Prized Possession

Earlier in the week there was an article in the news discussing the rising house prices across the country. I didn’t know what to make of the article, but for some reason a memory surfaced of the legend of Cassandra. Cassandra was a legendary mythical Trojan priestess, who was cursed by the God Apollo to utter true prophecies, but never to be believed. The lesson learned there might be to not mess around with the business of Gods. But you know, all the same I would be very interested to hear what Cassandra had to say about macro economic forces in these enlightened times, and try hard to believe what was said.

It genuinely boggles my mind to see house prices rising after the economic bloodbath of last year. On Good Friday we had to make a spontaneous visit into the big smoke of Melbourne and then back home again. And the spontaneous drive took us to the extreme furthest reaches of the city. The city is big and the drive took about five hours all up. By the time I’d arrived back home again, I was zonked.

Being Good Friday, as you’d imagine, most of the shops were shut. Obtaining lunch was a real problem, and we took some homemade Anzac biscuits for the journey with that possibility in mind. A couple of biscuits however, is not enough to keep me fueled, and so on the return journey we went in search of something more substantial. The editor suggested obtaining lunch at a cafe in our old stomping grounds in the inner northern suburbs. An excellent idea!

The business was owned and run by a family who were clearly not concerned with Christian beliefs and holidays. Back when we used to live in the big smoke, they used to open on Christmas Day, when all other businesses were shut. And they served the most delightful coffee and breakfasts. I support their belief system, and also their ability to serve quality coffee. And the business used to be packed with locals who were also clearly in need of a quality coffee and breakfast to fortify their constitutions before the familial onslaught such religious holidays brings.

Last Friday however, there was a ‘For Lease’ sign in the window of the business and the scene behind the pane glass window looked none too orderly. And sad to say, but the business had been operating before we arrived in the area around the year 2000. Fortunately a bakery was open, and we were able to purchase two hot cross buns which we hungrily scoffed down then and there. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m partial to a substantial lunch, and one hot cross bun and couple of Anzac biscuits does not meet this need.

The lady who served us at the bakery looked very disappointed that the order was for only two hot cross buns. A full tray of them sat behind the glass counter, and it was mid-afternoon. Hunger does weird things to a brain, but it equally possible that I was distracted by the sight of the other employee wearing a mask and looking fearful, when there are no local cases of the health subject which dare not be named. However, if I’d been more alert I would have ordered four hot cross buns to share between the editor and I. Alas the long drive dulled my usual sharp wit. At least the (sadly single) hot cross bun was very tasty, and it was no hardship to consume on a random walk around our old stomping grounds.

The walk took us through the strip shopping district. At a guess, about a quarter of the shops appeared to be empty as they displayed either dust or ‘for lease’ signs, and even sometimes both. The Taco Bills restaurant where the editor and I had enjoyed many a Sangria and Burrito, was soundly boarded up. The shopping scene wasn’t one of decay, it was more as if a few chunks had been amputated, but the body was still alive and kicking – it was just smaller and less bustling than it had once been.

The walk was a great way to refresh my brain during the return leg of the long drive, and that’s despite only obtaining a single hot cross bun each. We decided to extend the walk and take a look at the area where we used to live. The old Victorian era brick workers cottages looked much the same, although a few sported ostentatious extensions. What interested me was that there were very few cars parked in the area. But given the hordes of vehicles headed out of the city whilst we were heading inwards, that was hardly surprising. It is possible that plenty of the city folks have become sick of being stuck in the city?

The reason we ventured away from the farm on Good Friday in the first place, was because earlier that morning I’d been contacted by a business to come and pick up a machine that had been on order. The yellow power wheelbarrow we use to bring large rocks and other items back up the hill, has been playing-up recently, and possibly like the deceased stump grinder machine, it might not be easily or economically repaired. When you are on the side of a hill, a power wheelbarrow is a very useful item, and so the editor and I made the decision to order a replacement machine that will be more easily able to be repaired by the local farm machine repair dudes. And the call came spontaneously on Good Friday morning to come and pick it up. So off we went.

The replacement power wheelbarrow

Being in business myself, people recount to me stories of hard it is to obtain parts, or that there are shortages of some item or other, or even the woe of long wait times for new vehicle purchases. Those stories suggest a pattern of sudden decline. Yet there in the background there is the counter story of the ever rising house prices and bizarre talk by serious people of economic recovery. To gain a better understanding of the situation I recently began re-reading Michael Lewis’s most excellent book: ‘The Big Short’. The book is an account of the events leading up to the GFC in 2008, and the narrative focuses on a few quirky people who put their money where their mouth was and bet against the prevailing mood of exuberance. And already the decision has yielded dividends because the text suggests that, house prices will actually continue to rise if people believe that they will continue to rise (i.e. purchasers expect to enjoy capital growth and appreciation on their purchase). But when those expectations disappear, the bubble pops. Ah, of course, the madness of crowds.

So we decided to splash some mad cash now and order the replacement power wheelbarrow whilst it could be easily obtained. It is a possibility to want such a machine, have the mad cash to purchase the machine, and not be able to obtain one. That is already happening with some items, which shall remain nameless.

The machine is a useful tool, but it is hardly a prized possession. Long term readers will know by now that I’m something of a book worm and enjoy reading. A housemate during the very early 1990’s introduced me to the author Jack Vance. Over the years I have collected most of the authors works and many of those are the original pulp novels which are now up to sixty years old. The books were never printed on quality paper with good bindings, and the years have not been kind to them. Around twenty years ago, a whole bunch of book nerds (I would have enjoyed their company) put together a collected works of the author titled: The Vance Integral Edition. The works were returned to their original texts and the books were printed on high quality low-acid paper. I managed to learn about the effort about a year after the printing was finalised, and it has been something of a regret.

A few years ago, a small publisher began reprinting the novels individually on low acid paper and good bindings and with forwards penned by other authors who love the books. The editor purchased some of these books for my birthday present. With an eye on the ructions going on in the world, and the bizarre macro economic circumstances, we decided to order the remaining books whilst they are easily obtainable. All you can do is take a critical look around you, make the choices available to you and then act. Perhaps Cassandra knows what will be, but who will believe?

We’ve had something of a minor Indian summer this week and the days have been warm to hot. Some nights fog has hung over the valley below the farm.

Fog hangs over the valley below the farm

The nights have also been warm, and now that the burn-off restrictions have been lifted, smoke has been rife over the area. The smoke and warm nights combine to produce the most amazing sunsets.

Truly amazing sunsets this week due to smoke from burn-offs

A day was spent excavating the shed site up above the house. We moved somewhere between three and four feet of soil.

A day of excavations took place this week

The new power wheelbarrow was put to good work moving some of the excavated soil down the hill before dumping it in the new utility area project.

The new flat utility area project is becoming longer each week

The remaining excavated soil was dumped onto the low gradient ramp project. The project is a really useful project because it provides a low gradient ramp leading from the house and down to two of the orchards.

The low gradient ramp is progressing. Ollie is in awe.

Excavating the soil produces quite a number of small rocks which are going to be used to fill a steel rock gabion cage. We haven’t yet constructed the cage and for now the rocks are piling up.

The rocks from the excavations are piling up

So far we have excavated about 32 feet from the outer edge of the rock gabion cage to the edge of the soil cutting. There is still yet more soil to excavate, which is a good thing if only because the other projects need the soil.

About 32 feet of excavations have now been completed

It is hot work excavating soil by hand. Fortunately though, the brief bout of hot weather has had a silver lining – the tomatoes are slowly ripening.

Tomatoes waiting to be dehydrated

Some years we produce enough tomatoes to dehydrate and store in olive oil, produce passata, and make some tomato wine. This cold and damp year we’re happy to just produce enough dehydrated tomatoes to eat during the remainder of the year.

Tomatoes in the electric dehydrator

The plants on the farm are continuing to produce, and breakfasts of homemade toasted muesli and homemade yoghurt are lifted to new heights by the addition of the very tasty Chilean Guava’s. The small berries taste like lemonade to my palate.

Tasty Chilean Guava’s hang off the plants

Recently a flock of Gang Gang Cockatoos have been visiting the farm. Their screech is akin to the sound of a very loud squeaky door. And their colouring is dark grey with a bright red face. The other day one of the birds was sitting on the whirly bird for the ventilation for the worm farm sewage system.

A Gang Gang Cockatoo mucks around on the whirly bird ventilator

The hot weather has brought the insects out, and by late afternoon as the sun bakes your head, the hum of insects is audible.

A European honey bee enjoys this Eucalyptus Ficifolia flower

Onto the flowers:

A delightful but spikey Globe Artichoke flower
Salvia flowers revel in the brief Indian Summer
The bees were enjoying this Escalonia flower
Lavender looks great in the afternoon sun
Geraniums are always a cheery sight in the garden
The roses are real stunners

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 11’C (52’F). So far this year there has been 309.6mm (12.2 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 307.4mm (12.1 inches).

68 thoughts on “Prized Possession”

  1. Hi Goran,

    What interested me about the statistics is that a 7:1 return on seed ratio is actually pretty good. People inevitably talk up yields in organic agriculture, and we do have some very prolific varieties of edible plants nowadays that folks back in those days could only but dream about. I’d be interested to hear of your experience, but my experience with agriculture does not lead me to believe that I achieve a 30:1 return on the produce grown here. Mind you, every year the yield gets better (but there are diminishing returns to that growth) – even in the sort of year with no summer which I just experienced, but it is not yet at the heady heights of a 30:1 return.

    The main problem with relying on such an impressive return is that very few people nowadays work towards the goal of feeding a massive population. And that possibility is only merely due to the high yields. And there is inevitably risk involved with such a strategy and the risk is across several areas: water; minerals; plant disease; genetics; insects; machines; energy; and general know-how. And a large enough impact on any one of those factors could reduce yields.

    I’d heard that European Beech bark was sometimes processed into food, but a few years back I tried to find the reference and came up with nothing, and for all I know I’m wrong in thinking that was the case. The seeds sure have been used as food. Those plants grow very well here.

    You’re not wrong. In India cows are considered sacred and things would go badly for you if you’d accidentally run into one in a motor vehicle!

    The original Mad Max was filmed not too far away from here! How good was that film? Hope you had subtitles for the film as even I have trouble understanding some of the dialogue? And the cars were hotted up locally made vehicles. Years ago as a young adult I saw the original ‘Interceptor’ car which was used in the film. Back then I thought that the car was huge, but that was because most of the other cars on the road in those days were quite small. A lot of the recent engineering and material achievements with vehicles have been wasted on constructing ever larger vehicles. Oh well.

    The Big Short is both a favourite book and film. 🙂 Goran please spare me! The pdf file was 480 pages. Far out! My brain tends to work in terms of narrative and I have already decided and acted upon a strategy. A few years ago people were obsessed with the possibility of deflation, and yet at the same time property and house prices were rising. Economists spend hours of their days worrying about the increase in the price of a loaf of bread, when they studiously ignore the rise in prices of property, bonds and equities. I tend to believe that they are wrong.

    Nice one with the hot cross buns, and yes fresh from the oven is a real treat. Mascarpone cheese is a true delight, and I applaud your food innovation! 🙂 Yum! We reverse engineered the dessert many years ago. Soaking the biscuits is Marsala is the other taste sensation. What better use for stale biscuits?

    Goran, I am now super envious of your free score of 100kg of dolomite! Well done you. I assume the ground does not usually freeze during your late autumn weather?



  2. Hi Al,

    Happy Easter to you and yours too! And may your mouth be filled with quality chocolate, at least from time to time during the festivities. 🙂

    Al, many thanks and I could not ask for a higher compliment. Truth to tell, I’d spent some time with the local farm machine repair dudes – you know, the old timers who work out the back of the business and are the ones who have to physically repair the stuff brought in by customers. And they tipped me off about that particular machine, but I also agree wholeheartedly with their point of view and their arguments made sense. Thank you very much for saying so. Some machines are starter machines where you get to learn what they’re all about before they perform an untimely demise, and the original yellow power wheelbarrow was one of those.

    The pie shop is about forty minutes drive away (at a guess). And not to tease you, but the pies are even better than they look. I’m genuinely surprised that other corners of the planet don’t also attempt to produce decent pies. Maybe it is a bit of a thing down here? Dunno.

    Yum! The aroma of those swirls baking in the oven would be akin to the bakery version of the: Siren Calls! 🙂 Where they good? That is the real question here.



  3. Hi Chris,

    How do you rate the Fowler’s dehydrator? I’ve been using the cheap one I picked up from the foreign supermarket chain that shall not be named. It does the job but the main problem is there’s only five trays. I noticed the better quality ones such as the Fowler’s tend to charge an arm and a leg for the extra trays which kinda sucks because for most dehydrating jobs five just isn’t enough and it would be nice to save on electricity by having more trays. Oh well.

    The vinegar experiment is coming along well. This was the first week where it smells more like vinegar than cider. It’s smelling very nice actually. I think it’s gonna be a very sweet vinegar.

    Had some excitement in the back yard in the last week. A brown falcon decided to pop by and check out the chickens last week and just this afternoon a peregrine falcon did the same. The peregrine’s appearance definitely freaked out the chickens who went and hid under a tree for about three hours. A spotted dove also panicked and flew straight into the window. From what I understand, falcons do eat a lot of doves but are unlikely to take on a full sized chook which makes sense cos they must be less than half its weight. Anyway, was pretty cool to see a peregrine up close. It sat on my back shed for a few seconds before flying off.

  4. Hi Chris,

    Supply chain problems are something I’ve been thinking about too. I’m less worried about shortages of consumer goods (your barrow probably can’t really be called “consumer” 😉 ) but I’m more concerned about the possibility that components for societal infrastructure might become scarce and lead to a decline in maintenance.
    If that happens, things like fuel, electricity (even water?) availability could become unreliable.

    Partly with this in mind (and partly just for fun) I have set up a small 12V off-grid solar system. It’s 180 W, 200 Wh (yup — small!), but it can provide telecomms, radio, light and even charge ebikes and do a bit of cooking while the sun is shining.

    We also have one of those Fowlers dehydrators, which is great. Have dried lots of pears and plums this summer. Also, we’ve done some overnight hiking/camping trips and have taken dehydrated food (lighter to carry) which works very well.
    But the dehydrator is very wasteful of power. What a dehydrator should have, IMO, is a heat exchanger on the output, so that the input air is pre-heated by the output air (without mixing the air). If the whole thing was insulated well I think it would save 90% of the power consumption (would get condensation in the output vent, which would need to drain and be caught).

    Adelaide has been fairly unaffected by all the craziness so far, though the housing market is booming. Makes me very uncomfortable. I saw a quote recently from a guy on an “ordinary salary” who has 8 properties. When there is that amount of leverage in the market, I reckon it could be very unstable.

    Cheers, Gus

  5. Hi Lewis,

    Killer Rabbits would lend a certain level of seriousness to any library late notes. Paltry fines would pale into insignificance at the mere suggestion that the awful killer rabbits would be let loose upon the miscreant. Thanks for the image! What surprised me was just how good the drawings were of the killer rabbits drawn by the ancient scribes. And the drawings were really playful too – showing that it wasn’t all just scribe work and subsistence agriculture back in those days. Do you reckon the drawings were officially tolerated by the senior clerics? I tend to believe that they were. Another possibility is that there was little oversight or review of the clerics work.

    Hehe! Such customers are rare beasts, and if known by the proprietors and staff, they should be left well alone to do what they do best – i.e. spend money. 😉 I’m a pretty loyal customer myself, and I described my thought process to someone who was poking me, many years ago: I just don’t want hassles – and that was blurted out, but also an off the cuff statement of position which yielded results.

    On the other hand, some cranky bookshop folks want to insert themselves into the business at hand. It is a truth universally acknowledged that I spend far more mad cash if left alone to my own devices whilst taking the time to quietly peruse the shelves! I appreciate your witty retort and may use that in the future. You never know when a learned smarty pants line might just come in handy? The bookshop inquisition unsettled me and I don’t venture into such stores to joust with the proprietors – if only because they probably are far better read than I.

    One of the things I missed about the now defunct Borders chain was that they were open late into the evenings and I could just wander around and see what books called to me. I never left that business empty handed.

    Hehe! Oh that’s funny about the ethical bakery. What an odd concept to declare for all and sundry to ponder the meaning of. Can’t for the life of me wonder how the morals of the bakery are better than any other bakery, but I’m sure the concept means something. Maybe? But yes, your points are rather valid and you’d hope they allowed their staff to go to the bathroom. I’d imagine that there are unforseen consequences for the river to not allow their employees time to go to the bathroom – such as splashing some items with bodily fluids. It makes me wonder if middle management have enough free time to go to the toilet? One of the words apparently used about that place is the word: ‘cult’. My thinking is that the river place will work until it doesn’t work – and it all hinges on super cheap supply and distribution and long term that might not be so easy.

    As a side story which I may have recounted before, but I actually worked once at a business that just didn’t think to provide a toilet for me. I said to them: What do you want me to do, hang on for seven hours? And miraculously they provided a toilet for my use, just not the one they used. Hmm.

    Fair enough. I see that it is the mineral Cobalt which is used to produce the blue-effect in Pyrex. Glass has a fascinating history and I note that formulas were changed over the years in response to what looks like intellectual property laws. Wow. Oh my, there are collectors for this Pyrex stuff and some patterns are extraordinarily hard to find and thus rare and valuable.

    Mate, I don’t even know what the term cultural appropriation means and have little interest in finding out. I’ve read the words of indigenous leaders when it comes to land management practices, and it all sounded like common sense to me. The thing is, the gobarmint and the population at large appears to have not heard such talk, and despite the horrendous outcomes, they tend to pretend that nothing was ever said in the first place. So how does that work? I tend to believe that place and land dictates practices, and if our own culture was so good at everything then the results would be self-evident. And yet the results are candidly not good, so why not learn from other culture who have managed things better?

    That’s fascinating about the classics, and I have also read accounts of people in the distant past who earnestly read the classics in order to better their education and understanding of the world. And as a pursuit, that was hardly out of the ordinary. It interests me that even today I encounter people who profess no interest in reading books. No doubt you will understand what my prized possession is?

    Hope H enjoyed her bath. Are there less mats now that the weather is warming up for you?

    It was another really nice day down here today, although much cooler than last week. We sewed up the steel rock gabion cage which sits at the end of the excavation site. Then we made another steel rock gabion cage which now sits on top of the sewn up one. A neighbour kindly offered some rocks and so we removed a few loads this afternoon. Lots of hard work, and I’m feeling it tonight.

    Haven’t had any chocolate this Easter. It’s more about the hot cross buns for me! Hope you enjoyed a quality dark chocolate Easter egg rabbit?



  6. Hi Simon,

    Honestly, I haven’t used a dehydrator like the one you have so can’t make a valid comparison. However, the Fowlers Unit here runs six trays and for your info the diameter is 34cm. So fully laden with six trays, is one heck of a lot of fruit. I wouldn’t probably add more than six trays, but that is a gut feel thing rather than anything I’ve put to the test.

    If I run the unit when the sun is shining in the sky, there is no cost for the electricity. 🙂 On the other hand if I ran the machine overnight it would seriously drain the batteries when it could just as easily be run the next day without the wear and tear on the batteries. I didn’t look at it too closely, but it looked like the machine was drawing about 1kW of electricity earlier today, but it might be less than that. 1kW is less than 20% of the total solar panels output so it is a no brainer use for the electricity. On the other hand for you that might be around $0.30-ish per kWh and the machine might need to run for maybe 10 hours all up with six fully laden trays.

    One trick I’ve learned is washing the fruit the night before and letting it fully dry before cutting and placing onto the trays. The extra water from the washing process also takes energy to dry.

    Hope that helps?

    Hey, as a suggestion I bought my machine on ebuy and like a lot of things there I suspect that it had not ever been used. It didn’t cost much at all.

    Good stuff with the vinegar and I look forward to possibly sampling the final product. I may not have mentioned that like beer making you have to keep it out of the sun so that the temperature doesn’t rise too much. It’s a good time of year for such things and we’ll begin making sake soon.

    Awesome! It’s always fun when a new critter arrives, and mostly they are looking for something to eat or drink. But a Falcon! Cool – haven’t seen one of those birds here before, but have seen them in more open grassy areas sitting on power lines (or kind of hovering over and) waiting for a snack. Chickens are pretty smart and they know what is going on around them. They even call to each other with an alert call – it sounds like a ‘brrr, brrr’ sound. It would be a tough falcon to take on a flock of chickens who are on the alert for mischief. Out of curiosity did your birds go off the lay today because of the falcon? Sometimes that happens with the chickens here.



  7. Hi Gus,

    Welcome to the discussion, and kudos for having the coolest email address I have encountered for a very long time. 🙂

    Yes, exactly. That mirrors my thoughts on the subject because if I’m seeing this story play out here and there and all over the shop, what are we missing on the larger scale? My background was as a manufacturing accountant and I’ve got a pretty good idea as to what it takes to produce a final complete product for distribution – yet I also witnessed a lot of manufacturing heading off shore, and I doubt many folks higher up in the food chain gave the concept much thought. After all, they were the ones who enabled the lowering of import tariffs and ending of industry subsidies.

    When I was a younger bloke serious people used to suggest that we should become: “The clever country”, and you’d hear that story being sold to the population. What we actually ended up doing as a country didn’t seem that clever to me, but perhaps my view is that of the outlier? Dunno, but I’ve long since felt uncomfortable about the choices made and the policies which were pursued. Mind you, things could have been worse – and I acknowledge that possibility.

    Well done, and you’ll learn heaps with the system. One of the concepts which I learned early on whilst mucking around with this technology, was that just because the sun is in the sky, doesn’t mean that you’ll generate full output. And you’ll see that observation in action. Nowadays I tend to try to explain that by talking about plants and how they respond to the suns energy (or lack thereof) as the seasons progress. But seriously good stuff on your part.

    It is a great unit, isn’t it. Hey, it was a good year for plums and particularly the Asian pears did well. And I’d never thought of dehydrating pears or plums as we use it mainly for dehydrating tomatoes – and then run the machine for days and days. A good suggestion.

    Being in SA, you might not have heard that the Wilson’s Prom hikes were closed over Easter due to 200mm of rain washing away many of the trails two weeks back? Over night hikes are a really great way to come to grips with what stuff you actually really need, if only because you can only carry so much on your back for hours and hours.

    That’s an outstanding idea to capture all of the waste heat from that machine. You’re right, it is extraordinarily wasteful and I can only run the machine outside the house and during the daylight hours – there being no ongoing costs for daytime electricity here (unless the system goes kaput, and then that is frighteningly expensive to repair). Using the machine at night would flog the batteries. You’ve made an intriguing suggestion.

    Yeah, you guys have done really well on that front, and candidly after four months of lock down, well let’s just say that people are not better for having experienced that. Being in a rural area and outside of the metropolitan boundaries was a much easier experience if only because we could move around still and try and pretend that things were sort of normal.

    The property market story, yeah, not good. In some respects it has the hallmarks of a mania.



  8. Yo, Chris – America, calling! 🙂 . Maybe Cassandra said, “I told you so,” just once too often? Maybe she was just tiresome.

    Business bangs along here, per usual, on Good Friday. And, I can’t think of a single business that closes, for Easter. Businesses that are usually closed on Sundays, can say, “Oh, we closed on Easter.” Gives an aura of looking pious. 🙂 .

    Age and time are all about loss. I’d say, You Know What just accelerated the process. Your old outposts would have closed, or changed, anyway. As “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” (Alexander Pope, 1688-1744), all those empty spaces will (probably) fill up, again. One hopes with businesses that are more useful than nail salons and massage parlors.

    Your new power wheelbarrow looks very smart. Once the old model shuffles off it’s moral coil, you can ceremonially dispose of it. Burial? Bon fire?

    I hope you don’t end up in the situation, with the Vance novels, where the last volume is elusive. Happens with all kinds of collectibles. (Collect the whole set!). Of course, the net makes the hunt a lot easier. But, it does take the thrill of discovery, out of the equation. The Scottish book dealer was quit fond of his sci-fi customers. And anytime he could buy a good collection, word got around and it would fly off the shelves. I gathered he also liked their enthusiasm. And general good nature.

    The atmospheric pictures are quit beautiful, and calendar worthy.

    Ollie picture #1 – Feigned adoration and awe. (There might be a treat in it.) Ollie picture #2 – No treat? Enough of that! Ollie picture #3 – Ollie imitates a decorative cast iron hitching post. Ollie picture #4 – Ollie contemplates a leap into the unknown. 🙂 .

    What is that pile of stuff that looks like it’s about to overwhelm the heap of smaller rocks? Like something out of a 1950s “B” science fiction movie. I’d guess crushed rock for the path surfaces.

    Your dehydrator looks a lot like mine. I’ve always wondered … and since you monitor all things electric … do they use a lot of power? I usually have mine sitting on the stove, and the stove fan on, so I don’t get roasted out of my apartment. For 8 hours. But, since I don’t bake a lot in the summer, I suppose one offsets the other. The things I fret about.

    FYI Gang Gang cockatoos sell for between $1,400 – $1,800, here. Have you seen them before? Are they a bit out of their range? In one of those coincidences, I happened to see an article on our only native North American parrot.

    I haven’t seen any honeybees, around. Lots of bumblebees, though. Maybe some smaller pollinators. To small and fast to identify. Maybe, Mason bees.

    Boy, you can sure tell the artichoke is related to the thistle. Which came first, the artichoke or the thistle? One of those conundrums. Like chickens and eggs. 🙂 Lew

  9. Yo, Chris – Ya’all probably know this, but I also rotate my racks, when they’re about halfway done. Seems to give more even drying, and cuts the time a bit.

    I’d guess, like any general run of people, some of the senior clerics had a gentle sense of humor. Imagine the poor junior cleric, caught at his rabbit renderings, and the sense of relief when the senior cleric says, “Oh, that’s funny. Do some more.” 🙂 . Given the cost of inks, gilt and parchment, I’d say the senior clerics gave the output a lot of oversight. To create The Book of Kells, it’s estimated that it took about 185 calf skins, just for the parchment.

    When I was in the book biz, I’d give an offer to help, and if the customer wasn’t looking for anything in particular, I’d back off. Sometimes they’d circle back, and get down to the business of what they were really looking for. Often, it was then a game of 20 questions. I’d always put on my straight face, just in case it was a request that might be a little … different. As when the grandmotherly old dear finally got around to telling me she was in search of a book on growing mara-hoochie. Her beloved grand daughter had given her a plant, and she didn’t want to muck it up. Nine times out of ten, when someone asked where the nonfiction section was (all around you?), they were looking for true crime.

    This is the Pyrex pattern I use …

    I’ve got just about every piece ever made. The whole line. Except for the five covered casseroles. I use pieces of it, everyday. I also like it, because it kind of goes with my “for special” dish set.

    I’ve got as many pieces and serving pieces, as I want. And have not fallen into the trap of “collect the whole set.” I mean, I really don’t need the soup tureen ($450-500). Or, the canister set. Though I do have a yen for the cookie jar. 🙂 . Every once in awhile, I run across some serving piece I don’t have, and if the price is dirt cheap, I’ll pick it up. About a year ago, I ran across the tea pot. Not something I would have bought, but there it was for less than $20. And, in perfect shape.

    Cultural appropriation is kind of a mine field, made so usually, by people who have nothing to do with the culture in question. They should be the ones who decide what can be shared, and what’s off limits. There was an interesting “extra” on the film DVD of “News of the World.” The Kiowa indians figure largely, in the movie. And, we’re involved in the making of the film. There’s a segment where they are interviewed about their participation.

    People who thought about the world, and how it works, had a pretty firm grasp on the idea that an exposure to the classics might lead to social and economic betterment. But one gate keeping mechanism, was a grasp of Latin and Greek. But some people even overcame that hurdle. It could be done will a bit of luck, application and a knack.

    Oh, H was her usual good bath day self. But, since Elinor insists she be allowed to “grow out”, the mats are coming thick and fast. I cut out two that were pretty major. Whatever.

    Nice that you scored some rocks, for the hauling. Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer had a pile of rock (from where, or who knows for what purpose) that I could pick from. I used them to keep the muck down in my chicken yard. And also to fill in chook escape routes. 🙂 .

    Elinor had a little dark chocolate bunny, for me. That’s my Easter.

    I ran across an interesting article on the lockdowns, and the revitalization of hobbies. With a comparison to the Great Depression.

    What’s old is new again. Lew

  10. Hello Chris
    I wrote a screed here earlier in the day and discovered too late that my internet connection had cut out, so I lost it.
    The price of houses is soaring here, it has become insane. They are also selling like crazy (where does the money come from). The result is a shortage of houses for sale here.
    As with you the shops are closed, many empty and boarded up. Town is most depressing.

    I am reading a book which I sort of recommend. The downside is that it is a children’s book and probably only of interest to girls. What makes it incredible is the extent to which it copies that which cannot be named and the results of same. I had to look in amazement at the publication date, 2004! The book is ‘How I live now’ by Meg Rosoff.


  11. Al @Gus & Chris
    Heat pump food dehydrators are already in industrial use. The poor efficiency of single pass air heating is a problem with the present home units.Some tweaking and application development is needed to make a home heat pump food dehydration unit practical. It would make a good project for someone. I looked around the subject a little. There is Shanghai company that makes food freezers that use their own 50w compressor using R-134 refrigerant.The heat of compression may be high enough for food dehydration. They are at
    One could also rearrange the parts of a really small room ac unit given they stay in compliance with refrigerant laws of their land. You may want to take a look at the idea
    Cheers Al

  12. @ Lew
    I clicked on the Metlox poppytrail site. What absolutely gorgeous stuff! I have never seen any of it before.


  13. Hi Al,

    Glad you mentioned the low voltage car fridges. Years ago a mate tested one on the solar power system here, and I was amazed by the low current draw (far less than an upright refrigerator – although upright refrigerators are already extremely economical to run, although I hear tales about their longevity and repairability).

    Of interest to this discussion is that I own a small 12V car fridge which utilises a Thermoelectric generator, and the device uses a tiny amount of electricity and can heat or cool depending on the cycle chosen.

    As a wild guess, I believe a Peltier device combined with a well designed dehydrator unit would possibly be a far more economical machine than the sort which I use which presumably has an element which creates heat through resistance. Dunno whether anyone has considered such a use for the Peltier devices?

    It may be that electricity is cheap enough nowadays that the market may not bear the upfront cost of such a device?

    What do you reckon about that?



  14. Hi Inge,

    Such an occurrence is rather unfortunate, but also part of the rural idyll. A friend recently moved to the island state of Tasmania (onto a farm in the south east of the state) and recently we were discussing interweb connections and the difficulty of creating them in rural locales. I’ve mucked around with that technology for over a decade, and the connection here is reasonably stable and quite usable. However, a few weeks ago I was in the big smoke and discovered that the folks there enjoy a connection which is almost ten times faster than here. Oh well. I have no need for such speed.

    The same thing is going on down here, and there is a certain form of mania lurking in the background whenever I happen to discuss the subject with people face to face. It’s not right, but a few decades ago a decision was made to pursue this path, and it will play out right to the bitter end. The percentage of loans now offered with up front three year honeymoon rates should make the average person blush, and the astute person run to the hills. Down here we are creating the perfect storm and replicating the experience which our friends in the US enjoyed during 2008, although because we largely dodged the most recent interest only loan conversion to principal plus interest fiasco, my thinking is that the decision was made that we can do it again. The entire sand castle is predicated on finding new suckers to play, but diminishing returns always lurk in the background. And to topple the castle doesn’t take a fall in house prices, stability will do the same job. I dunno, if it was my decision, I’d face up to reality and then act accordingly, but clearly that is a deeply unpopular perspective and so the game continues to play on for a while.

    The silver lining in all of this story is that when the rubble eventually settles, we’ll enjoy a much reduced cost base and those shops can be utilised again for more local purposes. That is the thing with economic troubles in that they inflict massive social pain and trauma, but it is different from a war in that whilst the infrastructure may be neglected, it ain’t bombed to smithereens.

    I see the stories behind those empty unloved shops and feel the pain that goes on quietly behind the scenes, but I’m just not wired to feel depressed about it all, if only because even at such times there are things which can be done, but I empathise with your descriptive words. I’m sorry to say, but things have to get worse before they get better. We as a society have to shuck off this foolishness and get on with the job at hand, but that might take a few years and a whole lot of unnecessary pain.

    Inge, I’m a total sucker for a book reference, and a copy is now wending its way here and I’m looking forward to reading it. The recent Jack Vance collection purchase has produced a bit of a reading back log, but I’ll get there! 🙂



  15. Hi Chris,

    I have a lessor quality two tray dehydrater but I really don’t dehydrate that much rather can and freeze excess produce. I grow and dry herbs to use through out the year by hanging them in the basement in bags with holes punched in for aeration. However, the herbs often hydrate a bit when during much of the year when the humidity is higher in the basement so popping them in the dehydrator for 1/2 hour drys them out so it’s easy to strip from the stems.

    Good score of the new wheelbarrow. I imagine with your steep property it’s a must. Five hours of driving though – ugh!. Your lunch of hot cross buns sounds yummy but as you said not substantial at all. Sorry to hear about the closing of some of your favorite eateries. Speaking of restaurants – wow have prices gone up! We’ve eaten out a few times and sadly will have to cut back due to the price increases.

    We are taking advantage of the rise in our investment account that we spent years saving for. The rise of course makes no sense and who knows when the bottom will drop out. Since we’ve moved here we’ve replaced all the windows and it’s noticeably warmer, replaced the furnace and air conditioner and added insulation to the attic. How we’re replacing all the floors in two phases. Phase one will take place within the next couple of weeks and phase two after the wedding in July. At our age the ship has sailed for us to do all this work ourselves so we feel very fortunate to have the funds to have others do it for us.

    Had a nice Easter with 15 family members. It was a beautiful day and warm enough to be outside. Daughter, Cecily, my SIL and twins came over yesterday – first time we’ve seen them in 4 months and that was outdoors in December. Now that we’re vaccinated my SIL who is very controlling, a germaphobe and over the top scared of you know what we are finally deemed safe enough to be seen indoors. He was on his good behavior though so that’s something.

    After months of having very little socially to do everyone is trying to make up for lost time so now there’s too much to do especially since all the outside work awaits. Today I plant my berry canes. Still next to no rain and quite warm temperatures at least until Thursday.

    Glad to see you at least have some tomatoes. Mine are started under the grow light in the basement and won’t be planted for another 5-6 weeks.

    Hoping to keep up with all the fine comments here but we’ll see as the entire week is pretty booked up.


  16. Hi Lewis,

    I must say that if a person was susceptible to flattery (and I’m not wired that way), then the interweb robots which advertisers fling out without abandon nor either a care into the world, would have a field day with the comments section. Such lovely comments but so blatantly full of BS – a few get deleted every day.

    Rotating the racks is a good idea and one I wouldn’t have considered. I’m not fussed as the daytime electricity is as near to free at this time of year as you’ll get. But if we had a solar dehydrator which relied upon the workings of the sun, mate I’d be monitoring that cooker. Yup. Anyway, the editor is responsible for the dehydrating process, and it is a fine line between being helpful and intruding. The only time that genuinely became a problem was with the yoghurt making which I took over in a hostile coup. It was awful, but sometimes you just need a fresh perspective on a process and a willingness to up-end the existing processes and delve deep into the most excellent words of Sandor Katz.

    That was exactly the scenario which had entered my mind with the scribes. One senior clerics response might end up with the senior cleric being disappeared and fed to the compost heap, whilst a more gentle hand would see the killer rabbits as relief from the dreariness and exactitude of the important task at hand. The first time I became aware of that leadership possibility was stories from the Vietnam war with officers voted off the island of the living by their troops due to utter foolishness. That has probably been the case throughout the ages. I’ve always sought to engage with the staff that I managed and rarely had problems.

    The Book of Kells is an astounding work.

    Exactly, knowing when to help, and how much help to provide is a difficult task, and I would do no less than your description of your time in the book trade. I’ve tried to help people who want the help, but they don’t really want the help, and have ended up being hated for my efforts at helping them. People have to follow their own paths. Your grandmother story was funny, but getting information on how to do many things before the interweb, was sometimes an exercise in dogged persistence. Nowadays I guess interweb searches are recorded. 😉

    Ooo, the blue Pyrex pattern you linked to was good. I assume it is etched into the glass itself? And it’s as old as my pulp fiction collection but probably in better condition. Thought you might enjoy this (but have probably already read it): 9 rarest Pyrex patterns. The Provincial Blue patterns are beautiful and of particular interest to me were the jam jars and the egg containers. When I was a kid we used something very similar, and people can get super freaked out nowadays if eggs aren’t stored in a refrigerator – but then we have a good turnover of eggs.

    Collecting the whole set can be a temptation, yes I get that dilemma, he types uncomfortably after having recently scored the entire Jack Vance collection… Recently I read the opinion that the difference between a collector and a hoarder is the level of organisation! Hehe! And the soup tureen does sound like a waste of mad cash.

    Well yeah, that is the problem with the whole cultural appropriation thing. People want to pick and choose, and so they focus on uncovering secret spiritual dimensions which are only ever intended for initiates, and then on the other hand they blithely ignore proffered advice on land management being freely given in the face of repeated cultural failures on our part. The whole mess looks crazy to me so I don’t give a toss as to people’s opinions in the matter.

    I recall that as a kid my mother told me that when she was a kid Latin was still taught in school (is this cultural appropriation?) Even so, I picked and chose what subjects I studied at school without any input from my mother, but I don’t recall ever seeing Latin being offered up as a subject. I was probably a touch wilful! 😉 But yes, I can understand how having ready access to the classics would place you in good stead on a world stage – plus there are lessons to be learned in those classics if the astute person took the time to but ponder the core meanings.

    Naughty chickens trying to escape from your chicken fortress! The rocks were appreciated.

    Nice score with the chocolate bunny. Yum!

    Exactly. Back in the Depression era, bush walking was encouraged as a hobby which got people out of the cities at weekends, and the train service was provided free of charge on weekends for that very purpose. And apparently the media played along with the encouragement. You may have noted that when I wrote about the city on a public holiday I mentioned that the city folks had headed outwards into the countryside? Yes, everything old is new again and on weekends the mountain range teems with city folks, but this time they drive.

    Apollo would have been a difficult sort. Cassandra likewise equally difficult. Candidly, they deserved each other but for the dislike of being born difficult and the also not minor problem of the curse. What a total disaster.

    Oh really? Well down here we hardly profess to piousness, but we can accept a religious holiday if bequest to us. When I used to deliver newspapers as a kid, I loved Christmas and Good Friday because you’d get paid – and the newspapers weren’t able to be printed. Winning! There has been a bit of a stir in the media about work and the right to disconnect from employers intruding onto employees private time via technology. People wonder why I have better mental health outcomes from not carrying the phone around with me all of the time and I cannot receive emails remotely. One must set boundaries and then stick to them.

    I agree about businesses eventually reopening in the now empty shops. First the cost base has to lower, and I wrote about that in my reply to Inge.

    Just for your interest, I’m having mild success with the small patch of eczema. The addition of a small dash of coconut oil to my breakfast seems to be helping a lot. Makes me wonder what my diet was previously missing that my body needed? Dunno.

    Nope, first I’ll try and get the old model power wheelbarrow repaired and once that is a known quantity, decisions will be made. Nothing goes to waste and the machine will not end up in the tip – of that I’m certain.

    Three volumes of the Vance collection are already missing and thus our decision to strike whilst the iron is hot (as they say). That’s really good to hear about the interactions between the sci-fi readers and bookshop owner. I kind of enjoyed the days when I had to roll on in to a specialty fantasy / sci-fi bookshop just to order the latest instalments from overseas. It was kind of fun, and you’d never know what conversations you’d end up having, but they were always interesting. And you’d get suggestions from real people, who knew you and your book preferences.

    Nope, no treats were harmed in the photographs – Ollie is just happy to be obedient, and him and the other dogs just enjoy the process.

    You guessed correctly, the small pile was the crushed rock which we place onto the paths.

    Nah, the dehydrator uses about 1kWh of electricity for every hour it is in use. It may be less than that too, because there is a controller with a thermostat temperature device which switches electricity off and on again to the heating element. Historically it is a lot of electricity, but these days it is a mere trifle.

    The family of Gang Gang Cockatoos numbers nine members. Your parakeet looks quite pretty, and if you need some members of that bird family, we’ve got plenty to spare. It is not a hard story to understand why the species disappeared – habitat destruction and lack of food and safe to access water would explain most of that loss. I welcome in the wildlife (with the exception of snakes and deer), but plenty of people see a world where none of that competition exists and I guess they hope that it stays elsewhere.

    Ouch, oh well hopefully the honey bees turn up sooner or later, but people forget that there are other less efficient pollinators. My experience suggests to me that no other insects will pollinate the almonds, but who knows what nature has up her sleeve? Robot pollinators are certainly not one of those tricks.

    Your observation was so very chicken and egg, and we grew a lot of the Globe artichokes from seed and they might be variable in the quality of the chokes… They do need to be thinned.



  17. Hello Chris
    I am now two thirds of the way through the book and much enjoying it. It is definitely not a children’s book. Young adult perhaps as the story is told by a 14 year old girl. Have reached superbly accurate accounts of the English countryside as I remember it at that age.


  18. Hi Margaret,

    Freezing is a good option and when there are enough tomatoes, we do make passata sauce which is an Italian tomato sauce which can be used in all sorts of dishes. The stuff gets bottled (canned) just like preserved fruit. The freezer here is tiny and hardly stocks anything but I just don’t know what impact a deep chest freezer would have on the solar power system.

    Good stuff with hanging of the herbs. Can you smell their aroma as the herbs dry? Out of curiosity I’ve never had access to a basement, but are they easy to keep dry? Have you planted out much of a herb garden at your new place?

    Oh yeah, the power wheelbarrow has opened up a world of opportunity with moving rocks and firewood back up the hill. The machine has been a real game changer, but the low gradient ramp project which the machine is being used to construct, is also more importantly able to be used by a normal wheelbarrow.

    The previous path leading down into the two orchards was created by the earthworks dude who had the benefit of a 20 tonne excavator. What was easy for him, was very difficult for us, and until recently we were busy on other projects and just had to deal with that original path. It was a real pain, I can tell you.

    The five hours of driving was too much for me and one of the bridges we crossed was almost elevated 180ft over a river and I was thinking about your recent experience of heading into the city as I was getting a few ooky feelings in my gut, about being on that elevated road. Anyway focus on the road and traffic and don’t look at the scenery. 🙂 I avoided the elevated road on the way back and it was a quicker journey to boot.

    Meat prices have been up and down like fuel prices. Each week I buy a chunk of mince meat for the chickens (and some bones for the dogs) and the $16/kg (2.2 pounds) for mince meat was mildly surprising. How does that compare to your part of the world?

    Ah, I wouldn’t worry about the details too much because they are worrying. Basically the gist of the system is that credit has to be extended in ever wider circles. I’m re-reading Michael Lewis’s engaging recount of the events leading up to the GFC in 2008 and the few quirky folks who bet on the collapse. It’s a good read but depending on your bent it may go into the details, but the characterisation is first rate and very amusing – although it somehow shouldn’t be funny, but in some respects it is. If you don’t want the nitty gritty details the film is excellent.

    You’re doing my strategy and investing in things that will reduce your outgoings in the future and be useful. It’s not a bad option. 🙂

    Good luck with the wedding and hope Carla is having fun.

    Ah, the familial onslaught – although I’m sure you loved every minute of it! 🙂 Glad to hear that your SIL and I’m guessing BIL has relaxed a bit. There are no cases down here, none, and yet people still wear masks… I know not what goes through their brains when it comes to gauging risk.

    I’ve heard it said elsewhere that people are struggling to recall their social skills, so that is hardly unusual. Hey, in more normal times I always noticed that it was the in-between seasons which were the most socially active – winter was dead on the front for some odd reason, because I don’t mind winter, but then I spend as much time outdoors as possible.

    Go the berry canes, and we’ve had an amazing season, but if you were planting raspberries during a dry spell, I’d keep the water up for them. I made that mistake one year and produced very few berries. It must be at least a month and half since I’ve had to water anything. And to confess I believe I made the mistake during summer of over watering some beds. Oops!

    Yeah, about 5 to 6 weeks would be running at around the same time as down here (if things were flipped upside down and you lot were suddenly down under instead of us – if that makes sense!)

    One can only but do their best. 🙂



  19. Hi Inge,

    Thank you very much for recommending the book and I look forward to getting a glimpse of your countryside as you remember it.

    In the gritty streets series which you mentioned, I noticed a terrace house today in the big smoke where some cheeky wag had spray painted on the side brick wall (very hard to remove): “Capitalism is very resilient”. I’m uncertain whether this was a commendation or the penman was being ironic? Or some other meaning.



  20. Hi Chris
    This may sound incedible but is a true story, in 1964 I saw a brief new product mag article about a brand new solid state dc 12 volt dc portable fridge that could refrigerate about 12 cans of beverage or perusable food. It was built around a new solid state Peltier device.Fridge Cost 200 USD, I was 20 and in the first year of my first apprenticeship. I drove a 2 dr 55 Chevy hardtop (no window post ) good body , high mileage.

    The $200 cost for the cool fridge was about 2 weeks take home pay, I was still on the parents free room and board gig. I bought the little fridge, it was a power hog at about 80 watts dc , would also run off 120 vac house current, the Peltier solid state cooling device device used 45 watts and would only reach a hot side/ cold side temperature difference of about 40 degrees, The cooling fan which removes the heat pumped across the bi metal hot / cold Peltier junction was 120 volts shaded pole motor that used a 12 vdc to 120 vac inverter when on dc. What I had was an overpriced poorly designed tech demo thingy. The Peltier device basic efficiency hasn’t improved to much since that long ago time. Except by physically stacking layers of devices on top of each other. The heat from each layer is added to the desired amount of removed heat from the refrigerated space. Watch out for exploding brains on that thought. The small Chinese 50 watt mechanical compressor fridges in heat pump cycle mode may when run in parallel may be quite appropriate for higher efficiency home food dryers. Chase down some thesis hungry Aussie grad students! A deeper search may uncover such a machine already in the market and affordable too.

    I must get ready to get in a phone race to get a sewer unplug appointment starting at 8:00 am sharp! One of three lines has been invaded by trees roots of probably other peoples trees. Hope it’s not some mutant strain of triffid. Probably something caused by COVID-19. Come on Al get a grip!

  21. Hi Chris
    I was a winner in the phone race ! Appointment made for Tomorrow. They are already booked through noon. Just three really competent and honest folks!
    Brief explanation: 1200Sq ft WW2 gov. built single story and mostly unfinished basement. 2 each sewer lines for 2 very small “full“ bathrooms . 1 sewer line collecting kitchen sink and basement laundry area three lines collected. And into city sewer. Neighbor’s Silver maples and maybe my 70 foot + sycamore tree roots invade and plug. Need yearly scheduled root removal or get rid of trees. Also an environmentally safe patented root killer when used at appropriate intervals will help. Some here make warranted accusations of Procrastination. Meee! Come on !

    Yes Chris the Easter cinnamon swirl rolls by our daughter were greeted with “Best Yet! Keep those coming!” “ din do nothin different folks” from daughter .
    Cheers Al

  22. @ Inge – It took me quit awhile to settle on which company and pattern I wanted for “my” dishes. I wanted something that might hold it’s value, not be too expensive and relatively easy to replace if I broke a piece. And, of course, something that appealed aesthetically, to me. And something heavy enough to stand up to use.

    The site I linked to is about the most expensive outlet. E-Buy currently has 400+ pieces, on offer. At considerably lower prices. And, I do make an op shop find, every once in awhile.

    I thought I might have read the book you mentioned, or, at least seen the film. Nope. I was thinking of something similar. Only set in Australia. “Tomorrow When The War Began.” (Marsden, 1993). A book, a film and a TV series. Lew

  23. Yo, Chris – The Pyrex patterns are painted on, and then fired. With reasonable care, they really hold up. Liquid soap, only. If the insides get a bit grungy, I use Bar Keepers Friend. I’d never use that on the outside. I hadn’t seen that article on the rarest Pyrex patterns. Interesting. I do have a book that lists all the patterns, and all pieces produced. There are 160+ patterns. I have one or two pieces of other patterns. I had more, but when I downsized, sent a lot to auction.

    I don’t have any of the egg cups. I just don’t eat my eggs, that way, so, it seemed kind of pointless. I do have one of the little jam jars. Do you recognize the shape? Which leads us to today’s ear worm …

    Skip to minute four, to get to the music. If you get bored with the animation 🙂 .

    Yes. The smorgasbord method of cultural appropriation.

    I went to two different high schools. So, at the first, I took two years of Latin, to fulfill the language requirement for graduation. Well, when I got to the second high school, they didn’t offer Latin, and would not accept it. So, I had to take two years of French. Neither of which I can remember.

    Lucky you. When I was a paperboy, we got a monthly statement as to how much we owed the newspaper. To meet the bill, we had to hit the collection trail. Oh, there was always enough to cover it, but our pay came out of the “hard to collect” end of things. But, tips helped.

    That’s interesting about the eczema. I recently made a similar discovery. Let’s just say I was having some problems with “digestion.” Somehow or another, I discovered that a small handful of raw baking walnuts, per day, took care of those problems.

    “Officers voted off the island” has a name. Fragging. Wiki Whop has quit an entry. I’d hear stories, back in the 1960’s. Always seemed to be a lieutenant who had only seen the inside of officer’s training school.

    Decades ago, I read something about the Australian sci-fi community. How extensive it was. And, home grown.

    Thanks for the information on electricity use and dehydrators. I feel a lot better, now.

    There’s a theory that Quaker parrot escapees took over the niche formerly occupied by the Carolina parrot. Long after they were gone. Quaker parrots are tough as old boots. I had one once. Filthy vicious bird. I donated him to science, for experimentation. Lew

  24. Chris,

    On driving… the journey to Toppenish is a good example for how we prefer to travel now. It’s about 75 minutes from our house to Ritzville, where we stop for a break. Then it’s another 75ish minutes to The Mercantile, another choice spot for a break. Then maybe 90 minutes to brother-in-law’s home. 90 minutes between breaks is about maximum for us.

    Thanks for the hints on soil enhancements. I’ll keep those in mind.

    Back about 1995, we had a potential project whose ringleader would call my boss regularly. Each conversation lasted 60 to 90 minutes. Little of it was related to the project, said my boss. Once, he was out so I took the call. It was a grueling 90 minute session of listening and providing soothing comments. Therapy. The guy’s tax dollars were hard at work, apparently, and he intended to get his money’s worth.

    Rip whisks? I know of them but encountered one only once. Sort of. My dad had been caught in one, and used the same method as the Editor to survive. My “encounter” was from a distance. Twas when we were moving from Southern California to Spokane. We stopped at a nice spot for lunch, the ocean being a few hundred feet away across a sandy beach. We stayed at the cars because the water looked weird and there were signs everywhere that said to stay out of the water due to the rip whisks AND undertows. Either can be lethal, but a combination? Ouch!

    Our housing prices were zooming up DURING the lockdowns. Now they’re going up faster. It’s insanity – madness of crowds, indeed!

    Your new power barrow looks hardy. Hope the engine lives up to expectations. With some of the disappointments of the trip into the Big Smoke, the new machine sounds like it’s the highlight of the trip. It was sad to read that some of your favorite places are no longer in business.

    The monthly rainfall totals for March are in: 6.6mm officially. We were probably nearer 10mm here. The average for March is 42mm. We just had what might be April’s rainfall on Easter Sunday: About 2 or 3 mm. No rain in the forecast and April typically drops 32mm. The dread “drought” word has been publicly announced by the weather authorities. My thyme plants are in distress, as the dry cold and winds ravaged them.

    Ollie looks so regal in that photo with him sitting. Is he contemplating the warm weather and ripening tomatoes? Or that his job does not involve digging and moving dirt to the low gradient ramp? Or is he just happy to be outdoors with you?

    Birds are noisy, aren’t they? But I enjoy them. I awoke this morning and could hear the crows cawing about something. A robin was happy, and the smaller birds are always singing this time of year. It may be loud, but it IS enjoyable.


  25. Hello Chris
    A warning – the book has descended into horror, punches are not pulled. Oh dear, I am hoping for a happy ending.


  26. Hi Chris,

    Well, it’s all happening here. Just this afternoon a peregrine falcon took a spotted dove right in front of my back window. I have my computer there and was working at the time. I more heard it than saw it. It made a quite incredible ‘whooosh’ and next thing you know a puff of dove feathers was falling to the ground. According to the internet, doves are a main prey for falcons in urban areas. Who knew working from home could be so exciting.

    Anyway, the chickens, who were already on edge after the weekend’s events are now even more jumpy. No real change in egg production though. Three of the original chickens still haven’t started laying and the other three have all but stopped in the last three or four weeks. Cathryn was saying her other two ISA browns had also stopped laying so not sure if it’s the weather or maybe they are just past their peak.

    I can get about 20 apples per batch in the dehydrator. It’s not too bad but, as you point out, the electricity cost is not negligible. I’m gonna have a go at applesauce this week and see how that comes up. Apparently that can be frozen quite easily. I suppose it’s a nice problem to have to have so much produce you struggle to find things to do with it.

  27. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the warning. The circumstances were good for the protagonist, then they weren’t so good. I noted that Penguin books had published the novel down here.

    You’d hope that nobody in power read the book and thought to themselves: Hey, we can do this. Of course, such a person would always use the plural form: ‘we’, rather than the singular ‘I’, just to prove their seriously conflicted internal dimensions! There can be only one Royal ‘we’.

    I’m looking forward to reading the book, although I’m doing my best to read through the huge stack of books on the ‘to-read’ list. Fortunately, reading is a joy! 🙂

    It was a really nice day here today, but sadly I spent the vast majority of the day indoors working, and ended up taking the three dogs for a walk long after the sun had set. The editor is at the comedy festival with a friend this evening. Regardless, I had fun on the walk (in the dark) and tried to discover using the torch, just how large an Ollie shadow could be thrown.



  28. Hi DJ,

    Very wise to break up a long drive, and I do the same thing just to get out of the car and enjoy the fresh air and stretch the legs. The important question though is which rest stop serves the best stuff? I have an interest in such matters, and one day possibly this information may even get put to some good use? Probably not though, but to know where the best pies are to be found is secret and valuable information. One wouldn’t wish to be burdened with a dodgy pie up their guts.

    Oh my gawd! My upper limit for phone calls is about 60 minutes, and headaches will definitely form afterwards if the conversation goes around and around and around, or beyond that limit. One unique trick when faced with such awfulness, is to suddenly disconnect the call. Then when they phone back, you shout into the phone: Hello? Hello? I can’t hear you! Before then decisively hanging up again, in pretend frustration. As an option it is a bit Sun Tzu because it is way out of left field, but you know extreme circumstances call for extreme actions. 😉

    Not good, and wise to stay out of the water. Swimming used to be taught in schools down under, mostly because so many people drowned all the time. And due to the hot summers I spent an inordinate amount of time down at the local outdoor Olympic sized pool when I was a kid. My mum used to buy me an annual pass. But because of the latitude, winds and geography, stonking hot days can sometimes turn on a dime and be followed by an epic storm (all occurring within minutes). I used to enjoy being in the local pool when the cool change swept through the area, I mean I was already wet from swimming and not likely to get any wetter than I already was. The change in the air was almost electric, but the folks in charge never wanted to be exposed to the weather so they closed the place down and kicked me out. There is only so long that you can pretend to have not heard the folks on duty!

    The strangest job that I ever had, was when I spent a week at a company who managed dozens of such facilities. They lied to me in the interview, and when I turned up to work, the fundamentals so alarmed me that I arranged for a meeting to speak with the head honcho. The meeting was cancelled, and so I walked from the job without getting paid for the weeks work. I said to them they only had two months of trading left, but I got that wrong, because the company then went on for another month beyond my prediction before then collapsing spectacularly and publicily. What do you? They didn’t want to hear it.

    Exactly, and that is why I am almost halfway through the book: The Big Short. I recommend the book (and the film) as they are favourites. It’s bonkers, and the entire shaky edifice need not plunge, all it needs to do to topple over, is to become a constant. There are times when things make no sense, and that might be because they make no sense.

    Hope the engine lives up to expectations? Pah! It’s a Honda! What more does one need to know? Years ago I owned a Honda mower and we worked that machine super hard. The machine lasted about a decade and the motor went on and went on and even kept on going long after the casing, flywheel and all the other stuff packed it in. And in the end someone paid me mad cash for the motor. That’s what I call super-tough.

    March is traditionally a dry month here too. This year has been the exception rather than the rule. You need the dry and warmth to coax the seeds along, and also warm the soil. La Nina means different things for you and I, but trust me, as the planet warms, the atmosphere will hold more moisture and between you and I, I believe this to be a self-correcting system when pushed to extremes. We might not like the outcome though. You have town water – use it.

    Ollie is my shadow, and he will happily follow me around. He’s a very sweet natured dog, and like your experiences I have had the pleasure of knowing such creatures over the years.

    Hehe! Go the birds!



  29. House prices! Bakery treats!! Jack Vance! *#$

    All you needed to mention was Suzuki jimnys and I would have heard you clicking ‘post’ on this blog from Perth!

  30. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the cartoon and the laughs and I watched all of it. Very silly and entertaining. It reminded me of the Warner Brothers cartoons which were part of the intermission back in the 1970’s cinema, just because the content was always slightly off kilter, but ever so amusing. And the tempo change at the end of the song was a classic surreal state. Those naughty squirrels.

    We used to export clay fired demijohns to your country during the prohibition era – except they were re-labelled as being for ‘health drinks’, which might be one point of view. Apparently they were quite popular items for some reason or other.

    For some reason I’d always thought that the patterns were etched into the glass. Most of the Pyrex stuff you see down here is clear. And here I have to fess up to accidentally burning some food items in the glassware and having a devil of a time to remove the blackened chunks of unidentifiable organic substances. The toasted muesli was the worst of the worst for that outcome because the honey if ever so slightly over heated, will burn. It is a fine art nowadays baking that stuff, but early on there were a few disasters.

    What rhubarb? Hmm, this Bar Keepers Friend stuff must be put to the test. Never heard of the stuff before – or seen it, but it’s been around for a long while, so in theory it must be good.

    Hard choices had to be made, but that’s what downsizing is all about. Did you end up doing OK at auction? As a strategy would you drip feed the items to auctions over time, or send them all at once?

    It was a really lovely day today, but alas I had to work inside the house until well after dark. The editor has ventured into the city tonight with a friend for the comedy festival. It’s good that the festival wasn’t cancelled like what happened last year when everything got slammed shut. So after finishing work I took the three dogs for a walk in the dark, although they’re a bit of a handful for one person. They’re funny because the three dogs have a set pattern with which they must walk (I’m assuming they created it for their own reasons) with Plum on the left, Ollie in the middle, and Ruby on the right. They just naturally fall into that pattern and then off they go. It probably means something? I dunno though. I began the walk using the torch and had fun with the dogs and the shadows they threw, but it became easier after a while because of the bouncing light effect to simply switch the torch off and let the eyes naturally adjust to the dark. And the added side benefit was that the dogs slowed down their pace once in the dark.

    Ah yes, the smorgasbord. Years and years ago I had a mate who was of Korean origin, but Aussie-as and he was both tall and girthy. He used to love dragging friends to this all you can eat Mongolian restaurant. Once inside the restaurant, you’d pick the ingredients and it was then cooked up in front of you on a huge wok. It was OK, but for my mate it was like a mighty and ultimate test of willpower to see how many bowls of food he could get through.

    As a side note, I met the editor because she was part of that circle of friends. At other times, my mate used to over order at restaurants, and because I hate waste, and there may have been a bit of a perverse pleasure to be had in derailing my mates wastefulness (maybe, just a bit), I’d ask for the excess to be bagged up and placed in a doggy bag (which was a thing many years ago) and then take it home. And the funny thing was that I discovered much later on that the editor used to do the same doggie bag restaurant trick with my mate for the exact same reasons. Conspicuous consumption is a sign of wealth, I get it, I just don’t much like it – so I hijacked and derailed it. 🙂 Is this cultural appropriation, or cultural opprobrium? Nobody was harmed…

    Hey, it ain’t just you. I did two years of French early on at High School and could probably make quite the fool of myself if I really had to speak that countries language. A bit of a shame that, because I now know that understanding another language gives you insights into different cultures that you otherwise may not get. You can only do so much in life though and I’m unsure how much free capacity there is in the old brain.

    Speaking of teaching languages, one of the things which annoyed me about they way languages are taught, is that there is a very large focus on grammar first and foremost. Now as far as I can understand life experience, you learn your native tongue through exposure and usage, and the grammar may then be over laid on top of that knowledge at some future point – if at all. Here I cite the oft heard word: ‘agreeance’, whatever that means. Grammar is usually learned via osmosis and utilising the language itself through the gentle art of listening, speaking, reading and writing. But every time I’ve encountered language lessons, there was such a strong focus on grammar, and many of the grammatical structures I’ve since discovered are imperfect explanations. As you can imagine, English was my worst subject at school and (whilst I’m on a rant) I recall being asked for a creative essay, so I would write something creative, and the marks would inevitably be poor because apparently a creative essay is a thing. If it is a thing, then by sheer definition it is not creative, it is something else altogether. Anyway, wanting to gain better marks I’d ask what was meant by a creative essay, and the explanations were mostly vague and unhelpful – of course being a teenager I could easily turn on the: ‘I so hate you’, with a side serving of haughtiness, or otherwise known as expression number three. Yes, fun days. 🙂 And I still don’t know what is meant by a creative essay. I’m guessing they made the concept up. Yup, sometimes if things make no sense, it is possibly because they make no sense.

    Lewis, I must now break my code of conduct here just for the nonce. The bastards! (This exception does in no way indicate that there will be a general free for all, as normal programming is now returning). The pay situation you described was so outrageous, I am genuinely gobsmacked. I was paid a known rate in cash on Saturday mornings. It was hard enough dragging the heavy loads of newspapers all around the distant streets in the dark and cold mornings for hours without having to hustle up sales from unwilling customers.

    Interesting. The theory is that the walnuts promote a more diverse gut flora and fauna – which is no bad thing from my basic understanding. Fennel has been used for a very long time for that purpose to, although the seeds are often referred to. It grows here in the garden and when walking around I just much away on some leaves – different varieties can be quite different taste wise.

    That was the name. Yeah. Well they probably had it coming as they may have been something of a hazard for everyone else around them. When I was a kid stories of such matters were recounted, but in these enlightened times it is possible few other people know what we are even talking about.

    Your theory about the Quaker parrot is probably a highly likely explanation for the loss. The wikipudding main photo shows a bird in a rather aggressive looking stance. Good luck, the parrots here would take them out because they look pretty small compared to the ones here.



  31. Hi Simon,

    Ooo top shot! 🙂 Yeah, who knew? Hehe! It is really brutal in the world of bird. A few months ago I watched the local Kookaburra’s conducting a daring raiding on the nest of a common blackbird, and ultimately flying away with one of the chicks. And when the Kookaburra made it back into the safety of the trees, the whole family of them were making their laughing sound.

    People may think that the birds are very pretty looking, as long as they don’t look too closely at what they are up to!

    I can’t imagine the falcon would try and take out one of the chickens, what with the other chickens around. Chickens are a bit edgy anyway, what can I say: they’re tasty, and other critters know it.

    That sounds right for heritage chickens as they are sold as point of lay, but they don’t usually go on the lay until after the winter solstice when the days begin to get longer. You can put in lights in the hen house over winter and they’ll come on the lay earlier, but I’ve never tried that and just let them run their own cycle.

    Nah, the Isa Browns might soon moult and then they’ll re-grow their feathers (we’re a few weeks ahead of you on that front). They can’t go through that process and produce eggs. In commercial egg farms they put the birds in huge sheds under artificial light and so they don’t really ever go off the lay, but it does burn that variety of bird out in under two years. You do run short of eggs normally during autumn for this reason, but some chickens keep producing so I dunno the outcome can be a bit random.

    Applesauce is a great idea, and I wouldn’t have thought of that. I’ll be interested to hear how it turns out.

    It is a nice problem to have, and for most folks when they see strawberries for sale in the depths of winter, they forget that there is relevance to the seasonal cycles. And I reckon knowing what to do with a harvest is as difficult a problem as producing the harvest in the first place.



  32. Hi Damo,

    Oh no! A classic over sight. Must rectify this problem. How to do so?

    Jimny, early grey hot! Nope, doesn’t sound quite right.

    Lower decks series? 🙂 Nope.

    How about this, the A-Bomb: A Suzuki Jimny prototype has been caught on camera in Europe with a longer wheelbase.

    I can now retire from the field happy that the foes have been vanquished and something else or other. 🙂

    Hope you and Mrs Damo are doing well over there.



  33. Hello Chris,

    Yield of 7:1 is pretty good. Potatoes usually match this and beans. Last year my beets were 0:1. No harvest. All failed. Don’t know why. However, tree crops are complicated to compare in the same way. What is one planted walnut to decades of harvest?
    And indeed, the dependencies in the modern food system are extremely intricate. So many critical points.
    In 1315, nobody would notice if there would be a war in the Near Orient, at least no impact on their daily bread…
    We have (partly) replaced dependency on weather with dependency on a myriad “inputs” to our controlled-climate greenhouses and “high tech” growing fields. How could it not go wrong once in a while?

    Emergency food in the form of inner bark (phloem) was part and parcel of the Scandinavian famine tradition that lived on until the railroads undercut the regional food shortages in the 1860s. The inner bark of several trees was used in cooking, e.g. linden trees and aspen. (Tilia spp., Populus spp.) The process was to cut down trees early in the spring and take off the outer bark to access the inner bark. It almost eradicated the wild linden tree population some time in the 1700s. (By the way, many linden leaves are also delicious in the springtime. I grow linden trees for leaf harvest.)
    The Sami people (indigenous in Scandinavia) had an even smarter way of harvesting edible inner bark from Norwegian Pine trees. (See picture in this Swedish language article By just scraping off a section of the bark, the tree could recover and a certain amount of bark could be sustainably harvested for decades. The key word is, again, limit. Take some, leave some…

    Today I met a soil amendment guy who recommended using “crushed organic egg shells” as a calcium source. Apparently that is the cheapest organically certified source of Calcium oxide here in the Netherlands, for 25 euro/ton (40 AUD per 1000 kg), in bulk. Delivery once per week in our area, for very little additional cost. Maybe that is available in your region as well? (I know that organically certified is not necessary for you, but nevertheless, I was surprised by the low price of this premium resource.)

    I am curious to hear more about your selected strategy for the upcoming financial meltdown/meltup. Please share more!

    The first outdoor harvest for the season is ramson (which the spell checker insists should be spelled “ransom”). I love the garlicky fragrance and the bite in a fresh green-glowing soup. We have a couple of weeks of harvest now and they are starting to flower. Next up are the American honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea), and then the whole garden explodes when we pass Midsummer…

    I have a horizontal-flow dehydrator, type Sedona (Excalibur), and I always thought that the most important aspect for the drying was the air flow. I need to monitor the energy use this season… Thanks for sharing your observations! (I dry lots of nuts as well, more and more every year, so I need to scrutinize the process!)

    Kind regards,

  34. Yo, Chris – Before I forget (because I forgot, yesterday), that flaming space junk I saw? A piece did come down. In the county just north of Al. Luckily, in a farmer’s field. I guess the spacey boys hustled right out to pick it up.

    Who can forget the “follow the bouncing ball” and sing along. That goes all the way back to silent films, when they were accompanied by a pianist.

    Bar Keeper’s Friend. Usually found in an out of the way corner of the shelves of sink and tub scrubbing powders. Can be pricey, but well worth it. Just don’t use it on delicate objects or surfaces that can be scratched. It also has a bit of an acid in it. With your delicate skin, you might want to wear gloves 🙂 .

    When I sent the downsized stuff to auction, I thought they’d do it all at once. Nope. It was auctioned off over three months. The checks just kept dribbling in. As with any large lots you send to auction, some prices realized are a disappointment, others, a pleasant surprise.

    Dogs have their own symmetry. Is it defensive? Pecking order? Only the fluffies know, and they aren’t telling. Sad news from Idaho. They had to put down one of their pooches. Little Amy, who was, I think, a miniature poodle. She was an escape artist. When I’d take care of them, she always managed to slip out of the dog run and head down the road to the river. Off on an adventure of her own.

    We have a Chinese restaurant, here, that if you have two people, serves “family style.” The trick is to pick a friend who isn’t interested in carrying left overs home. With a little augmentation, I could usually get two or three more meals.

    That’s what it seems some teaching is all about. Try and figure out what the teacher is looking for, by following vague suggestions and bread crumbs. Play twenty questions. Mind reading, helps. But I think a lot of them really don’t know what they’re after, from the student. They’re firm in the belief that “they’ll know it when they see it.” And I think they try harder, when it’s a student that they like.

    Well, the life of a newspaper boy. It was just the way things were. We also had to drum up subscriptions. Since I had two routes, my profit usually came from those folks who were hard to catch home. And, every month it seems two or three had skipped out, entirely. The old guy that oversaw the “paper shack” (a true classic. Fedora and trench coat. Shirt and tie) would come up with lists of people who had moved onto your route. We’d have to go out and pitch the paper. But, there were always contests for most subscriptions sold. I remember I managed to win three trips to the Seattle World’s Fair. I went twice, and took my brother along, once.

    The Quaker parrots (vicious, filthy birds) were smallish, but muscular. Like wrestlers. I had to figure out a way to set up his cage so I could clean it, feed and water him, without putting my hand in the cage. Otherwise, he’d take a chunk out of it.

    The Master Gardener’s came, yesterday. Their leader is back from Florida. Drove both ways. With her cat. As she was setting off to round up tubs, I made the comment that I hoped there wouldn’t be any supply line problems. Well, later on, she was back, and had only managed to score two tubs. She could order, but was advised that they wouldn’t be in until fall (!), and the price would probably be higher. They’re going to try other outlets, around the county. Elinor’s got her new tub in place, but it needs to be drilled. And maybe, painted. My one plot MAY be safe til fall. I hate the unknowing.

    I also asked about man power, for this great endeavor. That didn’t seem to be on the radar, yet, but the answer they came up with was Boy Scouts. Not that they’ve been checked with. But, as they have a lodge, up behind the Institution, I was able to volunteer the information that for the last two weeks, they seem to be back in business.

    I nipped down to the library and almost beat the rain back. I think the posties are a lot more dependable than our National Weather Service 🙂 . I picked up a copy of the book “Cursed Objects.” Another tight binding! What’s with this? I also picked up a book someone mentioned over at Mr. Greer’s. “The World of Yesterday” by Stefan Zweig. A new translation. It’s a look at Europe (particularly Vienna) just prior to World War I. Often seen as a golden, autumnal time. Before the cataclysm. Before the deluge. As many ups and downs as we have, I wonder if we’ll look back at this time, in the same way? Lew

  35. Hi Goran,

    Sorry mate, but it is the mid-week hiatus and the hungry maw of life has swallowed me whole. Will speak tomorrow. And I’m yet to read about Peak Oil over at you know where!



  36. Hi Lewis,

    It is kind of funny that nothing serious has been hit by falling space junk. There is this underlying assumption that the folks who put the stuff up there in the first place sort of know what they’re doing. I’d imagine that the truth is rather different – and so far everybody has just been super lucky. That ISS will fall back to the ground one day, and it’s big.

    Good to hear that they salvaged their stuff from the farm field. The impact crater will possibly save on ploughing.

    Hehe! I enjoyed the cartoon and Karaoke does that trick with the bouncing ball, although I’m yet to be asked to such a party – probably need to get better friends?

    Thanks for mentioning the cleaning agent – and the warning. I’ll keep an eye out for it. Ruth Goodman would be well pleased with our efforts as to reducing the sheer number of chemicals used in the household. It is quite a learning experience to go down that path, but I guess all of this stuff is like that. What is your take on all of the chemicals and stuff used in households? Victorian Farm covered the issue really nicely, but I’m always curious about other choices and possibilities.

    You know I reckon your auction folks knew what they were doing by drip feeding the market – I’m guessing they were paid commission on the sale value? And nah, I have no idea either and when selling items I list them as $0.01 no reserve auctions, and the market tells me what they’re worth. People get very hung up about the value of their stuff, but until someone writes a check, the belief is purely hypothetical.

    I don’t really know what the dogs are thinking, but you’re right they’d have their reasons. Ollie is like the mascot for the two girls, but Ruby really gives him ‘what for’. Plum is a follower pure and simple. Never having had puppies before I can see that quite a number of their personality traits are hard wired from the factory. That surprised me. I guess people are a bit like that too?

    You rarely see left overs nowadays as I’m guessing meal sizes are now smaller than they once were. And there is a cultural reluctance to not take the leftovers. Interestingly, it is certainly socially frowned upon as odd behaviour that I take the loads of coffee grounds each week.

    Your paper round system amazes me that the effort of drumming up subscriptions was placed upon such young shoulders. I guess down here the concept was: if the paper is worth reading, people will buy it. I guess that there must have been incentives such as what you described, the certainty of mad cash each week was enough for me. Once they provided free crash helmets (known as a stack hat) when they were introduced. None of the kids wore them.

    Parrots are very smart birds and possibly might have resented being stuck in a cage? 🙂 Cheeky scamps.

    Oh my gawd. That drive to and from Florida would be my personal nightmare. Respect where respect is due on that one. The lack of tubs is interesting. What material are they made from? You’d think plastic would be locally made?

    Haha! Boy Scouts. A very astute choice for the labour force. If you lot where down here, you’d need a police check and ‘working with children’ permit! Seriously. The kids would love the work. It surprises me that so few parents put their kids to work, and instead they treat them like some sort of pet. This is not good for the kids as they don’t learn how to organise themselves and lack self motivation. Plus they get comfortable and lazy, and that’s not good. I’ve often wondered if parents do that so they don’t have to integrate themselves in the wider community? Dunno, but that subject interests me a lot.

    Hey, it’s going to rain here heavily tonight… Like we need more rain. Well the posties have to know what is going on, because they are out in the weather! 🙂 The name of the book is almost a dead giveaway – it sounds like a proper grimoire! Hey, the Demian book was set in that world. What is the general feeling from those times?



  37. Hi, Chris!

    Busy planting things here.

    At first I thought your prized possession was your dehydrator, due to the first photo, and I thought, hmmm. I have been using ours to dry the extra greens we have that overwintered in the garden. I dropped the dehydrator when carrying it back inside the house – I was running it outside because we have had a few days in the mid-to-upper 80sF – and thought sad thoughts as it is 20 years old and a faithful servant. But it seems okay.

    But your prize is your power wheelbarrow? I would think that, too, if we had one.

    I think that is a smart move of yours to buy up the books that you value so much and it is comforting to know that there are still people who will reprint classic books as long as they know there is a demand for them.

    Thanks for the flowers! We are now having some of our own, but they are never as impressive as yours.


  38. Hello Chris
    Bitterly cold here still which is holding up planting.
    A fox has killed 2 of Son’s hens. He tells me that they bite off the heads which they take and hide the bodies for later. Son removed those and put them in the freezer for ferret food. Other hens have decided to become cockerels leaving Son with only 5 hens though he has a lot of eggs in an incubator so here is hoping.
    It is not just the price of houses that has soared, land too if one can find any. I sold a piece of land 2 years ago and the buyer has been offered almost 4 times as much as he paid me for it. Actually he is still paying me so is not immediately free to do anything about it. Though he doesn’t want to because there is nothing around that he could buy with the money and meanwhile that land goes up and up in value. It has become quite nuts as people are trying to leave the cities.


  39. @ Goran – My mother’s family was Finn with a bit of Norwegian. But go back far enough, and one branch was Sami. But, given the way the Sami were treated, way back when, it was only mentioned in passing. No detail.

    But, I figure my psychic powers, come from that branch. 🙂 Lew

  40. Yo, Chris – It’s a big world, and space junk, by comparison, is rather small. But, sooner or later …

    No Karaoke in your life? Your hanging out in the wrong bars. 🙂 . In normal times, our Twelve Step Club runs game / Karaoke nights, in the winter, on Saturday nights. I’ve never attended. Crowds. Not my thing. But, I hear a lot of people have a lot of fun.

    My take on exotic cleaning products is pretty much like yours. Who knows what the cumulative effects are? I stick with the pretty basic stuff. White vinegar, ammonia, soap. Bleach. Just a dash of scouring powder for the bathroom porcelain.

    Thinking back on my paperboy days, it’s interesting. We had an age spread, at a time of life where age spread is thought to be important. And, also, came from a lot of different schools. So, there was the possibility of that rah-rah, be true to your school nonsense. But even with 15-20 boys, I don’t remember any of that kind of tension. Of course, at 4:30-5am, we were all pretty dead headed. It was like we left all that nonsense outside of the paper shack, and just got to the job at hand.

    I think kids working, these days, really depends on if it’s rural or urban kids. There seems to be more opportunities to work (if a kid is so inclined, or their parents demand it) out here in the boonies. But urban kids just don’t have the opportunities they had, in the cities, that they did in Ye Olde Days. Like the 1950s.

    The stock tanks are galvanized steel.

    Prof. Mass has an interesting post. La Nina is collapsing. Up next, either La Nada (neutral) or El Nino. His last line was a bit ominous. “…Neutral years often associated with the most active weather in the Northwest…” Active? Active how? Good active or bad active?

    I haven’t started “The World of Yesterday,” yet. From what I’ve read of that time, it was generally hopeful. A new century. Rapid advances in technology, medical care … general standard of living. And then the world war rolled over everything.

    I did start reading “Cursed Objects.” Which is kind of fun. The author can be quit humorous. Often, cursed objects are kind of urban legends. Or, downright PR attempts. Nothing drags the peeps into a museum like a cursed object. He did say something interesting in the introduction. Cursed objects are a vehicle for story telling. Lew

  41. Chris,

    Precisely, the regular stops are where the food is best, or at least the coffee. Tea is often an afterthought at places, but usually hot water is available and Lipton black tea bags. We travel with our own tea bags, so if we want Early Grey, we can have it.

    The “free therapy” sessions occurred early in my time at that place. Once I truly had my feet on the ground and had advanced to a level with some autonomy, the Sun Tzu approach was incorporated. Sometimes, though, I had to pull out my cell phone and call my work number; the phone ringing over the conversation would get some folks to sign off. Worst case? I’d email a coworker who would then barge into my cube blurting out that my appointment had been waiting for 10 minutes. Sneaky? Yes, but it never failed.

    The nearby high school once featured indoor and outdoor swimming pools. The indoor water was warmer, and it had diving boards. The cooler outdoor water was more refreshing on the hot days. I must’ve been about 10, and we had a blisteringly hot day, probably near record levels. So, my parents bundled us into the car and we went to the pool. No sooner had we gotten into the outdoor pool than a lifeguard squawked, “Lightning, lightning, lightning! Everybody out!” Yup, there was a thunderstorm on the horizon, and there was some visible lightning. Yes, they had to evacuate the pool. We dawdled until the head lifeguard threatened to call the cops on us, the biggest rebellious act I can remember my dad ever making. IIRC, that storm DID hit us after we returned home treating us to an epic light display and some rain.

    I swam in the outdoor pool at New Mexico State until Halloween. They closed it for the season immediately after I exited the pool, as the weather had gotten too cool. Well, maybe for that area, but it was still brilliantly warm to me, at least for late October. That last night was a bit chilly for Las Cruces, as it was windy and dusty with a few sprinkles of rain. Meaning still +18C or so that evening.

    A Honda? Say no more. The Princess drives a Honda, her second. I drive a Subaru. The engines don’t need much attention.

    March and rain…It’s perspective. On average, March and May are tied as the 4th wettest month. March because it’s the end of the autumn/winter wet season, May due to thunderstorms. A mere 0.26 inches of rain in March is about half of the July average and about 83% LESS than normal for March. We got a few sprinkles early today, which, with the wind that accompanied it, left a nice layer of dust stuck to the cars.

    Hah! Another squall just went through, getting everything wetted down. Every little bit helps.

    The murder of crows has definitely moved back into the neighborhood this year. I think I’ve located 5 or more trees where they are nesting. That will make for some entertaining antics later this year, I’m sure.

    Good on your shadow. A dog of that nature is to be cherished.


  42. Hey Chris,

    Good point about the moulting. One of the ISA browns is clearly moulting at the moment. The the other doesn’t seem to be but might be just starting.

    I netted off a fresh round of cabbage seedlings hoping that would solve the cabbage moth problem but it seems something else is eating them. Must be some bug or caterpillar. Oh well. On the positive side, the silverbeet is growing very strongly this year and the garlic looks to be off to a great start. Swings and roundabouts.

    Random question about pruning olive trees. I noticed your olives have a nice rounded canopy. The olives I’ve planted all seem to want to grow tall and thin. I pruned them back hard last year hoping they would bush out but they’ve just grown straight upwards again. Any tips?

  43. Hi Simon,

    No worries, and I only mentioned the moulting process because I know of someone who thought that their chicken was sick during such a time, and things ended badly for the chicken based upon that mistaken assumption. Not that I’m suggesting that you would do such a thing (and it wasn’t me either) it is more of a what-not-to-do object lesson. But to encounter a moulting chicken is to see one ragged and mangy looking bird. The feathers regrow pretty quickly for the cold months of July and August, and they don’t all go on the moult so it seems a bit random to me and I can’t quite get my head around the process or cycle. Might get some more chickens next week – finally.

    If the caterpillars are bright green, that is unfortunately the cabbage moth larvae eating your Brassica species leaves. The chickens would like eating the caterpillars for the bonus protein, but they’ll eat the leaves too. I don’t recall what varieties of the plant you prefer and grow, but I have it from a reliable source that both Kale and Purple Sprouting Broccoli are fairly close to the wild plants and are probably the most resilient to the predation of the cabbage moths, but I don’t really know for sure. We picked up seeds for these two plants recently and I’ll put the theory to the test. The plants would grow really well at your place – if protected from the pesky moths.

    Exactly! That is my main strategy with plant varieties – although I add the caveat that they have to survive here too – and with enough diversity, something will work. Yeah! 🙂

    Olives are super tough plants. I thought a relocated tree in the new orchard had died over summer and so I stripped it right back to the trunk (which still looked alive), and only recently it has begun regrowing leaves – like a zombie plant, they keep coming back for more. We usually cut all the lower branches to about 5 foot, then let them grow for a few years before pruning. Then we hack them back hard – even the large branches will do OK after being hacked back. In fact my gut feeling tells me that they grow better with the pruning. You have to let them grow for a bit so they create a larger root system – and they also appreciate a regular feed of lime and dolomite. The ones in the courtyard are eating the crushed rock with lime courtyard surface, but look how fast they grow and they produce a huge amount of fruit. You couldn’t get both hands around the diameter of the trunk of those two olive trees – bonkers growth. Still haven’t come up with a good recipe for the fruits…



  44. Hi Pam,

    Haha! That was my little joke and thanks for getting it. 😉 Lucky you, and some of the older machines were very well made and can take the knocks dished out to them from – life. Some of the newer stuff sold is not anywhere near that robust. Twenty years is pretty good, and I reckon the machine here would be about that old too as we scored it second hand, although it had barely been used, if at all. Is it the same sort of machine as yours? Someone long ago mentioned that the one here which you can see in the photo is a US model, although promoted under a local well known brand.

    Yeah, maybe, but just as a little secret: It was the books! 😉 The replacement power wheelbarrow is a little ripper of a unit and I thoroughly recommend such a beast for steep slopes. Flat land – us hillbillies and poor hill farmer sorts, well we can only ever but dream the dream of flat land. What else do you? The unit has a load capacity of maximum 660 pounds (300kg), although up hill it is two thirds of that weight – which is still impressive.

    Not that I’m suggesting anything, but it was very hard to ignore the utoob videos where people have made these very same machines at home! Very clever indeed.

    Hope the soil has warmed at your place for the plantings?

    Thanks, and the flowers bring us a great deal of enjoyment too. Planted some Aster’s the other day – one of which now looks very ill, but didn’t when we bought it. I don’t have high hopes for those plants given that experience.



  45. Hi Inge,

    In those conditions, I’d wait too and pray that in the meantime some naughty pheasant doesn’t do a smash and raid in your greenhouse.

    Sorry to hear that, but the foxes here can be unrelenting. And I’ve been on chicken watching duties and had a fox spot me, but still take the chance of nabbing a chicken. They’re wiley creatures and indefatigable in their pursuit of chicken.

    I’m a bit soft, but the chickens here are all hens, and yes there is always a chicken who rises to the challenge to act as if she were a cockerel. I’ve kept roosters in the past, but some of them were pretty mean whilst others were real gentlemen. And I recall one rooster who made me choose between him and the hens, and I chose. Things went poorly for him, sorry to say. The intention is to pick up some more chickens this coming week, but I don’t really know how that will turn out. And yes, I should be breeding chickens, but my systems are not set up for that right now and I don’t wish to in-breed varieties as that would be irresponsible.

    Land is crazy here too. My gut feeling is that this is a three year problem, and we’re doing our very best to create the situation which the US market went through in the lead up to the bust of 2008. Maybe there are no other tricks up their sleeves? My neighbours put up a sign that their property (with no house) is for sale by the owner – and I can’t find any interweb advertising. Intriguing.

    The same exodus is occurring here too – but the thing that I wonder about is, what will the people new to the rural locales find when they arrive there? The experience they put themselves through is an interesting story as it has taken me a decade and half to get to this point.

    Oh, and I may have managed to capture a photo insight from the big smoke as per your suggestion – more on this next week.



  46. Hi DJ,

    Hehe! Very wise, and only those that know. Well, they know where the best stops are to be found that is. And the research required to get to that knowledge is (mostly) worth it, although sometimes disappointing. Tea is good like that, and there are even small 12V boilers which you can plug into the cars electrical system.

    Oh you’re good with such techniques. Some folks just try it on for their personal advantage, and I was near to a person this morning having a proper right old whinge about some trivial stuff or other, and that objective was transparent to me. The poor customer service bloke having to deal with the whinge though. Far out

    Went to see a comedy show last night by a comedian who previously worked for a radio station and was unfortunately attacked by a stranger (who’d managed to sneak into the building) whilst she was on the air. That is a serious workplace incident as far as I’m concerned, and candidly I didn’t find the comedy show that funny. She mentioned PTSD, but I had the understanding that the audience and comedian were in some sort of joint therapy session. Some of the comedy festival shows can be dark, and I saw another one a number of years back by the comedian Greg Fleet, who went well off the rails and was recounting the story. Far out.

    I was a bit the same about getting out of the pool on a hot day at the threat of an impending storm. With trees all around, you’d have to be pretty unlucky to be hit by lightning in the pool. Not impossible, just really very unlucky. Mind you an interweb modem (I use the cell phone system with external antennas) here once long ago blew up because of inductance from a close lightning strike. Nothing else seemed harmed. The solar power system is heavily grounded and fused.

    Yeah 18’C+ at night is pretty warm for here too! It got down to 8’C tonight as I sat outside after dark on the veranda yakking away on the phone. I had on my woollen hat, alpaca wool scarf and Ugg boots – mostly toasty warm, with a few cold areas.

    Subaru is pretty good too, and they love their flat engines. All those Porsche 911’s can’t be wrong!

    Hehe! 0.26 of an inch – half the average. The statistics from here must seem like rainforest territory! Mate, the dust is a pain here too and it gets into and onto everything. And the fluffy collective seem to have collectively decided to blow their coats over the past week or so. A lot of dog hair to add to the dust. Not a place for sensitive folks.

    Hope your murder of crows don’t get up to too much mischief, although this is a likely outcome. Good luck, and hopefully their antics keep you amused – and guessing (as to what might come next).

    Ollie is lovely, a real gentleman of a dog. He’s sound asleep right now on the green couch.



  47. Hi Lewis,

    The space junk thing is a numbers game and the more stuff that goes up, the more stuff that eventually comes back down again. The Earth is hungry for its own. And sooner or later something will come up second best. Exactly! I too tend to wonder if they wont get some sort of Kessler type syndrome sooner or later just because of the constant need to chuck more stuff up in low earth orbit. I guess given enough time the problem eventually resolves itself.

    True, probably need to get some more mates. A Karaoke bar would be fun, and glad your twelve step club does social activities as that would be important for some folks. I assume it is to provide a social environment and activities without the alcohol? Not a bad idea to retrain habits whilst just hanging out and having fun. The volunteer fire stuff turned into what looked to me like an unpaid job where social stuff was discouraged, and it was hard to justify putting in the time.

    Went to see another comedy show last night. This one was a bit on the dark side as the comedian had been publicly assaulted at a workplace and had PTSD. It was a dark show, no getting around it, but I didn’t expect a light and fluffy show – they can’t all be like that, can they? Dinner afterwards was very pleasant as it was a warm night, and the city was rocking with people – which was quite a surprise. And I had to work right up to the minute we left yesterday and so again missed out on a visit to the Paperback bookshop. The tides of fate have moved against me and thwarted my plans of world domination, and also the lesser plans of continuing education and filling the bookshelves.

    The basic cleaning stuff is mostly what you need. We have the more complicated problem is that any nasty chemicals used here will end up in the soil, and that is a real drama. I know of someone who killed their very biologically active sewage system through overuse of cleaners. Crazy stuff.

    That was my experience too in that all of the kids just got on with the work that needed doing. I don’t ever recall any funny business or social antics. The kids were there to work, and that is what they did. School is a very weird microcosm which doesn’t play out elsewhere in the world. I mean where else are people separated into age groups by year and sometimes by year by gender? It probably happens somewhere else in society, but I can’t think for the life where that may be. And so the social interactions can sometimes be quite odd, like the organised after school fights that went on in the more English than the English grammar school.

    And interestingly, we went to work out of a newsagency business, which was a normal business which just happened to be open at crazy early hours of the morning.

    Yeah, that makes sense about the city / rural divide. But still, there is a well marketed pervasive sense of fear which puts the brakes on a lot of that sort of work going on. I dunno, I’ve always had a gut feeling that the fear button is one of the old divide and conquer tools which have been employed to good effect over the millennia. But I don’t really know and am just going with a hunch.

    Galvanised steel! Nice, and we use them here and they’re good. A bloke who makes water tanks also manufactures them as he has all of the rolling equipment. The thing with raised garden beds is that you can watch for yourself just how fast the soil gets depleted. It’s mildly disconcerting at first, then it is majorly alarming!

    Yeah that is what the weather folks are saying down here too. We’ve got an interesting phenomenon occurring up in the north west of the continent. Two cyclones are circling around each other: Seroja and Odette dancing dangerously close to Australia.

    The book sounds like a familiar tale…

    Interesting. Yes, I can see that. An object attracts a narrative, and which then becomes more powerful, the object or the narrative? Or the power of the story teller? Hmm.



  48. Hi Goran,

    The 7:1 return sounded pretty good to me too. 30:1 is outside of my experience, although possibly some crops here perform that well, and this year the various berry crops have done amazingly well given the conditions.

    I grow beetroot and sugar beet, and they need room to grow and spread from what I see. And also they’re funny because you don’t want to over fertilise the soil they grow in. But I don’t really know why some seasons things go poorly for some crops. Each plant has a unique story and getting to know what that story is, is complicated.

    And yes, tree crops are a different case and cannot be measured by that yield ratio – which I’m assuming is for annuals only. Tree crops can be more reliable when seasons are running off the rails.

    That is the thing, when you rely on complicated growing arrangements to produce regular yields – its a risky business. I try to incorporate as many low tech and easy going practices as I can and just hope for the best that with decent plant breeding it will get easier – and it does appear to be working out. Do you use hoop houses?

    Thanks for the information regarding consumption of the inner bark of trees. And I’ll check out the link. Was the plant the: Norway spruce?

    Crushed egg shells at that volume at that price is almost unheard of down here. That is so cheap, and I’d say go for it at that price! I am the acquaintance of someone who made industrial scale compost and added crushed seashells into the mix, and I scored a large bag of the stuff and it was good. The commercial compost is generally animal wastes down here, and so the stuff is only really as good as the feed that goes into the animals in the first place.

    It may be a ransom. Ramson grows wild around these parts in the damper soils. You can smell the plant growing, although nobody harvests the stuff.

    Either of those dehydrating units look pretty good. I’d be curious to hear how much energy the machine uses and Simon probably would appreciate a more complete review of the machine?



  49. Hello Chris and all bark (Bark!Bark!) lovers,
    Sorry for my name calling of the tree, I should have called her by her true name: the proud Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris/ McPine?) is the one that the Sami harvested with care for consumption.
    More details in English here:

    And “walking on eggshells” has for me a completely new meaning now! I will enjoy that activity a lot in the coming years! 😉

    Kind regards,

  50. Yo, Chris – Mars Boy is shooting a lot of stuff up, to create a global communications network. But Kessler will get them all, in the end. Seeing space junk come down may become a new spectator sport! 🙂
    I saw a headline about some machine to kind of vacuum up all the junk. I didn’t investigate far enough to figure out if it’s pipe dream, or something actually in development.

    Well, when one is trying to jettison seriously bad habits, there’s the problem of what to do with all the time on your hands, freed up by time consuming seriously bad habits. It’s common enough that I usually bring it up with newbies. The Club also follows sports events. I hear those can get quit lively.

    The story of the PTSD comic, reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s first major picture. “Play Misty for Me.” Launched his career. I haven’t seen it in decades, and I don’t know how it wears. But it left an impression.

    Sorry you missed out on the Paperback bookstore, again. Think of all the things you missed! 🙂

    Places where gender and age are an issue? Not so much age (but still by experience), monasteries and convents. Until recently, the military. Fraternities and sororities?

    A lot of the shrinking market for youth employment is due to liability lawyers. Will those people ever let up? And over the top child labor laws. How can a kid build a CV (resume) without those jobs?

    Looks like a typhoon tango. We had another frosty night. 28F (-2.22C). All this on again, off again, has me chomping at the bit, to unleash the garden. Yes, when I took over my garden plots, in the raised beds, they were pretty depleted. Now, they are pretty well topped up, due to all the stuff I dig in. Now that’s interesting. All this talk of eggshells. I think I mentioned that I keep the shells in a bowl, and when it’s full, I nuke it and crumble them up. Keep them in a small bag. When I’m adding to the kitchen scrap bag (that I keep in the fridge), every once in awhile, I toss in a handful of shells. Sometimes, I scatter them on the soil when I’m planting something. They’re also supposed to keep the slugs at bay. Not so much. But the interesting part is, caffeine kills slugs, so scattering coffee grounds around is very beneficial. Poor slugs, to be deprived of coffee! Oh, well. More for the rest of us. 🙂

    I’m getting into the Zweig book, and have more a sense of it. It actually takes you up to 1939. And, my memory was jogged. A couple of years ago, I saw a film (not a documentary) about the last six months of Zweig’s life. Being Jewish, he and his wife fled Austria, early in the 1930’s. Scandinavia, England, New York. And finally, South America. Where they committed suicide. At every step, they had to flee, with nothing. The translator speculates that too much change and loss, finally did him in. The feeling that the promise, the culture, the intellect of the early 20th century, would never come back.

    I see that great mercantile venture, The River, is buying up ghost malls. For distribution centers. Well, just so they leave enough so that zombie movies, can be made. 🙂

    Well, I should pull myself together, wander downstairs, and get my second jab. I wonder how that will go. In some cases, the second shot can be a kicker. We’ll see. Lew

  51. Hi Goran,

    Woof! Woof! And eat some bark! 🙂

    Thanks for the information, and the Scots Pine tree is a fascinating tree which would probably grow very well here in the less fertile spots. In the mountain range at some of the higher locales are stands of very old Douglas Fir, and they grow pretty well. At the moment a logging company is harvesting the trees and I regularly see laden log trucks driving down the main mountain road at the western end of the range full of the quite large logs. I grow a few of the Douglas Fir trees here and they seem super hardy, but then so are the Californian redwoods. Both grow very fast.

    Out of curiosity, I’d heard that the inner bark of the trees was processed somehow to produce a sort of very dense, but nourishing bread-type loaf. You didn’t mention how the inner bark was prepared and I was wondering whether you’d ever tried processing some yourself?

    It’s a bit like knowing which wild plants are edible, when nobody else has a clue.

    Ah, there was something of a pay wall with the link. Oh well.

    I applaud your score of super cheap crushed eggshells (and enjoyed the pun). Calcium is a real problem, but in a proper salvage economy, there is a lot of gypsum strewn around the landscape as household wall linings. Can you imagine a future where people are stripping plasterboard from houses in order to access the easily obtained gypsum to apply to their fields?



  52. Chris:

    Oh – the books! Silly me. I can certainly agree with that.

    My elderly parents in Colorado are having numerous difficulties and my husband and I are flying out there to help them. We were going in June to help them move here, but this trip is necessary first. I may not be around here for awhile.


  53. Hi Lewis,

    Yup, Mars boy is playing with fire there. The Rolling Stones had something to say about what happens when one try’s their luck in that regard. The more stuff chucked up there, the greater the possibility that something will go horribly wrong. Reading about space stations the other week, I was intrigued to note that even minor impacts were not trivial events.

    Star watching could be a spectator sport, no doubts about it, and a Kessler event – even a minor one – would create a very pretty night sky. Of course it would be hard to shake the feeling of impending doom and take-over by the Triffids (pesky critters), and GPS might be something of a drama for many folks who are now unable to read a map. Out of curiosity, it impressed me that road maps were still updated each year and available in a book format. I used a map the other day to get to the far distant locale to pick up the power wheelbarrow. The map was out of date by about two decades, but all the same I got to the destination. Basic skills in the population are atrophying.

    Yeah, I saw that suggestion to vacuum up all the rubbish left up in low earth orbit, and thought to myself: Boondoggle. Gravity will sort the problem out – for free. 🙂

    Man the rain is bucketing down outside now, and tomorrow looks no better weather wise with winds, rain and a maximum of 59’F. With the impending forecast in mind we worked today on the low gradient ramp project. Rocks were fracked and the smaller and more easily moved – yet still large – rocks were then brought up the hill and placed in the rock retaining wall. We managed to plug up all of the remaining holes in the rock retaining wall and can now take another day or two of excavated soil. The ramp is looking pretty good, and it is very useful now in its unfinished state. It is 39’F outside right now. Brr!

    But I’m feeling it tonight, breaking rocks and relocating them is one of the hardest jobs that we do around the farm. But then once the rocks and excavated soil are in place, the farm gets just that bit easier to maintain.

    The wood heater is running tonight, and the short trip from here into winter is real. 😉 Some of the higher peaks in the state (three times higher than where the farm is) are predicted to get a good dump of snow overnight and into tomorrow.

    Fortunately the recent brief Indian summer ripened two buckets of tomatoes, and so we even managed to preserve a dozen large bottles of passata today. Yay! Another dozen and we might be covered for the year, but who knows – the weather has turned really cold. At this stage we probably have enough tomatoes dehydrated in olive oil for the rest of the year.

    And I caught Ollie digging in the potato bed this afternoon. He was chastised, but I’m curious as to what he was up to.

    Exactly, if your compulsion has taken all of your time, what the heck do you do when you decide to kick the bad habits and get new ones? I get that and had to work out better ways to go after the video game hole. Yup.

    Play misty for me didn’t quite match the details of the incident, but it was close enough to the show. It’s a morality tale pure and simple, albeit with shocking outcomes. The word ‘bunny-boiler’ springs to mind. By all accounts the film would probably stand up pretty well to a re-watch.

    The loss is unfortunately real, and the last time I was at the paperback bookshop I spied the collected stories of Sherlock Holmes and should have bought it then and there. But for some reason my hand was stayed, and I thought to myself: ‘next time’. It was a solid door stop of a book and my explanation is that the book had to be carried on an hours walk. Then we went into lock down and things have not been normal ever since. Oh well, I expect that the lack of this collective works will be rectified, and the bookshelves could hardly be considered ‘complete’ without owning this edition? Could it?

    Yes, of course and I appreciate the correction to my thinking. There is a pattern to all of those situations though which is worth pondering.

    I couldn’t agree more. It is a monster that eats away at the heart of society. For some strange reason we’ve gone from one extreme (little to no protection or consequences) to another extreme (bonkers costs and payouts). It’s been said before that extreme ideologies or systems often provoke their opposing counter parts. I used to compete in sports and that got shut down because of the liability issue, and I don’t ever recall there being any incidents.

    Ouch! I hope that no trees were in blossom at your locale as I fear for the blossoms during such a cold overnight low temperature.

    There is no alternative to adding back organic matter to vegetable beds. Nothing will strip the guts out of the soil as fast as a vegetable bed. Actually I really like what you’re doing with the eggshells and would no doubt do the same if I couldn’t get access to the ready supply of agricultural lime and dolomite. Late this afternoon as the sun was setting I only just managed to get the coffee ground and lime/dolomite mix spread in the orchard. And the rain was beginning to pickup. The funny thing is that the old timers used to know all of this stuff – like how you deal with the egg shells – and such things are rarely practiced these days. In a salvage economy I’d be stripping the stuff out of house plaster walls and applying it to the soils especially before anyone woke up to the possibility.

    That might be why you see slugs at your place and they’re here, but I never see them. The poor slugs brains might be getting over stimulated by the caffeine and then they explode? Someone once said to me about feeding coffee grounds to the chickens, but it sounded like a really dumb idea.

    Stefan Zweig was a complicated bloke. I don’t personally see what he saw in the dynamism of a continent descending into all out warfare twice in a short period of time? The history suggests that this how things roll in that part of the world and I’m guessing he applied an ideology over the top of that reality? I did mention about extreme ideologies provoking their counter point extremes. Mark Twain is quoted as saying: “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” And the guy has a point. I can’t for the life of me understand what would have driven Stefan from the relative safety of New York to Brazil, and then onto deep and dark despair. People can believe that things are a certain way, when they’re not. And the difficult thing to do when faced with such circumstances is to ignore your beliefs, look critically at what is going on, and then ask the hard question: What does it mean? And it is possible that there is no answer and the situation is senseless. But then a certain form of truth is illuminated by that questing. And circumstances change with time, if Stefan was patient, he could have returned to his home country and then stuck it to them using the tools that he had available to him. And a fine skewering it may have been, but he lacked the patience.

    I’m reading The Big Short at the moment, and the sheer senselessness of the financial goings on is quite bonkers. The thing I take away from the story and circumstances is that the officials were asleep at the wheel, unconcerned for the outcomes, or benefited from them directly (either by being rescued in the ensuing bail out or by making heaps of mad cash). There are very few directions which end up smelling of roses, and sometimes life is like that.

    The river has been through a divorce I believe, and strange things can occur in the aftermath of such volatile personal events. They’ve been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons. Some of the locals concerns matched a bizarre circumstance which I read about earlier today: Corporate carbon farms ‘locking up the land’ are locking out the people, critics say. A very odd circumstance.

    Fingers crossed that someone, anyone gets off their backsides and produces a zombie flick this year. 🙂

    How did the second jab go? Looks like the jabs have been put on a go-slow down here. The cynic in me suggests that we are playing a wait and see approach down here.



  54. Hi Pam,

    Books are good! And haven’t we all travelled to far distant places and times, and met intriguing characters all the while never having left our homes.

    Thank you for the explanation and I would have wondered what had happened to you. Weren’t your folks threatened by a massive fire last year? It is a lovely thing which you are both doing and hope that it all works out OK. I’ll try not to write any dog tails (sic) when you are away! 🙂



  55. Hi Chris
    The category of : “Home Vaccuum / Microwave Food Drying”. Lots of info. cost $1K plus , for the serious user .
    I like the idea. 😁
    Your winter marches near!
    Our spring is bouncing back and forth.
    43 F and 30mph wind gusts @ 6AM today. Burr!
    The suspected invasive sewer roots have been removed . Life is better.
    Cheers Al

  56. Yo, Chris – Just a quick look in. I had my second shot yesterday around 1 and I’m having side effects, big time. I was cold all evening. Had th heat on, and extra blankets.Around 3am, I became racked with chills. I remained calm and concentrated on my breathing. About half an hour to get everything under control . This morning, a temp of 102. Took some asprin. That ought to do it. Til tomorrow Lew

  57. @Pam
    Hope all goes well with your parents. I imagine it’ll be a relief when they move closer to you.


  58. Hi Chris,
    We have two chest freezers as Doug has to have lots of meat haha. They’re pretty efficient in the winter when it’s below freezing outside and they’re in the garage but in the summer – not so much. All in all it’s worth it to have them. For many months we can consolidate down to one and that’s during the summer.

    You can smell the herbs some as they dry but not all that much. Our basement runs the entire length of our house. It just depends where the house is built whether or not the basement stays dry as well as how the ground is sloped by the person digging the foundation. If your basement tends to flood when it rains you install a sump pump or two. We had one in the old house that ran quite a bit when it rained – sometimes it could barely keep up. It’s wise to have a battery back up too in case of losing power. We only flooded badly once there and it was due to loss of power due to a storm and not having a battery back up. This house sets high. It has a sump pump but we have never heard it run. There is one spot where we get seepage during a fast, heavy rain but Doug thinks he can solve it. As the water is just on cement and it’s not all that much it’s not a big priority. If a basement is dry people finish it by adding extra bedrooms or rec rooms. We just use ours for projects, storage and laundry.

    We buy very little meat as the freezer is full of our chickens, one of the pigs, a lamb and half of a beef steer raised by neighbors so don’t really keep an eye day to day on the price of meat.

    I returned from Carla’s yesterday after a day visit. I wouldn’t call her happy but rather stressed as is her fiancé. They could have kept this smaller and/or simpler or even better eloped. Perhaps a lesson learned. Unfortunately some of this is going to fall on us as the event is at our home. Daughter, Cecily, SIL and twins came for their first visit indoors and all went well. Then Cecily returned and stayed over the next night as she had gotten a vaccine appointment pretty close to us. She’s anxious to get this done as her husband will loosen up more. All and all a very full family week which has its good and bad points.

    Did get all the berry canes planted. My back was not happy. They are watered and mulched and we are getting rain today as well.


  59. Yo, Chris – I can remember in grade school, that we had a couple of “units” on reading maps. And, of course the Boy and Girl Scouts do quit a bit of orienteering. Even if I look online for something, what I get is a map. So it’s a knack that I don’t think will be entirely lost.

    Sounds like your getting bit of weather 🙂 . Here, we’re having clear days and nights. But, a frost tonight, and tomorrow night, and then the overnight lows will be well above freezing. Thermal inertia is finally catching up? I’m glad you were able to put up some of your beloved passata. You probably know that if you cut plants with green tomatoes on them, hang them upside down in one of your sheds, you might be able to squeeze out another 12 bottles.

    We think we’ve got problems with weather …

    Were you messing about in the potato beds? Maybe Ollie was trying to see what YOU were up to? 🙂 .

    The film “Play Misty for Me”, is interesting, as it was mostly filmed around Carmel and Big Sur. Spectacular scenery. Mr. Eastwood later became the mayor of Carmel. I was there once. The parking was so expensive, that I just did a drive through. I suppose that’s one way to keep the riff raff out.

    If you really want to get serious about Sherlock Holmes books, you should go for the creme de la creme. “The Annotated Sherlock Homes.” Two large volumes. Or, I see there’s now a “The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes,” in three volumes. And, looking at the prices, they’re not all that bad.

    I think a lot of the liability nonsense boils down to someone, somewhere did something really stupid. And everyone suffers for it. When I worked for the Big Book Companies, we had these three ring binders. The staff manual. A good 5″ thick. Not a week went by that we didn’t get a “remove these pages, and replace with these pages.” Because, someone, somewhere had screwed up. My district manager agreed with me. When you had about a thousand stores, from coast to coast, screw ups were inevitable.

    Something to keep in mind, as to using sheetrock to amend gardens, in a salvage economy. There’s lots of articles on line about using sheetrock (also called dry wall) for gardens. Needs to be broken up. A cadre of minions would come in handy.

    Zweig’s home country would never have been as remembered. And, I think he was a bit horrified what was percolating just under the surface. The nationalism, the xenophobia. Reading about his early life, he was really a “child of privilege.” Big house, servants.

    Well, the bank auction in Idaho did not go well. Representatives from the bank, never showed up. They didn’t call! They didn’t write! 🙂 . Calls to the bank didn’t yield much joy. Or, any kind of reason. They speculate that the owner of the property caught up on whatever money was due.

    That was an interesting article on carbon farming. In some ways, it sounds like looking for an easy target to blame, as to why your rural town is dying. We saw the same thing here, in the logging industry. Never mind that we didn’t cut to metric, or that the industry was being automated, with fewer jobs … it was that darned Spotted Owl and the environmentalists. Same with the conspiracy theories, out there, about the oil industry. There’s plenty of oil. But, the environmentalists keep it all locked up.

    Another supply line problem! Those little packets of ketchup you find in restaurants. Oh, woe!

    You can skip this paragraph. Just whinging about my health. As mentioned, I reacted to the second jab, big time. Besides aches, pains, an early round of “digestive problems” and general “fuzziness of the brain,” the worst part of temperature regulation. Bouncing between racking chills and 102F temperature. But, I started taking aspirin every four hours, this morning, and that seems to be leveling out.

    I got to thinking. I might not be such a bad idea to plant a white willow, somewhere here at the Institution. In case aspirin ever became unavailable, or so pricey it might as well be. Tea from the bark was a sovereign cure for fever, chills and pain, long before it popped out of a test tube. Lew

  60. Hi Al,

    If ever I need such a device, my mates of the big shed fame already have such a machine. 😉

    The machine is not a bad idea at all, it just requires some advanced planning as to food needs. Despite all the high tech gizmos on this farm, the growing systems here are pretty low tech, and say like with the electric boiler unit for the bottling (canning in US parlance), we have a unit which I can just chuck on a fire if needs be. It may surprise you, but I’ve put some brain cells towards this stuff. The rubber rings are the limiting factor, and years ago they used to sell rubber rings that were super-hardy, but of course that might be a bad option for business, and here we are today.

    My friend who moved her family to a farm in the island state to the south of here would be feeling some serious cold today! 🙂 Given this farms elevation above sea level, we kind of enjoy a similar climate despite being a lot further north. In some much higher parts of the state it snowed today. Brr! But with your weather today, you probably know what I mean! 🙂

    Good stuff with removing the roots from the sewer. Do you have clay or plastic pipes? Clay pipes are notorious for seepage and give the trees a very good feed.



  61. @ Margaret:

    Thank you so much, and you are so right about having my parents closer.


  62. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for the laughs! I’m no purist, and candidly we’re only vegetarians whilst on the farm, because it would be that much more difficult to produce animals for consumption at this location at farm. If we go to the local pub for example, I’ll happily chow down on some chicken. 😉

    Your observations as to power consumption for the chest freezers sort of is what I would expect from those machines. The project house we lived in when constructing this place was the reverse, and on hot days when the garage was the coolest room in the house. That was my first experience of such housing, and if need be (due to destruction from bushfire) I would prefer living in a shed on this property by way of comparison. That discussion has already been had and the editor and I are of one mind in this matter. One very cold winters morning whilst at that house, inside the house was 39’F and there was condensation on the bedding. I really don’t know what to make of that experience, but it was mildly disturbing.

    Thank you for the best explanation of basements in your country which I have yet read. They’ve been something of a mystery to me, but yeah I would likewise purchase a house which was elevated off the ground in those conditions. The water table is much deeper here, and so the seepage outcome is not even on anyone’s radar. Talk of sump pumps as a solution makes me feel a bit uncomfortable because I’m dubious of relying on pumps during extreme weather, although as a technology they rarely let you down if you’ve got the energy to run them and they can be started (not easy to do in a bushfire). Go Doug! And long term it is not a bad idea to correct the seepage matter.

    Of course, and you have a great advantage in having freezers full of your own home raised meat. It is a commendable outcome for your hard work. The prices at the supermarket or butcher are a total surprise to me and I just pay them whatever they ask. A few weeks ago, a batch of lamb bones for the dogs cost me $8, and I’m fine with that.

    Oh no! I honestly don’t know what to say without totally annoying you and whole bunch of other people. It is just one day in a person’s life, and frankly I’d be more concerned about what comes afterwards, but people as you well know, fixate on the day. Oh well, what do you do, other than just not putting yourself in harms way? The other night at the comedy show, the comedian, who was going through a rough time of it, still posited the view that she’d like to tick off the bucket list of life moments. That sort of pressure leaves me feeling a bit ooky, because what happens if it all goes wrong even when you’ve ticked off those life choices? Dunno, but my childhood experiences kind of informed me that this is a distinct possibility, but you know it’s OK and you come out the other end just fine. I dunno, err, good luck and may the force be with you, or something or other like that (hopefully it is not a force of nature!) Hehe!

    Yeah, this getting older thing is not all it’s cracked up to be you know! Glad you got your berry canes in the ground, and I’ll chuck in a photo of the raspberries from a few days ago. Yum!



  63. Hi Lewis,

    Glad to hear that you are feeling better and managing your health conditions. Honestly, I’m impressed that you were able to reply the first time, let alone the second time. 🙂 Unverifiable word on the street is that your reaction is a one in two possibility, sorry to say. Vaccination is a very remote possibility down here, as I suspect the gobarmint is playing a wait and see approach. Not a bad option when confronted with new circumstances. There are times I get the impression that they are full of BS and big talk or outright lies and tomfoolery, but mostly they might be doing the best they can do. Dunno.

    Yes, I agree, maps are part of our culture of tools and using them is not a hard thing to learn. People will adapt to the loss of their GPS if that eventuates. It is like losing their mobile phones – back in the day people made arrangements and then stuck to them at the risk of a loss of social prestige. Everything old will be new again, sooner or later.

    Hehe! Yup, thermal inertia at work. Brr! I still recall the off the cuff response to my simple weather question via way of a guy I know who used to work as a scientist. The editor is having dinner with his lady – who is also a scientist – this evening. The conversations which go on in that house would be fascinating!

    Thanks for the suggestion, and it might get to that with the unripe tomatoes this year. On the other hand, the unripe tomatoes in these sorts of a year get a somewhat odd taste to them, which I’m guessing is a fungi but am not really sure. Next weekend looks like some warmer and sunnier weather so who knows? Another dozen bottles of passata and I can declare the coffers replete.

    Mate, the year without a summer back in the dark ages, read like a horror story. Imagine being in the lands closer to the Arctic circle and facing the option of starvation or plundering the also starving lands to the south? Turmoil in action.

    Ollie is a gentleman of the finest breeding and as such his motives cannot come into question. Me on the other hand, well I make no such claims, other than I had nothing at all to do with the Great Potato canine raid, and that’s my story anyway. We’ve been digging up the tubers and eating them and recently discussing adding more soil to the long raised potato bed.

    Well that will do it with the high parking costs. And I respect another riff raffian! Respect to this social class. I worked in the parking industry once long ago, and have no desire to feed the monster.

    Yeah, thanks about Sherlock, and that sort of sounds what I’d expect. The volume was quite large and I balked at carrying it for an hour, so ended up missing the opportunity. Time will sort this matter out, for first there is the Jack Vance collection which is rapidly stacking up. Unfortunately this pressures me to sorting out the doors on the book cases and that whole job. Collections can be both equal joy and burden, but isn’t this is the nature of the collector don’t you reckon?

    Your book store manual story reminds me of the misery of reading corporate law and just the stupid turnings in the predominate cultural sentiment produced by the minute difference in the toss of a coin. Over-use of signage falls into that dark category. I’m not really wired to get down on things, but if that was ever going to happen, reading of familial disputes in corporate law would have pushed that button.

    My thinking is that if nobody else knows what’s going on, a cadre which could be fed, could easily be called upon. They run the risk on that front, not I.

    That was my thinking too about Stefan. His imaginings didn’t match the reality, and I had not realised his earlier experiences were quite so high end. People want to pretend that they are the good people, but my understanding of that volatile part of the world from an ecological basis was that they’d over stepped themselves and then went on a witch hunt combined with a brutal expansionist failed reset. The actual response does not reflect well upon them.

    Shoot! Hope your mates in Idaho are OK with that circumstance? Ouch.

    It’s hard to make a buck up in that part of the world. Did you look at the photos of the land? It’s pretty arid, and so you’ve got some large corporates getting the land on the cheap for what appears to be a green-washing event and so what could possibly go wrong? I told you it was odd looking.

    Ketchup (tomato sauce in other countries) is usually supplied down here in a bottle in a restaurant setting if asked for (which would be a rare request), but mostly it is not seen. I’ve noted that condiments are often not even on the tables nowadays. You’d never see ketchup in those little squeezy use-once containers, although if you bought a take away pie in a bakery setting, they’d supply them, but make you pay for them. The going rate is about $0.20 per sachet.

    Seriously glad to hear that you are feeling a bit better. I was mildly concerned upon receiving your first reply and have heard this story from others. And as a note, I grow a few different willow plants – including that one. I find it very odd that those particular plants are much derided when they are enormously useful. Hmm.

    On an entirely different note, I discovered earlier today that the guts of the toilet cistern mechanism requires annual lubrication. I used lanolin as that is pretty water resistant. Anyway, the push button broke on the cistern, which led to the discovery that maintenance was required. I tracked down a replacement, for the no longer manufactured item, and discovered that they were $85 delivered and was mildly horrified. I don’t think so, and ended up using some epoxy resin to glue the broken components and then proceeded to lubricate the mechanism and have added it to the maintenance schedule. Crazy stuff. There are generic replacement kits for the outlet valve, and I’ll grab one as an longer term spare. The company has a delightful name: Fix-a-loo! Had to smile at that.

    Better get writing!



  64. Hi Chris,
    I certainly take no offense as that very idea that it’s only one day has been suggested several times to no avail. All will be well I’m sure.


  65. @ Pam: hope all goes the best it possibly can with the visit to your parents and with moving them to your area!

    @ Lew: I’m glad you are feeling better. Mike’s second shot is on the 23rd. We’ll see how it goes. Missouri just started offering the vaccine to all adults on the 9th, so I can get it now. There is a mass vaccination site nearby; I may be able to receive the vaccine within the next couple of weeks.


  66. Yo, Chris – Well, “they” say that a strong reaction to the second dose is an indicator that it’s really working. I figure I’m bullet proof, now. 🙂 .But, they also say to keep wearing your mask for at least two weeks. Sigh. I kind of like my mask. Also, in an interesting note, we had no cases of flu in the county, this year, and I noticed no one with colds.

    I feel pretty normal, this morning. Stopped taking the aspirin, and I’ll see how that goes. H and I also took the stairs, this morning. Yesterday, it was the elevator (lift?). Which freaks me out, a bit. It’s creepy. And, people have got stuck in it, before. Service comes from far to the north. And, it always seems to happen on a week-end. Natch.

    “…make arrangements and then stick to them.” What a concept. But even in our overly connected world, banks in Idaho still stuff it up. I don’t know which bank it was, but, as it wasn’t a multi-million dollar land deal, I suppose it was beneath their notice.

    It got down to 28F (-2.22C) last night. One more night of that, and then, maybe spring is here? Clear days and warmer nights, for the foreseeable future.

    “Overuse of signage.” Well, when I worked for the Big Bookstores, we’d get sale signage from the corporate print shop. I’d always take a long look at it, with a critical eye, and ask myself “How many ways can the great unwashed “mistakenly” interpret this sign. Usually, I have to add a bit of a disclaimer. No, the whole store isn’t 50% off, marked price. Just the table top. I’d always get as least one person who’d ooze up to the counter, and when I’d ring up the book, say, “But it was on the sale table!” “Someone…” pause and arched eyebrow, “…must have picked it up elsewhere in the store, and abandoned it there.” (Firmly.) I never got any back argument. Sometimes they’d buy the book, sometimes not. I sometimes felt, a certain part of our clientele like to play “Gotcha!” To quote a common saying, from the time, “I laugh, joke, smoke dope … but I don’t play.” Not that I smoked dope. But you get the idea. 🙂 .

    My friends also went to look at property in Riggins, Idaho. Now there’s a god-forsaken looking place. But the weather was kind of interesting. “Sub-tropical. Except in the winter.”

    Yup. That land in your bush looked pretty grim. I suppose the government pays for those carbon credits? Well, when those credits stop, or are reduced, those big corporations will be gone. Interesting that some of the farmers are also taking advantage of the carbon credits.

    Well, willow can be a bit invasive. Someone over at Mr. Greer’s was banging on about how a lot of furniture used to be made of it. Very elaborate furniture. And, the switches had a lot of other uses. Beating small children, comes to mind 🙂 .

    Well, that’s a pretty outrageous price to pay for a small plastic part. But, as with the other mechanism, best look around for a more reasonable back up. Otherwise, you’ll be building a small shed, over a hole in the ground.

    As far as Zweig’s life goes, I’m watching “Howard’s End.” Not the Merchant / Ivory version, but a newer mini-series version. It’s also from a pre-WWI time period. For a certain segment of the population, life was pretty “gracious.” Postal delivery three times a day. Imagine! Much to my surprise, Tracy Ullman plays the slightly dotty old aunt. For about 24 hours, I didn’t want to watch or read, anything.

    Charge for ketchup packets? Here, that would be outrageous. There’s the old story about starving college students, ordering a cup of coffee, and then stuffing their pockets with ketchup packs and cracker packs (also, free on offer.) Then they’d mix the ketchup with hot water, add the crackers. A meal! I here stories of people who do a lot of take away, with a kitchen drawer stuffed with condiment packets. Everything from ketchup to soy sauce. Hot sauce, etc. Lew

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