey and the thoughts that popped up for mulling over. I find a similar experience during train rides, as you aren’t dealing with steering and dodging road hazards in a car. Gives the mind a chance to untether and make new connections.

    Maybe the shoe dropped but was too subtle for me to hear it?

    Cats! Yes, I think I mentioned them a while back as a rebalancing force for rabbits and such. With fewer of those around, the nasty snakes will find little of interest, and move on?

    Hopefully the cat will get their fill from rabbits and rats, and don’t progress on to the birds.

    Did I note a possible alternate name for your homestead under consideration? Fernrock Farm sounds rather fitting, based on the ever filling gabions.

  10. Yo, Chris – Here, not totally stopping at a stop sign is called a “California Stop.” 🙂 .

    Ah, you saw the building in question, but don’t feel free to comment on it. Got it. I had seen that picture, of the spider infestation, in passing. I guess it just goes to show that one should vacuum out those high corners, with great regularity. To suck up the eggs. But, the author made an interesting point. Do you want to put up with one spider, or, hordes of cockroaches? Some Romans kept a snake, about the house, to keep the mice and rats on the run.

    I watched “Outbreak,” last night. It looks a bit dated. Came out in 1995. Dated because of the lack of tech. Oh, computers lurk in the background, but people actually pick up phones and dial numbers! Kevin Spacey has a smaller part. He’s unrecognizable. I had to check the cast list, to see which part he played. There’s a great helicopter chase scene. Well worth a bowl of popcorn.

    Coincidence, whatever. Yesterday, I ran across an interview with the professor that wrote the book on the “object.”

    Very interesting. Less than 5 minutes.

    The Tassajara Zen Retreat is in the same general area, as the jade miners. You may remember the Retreat. Renowned for fire monks and really good bread. 🙂 . The Beat author / bookseller/ publisher (City Lights Books), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, had a place in Big Sur. Just about every Beat writer made a stop there, for varying lengths of time. He freely lent it out, to authors needing a time out … or dry out.

    I’ll go with Mrs. Damo’s observations, on the ground.

    Pieces of Roseville Blackberry go from $2-$300, these days. I think I got $85 for mine. Or, maybe $125. But that was 20 years ago. Roseville is one of the collecting areas that has held it’s value, and increased. Well, at least the patterns that are desirable and sought after.

    It drizzled all day, yesterday. All three times I took H out, I had to towel her down (and me to), when we came back in. Looks like more of the same, today. Warmish, though. What Prof. Mass didn’t mention is that we can get some of that cold air, due to arctic outbreaks from the Frazier River Valley, up in BC. Seems to happen, once or twice a year. That’s when we get temperatures well below -0-C. And it usually hangs on, for awhile. Conditions must not be set up for that to happen. But things change.

    Dipped into more of “Victorian Farm,” last night. I have to pick up the pace. It’s due back at the library, soon. The cider mill was interesting, but, I couldn’t quit figure out how it worked. There’s a cider mill, just over my counties northern border. I’ve never visited, but drove by, several times. A couple of week ago, I guess they had a bad fire. The weekly schedule Ms. Goodman laid out for laundry was just … overwhelming. I found the ruminations on craft, and craftspeople really interesting. Adapt or die. How everything changed with mass production and industrialization. I saw an interesting exchange, between two characters in the series, “The New Pope.” A woman asks a man what he does for a living. He says something like, “I practice an ancient and useless craft. I repair watches. Now, people just throw them away.”

    I was thinking your friends in the Big Shed, might find the section on animal husbandry, interesting. As, from what the article and you said, they’re getting into that side of things. Lew

  11. Hi Chris –
    Longtime reader and lurker here – been wondering what happens when the steel gabion cages finally rust out; shouldn’t take too long since the wires look to be pretty small diameter. You got a plan for that eventuality?

  12. Hello Chris
    I loved the cartoon which I shall show to Son. The description of your train journey was superbly written.

    When I used to travel to the Island to work there in the Summer from London, the trains used to be packed with a good chance that one might have to stand the whole way. So I used to travel first class. It was great fun to enter a first class carriage and divest myself of my huge rucksack to the horror of the business men sitting there. Their eyes would brighten when a man would come in to check our tickets, they were so sure that I would be chucked out. Haha, I always had a first class ticket.

    Was puzzled by what the dog had in its mouth, is it an albino rabbit?


  13. @ Goran
    Thank you for your comment at the end of last week’s comments. It was very interesting indeed and I am still thinking about it.
    A Dutch friend of many many years dumped me last April after she was incredibly rude to me over the phone. Was she being truthful over tact? Possibly, though only partially.
    My mother was German and although she lived in England from the age of 16, she remained noticeably different from the English.


  14. Hi Chris,

    There I was thinking that Ruby had actually caught a rabbit. Maybe she will be inspired by the Moogie’s actions to greatness?

    I see you are tempted by the T-85, and to be candid, it does have at least 5 more units of goodness compared to the stodgy and uninteresting T-80. The way forward is clear, if only you have the courage to take the leap! In unrelated news, I hear the bottom has dropped out of the market for T-80 tuners, but I will take it off your hands for you.

    The ‘Rona gave me a day off work on Monday (insert news article about Perth 5-day lockdown), but I now have to wear a mask all day at work for the rest of the week. What the ‘Rona giveth, the ‘Rona take away’th.


  15. Hi Chris,

    Enjoyed your post as always, and I concur with the others above who have agreed with Goran’s comment on the previous post. It’s why we all keep reading every week.

    I’m sure Margaret got snowed in by the same storm that brought Pam snow. I’m far enough south that instead of snow we got over an inch of cold rain. That was fine by me; it’s been a dry winter, so the rain was welcome. Snow would have been less so. We may experience our coldest weather of the winter by this weekend.

    The last few days I have been engaged in ordering garden seeds. This hasn’t been as easy as I would like. While some large garden seed retailers seem to be accepting orders and getting seeds shipped quickly, this has not been the case for my favorite small regional seed companies. The company I order most of my seeds from is only opening to accept online orders beginning at noon. They cut off ordering once a certain number of orders have been made. On Sunday, I began to make my order as the ordering process opened. Less than 15 minutes later, after I had filled my cart and begun checking out, they closed the ordering process. Today, I jumped on as soon as ordering began to check out (they saved the contents of my cart, I am glad to say). Three minutes later, just after I placed my order, orders closed for the day! The seed companies tell us that very high demand combined with continuing restrictions on how many people can work at one time have caused ordering restrictions and long waits for order receipt. It’ll be 4 to 6 weeks before I get the seeds I ordered. Luckily I have seeds on hand for almost everything I want to start before the new seeds will arrive.


  16. @ Chris and Lew:

    I enjoyed “Edwardian Farm” so much that I now have “Victorian Farm” on its way to me.


  17. @ Claire:

    I have run into the same problems among the seed companies that you have. Luckily, I got started with ordering about a month ago. I do keep thinking up last minute things I want, though, and a friend just gave me “The Whole Seed Catalog” – $12.95, 1 1/2 inches thick, from – and every single page I see I want something. This is no ordinary catalog, besides flower and vegetable varieties from all over the world, and lots and lots of stories about the origin of varieties. The photography is gorgeous.


  18. Hi Pam, Steve, Lewis, Martin, Inge, Damo, and Claire,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however ’tis the mid-week hiatus and aren’t those huntsman spiders awful looking? They’re super fast too, and I watched a local bloke pull a knife on a particularly large example of the species years ago. The spider wasn’t harmed, but I tell you I almost jumped back in fright when the spider reared up to challenge the bloke. Some things are not easily forgotten and as the kids say ‘un-seen’, and despite this happening at least a decade ago I thus now need time to recover and promise to reply tomorrow! 🙂 Hehe!

    And um, a special note of thanks to Damo for his kind and most generous offer! Cheeky! 🙂



  19. Hi Lewis,

    Ooo, it really is called a California Stop. You’d hope that an awful actual interaction between a pedestrian and a vehicle was not called a California Dreaming? Maybehaps it is just down here, but people love their mobile smart devices and it is possibly hard for them to concentrate on their surroundings when they are distracted. I struggle sending a text message with my full concentration, let alone doing something else like walking or driving.

    Well yeah, thanks for understanding, I’m in a little bit of a bind there, and there have now been legal precedents set. Ah to dream the wild dream of free speech and the things that I would thus say. Actually I’m not sure what I’d say if I had such a right, but that might be a chicken and egg thing. I hope your countrymen continue to exercise that right even if is discommodes other folks. Cancel culture is working to reduce the scope of that right and rights are hard won and have to be fought for and used to be retained over the longer term – we never had that right to begin with, and few feel strongly about the subject. There are costs to that right as well as benefits, I guess.

    Oh yeah, the huntsman spiders are rather alarming to encounter in the flesh, and they are fairly common on the farm. They over winter in tiny spaces between the bark and the tree trunks – and don’t enjoy being disturbed. They’re really fast too. But that is an interesting point as I rarely encounter a cockroach here, so maybe that is what is going on. There are a lot of predator insects living on the farm, and there are very few pest insects. This was noted by the gardener and author Steve Solomon who lives down in the island state of Tasmania. He didn’t fail to notice the many fruit eating birds though! Really about the Roman’s? I guess whatever works but I’m a bit freaked out by that. Everyone has their kryptonite.

    Hehe! The mention of the computers in the film was very true. Kind of reminds me of the computer graphics and screens in Star Trek VI which was made a few years before that. In the mid 90’s computers were hardly ubiquitous, and I was one of the few people who had a PC, but as mentioned a few years back it was so underwhelming and associated with study, that I loaned it out during semester breaks. Bad juju definitely. It is funny to think how pervasive the machines have become in not many years. Friends tell me that Moore’s Law is now toast – what is your take on that? It always appeared to be an overly optimistic presumption.

    Thanks for the link and I tried to watch it earlier but it didn’t work on my so called smart phone. Will have a look tomorrow night.

    The Tassajara Zen Retreat monks were pretty cool and I enjoyed the fire monks book, but was a touch jealous of their running creek which ran for the entire time of the fire. For a bunch of hacks, they did pretty well and came out the other side mostly unscathed. Sometimes I do wonder if the authoritas dumb us down a lot, but then there are some fires you don’t want to be involved in. Damo’s part of the world has been chucked into lockdown for 5 days (cynics have noticed an impending election campaign) and are also having a pretty nasty fire. People are being told to stay at home and also evacuate so of course there is a touch of confusion over there.

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti is an intriguing bloke, and clearly living near to Big Sur has done him no harm. To quote: “you can conquer the conquerors with words. … “ Thanks for the introduction.

    20 years, mate there has been an awful lot of inflation since those days. An awful lot, so you did pretty well I reckon.

    Get the lawyer handy as you may be suing for weather related whiplash if that’s the case! This weekend looks set to be a repeat of last weekend. My head hurts, and the weather forecast is certainly dynamic looking, especially for Friday this coming week.

    Victorian Farm was a great read, but the trio covered so much ground in such a short period of time. It’s impressive they did as well as they did. The cider press was ingenious and used a huge pole to turn a screw press and the apple juice was caught around the edges of the square looking press. Don’t get your fingers caught in the press might be a good idea. The clothes laundry section appeared to be quite laborious – how easy do washing machines and hot water on tap make things? We still do a lot of washing in cold water with some runs using hot water, and I recall the reactions when the use of cold water suggested. Make you wonder what Ruth would say. The editor enjoyed her observations on the clothes of the era – and indeed Ruth skewered a few beliefs in the process.

    Sorry to hear about the local cider mill business. It is a risk that’s for sure.

    My mates of the big shed fame have their paddocks well fenced as they house a genuine menagerie of farm animals. And many of them they breed, so they have first hand experience with all manner of things I know little about. They’re pretty hands-on around their farm those two and I have nothing but respect for their efforts.



  20. @ Pam: that’s one of the seed companies I order from. It’s based in southwest Missouri and carries some old Ozark varieties.


  21. @ Pam,

    Thanks for your suggestion last week to keep to a schedule. That’s something I’ve thought about, as without it, nothing will get done and I’ll just fade away into the woodwork. I’ve seen that happen., and it’s not a good thing.


  22. @ Pam – I’m glad you “only” got 5″ of snow. Looks like north of you got really slammed. Looks like we’re going to get a lot of snow, up in the mountains. But down here on the flatlands, just rain, rain, and more rain. Lew

  23. Chris,

    As Lew mentioned, my mother’s “stop, look and listen” was taught to most of us back in the day. “Pedestrians have the right of way” also depending on local laws but, well, a car is bigger, so who REALLY has the right of way? 😉

    As someone else mentioned, I also thought that one of the youngsters had decided to get over the fear of the Great Killer Rabbit and start hunting. But nature intervened in a different fashion: overabundance of game, predator moves in, eats said game. Hope this also has the result of reducing the nasty snake problem.

    I’ve taken some lengthy bus trips back in the day – a round trip to and from Chicago, and a one way to Bakersfield, California. Without having to pay attention to traffic and road hazards, I found these to be mostly enjoyable. Unplug the brain, visit people, watch people, watch scenery as it goes by the windows, etc., was something I enjoyed. The Princess rode a bus to Eugene, Oregon, and back several years ago and found it to be less enjoyable: in the intervening years, the use of megadoses of perfumes turned the bus interior into a space filled with a sickening miasma of competing fragrances. Both of us have issues with the chemicals used in manufacturing most fragrances, so long bus trips are off the table for us now.

    So the local constabulary tickets bicycles for California stops in a rural area? Wow. Soon after moving from California to Spokane in what may have been 1273 or so, (or was it 1388?), my dad was taking his driving test to get a Washington driver’s license. He did a California stop, and the examiner said that dad got dinged a few points for the California stop. Dad unwisely quipped, “Hey, how’d you know I was from California?” Examiner found a few more “infractions” to ding some points with, but dad did pass.

    If you change your farm’s name to “Fernrock” from Fernglade”, are you going to start a side business called “Rocks R Us”? A motto could be, “You dig them, we break them”.

    Cool! A bee in a nicely hued flower. Thanks. We’ve been experiencing unseasonably warm weather, +10C, but it is months too early for flowers and bees. Pig Face? We called that “ice plant” when we’d run across it on the California beaches. I’d enjoy having some here, but we get too cold for it. However, there is a relative of it, highly invasive, that is in my neighborhood. There are some flower beds in which I’d like to grow it, but the Princess doesn’t like the plant. I can understand her feelings about it, as these have a decidedly unpleasant odor when flowering.

    The Princess would like you to send us a bouquet of that fantastic climbing rose. It is having a spectacular year!


  24. Yo, Chris – Looks like there may be a bit of chipping away, at our libel laws. Ms. Palin (the politician) has a suit going, against a newspaper. Might even go to the Supremes. (The court, not the Motown group.)

    We don’t have Huntsmen Spiders, in our state. But we do have Jumping Spiders, Giant House Spiders, Wolf Spiders and, the notorious Black Widow. Comforting names, no?

    Don’t scream when you open this link. There are paintings of snakes.–mount-vesuvius-fresco/

    That’s probably Mount Vesuvius, in the background, before it got naughty. The figure of Bacchus makes sense, as the slopes were well known for vineyard. There are many wall paintings of snakes, around Pompeii. Usually in relationship to the household shrine.

    I figured Moore’s Law would peter out, sooner or later. Nothing goes on, forever.

    I had heard Perth was locked down. Didn’t hear about the fire, though.

    Ah! Our local newspaper did an article, yesterday, about the fire at the cider press.

    Of course, our local newspaper didn’t answer the leading question. Did the fire destroy the press? I’d guess it would be a large, commercial one. Unless I missed it, in the verbiage.

    Rained all day, yesterday. All three times I took H out. We managed to hit a spot of sun, this morning. A trend?

    There was a link at Mr. Greer’s last night, to an article at Zero Hedge about the Wall Street mess. By Matt Taibbi. Oh, he’s pretty vicious! Lew

  25. @Lew
    Thank you for the heads up re: Goran’s comment. I often don’t check back late on Sunday so would probably would have missed it.

    We got about 6 inches of snow though east of us and in the city they received 12+ inches. It was quite windy so there was a lot of drifting. We’re supposed to get another bout of snow maybe starting out as sleet and then a rapid descent into the deep freeze. Starting Saturday we look to have at least a week with highs in the single digits and below 0 each night – as low as -13 ugh!!

    As we have a Netflix account we did see “The Dig” and both enjoyed it. Netflix just seems to be churning out new movies – several each week.


  26. @Claire and Pam

    I’ve been having the same issue ordering seeds. I ordered some seeds that I knew I was short of and particularly wanted last fall so that’s all good. I was able to order some additional ones from another small seed company that I don’t normally order from.


  27. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for your story of the train ride and observations of Melbourne. I haven’t taken the train for almost a year and miss it. When I go by the train parking lot it maybe has a dozen cars at most. Many people used that train to commute to work in Chicago and to just go to the city for sporting events, etc. As we are the first stop I always could get a seat but, especially on the weekends, it was standing room only. Crime has risen quite a bit and downtown just doesn’t have the people it used to that gave one some sense of security so even if I were to go downtown I’d hesitate to walk too far by myself.

    When I first saw the picture I thought, “Yah Ruby!” but further reading revealed the real truth.

    I described our current weather to Lew so won’t repeat again except to say I’m tired of winter. The local groundhog has predicted an early spring today so one can hope.


  28. @Goran
    Thank you for your comment. I’ve felt that those who “walk the walk” so to speak are the true activists compared to those who post their opinions on FB and/or get to every protest.


  29. Hi Pam,

    The cartoon is pretty good – and I’d have to suggest that it sets the gold standard for objectivity. Us mere mortals may have a touch more trouble achieving such an outcome. And candidly I tell you this: The last twelve months have been difficult…

    Thanks for the article on fig trees – and one specimen has grown mightly this summer – hmm, gorging itself on water me thinks. It is due a prune.

    Word on the street down here is that by way of comparison, many homeless folks are now ensconced in hotels. Some outcomes I’ve heard are good others, not so much. How the heck do people stay alive on the streets of your town in winter conditions?

    Thank you for the nice words.

    Lewis suggested constructing a repairable trailer and I’ll probably go that path – I’m embarrassed that such an unrepairable item could actually be produced in the first place – the wheel is now unusable.

    Hehe! Go the mysterious feline visitor. Hope your visitor earns its keep? Plum encountered a small ring tail possum last evening that had come up to the house for a drink of water. Fortunately Plum was on a lead and the small possum made a hasty exit.

    5 inches of snow! Brr! It will be 86’F here tomorrow. Toasty hot. Hope your place is staying warm in those wintery conditions?

    Brave Mr Dumpy will get there – or the scrap metal merchants may swing into action and sweep away all evidence of Mr Dumpy. Of course this will ruffle feathers, but I get not working outside in 5 inches of snow – revolting weather.

    Well, as to the activist question you raised, much depends on whether you had been involved in such activity? It is worth noting here that the word ‘activist’ and ‘activity’ are fairly close and this may give you a hint as to a possible answer.



  30. Hi Steve,

    Many thanks for the kind words, and I do enjoy mixing up writing styles as the weeks roll on. I’m particularly fond of the evocative style of writing and don’t wish to become overly reliant on it. And trains are such a civilised way to get around – especially the country trains. Ours zip along at a furious rate, but as you say there is always heaps to see along the journey.

    There are some strange things going on in the city, and it is almost as if the core is being ever so slowly abandoned. The vacancy rate is pretty high and empty shops are rarely a good look.

    You did indeed recommend the services of a couple of felines. Long term I’ll probably have to do something about that as they are highly effective, although I spotted a rabbit running for its life tonight.

    The whole story which led to the snake is a fascinating tale which probably should be told in full.

    The dogs won’t tolerate the cat on the farm during the day when most birds are out and about, and my gut feeling tells me that the owls will know more about the cats business than the cat does. But yes, once the easy prey is discarded, will the cat expand its territory? Dunno, but its on my radar that question.

    Hehe! Yeah it seems kind of an appropriate name for the farm. Rocks are inordinately useful. And I hope to unearth some more rocks tomorrow.

    A big storm looks like it will hit here on Friday.



  31. Hi Martin,

    Welcome to the discussion.

    That’s a fair question. The steel incidentally is 3mm mesh, so its pretty tough and doesn’t appear to be rusting so far. The exposed parts of the steel are kept dry because the rocks allow for a lot of airflow which is a boon for the skinks (our gecko equivalent) which treat the gabions like a high rise hotel.

    Now what is going on out of sight with the steel is anyone’s guess. Dunno. My gut feeling tells me that the rocks will settle in place, and possibly some parts of the gabions will rust away, but there’ll be enough structure in place for a long while to come.

    The hard part of the job is not making or building the gabion – it is dragging the rocks over to where you want the gabion.



  32. Hi Inge,

    Hope your son enjoyed the cartoon? It’s pretty funny, and I take the cartoon to refer to an aspirational goal rather than something which can be achieved in all circumstances. The past twelve months have been an exciting time full of high emotional content, and I refer to the word ‘exciting’ in a negative sense. Even in the top of town corporate world, emotions can run high. I tend to work more effectively with people who are calm, or can remain calm during a crisis. It is an astonishingly common occurrence for people in high office to lose their cool, and I feel this does not reflect well upon them.

    Inge, thank you very much and I appreciate your praise. If it means anything to you, ‘The Summing Up’ had many useful observations to make about the art. It is a pleasure to have been in the authors company, if only for a while. Although it is possible that in the flesh he may have disappointed. 🙂 Oh well. Some chapters were akin to the experience of having a mirror held up to the reader. Such a sharp wit too.

    Well done you, and I’m chuckling to myself due to the mental image of sheer discomfiture which the snooty folks in the first class carriage endured by your presence. 🙂 Top work. And I have been resoundingly booted from the First Class carriage by the conductor on a number of occasions. The smug satisfaction of the denizens at that outrage, sort of annoyed me. Early on a passenger could purchase a ticket for First Class from the conductor, and then a change was implemented and a booking for a seat had to be made at a train station in advance – too bad if the local train station is unmanned.

    I’m honestly not sure what variety of rabbit we have in the forest here. It could well be a hybrid variety which would not surprise me at all. Once I begin hunting them in earnest, I’ll hopefully get a better look as I’m curious to learn more about the rabbits and their lifecycle.

    I let Plum and Ruby have a play around with the carcass so that they began losing their fear of the rabbits. After they were done with the carcass I let Ollie have a sniff, and as a complete surprise, he ran off and ate it.

    The entire story of the rabbits probably needs telling? Dunno.



  33. Hi Damo,

    Plum and Ruby are yet puppies and some dogs take more of an interest in such matters. So I don’t really know how they’ll turn out, but my gut feeling is not good in this regard. Sir Scruffy and Sir Poopy on the other hand were both knighted because of their services to the farm in relation to critters. Sir Scruffy was quite the fan of rabbit, and he was notably quite rotund despite an active lifestyle and small meals.

    One can only hope that the moggie sets the gold standard and the fluffy collective are shamed into activity? It is possible they might just as well ride on the coat tails of their feline nemesis. Dunno. But I gave the carcass to Plum and Ruby to have a play around with and hopefully lose some of their fear of rabbits. It’s got big sharp pointy teeth – look at the bones!

    Thanks Damo for the vote of support and generous offer. So if you get the T-85, I can only ever but look on in envy, knowing that the T-80 is as you wisely suggest, 5 units lesser. None could argue it could be any other way. 🙂 Actually I’m looking forward to re-capping that machine, it should be a fun job and the worst I can do is completely stuff it up. And with that awful possibility in mind I’ve got a few phone numbers for businesses that repair such things, but I reckon they’ll be expensive.

    And dare I mention that a T-80 has a certain sort of halo from the awful awfulness of a T-800 terminator? From a quick math point of view it is only ten times greater?

    Sorry to hear you guys are in a lock down over there, and I have no enjoyment in wearing a mask in the sort of weather you are experiencing (and still have to wear a mask in some circumstances over here). Has the smoke cleared away? A lot of houses have been lost.



  34. Hi Claire,

    Thank you, and I really appreciate the lovely words.

    I’m so summer soft (albeit a cold and damp summer) right now, that the sound of all that snow strikes dread fear into my heart. Hope everyone stays safe and more importantly keeps warm.

    Thermal inertia in action! The coldest weather here is always August, which is your February of course.

    Thanks to for mentioning Steve Solomon in your writing. His book on growing vegetables in Tasmania is very very good and he has a delightful way with words. Do you know, despite being far to the south of the farm here and across Bass Strait, he’s in a warmer location and has a marginally longer growing season (probably about two weeks at a guess).

    Hey, the seed story which you are experiencing played out down here too. A good reason to save your own seed for future seasons. I heard some very odd stories over the past twelve months, and they basically mirror your experience. The thing is I don’t see a lot of people gardening with vegetables and I do hope that the seed doesn’t go to waste – think toilet paper hording. Dunno. Some of the seed was of dubious quality as not a single cucumber germinated this summer, but then neither did our saved seed from last summer.

    My gut feeling is that based on what went on down here, your seeds will turn up, but it may take a while. I assume you may try starting some next month?



  35. Hi DJ,

    Your mother was correct. I’ve remarked to the editor on a number of occasions that it is little use to be in the right, and dead.

    No, the two puppies are still a bit frightened of rabbits, but giving them the carcass to run around and have a play with may have gone some way towards addressing that fear. They’re no Sir Scruffy or Sir Poopy those two puppies. Oh well, time may change this outcome. In the meantime: Look at the bones! 🙂

    The bus trips sound good, although like you I would be uncomfortable to have my nose assaulted by thoughtlessly heavy use of perfumes. It would give me hay-fever. And you can’t open the windows these days either.

    No, sorry I did not explain the California Stop situation very well. The bicycle mounted constabulary were fining drivers in a very pleasant looking Victorian era inner city locale. The cars had to cross over a major bicycle route out of the city, and I suspected that a point was being made. Incidentally traffic offenses accrue demerit points and a driver has only so many points. Lose enough points and they take your license away for a bit.

    Rocks R Us!!! I wouldn’t willingly break rocks for other folks – it’s hard work! 😉 Far out. Might do some digging tomorrow.

    Actually, if that sort of winter weather was experienced here, the bees would be flying around and cleaning out their hive. They become active on sunny winter days if the air temperature hovers around at least 10’C (which is a warm winters day for here).

    Yeah, I believe the succulent plants have coastal origins down here too. I don’t have a clue why it is called ‘pig face’ as it doesn’t look like a pigs face to me. Someone needs to research this matter!

    Hopefully your lady continues to enjoy the flower photos for the rest of the summer. A big storm looks set to arrive here on Friday – it is an almost exact repeat of last weekends weather. Go figure…



  36. Hi Margaret,

    It was my pleasure to share the train ride story with you. There’s a lot of strange things going on in the big smoke. How’s the windy city coping with the health subject which dare not be named? Actually the city was quiet down here too, and it is almost a shadow of its former self from a year ago. The officials down here have now declared that there is a population exodus out of the cities and into the regional and rural areas. The vast majority of the population hugs the coastline down under for valid reasons.

    It is interesting that you mention the crime, but my take is that crime up this way is on the up as well. It is an economic response to circumstances, I guess.

    Plum and Ruby might not have the instinct with the rabbits, but I gave the carcass to them anyway so that they could at least begin to lose their fear of the rabbits. On the other hand, when Plum encountered the snake, she also acted prudently (as did Ollie) so that is something which gives some reassurance. They might not be up for the job with the rabbits, and given the effort involved they have to want to do it. Sir Scruffy and Sir Poopy on the other hand were naturals although they both came to that activity later in life, so who knows what the future holds in store?

    6 inches of snow. Oh my gawd, that’s cold. Hope the heater is keeping you both warm and how also is Leo and Salve faring in the cold weather? Brr! 86’F here tomorrow.

    Go the local groundhog! Is the groundhog an accurate forecaster for such things?

    Hey, the seed story played out down here too, it was like a bank run… Hope the seeds get used by people as this would be a good thing, but I’m not seeing an upswing in edible gardens and vegetable patches. Seeds don’t keep forever. We save a lot of seeds, and after last summers disaster, we now keep stocks of our seed varieties which have been raised for a few years now.



  37. Hi Lewis,

    I’m gutted. Totally and utterly gutted. I accidentally closed the tab that my comment to you was typed out on. Well this is a total first, and I’d written some fun stuff, which is now all gone – and I don’t know what happened. It was so quick too. Ah well, late at night and all that stuff.

    The editor is having a girlie dinner with a friend tonight and so I’m batching it away. As you may expect I made a tomato based pasta vegetable sauce which was quite good. A good dump of shredded vintage tasty cheese was chucked on top.

    The editor usually cooks dinners, I make breakfasts and it is an equal share thing with lunches. But we split the dish washing with the editor washing and I do the drying and stacking. A few years ago I began getting some sort of contact dermatitis with the dishwashing concentrate, and that was super weird, so we switched over to using the olive soap which coincidentally we know of all of the ingredients. 🙂

    Worked late today, but still found time to reply and walk the dogs for about 40 minutes. They love it too, and the weather was pretty sweet, sunny but not hot. Tomorrow looks set to hit 86’F which is quite hot.

    The Palin story looks kind off odd, and it appears that the claim made by the newspaper could possibly have been mischievous, and I guess at the heart of the matter is whether the pamphlets and incident can be possibly linked in the mind of a reasonable person. But I would not make such a claim as what the newspapers did as I’m naturally wary like a frightened rabbit, people with deep pockets fund such actions, and insurances can go through the roof as a consequence. I guess what the story hints at are what are the limits of the right which you all enjoy?

    The black widow spider does not have a comforting name. No way! Sounds positively lethal. Actually sometimes the bacteria on the fangs of a spider cause as much, if not more harm than the venom – and I reckon that might hold true for different countries.

    Mount Vesuvius clearly looked different in those days, and there appeared to be trees growing right up to the summit. And it is apt that the mural was unearthed in Pompeii. And holy moly! Far out. Someone did a proper rebranding job… Who knew that in classical mythology, daemons were benevolent nature spirits similar to ghosts that also served as guardian spirits. You learn something every single day – the cheeky re-branding scamps.

    Moore’s Law is rather dull because it hints not of the new, but of refinements of the old and as you say, sooner or later limits are reached.

    Candidly I needed a guardian spirit so as not to lose your reply. I’d written this very cheeky paragraph about two boxers facing each other off. Over in the West is the new comer, what with all the masks, heat waves, fires and stuff. Whilst over in the south east was the old champ who’d been in serious lock down for four months, and now looks like mandatory masks are back. We couldn’t allow the western upstarts to get the advantage over us could we. I was probably grumpy enough that I accidentally closed the website page with the reply. The boxing story was more amusing sorry to say. Oh well, grin and bear and think of I dunno, something else.

    I didn’t see it either. That side of the cider mill fire story wasn’t really tackled, but reading between the lines it appears that there was a bit of under insurance going on. Hope the folks get back on their feet soon, although it wasn’t a total loss of the farm which is a good thing. There is something to be said about distributed sheds. In the old days as you probably already know kitchen’s were in a separate building in the back yard due to the inherent fire risk. A very sensible precaution.

    Thanks for mentioning the link and I note that Mr Greer’s holiday has come to an end. Hope he had a nice time. Holidays are good things.

    Planning to dig tomorrow and it looks like the weather will reach 86’F which candidly is a bit warm for digging. Oh well, it is the job that isn’t done and all that stuff, whatever it meant. 🙂 Hehe!

    Oh, and reading about The Terminator film, purely for blog research purposes I discovered that James Cameron was behind the project and they did amazing things on a limited budget. Thus proving a bit of belt tightening is a good thing.



  38. Hello Chris
    I feel very lucky to have lived the 60s and 70s for many reasons. I had a hell of a lot of fun with the developing music of the time. Your comment about the better musician showing up for your personal party was true in my life and changed my direction towards what I did as a career. I always have the music and ability to play for my own enjoyment even if quietly either acoustically or low level amped on very fine equipment.

    By all means attack the flaccid old capacitors and bring back the old 80 to its best. I would buy the other Working 85. For my own selfish pleasure ;and the 80 ,probably in good time ,enable it’s passing to good friend Damo. Under your control. I am assuming that the true lady of the fine estate is in agreement with the fiscal issues involved.

    Ok you need to get an Edsyn Soldapultt available at your ejectronic sellers. Cole’s even has a Black ESD model for 16.00 Au$. They are the best since 1961.
    The solder wick works right along with the solder sucker the width should be about the size of the component solder pad.
    Practice on a piece of junk electonics. Problably not somethingt two accounting types would allow in their surrounding normally??? now get started dammit!,

    Al Senior Geek!

  39. @ Margaret – We occasionally get weather, like yours, but a lot less frequent. My Dad used to ruminate on moving back to Nebraska, where he was from. Then he’d get quiet, for a few minutes, and say, “But, oh, that weather!” 🙂 . He never did move back.

    If “The Dig” makes it to DVD, I’m sure our library will get it. There are some rumblings that in future, there will be more streaming, and fewer discs. Not something I’m looking forward, to. Lew

  40. Yo, Chris – Closed the tab, prematurely? Never happens to me. Well, maybe a time to three. There’s usually a lot of cursing involved, and the air turns blue. Given my verbositude (Lew ™), a reconstruction is sometimes difficult. But, I do jot down (illegiable) notes, on scrap paper, just to keep the narrative in order.

    Well, our First Amendment (to the Constitution) covers free speech, religion and press. Also, the right of peaceful protest and the right to petition the government. Numerous court cases have layered interpretation onto that. When someone starts banging on about freedom of religion, I like to point out that it also means freedom FROM religion. That never goes down well. 🙂 . I got curious about freedom of association. That I don’t have to put up with someone’s company, if I don’t want to. It was actually a court case. One can carry on about free speech, but, having been called on the carpet, several times in my life, for something I’ve said, well, one is restrained by social conventions. One learns early, what they are.

    Volcanic eruptions do tend to alter the appearance of mountains. 🙂 .

    The fires around Perth are beginning to make the news, here. Seeing the pictures of the filthy air, makes me shudder. I can almost taste it.
    Boxers. Well, todays ear worm is …

    “The Boxer”, Simon & Garfunkel. Oh, good! Lyrics! You can sing along.

    Given the number of people that visit the cider press farm, and, the number of employees, and insurance rates these days, I’d guess liability insurance probably soaked up a lot of available insurance money. At the expense of physical plant insurance. When I look at my renter’s insurance, which is a pretty simple policy, once I wade through the disclaimers, I wonder what I AM insured for. But, it’s relatively cheap (about $100 a year) so I keep it up. None of my tat would be covered. I’d need a “fine arts policy” for that, and they’re thinking more in terms of Van Gogh paintings.

    I’ll have to go check out Mr. Greer’s blog. I hope he kicks it off with something besides Dion Fortune. 🙁 . Lew

  41. Hi Al,

    Thanks for the suggestion and I have a Edsyn Soldapullt on order and heading my way – should arrive in the next fortnight. Good stuff, what a clever idea, and back in the day I used to use a bulb type sucker and that was a pain. Believe it or not, I had not previously encountered one of these clever devices. They appear super easy to use.

    You may have inadvertently promoted yourself to chief technical officer with the cap replacement project! 🙂 Hehe!

    I’m genuinely unsure about the T-85 tuner purchase, mostly because once the T-80 is done, I’ll move on to the Kenwood tuner and honestly I can only really use one at a time. Incidentally the Amplifier probably needs recapping too as it dates back to the very early 90’s and now has a mild ozone-acrid smell which indicates a leaking cap. Basically, like me it is old and in need of a bit of care and attention! 🙂 And I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the project. There is a store in the big smoke aptly called ‘Radio Parts’ which is probably where I’ll order the caps. It is hard to know how long ago the caps were manufactured – you just don’t know, and at least with those guys I can ask the question and get some sort of answer.

    Good stuff with the music, and doesn’t working in an overly technical field require some balancing out with an interest in artistic pursuits? 🙂 Music is a goodie and it is very soothing on the soul as an act of creation, even when it is garage rock.



  42. Hi Lewis,

    The software here has never eaten a comment like the old gargle platform did (glad that I’m not on that platform given how the wind is shifting – something or other about the do evil empire). Remember those crazy days? I hear you about that happening.

    Far out, so what happened last night was that I was looking up an article on the Perth bushfires and noticed late at night that state wide mandatory mask wearing has been reintroduced because there was one case of some young bloke who worked at hotel quarantine contracting. One case – entire state, and the masks were not the only restrictions. Oh well, deal with the world as you find it, or something like that. The media today had reports that the young bloke was a model employee and did everything right. The lusty escapades occurred early last year and I still don’t know whether the young lady should be applauded or admonished – it’s complicated and has probably all blown over and is now largely forgotten. Oh yeah, my shock at the news caused me to close down the tab. Is this Freudian? I read the news last night, oh boy!

    So I was reading the ‘Growing vegetables south of Australia’ book today over a very late lunch at about 3pm. The book was hardly encouraging as to the general levels of soil fertility on that island state. Geologically, I believe Tasmania was originally a chunk of Antarctica which broke loose and attached itself to this continent. Anyway, the text which discussed mineral deficiencies was alarming, and I guess being on an island, no matter how large, they’re stuck with what they have got. Hmm. After reading that, I spread a couple of bins of coffee grounds and also about 40 pounds of complete organic fertiliser onto the vegetable beds. I had forgotten that the soil in those beds is fairly recent (less than two years old) and had neglected to attend to that activity. Do you still get stuff down over the winter months?

    Interestingly though, it raises the awful question as to soil mineral deficiencies in the future. That won’t be a pretty story at all, and I assume you’ve read a fair bit about the history of that over the years? Do histories even cover such issues even in an anecdotal sense – like such and such a period of time in a particular area was subject to minerally deficient food and with all the associated health implications?

    And the process of leaching when you live in a high rainfall area – like here, or where you are – is an alarming thought too. Like where do the minerals go during the leaching process?

    Exactly, the flip side of freedom of religion is also freedom from religion. True, but not often appreciated as people just want what they want. Hehe! Given your words, I’ll bet you’ve encountered some reactions in your country on that front?

    Well that is the thing about social conventions, you get to learn them on the fly by the harsh mistress which is the school of hard knocks. 🙂 And I’d add to your observation that often families will tolerate poor behaviour that strangers will not, and so people need to get out from under the wings of their families. This is of course an unpalatable concept in these days, but all the same it is true.

    Hehe! Funny stuff, and I hope that the mountains around here remain dormant. Some geologists suggest that within the state, it is only a matter of time before one goes up. The previous eruption was only a couple of thousand years ago. Your part of the world is far more dynamic on that front, and you have the exciting prospect of major earthquakes. Yikes!

    The smell from forest fires – as you know – is unforgettable. And the rains afterwards can produce an acrid smell, equally unforgettable.

    Thank you and I know every word. 🙂 Grew up listening to those two sing their songs of lyrical depth and melody.

    Of course, public layability is expensive. It is only a recent occurrence and was not always thus. I have a particular hatred for the situation because some sports I used to do as a young bloke were shut down due to rising costs on that front. The sports were a business after all, and I can accept that.

    Excavated another four feet of soil today. The new shed site is looking good, and there is probably only another five or six days of digging before the site is ready. We might not get enough soil out of the job though, so we’re considering options which may involve lowering the height of the garden terrace which will sit up behind the future shed. Not sure yet, but that possibility is looking likely.

    We finished the digging early, dunno why, it was just quicker with less hassles I guess. So we moved another three large rocks and placed them where they will retain soil. The projects are banging along and it’s exciting to see them progress.

    Speaking of progress did I note that a spaceship prototype crashed? That’s expensive.

    I read Mr Greer’s essay over breakfast this morning and enjoyed it. Liked the Mad Max comment particularly! 🙂 I’ll wait a little while before posting a comment. People pile on in the first day or two. We used to play a game as kids called ‘stacks on’ and it involved a whole lot of kids getting squashed by other kids – can’t recall anyone getting hurt, so it wasn’t serious.



  43. Hey Chris,

    Ruby should get a job in a big corporate. Taking credit for other people’s work (the cat’s) will see her rise to upper management in no time (/joke).

    Your story of the guy on the train reminded me of an air travel bit from my favourite comedian – George Carlin – “Return my seat to its original upright position? Fine. Who’s gonna return the guy in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and F-You hat to his original upright position?”

    It’s been a red-letter week down here in Werribee. This year is the first fruiting year for both my nectarine tree and my fuji apple tree and this week was the first taste of the fruits. Very nice. I wonder if home grown fruit tastes better for psychological reasons or just because it is actually better? The fuji apples are awesome. Hats off to the Japanese there. Apparently they keep for a whole year off the tree so I harvested them all in one go. The rainbow lorikeets had already got their beaks into some so I figured it was a safer bet.

    Looks like I’ll need the sandbags at the ready again tomorrow. I planted some couch grass last autumn which is very attractive grass but died as soon as got a little hot and dry over summer (and let’s face it, it hasn’t been a hot or dry summer). Now the ground there has turned rock hard and the water is running straight off it. Should ask for my money back. “Drought proof” that grass certainly is not.

  44. @ Al,

    I liked your “ejectronics” typo. Ejectronics is when the cd player or the dvr machine ejects the disk?


  45. Chris,

    Being right and dead doesn’t do a lot moving forward, does it? IMO there is usually a path to accept, adapt, move on. Not always, but usually. Doesn’t work quite as well when dealing with dogmatic, fanatic types, though.

    Fragrances were an ongoing war at the job. Some chemicals literally knocked me down for the count. Migraines often ensued. I had several electric fans that moved a lot of air in my cubical. They helped. I shudder at the idea of being in an enclosed setting for hours on a long bus ride.

    Ahhh, I understand your California stop story now. Thanks.

    Splitting logs is hard work. Breaking rocks is much harder work. MUCH harder. Even with your power tools, breaking rocks is hard.

    From this website,a%20high%20level%20of%20imagination!
    “Carpobrotus is a genus of ground-creeping plants, with large daisy-like flowers, succulent leaves and long stems. The name refers to its edible fruits, “karpos” meaning fruit and “brota” meaning edible in Greek. Common names include ice plant and pigface, so called because the flower resembles a pig’s face – an association that will require a high level of imagination!” I agree with the requirement of imagination. Perhaps some suspension of belief is required too?


  46. Yo, Chris – Yes, I also saw that Western Australia was back to quarantine, again. But, what with the fires … Rock and the hard spot. It was nice that the government made things clear. Between the two choices. Do, by all means, evacuate.

    Well, it’s one thing to improve soil on one’s plot, and another to do a whole island. Closer to planting time, I’ll give the garden a sprinkle of lime and wood ash. But I’m always digging in any scrap from the kitchen. Basically, just digging a hole (more of a trench, actually, as saved scraps tend to come out as a brick) spread out the stuff and cover it over. Some weeds might get dug out, and discarded entirely (dandelion), and some, I hack off the tops, turn them in, but dig out the root, to discard. And then there’s the self produced liquid nitrogen. Also, as I fill a bag with scraps, every once in awhile, I throw in a handful of broken up eggshell. I also usually have a bit of mushroom compost, or steer manure, to spread around. But not much. It’s expensive. Or, I get a bit from Julia. Which reminds me, I haven’t called her, in awhile.

    Mineral deficiencies, in future. I don’t know if you noticed it, but there was a link, toward the end of Mr. Greer’s break, last week. Ice Age Farmer. Some young bloke in high hysteria over farming. 30 minutes of it. A lot of it had to do with farm government policy, but a bit was about peak fertilizer. He seemed to be of that apocalyptic bent, Mr. Greer was talking about.

    Well, as far as histories go, you usually hear more about the successes, than the failures. But every once in awhile, there’s something. But fertilizer never seems to figure into it. Usually, it’s lack of water or salt build up. Successes are crop rotation in England or eons of farming in The Land of Stuff. Due to returning everything to the fields. Including, a lot of human poo. Around the Med, there are tales of land erosion, due to deforestation.

    Yes, leaching can be a problem. But, I’ve notice, even after heavy rains, my soil is dry a few inches down. So, I try and give the soil a good turn, before planting. Our gardens are also on a slight slope, so, I try and go a bit heavier on additions, at the high end. I figure it percolates, downhill.

    Usually, if I mention freedom from religion, what I get is dead silence. When you throw the word “freedom” into any sentence, at least here, that tends to happen. 🙂 .

    Shhh! Don’t mention earthquakes. We haven’t had one here, in awhile. I figure we’re overdue. Reminder to self: put more Quake Hold under the tat. It’s a putty like stuff, that doesn’t hurt surfaces. A bit of a twist, and the object is freed. Great stuff.

    I had every Simon and Garfunkel album, and played them, often. Album covers usually included lyrics. I can still sing (in the privacy of my own home), great chunks.

    Layability has ruined more good things. The dam I guarded, once upon a time, had a nice lake behind it. And, once upon a time, it was used for picnics, fishing, swimming and boating. But, most of the reason I was there, was to keep people away from the lake. Layability. Attempted breaches were frequent. But, not much got past me. They did open it, once a year, for a day, for the employees of the steam plant.

    Are you approaching peak soil? 🙂 . Well, you could always dig out that root cellar / fire shelter.

    Yes, I saw the bit about the space craft crashing. Cool explosion. Speaking of space, I got the first season of “Avenue 5”, yesterday. Hmmm. Can’t say it was as funny, as I was expecting. Don’t know if I’ll stick with it, or not.

    Mr. Greer kicked off the new year, with quit a good post, I thought. By the way, someone posted a link to a very funny bit about Politically Correct Fatigue, at 2/3, 2:09PM.

    Looks like your in for a bit of weather. That hook shaped cloud, doesn’t bode well. They usually don’t. LOL. I had to look up what the “Bite of Australia,” was. There was a lot of song and dance about why it’s called that. While avoiding the obvious. It looks like someone took a huge bite out of your south coast. Actually, “Bite of Australia” sounds like some kind of gourmet restaurant tour. 🙂 . Lew

  47. Hello Chris!

    I very much enjoyed the train ride. I love trains. I once took the train from St. Petersburg to Hong Kong, passing the remnants of the Aral “sea”. Another time from Moscow to the polar circle. Once just to go to work. The intimacy and chance encounters are often enjoyable.

    I did not get the connection between the cartoon and the lunch. Maybe there is some nuance that I as non-native reader cannot catch. I never been to Oz, so it could be another in-joke? 😉

    I saw Simon’s comment at Greer’s. Excellent framing of the “The Narrative™”. I never saw this before. Is it another Simon S. Original™?

    One thing regarding the catabolic collapse is that it unfolds unevenly, which is missed by many US readers. Libya is already Mad Max, since we bombed them flat in 2011. So is Syria. And … Many places rattle. Posturing and strongmanning usually signal weakness…
    I hope the drones stay away from here…

    Good luck with the Next Shed! This is proof of at least one Oasis of Perpetual Progress!


  48. Hi Chris
    Thanks for the consideration of such an honor.
    With the possibility of more electronic restoration. I suggest that you test your digital multimeter capacitance range for accuracy. If you don’t have that range you may need to get a new instrument. I wrangled a new Fluke unit for my birthday a few years ago with new features including capacitance. Have used it a lot. I bought a new shirt pocket sized meter for my sil for Christmas. ( he is a mortgage banker and geek wannabe) it was a Fluke 107 it has capacitance ranges. About $125 US.He was pretty happy with it.
    You could test the capacitance of capacitors before installing and some existing possibly in circuit.

    On the small trailer tires. No flat solid tires in the same size and and shaft type made of durable poly urethane may available from a variety of Au outlets for a fair price. Check Amazoom for reference then shop Local of course.?

    Your rock busting tooling . I see a drill tool in the big rock pic with an SDS bit. Do you sharpen bits your self? It just takes a proper grinding wheel for carbide points. Saves some money over new bits.

    Your 220 ac tool voltage should give you a power advantage over US 110 volt system. Good planning Australians.
    Cheers Al

  49. @lew

    RE: Avenue 5, did you enjoy the writers other work? Veep is his most popular, but he made it big with “In the Thick of It”. Both are …. an acquired taste, but I found them hilarious.

    Avenue 5 is not as funny as either of them, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Better in later episodes, but not by a huge amount. If you are not liking it now, that most likely won’t change imo.

    The group might be interested in the trailer for a new Australian movie, “High Ground”. A revenge tale set in early days of white settlement in Australias north. I have added to my watch list. I am also keen to watch “The Dry” with Eric Bana as per Chris recommendation. If we are allowed outside again next week, might try and venture a trip to the local cineplex…


  50. Hi Chris,

    Hmm, a T-85 would indeed be awesome, but I will have to leave you alone to the tuner repair journey…….Pondering on it briefly, I could see another set of floor standing speakers in the downstairs rumpus room – then I would need a tuner, amplifier to match up. Possible, but hard to justify to the bosslady 🙂 And candidly, discretionary funds are already allocated to a motorbike restoration project. So many wants and needs 😮

    Our lockdown ends today, but non-essential travel is still denied. So no camping trip down south – although it is raining this weekend anyway, so happy to stay at home. Mrs Damo made us both custom masks the other day – so I now look like one of the trendy people. My mask has flames!


  51. Hi Simon,

    🙂 Ruby is perhaps more honest than that! But I hear you. I’m trying to get them both accustomed to rabbit in the hope that they acquire an interest. It’s hard to know in advance what dogs will be interested in, and both Sir Poopy and Sir Scruffy were city dogs when they arrived here, but that didn’t stop them from going hard on the rabbits.

    Hehe! George Carlin, sadly missed. He was in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure too playing the wise and cynical but perhaps also mildly hopeful character Rufus. Comic genius.

    You’re onto something there with the fruit. Your home grown fruit has been in the sun just that bit longer than most commercial fruit appears to be. Green and unripened fruit travels far better than ripe fruit does and the colours can be brought forth with ethylene gas. Also it is worth mentioning that commercial orchards might play loose and fast with the amount of water they can apply to their trees, so in markets you might see large and consistently sized fruit, but it has little flavour. The fruit takes up the extra water, but the tree needs the extra sunlight to produce the aromas and sugars in fruit, but then it might not travel so well. Farmers from what I understand are paid on weight, and plentiful water is a great way to plump up fruit. Plus you don’t really know what minerals the fruit is deficient in, but if it has little aroma or flavour, it might possibly well be missing more than just a few which means that it might well be higher in calories instead. It is a very complex story.

    Oh yeah, the parrots are feral for fruit, and you can usually gauge if a tree needs picking by whether any birds are taking the fruit – they’ll be about two weeks ahead of fully ripe, but such fruit will ripen off the tree. A family of Currawong’s has decided to descend upon the many unpicked elderberries. I keep the trees for the flowers which produce an amazing tasting wine, so the birds are good.

    Had about 20mm early this morning, and it kind of looks like the worst of the weather has hit the east of the state. This is a good thing for the western side, but, well maybe not so good for them over in the east. It looks like another low is forming as we speak and may arrive late next week.

    Grass dies out over the summer most years, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I’d recommend top dressing the grass over autumn with a big bag of dynamic lifter. The entire contents of one of those 35kg bags would probably do wonders for your soil.

    Your words are getting noticed too. Respect for your work.



  52. Hi DJ,

    I’d like to suggest something witty in reply such as life is the mid point between idealism and reality, but as hard as I shook my brain this evening, nothing of any portent rattled out. Possibly due to doing paid work all day long today. One cannot be a dread pirate they might be, if they must sail the wide accountant-seas during the day. Just sayin…

    However, since you mention it, acceptance is a lovely state of mind. How the accepting mind then has to deal with reality which is a tough school. Mate, we are delving into metaphysics here, and I must add that this is easier for my brain than a deep dive into physics. Mileage may vary! 🙂

    Yeah, heavy handedness with chemical fragrances does my head and sinuses in too. Mate, I just try to deal with the world as I encounter it. However, such people as you mention may be of the philosophical school which suggests that one is good, so eleven must be better. And we must draw our own conclusions as to the veracity of that school.

    Thanks for your understanding. It takes about half an hour of sustained physical work to break a large rock into two separate chunks. If there was an easier way I’d give it a go, but no. The drill and jackhammer place quite a degree of torque across the shoulders and so I have a limit of cracking and moving three rocks per day – and that is hard won experience. Peak rocks is real.

    Thank you very much for the link to the article on pig face, which coincidentally is not far from Simon’s place. Interesting indeed. And I have noticed that the wallabies in particular enjoy consuming the leaves – as it is probably a medicinal for them too.

    I don’t see the pigs face, but who knows whether the ancients had a bad reaction to ergot poisoning? It’s possible.



  53. Hi Goran,

    Trains are very civilised ways to travel about the countryside. But you are teasing me with your epic journey, and I love the sound of it, although will never get to enjoy it. Your journey led me into a rabbit hole of ‘what the heck is this epic journey about’. And I’m very impressed. My favourite quote about the journey was this: “With a lack of common sense you can make the 8,000km journey without getting off (the train)” On a less amusing note, the Aral Sea is an epic disaster, nothing more need be said. There are hard limits in nature.

    Ah, yes of course. And I appreciate that English is not your native tongue. OK. The cartoon was introduced as an ideal which the culture suggests that I should achieve. The train trip into Melbourne with the many casual observations along the way, was the reality. And the story was so constructed as to provide a contrast between two points of view. Hope that explains how the cartoon fitted into the story?

    Simon is a good guy and I’m pleased to count him as a friend. He can write far better fiction than I’ve ever achieved.

    Libya is an interesting story, and there is a dark rumour which suggests that their downfall occurred because they attempted to sell oil using Euro’s rather than US dollars. But yes, the middle east has a lot of people and may be rather short of fresh water.

    Thank you!



  54. Hi Al,

    Hehe! Well so far your advice has not led me astray, so that puts you ahead of the pack in this technical matter. 🙂

    A mate of mine is an electrical engineer, but he is busy and can only offer so much assistance. And a digital capacitance meter was one bit of assistance which I appreciated. Over the next week or two I’ll crack open the case and take stock of and then order the replacement electrolytic capacitors. Hopefully nothing goes wrong, but I will mark the capacitors and take photographs as I go. I learned that photographic trick from a mechanic I know, who swears by it.

    Yeah, I’ve heard that some capacitors can provide reasonable readings but and I’d appreciate correction here, their internal resistance may be low and so the capacitors could be close to failure. Not sure really, so I’ll replace all of them on the basis that they might all be bad. Dunno really.

    The solid tyres was one option which I’m still considering. I’m honestly not sure at this stage as I’m critically assessing the rest of the trailer and wondering about the longevity of the plastics. I might go the path of a steel trailer, despite the weight disadvantage. Not sure yet.

    A few years ago I scored a couple of industrial diamond tipped angle grinder blades for sharpening that steel. The first time I encountered the steel was with the stump grinder, and it is tough stuff.

    Hehe! You noticed the higher voltage. It gives a bit of extra kick at lower current levels. 🙂 The inverter by the way is exactly 233V and it is rock solid. You should have seen the electrician when he saw that as he was used to observing the voltage going all over the place. The grid is not as stable as most would believe it to be.



  55. Hi Damo,

    How crazy is the weather? And sorry to hear about the lock down and yours and Mrs Damo lost camping opportunity. Candidly I’m just now trying to work out if I book tickets to the comedy festival, will the festival actually occur – despite social distancing?

    Crazy days huh? It likewise rained here this morning, 20mm so far. Far out. East of Melbourne is copping a drenching. What a year. Mate, we’ve also had the masks slapped on again (one case – entire state). Can’t let you westerners show us up can we? Better get on the beers… So I dunno, at times I do wonder at my more cynical moments if slowing down of the movement of people around the place is not at the core of this story. That certainly appears to be an outcome.

    Respect to Mrs Damo! And flames are way good, and if I may add, they send a strong message! 🙂 Mrs Chris is likewise handy with the sewing machine, and also made masks last March which we still use. Between you and I, she was heard at the time to mutter the words: I’m not paying for masks! And so far has remained true to her word.

    The masks are also paisley patterned and so probably send a strong message too. Not sure what the message might be, but perhaps it might be: go easy on the hippies? But then wearing the mask, I can’t see what it looks like, so it maybe more of a problem for other people?

    The T-85 comes well recommended, but I hear you, and note that you are indeed wise to take account of Mrs Damo in such matters. I tend to listen to the editor for much the same reasons. Must be something in the water? And am looking forward to hearing about your motorbike restoration, but also realising that a person can only do so much with their time, energy and finances. It happens.



  56. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, well Western Oz has been placed into lock down with closed borders. The movement of people has slowed to a veritable crawl around the continent. Mind you, we have vast reserves of gas, but not nearly as much oil as we use, and certainly there is stuff all heavy oils which are used in transport and mining. Most of it is of the light and sweet crude oil variety. So, maybehaps we are beginning to see what it looks like to live within our means?

    The gobarmint over there did have to make allowances for folks stuck between a rock and a hard place – as they say. And it is hard to evacuate if at the same time you’re given instructions to stay in place. And the question as to where does one go in such a time becomes a fraught question. I heard on the news that pets were not allowed at evacuation centres and that was causing a lot of drama.

    Yeah, your soil fertility approach sounds right. The more I read about the subject, the less comfort I feel and I get every thing that was once alive, back into the soil here. Turns out that areas with lower rainfall perversely have higher soil minerals. Who knew? Hey, it is possible that I over fertilised the rows leading up to planting out the seeds for germination, and that may well be why few if any actually germinated. I’m doing a big rethink on the subject and how it might best be handled here.

    Incidentally I went out this morning looking for a local store that sells mineral trace elements so that I could bang them onto the garden rows. The garden centre was a no go, as was the sand and soil place, but it was the stock feed place that sold them. Makes sense when you think about it though – the soils are minerally deficient particularly phosphate and calcium, and so the most noticeable sector would be livestock. Hmm. Now the next step is working out where to get biggerer supplies of the stuff. Best to plan ahead and a couple of decades ahead is not too far when it comes to such matters.

    Hope Julia and her alpaca’s are doing OK.

    It is possible that peak fertiliser, like peak rocks is real. The young bloke might not necessarily understand that this does not mean that there is no fertiliser or rocks available, there might just be less of them. Talk about having a cow. 🙂 The young bloke might not realise that health issues arising from poor nutrition may take decades to play out, and some people might do OK. The descent is really the long and winding road.

    Hmm, thanks for that, and I’d heard those tales too and had taken note of them. Salt build up is a real problem down under. Long term I kind of believe that the long term human population is perhaps better than what the indigenous folks achieved over the span of millennia due to access to tools, culture, knowledge and different animals, but it might only be twice as good at a guess, and maybe not even that long term. Soil fertility is at the core of that story and what is potentially possible, is only what is possible. I can see the advantage that trading would provide for a culture as deficiencies in one area can be offset against surpluses in another area – but still there is extraction in that story. It’s complicated.

    Hehe! Religion is barely heard about down here. It most certainly is not an everyday matter for conversation. But yeah that’s a great line about freedom from religion.

    Sorry to mention the unmentionable geological topic that dare not be named. It’s my fault for bringing the subject up, and I can only but apologise and hope nothing bad happens in the meantime. I reckon if we make it to tomorrow morning without incident, I’m in the clear.

    Lewis, I thought you were pulling my leg with the Quake Hold Museum putty, but no. It is a real thing and I noted royal patronage. Well you learn something new every day. I thought it was going to be some sort of blue-tac like stuff.

    Mate, like space, when you are in the privacy of your own room, nobody can hear you scream! 🙂 I sing along to the dogs and chickens and they don’t seem to mind the noise at all. Years ago I began learning the guitar and that was a useful exercise because my ear became attuned to the accepted musical scale.

    Simon and Garfunkle were awesome.

    Layability sounds like it would be a lot of fun, but no, it just costs and costs and then costs some more. There is a balance in there somewhere, but far out we missed that and went from one extreme to the other extreme. But the thing is, people push the boundaries too and that factors into the story in a negative way.

    Hehe! No, there is plenty of soil so peak soil is far away. The thing is, there are a couple of projects on the cards and many of them require soil, but there are only a few which extract soil, and the scales aren’t weighted evenly. So the upshot is that I haven’t worked that one out yet, but will get there in time. A root cellar / fire shelter is a possibility I favour which the editor is not in favour of. But if we run out of soil, who knows how things will roll. It would be super easy to build.

    I note that Damo has some thoughts upon Avenue 5.

    Mr Greer’s writings always interest me. And thanks for the tip. Hmm.

    About four-fifths of an inch of rain fell this morning, and then the rest of the day was kind of warm and humid. Weirdly over in the west of the state and heading here is a rotating cloud band with rain. Wonder what that’s all about? It looks good on the radar and satellite. The real action occurred about 100 miles east of here, so we kind of dodged a bullet on the weather front.

    Had any snow yet?

    It’s a pretty funny name isn’t it? And it probably angers the less literal folks in the community who were probably looking for a better reason. And dare I say it, but there are a lot of sharks in the Great Australian Bight.



  57. Hello Chris
    Like the editor, I refuse to pay for masks but am lucky as a friend keeps Son and I supplied with them.
    Warm and raining here but it is supposed to start getting very cold tonight.


  58. Chris,

    Oh, I hear you. The “Dread Accountant Roberts” doesn’t instill the same level of fear as “Dread Pirate Roberts”. Although, for those of us who have had to balance accounts, etc., “Dread Pirate Accountant” or “Dread Accounting Pirate” does dredge up some deep-seated angst regarding spreadsheets not balancing or even plundered accounts.

    The acceptance and its relations to both metaphysics and reality is the type of topic I can delve into. That link to reality is important. I think I’ve mentioned before, I can easily go off the rails mentally if I spend a lot of time on metaphysics that has no clear connection to reality.

    Of course eleven is better! You linked to that scene from the movie for me. Clearly bigger is better and more is better! Ugh, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.

    My experience with breaking rocks always involved the use of a sledge hammer. That was when I was in high school and weighed about 50kg, so a 6 or 7 kg sledge hammer felt hefty. Fortunately, there weren’t many large rocks to break, although I remember a plethora of large slabs of concrete that dad wanted broken down into smaller pieces for use as stepping stones in a garden walkway.

    Ergot poisoning is a bad, nasty thing. Never had it, but I did suffer from “ergo poisoning” on the job for many years. “Something went haywire Tuesday and DJSpo was here that day, ERGO he is guilty.” Ergo poisoning. 😉

    We’ve had a trickle of rain two nights this week. Today is very bright and very warm again, for us in February. It looks like we’re going to have a week or so, starting this weekend, of lows temperatures around -11C. No snow expected.


  59. @ Pam – I had to look twice, to figure out why the blue disc daisy was so special 🙂 . I don’t know if I’ll order some, or not. So many plants,so little time … and space. Lew

  60. @ Damo – I really don’t pay much attention to who writes what. But neither of the other two series by the writer, rang a bell. I watched another couple of episodes of “Avenue 5”, last night. Just because I didn’t have anything else, to watch 🙂 .

    Chris had mentioned “The Dry”, which I’ll probably watch, if our library gets it. “High Ground?” I don’t know. I have problems watching stuff with a lot of emotional intensity. But the photography sure does look beautiful! Lew

  61. Yo, Chris – Not let pets into the evacuation centers? Boy, The Powers That Be, don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for. Uprising? Revolution?

    I can usually pick up small bags of different minerals, at our local hardware store. Always, pricey. But, given my small plot, a little goes a long way.

    Quake hold. Well, if it’s good enough for the Queen … 🙂

    Well, we had snow in the forecast for Monday. And now, it’s moved to “chance of rain or snow,” on Thursday. It’s like the prestidigitations of a fan dancer. It’s there. Then it’s not. Or, is it? 🙂 .

    Well, the day of reckoning is here. More or less. Got a flyer from our Community Outreach Person, asking how many Inmates might be interested in getting a vaccine for You Know What. Similar to when we were able to get flu shots. “Please reply by Feb. 16th.” I e-mailed her that, yes, I was interested in getting the vaccine, but would like to know WHICH vaccine is on offer. So I can do a bit of research and make an informed decision. Haven’t heard back from her. Lew

  62. Hi Chris
    I had had a horrible thought while taking a leisurely 40 mile pleasure drive on our unseasonable 60 degree sunny day.
    What if the Kelpies have a purposely breed in fear of rabbits. A sheep herder would likely be quite disturbed with a dog leaving or leading the band of sheep to chase every pesky wabbit encountered. You might want to bounce that idea off
    Some local experts. ?

    My wife’s mother’s family were pioneer Western Wyoming sheep ranchers near Cokeville which was settled along the Union Pacific RR in the early 1900s. They raised sheep in the thousands on of both leased and deeded winter and summer grazing land. It was a boom or bust living and they never got rich but lived well.
    I know very little about the ranching of sheep. The the mils’ only brother took large amounts of good 8mm movie that was later edited and put on DVD which we may able to get copies hopefully someday.
    My wife and her parents made visits most years. The parents didn’t have a country farm home but lived in Cokeville on a few acres . She has good memories playing with orphan lambs which the grand parents cared for at the town place. We have seen movies of a camping trip on horse back and with horse drawn wagons that resembled Conestoga wagons with round top metal roofs.
    They were fitted out like crude travel trailers, bunks, small wood/ coal cook and heat stoves, equipment and provision storage.
    By The 1950 s they had automobile type wheels that replaced original wooden spoke wagon wheels of the first models. They were called Sheep Camps what else would they be called??. My wife was about seven years old at the time the movie was made. She rode in front of her Daddy on one of the ranches fine saddle horses. Beautiful country great memories my wife has of great family times?.

  63. @ Goran

    Yes, I am the same Simon S although I leave off the S here which makes me just another Simon. How boring. I’ll put it back from now on.

    The Narrative™ is definitely being heavily policed at the moment. Wrongthoughts are being stricken from the record at an increasing rate. Just this week we had a member of parliament, whose entire job is to engage in public debate, censured for suggesting that there might be viable, cost effective and sensible public health solutions to corona other than the ‘vaccine’. Strange kind of democracy we are running.

    @ Chris

    Interesting about the fruit. That makes a lot of sense. Whenever people argue to me that backyard gardening doesn’t make economic sense I see where they’re coming from but my main argument back is quality. Our economy these days is low price/low quality by default. So much so that most people don’t understand an argument where you can argue that a higher price but an even higher quality can be a better deal than the low price/low quality default.

    I’ll keep that in mind about the grass. Actually, here it’s only the grass that is in full sun that has trouble. It’s very noticeable. Even the grass that is in the root zone of a fruit tree grows stronger because it has shade while grass only a few metres away in full sun struggles.

  64. General question for chicken keepers:

    I have four chickens that I’ve had now for less than one month. A friend of mine (who Chris knows – Cathryn) is moving interstate and will be giving me her four chickens who have been together for about a year. I’m wondering what is the best way to integrate the two groups. I feel that trying to bring them all together at the same time will lead to trouble, although I have read that you can keep the two groups separate but within eyesight of each other for a week so they can get used to the sight of each other and then let them mingle.

    Would that work or would it be better to bring the new chickens in one at a time or two at time? That feels like the better idea to me and would be logistically possible in this case.

    Grateful for any advice.

  65. Hi Inge,

    There are plenty of other things to spend money on, than the things you can make yourself (or know somebody who can do so on your behalf). I see that your media are applauding the response taken down here, and there were even dark hints that things had returned to normal down here. Being down here and observing what is going on around me, I can’t necessarily agree with that opinion. What also interests me is that people down here who are fairly comfortable in their employment and can work from home, appear to be pretty happy with the restrictions in place. There appears little empathy with people who have been hit hard, and some of the creative industries I can tell you are dead in the water. So yeah, don’t believe the hype. What do you do?

    Glad that your winter is a bit warmer and stay warm during the change to cooler conditions.

    The big storm was a bit of a fizzer here, although we gratefully received four fifths of an inch yesterday. Elsewhere to the east, they enjoyed up to four inches of rain in some places. That’s a lot of rain and led to some flooding.



  66. Hi DJ,

    It’s a bit soft isn’t it? The sound of the name lacks the sort of authoritas which say the pirate Red Beard had. Nobody is afraid of their accountant, unless they have something to hide from said person! Unlike lawyers who can lean on and hide behind client confidentiality, accountants are burdened with a duty to the public. The vast majority of people I’ve met over the years are basically pretty honest.

    And ahoy there me matey’s! If you want your spread sheets to balance, all you need is a parrot. It’s true!

    Perhaps what you are hinting at – and I’m just sort of guessing here – in relation to in depth discussions of metaphysics is the awful awfulness that talk does not cook the rice. There was another useful saying along those lines that may have been: ‘before enlightenment, chop wood, fetch water. After enlightenment chop wood, fetch water.’ Never fear you’re on safe ground here because if you deep dive into metaphysics, I won’t have a clue as to what you are saying, and I might well reply: How them dust bunnies going? Hehe! That will be our code word.

    Eleven is right in the same way that forty two is right. And you can always look mysterious and add: ‘only those that know, know.’ Which of course means absolutely nothing at all.

    Never used a sledgehammer to break rocks. I’m assuming that you pre-drilled them? I can’t quite recall who mentioned it but there are expanding steel feathers which seem pretty handy for that job, but then I have the electric jackhammer with the two and half horsepower motor powered by the sun. A lot of rocks need attending to.

    Oh my gawd that is cold. Brr! And keep the heater cranking along. 20mm of rain yesterday which was gratefully received. The place is looking green, which is not the usual summer look.



  67. Hi Al,

    Wow. That is some unseasonably warm winter weather, and just saying that it was colder here over night last evening. Still you are rapidly approaching spring with all that entails.

    You’re right too. A one off commenter a few weeks back mentioned the exact same observation about terrier breeds of dogs versus sheep dogs. Wabbits are on the decline here now due to unforeseen and unexpected forces, and I was going to write about that story after replying here this evening.

    Your wife’s folks experience with sheep exactly matched how the trade in fleece and salted meat worked out down under. Sheep are very hardy animals which can eat plants down to the soil level and then extract the root systems for their sustenance. They are what I would describe as a survivor species.

    Incidentally 8mm is a lovely format, and down under there are one or two businesses which specialise in restoring and converting that format to digital. As you’d imagine, they’ve had reasonable success with their business endeavours. As a suggestion if you have the funds, save the footage.

    Yeah, the wagons were very cool and they provided a place for farm hands and owners to get warm out of the awful weather which sheep seem to prefer when giving birth to their lambs in. Funnily enough I was reading about those wagons recently in the ‘Victorian Farm’ book. In potato growing areas in the farms with the super-rich red soil just to the west of this mountain range, they have more permanent potato sheds for itinerant workers.

    Your wife is of course correct. It is a fine thing to be on country.



  68. Hi Simon,

    It is a very complicated story. And to add to that awful story, a producer has to balance up whether they wish to produce calories or nutrient rich / minerally dense food. Most farmers are paid by the weight of produce so it is advantageous to produce calories as the produce actually weighs more and costs less to produce. For your interest, nobody argues with me about this matter because it is easy to stifle the debate by simply handing them an item of food which is nutrient rich or minerally dense. On Friday I blew $50 on about seven kilograms of mineral additives which included phosphate, calcium and a good all rounder mineral additive. As a story it is something that few people talk about, but it’s important and has much longer term consequences.

    Grass is a clever plant that can grow well in full or partial shade. It is adaptive to those conditions. If ever you get the chance, you should check out one of the very old hill station gardens up this way and see how it rolls long term over summer with a bit of shade. When the rain returns along with the cooler weather and lower UV at your place, I’ll bet your sun soaked grasses will return to green again.

    Well done you with scoring Cathryn’s chickens and I was wondering about them. When introducing new chickens I just chuck them in and let the chickens sort out their business and have done that every year for the past decade. It is a bit rough, but I’m guessing that Cathryn had Isa Browns? They’ll be fine as they are super tough birds which you shouldn’t expect to live a terribly long life (maybe two or three years at most compared to heritage breeds which last a decade and then some). Whatever you do, feed them protein rich pellets as I don’t feed the chooks a high protein diet, and learned the hard way that Isa Browns can become cannibals due to lack of protein. On the other hand, they lay a lot of eggs.

    I’m hoping that Cathryn drops by here to say hello from time to time! This is her guilty conscience speaking… 🙂



  69. Hi Lewis,

    Well the storm kind of promised weather Armageddon and instead provided a nifty and well received four fifths of an inch of rain with little wind to speak of. For high summer the orchards and paddock are looking really green. And the water tanks are full to the brim. Other parts of the state scored almost four inches of rain along with flooding.

    Staked up the tomato plants today and the editor and I had a disagreement about this matter. A few years ago we ran the experiment as to just what does happen if you don’t stake up tomato plants – and far out the vines were like Triffids and crawled all over the shop. The garden bed became hard to walk in without crushing both vines and fruit. This year we staked them up, but I’m concerned that the soil surface is too damp and any vines trailing along the ground with fruit might be an opportunity for the many critters which live in the soil to conduct a feast… We came up with a shandy concept and staked up only one side of the tomato vines. Dunno, but time will prove who was correct.

    Exactly too, revolution in the streets. 🙂 To be honest I don’t know whether the local evacuation centres will take in pets during an evacuation situation. It is possible that they won’t. In 2014 when a nearby fire threatened the mountain range I noted vehicles full of peoples pets. The fire got pretty close that day, but was halted on the other side of the town to the south of the mountain range. They lost a few houses on the outskirts of the town and I knew someone local back in those days who lived pretty close to some of the lost houses.

    That’s why the Paradise fire documentary you linked to had special significance. But I’m taking precautions all the time, and the place gets a little bit more resilient. It’s a slow process.

    Honestly your experience with Mount St Helens is a similar sort of vibe to a big bushfire. On those days, nature will do what she will do and your opinions count for nought.

    Interesting. The local hardware store, and nursery by the way, don’t stock those minerals. And the stock feed place had them for horses who were clearly consuming plant matter in minerally deficient paddocks and needed a bit of topping up. I’m scratching my head over this story and will put a few brain cells towards how to purchase the minerals in bulk – but at the moment I have no idea how to go about doing that. I may ask my mates of the big shed fame how they respond to that story and see what they are doing. They’re in a slightly drier location than here and also on the side of a small volcano so their soils might be less leached from heavy rain.

    And yup, the mineral stuff was pricey. The thought of spreading an adequate load on a few acres of land is enough to produce a quake in my cold accounting heart. 🙂 But given the same rainfall situation exists in your part of the world, you may be in similar straits? Have the Master Garden Gurus ever spoken about this matter to you?

    The Queen is clearly a discerning sort of noble birth, and if it is good enough for Lizzie, well mate, it is good enough for the likes of you and I!!! Thanks for that chunk of amusement.

    Your previous pithy observation and your flighty weather hints at the old use of Burlesque or in Latin, burla.

    Good luck, and down here there is serious talk of vaccination certificates. Well, I dunno much about any of this stuff and if it is perishable and requires immediate use or -70’C storage, well the facts might speak for themselves. I’m waiting to see whether the vaccination certificates are used as a tool for economic advantage over folks. It’s possible. I’m uncomfortable being a guinea pig for new technologies, so I dunno. On the other hand if you have to, you have to, and it may well be as simple as that choice. Don’t go to the Elves for advice as they will say both yes and no!



  70. Hi Chris
    I didn’t sign my last comment Yesterday, I was interrupted by news that the local state run RONA vaccination mass drive thru station was open for reservations. NOW! I abandoned all else and ran to my PC which was sleeping with the web site locked and loaded. I quickly secured a reservation at early after noon next Tuesday. Yippee! !!! Perfect!

    Quick weather up date NWS WIND ADVISORY 10 am to 7Pm today. Wind from 10 to 20 mph with GUSTS TO 50 mph (usually beats the forecast numbers at my location) . Wind has just picked up a few Minutes ago . The wife just headed to her daily river path 4 mile walk . That may be a little shorter. Current gusts about 20. This is normal for the time of year.
    Windy Cheers, Al

  71. @Simon
    I’d have to agree with Chris that your new hens will probably do just fine when you introduce them into your present flock. The fact that they are mature and there are four rather than one or two makes this more likely to be successful. In the best of worlds having the two groups side by side where they can see each works best but that setup isn’t always available. I forgot how many are in your original flock – six?


  72. Hi Chris,
    I’m interested in your experiment comparing staking tomatoes or just letting them grow where they may. I continue to stake mine but often they get so heavy the stake starts leaning to one side but all in all it keeps most off the ground.

    We are in the beginning of a long stretch of extreme cold as the polar vortex has made an unwelcome appearance. It won’t be as cold as two years ago when low temps were between -25 and -30F but it’ll be much longer lasting, at least through next week. Luckily our propane tank got filled just a couple of hours ago so we’re good to go though one can get a bit stir crazy. To start off the stretch of weather we had a fast, very wet combo of sleep and wet snow – about 3 inches along with high winds. Then almost a flash freeze. Luckily the driveway got a quick plow and the walks were shoveled so there’s not too much ice. Doug with his usual good timing is off for his annual visit to his friend in Kansas City, Misssouri which is down Claire’s way but farther south and west. He returns Monday. Our neighbor across the way kindly came and removed the snow both Friday and yesterday so we didn’t have too much of a frozen mess and I got the necessary walkways and porches shoveled. Daughter, Carla, and her dog Ruth came Wednesday through this morning to keep me company. Ruth has settled down some but she’s still quite high energy. Leo tolerated her quite well as Carla brought along a very fluffy blanket that he and Ruth used on the floor much of the time. Anyway we had a nice visit and spent quite a bit of time going through my bins of photos and did some sorting and labeling. Carla’s wedding will be here in July.

    Our new neighbors finally moved in on Wednesday. The closing had been delayed over two weeks due to issues with their buyer. They were able to store a bunch of stuff in the garage beforehand as they had in anticipation of a timely closing already had trucks packed up and were being charged by the day. There is now a fluffy collective next door as they have four dogs. Leo, Salve and Ruth all interacted with them loudly through the fence between the two properties. We met the wife and kids briefly before Doug left and they seem quite nice.


  73. Yo, Chris – I’m happy to hear you dodged the bullet, as far as a big storm was concerned. You must be living right 🙂 . Here, the weather is back to filthy, again. Rain and wind. But, we’re going to have a run of clearing, next week. But there’s a price to pay. Per usual, nights will be very cold. One overnight low (but, a week out) is 22F (-5.55C).

    The National Weather Service mentions snow, in a couple of places. Prof. Mass is going to talk about snow, in his next post, tomorrow night. It kind of looks like it’s going to be TCTS (To Cold To Snow), but where it gets tricky is the transition periods.

    Our tomatoes are such ravenous beasts, that here, we cage them up. 🙂 . Mostly. They can be pruned, a bit. Some non-producing branches can be hacked off.

    In some ways, our hardware store is a bit like a variety store. It’s a chain, but franchised. Our local one has a lot of useful stuff, but also a good bit of tat. But they seem to go hard, in the gardening department. Another branch of the same chain, over in Centralia, also has quit a bit of lumber. Which our local Chehalis store, does not.

    Your friends in the Big Shed might not have too much of a problem with soil, as, they have the animals. Of course, you have your chickens and bio-digester. But then, your place is so large. And, from what you’ve said, the soil was very poor to start with. But I ran across something interesting on the library “New” list, last night.

    “The Regenerative Gardener’s Guide to Garden Amendments: Using Locally Sourced Materials to Make Minerals and Biological Extracts and Ferments.” (Palmer & Kempf, 2020). It got pretty high ratings, on The River. Only three reviews. The worst of which was whinging on about “…irrelevant mysticism.” Sandor Katz gave it a nice cover blurb. I put it on hold, but may just bite the bullet and order it.

    The Master Gardener’s haven’t really said anything about soil leaching, but then, I haven’t asked. We should start seeing them, again, maybe the end of February.

    I got an e-mail from our Community Outreach person, yesterday. She “thinks” the vaccine on offer is the Moderna, two shot. I did a bit of digging around on-line, and it looks like one person in ten might have side effects. Pretty good odds, I think. 🙂 .

    I started watching “My Life is Murder”, last night. An Australian police / mystery series. Filmed in Melbourne! My, I got to see a lot of your modern city. The Ms. Fisher mysteries were also filmed there, but pretty much stuck to historic neighborhoods. Not that I’ve been there, but your city reminds me of what I see of Miami. Only you’ve got a lot more heritage. The series stars Lucy Lawless. Who, of course, I am familiar with, but haven’t watched any of her stuff. Well set up young ladies, running around in black leather bustiers, isn’t exactly my thing. 🙂 . Lew

  74. Hi Chris,

    Pretty much everything here grows better in shade in summer time. I almost don’t have to mow the lawn over summer except at the (shady) side of the house where it grows like crazy. That’s the area I’ll shortly be turning into vegetable beds so hopefully the trend continues and I get some tasty treats.

    Marg (and Chris)

    Thanks for the advice. I do have an outdoor run that borders onto the indoor run and coop. So, based on your feedback, I think what I might do is put the new hens in there for a few days. That will get them used to being around the coop and they will be able to see their new coopmates through the wire fence. Then I’ll open the door into the indoor run and coop around nesting time and see what happens.

  75. Hi Simon, Margaret and Al,

    Thanks for the lovely comments. Unfortunately I wrote this evening and have completely run out of time to reply. Promise to speak tomorrow when there will be a brand new essay.

    Until then!



  76. Hi Lewis,

    Visited my mates of the big shed fame today, and had a fun time. Their place is looking great and it gets better every year. We had home made pizza’s for lunch and they were very good indeed as they have a brick wood fired pizza oven. Yum! Talked a lot of rubbish and caught up with people I hadn’t seen for ages. All up a very nice day. We didn’t get back home until late, and I had to write for tomorrow. Hope the essay is not rubbish like some of my talk today! Hehe!

    Thank you and big storms worry me a lot. The mountain range appears to be in a mostly protected locale where the worst extremes aren’t experienced – until they occasionally are of course, like the epic fire of 1983 – Ash Wednesday. Yes, I imagine the folks in those days may have annoyed some of the local old school daemon’s who might otherwise have lent a hand to ward off the worst of conditions. It was a seriously bad fire.

    How is this for a summer’s day? 59’F / 15’C? At some points today I wore a woollen hat and jumper (not the one that is not allowed to be seen off the property, but a more socially acceptable jumper).

    Your weather sounds horrendous and such an overnight low requires more than just a few blankets – or dogs – in order to keep warm. That’s a five dog night for sure. Brr! And stay warm. Did you get a chance to listen to the good Professors podcast? The Rex looks fascinating, and a bit scary. And keep your nose peeled for snow, you never know and given it snows where you are about as often as it snows here (at your elevation anyway), I reckon the snow has novelty value, so good luck!

    Really? The tomatoes don’t grow that tall with the varieties I choose to grow, but I’ve seen photos of people training the vines to ramble up strings in poly tunnels. Yes, it would probably work well, but for me I grow too many plants to be that finnicky and provide that much care and attention. My mates have some sub tropicals growing inside their shed like a freaking huge avocado and also a babaco – both of which were fruiting. This shed idea works pretty well for those sorts of crops.

    Ah, an interesting difference. Hardware stores down here generally sell hardware items and timber and building supplies. I suppose there might be some garden tat in the garden sections of the stores, but that is probably about it. I guess they know what sells and what doesn’t sell. No point selling stuff that no matter how useful, people don’t want to buy.

    Yeah, I had a good hard look at their soil today, and they’re in a slightly lower rainfall area with better all year round sun than here, and their soil is different and of a reddish hue (it is a brown colour here). But their access to manure is second to none and the sheer variety of animals produces superb compost for their vegetables and fruit trees, plus buying feed in means that they import minerals from all over the place. Those guys are onto something.

    The soil here was atrocious when we first arrived. It might has well have been a yellowish concrete, and it was as hard as that stuff too. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject as this matter intrigues me – and the history of it is candidly not good. Civilisations rise and fall due to this story.

    Not long until your Master Gardener’s turn up again. Makes you wonder if they have any energy for their garden make over plans?

    One in ten is not bad odds, and you know the alternative.

    Fancy that. I hadn’t heard of the series. I see that there is a comedy element to the series, and the lead actress has had a notable career. Melbourne is a very diverse city from an architectural perspective and I guess some areas could be Miami like, maybe with less blue skies. I might mention the series to the editor.



  77. Yo, Chris – Well, here we go. Our low tonight is supposed to be -0-C. And, it will get steadily colder, all week. Snow makes an appearance in the forecast, on Wednesday night. Hmmm. Maybe they call it “weather”, as it’s a case of “weather or not it will happen?” 🙂 . I have’t listened to any of Prof. Mass’s podcasts. I just can’t seem to sit still for a podcast. And, as long as he keeps cranking out text, I’m happy with that.

    Worst extremes. And, don’t forget your tornado!

    We had one woman here, who never staked her tomatoes. Any that touched the ground, didn’t do well. Usually, rotted or eaten.

    I did a shallow dive, down the rabbit hole, and (as I suspected) red soil means a high amount of iron. It’s interesting, what the different colors of soil, mean. I bit the bullet and ordered the soil book. Opened up a slot on my library hold list 🙂 . If the garden gets a make over, or not, really depends on money.

    “My Life is Murder” has bread baking! Lot of bread baking. In the first episode, she has an “industrial strength” German bread machine, that needs a repair. It’s practically a sub-plot. Turns out she sells the bread to a local coffee shop. I wondered if the coffee shop was real, or fiction. Couldn’t find the name, but I ran across this ..

    Has a lot to say about Melbourne as film set. Lew

  78. Hello Chris et al,
    Thanks for another week of interesting article and comments. Thanks for clarifying the cartoon. I re-read the essay with this in mind and I liked it even more!

    Regarding your thoughts on minerals – here is a lot to dig into. I think the soil question will be part of our common challenges for a long time ahead. Both for deficiencies (leaching – losing trace element) and for increased concentrations of poisonous elements (e.g. cadmium).

    I read a post by David Holmgren where he described some serious mineral deficiencies he got after fifteen years at his beautiful farmstead Melliodora, when they had only eaten home-grown-foods. Apparently they recovered when they brought in some externally sourced minerals. This seems like a common island problem. (Back home in Sweden, all island cultures were based on growing on seaweed-compost, sometimes mixed with humanure.)

    Another angle is connected to rock-phosphate. We are on a global island here, running out of high-quality rock-phosphate. And what is used contains ever more cadmium (Cd) which is clearly not beneficial to human health.
    There has been quite a lot written about this, e.g. the failed efforts of the European parliament, trying to limit the amounts of cadmium in fertilizers.
    Of course, there are other scientists who claim that the evidence is insufficient to block the market:

    There are lots agricultural areas that are contaminated in different ways. I just learned last week of a mercury poisoning in one of the vegetable growing allotments in the small town where I live. A young woman got seriously sick by her own vegetables. Not really what she was after, when she started growing chard…

    I look forward to hearing more thoughts about soil and health. How to get the right balance between the minerals. What kind of soil tests really make sense?

    My own observation so far is that adding organic matter helps in all kinds of non-obvious ways – maybe the key is to increases the soil life?

    Take care,

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