Groundhog Day

Another week, and we’re in yet another lock down due to the health subject which dares not be named. For the next few days across the entire state, there are only a few reasons to be caught more than 5km (3.1 miles) away home. To be caught further away from home than that usually incurs an epic fine. In a rural area this presents something of a dilemma, if only because the local general store is 11km (6.8 miles) away from the farm by road. Fortunately there are allowances for folks living in rural areas, but does anyone really want to argue with the local constabulary? But officer, the extra distance by road is due to the quirks of geology within the mountain range, and the actual distance should be measured as the crow flies! Such arguments rarely hold water, and who knows, the constabulary might have quotas to meet?

You treat such times like an exam. There is first the preparation time for the exam: Are the cupboards full? Do we have enough milk for 5 days of coffee?? Then there is the exam time: when you eat your way through the garden and stores in the cupboard. We’re much better prepared than at this same time last year, and that’s despite having less than a dozen rolls of toilet paper on hand. The toilet paper madness last year would make a fine thesis topic for a psychology student. Never made any sense to me.

Despite the lock down, world events continue along apace. Coffee which was served in washable porcelain last week, is I’m guessing this week served in take away containers. Civilisation, is sadly now not what it once was, and true connoisseurs of the beverage will immediately discern the difference. And the waste that is use-once coffee cups will only grow. Oh, and yeah, last week it was also announced that one of the three remaining oil refineries on this continent is to be converted to an import terminal. The reason given was that apparently the refinery business is no longer economically viable. A bit of a shame that, if only because we sure do use a lot of oil and its various refined products, and there are some rough waters between this continent and the next nearest refinery.

We use a lot of fossil fuels on the farm. At least a litre (a quarter gallon) of fuel was used over the past few days at the farm. The power wheelbarrow is an amazing machine and it can be used to bring heavy rocks back up the hill. We also use it to move soil from the new shed excavation site down the hill to the low gradient ramp project.

The power wheelbarrow is used to bring heavy rocks back up the hill

It’s a handy bit of kit that yellow machine. Observant readers will also note that in the above photo, the sunny orchard can be seen, as well as a frolicking Kelpie sheepdog. There are three distinct and separate orchards on the farm (sunny, shady and new), and in the past couple of years the shady orchard has grown much faster than the sunny orchard. The difference in growth rates has been something of a mystery, until recently.

The shady orchard has grown much faster than the sunny orchard

In the above photo a Kelpie sheepdog can be seen standing upon a path leading from the house to the chicken enclosure. The path runs through the shady orchard. The rock lined paths sure make for pleasant walking conditions during the depths of winter. Those paths in particular are lined with the locally quarried crushed rock with lime. Turns out that using fossil fuels to bring the locally quarried material back to the farm was a good investment. The lime from the paths has clearly leached into the soil, and the fruit trees have grown that much faster than the fruit trees have in the sunny orchard (where there is no limed path).

Lime as everyone knows is a calcium-containing inorganic mineral. And calcium is used in plants for cell division (i.e. growing) as well as ensuring high seed production (i.e. fruiting). Talk about a D’Oh! moment, and the difference between the two orchards is becoming harder to ignore. Turns out that areas with high rainfall (defined as about 800mm or 31.4 inches per annum) like here, are generally deficient in calcium. Yeah, tell me about it.

And just to make sure that the lesson was not lost on me, the two olive trees in the courtyard behind the house are surrounded by a sea of crushed rock with lime, and they are the fastest growing fruit trees on the property.

The two olive trees in the courtyard behind the house are the fastest growing fruit trees on the property

To look at the olive trees now, you wouldn’t know that only a few months ago they were pruned back to bare branches.

Whenever I head into the big smoke of Melbourne I visit a favourite cafe / coffee roaster. Whilst there enjoying a coffee, I relieve them of their used coffee grounds – for free. Fossil fuels are of course used to bring the coffee grounds back to the farm, but it really is no hardship to enjoy a coffee (and muffin) and score some minerals for the orchard. And I’m in the big smoke anyway, so why not? Coffee grounds are generally considered to be a waste product for the coffee industry, but they contain an awful lot of minerals which plants need to grow.

As an experiment, over the past year the ‘new’ orchard has had several thousand kilograms (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds) of coffee grounds applied to the soil surface. In addition to the coffee grounds, most of our wood ash was also applied, and all that was topped off with a years worth of the chickens soiled bedding straw (sugar cane mulch). After only a year of such activities, the results have been impressive.

The new orchard is looking pretty good given it is only a bit over a year old

Over the past decade, we’ve probably brought in over 600 cubic metres (780 cubic yards) of composts and mulches. Looking around the farm, you’d be hard pressed to know where that small mountain of organic matter now was. Turns out that the soils were way poorer than we may have originally understood them to be, and mulch and compost may not be supplying everything the fruit trees need.

Bringing back soil minerals to the farm is not as easy to do when you are in the midst of a lock down due to the health subject which dare not be named. You’re unable to travel far without the very real risk of being treated like a walking ATM by the authorities, so for now extra soil minerals may have to wait.

The first lock down last year went for four months. It’s kind of hard to explain what that lock down felt like, but here we go again leaves a sinking feeling in the pit of your gut. During that first lock down, a little voice at the back of mind suggested that this shock to everyday life, was a time to get your house in order, for a change is coming. Not sure what the change may be, and for all I know I’m wrong. But the feeling remains.

Moping during this lock down may be an option, however it isn’t the option that we have chosen! Despite setbacks, the juggernaut lurches ahead. A couple of days were spent bringing large and heavy rocks both up and down the hill. The large and heavy rocks are being used to construct a terrace near to the head of the low gradient path which leads down into the orchards. The next photo will put the new terrace into some context. The house and sheds can almost be seen in the top right hand corner of the photo.

Plum admires the new terrace under construction
Many of the rocks weigh almost as much as I do, and far more than Plum does

The new terrace now has two layers of very large rocks retaining soil. The terrace will be used to store firewood which is even now seasoning out in the weather. Firewood has to be seasoned because the process removes the sugars and other chemicals which prevent the timber from burning well. And the process of seasoning can take upwards of two years.

Observant readers will note that in the very top of the above photo is a jumble of materials which are used in various projects around the farm. Due to maintaining perceptions of extreme neatness at the farm, closer photos of this total mess will not be shown! However the editor came up with the bright idea of continuing the new terrace so that we can neaten up this total mess. With that new idea in mind, more large rocks were recovered. Soil was then dumped into the site, and the terrace has now been extended. At this stage, it is possible the new terrace may eventually be extended by another 10 metres (30+ feet).

Oh no! The mess of materials can be seen

The final steel rock gabion cage retaining the soil where the greenhouse now sits, was sewn up. That project has gone on for years. Woe is me though, for peak rocks is very real, and I forgot to mention above, that the very large rocks recovered were often broken off even larger rocks, using the drill and jackhammer.

The final steel rock gabion cage near the greenhouse was sewn up

Late summer produce update:

Over the past week or so there has been the occasional day that was sort of hot, but then it rained again. A 20kg (44 pound) of blood and bone was added to the vegetable garden terraces. The tomatoes have responded by growing.

After a decent feed and some sun and rain, the tomatoes have grown
Some of the tomatoes have some size to their fruit, but none have yet ripened

The feeding plus some sun and rain have also caused the chili’s to produce some flowers. Realistically there are only about six weeks of the growing season left, and after that another four weeks of much slower growth, but who knows whether the plants will produce ripe fruits?

Chili’s have produced some flowers

The corn also seems to have appreciated the combination of sun and rain.

Corn has also responded well to the sun and rain

Most of the grapevines have now reached the top of the growing wire in their enclosure. Every few days the vines get redirected so that they grow along the two stainless steel cables which support them.

Grape vines have mostly reached the top wire, and the strawberry runners are feral

Peas and Beans have grown very well this season. Gardening lore suggests that these plants over winter in parts of Australia, and this may well be true. But, experience suggests that the winters in this part of the mountain range are too cold for them to survive. In the meantime there are lots of peas and beans to eat.

Beans in profusion hang off the vines

The farm must be near perfect conditions for Kiwi fruit, as they are prolific producers. Last year we picked the fruit green and let it soften and ripen in the house where they stayed fresh for months. Home grown Kiwi fruit can brighten up a winters breakfast.

Kiwi fruit hang off the vines in profusion

Onto the flowers:

It is not often that cacti enjoy shady conditions such as this garden bed
The succulent garden is growing very well and many of the varieties are flowering
We missed eating this Globe Artichoke and they make stunning flowers
It doesn’t get cheerier than this
Geraniums are enjoying the brief few days of warmer weather
Many of the Geraniums are real show stoppers

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 15’C (59’F). So far this year there has been 208.2mm (8.2 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 198.0mm (7.8 inches).

71 thoughts on “Groundhog Day”

  1. Yo, Chris – Lockdown. It really does hit different people, in different ways. I’m not a social creature. So, there are aspects of it, that are low stress, for me. Scott, on the other hand, is not holding up, well. Even with three on-line meetings a week, and other internet contacts, he is a person who thrives on personal, face-to-face contact. I don’t think Eleanor would be doing well, at all, were it not for our hour or so evening chin wags.

    I do occasionally wonder what it would have been like (not good) if this had happened when I had my tat store, or bookstore. Or, even if I had worked for the library, or for the big bookstore chains? I think I saw a headline that New Zealand was heading back into lockdown, again. But I think you’re right. This is, perhaps, a dress rehearsal for gosh knows what. You’ve got the right attitude. Do. Don’t mope.

    I think the whole toilet paper thing was about feeling in control. And, other people fixated on other things. It’s just that toilet paper got the headlines, and was at the top of the list. (See: poop jokes.) It’s kind of like, a dirty dish never sits in my sink. It’s a holdover from when I was drunk, most of the time. I always felt that if the sink was under control, than my life was under control. Doesn’t make sense, but from the inside, it felt like that.

    So, is that one of those new driverless power wheelbarrows? Be sure and carry your device, so it can detect you, and you don’t get run down πŸ™‚ . That sure has been a useful tool for you. Fast approaching “worth it’s weight in gold.”

    Well, the crushed rock with lime. Well, there’s that old saying by Sherlock Holmes. “It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Your powers of observation are very good. You just needed enough data to have your “Ah ha!” moment. You know, you might think about putting as much crushed rock, as possible, at the highest points of the farm. Eventually, it will all percolate, downhill. Just a thought.

    Will you build terrace houses, on the new terrace? You can flog them in the PR literature by saying, “Scenic Views of the Total Mess!” πŸ™‚ . They don’t have to be large.

    http://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/article/londons-narrowest-house-for-sale

    Speaking of real estate, my friends in Idaho, mentioned something interesting. When they bought their house on the golf course, it was the only house there. In fact, they bought the display house, at a considerable discount. In the entire 7 years they were there, not another single lot sold. In the last month, 17 lots have sold.

    Your tomatoes and chili’s are in a race with the weather. I think they’ll win out. If nothing else, there are plenty of uses for green tomatoes and chili’s. It won’t be a total loss. Looks like your corn is getting very close to harvest. I see some of those tassels are drying out.

    Your grape and strawberry runners are doing really well. We have a bed here, with strawberries at one end, and rhubarb at the other. A communal patch, but I take care of it. And the rest of the commune, doesn’t seem very interested.

    I envy you your green beans. I used the last of mine, out of the freezer. But, I have a good bit of seed, put away for next year. Your Kiwi are a wonder, at least from this latitude. That is one serious cactus.

    Boy, you can really tell that the globe artichokes are a relative of the thistle. Are you going to try and save seed from that bad boy? I’m going to make another attempt at cardoon, this year. Another thistle relative, I think. I’m also going to make another attempt at blue geraniums, this year. Direct sowing of seed was a wash out. I’ll try and start a couple, inside. Lew

  2. Hi Al,

    Ah, not sure, but it was you whom I had in mind who had previously lost a comment. It’s pretty rare with this software, and actually it may have something to do with when I chuck the website into maintenance mode. That could certainly do what you both described.

    I’ve already found happiness with LiFeP04 (Lithium Ion ) batteries. But you raise a good point, which I had considered. The controllers and inverter are both made to be rated to 55’C ambient air temperatures without de-rating – a nice bonus for locally made items. The batteries, well I don’t really know but it might not get hot enough in that room to be a problem (so far it hasn’t been hotter than about 30’C). I have a truck fan bolted to the floor just in case and if needed it can blow cold air into the room from under the house. πŸ˜‰

    Cheers

    Chris

  3. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, I’m in a state of acceptance about the lock down, but at the same time I am up to my eyeballs in the economic side of that story, so it becomes hard to ignore. People in rural areas are a bit dark about the situation, and the losses from Valentines Day would have been enormous. Most florists and flower wholesalers make about a quarter of their annual profit on that one day, so yeah, lots of waste and that would be the tip of the iceberg.

    But yeah I hear you about Scott. I’m not mucking around when I say for the record that few peoples mental health has been improved by the current events. I could live happily as a hermit as long as I had a few dogs for company, but everyone is different in that regard.

    That’s awesome to consider, like how would you have coped if your were still running your store and had to front the public? It is an interesting subject and I’m careful to observe how people are going on that front. The economic woes of this are weighing upon them, but others are worried about the health subject which dare not be named, whilst others are just getting on with each day as it presents itself – that’s life in small business. But the past twelve months I haven’t been able to shake the little voice suggesting that this is the time to get ones house in order. I’m not sure that economic damage is going to be as we know it – forces are moving in some directions and I read today that apparently responsible lending practices are going to be relaxed, with all that entails.

    It was a bit fixated, and there are times I wonder if we were the laughing stock of other parts of the world – yeah look at the people beating each other up over toilet paper. It got extreme for a while, but then we were locked down for four months, so dunno. But it is weird you mention control, but I’ve seen people in difficult predicaments find a sense of calm through being able to control one minor aspect, even whilst chaos reigns around them. And your sink story speaks to that for sure, and I get that need. Hey, it makes you wonder what the Donner party was really like during the worst episodes.

    Not sure there are any computers in that power wheelbarrow machine, thankfully. πŸ™‚ The talk is such that if it were to break it would be repaired (and it’s regularly serviced already). But if it couldn’t be repaired, it’d be replaced. The machine has been something of a game changer here, and it can get into small spots and go up and down steep inclines safely, so yeah it is a winner. It was one of those machines that we purchased without any clear idea whether it would be any good or not – it was a gamble.

    Thanks, and Mr Holmes is a wise man and worthy of emulation. πŸ™‚ The differences between the two orchards is becoming harder to ignore. It is possibly one of the great challenges of our time to use the energy that we have yet available to us to improve the fertility of the soils and biosphere. But I doubt such a task would fire the imagination of the population. A bit of a shame that, because historically local mineral deficiencies were a real problem with real world health implications.

    The entire house is surrounded by crushed rock with lime, and unsurprisingly the gardens around the house are verdant – even in the driest and hottest of years. Hmm.

    Hehe! Imagine how could a person be a real hermit if there are tiny houses on the new terrace? πŸ™‚ Thanks for the link to the narrow house. It’s pretty cool and I wonder however did anyone get that past the local authorities. Makes you wonder if the building now sits on a narrow lane which was once an access to stables? A very few buildings in the oldest part of the big smoke have access for horses to stables which once must have been at the rear of the buildings.

    Yeah, the real estate thing is crazy here too. What once took a year to sell, now sells in under a week. Crazy, and very odd as it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence in the race between the chili’s and the weather. I’m hoping it works out OK, but don’t really know. If nothing else I’ll save seed from the tomatoes. Ah, thanks for the corn tassle tip too as I’ve read a lot about the plant but have only grown them for a couple of years. I’m reading about how it might be a good thing to use hybrid varieties of plants to bring genetic diversity to open pollinated varieties and might trial the idea next year – for some varieties which are a bit marginal like melons, it couldn’t hurt.

    Do you get many strawberries from the patch in season?

    I’m intending to pick all of the peas tomorrow and shell them and dry the seeds. The plants have been particularly vigorous but are now near the end. The beans on the other hand have a ways to go yet.

    Hey, the kiwi fruit grow next to the limed path – just sayin. πŸ™‚

    Hehe! Nah I won’t save seed this year as the globe artichokes are easily divided here and they’re super hardy. We planted about 30 plants earlier in the season and they’re all growing fast, so next summer there should be plenty of chokes to eat. The flowers are stunners and they are very much thistle like (you wouldn’t want to try eating one of those at that stage in their cycle – ouch as they have fine fibres which are very unpleasant).

    I wasn’t sure what cardoon was. Ah, tis a Globe Artichoke by another name. You won’t regret it they’re a favourite vegetable. I’m intrigued by your blue geranium and am sorry to hear that none germinated. If at first direct sowing is a washout, try inside. And if that fails something mysterious may be afoot: Hundreds of Victorian home gardeners angry and out of pocket after using toxic compost from major recycler Suez. Yikes! My lot comes from a large family business, and so far I’m not seeing what they see, but it is a note of caution.

    Oh no, well at least H wasn’t lost in the snow? And I’m not hearing in your words that it was a white out blizzard, so that is a good thing at least. Well done H, don’t let the weather stop a good opportunity to bark and harass some birds. The two sheep dogs would get along with H just fine as they like that too. Bizarrely enough they’re not fans of late afternoon hot summer sun, which is meant to be a breed trait. I’ve no doubts we got the runts of the litter, but they’re great dogs.

    Hope there is no flooding. Have you heard of any reports of such? And yup, if ya gonna heat something, you might as well try and keep the heat.

    Makes you wonder how the donner party heated their temporary shelters in that snow? Bonkers.

    I expect that a lot of software people would be out of a job if software was declared good enough! No wonder they bang on about disruptors – they just never said what was being disrupted i.e. their jobs I’m guessing. πŸ˜‰

    Don’t you reckon every generation believes that morals and standards were somehow better back in the day? It must be some sort of conceit built into the culture.

    Gotta bounce!

    Cheers

    Chris

  4. I live in a part of Wisconsin that is called the “Driftless Area”. When glaciers shove and tumble rock, what they leave when they recede is called drift. This makes for good remineralization of the soils. The glaciers for some reason bypassed this area of the upper midwest, so the terrain is much different than the plains and rolling hills of the rest of the country. So we are driftless.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driftless_Area
    The soils here are old, and even though a lot of the area is underlain by limestone geology, the upper soil strata can often be rather “tired”. Some of this is also because of the poor faming practices that were employed by the early European settlers.
    (end of geology lesson)

    So, I’m continuously ( maybe obsessively?) striving to improve soil fertility, and importing minerals and compost. I also have this unsettling feeling that time is short to get our house in order, maybe similar to yours?

    Lime, or the calcium it provides is essential, but phosphorus is the linchpin for all biological activity that worries me most. As a culture, we don’t close the loop and recycle it, and are depleting the concentrated deposits, so things gotta change.

    gardening- Warmth loving veggies are a close thing here, and starting indoors is essential. Last year our peppers took FOREVER to blossom and ripen. We waited till the very last day before frost to harvest some varieties, and many were still not ready and succumbed. There are also usually a few tomatoes that are still green at first frost, but most mature in time for nice harvest.

    BTW- I save all the egg shells from our chooks, and crush them finely. This goes back out to the garden and the trees.

    Valentine’s Day- no restaurant dinner for us, (the health subject that dare not be named) so I used a grilling basket and did up steaks over the embers in our Russian furnace. They came out fine. Chocolate was also consumed. We have a chocolate lava cake recipe that is easy and works well for us.

  5. Hello Chris
    Your place looks ever more amazing, a monument to hard work.
    Here the weather has warmed up thank goodness, 47F in town today. It has been below or on freezing for quite awhile with an appalling added wind chill.
    Town was depressing though an aura of gloom hangs over everything including the people. Practically everything is closed.
    Nuff said, I’ll keep my opinions to myself. Though I’ll add that they are planning to trial the vaccines on children. What parent would permit this? Son has suggested that they’ll use the children in care homes. Ye gods!

    Inge

  6. @ Lew
    Here I get pernickety about porcelain. Are you sure that you drink coffee out of porcelain? I drink coffee out of a china mug but tea out of a porcelain cup. If you hold your mug up to the light and can’t see the shadow of your fingers showing through then it isn’t porcelain My apologies in advance if you are well aware of the fact.

    Inge

  7. Yo, Chris – I’d say, “getting on with each day” is the best strategy. But I wonder if I would have been able to resist the siren song of loans, to keep the business going? From what I understand (a limited understanding), there are some outright grants available. And, a lot of business loans. Our local antique mall (which was on shaky financial footing, even before the closures) got an SBA loan. Small Business Administration. I asked the owner if it was a fixed rate of interest. He really didn’t know. There have been serious problems, in the past, with SBA loans, that had variable rates of interest. When I saw him later, he said it was a fixed (very low) interest rate. But still …

    Back when I was a kid, there was a saying, that one heard a bit. Might have just been specific to my family. “Going into hock.” Which originally related to the pawn business, but later, took on a meaning of taking on any kind of debt. And, it was not a good thing. Another old saying is, “Selling your inheritance for a mess of potage.” Thank you, Old Testament.

    Of course, looking back is futile. And, my situation was unique. The business was my squat, and I had very few personal obligations, money wise. I’d hope I’d close up the store, for the duration, and go out and get a job, for income. There are jobs around. Every time I go into my local grocery store, at least once (and, I’m in and out pretty fast) blaring over the loudspeaker is a notice of jobs available. With all the fringe benefits. I’ve noticed that there’s been a bit of turn over, in the staff.

    Well, you weren’t alone in the world, as far as the fixation on toilet paper … rolled. There were reports from just about every developed country. And some, not so developed ones.

    I think there is an awareness of peak fertilizer and minerals. There are books, there are articles, such as the one I linked to, last week. That was in a national magazine. But I think the only people who fret about it are those who are directly involved in food production. And only the small producers and home gardeners. There is concern and awareness, but only in the nooks and crannies. That was a horrible story about contaminated compost. And it sounds like (is it real, liability) the can is just getting kicked around.

    The tiny house in London was probably built at a time when building laws were loose, or, officials more easily paid off πŸ™‚ . But, I think you’re right. It was probably a lane or service alley. I’ve seen some old maps of downtown Centralia, that are really detailed. Besides streets and commercial buildings, they also show where stables, stable yards and even privies were located. As cars and sewer systems came in, those spaces were filled with more commercial space.

    Corn (for me) is always a bit fraught as to when to pick. Generally, the tassle should be all dry and brown, and a bit of the husk, too. There were enough strawberries that I got a couple of gallons, off the patch. But, being a communal patch, I had the same problem I have with the blueberries. I have to leave enough in case anyone else wants to pick. To avoid social censure. Usually from people who can’t be bothered to stir their sticks, and get out and pick there own.

    Cardoons aren’t quit globe artichokes.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardoon

    I’m interested as you can get vegetable rennet from them, to make cheese. Which I would like to try. As, in future, there might not be a lot of calf guts, about. Which is where rennet usually comes from. Besides, they’re a good pollinator attractor.

    The weather. Yesterday morning, the temperature edged above -0-C. And, continued to climb, slowly all day and even all night. We’re now at a balmy 37F (2.77C). There’s a bit of warmish rain, so the snow is on the run. No flood warnings, yet, other than urban flooding, due to drains clogged with snow. Night before last, a very small snow plow cut a single path, through our parking lot. It took me awhile to figure out what that was all about. It was a channel to the parking lot drain.

    H was displaying some rather bizarre behavior, last night. There were several places where someone had stepped in the snow, leaving a hole about a foot deep. For some reason, she became entranced with something at the bottom of those holes. So, she stuck her whole head in to get a good long sniff. So all I could see of her was her tail, pointed skyward.

    Yup. Myths of a Golden Age. Always sometime in the past. And sometimes, not even the distant past. Even the Greeks and Romans were given to that kind of nonsense. Nostalgia, through rose colored glasses. Lew

  8. Good Day Punxsutawney Chris,

    Great to see the gorgeous growth and the likely link to the lime!

    Regarding the morals and standards and looking back, I think that is connected to where we are on the civilizational roller-coaster. I just read about how the Christian theologians in the 5th century looked back (during the last breaths of the Western Roman Empire) at the morals and standards that had led to that situation. They formulated the theory and practice of “cardinal sins” and “cardinal virtues” to guide their monastic followers to avoid that particular outcome.
    I think that when we are close to the peak of any civilization, the dominant mood is for entertainment, comfort, luxury and lust.
    A far cry from Temperance, Humility and Gratitude etc. that was proclaimed by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius.

    I guess that a new religion will be founded on a monastic Order of the Crushed Limestone, venerating the holy Globe Artichoke. With an insider greeting: “May You Never Run Out of Rocks”.
    In the rubble of a Very Big Smoke, many years from now, the legend will be passed from mouth to mouth, about the Dutiful Dog’s Place where kiwi abundantly grew…

    A side joke that captures the mood of a declining society, from Russia in the end of the 1990’s:
    Ivan: “Good old Sasha, how are you?”
    Sasha: “Not bad. Better than tomorrow…”

    Enjoy the beans!
    GΓΆran

  9. Hi Chris,

    I see that your interest in re-mineralization is prompted by your observations of your different orchards and the relative rates of growth of the trees in each. I think you are on to something (and doing an excellent job of applying the scientific method, BTW). Your very old soils, like the soils in the southern US which was not run over by glaciers, are likely to be deficient in some minerals, particularly calcium because rain readily leaches it from the topsoil into the subsoil and then into the groundwater.

    As your soil improves you will probably not need to import as many minerals, as I am finding in my own garden. And by doing it now, while the minerals are still easy to get and not too expensive (in some cases free, as with your wood ashes and the coffee grounds), you will be in a better situation when all you can get are locally sourced materials.

    Steve Solomon is a fine writer. It’s difficult to make soil chemistry readable for people who don’t have a background in chemistry, but he does it. I’m grateful he passed his hard-won knowledge on to the rest of us.

    Your lockdown is worse than anything we were subjected to. We were, and still are, encouraged to visit Missouri’s parks and conservation areas to hike and enjoy nature, as long as we stayed socially distanced. In the county Mike and I live in, we continue under the kinder gentler lockdown, in which we are limited to gathering with only the 10 people that we designate as our support bubble. Occupancy limits for businesses, including restaurants and bars, were increased to 50% of the rated occupancy (from 25%) last week, and restaurants and bars can now remain open till 11pm. Cases of that which cannot be named are falling, but the gathering limit may not be lifted until spring comes.

    We are watching a major winter storm (for St. Louis) from inside the house. It was snowing and 1F / -17C this morning, though it has warmed to 4F / -15C and snowing right now. The lowest the temperature has gone is -1F / -18C on Sunday morning. The temperature was last above freezing on Feb. 5. The front porch dropped to 20F / -7C the past two nights, but the two citrus trees I left on it (because they are too large to bring in the house) seem to be hanging on. We did have some sun yesterday and we opened the door to the house so the air warmed by the wood heater could enter the porch. The porch warmed up to about 50F / 10C. Tomorrow we are forecast to receive some sun, and it’s supposed to warm up, relatively speaking, on Wednesday. By Saturday the temperature may go above freezing for the first time in two weeks.

    I am pleased to report that our electrical utility is not among those south of us that are experiencing demand so high that rolling blackouts had to be imposed to prevent damage to the electric plants: https://www.wunderground.com/article/news/news/2021-02-15-winter-storm-uri-texas-power-outages-impacts It’s rare for me to have warm fuzzy feelings about our electrical utility, but today I have them!

    Claire

  10. Hi Chris,

    Nice bit of A/B testing there with the different orchards. That’s a technique I use a lot at work. Configure two systems with only limited (ideally one) difference between them as see what happens. In practice, it’s always hard to know what the differences really are between two systems.

    Take the differences between Victoria and NSW in relation to that which shall not be named. Same thing which shall not be named, pretty much the same weather (give or take), same governance system, but radically different outcomes. Dunno if you saw the pictures today of the people with garbage bags over their heads being removed from the quarantine hotel on Flinders St. That apparently made news around around the world which doesn’t surprise me. I think we may have reached a new low.

    My first question: why on earth is there a quarantine hotel literally in the middle of the city? Second question: why couldn’t they take those poor people out the back door instead of making them run the media gauntlet? Third question: couldn’t somebody have given them a towel or something rather than a garbage bag? Fourth question: how is Dandrews still Premier?

    Interesting about the calcium. I heard a story once which may or may not be true that people in Europe used to put eggshells in their coffee. In the low pH of a coffee percolator the calcium apparently runs right out and into the coffee. Nice one to think about if the zombie apocalypse hits. For now, I’ll continue crushing them and putting them on the garden, although I should probably start feeding them to the chickens.

  11. Hi Steve,

    You live in a fascinating area, and yup, old soils make for difficult growing conditions for vegetables. Glaciation was not a thing in this mountain range either and so like your area (like the name too of driftless, it sort of sounds like a lack of drifter’s) the soils are old. Not much else you can do other than top them up and hope for the best.

    And the exact thing happened here too. First the original forest was harvested (hugely tall trees at almost 300ft), then the area was put to potatoes and berries, and for soil fertility it was like the death of a thousand cuts.

    No, I to share this obsession, as do some others here (and I shall out Claire) and between us all, it is possible that this is the great work that needs doing, but probably won’t be done other than a few small locations where people understand the need to act.

    The thing with phosphorus is that the original forests grew quite well as do many exotic trees despite the reports of phosphorus shortages in the soil, so I’ve been wondering of late whether the fungi can access phosphorus on behalf of the tree species? And tilling such soils really kills off the fungi, so I dunno. It would be extremely complicated to have a no-til vegetable bed where the fungi thrive along with the bacteria and other soil critters. Dunno, but I’m considering that story. But yes, I agree as a society we seem to have sadly taken wasting mineral opportunities to 11 on the dial.

    Thank you for confirming that, and your description may exactly meet the growing conditions I’m experiencing this season. I’m on the hunt for vegetables that do well in these conditions and am breeding plants that perform well, but it is very complicated and also a slow process.

    Ah, a wise move. All the egg shells here go into the worm farm which provides all year round fodder for the wildlife which they then spread the fertility throughout the orchard and surrounding forest, as well as bringing in unexpected minerals.

    Nice one, and chocolate lava cake sounds superb. Well done you. πŸ™‚ The editor enjoyed chocolate Lindt balls with coffee and we purchased another rose for her rose garden. Yum!

    Cheers

    Chris

  12. Hi Inge,

    Thanks and I really enjoy the neatness of the rock gabion cages, and they effortlessly retain a huge amount of soil. How they’ll work in the long term is anyone’s guess, but it is possible that the rocks will settle over time as clay infiltrates the steel cages.

    πŸ™‚ I’d like to suggest that nobody has ever died of hard work, but that would probably not be a true statement. Brought the garden hoe into action today and weeded the vegetable beds – it was very satisfying. Then harvested and shelled all of the peas which will be dried over the next few weeks. I’m amazed how prolific the peas were and next year we’ll expand the plantings. They’re far more productive than lentils. And to finish off in the hot late afternoon summer sun, I removed many blackberry canes from the garden bed adjacent to the house. An elimination strategy would be almost useless as the plants are super hardy.

    Oh, the wind chill would make your weather feel much colder than it is. Stay warm. 86’F here today and that looks set to continue for the next four days, so hopefully the tomatoes get a wriggle on and begin to ripen.

    Yes, you experience with your local town matches mine, and it sure is quiet. Lock down was meant to finish after tomorrow, but it seems hardly likely that this will occur now.

    Your son knows his history well. And back in the day orphanages and prisoners were often apparently used as guinea pigs. Yes, institutional living is not all that it might be cracked up to be.

    Your daughters are in better locations than this state.

    Cheers

    Chris

  13. G’day Punxsutawney Goran,

    πŸ™‚ How good was that film? Bill Murray is da man!

    Thanks and the differences in growth rates between the three orchards became harder to ignore and the final clue was provided by way of a book that I’m currently reading. And the experiments in soil re-mineralisation across the farm over the past decade have been enlightening to say the least. A whole lot of materials have been brought back here.

    Intellectuals have long pointed to sins and virtues and I’m guessing reality sits somewhere in between those points? It interests me that Plato suggested the cardinal virtues in his concept β€˜The Republic’. But gawd help us all if ever a philosopher king is seated on the throne of power, that fear would be only second to seating a very efficient clerk on such a high estate. What a nightmare that would be, and few would measure up to the high standards so proposed.

    But yes, the virtues do point the way to a better life, although I’m not sure that many people nowadays get that message and I agree with your analysis of the current situation. People are pretty comfortable, so the fear becomes rocking the established order and subversion is planting an edible garden. Strange days.

    Hehe! Thanks, that’s funny and the insiders greeting was a hoot. πŸ™‚ Peak rocks is real. Hey, did you see that Shell has apparently called peak oil for their production?

    One of the great challenges of our time is to re-mineralise the soils. Society seems determined to go the other way in this activity.

    Better than tomorrow!!!! Thanks for the laughs. If only it weren’t also sort of true. I dread to see what the news tomorrow will bring.

    Cheers

    Chris

  14. Hi Claire,

    The difference in growth rates is becoming harder to ignore between the three orchards. Thank you for introducing me to the writings of Steve Solomon and I’ll nab a copy of the intelligent gardener. His book on producing vegetables in Tasmania is, despite the authors claims to the contrary, discussing a climate and soils that are reasonably similar to this mountain range on the mainland. Other books I’ve read are written for warmer climes than at this locale, so the book was an eye opener.

    Glad to hear of your experience. The thought of spreading large quantities of agricultural lime or dolomite over the orchards sends a chill through the budget. Oh well, it probably needs to be done, and I’m guessing that it is one of the great challenges facing society – which inevitably we’ll mostly fail abysmally at. I mean if it was going to be done at any scale, that job already would have been done.

    Thanks for understanding about the lock down, and it is meant to finish tomorrow night at midnight, but I am having reservations that this will not now occur. Spare a thought for the poor folks living in the far north west of the state not far from the desert, with no cases at all, and having to wear a mask outside at all times in 40’C weather in the shade. It’s not right.

    Oh my gawds! Your weather is like super-cold from my perspective. Is such late winter weather usual? I have it on good authority that your citrus will be cold hardy down to -9’C / 15’F for brief spells as long as they are kept out of the winds, which would be the case on your porch. But I probably would expect the trees to be a little shocked by the cold weather.

    Claire, I so hear you about the electricity. There are times recently down here where large generators are being permanently taken out of the grid and replaced with I dunno, maybe nothing that reliable. And at such times I think to myself that that is a really bad idea, but if you must, yeah give it a go and see what happens. I’ve come around to the thought that by way of explanation to other people that if plants are not growing, there is little energy to be had from the sun. But candidly I have strong reservations that renewable technologies can replace fossil fuels, although they eventually will do so, but maybe not as some techno-utopians may current imagine it to be.

    Cheers

    Chris

  15. Hi Simon,

    It’s a great testing regime, and kudos to you for employing it. Unfortunately there are a few extra variables between the three orchards, but the limed paths were a major difference. And it really is hard to ignore the increased rate of growth and fruit production with the trees near to the paths. Now where to get a few trailer loads of agricultural lime and dolomite will I suspect be an interesting question. Do you have any leads on this? Hey, one of the kiwi fruit vines is right next to path and that plant is like a Triffid compared to the other two kiwi fruit vines.

    Yeah, the differences between the two states outcomes are marked. Mate, I dread to see what tomorrow’s news will bring, and how would you be if you were far to the north of Melbourne where there are no cases and a major event had been planned and then cancelled, like Swan Hill? Regional Victoria wears the blunt arm of the lockdown law. This one has not been popular in the bush and it sure is quiet up here.

    I didn’t see the images of the people with garbage bags over their heads during the evacuation. But I listened to the radio today and the news was not good. Certainly that whole disaster is not a good look, and did you note the arguments came down in the end to the classic ‘he said, she said’ style? Impressive to see the argument employed.

    Well it looks like your first question may get an answer. It certainly does look like something of a blunder. You know I hear people talking and many people are enjoying the lockdown, so it’s really, really weird and I have no real sense as to that story. It just makes little sense to me.

    Egg shells are pretty valuable minerals, and from what I understand plenty of people cook the egg shells in an oven and then break them up fine and feed them back to the chickens. The trick I’ve heard is to ensure the chickens don’t know what they are eating. On the other hand, the local stock feed store sells crushed shell grit of a few grades and that saves some work, and the egg shells get back out into the garden. I keep a bin of the shell grit in the chickens enclosure. The chickens don’t seem to need much and I add about four cups to about 40kg of grains. The eggs are harder than the commercial ones, and I keep an eye on that outcome and would adjust the amount of shell grit in their feed if any of the egg shells were thin.

    Nice to see a bit of warmth today. Yay!

    Cheers

    Chris

  16. Hi, Chris!

    What a lovely shot of that fine greenhouse.

    I can really see the steep grade where the yellow wheelbarrow is parked.

    I do spread just a bit of lime each year. I always worry a little that I might be putting it where I am eventually going to grow an acid-loving plant. Maybe I shouldn’t worry?

    The New Orchard looks wonderful.

    The photo of the Sunny Orchard and Plum Big Ears gives me a better idea of how it is situated.

    That corn looks so good. Yum!

    I just lost a long paragraph due to hitting “paste” instead of “copy”. I guess there is something in the air. Where on earth it got pasted to I don’t know.

    What a noble cactus, and what a beautiful rose backdrop it has. I have now had my morning meditation on your flowers. Thanks!

    Pam

  17. Hi Lewis,

    Truth to tell I was gas bagging last evening and ended up with only about 45 minutes spare before bed with which to reply to yours and two others lovely comments. It was an absolute race and all I can say is that hope the reply made some sense. πŸ™‚ By the time bed time rolled around I was feeling a bit tired. No such time constraints this evening! Yay!

    Did a bit of paid work this morning, but the lockdown scuttled much work this week, so I headed out into the warm day to weed the vegetable terraces. For you interest, the beans are still growing, but the peas began to die back a few days ago. So I harvested all of the pea pods, pulled the plants out and then sat in the shade with Ollie and shelled the pods. Given we began with only six plants, the peas were serious givers. I’m drying the peas and will replant many more plants next season. They grow faster than lentils and are probably a better fit for this climate and soil type. And some dried on the plants. All of the seeds look full of life.

    A few wild blackberry varieties got into the steep garden bed behind the house many years ago. That’s probably not too bad a thing as we had the landslide there a few years back, and the blackberry root systems are probably quite deep. Anyway, the canes had grown a lot and were often hanging into the path of late, so I got the long electric pole saw out and cut them out. I doubt I could ever remove the blackberries, and from what I’ve observed they’ll even come back after being seriously poisoned – as the local council is wont to do. Seems like a waste of time to me, so I cut out the very worst of the canes that I could reach. That’s a stalemate that is, and I have no doubts that the blackberry canes will win in the end.

    Hey, the siren song of the assistance loans is an old story to be honest. When drought hits rural areas hard, the gobarment usually ends up offering concessional (i.e. really cheap interest rates) to farmers to support them through the dry seasons. The thing is, there is often little take up of such loans as I’m guessing that they may be seen as something of a poisoned chalice.

    Of course it would be a constant temptation during such a time. But dunno about your part of the world, but the rent and lease deferral story which looks set to end in late March is a similar story really. People might not see it that way, but the rent and lease deferrals have I believe 24 months in which to be finalised – and who really knows what is going on with the mortgage deferrals. If people are struggling to make payments now, how do they expect them to make the payments and the back payments at the same time at some point in the future? Hmm. Dunno. But all the same the real estate market is apparently going off like a frog in a sock. It makes very little sense to me.

    Someone sent me an article earlier today of some young bloke talking up stocks and maybe it is just me, but the story of Joe Kennedy and the shoe shine boy came immediately to mind.

    Actually ‘going into hock’ was also said down here. I understood what the term meant, but the only hock I’ve ever encountered is a ham hock, so the derivation of the saying was entirely lost on me. And absolutely, when I was a kid any form of debt was treated like inviting the devil into your household. I can still recall the outrage which ensued when unsolicited credit cards turned up in the mail. But opinions ever so slowly changed in that regard. I still feel that way, but maybe I’m old fashioned? Dunno. Around the world people seem hell bent on discovering the upper limits of the debt story, and honestly it is a real credit to the powers that be that the story has been stretched as far as it has been. I never would have guessed the extent of the current binge. It’s impressive.

    That’s the thing, there are jobs around, but you and I have a more flexible mindset in that regard. We are seriously short of agricultural workers down here. Jobs down here don’t have the sort of fringe benefits that you guys require – health benefits comes to mind and few if any employers offer that – so normally you just get paid plus a 9.5% contribution towards your retirement savings (which are usually independent of the companies doing the employing).

    That’s funny about the toilet paper being – rolled! πŸ™‚ It wasn’t funny to watch and it made me wonder what would happen if the item was a more necessary for survival item. Dunno. I’m sure you’ve read books where that plot was part of the story?

    Unfortunately I tend to agree with you about the soil mineral story, and it is one of the great challenges facing civilisation – but few think about it. So few people are involved in agriculture that the story gets lost in the background noise. One day people will rue the waste of these days and the past. Still the waste will leave some pretty amazing metals lying about the surface – good for making swords and hoes.

    I had a horrible moment that the stuff I’d been bringing back here was similarly contaminated, but it isn’t showing signs that that is the case and it comes from a different supplier, but it is something to watch out for. And yup, nobody seems to be taking responsibility for the situation.

    Horses were a thing in Melbourne too for the very wealthy. The others either walked or caught public transport (trams and trains). Some old houses have converted the rear stables into garages for their cars and they usually have a second story where I’m guessing the feed and bedding straw was kept. The second stories make very fancy man caves nowadays.

    The original infrastructure though was amazing isn’t it? And the materials were often very solid and long lasting such as the bluestone (a local blue granite) lined alleyways behind houses for the night soil carts. A lot of those laneways are still in existence. And some were sold off by local councils on the cheap. We once rented an old house in Williamstown where the neighbour owned the driveway but not the garage. It was truly crazy, and the neighbour was a right (exclude naughty word) and did everything he could do to exercise his rights. Six months and we were out of there.

    Thanks for the advice, and I too worry about when to pick the corn. Oh my you faced the dreaded problem which can be expressed as: Just because I didn’t or couldn’t, doesn’t mean that you should. Ouch, stay strong and avoid watchful eyes.

    Ah, so Globe Artichoke is a variety of Cardoon. Interesting. And I had no idea about the use as Rennet – thanks. Yes, well worth the effort growing, and it is interesting but the seed grown plants display interesting variability – one of which appears to be similar to Cardoon. I wrote off the difference as I’d just considered it to be an odd quirk. They’ve survived snow and -2’C / 28’F which is almost about the worst weather that you’ve reported so far this year.

    Balmy 37’F! Hehe! That sounds barmy to me. πŸ˜‰ Hope that no flooding ensues from the snow melt.

    It was quite warm here today at about 86’F. Nice and it looks set to continue like that for another four days.

    Makes you wonder what H discovered in the holes. Did you take a look into the murky depths of the holes?

    It’s a philosophy I guess, but candidly sometimes the past was not so good from my perspective. πŸ™‚

    Cheers

    Chris

  18. Hi Pam,

    Thank you and the greenhouse has been super handy in this very cool and damp summer. The steel rock gabion cages provide a really neat end on that terrace where the greenhouse sits.

    Hehe! It doesn’t look much, but yeah – steep. The yellow power wheelbarrow is an awesome bit of kit and it makes lugging heavy materials back up hill a whole lot easier. I appreciate you politely ignoring the mess of materials just in the view of the associated photo.

    I’m sorry but I don’t really know and I too grow a few acidic soil loving plants as well. I’d probably just go easy around those particular plants which is what I do with the wood ash anyway. Dunno, we’ll probably eventually find out what happens though. πŸ™‚

    Plum is lovely and she does have the most perky of ears. You can tell which is Ruby as she has the floppy ears – except when they’re upright just to confuse us I’m sure. They’ve grown fast haven’t they? A year ago they were little beans running around and being hassled by Dame Scritchy.

    The path leading from the house and down into the orchards is a very important bit of infrastructure. The previous path was too steep and required the weather to be just right for it to be used.

    Did you check for your lost paragraph behind the couch? That’s where most lost things seem to end up. Ignore the dust bunnies! The mouse hooked up to the computer has a button on the right hand side which when accidentally pressed tends to lose whatever comment was written. The mouse and I may not be entirely good friends…

    That cactus is very old, and a chunk fell off due to snow one year. The chunk was planted in one of the garden beds where the other plants over took it. It is still happily growing in there and one day I expect like a periscope it will arise out of the surrounding vegetation and possibly declare something like: I’m here! But until then it remains hidden from view. It’s a shy cactus.

    The creeping rose is a stunner isn’t it? So much fun to let them loose in garden beds and then sort their own business out. The plant is actually huge but doesn’t appear to be at risk of taking over the garden bed anytime soon.

    Cheers

    Chris

  19. @ Inge – I misspoke. Potato, potatoe, tomato, tomatoe. Apples and oranges. Henceforth, will refer to the whole mess as … pottery. πŸ™‚ .

    I may try one of your oat cake recipes, today. Hmmm. Which one? Lew

  20. @ Steve & Chris – Back when I had my small flock of chickens (12), I’d save the shells in a bowl. When the bowl was full, I nuked (microwaved) it for about a minute, 15 seconds. Then I’d crunch them up between two paper towels and store them in a paper bag.

    Every afternoon, I’d take my chickens a bowl of “treeats.” Boy, did they come running! A bit of feed, some rolled oats, chopped up banana peals, and a sprinkling of the crushed egg shells and plain yoghurt. Yes, my chickens were spoiled. πŸ™‚ .

    Now, I do the same thing, with the eggshells. I keep a double plastic bag, in the fridge, and throw in my kitchen scraps. Every once in awhile, I toss in a layer of the eggshells. When the bag is full, it gets buried back in the garden.

    Someone mentioned how important it is to pulverize the eggs, so the chickens don’t get “ideas.” But, I think (maybe?) if they get enough calcium, they are less likely to start eating their own eggs.

    Ever get an egg that is wrinkled, like a walnut? I had one old hen who would lay one, every month or so. Looking at the literature, it’s not a rare occurrence. And, the egg is perfectly fine, to eat. Lew

  21. Hi Chris,

    It is unusually cold for February, but it has happened before here (unlike farther south, for instance Texas, where it has gone beyond the extremes the electric utilities design for, hence the serious issues with their electric system). We didn’t set any new record low minimum temperatures, although we have set two record low maximum temperatures of 8F and 4F respectively on Sunday and Monday. We might set another record low maximum temperature today despite abundant sunshine because of the 6 inches of snow that fell yesterday. BTW, the record low temperature in February for St. Louis is a chilly -18F / -28C!

    The reason I am so concerned about the citrus trees is because of what happened in January 2014, when we had a streak of very cold weather with a minimum temperature of -9F / -23C one night. The temperature on the porch dropped to 18F and three of the four citrus trees on the porch died. Only the Meyer lemon survived; it’s one of the three trees I brought inside the house the other day when I realized how cold it would get and for how long.

    I learned from the experience in 2014 to place all the citrus trees as close to the common wall of the house and the porch as it is possible to do, where the micro-climate is the warmest. In 2014 they were closer to the outside wall, where it was likely colder than 18F. If the two trees on the porch survive, it will be for this reason. I also had the other three trees as close to the wall as I could, but because they are small enough to bring into the house and the kumquat is covered with fruit that is almost ripe, I chose to bring them into the house to ensure their survival.

    Claire

  22. Yo, Chris – I didn’t detect any typos, from your mad rush to bed. πŸ™‚

    I shelled the dried green beans, I’m saving for seed, in my comfy chair. Some went flying. I’m still finding them in the carpet.

    Ugh. Blackberries. Tasty, but … Turn your back on them, and they’ll spread from the top of the farm, to the bottom of the paddock.

    Rent and lease deferrals. Just piling up. I don’t see it ending well, either. I think there will be a lot of bankruptcies, in future. My one credit card? -0- balance.

    The archaeology world is agog. And your resident Editorial Brewmiester, might be too. Oldest beer factory found in Egypt. Just Gargle “Beer factory, Abydos.” Also of interest …

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210216092853.htm

    It’s about some studies in Tasmania, that indicate when the magnetic poles, flipped. But they never have much information as to how that affected people on the ground. But then, I suppose they don’t know. But somehow, being stripped of our radiation shield doesn’t sound like a good thing.

    Books and survival items. Well, there’s plenty out there. Even “The Stand” covers the topic. But the one that comes to mind is “One Minute After.” It’s fairly well written, but does have a bit of “rah, rah, wave the flag.” But as far as fast decline goes, it raises a lot of questions. What happens when the insulin runs out? How about those mood stabilizers, that it seems, a great deal of the population pop like candy? Dog food? It’s a real nuts and bolts look at severe shortages.

    Mews. noun BRITISH
    “A row or street of houses or apartments that have been converted from stables or built to look like former stables.
    “an eighteenth-century mews”
    a group of stables, typically with rooms above, built around a yard or along an alley.” Also:

    “The word may also refer to a lane or alley in which stables are situated. The term mews originally referred to the royal stables in London, so called because they were built where the king’s hawks were once mewed, or confined at molting (or β€œmew”) time.”

    The one’s I’ve seen in movies, and such, seem like very interesting places to live.

    Weather: We now return to our regularly scheduled, winter programing. Nights in the high 30sF, days in the high 40sF. Overcast with rain, from time to time. The streets are pretty much clear, and so are the sidewalks. Grass and gardens are slower to clear. I don’t know what H was so entranced by, down those holes. Hobbits? All I could see was a layer of ice, due to compacted snow. Lew

  23. Yo Chris,
    I found the Canadian Essay in a search for LiFeP04 temperature effects info. The lost comment was probably a clumsy thumbsy move on the IPad by me.

    The self education on the excellent battery type has led to temperature battery damage concerns about outdoor installations in weather resistant enclosures. Lead acid has its own problem set. Thus my concern for your summer warm weather potential problem. In the winter world there was a youtoob video of a bloke that set his 15 kva inverter beneath his battery bank to let the battery’s catch the rising inverter heat. Humm. Your truck fan, which I noticed earlier, could be either an Inny or an outy fan if it was not a brushless type motor. In your country 12 or 24 volts for large trucks from what I found.
    In our location any non shaded enclosures may reach in the direct sun above 55 degrees C. military temp allowance levels. In the desert facility they provide shading panel and some times special (expensive) mechanical cooling equipment. Once in a great while some smarter folks designed in cheapo small residential units 1/5 the cost. It was the gubermint! Oh well sighed Eeyore!
    Have you ever taken ground temp measurement on your place. The probes have to be well protected. sometimes the the geological authorities can supply such stuff for general regions. The air under your raised house should approximate the level? I have measured ours with stainless steel sheathed thermocouples in shaded grass lawn. I have seen 60degree F at times in hot weather. No wide area investigation just my personal curiosity. Also called goofing off by some.😊

    I’m thinking about installing some 12 volt yard lighting with about 1 100watt solar panel on top of a tall fence post out of house view and placing a LiFeP04 battery and charge controller in a shaded enclosure maybe partially below grade.
    I have about 24 ea. 6 watt 35 degree flood angle 12volt 50 watt eq. LEDs and sockets MR-16 form factor for the lights. Soft white. Should be able to do something with that stuff.

    Sorry about your lock down. The consequences for the small business folk that you and the Editor guide through such time must be very difficult to deal with. Small business is a tough road I’ve been there a couple of times. Don’t miss it.
    Al

  24. Hi Inge,

    Thank you for the correction via way of Lewis,

    From here onwards I shall use the word “ceramic” instead. The distinction you mention is of course real.

    Incidentally, the spell checker did not recognise the use of the word “onwards”. Pah, it is possible my grammar is somewhat lacking from time to time, but the use of the ‘s’ in the word sounds correct to my language ear. I note that Mr Maugham had much to say upon this matter. And his recounting of the two inadvertent English lessons he received early on in his career amused me greatly. πŸ™‚

    Cheers

    Chris

  25. Hi Chris,

    No leads on the lime or dolomite, I’m afraid. Good luck with that.

    Yes, I’ll be making use of the solar oven for the egg shell heating. Perfect use for that kind of thing. I’m still going with the model I built seven years ago out of cardboard box, sticky tape and plastic wrap. Can’t argue with that although I either need to replace the bottom or just build a new one. Probably go for new given that the materials cost less than $10 and the cardboard doesn’t like it when you accidentally do things like leave it out in the rain. Woops.

    Looks like we get a lockdown reprieve. Pretty sure the government could see that it wasn’t exactly a vote winner this time. In fact, there were a lot of stories of people openly flouting it. Did you see that video that went viral of the guy cooking a barbie on the yarra river? A reporter went up and asked if he knew there was a lockdown and he casually knocked the microphone away. Very funny clip. I’m still chuckling about it.

    I’d say if you enjoy getting locked in your house by the government it might be time to visit a psychologist or something cos there’s clearly larger problems at play. You can agree with it and tolerate it. But enjoying it would have to a pretty big sign of depression.

    Good article on the tennis at Swan Hill. I used to play a lot of tennis and there’s some beautiful grass courts in country Vic. There’s a bit of a circuit for amateur players at this time of year. Last one I played was the Labour Day tournament in Cobram. It was 40 degrees each day of the tournament! Fortunately I was knocked out in the early morning so didn’t have to play in the midday heat. There’s some great amateur players around and for those games you can be right up courtside to appreciate exactly how good they are. Also a very nice country town vibe and you meet some interesting people.

  26. Hi Claire,

    When you think about the Texas climate, you don’t sort of think about serious snow storms. The media here reported on the storms, and the images were quite astounding as the lead photo was of a highway under snow and it fascinated me that there were still vehicles moving through the snow. I have strong reservations that efficient infrastructure is the same thing as resilient infrastructure and the electricity grid is a prime example of consequences from possible under investment or over reliance. Here’s an article from down here on the storm: Emergency declared in Texas as wild winter weather hits US.

    In your climate with the occasional burst of super cold weather, my money would be on the Meyer lemon surviving when all others fail. The taste isn’t quite as lemony as say a Eureka, but the tree is a survivor. Sorry to say that, but the Meyer Lemon happily lives outside here in all weather – sun or snow, but other lemon tree varieties just aren’t as hardy and the Eureka sickened and died after many years but was replaced with a sturdier root stock. Some citrus does very well here such as the Pomello, Mandarins, Kumquat and Lemonade, but the others are very marginal like oranges and limes. Some of them have sat in the ground for six years and have neither grown nor died, but I don’t hold out much hope for them. The Tangelo seems to be working its way past that, but I dunno. My gut feeling suggests that it is just too marginal for some varieties so who knows how that translates to your part of the world.

    It is an interesting discussion and recently I’ve considered just taking the wallaby cages off those citrus trees not doing well and giving them consistent feeds and just see what happens. The wallaby pruning might do them some good? Dunno, but if the trees don’t grow soon things may go badly for them in the long term. Space is not unlimited and care and attention requires energy so it is a predicament with possibly no solution. So I hear you about putting the energy where it produces results with those trees.

    Cheers

    Chris

  27. Hello Chris
    You had me going ‘onward, onwards’ repetitively in my head as I tried to decide which sounded correct. I came down on the side of ‘onward’.
    Ceramic is good.

    Inge

    @ Lew
    I don’t think that porcelain would like to be described as pottery.

    Inge

  28. Hi Al,

    Ah yes, we all press the wrong buttons from time to time, and robots and software can be notoriously difficult and very exacting in terms of their interactions with humans.

    I see. Of course I would not want to install such large lithium batteries in uncontrolled conditions such as the outside world! If it gets hot enough even Valve Regulated Lead Acid sealed batteries will vent Hydrogen to truly awful consequences. Best ensure that they don’t get too hot in the first place. And um, shade first and then secondly insulate outdoor battery enclosures.

    For your geeky interest (and my own as well) the charge program which I use with the new LiFeP04 is not compensated for temperatures. Whereas the former Lead Acid Gel sealed batteries most certainly were and the difference between summer and winter operations was marked. Temperatures in the battery room (and hence with the batteries) ranged from about 10’C to 30’C but as previously noted the room is heavily insulated.

    And yup, the 24V fan is an innie blower. πŸ˜‰ Already thought about that.

    Hey, electric vehicles have to have cooling systems for their batteries from what I understand, but I have it on a reliable authority (i.e. someone who comments here and has driven an electric vehicle in your country) that they worked pretty well in cold winter conditions. I’d be certain that your countries recent storm would most certainly reduce range for an electric vehicle – heating is an energy intensive activity when using electricity.

    I’ve got a soil thermometer and it is almost dark now but you have piqued my interest. Hmm… Experiment in progress… … The soil temperature is at 23’C at almost dark.

    Your lighting project sounds pretty good, but I would most certainly keep the battery and charge controller in the shade and out of the weather at all times. The capacitors will cook and fail if exposed to hot summer sun. To quote Yoda: Will they look as good in as many years, I think not they will.

    Thank you and only those who know the hard road, know the hard road.

    Opened up the early 1990’s amplifier this afternoon and began an assessment of the components to be replaced. I was amazed that it looked so clean and not a dust strewn environment. A rough count produced 23 electrolytic capacitors to replace. Should be easy. Maybe… πŸ™‚ Oh well, if not attempted the beautifully engineered Japanese device will soon fail. First project on the board.

    Cheers

    Chris

  29. Chris:

    Hock is a British term for German white wine; sometimes it refers to white wine from the Rhine region (specifically Riesling) and sometimes to all German white wine.[1] The word hock is short for the obsolete word hockamore, an alteration of “Hochheimer”, derived from the name of the town of Hochheim am Main in Germany.

    A hock is also a horse’s ankle.

    Pam

  30. @ Goran:

    “A side joke that captures the mood of a declining society, from Russia in the end of the 1990’s:
    Ivan: β€œGood old Sasha, how are you?”
    Sasha: β€œNot bad. Better than tomorrow…”

    That is so funny. Thanks!

    Pam

  31. Hi Simon,

    Bunnings sells agricultural lime and dolomite but it is quite expensive at a bit over a $1 per kg. That adds up when trailer loads are required! πŸ™‚ Oh well, have to start somewhere I guess.

    Solar ovens are coming into their own over this week. It’s hot out in the midday sun despite the air temperatures. But yeah solar ovens do pretty well, and we use the sun to dehydrate and dry some seeds which will be used next growing season. It kind of replicates how nature works. The large seeds sit on newspaper in a fruit box and the newspaper absorbs some of the moisture.

    Hehe! I applaud your canny use of easily available materials with which to construct such a handy device.

    Thanks for that as I’d been avoiding the news because it is so crap. Clearly snag-on-the-Yarra-bloke might feel much the same. He’s got an effective left arm and you have to give him that. The reporter probably forgot that he is there to report on the story, not poke the participants. I’ll bet that was an expensive microphone as it had good pick up.

    Mate, I dunno. With the lockdown, small business gets shut down and yet the employees still need to be paid as does all of the other obligations. And who knows what was the cost of the loss in stocking up for Valentines Day? It’s pretty brutal. But for some reason gibarmint employees already had lower return rates for their employees than anyone else, and big corporates can at least rely on revenue from other states. Even Bunnings got shut down this time though. No wonder the guy wanted to cook his snags on the Yarra…

    The article on Swan Hill kind of illustrated the difficulties that rural areas are having with this, and yeah the recent lockdown was not popular if only because there are no cases in those areas.

    Sports was one of the traditional ways that rural folks got together, so it hardly surprises me to hear that the competition was stiff. But how the heck do you play in those conditions though? Once had to attend a corporate day at the Open during such weather and I can’t say that I enjoyed it as a spectator, let alone a competitor. The tennis gawds might have done you a solid that day!

    It may interest you that I read a year or two back that there was one coastal tourist town close to Melbourne which could no longer field a footy or netball team. Hmm.

    Cheers

    Chris

  32. @ All:

    I was reading an article about fossil fuels that mentioned “total electrification”, but did not define it. I cannot find a clear definition on the web, but take it to mean no more gas-powered vehicles or tools, or homes fueled by natural gas for heat and cooking, no more liquid propane. There are probably many examples that I am not thinking of. Has anyone come across that term?

    Pam

  33. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for considering the word matter and I was not sure of my stance with that choice. Onward March! Sounds sort of similar and very commanding, but is also more grammatically correct than Onwards March! Either sounds correct to my reading ear, but I defer to your judgement in this matter.

    Ceramic on the other hand can mean much and little all at once – a fine word to use when one is uncertain. πŸ™‚

    I recall an amusing sentence in Professor Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy where he’d clearly tired of providing too much detail and instead remarked that the characters were given some: “stuff”. I rather enjoyed that sentence and you’d possibly agree that the word used was more concise than other words which may have added little to the story?

    Picked the very first ripe tomato today. The variety was from a yellow cherry and the fruit tasted very good indeed.

    Cheers

    Chris

  34. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for the link and incidentally the news article on the storm which I linked to earlier suggested that the refineries and extraction operations were possibly impacted by the Texas storm. Numbers were provided in the article.

    Ah, I too have heard of this thing known as ‘total electrification’. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but down here the best that you can extract from a normal household power point down under is about 2.5 to 3.0 horsepower of energy from my experience. Some places can get more out of their electricity connections because they have three phase higher voltage connections, but still there are hard limits and I understand that the best they can get is about 15 to 20 horsepower.

    However, my stump grinder has an 18 horsepower fossil fuel powered motor and it uses very little fuel, but Mr Musty despite the occasional rodent chewed chunk of components might produce 100 horsepower from the motor in order to move it. Mr Dumpy may be about the same, maybe a bit more. Fossil fuels have much higher densities, and really nobody wants to, or possibly can afford to have the electricity system upgraded to the point that we can all go ‘total electrification’. You may have heard of lullabies, and those words when so used sound to me like one of those. So I suspect that collapse or slow removal of electric services from rural areas may be how the story plays out in the future. Dunno.

    Liquid propane is super handy, huh? πŸ™‚

    I wouldn’t overly worry about it too much as prices for fossil fuels will spike in the future and this will drive energy conservation. Although I’d add that it might not be a bad idea to make your soils more fertile and work out some way to get water out of your well that does not require electricity, plus firewood is good, and you know, that is our only heating fuel and it gives how water over winter when the solar doesn’t. It is possible to adapt and needn’t all happen at once.

    Never knew that about the word ‘Hock’, so thanks and have only known of the use of that word in relation to pigs feet (very tasty) and debt. I wonder what the connection to debt is? It seems obscure don’t you reckon?

    Cheers

    Chris

  35. Hi Lewis,

    I appreciate the feedback and um, yes grammatical and typographical errors slip through the cracks despite the best intentions. And in space nobody can access a spell checker! What do they know anyway? The one I use is meant to be an Australian dictionary, but there are plenty of words that the beast has not seen before. You may have noted by now that many Australian spellings on the blog use the letter ‘s’ instead of the letter ‘z’ just for one example of difference. Are we cognisant of this difference? That is the question for the day! No doubt the difference occurred due to rivalry between the UK and the US way back in the day. From your perspective, we probably drive on the wrong side of the road to, but alas it is a judgement based upon a person’s perspective. πŸ™‚

    Mate that was a late night the other night, and candidly with the lockdown which is being lifted at midnight tonight, I have been a touch distracted and am not quite at the top of my game. It annoys me that my personal energy is eaten by that predicament as we all have so little time to spare, but oh well moving on and it is hardly personal.

    Went to the shops this morning and it was fairly quiet and there were about only half as many folks as I’d normally expect to see at such a time. Over the past year I’ve noted that it is more common to see working age men performing such household tasks – and they need to be done and if the lady is the breadwinner, well suck it up.

    People under value the home economy and perhaps I made this up, but I doubt it, however: savings in the home begins in the kitchen. And the savings then extend out from there. People don’t even think to make dog food these days.

    Thanks for the mental vision of you shelling dried peas from their pods and having them occasionally fly everywhere! πŸ™‚ Ollie assisted with that matter yesterday in the sun as he took it upon himself to consume the peas which decided not to fall into the large box. H may be pressed into work as an errant pea picker-upper-er. Note to Lewis: Check for errant peas behind the desk (I was going to say couch, but that would be incorrect in your case).

    Too true about the blackberries and they had covered the steep batter behind the house and had begun spilling over into the path. The shady and cool conditions suit those plants. After a couple of hours of cutting and pulling canes I was rather hot, and annoyance hit a peak when I accidentally put the pole saw into the trunk of a Japanese Maple. It might grow back from a new branch. Maybe. We burned off all the canes last evening in the brazier. You can’t really compost them as they’ll re-grow.

    Well there is the interesting thing about the debt piling up. There have been some background changes to the laws in relation to insolvency (the technical name for winding up of debt laden businesses). I’m watching that change closely and it was introduced into I believe legislation, with little fanfare. Times sure are strange.

    Oh, I saw the ancient beer factory excavations in Egypt. There is an old saying that where there is bread, there is also beer. Makes sense given the ingredients are not dissimilar.

    The lack of protection from the magnetosphere is rather alarming but as a species we seem to have gotten through it, and who knows what the outcomes where? The article lead me on an interweb rabbit hole where Darwin Glass from that part of the world was mentioned: Darwin Crater. Damo knows that part of the world.

    The editor is about 20% of the way through The Stand and the story is building. The editor reckons I’ll enjoy the book, although she was a big Stephen King fan back in the day and may possibly be biased. But I will definitely read the book and am looking forward to it. Too much non-fiction does my head in. Ouch, yeah those sorts of problems are already happening. Word on the street is that my mate who died late last year had his medical appointments cancelled due to the health subject which dare not be named, so things can get really weird and also unexpectedly weird. Dog food is a problem, but dare I say that in some parts of the world dogs may be seen as a short term opportunity. Ook!

    Ah, I’d heard of the word ‘Mews’ before in relation to houses of the Victorian era. Some rows of terrace houses had the name (something) mews attached to them. Oh this is not good. Did a gargle search on ‘mews melbourne’ and the links returned were for the news. Hmm, lowest common denominator and all that. Oh well. Ah, there is a work around. It interests me that the word is being applied to roads in new housing developments constructed upon I’m guessing previously unused land in older areas. I guess the word denotes a sense of age for a sort of newish development. Interesting.

    Ah, your storm came, kicked some stuff, and is now elsewhere wreaking havoc. Nice to see that usual winter conditions are now in force. It was warm here again today and some of the very first yellow cherry tomatoes ripened. Yay! The few ripe tomatoes are now all gone with dinner. The variety is known down here as Barry’s Crazy Cherry Organic Tomato. And it is a real giver which reappears every year with no effort on my part. Such plants make us look like we know what we are doing.

    That’s a great idea with the chickens and apart from the egg shells (I can easily purchase and store shell grit in quantity presumably from mussel production in the bay) chickens love their treats (and once per week they get about a pound of mince meat) and fresh greens pulled from the vege beds.

    You’re probably right about the egg shells and chickens eating them. Since those days I upped the amount of shell grit and meat the chickens get and there has been no problem on that front. Other problems – yes, but not that one. Plus I avoid commercial breeds, although in their favour they do lay a lot of eggs and I am biased in this regard.

    Yes, most chickens lay eggs that are consistent and I have seen some chickens produce thicker shells such as you describe, but that was years ago and unlike your experience I can’t recall which chicken was responsible. The eggs seemed fine to me too.

    Cheers

    Chris

  36. @ Inge – Porcelain had better get over it. πŸ™‚ . Otherwise, it might get smacked with the nomenclature, stoneware. Come the Revolution, all ceramics and pottery shall be equal! (But some will be more equal, than others.) Tip of the hat to Orwell.

    I made the oatcake recipe, with the molasses, last night. Very good, very tasty, but not what I expected. More on that, later.

    Some questions. How hot or how long do you cook the mixture in a saucepan, on the stove? I mixed the butter and sugar, first, and then added the rest and brought it up to just under a boil, for a few minutes. I used a 8″ x 8″ baking dish. Even though there was so much butter in it, I greased the baking dish, with a bit of olive oil. Glad I did …

    Do you remember where you got the recipe? Is it specific to your island? It wasn’t what I expected (though, with all that butter and sugar, what was I expecting?). So I took a bit of a dive into my British cooking books. Quit a few didn’t even mention oat cakes. But “Plowman’s Lunch and Miser’s Meal” had a two page tale of searching for the perfect oatcake, up in Staffordshire. Up there, they’re more like pancakes, and are either turned over, or rolled, and stuffed with all kinds of things like bacon, onions, etc.. Another book, had something that looked a lot like very thin shortbread. And then I checked Elizabeth David’s “English Bread and Yeast Cookery.” The index revealed 8 different regional variations. I did not examine them, in detail.

    So, my batch? Glad I greased the baker, as it was very difficult to get out the first piece. It was melt in my mouth good, and the closest thing I can compare it to is … toffee candy. Very desert like. I think it would be great, slightly warmed with a dollop of clotted or sour cream, on top. Or, cut into small squares and flogged as candy.

    I think it’s a recipe well worth keeping. It’s so easy to make. Candy, without all the messing about with thermometers, and such. Lew

  37. Yo, Chris – Well, language is funny stuff πŸ™‚ . I’m watching one of the “Great Courses”, now, on the “The High Middle Ages.” That’s 1000-1300. The professor made the observation, that later historians looked down on this period, as the classical Latin of Cicero had degenerated (from their point of view) into the various Romance languages. Odd to think, but if we were cut off from each other, for say, a hundred years, would we even be able to understand one another?

    Every once in awhile, on “My Life is Murder,” a bit of language would pop up, that left me a bit adrift. But, I could usually figure it out, from context. S’Arvo? This afternoon.

    Home economy starts in the kitchen. Or, the garden? πŸ™‚ . I happened to see the Postie, this morning, and made him aware of “The Regenerative Gardener.” And also the Steve Solomon books. Our library has plenty of those. I got a memory jog. Mr. Solomon also wrote, “Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times.” And, sure enough, I have a copy on my shelf. Need to take another look at that.

    The flying seeds were my green beans. The peas are up next. Still languishing on newspaper, where they were put to dry. I got almost a half a coffee mug full of green bean seeds. Enough for my needs, for this year.

    You might have to get a goat, for those blackberries πŸ™‚ . The last place I lived, was over run with blackberries. Took me a whole summer, to knock them back to a manageable level. I actually had two borrowed goats. Every morning I’d cut each a huge swath of blackberries. They’d eat all the foliage off, but even they couldn’t tackle the hard canes. Those, I also burned. I was surprised that even green, once you get them going, they do burn.

    Insolvency (bankruptcy) in this country, is kind of strange. The only debt that can’t be discharged, are student loans. Wonder how that came about? πŸ™‚ . I keep an eye on legislation, and wonder if other areas will also be clamped down on. Oh, I don’t know. Like medical debt? That’s the leading cause of bankruptcy, in this country.

    Speaking of bread, I saw an interesting article, yesterday, about replicating ancient Egyptian bread.

    http://www.jpost.com/archaeology/how-did-ancient-egyptians-bake-after-54-loaves-scholar-finds-answers-659163

    I’ll take a loaf of bread, with a side of gritty clay and donkey dung. πŸ™‚

    Years ago I read a bit by someone who observed that housing developments were named after things that had been removed from those landscapes. Deer Run. Oak Grove. Of course, the deer came back. The oaks? Not so much.

    Go, cherry tomatoes. I had one volunteer (not mine), last year. It was in a poor soil part of the garden. But, I threw a cage around it, and did get a few handfuls, for snacks, while working in the garden.

    Texas is doing it hard, right now. They’re an interesting case. We have an east coast power grid, and a west coast power grid. And then, there’s Texas. They always make a big deal out of being independent, from the rest of the country. In fact, their power grid is something they always bring up, when they bang on about succession. And then there’s this …

    https://news.yahoo.com/texas-mayor-resigned-telling-people-111237826.html

    Well, in some ways, he’s right. But, perhaps could have been a bit more diplomatic? πŸ™‚ . But, as the Roman emperor (may or may not) said to the Brits, back around 400 CE, “Look to your own defenses.” Lew

  38. @ Claire,

    I’ve been busy and just got back online after a few days of *busy*. I knew you had done something with high level chemistry, what I call the “Mystery of Chem”. That overlap between chemistry and physics is where all the fun stuff is, IIRC. My study partner in grad level quantum physics was from the chemistry department. The Chem books approached it differently and, to me, more understandably. That was the only time the Mystery of Chem made sense to me. πŸ˜‰

    I looked at Green’s function and my eyes glazed over quickly.

    DJSpo

  39. Chris,

    I’ve been watching the weather and see that Lew has been having Spokane winter weather. Interestingly, the brunt of the snow went from the south end of Puget Sound and southeast, pummeling Lew, my brother-in-law in Toppenish,, Al and mostly missing Spokane. I’ve got to say that Claire has been hit much harder, both with snow and cold, than I have. 6 cm of white stuff on Monday, an additional 2.5 cm Tuesday morning, then 1 cm Tuesday evening just to be an irritant.

    So, I spent a portion of Monday sleeping late because it was snowing and what else should I be doing? πŸ™‚ Then Big Bertha and I had a date with the snow, and the Princess and I had some serious hanging out time that needed doing.

    Tuesday morning’s snow was inopportune. That was the Princess’s travel day to Toppenish. So I had to get our early and move the 25 cm, which was easily done as it was light and powdery.

    But the roads in town were nastily icy, so the Princess felt better if I was driving my car behind her. Once out of town the roads were bare, and for much of the trip to near Al’s region they were dry, as the sun was out. Naturally, as I got back to Spokane, there was that naggy 1 cm to make the roads nasty again, but everything was nice today, as we had a heat wave to a balmy +2C with sunshine. πŸ˜‰

    Meanwhile, there was a significant amount of paperwork to do for both of our retirement medical care. Our system, umm, is difficult, and I am actually on an extension of my employment system via what we call COBRA. Got all of that finished today, which is a huge relief.

    When I was on the road Tuesday, the snowplows came through our neighborhood. They successfully scraped the snow off the roads back onto the sidewalks. Well, partially covered the sidewalks. (At least they have a “boot” or “gate” that they lower to avoid plowing shut driveways.) So I also had to clear the snowplowed snow from the sidewalk. I took a lengthy nap this afternoon, although some of that may have been due to looking up Claire’s vaunted Green’s function filled with a plethora of integrals.

    Good work on figuring out the calcium issue with your soils. Wonderful applied science you’ve done!

    “Moping during this lock down may be an option, however it isn’t the option that we have chosen! ” Bingo! Figuring out how to work with the change is much more rewarding, isn’t it? Or at least leads to a slowing of the insanity. Responding to the changes and challenges may be one of the few things over which we might have some control.

    One of the things that has puzzled me here…the lockdowns/slowdowns and the economy. Yet…there is as much new construction occurring as there was before the unmentionable. Our housing prices are still exploding upward. Logic is defied.

    DJSpo

  40. Hi Lewis,

    Well of course, and let’s chuck in the sheer difficulty of comprehending obscure spoken accents (or is it technically a dialect?) for even the same language. Some English speakers I find to be almost incomprehensible, and that is not a criticism and is probably my lack. But yes, I too believe that distance and descent of an over riding culture will produce all manner of weirdness with the language. The Australian accent today sounds very different from that spoken in the earliest voice recordings. And the weird thing is that my ear has become attuned to US accents in the media and when I encounter an Australian accent in such a forum, it sounds jarring, so who knows what that means?

    S’Arvo is more usually heard as ‘This Arvo’, although I would understand what someone meant if they abbreviated the word further again. And those words are quite a commonly heard. You don’t hear people saying G’Day as much these days, although when I was a kid it was commonly heard. My grandmother used to say as a greeting: ‘Oooo, g’day lurve’. πŸ™‚ Language is fun and it is most certainly alive!

    You can hear the earlier Australian accent as a background piece in the music video Hilltop Hoods – 1955. The ending dialogue is quite amusing. It sounds very different to the accent of today. I guess there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, so yeah imagine a couple of centuries and only local culture to feed ones brain upon.

    Well where does the kitchen start and the garden begin? That’s not as easy to answer as you’d imagine. Yes, both of those titles are published by New Society and I might grab them. If I learn one thing out of a non-fiction book then that’s good isn’t it?

    I see that Faceplant has cracked it. The kids aren’t on the thing anymore from what I understand (because the oldies are on it), so possibly it may have been dying a slow death anyway – we’re all on the inverted bell shaped curve and that thing doesn’t get a free pass on that story.

    Ah, so you shelled your beans and then dried the seeds? Haven’t done that activity yet as the peas came in well before the beans did. The editor and I had a major chinwag about the set up of the garden terrace beds today and we may move the roses to the back of the terraces. The growing space they occupy is too valuable. Plus some other changes were proposed.

    Oh, the stump grinder has died. Ouch. Took it to the farm repair guys this morning and the prognosis came back and the patient candidly might not make it. A big write off that one.

    Yeah, I don’t think so about the goat. It is a truism that once you have live stock, you then may have dead stock. πŸ™‚ Never thought about borrowing goats, but the fencing here would be a drama with the wildlife. Goats have a fearsome reputation when it comes to eating blackberry canes, and thanks for the real world experience. I’d wondered about the really thick blackberry canes too and a goats ability to eat them. I’ve got machines that will deal with the likes of those, but burning them is easier.

    The student debt thing is the same story down here, and I can sort of understand how that situation came to be. Some folks are morally flexible, but at the same time should we all be punished for the acts of a few. Anyway, there is little return on investment so genuine market forces will take that sector back to where it historically was. There’s a place for it, but I could train up someone in my profession via way of apprenticeship and until recently that is how things rolled.

    Your medical system frankly scares me and I would be frightened to get caught in its clutches due to economic concerns. The cure may possibly be worse than the disease. πŸ˜‰

    That’s my kind of archaeology! Great baking stuff, and yes I too noted the donkey dung, but it was baked at high temperatures and you’d hope it didn’t impart a flavour in the final process? No, how could it? Maybe.

    Oh, that’s uncanny and a little bit eerie about the naming of places. There is a suburb in Melbourne by the name of Deer Park. The wealthy back in the day constructed a hunt club there, and the building is still there. I doubt very much whether there are any deer though. Ouch and thank you for the insight and it puts the world into a different perspective. We sure do love our abstractions.

    Hehe! Yeah, the crazy yellow cherry is fresh eating only, but in a pinch we can begin dehydrating them if needs be. We’ll see how the season goes, but I noticed the colour on one larger tomato beginning to turn today – also yellow. A variety which does very well here for some reason. I’ve wondered about that, but if they grow well in your part of the world there might be something in that?

    Mate, what did the Legionnaire as played by John Cleese in Monty Python and Holy Grail state to Brian: Conjugate the verb! There are basic grammatical errors with the statement. Hope that bloke isn’t the best you’ve got?

    He is correct, and he may be attempting to discuss value systems with the population, but perhaps he needs an editor? I guess such platforms were not available in the past for people to put their foot in their mouths?

    Cheers

    Chris

  41. @ Lew
    I don’t know where either recipe came from, have had them for a very long time.
    I melt the sugar and butter etc and finally mix in the oats. Often turning the heat off at that point. Only have it warm enough in the first place to enable the fat to melt, don’t bring to the boil.
    I use butter to grease the pan (8 1/2 inches square) for the oven.
    When I get it out of the oven I leave it in the pan until cold, just cut it into squares before too cold.
    I use Scott’s porridge oats, am not so keen on Quaker oats.

    Inge

  42. Chris:

    Access to our well water is one of our biggest issues. I have already complained that in our frequent power outages here that we cannot access tap water. We do always keep a great deal on hand in bottled form, large containers, and the two 55 gallon drums outside (which freeze in winter sometimes . . .). Years ago I did find, but never bought, a interesting “bucket” that can be lowered into our well once the top is taken off. It is really tall and thin. It does not hold much water, though, and as our well is, I think, 125 feet deep, the whole idea was daunting. Best approach it from another direction – Squirrel Power! You know, hamsters in a wheel and all that. They ought to contribute something for all those handouts. The Day of Reckoning could be soon. Sure.

    We do have a couple of springs on the property, the same source as our well water. They only appear after a rain, though, and I have no idea how deep they might be.

    Enriching soil. Check. Firewood, Check. Except that the firewood is cut with a chainsaw and sometimes split with a gas-powered log splitter. My husband does enjoy splitting it by hand, but nobody here wants to cut a tree down and cut it into logs by hand. Somewhere around here we have a two-handed saw . . . I’m glad I have the crucial role of cook instead. . .

    I have seen so many old photos of devices being run off a Model-T type autos. They use a belt on the car to attached to whatever tool it is, like a water wheel. I don’t know how to describe it. I saw one photo of a meat grinder attached to it. In another they were scraping dried corn kernels off of the cobs.

    “Morally flexible” – that’s good.

    I am sorry to hear about your stump grinder.

    My copy of “Victorian Farm” arrived yesterday. I shall begin it today – if I can stand the smell, as this one has also come highly scented.

    Pam

  43. @ Chris & others
    It is worth going to ‘notayesman’ s site for 18 Feb and scrolling down to the hilarious excerpt from ‘yes minister’.

    Inge

  44. Hi Chris,
    So interesting (though not surprising) the comparison between your orchards. I used to have much more manure from the goats and chickens at our old place but not much anymore. I do collect everything I can and put in cover crops as well.

    I see you’re up to date on the weather here in the States. We missed the latest storm with only 2 inches of additional snow though I think we have at least 1.5 feet on the ground. My daughters are a different story. Cecily who lives in a suburb just north of Chicago received 18 inches and Carla who’s a little farther west received 12 I think. There was a lot of blowing and drifting. They sent quite a few pictures. In the city people parking on the street have their cars mostly covered in snow. The side streets don’t get plowed quickly but if they do they plow even more snow onto the cars. Fortunately my girls both have garages though in Carla’s case her’s opens into the alley and alleys aren’t plowed at all but rather beaten down by garbage trucks. Roof damage is a real worry now too. In downtown Chicago people are in danger of large icicles falling on them from the tall buildings. The good news is that we are beginning to warm up and by Sunday will be back to normal with some melting occuring. Weather like this isn’t all that unusual but the length of time it’s been bitter cold is.

    I got my first dose of the vaccine on Tuesday and Doug has an appointment on Sunday. I have to say it was run very efficiently.

    Glad to hear you finally got a tomato and that your lockdown is ending.

    Margaret

  45. Yo, Chris – The headlines here are, “Faceplant Unfriends Australia!” I just skimmed the article, but, it did mention how so many vital functions (hospitals, women’s shelter’s, emergency management, etc.) only have a presence on said … utility. Sounds a bit like all the eggs in one basket. Not prudent? I’m always a bit miffed when I search a business, and the only web presence is a Faceplant page. I can usually figure out what I’m looking for, while dodging the constant barrage of popups, with the siren call of “sign up! sign up! I think I did mention that I do have a page … that I haven’t looked at in about two years. I had to get it to sign up for that retreat. It was the only way to register and pay.

    You might not hear “G’Day” much, anymore, as it was highjacked by the Americans. “Good on ya,” might follow the same path. You can blame Paul Hogan. πŸ™‚ . I’m always surprised when watching a BBC series, and someone says to another person, “Oh, your Australian!” Or, “Oh, your American.” When they’ve hardly said anything at all, and I really can’t detect much of a difference. I think a lot of that might be due to the finally tuned sensibilities of the English, to accent = class. Prof. Henry Higgins, and all that.

    I quit liked the Hilltop Hoods. Although I think it was the diner setting, that got me. I really couldn’t understand half of what they were saying. (Singing.)

    Oh, I just threw out the garden / kitchen conundrum, because I figured you didn’t have enough conundrums cluttering up your brain πŸ™‚ . At what point do conundrums (cognitive dissonance?) pile up so deep, that the brain just shuts down? And why do bananas, usually come in hands of six, when there are seven days in a week?
    The universe has many mysteries.

    Well, the green beans were pretty much already dried, on the plant. I just threw them on newspaper, in an out of the way place (so out of the way, that they didn’t get shelled until recently. Inertia is a wonderful thing. Or is it just sloth and procrastination?)

    RIP stump grinder. Maybe, if the mechanic yields no joy, you should search out a faith healer. A laying on of hands, may yield a resurrection. Just check the yellow pages. Ooops! No more yellow pages. There’s probably a Faceplant page …

    The cost / benefit analysis of goats, is pretty tricky. There are many pluses and minuses. Luckily, I had two, on offer, from Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer, right across the road. It got tricky at the end of the summer, when I tried to return them. Apparently, he thought (wished?) I was going to keep them. No. I was very firm. “When I bring them back, tomorrow, where do you want me to stake them?” A similar situation to when someone tried to fob off a cat, on me. Closer inquiry revealed that the cat had numerous health problems, and probably should have been put down.

    Yes. Staying out of the clutches of the Medical Industrial Complex, is tricky. I’ve got all the proper paperwork in place (DNR’s. Do not resuscitate.) And, luckily, I don’t have any misguided relatives who’d be screeching, “You’ve GOT to save him!” I’ve got medical directive proxies, who have no problem with “pulling the plug.” I’ve heard of people who actually have “DNR” tattooed on their chests. One can also get nifty and stylish bracelets or necklaces.

    DJ mentioned COBRA. It’s an option to extend your medical coverage, for a set time, after employment. When I was laid off from the library, I was offered COBRA. But, it was way to expensive for me to afford. But, DJ’s situation is different than mine. So, I went without any medical insurance, at all, for quit a few years. And, really didn’t think about it, much. I’d get a lot of “What if you get SICK!” Well, then I die. That was a real thought stopper.

    Well, Texas. Some of the stories are pretty horrible. Having to burn their children’s blocks, to keep warm. Icicles hanging from indoor ceiling fans. One of their previous governor’s opined that they should just bite the bullet, as, if they didn’t have their own State power system, they’d be subject to FEDERAL REGULATION!!! The horror, the horror. They’re also trying to fob off the reasons for the power grid collapse, on alternative energy sources. It’s all the fault of those commie wind farms!

    Magic Food Boxes, come, tomorrow. Maybe. We have a couple of tempests in tea pots, going right now. Administration will have to figure out some way to punish us naughty children, and they may fiddle the food boxes, in some way. We’ll see.

    Nick Cage has a new film coming out on DVD, in a couple of months. “Willy’s Wonderland.” The trailer looks pretty good. Lew

  46. @ Inge – Ah! I discovered what I was doing wrong, when attempting to pry the oatcake from the pan. I let it cool, and then refrigerated it, before cutting.

    I discovered last night, if I pop it in the nucker, for about 45 seconds, it comes out of the pan, very easily. Lew

  47. Hi DJ,

    Far out that US weather looks intense from this sort of sunny and warm-ish summer-ish locale. Hey, I spotted an article (albeit locally focused) which discusses how the cold polar air mass pushed so far south into the US: If the Texas cold snap had happened in Australia… Just for a completely different perspective. πŸ™‚

    Exactly, your sleep-in plan was a goodie and I salute your efforts and would do likewise. Under the covers, at least it is warm during such weather. It would have been awful for people living that far south to have experienced such weather. People in the big smoke dread this mountain range for similar reasons, but as you’d know by now, it’s peanuts compared to a proper Arctic outbreak – which I’d cope with but oh my there would be a lot of whining.

    Hope Big Bertha is doing OK in the conditions? My stump grinder died, and I went to check it out today in the workshop, and err, yes, the patient cannot be brought back to life – easily. Oh well, I spent a while today reading about stump grinder machines, and they are an interesting technology. I asked too much of the former machine and an argument could be made that it was not up for the job. And also there is the recognition that the now dead machine was too cheap. There is a story there.

    All this talk of snow and ice is making me feel very cold sitting here in shorts and t-shirt with the door to the outside world letting in the cooler summer night air. Of course, it has been a cold and damp summer over all, but this week has proven to be something of an exception and today was 30’C. Some tomatoes have ripened – thankfully.

    Mate, last winter I almost crashed the dirt rat Suzuki (which I’d neglected to put into four wheel drive) when I encountered a patch of road ice in a snow storm. Who knew that cars could spin around so quickly and without warning whilst almost dropping us off a precipice into the thick forest? So yes, your lady is wise to exercise caution in such driving weather and conditions. I hope that no untoward events occurred on the roads for either of you?

    Isn’t a cobra also the name of a venomous snake? So, are you trying to suggest to me that you are willing to be bitten by a cobra? Of course any right thinking fluffy also knows that when dealing with your medical system, having a venomous snake onside and ready to hand might beget a better economic outcome for you and your lady. Cue (in the emergency ward talking to a faceless administrator) – Mate, so if you charge me that much, you’ll have to deal with the cobra. So rethink that fiftieth item on the bill, just sayin… Sounds like Dirty Harry – reptile style, no?

    Moving snow from one spot to another sounds to me like you are all herding snow cats! πŸ™‚ Good luck! The stock and wildlife losses would be immense.

    Thank you and I have Steve Solomon’s vegetable gardening in Tasmania book to thank for alerting me to the issue, which once known about could not be ignored and then the obvious conclusion was right in front of me. I brought back a goodly haul of Lime and Dolomite today along with some other stuff and will soon begin throwing it randomly about the orchards.

    Construction is but one part of the economic story, and I note that your new administrashun in your country seems determined to want to discover the ecological upper limits of human occupancy. From a purely academic perspective it is wonderful experiment, which perhaps might not end so well, unfortunately. But I have no skin in that game and can only but watch and wonder from afar. Your ladies ancestors had much to say upon the issue and I largely agree with their sentiments.

    Cheers

    Chris

  48. Hi Pam,

    Well that is the thing with wells – they’re great if you have the electricity to pump water up from the murky depths. As a suggestion, if I were in your situation and relied upon ground water (which I don’t given the above ground storage tanks), I’d have a 24V DC well pump battery powered (and solar panel if you want to get super fancy) setup as a backup to replace the mains powered unit when the power goes out for extended times. Anyway, that’s what I’d do. We don’t have the reliance on well water that I notice in your country if only because the well water is often brackish. The current theory is that the salt arrived via way of slow accumulation from the minuscule quantities of salt that arrive with regular rainfall over epic lengths of time – it’s an old continent after all.

    But would Charlene the White Squirrel co-operate? πŸ™‚ I tend to think the answer might be an empathic ‘no’. Hehe!

    The occasional spring will pop up here too, but it takes a year that is far wetter than this year, and it has been very wet so far with no sightings of springs. But yeah, like your place I suspect that the springs here re-charge the ground water.

    Haha! Well, we have both gas and electric cutting and splitting systems for firewood. But cross cut saws are hard work, no doubts about it. I’ve read reports that if they are well sharpened, they can cross cut a log almost as fast as a chainsaw, but that may be a future project.

    The old Model-T type arrangements remind me of old steam engine set ups which worked kind of similar with the belts attached to flywheels. The old Lister engines are pretty good from all accounts and you can feed them all manner of interesting fuels. They sound lovely too chugging away at low RPM.

    The stump grinder dilemma may be a big hit to the bank account. Ook!

    Hey, I got rid of the scent of stale cigarettes from the vegetable book by leaving it open in a dry place for a few days. Every time I walked past, I’d randomly flick the pages. Now it is very neutral smelling. Imagine the awful awfulness of having to endure someone else’s stale cigarette smell when chowing down upon a quality coffee and muffin? What the heck has the world come to?

    Cheers

    Chris

  49. Chris:

    “I’d have a 24V DC well pump battery powered (and solar panel if you want to get super fancy) setup as a backup ” Hotdog! Now there is an idea. Thanks!

    That is what I am doing with “Victorian Farm” right now. I couldn’t wait for the smell to dissipate and started reading it yesterday (with a muffin, yet!). I have put a stinky book outside in a cage before (a laundry basket with a plastic cover over the top – hello, mousies) and that clears the smell faster, but it has to be very dry outside. Not the case right now.

    Pam

  50. Hi Inge,

    Ooo, thanks for mentioning the notayesmans link to the amusing: ‘Yes Minister’. Yes, better get some patients.

    I went into the big smoke of Melbourne today to run a whole bunch of errands, and it was 91’F there today (a bit cooler here), and yeah there are no cases in the community apparently and I still had to wear a mask whilst in public spaces – I tell you it is hot doing that during summer on a hot day. Oh well, mustn’t grumble.

    Cheers

    Chris

  51. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks, and the comparison is quite stark between the three orchards. From what I’m reading, manures can be low in calcium too, so it is a bit of a worry. Began purchasing bags of the stuff this afternoon and will randomly make a mixture of lime, dolomite, blood and bone and complete organic fertiliser and chuck it through the orchard. I have to spread it thinly because the dogs are enjoying eating the cocktail, and I have no desire to experience what will happen if they eat too much of the stuff.

    But yes, like you do, nothing that wasn’t once alive and can be applied to the soil, doesn’t end up there. The sheer waste that goes on in the wider society is a never ending source of amazement to me. Have you managed to do any recycling drives recently? I guess the weather would put a stop on those events?

    Has it stopped snowing yet?

    Well, the local news is treating your weather and focusing on the South East like a bit of a horror show – and they have a point as few if any people on this continent would know what to do when encountering such weather. Thanks for the news on the ground from the windy city, and oh my gawd! And seriously, I do hope that things warm up for you all soon.

    My poor brain. I just immersed it in the swamp of the Texan energy discussion and um, yeah. You will note that I rely upon firewood for heat, as renewable energy sources are good, but they’re not good enough to power things as they are currently expected to be for most people. My poor brain aches reading the back and forth finger pointing. Ouch.

    Ate the very first ripe tomato two days ago, and a few more today. About time, but from Sunday it looks like the cool conditions will return. The growing season has a few more weeks yet to go.

    Congrats on getting the jab – I believe there may be a booster shot involved?

    Thanks and it is a bit crazy down here. Oh well, must be something in the water. πŸ™‚

    Cheers

    Chris

  52. Hi Lewis,

    It’s pretty funny isn’t it? Faceplant gets to prove the easy way, that it probably really isn’t all that necessary in the first place. Strange days and credit where credit is due, it was an audacious move on their part but the thing is, gobvarmint was there before Faceplant, and I’m guessing it will be there after Faceplant in one form or another. People are super weird about free services on the interweb and those really big alligators got that way by eating a lot of other stuff. Beats me, and don’t look too closely at who owns Tik Dumb – that’ll surprise us all. I pay for this website out of my own pocket (it is no great burden really, so I’m not trying to make any grab for cash) but none of this stuff is really free. The business model was always bonkers for the other stuff, and maybe it is me but I have long wondered whether it might be akin to a giant bait and switch operation?

    And surprise surprise, if I can put together a website which is not that great a financial strain, surely those gobarment departments can also do so?

    Yes, you might be right there about Paul funny sayings. There is a slight amendment to the saying of ‘Good on ya’ too. That incarnation is a positive spin on the saying and a form of credit where credit is due. But you can also tell people off in a friendly way by adding the word ‘yeah’ before then going on to say ‘good on ya’. It sounds to the ear like ‘Yeah – insert pregnant pause – good on ya’ and the mouth can supply an ever so slight sneer. Quite effective at putting an end to smarty pants folks. I was being a smarty pants today, when it was pointed that I’d dropped keys from pocket – the keys had gotten caught up in the mask which I kept there. Anyway, it didn’t look good for me. πŸ™‚ That’ll teach me.

    Hehe! It is possible with hip-hop and/or rap music that you’re not actually meant to understand every word. πŸ™‚ The diner setting was pretty good, and the talk of UFO’s at the end by the artist Briggs was quite funny. Yes, such things might be good for business.

    It was another warm day here today. 91’F and I headed off into the big smoke to run a huge list of errands. Picked up the coffee grounds as I couldn’t get there earlier in the week, and also filled up the car with bags of lime, dolomite and blood and bone. Plus there was a bag of intriguing complete organic fertiliser which I’m curious to open up and spread around. Checked in on the stump grinder patient and yes, it sure looks terminal to me (glad the thing didn’t self destruct whilst I was using it – as it was close to doing just that).

    Might continue painting one side of the house tomorrow whilst the weather is still hot enough for the paint to dry quickly. You may recall that I tend to paint one side of the house most years. It becomes far less hassle if you do the job like that – a bit at a time.

    Hehe! Yes, I was mentioning to DJ last week that my brain is rapidly nearing full as I’m candidly spread a bit thin, but still within working parameters. Had to do some research into stump grinders tonight and could have easily not done that, but you know – needs must, or whatever that means. Had to drop working on the repairs to the amplifier and FM tuner to create room for the stump grinder replacement project. At this stage, I don’t know much, but I do know that I won’t be purchasing the same machine again!

    What happens if the brain does shut down? Do items that fall out a persons ears get lost behind the couch? I do seriously wonder if there are limits to the number of issues that a person can be onto. I believe there are upper limits for the number of social connections a persons brain can get around. And yeah, why six? Maybe the commercial forces are suggesting that we should get out once per week? What about making breakfast fasting once a week a thing? I’m not into such activities, being a finely tuned machine and all, others can skip meals, but then who the heck knows when and where the next one will be (the adage of the old campaigner).

    Ah, thanks for the information regarding the green beans. Have not grown such plants before.

    Hehe! Faith healer for the stump grinder. πŸ™‚ Mate, I have faith that the machine can be healed, I just can’t afford to pay that bill to modify the machine in order to make it work properly. However, there is something in store for that machine so not to worry, at this stage I don’t believe it will be wasted.

    I recall you days over the road from Bob the Bachelor farmer. But yes, if the goats were easily loaned, but not so easily returned then that really says something right there. Well done you for returning the goats too – some lesser individuals may have capitulated.

    Hey, the goats are one thing as they were in good health, but the cat matter was a bit of a dog act. I would never do such a thing to someone else.

    Actually, I heard someone else saying that recently about tattooing DNR on their chest – a message that is very hard to ignore. I’m of a similar mindset and would not appreciate being resuscitated if subsequent quality of life was most likely very low. In the end, I’d probably return the favour by haunting anyone who did so (through sheer force of personality), just for the heck of it.

    Lewis, I advised DJ in relation to this matter, and cobra’s bite people. Nuff said really, people have to do what they’ll do. And exactly, people are a bit weird about their fear of death. Given it is something that happens to everyone, you’d think that we’d be a bit more I dunno, accepting of the outcome? It says something about our society that the outcome is dealt with by not talking about it. Beats me what is going on? Have you read anything on the subject of why that might be?

    Texas is home to cowboy swagger, rugged individualism and small government. Then icy winds knocked the power out. The article mentioned that the apartment building got down to 8’C / 46’F. Most years I’ll awake to internal temperatures in the house at 10’C / 50’F at some point during winter. It’s easily survivable, although I wouldn’t want to be caught outdoors all unprepared and stuff in the sort of weather they are having. And the article descended into green new deal talk. I have a lot of experience with renewable energy systems and that’s why I heat with firewood during the winter months. But still if people really want to give renewable energy technologies a go, I’m more than happy to watch them have fun with the results. Incidentally a mate sent me photos of a helicopter spraying some sort of anti-freeze onto a giant wind turbine. How weird is that?

    Yes, yes, but did you have fun being naughty children? No point being punished if you haven’t all had at least some fun in the process?

    Nick’s alright, a fine artist. I’m quite partial to the ‘into my arms’ and the murder ballads album was quite good too, yes the wild roses.

    Cheers

    Chris

  53. Yo, Chris – Well, Face Plant had better watch their step. Anyone remember another social network called, something like, My Room? When high school students came flooding into the libraries, after school, they managed to crash all our systems. All signing onto the site, at the same time. Until our IT people figured out how to limit bandwidth, to that site. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth. But my point is, as went that network went, so to, will Face Plant. Even older, anyone remember something called (sorta) U S. Online? As with empires, all things fall, sooner or later.

    What disturbs me is, all of a sudden, most government websites now flash up a warning, something like, unsafe site, enter at your own risk. It’s really a disclaimer. A tush covering move. Plausible deniability.

    LOL. Oh, I get it. The variation on “Good on ya,” all depends on inflection. As when I say the name of a fellow Inmate, Dick. If I get the inflection right (and, I usually do), it usually gets a giggle.

    Hip Hop / Rap needs subtitles. Or, maybe not, given the content of some of the lyrics. Here you go. Lyrics to “1955.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAjrGxB3sKI

    RIP stump grinder. Oh, I figured you’d turn it into a butter churn, or something πŸ™‚ . I remember you mentioning you paint one side of the house, per year. Makes sense to me.

    I thought I saw green beans in one of your pictures? I grow a variety called Kentucky Wonder green pole beans. Though they seem just as happy growing up chicken wire. Or, anything else they can reach. Heavy producers, freeze quit nicely, can be bottled, seed is easy to save. Last years crop came from saved seed.

    Well, goats in good health would have been ok, but the nanny had some undiagnosed problem. Skinny as, but otherwise, seemed healthy. The other one was a ram. Sweet as, but, I was still leery of those great curving horns.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in Texas, politically. That business about the office buildings being lit up? Well, they probably have their own generators, but, as they say, the optics are bad. And, the bit about the senator, running off to Mexico. He’s a perennial runner for president, but I think he can put that fantasy, away. Any opponent he runs up against, will drag that little bit of information out, again. And besides, according to some news reports, they LEFT THE FAMILY DOG, BEHIND! πŸ™‚ . As far as the Green New Deal goes, you may have noticed that the new administration has not signed on to that pipe dream. As far as spraying antifreeze on wind generators, did anyone do an environmental impact statement? πŸ™‚ .

    Well, an interesting morning. As, “May you live in interesting times.” OK. Here’s how it goes. At the last months food box distribution, Suzanne Who Always Has a Better Idea, got in a screaming match with Liz. So, Suzanne got the bright idea to have “rules” for food box distribution. About a week ago, she distributed the new rules, to all tenants. Well, nothing is supposed to be distributed, like that, unless ok’d by the office. Which, of course, it wouldn’t be.

    So, we got a memo from the office, that all Inmates were to stay in their apartments, and the boxes would be delivered. (By, who?). Now, in the past, I do believe that the office has chosen to ignore what goes on here, on food distribution day. But, Suzanne who always has a better idea, forced there hand.

    So, when the boxes showed up, today, the building administrator showed up, and insisted we unload them into the community room. Which is locked. She also denied the Rev, access to the building, as, he won’t wear a mask (says he has a medical problem. Yeah, sure.). So, there was a screaming match between the building administrator, Suzanne and the Rev. Building Administrator stomps of the premises. About an hour later, after the Rev had left, there’s the Building Manager, at my door, with my food box.

    I wonder if they’ll slap a restraining order on the Rev. They’ve tried to keep him out of the building, as much as possible. They’re very uncomfortable with “outsiders” knowing what goes on here. I also wonder what will happen when the second round of boxes, shows up, this afternoon. Time will tell.

    I looked up the LBB’s (Little Brown Birds), yesterday. Actually, they’re not brown. They’re more black and gray. Black Capped Chickadee. We have small flocks of them around, and they always seem to be on a mission. I also saw a bird, that I really didn’t know what it was. Sitting in a bush. Looked like one of our Robins, but smaller and plumper. With a bit brighter orange / red chest. He’s a Spotted Towhee. An hour later, he was still sitting in the same place. Frankly, he looked a bit depressed. Lew

  54. Hello Chris,

    Regarding mineral replenishment of your growing areas, here some thoughts:

    I suspect that you pay less for crushed limestone than for that bag of dolomite.

    Here in North-West Europe, we can purchase all kinds of mineral supplements in 25kg bags at farmer’s supply stores. Dolomite-bags are typically 15-20 euro, with variations that go up to 25 euro. Similar price as you state, of 1 USD/kg. (.5 USD/pound). (Compared with crushed limestone, which only costs .05 to .10 USD/kg for 100 kg or more.)
    The main cost in the production of the mineral supplements is to get a uniform non-granulating powder that can be spread using industrial-scale machines with a uniform sprinkling across several acres. It is a very fine powder that is very “quick” in the system.

    My guess is that your crushed limestone has a very similar biological effect as the dolomite on your property, but with a “slow-release” delivery effect, and non-uniform across your orchards.

    So, my tip is: Wherever you get the crushed stone, get more. Of all kinds of stones/minerals that they have. And spread unevenly. The trees and fungi will send roots to whatever they need.
    (As long as you can avoid a Suez-style compost contamination that you mentioned last week. – but how do you know that in advance…)

    I also have to tip my hat to your acute perspective: “We use a lot of fossil fuels on the farm.” A litre. A quart. Over several days. A drop in the torrent of consumption. I can only wish that all our neighbors also use the remaining petrol to such worthy a goal as to increase long term fertility of the land…

    Kind regards,
    Goran

  55. Chris,

    How people deal with snow depends on how much they see it. When it snows in Seattle, people abandon their cars in the middle of the roads and highways and walk away, with maybe 3 or 4 cm total snowfall. We just deal with it and drive.

    Big Bertha is doing fine in these conditions. Gave her a drink of petrol this morning , allowing Bertha to enjoy moving more snow. We got about another 7cm overnight, making for a season total of about 106 or 107cm, which, coincidentally, is 42 inches. Okay, no more snow is needed, we’ve had the optimal snowfall for the season. πŸ˜‰

    Sorry about your stump grinder. I see that somebody already mentioned finding a faith healer for said machine? It’s either that or give the machine last rites.

    Okay, here is a link to a bunch of cartoons about winter. Scrolling through them, I found the sequence beginning with number 13 to be my favorites. https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/s/snow_plow.asp

    Oh, the road trips Monday went fine. No slipping or sliding or anything. The only snowy/icy roads were within 16 km of home, and most people were driving appropriately for the conditions for once.

    Yes, a trained cobra is needed in order to get through the US medical system. And yes, the “Dirty Harry” movies could easily be amended for cobras: “Go ahead, meet my snake.” or “Cobra venom is among the deadliest in the world. My cobra can give 6 lethal bites. Did he bite 5 times, or did he bite 6 times? Do you feel lucky, punk?”

    Snow cats would be hard to herd. They are big: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowcat

    Immigration is a gnarly issue. Humans have been migrating around the planet since there were first humans. I’ve got a bunch of ancestry from the Loch Lomond region of Scotland, which, judging from your surname, isn’t terribly far from where you’ve got ancestry. Then they moved on, for whatever reason. And from Central America to what’s now the US was a two way trade and migratory path for thousands of years prior to European settlement. I totally get the idea about borders in the modern world. I also get the idea of migration being something humans do, and a line on a map being hard to enforce. Learning from my wife’s ancestors’ struggles does seem like a wise move, but wishing for wisdom in our gummint in the US is like, well, “Hold out your hands. Wish in one and spit in the other, see which hand fills up faster.”

    DJSpo

  56. Hi Pam,

    Yeah the idea is a no brainer in your situation as such a low voltage pump can draw water apparently from a depth of 40m / 132ft, and it is not like they are expensive pumps. You just have to somehow make sure that the battery doesn’t get wet, too cold or too hot, but again that is hardly an arduous proposition and if the well is not located too far from the house, the battery could probably sit inside the house with appropriately sized cables running to the pump.

    Yeah, I hear you about that with books and the stink was epic – possibly similar but different to your situation. And I’ve never smoked so it was hard to ignore the stale stench, but the book is very neutral smelling now. I hate getting pungent aftershave on my hands after touching something that someone who has lathered the stuff on has previously touched.

    Definitely an example of the philosophical school which suggests that whilst one is good, twenty nine might be better! πŸ™‚ Far out, but people do go overboard with such things.

    Cheers

    Chris

  57. Hi GΓΆran,

    You guessed correctly and my strategy is to pursue both options. Bags of lime and dolomite will feed the fruit trees which are at a distance from the house and paths. The locally quarried crushed rock with lime will as you quite rightly suggest, will feed the fruit trees nearer to the paths and house.

    OK, so 1 Euro equates to $1.54AUD (Aussie Dollars). So your 20 Euro 25kg bag, works out to be about the same price per kg that I’m paying for similar bags, which you quite rightly note.

    Exactly, a cubic metre of the locally quarried crushed rock and lime (they are the same material in different grades with lime being the fines and crushed rock being larger chunks of limestone) is about $120/m3. Over the past few years the material has risen in price mainly due to increased cost for diesel fuel which is used to excavate, crush and transport the material. So yeah it is a far cheaper option, however the material is a mix of sizes and the critters living in the soil appreciate the ‘fines’ (i.e. the smaller sized material) better than the larger chunks. The larger material will over a long enough period of time break down into the smaller fines, so yes it is a slow release fertiliser which doubles as a pleasant to walk upon material for paths.

    Mate, I’m working on your plan, but there are limits to finances, and the time and resources with which to spread the minerals. I wish it were otherwise, but wishes as you would already know, don’t get activities done.

    The suez situation is not good and that is what living on a poisoned planet looks like. And you can’t know in advance, all you can really do is act and hope for the best.

    Hehe! Thank you for understanding my little joke about the usage of fossil fuels on the farm – and it is true. Even in decline there are opportunities to act, should we but take the time to notice them. I tend to view such uses as an investment in the future.

    Cheers

    Chris

  58. Hi DJ,

    Really? Well abandoning a vehicle in a snow storm seems like a very unwise activity from my perspective. The mind boggles to consider where the occupants of the abandoned vehicles ended up going? Highways and Freeways are very inhospitable experiences. Mind you, it snows here on only a few days each year so we have little actual experience with the fluffy white stuff that occasionally falls from the sky.

    Total respect for calling the fossil fuel liquid ‘petrol’, rather than the more commonly heard usage ‘gas’. There must be a reason for the difference in description, but it sure beats me. Some vehicles down here do actually run on gas fuel and they have large gas cylinders in their boots, but the gas is known down here as LPG or ‘Liquefied Petroleum Gas’. That fuel is not as widely available but it is cheaper but of course the stuff is less energy dense relative to the liquid stuff.

    Speaking of Big Bertha, the sort of liquids that are being sold as fuels these days has started me adding ‘fuel stabiliser’ additives to the fuel tanks of small machines. Yeah, I talk to a wide variety of people and the people who repair small engines have alerted me to the more unusual mixes being sold these days and the effects they have on small engines. If gums build up too greatly in the carburetors, they now have an ultrasonic cleaner. Not dissimilar to a dentist?

    No, the stump grinder has received last rites for occupancy in this here household. However, it isn’t a total write off as there is a strong possibility that the machine may get modified and re-birthed – but that is a story for someone else.

    Wiley Ink is very amusing. πŸ™‚ Best not to argue with nature in the first place, and just somehow work out how to go with the flow.

    But your Dirty Harry lines were funnier. Mate you took all the best lines and then flipped them, and so I went on an interweb rabbit hole for the characters quotes – very politically incorrect! πŸ™‚ So here is my contribution: You don’t assign the cobra to insurance cases – you just turn the snake loose. Not as good as yours, but you get the picture.

    You got me there! Oh no! I was thinking that you’d present some horrendously tough feline who would rip us all limb from limb and then chew upon the cooling remains. But no, the monster you linked to may possibly crush us all without the slightest notice.

    Thanks for the insight, and you’re probably correct there on all fronts. I can’t argue with you there. We have a different culture down here in relation to such matters and living on an island sort of inculcates that, but I noted during the most recent drought that grain export terminals were converted into grain import terminals and that must have sent alarm bells ringing somewhere. I guess we’ll find out how it will all roll eventually, but it wasn’t that many years ago where the big smoke almost ran out of water, and a million extra souls have been added since those days. Calls for ‘pray for rain’ were heard.

    As a side note, the struggles have historically been visited upon many, and it is an awful part of our species collective acts. I was not in fact referring to the struggles, but to observations made as to the future. The golden rule applies equally as far as I can understand the world, although the timing of application is always far from clear.

    Cheers

    Chris

  59. Hi Lewis,

    Well yeah, Faceplant is simply the new kid on the block for such things and any loss of users is probably going to hit their advertising revenues. How could it not? Throttling bandwidth was quite a smart move on the library techo’s part. Hey, I recall the older Bulletin Board Servers where you had to dial in. Good fun, but I reckon they’ll all peak and decline sooner or later.

    And my little joke of calling aggregators, alligators was perhaps too subtle? πŸ™‚

    Just checked out a page discussing the timeline for social media sites and um, it sort of looks like of start-ups are nowadays few and far between. The sign of a mature market me thinks.

    You know, those warning messages are a bit of a pain and the web browser here tried to tell me that my router was an unsafe site a few weeks back. That is just not possible. A bloke told me a few years back that he was a big believer in signage, and sure enough there are plenty of signs to back up his belief. It appears to be a real belief after all and the actual signs suggest that this is sadly true. Signage is a legal response rather than an effective response, say like castle walls or a decent moat. Plausible deniability is a nice way to put it.

    Hehe! Well done you. Language can be a whole lot of fun. Hopefully Dick gets the message?

    Thank you so much for the lyrics to the song. Mate, even I originally misunderstood some of the lyrics. The song is even better with those meanings attached to it. Time moves a little slower here too. πŸ™‚ If you were to teleport here, no doubt you’d see the place as being forty years in your past. I’ve travelled to parts of the world that felt like that to me. Have you ever encountered such a feeling?

    Actually the motor on the stump grinder has rendered itself inoperable due to what might be an inherent fault/s. Yes, sad and expensive, but I’m grateful it did not self destruct during my usage, although it was actually a close call.

    Painted the side of the house today. The sun was hot and by late afternoon I was completely done.

    Ah yes, there are green beans growing – I’ve just never grown them before. Most of the instructions have advised me that they over winter and can be planted at any time of the year preferably in the cooler seasons – this is not so. And so each year the plants have died. They need the summer sun at this locale. The variety grown here is the unfortunately named: Lazy Housewife Bean, and it is prolific for very little effort. And the variety was even mentioned in the also unfortunately named ‘Burpee’s’ 1888 farm annual. I couldn’t make this stuff up! Kentucky Wonder also promises much in the name. πŸ™‚ I’ll follow your lead with the shelling and replanting next spring.

    I’d be leery of the horns too – goats have a reputation so best keep on their good side. Someone around here runs a highland cattle farm with the hairy cattle – and far out they have horns. You wouldn’t want to annoy a bull.

    Yeah, why he would have left the state, only to then turn around and come back, well who cares it is probably not the best look. And weather forecasts are wonderful things as they give at least some advanced warning of extreme weather events. Although I have noticed that when the Black Saturday bushfires hit, there were warnings leading up to the day and still plenty of people said that they had no idea and didn’t receive any warnings. Oh well…

    Renewable energy is pretty good, it is just not good enough to meet peoples expectations. So the possibility for me is that the green new deal is a bunch of dog poop. I’d love to be proven wrong though and someone somehow through some miracle pulls one out of the hat. That would be awesome, but the Limits to Growth projections, which hold water today sorry to say, showed that even with unlimited resources, things still went astray. That’s what I’d call baked into the cake. Is it a tasty cake though?

    I’m very uncomfortable with people who get into screaming matches, as they often use that tool in order to get their own way. It is not a common reaction down under. There are ways of dealing with such folks and such reactions. Screaming matches don’t much impress me – I’ve seen enough of them for one life.

    Lewis, the thing is that people demanding rules, aren’t generally the sort of people who can manage and enforce rules, otherwise the rules would have already been in place – even if they were kooky rules. It goes without saying.

    I thought that the Rev. was part of your crew of inmates? Intriguing – the concerned outsider, a dark figure of unknown motivations. And no mask – the constabulary might issue him with a fine if he were down here. I actually forgot my mask the other day in a shop and had to apologise for my oversight.

    Did you get the second and fresh food box?

    The Chickadees are lovely looking birds, and you under sold them. They look a bit like the Blue Wren’s here – except they aren’t blue – and from the description they sort of sound like they fit the same niche. The Spotted Towhee looks good too. Both birds will work hard in the garden – possibly eating slugs – if those foolish plant monsters were out and about during the daylight hours.

    Cheers

    Chris

  60. Chris:

    Thanks for more well pump info. The well is reasonably close to the house, upslope a little, so I think the battery could be put in the basement. Maybe.

    Pam

  61. Yo, Chris – Oh, yes. I remember dial up. I call it to mind, when I get antsy with pages, loading. πŸ™‚ .

    Aggregators / Alligators. I just thought it was a typo. πŸ™‚

    Today’s ear worm. But I think I linked to it, last year. “Signs Signs, Everywhere a Sign.” Five Man Electric Band, 1971.

    I never speak to “Dick.” Unless he mutters something under his breath, and then I answer in kind. Forcefully. I think it sets him back, a bit, when someone pushes back. The last go-around, involved several F-bombs, on both sides. Luckily, no Ladies were in ear shot.

    Have I encountered the time travel feeling? Oh, yeah. When I moved here. I’d say, we were at least, socially, ten years behind the rest of the country. But, what with cable TV, the internet, and a video store on every corner, the world came crashing in.

    Some plant names, and the stories that go with them, are fascinating. We have a tomato variety called “Mortgage Lifter.” Apparently, the fellow who developed it (During the Great Depression), sold enough of them to pay off his mortgage. Eleanor planted one, this year. But, as it was a poor year for large tomatoes, she only got two or three off the bush.

    Well, the Green New Deal contains many wild and fantastic things, besides renewable energy. Pipe dreams. Or, as a friend of mine wold say, “Are you smoking your shorts?” πŸ™‚ .

    No, the Rev is not an Inmate. In fact, he and his wife live on the road that I used to take out to my old place. Little did I know … They have a cow, bees, chickens, and gosh knows what else. He’s an ex-army chaplain, but has a congregation of Missouri Synod Lutherans. I suppose he had a congregant who moved in here, way before my time. And, he just filled in needs, as they arose. Runs a small prayer meeting, on Sundays, all welcome. Visits people in the hospital, will run people to their doctor’s appointments. He doesn’t proselytize, at least, not much. He was thrilled when I told him I came from the same background as his denomination. Hopes, dashed, when I told him I hadn’t set foot in a MSL church, since I was 14. But the Administration wants him out. And has set up every road block, possible, to force him out. They say it’s because HUD rules ban any sort of religious display. But I think it’s just that they don’t want anyone from outside to know what goes on, here.

    That was a fascinating article, about the Amish family. Amish and Mennonites come in many flavors. Their Ordnung (local ruling bodies) make the rules for the local families, they oversee. I noticed the 14 year old son, was beginning to sport, quit a beard. Some Ordnung ban beards … until a fellow marries. Also, some ban the taking of pictures. I’m sure more Amish will arrive in Australia and New Zealand. They have a high birthrate, and new colonies are springing up, all the time.

    Well, the second food box was also delivered to our doors. By the fellow who drove the truck. He didn’t seem miffed, and, I found out that that is the usual procedure for places the Thurston County Food Bank, delivers to. I guess, in the mists of time, we just developed our own traditions. Now, another communal function has bit the dust. Even before You Know What, the Administration moved in ways to break up community, and drive wedges between people. Like doing away with the food pantry, and the assigned parking. Without assigned parking, tensions arise, between tenants. We were also told that if we were concerned about a fellow inmate, and needed a wellness check, we should not take it upon ourselves, but, call the police or emergency medical people. For anyone “on the ball,” it really is a calculated policy. The HUD rules are vague enough, that the Administration has a lot of leeway in interpretation.

    But, back to the food boxes. All told, there was no meat, this time around. Eggs, but no cheese or meat. Except the orange commodity cheese. And, some shelf stable milk. 8 cans of corn (!). Four loaves of bread. I’m not much of a bread eater, but I tossed three in the freezer. They were from Trader Joe’s, and, artisanal. A sack of potatoes, a sack of carrots, one green pepper, a small container of tomatoes and a bag of small apples. Etc.. And a jar of strawberry preserves, that I noticed were from Greece (!)

    The Chickadees mob about in flocks of 8-10. They bedevil H. I’m not sure if she wants to play with them, or eat them.

    The library was a bit of a disappointment, this week. Whoever processes the new DVDs, must have taken a week off. No new films came through. Our National Weather Service says another atmospheric river, is arriving. It was clear this morning, so I nipped down to the library, as I had books to pick up. “What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor?” Traditional sea shanties. If I find an amusing, though naughty one, I’ll post it separately, so you can delete it, if necessary πŸ™‚ . “Let Me Tell You What I Mean.” A collection of essays by Joan Didion. You have Maugham, I have Didion. “Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal.” It’s by Mark Bittman. He’s written several cookbooks. I have a couple. Quit good. And, “Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World” by Winchester. He’s written other good books. So, I have plenty to keep me occupied.

    And, lastly, just for fun. A Victorian fork, with “Charon Ferrying Souls to Hades” as the handle design.

    https://risdmuseum.org/art-design/collection/pattern-table-fork-charon-ferrying-souls-hades-20051184228

    If you scroll down a bit, there’s a paragraph on how bonkers the Victorians were, when it came to extended table services. Lew

    Here’s another article on our wandering poles. With an Australian twist.

    http://www.npr.org/2021/02/18/969063568/ancient-trees-show-when-the-earths-magnetic-field-last-flipped-out

  62. Hi Lewis,

    A fine thing to recall when encountering slow connections. You called it, things were not always like they are now and the old dial up was very slow indeed.

    πŸ™‚ Hehe! Being able to spell is a lost art – in more ways than one. A bit of a shame that, but you know it might be me being overly cautious, but I see no need to feed the index searches for the big interweb parasites. Sure they do some good, but they also do some not good. My take on the matter is that if they acknowledged that they are a more nuanced organisation I’d probably be more comfortable, but no – they point to one outcome and their acts betray them. Gargle appears to have already cut searches for local content. Hmm.

    Thanks for the ear worm. A classic too. πŸ™‚

    Yeah, from time to time dropping an F-bomb for emphasis when it is needed can be a useful tool. It is possible that his name suggests the personality?

    Ah, I see. As a general note, that feeling of stepping back in time wasn’t necessarily a negative feeling by any means. I quite enjoyed it actually, but at the same time never let on to the locals. Media is a great way of homogenising culture across a broad geographical area. That can’t be a coincidence, could it?

    Those mortgage lifter tomatoes are meant to be pretty good, and plant breeding has a lot in it. I was reading recently about how to go about bringing Hybrid varieties back to Open Pollinated varieties. And the suggestion was made that chucking in some hybrid genetics into open pollinated varieties might add a bit of vigour to the plants. Some people might find such an act to be heretical, but I dunno you have to use the tools available to you – and the new open pollinated variety might be better.

    Hmm, I’d be worried that a green new deal would send your country broke. People tend to forget that fossil fuels are cheap and reliable – and this is a desirable collection of traits. Renewable sources are neither cheap nor are they reliable – unless households can wean themselves off excessive energy usage. From what I understand of people’s reactions on that front they tend to act and say to themselves, well this won’t matter too much. But it kind of does.

    Your country has a fascinating history of accepting groups of people with differing belief systems, and the Missouri Synod Lutherans has a similar history. I note they set out to convert the Indigenous folks, and given the low take up of the faith it does make me wonder what the Indigenous folks thought about the missionaries.

    The English culture has long employed the tool of divide and conquer. It’s a very old game, and sorry to see that you are at the blunt end of that story. What do you do? There are better tools to use, but that one has long history with our cultural imagination and some people are like dogs with a bone and they might not be able to let go.

    Ah, thanks for that about the Amish. Yes, I can see that they were very anti-car, and that’s cool as they walk the talk. But Scottsdale is not close to a large city and if horse is the only transport, well I dunno. Stuff has to get there somehow, so they might utilise freight services from time to time? Dunno. The family seemed cool with motors though and from memory used diesel small farm equipment and had a motor on the washing machine – although I don’t quite understand that set up. Anyway, they seem harmless enough.

    As to a community becoming established there – well I kind of doubt it. I did a quick search on property prices, and it appeared to be way expensive if they wanted extra land, especially for an out of the way locale. And they have eight kids. Farm succession is a serious matter that I rarely see being handled well. How could it be with a growing population? If a population was stable, well that’s a different thing, but large families provide great work-forces, but the kids don’t stay young forever. Their outward expansionary policies are simply an expression of that ecological reality.

    I’ve heard of corn which is canned, but it has been many long years since I’ve sampled it. From memory it was some sort of creamed corn, or something like that – it was quite tasty. Orange cheese – hmm, good luck! πŸ˜‰ Top score with the artisanal loaves, and I’d do the same, but maybe dice one up for the chickens.

    Wow, I would have thought that the Ancient Greeks flogged their soils hard, and then that was that.

    Hehe! I learned that sea shanty as a kid, and being the little terrors that we were, we loved the thought of sailors turning up to work drunk from a big night before, getting a poor reception, and then being keelhauled. Kids… So did you discover any bawdy sea shanties? Sailors have a reputation to uphold after all.

    Education these days is sadly lacking and I’d never heard of Joan Didion. The author and commentator is very quotable. Suicidal is a big call, but the author might have something there. Food does leave a lot to be desired these days, and it is a rare week that I do not encounter a person randomly who does not have an issue with their guts. But then people like to eat what they will and it is an expression of social standing to do so. It won’t end well you know. And down here the flesh eating bacteria seems to have gotten into the news again: Australia Has a Flesh-Eating-Bacteria Problem. Pretty nasty huh? I’d hope that sooner or later someone does observational research on the commonalities between affected people. I see people using cleaners described as hospital strength in domestic situations and I’m uncomfortable by that.

    Ha! The Victorians were crazy about such things, and I know how to use my knife and fork and which to first use, but still it is crazy the minutiae of their rituals if only because they were stupid monkey games.

    I visited that tree in the photograph. It is an impressive tree. But yeah, not sure I’d want to be out and about during daylight hours in those conditions. Far out, talk about skin burns – the sun here is bad enough. Yesterday whilst painting the side of the house I thought I’d cooked my head.

    Better run, writing is calling!

    Cheers

    Chris

  63. Yo, Chris – Yup. “Dick’s” name, matches his personality.

    I’ve heard of back-breeding. They do it with animals, too. Sometimes, a good thing, as resilient genes, that have been lost, can come to the fore, again. Mileage may vary.

    Well, we’re going broke, anyway. Might as well do it in style πŸ™‚ . Here’s an interesting article on food costs.

    https://money.yahoo.com/high-food-prices-struggling-americans-211552448.html

    Some of the stories coming out of Texas, are horrible, but others are encouraging. There was the guy that froze to death, in his recliner. Hadn’t had power in three days. But then there’s the woman who built a small fire in her backyard, heated up all her cast iron cookware and a few bricks. Said it kept a small room warm for quit awhile. Then there’s the couple that took in a young, stranded delivery driver for five days. As Dickens said, “Best of times, worst of times.” All this got me thinking about “The School House Blizzard.” 1888 was a bad winter year. Around the same time, our east coast also got hit, hard.

    About every denomination made it a mission (pun intended) to “convert the heathen.” It was a great money maker, too. Out here, besides the Catholics, the Methodists were big in the conversion business. Sometimes, it didn’t end well. See: Whitman Massacre.

    As the library didn’t deliver on DVDs this week, I’ve been watching one of the Great Courses, that I purchased awhile back. “The High Middle Ages.” Apparently, they smoked a lot of Mari-hoochie, at that time. But I haven’t gotten to that part, yet. It covers the period from 1000 – 1300 CE. Interesting times. During that period, the population doubled, due to many factors. For unknown reasons, there was no plague from about 800-1300. Agricultural technology slowly advanced. More land was cleared for crops. The climate was a bit warmer. Cities began to develop. A kind of Goldilocks time.

    “They seem harmless enough.” I picked up something interesting from the book, “Fantasyland.” One of our early presidents, Thomas Jefferson said, he didn’t care what people did, as long as it didn’t “pick his pocket, or break his leg.” But, left unfettered, that kind of laissez-faire attitude can lead to rampant nonsense.

    Well, lack of land and the expense of land is why new Amish colonies keep getting founded. Cheap land, community support and modest needs lifestyle keep them rolling along.

    Well, there’s canned corn (like frozen corn, in a can) and creamed corn. I remember that, from my childhood. I’m sure it’s still around. Actually, not bad stuff, if you jazz it up, a bit. Which Mum never did. A few green or red peppers. Maybe a bit of meat. But even plain, it was kind of tasty. Or, as I remember it.

    I took a look at the sea shanty book, last night. Oh, my. Some of them are quit naughty. And the author (an old navy man) doesn’t mince the naughty words. Even though it’s only 125 pages, there are some great black and white illustrations, from old engravings. And, the author explains the nautical terms, as he goes along.

    That was quit an article about the flesh eating bacteria. We have forms of it, here. And, on the east coast, they have a bacteria that can get in your ears, from swimming in lakes. Turns your brain to mush.

    I suppose the “message” of the Victorian fork was, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” Which runs all the way back to the Romans. Some of their tomb inscriptions (posted by the side of the road) often had the bottom line of, “As I am, so shall you be.”

    And, finally, just for fun, another one of nature’s oddities.

    https://news.yahoo.com/yellow-penguin-potentially-first-kind-224608163.html

    An omen! But, good or bad? I think it’s kind of pretty.

    Oh, and over at Mr. Greer’s, at 2/20 6:59am, someone posted a link to an interesting article from zero hedge. Lew

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