Rock Legend

Occasionally a person must blow their own trumpet, or risk becoming deflated. How awful would it be to become deflated and then mired in thick mud? After all, I’m not much of a fan of mud.

When I was a really young bloke and the editor and I had only just moved in together, we decided to purchase a house. Of course the only house we could afford was on the wrong side of town. Friends were reluctant to visit. Family were more honest because they implicitly said they didn’t want to visit that part of town. A mate assessed the house as being at the wrong end of an otherwise good street. Nice. Even the lawyer doing the property transfer warned us about the errors of our ways. But we ignored everyone, and forged ahead regardless and eventually lost a fair chunk of money on the house. However, through the whole experience we gained knowledge which was put to good use in the future.

Back in those days the area was very industrial and it even sported a major oil tank farm. From the very earliest of times the area had welcomed the heaviest of industries. During summer days when the wind blew in the right direction, the air was filled with the aroma of sheep wool processing, carcass processing and tannery activities. Once known, the heady aroma could hardly be forgotten. However nowadays, people talk of the area in hushed terms of awe and a sort of dirty longing to be there. I guess there are now more places to enjoy a decent coffee – there sure wasn’t when we lived there, although there was a decent bakery and a continental butcher who produced the most excellent of Polish Kransky sausages.

The house, which we eventually lost an astounding amount of money upon, had been sinking into the highly reactive clay which was endemic to the area. The house was a timber house which sat above the reactive clay courtesy of about a hundred timber stumps. A timber stump is chunk of dense timber four inches square sitting vertically and which is partly buried into ground – the house itself sits on the highest point of the timber stump. By the time we arrived on the scene, the stumps were around seventy years old – and they had succumbed to rot. As a consequence the house was sinking unevenly and getting ever closer to the clay soil surface.

Me, being me, thought that I can fix this. And so I spent a month or so crawling around underneath the house during the winter months in the mud, replacing the timber stumps with more durable concrete stumps. Eventually the job was done, but ever since I have detested mud.

Outside of projects under construction at the farm, you’d be hard pressed to find any mud. There is a good reason for that, because the earlier experience and toil have taught me the many shades and moods of mud. Not a fan, but I know its ilk well.

My long ago learning experience with mud reminded me that over the past year or so we’ve been on a similar learning journey with rocks. Many of the rocks on the farm weigh far more than I do and are not easily moved. But all the same, we’ve been trialling different techniques on these larger rocks in order to make them smaller and more easily managed. And I believe this week, we have finally cracked the rock splitting code. All it took to get there, was a whole bunch of trial and error experience (and learning from other folks in the trade) as to how to deal with the large rocks.

Earlier in the week we attacked a bunch of larger rocks and easily split them into smaller rocks.

A bunch of now smaller rocks were liberated from much larger rocks

We knew that the now smaller rocks in the above photo were easier to liberate from much larger rocks if only because the colour of the stone suggests to us that this is a possibility. There are a few different types of rock on the property, but experience and ‘trial and error’ suggests that the rocks with the almost blood red hue are the easiest to split.

This type of granite with the almost blood red hue splits easily

However, there are less of these types of rocks and more of the ultra hard grey granite. That stuff is bonkers hard!

Know thy enemy! A super hard form of granite

The grey granite rocks are incredibly hard to break up, and of course such rocks are in the majority. But this week after much trial and error over the past year or so, we cracked the rock breaking code.

To begin breaking such a hard granite, we drill a few V shaped foot long 18mm holes into the rock. A quality electric rotary hammer drill is used to bore such holes into the tough granite. Contractors who do this job for a living probably have much better and faster drilling equipment than we do.

V shaped holes about a foot long are drilled into the granite

The electric jackhammer is then used to ram pointy bits (the fancy Fernglade Farm name for a point chisel) into the various holes. The jackhammer bits are slightly wider than the holes and this forces the rock to split apart.

Pointy jackhammer bits are rammed into the holes drilled into the rock

After only a few minutes of work with the jackhammer, the rock splits along the line of the drill holes.

Success from one very large rock, we now have two more manageable rocks

Being able to split larger rocks into smaller and more manageable rocks means that the dreaded situation of Peak Rocks can be blithely ignored for the foreseeable future. Believe me, there are so many good uses for rocks in the various projects about the farm, that we have scoured much of the immediate property for the easy to obtain rocks. We still have plenty of rocks for projects, they all just take far more time and energy to obtain these days.

Split rocks now waiting to be moved and utilised in projects around the farm. Plum is excited

In the above photo, you can see me holding the years harvest from about 50 corn plants. As well as the years harvest of corn, I’m also holding one of the pointy jackhammer bits which are used to split the rocks. I guess what we’ve learned over the years is that it is not just the rocks that are hard to break, but learning how to produce corn (and other edible items) whilst using the resources around you, is even harder.

This growing season has barely produced many warm days. I wouldn’t wish such a growing season on anyone, but all the same we are doing the best we can. Friday was one of the few warm days of the season, and even then it was only 30’C / 86’F. Never fear, the following day brought a return of the rain and cooler weather. But as the storm clouds built on the Friday night before the storm, the sunset was superb.

A superb sunset on a warm day before the cool and rainy weather returned

The red in the sky was a result of smoke particles from a government department conducting a large burn off nearby. The state government retains the monopoly on this work, and of late, possibly due to the health subject which dare not be named, they have been tardy. So it is good to see the government now doing what they said they’d do a year ago.

The state government conducted a large burn off recently

We excavated a further four feet of soil this week. The site for the future machinery shed is starting to look pretty good. And the full nature of the Moby (body) rock which we discovered last week is now known. We can take that rock!

A further four feet of excavations occurred this week
The true extent of the Moby (body) rock is now known – and it has to go

The steel rock gabion cage is now almost full and we’ll probably sew it shut and construct another cage, maybe over the next week or so.

The steel rock gabion cage at the end of a garden terrace is now almost full

All of the excavated soil was used to continue constructing the low gradient ramp and utility area projects.

Looking at the low gradient ramp and utility area from the house and sheds

The low gradient ramp project is seriously useful even in its current unfinished form. The ramp provides easy access into the orchards below the house.

The low gradient ramp project is progressing nicely

The summer growing season sure has been cold and rainy. Usually we grow enough pumpkin and squashes to last until early Spring, but this year has been something of an exception.

Our meager harvest of pumpkins and squashes

On the other hand some plants are really enjoying the cooler and damper summer, such as the berries. Each day for months, we have enjoyed a good quantity of fresh berries and a huge portion of that harvest has also been converted into jams and wines.

Berries for an Autumn breakfast

A few weeks ago the editor and I bumped into a bloke we know who produces Gin commercially. He mentioned that worldwide supplies of juniper berries are a bit thin on the ground, so we picked the harvest of juniper berries and gave them to him. If a decade ago we’d known of the impending shortage, we could have planted hundreds of these trees and probably wouldn’t have to work now. The trees grow very well here, but alas there are too few on the farm to make any difference.

Juniper berries in various stages of ripeness

Onto the flowers:

A very pretty plant which the bees adore. It has a Latin name which I read over the weekend and have now forgotten
Chives are a real favourite to add to salads and they grow here with little to no care
The editors succulent collection is intriguing and sometimes spikey and brain-like
A purple Penstemon with the herb Feverfew in the background
A very pretty Daisy which enjoyed the recent warmer day
The Roses always put on a good show
And the Roses are usually highly aromatic and smell great

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 7’C (45’F). So far this year there has been 236.2mm (9.3 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 211.8mm (8.3 inches).

50 thoughts on “Rock Legend”

  1. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for mentioning the calendula cream. You hit the nail on the head too, and I manage the skin condition through such methods, although I use sorbolene. Only avoiding getting the dry skin in the first place seems to really work for me. And also the summer weather, it doesn’t turn up in summer. What do you do?



  2. Hi Claire,

    Ah yes, you make a solid argument which is candidly hard to argue with, and I have little inclination to do so anyway. As you might suspect, the rocks float through the clay here and occasionally pop up onto the soil surface – although it is a slow process. When we note such rocks they are removed from the orchard and paddock and put to use. They’re a bit of a hazard to the mowers and if nicked by the steel blades can cause a fire if the grass is dry. But we’ve been at that work for a decade now and really there are a lot less of them to be found nowadays.

    I actually really enjoy the digging work as you just kind of get into a zone and the body works, whilst the mind is at rest. My brain gets used a lot for paid work, so it needs the rest, whilst the opposite is true for the body. At this stage it’s a nice balance.

    And hopefully fingers crossed I can deal with that Moby (body) Rock! 🙂 Or I’ll have to get someone in to blow it up, which as an idea sort of has this alluring appeal. Hehe!

    Claire, I’m super-envious as I had to give up such a phone, and yeah that’s been my experience with the telco people down here – they seem OK, although in the dark past this was not always so. My paid work requires me to have a smart phone so as to run an authenticator application. Oh well, I do wonder if older folks are dropping out of the profession, but don’t really know.



  3. Hi Al,

    Hopefully the photos show the process of rock cracking well enough. As you would know, I use the jackhammer the way the old feather and plugs are used, and it is a very quick process. Picked up a few extra jackhammer bits too today, just in case I get them stuck deep into a rock that doesn’t crack apart. It pays to have redundancy tools ready to hand.

    Yeah, exactly, I too watched many of Demolition Dave’s videos and if I recall there was even one where he tested plugs and feathers. One of his videos he was cracking basalt in a town at the bottom of the mountain. It was his videos that gave me the idea.

    I have this sort of rule of thumb for dangerous trades. If the bloke (or lady) doing the work has been in the game for a few decades and they’re still around to talk about it and do the work, they’re probably pretty good at what they do. 🙂

    No, I prefer to be surprised by the rocks we find lurking in the clay.



  4. Hi Lewis,

    That’s the theory about the beetles, but my view is that when I look at the images of those forests, the trees are all of a uniform size and are growing far too closely together. This suggests to me that the forests are regrowth forests and the trees are probably competing for light, water and minerals all the time regardless of conditions and they are probably really under stress – the beetles are taking advantage of that easy feed. And if the forests are regrowth forests, the original minerals in the area might have been removed as timber when the original forests were harvested. That’s how it rolls.

    One upside is that the beetles will eventually eat themselves out of house and home, and leave behind a stack of organic matter which will break down and then some other type of forest (or meadow or whatever) will grow. A lot of pain between now and then though.

    It is very nice of the gobarmint to hand over some seriously handy mad cash. And if the bank can’t trust the gobarmint, who can it trust? Probably not many, if any. 🙂

    Holey shitey! Shingles looks very unpleasant. The vaccination is free for folks over 60 down here. Apparently it sounds like the thing to do, is avoid stress, so don’t feel stressed! Ook! Looks like there is little for Scott to do other than don’t scratch the sores. Yeah not good, but mostly shingles is not meant to reoccur – except when it does in some cases. I’ll bet he’s grouchy.

    Yeah, like where is the indentured labour when you need it? But like you wisely observe, there are diminishing returns for such labour. Actually breaking rocks on the chain gang is probably not wise as the tools used to break rocks could also be used to break chains. It would be hard work doing that with hand tools, but not impossible. Actually the technique I use with the tools here is really just a sooped up version of running a plugs and feathers arrangement. Put in an order for a few extra chisel point bits in case I end up all of them stuck in a rock which refuses to break. It is a possibility. Whatever the case may be, it is certainly faster than using dexpan.

    Laraine Newman has most certainly thus proved her mum wrong. Some parents thrive off the gentle art of heavy pruning, and I reckon in such cases it is better if they said nothing. 🙂 SNL is not really known down here, but I was amazed at the cast of the original series. That would have made for some interesting times, that’s for sure.

    Corn beef is really nice, just don’t bow to pressures and dye it green. 🙂 Good to hear that you can maintain a solid argument with yourself, and I do hope that your differing heads produce valid points of view and that you’ve somehow learned how to not bicker in public and instead politely discuss the differences? Have you ever been to a dinner where seated at the same table, a couple bickers with heat and passion? It is a bit embarassing to behold, but you know some people think its OK? Dunno why though.

    Yes, we probably shouldn’t be trusted, what with our extreme points of view down here. 😉 If nobody is happy with the expansion, why not leave things as they are? The entire story makes no sense to me at all. I’d stir up your Idaho friends too.

    Sorry to hear the arm is very sore today. Hopefully it is still attached to your shoulder? It would be a bad thing if somehow it was no longer like that. Hope the arm feels better soon.

    Me thinks that H has more of a chance of going on regular walks than daylight savings changes being withdrawn. Err, good luck!



  5. Yo, Chris – If you didn’t blow your own horn, the pressure would build and your head would explode. But then, it would be deflated. It’s very confusing. A bit of a conundrum. 🙂

    For quite awhile (pre 2008) it was hard to avoid house flipping advice. But, one gem I remember was, buy the worst house in the best neighborhood, you can afford. Makes sense.

    Ah, yes. The crawlspace. The little house I had, was in desperate need of a ground cloth / vapor barrier, and underfloor insulation. So, after cleaning out all the carp under there, I bought a lot of those blue tarps. Cheap and heavy. Then I unfolded them, and overlapped, as I went along. One thing I didn’t disturb was a mummified cat (or, was it a puppy?). That I just rolled the tarp over. Then, I could lay on my back and install insulation bats, in cleanliness and comfort (pretty much) between the floor joists. Held in place with wire pieces, that were slightly longer than the space between the joists.

    The hard gray granite looks like it would make nice monuments. 🙂 . So what’s the worst part of the job? I’d guess, drilling the holes?

    The corn … oh, dear. 🙁 . And the squash. But, the berries look good. How are your root crops looking? And fruit?

    That’s a calendar worthy sunset. The burn looks like they’re pretty serious as to what they’re about.

    I hope Moby rock is round, and not pyramid shaped. Your ramps are really coming along, and every week your faithful readers can see real progress.

    Peak Juniper berries? Peak gin?

    Chives do bang along. And add a bit of zest to a salad. I keep forgetting to mention I’ve been using some of the cherry tomatoes I dried last year. I toss them in casseroles. They’re zesty, tangy and have a slight, not unpleasant, metallic taste.

    Succulents and cacti are endlessly fascinating. The roses are stunning, especially the yellow ones. You know, you can make beads out of rose petals. Maybe something to give a whirl, on those long winter evenings. Lew

  6. Yo, Chris – Again. To your epistle …

    My friends in Idaho mentioned that they have also got their infusion of filthy lucre. But in their case, funds are immediately available. I saw an article, today, about two of the major banks, that are holding funds til the 17th. As is my credit union. The article made no bones about doing it, as a way of collecting interest. And, something to do with the banking “float.”

    I’d say, Scott is more depressed, than grouchy. But, given shingles are usually caused due to stress, I’d say he’s also stressed. Not that I’d say that, to him. To much, blame the victim. Apparently, the drugs make him rather “rummy.” He says if he’s going to take drugs, they should at least be “good” drugs. 🙂 . He had quit a history …

    Saturday Night Live as a kind of Mad magazine, on the air. Or, really, America has always had a kind of satire underground. If you knew where to look. Mad magazine, National Lampoon, etc. etc.. The Smothers Brothers. Anything the Establishment didn’t like, and thought subversive, was probably worth paying attention to.

    Well, having been raised in a squabbling home, I’m pretty allergic to that kind of thing. Were I trapped at a table, with that kind of a couple, I’d probably just get up and leave. Then, there’s the Bickersons … 🙂 .

    Well, I mentioned the Powerball thing, but they didn’t take the bait. If I mention something, and am met by dead silence, I just let it lay. If I want to continue a friendship.

    H is a lot more tough and adaptable, than Eleanor gives her credit.

    I’m almost finished with “Four Lost Cities.” The author has some interesting ideas. I didn’t realize that there was so much push back, over Diamond’s “Collapse.” That cities, sometimes, are abandoned because, either due to politics, economics or disaster, don’t meet the needs of the citizens, anymore. So, they kind of drift off. Either to smaller towns or other cities. It’s not so much collapse, as abandonment. When I think of some of our Rust Belt cities, I can see that. Detroit, Cleveland, etc.. And, in one of those odd coincidences, I happened to see an article, today.

    Maybe the author isn’t too far, off track.

    “The Secret Life of Groceries” is also proving interesting. The rise of the hip and with it chain, with the initials T J’s, was, much to my surprise, bought by the foreign grocery chain that you mentioned, that was perhaps making inroads in Australia. Lew

  7. Hi, Chris!

    Thank you for the snow gums article last week. I expect, as Lew mentioned, that some of our forests, pines – mostly, it seems to me – are being hit by beetles in the same way.

    I have noticed that the wildlife and pets become affronted if their schedules are changed by a time change, though they generally have to tough it out and adjust. Of course, we have some unusually pampered wildlife.

    I don’t think that we have ever had a sinking house; that sounds like an extremely expensive fix. Just a plain old falling-down house is bad enough, and we lost money, too, on our first one, besides the neighborhood being scary.

    I can’t believe that you can split granite. I don’t believe we have any granite around here, yet I see small rocks that look like yours. If there are Mobies, they are well hidden. Thank you for the rock-splitting secret.

    That’s a nice bit of firewood behind you and Plum. Plum is becoming a regular Toothy in the photos. He always seemed to pop up in them.

    Now I can tell – that’s not a ramp, that’s a road. Name it and put a street sign on it.

    How interesting about the juniper berries.

    We now have some small, cold-tolerant kiwi plants. I think maybe you grow kiwis? Do we have to worry about anything besides parrots?

    Your flowers don’t seem to mind the cooler weather much. Thanks!


  8. Hi Pam,

    That doesn’t surprise me about your pines, as we share a similar culture and have treated the forests in a similar way, with similar outcomes despite being half a world away. It’s amazing that the situation is not worse.

    Hopefully Charlene the White Squirrel doesn’t get too haughty and a touch grumpy due to the recent time change?

    Nah, it’s actually not an expensive fix if you do the work yourself. The house is lifted up using bottle jacks (that are adequately supported above and below). You then dig and cement the replacement concrete stump into place. Once the concrete has cured you lower the timber house frame onto the replacement stump, remove the bottle jacks and go onto the next stump. Next time I’d just rip out the flooring and avoid all the messy crawling and digging around under the house.

    The only people who believe that money can’t be lost on a house, are people who have never lost money on a house. 🙂 Oh well, write off the loss and move on using the hard lessons that you learned. What else can you do?

    Was your property farm or forest before the house was built? It is possible someone removed the rocks?

    Firewood is our only heating fuel over winter and we take the matter very seriously, and if you have no other option, well that’s what planning ahead several years in advance looks like. Plus we put a bit extra aside in case an accident or illness slows the pace of work. No point being injured or sick and also cold.

    Perhaps the spirit of Toothy has resided in the impressionable young Plum?

    Thanks for the nice words about the ramp. It is a super-useful chunk of infrastructure.

    Ooo! Are your kiwiberries this type: Kiwiberry ‘ISSAI’. I grow several of these vines as well as the larger Kiwifruit vines. They’re all good producers. If it is the Issai variety, then they are self-pollinating which makes things easier. The larger variety requires a male and several female vines if you want to ever see any fruit. Other than that they seem low-stress.

    The local honeyeater birds love all year around access to the flowers. 🙂



  9. Hi Lewis,

    Exploding heads for some reason always makes me think back upon the 80’s sci-fi ‘Scanners’. Once seen, it’s kind of hard to forget. But exploding heads might make life a bit harder for the evil Space Wizards too! Bet they wouldn’t like that happening?

    House prices are a national sport and topic of conversation down here. It’s a very dull topic, but I note that Granola wrote a great essay on the subject recently.

    What a find under the house? One good aspect to consider is that if the dog, cat or other was mummified, then the potential for the crawlspace to be drier is there, the details might need a bit of tweaking. Respect for the insulation work. Too many people fail to insulate under the floor. In the UK on Grand Designs I’ve noticed that people seem to like sitting houses on cold concrete slabs and then they have to run hot water pipes through the slab to keep the floor warm. Unheated thermal mass always settles to around the average temperature.

    The use of the tarps was a good idea which I did do, but the clay under the house was like mud and the tarps squooshed around and mud crept up between the joins and overlaps. There was a drainage issue which I fixed, but years of water didn’t dry up quickly. The drain to the street was blocked and had to be mostly replaced. There was a lot going on. It was a Californian Bungalow too, and originally a well constructed house. Maintenance over the years had been a bit lax.

    Exactly, drilling the holes. Lately I drill about six holes and then let the drill cool down whilst I stretch out the arms and back and maybe go for a short walk before returning and doing the next six holes. I’m still trying to get a feel for how far apart the holes can be.

    May you never get to experience a year without a summer. It’s not good. I’ll chip up all the corn stalks over the next week or so. Growing a good diversity means that there are things to eat. The potatoes seem to have done OK as have many other crops – just not the ones that enjoy warm weather.

    Fruit was pretty good, although nuts were down this year and the stone fruit was only so-so. Apples and pears seemed to perform much better, as would be expected. As a bit of insurance for future years I’m going seriously hard on the re-mineralisation project in the orchard.

    The editor and I often joke around when we see the burns: “Hope those guys know what they’re doing” – except we’re not joking around.

    Yup, you heard it here first there is a worldwide shortage of juniper berries. Who’d have thunk it?

    Dried cherry tomatoes are a flavour-bomb! We add them to pasta in much the same way. We managed to run the dehydrator last weekend. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

    Thanks and I’ll have to check out the beads from rose petals idea.

    Had to go to the bank today to deposit a check. The teller and I had a laugh because hardly anyone pays with checks these days. Well, banks do have capital holding requirements – which of course are far less than deposits on account.

    Sorry to hear that, and yes this is why I mentioned the emotional state issue. Unfortunately, none of us can control the events and time will hopefully make it easier for Scott. As a general observation, I’ve noticed that people who kept on keeping on during the health subject which dares not be named, are usually doing better than others who retreated a bit (or a lot as the case may be).

    National Lampoon was a fave and they did some seriously subversive and funny stuff. Animal House is of course an all time fave, but the film Vacation was also very funny but also really, really twisted in a fun and wrong way. Respect to that crew, and I note that John Hughes wrote the screenplay.

    My mum was feisty too and like you I have little taste for people in a high emotional state. Oh, yes I probably would avoid that radio show but have known people to live in such arrangements. If it makes them happy and alive, I guess…

    Yes, best not to pursue unpleasantness, even if it is funny. I heard a rumour that a very old friend who I haven’t spoken to for many years is apparently trying to get back into the country from overseas. Unless economic circumstances have drastically changed for the person which I doubt, well let’s just say that people can return, it’s just costing an arm and a leg. Talk on the other hand is cheap.

    The funny thing I never understood about dragons was that they always hoarded their treasure and never thought to use it. I’m sure as a mythical beast, they’re a morality tale for the readers. What do you reckon about that?

    H being a true fluffy of the clan fluffy, is a tough and robust young lady who has concerns other than matted hair and time travelling. She would be far more interested in bird poop.

    The critique I’d heard about Collapse and I read the book was that the author picked a few examples and ignored whoppers like the fall of the Roman Empire which was long and messy. That never bothered me, what surprised me was that one of the final chapters may have discussed the matter of corporate sponsorship, but I could be wrong and I read the book a long time back.

    Thanks for the article on people moving from the big cities, but it kind of finished abruptly. Anyway, Melbourne is interesting as people are moving out of the big inner urban apartments and heading outwards, or interstate or overseas. I’ve known a few mates to head back to the two islands across the Tasman Sea, whilst others are moving interstate. A house up here which would normally take a year to sell, sold in days. I noticed a removalist truck there the other day, whether coming or going I do not know.

    Mate, services always disappear from the periphery, and so I do wonder how these people around me will fare if such services slowly disappear. Mind you, there are few services up here in the first place – with the notable one being electricity.

    Hmm, good luck with that! There are hints and suggestions from time to time that money allegedly flows off shore but who really knows what’s going on? Hmm.



  10. Hello Chris
    Clay and mud ugh! The greatest problem when we get too much rain concerns Son’s pigs. The mess that they make is indescribable and he has to move them before they get stuck.
    Gorgeous day today and I have just come in from working on my veg. containers now that we have compost to add to the manure. It is supposed to snow this weekend!


  11. Yo, Chris – Why settle for just an exploding head?

    Out on DVD. On my library hold list 🙂 .

    That was an interesting article, at Granola. And, the comments. No wonder I got priced right out of the real estate market. So, a lot of it is inflation. Well, what goes up … I think real estate dealers (aka: estate agents), drive a lot of the price rise, also. Just a groundless supposition, on my part.

    LOL. Well, as you know, I just cut up my corn stalks, using garden pruning shears. Very zen. Takes them awhile to break down, but, the rolly polly bugs seem to be keeping up their end of the bargain.

    Actually, I think I’m doing better, by retreating a bit. But then, I’m odd. 🙂 . I can almost scratch “Become urban hermit,” off my to-do list. It’s right above “World domination.”

    Even when I’m watching DVDs, I’m likely to hit the fast forward button if things get to heated and emotional.

    What do I reckon? I reckon I don’t get the dragon reference. Were we talking about dragons?

    Well, my friends mentioned the Powerball / Idaho thing. Game on! I told them I just didn’t “get” the connection between playing Powerball, in foreign lands, and gun laws changing in Idaho. But I had a thought. The real target might just be gambling, in general. Get a bee in your bonnet, and attach it to abortion, same sex marriage, “the children” or gun rights, and people sit up and take notice. It’s also a real money maker. Life in these United States.

    A couple of things jumped out at me, reading “Four Lost Cities.” “There was no giant sign proclaiming the end of life as they’d known it; instead, there was a mounting pile of annoyances and disappointments.” And, “In the soft apocalypse at Angkor, we can see directly what happens when political instability meets climate catastrophe. It looks chillingly similar to what cities are enduring in the contemporary world.”

    It was either Kunstler or Greer who said somewhere along the way, that as far as services and rural areas go, it will be like a film running backwards. There will be a retreat, or abandonment of the last 70 years of improvements. I’ve seen articles about how the quality of rural roads, thousands of miles of them, has been declining. Some of that is due to the cost of asphalt. A petroleum product. Costs of labor. Machines?

    I happened to see the Warden, this morning, when I took H out. There’s to be a meeting with the Master Gardener’s, on the patio, at 10 tomorrow morning. Mask up and dress warm. More will be revealed.

    It got down to 28F (-2.22C), last night. But the days are nice. Snow popped on and off the forecast. Lew

  12. @ Chris and Lew:

    Dragons hoard their treasure because the possession of it is the be all and end all. I do not know if status plays into it, or just because it is pretty, my precious. Dragons seem to mostly be loners, so who would they be trying to impress?

    Maybe it also serves to lure their human prey into their lair. I have known some reasonably intelligent reptiles.


  13. Hey Chris,

    Well, if I ever need a rock split, I know who to call. Rocks are very useful in the garden. Over the years I’ve amassed a nice collection of bluestone of various sizes which looks very nice as a garden border.

    Dare I ask: why was the underneath of the house muddy? Normally, underneath a house is supposed to be dry.

    The two new chickens are now fully integrated into the flock. New Chicken 1 has ended up second in the pecking order and has established an unusual relationship with the top chook whereby she pecks lightly at the top chook’s neck. This seems to be quite pleasuable for the top chook if the accompanying sounds are any indication. Sucking up to the boss seems to happen in the chicken world too. New Chicken 2 is currently at the bottom of the pecking order but is making a run on 5th spot. Have three egg layers now so the eggs are starting to roll in which is good news. I’d forgotten how much better backyard eggs taste.

    Thought I would grow some cabbages this autumn with the idea of trying my hand at sauerkraut but the white butterflies came out of the woodwork to spoil that plan. So, having a second go now with nets over the vegetable beds. The ‘joys’ of vegetable growing.

  14. Hi Inge,

    Yes I hear you about that, and livestock can make a lot of mud and mess. Mind you, I have never had to extricate a pig whom was unfortunately stuck in the mud. Still you get the benefit of the manure and that is a real bonus. You probably already know, but pigs were originally forest dwelling creatures and their digging would have been very positive for the forests, as it turned the soil over and got some air into it. They have to be moved around. A local around these parts moves the pigs through their property and fences them in with moveable electric fences. The pigs looked pretty happy and got to hang out in the open forest on that property. My mates of the big shed fame run pigs and I’ve learned a lot about the creatures from them.

    Your weather is beginning to sound as if it is as variable as the recent crazy summer conditions here. Hope the snow isn’t too severe, and that any early fruit trees hang onto their blossoms.

    The weather this coming week is likewise superb 77’F to 79’F with sunny days and not much wind.



  15. Hi Pam,

    Thank you for sharing the dragon lore and insights into their personalities. 🙂 Dragons are funny creatures and maybe it is just me but I’ve always considered them to be a moral warning as to handling and distributing treasuries, but I dunno.

    The person that I was referring to, used to have access to ready funds to make the trip back home. It is really hard for people outside of down under to realise just how closed the countries borders have become. We’re now at the point where you can leave, but it will cost a heap to come back into the country. It’s like the Hotel California, but upside down. 😉 And being at the bottom end of the planet means that flying outside the country was expensive to begin with, but flying back in again and then quarantining for two weeks is bonkers expensive.



  16. Hi Simon,

    The best way to learn is to experience, and certainly putting you to work breaking rocks under supervision sounds like a fine proposition! Thanks for the kind offer. 🙂 Respect for the bluestones. Out of sheer curiosity, were they obtained in let’s say, the darker hours of the day? Been there too. 🙂

    Mate, the house was in Yarraville, and the previous owners had allowed a major roof drain to pool water under the house. I fixed the drains up so that rainwater flowed to the street, and then set to work fixing the stumps. When I got to the corner stump closest to the faulty drain, whilst under the house, I put my hand on the corner red gum stump and it was so rotten that it fell over. There were a few tense moments when I hoped that the house did not collapse upon me (as happens to people from time to time) and the corner of the house just politely hung in the fresh air. I got some bottle jacks under it and supported it pretty quickly.

    In Victorian brick houses, I discovered that originally there was just not enough air ventilation under the timber bearers and joists. The last place we repaired, the timber bearer was reduced to a black line upon the clay surface, and the floor (which bounced significantly as a result) had been held together by six layers of damp evil smelling carpet. A revolting job removing that stuff. The clay had to be excavated and removed from the terrace house, and then the timbers all had to be replaced and damp courses added.

    Keep an eye on that Chicken Number 1, and if she turns boss chook into a version of a naked neck chicken, she may be gaining extra protein (and mojo) from the boss chook. And especially watch for any chook taking feathers from the backs of the other chickens. Just up the protein if that is the case. I regularly feed the chickens half a kilo of mince meat a week, and they love it and have no problems on that front. Chickens are definitely not vegetarians, although yours free range so they probably eat a lot of insects which mine aren’t getting. Of course your chickens may soon be going through their annual moult cycle so it might be hard to tell.

    Hey, sometimes the second in command chook has to do all the dirty work. 🙂

    Yup, cabbage moths are a right royal pain. The book I’ve been reading recently suggests growing Kale and Purple Sprouting Broccoli which are apparently closer to wild stocks and so better able to deal with the cabbage moths. Dunno. Getting cabbage to properly heart is also a problem.



  17. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the film reference and it is on the ‘to-see’ list. The film looks like it will be fun. Candidly it is difficult to whittle down the ‘to-see’ list, but from time to time I must make sacrifices.

    Mate, there is a feeling of deep unease going on in the halcyon land of down under. That zombie prediction made rashly and perhaps unwisely at the onset of the new year may yet come to bite me still (excuse the dodgy zombie pun). Still it is early days yet and here’s hoping! Do you reckon a remaster of a classic zombie film counts towards the prediction? Little bit nervous, although there is still time.

    It was an interesting article at Granola, and Johnny has a lovely way with words. It is interesting you mention those folks as there was a discussion of that very subject on the youth news radio program this afternoon. Some interesting observations were made as to those folks activities in relation to some sort of electronic bidding platform for auctions. The youth did not seem happy with the current status quo. I’m not even sure that the option I chose is still possible, as I’m not sure how far out from the big smoke you’d have to move now to be able to find affordable land.

    Those roly poly bugs do some hard yards in the garden. I’m a bit pressed for time and so will probably run the corn stalks through the chipper. It’s a bit dirty, but I love the scary old wood chipper machine. I doubt its like would be made these days as it utilises a very heavy fly wheel to maintain rotation of the cutting blades.

    I hear you about retreating, but would also note that likewise I too have retreated a considerable distance, but began that activity over a decade ago yeah so nothing new really. We simply modified our routines so that we didn’t incur huge fines. Who wants to be a walking ATM for the gobarmint?

    At least if you kept the ‘world domination’ item on your bucket list, you’d know what not to do at a crucial point in the final pivotal moments – thanks to DJ’s list provided many months ago now.

    Yeah, we were definitely talking about dragons, but I am often guilty of over subtlety – it’s a personal failing.

    I saw that bit about gun laws and had a bit of a laugh. 🙂 Honestly if you really want to buy a gun down under, you can. We just have collectively decided to set some upper limits, after a notable episode which outraged the community due to its sheer senselessness. You know basic stuff like police checks, no assault weapons, no semi auto’s and licensing and registrations. Of course some people may see that as a step too far, but the restrictions have wide community support and mostly they work.

    That’s possible. But I sort of reckon if any group wants real change, then they have to employ laser like focus on that item. Mostly what happens nowadays is that other groups link onto a cause, and then there are so many issues being raised that nobody ever does anything. I can’t help but think that it is a deliberate strategy. I saw it happen this week with a current issue which has gained a lot of attention. If people had half a brain they’d employ a laser like focus to get the outcome they’re after, and then disband before the group does anything stupid. The prime muppet employed a trick out of your ex-prez playbook and said something odd which outraged people, but also diverted their attention – they media must be not that bright because they started reporting on that instead of the issue at hand. Who knew the folks in power were that clever?

    Yup, cities are in for a bit of trouble that’s for sure. But then my feeling is that city folks will stick to what they know – i.e. city environs, up until the point where they can no longer. And that provides an enormous amount of inertia, resources and energy to slowing decline. What do you reckon about that?

    It was Mr Greer, but could as easily have been Mr Kunstler. In parts of this state, rural electrification was only a historically recent occurrence. You know, I have no idea what used to go on before those days despite having read some histories – but certainly there were less people living up here, that’s for sure. Often the everyday arrangements weren’t spoken about, I’m guessing that it was assumed that most knew what they were and it didn’t need re-telling.

    The local council is grading the main road here less often. At a wild guess we’d be lucky to see the grader maybe once, or at a remote possibly twice per year. Haven’t seen any roads returned to gravel yet, but who knows? It might possibly be easier to avoid the argument with the locals and just let a lack of maintenance perform that trick. Given the lack of heavy oil products and reliance on imports, that cost has to be hurting budgets big time.

    Your meeting with the master gardeners sounds intriguing. Good luck and may the garden be with you!

    Brr, that is way cold. Coldest morning of the year in multiple cities. A four blanket night here.



  18. Hi Chris
    Well it’s half past March already. Things are getting springyer by the day here. The weather has stayed cool enough that maybe the sole fruit tree, a plumb ,will blossom out for the bee activity to allow some fruit this year. Sorry your growing season hasn’t been so good.😧

    Your new rock cracking methods look good so maybe Hard Rock Hellcat will retreat 😲😵👹.

    Demo Dave’s Business model is interesting. I started down scrolling through the videos I quickly had mix of 50+ all manor or rock breaking going with all types of rock. Seems to be Australian epidemic. At least in the Higher ground areas.
    I’ll bet there is looong waiting list his services.
    If you haven’t seen the utoob for his new hydraulic retracting wedge breakers look for it. The hydraulic power unit is on two narrow smaller road tires that could likely fit your present paths . It seems to work quite well at first look.

    Ok how is the re capacitance work on the power amp doing. I hope the electronics parts supply chain is still working ok.

    Cheer Al

  19. Yo, Chris – Granola is a great blog. I’ll have to get back and read more of it (in my spare time. Ha!) What surprised me (but shouldn’t have) was the small square footage, of many of those bungalows. But then I remembered that a lot of California living, is done outside. Patios, and such.

    LOL. Well, when I mentioned that perhaps what was happening in Idaho, was diversion from some other Little Red Wagon, well, apparently, we’re off that topic, now 🙂 . I’ll keep my own counsel. I have no problem with rifles for hunting, even small personal firearms for home protection. I draw the line at semi-auto weapons, rocket launchers and high explosives.

    It was Mr. Greer who mentioned that if you want to reach a desired political (?) end, laser focus is the way to go. Just the other day, I saw a bit of an article about some right leaning group, who had a speaker, with an issue that was unrelated to the focus of that group. And, I thought to myself, “Well, that’s the beginning of the end, for them.”

    That’s the trick, misdirection and prestidigitation. Don’t look here, look there! Something any stage magician, worth their salt, is familiar with.

    Yes, people stick with what they know. But quit a few are stuck, due to a number of factors. Those who would like to move, but can’t. On the other hand, that land rush, in Idaho? How many will tough it out? Hostility from the natives … or, even a couple of Idaho winters. They’ll be not much wheat, and a lot of chaff.

    I did a search for “U. S. Roads Returning to Gravel?” The number of articles is mind boggling. Couldn’t pick just one, to link to. 🙂 .

    Well, the Master Gardener’s came, this morning. I was pretty much told by our Fearless Leader, that me relaying the message that Eleanor still wanted her garden space, wasn’t good enough. And, Eleanor has to tell her, herself, that she can take care of her plot. That my help wouldn’t be taken into consideration.

    But, all is not lost. This year, they are doing Phase 1 of “Clean Slate.” Half the gardens will go to stock tanks. Eleanor’s and one of my plots, are on the agenda. The Master Gardener’s will make sure that Eleanor will get a plot, I’ll do most of the maintenance, and we’ll continue on as before. Below the radar. Now, the trick is, to get the idea across to Eleanor, without her freaking out. And, prime her to deal with The Warden. Yes, she wants a plot, yes she can do the work herself. No I won’t help. The Warden also threatened (in general, not in specific) that if any plot is untended, by June 1st, it will be given to someone else. Who? Very few people here, want to garden. There are a couple of community plots, that will fall to the Master Gardener’s and me, to keep up. The strawberry / rhubarb plot, and the zucchini plot.

    I spent a couple of hours working in the garden, last night. Mostly, digging out invasive weeds. There was a wood half barrel, that was falling apart. Didn’t grow anything last year, but weeds. So, I scrapped the weeds off the top. Then, as I was digging out dandelions, in another part of the garden, I was emptying out the dirt to fill in the holes. Win / win.

    It was 27F, again, last night. Those were some pretty low temperatures, around Australia. Winter is knocking at your door.

    I read some more of “The Secret Life of Groceries”, last night. There was a chapter on the trucking industry. The scope is just mind boggling. Trucking used to be a pretty solid middle class job. Then it was deregulated, back in the early 1980s. Now it’s a system of debt servitude, and the turn over among the big companies is 112% a year. Which they like. Very profitable. And, one line jumped out at me. “It is a lifestyle that pounds home the reality that liberty and freedom are deeply related to loneliness and isolation.”

    I watched a very good (to me) movie, last night. “The Last Vermeer.” Based on a true story, of which I knew the basic outlines, of.

    I missed my calling. I think I should have been an art forger 🙂 . I’ve read several biographies, of other art forgers. Most of them had a bone to pick, with the art “establishment.” I read “Fake: Forgery, Lies and E-Bay” (Walton, 2007). It was about a guy who forged paintings, and put them on E-Bay. But, he’d never claim they were anything special. He’s just put them up, and let the greed take over. Lew

  20. @ Lew,

    Yup, I remember the cultural blip. Key West, beach, laze around. In the 1940s, when my dad was at university, one of the other students did things differently. (He, the other student not my dad, was a genius and graduated with majors in physics, chemistry and math at age 20.) While most of the group had to scrounge for summer jobs, not the Other Student. He left Redlands, California, the day after school got out with $10 in his pocket. Nothing else, not even a towel. Stuck out his thumb and returned from a summer of crossing the continent several times with new clothes, a suitcase, a towel, and $150 and never worked a minute. He was such a pleasant travelling companion, apparently, that people just gave him money. He might’ve done well lazing in Key West.

    I’d heard that about the button and the pit finds. That’s interesting stuff.


  21. Chris,

    Von Clausewitz’s summation was perfect. He was in a perfect position to know that, of course.

    Had another interesting afternoon with a raven and the murder of crows. The raven set up in the large pine nearby. The crows were agitated. Every time the murder calmed down, the raven let loose with a loud “Awk, awk awk!” stirring the crows into another frenzy. Fun to observe, possibly humorous to the raven, but perhaps the raven was also trying to gauge where the crows were nesting? Tasty crowlets for lunch in a few weeks, perhaps?

    What a great granite technique you’ve gotten. Good job.

    I, also, have experience with a Sinking House. In 1971, dad bought a farm. 19 acres with a house and huge shed and tractors and a combine. House had a hand dug well and an outhouse. A couple years later it had an indoor toilet and a well that had been drilled properly. As with your old house, this ancient domicile was placed on wooden supports in lieu of a foundation and was slowly sinking into the clay.

    A summer was spent with dad and another adult crawling under the house, jacking things up at the right places, pouring concrete , etc. It was dry under the house, and very dusty. The 2nd summer, I was pressed into service, all of 12 years of age and a runty 30kg. Twas my job to crawl under the house and scoop out enough dirt that dad could then crawl where I had been. This was all away from the edges. Why? Insulate the bottom of the floors in the crawlspace under the house. The thin hardwood floors weren’t so cold in the winter after we had done that.

    Your picture with Plum and the corn and jackhammer bit reminds me of something from early on in “Game of Thrones”. Jon Snow had just given Arya Stark her thin sword, more of a rapier, and asked if she knew what to do with it. Her reply was “Stick them with the pointy end”. Just like you poke the rocks with the pointy end of the pointy bit. So, now you’re going all Game of Thrones on the granite.

    Chives are so pretty. My mother had a small area of chives. Nice to look at, nice to eat. She’d put them on sandwiches.


  22. Hi Chris, I am still alive! Your grey granite rocks look just like the stuff we used to mine through. Very large and very expensive 80mm drill bits driven by a bus sized rig, 50 or so 3m deep holes plus a whole lotta explosive will get you a 5x5m opening about 3.5m deep. Repeat and wash until you have a 300m tunnel (miners call them ore drives), then you can start drilling and exploding 20m holes upwards to get at the ore in big blocks. Good thing we really like tin as it is a lot of hassle!

    Cheers, damo

  23. Hi Al,

    Thanks for that, and I’ll never think about mid-month the same way again. 🙂 BOOM – that is the sound of my mind being blown away by your cheekiness.

    No stress, and there is always next year. But yes, plums and almonds are super early flowering here too, but the plums seem more affected by frost than the almonds. But other than the European honey bees, ain’t nothing else flying around and pollinating at that time of year.

    I’d like to think so. Hellcat is not my usual style as I’m usually pretty cool and relaxed, but yeah we all have bad days where things don’t go right. But them rocks, dealt to them and are also dealing to them. Moved all of the rocks broke last week late this evening and placed them next to the low gradient ramp project. Hopefully tomorrow they are installed and ready to retain soil?

    Demo Dave has a very clever business model – if in the merest chunk of doubt, check out the videos. Well lack of glaciation during recent ice ages can have that effect and so there are more than a few rocks which need dealing too. Aussie know-how style. Hehe! There is one rock which I’d like to get him in to do the work, but will the editor approve the budget request? – me thinks not.

    I saw the machine in the title on a video I hadn’t watched, and have not yet had a chance to watch the full clip. Must rectify this lapse. Done. Those hydraulic splitters are very good. I’m impressed. Plugs and feathers are very good too and you could hear the progress as the pitch changed when the plugs were hit with the mallet.

    Due to weather related concerns, the digging has taken precedence over the amplifier and tuner repairs. Hopefully on Friday I get a quiet hour or two to catalogue and order the replacement electrolytic capacitors.



  24. Hi DJ,

    Clausewitz was clever enough to have married a spouse that was cleverer than his already clever self. There are a few too many uses of the word ‘clever’ in the previous sentence, but you no doubt understand my reasoning for the usage. And the bloke sure received some fine and proper training in the good, the bad, and the ugly, thus he knew his stuff. First hand experience, a fine way to learn – if you survive the encounter.

    Ah, so ravens are larger than their brethren the crows by a significant margin. Yes, be wary my crow friends, be very wary. You’re probably correct and the raven is playing the crows. There is a species of Australian Raven, but I hadn’t realised the difference between the two birds. Last year I spotted a family of Kookaburra birds raiding the nest of a European blackbird.

    Thanks – and take that ye granite dawgs!

    DJ, only those that know, know the indignities and squirming required to crawl around under the floor of a house. Given you remember the experience I’m guessing almost 45 years on, it creates a potent memory doing that work – likewise and I can’t say that I enjoyed the work. You did the job the apprentice is always called in to do. Nowadays I would just rip up the floorboards, but that is also a bit wasteful. But there is the thing, once the job is done and the sub floor is well insulated, a finer winter house experience, you’d be hard pressed to find. 🙂 Getting there is the hard bit. Did you use clear tubes with water in it to work out the level between different points in the house? Ain’t no laser levels in them ye olde days! 🙂

    Arya was my fave character. Didn’t matter what pickle she found herself in, she came out OK – although in the book from memory she did end up a blinded assassin, but I assume this was temporary? I see (please excuse the pun), ‘twas only temporary. Haven’t watched the series but there seems to be an extensive wiki page and no concluding books.

    Moved all of the rocks tonight as the sun was setting below the horizon. Hoping to get into another day of digging tomorrow and the rocks need to be in place to retain the excavated soil.

    Do you grow any chives nowadays? They’re a very hardy and useful green.



  25. Hi Damo,

    I wondered where you’d gotten too? 🙂 All that sunshine and nice weather over there. Hope you and Mrs Damo are doing well? It has been an almost normal autumn week here this week with sun and temperatures hovering around 25’C to 26’C each day. A real change from the gloomy and cold summer just gone. It is almost as if a flipped and had been switched. 😉 Word on the street is that La Nina is coming to a close.

    80mm holes into granite!!!! Yikes. What a machine. You know I’m only drilling in 18mm holes that go somewhere in between 300mm and 450mm, but it seems to work for the rocks I’m dealing with.

    The technique you described sounds alarmingly dangerous. And yes, mining is one of those not-much-thought-about activities that help produce say, Jimny’s. Not sure why that example popped into my mind, but there you go.

    Mate, the wait list is long, the expense is absurd, and it might not be even worth it after all that hassle. 🙂 Anyway, that’s what I’m telling myself.

    There is some Jack Vance news here on the horizon. Something involving a birthday present. Mrs Damo would do well to take some notes.



  26. Hi Lewis,

    Spare time is a rarity these days, and your library hold list would not assist such matters. 🙂 And yes, the floor space of those houses (for the bonkers cost) would be a real problem in this corner of the planet. Mind you it was not always that way and traditional workers cottages were originally quite small. Over the years people have extended them such that the houses have eaten the backyards. This far south, outdoor living is one of those things that is spoken about, but rarely seen (due to temperature related matters). Outdoor dining at restaurants on the other hand is a thing. Went out to dinner on Monday evening in the big smoke and there were a lot of empty shops.

    Topics come and go pretty fast around here, sometimes I can’t even keep up the threads of the various topics, so if we go into unpleasant waters, well there are plenty of other swimming opportunities. 🙂 And no worries at all, down here we just sort of one day the collective population had had enough and drew a line in the sand. It was a massively popular move with support consistently over 90% of the population, but the culture here is a bit different from your country in that regard.

    Mr Greer is indeed correct about applying a laser like focus when seeking change. The fact that rarely happens nowadays is quite surprising and also telling. As soon as a cause is raised a whole bunch of hangers on attach that cause and soon the whole mess stands for so much, that it falls – possibly due to the weight of massed causes. I can’t but help think that this strategy is encouraged. It ain’t just in your part of the world, I saw it happen this week.

    Your ex-prez was a notable stage magician! Hehe! His antics made me laugh and oh the howling of the media. Surely they can’t have been that dumb to fall for such a basic strategy? Oh well and here we are today.

    Ooo, I love that metaphor of the wheat and the chaff. Hey, that happens here too and an old timer once confided in me the opinion that if a household managed to survive two winters up here and were in good condition after that, they’ll be OK in the long term. A lot of people are floored by the cold winters here, and compared to your sort of winters, they’re quite congenial.

    So, the editor has a question for you: Have you read the book ‘Where the Crawdads Sing?’ and if you had, did you enjoy it?

    Holy Guacamole Lewis! There are 285 million references to the subject “U. S. Roads Returning to Gravel”. A strong case could be made that this is in fact happening, right now.

    The Master Gardeners play a hard and tough game there with Eleanor. You know what I’d do, I’d get Eleanor out to say the magic lines they want to hear and then go back to do whatever you two were doing before. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission in this instance. Anyway, whenever delivering such a story, it is best to practice it so that it becomes second nature.

    Out of curiosity, has someone been quietly agitating for the changes to the allocation process in the background?

    Well done you with the re-use of the soil from the half barrel. They tend to fall apart in the weather, but they do look good initially and they are at least reusing a waste product. Have you got any seeds started for the coming growing season?

    Earlier this evening I moved all of the split rocks so that they could be added to the rock retaining wall tomorrow. The plan is to dig more soil tomorrow. I’m really enjoying the work, although despite the warmer temperatures this week, the ground does not appear to have dried out. It could get a bit muddy tomorrow.

    This morning during a break I began reading Herman Hesse’s book Demian. Seems interesting and you sure do spend a lot of time in the protagonist’s mind. And I note the author uses four words where two could have been used, but at the same time I’m enjoying the flow of the words the author uses, so he might be onto something. Have you ever read Steppenwolf?

    Gawd, yours are cold temperatures says he fearlessly, yet fearing that winter is coming…

    Wow, employers can have a run of bad luck with staff, and some industries are notorious for high turnover, but a churn rate of 112% per annum is candidly not a good sign. And yes I’ve heard of the financing side of that arrangement. My mate who died last year had been employed for a very long time by a guy who remarked to him once that he liked his employees to have expensive habits. Yeah, nice.

    Wow, what a sentiment. If I may suggest, there is some middle ground between the two sides of that liberty and freedom story, although there is no one size fits all and whatever path is taken no one will be happy.

    Maybe you did miss your calling? 🙂 Honestly, I didn’t know whether to be impressed at the artists skills and his general panache and overall cheekiness, or outraged at his antics. If I had to sum it up (and I’d be curious as to your opinion in this matter) he did some good and he did some bad, but overall he stuck it to everyone in the art world. Is this such a bad thing? They took their revenge though, oh boy did they do that.



  27. Hi Chris,
    Where’s Ollie hiding out this week? Doug does not have your appreciation of rocks. I use them all the times as edges for various flower and herb beds and occasionally to hold something down. For some reason Doug has a real issue with rocks worrying that he’s going to hit one with the mower and cause damage or not being able to mow close enough to them as he would like. I think I’ve mentioned that he’s kind of an anal guy which he’ll readily admit.

    When we first looked at our home here the road was gravel but by the time we moved in it had been paved over. According to our neighbor who’s been here for almost 20 years this has happened before. She did say there’s a lot less dust with a paved road though. The biggest farm in the county is located at the far end of our road and in fact most of the property on the road is farmed by then. Their machinery and truck tear down the road and we already see quite a bit of damage on the almost newly paved road.

    I’m sorry about the meager harvest of warm weather crops.

    Doug and I both got our 2nd vaccines and other than slightly sore arms haven’t had any side effects. We each got different ones as there’s no choice and we did not get the first one at the same time. Anyway that’s out of the way for now at least.

    Ended up with only one inch of snow and it’s mostly gone now even though it hasn’t gotten out of the 30’s since Sunday.


  28. Yo, Chris – That we were as sensible, as the Australians. 🙁 . Oh, sure. “…strategy is encouraged.” “Divide and conquer.” Napoleon, by way of Julius Caesar, who ripped it off from Phillip II of Macedon. (Alexander the Greats, pops.)

    “Wheat from the chaff.” Ripped it off from the Bible. (N.T.). As I have given credit, where credit is due, I’ve maybe avoided being damned. 🙂 .

    I have not read, “Where the Crawdads Sing.” Sounds interesting. But I just can’t seem to concentrate on fiction, these days. I’ll wait for the film. 🙂 .

    Oh, the Master Gardener’s are on Eleanor’s side. They’ll “aid and abet.” No love lost between the current Administration, and them. The fiddling with the garden allocation comes entirely from the Institution’s, administration. Anytime they can take something away from us, that gives us pleasure, or makes life easier, they do. Seems to be their mission statement. But, I understand your confusion. “Can’t tell the players without a program.” What vendors used to yell outside ball parks. 🙂 .

    Well, last night I finished digging up the dandelions, and started on the communal strawberry bed. Digging out the two or three year old plants, to give the runners room. The bed is a mess, but I think I finally figured out a technique. I poke around with the point of my trowel, until I can feel a large, woody root mass. I plunge the trowel, all around the mass, cutting the runners. Then I dig out the old mass, and fill in the hole with dirt from the collapsing wooden tub. That dirt looks pretty good, by the way. Rich, dark, nice smell.

    Haven’t started anything inside, yet. (Other than some marigolds.) It’s been outside work, while the weather cooperates. But, the rain is coming back, tomorrow, so, I’ll start doing inside stuff.

    May you find no more rocks, as you dig the soil.

    I read “Steppenwolf,” when I was about 20. So, we’re talking half a century, here. What I remember is that at that time, I had the typical angst of “What is the meaning of life?” So, the hero searches the world over, on the same quest. He discovers that the “meaning of life” is … there is no meaning. No answer. At the time, I found it quit comforting. Of course, now I know that the meaning of life is … 42. 🙂 . Lew

    (Due to the lack of links in today’s reply, we’ve gone with aphorisms, instead.) 🙂

  29. Chris,

    Hehehe, yes, surviving the encounter is required in order to learn from the event! Like von Clausewitz, I married someone smarter than I am. I may have the education, but the Princess has the smarts.

    “Given you remember the experience I’m guessing almost 45 years on”…Oh, thank you for the kindness! Twas 48 and 49 years ago that I was crawling under that house in the dust. Last time I did the arithmetic, I turn 61 in May.

    I don’t know what the adults used to level the foundations they poured. I do know that dad had hired the other physics professor from where they both taught, both physics dudes crawling through the dust, and between the two of them, they seemed to know what they were doing. Although the foundations were level and the outer rims of the floors may have been level, the floors towards the centers were sort of “rolling hills”. Between that work, and the hand dug trenches for the pipes from the new drilled well (which dad hand dug one December with the ground frozen nearly a meter deep during a ferocious Arctic snap), and the hand dug basement that we added, a tremendous amount of work went into improving that old house. We never moved there, using it as a rental instead. Eventually, dad sold 5 acres which included the house. First thing the new owner did was to get a permit and burn the house to the ground! Then a newer and nicer house was constructed.

    Arya was my favorite character also, followed by Tyrion. These were the Princess’s favorites, also, but for her the order was reversed. Everyone else paled in comparison with those two. Arya relished learning what she needed to, which made her able to observe and adapt. Her character at age 9 to 11 reminds me of me at that age: scrawny, mouthy at the wrong times, and prone to violent outbursts when confronted with lies and other injustices.

    Chives? Haven’t had any success with seeding them. They are on my list of plants to add to the mix, likely from starts at the nursery.

    I’ve been meaning for some time to add to a topic: paved roads turning to gravel. When I was still employed, I really couldn’t, as there was a policy about discussing that topic that had some rather serious consequences if caught. But now…what can they do to me?

    Anyhoo, when I started that job, a bituminous surface treatment road we advertised as having a life of 12-15 years before needing maintenance, an asphalt road 17-20 years. In my program, the property owners in the neighborhood getting paved were paying 85% of the project cost (they got to vote on it, and the last vote that passed was 2012), we were always asked who was responsible for maintaining the road once paved. Well, “the local gummint who owned the road right-of-way is responsible” was the reply.

    From State of Washington definition: “A bituminous surface treatment (BST) is often referred to as a chip seal or seal coat. It is a thin surface treatment of liquid asphalt covered with an aggregate that has an applied thickness of about 0.5-inch or less. BSTs are normally applied to pavements with lower traffic volumes.”

    This all worked well until the 2008-2009 economic debacle. Then due to economics AND inferior asphalt and bituminous treatment oils, things changed. Yes, due to peak oil, the raw material for paving is of lesser quality, leading to products that don’t last as long. That resulted in new bituminous treatment roads having a life of maybe 7 years, asphalt maybe 12 years, before needing maintenance. Meanwhile, maintenance costs were soaring, so we changed policy so that only arterials would receive routine maintenance on hard surfaced roads, but rural and local access hard surface roads would not be maintained, but would be allowed to eventually turn to gravel unless the economic situation changed. But we were also ordered NOT to mention that when asked, “Who maintains the new hard surfaced road?” that the neighborhood pays for. I came up with some very creative answers to that question, so that the astute questioners were able to ask more questions that I couldn’t quite answer but would get to the correct conclusion.

    Oh, forgot to mention. A property owner could choose to make time payments for the newly paved road, for up to 10 years following project completion. One thing I couldn’t swallow was that people could still be paying for the road and at year 6 or 7 of payments, the road starts to fall apart and there would be no maintenance done to fix the road. Not what you’d expect if paying $8,000 or more, right?

    So it’s a nasty brew of several things, but the main ones are inferior oils and increased commodity (oil and gravel) costs. However, there’s also the problem of a huge amount of development in rural areas, leading to more traffic and heavier vehicles than the gravel roads were designed to handle, but also more traffic (and a plethora of heavier construction vehicles) than the standard bituminous surface or even local access asphalt roads are designed for. So, let things deteriorate. Local studies showed that it costs at least twice as much to maintain hard surface roads than it does to maintain gravel roads. So, a lot of local governments are allowing a lot of roads to literally turn to dust.

    When we were looking to buy a house in the mid 1990s, we wanted “city services”, so we bought in the city on a paved road. My sister knew what I my job was, so she and her husband bought 20 acres in the boonies but on a hard surfaced road. I think they didn’t want to deal with me professionally. 😉 My take on it is, and always has been, if you want city services, live in an urban area. If you want the “idyllic rural life”, then don’t demand city services such as paved roads. Not a popular attitude, but realistic, I think.


  30. Hi Chris,

    As it happens, I have plenty of jackhammering experience. Had to use them to remove rubber from steel as a teenager when my father used to drag me to his factory. That was hard work.

    Yeah, I know all about pulling up old carpet too which I had to do with my renovation. I’m not sure if someone died on the carpet or whether somebody spilled a bottle of red wine. It certainly smelled more like the former.

    I should probably get my stumps replaced as they look like they need it but on the other hand the house has bent to fit now. You can see it in various places so maybe it’s not a problem. (Until it is a problem).

    The ISA browns definitely love digging. I’ve had to take defensive action in a couple of places. I was moving a pile of cuttings and weeds the other day and the chickens happened to be nearby at the time. Anyway, a couple of unlucky skinks and a whole bunch of other soil dwellers got gobbled up in short order. I might play around with leaving piles of cuttings and weeds around the place to attract bugs and then letting the chickens at them. Might be a source of cheap protein.

  31. @DJSpo:

    Thanks so much for the roads explanation. Right from the horse’s mouth is always best, especially a warhorse.


  32. Hi Lewis,

    To get to that state of sensibleness, we had to go through the serious pain of madness and the community looked on in abject horror at the consequences of the previous system – thus change was made. Your own history displays those forces in action, and look at the changes and protections which were implemented post The Great Depression, many of which have been subsequently reversed or as the kids might quip: unmade.

    Really? Well you learn something new everyday. I wasn’t aware that Napoleon employed the thoroughly English tactic of ‘divide and conquer’, and further to that I had no idea how far back it went in history. As a strategy, it probably pre-dated Phillip II of Macedon as well.

    Got up early today, it was dark – never knew that was a possibility! – and positioned all of the large rocks which had been recently liberated. The first row of rocks for the low gradient ramp project are all now in place. Then we dug soil before calling it quits at 3pm when we stopped for lunch. Hot Cross Buns may have been involved. Mate, I’m still feeling overly warm and it is not far off 10pm. Went to the pub for dinner and they had a local apple cider on offer which was quite nice as it was not too dry but neither was it too sweet.

    Hmm, my thinking is that you and I are going down, way down to where there is serious heat and brimstone. And if it is not for stuff you did in this life, well let’s just say that some previous indiscretions had been overlooked. 🙂 Hehe! It is possible that after a while Hell could become as tiresome and boring as Heaven would be.

    Ah, I had not noticed that you have leaned towards non-fiction over the past few years, but I can see that. The editor is loving the book. The editor also purchased some books for my birthday and they are reprints of Jack Vance books printed in their revised text taken from the Vance Integral Edition which was put together by fans, bookworms and scholars. And the books are printed on beautiful low acid paper. I’m surprised by the sheer weight of the individual books – good paper is clearly heavy. We’re hoping to get more of the collection whilst they still print them – a few are now not available. This will be a prized possession. When I first discovered that a Vance Integral Edition was being made, it was a year out of print and I was gutted at the lost opportunity. So this is the next best option, and frankly it is not that different an option.

    Ah, sorry I was lost in the details as to who was who and what their motivations and positions were in the great garden fight of 2021. Your admin is probably representative of a change at some higher level who you’ll never encounter. The faceless puppeteer attempting to get everyone to dance and sing for them, causing mayhem and strife all the while.

    Good stuff with the strawberry plants and I’ve done a similar job a year or so back and the root systems are surprisingly large aren’t they? The runners are so feral here now that I’m not sure what the best way to go is with the plants although, Claire has suggested a bold course of action. Yes, yes, I know gargle is your friend. Rich, dark and nice smelling soil is as good as it gets.

    Yeah, same here with the outside activities – especially the digging. The weather over the past six weeks has been particularly conducive to getting outside and doing stuff. We’re having a very good week weather-wise. 6 days in a row of 79’F plus sunny skies and the garden is growing! Some of the tomatoes have finally ripened and we are chucking batches through the dehydrator now.

    Yeah, Nah. Found more rocks whilst digging the soil today, but nothing too large and unwieldy. Might try and crack some more rocks over the next few days.

    What is the meaning of life? Yeah, it is a recurring theme for Herman Hesse as Demian is a coming of age tale but also doesn’t shy away from the difficult issues such as err, thinking for yourself and exercising free will. I can see why such dowdy but important topics caused the book to fall out of favour these days. Can’t have the kids thinking for themselves can we? 🙂 Far out, it would be funny if it was not also true.



  33. Hi Margaret, DJ and Simon,

    Thanks for the lovely comments. Ordinarily I’d come up with some rubbish response as to why I’m not replying tonight. Usually there is mention of the dreaded mid-week hiatus which sometimes falls on this particular evening.

    But truth to tell it was a warm day out of a run of 6 warm days in a row. After the summer we’ve had, this week is like party time. The weather Gods must be celebrated for this brief and pleasant few days. So we saluted them with an local apple cider and ginger ale at the local pub whilst sitting outside in the warm evening as night drew in around us. Seems only right to do so I reckon?



  34. @ DJ – Thanks for the very clear explanation! Pretty much the why of our roads being so rubbish. And, they’re not going to get any better. When I walk to the store, I take to the street. The sidewalks (a whole ‘nother topic) are treacherous. And not as well lit. Lew

  35. Yo, Chris – Abject horror stories, seem not to have made a dent in our community. Another one, just the other day. Yup. Most of the protections launched by the Great Depression, government or unions, are gone or weakened. There are powerful forces, at work, to make that happen. Oh, not so much some grand conspiracy, more like a steady drip, drip, drip.

    I read some more of “The Secret Life of Groceries,” last night. The author is very good. Bases his reporting on his own observations and experience. In his trucking section, he rode along with a trucker, pretty much 24/7 for several months. He went to the “Fancy Food Show.” It’s yearly, east and west coast. “Three hundred thousand square feet of demonstration space, eighty thousand products, forty-seven thousand food professionals gathered in a shrine of specialty foods.” It’s where new products (it is hoped) are brought to market. He managed to meet a young lady, who was attempting to bring a cabbage relish, to market. Followed her ups and downs, over several years.

    He also spent several months working for that hip and with it grocery chain, Whole Paycheck. That’s where he got into treatment of employees. Of course, I understand the concept of “just in time” inventory. And, we know how well that worked out, due to recent events. But, there’s also flexible scheduling, which, he pointed out, is “just in time” staffing. While keeping employee hours, just below the level at which benefits would have to be enacted. So, employees are just another commodity. I must say, the author is a good writer (to me). Several times, I was laughing out loud. Something I’m not given to.

    Got up in the dark? Tis not natural. 🙂 . I do my gardening, late afternoon, into the early evening. Less people around. The natural order of things, and Daylight Savings Time, gave that a boost.

    Looked, again, for hot cross buns, at the store. No joy. Traditionally, they’re a Good Friday, type of thing. When and if I find some commercial ones, I’ll take a look at the ingredients. Any mashed potatoes? Citron?

    From early on, my concept of heaven was that it was mostly populated by virgins, saints and holy women. Doesn’t sound like a fun time. 🙂 .

    Well, as far as the out of print stuff goes, check The River and E-Buy. Some of the prices may be eye watering, but, I know from experience the prices won’t get any better. Nor, availability. There’s a few books, over the years, that I wish I would have jumped on, when I had the chance.

    Really, there’s only two levels of administration, that we deal with, here at the Institution. There’s the building manager / minion (oh, sorry. Assistant Building Director) and her boss, the “Southwest Regional Building Director” (think I got that right … maybe not.) It’s from her that all evil flows. Now here’s the interesting thing. A few of us dipped into the rabbit hole, trying to get a bit of background, on this creature. Now a lot of information is behind pay walls. But we did find that she has, at various times, used up to seven different names. In doing a lot of searches, under all those names, here’s the interesting thing. She has little or no rabbit hole footprint. Odd that. Very odd.

    In another interesting development, Lazy Shiftless Jack, our “maintenance” man, is quit in a huff, as he needs to apply for his position. As an employee of Providence Inc. (or, whatever it is). I asked, well, what was he before, if not an employee? He was a private contractor. He’s in a huff, as, he’ll have to account for his time. Never mind applying for a position he’s been doing (badly) all along. That part I kind of get, having been in that position, myself.

    Well, our nice weather has ended, and it’s rain, rain, and more rain, for as far as the forecast goes. But, no more frosts for the foreseeable future.

    And, in news of the world ….,261652

    Thurston County, is the county directly north of us. I have never seen, but have heard tales of eagle’s nests full of dog and cat collars.

    And, you may have seen the article about the bit of Chinese tat, that was bought at a yard sale, on our east coast, for $35. And sold at auction for north of $700,000. It’s pretty, but, frankly, looks to me, like a lot of the stuff I see on the table at our local Asian restaurants. One would more likely be hit by lightening, than stumble across such a score. Lew

  36. Hi Margaret,

    Many thanks for the correction. Plum has a complex personality, and last week she took it upon herself to dominate the photographs, mostly for her own reasons. As a general rule, I don’t enforce a democracy upon the dogs because that is not their way and maybe Plum is a little miffed at the attention that Ollie bestows upon Ruby? Anyway, it is a complicated mess of dog emotions, but they have to deal because the editor and I are the pack leaders. 🙂 Ollie will be in more photos next week. If I could but give one bit of advice to Plum it is that to be liked, one must be more likeable.

    Doug is perhaps missing out on this most useful function which rocks can be put to. And thanks for the insight into Doug’s mind. Had to laugh, a year or two back when we made the decision to get a low centre of gravity mower, some of the reviews actually had people complaining that their mowers weren’t tough enough to cut through rocks which were sticking up out of their paddocks. Far out! It is perhaps indicative that some folks expect far too much from their equipment? I don’t worry about such things unless the grass is super dry (think steel meeting flint at high speed and what happens next). Blades are replaceable items and now we have the low centre of gravity mower, I can hardly prise the editor off the machine.

    Dust from gravel roads is a problem, that’s for sure. The only folks who don’t have to worry about such things are folks who live at the end of a dirt road. But just travelling on a dirt road creates dust, although I try to stick to a lower speed so as to not create too much dust.

    On the other hand, paved roads bring the tourists and the ubiquitous bicycle riders. Such city folks quail in fear at the sight of an unmade dirt road, and frankly this is a good thing. Imagine the workout Ollie would get alerting me to such constant tourist and bicycle activities? He’d much rather be lounging around in the sun at his ease on the off chance a herd of deer descended onto the orchard and needed to be dealt to. Best to keep his energy held in reserve for when it is needed.

    Yes, it has been said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. But I’d like to add to that: except the year with no summer. That is a real problem I can tell you. The past couple of days have been warmer and some of the tomatoes have ripened and we’ve been chucking them all through the dehydrator. Next week apparently an epic rain storm looks set to descend upon the east coast of the continent. What the…

    Well done you two with the jabs! There is basically nothing on the immediate horizon here in relation to that, and the editor and I are considered low risk so we are way, way, down the list.

    Spring is almost there for you! It is the autumn equinox here tomorrow.



  37. Hi Simon,

    Good stuff, and once wielded in a test of endurance (i.e. a job), the jackhammer is not a tool that is easily forgotten. Mate, with that sort of work, who needs a gym? 🙂 It would be funny, if the point actually was funny – but that is seriously hard work and I’d imagine the rubber compounds stuck to the steel like glue?

    We’re sure going places tonight! Old carpet has a truly rotten stench and chuck in a bit of moisture and there are few jobs that are more revolting than removing that stuff. The accumulated dust of decades leaps into the air too at the merest tension of the fibres. A rotten job, and yes you can smell the decomp stench from a remarkable distance. Hey, if ever I face that job again, I now know who to ask for assistance!!! 🙂 You have experience after all.

    With the stumps rotting, it is mostly always the drains which have failed and allow too much water into the clay at a point – house sag at the point where drains have failed. Dry timber generally doesn’t rot. If it doesn’t feel like a problem, then it probably is OK. But I’d always maintain the drainage systems as a priority. Mind you red gum stumps don’t last forever. And water pipes and sewerage pipes can leak too. At least stumps are repairable – try imagining fixing a house on cracked concrete slab! Not an easy job at all.

    Haha! Yup, chickens love scratching up a garden. Think of it as err, tillage! But I like your idea. A small LED light would produce a similar result for the chickens.



  38. Hi DJ,

    It is a wise man who marries a lady who is smarter than himself. 🙂 But now I’m confused, if your lady is smarter, then how can you be the wise one? It’s too complicated for my brain! Education is a wonderful thing, but there is always the autodidáctico!

    No worries at all and the age was a guess, which candidly was not that far off the mark.

    The physics dudes would have loved to have gotten out and got their hands dirty on that particular job. It would have been a real test of their abilities to solve problems and then implement them. Ah ha! Well but of course, the rolling hills are a known problem and carpenters gently relieve the pressures on the timber bearers by notching them and then shoring them up – usually with steel plates or supports. Of course there is always the method of: The house will settle back onto its foundations over time. And sure enough, it will.

    How did your dad dig in frozen ground? Do you recall much about the well? I’m curious about such technologies.

    Wow, the burned house wasn’t even recycled? Many years ago there was a solid business in wreckers dismantling houses for the materials and then on selling them. Nowadays the job is done quickly and the results usually end up in landfill – it is not quick to dismantle a house that you wish to recover the materials from.

    My favourite characters as well – in that order. Arya was a fiery one. As a contrast, I encountered a lot of injustice but there was little to be done about it and the consequences of speaking out were swiftly delivered. That does in no way mean that I did not have definite thoughts about things.

    Thank you very much for the insight into how the roads situation is travelling at the moment. And of course, I cannot speak of work related matters either without professional censure of an extreme sort, so I’d guessed that such a thing was going on.

    Down here we have very little in the way of heavy oil reserves as much of our stuff is apparently a light-sweet-crude, so your observation that products have declined over the years is of importance and relevance. And I’ve seen those BST treatments of road surfaces. Inevitably they crack as the underlying surface moves – particularly I’ve noted this is a problem in very wet years when the clay swells, or super dry years when the clay shrinks. But they do last for a few years more or less OK. Those sorts of lifespans match what I observe down here – but I note that some roads can get huge truck volumes especially if quarries are involved anywhere in the area.

    Hey, I knew someone in the construction biz a few years ago and one day they casually dropped in that getting the aggregate material was also becoming harder for them.

    Talking around a subject is hard, and practice does make perfect. I now understand why you got a bit of grief over the phone. And standards are good, but economics rules the day, doesn’t it?

    The roads here are compacted clay so if it rains a lot, the roads can become rutted, potholed and crowned. I’m sure at some stage in the long distant past road base aggregate was added to them, but it is not easy to see where nowadays. Maintenance is literally scraping it with a grader / ripper combination and then rolling it flat. And that seems to be taking place once per year on the main road, and they may have been on this side road maybe once or twice in the past decade.

    You are so correct. Exactly! Mate the thing that troubles me is that all these people exiting the cities and moving into remote spots like where I am: I don’t genuinely know how they’ll go in the longer term. I guess it will be a lucky dip and some will be fine, and others well, not so much. Other than the road maintenance, I provide all other services, and wouldn’t have it any other way. However, I know how good the services are that are on offer in a city. Not everyone understands that.



  39. Hi Lewis,

    Dunno about you, but I’ve heard a lot of cries which suggest that ‘this time will be different’. And I guess if it is a different year, then it is different. But people are down on history, if only because it is replete with abject horror stories of one kind or another. The modern monetary theorists though, they have me scratching my head in wonder at their audacity. And your point is the sad bit about it. It isn’t any one conspiracy, it is the result of a lot of self serving behaviours all over the place.

    Thank you for the book referral. Sounds good. Mate, I used to work in the transport industry so the whole truck thing is not lost on me at all. The scale of warehousing and distribution is bonkers and people just popping down to the local shop to buy something which was produced at some phenomenal distance away – they have no idea and think that it is somehow normal. And the reality is that at the moment it is normal. But historically it is anything but normal. I mean trade went on and has been going on for a long time but the sheer complexity now is bonkers.

    The Fancy Food Show is so epic that I’m struggling to get my head around it. The grocery business down here is very concentrated – to a remarkable amount actually. I shop at the local independent store, but there are also one of the two big chains and the slightly lesser chain plus the germuns have moved in to town. But I guess the upshot is that the concentration of ownership means we don’t see such trade fairs.

    Hey, when I was a kid people used to talk about jobs for life. I think nowadays the kids are happy if they are not under employed. Whole paycheck is something that I know little of but it sounds kind of expensive. Ook! Attempts to turn people into economic units have been afoot for many years, and I tell people that the working from home thing is possibly not a good thing as it further breaks relationships. I get out of the office as much as possible, but people seem happy to work from home. Mind you, working from home shifts many costs from the employer and onto the employee and few people consider that aspect.

    Respect. And if in similar circumstances I’d do the same. Late afternoon is the hottest part of the day, and even if the air is cool, the sun has bite.

    No! Mashed potatoes in a hot cross bun. It’s all somehow just not right. 🙂

    Your description of heaven sounds most unfun. I’d be bored in fairly short order.

    Exactly, we used to have a very lively trade in second hand books down under. Bill Bryson mentioned it in one of his books on travelling down here. Second hand book shops are rarer these days, but the ones that are around are also online and can reach a bigger market.

    It’s funny you mention that but: Victorian teacher who faked qualifications for decades was ‘outstanding’ educator, leading Australian scientist says.

    That would be an unpleasant situation for anyone having to regularly reapply for their job. Scientists have that as a downside to their profession.

    I see your news of the world and offer you a proper skystone: Rare meteorite found by gold fossickers sold to Geoscience Australia after lying undiscovered for 4.5 billion years.



  40. Yo, Chris – All this talk of carpet removal, put me in mind of a story. 🙂 .
    But, first, as to carpets, sometimes, removal of carpet reveals treasure! Say, a nicely protected hardwood floor. But I digress … About half a century ago, I had to remove linoleum tiles from a large square footage of cement floor. I don’t know who tipped me off, but the way to do it is … dry ice. You lay down a piece of dry ice, about the same size as the linoleum square, and wait a bit. Not long. Then you give the edge of the tile a sharp wrap, with a pry bar and hammer. Like magic, the tile shatters, and pops right off the cement floor. You keep moving the dry ice around, til the job is done. Some sanding may be required, to remove bits of adhesive.

    Ah, you have several food (and beverage) trade shows, in Australia.

    Jobs for life. What a quaint, old-fashioned concept. An unwritten social contract. You give the company loyalty, and they’ll take care of you. My Dad had a job for life. But, to my surprise, when I was in my early 20’s and flitting from job to job, he “got” it, that the world was changing. And never gave me grief over my job history.

    Oh, I don’t think mashed potatoes are so odd in baked good. Think of potato bread and rolls. Probably more for texture, than flavor.

    Go, the bogus teacher! Probably makes degreed rubbish teachers, nervous. I never claimed credentials I didn’t have, but managed to slip between the cracks. Though, as I got older, things tightened up. Even for low level, and low salary jobs, “job descriptions” started requiring two, or four years of college. With degrees. On paper, all I have is a high school diploma. But, probably have enough credits to be somewhere near the end of three years of official college credits. But, due to poor planning on my part (and, a lack of interest), no degrees are attached to that effort. Some employers will include “or experience” in their job descriptions. But, it’s getting rare. But, I seem to have muddled through, ok. 🙂 .

    Oh, I learned a new word! Fossicking. (Which spell check doesn’t recognize.) Origin of the word goes back to the 1850s. I wonder if it wasn’t invented to clean up, for polite company, another bit of F-ing around? 🙂 . Lew

  41. @ Pam and @Lew,
    Glad that helped. 22 years ago, one of the Elected Officials came up with a little pamphlet “Code of the West”. Many staff members thought it was dumb, but some of us liked it and kept both printed and electronic copies. Some members of the public asked me about it 2 years ago, and were happy that I could email a copy.

    The booklet basically said that if you live in the boonies, don’t expect city services. Snow plowing will be at the bottom of the list. your gravel road might only get graded twice a year. Expect phone and power outages, expect your roads to be impassable and drifted in during the winter. Keep supplies and generators and fuel for the generators on hand. In other words, prepare for the worst, be resilient, and deal with it.

    Said Elected lived on a POS gravel road and had a 3 mile drive to asphalt, so actually had some creds with some of us for the booklet.


  42. Chris,

    Ah, her being smart but somehow I got a dab of wisdom? Isn’t how that could happen one of those mysteries of life? 42 and all that.

    The well was drilled by a local water drilling company. The site was chosen by a water dowser. Somehow dad didn’t belittle that idea. We never told the drilling company, as they had some beliefs against dowsing. I don’t remember anything about the well pump, though.

    Dad got out a pick and started at it. That let him hack out chunks of frozen clay (the ground was almost all clay there) and toss it out. Below the frost line, it was easy to use a shovel. Relatively speaking, as he then had to throw the dirt out of the trench, which ended up about 70cm wide and a nasty 100 meters in length and about 2 meters deep. That’s a LOT of dirt. It might have taken him longer than the 2 week winter break from school. My job the following year was to fill carts with the dirt so the adults could back fill the trench.

    Well, the old house had had an accident caused by the final tenant. During a family wrestling game, the oil stove had been bumped and a slow leak developed. Wood floors and wood wall panels soaked it up. That was going to need replacing, a lot of work, so dad threw in the towel on being a landlord. But I am surprised that plumbing, etc., wasn’t salvaged before the place was burnt.

    I was a slow learner. Took me decades to know when to shut up and move on in the face of injustice. It’s an important thing to learn and know how to do.

    Actually, products from the light sweet crude worked better for the roads. It’s when we started using the heavier stuff that the quality started going down. Not all oil is the same.

    Clay under the road surface is a ginormous problem. It moves and slides. It swallows gravel. Compound with most BST not being constructed properly: more base gravel is needed, and most have 2 shots of penetrating oil. A third shot after a year actually does a lot for the integrity of the road. BUT…BST can slide right off clay.

    There is a “fix”. Our maintenance crews did the BST paving. If there was clay, we would contract out for a CTB contractor. CTB is Cement Treated Base. They would rototill the road with a giant machine, which added Portland Cement Concrete to the rototill mix. For rural roads this was about a half meter deep. For heavier use, up to 2/3 meter or deeper. That gave a wonderful deep concrete base, then with an added 2 inches of gravel the BST was done and held well.. Otherwise, clay really is unworkable. Did I mention that clay swallows gravel on gravel roads and BST slides off, and even asphalt can slide and break apart when atop clay? Clay is fluid.

    Yeah, maintaining gravel is hard, as once it gets hot and dry the entire region here quits trying to grade/scrape the roads. Metal blade hits a rock and a spark goes into the field or trees on the side and a major wildfire results. And soaking the roads first with water is cost prohibitive. Yeah, wasteful of the water, also, but as you said, it’s all about the economics.

    I don’t know what makes many people think they can move into the boonies and make it work. It’s got more dust. And bugs. And critters that like to eat vegetables and fruit. And maybe bears and cougars. And moose aren’t always nice. And coyotes like to eat pets. You know ALL of the issues and problems first hand. It is a totally different mindset to pull it off.


  43. Hey Chris,

    Toughest job I ever had was having to use a jackhammer to get rubber off steel in the middle of summer in a tin shed (the BHP steelworks at Crib Point). We were in the ‘pickle line’ which, in the normal course of events, was filled with hydrochloric acid. They generously drained the acid before letting us in but there was enough lying around that we had to be covered head to toe in safety gear. Oh yeah, and 12 hour days because the cost to close the plant for repairs was astronomical. Good work for young men. A few of those under your belt and you learn to deal with hard work.

    I’ve been anti-carpet ever since having to pull that stinking pile out of the house. Hardwood floors for me from now on. In most places in Australia, you’d be crazy not to. I wonder if anybody has done studies on the health benefits of wood floors. Seems a no brainer to me that carpets must harbour all kinds of undesirables.

    Moved the cider into the next phase of its journey to vinegar today. Seems like fermentation had stopped so we’ll see what comes next. I have a feeling the washed-unsterlisied combo is gonna come up best. The sterilised one seemed a little flat to me. The one that was full of fungi seemed ok underneath so I bottled it anyway. It had a weird, sticky residue at the bottom which didn’t look particularly healthy, though.

  44. Hi Simon,

    Mate, that sounds brutal, but on the other hand when you’re young you might be able to shrug off 12 hour shifts. 🙂 Hope they paid well? A lot of plant is like that and if it goes down or off line, or even for scheduled maintenance, the costs are phenomenal. I tend to view such a perspective as that the base expectations from the plant have been set a bit too high. Such work is part of the cycle of a place.

    Now that you’ve mentioned being anti-carpet, I’ve never put carpet into a place either since then. Hmm, thanks for pointing this out, and some scars run deep. Actually wool rugs are fairly reasonably priced and as well as vacuuming them, you can take them outside and beat them every now and then. I tend to believe that houses on concrete slabs probably require carpet as an additional insulating layer. The concrete slab, unless heated, will settle on the average temperature of the soil – how could it not even if the concrete is insulated it still remains in contact with the ground? When we rented nearby whilst building this house, over winter the cold would radiate up through the floor during winter. But I’ve never felt that feeling with a timber framed house and floorboards. They work like an Esky.

    It is funny you mention that, but the carpet in that place was an acrylic (i.e. plastic fibre) and where the sun streamed in through the windows, the carpet actually began to fray and break down. I’d seriously hate to know what toxic brew of chemicals the carpet was off gassing when the sun energised it.

    Respect for conducting the apple cider experiment and you’re in unchartered waters. I’m seriously intrigued to learn how the three batches turn out. The sticky mess at the bottom we call lees, and wine bottles actually have the hip and neck so that the lees are captured before they are poured from the bottle into a glass. It is a super clever design, plus the narrow neck of the bottle reduces the exposure of the atmosphere to the contents. Imagine the years of effort of development which went into that design in the first place?

    Yeasts are a specialised fungi which converts sugars to alcohol, but honestly I have not enough experience to know what your fungi is. The precautionary principle might be employed in this case. On consumption of the vinegar, sample a tiny quantity and be alert for ill effects before using larger volumes. I only suggest that because whilst some fungi are not toxic, they produce toxins in their wastes. But on the other hand people have been producing vinegars for millennia. And this stuff usually gets better with ageing, so what might not taste good up front, will get better. We have a four year old mead and it is superb stuff – beyond good.



  45. Hi DJ,

    The mysteries of life are deep waters indeed. Fortunately we can ask our ladies (who are smarter than us) and find out whether the answer actually is 42? The questioning could go like this: It is on good authority that the answer to the question of life, the Universe, and everything is the number 42. So is it? And then run for cover! 🙂

    Dowsers probably see or feel things that we can’t know and people have been at that task for an extraordinary length of history so there must be something to it. I’m intrigued that your dad was a man of science but also knew to take the advice of a dowser when it came to such matters. I’ll tell you an odd story. I’ve met and known a lot of people over the years from all strata’s of society and one curious aspect has always intrigued me and it is this: People from old money backgrounds will seek advice, pay for it, and then act upon it, even if it is contrary to their closely held beliefs. With everyone else it is a bit of a crapshoot as to whether they’ll take and act upon advice. I never force the issue either as people have to follow their own paths wherever it takes them – even if off a cliff.

    I forgot to ask the most important question: What was the trench for that your dad dug in the frozen ground? Down here such a trench would be used to run electricity cables from the transformer on the road to the house. And last I checked the nice electricity company no longer allows people to dig their own trenches. Heck yeah, that is a bonkers amount of soil. Was it thrown to the side of the trench?

    A sad tale of misfortune, but being a landlord is not all that it is cracked up to be you know. 🙂 Been there and done that and got the t-shirt. A tenant had a dog which was allowed to urinate on the carpets during the tenancy (I now have a natural disinclination towards that carpet technology) and neither the smell nor the stains could be removed. The whole lot had to be replaced which was as you’d imagine expensive. Why put yourself in harm’s way seems to be the order of the day in these more enlightened times.

    In my share house days, a house mate had a cat who’d jump up onto the walls which were nicely wallpapered. As gravity played into the feline game, the cat attempted to thwart the forces of the Universe and stuck its claws into the wallpaper. Gravity won the battle though and the cat slid down to the ground whilst taking chunks of wallpaper with it. As you can imagine, no rental bond was returned from that house.

    The world is rarely a clear cut place and moral ambiguity stalks us at many turns. I too travelled a similar path.

    Most people don’t quite understand that Oil’s ain’t oils. There is a complex web of stories hidden in that messy understanding. And thanks as I hadn’t known that about light sweet crude providing good road base products.

    Mate, clay is a real drama and yes it is very fluid depending on moisture, and on this property from year to year I can watch the stuff move and squirm. We’re set for an epic rain event commencing tomorrow. It’s a bit too bad as I was enjoying the single week of warmer weather. Oh well. The coming weather charts are totally off the charts. Hyperbole? I’ll tell you on Wednesday, but before then: All hands brace for impact!!!

    As an interesting side story, a lot of urban folks who move into these more rural locations don’t understand that steel hitting rocks in super dry weather can cause fires. They’ve never encountered the concept or need for flint and steel. So yes, some major dramas have occurred over the years (we have not been involved) due to the lack of really basic knowledge. Oh well, you’re only ever as good as the weakest link.

    Exactly! One must avoid pre-conceived notions and just kind of learn on the go and hopefully for everyone else living in such remote locales, they don’t make a hash of it. Well that is the hope anyway…



  46. Hi Lewis,

    Getting back to yesterday, the Eagle story was very nicely written, although you have to feel for the poor pooch dropped from such a height – and surviving. The wedge tail eagles here drop their prey onto ground so as to kill it, so the dog was very lucky. When the two Kelpie sheep dog girls were very young we had to keep a sharp look out for the wedge tail eagles which candidly could have taken them. At only twelve weeks the pups were not large and the eagles were never far away. Oh well, no harm seems to have been suffered by the hapless flying pup.

    No I hadn’t seen the article on the Chinese antique score, but I hear you about that. Beauty is of course in the eyes of the beholder. And also some wallets run deep. I made that last one up, and I reckon it’s pretty good. 🙂 Others may say something or other about a fool and their money?

    Ah, of course you are busy, but how could you overlook the skystone article I linked to? You could even see the nickel ores. No doubt they are found down here because in other parts of the world such rocks would have been turned into swords. 🙂

    There is truth in what you say and hardwood floors are a thing of beauty in my worldview too. And I appreciated and enjoyed the digression (a bit guilty of that act myself!)

    Thanks for the dry ice technique although I wouldn’t have a clue as to where to obtain the frozen material. An old mate of mine who I haven’t heard from for years when during his thesis work, almost asphyxiated in a refrigerator which was used to store dried ice. A harrowing tale. I’ve heard that some of the very old linoleum was manufactured from fairly innocuous materials. You rarely see the stuff nowadays, but when I was a kid it was used more. And yup, the adhesive can leave a bit of a mess, but one of the great things with hardwood floors is that they are usually repairable.

    I never knew such things went on in the food business. The coffee trade fair had an amusing name, and world vegan day kind of scared me. I eat more fruit and vegetables and other plant matter such as leafy greens than most people ever would, but veganism I would struggle with. It is not like the chickens actually want their eggs and they seem happy to trade them for food and shelter.

    When I was a kid, the talk was that a job was for life. The editor worked for a major (back then) US technology company and they coined the phrase ‘painting their employees blue’ for that level of loyalty for indoctrination. Like you, I have never known security and there are candidly times I feel that despite all the water under the bridge, I’m only as good as the last bit of work done. We were both made redundant during the recession of the early 90’s.

    Actually you did really well and were lucky your dad never gave you grief over the checkered employment history. Back in the day, employers used to get a bit huffy about such things even when the individuals had little control over the scenario. And exactly, the world changed. Imagine what it would be like for people working in Japan where such an obligation was part of the social contract?

    I just do the best I can. What else can you do?

    We broke more rocks today and added them to the low gradient ramp project. Now that I know what I’m doing with the rocks I’m kind of excited and looking at the very large rocks differently. We also cranked out the new stump grinder and put it to work. It’s good, in fact, it is actually far better than the previous machine.

    I’d intended to have a quiet afternoon and put a list together of all the replacement parts needed for the amplifier refurbishment project. However, I was kind of considering the imminent dire weather forecast, and so instead spent several hours cleaning up the citrus trees in the orchard. They all scored a good feed too. Me tired tonight as I finished around 6pm after starting early this morning.

    I’ve never encountered a potato and bread roll. Although, now I think back into the days when I was a wee young thing. Hmm. So my mum used to deep fry potato chips in lard and then when they were hot, but drained, I’d make a hot potato chip sandwich in fresh bread and butter. Seriously yum, but probably not all that healthy for you. I used to do a lot of distance running when I was kid, so could eat whatever was put in front of me – and then some.

    Hehe! Yeah, the bogus teacher made the real ones look stupid – probably because he apparently did a good job. Pretty funny huh? Mate, it doesn’t seem to have harmed you and you’re doing OK. These days I tend to suggest to people not to go to Uni because of the student debt and the questionable return on investment from the time and money required. Plenty of people earn more than I do and haven’t done the education or paid the cost of that, so I don’t know what to make of that state of affairs. Over supply might be a problem.

    Fossicking has long been used down here as a term in relation to walking around the bush and looking for precious metals. And yup, 1850’s were the gold rush days so that use hardly surprises me.

    Lewis, I’m blushing, but yeah people do say F-ing around! 🙂



  47. Yo, Chris – Still wallets run deep? 🙂 . Actually, they do, when you think about it. Leave the wallet alone (except for deposits) and the bills pile up. Basic physics?

    Sure, I saw the sky stone article. Where else would I have picked up the term “fossicking around?” 🙂 . Fossicking around was invented so you don’t have to blush. 🙂

    I can’t remember where I sourced the dry ice, but, a quick Gargle reveals it can be bought a lot of places. Even the Store of Walls. Or, you can even make it at home. Though, that article stated that given a cost / benefit analysis, you might as well buy it. Handling has to be careful. You can burn yourself with that stuff.

    The food business is a many splendored thing. But, I’d say that anyone who wanted to bring a product to market, (Aunt Mae’s super duper salad dressing, or, Uncle Bob’s sure fire chili sauce), ought to read that chapter in “The Secret Life of Groceries.” It doesn’t try to put lipstick on a pig, All the possible pitfalls are outlined, and your more likely to be struck by lightening (or, find a $700,000 bit of tat at a garage sale), than bring a wildly successful product, to market. At best, you might only loose a few thousand dollars. But, those with the dreamy gleam in their eye, probably won’t read such things, or, discount the advice. After all, it will be different, this time. 🙂 .

    I think one of the reasons Dad laid off was, as you know, I was always working. Never more than a couple of weeks between jobs, and, I’d take just about anything, in the meantime. Meantime meaning, between jobs that I thought were worth working, long term.

    I nipped down to the library, yesterday, with one eye on my account, and the other on the weather radar. What I hadn’t counted on was the 30 mph wind gusts. Invigorating! There are several large trees, along the way, and I kept well away from them. I saw a few headlines about flooding on your east coast. Eleanor was fretting about relatives, in Australia. Now, I knew she had relatives in New Zealand, but I didn’t know about any in Australia. I’ll have to ask for more details. She couldn’t remember if they were on the east or west coast. She was working herself into a good old anxiety attack, due to the chaos (rather minor) or the day.

    Magic food boxes came, yesterday. The morning delivery (formerly done by The Good Rev) were delivered by our Community Outreach Person. Afternoon was supposed to be delivered to the door, but that didn’t happen. So, it was the usual chaos in the lobby, only more so. But, the Building Manager (err, “Assistant Housing Director”) wasn’t in evidence, so, we just muddled through in our usual way. All told, it was the usual mix of tinned fruit and veg. Some condiments. A jar of raspberry jelly (High fructose corn syrup) and a bottle of salad dressing (more corn syrup). A jar of peanut butter (rapeseed and cottonseed oil). A jar of mayo (soybean oil). The box with veg had bags of oranges, potatoes and apples. Celery. One sad green pepper. A dozen eggs. A dodgy looking bag of mixed greens. I guess the high point was a bag of frozen pork patties.

    Potato flour has always been around, but, it’s been given a boost by the whole gluten free craze. Seems like most bakery sections in stores have a small selection of potato breads. Always have. The times I’ve had it, I remember it’s pretty tasty. But as I remember, it’s got pretty large holes (crumb?). Keeping the contents of a sandwich, in the sandwich, can be a bit dodgy. Peanut butter stays in, jelly or jam oozes out. Lew

  48. Hi Lewis,

    I’m very impressed with your wallet logic. It always surprises me that most people tend to focus on the income side of that story and forever they seek larger and greater incomes. There is a paradox in there though – and you probably know the name of the theory which has escaped my mind at present – but whilst income increases, so too does expenditure. Very few people tend to consider the expenditure side of the story, which is something that I feel is a bit odd. I guess marketing has been pushing the concept of wants for so long that people tend to believe that wants are necessities? Dunno. I’ve heard it expressed as: ‘I deserve this reward’, whatever that means.

    Of course and thank you for the correction. And I appreciate not blushing as this is a good thing. I’ve heard that some folks become so anxious about blushing that they seek corrective surgery which may cut some of the nerves… There must be some good reason why we blush? Maybe? Hey did you note the equivalent use of the word in relation to opal mining is known as noodling? In that particular case it relates to sifting through the tailings/overburden of mines. During the gold rush era, many Chinese indentured labourers (indentured in their home country and sent over here) used to make a good living sifting through the tailings/overburden. The reports were that the locals were jealous of such industriousness.

    Who knew? Turns out that you can buy dry ice at the gas suppliers. Kind of makes sense, although I’d never thought about the matter before. Oh yeah, dry ice is pretty handy at zapping some skin conditions too. Had a cyst on my temple a few years ago and the doctor zapped it with dry ice, and afterwards there were a few moments of massive ice-cream headache, which quickly disappeared – but it sure hit hard and fast and caused a few moment of utter wooziness.

    One of the problems with that story as I see it with such massive barriers to entry with new products, is that innovation drops through the floor and possibly production gets concentrated in the hands of a few – despite the seemingly endless line of products. Then there is the inevitable temptation to make more money from an already mature and declining market and so quality ever so quietly and gradually possibly gets lowered. As a strategy I’d have to suggest that it is essentially self limiting before being replaced by something else entirely.

    And yeah, I hear those: ‘this time it will be different’ stories. Except it usually isn’t different.

    You’ve got a good work ethic. My lot used to get a bit antsy and began agitating if there were a few days spent lounging around in between jobs. I’ve heard people tell stories about how awful it was to move away from home, but err, no that was not the case. In fact it was the opposite and I loved the idea of the getting away from all that. Mind you, it is possible that once indoctrinated, a serious work ethic is hard to be rid of. What do you believe about that observation?

    Speaking of which, I may have mentioned that I’ve been reading Hermann Hesse’s book Demian. It’s quite a good read, and unfortunately me being me, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the much later Holden-book-that-shall-not-be-named was a pale episodic imitation. And what really interests me is that the characters can hold quite earnest and seriously in-depth discussions expounding upon the deeper mysteries of life. Holden-what’s-his-name by contrast was just floundering around proceeding from event to event without ever grappling with the underlying meaning. And what is worse is that I rarely encounter anyone (outside of the fine commenters of this blog and some other most excellent corners of the interweb) who wish to discuss the deeper mysteries of life, the universe and everything. It is candidly disturbing that contentment has become rife in society, and I’m guessing as such, the paths are apparently known. Hmm.

    The weather radar is a handy bit of kit for such outings! You’re lucky that your library scores weren’t blown away by such strong wind gusts. And yes, keep well clear of falling branches – camping underneath large trees is an unwise activity, but there is little notice when a large tree or branch falls and it can be fatal.

    Eleanor is probably correct to be worrying about her relatives down under – especially if they reside on the mid-east coast. The west coast, especially the south west coast (think Damo) is enjoying the summer which would ordinarily turn up over here in the south east corner sooner or later. But further up the east coast around Sydney and to the north, they are enjoying some serious rain and flooding. A house was even washed away: Devastated couple’s home floats away on their wedding day in NSW floods. Parts of the very large city Sydney are being evacuated. Floods do far more damage than bushfires ever do and people are not usually insured for that possibility.

    It was raining when I awoke, and it is still raining at 7.30pm, although nothing like what is going on in other parts of the country. Over an inch has fallen in slow and steady rain, and the wind has barely moved the leaves of the trees. Not good conditions for renewable energy production, although few would readily admit to that possibility.

    Have you heard what happened with the Good Rev? Good to hear that you lot can just muddle on like true survivors in the face of administrative failure. That’s the thing about systems, they’re good in theory…

    We have sugar cane growing up in the far north east of the continent, and with largely infertile soils you’d be hard pressed to see corn syrup unless it is imported, I guess. Along those lines one of the more interesting imports is palm oil and palm kernels. Yuk. Our media has decided to turn their attention upon our friends over the Tasman sea on those two big islands: New Zealand’s troubled waters. Perhaps they can have one or the other, but not both. Interestingly, when we travelled there in the late 1990’s, that area was all given over to sheep and it looked dry like some parts of this country does. I’d never seen so many sheep in one area before. My how things have changed in that short period of time.

    Our New Zealand friends are a little grumpy with us: NZ’s Children’s Commissioner says Australia has breached rights over 15-year-old’s deportation.

    At least there was a high point in the magic food boxes. Did you get the second run of boxes?

    The gluten free / high protein craze put a huge strain on cauliflower production too. Strange days indeed. I don’t doubt you, it is just that I’ve never encountered potato bread – anywhere. It would be pretty tasty and as a kid I have fond memories of deep fried potato cakes drizzled with white vinegar and salt. Yum! Yes, respect the potato, just don’t mention it in certain circles…

    Better get writing!



  49. Yo, Chris – Well, I don’t know about a particular theory, but I’d call it plain old greed. 🙂 .

    Well, here, the definitions of “noodling around” can’t seem to get past it’s use as a method of catching catfish. By hand. But I’ve also heard it used, in relation to messing about with a musical instrument. Might be related to “using your noodle” (brain.) Which might have some relationship to the head being referred to as a “noggin.” And then again … 🙂 .

    Quit a few people attempt to bring new products to market, in the hope that some big food conglomerate will swoop in and buy them out, for mad cash. It does happen, quit a lot. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is an example.

    Work ethic. Sometimes referred to as the Protestant Work Ethic. But, even if you don’t get it at church or home, there’s a lot of stuff floating around, out there, to warp impressionable young minds. Think of “The Ant and the Grasshopper.”

    Coming of age novels are actually a literary genre. It’s even got a name. “Bildungsroman.” So there’s a “same, same” feeling, to them. It’s just that some are better than others. But that’s pretty subjective. Mileage may vary. 🙂 .

    You’ll see more of floating buildings, as time goes on. Pretty common, around here, when we get floods. Houses, barns and chicken coops, floating down the river. Two of my favorite artists, Thomas Hart Benton and John Stewart Curry did flood pictures. Just Gargle there names and “flood” and they pop up in images. Here’s one that always sticks in my mind …

    Well, if you want that riverfront view, or rich bottom land for farming, that’s what you get, sooner or later.

    Haven’t heard what the Rev. is up to. But, I’d guess since administration isn’t around, on Sunday, he’s probably doing his usual little prayer group, and visiting a couple of shut-ins.

    Turns out Elinor’s relatives in Australia are … her great-grand daughter, lives in New Zealand. She’s married to a Pacific Islander … who was raised in Australia, and his parents still live there. Other than meeting the parents, briefly, at the wedding, she has no contact.

    Interesting article about New Zealand’s water. Pretty much what we’ve saw / seen, here. Our county used to have a lot of dairy farms, but they’re mostly gone, now. As the ecological rules became more onerous (depending on your point of view), they went out of business, one by one. It’s not sustainable, but people will make money, in the meantime.

    We have the same kinds of deportation problems, here. Young people that were brought here as babies, deported back to their home countries … and, often, not even knowing the language. Mostly, they’re not even crims. Depends on the administration.

    Oh, when I was banging on about the food boxes, that was both morning and afternoon. There were a few things I didn’t mention. Gallon jugs of grape juice (mostly high fructose corn syrup) and boxes of highly processed breakfast cereal. Lew

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