When Scruffy met Poopy

Once upon a time, there was a scruffy terrier who had only a cat for a friend. The scruffy terriers owners kept the dog in a backyard all day long with no humans to talk to or work with. His only friend was the cat. And as we all know, cats are fickle beasts with uncertain temperaments. The scruffy terrier would say to his cat friend: “Mate, I’m so sick of city life, I want to escape to the country.” And his cat friend studiously ignored the sentiment.

It wasn’t just the cat who became tired of hearing of the dogs rural idyll daydreams. Soon the dogs owners also became tired of hearing the constant grumbling and whining. Aren’t we feeding you enough food, they demanded. But it was not food that the unhappy scruffy terrier longed for. No, he dreamed of paddocks, orchards and bizarre bouncing marsupials to chase.

Eventually the dogs owners had heard enough complaints from the dog. The scruffy terrier waved goodbye to his only cat friend and was relocated to a real farm with real proper bouncing marsupials.

On arrival at the farm, the scruffy terrier met three other dogs, two of which were also smaller dogs. The scruffy terrier hoped that he would become best friends with the two smaller dogs. Upon seeing the new comer, Scritchy the terrier turned to her mate Toothy the dachshund, and may have been heard to say something like: Yeah, fresh meat. The enthusiastic scruffy terrier looked at the inscrutable small white terrier and asked: “Did you say something? (to no reply from Scritchy) No matter, I’m so happy to be here”.

The three farm dogs cautiously welcomed the enthusiastic new comer who was re-named then and there: Scruffy. After a few days Toothy the dachshund offered to show Scruffy around the territory. The two dogs went off on an extended adventure and disappeared for a day in the surrounding forest. Upon returning back to the farm, Scruffy learned the meaning of the word consequences. It was a word that Toothy already knew all too well, but ignored (to Scruffy’s misfortune). As well as learning about consequences, Scruffy learned that Toothy was not to be trusted. Scruffy learned this hard lesson, made his apologies and was careful to avoid Toothy’s wiles in the future.

As Scruffy was a newcomer, he was fearful that he’d be voted off the farm. This lesson would have been an especially hard blow because somehow in a matter of mere days, he’d managed to acquire three separate bedding arrangements. To the new owners Scruffy had plenty of charm to spare, which meant that he was sleeping inside the house, unlike the other dogs.

Poopy the Swedish Lapphund was a dog who kept his own counsel. He observed Scruffy from a distance and watched the hapless Toothy play his dirty tricks. Poopy had also fallen victim to the machinations of Toothy, and so he knew well how the episode would play out. He bided his time.

After a few weeks, Poopy said to Scruffy: Mate, forget about those two small idiots. Do you wanna learn how to be a proper farm dog? Scruffy was over the moon at the offer, as having Poopy for a best mate and mentor sure seemed better than hanging out with a city cat. The two dogs became best mates.

Poopy showed Scruffy how to be a farm dog, and the two dogs spent their days hunting rats and rabbits, and chasing off proper bouncing marsupials. Happy days for the two dogs. Scruffy in particular enjoyed eating the rabbits the dogs hunted.

The two dogs performed many valiant acts and deeds over the years, and were eventually knighted for their services to the farm. Sir Poopy and Sir Scruffy they became, and the two smaller idiots could only look on in awe and envy.

Time however has an awful way of progressing, even when you have a best mate and can be a proper farm dog. Sir Poopy became sick and passed away and was much missed. Sir Scruffy sat by his graveside knowing what fate eventually held in store for him. Shortly thereafter Sir Scruffy joined his mate.

Without the two valiant dogs roaming the farm and hunting the rats and rabbits, the rat and rabbit populations slowly grew. And that occurred despite the introduction of newer and younger dogs on the farm. It wasn’t long before rabbits were bouncing through the orchard more frequently than the bouncy marsupials.

One thing a rabbit likes doing is digging holes for their underground party houses. I’m guessing a lot of activity goes on in such places, because another thing rabbits like doing is producing even more rabbits. And then more holes were dug into the garden beds and somehow even more rabbits appeared. The newer and younger dogs chased the rabbits, but for some reason the newer dogs enjoyed the chase more than the ending, and as anyone with any sense knows, rabbits are way fast.

The owners of the farm looked on in dismay, and hoped the newer and younger dogs would soon rise to the challenge. There was also the vague hope that something would turn up to eat the rabbits. Owls hunt the orchards at night and they’re partial to rabbit and have the skills to catch and eat them. Foxes also feed upon rabbit, but it is true that chicken is far tastier and more nutritious than rabbit, and the average fox probably knows this.

The size of the rabbit population was becoming alarming and so it didn’t take too long for something to turn up and eat the plentiful baby rabbits.

An Eastern Brown Snake forceably evicted the rabbit occupants of an underground rabbit party house, and then began hunting the baby rabbits. The rabbits were easy feed for the snake, and without the holes in the garden beds, which the rabbits had dug, it is unlikely such a deadly snake would choose to reside on the farm.

Unfortunately, the ‘world’s second-most venomous land snake’ was a step too far, and the owners of the farm resigned themselves to hunting the rabbit population to extinction.

And then out of left field, a mysterious cat began hunting the rabbits. It is now rare to see a rabbit on the farm, and the pesky critters have lost their previous devil-may-care attitude. When observed, the rabbits are mostly running for their very lives, as was the case when Sir Scruffy and Sir Poopy were still around.

The entire chain of events was entirely unexpected, but it occurred over many years. However, the future is unclear to me and I do wonder what the cat will hunt, once it has decimated the local rabbit and rat population?

A further four feet of excavations was done on the new shed site

The weather has swung from cloudy and warm to summer storms. During the brief interval in the rain, we excavated by hand a further four feet of soil from the new shed site up above the house. Observant readers will note that the steel rock gabion cage which retains the soil at the end of a garden terrace is rapidly filling up.

A number of people have made comments over the years which suggest that Peak Rocks is not in fact real if only because we seem to to be able to continue filling the rock gabion cages with rocks sourced from the farm. This comment entirely misses what the concept of Peak Rocks means. The concept does not mean that we have no rocks, as the truth is far from that, we have plenty of rocks. However, the easy rocks have all been extracted and now we have to dig for new rocks, break up larger rocks into smaller rocks, or go further afield to source rocks. All of those options are not impossible, they are just far harder work, and require much more of our energy. So yeah, Peak Rocks I’m sorry to say is very real.

The soil excavated from the new shed site was moved to another location on the farm where it is being used as fill to construct a new low gradient path leading down into the orchards.

Excavated soil is being utilised to construct a low gradient ramp leading into the orchards

Observant readers will note in the above photo that there are now several very large rocks. The rocks were moved from further afield and they will be utilised in that project as a second layer of rocks so as to retain soil and create flat land. The flat land will be used to store firewood whilst it seasons (i.e. loses the sugars in the timber) outside in the weather.

Over the past few weeks I have been reading a book by the author Steve Solomon titled ‘Growing vegetables south of Australia’. Steve was originally in the Pacific North West of the USA where he ran a seed business, before moving to the island state of Tasmania. For people living in similar conditions, and that includes the farm here, the bloke sure has a lot to say. After reading parts of the book I had an urge to purchase some soil minerals, and most of these I found at the local stock feed business. The reason they were found in the stock feed business was, and here I’m guessing, is that the local paddocks are possibly deficient in these minerals and the livestock needs the mineral additives for their continuing health.

The author with bags of mineral additives for the garden beds

The tomatoes are being grown on soil which is less than two years old and so I decided that they needed the bulk of the minerals.

Soil mineral additives were placed under the many tomato plants

Tomato plants have a habit of crawling all over the ground. Many varieties of tomatoes are a vine after all. We added a temporary fence on both terraces so as to force the tomatoes to grow higher. The fencing will make it easier to walk around on the terraces and also possibly lift the fruit off the damp soil.

The tomato plants now have a support on one side

Despite the cool and rainy summer, some of the tomato plants have produced fruit. None have yet ripened, but who knows what the next few weeks will bring?

Tomatoes have produced fruits none of which have ripened

This week many of the pears appear to have ripened.

An Asian Nashi Pear looks ripe and juicy
We have a few different varieties of Asian Pear
The European Pears are very good too

The parrots and currawongs have a love for elderberries and most of the crop are grown for them. We use the flowers of the plant for producing elderflower wine and so make no use of the berries.

Elderberries are plentiful and are grown for the birds

Zucchini’s (courgettes) are producing fruit and we consume the flowers stuffed full of a very yummy filling.

Zucchini (courgette) flowers are very tasty when stuffed and baked

Onto the flowers:

The many Roses are growing well despite the cool and humid summer
The bees are very active collecting pollen and nectar from flowers like this Oregano
Agapanthus are super hardy plants which produce flowers despite the weather
Passionflowers look like they were designed by aliens
Poppies grow reliably throughout the many garden beds with little care or attention
European poppies are hardy, but Californian poppies are even hardier
Daisies are super hardy and enjoy the summer sun (when it shines)

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 9’C (48’F). So far this year there has been 198.0mm (7.8 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 173.0mm (6.8 inches).

91 thoughts on “When Scruffy met Poopy”

  1. Hi Chris,

    9C, in February (my August), at 9am??? No wonder your tomatoes are failing to grow and ripen! No wonder you can’t grow eggplants or peppers! All three plants need heat and plenty of it to develop and ripen their fruits. BTW, that temperature would be a record low in August here, and it wouldn’t occur till almost the end of the month at that. In the US, farmers who contend with summer weather as cool as yours typically grow all three plants in hoophouses (basically, cheap greenhouses). I have read about systems for growing and pruning tomatoes and peppers in hoophouses.

    Ah, a convert to the wit and wisdom of Steve Solomon and the gospel of soil re-mineralization. 😉 Your next reading assignment, if you choose to accept it, is his book The Intelligent Gardener, which has guided me in my own soil re-mineralization work.

    I really enjoyed this week’s story. Your observational skills and depth of feeling for the creatures with whom you share Fernglade Farms shines through every word.

    We are experiencing the same polar vortex that Margaret is, though being farther south, it isn’t quite as cold (4F/-15C) and we didn’t get as much snow (about a half inch). Apparently it will get colder by the weekend. This isn’t record cold territory, but we usually only get a few instances each winter of this level of cold.


  2. Hi Simon,

    Oh yeah, plant advice varies markedly from one location to another, and yup shade can work pretty well with vegetables and other plants over summer. I’ve done that myself too, and Victorian era terrace houses are not good for allowing sun into a backyard if the oreintation is not favourable – but it’s especially so when the block of land looks like a cricket pitch and your neighbour decides to construct a looming 6m high wall on the boundary! Far out what were they thinking? Sunlight can be difficult in those conditions, but the vegies will continue to grow in those partially shaded spots, if there is enough heat. They use less water too.

    I’ll be interested to hear how your experiment goes with the new vegetable beds.

    How are the new chickens going? And is one of the plucky new comers attempting to become the boss chook?

    And a word of advice, if you name any chickens after persons that you know – don’t tell them. They get super upset. 🙂



  3. Hi Al,

    Good stuff, and I was cogitating about the story idea and failed to notice that you hadn’t signed off. Hmm, standards are slipping for both of us! 🙂

    I’ll be interested to hear how the jab works out, and whatever you do, be on time. But you probably don’t need to be told that. Hehe! Cooling something to -70’C and maintaining it at that temperature is no small matter.

    It’s windy here too tonight, but nothing at all like what you are experiencing. Do you have a weather station at your house to record the local maximum wind gusts? 50mph is a solid gust of wind really.



  4. Yo, Chris – Awww. The tale of Sir Poopy andSir Scruffy is so sweet. Is there an animated version? 🙂

    What? The rabbits have a party house? Did you get an invite? Well, I suppose it’s not quit the thing to issue an invite to the landlord. Got your own Playboy mansion, going. Which reminds me. At Mr. Hefner’s digs, the doorbell had the following latin inscription. “Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare.” Loosely translated as: “If you don’t swing, don’t ring.” Who says the study of Classics serves no use? 🙂 .

    Could you say your excavation is an Australian Bite? Any land sharks? O.K, O.K. Peak rocks are a real thing. As long as I convince myself that, like oil, all the low hanging fruit has been plucked.

    Your tomato plants should do alright, with that support. You shouldn’t loose too many, without caging or staking.

    So, why don’t you use the elderberry, berries? Is it the taste? Or, the difficulty in picking? I’ve been thinking about putting in a couple of elderberry bushes, as I understand the syrup, is a sovereign tonic.

    The roses are smashing. You mentioned humidity, and there can be problems with blackspot or powdery mildew. But, as you bushes look very “open,” with good air circulation, probably not a problem. And, I see that some roses have been developed to stand up to humid conditions. Given that yours are grown in Australia, that’s probably the case.

    I’ve never grown oregano, so, had never seen the flowers. They look a bit like lilac. The Agapanthus are very beautiful. And, very blue.

    Passion flowers and poppies. Putting on a fine show.

    Something interesting from Fungi Perfecti (Stamets). They’ve stopped offering the indoor grow kits. Apparently, over a year ago. No real reason given, but they provide 10+ other places you can get them. They still carry plugs and bulk spawn, for outdoor grow. But, pretty much hint that there are no instructions, and you’d better know what your doing. Lew

  5. Hi Margaret,

    It’s an interesting tomato experiment to say the least, and when the fruit flops onto the soil surface, it becomes fair game for the millipedes and wood lice etc. And with this damp and cold summer, keeping the fruit off the ground becomes even more important. The editor and I disagree about this, but I reckon I’m right given what happened to the strawberries late last year. Time however will resolve this disagreement.

    OK, so back in January 2016 you can sort of see in the grainy and small photo the tomato vines taking over the entire enclosure (do a search on the word ‘tomato’). The photo is very low resolution and it looks like a seething mass of green – which is what happened.

    In January 2017 we used chicken wire to provide a solid fence for the tomato vines to attach themselves to and support themselves on.

    In January 2018 we used the heavy duty plastic mesh which is more gentle on the tomato vines. The steel of the chicken mesh sometimes cut into the vines and fruit.

    Sorry the photos are tiny, but Lewis warned me that I’d eventually fill the interweb up with photos, and the blogs from the old platform are all there, but not in the previous high resolution glory. And he’s right too, I have to be cognisant of filling up the limited storage capacity of the website as that leads to more costs for me.

    Oh my gawd those are bonkers cold temperatures. As cold as this summer has been and today peaked at 57’F, it is nowhere near those winter temperatures. And um glad to hear that the propane tank has been refilled. As for stir crazy with a side serving of cabin fever, try four months in a hard core do-not-leave-the-house lock down, and candidly I don’t believe that many peoples mental health came through that ordeal unscathed from what I’m seeing. Living in a rural area and outside the more extreme metropolitan measures, it was still a very difficult time and I did my utmost best to continue going about my normal business. But I tell you this, plenty of people did not do so, and they huddled in their houses and that was not good for them, and a fair number are still in that funk today. We’re good, but I have to interact with a lot of people who are in a high (or super low) state of emotion and it does occasionally wear upon me.

    You have lovely neighbours to have pitched in and helped out in a moment of need. Doug did pretty well to dodge the worst of the winter conditions. Well done him! 🙂 Glad to hear that Carla and Ruth had a lovely visit and yeah sorting through photos is a pleasant past time. In order to find the tomato experiment photos a deep dive into previous images of summer became necessary and it was good fun and I can understand the enjoyment you found in that activity. My how the two naughty minxes that are the sheep dogs have grown since the early days of last summer.

    A mates parents are moving from their decades long family home and they are going through the process of sorting out the belongings and heirlooms.

    How is Salve with Ruth? Ollie took to the two girls like a duck to water. Some of the early photos are of him showing the two girls how to be a proper farm dog, although none of them got the memo about the rabbits. Oh well.

    Four dogs is most certainly a fluffy collective of major proportions. Good to hear that your new neighbours seem nice. Makes life easier, huh?



  6. Hi Goran,

    Thank you for asking for clarification as to the meaning of the story from last week. It is the question that is not asked which is forever left hanging in the air all unasked and stuff. The stories are usually an allegory which means that there is a hidden meaning in them.

    It is not possible to write directly about decline without getting into a whole lot of arguments about the subject, thus the use of allegories. It is far easier to write a story and say that ‘whilst in the city I observed that the vacancy rate was approximately 30%’. People will argue endlessly about ‘decline’ but it is very hard to argue about actual observations. It is just an easier and less argumentative way to talk about decline.

    We’re all on islands! 🙂 I’ve met David and visited the farm on one of the regular open days. He seems like a really nice bloke, and the farm looks lovely and it is a credit to him and his efforts. It is not far at all from my mates of the big shed fame.

    Yup, well there is the thing, and there is also much truth in your observation. You have to live in or near to a biologically rich area so as to be able to raid those areas for minerals when you need them – even the farmers of forty centuries did that. I’d be interested in your thoughts, but with the action of rainfall and leaching, it appears to be quite a difficult thing to close the loop of any area. From time to time, no matter how good your systems are, entropy will nibble away at them. And that incidentally was what the Limits to Growth people discovered when they ran the model with unlimited resources – it still failed, and entropy is what took them out.

    Well I didn’t know that about rock phosphate and cadmium contamination. And possibly this hints at the upper limits of the regulatory process and well, then there is reality where rock phosphate is possibly needed and who cares about the cadmium?

    Rock phosphate appears to be a good slow release mineral, but then if a person is able to chuck on enough compost and mulches they’re probably fine for the mineral phosphate (in this country at least). However, I’m continuing to learn about this subject and have never fed rock phosphate or the much easier absorbed super phosphate onto the orchard or vegetable soils. My accidental experiment involved the addition of lime and that is all I can discuss with any level of experience, and despite Australian soils being notoriously low in phosphate, the plants are not displaying any signs of this particular mineral deficiency.

    That is what it looks like when you live on a poisoned planet. And such issues down here are reflected in the sheer number of people with health problems relating to their gut. Things may be different in your part of the world, but food is not a simple matter and historically mineral deficiencies – which arise from the soil that plants are grown in – were always with us.

    I don’t honestly know what soil tests would provide a person with a way forward. It is very possible that the subject is far more complicated than our minds can grasp and the best we can achieve is to get a feel for and treat the problems as we observe them.

    Exactly, the planet has the ability to repair, but do we at the current population levels have the time with which it can do so? I suspect that long term we’ll be fine as a species, but who knows what rocky roads we’ll traverse until we get to that point?



  7. Hi, Chris!

    I love your title – and your story. So much so that I am going to print it out and save it, which is not something I do often.

    As for the elusive feline – what it may hunt come winter is a warm bed inside, like our long-gone, once-feral Tommyrot. That poor kitty scrounged around the property all of one winter and by spring said : “Enough is enough.” and walked up to me and exclaimed: “I am ready for a life of luxury!” Which he got.

    The ramp is looking really good now.

    I, too, have been pondering mineral additions and have added a bit to some beds I am preparing for spring. I have not had any soil tested, though, and am very cautious. I checked on the soil testing offered by our state agricultural college, which is way cheaper than a private firm, but they only do the occasional clinic, no more sending in a sample.

    Any fruit growing on the ground here gets eaten by slugs, etc. I even try to keep the melons off of it.

    We have some elderberry bushes in one corner of the garden. They are fairly rapidly expanding. I haven’t tried making anything with the flowers or fruit lately as I did not have success in the past.

    Agapanthus like that are what I dream of. Soon we shall see if the one agapanthus I planted last year has survived the winter, which is set to get even colder. We had snow again yesterday.


  8. Hi Claire,

    This is not a normal summer – far from it, it is the year without a summer due to all the smoke in the atmosphere from the fires early last year. It would be nice if people down here got around to finding some middle ground on that matter, but other than a few souls such as myself and the indigenous folks, people are bonkers about this subject. Anyway I’m test driving the year without a summer so that you don’t have to! 🙂 Far out, I wouldn’t starve, but the diet would not be good by the time next summer rolled around. Anyway don’t worry, it warmed up later in the day and by 1pm it was 14’C and I broke and fired up the wood heater because I’d been sitting on my backside doing paid work and slowly freezing. What a year, looking back at the photos of earlier years is like looking at a totally different part of the world.

    My mates have the biggest greenhouse around, and even their eggplants have only produced flowers but no fruit as of yet. We’ve probably got another six to eight weeks of the growing season left, so I dunno – they might be fine. The chili’s here look as though they may be producing flowers, but my eggplants are a total write off.

    Hehe! Yeah, Steve Solomon is a fine author and he has a knack for explaining the fundamental issues behind why something is done the way it is done – and he cites former personal failures for why things should be so – I respect his adventurous spirit and feel likewise. Few gardening authors write for such cold / temperate parts of the world as Tasmania, here, or Oregon / Washington.

    Thank you for the recommendation and I will obtain the book.

    🙂 The dogs are serious characters, as much as all the other animals are here. I work well with the birds, but far out Ruby and Plum love chasing them – to no effect other than exercise for the puppies and the birds keep a look out for them.

    Those are horrendous winter temperatures, and if I experienced those you’d be able to hear me complaining about it from where you and Margaret are. Brr, and stay warm. I’d be hopeless in such weather, but then you lot might not have experienced 45’C / 113’F in the shade.



  9. Hi Lewis,

    Your continent seems gripped in a cold spell of Arctic proportions. Mate those sorts of super cold low winter temperatures (32’F is OK by me by the way) are beyond my experience. Stay warm! How are you holding up in the cold weather? Do people stop getting out and about in such weather?

    That’s funny about the weather, and who knows weather it will work out? A teacher once mocked me because I misspelled the word ‘whether’, ‘wether’ which is a castrated ram (sheep). Who knew? But I never made the same mistake again, there were of course other new and interesting mistakes, some of which I might fess up to! 🙂 I hated English classes, and that was my lowest mark. It didn’t help that a certain unmentionable book was fawned over! Hehe!

    It was a funny old day today weather wise. This entire summer has been one extreme cold day after another, and today was no different. When I posted this morning, it was 48’F and by late lunchtime it had warmed to 57’F. Reading Conrad Richter’s fictional account of the year with no summer, mate I’m feeling their pain and I can’t even begin to imagine how they would have starved. A brutal season.

    This was the disagreement I had with the editor with the tomatoes. Your account of what happens to the fruit if they’re not staked up off the ground is kind of like my nightmare. Time will tell, and I reckon I’m right about this one – given what happened to the strawberries earlier in the season.

    Yes, there is a lot of red soil down under. Lots of it incidentally, the best soils I’ve observed are a reddish-brown colour and by all accounts those are fairly recent in geological terms – although what annoys me about that comment is that the source who made the observation, then failed to deliver the explanation as to why that was. The soils here are a brown colour as you can see in the photographs. So I’m in the dark, but all I know is that the best soils are fairly recently created.

    Good stuff with ordering the book. Claire mentioned another book reference which I’ll nab. We might be able to wrap our heads around this story, although I have a suspicion that knowledge is a bit thin on the ground (please excuse the unintentional pun).

    Thanks for the article on the series. Those are my old stomping grounds. 🙂 I moved with the editor to that then gritty part of the city back when it was very gritty indeed. The area has a really good vibe. I’ve mentioned the series to the editor, and I shall await a review. Hope you are enjoying it.

    Hehe! Hey, if we get this story done as an animated film, which I reckon we should aim at kids and chuck in some naughty words just to spice the story up, our fortunes will be made. It worked for Hollow Kingdom, which I really enjoyed. A truly crazy story, but heaps of fun.

    Wasn’t Mr Hefner a cheeky scamp? A week or so back I remarked to friends that a certain tabloid was notable as it produced many fluff articles – and here I inserted a two handed gesticulation in front of my chest (you get the idea) with a bouncing motion- and all those articles appear to finance the more serious chunks of journalism they tend to do from time to time. It is hard to pay the bills in journalism these days. Early last year I unsubscribed from the physical newspaper. The news was like spending time with an obsessive compulsive disorder.

    Adding in the Latin to the front door, that’s classy.

    Honestly, I’m a bit scared of land sharks. Yep, they pack a punch for their diminutive size, and I heard that their teeth regenerate so they can leave a couple in you and still go back for a second bite later on. Land surfers have been known to avoid being bitten by punching the land sharks on the nose – truly. Dreadful things. 🙂

    Low hanging fruit indeed, rocks don’t grow on trees you know! Hehe! Sorry, that was really bad that joke. But yeah, people don’t believe me about this Peak Rocks business. I’m just glad that I can frack some rocks in order to bolster supply.

    No kidding this time, I don’t actually know whether the tomatoes will ripen this year. It really is that cold. And we’re in for a few warmer days from tomorrow before the weather turns colder again on Friday.

    We don’t eat the elderberries as there are better things to eat at this time of year. The blackberries have produced an amazing harvest this year, so given the choice of blackberries or elderberries, I’d go blackberries. And the thing is we only have so much capacity to store produce and the winter/spring stores are looking pretty good as of today. The birds need to eat something, and new elderberry plants pop up all over the place.

    I’m not seeing that with the roses. It is meant to be a problem but I don’t really water any of them, so that might account for the lack of black spot on their leaves? Dunno. Didn’t water the blackberries either. They probably are selected to grow down here. A mates dad was telling me how to start roses from cuttings using a potato of all things. Sounds easy, but I do want to learn how to grow them from seed.

    The oregano does look like lilac. The leaves are superb tasting too and I add them to salads. Blue! But of course! 🙂

    Interesting indeed. I wonder why they stopped. He’s an interesting guy, very interesting.



  10. Hi Pam,

    Thank you and it is a pleasure to share the stories and farm with you. I secretly love the dog tales too. 🙂

    Tommyrot (a great name by the way – what are the origins of that name?) earned his days of luxury. Actually the cat bashes on the door to let me know he’s made a kill. I can’t quite work out whether the cat wants in, is letting me know, or is teasing the dogs. Perhaps all three? The cheeky scamp.

    The low gradient ramp is something that all farms on the side of a hill need! Mr Dumpy would struggle far less climbing back up a low gradient path than a super steep path.

    Ah, yes that too is my conundrum with the soil testing. And I wouldn’t even know where to take a soil sample from on the farm as so many different experiments have been conducted with the soil. When we turned up here back in 2006, there was no top soil – it was horrendous to see, which was why the property was cheap. It is a topic that is important though, so we must all put our brains to use in this matter.

    Yeah, the millipedes managed to do a smash and grab on the last crop of melons here (two years ago now) and it was heartbreaking to see the holes gnawed in the side of tasty ripe fruit. After that I switched over to growing the much thicker skinned water melons and they’re not as tasty, but they don’t get snacked upon. So yeah, adapt and all that stuff, but I hear you about that.

    Making wine using the flowers is pretty easy using a sugar based recipe. But the stink it kicks up in the kitchen is memorable. The really weird thing is that the stink doesn’t translate to the wine flavour or aroma and it is superb tasting. A very odd plant that one, and the birds are welcome to the berries. Do the birds get your elder berries too? And yes, they do grow very fast – they would make a decent backbone of a hedgerow.

    I don’t know about your winter conditions, but the plants shrug off 28’F here with a layer of snow to boot, but it doesn’t really get colder here than that. Your Arctic outburst of cold weather sounds abominable (as in snowman – sorry bad joke alert!)

    It was so nice to think of Sir Scruffy and Sir Poopy again. Lovely dogs.



  11. Hello Chris
    I enjoyed the story of the dogs.
    It is freezing cold here. There are white patches but they are better described as snow grains as they aren’t flakes.
    Am being rendered irritable by the large number of phone calls that I am receiving. This is not nice of me as they are all enquiring as to whether I am okay. There was even one from the bank! All so kind but I am feeling harassed. Plus trying to get me to have a vaccine which I shall not do. Oh dear, I could go on and on.
    I do stake tomatoes and often have to stake/support the stakes, have even had to add stringing in the greenhouse.
    Another phone call! Back later.


  12. Hello Chris
    Back again after that further enquiring phone call. I used to make a blackberry and elderberry jam. It would be worth doing if you want a change of flavour.


    @ Simon
    This may be too late. I asked Son about your chicken question. He said, don’t put the new ones in with the others. Put them where they can see the others but with a barrier. I forgot to ask him how long this should be for. He also added that if you ever see a spot of blood on a chicken, remove it at once or the others will annihilate it. It can be returned once okay.


  13. Yo, Chris – Our weather station records temperatures, every 15 minutes. Last night, the lowest temperature was 32F (-0-C) for a hot (?) 15 minutes. But, it will continue to plunge, as the week goes on. Prof. Mass made his snow pronouncements. I see Baw Faw Peak, has snow on it. It’s just over 3,000 feet. First time I’ve seen it, in weeks. But, it’s clear and cold, today. Oh, the weather doesn’t slow people up. They’re always out and about. Even when they shouldn’t be. Since they don’t know how to drive in even small amounts of snow. Let a thousand fender benders, bloom! 🙂 .

    I happened to check out Fungi Perfecti, as, when I ordered the soil book, I also ordered “How to Grow Mushrooms from Scratch.” I got it from the library, and it looks pretty good. Thought it might sharpen my game. Nice of Stamets to provide a list of other places to get the kits.

    “My Life is Murder” might be something to keep in mind, for your winter. When things slow down a bit (slightly) around Fern Glade Farm.

    I meant to mention that your doggie narrative was very well written. And, yes, the animated version should have a few naughty words. And, poop jokes. Those always go over well, with the younger set.

    I think I know the tabloid your referring to. The one with the naughty cheesecake photo, on page three. Not that I’ve ever seen a copy, but people always refer to page three. I wonder if that’s the same “newspaper,” …. When I look at the archaeology news, there’s one Brit newspaper’s reports, that I studiously avoid. They usually take some archaeology news item, that’s a year old, and jazz it up with all kinds of adjectives, in the titles. “Rarest,” “Never seen,” “Study debunks,” “Breakthrough,” Nightmare,” Breathtaking,” “Horrific,” etc. etc.. You get the idea. Click bait on paper.

    It’s bad enough you have land leaches, let alone land sharks.

    Hmmm. Roses from seed. They’re like apples. They don’t breed true. All roses, on offer, are either clones or grafts. You might get something interesting, but, odds are, not. Go for a blue one 🙂 .

    I see I have a copy of Solomon’s “Growing Organic Vegetables West of the Cascades. I’ll have to pull it off the shelf and have another look at it.

    I gave H her fortnightly bath and trim. Eleanor is usually pretty pleased, but always manages to slip in that H “Doesn’t look like her dog, anymore.” Fine. Take the dog to the groomer, once a month. Which isn’t going to happen. I usually end up with slightly more than a palm full of fur, when I trim her. It’s been a year now, and I’ve pretty much managed to keep her clean, and the mats at a minimum. If I ever have a dog, again, it’s going to be a short hair. Or, bald. Dogs are supposed to look like their masters, right? 🙂 Lew

  14. Chris,

    The worst spreadsheet balancing problem I ever had was when I was helping with the Dread Annual Budget and an ultra high level engineer’s data wasn’t balancing. (That’s what happens when an engineer does accounting!) To think that all we needed was a parrot and the unbalanced would’ve become balanced. Thanks for the heads up on parrots and accounting.

    Yes, chop wood, carry water is an adage I pay attention to. I think we’ve discussed it in the past. If it ain’t practical, I can really, truly go down the dread rabbit hole mentally and run into one of those mental eastern brown snakes. Yes, dust bunnies is a grand code word to reel in metaphysics discussions that have become as unbalanced as an engineer’s spreadsheet. 😉

    Predrill a rock before pounding it into submission with a sledge? Ummm, no, we didn’t do anything that ingenious. I think dad was trying to 1) keep me occupied and out of his way, and 2) maybe build some muscle on me.

    The cold front starts tonight. Now we’re looking at temps as low as -16C for 3 consecutive nights later this week. Yes, THAT IS COLD.

    This week’s installment was a joy to read. The story was good, and the writing style was delicious. Kudos.

    Your explanation of peak rocks, hinting at peak resources, sums it up well. I’ve had similar discussions with people over the years, especially related to large mounds of surface shale with trace amounts of hydrocarbons in them. “See, we’ve got plenty of oil!” I’d hear. I’d reply to eyes that rapidly glazed over, “But it takes more energy input than what you’ll get out. And this is all in ultra arid areas where there’s no water and the technology requires massive volumes of water. How ya gonna do that?” Same thing as the plethora of rocks in the yard where I grew up. Many of these looked rusty, which, indeed, they were, as there was some iron in them. But the cost to do anything with trace amounts of iron drastically exceeded the iron content…So we had some cool looking rocks.

    My I ask what you stuff the zucchini flowers with and how you bake them? We get a lot of flowers but few zucchini and related crops. Something about the often limited growing season.

    Purple flowers, pink flowers. Very nice, and an oregano bee to top it off! When I was planning our flower beds, the Princess decided that we would go with a mostly pink and purple flowering scheme, with a few blues and reds added. A neighbor gave us a bunch of his perennials before he sold his house, and these also fit that color scheme.


  15. Hi Chris
    The wind in my area is frequently at high velocity for both sustained and gusty levels. Fall and winter and spring can be quite windy. We experience wind blown dust and sand which is easily wind carried because of dryness. Tight fitting windows and doors are necessary to keep it out of houses. The winds with 25 mph sustained and gusts to 35 + are frequent.
    In the past two weeks we had some 70 + gusts. The big winds winnow out the weak tree branches periodically.

    Our next week forecast is forecast is night lows in mid 20s and even the teens with snow possible. DJ will probably get some Sub zero and wind blown snow stuff during next week In the Spokane area. Burr. Spring is not too far off.

    Right now I don’t have a home weather station. The Hanford weather system has 30 some really comprehensive stations on line . One is at the 3400foot top of Rattlesnake Mt. 15 minute auto reporting. Wind, temps , wind chill, solar power, That’s the ultimate how bad it could be. The wind record on that station is 160 + mph yikes.

    The Covid vax jab is hopefully going to give us a bit of peace of mind. There have been multiple cases in our neighborhood, one next door . (All survived so far). Tomorrow’s inoculation will be given at a drive thru mass site. Held at a fair ground parking lot. They can handle 1500 per day. Accepting 65 yo folks. The registration for appointments is first on line for available slots . Number of doses vary daily. Hope it goes well.
    Cheers Al

  16. Hey Chris,

    Yeah, I always thought solar access was protected by council bylaws but it doesn’t seem to be the case as your wall episode attests.

    I always feel that in Werribee you can go one below whatever solar recommendations are on the pack i.e. if it says full sun, partial shade will work.

    What was in the book that convinced you about the soil minerals? Did you get your soil tested before doing so?

    So far I’ve been naming the chickens after old Greek philosophers as explained in this week’s blog post (except for one which my niece wanted to name). Haven’t picked up Cathryn’s birds yet but maybe I’ll move on to medieval philosophers for those just for something different.

    @ Inge

    Thanks for that. I have an area already set up where I can put the new chickens and keep them separate but within sight of the others, so that seems to be the best bet. I’ve heard that about a week is the right amount of time before letting them mingle but I’ll see how it goes. As I’m letting the chickens free range, my main concern is that they feel that the coop is home before letting them out. Otherwise, they might just jump the fence and trying and run back to where they came from. Do chickens do that? I had a pet dog once that did that when we moved house.

  17. Hello Chris,

    Soil and minerals are clearly a worthy problem to devote both thought- and muscle power on. Indeed, many localities suffer from mineral deficiencies, which in the old days meant that those living there just had to make do. (People survived on pretty poor diets in some places!) Nowadays (still for a while) we truck amazing amounts of foodstuffs, so that we can nibble off of other soils than our home turf.

    Soil and minerals are moved by both biological and geological forces.
    Leaching goes one way and biology sometimes the other. The salmon-bear-manure mineral escalator has been studied extensively, see e.g. : https://www.researchgate.net/profile/James_Helfield/publication/33515984_Interactions_of_salmon_bear_and_riparian_vegetation_in_Alaska/links/5512cf2a0cf270fd7e337bfb/Interactions-of-salmon-bear-and-riparian-vegetation-in-Alaska.pdf
    I love “Brown bear (Ursus arctos) are an important vector for transferring marine nutrients to riparian forests, through dissemination of partially-eaten salmon carcasses and salmon-enriched wastes.”

    I am convinced that there are many other biological mechanisms that bring out nutrients from the oceans and deep soils to the biosphere and soil surface (like the fungi that break down minerals and make them bioavailable).

    The challenge is to live within the means of this renewable flux. (Within our monthly mineral allowance, in accountant speak?) Right now we humans prove beyond doubt that we collectively don’t believe in limits, so our mechanized dispersal of minerals dominates.

    I like the Ugo Bardi metaphor, where he depicts our industrial civilization as a giant machine that takes minerals (e.g. copper, rock phosphate, guano, …) from high concentration deposits and disperses it over the whole planet until everything is of equal concentration in every location (landfill) everywhere, or leached into the sea… (A bit like Youngqvist writes in his book “GeoDestinies”. )

    So, yes, there will be a rocky ride until we come back into balance of the fluxes.

    To conclude, here a short weather report from the Netherlands. For the first time since 2012, we will have snow for more than a week. Projected -15C later this week so I am a bit worried about my newly grafted ‘Maraval’ chestnut trees… The hoop house where I expected them to be out of freezes way is already pretty cold, so I have done some extra insulation. I will only know in April if the grafts survived this freezing spell. Working with living things always brings surprises, which is part of the charm!

    Thanks for sharing the story of the rabbits and the fluffies!

    Kind regards,

  18. Hi Inge,

    Thank you, and I particularly enjoy writing the dog stories. I spend so much time with the dogs that their motivations, desires and activities are quite obvious. Has your sons dog Ren decided to fly the coop recently? Things have been quiet on that front of late. We stopped the dogs running off on extended adventures through the simple process of letting them out only one at a time. Seems to work.

    I’m enjoying the writing process and am practising with different styles of writing. In a few months time it will be seven years of weekly writing! Candidly, I’d be happy to still be writing at that rate in another seven years time. 🙂

    Snow grains sounds horrendous, and do they make for slippery paths? It is nice that people are checking in on your health and well being. But now that you mention it, a few months back I transferred money from my regular bank to another bank, and for that act scored a friendly call from the local bank manager. I have this notion in my head that she was in some head office training room. Yes, imagine having to speak with long term customers? Hehe! Bad Chris.

    Yes, I believe the tomatoes grow better if they are staked or at least supported. The editor does not agree with this belief, but I am unprepared to recreate the previous experiment of letting them sprawl over the grounds – because it failed. We don’t have enough tomatoes this year (despite the hundred odd plants to be mucking around). This has not made me popular, but time and all that…

    Thank you for the suggestions regarding the jam and we have run out of jars. Strawberry, Raspberry and Blackberry jam runs have been made and the cupboards are full. All available systems for brewing were turned over to blackberry wine, so there is little waste.

    Hope it has warmed up for you? 86’F here tomorrow. About time there is some heat to this summer.



  19. Hi Lewis,

    I’m intrigued to read what the good Professor has forecast in relation to your weather in relation to snow. And we can compare your rule of thumb in relation to the peak with actual snowfall. That’s a double whammy for sure. The peer supplied photo on his forecast blog looked great. 🙂 Ooo! It looks like you are in for some snow on Friday and Saturday? Good luck and stay warm. It’s exciting!

    Yeah, too true I wouldn’t know what to do in such weather conditions. And to prove this, don’t know whether you recall that I almost stacked the car the last time it snowed because I didn’t think to put it into four wheel drive and hit a patch of ice and spun around. Lucky we didn’t fall off the edge of the road and over the side into the forest. Snow is best enjoyed at home me thinks. 🙂 Hope you get a good dump of snow.

    It was thoughtful of the good Professor to recall that the homeless are very vulnerable in such weather. Stopped off in the big smoke for dinner this evening and had a yummy Vietnamese street food feed. Yum. Then there was the gelati to finish off the feed.

    Ran into the homeless dude in the big smoke who sells me the big issue. Hadn’t seen him since Christmas and he was particularly glad to have a chat about everything and the world and all that. Slipped him some notes which brought a big smile. He’s done it super hard last year as chatting to the people who buy the magazine is a big part of his life, and well things were seriously shut down for months on end and his income would have dried up.

    There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance going on as news reports say things are back to normal, but you know that story just doesn’t smell right to me.

    Thanks for the book reference as I know absolutely nothing about mushrooms. I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts in relation to this book.

    It is funny, but I used to believe that more work happened here over winter, but it is actually the other way around and winter is the slow time. Start late (due to the bitey cold) and then finish early (due to the lack of light). Dunno why I thought that winter was the serious work time. Some tasks are easier over the winter like the forest maintenance – but that is because you can burn off with far less care. The editor has the series on her too see list.

    Incidentally, the editor is now into reading ‘The Stand’ and is enjoying it – it is a timely read. I was intending to read the book next, but I might have to wait. How was the remake of the series? We have the extended mix book with the 400 extra pages.

    Hehe! Yes, we could work some poop and fart jokes into the story. Our fortunes are almost made! 🙂 Screen plays are not my thing though and casting for the voices, well the director would probably kick me off set. Ouch.

    Back in the day, there was the standard claim which I heard plenty of working in the newsagent as a kid. Claim a) I’m only reading it for the racing form guide; and b) I’m only reading it for the stories. Yes, sure they were. They didn’t need to justify themselves to me, they shouldn’t have mistaken me for someone who cared about their literary tastes.

    Land sharks. Mate, look at the bones!!!

    Yeah, the odds are against raising either plants from seed and getting an awesome outcome, but you never know and a large garden does have its uses.

    I suspect Steve Solomon’s book for west of the cascades is a pretty similar book to what I’m reading given the similarities in climate and conditions.

    Eleanor is stirring you up for sure, and maybe a touch jealous that H is getting and giving attention to someone else? You never know. How does H feel about this matter, or is she lapping up the attention?

    I dunno about bald dogs, they kind of look weird. Now bald people are cool, but dogs I dunno at all. Here I cite the Chinese silky crested terriers, and rest my case and retire from the field in full intellectual glory having won the day. 🙂



  20. Hi DJ, Al, Simon and Goran,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but tis the mid-week hiatus. It was such a pleasant evening had to go out for dinner and finish off with a gelati. Yum! Yes, I’m slack, I freely admit this. Promise to speak tomorrow.



  21. Chris,

    Thanks for your comments about the homeless in your chat with Lewis. We have friends that for various reasons have chosen to be homeless. There are several homeless people that frequent one of the nearby shopping areas. One chap in particular is eloquent and polite. He also appears to have a money source other than panhandling, but prefers being homeless. There’s a story there, I’m sure.

    Meanwhile, the Princess and I have been watching a lot of the Australian Open tennis on the telly. The American broadcasters have expressed amazement (and jealousy) at how open Melbourne is during the unmentionable. I explained to the Princess what I’ve read here, mainly about how business is in a shambles, the strict quarantine guidelines for people entering your country, etc. The education that you, Damo and others have given is appreciated. “Feet on the ground” are worth a lot more than television talking heads.


  22. Yo, Chris – Goran mentioned “nutrients from the ocean.” Seagull poop! I don’t know if your too far inland, but here, we occasionally get flocks of seagulls. There’s a saying, when we get seagulls, this far inland. “There’s a storm at sea.” Even heard that as a wee small lad. Portland was about as far from the ocean, as we are here. And then there’s the Mormon “miracle of the gulls.”


    Which reminds me. I’m reading a book right now, “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.” (Andersen, 2017). It’s an exploration of why Americans are so nuts. Well, we have a long history of being nuts. So, we’re just keeping up a tradition. “The short answer is because we’re Americans, because being American means we can believe any damn thing we want, that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible.” I’m finding it a very good read. 🙂 .

    It was a steady 32F (-0-C) all night long. With fog. The National Weather Service forecasts that we can get snow as early as tomorrow night. Wednesday. We’ll see. The snow on the peak, extended quit a ways down. So, I’d say the snow level was at least at 2,000 feet. I noticed Prof. Mass mentioned the Fraser River. Yup. That’s where we usually get our sub-zero temperatures, from.

    The Vietnamese food sounds very tasty. Maybe it’s the weather, but I’m feeling the urge to bake something. I have a craving for oatmeal cookies, with raisins. I’ll probably use the recipe on the Quaker oats box. They know what they’re doing, right? But, I want them moist and chewy. From other sources, apparently the secret is, use all brown sugar and add one tablespoon of molasses. And, plump up the raisins. Don’t know if I’ll get to it, today, but soon.

    We have a lot of homeless, even in our small county. In cold weather, there’s some shelter at our fairgrounds. “Sally” (the Starvation Army) takes in some. Some of the churches, rotate sheltering people. We think there’s even some homeless folks, up in the woods behind the Institution.

    I’m probably due to read “The Stand,” again. Unabridged, of course. I don’t know how disciplined the Editor is, but any bleary-eyed mornings can be attributed to Mr. King. I got curious. The library has 6 copies, 4 are checked out, and 2 languish on the shelf. I thought, perhaps, there would be long waiting lists. Due to You Know What. We had 20 cases on Friday, and broke the 3,000 case barrier. For the county. I haven’t seen the new series. I’ll wait patiently for the DVD. I also see, that there’s a multi volume graphic novel version. Hmmm. I might have to check that out, when I’ve got a bit more room on my library hold list.

    Ah, yes. The “I only buy it for the articles” defense, of Mr. Hefner’s magazine. But actually, the literary quality of the magazine WAS quit high. And the interviews were fascinating. And, they published a bit of fiction. Even, science fiction. Stephen King was over the moon, when they published a story, by him. They paid, quit well.

    Land sharks. Saturday Night Live had a long running series of short sketches, involving land sharks. Some were very funny. Others fell a bit flat.

    I dipped into the Steve Solomon book, last night. Gee, that was published 40 years ago. He does bang on, a bit, about soil. And, it’s specific to our area. I had read in passing that when he lived here, he owned a seed company. I did not realize that he started Territorial Seed. Which is where I got the bulk of my seed, this year.

    Oh, H trys to play off Eleanor and I. But, we’re pretty wise to her games. Weird looking dog. The one from the Land of Stuff.

    In one of those coincidences, The Atlantic magazine had an interesting article, yesterday. Peak phosphorus.


    A pity the author mentioned Karl Marx. Now the whole thing can be dismissed as a commie plot. (See: Crazy Americans, above.) I see some good work is being done at Washington State University. The same field station that’s working on heritage wheat varieties. There machine seems quit promising … in the short run. In the long run, machines like that, and transport, won’t be sustainable. Lew

  23. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for all the tomato pics. I’ve tried different methods of keeping them off the ground and some have worked better than others. A friend who had a large market garden was preparing to downsize considerably and he gave me some of his home made extremely sturdy tomato supports. They were probably a diameter of 2.5 ft and about the same height. They were not narrow at the bottom as the ones you might purchase. I think he fashioned them out of steel fencing that he could bend and then welded the ends together. I would put a couple of stakes on the SW side on the edge of the enclosure as that was the direction most of the strongs come from in summer. That kept the plants/support from blowing over for the most part. Wind is often a serious issue here and why most of my plants eventually blow over to some extent. Well when we decided to downsize and move I was anticipating a much smaller garden than we ended up with and I gave them away 🙁

    Really enjoyed your dog story. Brought to mind some of our old dogs. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses to be sure. The dog I liked the least was Ubu an coonhound and lab mix we think. He was quite dumb and we couldn’t let him loose until he was quite old as he would immediately run away. He was also quite naughty and had to be crated when we were gone. However, he was an amazing watchdog and provided us (probably because he was pretty dumb) with much comic relief.

    I harvested quite a few elderberries this year and we made elderberry mead for the 2nd time which is quite tasty and also elderberry syrup, a healthful tonic that Lew mentioned. I just froze it in small jars and drink 1/8 cup daily. It’s pretty tasty too.

    We’re still in for another week of frigid weather. It was -16 (-26.7C) on Sunday morning and never got above zero (F). Right now at 2 PM is it a balmy 4 above zero (-15.6C) and I’m about to take my daily walk which I usually do at 7 AM. At least most of the time it hasn’t been windy. A walk would not be possible at all if it was. I bundle up in three layers with heavy mittens. Normally now it should be a high of 31 and low of 16 F.


  24. Hi DJ,

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that one needs a parrot in order to sail the wide accountant-seas. We’ve got plenty of parrots here, the cheeky fruit thefting scamps. It would be a pleasure to gift some to you to assist with the balancing up in your part of the world.

    Hey, I reckon we’ll stick with the code word ‘dust bunnies’ and hope never to use it. Of course one advantage of the written form of communication is that people are inevitably limited by the sheer volume of words they can type in a reasonable period of time. Not everyone has been subject to gobarmint experiments in this matter like I was. Although given it was a fad down here for a while, no doubts we didn’t come up with the idea for the experiment and maybehaps it also was raised in your part of the world?

    Far out, your dad was a harsh task master as rocks rarely yield to such treatment, although it would do little harm and probably much good for a young bloke. Even the Roman’s (he says tongue very firmly in cheek) probably knew about plugs and feathers for rock breaking? Might watch a utoob video on how that task was done as there is always something to be learned.

    Yeah, sure sounds cold. So at the moment after a warmish day of 33’C (one of the few this summer) picture this: I have the doors and windows thrown open to the cooler night time air. It feels quite pleasant really. But yeah, you lot are far hardier than I – and frankly none of us down here would know how to cope with such cold temperatures. Brr!

    Thank you. I’m mucking around with writing styles on the basis that I could easily get stuck in a rut and write using my favourite styles.

    Exactly, extracting resources from difficult to obtain sources is not technically impossible. In fact those sorts of tests get run all of the time, that’s what exploration is all about. But if the companies whom usually go an explor-a-ing decide not to do so, what does that say about the ability to extract and make a buck? The other problem is that bucks aren’t worth what they once were. A very old mate of mine worked for big oil and ended up being one of the few who could guide a horizontal drill head. Years ago he moved overseas and we fell out of contact. There are times I feel like getting back in contact and stirring him up about peak oil, but is this a nice thing to do? And the answer is probably not, so I keep my distance.

    The stuffing can also be used with field mushrooms. Rice pilaf, bread crumbs, parmesan, tasty cheese, philli cheese, briefly mix and fry and then stuff. Too easy, my mates of the big shed fame introduced that recipe – they run a cooking school after all. The flowers are very edible this way and the nectar and pollen give a sweetness whereas the field mushrooms give a meatiness.

    Oh, we’re into flower colour schemes too, but the details now escape my mind. Respect for the order you implement.

    No worries at all. Not everyone does OK in this world we all live in, and I’ve been speaking with the bloke for years, and from what I understand he just wants to feel connected somehow. Years ago when I was in the corporate world I used to chat with a lady who’d camped out at the top end of town and sold the magazine. She was cool. But I do wonder how they’re going in this time of much reduced foot traffic. And yeah, I never ask as to their story if only because the facts speak for themselves in this matter.

    Ha! Hmm, things are a bit weird right now down here. My dental check up and clean which was to be done tomorrow had to be rescheduled. Oh well, when life deals you lemons, make lemonade. Or juice the lemons and freeze the juice for use later on.



  25. Hi Al,

    Oh my! Can’t say that I’ve ever lived in a very windy area, but the very moisture would be stripped from the soil and vegetation. Out of curiosity, do you get reliable winter rainfall where you are? And I hear you about the dust, when cars go past on the road, they kick up an enormous amount of dust into the air. I walked the dogs tonight and some sight see-er caused exactly that to happen and I walked in a cloud of dust for several minutes (squinting my eyes the whole way too).

    When the worst of the weather hits, you know that spring is just around the corner for you. The differences in air pressure between the competing weather systems drive the extremes – plus a chunk of thermal inertia.

    Oh my gawd! Did you write that number correctly? 160mph? Far out!

    Well the health subject which dare not be named is not too far from here too. I’d planned to head into a nearby town to visit the dentist tomorrow, and it looks like that won’t happen now. The source appears to have been someone who was working in a hotel quarantine and caught it there. Oh well. Good luck with tomorrow, and you are in a high risk group, so it pays to be especially careful.



  26. @ Margaret:

    I loved hearing about Ubu. What a character, if only because he is different, and because he has a funny name. When my neighbor’s son comes to visit he brings along his dog Porkchop, who is a Cocker Spaniel/Golden Retriever cross, a funny- looking dog. Porkchop is not so bright either, besides which he doesn’t like cats (she has two) or my neighbor’s own dog, a Coonhound. I just came across a tomato in a seed catalog called “Porkchop”. I must have that!

    These days all of our tomatoes are tied to a 5ft. high trellis (4ft. fence wire started 1ft. above the ground) set in the back of each bed. The trellises are movable.

    I take my morning walk at 7:30. I’d say “hello” in passing, but we are in different time zones. I wear 3 layers, also. My husband thinks it’s funny that I wear 2 hats.


  27. Hi Simon,

    Yeah, solar panels are not protected at all, and basically once the huge wall was constructed on the northern boundary the backyard had very little sunlight.

    Ooo. Just deep dived into a utoob rabbit hole of rock demolition without explosives – you could say that it is a personal interest…

    Where you are is far hotter than here, and for vegetables this is a good thing. Near to the mouth of the Werribee River are huge market gardens, and they produce a lot of food. The river drains not too far at all from here, and it cut a huge gorge which you can walk around.

    Ah, the book confirmed observations in regard to the use of lime. It was the shady orchard which grew around one of the paths which is topped with… ta-da! locally quarried crushed rock with lime. There is a lot to this story.

    Good stuff, and ancient philosophers can hardy get excited about being named after a chicken. Did you manage to name any of the chickens after Diogenes? He seemed like a worthy sort.



  28. Hi Goran,

    Well those are my exact thoughts on the subject. Making do is how things used to be in relation to soil deficiencies. And people are very adaptable and can get by with such deficiencies, but they won’t thrive either. And yep, trucking minerals all around the globe is hardly sustainable, but whilst we are doing that, shouldn’t we also think about getting some of those minerals into the soil rather than dumping them stupidly into the ocean? Alas, we are not nearly concerned enough to do so. But for those who are aware, it presents something of an opportunity don’t you reckon?

    You already know this stuff. The role of birds is to concentrate minerals and bring them back up the hill. How could it be otherwise? Animals do the same thing and I let the wildlife roam through the orchards – to do otherwise is a short term advantage, but a longer term problem.

    Well, there is a theory that over millennia, the rainfall has deposited salt onto the surface of this continent, so the mechanisms are probably far more complicated than we can imagine. And remember the locals used to use cool fires to remineralise the soils. The indigenous folks probably know more about this cycle than we do.

    Hehe! Yes, a monthly budget – but I tell you this – from what I’ve observed people hate to budget. There is something not natural about that process and so people exist and hope for the best. Which may lead to uncertain outcomes.

    Ugo might be right, but then I reckon some locations are receiving far heavier doses of minerals than others – and the pollution of the oceans is a direct result of people living in cities and urban environments, where by its very nature, food can’t be produced and yet there are concentrated minerals to spare. So much so, that they are considered a waste product. Bonkers.

    Oh my, it is crazy down here, but the northern hemisphere is enjoying a solid burst of super cold weather. Good luck with your chestnut seedlings and I hope that they survive.

    If ever you need some spare rabbits, we have plenty to spare. Thank you for the kind words.



  29. Hi Lewis,

    No, it is too far inland for seagulls. Still, birds and animals in the landscape – when they can freely move around – bring minerals back up the hill and also spread it randomly about the land. Even insects have to poop and the parrots here do some good in the orchards. I may sound like I’m going hard on the parrots, but really their numbers are limited by the winter months and so eventually the orchards will out compete the birds. It already happens at some times of the year, and it is also why I grow plants they prefer like the elderberries.

    Never heard of the gulls / mormon’s story, but it is a goodie although a touch debated. Anyway, as an infamous crim turned author down here once quipped: Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. And where faith is needed, the story had better be good.

    Actually we did have a locust plague come through here years ago, and the local birds who reside on the farm destroyed the locusts. Further north there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but they generally try to keep the birds off their farms. And the birds do perform useful acts – guano is one such, but eating insects is another. I rarely have insect problems, but then birds of all sizes live here. The downside is that I don’t get the sort of yields that people expect, but there is always something to eat.

    We were seriously checking stores today and we’re doing OK. I had plans to go to the dentist tomorrow and had to reschedule for a couple of weeks because there had been a case in that nearby township – linked to the hotel quarantine apparently. The dentist still wanted to do the appointment, but they could only do half the job (clean instead of checkup and clean), so it is not like I want to go there a second time. And as things stand, the person in question may not have visited the business. Oh well, moving on nothing to see there.

    Your countries culture is err, dynamic and um, exceptional. We’re not quite that ra-ra-ra-go-us down here and kind of expect less. But other than that the cultures are reasonably close. Anyway, as you say, it is good to keep up traditions and it does no great harm to do so in this case. And incidentally, it was your culture that saved our backsides during WWII and put boots on the moon, despite it being almost 50 years in the past.

    What is going on with the weather in your part of the world. Of all the temperatures which have been horrendously recounted, yours seems to be the most tolerable. Far out it sounds cold. Brr! Have you seen any signs of snow yet?

    Just to tease you, it was a very pleasant 91’F here today (a pleasant change from the rest of summer) and late this afternoon I walked the dogs for over an hour. It was like that South Park video I linked to with the obstreperous child, as the dogs initially bounced around and I soon wore them out by keeping up a very brisk pace. They’re all sound asleep now. Winning!

    Yeah, winter is baking time. And running the oven with the accompanying baked food yumminess smells just is the sparkles on the ice cream. It doesn’t seem like the weather for pumpkin ice cream though. 😉 Hey, the oats cookies sound a lot like Anzac biscuits with the use of the brown sugar and molasses (I’m starting to drool. yum! yum!). What did they use in the recipe as the binding agent for the oats? Made a batch of biscuits for a lovely vegan years ago and had to use bananas for the binding agent.

    The homeless will be doing it super tough in the sort of weather your part of the world is experiencing. Around these parts, nobody is homeless because the winters would probably do them in. And I doubt anyone could hide out in the forests in this mountain range without being noticed by the locals. Over to the east of the state, the forests are so vast that this is a possibility.

    Hehe! Hey, that has happened to me too with a Stephen King book – whatever happened to the night? An important question as the dawn sun peeks above the horizon and the birds sing a storm about a new day. Only those that know, know! Hehe! 🙂 Fun stuff, and good books are to be cherished. The version the editor is reading is two and half inches thick with a small font. It might take her a while to finish, and we can’t necessarily read the same book at the same time – this is logistically difficult and I hope you understand.

    Well that’s the thing, the defense stood up to what they call down here as the ‘pub test’ – the articles were actually good. And authors have a hard enough time earning a living. A semi-regular commenter here now writes for the periodical I used to write for, and she is a fine essayist. I would have been super pumped if an essay I’d penned ended up in that periodical, sometimes publications make ends meet in odd and unexpected ways.

    For some reason every time I hear Saturday Night Live, I think cow bells. Dunno why, but enough people have requested me to watch that particular skit.

    Steve is an old school observational scientist who’s not afraid to call boozit on theories. But he doesn’t just do that, he then goes on to explain why he does so. I quite enjoy the authors style. However, the phosphorus issue might be more complicated than he hints at. When I look around at the forest around me it grows pretty well despite the phosphorus deficiencies. When exotic trees get planted out, they do pretty fine too. So I’m guessing – and this is a wild hunch – that somehow the fungi in the soil can provide access to phosphorus for the plants. The thing is, everyone is so busy digging away at the soil (and pretty much most agriculture does that), that they break up the fungi and I suspect this cuts off an easy source of potential phosphorus as fungi don’t like being dug or broken up. It’s just a hunch.

    Oh, those dogs are very odd looking. They’d get sunburnt down here. Imagine a sunburned dog!

    Thank you for the most excellent article. I noticed towards the end of the article, the subject matter was rising towards a beatific future, only to crash against the awful economic realities. A neat touch, but yeah things aren’t good, and it isn’t just phosphorus. I see they mentioned Nauru. Hmm.



  30. Hi Margaret,

    No worries at all. I took a bit of searching around to find the photos, but they sort of illustrate the story well enough. Actually the former tomato stakes you used to have would be very good at maintaining a good distance between each plant. I’m a bit slack about that plant spacing subject and have been told off on numerous occasions.

    Oh no! Wind over summer really strips the moisture out of plants. But yes, I hear you about that and sometimes plants fall over here too – especially if the soil has been worked too much. And occasionally fruit trees in garden beds can be pushed over by the mass of vegetation leaning against the trunk of the fruit tree. I’ve got a medlar which needs relocating come the cooler autumn weather. It is almost horizontal but seems to be happily growing all the same.

    How could you not want a large garden, which is probably why you ended up with one? Hehe! It’s in the blood I reckon? 🙂

    Thank you, and all dogs have distinct personalities. They’re a real joy to have around just going about their business. Never had a really dumb dog, but I have encountered some from time to time and it is always a bit of a shock. And that’s right, you’d imagine if they were really dumb they’d be happy go lucky, but no, they can be grumpy and stubborn or have their own thoughts as to how the world should be – even if it doesn’t accord with reality. But even so, dogs like that bring something to the table.

    A nice idea with the elderberry mead, and very wise during these times in particular. We get currants, and blackberries so there really is just too much on that front, and so the birds enjoy the benefits of the largess. The elderberry flowers make a superb wine though, as I’ imagine the berry mead would also be.

    Margaret, the weather reports from the northern hemisphere read like a car accident. Far out that is super cold. Keep warm, and stay out of the wind! And you are super tough because even without the wind I’d be sadly huddled up inside under several layers of blankets! Brr!

    Took the fluffies out for a very brisk walk tonight in the warm late afternoon and wore them down. Hehe! They’re sound asleep right now.



  31. @ Simon
    Son says that chickens have no homing instincts at all so they won’t go back to a previous home, however they may get picked off if they are unprotected.


    Hello Chris
    It is still bitterly cold here even though the sun is shining. I don’t know whether paths are slippery, I walked on the stiff grass.

    Ren is allowed to run free the whole time, the others aren’t. Son takes them for walks two at a time. Flynn can never be allowed out and off a lead as he heads straight for sheep even if he has to go miles to find them.

    The walls of my bedroom are lined with plasterboard. There has always been a small damaged area. I noticed the beginnings of a hole and stuffed a tissue in it. Then noticed that the tissue had moved in a bit so place another one against it. When I went to bed last night there was a proper hole and no tissues. The wood mice that live in my walls in winter must be saying thanks for the nice bedding. Appalled at the thought of a mouse on my bed in the night, I taped up the hole. This was the first night that I haven’t heard a mouse, so it must be sleeping in comfort. Son is going to repair the hole.


  32. Hi Chris
    We have very little accurate predictability of weather. Most any weather may occur at most any time. 161 mph was verbally from a weather person. The true reading was “ off the recording chart at 150 mph. He Probably took the slope of the on and off chart line and added the 11 mph and got to161.
    While I was looking that up I stumbled into a deep rabit hole and after landing at the bottom was whacked on the head by several several integral and differential math symbols as I escaped.

    The vaccination was very well run and with very little wait. 25 minutes including 15 minutes safety wait. No reaction the next morning (Feb 10) today. Go early was the key. arrived 30 minutes prior to appointment.?

    Lews link for the interesting phosphorus article. Also has two other articles about : reactions to the Moderna and Pfizer RNA vaccine. ; and the necessity of vaccination of the third world ( that one will push some hot buttons for some)??

    Cheers!,temp this morning was 16 F must check some stuff before tomorrow’s possible blowing snow and high of 30F

  33. Yo, Chris – As long as your sending DJ parrots, send me some, too! Some of the $3,500 ones. Maybe we can do it in one shipment. DJ and I will meet, half way in between here and Spokane, and split the booty. 🙂 .

    We have so many LBB (little brown birds), here, that I’m sure they contribute poop to the soil. Not that you notice. Little birds, little poops. I’ve been noticing several robin red breasts, around. Not sure if they’re over winterers, or, back from the sunny south. They may regret their early arrival. H quit likes to observe the LBBs. The other day, she did quit an extended dance on her hind legs, just to get a better look at one, in a bush.

    Well, it got down to 27F (-2.77C) last night. The grass was already crunchy, when I took H out, just before 10pm. Oh, I know we don’t do it near as hard, as your other commentators. We’re lucky to have the moderating influence of the ocean. No snow yet. Maybe tonight … or tomorrow … or the next day. You can keep your 91F. Doesn’t tempt me. Way to warm, for me.

    The pumpkin ice cream is long gone. I’ll have to settle for salted carmel pretzel swirl or cookies and cream. 🙂 . Though I have successfully resisted the siren call of ice cream, for a couple of weeks. The store managers were teasing me, last week. They showed up at the check stand, with a package of pumpkin flavored dog chews. Thought I might be interested … I shoveled right back. That they can come up with those, but not source pumpkin spice M&Ms, or Hersey kisses. 🙁 . We’re a jolly lot, late at night, in the store.

    Yup. Anzac biscuits are similar to oatmeal cookies. But, without that boiling water / baking soda business, they’re not near as crisp. Binder for oatmeal cookies? Butter? 2 eggs? I had an old great auntie, who always had oatmeal cookies, on tap. And her house always smelled of oatmeal cookies. Lovely.

    Mr. Solomon had a section on gardening here, and the leaching problem. Basically, cover your compost heap with a tarp, during the rainy season. And side dress your plants, with compost, in the summer. Don’t water, too much.

    Nauru suffered from that age old problem. A one industry town (island) with excess population. I bet some bargains in real estate, can be had.

    It’s official. They’re closing our coal fired electrical steam plant, here. A couple of hundred jobs, down the drain. There’s a bit of a dust up, right now. As, 9,000 acres are in play. The Department of Fish and Wildlife want the land as a reserve. Local politicos want to open it up for development. The land includes the dam and lake I mentioned. Lew

  34. Chris and Lew
    It so happens that I have just made oat cakes. Here are my 2 recipes for them. The first one which is the one that I made, uses up ground almonds which get left over from my Christmas cooking.

    8 oz oats
    6 oz any light or white sugar
    4 oz ground almonds
    6 oz butter or marg. or a mixture of the two.
    1 small lemon

    Melt butter and sugar in saucepan. Add oats, almonds, grated rind & juice of lemon. Mix well and then transfer to a baking dish.
    Bake 170 C/ 325 F for about 30 mins or less.

    The second one is:-
    12 oz oats
    8 oz dark sugar
    8 oz butter/marg.
    1 tablespoon molasses
    Proceed as for previous recipe. This one says bake 20 mins and I reckon that that timing might be okay for the first recipe as well.
    My ovens temperature is very unreliable so I do have to check the cooking at some appropriate interval.


  35. Chris,

    Okay, I’ve got a deal for you. Since you appear to be lacking one particular bird species, seagulls, and Spokane is rife with an inland subspecies of seagulls, how about a trade? You get some of our seagulls, I get some of your parrots?

    I don’t know/remember what all gummint experiments I was subjected to. I do remember, or maybe is it imagine, that I’ve been told that my memory was erased of all such experimental experiences. 🙂 I’m reasonably sure certain that typing speed was not one of such things, at least with me, as my typing is self taught. Well, unless any experimental gummint typing was erased from me also? Okay, that’s the end of my foray into conspiracy theories. 😉

    It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Romans and others had methods for breaking rocks other than brute force. Banging 2 rocks together to break one or both often didn’t work!

    Oh, that reminds me…first session of a physics lab I was teaching in grad school, I gave some introductory remarks. Sorta, “Physicists blow things up, chemists make things that stink, biologists look at small wiggly things, and geologists sit around and bang rocks together.” That normally got a lot of laughs, but this time it fell with an almost audible thud. Turns out most of that lab section was geology students.

    Thursday we get the worst of the cold, complete with some wind. Although I’m guessing that Al gets much worse wind than we will. His location is pretty wide open and flat and the wind can blow. Hard.

    When I was studying petroleum engineering in Fairbanks, Alaska circa 1991, the industry knew about peak oil. It was no mystery whatsoever. So hopefully your old friend isn’t ignorant about it? But I agree, looking him up to tweak him about it is something I wouldn’t do.

    Thanks for the recipe idea. Sounds interesting. And tasty.

    I figure if people want to volunteer their stories, they will. I dated a lady once who had a slight but noticeable limp. After several weeks, she asked why I’d never asked about it, as that was almost the first thing anybody ever asked her. I mentioned that it is her story and that it’s best to learn to relate and earn trust, and that she’d tell me when she felt ready to tell me. That was much appreciated. And she told me the story.

    We’ve had the dental things go back and forth here, also. Last July, our dental exams were cancelled. Currently, dental is on the “approved” list. In other words… Got lemons? Make lemonade, as you said. That’s a healthy attitude in my book.


  36. Hi Chris,

    When it comes to cold, Margaret will always beat me, and DJ and Al can tie me. Nevertheless, I will note for the record that we have already experienced 5 straight days of highs below 32F / 0C and our local weather service office is predicting that highs will be that cold for the entire coming week. For St. Louis to experience below-freezing temperatures for that long is quite unusual, particularly since our weather changes from day to day more in winter than any other time of the year. We’ll only need two more days of below-freezing temperatures beyond what is already predicted to reach the 4th longest such streak on record. And it’ll be the latest in the winter that such a long streak began, and the first time since I arrived in St. Louis in 1984 for such a long streak to occur.

    For anyone who thinks it’s too cold to snow at 17F / -8C, I can tell you from personal experience that it isn’t. We keep getting small snows of less than an inch, but because it’s so cold and it’s cloudy as well, each snow builds on the previous snows.

    The worst thing is that because it’s been cloudy, the front porch that is also a passive solar greenhouse isn’t working properly. It goes barely above freezing during the day, dropping a little below at night, but it will get colder if the water in the barrels freezes solid, and that could well happen. I could run an electric heater on the porch, but it seems like a waste of energy and money. I don’t want to open the window between the house and the porch, because I have a collection of orchids in the house that I don’t want to catch cold.

    Today I brought the three smaller citrus trees that were on the porch into the house to ensure that they survive. The two larger trees are too big to bring inside so I will have to hope that they don’t freeze. Tonight I will try keeping the heat in the house higher overnight, so that some extra heat leaks into the front porch from the wall it shares with the house. Hope it works. We might get a little sunshine on Friday and Sunday, which would raise the temperature on the porch. Whether it will be enough to keep the two citrus trees still on the porch alive I don’t know.

    91F … that sounds like heaven right now. That’s our average high from about mid June through about mid August. I’ll take summer over winter any day!


  37. Hi Chris,

    I’ve done the Werribee River walk up on your side of Bacchus Marsh. It’s a good one. Saw wombats, echidnas and wallabies which is always a nice treat.

    Yeah, the Cynic school of philosophy would have been revolutionary back in a society where getting publicly shamed or kicked out of town was considered the worst thing that could happen to you. Diogenes was basically a punk rocker. Actually, rock’n’roll/punk rock always had that vibe of being at the bottom but still living like a king. Then grunge came along and they gave being at the bottom a bad name. Diogenes would not have approved.

    @ Inge

    Thanks for the info. Yes, chickens are very conservative for the most part. I couldn’t see them deliberately looking to run away. Although, if one did run away all the others would follow along as they are very much a pack animal.

  38. Chris:

    “The thing is, everyone is so busy digging away at the soil (and pretty much most agriculture does that), that they break up the fungi and I suspect this cuts off an easy source of potential phosphorus as fungi don’t like being dug or broken up. It’s just a hunch.”

    I think that is a very good hunch of yours.


  39. @ Inge:

    I find it impossible to co-exist with mice in the house.

    Thanks for the oat cakes recipe.


  40. Hi Inge,

    Hmm, it always gets coldest here just before the barest glimpses of spring can be spied. It won’t be long before the bulbs like daffodils or jonquils are poking their noses warily out of the winter cold soil.

    It is weird to hear grass crunching beneath your feet. It also happens if the summer rains disappear for weeks on end, although you have to admit that it doesn’t look as nice as frozen grass does. I’m starting to wonder if wheat will grow here, but the wheat produced lacks the proteins usually seen in wheat grown in warmer locales. Might try obtaining some spelt seeds.

    When you know a dogs personality, you have a fair idea what mischief they might get up to – and Flynn’s proclivities are probably well known to your son.

    Mice are a real pain, and I don’t much enjoy the thought of them being in the house either. But the tiny cracks they can sneak through makes it hard to keep them out of a house – even one as sealed as this one. And yup plasterboard presents proves to be of little resistance to our rodent friends. I tend to feel that plasterboard in the far future will become a handy source of gypsum for agriculture. Nice work with the tape.

    If I had to rebuild the house, I would make it that much harder for mice and rats, but that is the thing with learning. Sometimes you learn and are unable to do anything with your knowledge unless an opportunity presents itself, which admittedly it is under no guarantee to provide.

    Thank you for the oat biscuit recipe. Incidentally, the second recipe is very close to the Anzac biscuit recipe but with flour and coconut added. And lemon rind is a fave addition to really give a proper zing to food. Lemon essence is a poor substitute, but in a pinch…



  41. Hi Al,

    Mate, there is no specific forecast for the mountain range, so like your weather person person, I use a mix of sources and just take a guess. I reckon it is a fair bit of art plus some science to forecast the weather – and local forecasting would be a very tough business.

    Al, no – run, Al, run! This talk of advanced math makes my head spin too. It is probably useful stuff to know too, but alas it shall remain a total mystery. 🙂

    Good stuff, and I’m glad you scored the vaccine and had no side effects. They make them tough up your way! 🙂

    It is not a hot button topic for me, but I hear you, and mileage may vary.

    16’F is rotten cold. It was again 33’C / 91’F today, but don’t worry just outside the door it is now raining.



  42. Hi Lewis,

    What $3,500 for a parrot? Which parrots get that much? Seems bonkers to want something that badly, especially when the cheeky scamps are flying around the forest and farm here whilst enjoying the bounty of the farm. Do you get more for parrots that have been fed on the choicest of fruits and berries? If I had to choose, I’d forget the parrots and their silly antics, and stick to the more solid magpies and kookaburras. A cheeky kookaburra laugh is a bird call that is not easily forgotten, but need they sing so loudly in order to bring in a new day? And well done you too with the nefarious plan. 🙂

    Mate, you’d be surprised how much poop those little brown birds do. And a hive of bees can produce an enormous amount of poop and sometimes the poor things get diarrhea and then the colony has to clean out the hive. A messy job to be sure, although can’t say that I’ve observed such an event, but I have read about it in serious books. Now, here is the thing though, if we’re going to chuck in some fart and poop humour I thought that it would not be a bad idea to use the word that Mr Steinbeck used in the Grapes of Wrath, but now I can’t recall what it was. Thinking this would be a simple problem to resolve on the interweb I checked out a Thesaurus, and oh my gawd – so many descriptions. My personal favourite was “squirtin’ like a country goose”, very colourful and if you’ve encountered geese, well it is an apt description. There must have been several hundred listings in the urban thesaurus. Boom! There goes my mind being blown away!

    Hehe! H is a classic. 🙂 The two sheep dog pups can jump like gazelle’s – it’s not natural to see dogs leaping like that, and high too. The like getting a better look at the birds too, and the birds are having none of that nonsense – and the two pups haven’t seemed to have learned that yet.

    Picked up a big 44 pound bag of blood and bone today and spread it on the vegetable beds. The tomatoes are banging along in the now warmer days, but not to worry, it’s raining outside right now. Also picked up a Chinese pistachio tree – I believe it is an ornamental variety, but it was bargain priced and I couldn’t walk past it. And also from the get rid of these plants table, I picked up a Blackwood Acacia which is now recovering (from its near death experience at the nursery ) and is now residing in the fern gully. I stuck the plants soil and root systems in water for an hour before planting – they can grow in swampy areas. It does seem to be recovering.

    Yeah you are lucky to have that moderating influence, and yes some locations are milder than others – he says at 37.5′ latitude south – normally a very hot location, as yours would ordinarily be a very cold location. Any sign of snow? I might check what the good Professor has to say on the subject as well.

    Hehe! Yeah that is the fun side of being so known. They know you and your enjoyments. Sad about the lack of pumpkin ice cream, but your stoic and will have to make do with a lesser variety (or not at all). 🙂 Sometimes you have to dish it back – nice one!

    Curious indeed about the Anzac biscuits. You know I’ve never boiled a bakery product although I noted my friends of the big shed fame chucked a mixture of olive oil and water onto the top of their loaves before chucking them in the pizza oven. I make a drier loaf. Speaking of which I have to remember to hunt out some spelt seeds – I sort of suspect that it is too cold to grow wheat with any protein in it here. As an experiment I might keep a small plot going to try and produce a landrace variety, but it might be a lost cause.

    Yeah, Mr Solomon mentions the leaching problem in much greater depth in the Tasmanian book as he suggests that the problem isn’t confined to the compost heap – it is most of the island except where it is dry or there are some very nice red soils on the north coast. I’d noticed a curious feature of the indigenous history in that some islands were abandoned and nobody now knows why – and the very large Kangaroo Island is one such. And Tasmania was not heavily settled originally. On another note I read a bizarre reference to the English historically putting bodies fallen in battle to good agricultural use.

    Our gobarmint uses the island as an off shore detention facility for refugees. It’s quite ironic really given our convict history and the folks detained there aren’t on Australian soil so there are legal consequences for that. It keeps the locals employed I guess.

    Sorry to hear that as the coal and power plant was a big employer in your area. As much as it is an environmental disaster, I can imagine a world without electricity, and it would not be fun or easy.



  43. Hi DJ,

    I note that Lewis is backing your nefarious bird swap plan. 😉 What would the poor seagulls eat when the turned up here? It seems like an important question. And the poor parrots would hardly enjoy your winter weather. Anyway, we must shelve these ideas and move on. Hehe!

    Well yeah the gobarmint taught me to touch type and use a word processor, it seemed like some sort of faddish thing and because I was young, my superiors roped me into it. Wasn’t bad actually. This was back in the day when such machines sat in typing pools where the text only beasts were connected up to a network with a disk drive that looked like a top loading washing machine. It was probably erased from your memory and from to time you may experience flashbacks and hints. Think Jason Bourne, but from Spokane.

    Anyway, if nothing else, the experience taught me to produce better hand writing on the basis that someone else might need to read it! 😉

    Those Roman engineers sure knew a thing or two, and in their off moments they served in the Legions. A handy force when in a tight spot of bother.

    Haha! Your joke which fell flat on the humourless geolgists proves that you can’t always read the room. Pah! They’re too serious to be fun.

    The wind speeds that Al reported were crazy – that would be an epic storm here.

    Honestly the subject of Peak Oil can hardly be ignored if you are in the profession of extracting the stuff from the ground. What interests me is that much of the exploration has been shelved, and what does that say about the future for jumps in prices? Bonkers. Last time I saw him, I didn’t have the heart to stir him up about the subject – he knows.

    Trust is earned – definitely.

    Do you normally get a clean when you go for a dental examination? That is how things roll down here, and they offered to just do the check up side of things without the clean. Not into that, and I do wonder if we’ll shut down again when cold and flu season swings into action around maybe March or April. Oh well, don’t buy trouble which hasn’t happened.



  44. Chris:

    I was just cooking some quinoa. I really like that stuff. I always rinse it several times before I cook it to remove the bitterness, but I was reading a gourmet cookbook yesterday and he did not do so in his recipe. Do you, or anyone else, ever cook it?


  45. Hi Claire,

    They’re awful winter temperatures for someone who has no experience with them. Winters are just cold here, but not like that. 🙂 Well, the cold summer here this year is equally unusual and is significantly below the long term average. Hope it warms up for you and Mike, but so far it doesn’t sound like it will in the immediate future.

    Had a short run of warm days and the growth which occurred is phenomenal. With that in mind I added a 20kg bag of blood and bone to the vegetable beds today. Something might happen, and the dogs were very excited about the re-mineralisation. Ollie was licking the stuff off the soil like it was candy.

    I defer to your experience in the snow area as I’m way out of my depth.

    Yes, the lack of sunlight can be a problem for a greenhouse, and I’m sure to see how that rolls come winter when the sun is low in the sky, but chuck in thick clouds and it is a tough gig. It is interesting, that cloudy but warm days during summer are the hardest to get hot water from the surrounding energy sources (solar hot water or firewood). Neither are good options on such days, and airy dismissals of such limits make me feel very uncomfortable. Usually most people blame the technology without asking whether there is actually any energy to be had. Seems kind of important to me.

    Hope your orchids do OK in the current weather, and I realise they have significance for you. You’re between a rock and a hard place there with no easy answers.

    Ooo! Planted a Chinese Pistachio today and it looks like it will be a nice small tree.

    It might not be a bad idea to chuck a blanket over the citrus that can’t be brought inside off the porch? Dunno, it would probably work out OK. Even here I’m a bit marginal for some varieties of citrus and many have not grown well – although I’m probably not feeding them enough.

    Yes, your winter is sounding rather alarmingly difficult.



  46. Hi Simon,

    Yeah it is a great walk that one. There are a couple of walks around there which are pretty good, and we used the Werribee Gorge walk as training for the weeks long walk in Nepal. The Werribee Gorge walk has some steep sections in the walk but err, completely unprepared, but yeah one of those times you just learn as you go!

    Have you tackled the Lerderderg Gorge walk just out of Bacchus Marsh? That’s a really nice walk too.

    There’s a walking track which traverses the high parts of this mountain range and takes about six hours. There are times I see people heading off on that walk with little water, and that seems strange but so far I haven’t heard of anyone being rescued. Oh well.

    Those two rivers have cut some deep gorges on their way out to sea – thus your highly fertile lands. Have you ever done a soil test on the soil at your place? I’d imagine it would be pretty good.

    Thanks for the mental image of Diogenes as a punk rocker. But yeah! Cool. 🙂 Ah, grunge, all now safely in the past.



  47. Hi Pam,

    The tall forests around here must get phosphorus from somewhere, and the big difference between soils for vegetables and soils for forests is the fungi. Somehow those clever little critters and their smarter than the interweb hyphae must be extracting the mineral and they work hand in hand with the trees.

    Vegetable soil (or broad acre crops) is a whole different thing and the fungi hyphae get chopped up and that isn’t good for their health. I try not to dig the soil in the vegetable beds and just add stuff to the soil surface and let nature work it out. Nature probably has a better idea how to go about such things than I! 😉 Dunno, just guessing, but certainly phosphorus must be extracted somehow. And if I may point out, exotic trees grow equally well here as do the Eucalypts.



  48. Hi Pam (cont),

    No, I have cooked quinoa in the past, but it was years ago and I forget the details. Sorry. Mostly we use lentils and I’m a real fan of French Lentils which are very tasty. Do you cook with lentils? I shouldn’t mention that the rabbit ate many of the French lentil plants which were producing… Not happy at all.



  49. Chris and Pam
    The mice are only in the walls, not right in my rooms. They are wood mice and unlike house mice, they only arrive in the winter. Dormice hibernate in my walls but they are silent.


  50. @Pam
    Ubu came with his name. We got him from a shelter in 1989 I think. I imagine his name came from the dog Ubu at the end of several Paramount TV shows. He even looks like the original Ubu.


    We entertained family and friends by giving him a slice of lemon which he would chomp down on, shake his head and throw it into the air. He never learned either as he continued to do it. We had a cockatiel while we had Ubu who would harass him by flying back and forth across the room just out of reach. Unlike our other dogs he never learned that chasing the flock of turkeys we raised was a big no-no. He never caught any but just enjoyed chasing him. One day the flock turned around and chased him! Well he sure took off so from then on the turkeys would chase him whenever he came near. Who said turkeys are dumb.

    I’m out for my 3 mile walk around 7 AM. Right now though most days it’s been too cold to do the entire three miles. Our basement stretches along the entire length of the house and we’ve actually managed not to fill it up. If the weather is really bad I’ll do some of my walking down there. 40 times around the perimeter is about a mile. It sure is boring though.


  51. Hi Chris,
    Yeah I usually don’t leave enough space between plants either. Now that late blight is almost endemic it’s particularly important to let the plants breath. I do a bit of pruning too if the growth gets too thick. Fortunately most tomatoes are harvested before the blight really sets in.

    One day I’ll try making wine with the elderflowers. I’ll go out each day to harvest the ripe elderberries within reach on our property and on the roadside. I take them off the stems and freeze them until I’m ready to use them. It sounds like a tedious job but I just sit on my screened in porch and watch the birds while I do it.

    One does acclimate to the weather over time. If it’s not too windy it’s not feeling as bad as at first. You have much more extreme heat than we do and I can’t imagine working as hard as you do in that heat.

    Leo and Salve don’t last too long outside in this cold though we have gotten them out for their usual one mile morning walk the last two days which have only be -4F. We carry a rag to dig out the ice and road salt that gets between their pads. Poor things will be standing their just holding a foot up. I don’t leave them out too long unattended because they could be in that situation way out on the property and unable (or unwilling) to make their way back to the house.


  52. @Inge
    Thanks for those recipes. Is there one you prefer? I’ve added to my recipe file.


  53. @Pam

    I cook quinoa occasionally. My daughter introduced me to a tasty quinoa salad recipe which includes chopped cucumbers, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries and feta cheese.


  54. @ Inge – Thanks for the oat cake recipes! Are you thinking of heading off for “The Great British Bake-Off?” 🙂 Quit a popular show, here in the States. Stuffed wood mice? Lew

  55. Chris,

    Since you shelved the seagull/parrot discussion, I am unable to tell you that the local seagulls hang out near fast food restaurants and fight over the garbage left behind by littering humans.

    I’m enough older than you that I remember the typing pool arrays of actual typewriters. I taught myself to type on one of the several typewriters we had at home. I got hit by a pitch during a high school baseball game three days before my senior term paper was due. It was quite interesting trying to type with one finger in a splint.

    Jason Bourne flashbacks? Spokane style? Mate, you’ve got me pegged! How did you know?

    I used to have decent handwriting and meticulous hand printing skills. Then I discovered that a boss was spying on me and twisting my phone log notes for use against me. All of my writing on the job suddenly became illegible except to me. I learned how to write with Norse runes and used that skill when taking notes in meetings. The spying stopped.

    The very best student I had in the labs I taught in grad school was a geology major. But she had a sense of humor and a solid perspective on life. Probably because she worked for a couple years before attending university. The geology guys where I got my undergraduate degree DID have humor. They put together an intramural American rules football team and called themselves the “Geology Wimps” because if they ever won a game, the other team would be forced to say that “we got beat by the wimps”.

    I note that Al found a Dread Derivative and Integral Swamp. I had to live in such dwellings, feasting on many unwary derivatives and integrals whilst getting my degree and in my grad school forays. Now I look at such critters and think to myself, “Run DJ RUN!!!”

    The main portion of our dental appointments is the cleaning, which comes with a fluoride treatment of the teeth. Two appointments per your are normal, with xrays once a year and an exam each visit by the dentist to make sure there’s no weird bumps or holes in the mouth.


  56. Yo, Chris – Wheee! Snow! I’m sure some of your other commenters are rolling their eyes, but, for us, it’s pretty much a novelty. When I went to bed at 3am, there was not a flake to be seen. 9am, an inch on the ground, and still coming down. Seems to be turning to rain, now. But, will be back tonight, and we may really get a lot, tomorrow (Fri.), depending on which forecast you look at. Warmer temperatures and rain, are coming back Sunday night, so, it will all be gone by Monday. I picked up “Snowpiercer”, at the library. I saw the movie, and it was pretty good. This is the series. Thought I’d give it a whirl. And, the weather is appropriate. 🙂 .

    When I took H out this morning, she quit liked the snow. Didn’t want to come back in. A few day ago, they scattered white granules, about, to banish the ice and snow. I don’t know what’s in it, but it’s bad for dogs. Especially, given H’s tendency to suck her toes. So, I tuck her under my arm, well inside the building, and carry her out to an unaffected area. I always feel a bit like a footballer (ours, not yours), making an end run. H’s coat really retains water. Squeezing her feet and legs, is like wringing out a sponge.

    Quit awhile ago, you had a picture of a black parrot, and I looked it up and it sold here, for $3,500. Your King Parrots go for about $1,000, per. But wouldn’t you know, here’s a chart. Parrot prices, as of 2019.


    I wonder if there’s a parrot financial market? Futures? Short sales? 🙂 . Some parrots do ok, in the cold. Quaker parrots have established breeding flocks, as far north as New York City. There’s an old bit of bird lore (don’t know how true it is) that caged birds can take pretty low temperatures, as long as there are no drafts.

    Seems like slang for any bodily function, is extensive. We hear “Hersey squirts,” a lot. My Dad used to say a variation of the one you mentioned. His was, “Like poop through a Christmas goose.” Slightly edited for tender sensibilities. 🙂 .

    I toss around a bit of blood and bone meal. The blood meal is supposed to also keep the deer off. Mileage may vary. I got “The Regenerative Grower’s Guide to Garden Amendments,” yesterday. I’ve just given it a brief look, so far. Seems to muck about a lot with apple cider vinegar. Much to my surprise, at least as far as I can tell from the index, self produced nitrogen, doesn’t make an appearance. Seems like a lapse. Maybe he slipped it in the text, somewhere?

    I’d say (from the comfort of my armchair) that there are many varieties of wheat, that grow in cold climes. Older varieties, but I’m sure they can be sourced, from somewhere.

    I think it was Martin Clunes “Islands of Australia” that talked about Kangaroo Island. That the indigenous folks believed it was the afterlife, or land of the dead, or something like that. I think he visited. But either the indigenous folks just flat refused to go, or were really twitchy while there.

    It’s a shame, about our coal plant. I’m as eco sensitive as the next guy, but I worked out there, for awhile. They jumped through every hoop the Greenies threw up. Good grades of coal, scrubbers. And, I worked in the forests, around there. Looked like a healthy forest to me. The deer, cougar, bears and birds seemed to get along, just fine. We also have a natural gas fired plant, here. But, I don’t know much about it.

    I watched “Contagion”, last night. Saw it years ago, when it came out, but thought I’d give it another look. As the library got fresh copies. Pretty good cast. Well worth a bowl of popcorn. I figure as long as the Postie shows up, and the garbage gets collected, we’re in pretty good shape. Lew

  57. @ DJ and @ Al, I too fell into the Dread Derivative and Integral Swamp in grad school. Barely managed to keep my head above water long enough to get the degree and paid employment. Haven’t had to visit the swamp since, I’m glad to say.


  58. Hi Claire, Margaret, Pam and Lewis,

    Just thought that I should recount a little story from last winter, during the epic four month lock down.

    So back in those hazy fantazy crazy dayz of four months of lock down, the seed suppliers had a run on their stocks. Basically they couldn’t supply the massive quantity of orders received. And even members and long-time members at that suffered serious delays in the order, so everything went on a long hiatus of several months between the order and the receipt. What happened during that time is perhaps an interesting story, which we may never find out.

    Before spring, the various seed orders arrived in the mail, following several months delay.

    Most germination rates seemed OK this season, however the cooler summer here meant that directly sown seed was far lower in germination than I usually experience. The greenhouse has been a right saviour this growing season. But this is about what you’d expect.

    However, not a single cucumber plant germinated, either in the greenhouse or directly sown. I don’t believe the climactic conditions are responsible for this failure. You’d imagine that at least one plant germinated, but no. Even the melons germinated, although they are slow growing.

    It is possible, and I intend to make inquiries into this matter, that the seed stocks supplied were possibly very poor. Under supply can potentially lead to very low quality seed being delivered to home gardeners. Hmm.

    The lesson to take away from this story is to purchase seed from several reputable sources and beware the super cheap prices if they’re on offer. But also put some brain cells towards saving seed from the crops grown, as who knows what the future might hold in store for us. Dunno, but best be prepared is a wise strategy.



  59. Hi Inge,

    Thank you for the clarification. Rodents are fascinating creatures. And who knew that your islands contained so many different varieties of rodent?

    Locals have told me stories of bush rats. And being smarter than the locals, I breezily dismissed such stories as all talk and no substance. Turns out that I was wrong (not saying on which, or possibly both fronts! 🙂 ) and there is actually an indigenous rat which is in this area and is indistinguishable to Rattus Rattus. Bush rat

    If the rodents are clever they don’t annoy me – and rodents chewing chunks of the cars is a bad thing and will most certainly produce a reaction.

    Oh, and the entire state is now in lock down for the next five days. The last lock down was for initially thirteen days before eventually extending out to four months.



  60. Hi Margaret,

    I know, like how hard is it to thin out densely grown seedlings? Thinning them out is a painful task as I’m left wondering if I’ve thinned out plants that were going to grow into something special. But no, hearts must become hard and sort of get on with the awful job of cutting out perfectly good seedlings. Take carrot seeds for example, they are tiny, but thinning them does produce better quality tubers. Oh well, we have to dig deep to find the more ruthless side to our gardens. The book I’m reading suggests that wider spacing reduces the amount of water required and produces better tasting and hardier vegetables. Margaret, I’m not quite at that ruthless level yet – it’s hard. Hope you understand!

    Oh my gawd! Late blight A2 is not here, may it stay so. Far out what a problem.

    Yeah, we do the same process with wine making. Harvest the berries, currants or whatever regularly, and then freeze them. When the batch is big enough, wine can be made. And yes, currants are not a dissimilar problem to elderberries.

    I’ll take your word for it with becoming acclimated to the winter weather. The lack of experience tends to instil a touch of fear of such depths of cold. In Nepal at about 16,500ft (which is as high as I’ve ever been), over night the clothes froze solid, and to such a summer soft person that was very weird.

    But the hot weather, well despite my disinclination I arise early, work hard, then stop by about 2pm. Any longer and the sun cooks your head, your mouth feels dry, the head starts to pound, and only a rehydration solution will bring you back – no amount of water seems to quench your thirst. Not treating such a condition will lead to a person feeling as if they have a terrible hangover, without any of the fun that may have caused such a dreadful condition. A person may become slightly irrational too. We’re very alert for the first signs of heat exhaustion and take steps to avoid this. Actually we keep an eye out for each other and sometimes if the work is near completion the afflicted person has to sit it out on the sidelines in the shade and just chill out.

    The day many long years ago we poured the concrete pads for the 115 odd house footings was almost 100’F and I moved all of the cement by wheelbarrow from the back of delivery trucks. By the end of the day I felt very ill, but nowadays would be able to treat that. But back then I had no idea – and suffered.

    Good to hear that Leo and Salve still get out for their walks, albeit in a modified and concerned fashion. You wouldn’t want to allow them to sleep all day and all night in front of the heater. Aw, I have this image of them holding their paws up and requesting: Please fix this, urgently.



  61. Hi DJ,

    Seagulls are perhaps the true survivors? On the other hand, perhaps it takes a real fluffy bird from a small world called Earth to tell us how wasteful we are as a society: The rise of the ibis: How the ‘bin chicken’ became a totem for modern Australia

    The name bin chicken quite tickles my fancy as it aptly describes the situation.

    Hey, I too recall the manual typewriters with the push keys and the mechanical arms which flung out and hit the ink laden strip of cloth which moved ever so slightly and could be re-inked. The mechanical typewriter was a very clever machine. But it was also unforgiving of errors, although I also recall the machines which had some sort of white out but you had to know that you’d pressed the wrong key and then backspace and press the correct key. The devices demanded a level of accuracy which was a real skill to have.

    And yeah, broken fingers would have slowed a person’s word per minute typing rating to not much at all! Try the same trick with a cricket ball and you’ll know true pain. 🙂 Those super hard things hurt.

    Hehe! Secret gobarmint biz – tick. Devious managers plans thwarted – tick. Hazy memories of said activities – tick. Understanding of advanced math – tick. Mate, you tick all the boxes! 🙂 I’m personally dubious of the advanced math skills and that was what twigged the Bourne reference. Hehe!

    There is something to be said about gaining some life experience prior to going to University. Yes. When I ran the graduate program for a big corporate I had the unfortunate pleasure of teaching young graduates how to think critically for themselves. Some of the graduates had gone straight to University from High School before working for a big accounting firm before quitting that. And a few of them were damaged by the experience. But it was nice to note that they had high opinions of their former experiences, and I let them down ever so gently and guided them along the path to better ways. It can be unfortunate how some bright young folks are treated and it produces a lot of waste.

    Can’t say that I even understand what a Dread Derivative and Integral Swamp even is – it sounds truly awful and best avoided at all costs. 🙂 If this refers to living on site at a University or College, that is not the norm here, although a tiny (read minuscule) fraction of students do enjoy that experience.

    Exactly, same same but without the x-rays which I tend to dodge. Yes, I know this is risk, but I look after my teeth carefully and regularly. Things have become somewhat weird down here as we are now in five days of lock down for the entire state due to the health subject which dare not be named. Valentines day is totally trashed.



  62. Chris:

    Have you ever tasted teff? I grew some long ago and used to add teff flour to my breads until I had to go gluten free. I have failed so abysmally at making GF sandwich breads – except for quick-breads like muffins and biscuits – that I haven’t used teff in years.

    I see that you, too, are a member of Plant Rescue International. I can hardly pass by the bargain table without buying some poor, neglected little plant to take home and try to revive.

    I recently made one more seed order online (last one – sure) and it took me a whole day for them to be able to accept the order. There is much turmoil in Seed Land. I never was able get an order in to my local seed growers’ site. However, we have been saving seed for years and have all the basics. I just can’t resist trying new ones each year. I was able – I think – to get seeds for the Porkchop Tomato (hello, Margaret!).

    I don’t eat lentils often. They give me digestive problems that other legumes don’t, even though I make sure that they are thoroughly cooked.

    I may have mentioned that Mr. Musty the Toyota pickup truck as been attacked by “an insane mouse” (my son’s words). It got into the engine and chewed 10 wires, then somehow got into the cab and chewed up a seat and the ceiling. There was a cardboard box of snack bars which it did not touch. Every other mouse would have gone for that first. Now we have no 4W Drive for the snow which we had yesterday. My poor son will be working out in the snow to fix it.


  63. Chris:

    I just got back from sweeping (should have shoveled) 4 inches (10cm) of snow off of the covered back porch so Charlene can eat her breakfast. I expect that she may sleep in today, though.


  64. @ Margaret:

    Mama mia – 3 miles! I don’t do that in my walk; maybe by going up and down stairs all day, which is pretty good exercise. I, also, will exercise in the basement if there is no other way. We have a full basement (not as in “full of junk”, which it sort of is). We have a central chimney, so that it is like a donut in our house and basement. I can jog around the chimney, if there are no Mr. Dumpy parts in the way.

    I have only known wild turkeys; can’t tell how smart they are.

    We have late blight, too.

    I remember Ubu Productions now. Thanks!

    The quinoa salad sounds yummy.


  65. Hi Lewis,

    Groundhog day! We’re back in lock down. The gobarmint appears to have botched the quarantine program for returning Aussies, and now the entire state is in lock down for five days. Please don’t misunderstand my cynicism, because the last time around thirteen days turned into four months. It might be OK for big corporates that have offices in far flung cities on the continent, and big gobarmint which can print or borrow money like it’s going out of fashion, but I kind of live in the real world where businesses stock their pantries with stuff that other people want to purchase. And those businesses are supplied by yet other businesses and it is like a vast chain of interconnected obligations, and if they can’t trade the waste is epic and the loss of income is like an aneurysm which could pop at any moment. For small business this is like an economic bloodbath of major proportions and someone has to be held responsible for these stuff ups and the arrangement of them. These idiots aren’t getting my vote in the future.

    Well that’s my rant for tonight. I feel much better. Actually I don’t feel much better. Oh well, I have to deal with the world as it is, and not the world as it might be because that too is a phantom.

    Your snow sounds lovely and an inch of snow on the ground is a true winter wonderland in my books. 🙂 Did you get more snow on Friday?

    About half an inch of rain fell last night. Truly the vegetable beds have been thoroughly watered and the two trees I planted yesterday in the hot sun appear to be loving the conditions. And Ollie was still very much interested in consuming the blood and bone – it was dirty to see how much he’d consumed.

    The editors favourite cousin visited here today for lunch (in a nick of time too as we learned of the lock down during the visit and tomorrow this act might have caused serious censure from the constabulary) and we all had a lovely time. The table was groaning with tasty food and the scraps were consumed for dinner. Had to head out before the local General Store closed this afternoon and pick up the milk in case it was closed for the next few days. They might be doing take away trade, but movement is limited to 5km or 3.1miles from a persons home – which makes no sense at all in a rural area where the nearest shop might be twice as far again (as is the case here).

    Managed to nab an order for some local organic spelt seeds too so I’ll be very interested to see how they grow over the winter. It is possible they’ll be better adapted to these climactic conditions. But I’ll continue to work on producing landrace varieties.

    Did you begin watching the snowpiercer series? Lots of dystopian class warfare in that series from what I understand, and I believe Damo may have seen the series, but I could be wrong.

    Hehe! Well, H like Sir Poopy would feel as though her ancestral memories are playing out in the snow. Sir Poopy loved the snow too and he used to frolic around as if it was perfectly normal weather conditions. Oh no, who knows what is in the white granules? Snow is a once a year experience here that nobody thinks to do such things. What a polluted world we live in, and I can’t imagine that the stuff doesn’t end up in soils, waterways and then in the ocean. Even excess salt would be bad for our waterways, mind you the flow rates in your waterways are probably far higher so dispersal might be possible to an extent.

    Hehe! Wringing out a dog is not something that I’ve done. Err, good luck! We keep a towel for the dogs use and if they want to come back inside the warm house after getting soaked, they have to submit to being towelled down. And they always submit on a cold wet day.

    The black parrots are extraordinarily rare and endangered and there are five of them which live around these parts. They arrived after the big fires a few years ago. Who knew that Sulphur Crested Cockatoo’s were so pricey overseas? The cheeky scamps can often begin consuming houses if they are not regularly fed – so best not to feed them in the first place. And Galah Cockatoos are as common as muck. Did you know that it is a derogatory term to be called a galah? It means to be acting as though you were a foolish person. Fortunately galah’s do not comment on this here blog. But admittedly occasionally I can be a touch foolish, but I do try to be serious, sometimes.

    The synonyms for the most delicate bodily function where things have gone horribly wrong are truly extensive and impressive. I tend to feel that this hints at a considerable experience within the population and also that the English language is an evolving and colourful beast. Thank you for the self editing as we wouldn’t want to scare the kiddies, but maybe just a little bit of scaring wouldn’t do them any harm at all. 🙂

    I dunno about scents keeping away other animals, but am trialling urine in relation to the snakes. The zoo in the big smoke sells ‘zoo poo’ and there are stories that the use of this manure has similar consequences. But then I sort of believe that animals can mark their territory, but they also have to hold their territories against newcomers. And the rabbit / cat story hints at that truth. And the cat has to hide from the dogs during the daylight hours as they won’t tolerate the feline hanging around.

    And yes, you are correct with the wheat and the older varieties that will do better in colder climes. I mean, this winter has been cold, but varieties of wheat from Old Blightey might grow really well in these conditions. How to obtain such varieties is something that is at the back of my mind and when I see an opportunity, I’ll jump on it, like the spelt seeds. I’m alert for these opportunities and am better prepared for this lock down than this time last year. New information and experiences are incorporated into the worldview.

    Anyway, the lockdown is not the important topic. I see your coal fired generator and raise you an even bigger story which barely rated a mention in the news: Australia loses another oil refinery, leaving our fuel supply vulnerable to regional crises. There are times that I feel that we have lost our collective minds. Mate, I’m greener than the next several dozen folks combined, but this story makes no sense at all – do they not realise what they are doing?

    You’re quite correct about Kangaroo Island, but also at one time from what I understand, it was inhabited as well. It is quite a ways from the mainland and the seas were very rough in between. It is no small island being 60 miles in length, but that might not be big enough.

    Hehe! Glad to hear about the film Contagion. I need to do a film night I reckon and there are a few titles on the to-see list. Hmm.

    The editor is thoroughly enjoying The Stand, and Mr King has a solid understanding as to the human condition as the spread is an interesting story of selfishness combined with a side serving of foolishness. And the mortality rate is pretty horrific. Also the author employs the special guest death ensign who you know is going to come to a bad ending as you’ve haven’t seen them in any previous Star Trek episode. Yeah, not good for their continuing good health.



  66. @ Inge:

    Our variety of wood mouse loves nothing better than to permanently move into a nice, warm condominium. The last spot we found them coming in was around the chimney flashing, Beware! Since that was sealed it has been years since we’ve had any get in.


  67. Hi Pam,

    Such good exercise, but pray do tell, how is Charlene the White Squirrel going in the snowy cold and generally wintery conditions? I thought squirrels, squirreled away food stores for the winter and then rode it out until spring returned? Mind you, I have seen a squirrel but that was in another country.

    Hehe! I’d sleep in too. Winter is a time for sleeping in and re-charging the batteries.

    Another cold day here today, but in a few days time it will warm up again.



  68. Hi Chris
    Before comment close I wanted to thank you for the fluffy story, I always enjoy your writing which is but one reason that we all look forward to each weekly essay and comments.

    Well we are having our winter, Professor Mass will be giving the latest weather news in a while.
    The tilt of the earth will soon deliver better conditions . These arctic incursions that define our winter are much worse when they arrive in November and thermal inertia gets shorted out early. That can make for a long winter. Our forecast looks like we maybe getting 4 – 8 inches of snow, but turning to rain and freezing rain next week. The pre chilling of the environment may prolong the melting. The best end is when we have a slow warming for a few days followed by a chinook wind to take off the snow and ice without causing wide spread flooding. There is a lot of balancing involved. But spring is near!

    Chris, Dj, and Claire it’s nice to know that the Calculus problem is fairly common
    cheers Al

  69. @ Claire,

    The Dread Swamp could get hideous! Physics exists in that swamp. I found grad level petroleum engineering to be much easier than grad level physics. Rather than using reams of paper in an attempt to solve some hideous integral as in physics and chemistry, petroleum had us write Fortran programs using approximation methods. Having done it the hard way in physics, I found that to be refreshingly easy in comparison.


  70. Chris,

    Thanks for the ibis links and the bin chicken story. I see that Australia already has a trash-eating bird, so the seagull would be superfluous. Bin chicken is a great name.

    My parents gave me an electric typewriter that corrected errors reasonably well until it didn’t. We used a lot of the EZrase brand typing paper. It allowed you to erase the typo. The trick was to feed the paper back onto the roller exactly as it had been before.

    Precisely, getting hit with hard things hurts. Baseballs, cricket balls, elbows, etc. Rakhi the Samoyed and I were chasing one another around a large cedar tree once, and her head hit my knee. She quickly recovered, but it took a few minutes for my knee to get functional. Dogs have hard heads.

    I played some cricket in Alaska. Most of the grad students in petroleum were from India and China and played a lot of cricket. I avoided getting hit by the ball, as it looked to be hard enough to inflict serious pain.

    I started university right after high school then decided I was tired of school, worked for about 18 months. Then I was ready for university and had much better motivation. Working as a dishwasher and then in a paint factory are experiences I still find to have been valuable, but I’m glad I returned to university.

    The Dread Derivative and Integral Swamp can be found in several locations. One is in maths and physics classes, where the “language” is derivatives and integrals. Another is when you are innocently surfing the web looking for something and an article pops up full of derivatives and integrals. The swamp can look something like this (scroll down for best effect): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral

    We noted the latest change to your fair country while watching the tennis tournament Thursday evening (our time). They actually showed your Prime Minister giving his announcement. The Princess has a sister who is celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary on the 16th. They tried for a Valentine’s Day wedding but something didn’t work. Where they live in Oregon is under tighter restrictions than we are, so their celebration will be somewhat blah. We are easing to the same level that Lew has on Monday, not that the Princess and I will be doing things differently than we are now.

    So, Toppenish is getting snow with more forecast Friday night. Al’s area is supposed to get hit pretty hard, also. No snow here until Monday. It also didn’t get as cold as forecast: we hit -13C Thursday night before the clouds rolled in. With sustained 25km per hour winds, the wind chill is nasty, but nowheres near the -40C wind chill we experience once a decade or so. It’s called cover up and have no bare skin in those temperatures, and wear a wind blocking layer atop all the warm clothes.


  71. Yo, Chris – That’s the pits about the cucumber seed. Sue the b______s!
    Sometimes, given our weather, veg is slow to bolt and set seeds. And, I’m sure you’ve noticed in the seed catalogues, that some hybrids are advertised as “slow to bolt”. But, I’m sort of well set, with saved seed. Of course, the garlic, horseradish and potatoes just clone. I’ve got corn, 2 kinds of beets, parsley, sweet basil, peas and green bean seeds, saved from last year. The camomile seems to self seed, quit nicely, but I saved some seed, anyway. Some of the parsley, also self seeded. Oh, and I saved some tomatillo. There are some things I’m trialing, this year, and I’ll try and save seed, from those.

    Well, that’s the pits about being in quarantine, again. For your sake, I hope they don’t extend it. I spent a bit of time, in Melbourne, last night 🙂 . Between scenes, “My Life is Murder” shows footage of Melbourne. Saw the Flinders Street station. There always showing your trains, buses and trams. Graffiti covered walls, just to be edgy. Lots around the water. And some slinky like thing, over water, that I think is a footpath of some sort.

    Well, weather. We got it. It was a steady 28F (-2.22C) all night. And, the snow has been steady. But, it’s kind of an odd snow, for us. Not the usual big fluffy flakes. More small flakes that just keep sifting down. But it still piles up. When I took H out, last night (Thur.), just before 10, it was probably 4″ deep. She went crazy in the snow, and didn’t want to come in. This morning, it was a good 8″ deep. And we’re supposed to get 3-6″ more, today. H gets globs of ice in her fur. She likes being toweled down. Heck, she’s a glutton for any kind of personal attention. This morning I plopped her in front of a heater, and worked the ice out, before taking her home.

    The library closed at 3, yesterday. Will probably be closed today and tomorrow. Looks like most of the Inmates caregivers did not show up, today. But Eleanor’s, Regina, did. What a trooper! She comes from quit a ways out. Everything is slowing down, AND we’ve got a national holiday, on Monday. President’s Day.

    I did a shallow dive down the rabbit hole (no snakes.) It looks like blood meal will give dogs the Hersey squirts. And bone meal, “…cement like bowling ball … in the stomach.” Well, maybe one problem might take care of the other?

    I watched a couple of episodes of “Snowpiercer”, last night. It’s very good, I think. And, class is right out there. If you subscribe to Mr. Greer’s theory (and I do) race and gender are kind of red herrings. Those, people will babble on about. But class? No. Speaking of red herrings, there also a murder mystery, to be solved. Just to keep things interesting. And did those severed limbs end up in the beef noodles?

    What’s the moogie look like? Inquiring minds want to know.

    That was quit an article about your oil refineries. “Not economically viable?” To who? I wondered if you had a stockpile, and I see you do. But on American soil? Doesn’t seem prudent. It’s not as if you don’t have space. 🙂 . And, a 90 day supply is all well and good, but what then? In a related idea, here, you hear that “we have plenty of oil, but the Greenies won’t let us pump it.” What they don’t seem to “get” is you can pump away to your heart’s content, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be used, domestically. Usually, it goes to the highest bidder. And, as strapped as so many governments are (guilty! guilty! guilty!), it’s not as if they can just step in and buy the stuff. Lew

  72. @ Margaret
    I don’t have a preference, seem to like the two recipes equally.


    @ Lew
    Definitely going nowhere near ‘The great British bake off’. I don’t watch the programme as I find the baking ludicrously elaborate.


    @ DJ
    Fascinated by your Norse script as I did something similar in my teens when I discovered that my mother was reading my diary. I used a mixture of code, abbreviations and German script. It is intensely annoying as I still have the diaries but have great difficulty in reading them now.


  73. Hello Chris,

    Small scale grain growing is under-appreciated. However, some steps in the process are quite challenging.

    Last year, my friend the Dairy Farmer had grown some oats to feed his cattle during the winter. After threshing and cleaning and setting aside for the cows, he kept a couple of hundred kilo’s so that I could take some for oatmeal porridge and oatmeal cookies.
    But… Little did I know, the oats need dehulling, which proved to be a very laborious process, and in the end I only processed a kilo or so. The rest went to the chicken…

    So, my learning for next time is to look for varieties that don’t need the “de-hull” process. There are many wheat and rye varieties like this and even some “naked” oat varieties. However, as far as I know, all spelt has a hull (“glume”, I think the very technical term is) that makes processing challenging.

    Grains have a bad rap in the permaculture subculture, but I think they have an important role to play on the stage of foods and drinks. Corn is fantastically productive and barley malts like only barley does…

    Best of luck with your grains!


  74. @ Inge – I agree with you, about the “Great British Bake Off.” I was so excited when our library got a season on DVD. Watched a couple of episodes, and didn’t want to watch anymore. Just too elaborate. And cut-throat!

    Give me the “Two Fat Ladies,” any day. I have their DVDs. And, books. Sure, they have the occasional flight of fancy, but a lot of what they do is what we call, “good ol’ down home cookin’ “. I have French cook books, and Italian cookbooks. And they tend to lean toward “peasant” or country cooking. A lot of my British cookbooks are pub food. Can you beat a traditional plowman’s lunch? Lew

  75. Hi Pam,

    No, I’ve never encountered teff, but have read about it. Don’t you think that it is amazing just how many edible plants there are, and how few are shoehorned into most diets? I’m super excited about the spelt seeds as the bread wheat grew well and headed out, but my gut feeling was that this area is a bit too cold for that wheat variety. Dunno. The old school paintings I’ve seen of bread wheat stands show plants that are at least five feet tall, maybe taller – of course the people in the painting may be a bit shorter, but still, the best bread wheat plants last year grew to about 3 foot. Larger plants will have much larger root systems and thus they’ll be much hardier.

    I have never attempted to make GF breads, and can only doff my hat to the efforts that other people put towards such foods. Spelt flour by contrast makes a very dense loaf not dissimilar to a rye bread, but then I could have added olive oil into the bread mix and that would have made it fluffier, but still people consume bread wheat for a reason.

    Hehe! Love it! Yes, plant rescuers of the world unite! 🙂 And most of the time the plants are fine and they recover well.

    Well, yes, keep a critical eye on the germination rates as that will tell you what quality of seed you nabbed. Truly not a single cucumber germinated this year. Hmm.

    Oh no, sorry to hear that about the lentils.

    First lentils, and then rodents that eat cars. Yes, pesky rodents and um yeah, only those who know, know. Hope the repairs aren’t too problematic and that you son recalls to keep his fingers warm in those weather conditions? Yikes, 4WD is a bit of a necessity in such conditions. Mind you, if it happened here, what with the lock down, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go anyway. Crazy days.



  76. Hi Al,

    Thanks for the feedback and it is appreciated. Hey, the Edsyn Soldpullt SS750LS (low static model) turned up in the mail yesterday. Thanks for mentioning the device as it looks very good and is manufactured in your country. After replying here tonight I’ll start checking out the local capacitor suppliers. We have a couple of good hobbyist shops around in the big smoke, so hopefully there are no weird capacitors in any of the units, but that’s the fun of it. Decided to begin with the amplifier which is a Japanese built 30 year old unit which I’ve owned since new. It smells a bit acrid now after long use, so that is not a good sign.

    Exactly, when the worst of the winter weather arrives, you know that spring is just around the corner. And fingers crossed that the balancing act works out perfectly and that there are no floods from the snow melt.



  77. Hi DJ,

    Yeah, we’ve got seagulls along the coast, so fear not, no bin will remain unchallenged for very long! It’s a pretty funny name isn’t it?

    Getting the paper back on the typewriter rollers at the exact spot where it needed to be was a process of trial and error, so I hear you about that.

    Dogs have incredibly hard heads and if the dogs are a bit amped up (like Rahki probably was with your knee) and my face is anywhere near to them, I kind of grab their heads before they give me a Glasgow-kiss! I worry more about their heads hitting my teeth than smacking into my brain (which probably would also hurt – ouch!) I expect the dentist would make time for the ensuing emergency even in these lock down circumstances. But I’d prefer to avoid such an experience.

    Mate, as a cricket batsman, to face a fast bowler is an interesting experience. Gloves, helmet, shin protectors and especially the cup which protects the softer parts of the anatomy – well they’re all necessary items of armour let me tell you. And even then you can get injured. Only the English would come up with such a game. And you have to run hard wearing all that stuff.

    You’ve mentioned the paint factory before, and yeah all good experiences. They certainly would have assisted with empathy when dealing with people at the coal face of any activity you were involved in?

    Oh my gawd! There are more integrals. Ahhh! Please spare me the advanced math. I was explaining an interesting fact to someone yesterday who had been very critical of my preferred taste in music. In fact the inference was not quite that I was a troglodyte, but sort of in that ball park. Anyway, to set matters straight, I brought attention to the fact that my brain is full and has no room for other diversions, and if they choose to spend their energies feeling culturally superior, well so be it and I’m cool with that, but neither should they judge my choices (which I am most certainly not suggesting that you are, I just don’t even understand what I was even looking at in the integral link). Yeah, so advanced math is beyond my ken, and perhaps always will be. Sad, but I accept this limitation and hope that you understand why.

    Oh yeah, the stands are now empty due to the lock down – it looks weird to me. Everyone is going crazy down here. I wish it were not so, but unfortunately it is so. Oh well. A week of paid work has just evaporated overnight, and who knows what the consequences of all this will be? Yes, and the editor and I missed a significant anniversary last year, and I missed a significant birthday. The fines for getting caught out and about are quite extreme and something like $1600 for individuals and almost $10k for businesses. It’s not worth it.

    Snow is exciting! 🙂 Hope you enjoy a huge dump of snow, as that would be fun (at first)! We’re heading towards another run of 30’C days which is not that hot a day for a usual summer, and one of the chili plants produced a flower today. Yay!



  78. Hi Goran,

    Yes, small scale grain growing is an important activity for the future. Plus there is the serious need to produce varieties which are more suitable for local conditions than the sort of mass produced one-size-fits-all varieties which are generally available to the public. The concentration of ownership of seed producers is something that I believe to be a serious risk, but few others seem concerned, so I could well be wrong.

    Thanks for the story, and your experience will put you on a better footing in the future. 🙂

    But your story also hints at the realities of living in a temperate climate. Your produce arrives at certain times of the year, and so growing plants is but one step in that huge interlinked chain. And you have to know how to store produce, how to preserve produce, and it is hardly worth having produce if you don’t know how to cook with the stuff to produce tasty food that people are happy to eat. Each step along the path requires more knowledge and practiced skills. It’s complicated.

    Exactly, grains are important. And converting grains into sugars is a fine art too. 🙂 The editor is the brew-master here and that has taken many years to develop that skill. Sometimes just to shock people I show them the storage facilities for the wine and they always think the very worst. On the contrary if you produce your own, it is very hard to over indulge because the process is so complicated and laborious, but people don’t understand as they see that all of the wine stored is ready to be consumed just like what they see in a shop, but not so – it has to be aged.

    Did you get any snow?



  79. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! No, I probably won’t sue them, but I will send a physical letter to them. Emails are so easily ignored, but physical paper, well it takes a certain sort of person to chuck such correspondence in the bin. I’m a member of their club and they really are well intentioned and this was a one-off, but they do need the feedback otherwise whatever went on in the background might happen again.

    Yes, I have heard the claims about certain varieties being ‘slow to bolt’, but down here it only takes a day or so of stonking hot weather and those varieties bolt to seed. I don’t normally grow such varieties out of season because the effort involved in succession planting just doesn’t produce decent yields. Instead we’ve adjusted our diets to the sort of greens which grow in any one season. Actually as you probably already know, leafy greens are interesting plants and we’ve been selecting for local varieties for many years and they are super reliable now. We had to learn all that after entirely running out of leafy greens to eat one summer. Tell you a funny story too, that year we purchased books on edible weeds, but despite the stories I didn’t enjoy eating them, but if you know what you are looking for there is plenty to eat. Most people don’t have a clue about plant lore.

    Good stuff with your seed saving. Always impressive to hear of saved varieties. And you’ve got a decent mix of plant varieties. And that’s the thing isn’t it? Trialling new varieties so as to see what grows and whether it is tasty – or not.

    People keep telling me that this lock down will be extended and that does not make for good listening. Actually my paid work next week dried up because of this, so the costs are borne right across the community, but small business, casual employees and the unemployed cop it the hardest of all.

    Hehe! Yeah, I remember Melbourne! 🙂 Flinders Street station has an amazing facade. And meeting friends on the steps leading into the station used to be a bit of a thing. One of the shops just next to the steps leading into the station is a hat store, and that has been there as long as I can recall. The trams actually are pretty good and the system has been invested in in recent years with new stops so that people can get on and off again quicker. Actually they are a really nice way to get around, although the ticketing system would be bonkers for the casual user – or tourist. The water is probably the Yarra River which runs next to Flinders Street Station. I used to go rowing on that river (the more English than the English school) and not far upstream you’d think that you were in the middle of the bush. In the 90’s we used to live not far from the Fairfield Park Boathouse and Tea Rooms. We’d walk the dogs down early on a Saturday morning and consume scones fresh out of the oven with cream and jam. Yum!

    Hehe! There’s lots of graffiti, some of it good, some of it not so good, and years ago the trains were awful to ride in as every surface had been tagged and the seats were often slashed. Slinky like thing! That’s a footbridge which leads to a pedestrian tunnel under the station.

    Go the snow! And go H. She is built for the snow – you can tell by the thick double coat. Oh my, 8″ of snow is awesome and would be a lot of fun (for a while). Very wise to prove to Eleanor that you are indeed a reliable, and dare I say, respectable chaperone for the wayward H. 🙂 I shouldn’t be so flippant, each time I have tried to book the vet so as to get the two pups fixed, the universe turns against my best laid plans. The vet is only taking on emergency work right now due to the health subject which dare not be named. I tell ya what though, having a litter of 13 new puppies, I’d call that an emergency…

    Eleanor’s care giver sounds like a reliable and responsible person. How did her husband go with his health – or am I confusing this memory? I’ll salute your President on Monday and it seems most charitable to have provided your public with a holiday. Still, does it measure up to the public holidays granted by the Roman’s? How come we don’t get a Prime Muppet holiday? So many questions, so few answers.

    Glad there were no snakes in the interweb rabbit hole. This is a new thing to be aware of I guess? 🙂 Ollie seems OK on the poop front, he’s a big dog and only ate a small amount of the blood and bone and he doesn’t have access to the stuff unsupervised as the garden is fenced with him on the wrong side (according to him). The extra fertiliser must have done some good as one of the chili’s produced a flower today. Yay! We may get at least one fruit. Fingers crossed.

    Mr Greer’s theory is pretty good. On that front it surprises me that the concerns of the political parties down here and also in your country have swapped concerns on that front. I have a hunch that the labour unions are possibly funded by the retirement savings financial industry which they are heavily involved with down here. That system was raided recently in order to get some urgent needed cash moving in the economy, and you should have heard the screaming match that went on. I expect that this raiding might continue, but don’t really know. Whatever may be the case, it is cheap financing and it was an enormously popular move.

    I think the moogie is black but I haven’t had a really close look. I left some milk out for it a few weeks ago and it didn’t appear to want or need the milk.

    Yes, the oil refinery story gives me a sense of impending dread and it is hardly prudent. A year or two back we actually had a shortage of diesel fuel and can you imagine the impact that had on transport. And the fuel stored on your soil is err, probably yours. 🙂 And honestly the risk in printing money to pay for bills is not easy to dismiss, and if people overseas don’t want our dollars, well who knows what we’ll do. The fuel reserves stored here are not good and are only I believe a few weeks at most. This is a utter disaster.

    Now a rule of thumb suggests that I should end on a brighter note, and so I shall: Rude Trip: Two Brothers Go On a Naughty Place Name Tour Across UK. I must say, respect to those who have a good handle on the English language. 🙂



  80. Chris
    4 new inches of snow 3 more coming now and more tonight.
    Professor Mass’s forecasts not good ?for PNW.

    Good on the solder sucker. Try to find some solder wick from your electronics supplier it helps with removal.

    See Wikipedia : electrolytic capacitors good info!,

    Have fun !

  81. @ all, it was 4F / -15C this morning and snowing. By tomorrow (Sunday) it will snow again and it might be even colder. We are supposed to get something like 3 to 5 inches of snow Sunday through Monday. Then maybe another snow mid next week.

    @ DJ and @ Al, I got stuck in the swamp because I studied at the physical chemistry / chemical physics border in grad school. Green’s functions got a lot of use, to my chagrin. I much prefer the green functions of plants. 😉


  82. Hi Chris,
    I’m really sorry about the latest shutdown. Things have never been that extreme here and rarely is a fine collected even on bars and restaurants so they mostly just do their own thing.

    I read an article in the local paper about the facility that Marty’s girlfriend, Gwen, lived in for a long time. They have been pretty much shut down since last April as every time a resident or staff member tests positive or actually has the virus they’re required to quarantine for 28 days. Each time the 28 days is up someone tests positive again. Residents can’t have visitors, their programming is suspended and I believe they have to stay in their rooms for the most part. This also happens in nursing homes. I’ve included the article describing this situation as well as some “interesting” ways Covid cases are counted.


    In other news I have secured an appointment for the vaccine only because Doug noticed we had gotten a text from the county health department with instructions how to reserve a spot. He happened to have his phone with him when it came in and I happened to be sitting in front of my computer at that very moment. I got one of 12 appointments. Doug who’s a bit slow on the draw with the computer had the page up showing 3 openings left but by the time he clicked through to complete the process they were gone. Anyway my appointment is next Tuesday. While I’ve never been too worried about getting through it I would rather not and more importantly I would really like to see some family members who are overly afraid in my opinion of the virus so they have mostly isolated themselves.

    Cold and snow continue but looks like we’ll be through the worst of it by Tuesday and temps will be back to normal by next weekend. It’ll be like a heatwave.


  83. Yo, Chris – Well, just to set the right tone …


    It’s an omen. Of what, I know not.

    Well, weather. I haven’t glanced out the window, once, (and, I’ve been glancing out, quit a bit), that white stuff hasn’t been sifting down. Last night, it was up to a solid 8″. This morning, a good 12″. The back of my pick-ups bed, is full of snow. H isn’t having near as much fun. As the snow is deeper than she is tall. At one point, she was on her hind legs, peering over a snow drift, at some birds. And, just as we stepped back in the building … the power went out. It was out for about an hour. There was a bit of wind this morning (wind chill was brutal) and I suppose a snow laden tree, came down, somewhere. Overnight low, a steady 28F(-2.22C).

    Some of the inmates are wandering the halls, like caged beasts. Lighten up, Ladies! It will all be gone by Monday or Tuesday. I mention the Donner Party, as frequently as possible. 🙂 .

    Well, “edible” weeds. Yup, I had my poverty stricken go-around with those. Dandelions. With a bit of garlic, olive oil and salt, not half bad. But you have to catch them, young. Well, throw enough salt, sugar or fat on anything, and it’s edible.

    The boat house is quit lovely. One of the mysteries in “My Life is Murder” revolves around a “more English than the English” girl’s school. Murder in the boathouse! They have a lot of sculling, in the series. Our artist, Thomas Eakins, did a lot of people sculling. Including, the artist himself.

    I finished the series, last night. I watched the extras. Everyone bangs on about how Melbourne is another character, in the stories. I finally caught the name of the coffee shop, where everyone hangs out. “Brewster Cafe and Bar.” I wonder if it’s a real place? I thought, “I wonder if that’s where Chris scores his coffee grounds?” Ah! I see there IS a Brewsters in Port Melbourne. Couldn’t find a picture. Quiet a few of the night scenes have the gas jets, on the river, in front of the Crown Towers Hotel.

    Yes, puppies happen. Once had 12 born under my bed …

    From what I hear, Eleanor’s caregiver’s husband is doing ok. But it’s a slow recovery.

    Well, President’s Day is all about dead presidents. Not to be confused with the slang term for our money. It used to be we had a Lincoln’s Birthday holiday, and a George Washington’s birthday holiday. Then, they added Martin Luther King’s birthday. Someone must have said, “That’s too many holidays, in February! What do you think we are, Romans, or something?” So, they crammed Lincoln and Washington into one day.

    Go, Chili!

    Moogies sometimes loose their taste for milk, after they’re weaned. A bit of tuna might go over, better.

    Well, I’d say the two young men, traveling around, looking for naughty place names have too much time on their hands. How … Wayne and Garth. How … Beevis and Butthead. 🙂 . But, they are entertaining. Out on our coast, there is the very small town (nothing there but a general store) of Sappho. It has a very official State highway sign, “Entering Sappho.” I think every lesbian, in the world, has had her picture taken in front of that sign. 🙂 . It’s also frequently stolen.

    And, can we let a week go by without zombies?


    By my count, I’ve seen ten of them. And maybe, a possible 5 more. Some of them, I haven’t even heard of. Other’s, I would hesitate to call zombie movies. And, what!? No “Anna and the Apocalypse?” And, “Shaun of the Dead,” should be number one. Closely followed by “Zombieland.” So, I think this whole list, is bogus.

    Better get this sent off, before we loose the power, again. Wouldn’t that be tragic? 🙂 Lew

  84. Yo, Chris – Oh, carp! When I went to “send” I got “page unresponsive.” Boy, was it unresponsive. Wouldn’t let me cut and paste, or anything else. So, the whole darned thing, was lost. Sigh.

    Might try and reconstruct it later. Maybe not.

    Snow a foot deep, lost power for an hour, etc. etc.. Lew

  85. Yo, Chris – Well! There’s my post that I thought was lost! I was going to say that …

    Once more into the breach … Due to the snow, and vagaries of computers, the entertainment part of our program will not be shown. No white bison calf, or, 25 “best” zombie movies.

    But, here they are for your edification and amusement.

    Well, an updated weather report. The sun came out in the afternoon, and a slight bit of the snow, melted. Just a slight bit. Just enough to refreeze tonight, and make the roads slick as a whistle.

    The garbage was not picked up, yesterday. But, the postie came. So, I guess all’s right with the world. Lew

  86. Hi Al,

    Just read the good Professor’s update, and when it storms in your part of the world, it sure does produce some serious storms. 🙂

    Thanks for mentioning the solder wick, or as we call it down here desolder braid – sounds much fancier don’t you reckon? And I’ve never used the stuff before. Turns out I’d previously been doing things the hard way. However, when you work that way, when you do get to experience the easier way well, the process is far more enjoyable!

    Better get writing!



  87. Hi Claire,

    Hope you are enjoying the snow and keeping warm. 🙂

    I’m so enjoying Steve Solomon’s book on vegetable growing in Tasmania. We have a run of about 5 continuous days at around the 30’C / 86’F mark coming up between next Tuesday and Saturday. Fingers crossed the vegetables just grow during that time. The recent heavy fertilising seems to have done some good. More on this topic when I write tonight.



  88. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for your kind words, and I believe that the lock down will be extended after Wednesday given that there are new cases each day so far. Kind of makes for an odd Valentine’s Day, but I had luckily purchased another rose for the editor to plant out on Thursday just before things went crazy. We’d planned to head out this morning in search of most excellent oven fresh scones and jam, but err, not happening. Oh well. Moved rocks instead – we know how to party!

    I feel for both Marty and Gwen, and to be candid I’d be very concerned about the mental health outcomes from such treatment. We went four months last year and living in a rural area we had far greater freedoms than the city folks, but I am yet to encounter anyone who’s mental health has improved from such treatment.

    The link was behind a paywall, but reading the text in the background I kind of got the gist of the story. And yes, you have to be fast to nab the shot. You may recall that in a recent essay I posited the theory that snoozers are losers! Just kidding, the demand would be intense and you are lucky you managed to nab one of the shots.

    I hear you about that and I tend to also make allowances for others in this regard. But basically it looks like the mortality rate is hovering around the 2% mark around the globe, which means a 1 in 50 chance of dying. And there are known risk factors which can land you in that category, but you could be unlucky I guess. I dunno, if a person is in those risk categories they should be super careful and hunt out the vaccine. It really is that simple. Maybe it is my own personal philosophy, but I fully accept that something sooner or later is going to take me out, and I just try to do the best I can, whilst I can. But I hear you, oh yeah I understand your perspective.

    Hehe! When slightly above freezing is a heatwave, well let’s just say that the former snow and cold, sounds freezing as to me! 🙂 Got a brief run of 5 continuous days around 86’F coming up. Yay! Hopefully the vegetables grow and ripen. 🙂



  89. Hi Lewis,

    The white bison looked pretty awesome, like the white kangaroo. Maybe there is something in the water? 😉 It interested me that the link was to a finance oriented news website, a superstitious bunch if ever I’ve encountered one – like serious talk of animal spirits! But for all I know it could well be an omen that white bison equates to business as usual for the equities and bond markets. Good luck to them, printing money as a policy has only ever had one historical outcome and I’d like to note for the record that a difference in scale does not imply that there will be a difference in the final destination.

    I’m glad your comment didn’t disappear. So far over the past few years I’m only aware of a single comment that disappeared, so the software is pretty robust. Interestingly since things went a bit crazy about a year ago, the number of software updates has dropped dramatically. Is this a sign that peak software has been reached?

    The good Professor mentioned that power had been lost over a vast swath of your countryside. Ouch, and hope that electric heating wasn’t relied upon during such an episode. H has probably discovered her upper limits for snow, and historically the Spitz breed were larger dogs, such as Sir Poopy. Essentially they’d be the same, just smaller, although the really small fluffies act a bit odd. H on the other hand is a robust fluffy, just a bit height challenged.

    Perhaps the ladies who are feeling cabin fever need to spend a few enjoyable hours watching, or even better reading: The Shining. You however have raised the bar in this instance and mention of the Donner Party led me down a dark and winding tale of problematic choices, betrayed trust with a side serving of cannibalism. What a story. It is worth noting that survivors in such circumstances usually have a flexible mindset and a little bit of natural extra reserves. I can only hope that the ladies know of what you speak?

    Ah, a more English than the English girls school. Well, given my earlier experiences, it is only natural that I have dated one, or yes it may have been two young ladies from such an institution. They didn’t seem any better or worse than anyone else to me, so I hardly understand why people spend so much money on their kids education. The social advantage thing which they all cite, was from my experience a thing in the past and probably used to be the case, and still might be for some for all that I know. Dunno. I guess that it is a thing, but yeah I wouldn’t waste the money.

    Thomas Eakins sure had an eye for realism. Wow, what an artist.

    Coffee culture is a real thing down here. Yes, we do coffee well, but given the lock down, it is a trifle gauche to consume such fine beverages in take away containers. Standards have dropped and society is in decline. I care not for the claims of compostability, although they do eventually end up in the soil here. It amazes me that only a year or two back we had a war on waste, but the other day I observed that someone had dropped a used mask in front of the local general store. Filthy and wasteful – an impressive achievement. The editor sewed up a linen mask for both of us and they have sufficed for the entire year long episode. What has civilisation come to? But there are times when I have little choice as to the take away coffee container, and the coffee is not as good. Oh, the cafe is in Fitzroy North.

    I never quite understood the gas jets or that business, but whatever floats peoples boats. Such places give me the creeps and all I want to do is get out of there as quickly as possible. Others clearly feel differently.

    Not good, 12 puppies under a bed takes a lot of ‘splainin!

    The dead prez would be a great name for a punk band. A person can only hope that Lincoln and Washington can reconcile their differences?

    🙂 Better get writing, but I’ll chuck in a photo of the chili flowers. We’ve got about six weeks of the growing season left (maybe). If the chili’s produce fruit I’ll definitely save the seeds.

    Thank you for the information regarding the moogie and I’ll supply tuna next time.

    The two young blokes over in the UK were pretty funny. Who knew about Entering Sappho? Well I never, and may probably never read the book. Call me a prude, but Sappho’s breathless eroticism hardly describes the sort of book that would evade comment if noted at the local general store. There are times that I get the distinct impression that what is read, is noted.

    The rotters. Why not Shaun of the Dead as Number One? And I see that Jason of the hockey mask scored an honourable mention. The author clearly plays loose and fast with definitions as to what and whom is a zombie. And where was Zombieland II? Woody is da boss. Even Anna and the Apocalypse, despite the musical interludes, would rate higher than the authors choice.

    Just go to prove that if a cage fight were held between your garbo and your postie, the postie would win hands down. It wasn’t always that way, and back in the day, garbo’s didn’t rely upon robotic arms to pick up the bins. And sorry to say, but that constant exercise would have made a difference and crushed your postie.

    Moved rocks today (like yesterday) so am sympathetic to the ‘plight of the garbo’s’ (sounds like someone could write a musical score to that title).



  90. High Chris
    I just did the same type of thing that Lew did and launched a comment lead in into the ether.if it shows up fine.
    Search: Solacity a Canadian firm
    A very good 17 page paper
    “How to find happiness with LiFeP04 (Lithium Ion ) batteries”
    With the temperature limits inherent with the beast it might be prudent to provide an inexpensive room air conditioner to mitigate your high house temps in the battery area of your lovely house.
    Cheers no new snow overnight here?

  91. Yo, Chris – Well, weather. It snowed, on and off, all night. Also, a steady 32F (-0-). But, it melted a bit, yesterday. And then refroze. So there was a crust on everything, this morning. Much to H’s consternation. The crust wasn’t quite solid enough to hold her weight (10 lbs.), so she was constantly plunging, through. She’s finally “got it” that some drifts should not be tackled. Yesterday, she was on her hind legs, peering over a drift at some Little Brown Birds that had caught her attention.

    So. It’s 32F, and when the temperature starts rising, it’s not going near freezing, for the foreseeable forecast. The snow that’s coming down now, will soon turn to rain. So, the melt is on. Flooding? Always a possibility. When the power was out, for an hour, the building didn’t seem to loose much heat. We’re pretty well insulated. On average.

    Oh, I think the software problem was probably at this end. I probably picked up something, running in the background, when I did the links. Wouldn’t it be nice if they just refined the software, and left it alone. Sure, charge a toll, but quit messing about. Coming up with “improvements” that nobody wants, or asked for.

    When I was a wee small lad, we happened to drive through Donner Lake. I can still remember it, quit clearly. A haunted place. Blasted rock and stunted, wind tortured trees. A black lake that didn’t have a ripple, on it’s surface. Oh, I think most of the Inmates have enough of an old style education, that they are aware of the Donner story. Younger folk, not so much.

    Eakins was often in trouble. When he was teaching, he let refined young ladies, into his life drawing classes. Oh, my! Male nudes! I don’t think the young ladies minded, but their parents certainly did.

    No argument here. Coffee should only be drunk in a porcelain cup. Let’s show some respect! 🙂 . When I go to the Club, I always drag along a coffee mug. Besides, I get a few more ounces, than the foam containers provided.

    The gas jets have a very pagan feel, to them. At least, the way their photographed in the series. Like something ought to be sacrificed. Goats, or small children. 🙂 .

    Well, there is a band called “The Dead President’s.” They describe themselves as a rock band. There’s also a band called “The Dead Kennedy’s.” Punk, of course.

    A lot of what Sappho wrote, is very fragmentary. Every time they come up with a scrap of a line, there’s great celebrating in the classics world. A lot of the speculation on her personal life, is just that. Speculation. But, the top drawer classic writers thought highly of her. Often referred to her as “The Tenth Muse.”

    Yeah, the zombie movie list was rubbish. But, there were quit a few obscure, older ones I’d like to see. Probably won’t happen.

    Our Postie is very thin, and of the ginger persuasion. But he and his also thin wife, are often setting out on long treks through the wilderness. And, they garden, quit a bit. They may not look it, but I think there both tough as. And, he’s a thoroughly nice guy. Lew

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