Earlier this week, a friend who is moving her family to a rural locale asked a seemingly simple question: What equipment do I reckon her family might need in their new rural locale? Innocuous questions are often the most difficult to provide a straight answer to. For some reason people seem to ask me these sorts of simple yet very complex questions, so I’m thinking that there must be something in the water here which causes them to do so.

It even happens in my professional working life. There are times where I’m often asked the most awful question: “How much money do you think I’ll need to have for a comfortable retirement?’ Due to very serious legal limitations, I’m actually unable to provide a coherent answer to that question. However, in order to maintain my enigmatic professional status, I instead provide sage advice. The advice given comes down to the truth of the matter which is that what you need in retirement are: Friends; Hobbies and Purpose. It is worth noting that some people seem rather annoyed by this response, but really, that is their problem.

The idea for the sage advice began formulating in my mind at a very young age. My grandfather was a noted businessman who had led a very interesting life. He made quite the impression on the younger me. About the age of around 15 years, he confided in me that he felt that the concerns of his older friends whom had already retired seemed somehow trivial. I have this vague memory that the old bloke was unsettled that his even older retired mate had been discussing the problems of shaving and razors with him. At such a youthful age and having to turn up to school each day whether I liked it or not, retirement sounded pretty good to me. And anyway, shaving was not in my day to day experience at that age, and so I really had no idea what he was talking about. However, the general idea that he believed that retirement was a bad thing was conveyed. And true to form, the old bloke died within days of retiring. Strongly held beliefs can weigh heavily on a persons mind and have awful consequences.

Beliefs are such a difficult and murky world in which to tread. A person being asked to give advice should feel uncomfortable, almost as if the very sword of Damocles is hanging by the single horse hair and just waiting to fall upon them should their advice go astray. As a consequence I rarely give advice.

Anyway, I might have to make an exception for my friend, as it is not as if the editor and I hadn’t also asked for advice in the past. When we moved into this rural area, we asked a lot of people – some of them old timers in the area – how they’d go about managing certain aspects of the steep property that were puzzling us at the time. Answers to our simple questions were not forthcoming. The property it should be noted is on the side of a hill, and most of the old timers we asked the question of, lived on flat land. I dream of flat land!

Bizarrely the answers to those simple questions came unbidden over time, but unexpectedly much later. We simply kept an eye open over the years to see what other people were doing that worked on similarly steep blocks. And then implemented and tested those ideas on the property here. If the idea was particularly good and worthwhile, we’d replicate it. That’s experience for you.

The thing is though, in order to be able to observe those solutions to the unanswered questions, you have to know what you want to achieve in the first place. That’s certainly not an easy thing to know. When first we became serious about growing fruit on this property, I had a vague notion of establishing a food forest. It’s a concept that didn’t work out so well for us, basically due to rats and diseases around the trunks of the fruit trees. Nowadays we do our best to keep the under story of the orchards clear and open, just like an old timer orchard. And berries, herbs and vegetables are all planted out in nice and neat separate areas.

There are times even now when I don’t know what to do, but I still have to do something. At those times I ask for and take advice, but the form which that takes is the engaging in of a dialogue. Dialogue, isn’t simply asking a question and expecting an answer, it involves engaging in a conversation. The conversation might be prolonged and involve several people, and you might even have to weigh up their motivations and experience. It’s anything but simple! And it is certainly not a quick process.

Earlier in the week I received a phone call from the farm machine repair guys. The stump grinder had been making odd sounds, and they were investigating the problem with the machine at their workshop. The expensive machine is unfortunately now a write off, and a conversation was had as to why that was the case. Later on the next day I dropped in to the workshop, and sure enough the stump grinder was clearly a write off, and I had another friendly chat with the bloke in the workshop. The machine is an expensive machine after all, but as far as stump grinder machines go, it was a relatively cheap machine which that shop hadn’t sold to me.

With easily ten thousand trees and the detritus of a century or more of logging on the farm, I really do need and use a stump grinder. The written off machine was too fragile in these circumstances to do the job properly without self destructing, as it had almost done. So, yet another chat was had with the boss of the farm machine business as to what had happened, how the machine was being put to use, and what to do from here. I’m in now in their hands. Experience over the years has proven to me that they know this stuff better than I, and their reputation in the local area counts for something.

As had been amusingly remarked to me before about other machines, the written off stump grinder will make a good first machine! Yes, very amusing.

So as to respond to the original question asked of me: I can’t give any advice. All I can suggest is that this is how I would approach the situation, and that involves observing others and engaging with the locals who the have experience using the form of dialogue. And if time is unavailable for either activity, then I’d wait until time does become available. These machines aren’t cheap.

A finally albeit briefly hot summer sun sets below the horizon

A brief and underwhelming summer heat wave sat over the farm for about 5 days this week. Each of those days exceeded 30’C / 86’F. It sure felt hot, but in a normal summer those would be felt as only reasonably warm days.

At least the brief spell of heat produced some ripe tomatoes. The most reliable, reasonably tasty and easy to grow tomatoes on the farm are the Barry’s Crazy Yellow Cherry tomatoes. That seriously is their variety name, and the tomatoes are really good tasting.

Ripe tomatoes for dinner with zucchini (courgette) flowers which are stuffed and baked

Another day of digging took place on the future shed site up above the house. It wouldn’t be the juggernaut of Fernglade Farm if I hadn’t unearthed or otherwise had to deal with some monster sized rock rearing up and out of the bowels of the Earth.

Another week, another massive rock

The rock was moved and another four feet of excavations were completed. The site for the new shed is looking pretty good.

The site for the new shed is coming along nicely

Observant readers will note in the above photo that in the forest behind me you can see what appears to be either smoke or mist. The brief heatwave came to an abrupt halt during the digging and the weather then turned colder and misty. It’s been a bit of a crazy summer weather wise.

The steel rock gabion at the site of the excavations is rapidly filling up courtesy of the excavations.

Looking at the excavation site shows that the steel rock gabion cage is rapidly filling up

All of the soil is being moved to another part of the farm where we are constructing a storage area for firewood, a utility area and a low gradient path leading down into the orchards. Those projects are coming along, but they still need a lot of soil and rocks.

Soil from the excavations is being used to construct a firewood and utility area
The low gradient path leading down into the orchards is progressing

A trailer load of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime was used to flatten out the area surrounding the greenhouse. It looks really neat.

Crushed rock with lime was used to flatten the surfaces around the greenhouse

When the sun was shining, we took advantage of the sort-of hot weather to paint one side of the house. Each year we clean the entire outside of the house with an electric pressure water sprayer. With the walls of the house clean, I could then paint the downhill facing side of the house. Painting an entire house can be a daunting task, but painting one side per year is a days work, and the outside of the house gets cleaned to boot.

The downhill facing side of the house had another coat of paint applied

The pea plants had done their thing for the season and were beginning to succumb to sooty mould. I picked all of the pea pods and shelled them. The peas will be left to dry so that some can be eaten now and others will be replanted next spring.

The author shows off the shelled and drying peas

Blackberries are having a phenomenal season and the conditions are almost perfect for them. Strawberries didn’t produce nearly as well as the blackberries, possibly due to the very cool and wet spring. With autumn just around the corner, strawberries and raspberries now look set to provide some autumn berries.

Sun ripened and freshly picked blackberries and strawberries

The larger variety of tomatoes are still green, but there are tantalising signs that they may ripen soon.

Larger tomato varieties are displaying signs that they may soon ripen – maybe

The King Parrots are a delightful sight in the orchard, and they are happily consuming the many varieties of apples. But don’t fear, apples are prolific producers of fruit and the trees can stand the thinning. If too many apples grow on a branch, the sheer combined weight causes the branches to break. Of course having a flock of well fed parrots hanging off a branch can probably achieve the same result.

A colourful King Parrot dines upon apple

Onto the flowers:

A very pretty succulent flower
Flowers from a long established potato plant
Red Nasturtium is a very cheery flower crawling among the raised vegetable beds
Geraniums have enjoyed the heat this week
Some of the geranium colours are stunning
The roses however produce the finest of flowers

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 12’C (54’F). So far this year there has been 208.8mm (8.2 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 208.2mm (8.2 inches).

69 thoughts on “Tool”

  1. Yo, Chris – Ah, advice. Better solicited advice, than unsolicited advice. But, even solicited advise, has it’s pitfalls, as you pointed out.

    I’m sure you miss your grandfather, very much. But, believe me, I kind of understand where he was coming from. And, in a weird coincidence, Eleanor and I were just talking about that, last night. How where we live, we’ve got 40+ people, and most of them have a narrow view of the world (mostly, family) and a disinterest in anything else. For retired people, you really have to get out there and beat the brush, to find a bit of intellectual stimulation. And, for reasons of his own, your grandfather just didn’t want to do that. Maybe he was just tired.

    Tools. I guess it’s best to just buy the best you can afford. And keep one’s ears sharp for recommendations, from people who have no skin in the game. As you pointed out, observation and listening are the best ways to go about it. And I still think auctions and house clearances are a good source of old, good tools.

    Do you think you’ll have enough tomatoes to put some up? Or, will you have to go out and buy a few crates, this year?

    It wouldn’t be a standard week at Fern Glade Farm, unless a massive rock made an appearance. It just wouldn’t be right … 🙂 The crushed rock around the greenhouse really “dresses up” the area. And, the lime will eventually percolate down the slope.

    Primo paint job. Done for another year.

    The peas, yellow tomatoes and berries look really yummy. Hard to save seed, when you just want to scarf them down.

    King Parrot stuffed with apples. What temperature, and how long? 🙂 . I just pulled Inge’s lemon oat cake, out of the oven. Sure smells good.

    The flowers, as always, are lovely. One doesn’t think of potatoes having flowers, but they do, and they’re quit pretty.

    More bad news, from Texas. Apparently, they have “variable electric rates.” There are reports of bills ranging from $3,000 to $8,000! As bad a concept (for the consumer) as variable rates of interest.

    Also saw an interesting article about phasing out natural gas, and replacing it with methane.

    Interesting. Might be a bit of a stop-gap, on the long descent. There’s lots of handwringing in the article, about sourcing methane. Oddly, no one mentioned all the methane that’s beginning to off gas from the arctic, as the permafrost melts. And then, there’s all the methane on the ocean floor. If they can figure out how to keep it from exploding. People are working on that.

    I also ran across a reference to Australian fire hawks. Really? Birds that start forest and brushfires? Australia gets stranger, and stranger. Lew

  2. Hi, Chris!

    So – you got your peas at last. Good job! And maybe you also got a haircut? Anyway, it looks spiffy.

    Thank you for the advice about advice.

    That sunset photo has quite a tropical look. For some reason we had the most gorgeous, spread-all-across-the-sky sunset yesterday evening. They usually aren’t so brilliant in the winter.

    I am waiting for seeds I ordered for the first yellow tomato I have grown in years, a variety amusingly called “Porkchop”. It is a medium sized tomato. It is good, as you do, to always grow some cherry varieties, too; they ripen faster. I have started indoors the seeds of the rest of the tomatoes we will be growing.

    The site for the new shed looks like it was cleared by a backhoe, only neater. I guess a chrishoe does give a better measure of perfection, especially combined with an editorhoe.

    So that’s how your house stays fit for “House Beautiful” – cared for in increments.

    Interesting how well the succulents are doing in the milder summer. Thanks for the flowers!


  3. @ Lew:

    I was going to see your one white penguin and raise you a yellow cardinal, but I see that there was a link in your penguin article from the end of last week.


  4. Hi Lewis,

    Advice is a funny business and I read in Steve Solomon’s book on vegetable gardening south of Australia that his dad suggested to him that: “The cheapest experience comes second hand – if you will buy it.” Mind you, some people can’t be told – even when they pay for advice, but I have long noted that people from old money families tend to be able to ask for, pay for, and then act upon the advice provided.

    My grandfather was a mixed bag actually. There were the constant put downs, which I now know are monkey business ‘negging’ and what both surprised and amused me was that he did to everyone around him, which is something that I could not do. But then he was a natural leader who had to pilot bombers at an early age in WWII, along with all that that entailed. But then he also had this weird ability to pull people together, even outsiders, and bring them into groups where they could belong. He was very good at the social graces and far better at that than I’ll ever be. A truly complex person, and I don’t know much, but I do know that he would have been super-annoyed that I’ve more or less kept my hair. It hardly surprised me that he lost his hair – probably due to extreme stress during WWII – at a young age, and he was always a bit touchy about that and so I never poked him on the subject. Far out the repercussions might have been swift and truly awful. But every Sunday morning he put me to work in his vegetable garden, and um yeah, the effortlessness with which his garden produced and the old blokes easy knowledge was something that has haunted me ever since. He grew up on a farm in the Great Depression and so I’m guessing he just didn’t muck around like I can do, and every single plant had to earn its keep. I have an odd intuition that one day I’ll be the old man, but what form that takes is currently beyond my ken.

    And yeah, Mr Greer mentioned recently that a 19th century French bloke suggested that: “Those who are animal in nature, be beautiful. Those who are emotional in nature, be good. Those who are intellectual, seek the grail.” Perhaps your observations match that? Wise words and I came across a very similar sentiment in the Maugham book which he attributed to much older philosophers. Mate it is really hard to get anyone discussing the future as it is provided to us on a platter most days of the week. The very unpleasant Goebbels had something to say as to why that may be. Although, my gut feeling suggests that it all may not turn out the way people think it will.

    Exactly, there ain’t nothing wrong with second hand, you just have to ensure that the locals can repair that purchase and have access to spare parts – not as easy as a person might imagine. Interestingly, they’ve come around recently to the view that the low centre of gravity mower is actually a very nice and well made machine, and I’m very grateful to hear that. That purchase was a gamble.

    Dunno at all about the tomatoes, and the season might end badly. A larger tomato does appear to have ripened on the vine, but I’ll see how things play out. Purchased tomatoes often have very little flavour, so I don’t know about doing what you suggest. A local farm gate used to supply tomatoes grown in a poly tunnel and they were awesome. But when they suddenly stopped supplying years ago we had to fill the void left behind by growing our own.

    It isn’t right, and when I hit that large rock during the excavations, I knew it was going to be special. Incidentally in the photo I look far more refreshed than I actually felt that day. The humidity was pushing sweat out of every pore and the dogs were trying to use me as a salt lick thus why I was restraining Ruby.

    Thanks! And the painting methodology is far easier than facing the entire house in one hit, which is probably why most people baulk at the task.

    Hehe! We’re kind of experimenting growing stuff to see how it plays out, and peas and beans are now on the roster. I’m considering trialling kale and purple sprouting broccoli as an over winter crop – have you ever tried them?

    King Parrot? Hm, I’m thinking about 430’F for about an hour and a half, although you might have to use an oven bag to keep the moisture in. Perhaps baste first with olive oil to get a very crunchy roasted skin. 🙂

    How did the lemon oat cake taste? It sure sounds tasty.

    Oh no, that’ll learn them for excessive deregulation (said in best yokel speech). Mate with prices like those, off grid solar is looking pretty cost effective! That’d be a first!!!!

    The methane seems like a fine idea, although I do wonder if there’ll be enough of the stuff. Jeavons Paradox had something to say about that particular story, but the future will be much like the past and all manner of weirdness will get chucked into the tanks before it can no longer be possible. I did mention that I now use fuel stabiliser chemicals in the farm machines.

    How smart are the firehawks? No doubt people are outraged because they thought we were the smartest species around. 🙂 I’d heard of such birds before, and the Indigenous folks use the exact same technique for the same reasons. The environment benefits from the technique too, although the current culture has a great deal of difficulty with that concept and the policies pursued with ideological precision and purity only make the matter far worse than it might otherwise be. Oh well.

    🙂 Dick is possibly very dirty. 🙂 Hehe! We can have hours of fun with language.

    A book was recommended which goes into further details with the subject, but I’m coming around to the perspective that it might be better with annuals if I grow a larger amount of a smaller number of plants – the genetic outcomes will then be better. Dunno, what do you reckon?

    Food costs are going up here too. Each week I purchase a pound of mincemeat for the chickens with a few small chunks for the dogs. Last week it was $8 for a bit over a pound. Those Amish folks and their $60 per week spend might not go as far as it once did.

    Phew, that’s a relief. For a brief horrifying moment there I wondered if you’d lost the plot with the Dickens quote, but no it was from a Tale of Two Cities. Mate, I was really seriously troubled for a moment there!

    Really? By money maker, did the various groups and denominations solicit donations from the concerned public? I kind of imagine the Indigenous folks might have had their own opinions in the matter.

    What, no way? So your reference to getting ripped in the Middle Ages led me to some strange interweb sites. 🙂 It always amuses me that some cultures are very anti alcohol, but far out they embrace the mari-hoochie. Met a dog a week or two back called ‘Hooch’ and appreciated the humour. That period of time didn’t end so well and prior to the Black Death malnourishment had been the order of the day for a year or two. Yeah, not good.

    Yes, there is a fine line and middle ground between apathy and utter control. So the Amish folk in the story have a problem in that the sort of person who can afford a million dollar plus rural property is probably hardly wanting to work the land the way they do, or travel to town in a horse drawn buggy. Supply and demand with a side dressing of economics hits them too, and if I had to do what I’ve done now here, mate I’d be nervous and probably having to earn far more than I do now. Cheap land is in rather short supply down here.

    Have you learned any interesting nautical terms from the sea shanty book?

    The yellow penguin is fascinating. Thanks for the link.



  5. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, the pea story was super-weird. Most of the instructions for growing them down under suggest that the plants over winter, but not so here. Winters here are too cold for that, and the plants need the heat of summer. No wonder we’d been having so much trouble with the pea plants and this growing season we just threw caution to the wind and just grew them at the warmer time of the year. They look good don’t they?

    And yeah, might have had a haircut a week or two back. You’re observant! 🙂

    It is my pleasure to give advice about giving advice, with a side serving of reality as to the sheer difficulty of giving advice. Not sure what I might have written there, but hopefully it sounded OK in the end. 🙂

    But yeah, if the machine can’t be repaired in the local area, it might not be such a good buy in the first place. And the stump grinder really was dead sorry to say. In order to be able to be repaired it would require someone who could machine their own parts from scratch. The crankshaft on the engine was damaged. Ouch.

    Good stuff about the sky at night, and perhaps it portends that spring will soon appear for you?

    It feels positively like autumn today and the air is thick with moisture.

    It is a fine name for a yellow tomato, and between you and I, they are the most reliable variety and they’re tasty – people expect too much nowadays. And whilst I’m at it, my grandmother used to say to me when I was a kid: Stop carrying on like a pork chop! Not sure what that actually meant, but I heard it used a bit. It was of course a kind of warning that I should moderate my behaviour. Consequences can be truly awful and sometimes brutally swift. Better behaviour was sometimes rewarded with chocolate cake – yum!

    I believe last year we started the seeds in about September in the greenhouse, so you’re getting a pretty good head start with your tomato seeds, although you might have to wait whilst the soil warms up a touch. Took the soil thermometer out today and the warmest patch I could find was 68’F. Ouch.

    We sure do neat. And when you excavate by hand it really is a lot easier on the land, and the surface and clay cutting face is judged by eye, believe it or not. I like that too chrishoe and editorhoe! 🙂 Funny stuff.

    Painting the entire house in one hit is too much like a big endeavour for me, so one side per year and the house gets repainted continuously. It’s just easier on my brain.

    It was the succulents which had the warmest soil on the property. All those rock terraces were holding in the warmth of the past week. Hmm, interesting.



  6. @ Pam – The yellow cardinals are really beautiful. But then, so are the red ones. We don’t have cardinals, out west. 🙁 . But we do have blue jays. They dress up the place. But, oh, the noise they make! Lew

  7. Hi Chris,
    Great looking harvest of peas. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I only grow snap peas and peapods due to the amount of time it takes to shell fresh peas. I plant them early often in April and if I’m lucky they’re ready to harvest by mid June. I usually do a late July planting in hopes of getting a fall harvest too but it’s much smaller. I’m glad to see you’re getting some tomatoes. What a summer, if you can call it that, you’re having. We had another two inches of blowing heavy snow last night but each day this week will be above freezing so finally some melting will take place.

    Yes, one should have a plan before retiring and not just financial. Those who do often will say, “How did I ever have time to work?”. Those for whom their career is their mail focus in life will probably have problems. Over the years we’ve known quite a few people who continue part time or as a consultant in their field. Also seems the majority of volunteers are retirees as well.

    Doug got his first vaccine yesterday. Neither of us had any issues though it seems the 2nd dose is the one with more side effects. Both my daughter, Carla and my aunt received their 2nd doses late last week and both were quite sick with flu like symptoms for 24 hours even lingering a bit into a second day.

    You asked last week about recycling. No events have been scheduled yet though March would be the earliest.

    It makes me tired just reading about all the work you and the editor do :).


  8. @ Inge – I tried the lemon oat cakes, last night. Super! I’m transferring those two recipes to 3×5 cards, for my recipe box. Here, they’d probably call them “Oat Lemon Bars.”

  9. Yo, Chris – “The cheapest experience comes second hand…” etc. Sounds like a zen koan. 🙂 .

    My Dad was bald, and touchy about it. I’m bald on top, and could care a fig. You play the hand you’re dealt. I’ve never fallen for any of those “cures”, or, other “enhancements” that are rife on the Net. Sigh. I am so glad I have a very sensitive and highly tuned Bull Pucky Meter. Hmmm. Maybe I should sell it on the Net?

    “Those who are animal in nature…” (Etc.) Another Zen koan! Two in one post makes my head hurt! 🙂 .

    One should pay attention to the Farm Machine Dudes. When mine gently suggested that if I didn’t want to have to drag my mower in for a de-gunking (a highly scientific and technical term), every spring, I might want to think about using non-ethanol gas. A check of the manual that came with the thing noted in very small print, that it might be a good idea, not to use ethanol laced gas, in their machine. As a gauzy half-arsed “suggestion.” Should have been in big bold type, with lots of exclamation points!!! Why isn’t that wisdom more wide spread? I must be running with the wrong crowd.

    I remember when you bought tomatoes at the farm gate. And, the demise of same. Too bad you don’t have an Amish family near-by. I bet they sell fine tomatoes at their farm gate. Hmmm. Maybe you should check out the bush / pub telegraph. Someone around must be selling good tomatoes.

    I don’t care for kale, so, won’t be growing any. The broccoli I see grown here, doesn’t look like it offers much, for the space allowed. I guess I’m spoiled by what’s on offer, at the store. But Brussels Sprouts had a good run. The only problem with those plants (and cabbage) is, we have cabbage butterflies / moths here. There doesn’t seem to be any biological control, other than BT. And, that stuff is expensive. So, I didn’t grow any, last year. But may again, this year. The cabbage butterflies frolic around the garden, and when I’m watering, I’ve tried to knock them down with a good spray. They merrily skip between the drops. 🙁 .

    The lemon oat cakes were super. Though, as I mentioned to Inge, they’d probably call them a lemon oat bar, here. Hmmm. I wonder how they’d taste with the addition of some crunched walnuts? I had a craving, last night, so I made some French toast (aka eggy bread?) So easy. Eggs, milk, a dash of vanilla and nutmeg. Fried it up and topped with butter and honey. Yum!

    A lot of our land fills (aka: garbage dumps) were capped, here. The methane was vented, and flared off.

    I don’t quit follow how a smaller number of annual plants, might lead to better genetic outcomes. I’d say, the larger number of plants, the more likely you’d get a genetic sport, with advantageous characteristics. On the other hand, a smaller number would be easier to track, as far as best able to stand up to heat or cold, best and earliest producers, etc.. On the third hand (see: Shiva), small gene pools are not considered a good thing.

    “Tale of Two Cities” has the best opening line … and the best closing line, in Western Civilization. In my not so humble opinion. The closing line? ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ As our hero mounts the scaffold, for his appointment with Madame Guillotine. There was a film version, in 1935 that was run on the TV, a lot, when I was a wee small lad.

    Oh, yeah. Big money was made by appealing for funds, to outfit expeditions, to head west and convert anything that moved. I’m sure a good amount was skimmed off the top for “administrative” expenses. So it was, so it still is. There were also a few amusing tales of “dueling” missionaries.

    Yes, many interesting nautical terms, but none that can be repeated in a family friendly forum. 🙂 . Actually, I’m getting quit caught up in “Animal, Mineral, Junk. It’s kicking off with a survey of the history of agriculture, and how that lead to cities, hierarchies, etc.. The author isn’t convinced that agriculture was such a good thing, but, once it got rolling, in for a penny, in for a pound. According to archaeological evidence, once people started living in cities, the average height dropped almost a foot. Disease was more common. Also, there was a loss of variety in diets, as monocultures became more common. I don’t know if I can recommend the book, though. The author has a … how to put it? Particular view? Ax to grind? I can sort the wheat from the chaff (pun?), but others may find his take on things a bit grating.

    Gave H her bath yesterday. She’s got a bad mat on one foot. Usually, I cut them out, but, figuring out where mat ends and toes (and dew claw) begin, is touchy. So, down the rabbit hole I went. I might try cornstarch, or, soaking her foot a bit in diluted vinegar. We’ll see how that goes. Lew

  10. Hi Chris,

    When I began gardening, it was on a small enough property that I didn’t need to buy any gasoline-powered tools for it. I had a plug-in electric lawnmower; everything else was human-powered. Then we moved to our current location, with a much larger expanse of green area to mow. (I won’t call it a lawn. It’s a mix of various grasses and weeds that I cut as if it were a lawn, in order to keep the property code cops off my back.) I had to buy a gasoline-powered lawnmower. In retrospect, I probably didn’t maintain it properly. It has now gone to that great lawn in the sky. 😉 I am doing a better job with its replacement, at least to the extent of getting it serviced every year, because it works well and I don’t want to buy another one.

    The chipper/shredder is still sitting in the garden shed unused. It needs repair and then to find another home with someone who will use and maintain it. Maybe this year.

    I am very pleased to report that the high last Friday reached 32F and it will be somewhere in the mid 50sF today (Monday). Most of the snow has melted and the first few daffodil flowerbuds have appeared just above the soil surface. We enjoyed the wood heater’s radiant heat for the last week, and I will probably enjoy it again when the natural gas bill arrives and is less than it would have been otherwise.


  11. Hi Lewis,

    You learn something new everyday – never encountered the concept of a zen koan before. Hmm. Great doubt, huh? It interests me that the Western understanding is suggested as a an unanswerable question or a meaningless statement – which seems very odd to me as there is wisdom in the words so to speak. For the record, the editor would heavily edit me if I chose to write an essay using koan’s! Can you imagine that essay? Far out. There is risk in such doctrine as too formal a list of koan’s and the lore could be bound up tighter than a sewer blocked by a fatberg. 🙂 Nobody ever wants to encounter a fatberg.

    Yeah, I hear you about that and likewise ensure that my presentation is socially acceptable and leave it at that – time will have her way with the best of us, and it would be an awful category of person (best of us) to fall into. The pressing weight of expectations would be truly horrid. Bull Pucky Meter! Yes, our fortunes may yet be made – you will split the proceeds won’t you?

    The farm machine repair dudes are worth paying attention to, yes definitely and I hope that the friend who asked the question in the first place understood that message. Dunno, but all I can do is suggest and then they’re off and racing. Incidentally the title to the essay was an obscure musical reference, but it could be misinterpreted – which wasn’t my intention, but I understood the risk of that.

    Exactly, what goes into a fuel tank these days is not what it once once. Yes, strange fuel it is, gum up the guts of the machines, it does (spoken in best Yoda voice – do you reckon it worked?) I’m sure you could do better than I on that Yoda front. The guys are right too, it’s not good, and I’m now adding fuel stabilisers so that fuel – even without the ethanol – doesn’t go off. The stuff you guys fracked I’m pretty certain travelled far and wide as it is was apparently good for light vehicle fuel.

    Did you see the footage of the engine failure on the aircraft? Glad everyone made it back to land safely.

    On one hand we were gutted by being cut off from a super tasty and local supplier of tomatoes, but then on the other hand it motivated us to get stuck into growing more vegetables and then expanding the range of the varieties grown. That’s a fair call, but it amazes me how few people around here grow vegetables on any scale. We’d have one of the largest edible gardens around here, although another local has a stupendously sized netted orchard (which they recently expanded in height and width (the construction is huge). For a while I’ve been wondering if the lack of people growing vegetables reflects the prevailing culture and diet? The more I read and put into practice, the less sanguine I am that any numpty can pick this stuff up and run with it. No way, it is not easy at all.

    The editor shares your misgivings surrounding kale, but I don’t really know and may try a few varieties. Candidly the plant sounds a bit weed like, so they’re good plants just for being like that. And yes, cabbage moths and other critters enjoy the brassica family of plants, although we have been growing rocket summer and winter varieties for many years with few if any problems. Reading about potatoes, we might have to run brassica plants in the potato bed so as to fumigate the soil. Hmm, more complexities, but with enough space.

    I’m trying to work out what we should grow on a shady terrace which will eventually emerge from the excavations behind the yet to be constructed shed. I’m thinking raspberries as they are an under story forest plant and will probably do OK in the partial shading. Dunno, have you got any thoughts about what to grow in such a place?

    French toast is very tasty and the lemon oat cakes sound superb! Yummo! Had Vietnamese for dinner tonight and they chucked in a bit too much salt for my liking – no need to repeat the greedy salty chip scab incident. Finished off with lemon and mint gelati which was pretty good.

    Caught up with the homeless dude who sells the big issue magazine and he managed to nab all the back copies from during the four month long lock down last year. I’d sort of mentioned a few weeks back that if he got them… I have to respect his enterprising nature. 🙂 He looked super-pumped with the sale.

    Lewis, is there any danger that the zombie film prediction will fail? Two months gone, and still no sign of new undead life. Come on film folks, get your act together!

    Yes, the methane from land fills is often used in electricity co-generation machines down here.

    Ah, perhaps I hadn’t explained myself with the plants. Garden space is large but essential still limited and so with maintaining genetic diversity you have to grow a fair number of plants from a particular variety, and that means that possibly if you do that, you can’t then plant as large a diversity of plant species. Hope that makes sense? It would be better by far, and easier if more people in the area began growing edible gardens which is possibly why the old timers didn’t have this problem – that we know of.

    Thank you for the concluding quote, and it is very prescient. I’ve never read Dickens, not for any great reason though other than time and opportunity.

    Dueling missionaries is not so easy to explore on the interweb – apparently it is some sort of card or what looks like part of a D&D game. Remember the moral panic back in the day about them? Oh, (he says sarcastically) it’s awful that a couple of mates get together and drink beer, talk rubbish and play board games. Far out…

    Agriculture involves a lot of compromises and consequences for food supply, and cities can concentrate the very worst aspects of our species and then amplify them. Look at the flight from the city going on right now. This week’s essay was partially about that.

    How did you go with H’s mat on her foot? You definitely don’t want to cut her foot or nails.



  12. Hi Margaret and Claire,

    Tis the dreaded mid-week hiatus – sounds like an awful disease doesn’t it? Yuk. Fortunately it is just me and the editor heading out to dinner and enjoying a walk around. Summer has left the building for sure and right now it is only 8’C / 46’F outside at night and the weather station here suggests that the high was only 16’C / 61’F late this afternoon. A truly and utterly crazy summer. Oh well, it was strange last year too what with all the fires over in the east of the state. What do you do?



  13. Hello Chris
    I enjoyed the interesting read as usual. Am another one who doesn’t like kale; I can’t imagine why it seems to have become a popular vegetable.
    The sun is shining today, hurrah. I have been trying to clear up my strawberry beds. A mouse jumped out right in front of my nose, they seem to over winter there causing no particular damage. Once the strawberries arrive it is a very different story.
    Have just been reading an article about this area. There used to be brickworks close by and apparently our pure clay soil is 30 ft. deep.


  14. Chris,

    Your hard work is looking good. It’s enjoyable watching the incremental changes in the new flat spots and the low gradient path. Good to see that you’re finding enough rocks for the gabion cages even during peak rocks.

    That’s another wonderful sunset picture. But my favorites this week were the king parrot (apparently awaiting his getting stuffed and baked) and the succulents. Those have such wonderful color.

    Advice. “What tools are needed in order to move to a new area?” Ick, nasty questions. I’ve always tended to do a lot of research before moving somewhere or starting a new thing. Reading, visiting, watching, talking. Sometimes that makes me realize that’s not the right path for me, often it brings up things I’d not thought about. One thing it always said was to get a higher level machine and/or tools than I think I’ll need.

    As you mentioned about Bertha and fuel stabiliser, well, that’s something I use in Bertha and in the small petrol can that I use to feed Bertha. Wonderful stuff to use.

    Hehehe. The snow cats are used by ski resorts to groom the snow on some of the ski runs. Drag the right gizmo behind it and the result is a freshly packed slope.

    Our snow has disappeared. It went fast. That happens when the temperature stays at +7C for 40 hours with strong winds and rain. 8cm melts quickly in those conditions.

    On the sad news front…It turns out that our seasonal accumulation of 42 inches was before the last 2 storms, so that we are at 45.5 inches, which is 1.5 inches above our “normal” seasonal total. As you’ve noted about your summer, ours was a weird winter. The bulk of the snow came before Christmas, with another shot at about New Years Day, then nothing until the recent storms. And Texas was much colder than our coldest this winter. Ah well…

    Starting to settle in to being retired. Meaning, I’ve gotten a lot of little things done around the house, am getting larger projects started, and am doing more carving and pyrography. The carvings are more learning and experimental for me, so I’ll say more after they’re better under way.


  15. Yo, Chris – the koan you’re probably the most familiar with is, “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” I suppose you could do your essay, entirely in sonnets or haiku? 🙂 Sure, I’ll split the proceeds of the BP meter. An easy promise to make. Oops! Some one has beaten us to the related BS meter. But, apparently, the BP meter is an open field. Although, we may get some push back from the blood pressure meter folks.

    Sure, sure. Misinterpretation of the title of your essay would be completely accidental. But my mind went immediately to, “Dick” is a (title of your essay.) But perhaps that says more about me, than you.

    Having never been a SW fan, Yoda’s voice is lost on me. Please don’t link to examples. 🙂 . Some things are best left unknown.

    Engine failure of aircraft. Saw that. Why I don’t fly.

    The local netted orchard? That’s why the parrots have moved on to your place. Part of my antipathy towards kale (besides the taste) is that it was just so “hip and with it.” Right before arugula became “hip and with it.” A fad? What to grow on the shady terrace? Mushrooms?

    “Undead life.” Another koan? 🙂 .

    So, more people growing more varieties of plants, so you don’t have to? Due to limited space. And, also, more plants in different places, of the same variety yields more genetic diversity?

    I read some more of “Animal, Vegetable, Junk,” last night. A chapter kick off, caught my eye. The author is up to late 19th and early 20th century farming. “Food drives history, and soil drives food. As industrial agriculture developed, it demanded more and more of the soil.” Then he bangs on about fertilizer and ends the paragraph with, “The trick is to increase yield on any given amount of land, even if it’s detrimental to the land in the long run.”

    Later on, he mentioned something I had never thought of, before. When tractors started coming in, “It freed up millions of acres of farmland that had once been devoted to feeding draft animals. Horses fell in number from a peak of twenty-five million in 1920 to around three million by 1960. A study in 1958 stated “the substitution of tractor power for animal power has released some 70 million acres, or one-fifth of our cropland, for the production of marketable crops.” So, you loose all that nice fertilizer and put everything in mono crops. Seemed like a good idea, at the time …

    By the by, if your interested in a couple of good fiction films, about the Amish, “Witness” (1985) is very good. A crime drama. And, just for fun, “For Richer or Poorer” (1997). A rom-com 🙂 . Both films are quit good, I think.

    I’ve never read much Dickens (due to early trauma). His books are such door-stops. They have a “cast of thousands”, and rely a lot on coincidence and chance. But I’ve seen the movies 🙂 . But, I still think he’s a worthwhile writer. He really stirred people’s social conscious. And, gives us a look at our roots. He sure was popular, in his time. He usually released his books in chapters. People used to mob the docks in New York and Boston, waiting for the next installment.

    I worked on H’s mats, while I chin wagged with Eleanor, last night. I struck a deal with H. I don’t let her lick, which she seems intent on doing. But last night, I let her lick my hands to her heart’s content … as long as she let me work on her mat, at the same time. I managed to get some of it broken up, before she completely lost patience with the process.

    It’s all in the search terms. 🙂 . I Gargled “Squabbling early Oregon missionaries,” and found this …

    Whitman made quit a ride. Someone should put up a monument, or marker, or something. Lew

  16. kind of a non sequitur, but can you describe your power wheelbarrow? I know you have in the past, but I wouldn’t know where to look.

    Power source, features you like, don’t like, that sort of thing. My digs have a bit of slope as well, and there might come a time when gravity is a foe I decide to get help dealing with. The right hip been whinging a bit more this winter, so……….

    Just planted our onion seeds in trays in the sunroom! Seed shortages are in the news, but I got my order in early. Definitely need to up my game in seed saving.

    Sure steady steps toward ( a prudent amount of) self reliance is the ticket. Hobbies? I’ll never finish half the harebrained stuff on my project list.

  17. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks and that was the first harvest of peas as down under it is suggested that they over winter – but that doesn’t work here. Next summer we’ll go for a bigger harvest now that we seem to have the timing issue sorted out. Who would have thought that gardening instructions are not applicable in every locale on this massive continent? Actually I’m coming around to the perspective that to ensure that I can continue seed saving the plants grown here, I should stick to growing a larger number of a smaller variety of plants. Given the size garden available that shouldn’t be a problem and we have most plants that can grow in such a cool temperate environment anyway. Did you ever get to a point where you had to pare the garden back a bit?

    🙂 Yeah, I hear you about that! It took a fair while to shell the peas, but I settled down in the shade, put the radio on and just zoned out. But yes, it did take a while to shell them.

    April sounds about right to me for getting the peas and beans in the ground as October was about the time they were planted out here. Thanks for the suggestion regarding the second crop, but this year it just ain’t possible. Interestingly, the beans were slower growing than the peas.

    I hope spring turns up on cue for you. It was so cold last night and we got home late and so didn’t bother running the wood heater, that this morning it was 44’F outside and 59’F inside – a proper four blanket summer night.

    Exactly. And I’ve seen that too. People who rest their self esteem on their work can become unstuck through all manner of expected and unexpected situations. I got that memo as a really young bloke in my first adult job when the whole gobarmint department was made redundant. Scrambling to find another job at a time of high unemployment has left me with a serious case of mistrust. And as a double whammy I used to socialise with work mates – and that ended abruptly when everyone was scattered to the four winds.

    Your folks are miles ahead of down here. The Prime Muppet was one of the first people given the shot this week, and the editor and I are so low risk that the shot is months and months away. Sorry to hear that your daughter and sister had symptoms after the second shot. Hope they are feeling better now.

    Thanks for letting me know, and the waste doesn’t seem to go away does it? 🙂

    Hehe! I read your words and they are taken as the highest form of compliment. So I won’t tell you that today some interesting paid work was done and by the late afternoon the rock breaking equipment was set loose and a chunk was taken off an inconvenient rock. Feeling pretty chuffed with that (although there are three more chunks yet to remove). Then the dogs and I went for an hours walk. The dogs kept up a brisk pace until they tired about half way through, and the softies are all now sound asleep! Ollie loves walking with his two girls, one on each side. Their heads are held high and they look rather imposing as a trio. Ruby always tries to sneak into the lead, but she soon tires and then the dogs walk in a neat row. 🙂



  18. Hi Claire,

    Thanks, and yes I travelled a similar journey with garden size and tools. Hey, sometimes calling the grass by the more technical word ‘herbage’ is closer to reality. When Ollie and I walk the paddock on boundary patrol, it is kind of hard to ignore the sheer diversity of plants growing in the paddock, and we’ve got some decent stands of red and white clover which is a good sign as they’ll happily self seed and expand their territories.

    Your property code cops would drive me mental and I’d probably say something very ungentlemanly to them, if they were foolish enough to show up here (a very unlikely possibility). Mind you, that actually happened once, but possibly won’t again.

    The first gasoline powered lawn mower, probably made a good first lawn mower 🙂 – and um, the experience taught you that these complicated machines require attending to from time to time. What interests me – and you may also have noticed this – is that not all machines have been constructed so as to be repaired. The old timers would have muttered something or other about re-use, repair, or recycle. As a general rule I aim for the first two and only use the third option as a last resort.

    Claire, I hear you, but my love for my ‘scary old wood chipper’ is not natural. But then you may not have to live with ten thousand trees and a western culture which lives in the beautiful world of denial which I’ve heard is full of unicorns full to the brim with flatulence. Best send your wood chipper on its way to a place that can put it to good use. Plus you’ll no longer have to store the machine which will free up room for further hobbies and projects. You may have noticed that the editor and I are notoriously neat (excluding the utility area which is a total mess)! 🙂

    It is possible that we are soon to hand the sort-of warmer weather batten over to you if you are experiencing mid-50’s temperatures. It was 63’F here today – bonkers.

    And firewood is the most reliable and local heat source for when the grip of winter takes hold over your land.

    Thank you so much for persisting over the years with your references to Steve Solomon. His instructions in relation to growing of vegetables exactly matches the sort of technical details which I require, but are often over looked in many books. You’ve convinced me, and I’ll purchase his other books, but for my brains sake I have to spread out the non-fiction and intersperse it with fiction.



  19. Hi Inge,

    Thanks and your words are high praise. Between you and I, I have no idea as to what I’ll write about each week, but by about Thursday of each week I have to start putting some thoughts towards that outcome. There are usually plenty of things going on, and on the rare occasion that inspiration has not struck, well, there is always the whiteboard on the desk next to the computer screen which is full of story ideas.

    The editor is with you in relation to kale, and I’m pushing an uphill battle to leave some garden space aside for these weed-like Brassica species. I’m not entirely sure why that happened either, but I’m guessing that someone cottoned on to the fact that kale is full of protein. And our society is so fixated on protein, that they responded by going: Ugg! Protein good! Ugg! And the demand for kale was thus born.

    Inge, the rodents are perhaps smarter and more focused than myself. 🙂 In the past week, despite all of the hindrances put in their way, they seem to have tunnelled into the fortified chicken enclosure. It wasn’t the chickens who broke the chickens feeder, that’s for sure. Today I hit the rodents hard and filled their tunnel with industrial strength all weather and fast curing silicone. But the war is long, and my gut feeling tells me that I’ll lose.

    Glad to hear that you are enjoying some sun. It looks like the next few weeks here will be dry – which is candidly a good thing.

    30ft is a good depth for clay. Out of curiosity, your house is constructed from timber, and I was wondering if there is a cultural preference for brick houses on your island? From what I’ve been reading, we’re running short on reserves of clay for brick works for new housing in the big smoke. Mind you, I’ve purchased lots of century old red bricks and they were beautiful things to work with and all of them were individual. Collectively they produced a really lovely looking brick wall.



  20. Hi DJ,

    Thanks and we enjoy creating the farm out of the raw materials presented to us. Late this afternoon inspiration hit and I cracked off a section of a very large rock which is in a rather unfortunate location near to that newly excavated area. Anyway, we call the process ‘slow landscaping’. You heard it here first! 🙂

    Peak rocks, sucks. Seriously, it is a real pain. It took an hour and half of drilling and work with the jackhammer to break off the large chunk of rock, and there are four more chunks left to go. Oh well, it is the job not started as takes the longest to finish.

    You go first with baking and eating the apple fed King Parrot, but word on the street is that they get good money in your part of the world. Our fortunes may be made!

    Last week during a cold snap, I went around checking out the soil temperatures and the succulent terrace, and with all of the rock work it was actually the warmest soil on the property. Mate, may you never live to rely on food from a ‘year without a summer’. Had the first ripe red tomato today, and that is very late. It tasted good, but not good enough to save seed from.

    Exactly, research – and then when you are done, research some more. And exactly, if you are really unsure that you’ll use the machine, get a cheapie. But after the cheapie dies, and it was highly useful machine, don’t repeat the mistake of buying a cheapie. It could possibly be a new school of philosophy? What would it be called though?

    Wise. Very wise. The fuel that is now sold to us, isn’t what it once was. And fuel stabiliser is cheap relative to wasting a full tank of off fuel.

    Did you get any flooding from the rapid snow melt?

    Speaking of weird weather, the capital city in the land of stuff has broken – by a country mile – a long held hot weather winter record. In point of fact, it is warmer there in winter, than it is here in summer. Bonkers!

    Well done you and respect. It was never going to be easy, but new routines and giving some space to your lady is all part of that story. And I’m pretty sure Merlin himself may have remarked something along those lines of learning new stuff each day. 🙂

    And, because the weather really is bonkers here this summer (due to the bonkers fires last summer and the epic quantities of particulates chucked into the atmosphere) that we too were at 7’C over night. Today it reached a balmy 17’C. Far out it is cold.



  21. Hi Chris,

    I reckon advice framed as what not to do can be of value. One of my favourites is YAGNI (you ain’t gonna need it). Especially when starting something new, you have all these ideas about what you might need or want and the worst thing you can do is go out and spend big bucks. Classic example is new guitar players who go straight for a $5,000 gibson (usually senior managers in corporates with cash to burn) and then give up after two months. Maybe that’s why the ten commandment are all thou shalt not.

    I realised this afternoon I have mice living in the chicken coop. I suppose it was inevitable. I guess the chickens would take care of them if they were in the coop but they’re off galavanting around the backyard all day. Thinking I might just remove the straw from the coop. With the chickens free ranging, they spend very little time in there and even then it’s only to roost. That should remove the attraction for the mice.

    Not sure if you saw this during the week –

    This is one area where we have definitely not ‘progressed’. Everybody would have once had a compost heap to deal with organic waste. Now we need a national plan and god knows much taxpayers dollars to handle the same ‘problem’.

  22. Hi Steve,

    The power wheelbarrow is a pretty nifty item. It can carry 660 pounds on the flat, or 440 pounds up or down hill. Apparently it can climb stairs too, so the gradient can be pretty steep. It has a 6.5hp motor and a 3 speed plus reverse gearbox and the tray can dump. It seems really well balanced to me and never top heavy even with seriously heavy loads.

    However, this machine was a tester unit to see whether it was useful – which it is. It will be replaced when it dies, and I don’t anticipate a long life for the current machine. So if I were to replace it I’d get a similarly sized machine with a brand name motor – preferably a Honda motor. And there are models down here with gearboxes made in your country, and I consider that also to be money well spent. The current gearbox is probably best described as vague, although after much use I can sort of feel where the gears engage, but a careless person might become unstuck – and that could be a bad thing with a heavy load on a slope Mind you, when the clutch is disengaged, the machine doesn’t go anywhere regardless of the slope – the clutch acts as the brake. The basic gist anyway is that a better made machine would actually be easier to use – and such machines don’t cost that much more than the tester unit here.

    It is not a no-work machine, but it is so much easier than pulling a heavy load up the hill in a manual wheelbarrow, and I hear you about that – we have to be careful with the usage of our bodies.

    Well done! That would be seriously early for me with the onion seeds.

    Hey, the seed shortage was a thing down here too, so brace yourself for some low quality and low germination seed getting chucked into any mix you order – and don’t use all of your stored seed from last season. 😉

    Seed saving is a complicated matter, but you just kind of have to get your head around the story of each of the plants. If there was an easier way…

    Hehe! Good stuff and thanks for the laughs. I keep a full and ever expanding list of projects as well.



  23. Chris and Inge:

    I don’t much like kale either, yet have started seed for a perennial called Sea Kale. I do not know if it is actually a kale. I have been looking to grow more perennial vegetables. I think that asparagus may be the only one we have now.

    I also find that if I can grow something, then I will eat it. Maybe just stubbornness on my part.


  24. Hi Lewis,

    The hand clapping koan was certainly referenced as a confusing thought experiment for Westerners. From what I understand it has something to do with a comparison of the concept of duality of thought. Although, I’m uncomfortable with someone trying to suggest that there is only this way, or that way, and no other way. Such a suggestion grates on my very soul as sometimes there are other ways, although they may be unthinkable. I once suggested to a mate who was interested in acquiring rural land that he could live in a yurt on the property whilst developed the property and constructed a house, and apparently yurts are unthinkable.

    On the other hand it kind of disturbed me a bit when reading the Dexter series of books, I kind of enjoyed how the central character often employed responses to simple everyday situations that were quite out of the ordinary. People talk a lot about thinking outside the box, but I don’t really know that much of that sort of thinking actually goes on in society. On no! We’ve delved into deep waters here.

    There you go, I see all of those constrictions in Haiku and then I start thinking about why I ever would want to get involved in such an exclusive and restrictive creative form. Oh no sonnets look just as bad to me, but with a few more lines.

    Lewis, I won’t do them. Nope. You cured me of creative flights of fancy. Thanks for that. 🙂

    Shucks! We’ll have to wait for the next big idea. Who knew that a BS meter was a real thing, and sprung out of social media? I see that there has been some recent compromise in the Faceplant wars. I can’t even understand why our gobarmint was even spending millions on Faceplant advertising, and a serious threat was made to pull it. And your rich techo bloke was in the news for having lost heaps on Butchcoin. Apparently serious people now see the thing as an investment rather than a speculative vehicle. Go the speculators, and hopefully they stay away.

    You’re like super-bad, but I was mucking around and being playful with the language with the title, but it was never intended as a slur on my friends reputation. No, you made a good call there and perhaps we had been speaking of Dick, and so the idea was planted.

    What, no Yoda quotes? OK, fair enough.

    Clearing out the groaning book shelf the other day so as to make some space, I had to make an awful decision: Do I get rid of the Robert Jordan epic fantasy series, or the David Eddings fantasy series. In the end I kept the David Eddings collection as it was a funnier read. Incidentally I acquired the David Eddings collection way back in the days when you had to order books through a book store and then just wait for them to turn up. And few if any bookshops in the city in those days dealt with sci-fi and fantasy books. You probably remember those days? 🙂 And record shops used to do the same thing for vinyl LP’s. So maybe there are some fond older memories attached to the series which avoided the culling. The books were kind of all about the time for me and the memories are attached to them. Often I’d get them from the bookshop and all the house mates would be hassling me to read them – although I reserved first read, which was only fair given I paid for the hardback editions.

    I’m no fan of flying either, although admittedly you and I have an unorthodox viewpoint in relation to that. People seem really excited getting crammed into a tin can and hurled around the planet at breakneck speeds, but I never enjoyed that experience – it was a trial. And workplaces acted like they were doing you a favour getting you up at 4am so you could be in Sydney first thing for work. A revolting experience.

    I like how you think. Yeah, the parrots saw easier pickings. The thing with nets is that they work for a while, and the parrots have a smash and grab mindset and they seek out any weakness. The rodents are just as tough. So yeah, best to learn how to live with them, and really the fruit trees actually do need to be thinned and back before humans picked them, the birds did the job.

    The genetic diversity problem for seed saving is real. Take corn for example, you kind of have to grow a lot of plants in order to maintain viability of your seed stocks. Doesn’t seem to be much way around it. But interestingly, we’re getting to the point where we have tested a number of different edible plants and have sort of worked out what will and wont do well. Interestingly, we pretty much grow all of the varieties of edible plants suggested by Steve Solomon in his book growing vegetables south of Australia. Just need to get better over the years at growing them. 🙂

    I reckon the protein diet junkies cottoned onto the kale thing. But I might give it a try again and see if there is a less chewy variety. We grow a lot of Arugula, but it’s been a basic salad green since early days.

    It’s pretty funny isn’t it? Undead life. Still time is fast running out for the prediction. Ook!

    Oh no! Mr Kunstler’s most excellent fictional series of books (not at any risk of being culled from the bookshelves) World Made by Hand series included much about horses and livestock, and that started me thinking along such lines. The author is of course, entirely correct. If you don’t have to feed draft animals and can still get the work done, then there is a whole lot of available land with which to feed and raise people. Yeah, it is a real problem, and the sort of horses bred nowadays, well I don’t reckon they could put in a hard days work and then get up and do it again the next day. Show ponies, most of them. But yeah, it is probably a crap idea (excuse the pun). And soils are getting flogged hard.

    Speaking of cast of thousands, Mr King’s door stopper ‘The Stand’ appears to rival Mr Dickens. The editor is thoroughly enjoying the book and has been made to promise ‘no spoilers’. This of course is a difficult proposition for the editor.

    A rom-com, he says as he writes down the title for later search.

    When I was a kid many books were sold as installments and it was a thing to collect the series. Encyclopedia’s were often sold that way. And the editor is apparently going to update some of my Jack Vance collection with the Spatterlight low acid paper editions. It might take a few years to get the entire collection, but we’ll get there. The older pulp editions are now looking a bit worse for wear nowadays.

    Oh yeah, I hear you about that, and dogs can use their tongues as a weapon against whatever the canine mind is against. But well done for your stoicism. Did you get back to the mat today?

    Thanks for the link to the squabbling missionaries. Whitman’s wife’s name was very unusual, or is it? Ah Calvinists – of course. Yes, they would have made for rather dull company and possibly paid a rather high price for their efforts which went in two different directions all at the same time.



  25. Yo, Chris – Well, for your essays, you could always try iambic pentameter. 🙂 “Iambic Pentameter describes the construction of a line of poetry with five sets of unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables. … A foot of poetry is referred to as an iamb if it has one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.” No wonder so many “poets” threw in the towel, and went free-form. But most of that is ghastly.

    When I was in the book biz, and they’d open a new store, there was a basic “core stock.” But they always forgot to include rhyming dictionaries. I’d always kept a few on-hand, for the odd poet or songwriter, that wandered in. Speaking of poets and bookstores, the last Beat has died. Lawrence Ferlinghetti shuffled off his mortal coil at the age of 101.

    There was an article over at Slate magazine, by an Australian journalist, about the recent Faceplant wars. He found life without the newsfeed, rather pleasant. Soothing, in fact.

    Saw something interesting, about Butchcoin, yesterday. A rich techno bloke (who lives in Seattle) said that if you dabble in the Coin, you’d better be as rich as another techno bloke, who seems fixated on cars and Mars. 🙂 .

    Well, as I’m not into fantasy, I would have gotten rid of both. Did you break out in a cold sweat? 🙂 . Actually, I wouldn’t have bought them in the first place. I’d save my filthy lucre for more sensible things … like Doulton Lambeth pottery. Yes, I was weak. After not buying anything for a couple of months, I succumbed to the siren call of E-Bot. An advertising piece. Wright’s Coal Tar Soap. It’s shaped like a giant Art Nouveau moth, and, mostly blue!

    It was a bit different, here. Even in the early 1970’s, bookstores had pretty hefty sections of science fiction and fantasy. Mostly paperback, but also hardback. I remember we had a bloke come in, who always special ordered hardbacks of different science fiction. When his order came in, he’d very carefully peruse the volume for condition. Would reject any that had been knocked about in shipping. I heard later that there was a leak in his apartment, and most of his collection was wiped out 🙁 .

    “If man were meant to fly .. etc..”

    I’m going to have to start labeling my corn seed packets, A, B, C, etc.. This year, I’ll have some of the initial order of seed, plus two years of saved seed. I’ll mix them up and plant them. As I have such a small plot.

    Luckily, there are still people around who value the old sturdy breeds of horses. Not many, but enough to get started, again. Remember all the horse breeding in the Camulod books?

    H let me work on her mats, a bit last night. But then, she wasn’t having any of it. I’ll wear her down …

    A film that looks interesting. “Minari”. A South Korean family moves to Arkansas in the 1980’s to farm. Might be interesting.

    There’s also going to be a new series, “Superman & Lois.” That, I might skip. According to the review, it’s years later and they’ve got two kids. One who is a mopey teen. That’s what the review said. Mopey. Seems like there’s a lot of that going around. As a plot device, I’m getting tired of it. Dad is out trying to run down a serial killer, or, just keeping food on the table and a roof over their heads, and Mopey Teen whines about Dad not being around as much as they’d like. I kind of liked the lack of parental oversight. Enabled me to get up to all kinds of nonsense. 🙂 . Lew

  26. Chris,

    “Slow Landscaping”. Nice title. Is there a series of books in the future? 😉

    That sounds like brutal hard work breaking the boulders. I do NOT envy you at all.

    The birds were happy the past 2 mornings, as the days started off sunny and clear. The song sparrow has been singing around his perimeter for the first time this year. The chickadees have reappeared after a 3 week absence and were frolicking, as were some sparrows. Snow expected Thursday morning, so I suppose that will slow the birds for a day or two.

    We get the occasional “year without a summer”. I remember one year in the early 1970s in which we had a killer frost with which to celebrate the 4th of July. Not much of a garden crop that year.

    Research, research, research some more. Exactly. Maybe we can call that branch of philosophy the Ferngladian Thoroughness School. Or maybe “Thoroughality”, which would get shortened to “Thorality”. Thordog would’ve approved.

    8cm of melting snow with maybe 0.4 cm of rain wasn’t enough to cause urban flooding. The wind had also evaporated a lot of the snow melt before the rain hit. Some rural areas were warned of potential flooding, but that is usual from early February through late April, depending on location – south or north part of the county, elevation, etc. Which makes me realize a perk in retirement: I’m missing out on what used to be the hideously busy part of my former job. 🙂 This is the most relaxed I’ve been in February in over a decade.

    Quit learning and the brain lubricant seizes up and then serious problems ensue! So, yeah, I’m trying to learn something each day.

    17C? I’d be outside in short pants and tee shirt enjoying the heat wave. That would be record heat for February.

    Reading over the shoulder, I saw that you kept a David Eddings series of books. Which series, may I ask? I’ve got the both Belgariad and the Mallorean series. I really like the former, but the second sorta got ridiculous, although the humor was still there.


  27. Hi Chris

    Just thought I’d pop out of lurking.🙂. Your place looks amazing, as always, and I am seriously envious of the greenhouse. Such a thing would be useful in Canberra.
    Your weather has been more extreme, in both directions, than ours. Our cool days were nowhere near as cold as yours, and our warm days were around 30C, which has made for a good growing season here.
    As one of those weirdos who actually loves the entire cabbage family, I can recommend Tuscan kale. It is a lot less chewy than the other varieties, and it looks quite pretty as it grows.
    Thanks for putting us onto Simon’s blog – I’m really enjoying it. Though, of course, nothing compares to yours! (Earworm alert!)
    May all your seeds sprout, and rocks appear as required,

    Cheers, Hazel

  28. Hi Pam,

    Looks like there are three votes for NO and one vote for YES to kale. I give it a go anyway as I can’t recall having consumed the plant so have no real idea. However the results of the straw poll seem pointing in one direction. Of course, you might all be wrong! 🙂

    Is the sea kale a tough plant? I’m guessing it might be given where it originates.

    Yeah, it is a sensible strategy and I too try to consume as much out of the garden as possible.

    Any signs of spring yet?



  29. Hi Simon,

    What not to do could also be construed as a warning. 🙂 And I agree, but at the same time I’ve encountered some folks over the years who refuse to listen to such advice – in fact they appear to have deliberately done what I advised them not to do. And usually it ends up badly. It is very weird to see that situation play out, but some people just do what they will.

    YAGNI is pretty good – thanks for that! But then it does supply a market for second hand Gibson’s, unless of course the cheeky scamps hang it up there on a wall like a trophy? It is a shame to think that there would be such waste in society when others could put them to good use…

    Yeah, mice and rats are attracted to the grains in your chicken enclosure, so yeah it was inevitable. As a suggestion, place the grain feeder at night into a sturdy plastic bin with a lid and that will resolve the majority of the rodent issues. Chickens will catch mice and then eat them – and with no teeth to speak of, they still manage that task pretty well. Oh yeah, the chickens are onto that.

    The article was behind a paywall sorry to say. Hey, from your words it looks like an added layer of complexity over an already complex system. I wonder if this had anything to do with it?

    Recycler Suez says herbicides in contaminated compost came from Melbourne council waste.



  30. Hi Lewis,

    I’m not up for that. Oh my gawd, upon reading further into exactly what constitutes iambic pentameter, the strictures left me feeling somewhat constricted in the chest with difficulty breathing. Such writing, I cannot achieve, and a few greats have achieved such heady heights. Certainly as a form of writing and expression it keeps out the riff-raff.

    Thanks for mentioning Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It interests me that his publishing company took on the larger established business by producing works that people wanted to read. And like moths to a flame they flew and burned brightly. 🙂

    Never used Faceplant, and before this uproar, it never even occurred to me that users would get their newsfeeds from a company that wasn’t in the business of journalism. Obscure perhaps are their motives, transparent they may not be, and who is this thing accountable to? So many questions and so few answers. We now get pop ups on the news sites saying that you can read the news via the news websites. Strange days indeed.

    How funny was the Butchcoin? Hehe! There is little point feeding the hungry interweb indexing robots. Dull critters. Those tastes are too rich for my tastes, and I’ve still never encountered a valid reason as to why any person would want to travel to as hostile a place as Mars? I mentioned a few weeks ago that a prototype appears to have been destroyed – those things aren’t cheap.

    Well yes, I was feeling a little bit sweaty at the thought of having to make a decision in this book matter. But I feel that the right decision was reached, after all I failed to read books eight and nine (and maybe even book ten) of Robert Jordan’s epic series. There was some other stuff that needed doing and I never came back around to completing the series. That was the decider.

    Lewis, stay strong! But a little bit of indulgence and the occasional addition to your collection can hardly hurt, could it? 🙂 But see, here you may soon find yourself with groaning shelves and have to make an Eddings vs Jordan decision. Who will be the champ, and who gets voted off the island? Good luck! And glad the item you scored was blue. 🙂

    Well that’s irony for you. And the bloke tempted the book gawds to strike him down for setting unreasonable standards – and they struck him hard! Ouch, I assume that you could send the special order back for a store credit, but I have known places to be very firm about a no-returns policy with special orders. So his standards may have cost the store mad cash.

    Labelling seed packs is not a bad idea, and we only became more organised with all that last year – don’t tell anyone. We even keep the various plant family seeds stored in groups. I’d probably label them with the plant type and the year saved.

    I was reading the vegetable book today and Steve Solomon is pretty serious about giving plants elbow room to grow on the basis that the plants will produce more yield and be hardier. You know I was pondering this message when it dawned on me that the same is true for the plants in the forest. A true D’Oh! moment! Of course how could it be any different?

    Exactly, I too tend to believe that the heavy breeds of horses will eventually make a come back, but there will be some difficulties in relation to future agriculture before that happens.

    Speaking of which: Geelong’s Viva Energy records $95 million loss for oil refinery. I can’t work out if the article is soliciting funds from the gubasmint?

    Did you wear down H and hack off the mats?

    Mopey teens? You know if I was moping around the house as a kid, I would have been put to work. So instead of moping (which I’m not wired to do anyway), I was busy dodging my mum so as to avoid being dragooned. I’m with you, the adults weren’t there for my entertainment, but neither was I there for their entertainment. And it is hard to think ones own thoughts if they’re hanging around.



  31. @ Pam
    I also eat what I grow even if I could buy something that I like better. This definitely applies to runner beans which taste boring but grow so well. At least this avoids unknown chemicals Of course I was a child of wartime rationing which didn’t completely cease until I was 18. One was just pleased to eat anything.
    I am wondering about perennial vegetables that would grow in this climate, there seem to be so few.


  32. Hello Chris
    I assume that houses are mainly built of brick here, hadn’t really thought about. They certainly aren’t built of wood, that is really frowned upon. I assume that it is a relic from the great fire of London. Even if one got planning permission, subsequent insurance is horrifically high. I am not insured!


  33. Yo, Chris – I was having second thoughts about Kale, given the nutritional value, but, then you mentioned it was part of the cabbage family. And, yes, it would attract cabbage butterflies. 🙁 . Oh, well. Horseradish leaves are almost as nutritious. And I have plenty of those, in spring and summer. And, I have parsley, year around. I was picking some, last night, and noticed that it self seeded, and is coming up all over the place! How cool. It’s a bit hard to get started, but once established … I also saw a ladybug, on the parsley. Go, ladybugs!

    There are even more complicated poetic forms. But we won’t go there. Your’s (and my) heads are likely to explode. Haikus are fun to play around with. The 3 5 3 format is easy to remember, and it’s fun to try and think of the right word, to get across an idea in a pleasing manner.

    I ran across a nice memorial to Ferlinghetti.

    There’s even a bit of his poetry.

    Well, from what I understand, Faceplant chucks a lot of spam, into it’s news feeds. Generates revenue. Most news feeds, do.

    The sci-fi customer very seldom rejected a book. And then he’d take them home and carefully wrap the covers in mylar jackets. Preserving the dust jacket, is where a lot of the value lies. If he didn’t buy the book, we’d put it on the shelf. Usually, a less picky customer would buy it. If it didn’t sell, it would show up on a computer generated “pull list,” about three months later. To be returned to the publisher for credit. All we’d lose was the shipping. Given that at that time, the media mail rate was very cheap, and, usually, several volumes would be going back to the same publisher, not much was lost. By the way, our book collector would also buy a “reading copy”, when the paperback came out. It was an investment, but not just an investment, to him.

    So, do you sort your seed packets by Linnaean Taxonomy? 🙂 . I just had a thought. I should jot down, on the seed packet, which month to start indoors, or outside.

    Maybe your government should nationalize a small oil refinery, or two? Just in case. Given your form of government, that’s an idea that might fly there. Here, probably not.

    H’s mats disappeared. I guess I’d worked them enough, so that she got the rest of them, out.

    Down the memory hole. A large building collapsed in Centralia. Just a couple of days, after the snow. It was about four blocks up, and across the street from my old digs. It was pretty much abandoned, and neglected. But, a couple of interesting things. It was the original S-way grocery. Before my time, and how I know that, I don’t know. But the article did not mention that fact. When I went to said store, last night, I asked the night manager if he had heard about the building collapse? Yes. Did he know it was the original S-way? No. The article mentioned that the building had most recently sold in 2019. Per usual, didn’t mention who bought it. On one hand, it might be a catastrophe for the owner. On the other, if he was going to tear it down anyway, half the job is done.

    The Postie just brought my Doulton Pottery Lambeth, Wright’s Coal Tar, soap dish. I notice it’s also initialed by the artist. It’s really pretty. The Postie also mentioned he’s ordered a book called “Start with the Soil.” Looks good. Library doesn’t have it. He said he ordered it, because that’s what I’m always saying. And, I pointed out, that that’s what my Australian friend always says. Credit where credit is due. Lew

  34. Hi Chris
    TOOL. tools.
    A big part of my life involves its availability and use. Some of my earliest toys where real tools. Gifts from my parents. Hammers, wood saws, hand drills, wrenches and screwdrivers. And so on. Of course lessons in safe use learned from cuts and bruises. 😢😊

    Your Grandfather’s best gift to you was from what I gather, was the instilling of your work ethic evident continually here each week.

    The good choices you and your partner have both been good in the picks of both the power hill climbing mower and material hauler wheel barrow. Both labor savers.

    The mis fortunate failure of the stump grinder is a tough break. I have watched those machines at work and concluded that they have a very rough life. What with rocks, soil, and all manner of wood strength to dull or break the cutting parts and power plant.
    I recently looked at several Utoob videos of high power stump grinders. That is a very large and expensive category! Wether you hire or rent or buy you need to use the beasts to clear your thinned forest for farming and fire prevention. I only spent about an hour watching several different machines doing their stuff. I would require quite a bit of study of the field if I had the problem. Also In depth discussions with owners and users and repair folk as you are already doing.

    The financing of such equipment has a pretty good chance of recovery of residual value on disposal,of the machine at such time it is no longer needed. There are lot of business models for owning tools like these. With you and the editor working this out. You’ll make a good choice. 😊 my own assessment looks like it will take a self propelled version probably $30K +USD. I borrowed from my own retirement funds for a few tools and got back about half plus some tax advantages and, of course , the use of ownership . No regrets,no monthly payments. With earnings I continued to build savings.

    The wind is blowing daily sunny, 50F days wind 20 to 30 w/ 40+ Gusts MPH. sprinkles, late winter. Normal here.
    Wife had her 2nd vaccine jab the other day. I’m wrangling one for March 3 or so. I wish the Johnson &Johnson vaccine had been available first. One shot more like conventional Flu shot ,Coulda woulda shoulda.
    Cheers Al

  35. Hi DJ,

    🙂 Would the book be such a big seller? Hehe! People keep telling me how hard work all this stuff is, so I dunno mate. Let’s just say that it might be a hard sell, but you read the idea here first.

    Went back to work on the inconvenient boulder today. Candidly it was a tough job and for some reason that granite is the hardest on the property. The editor described me as a ‘hell cat’ and I get the impression was not a compliment, and she wisely left me alone for a while whilst I attacked the thing with a jackhammer. We ran a huge number of holes into the boulder and broke off four huge pieces, and the remaining core is now possible to be moved. It will probably end up under a set of concrete stairs, or retaining the soil at the edge of the excavated area. All the chunks were removed and placed in the low gradient ramp project. One of the chunks was at the upper limit of what the power wheelbarrow could move. Far out.

    Oh, anyway, the editor and I have been together for 27 years and went to the pub last evening to celebrate.

    The birds are singing for your spring which will soon to be! And the forecast snow, oh well, two steps forward and one back, so it goes.

    What a disaster, frost in high summer is a harvest killer. But you know, all the same, such years happen, and in these years I’m grateful I can head down to the market, the supermarket or the green grocer. It would be a real hardship otherwise.

    Everyone who is anyone knows that Thor is a sensible dog and would research such purchases thoroughly.

    Good stuff, and nice to hear that you are relaxing. 🙂 I hear you though, some parts of the year are just crazy busy. And usually there is little allowance for recovery time once the busy period is done with.

    Hehe! It’s not quite a record low temperature for summer but yes, it may be a winter record in your part of the world, and I’m not sure I can send you any extra heat this year. Sorry! Hey, Melbourne has a wikipud page which lists the extreme weather events. Yes, I recall the freak storm in 2005 if only because I had the kitchen cupboards outside… Yes, checking the weather forecast before doing so would have been a smart move, unfortunately the facts suggests the general clevernotness.

    Hehe! Respect, they were fun books, but I hear you about the second series and part of me believed that they might have been heavily based on the first series. Authors have to pay the bills too! 😉



  36. Hi Hazel,

    Nice to hear from you, and many thanks for the kind words. Hey, a greenhouse is pretty useful here too. Without it this year, the garden would be a disaster and I’d be having a freak out – germination of directly sown seeds in the cold damp soil was not good.

    The weather here has been crazy this summer. Most days this week hovered around 20’C. At least Sunday looks set to reach 28’C. I really don’t know about the tomato harvest this year. Glad that you have been having an easier time of it this season.

    Thanks for the suggestion regarding the Tuscan kale and I’ll nab some seeds for it. We eat a huge amount of leafy greens, and so an extra variety is worth trying.

    Hehe! Hope Simon isn’t reading. 😉 Simon is a good bloke and he sure can write, and just between you and I, he’s a more amusing author than I am.

    And likewise for you and your garden. I’ve been recently adding agricultural lime and dolomite to the buckets of coffee grounds which chucked around the orchards every week. It’ll be interesting to see the longer term impact of that.



  37. Hi Inge,

    The Great Fire of London casts a long shadow down here too, and there is also a cultural preference for brick houses. Although most brick houses down here are actually timber houses, and the brick is simply an external cladding.

    My preference is for timber houses if only because when bricks heat up on a hot summer’s day, it is very hard for the house to cool down again.

    All of the external wall cladding, roof and joins on the house here are designed to resist combusting, and all that came about due to the Great Fire of London and the repeated bushfires down here. Isn’t it amazing how a single event can produce a cultural shift?

    The history of the Great Fire is fascinating and I love how the garrison from the tower created fire breaks by blowing up buildings. Good stuff and quick thinking. Sometimes forest fires here are tackled by driving in firebreaks with bulldozers and road graders, but bizarrely people can get a bit weird about the scars left behind by such activity – like a forest resembling a cigarette ash tray looks better somehow? Crazy stuff. Oh well.



  38. Hi Al,

    I hear you about that, and likewise received a locally made tool kit for my 21st birthday – and not one of those tools displays any signs of wear. Things were better made back in those days. They just last.

    Hehe! Cuts and bruises – of course! Learned to use long armed welding gloves rather than shorter riggers gloves, the day a chunk of molten splatter dropped into my glove. The scar is still there but bizarrely the wound cauterised straight away and left a little crater.

    Thanks, and I’ve always worked hard.

    I dunno how long the power wheelbarrow will continue, but it will be replaced with a better made unit if it dies. Today I discovered the upper limits as to what the machine can do, and it was impressive.

    You like technical details, so with the stump grinder, the clutch had packed it in and metal was grinding against metal. The clutch was not repairable. And the bolt holding the clutch to the crankshaft had broken and was able to be recovered. However, with the bolt breaking, the clutch and belt pulley arrangement had damaged the crankshaft which needs to be re-machined. Only a thin sheet of metal covering the belt drive, stopped the whole arrangement from exploding outwards.

    Yeah, those sort of funds is beyond the budget and so we might have to reign it in a bit on specifications.

    My night time temperatures are not far off your daytime temperatures. Soon it will be you who is enjoying warmer days.

    The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) shot sounds a lot like that one, and I’ll angle for that shot. But mate, I’m so far down the list it is not funny. At this stage it will probably be another half a year away. And in the meantime I have no idea what craziness will ensue.



  39. Chris:

    Congratulations to you and the editor on the 27 years. That’s the long haul, for sure.


  40. @ DJSpo:

    This – from you – is good!

    “Research, research, research some more. Exactly. Maybe we can call that branch of philosophy the Ferngladian Thoroughness School. Or maybe “Thoroughality”, which would get shortened to “Thorality”. Thordog would’ve approved.”


  41. Hi Lewis,

    From what I was reading about the kale plant, it is as close to wild cabbage as you’re likely to encounter, and thus it is less impacted by cabbage moths which other members of the Brassica family of plants succumb to. Now of course I’m yet to put this to the test, but Steve Solomon seems like an upright kind of guy, so I dunno. It seems worth giving it a go, and he also recommended purple sprouting broccoli for similar reasons. Cabbage moth is a pain here too, and the green broccoli plants are covered in green grubs which will give the chickens a good protein hit. Those plants take up so much garden space, to produce so little produce. On the other hand, the rocket and wild rocket seem almost untouched by cabbage moth, so he might be onto something. The theory by the way is that the more usual Brassica varieties are incredibly inbred and thus they are more susceptible to the depredations of the humble cabbage moth and other critters and diseases – plus they require almost exacting conditions to grow correctly.

    Parsley and horseradish are amazing plants and yeah, they are super hardy. And yes, parsley does the same trick here and happily self seeds and turns up again each year in the same patch. Many of the garden herbs are like that too.

    Go the predator insects! 🙂

    Went back to work on the inconvenient rock today. After about six hours of work, we’d managed to break the large rock into four and one very large piece. The editor suggested that I was very ungentlemanly at one point and that may be a true assessment of the situation. The exact description was ‘hell cat’. Sure, it paints an interesting and unflattering picture, but every monster boulder in an inconvenient location demands its pound of flesh.

    The four chunks of rock (one of which was huge) were relocated to the low gradient ramp project and flat utility space. Spare a thought for the poor powered wheelbarrow which had to drag the chunks of rock down to the new project. It was a relief to finish the work by late afternoon and then head off to lunch at about 3pm. Lunch included a chunk of upside down plum cake which was very tasty. We nabbed the last piece.

    Thank you so much for the article. The poem ‘Old Italians Dying’ is beautiful and that culture reaches into parts of the big smoke where we once resided. The line from the article which I enjoyed the most was about creating a space and being present and sharing. Beautiful words and loss has swept in, but that too is part of the course. Whilst the light burned, twas bright and we could only but warm ourselves in the brilliance.

    I avoid Faceplant much as one would avoid the plague. This of course is only sensible for the plague has quite an awful mortality rate, and let’s not mention the haemorrhagic varieties – may we never test ourselves against such awfulness. Speaking of which I mentioned the Buruli ulcer recently. A very unpleasant affliction to be sure. Well it is identified as a Mycobacterium which in the same family which includes leprosy (also an unpleasant affliction) among other nasties. A possible commonality with those pesky critters is a person’s immune system response, and that can hinge on all sorts of factors such as diet and general health. Hardly the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a first world country.

    Mylar book jackets! Some people take it to 11! Ah, thanks for the interweb rabbit hole. Polyethylene is a very interesting material, and the water tanks here are constructed from that stuff. Super hard to repair though! Good to hear that the collector also purchased a ‘reading copy’ as that answered the question as to whether he looked at the books or enjoyed the contents – but he could do both with that strategy, up until the water damaged the books.

    Latin is unfortunately out of reach, and so Linnaean Taxonomy makes little sense. However through sheer usage there are some plants for which I know the Latin as well as the common name. The editor did a biology degree way back in her youth and she remarked to me long ago that botany often expected students to recite Latin names from memory without actually teaching them Latin in the first place and how weird a situation that was.

    Yeah, they better get around to doing that nationalising thing whilst there are still two of them left. Mind you, reading in between the lines I had the distinct impression that the local refinery looked like it was expecting a handout or subsidy. Possibly this is a different way of nationalising the facility? We down here are extended ever further out on a ledge and hopefully we don’t fall like the plucky Willey-E-Coyote.

    Well done H! Ruby graced us with a few bouts of spray diarrhoea this morning. I’d hate to think what she’d been eating to cause that mess.

    Can the sheer weight of snow collapse a building? Never considered that problem before. Ook! Hope nobody was in the building at the time. The photos of the collapse looked pretty awesome. From the photos the building looked as though it originally may have had a curved roof, but it is hard to be sure. Not really a fan of curved or flat roofs – they seem like a bad idea to me.

    Good stuff with the Doulton Pottery Lambeth, and that was really fast delivery, given you only made the purchase a few days ago. Is that usual to have the item signed?

    Hmm, your postie is onto something with that book. I’ve been giving the matter thought recently and this afternoon mixed in 25 pounds of agricultural lime as well as an equal weight of dolomite, plus 12 pounds of blood and bone into this week’s haul of used coffee grounds (maybe about 150 pounds). The mix actually looked and smelled pretty good. And I chucked all of that heady mix onto the ground in the sunny orchard around the fruit trees. It didn’t go as far as you’d imagine. I might keep up that regimen each week for the next year and see what happens with tree growth and fruit production next summer. If nothing else it will make a dent in the bank…

    The editor and I celebrated 27 years together.



  42. Hi Pam,

    We’re almost in real time here! Thank you for the best wishes. It’s been a lot of fun and we are most certainly on an adventure!

    How are you going? Any updates on Mr Dumpy and Mr Musty? My thought would be to get Mr Musty working sooner rather than later, but of course your weather has been horrendously cold so delays are to be expected.

    The hot afternoon sun produced a pleasant 57’F… What a summer! On the other hand it was a nice day for breaking rocks. And not just any rocks, but an inconvenient rock – that was what your former ex-vice-prez was going on about in that environmental film which made quite the splash last decade and a bit ago, although he probably didn’t realise the importance of rocks. Rocks are good – peak rocks is truly awful. 🙂



  43. Hello Chris
    Congratulations to the Editor and you on the 27 years together.
    Sun is shining but it was a very cold night. I had to get up in the middle and put some heating on in my bedroom. The ground was white with frost this morning.

  44. Congratulations!Chris and Editor
    BUT ! We call your 27 years x 2 for 54 years together in the past Jan. Also our three kids all have now attained age 50
    B. From 1967 to 1970 Humm. Happy Wabbits 🐰🐰😊

    My middle son is a sole proprietor painting and general contractor, in the Puget sound area, He continually rents self powered elevated mobile man lifts . Those wonderful machines have replaced scaffolding and long ladder platforms due to federal safety mandates here. I seriously considered purchasing a machine and hauling trailer. I would rent it at market rate to him. With him eventually owning it . He told me that his needs for the different height and type of articulation required varied so much that no one machine works for all needs. He thanked me for my concern. Tax laws sometimes favor rent expense over ownership. Dummy! Al!!,these folks are you know professional Accountants. !!!!!

    I thought I read some comments involving Gibson guitars. I may have a few more side stories. Mmm
    Cheers A&L

  45. Hi Chris,

    I hear you about growing more of fewer varieties. In the past I’ve grown way too many different vegetables as I had so much growing space. Now with much more limitations I’ve reduced the number of different veggies. After growing for years I know which ones produce well related to the amount of effort.

    Our weather had certainly changed for the better though there’s still a foot of snow in some places. We’re now in the low 40’s and mostly sunny. I’ve read that we may have a warmer than normal March.

    One thing I do miss about retirement is the socializing. We had such a fun group of teachers at the Jr. High. Many are now in the retired teacher group but of course we haven’t been together for a year now.

    Seems the side effects come after the 2nd vaccine and for some pretty nasty but only last a day or at most two.

    Leo and Salve love their morning walk on the road checking for things like coyote scat that are pee worthy.

    For what it’s worth I like kale pretty well in various salads. Kale chips are quite good. I have a salad that even people who hate kale like. One key is to massage the kale ahead of time to break down the leaves. I have a nice Russian kale that seeds itself year after year. In fact it’ll be popping up pretty early in the spring. It’s a healthy addition to soups as well. As it’s quite easy and survives temps in the 20’s it’s welcome in my garden.

    Reading over your shoulder, there have been a number of roof cave ins since the last big snow. Several were large barns and gas station canopies are taking quite a hit. It is advised that you should have a snow rake to knock some of the snow off. Now this is just when there’s really big snows as we had a couple weeks ago. My mother had a large barn and indoor arena and ran a horse boarding business after my dad died. One year when there was a terrible snow all the boarders and family members pitched in to shovel the snow off the very large roof. It got to the point that the snow knocked off was so deep along the side of the building that you could just walk off the roof and down the packed down snow.

    Carla, her fiance, Ritchie and Ruth are coming for the weekend tomorrow. I’m sure the main topic of conversation will be the wedding – give me strength (sigh).

    Congrats to you and the editor for 27 years of togetherness.


  46. Yo, Chris (and the Editor). Congratulations on 27 years! Gee. One couldn’t even hold one’s breath, that long. 🙂 .

    Makes sense that the brassica varieties might be a bit inbred, and, therefore, more “tender.” And appealing to all kinds of bugs. I’m trialing some different greens, this year. We’ll see how they go. As far as brassica go, the brussels sprouts don’t take up much space. And, although they need the occasional shot of BT, to keep the cabbage moths at bay, being compact, they don’t need much.

    Will the big rocks that need busting up, ever end? But on some level, I’m sure you enjoy the challenge. I bet the air was blue, around Fern Glade Farm. Did the Fluffie Collective learn some new words? Something they’ll blurt out, in company? 🙂 .

    I only made two trips to San Francisco, early in life. Short trips. So I didn’t make it to City Lights Books. It’s also in a kind of out-of-the-way district, of San Francisco. The history of bookstores that also published, is interesting. Gotham Bookstore in New York, published quit a bit of Edward Gorey. Shakespeare and Company (Paris), also published books.

    I’m still wading through Bittman’s story of food. Most of it I already knew. Most of our food systems are not conducive to general health. Diet and general health? Short on prevention and long on presented problem solving. Saw an article on soil, that relates …

    Did you hear about “Buttergate”, up in Canada. People started noticing that butter had suddenly become hard, at room temperature. It looks like dairy farmers are spiking cow feed with more palm oil. For one reason and another. Which may lead to the butter problem. Palm oil. The plantations are ecological disasters and there are reports that the workers aren’t treated very well. I’m sure they’re making a lot of money, for someone.

    Sounds like you’ve got a good mix of soil amendments, going. I may be wrong, but I’d say, go harder at the higher end of the orchard. Maybe, a lot of those benefits will percolate, downhill?

    Polyethylene. Better living through chemistry. I did a shallow dive down the rabbit hole. As I thought, it’s mostly made from oil, natural gas or coal. But it can also be made from cellulose.

    Our government bailed out quit a few industries, in 2008. There was some grousing, that the government didn’t get much of a return on their investment. No stake in the businesses. That I’m aware of.

    Snow, particularly wet snow, is very heavy. A couple of years ago, my friends over in Idaho commented that several buildings in the county south of them, had collapsed. In their town, all the parents got together, and shoveled the snow off the school roof.

    Yup. That’s quit a picture of the collapsed building. The new owners of our local newspaper, are really jazzing up the “look.” There are a lot more drone pictures. Well, seeing as they’ve run an advertising agency, here, for years, I suppose they know what they’re about. You may notice that there are railway tracks, directly behind the building. That’s the main line, between Portland and Seattle. Gee, I wonder if, when it was a grocery store, the cans rattled off the shelves?

    Being a snoop, I did a bit of research into the building. It’s owned by the general manager of our largest car dealership, here. I was also surprised to see that the assessed value was only $120,000. Quit low for a chunk of property that big, in the CBD. The building must have been in terrible shape. The last time it sold, it went for $103,000. Just two years ago.

    A lot of the artists at Doulton, especially in the early days, initialed their work. Part pride in artistry, part quality control. I discovered my piece was decorated by Maud Bowden. Apparently, she started working for the company in 1903, and continued on until the late 1920s. I checked some of my other pieces. There are initials, but a lot of them are pretty illegible. Miss Maud had a nice clear hand. 🙂 .

    That was a fast shipment. The wind must have been blowing the right direction 🙂 . Stuff actually can move pretty fast. If there are no holidays, or weather events, in the way. Lew

  47. @ Pam,

    Thanks! I get about one good idea per week. I always dreaded wasting it on something job related! A lot easier to avoid that now. 😉 I enjoyed coming up with Thorality.


  48. Chris,

    Congrats to you and the Editor on 27 years!

    So, 4 moveable pieces and the moveable core of the boulder remain after “Hellcat Meets Granite”? I note that “moveable” does not necessarily equate to rocks that can be easily picked up and carried or maybe even thrown at the odd rabbit, venomous brown snakes or what have you. With rocks that big and stubborn, even after they’ve been broken into smaller pieces, it’s possible that the boulder still won.

    The snow on Thursday…Maybe 4 or 5 cm. Then it warmed up to +6C and the wind got nastier and the sun came out. Three of my neighbors got out with their snow shovels and cleared snow. It was wet and heavy stuff! I quickly ascertained that, due to the wind and sun and rising temperatures, allowing physics to work was a much better use of my energy than trying to move heavy slop. By early afternoon, the snow had disappeared, whilst I was happily reading and drinking tea.

    Snow can be nasty to buildings if it gets too heavy. For those occasional years in which the snow gets too deep and heavy on my roof, I’ve got a roof rake. I’ve had to use it a few times. It has a long handle of adjustable length and can pull the snow off the roof while I’m still firmly on the ground. The owner of the car repair place I prefer had to shovel his business roof one year. He was too late, and he had to leap off the roof into a snow berm when he heard the roof cracking under the snow’s weight. He was fine. The building received a well deserved remodel.

    Yes, Eddings did rather heavily utilize and even nearly repeat a lot of the Belgariad in the course of the Mallorean. In some dialog between Garion and Belgarath, the characters even discuss that it feels like they’re repeating what they’d done before, so the author was well aware of what he was doing.

    I just finished the 5 currently published books in the “Game of Thrones” series. 2 more books are planned. I don’t think the author will finish the series. He has other things he’d rather be doing, has multiple television projects he’s juggling, and has stated that “I write what I want to write and if my fans don’t like it, so what.” It has been a decade since the 5th book of the series was published. I’m not sure that he’s truly interested in completing the series. If it doesn’t get completed, that series will join such classics as “Canterbury Tales” and Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” in the list of unfinished works.


  49. Hi Inge,

    Thank you and the intervening years have been a lot of fun.

    Spring is just around the corner for you. It’s exciting! It was another cold day here today where the sun barely warmed the skin. It may have maxed out at around 66’F which is just incredibly cool for a late summer’s day.

    Went in to the big smoke and had an enjoyable lunch with friends. Some of the restrictions are at last lifting, and the state gobarmint was only able to extend it’s emergency powers by another two months. Clearly cooler heads appear to have prevailed. The last week long lock down not that long ago was a very poor decision, but they don’t listen to the likes of me. Oh well. How are things going in your part of the world?



  50. Hi Al,

    🙂 Happy wabbits indeed! 🙂 And your kids have reached a venerable age where they may lay claim to having at least some wisdom!!! Hehe!

    Interesting, and those machines are good when the surface is uniformly flat, although the machines in use down here have pretty strong looking hydraulic struts at the four corners which can be used to level the machines (an important aspect, you’ll agree). But scaffolding, you’ll be happy to note is still widely used. My experience with scaffolding leads me to believe that the people setting it up have to know what they are doing in the first place! I’ve never installed the stuff myself as I usually rely upon sturdy, known and proven ladders which I own. Not all ladders are equal.

    I’m coming around to the opinion that home stump grinders are a machine with serious compromises inherent in their design. I accept this outcome, but I would like to know, which of these are going to have a long operating lifespan? Not always easy to know in advance. And therein is the nub of the dilemma.



  51. @ Margaret:

    I am afraid that “Keeping Up Appearances” is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Naughty Hyacinth.


  52. @ Al:

    Fifty-four years is an incredible length of time for you and your better half to have been together. And I was so interested in your comments on the elevated mobile man lifts. Am passing it on to my son.


  53. @ Lew:

    Thanks for mentioning Buttergate. I hadn’t heard of it, and that may explain why a cheap store brand of cheddar cheese that I usually buy suddenly appeared to have rubber in it. It won’t crumble at all or even melt well. And I had just stocked up.


  54. Hi Margaret,

    Yeah, exactly and even with a large amount of growing space I’m ever so slowly coming to terms with the concept of growing the varieties of edible plants which do work in this area, will continue to do so, and with the conditions which are usually enjoyed. For example, some years watermelon will grow and fruit, but other years like this one, such plants are an utter unobtainable pipe dream. Your knowledge as to what will most likely work, and what might not, is sort of where I’m aiming at. Respect for the hard yards which you have done. 🙂

    Low 40’s sounds better than the sort of below zero (Celsius that is) freezing weather you’ve been enjoying of late. Candidly you’re not far off the summer weather I’m enjoying which peaked at 66’F today. March is shaping up to be a drier month than either January or February and um right now, I’m considering this to be a good thing as at least the soil, whilst drier, may be marginally warmer.

    You were very lucky to have had such a social work group. Things are very serious on that work front down here, and I haven’t enjoyed such a group since the early 90’s. On the other hand there are enjoyable social groups which I’m part of, it’s just that they’re not work groups. How is your book group going?

    Had to laugh, down here the chances of even getting a first jab are quite remote, let alone a second booster jab! 🙂 You lovely people are test driving the system so to speak.

    Leo and Salve are clearly connoisseurs to act so, and the fluffy collective salute their efforts and would do no less. The three of them love their regular walk too and they walk in formation with Ollie their champion mascot in the centre. It’s awesome to see them with their heads held high and their noses likewise attuned for any scat opportunity.

    I have no fixed opinion on kale whatsoever, and am pleased to hear your perspective. Such a plant is welcome here too! 🙂

    Really? Wow! Such a possibility is not even on my radar, but yeah I too would have put you lot to work ensuring that the large barn roof didn’t collapse. It would have been super tough on your mother, and having the roof collapse on an income producing building would have been the stuff of nightmares. So yes, get out the snow rakes out and get to work!

    Margaret, I can only but applaud your strength of character and stoic nature. But I do hope that they don’t go on overly long about the subject. It’s an excited discussion for a while, but after that I can only but suggest to take a leaf out of your mothers book and put them to work. That’ll change the subject for sure! Hehe!

    Thank you. Where have the years gone?



  55. Hi DJ,

    Thanks mate and it has been a lot of fun. It is nice to be on an adventure.

    Exactly, the rock is moveable, but I can’t really move it very far from where it is now and it is too heavy for the power wheelbarrow (300kg capacity), and the depth of the granite core is easily 700mm. Look given enough time I could break it up further, but there are easier rocks to be had. When facing Peak Rocks, really tough and awful decisions have to be made about where to expend the energy we do have available to us.

    And I haven’t even decided yet upon the replacement stump grinder. Today I spent an hour reading reviews and watching videos and it may be that all of the little machines are bad apples – but which will last longer then become the question to which nobody wants to provide an answer because people abuse these machines! My brain is exploding. 🙂

    Haha! I hear you, but we declare that the boulder lost the battle. All will become clear in time.

    Very wise, and a good cup of tea and some pleasant reading can make a world of difference in such matters. Out of curiosity, what blend of tea do you prefer? You may recall the command: Tea, Earl Grey, Hot!

    Oh my! The issue of load weights on roofs is one that I had not considered from any other perspective other than wind load. It is possible that like my water tank filter during extreme storms issue, it is not something that can be economically addressed?

    Yeah, I recall those conversations between the characters. Sometimes even the jokes were recycled, but hey, it sold units (industry speak) so who are we to presume. The thing was there was something about the familiarity of the story during the Mallorean which I enjoyed. Even the jokes produced a sort of enjoyable-groan which suggested: No! Not again. All good fun. Robert Jordan’s on the other hand, well parts weren’t fun and despite the in-jokes, I dunno. Perhaps the series took itself too seriously for my tastes, and the dark lord seemed to only want to hide in some sort of cave from a memory. Hardly a scary apparition! I never finished it either. How did you go with it?

    I don’t think the author will finish the series DJ, that is a classic line of true understatement, and despite my chuckling, I’m of the same opinion. The author perhaps needs to man-up and get a good ghost writer who can do the hard yards. But honestly my brain is not even good enough to have created the various threads in the first book. By the fifth book, chunks of my brain would be oozing out of my ears having to work it all out – and if you’ve read them, you know what I mean. Certainly some serious software is required to follow all of the threads.



  56. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks! I scandalised some friends today by recalling and attributing a saying by a mate’s dad who used to regularly and amusingly suggest to me that: “Death. The married man’s friend.” Despite the words, he seemed pretty happy with his lot, but he just liked stirring up the pot I’m guessing. The cheeky scamp.

    As to hold your breath for such a period well, you know, a difficult proposition! 🙂 However you reminded me of the time, way back in the day when I went to see the Jim Rose Circus when it visited Melbourne. It was a lot of fun, a real proper side show. Anyway, one of the performers, perhaps BeBe got into a plastic bag and had the air sucked from it, and breathing would have been most difficult. The suggestion at the time was that the performer, who did an admirable job of scaring the daylights at night out of the crowd, was ‘turning blue for you’. I can’t make this stuff up and really had no idea what to expect when we booked tickets. It sure was entertaining though.

    Yeah, it is possible that there are degrees of inbreeding with the Brassica species of plants, so whatever works is how it looks to me. Mate, I’m no purist and if I needed BT, yeah that is how it would roll. You should see what the cabbage moths did to the broccoli this year. The plants are going to the chickens, although one plant seems to be unaffected and it grew into some roses and then tomatoes climbed onto it. Not sure about that one. It was from saved seed, so who knows what is going on there and it may not even be broccoli?

    The low gradient ramp and utility area project is eating large rocks like there is no tomorrow. And like Audrey II, the project is demanding to be fed even more large rocks. So now each day of digging has to be preceded by a day of rock breaking and hauling. There are some other jobs on the farm which need attending too, but the weather is nice for this activity and so we break rocks and dig soil. It’s keeping us fit that’s for sure.

    The fruit trees in the orchards produced very little (comparatively) fruit this year due to the crazy weather and so I’m a bit dirty on them and haven’t done the usual clearing and pruning jobs (that is the other job which needs doing). However, they are enjoying a more enhanced feeding than in any previous year so the fruit trees have to just deal.

    Gotham Bookstore in New York looked fascinating, and were you ever lucky enough to visit? The cast of notables is impressive, and the finale in 2007 was odd, on the other hand the collection doesn’t appear to have fallen into private hands.

    Exactly, food can provide calories to keep a person alive, but will it keep a person healthy? There is a subtle distinction there. I very much enjoyed the article on soil, and the critics are perhaps splitting hairs by discussing the differences in measurement whilst acknowledging the core dilemma. Such talk does not make me comfortable as to the future prospects.

    No I hadn’t heard of butter-gate, but I’m very particular about dairy products. Palm Oil may be high yielding, but it tastes disgusting to my palate. I utterly fail to understand how people enjoy the stuff as an additive, but freely admit that I’m in the minority. High yields with plants usually demand much from their soils. How could it be otherwise?

    Yes, of course I will do so with the soil mineral additives. Incidentally, the lime paths are at the higher points on the property and the plants growing near to them look pretty good. The soil mineral additives are being dispersed to the harder to get to places.

    The polyethylene is meant to be reasonably stable even with the suns radiation streaming down onto the plastic surfaces year in and year out. If I had the time, I’d bury one of the water tanks as a last resort backup water supply. From what I’ve observed over the years they don’t fare any better or worse than any other style of water tank during a bushfire – they all seem to occasionally fail in their own unique styles.

    I’ve heard that talk too about what exactly did the gobarmant receive in return for the hand outs from those days? It is an argument which seems to apply sometimes and then not at other times. The local car manufacturing industry was shut down because it looked as though there was an ideological dispute over the continuing hand outs, so the option gets applied sometimes and then not at others. The refinery matter is very weird.

    Good stuff, and yeah if people want public buildings / institutions they have to pitch in and help out.

    Your local paper looked pretty flash and glad to hear that they are investing in the masthead. Gargle and Faceplant have eaten an awful lot of local advertising revenue and then concentrated that wealth in a tiny area of the planet. I don’t necessarily believe this to be a good thing, or a sustainable situation.

    Is that railway line a passenger line or a freight line? A lot of freight down here still moves around by rail especially to cities which don’t have a deep water port.

    Down here such a cheap price for the property would be unthinkable. Word on the street is that the europeun owned supamarket with allegedly obscure financials bought a property in a nearby town for an amount which kind of looked on the cheaper side of the equation given the size of land and location, but I’m no expert in such matters. Probably the word jobs might have been mentioned but I wasn’t there and don’t know nuffin anywhoo.

    Maud had a long period of employment and the work is amazing. There is even a Koala ashtray which looks pretty cool. And blue seems to have been a favourite colour! The interweb site suggests 1937, but the grammar used makes it hard to ascertain whether this was the end of her employment, or the end of the demand for such art.



  57. @ Pam – Same with the government commodity cheese, we get. Not like the old days. Doesn’t want to melt, worth a darn. I try and stay away from it. But I am weak 🙁 . Lew

  58. @ Margaret – My uncle Larry was a big fan of ‘Keeping Up Appearances.” So, when I visited him in Portland, I’d get to see some episodes. He also liked, “Are You Being Served?” Equally funny, in a different way. There was a link, to “Emmett (the neighbor) breaks fine china.” Oh, dear … Lew

  59. Yo, Chris – Often I see married fellows, with what I call, the “Please kill me,” look on their faces. Then there’s “Marriage is a wonderful institution … but who wants to live in an institution?” Groucho Marx. Not to say that women don’t just as often, get the poopy end of the stick.

    Broccoli growing into a rose and overlaid with a tomato plant. Yeah, I’d say crowding may be a problem, at your place 🙂 . I wonder if there was, perhaps, a bit of companion planting synergy, going on? Cabbage butterflies never bother tomatoes. Hmmm. Can’t lay my hands on my companion planting book.

    I’ve never been east of Minnesota, so, no, never visited the Gotham Book Mart. The end was sad. Sounds like they needed a good accountant. But, as you probably know, like the Queen, accountants can only advise and warn. 🙂 . If the business owner takes the advice, is another whole can of worms.

    The soil article was interesting. Injecting doubt into controversy is an old tactic. Just read an article about that, the other night. No matter if it’s climate change, vaccination or smoking, just expressing doubt muddies the waters. People will leap on doubt, just to support their preconceived, or profitable motives.

    I read an interesting bit, in Bittman (pun?), last night. Something Barry Commoner (early ecologist) came up with.

    “1.) Everything is connected to everything else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.
    2.) Everything must go somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.
    3.) Nature knows best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system”
    4.) There is no such thing as a free lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.” There is a flip side, to that, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. 🙂 .

    Interesting news from Idaho. My friends have moved (pretty much) into their duplex, and renovations are under way. They’ve had a nibble on the rental side. A 40 something, single Mennonite man. Must be a story, there. By 40, quit a few Mennonite men are married, and have 10 kids.

    The rail line is both freight and passenger service. It’s quit a juggling act. Between Seattle and Portland, freight or passenger trains are often shuttled onto sidings, to let other trains fly by. There are delays.

    Yes, the big box stores often plump the jobs aspect. In all it’s part time, no benefits glory. What isn’t bandied about is the tax breaks and “free” infrastructure. A bit of money might have been slipped under the table.

    Doulton (and a lot of other potteries) were big on moriage, during the Victorian era. It was a technique, developed in Asia. Particularly, Japan. All those little dots and raised lines, are put on individually, using something that was like a pastry bag. Matched large vases can bring thousands of dollars. I wonder if Miss Maude took on the simpler decorations, just to give herself a break, from the intense close work. Or, maybe, her eyesight was going.

    And, a recent new discovery from Pompeii. A very fancy ceremonial carriage.

    Pompeii. The gift that keeps on giving 🙂 . Lew

  60. Hello Chris
    Things in my part of the world make no sense at all; nuff said.
    I am reading ‘Straight and crooked thinking’ by Robert H. Thouless. Have found it fascinating and was going to recommend it. Then, oh my! He writes one of the very things that he is telling people to watch out for. I thought that further on he would ask his reader if it had been noted. But no, he doesn’t. I went on wiki… to check him out and discovered that he meant what he wrote there. Fascinating that he himself fell into a trick that he is warning his readers about


  61. Hi Inge,

    Fair enough and the same is true down here as well. The state gobarmint had their extraordinary powers extended on Friday for I believe another two months. Can you believe that a possibly ambit claim was made to extend the powers for a further nine months? Somebody far smarter than I once suggested that whilst power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. They may have something there with that observation!

    Despite the author’s lapse, the book sounds fascinating. Yes, it is a problem / trap for even the most learned of us all to fall into. Perhaps it is a display of hubris on the part of the author? Have you come to any decision as to why the author did so? I’ve added the book to the to-read list, and thanks again for the book referral.

    The author was clearly of a family of high achievers.

    It was a lovely summer’s day here today, not too hot and neither was it too cold. Just lovely and we planted three more roses.



  62. Hi Lewis,

    Groucho Marx has had some pithy and amusing observations attributed to him. And very true, I have heard many women over the years grousing about their partners. So yes, it is fairly evenly weighted club. My mother sent me out into the world with very little in the way of useful advice. For some reason she did drill into my brain the advice that: If I have nothing nice to say about a person, then say nothing at all. Of course I’d heard my mother use some very colourful language over the years. So, you have to admit though, that the advice possibly is a bit confusing because sometimes I have nothing nice to say about some people that I’ve encountered. Those people can’t all be nice, can they? 🙂

    Hehe! Yes, crowding of those trio of plants was a bit of a problem, but they’d grown huge, and I just hadn’t factored that growth in when originally setting them out. Incidentally, I’m coming around to the idea that plants require more growing space than we’d previously been giving them, and for their own reasons they will crowd an area if left to do so. So all of the roses will be dug up when the cooler and damper weather arrives (actually it is already cool enough, however the next four week forecast looks a bit dry) and provide them with about three and a half feet space between the crown of one plant and the next one. We took the original spacings from a botanical garden but the roses there don’t seem to be growing as well as I’d anticipated, so dig them all up seems the way to go.

    Anyway, we planted three additional roses today into the garden terrace and the soil sure looked good. For first year soil there is about three inches before the clay layer was reached, and the clay layer had a lot more air in it than a year ago. So that’s a good thing.

    Exactly. That sums the situation up nicely. You can warn that printing money to pay for the day to day exigencies is a bad idea, but when the creditors turn up for their due and the payroll needs to be made, the soft gobarmint takes the easy path. And as every right thinkin’ fluffy knows, the easy path is actually the hard road. But you know, I give them credit where credit is due because I never believed that things could err, progress, as far as they have. It is an impressive achievement really.

    Inge referred to a book which no doubt covered ‘interjecting doubt’ into an argument. However when folks are talking nonsense, well a bit of doubt can be a useful technique. And the editor and I discussed this today and yes, the cigarette doubt was mentioned. Science is a tough gig, and any job where you have reapply for every couple of years is bound to break the weak link. You can almost hear the echo: Sure, I’ll say that, I’ve got bills to pay like everybody else.

    Barry Commoner is a very interesting bloke with plenty to say. However his suggested remedies leave me feeling a bit cold. He should have known better that ultimately the system is self correcting. How could it not be that way? I’m curious to learn of the flip side to resource exploitation? I don’t tend to believe that all activity is waste. I met a bloke a few years back who suggested that to me and I responded by saying that I disagreed with the central tenet of his thesis – and then because I’m a super cheeky scamp pointed at the very easy on the eye Victorian house which he lived in and noted that it was very attractive. 😉

    Mate, the Amish and the Mennonite folks are no less subject to the realities of ecological overshoot than the rest of us are. Historically such strategies have been tested thoroughly and the results are not good. On the other hand, they do have a serious advantage by continually seeking to expand, but eventually the benefit will turn to a weakness. How many times does it need to be tested? Probably quite regularly.

    Ouch. A little bit further north than here, the rail line reduces from two lines to a single, and when it was upgraded, there was much discussion as to the costs and benefits of this strategy. Economic realities prevailed and a single line is now in evidence.

    Oh yeah, one person’s definition of employment is most certainly not the same as another person’s reality.

    I dunno, but the price paid for the land seemed comparatively cheap for such a large parcel – but what do I know?

    I noted that Miss Maude did not appear to survive long after her unemployment back in those days. But yes it is artisanal work of the finest caliber.

    The detail on the carriage is amazing, and the Roman’s were a very lusty sort to have so decorated their carriages. I couldn’t quite comprehend the scale of the carriage. Was it horse drawn do you reckon?

    Better get writing.



  63. Hello again
    I am still reading the afore mentioned book and have decided that it should be highly recommended.


  64. Dear Chris et al.,

    Regarding kale: Here in Holland, where I now live, kale is a key ingredient in one of the most highly regarded traditional dishes “Stamppot”: mashed potatoes (originally turnips), into which you put 10% weight (same volume) of finely chopped kale and optional well-fried lard chunks. Winter food. Often served with a chunk of smoked sausage.
    For a photo see:

    There is a cultural taboo on harvesting the kale before the first icy night. They say that the kale gets sweeter by a dusting of morning frost. I secretly suspect that the kale was avoided until nothing else was available, and then the lack of fresh greens made even kale alluring.
    (I think there is a reason why Dutch Cuisine has not spread over the world… Did you ever go to a Dutch restaurant?)

    In my family, kale was always eaten at Christmas, cooked in cream and a with dash of honey. Quite delicious. Since, as the French say, everything cooked “à la crème” is “gastronomique!”.

    Otherwise, I prefer to grow savoy cabbage and the Italian ‘cavalo nero’. For stir fried greens, I find swiss chard superior, and it is much easier to grow here as cut-and-comeback for the whole season.

    I hope you get some more warm weeks to get that summer feeling before the gray days ensue!


  65. Hi Chris
    Your broken stump eater appears to use all mechanical drive components. Total damage to Clutch system including motor crank shaft. Issues with power drive and maybe not the best designed chipper / grinder wheel and cutters.?.?
    I’m guessing that the expert farm mechanics have mentioned that replacement of the all mechanical system with hydro static / hydraulic pump / and control coupled with matching gear motor hydraulic drive may best the best ,though expensive, fix. 😠😠. if practical! Decisions ugg.

    I spent a bit of time gaggleling “Parker – Hannifin stump grinder pump motor combinations”. They are one of the suppliers world wide for hydraulic stump stuff including Au.

    I owned a 2-1/2 ton dual wheel flat bed truck with a 10 ton 38foot height hydraulic crane. That worked pretty well. The hydraulics work great. I learned to make all repairs which made it affordable. I was buying and selling guberment surplus part time and needed moving/ lifting help.

    In My sons business region the man lifts need to be equipped with leveling jacks for most of his work. Most of the work over there isn’t on the level. Bad Bad Al!!
    Cheers Al😁

  66. Yo, Chris – Well, botanical gardens have quit the staff. They can keep the roses pruned hard, and dead-headed.

    In response to Commoner, John Bellamy Foster said this (via Bittman) …

    1.) The only lasting connection between things is the cash nexus;
    2.) It doesn’t matter where something goes as long as it doesn’t reenter the circuit of capital;
    3.) The self-regulating market knows best; and
    4.) Nature’s bounty is a free gift to the property owner.

    He was a Marxist, by the way. 🙂 . It’s also a critique of capitalism.

    The land parcel also seemed cheap, to me. But, I’d say it was for the land, only, and not the building. Given it’s condition. In fact, the building was probably a bit of a financial liability. Given that it was pretty much a tear down. And the costs of that.

    Yes, the carriage is horse drawn. And, by the way, that’s the same villa where they found the three horses, and the two blokes. What we tend to forget is that people (even the mighty Romans) were smaller. I wonder if I went to Pompeii, if some of the spaces and public areas would seem a bit “cramped.”

    There’s speculation that it was a marriage carriage. Due to the rather erotic nature of the bosses. Roman marriage ceremonies involved the bride (and wedding party) traveling from parents house, to grooms house. Brides walked, or, if you were a bit higher up the social scale, rode in a litter or sedan chair. Top of the line was the marriage chariot. I suppose the owner could have lent it out (to family), or, even rented it to the hoi polloi. 🙂 . The Romans hired mourners for funerals and musicians for weddings. So, why not a hired carriage? I wonder if there were Roman wedding caterers? 🙂 .

    On the other hand, maybe it was used, once a year (or more) for some religious festival. There’s so much we don’t know, and can only speculate on. And, looting can muddy the problems. Recently, a looter was busted, with a large sampling of different Roman items. Including, one of the mystery dodecahedrons. Had it been excavated in situ, maybe the mystery would have been cleared up?

    I saw an interesting article on the psychic toll of wild fire fighters.

    New South Wales figures, in the article.

    As the library had not delivered anything (for the second week), I dug through my small pile of DVDs, to see if there was anything that was popcorn worthy. I came up with “House on Haunted Hill” (1959), with Vincent Price. I was thrilled when the opening shots were of Ennis House, one of the California, concrete block, Frank Lloyd Wright creations. But, it turned out that all the interiors were done on sound stages. Mostly a mishmash of Dracula’s castle and Victorian spooky house. It was an ok movie, and worth a bowl of popcorn.

    When I visit with Eleanor, in the evening, she generally has the TV on. But, as she’s hard of hearing (and, worried about the neighbors), she keeps the sound off, with the sub-titles on. We talk, and generally just keep one eye on the TV. Usually, it’s old re-runs of Magnum, PI. But there was another detective series on, last night, and the whole plot revolved around a Zombie Com. Not anything that Eleanor found appealing. 🙂 . And, I had a hard time explaining the appeal. The best I could come up with is, “It’s like Halloween, all year long.” And, “It’s a hobby.” I don’t think I convinced. Lew

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