Sounds good in theory

It’s been almost a decade since I can recall a summer which was as cold and wet as this summer. And that one also followed on the year after an epic scale bushfire. Way back in 2010 was one such year and 1437mm, or 56.6 inches of rain fell over the farm. I’d never imagined that so much water could fall out of the sky in such a short period of time. There was water everywhere, and during one notable five day stretch of rain, 250mm or 10 inches of rain fell. It was a bonkers year weather wise, but we muddled through somehow.

During that now seemingly long ago wet year, we were still constructing the house, so vegetables and the orchard barely rated a thought. In fact looking back at the photos of the growing plants from that time, the editor might suggest if that was the case today, I’d be having a major freak out! This is what it looked like almost a decade ago:

Things were a bit different back in 2010! Even our now black chair was white.

Long term readers will note that the hard working trailer in those days sported a tidy rusty steel colour which has long since been upgraded to the present slick bright yellow colour. Plenty of people over the years have exclaimed at the sight of the bright yellow colour, and it is nice to hear the admiration in their talk, although I doubt they would follow suit and paint their own trailers that colour.

Observant readers would also notice that just on the far side of the rusty coloured trailer, there were many tiny fruit trees in the newly planted orchard. None of the fruit trees in those days were more than about four feet tall. Here is a closer view of the slowly growing orchard from those early days.

The shady orchard way back in 2011

Back in then there was no top soil to speak of. And even after two seriously wet years in a row, the orchard had hardly any grass to speak of. And the trees were really slow growing. You can see that early on in the above photo as each fruit tree had a hefty ring of composted woody mulch surrounding it. Trees of course require the minerals from dead trees in order to grow, and composted woody mulch was very cheap in those days. A cubic metre (or 1.3 cubic yards) cost under $20 to purchase, and we applied the stuff over the property with abandon. Over the past decade the price has almost doubled, but people still tell me with a straight face that inflation is negligible.

Writers are often also voracious readers, and such was the case with myself. Way back in those days I had no idea at all about growing plants, but I’d been reading about an intriguing concept called: ‘A food forest’. It is a complex idea, but basically it involves a diverse planting of edible plants which attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature. It is also described by the term ‘forest gardening’. It sounds like a good idea, in theory.

Being the rapscallions in charge of this juggernaut, the fascinating theory was soon put to the test in the orchards. Various herbaceous plants such as Alkanet (a Borage plant which grows really well here) were planted in the orchard. Even a vine layer was established in some areas. And sure enough with all the feeding and planting, and despite the occasional seriously hot and dry year, most of the plants all grew. But what happened next was what interested me.

The land here is in a very cool temperate mountainous location. Perhaps the food forest theory works in parts of the planet with more moderate climates than here. I can’t really say for sure, but implementing the dense plantings on this farm has produced some benefits, but also considerable downsides. And it is an act of wisdom to know when to abandon an idea.

Recently a decade old Eureka Lemon tree succumbed to collar rot. The disease is due to some sort of fungi-like critter, and the result is a dead fruit tree. The critters consume the bark of citrus trees, and they eventually ring-bark the tree. Planting support plants around fruit trees is encouraged in forest gardening, and it may provide additional minerals to shallow rooted fruit trees such as the citrus trees. But it also turns out that the increased humidity around the trunk of trees in this environment, also increases the likelihood of plant diseases. Some concepts just don’t translate to all locations I guess.

This decade old citrus tree is succumbing to collar rot caused by a fungi-like critter

Did I mention the rats? At night the many owls living in and around the farm hunt rats which are foolish enough to be caught on open ground. But in a food forest with all that dense planting, the rats can simply wander about under the protection of the dense plants with impunity. And rats are also clever enough to climb fruit trees and eat the fruit. That had to stop.

From what I’ve observed, the trees have not enjoyed the competition for minerals and water which occurs in dense plantings at this location. And candidly some of those trees have been very slow growing. Last week I removed the wallaby (a local forest dwelling marsupial similar to a mid-sized kangaroo) proof cages from around some of those slow growing trees. The surroundings were then cleared and the trees enjoyed a solid feed. Time will tell whether this strategy works.

Release the slow growing citrus trees from their cages

Not all the fruit trees are growing slowly. Those growing down hill of the paths of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime, appear to be growing quite well. So removing the supporting plants from around those fruit trees will further reduce the competition stress, and hopefully the plants can get on with the job of growing and fruiting.

A couple of Mandarin trees down hill of a limed path

As part of the whole food garden thing, we also trialled a vine layer in the orchard. And the passionfruit vines have frankly been a bit of a nuisance. The other day I removed a passionfruit vine which was strangling an otherwise healthy native lilly pilly fruit tree. Those native trees are meant to be as tough as old boots, but passionfruit vine sure appeared the tougher of the two plants.

A Passionfruit vine was strangling this lilly pilly

Who knows, perhaps the food forest concept was poorly executed here? But whatever the case, I’m now going back to what the old timers used to do, which is to allow for air around the trunks of the fruit trees. In addition to that I’ll continue bringing in plentiful mineral feed for the soil and trees. Where we have implemented such a regimen, the fruit trees grow rapidly and produce fruit. The other areas of the orchard, not so much.

Summer dropped by the farm for a cameo appearance this week. There were five days in a row with sunny skies and temperatures hovering around the 25’C / 77’F mark. It was all very pleasant. The skies were a bit smokey due to the state government finally getting around to doing its job of burning off some of the local forest.

Smokey skies and some fog on the ground in the valley. Pleasant weather!

The large rocks which were liberated last week from even larger rocks, were relocated and then added to the low gradient ramp project. The rock wall is starting to look like a breakwater!

Ruby admires the rock work on the low gradient ramp project

Another day of excavating clay took place on the future machinery shed site up above the house. We’ve sure moved a lot of soil over the past few months.

The site for the future machinery shed gets ever larger

All of the soil is being moved down the hill where it is being used as fill on the low gradient ramp project and also the flat utility area which is at the top of the ramp. The utility area is becoming quite long and flat.

The utility area gets longer each week

And each week the low gradient ramp becomes wider and more usable. However, there is still a huge amount of excavations, hauling and rock breaking work before those jobs are complete. These concurrently executed projects are extremely satisfying.

Ollie is impressed with the ease with which he can meander up the low gradient path

With the cold weather the tomatoes are growing, however they are really slow to ripen. There is a bit of concern that the recent rains will split fruit which has not yet ripened. Oh well, you do what you can do, and we have harvested any fruit that is ripe or close to it, and then dehydrated them and stored them in olive oil.

Last year was a tough growing season, but we ended up with seven bottles. This year we have managed to produce one bottle, so far

Some plants have adored the cold and rainy weather, and berries are one of those. It has not been hard to pick blackberries and raspberries and enjoy them for breakfast. We have preserved an incredible quantity of these berries in jams and wines.

Raspberries enjoy the cooler and damper growing season

The European honey bees, like most insects, just get on with their work, rain, hail or shine.

A European honey bee collects pollen from this lavender flower

Onto the flowers:

The mixed garden beds are doing well this summer and they are full of life
Salvia’s have enjoyed the conditions
I really enjoy the super hardy Californian Poppies
Gazania’s are so bright, they’re almost other worldly
The many Rose plants have shrugged off the cool and damp and produce joy and aroma

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 15’C (59’F). So far this year there has been 259.0mm (10.2 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 236.2mm (9.3 inches).

49 thoughts on “Sounds good in theory”

  1. Yo, Chris – I wonder what our summer will be like, weather wise? What with all the brushfires, globally, volcanos in Iceland and Etna in Italy … well, that’s a lot of particles, in the air. A slight pause in global warming?

    Famous yellow trailer? Famous Yellow Raincoat? (a song by the Beeb). Famous Blue Raincoat. Ah, more my style. Leonard Cohen. But, perhaps a song too far.

    Well, food forests are a nice idea. I’m sure some armchair expert, who’s never turned a spade of dirt, will show up and tell you exactly what you did wrong. Remember. You don’t need to respond to everything that comes your way, on the Net. Dead silence really bothers those people 🙂 . Rats under the vines. Where there are rats…

    “Born Free! Citrus trees,
    Free as the wind blows,
    For the wallabies.” 🙂

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Or, a waltz down (or up?) the new ramps. Looking good!

    The picture of the honey bee, is super. Your California poppies always look strange, to me. I know, I know. They come indifferent colors. But, around here, all we see is the orange. Lew

  2. Hi Lewis,

    Oh, well guess it takes a bit of gumption to learn to enjoy life on less coin doesn’t it? Between you and I, they’re missing out. But yeah, greed is most definitely a factor.

    Had a weird experience this morning. The newer dirt mouse vehicle has one of its brake callipers (that is the device which grabs hold of the disk brake when the pedal is pressed down) was manufactured at a noticeably off angle, and so we go through brake pads faster than would otherwise be the case. Took it in to be assessed as a warranty item and they said to me that it is within tolerances. I looked at the bloke with a bit of dismay, because he then went on to suggest that they install a replacement disk (which would not alter the situation) at my cost instead. Nice. I asked people I know in the biz and turns out there might not be anything I can do about it. You’ve gotta pick your fights. Acceptance is a beautiful state of mind but now with slightly wonky brakes – although it isn’t a safety issue.

    Catfish are unknown in this corner of the planet and so the noodling term would not be heard in that context. But I have heard the expression used in relation to jamming with musical instruments. And interestingly, the use of the word noggin, to refer to one’s brain is not unknown down here – it’s a carpentry term as far as I knew.

    People used to recently suggest to me that there was a market for selling local businesses at higher than market prices to overseas families in return for residency. But I’ve not seen that in action and it sounds like a bit of an urban myth.

    The shadow of Aesop stands tall over the years. And I noticed that a certain painting by the French artist Jules-Joseph Lefebvre held at the unusually named gallery down here depicts an example of improvidence which the story of the ant and the grasshopper hints at. Although as to her improvidence I can’t really say, but the lady has a certain appeal although admittedly there is an air of hard work for other people emanating from her. Yes, true and perhaps a different slant on the story was that the ant was avoiding hard work by telling the grasshopper where to go.

    Candidly, for me the genre is perhaps never going to be a favourite. The problem is that the characters seem rather self absorbed and as such it can be hard to empathise with their plight. In addition to that criticism, neither Holden nor Sinclair appeared to have to work for a living, and that makes their concerns that much harder to relate to. Do they both have something to say – absolutely, but perhaps I am not the intended audience for either book, but both books were enormously popular so what do I know.

    Having grown up in a house where I was the only male, you kind of had to learn how to be a guy, by observing other guys, and just basically absorbing whatever strategy worked. It’s possibly maladaptive, but you have a greater influence in the eventual outcome than other folks appear to enjoy. Dunno. But the existential pressures which Holden and Sinclair struggled with, might be a bit of their own making.

    Lewis, having a building be destroyed by a cyclone, tornado, tree or fire is one thing – having it float off and away seemed a remarkable outcome – but I’ll take your word on that and no doubt you called it. Once off, can soon become a future pattern. Did you notice that it was a rental property too? They’re thin on the ground up in that part of the world. Not sure that insurance covers such damage.

    Scored a tiny bit over an hour of sunlight today, and it is still raining outside. The local council decided to grade the road today, so it might be a bit slushy.

    What a painting! The poor mum had her head in her hands, whilst dad appears to be praying for salvation. One of the kids seems to be barely hanging on too. And did I spy a cat hiding there as well. An epic flood. And yup, you called it correctly, flood plains tend to flood infrequently. I’ve got a birds eye view of one such place in the nearby region – and have seen it under water. The farmer there always moves cattle and sheep to higher ground when this sort of rain threatens – it is a well run farm that one.

    On Sundays, whilst the fat cat is away, the mice do play!

    Well yes, things are different over the other side of the Tasman Sea on those two long islands. The islanders from beyond those islands I’ve met are mostly pretty cool, and the tree dudes are from such a place. Haven’t heard that there is flooding going on over there, but who knows what the future holds as it does flood there from time to time. The floods up north look pretty serious. I read the city of Sydney has had 10 inches of rain so far. If that happened in Melbourne… Ook!

    Dairy is a tough school. Given milk has Calcium and Phosphorus, well every gallon sold off an intensively run farm is less of that stuff in the soil and eventually no matter how good the farm is run – eventually the soils become seriously unbalanced. How can they not? I’m amazed every time I’m able to just wander down and purchase a half gallon (two litres) of full cream milk.

    Oh really? Well it pays to know the laws of land when you are not of that land – even if you’ve lived there for most of your life. There are plenty of industrial countries I wouldn’t want to get caught living in if the poop ever hit the fan. I’m sure you know plenty of examples yourself. The New Zealanders are pretty annoyed with us about it.

    Is it just me, or is there a lot of high fructose corn syrup in the boxes this week?

    Oh yeah, the mouse plague is biblical! The photos are horrendous. It follows on from the good harvest this year.

    Exactly, it is hard to know in advance, but if you chuck enough stuff into the atmosphere, well it cools down and gets rainy. That is not a good summer. And as long as you have access to water, a hot and dry summer is easier to grow edibles. It is the rain… A half inch has fallen here today and it is still going. And more is predicted for tomorrow.

    Had a home made pizza tonight, and due to scrimping and saving with the electricity usage today, we could use the electric oven. So far the new batteries on the house system seem to be working better – so far.

    Spoke with a mate tonight who has I think the second solar grid tied system installed in the state. He’s a good bloke. And we had a laugh about renewable energy systems. When they work, they’re good – but there is that little subtle disclaimer attached to that last observation.

    Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat. Very cool. His last gig was at Hanging Rock I believe, as was the guy from the Eagles and there was another whom I now forget. There is something eerie about that place.

    Thanks for the reminder and fortunately nobody has rallied the troops to come and get me and super-troll the blog. I’ll just delete them if they dare. 🙂 Take that ya pesky trolls. I always thought that Yellow Raincoats were required light house attire? Some of the remote lighthouses are still manned down here. You’d enjoy that experience, as would I!

    Thank you for the song, and yes who can forget that ear worm of a song. But the sentiment captures the spirit of: “hurry up and grow ya b!@#$%ds or I’ll feed ya to the wallabies” 🙂

    Definitely a stately waltz. And the ramps are standing up pretty well to the soaking they’re getting – and the water will help compact the clay. Just don’t try and walk on it right now.

    Thanks! The editor nowadays takes most of the photographs and I will pass on your kind words. Hmm, is there a blue Californian Poppy? That would look cool. Actually when they bloom in their natural range, they look amazing.



  3. Chris,

    Advice is an interesting thing. I tend toward the “think about it, see if it makes sense and will fit, then figure out how to implement what sounds about right” group. Some advice is useless, some very grand, most somewhere in between. I try to glean what is pragmatic out of most things.

    The trench dad dug was for the water pipes from well to the house. He wanted them DEEP so that they would be unlikely to freeze. It worked. However, we got many midwinter calls to visit and thaw the more exposed pipes in the crawlspace under the house. That was always at night, nasty wind and air temperatures bitterly cold even for Spokane.

    Thanks for another historical look at things. Experimentation of growing methods is important. It’s more important to realize when something isn’t working and to cease and desist. Doing things the “old” way is sometimes best, as maybe the kinks had already been worked out.

    We got a wee bit of drizzle overnight and Monday morning, but not much. We are in dire need of meaningful rain. For the first time in my 53.5 years here, I had to water some plants in March lest they die. I will gladly take some of your rain.

    In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re not. You’ve discovered that with the “food forest” theory. As soon as you mentioned the theory, I came up with a mental list of the probable problems. Then you discussed many of them, especially regarding trees.

    Good to see pictures of Ruby of the Floppy Ears.

    Those gazanias look awesome. Never seen them before. They seem bright and cheery.


  4. Hello Chris,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with your forest garden/food forest!

    The “one-size-fits-all”-mindset is prevalent wherever “modern” schooling has run its course. We learn to think in generalized models instead of making observations. So, I applaud your critical comparison of the model and the reality! (And Simon S’s similar post this week!)

    And wishful thinking (a.k.a. “lazy gardener” etc. promulgated in permacult gatherings) is rife. In society at large in connection to “future technology that will save us”. Here we have the dream of a “perfect garden design” that will just flood your kitchen with delicious ingredients. (Mini-rant about permanent culture: it is essentially impossible to know upfront what will work in a given place/situation. We only know afterwards if something works over a longer time horizon… The same with words like “regenerative agriculture” – we only know afterwards if a certain practice was regenerative in this place or not.)

    I have actually seen a couple of working food forest systems. Both are heavy on the tree side, and extremely knowledge-intensive and challenging to harvest. Extremely biodiverse oases, not only from planted species, but also from the insects and birds that move in.

    In the gardens and orchards that I manage, plant diversity helps to spread out the harvest over almost the whole year. Every month something different. For a home-use situation, that is excellent, but for most commercial sales it is challenging, since it is not really possible to mechanize and reduce work per kilo harvest.

    If you only do apples, it is easy to standardize and mechanize (or have tools to support) harvest, sorting, storage and shipping to customers. However, when you have 100+ species in your system, you cannot scale, and you need very flexible and skilled customers! (One of my friends delivers weekly produce to a high-end vegetarian restaurant out of a forest garden system, so at least in his situation it “works”.)

    I also appreciate your sharing of your brake caliper situation. Quite disappointing that the “customer service guy” did not understand the physics… You demonstrate your stoic side here! 😉

    Please continue to share your observations of the real reality.
    And thanks to the Editor for the beautiful photos!


  5. Yo, Chris – You might take a look down the rabbit hole, and see what other people have to say about the brakes on the newer dirt rat. Might be enlightening. Just more of the crapification (™ Chris) of everything. The latest supply line drama, from Idaho, is over carpets.

    We have many varieties of catfish, here in the US. I don’t know if the catfish that are noodled in our SE US have them, but here in the Pacific Northwest, ours have very unpleasant “whiskers”, barbs, on their snout. After my Dad would dispatch them, with a good hard thunk, he’d put on some pretty serious gloves, and remove the barbs with pliers. I vaguely remember, once, one had more life in him than thought, and caught my Dad across the palm, and laid it open. There was a lot of red stuff, flying through very blue air.

    Probably from my reading of our colonial history, I had a phrase rattling around in the memory banks. “A noggin of ale.” Turns out, in America, before 1850, a noggin was “a small mug or cup.” (wood?) Holding about a quarter of a pint. After 1850 it was used more for the old brain pan. Of course, going way back (in the Way Back Machine?) you had people quaffing high octane liquids, out of skulls. Wonder how they plugged all the holes?

    One hear’s all kinds of urban legends, here, about the government goodies bestowed on immigrants. At the expense of the native born. But I must say, it is a fact that some countries are easier to get into, if you have piles of mad cash.

    That was, er, quit a painting. Well, you know how it goes. Attach a vague allegorical meaning to a painting, and you can get away with almost anything. Well, anyway, you know, the French. 🙂 . Obviously, the young lady was rather short-sighted, and didn’t pack any winter clothes.

    Stands to reason. Too much time on one’s hands, leads to too much navel gazing. Hmmm. I wonder if some of the popularity of these books, is the yearning of the young, for what they see as the unencumbered life of a private (public, in some places) school lad? (I’ve lost the plot. Who is Sinclair?)

    I see in some reports on the Australian floods, they’re tossing around the term “hundred year flood.” The media did the same thing, here, and then we had two more “hundred year floods,” in less than ten years. So, they shifted to “500 year floods.” Seeing houses floating down rivers is pretty old hat, here. Seen one house floating down a river, seen them all. But, of course, every floating house represents a personal human tragedy. But, as you can see from the paintings, we have a long history of houses floating down rivers.

    Well, all that high fructose corn syrup, in our boxes, pretty much reflects what you find on the grocery store shelves, here. But the resistance to corn syrup is growing, and now you see a lot of packages labeled “No High Fructose Corn Syrup.” LOL, in some products that never had it in the first place. Of course, if you want to evoke the glow of healthy eating, around your product, you can go the double barreled approach and add, “Gluten Free!” Yes, I’ve actually seen that pairing, on packages.

    On that topic, something interesting happened, last night. I decided to have rice, with that sad green pepper, and half a can of tomato spaghetti sauce (along with a lot of other things). I almost opened a can of a fairly good brand, of sauce, and happened to check the ingredients. Yup. High fructose corn syrup. Further investigation of another can, from an off brand, and I discovered it had no sugar in it, at all. Of any kind.

    I don’t know about now, but here, in Ye Olden Times, yellow raincoats were pretty standard, for children. Higher visibility in our gray and rain soaked landscape.

    Yup. Watch that slick clay, on those ramps. When one reaches (ahem) a certain age, the cry goes up, “You’ll break a hip!” It’s often the beginning of the end, for seniors. Beyond a certain point, rehab doesn’t work, and the last stop is “assisted care.”

    The pictures of the water falls at Uluru, were really spectacular. Here in the Pacific Northwest, given our geography, waterfalls are thick on the ground, in all seasons. There are several hiking books, to access out of the way waterfalls. Back in high school, a favorite pass time (at least among my set) was to hike to the top of Multnomah Falls (Columbia River Gorge), have a picnic, and hike back down. With good mates and assorted girl friends.

    Gave H her bath, yesterday. Due to Elinor’s nagging, I haven’t trimmed her up, much. Due to her imminent trip to the groomer, any…day…now. So, the mats are coming thick and fast, now. She had one on her leg that defied soap, water and a strong brush. I ended up cutting it out. I had a thought though. I wonder if mats in animal fur is where the idea of “felting,” came from? Lew

  6. Hi, Chris!

    That yellow trailer must be one of your prized possessions. I am sorry to hear about the Dirt Rat’s brake issue, though. Really not fixable, in a permanent sense?

    We expect, and hope, to someday look like your early orchard when we get our new one at the back of the property going. I looked up your lilly pilly tree; nice stuff. I am not mentioning it to my son, however, or he might send away to Australia for one, which would be fun, but we have potted fruit trees of so many kinds already that I feel cramped.

    Thanks for all your insight on your “food forest”. The tiny bit I have dabbled with trying has turned out the same way your experiment did. It did not work well. The food crops that we need to produce, and the amount of them, just could not be produced under those circumstances. Maybe it is partly because we have such a shade problem. Anyway, rows in raised beds (they automatically become raised on at least 3 sides because everything has to be terraced on our hill) works best in our situation. Of course, with good enough soil, different types of plants can be planted together in at least some of the beds. But nowhere near trees!

    Ruby! One ear up and one ear down – I guess that means “thumbs up” for the ramp road? Right you are!

    What a lovely flat spot is the new shed spot. All I need to have the same is incessant hard work. Blah. Though I probably wouldn’t come up with a carbunkle in it. You never know . . .

    You may only have one bottle of dried tomatoes, but it’s a might fine one.

    Your pink California poppies always startle me. Thanks for all the rest of the flowers, too.

    I have now planted – just barely started, mind you – spinach, radishes, and peas. We are eating a lot of Mizuna mustard greens planted late last summer. In fact, we were able to eat some all winter, and it was a cold one. Last summer’s chard is still growing, also.

    How wonderful are the water falls over The Rock.


  7. @ Lew:

    Lew, you are a poet!

    What a great thought about how felting was discovered, and you owe it all to H.


  8. Hello Chris
    We are getting horrendous pictures of the Australian floods on our news. I hadn’t realised that the red centre was also getting rain and would guess that it is very welcome there.
    Have had my first day sitting out in the sun, sheer heaven but it is supposed to be getting cold again.
    Am very busy getting my containers ready for planting. Have just eaten my last leeks; they really are a superb winter vegetable.
    European bees are known here for skulking in their hives in wet weather. It is the old English bees which are darker in colour that go out in all weather.

    One used to hear ‘use your noggin’ when I was young but the phrase seems to have died out.

    I managed to fall last week on my way up to the post-box, another of those bramble man traps. Strange how time slows up in such circumstances, I was thinking ‘oh heck’ as I went down. But amazingly after my previous disaster, I managed to get up easily. The interesting difference is that I fell backwards the first time and forwards the second; always to the left as previously mentioned. I have a very bruised knee which clearly hit some stones but when it has recovered I shall try some experiments indoors. It appears that if I go backwards, I need to roll over. Dire warnings from a friend about not going down in a narrow space when I practice.


  9. Hi Lewis,

    An excellent idea and one I had not considered. Turns out someone else was having such troubles with their brakes and I discovered an in depth discussion on the subject: Front brake caliper mounting bracket out of alignment with rotor

    Thanks for the suggestion, and sometimes the best ideas are other peoples! But yes, it is all part of the great crapification, and I’m also aware that the place that I took the machine possibly are not that great at fault finding if nothing is obvious. I might refer the problem over to the mechanics I know who are much better at fault finding problems. Turns out a bearing may have been damaged or not correctly installed during manufacture and I might chuck some money at the problem.

    Catfish sound horrendous and the barb in your dad’s hand would have happened alarmingly quickly. Hope he had the chance to clean and bandage the wound given the circumstances? Of late I have noticed an uptick in people getting wounds seriously infected – and part of me wonders whether basic first aid like wound cleaning is practiced nowadays? I wash wounds in spirits – every time, it pays to be careful. It is funny how a lot of animals have all manner of protecting themselves. The platypus has a toxic barb on one of the feet. Apparently with the return of the rains, their population has increased: Platypuses follow up Black Summer with strong breeding season in Victorian north-east.

    Well, word on the street is that getting in down here is easier when you can access piles of mad cash. Allegedly the airlines are requesting inbound passengers to purchase business class and above tickets which is an awfully expensive proposition for most folks given the huge distances to get here. Then they have to stump the cash for two weeks quarantine. As you may guess there is little movement of people into the country. Unsurprisingly, it is cheap to depart – apparently risky to return.

    Haha! What a fine choice of words regarding the painting. Didn’t pack too many winter clothes indeed! 🙂 Thanks for the laughs.

    Sinclair was the protagonist in Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian. And you are correct, he did have far too much time which he spent in his own head, plus the central character was swept up into one obsession after another. But overall I enjoyed the story, although I’d recount such a story differently. It is interesting that you say that, and I recall that we conducted such a conversation many years ago. The word private has supplanted the word public in relation to schools over the past few decades – it was not always thus. And I’m curious as to the why of that particular change. Mate, people love private schools down here as (I’m guessing based on observation) it bestows status and bragging rights on the parents. As far as I understand things, if the kids aren’t interested in study, well I don’t believe that you can’t pay someone else to ensure that they will become interested. At best it provides an opportunity, but who can see and grasp an opportunity is another complicated question altogether.

    I don’t even know what that flood term means as it doesn’t convey any meaningful information? Floods are like bushfires, if it has happened once, it will happen again, but at least you can sort of moderate the bushfire risk – a bit. One of the dams near to the city of Sydney is apparently dumping as much water as is stored in the epic harbour which the city is located each day. That’s a lot of water.

    Such a possibility of a house floating down the river was a new one for me. Bonkers, but I accept your point that it is the same.

    Hehe! Another great spin word for food was the word ‘natural’. I guess Uranium is natural after all, so the definition could be extended somewhat, but it sure sounds good.

    Sugar is a preserving agent in food as it raises the acidity at a guess. No doubt, the other can of pasta sauce would have had to have some sort of preservative. Tomato for some reason produces some fun looking molds if not preserved well.

    The yellow raincoats were seen down here but they kind of stopped being used in the 70’s. If I recall correctly the yellow plastic was extraordinarily thick and the insides of the jacket might even have been lined. Clothes were different back then because they weren’t considered disposable items, and I recall ex-army winter jackets being commonly worn items during the winter month. Anyway, clothes were expected to last and they were better made with better quality materials and people wore them out. It was different times.

    It is a bit eerie, but the editor was talking about an older aunt where that exact thing happened. The broken bone was near to the end.

    Sorry it is very late and I will continue replying tomorrow.



  10. Hi DJ, Goran, Pam and Inge,

    It is the dreaded mid-week hiatus and I shall reply tomorrow evening.

    Yes, I freely admit that I am slack, and the siren call of some yummy food may have lured me away from replying to your lovely comments this evening.



  11. @ Pam – I was ordering some stuff on The River, the other night, and decided to look for blue eye’d daisy seed. Turned out the two offerings (with pictures of brilliant blue “eyes”) were from The Land of Stuff. Feedback was not encouraging. It’s a real problem, these days. Also, on E Buy. Seeds are either not as advertised, or, don’t germinate at all.

    I got stung, once, on something like that. I ordered from an outfit called “The Idaho Seed Company.” I wonder if the State of Idaho realizes they’ve been relocated, far to the West? Was I surprised when the customs package showed up from The Land of Stuff. These outfits hit and run. Frequently change their names.

    Now when I order seeds, I investigate more deeply, as to source. I did find a couple of US sources for the blue eye’d daisy seed. With some un-doctored photos. Not near as interesting (to me) as the bogus advertisements. But thanks for the effort. They would have been super, if as advertised. Lew

  12. Yo, Chris – As far as the dirt rat is concerned, to insure the health of the patient, I’d seek a second opinion. 🙂 .

    I ran across an interesting article, about a poor fellow who tries to be thrifty.

    Wait until he finds out those shiny new appliances are mostly plastic, last 3 or 4 years, and are unrepairable. If I were the one giving advice (me, being me), I’d tell him to shop around for a new wife. 🙂

    Yup. The best ideas can be other peoples, and so can jokes. But, I actually thought up a joke. But it depends on how hip you are to some conspiracy theories. And, in my telling, I use a brand name, which is inadvisable, here. Takes some of the zing out, but, here goes.

    “Besides a sore arm, I’ve only noticed one side effect of my first vaccine shot. I have the overwhelming urge to buy a (insert brand name) computer.” ( ™ Lew)

    Well, my Dad went to the grave with both hands and all digits, intact. Probably a bit of luck, and, given the life he lead, a pretty strong immune system. Which we’ve talked about before. That modern life doesn’t encourage a strong immune system. If I get a nick or cut, it’s strong soap and water, followed by hydro peroxide or rubbing alcohol.

    I’m glad the platypuses are doing well. They are odd little ducks. 🙂 . I was wondering about how they’d do in a flood, but the article mentions they do just fine. Darwin at work. I suppose the platypuses that didn’t cope with floods well, didn’t pass on their genes.

    100 year floods. Well, here’s a pretty good explanation. Depending on how you feel about statistics. 🙂 .

    Well, you remember what Mark Twain stated. “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Another overused food word is “organic.” Although here, there is some legality (rather weak) as to the use / claim of that word. I took another look at that can of spaghetti sauce (the good stuff), and the preservative seems to be salt and citrus juice.

    Which brings me to a book I’m reading. “Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions.” (Moss, 2021). Sugar, salt and fat light up the pleasure centers of our brains. Some varieties of sugar, more than others. High Fructose Corn Syrup really kicks things into high gear. The book is pretty interesting. Talks a lot about our genetic heritage, that predisposes us to food cravings. And, how “food memory” plays a big role. It also explores the very mysterious “natural and artificial flavorings” that you see on a lot of products. In very small print.

    The Master Gardeners were here, this morning. They did this and that. I mended a fence, hacked back the rose from the blueberry bush and cut all the water spouts I could reach, from the pear tree. I talked to Laveta about elderberry plants. Turns out she might have some, to gift me. She raises both blue and red (not as tasty … and too many can cause gastric distress.) She said she uses the red as a decoy, to keep the birds away from her other crops.

    We have an invasive weed here, that she told me something interesting about. You also have it in Australia. Of the family Brassicaceae (mustards and cabbages). Bitter Cress or Shot Weed. Turns out it has vitamin C and, some believe, cancer fighting antioxidants. I don’t think it will replace blueberries, any time soon. Lew

  13. Hi Chris,
    Everyone knows it you with the bright yellow trailer I’m sure. Thanks for relaying your experiences with the food forest. I have some friends who I’ve know for over 20 years and they have a food forest of sorts along with a small more conventional garden. Frankly I don’t see a great deal of production from either but especially the food forest. They are big proponents of permaculture and have had some success but while I think some permaculture practices have merit if you’re really looking for production I’m not so sure. Of course maybe I just don’t have enough of a handle on it. Another couple has a organic vegetable farm from which they make their living. They’ve had decades of experience and their produce is of very high quality. Each year they hire several young full and part time employees to help with the farm. One of them was really pushing permaculture and my friends had to convince him that it really wouldn’t work in their situation. As an aside, Gary was wrongly convicted of murdering his parents and was on death row until he was exonerated. Here’s an article about his case from 2000 and another about his farm.

    Glad to see Ollie again this week.

    Cool pics of the waterfalls on The Rock.

    Please thank the editor for bringing up “Where the Crowdads Sing”. I was off to the library the day I read about it here and picked it up. Enjoyed it very much.

    It’s rather dry here. There are some brush fire alerts. Each time rain has been forecast it doesn’t materialize as advertised. It’s supposed to rain today and Thursday but we’ll see. The outside work is beginning to ramp up.


  14. @ Lew:

    That is too bad about the Blue Eyed Daisy seeds; I had forgotten them until you mentioned it. I am very careful who I buy my seeds from. Oddly enough, I have had very good luck with the Livingston seeds from the Dollar Store at 25 cents a pack.

    We encourage Bittercress here (if it’s the same as yours). I eat it pretty regularly. Tastes like all the rest of the cabbage family and the little white flowers are some of the earliest out for the little bees.


  15. Hi DJ,

    Solid points, and glad to hear that you can filter advice through your accumulated experience. Hey, there is also the wonderful tool of doing nothing. A very useful option and like you I also seek for a pragmatic option.

    Of course, the soil freezes to a certain depth each year in your part of the world. That’s not even on my radar. Dunno about your part of the world, but hot water pipes are insulated here with a loose foam which wraps around the pipes. Not sure it would stop a serious freeze, but who knows? Whenever these things do break is at the most inconvenient time. I’m sure that there is some stated law about this problem?

    Yeah, the old timers had the right of it. Incidentally, Simon also wrote about this same subject at his place this week. There must be something in the water. Oh, that’s right, rain. Lot’s of rain. It is still raining outside right now. I would gladly send you some rain, and don’t worry about it, we’ve got plenty and then some to spare. 🙂 Think nothing of any obligation talk and don’t look too closely at the fine details.

    Ruby sends cordial tail wags. So are you intending to get a dog in all that free time which you have nowadays?

    The Gazania’s are bonkers. If a harlequin designed a flower, it would look like one of those. They’re awesome in their colours.



  16. Hi Goran,

    Thanks mate! And you know it is possible that such a plant arrangement works better in warmer locations, but I just don’t have enough firsthand experience. I used to write for the permaculture folks, and they’re well-meaning and have some good ideas which translate to all areas – such as zoning. But that food forest idea, I seriously gave it a go and have gone back to more traditional approaches.

    The only good thing to be said about the lazy gardener approach is that it will encourage people to get into gardening, and for some people, they’ll rise to the challenge. It is an old adage that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and gardening is work that hopefully people enjoy. Of course the more you produce, the more work involved in that activity and more importantly the more knowledge you have to put into practice. Oh yeah.

    But yes, those are excellent criticisms and I could not have begun this journey with a solid plan – the original plan would not have survived. And the more you seek out and engage with the land, the more possibilities present themselves to you. I’m sure you see this in your part of the world?

    Any intentional system of growing plants will deplete one or more minerals in the soil. Weeds (which is a harsh term) actually are the plants which will thrive on a patch of land in any one point in time. All else has to be tended to.

    Goran, I haven’t really encountered such a workable system in this corner of the planet. The trees can get pretty tall here and as the system ages, the productivity declines. Most people would be horrified to encounter a 20m pear or lemon tree, and those sorts of trees will dominate a system eventually and then the yields decline for the given area. Most of the older systems that I’ve observed are generally heavy on the maintenance side of the story.

    Yes, exactly, the economics of the story don’t stack up. And I too follow a path of greater plant diversity, but as you note it would be extraordinarily hard to achieve such an outcome on a commercial scale. But on a home or small holding scale, it works perfectly fine.

    And hey, even adding in additional genetic material via way of additional varieties of the same plants can extend harvest, but that approach rarely satisfies commercial interests or their needs.

    I pick my battles. Actually I intend to get the brake matter addressed, but it may cost me and I’m not in any great hurry – for now.

    Thank you for both thoughts and I will pass on your appreciation. 🙂



  17. @ Pam
    It is practising getting up or rather it is finding a way to get up. It is not practising falling down, something which I do with ease, As previously mentioned to Chris, I am a very relaxed faller. It is easy to get on the floor at home as there are various things to hold onto as I let myself down. So we shall see if I can always get up if I turn onto my front. Chris is nowhere near old age, whatever he thinks.


  18. Hi Pam,

    The bright yellow trailer has been a solid work horse over the years and I’ve lavished much maintenance upon it. It will be a sad day when it can no longer be repaired – but until then it’s a beaut little ripper machine! 🙂

    It is possible that the dirt mouse will have to be fixed, but I’ll have to pay for it unfortunately if I want it done properly. Some fights are not worth the hassle and you have to know when to let go of such matters. I’m sure you’ve experienced a few of those yourself?

    Good luck for your early orchard, and from little things, big trees grow – unless of course the deer or wallabies get them first. The cheeky scamps. The old timers used to use the lilly pilly fruit to produce jams so I’m guessing they are rich in pectin. You don’t have to send off to down under, I believe the plants are used as drought hardy hedging in California. Those varieties might not translate well to your part of the country so you’d have to seek out a cold hardy variety which are the sort I grow. Not that I’m trying to tempt you or your son. 🙂 Hey, the American paw paws look like they have finally gotten established and are enjoying the conditions. I grew them from seed which was really hard to obtain.

    The trees likewise dominate here, and it is the smaller annuals which require the most assistance – for all the reasons you mention. At least on the side of a hill you get to enjoy good drainage, which is good for the trees. Flatlanders can only ever dream of such excellent drainage! 😉

    Ruby is a lady of the finest breeding and distinction, and the unfortunate the delicate matter of her ears should not be mentioned in gentile company. Fortunately we’re a rough and ready bunch here, and I can only but agree with your analysis of her ear messaging system. 🙂

    Carbuncle! Almost spat my dinner all over the keyboard I laughed so hard. Well the beast requires to be dealt to, unfortunately.

    There are also white, orange, yellow and a yellow-white variety of California poppy growing. Super hardy plants.

    Mustards are such a great family of plants, and green mustard is a winter favourite here – it has quite the zing! Good stuff with the garden and that would be reasonably early for me too and it sounds like a nice selection of plants.

    It is hard to understand the sheer size of that giant pebble, but from memory the walk around the circumference is about 9km / 5.59 miles. It’s big. Here’s under a minute of video footage of the waterfalls in the arid-land: Waterfalls cascade down Uluru as severe weather brings heavy rain to NT. There’s been a lot of rain – and unsurprisingly it is still raining outside right now.



  19. Hi Inge,

    The flooding has been extraordinarily extensive across the eastern half of the continent, especially across the state to the north of here: New South Wales. Some of the locations recorded over three feet of rain in only a few days.

    Hope your daughter was OK?

    The arid lands in the centre of the continent aren’t quite deserts, so the rain will make those areas explode into life.

    Sitting out in the sunshine sounds wonderful. Spring is very much a case of two steps forward and one backwards. Our first moderate UV day will soon arrive, and it won’t be long before winter has us in its grip.

    It has rained a lot here since Sunday really, but it appears to be reasonably normal weather from my perspective. And the systems on the farm are coping well with the deluge.

    Yes, leeks are a real survivor and I was reading a book recently where the author made a strong case for growing them instead of the more usual onions. The author mentioned that there was an old saying as to a indicate a person’s innate wisdom in that they: ‘knew their onions’. Had you heard of such a saying before?

    The European honey bees are prolific harvesters, but when conditions are sub optimal, they do hide in their hives. Softies. I suspect they were only out foraging because whilst it rained, the air was also warm and there were breaks in the rain.

    The use of the term ‘noggin’ passed from general use down here when I was a kid. I can’t really say why that occurred? It is a carpentry term though and may not even be used in that trade much nowadays given a lot of house frames are made off site and then trucked onto the site.

    Glad to hear that you were largely uninjured with the fall. It is a real skill being able to fall, and if you’ve managed to fall several times already and avoid injury, I’d suggest to stick with what you know and avoid the novelties being suggested to you.



  20. Hi Margaret,

    Hehe. A fine point, and yes the locals do know the yellow trailer. Best not get caught thugging around in the car when the trailer is attached! 🙂 On a serious note, I drive reasonably carefully and am considerate to other road users, if they want to go past me on the dirt roads at higher speeds, I pull over and let them go. There is a lot of wildlife on the roads because the verges get mowed and with the sun breaking through the forest canopy, that that is where the fresh grass is.

    Well that’s a great observation and it matches what I’ve observed here. The more mature the plant arrangement becomes, the less productive it also becomes. I don’t believe that there is a free lunch in that story. It is equally possibly that I don’t have a great understanding of the matter either, but another school of thought suggests that if it is such a complicated idea to implement successfully, then perhaps it might be a bit too complicated? Dunno.

    Haven’t we all encountered true believers from time to time? I may have mentioned this story to you before, but it’s a good story and so bears repeating. I had a lovely chat once many years ago with a couple of local notables who had their hill station garden open to the public. A lovely garden, and lovely people. Anyway, they mentioned in passing that they sought assistance from an agricultural college, and some of the folks (who were getting paid) from there wanted to take charge. The lady of the manor said that her and her husband were the ideas people, they required the college folks to work and learn. 🙂 Truly their garden is spectacular.

    You’ve mentioned your mate Gary before and by all accounts he had a rough time of it. Hope he has not been too scarred by the experience, although how could it not do so?

    Ollie sends Leo and Salve cordial wags. And you scored a very deep: ‘woof! woof!’ 🙂 Ollie is a gentleman.

    In the reply to Pam there are a few seconds of video footage. The rock is massive and can be seen from a huge distance away.

    I shall pass on the thanks. The editor has likewise loved the book and has been urging me to read it. I have a book conundrum though, which you’ll probably find out about next week.

    Hopefully the rain turns up sooner or later. I would send you some if I could – we have had plenty and then some. The burn off restrictions were lifted here on Monday I believe. I noticed one or two early birds in the valley below the farm today. The smoke plumes were a dead giveaway.

    You’re in the growing season. It’s exciting! 🙂



  21. Hello again
    Daughter is okay
    I do know the phrase ‘know your onions’ but haven’t heard it for a long time. Difficult to know whether phrases have died out or whether I have too few contacts these days.
    My experiment is needed after the dire time I had getting to my feet the previous time that I fell as it looked as though I was going to be stuck until Son realised that I had vanished, which might have been a day later.

    Son has finally succeeded in snaring a rat which has been travelling through my walls and chewing as he goes. It has been really noisy at night. I have now had two silent nights so hope that he was a singleton. Rats are usually only up at Son’s place as there is food around because of his animals.


  22. Hi Lewis,

    Another excellent suggestion which I have implemented. The editors mum was fatally misdiagnosed so I have little confidence in official sounding pronouncements, which kind of sound officially wrong to me. It comes down to who pays the consequences of getting it wrong, and I sense a deeper problem with the dirt mouse which probably needs correcting. I’ll just have to stump the cash for it. Lest we forget the Pinto.

    Lewis, the article reads like a money themed Agony Aunt session! Ah, the reply did not tackle the spouse issue. OK, so my question would be: what is said spouse contributing financially to meet her desires? Certainly not enough information was provided in the article to make heads or tails about the relationship. The guy didn’t have a problem with money, he seemed to have a good handle on that. He did however have a problem with his ladies demands. And if met, will the demands be sated? Or once sated are they still hungry? I expect so. So many questions left unanswered. But you may have the gist of it, as some habits are hard to kick. 🙂

    Mate, you can’t win the race of keeping up with the Jonses by competing. The only way to win, is to simply ignore them. Let them laugh, it is of little consequence. Oh, that sort of grasping nature would send me bonkers.

    Oh you’re good! 🙂 Your humour is running hot tonight. I’m genuinely surprised you didn’t manage to work 5G or chem trails into it somewhere. Nice one!

    When I wrote that bit above about the Pinto, I was going to say something stupid about the Gipper, but after reading the story it just wasn’t a funny story. But you’re right and people are very casual about cuts nowadays. Much quicker to clean the wound than spend ages recovering from a near fatal infection. Oh yeah, I’ve seen a few of those situations over the past few years.

    You really are running hot today! 🙂 That’s funny about the platypus, and they are odd ducks. We’ve got their only other family member on the farm: Echidna’s. I keep the dogs away from them as it just annoys me and the Echidna’s. The dogs are a bit antsy tonight because the rain has had them pent up and waiting for some running around like crazy action. But even they step out into the rain, then turn tail. During the day they’ll be out for a few hours, but I have to clean them up when they get back.

    Thanks for the statistics lesson on one in a hundred year flood event. It makes perfect sense, it is just that the term can also be misinterpreted to produce a sense of unnatural ease – when it probably shouldn’t do so.

    Mark Twain is certainly onto the reality of the situation. I really enjoy his quotes in relation to dogs too. Lovely stuff. Interestingly, I’m observing a lot more dogs when I’m in the city. Mind you, there seems to be a lot of cars out and about as people are avoiding public transport due to the health concern which must not be named. Prices for second hand cars has been going up and the supply of new vehicles has become more restricted than it used to be. Weird huh?

    We’ve got laws in place protecting that word ‘organic’. Honestly though, I’m no purist and just for a random example, a hundred acres of just carrots no matter how organically grown can’t be a good thing for the soils at that location.

    Hmm Soylent green! Yum! Yum! I’ll bet that stuff needed a bit of sugar, salt and fat? The book does sound interesting, and the whole mess is a disaster waiting to happen. The older I’m getting and the more I learn, observe and experience about plants and soils etc. the more I’m coming around to the old school notion that we are what we eat.

    Have the master gardeners lent a helping hand to Eleanor? Good to hear you got to the hacking back of the rose job. How did the blueberry cope, do you reckon it will do better with the additional sunlight and reduced competition?

    Elderberries get quite big and shady, so I’d plant it to the north of your vegetables and even then a little bit further and out of the way. They seem to require only a good feed and not much in the way of watering. Actually to propagate them I’ve just chucked a thick stick in the ground and it took. The birds love the berries and I’m fine with that as exactly it is a great decoy. The flowers make a very tasty cordial.

    Oh yeah, that plant grows here alright – and the wildlife eat it. It looks like a small rocket plant to me, which is what it probably is.



  23. Hi Chris
    Enjoyed the blog this week. The look back in time was great . The pleasure you and the editor get from living with the present improvements to the property should be uplifting 😊 The soil work is something that needs more focus every where.

    One of our locally owned rental equipment stores painted some of his similar utility trailers bright yellow probably to improve visibility of late equipment return problems.

    With your rainfall your ground water should be pretty good unless it just all runs off?? Apparently with all the flooding there is that. Seems like water wells/ bores would be common in and near the high country. Maybe no good short answers.😧
    I’m planning some new efforts to growing tomatoes in half wine barrels again. I was getting old variety heritage tomato types which were really good till the grower retired. I may try them. Black compost mixed in will be my new friendly soil hopefully .

    Does the fix for the brake caliper involve a frame straightener machine ? Just wondering ? They work well!


  24. @ Inge – You to, can have an exciting future career as a Hollywood stunt woman! 🙂 . Lew

  25. Yo, Chris – Can’t quit shake the feeling it’s Friday. But it’s only Wednesday. Odd, that.

    Ah, yes. Who can forget the Molotov Pinto? “Unsafe at any speed.” 🙂 .

    Yup. Let’s just ignore the underlying spouse issue. The “third rail.” That blog has some interesting articles, about personal finance, but, also a running “advice” column. Usually I don’t read them, as they tend to sticky family situations. “My step-mother didn’t get much from my father’s estate. Per her prenup. But she thinks I should buy her a house.” kind of thing. But that one, caught my eye.

    After a nice day, yesterday, it’s pouring, today. But, starting tomorrow, we’re supposed to get a run of nice weather. H’s fur just seems to hold water. So, when I bring her in, when the weather is as it is, I give her a good toweling down. Not that it seems to help, much. There seems to be a lot more dog walkers, about. Especially early in the You Know What. Pandemic pups and people with more time on their hands, even the one’s who had dogs, “before.” That is weird about the cars. But, makes sense. At least here, car dealers (new and used) are more than happy to give you “easy” financing.
    Slice, dice and sell on a securities. Another bubble in waiting.

    “Tell me what you eat: I will tell you what you are.” Brillat-Savarin.

    He was an early foodie, and a lot of the threads of food and eating, as we know it, spring from him.

    Oh, Elinor gets help from the Master Gardener’s, if she asks for it. They propped up her box, year before last. When it comes time for The Big Move, I’ll help out, but they’ll do most of the heavy lifting. Her box is about 4′ x 8′. Right next to one of mine. So, generally, I do the watering and keep the weeds down. It’s waist high, so, easy to work. Other than garlic, chives and a couple of tomatoes she asked me to plant, last year, it’s in flowers. Glads, nasturtium, marigolds and sweet peas.

    Thanks for the tips on elderberries. I see you get a better crop if you have two varieties. And, rooting is easier if I soak the start 12-24 hours before putting it in the dirt. Lew

  26. Chris,

    Doing nothing is often my first option. It’s often the best option.

    I’ve insulated what I can with hot water pipes are sections that are inaccessible. In this house, the issue is if it gets too cold, the pipes from City Water can freeze on my property. Any damage is at my expense on my property, so the trick is to leave a trickle of cold water running.

    At the rental, the intake pipes from the well got into the open crawl space. Air temperature alone could get to them. During the first pipe thaw event, we installed electric “heat tape”. We also strongly suggested that the tenants keep some water running. Naturally, the following December, they forgot to plug in the heat tape while also forgetting to keep water running.

    Rain…As soon as I posted the other day, the rain started. Then thunder and snow, then thunder and hail and rain. Officially, there was maybe 4mm of precipitation. We likely got closer to 6mm. Then Wednesday it started in again and we probably came close to equaling Monday’s total, although the official amount is maybe 1mm. And it was between +3F and +5F all afternoon. That is a bit chilly for this late in March, but as long as we got rain, you won’t hear any complaints from me.

    So, per Pam and the carbuncle, does this mean that some of your Inconvenient rocks are Moby Rocks and others are Carbuncle Rocks?

    We haven’t decided about a dog yet.

    I used to catch catfish on occasion in some of this region’s lakes. I never noodled for them. I also studiously avoided their whiskers. I DID witness one young man catch a catfish, get overly excited and, well, something went wrong and the body, not whiskers, of the catfish whapped him in the mouth. Which I think would be considered canoodling the catfish?


  27. Hi Inge,

    Glad to hear that your daughter is doing OK. The flooding up that way has been intense and has not been seen for many decades, but on the other hand such an outcome is not out of the ordinary for that part of the world.

    Oh that is a possibility which I hadn’t considered. The author opined that the phrase relating to onions was because growing the plant successfully required careful selection and breeding of plant by adapting the variety to the latitude, available sunlight and climate. I grow brown onions here, but they are not the large size which most people are accustomed to enjoying.

    A wise precaution, and I had not realised the seriousness of the episode. To survive the fall relatively unscathed, and then suffer the indignity of not regaining your feet is an awful circumstance and yes it does require some consideration and practice on your part.

    Kudos to your son. Respect. Rats are wiley creatures and candidly they may be smarter or more determined than I as I doubt I could snare one. And they can chew electrical cables, plumbing, you name it so you’ve had some good luck there. Rats are all over the place here, although the more open the space becomes (i.e. paddocks) the higher risk they run of becoming dinner. I’ve even seen them climbing trees and living high up in tree hollows. My money is on the rats – The Decline and Fall of Western Civilisation – the rodent years!



  28. Hi Al,

    Thanks very much, and it actually becomes easier to live here as each year rolls on by. And the farm becomes more productive, even in years with no summer like this one.

    Mate, around the world, the soils have been flogged to death on the basis that minerals will be available whenever anyone decides to call for their need. An unwise assumption.

    Hehe! Yup, the bright yellow trailer gets attention. Candidly it is sporting some mud due to the recent rains…

    I look forward to hearing how your old school tomatoes enjoy things at your place. Tomatoes would enjoy the sunshine they get there.

    Nope, I wouldn’t straighten such a component as it might introduce metal stress. It is possible that the problem stems from a poorly seated bearing.



  29. Hi Lewis,

    That’s an awful feeling – and hope the world has righted itself for you? Had that feeling last Saturday which felt like a Sunday all day long. Mind you, it was nice to wake up on Sunday and enjoy a second Sunday for the week. Wouldn’t mind getting that loaned hour back soon as it is dark in the morning when I awake, which is something that I find lacks personal appeal.

    Molotov Pinto! 🙂 So true and the part which prevented the explosive outburst was either $10 or under that cost. Imagine being the person to make that manufacturing decision?

    No worries at all – the spouse issue would trouble me deeply, and I guess it is a strategy designed to wear down a person until they capitulate, but yes lets not discuss it further. Hey, isn’t the step-mother house demand dilemma the same thing? Expectations versus reality? I suspect at some point in the future, realities may fall, or expectations may fall, or both. Either way it will be an unpleasant ride. It was a good article and is a subject confronted by many, many people – and I explored it (despite words to the contrary) because I see it playing out around me. I tend to believe that the difference may arise due to a certain lack of involvement in one of the parties to the story. That can be rectified!

    It rained here earlier today, but now the sun is shining. It is possible that H receives too much bathing and it washes the oils from her coat. I never wash the dogs unless the have unwisely decided to perfume their coats with wombat poop, or worse. Instead to get them to a less washed state, I brushed them every day, and that removes the mats and keeps in the oils. Dunno, might be worth a try – and the fluffies are very neutral smelling. People with dreadlocks (dreads?) have to work their way to a similar state, but they don’t brush and in the early days it smells none too good. But it is the same process for dogs, although I have never owned a smelly dog. Sir Scruffy was a touch smelly when we first got him, but the change in diet and brushing and just overall running around sorted it out in a month or so.

    Mate, I have heard that all you need to get finance on one of those machines is a pulse. Not going there.

    Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin made it to a venerable age during those days and so he must have been onto something. I’ll have a read of it later.

    4’x8′ is a good size for a small raised garden bed – it is hard to reach into the centre of beds that are larger than that, and it was very thoughtful to raise it up.

    Thanks for the that tip, and I usually dodge that requirement by planting cuttings during wet weather. It’s a bit slack, but it kind of works.



  30. Yo, Chris – And then there’s the occasional disorientation, when one wakes up. Is the sun going up, or going down? Is it early morning or early evening? Well, today is Thursday, and feels like Thursday. But it doesn’t feel well anchored 🙂 .

    Go with the flow, roll with the punches … “Life on life’s terms.”

    H gets bathed every two weeks. That seems to work. A day or two before her bath, her coat looks really oily. Down right greasy. She used to scratch a lot. But, since I have her on the two week schedule, that has stopped. I think the water retention thing might just be due to her mixed breed background. Somewhere in her genetic woodpile, they lost the ability to shed water. One wonders at the evolutionary advantage. But, I think dog breeding has left evolutionary advantage, far behind. Some, not all.

    Brillat-Savarin was quit a character. And by observation, really stumbled on some food “truths” that the science, later supported. My favorite line, in the bio I linked to was, “He remained a bachelor, but not a stranger to love …” 🙂 Ah, the French.

    I watched a couple of bios on Agatha Christie, yesterday. What a prolific writer. And, a keen observer of people. And places. The only books that have sold more than her’s are Shakespeare and the Bible. Her play “The Mousetrap” opened in 1952 … and only closed last spring, due to You Know What. It will start up again, when lockdowns are lifted.

    I read quit a few of her mysteries, oh, 50 years ago. I do remember that I’d go back and re-read parts, to try and figure out which clues I had overlooked. Sometimes, I could figure out “who done it,” but mostly, not. Quit a few of her books were turned into movies. I checked the library, and they’re knee deep in the Miss Marple and the Poirot TV series, but hardly a feature film to be found.

    I think (and some of the talking heads in the bios agree) that her books were always slightly nostalgic, for a Britain (and world) that were rapidly disappearing. That was part of the appeal. Lew

  31. Hi DJ,

    Unfortunately yesterday I ran out of time to reply to your lovely comment. The Comedy festival is now running over the next three weeks, and with no local cases of the health subject which dare not be named to speak of, the editor and I travelled into the big smoke so as to support the arts, restaurants and hotels. If those businesses aren’t supported they’ll go away.

    The show was good, the meal was good, and the overnight stay was superb. That’s the trifecta as far as I’m concerned. But before we headed off into the big smoke yesterday, we had to work on paid work and time was unfortunately short for the nonce. We’ve both clearly done something seriously awful in a past life to have to work so hard now, but the rewards are there too, if you can but look past the hard work. 🙂

    The show was really good too, and as you could imagine focused a bit on mental health. The comedian was from the state to the north of here, and he mentioned that once in Melbourne it was like encountering a city populated by five million people suffering from PTSD due to the 4 month hard core lock down last year. He made a good point there. Oh well it is the job of the comedian or court jester to point out the obvious whilst hopefully avoiding the kings guillotine.

    Doing nothing is a wise move, although the court jester might not believe it to be so. But yes, if uncertain of the outcome, doing nothing is a wise option. Hey, knowing when to act is a seriously tough school of philosophy. It is an option which I learned only later in life.

    Oh, that puts you in a difficult situation with your water supply. Down here the water authority is responsible to the point where the water gets to the meter. After that, well it’s the householders problem. Interestingly I’ve observed plumbers correcting issues with the meters and the inlet valves to the property by freezing the pipes solid before the meter, and then working quickly to correct the problem. It’s pretty clever really.

    Ah, your dad learned the hard way that there are things that you can control, and then there is everything else… What do you do? Even when it is in people’s best interests to respond to a particular circumstance in a certain way, it does in no way mean that they will do so.

    Nice stuff with the rain at your place. And I quite enjoy a thunderstorm and the rapid change from warm to cold that it brings to the atmosphere. It’s kind of refreshing, although I doubt the weather at your place is too warm at this stage of the year. The local weather station which produces the rainfall stats for this area sometimes has less rainfall than what actually fell here, and that was the case the other day. Rainfall is a very localised matter.

    The editor will insist upon the usage of the Moby (body) rock moniker, but I’m cool with whatever anyone wants to call the inconvenient rocks. Pesky critters, but hey, I know how to deal with them.

    Cue Dirty Harry: Now in all the excitement I’d forgotten whether I’d made five drill holes, or was it six? The question is Moby (body) rock, do you want to chance that it was only five holes? So are you feeling lucky punk rock? Well, are ya?

    No doubts you just dodged my dog question. Respect for your slippery inherent nature.

    🙂 Fish are not to be canoodled or trifled with! I quite enjoy the English desert trifle, but in these enlightened times it is rarely seen. The loss is ours…



  32. Hi Lewis,

    The Comedy festival is on down here for the next three weeks. With no cases of the health subject which dares not be named, the editor and I travelled into the big smoke and attended a comedy show yesterday, had a delightful dinner and stayed overnight. Had breakfast in the Royal Arcade this morning at a little lane way cafe and basically the experience could overall be rated as ‘Highly Pleasant’.

    Behind the scenes and earlier this month, I made a bit of an issue with the editor and forced her to book the night and just hope for the best. The state gobarmint has some extraordinary powers in place until December, and we didn’t really know whether the bookings would eventuate because of the super-crazy lock down which occurred at this time last year. The comedy festival was cancelled last year after all. The editor had a feeling that the past may repeat itself. However, my thinking is that if we don’t support such creative and entertainment related endeavours as food and the comedy festival, they’ll go away like much of the gobarmint support which is disappearing at midnight tonight. Oh yeah, the future awaits…

    What I observed in the big smoke was quite interesting.

    As you are a fan of the colour blue, I will recount a story which the comedian spun. Upon moving in with his girlfriend, they bought a dark blue couch. The girlfriend then went away for the weekend and (without further instructions I may note) requested that the comedian (Michael Hing) purchase additional items of furniture and household goods. As his brain works, he asked himself what colour goes with blue – well of course as you’d know the colour was blue. So he bought lots of blue stuff for the house. He said he crushed the request and had everything done and installed by the end of the weekend. When the girlfriend arrived home and was confronted with the total psychic wall of blue, she was dismayed. Dismay apparently rapidly turned to anger and he got yelled at for 25 minutes (who’s counting?) and the label of ‘autism’ was thrown around. I tend to side with the comedian on this matter as further instructions were not received!

    Curious minds want to know whether Friday presented itself to your good self as Friday should do so? Friday’s are distinctive occasions and sensitive souls (and here I include myself and yourself) know that they differ markedly from their Thursday peers. 🙂

    You’re probably right about the genetic loss due to selective breeding with dogs. And it is funny that you mention ‘scratching’ of H’s skin and coat. Most of the dogs (but not all) which turn up here on the farm go through a casserole dog phase. The casserole refers to the odour which is emitted from their inflamed skin. The upshot is that they initially get itchy patches of skin, much like H. Eventually they get over it and the dogs grow luscious and glossy coats and hardly seem irritated at all but it takes a few months. I became curious about the matter, and even took Sir Scruffy to the vet many years ago – who suggested that the irritation may have been caused by a yeast on the property. Yeast being a fungi after all. So I began trialling natural remedies and the most effective for this particular yeast seems to be a small chunk of coconut oil to their breakfasts. Now here is the weird thing, after a suggestion by the editor, I’ve begun adding a small chunk of coconut oil to my breakfast as well on the off chance that it assists with the small patch of eczema on my hand and it appears to be of some benefit. It is possible my diet had been too low in plant fats, but I don’t really know.

    Ah, the French have a lovely way of acceptance in relation to how things sometimes work in the real world. About a decade or more ago, the Prime Muppet of the day made some comment that marriage was a sacred institution on religious lines blah, blah, blah. As a kid I enjoyed the experience of several divorces and the prime muppets imprecation fell on deaf ears here if only because I knew: So, how’s it working out? Turns out about half of all marriages end up in divorce and so the talk exceeds reality by a considerable margin. 🙂 But you know, it makes a good story I guess.

    The editor’s uncle likewise had a flair for the organ and was called upon to play the instrument for the pleasure of others as well as being gifted with languages. Some folks are put on the planet to make the rest of us look bad! 🙂 But Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was one such. I read with admiration his delightful ode to his most beautiful cousin (French is such a lovely language) Juliette Récamier: “Madam, receive kindly and read indulgently the work of an old man. It is a tribute of a friendship which dates from your childhood, and, perhaps, the homage of a more tender feeling…How can I tell? At my age a man no longer dares interrogate his heart.” It’s a bit pervy to be sure, but also a stunning use of language. Beautifully written.

    Oh! I began reading the wikipudding article on the play and got to the section which was titled: ‘Identity of the murderer’. It’s just not cricket ol’ chap! And I defer to the wishes of the author in this regard.

    Yes, I agree a bout of nostalgia can work quite well, but which era is the question? There was a series a year or three back which harked back to the early 90’s (Stranger Things) and having been there I had little nostalgia, but it struck a chord with others – so what do I know?



  33. @ Pam – Ah! Dame Margaret Rutherford. My favorite Ms. Marple.

    One of the talking heads, in the documentary I watched talked about “Cozy Cottage Mysteries.” A sub genre of the genre of types of mysteries. She said, “A sweet old lady having tea with the vicar … and arsenic in the crumpets.” 🙂 . Lew

  34. Yo, Chris – Wowie, Zowie!!! I walked home from the Safeway, just before 9pm. Sat on the garden wall, to catch my breath before tackling the stairs. Scattered low clouds and a gorgeous full moon. I looked at the moon and saw this …

    It was really moving slow, and I thought it was either a plane going down or space junk. I watched it until it went over the ridge. Waited to see if I could hear an impact. Nope. Got to my apartment and called 911. They had had reports, and said our FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) said it was “an astronomical event.” Most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen, in the sky.

    Sound like you had a great trip into the big smoke. LOL. That comedian was funny. One knows that if you’re going to go for a single color palate, ya need to have a lot of different shades, and relieve it with white, black or gray accents. Ah, well. The poor guy tried to satisfy the girl friend. Small thanks he got for that.

    Yup. Today feels like Friday. But yesterday, a few times, it felt like Friday, already. Maybe I’m becoming unstuck in time? 🙂 .

    Once we got H on regular baths, and a grain free diet, the itching stopped. Also, cleaning her ears on bath day. I used to get a lot of gunk out of there, but now, hardly any at all.

    Well, we all shine, to a greater or lesser extent, at something. You, growing plants and … splitting rocks. 🙂 .

    I really like “Stranger Things” and am anxiously awaiting season three, on DVD. I’m watching season one of the series “Lovecraft Country.” It take place in the 1950s. Hmmm. Sometimes I’ve noticed, when they update a series, they change the time period. Put it “in living memory.” See: “The Father Brown Mysteries.” The first time around, it was set in the 1930’s. Father Brown was a veteran of WWI. In the newest series, it’s set in the 1950’s, and he’s a veteran of WWII.

    People are going crazy, around here. Last night, Elinor told me she was miffed at her caregiver. She told her to carry her pill bottle, in her left hand, when putting it in the kitchen. But, she carried it in her right! Why? Because the top might fly off the bottle, a pill fly out, land in the dog’s water dish, and kill her! LOL. I kind of lost it. “Excuse me, but where the hell do you come up with this stuff?” Nope. Could happen.

    Then, I got some paperwork, from the office. It’s the yearly financial survey. Am I hiding piles of mad cash somewhere, and should my rent go up. Well, I thought it looked familiar. “Please sign in highlighted areas.” Well, when I flipped it over, there was my signature, bold as brass. I had signed this paperwork, two weeks ago, and turned it in. I think our building manager (errr, Assistant Housing Director), is losing it. Lew

  35. Chris,

    Cool! You got a small holiday. Good for you and the Editor! It sounds like you had a very good time and a well deserved pampering. A good show and food and an overnighter? That’s something we all need once in awhile.

    Wasn’t part of the job of court jester to point at the obvious and what the king is neglecting, etc. As long as it was bordering on humorous, it was all well and good. Methinks it’s best, however, that the court jester not become king.

    Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean that it should be done. Learning that, and timing of action when it IS needed, is hard to learn. Seems to be a “late in life” thing to learn, as it requires life experience to know that these are even questions.

    The water thing is actually the same as yours. Our water meters are at the property line and are read remotely somehow. There is also a meter in the basement, which used to be the official one. I’ve checked the basement meter against the water bill several times and the two have always been in agreement when I’ve checked. And yes, when the official meter was in the basement, a “meter reader” had to enter the house once a month to read the meter. If nobody was home, a form was filled out and mailed in with the current reading. Similarly, the electric and natural gas meters are in the back yard, used to have a company meter reader enter the yard to read them monthly, but those are now remote electronic gizmos.

    Learning what is beyond one’s control is VERY important. I was musing on that this morning, actually, having arrived there from a different direction. The Princess and I have (had) plans for Sunday morning before her next venture to see her brother. But, she was watching a morning news program on the telly, and they discussed the upcoming Sunday afternoon windstorm with gusts expected in Spokane up to 80km per hour. Meaning higher out in the desert where much of her trip is. So I verified with different weather services online, and the Sunday plans changed so that she can leave earlier and miss the worst of the storm. Don’t want to be on the road on her route with that much wind – blowing sand and bad visibility, you know. Nature is in control of the weather, not us. Accept, adapt, move on.

    Our home is rather near what is called “Five Mile Prairie”, which is maybe 150m or so higher than us. It is often just enough elevation difference to cause slightly increased rainfall here, what I call “the Five Mile Effect”.

    NICE method to introduce Dirty Harry. I read that shortly after the disappointment of the change in Sunday events. The humor was both timely and welcome.

    Hey, I used to be a bureaucrat. Dodging questions is a requirement. 😉

    Many food favorites should be held sacrosanct. Yet, some ignorant fool will trifle with them and disappear them regardless of how sacred and delicious and worthy they are.


  36. Hi Lewis,

    A tidy Frank Zappa quote. 🙂 There must be something in the water in your part of the world because the good Professor also encountered spatial anomalies of the unknown kind: Secret Rocket Launch. Alien Visitation, or Meteorology? Probably a launch, but then again, aliens may indeed walk among us! 🙂 Honestly though, I don’t know why they’d bother doing that because if they could travel between one star system and another then we’re in for a whole bunch of massive dog poop sized trouble.

    The images of the rocket chunks returning to the surface would have been amazing to watch and you were lucky your timing was good. There is a lot of stuff up there in low Earth orbit with more added all the time. It is very likely that if anything was to go wrong, then the whole bunch would turn into the worlds biggest pinball machine. It would look kind of cool, but at the same time my brain would be shouting at me to forget about the sky show and watch instead for the Triffids!

    It’s good to be in the right place at the right time for such a sky show. As a wee young thing I still recall the vast uncertainty surrounding the exact location as to where Skylab would eventually land. And I can assure you large chunks of that did indeed land, if only because I’ve seen them in a remote museum in the south west corner of this continent. You wouldn’t have wanted to have been hit by a chunk of that machine as the chunks I saw were quite large.

    Just went on a deep rabbit hole dive on space stations over the years. Who knew that there were so many of them? And the old foes of your country appear to have had far greater sense because they at least had a tiny supply of vodka and cognac on board the Mir station. Socially, it is very important to celebrate the occasional win, and the editor and I always hold a review of the day and ceremonial back pat after a hard day’s work. Why other people don’t do such things is a true mystery to me.

    And it was not lost on me that all of those space stations eventually fell back to the surface. The Earth demands its own. Ah, I see that there is apparently no plan for the International Space Station re-entry. Well done us. At 420 tonnes, what could possibly go wrong? All very good.

    Your guess that what you saw was space junk was a goodie by the way.

    The trip into the big smoke was fun and the comedian is pretty funny. The show of course contained a bit of talk about overall mental health as that is a concern of the youth, and he mentioned that when he arrived in Melbourne it was like encountering a city full of people suffering from PTSD due to the four month hard lock down last year. That scored some uncomfortable laughs. I hear from friends that there is a general return to work on Monday, which being in small business is hardly a new state of affairs for myself. I asked them how they were going to cope, and it turns out that what returning to work means in practice is that they return only two or three days per week. Lewis, I must be out of my freaking mind to be working my backside off in small business – the cushy stuff seems to be in big curporates and gobarmints. Oh well, moving on…

    You’d have to sort of guess that the comedian learned a harsh lesson about decorating despite the excellent use of a blue colour palette, and the girlfriend learned a harsh lesson about providing clearer instructions – and nobody was happy as a result. As an outsider, it’s pretty funny though. I’d guess that neither may make the same mistake again. Nope. They’ll make new and interesting mistakes instead. A fun journey!

    When in the big smoke I noted that the lovely and virtually unchanged cafe Pellegrini’s still looked the same and was doing good business. And also the Paperback bookshop was open. Both called to me their siren songs of ‘come and check out the wares’. Unfortunately we had to work on paid work that day and got into the big smoke too late. The loss is real. I tell you truly, there were a lot of empty shops and for lease signs in the big smoke.

    Lewis, have you accidentally slipped into a spatial anomaly? This would make our regular pleasant conversations rather difficult. Imagine if you were a day ahead and I had no idea what you were talking about? I suggest that you keep an eye open for the sort of strange occurrences and events which accompany these pesky and basically unsolvable anomaly problems. Especially watch H closely as she would be more alert for such mischief.

    Mate, candidly there are a lot of grains in pet food. They’re cheap to add.

    The editor likewise enjoyed the series Stranger Things. Ah, it much interests me that Mr Lovecraft was an avid letter writer in his later years. From that era, Howard speaks to me more than does Lovecraft, but I acknowledge the authors supremacy of vision and words. Hope you are enjoying the series?

    Eleanor was very fortunate that she was not in Melbourne last year because down here we did crazy, right and proper good strange things during the lock down. 🙂 Mate, some people can get a bee in their bonnet about minor things, and I just shrug and move on. Hope that Eleanor’s caregiver was OK and that Eleanor has given up the pill-hand-fight?

    As to the paperwork, well folks appear to me to be struggling with giving things the proper attention that they are due. Yes, I’m seeing a bit of that around the place. I manage such dilemma’s by pointing out to people that: as a guy I’m capable of doing one thing at a time, and no more than that. Works every time and I recommend the use should you be required to do otherwise.



  37. Hi DJ,

    Thanks mate, and it was only the second night away during the past twelve months. The four month hard lock down last year put an end to such things, although our pleasures are simple anyway and we rarely travel far. There was an outbreak in the capital city two states to the north and that will mess with easter travel plans for many: What are the coronavirus travel restrictions around Australia as Easter approaches? If you can follow all that, you’re doing better than I. Masks are still required on public transport for some reason, but not elsewhere. I was on the train earlier today.

    Ooo, yeah. A court jester as a king. What a horror, it would be like putting the philosophy department in charge of a University. You make a solid point.

    It might surprise you to learn that it took me a while to learn as a young bloke that sometimes no response was the best course of action. And I agree wholeheartedly, timing of action and weighing up the possible courses of action does require life experience. I tell you truthfully that as a kid home life was a bit odd and different from my peers and so it was easy to learn what not to do. However, learning what to do and when, well that is a whole different story. And how else to learn other than observing others, study and of course the good old school of hard knocks.

    In urban areas down here, the water meters are usually near to the street so that the meter reader needn’t enter a property. But when there was a tall fence, or a big dog like say Thordog who might take off the arm of the fearful meter reader (don’t show fear in such a case), they’d also leave those cards to fill out, phone in the reading or mail it in.

    Have I mentioned to you that despite providing all of the water infrastructure here at my own expense, the cheeky scamps at the nice water authority still send me an annual bill?

    I don’t actually know how all those remote meter readings take place. And you’d certainly hope that nothing ever went wrong. Imagine if the meter reader robot somehow got the reading wrong. The nice billing robot began chasing you for payment of the wrong bill. You couldn’t get past the robots on the phone in order to get the problem corrected. The even nicer debt collection robots began selling your credit rating down the river as they begin legal processes? Oooo! What a nightmare scenario. I see that Mr Greer is suggesting writing entries on future fiction, that’d be a goodie (might forward it to my mate Simon as he writes better and funnier fiction than I).

    Very wise to have dodged the possible wind and sand storm. I mean look what happened to that huge ship in the Suez canal with the alleged sand storm? Best not to replicate such disasters.

    Thanks for mentioning Five Mile Prairie and some of the scenery looks epic. It reminds me a bit of some of the warmer and drier areas to the north and south of here, but of course with eucalyptus trees instead of your pine trees (both of which are notoriously flammable). And the elevated plains surrounding this small mountain range are very different to the conditions you’ll find at these higher elevations. Yup, one thing is for certain, there is a lot of difference between one location and another – even when they’re not that far away as the crow flies.

    For some reason in my mind, possibly due to our many Clint Eastwood discussions over the years, Dirty Harry keeps on hanging out in my imagination. Is this a good thing?

    Well fortunately for all of us here, that question dodging evasive technique number six which you have mastery of, can now be a thing of the past. If such techniques were lucky for the wielder they’d be evasive technique number seven, yet they’re number six. 😉

    Yes, now that you mention it ‘trifle’ is a favourite food. Yum! Hehe!



  38. Yo, Chris – I didn’t know that was a Zappa quote. There’s a new Zappa documentary out, on DVD. Wonder if the library will get it? I thought Zappa and his fans were interesting as a cultural phenomenon, but can’t say I cared much for his music.

    I’d say aliens would steer clear of planet earth, as they probably see the place as one big insane asylum … and it might be contagious. 🙂 . Yes, I saw the Prof. Mass post about mysterious cloud formations. I don’t know why people yearn for a “close encounter,” as it seems that they mostly end badly.

    Yes, I remember when Skylab came down. And there was another one that landed in Canada. The thing is, a lot of those have small nuclear reactors, on board. And, they’re the last things to burn up. If they burn up.

    My first thought was an airplane going down. The second, space junk. Somewhere down the list was, “Will I go blind now, and have to dodge Triffids?” 🙂 . I can see where our ancestors imagined flying dragons. Blazing eyes (the big bits) and golden shiny scales, bright like the sun, even at night.

    “Working your backside off, in small business.” Yes, but look at all the freedom! 🙂 I say that with tongue firmly in cheek. But really, it’s six of one, half a dozen of another. But think of all the bad bosses you’ve had. At least you don’t have to put up with that.

    I’m glad Pellegrini’s and the Paperback bookshop, made it through. Pellegrini’s has such a long history, they probably have seen hard times before, and have more of an idea of how to ride them out.

    Another of H’s golden attributes is that she’s really good at self regulating her eating. Eats when she’s hungry, and not just to empty her bowl. Never gains weight. I took a look at the ingredients in her dry dog food. Most ingredient lists are laid out with highest contents at top, and traces toward the bottom. Her list runs “turkey meal, peas, garbanzo beans, sweet potato, potatoes, poultry fat, dried beet pulp, salmon oil, dried seaweed, blueberries, cranberries, parsley, spinach, carrots … etc.. It’s a bit expensive, but, I can usually find an 11 pound bag, on sale, for $18. As she doesn’t eat much, it lasts a good long time. During the early days of You Know What, dog food was hard to find. We now keep a back up bag, at my place. Eleanor also slips her cooked green beans, carrots, and the rare piece of fried egg. She likes her veg!

    In Lovecraft’s day, (sweeping generalization ahead) everybody was a avid letter writer. I didn’t know if I’d like the series, or not. It’s 1950s Jim Crow America, told from an African American point of view. Overlaid with Lovecraft horror and the supernatural. If there’s a second season (that’s up in the air), I’d watch it.

    I watched the film “Songbird,” last night. About a pandemic and lockdown, far worse than what we’ve been through. The stray thought crossed my mind, “I wonder if this is government financed? See how much worse things could have been? Count your blessings and quit whingeing.” The DVD extras went on too long, but it was interesting in, how do you film a pandemic movie, during a pandemic? The two leads (star-crossed lovers!) were kind of vapid, but, a lot of the supporting characters were really interesting.

    Everybody in the extras kept banging on about how it was “just like Romeo and Juliet!” Well, no. More like Pyramus and Thisbe. But, I suppose more people have an inkling who Romeo and Juliet were, but not one in a thousand would have heard of Pyramus and Thisbe. Anyway, I thought the film was worth a bowl of popcorn, but then, I enjoy a good disaster film.

    Saw an article about problems with storing root crops, due to global warming.

    Costs will go up, of course. I’m planting more root crops, this year. Trialing them. Turnips and parsnips, besides the old favorites. See how they do. But will I eat them? 🙂 Lew

  39. Yo, Chris – More on supply lines and inflation.

    We’ve talked about closing down coal fired electrical plants. Now, there’s a movement afoot to breach four hydro electric dams on the lower Snake River. Due to salmon.

    In local news, there’s a huge distribution center, that’s on hold, for now. It’s for a mega-retailer, and would service five states. The problem is, the huge chunk of property is 20′ higher at one end, than the other. It would take several million dollars to fill it in, and level it out. On the other hand, this is all wetland. Filling it in would probably make us more flood prone. Lew

  40. Hello Chris,

    Great to hear that you and the Editor had a relaxing comedy night out!

    Regarding fruit trees and productivity, it is not easy to make it work. Indeed, a 20m high pear tree is quite useless. All the fruit is far too high to reach. Without pruning, European pear trees end up in the heavens. That is why nowadays most pears are grafted onto quince rootstock, to avoid skyscraping trees. In the old days, it was achieved by yearly judicious pruning. (as you say – maintenance!)

    Without sufficient replenishment of manure/mulch/compost, any plant will destroy the fertility. In the excellent book “De Re Rustica” by Columella, written AD 50 or so (available in English at project Gutenberg), the orchard owner is instructed to dig out the trees after fifty years and use the land as grazing grounds/meadow. (And to cut down some more old-growth forest to plant new fruit trees and grape vines. A strategy that obviously only works for a while…)

    On the other hand, I think that trees are quite easy to maintain, compared to my vegetable garden. Maybe it is due to my own insufficient growing skills… But per kilo apples, compared to e.g. per kilo carrots, I spend a lot less time in the trees… And some trees are just great to let go and grow big, like nut trees, where the harvest rains down on us in the fall.

    Beware of the billing robots! In The Netherlands, we had a tragic episode 2011-2018 where a clever civil servant connected a country-wide insurance database with a country-wide vehicle database and generated automatic fines for un-insured vehicles. (because formally, they must be insured, even if you don’t drive…) The fines were computer processed and if not paid, automatically increased.
    Quite a lot of people had oldtimer vehicles in a shed, which they never drove, and if they missed the first letter, they would get a hefty fine that just kept increasing. A woman I know was on a several month journey when this started and she came home to an unpleasant surprise. In total 18000 people were even put into prison for a week or more for these automatically generated fines before the practice was discontinued…
    Some people claim that the computers/robots don’t take our jobs, they are our managers.
    I hope you will never come into this position, especially not with your water service company! 😉

    Enjoy the weekend,

  41. Hi Goran,

    Thanks! 🙂 It was a fun night and the comedy festival here was previously one of the biggest on the planet. Last year the festival was cancelled, and this year it is very local. Comedians and other folks in the entertainment industry are doing it super tough economically this past year and they need support.

    Some of the pear trees here are already about 6m in height and I believe that I’ll let them grow higher again. Of course things are different here than where you are, and you may not experience a drought year with successive heat waves (think 40’C+ in the shade). So, my thinking is that what is above ground with a fruit tree is also apparently what is below ground with the root systems. And fruit trees with larger root systems will be able to better scavenge water from the sub soil during such extreme weather – which does happen.

    About maybe three years ago I did a summer grafting course at a commercial orchard to the north of here. The family had been on the property for at least three generations, and the old bloke told me that when he was a kid, his dad used to get him to climb the much taller fruit trees and pick the high up fruit. He said to me that these days, people would be unable to climb two steps onto an orchard ladder without there being some sort of liability drama.

    A very astute observation on your part. Yes, where do you go when there is no old growth forests to speak of? I’m not mucking around with the soil re-mineralisation activities and most weeks possibly up to 80kg of stuff gets chucked around the three orchards – maybe more. Over a year that adds up, but the volumes required are actually huge.

    Exactly! Could not have put it better myself. If orchard soils are hungry, vegetable beds are like trying to keep up the supply of brains for a horde of rampaging zombies – nothing consumes soil fertility faster than vegetables. Most people are oblivious to this. Can you imagine the losses in say the corn growing areas over in the US? Bonkers. You can see it in action anytime you create a raised garden bed.

    One of the awful things about such automated debt collection systems is that there is a presumption of guilty until proven innocent, which flips tradition on its head. We tried such a system down here too until the flaws became too public: Robodebt scheme. That was what it was called too!

    That’s funny about being subjugated by the robots.



  42. Hi Lewis,

    I wasn’t aware it was a Zappa quote either, and I’m not much of a fan of his music either. Some genius is perhaps not meant to be understood? And his fans were apparently feral so yeah they were a bit of a, how did you put it? – cultural phenomenon. Yeah, nice. The famous song which you’d know: ‘Smoke on the Water’ was apparently about his fans, although others tend to differ in that opinion.

    Oooo! You just inspired some crazy inspiration. So what about a story ripping off ‘War of the Worlds’, except that instead of bacteria putting an end to the pesky aliens, they instead suffered from serious mental health problems after being subjected to too much Earth culture? You read it here first, and our fortunes are possibly now made!

    Aliens are bad news. The 1980 film Alien was one of the scariest films that I can recall. The Alien just never gave up in its single minded pursuit of utter destruction for its own advancement. Hang on that story sounds sort of familiar? 😉

    The nuclear reactors are pretty clever devices really, but possibly very toxic, and they are really simple too. You wouldn’t really want one falling on your house, and I noted that a resident of your country from Oklahoma was actually hit by returning space junk (although she survived the impact apparently unharmed).

    Yeah, I totally get that about the dragons, omens and overall discontent which may occur from rocks being seen in the sky, or falling to the ground. If you didn’t know the details of what was going on, dragons would be a plausible explanation. I mentioned to you that we spotted a really bright chunk falling slowly to the ground (out of sight unfortunately) a few weeks ago. But with ever more stuff getting boosted into low earth orbit, well it won’t take long before things get messy.

    You make a solid case, and yes I’ve known both good and bad bosses over the years. As no doubts have you? Being micromanaged is one of my favourite pet hates.

    Just had a little flash of insight, and perhaps when you (and I use the word you in its nebulous sense) have history and acknowledge it and learn from it, you’re more adaptive to changing circumstances? Dunno, but change is fairly constant, and when I think of what my grandfather experienced growing up on a farm during the depression era and then being chucked into WWII, well our present troubles kind of pale. But then, having a sense of history, you can see certain patterns emerging from the primordial murk and they’re worth worrying about – even when others say that it ain’t necessarily so. Dunno.

    You’re quite lucky with H and her self regulating eating habits. All dogs are different on that front and many long years ago we just used to put food out for the dogs on that basis. And to our utter surprise, the long ago boss dog ‘The old fat’ starved her mate ‘Denver’ (so named because he was found on a country road eating carrion). In these enlightened times, the dogs get a breakfast and dinner, and if they don’t eat it, the chickens get it. And fussy dogs soon overcome their fussiness.

    Dogs happily eat veg, in fact they actively seek them out in the garden. But fried egg for canines is like a true delicacy. 🙂

    Ah, perhaps in the future, people will again be avid letter writers? It is not like we’re not pen pals. 🙂 From my perspective, and I do hope this does not annoy you, but your countries history is what it was, and like most countries it has its share of the good, the bad, and the ugly. We do too down here. Some atrocious things have gone on, but the future as far as I can tell is wide open. So much effort is spent these days in selling a certain story, that you kind of have to wonder how fragile the whole mess is for that to be an option? Our culture was always a divide and conquer mess sorry to say, and those options are dragged out when the tide could go in other directions.

    Hey, I watched the trailer for Songbird, and after four hardcore months of lock down last year, let’s just say that I have little appetite for such stories nowadays. Candidly I’m on tenterhooks that there won’t be a repeat this year.

    Thank you for the continuing education as I also had not heard of Ovid’s tale Pyramus and Thisbe. Over the years I can recall reading tales of people stuck in awful situations who could hear another person at a distance removed, so I’m guessing that story sprang from this fictional well? On the other hand, I quite enjoyed how the paintings of the final scene varied over the course of the long years since it was first put to paper.

    Exactly! Growing produce is one thing, being able to store and utilise it is an entirely different matter. Yup. This is one reason that I’m always a bit amazed at the use of deep freezers in your part of the world. And I noticed in the article that kale and lettuce were being referred too. Yes, good luck with that. Those leafy greens are meant to be eaten fresh from the garden.

    Sugar beets are worth a consideration – super hardy and 20% sugar.

    Mate, sorry but it is almost 9.30pm and I’ve gotta get writing. Until tomorrow.



  43. Yo, Chris – Yup. Crazy aliens. Works for me. 🙂 . I have studiously avoided “Alien”, over the years. Know just enough about it, and seen some brief clips, that I know it’s not for me. Not on my “to see” bucket list.

    Not exactly space junk, but when the Challenger fell apart, it was scattered over two states. You may have seen on the news, a couple of weeks ago, a plane over Denver, well, one of it’s engines started to loose the plot. Chunks of it fell all over one neighborhood. Luckily, the pilot managed to land the plane, safely. Not much damage on the ground.

    My Australian (etc.) pen pal(s). It is so interesting to hear from people, all over the US, Britain, and now Goran from the Netherlands. And not to forget your compatriots, in Australia. “Just connect.” 🙂

    Too many people profit (one way or another) from divide and conquer.

    One of our neighbors, died. Liz, from right across the hall from Elinor. She’d been in rehab and assisted living for over a month. Elinor says to pray for a good neighbor. I will. One who’s deaf, dumb and a recluse.

    Today’s my 32d AA birthday. No big plans. At least I remembered this year. :-). Maybe make a bowl of popcorn, with nutritionally lethal “cheese product” (but so tasty!) and watch the final episode of “Lovecraft Country.” Lew

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