Freak Show

Twenty years ago, the editor and I lived in an inner northern suburb of Melbourne. We could walk to the city in about an hour, and the suburb was full of cafes, restaurants and the sort of amenities you’d naturally expect from such an area. The house was a terrace house on a long and narrow strip of land and the Victorian era houses sat right up against each other.

I’m not sure exactly how my gardening adventures began, but around that time I became curious about growing some of my own food. It is possible that reading the hippy magazines (which I later went on to write for) aroused my interest, but it could equally have been the memories of Sunday’s spent as a kid working in my grandfathers extensive vegetable patch.

Whatever the case, I dug up the tiny front lawn out front of the terrace house. Imagine the outrage from the Greens voting neighbours as I planted out the newly turned earth with vegetable seedlings! Those neighbours sure could get snarky if standards weren’t upheld. One night a mysterious person cut the power cord to the twinkly fairy lights threaded through the decorative iron lacework. I guess the low voltage lights weren’t nearly green enough, unlike the street full of large SUV’s.

As you could imagine for a very first garden, all of the vegetable seedlings died. Who knew they had to be regularly watered?

The failure was actually a really good thing. When faced with utter failure, but a desire to succeed, I delve into books on the basis that other people probably know what they are doing. And I had a desire to use minimal sprays, whatever that meant. Shouldn’t be that hard, should it?

It’s been a long journey since those early days, and in between there and here, I’ve read a lot of books from people categorising themselves under the label ‘organic’ as well as the ‘permaculture’ schools of thought and practice.

Turns out that there are a lot of purists out there, and I’m sadly a bit flexible for them and would happily spread an entire truckload of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) over the farm and not even think twice about it. My reading has alerted me to many curious things such as NPK being marketed as ‘complete fertiliser’. That may well be so, however I’m pretty sure there are some other elements and compounds other than those three which plants require in order to grow. When you read about soils, that is just one message which you have interpret as best as you can do so.

Some folks suggest to just add more compost, and everything will be great. Others suggest to just add more woody mulch, and everything will be great. Over the last decade, it is no exaggeration to say that we’ve added well over more than 600 cubic metres (780 cubic yards) of composts and mulches. And the fruit trees have not grown quickly, and neither have they produced as much fruit as you’d imagine.

I used to be a member of a local seed savers group and really enjoyed the group. In a visit to a local garden of one of the members of the group, I asked a question as to how old a particular fruit tree was. Turns out that the fig tree which I was marveling at, had grown more in three years than any of mine had in ten years. I just didn’t get it, that particular property was in a rain shadow from the mountain range, and the soil wasn’t anywhere near as good or had as many additions of compost and mulch.

Or was it?

Despite the juggernaut of Fernglade farm beginning with no top soil to speak of, nowadays it looks green, and whilst the trees are growing slowly, they’re not showing signs of disease. I put the marked difference in growth rates down to the micro-climate and aspect to the sun. And I continued to feed the trees with compost and mulch.

In a serendipitous moment a few months back, I read a book by the author Steve Solomon titled: Growing vegetables south of Australia. The author was specifically writing about conditions in the island state of Tasmania, which is to the south of this state (Victoria). I was a bit skeptical that I’d get much out of the book, especially given that it was written as a guide for growing vegetables in a colder area far to the south of here. But I thought what the heck, who knows what I’ll learn.

One word people living in the very temperate city of Melbourne think when they think of the area where the farm is located is: Cold. Seriously, people used to the warm-ish winter days of Melbourne, quail in fear at the thought of the sort of weather I am now used to. I’m often accosted by shocked strangers exiting the local cafe who find someone sitting outside. Inevitably they ask me: ‘Aren’t you cold?’ To which I reply: ‘Is it cold? Oh, well, I’ve lived up here so long now, that I don’t even notice the cold’. And most of the time they’re so shocked they forget to say ‘excuse me’ or ‘sorry to interrupt your reading’.

The farm is located about 700m (2,300ft) above sea level, and at this latitude you lose 1’C / 1.8’F of temperature (relative to Melbourne) for every 100m above sea level. So technically it is colder than Melbourne, but compared to other parts of the world, winter is pretty mild with only the occasional snowfall. And long term readers will note that aside from the occasional drought, it rains here quite a lot, especially relative to other much drier parts of the state.

So, I’m at the local cafe, reading my book on growing vegetables in Tasmania and trying not to be hassled by shocked strangers exclaiming about how cold it is up in the mountains. As I’m reaching for my coffee whilst reading about soils in the island state of Tasmania and their issues in relation to vegetable gardening, the little light bulb in my head went off. I was hit with the sudden realisation that I was reading about the sort of soil issues that I’m encountering on our cool mountainside farm. BOOM! That was the sound of my mind being blown away!

Turns out that much of the gardening advice people were all too happy to give me over the past two decades, was not entirely appropriate for the area I now found myself in. Who knew that learned and well articulated people with a large followings and forceful arguments, might not always be correct with their advice?

The author suggested that lime is deficient in many Tasmanian soils due to the high rainfall washing the lime into the subsoil and then away. Many areas of the world with high rainfall suffer from this problem. I’d never applied agricultural lime to the orchard soils, but we had applied the locally quarried crushed rock with lime as a surface to the many paths. I was guessing that as the editor or I, and of course the dogs (not to mention the wildlife) used the paths, the tiny square edged rocks would rub against each other and the fine lime dust would then wash into the soil with the rain. Does the theory work out in practice?

A tale of one dog, a path and three kiwi fruit vines

In the above photo, there is one dog (Plum) on the path and a kiwi fruit vine to the left in the photo and thus downhill of the path. On the uphill side of the path (to the right in the photo) there are two smaller kiwi fruit vines. Each of the three vines were planted at the same time and have been fed the same amount of compost and mulch. Yet the kiwi fruit vine downhill of the limed path is far larger and has produced more fruit than the other two vines combined (the middle vine is actually a male vine, but the point is still valid). The only difference is that the larger vine is downhill of the limed path.

I began seeing this story playing out across the three orchards. Wherever there was a limed path, downhill of it just produced far larger and better fruiting plants.

A huge plum tree next to and downhill of the limed driveway

In the above photo there is a very large plum tree. Yet just behind that tree and to the right in the photo is another plum tree a bit further away which was planted at the same time and fed the same diet of compost and mulch, and yet it is half the size. The difference is that the much larger plum tree is next to and downhill from the limed driveway.

Once knowledge of this mineral deficiency on the farm became so obvious that it could no longer be ignored, I began buying bags of agricultural lime (Calcium Carbonate) and dolomite (Calcium Magnesium Carbonate) and spreading the stuff around the orchards each week along with my regular addition of used coffee grounds.

White powder: Agricultural Lime + Orange powder: Dolomite + Black powder: Used coffee grounds

Every three months, all of the trees in the orchards now receives about 3kg (6.6 pounds) of the above mix as a feed. Is this a good thing to do? I don’t really know, but I do know what happens when I just rely upon compost and mulches in order to feed the orchards. And the question should be asked: is the regular feeding of this mixture making much of any difference?

Well, maybe 10 weeks ago I fed the pecan nut tree with this mixture. The tree hadn’t really grown much in the past seven years since it had been planted. It hadn’t died either, it just hadn’t grown much. But in the past ten weeks since the feed, the tree has finally begun to grow. You can see the foot of fresh green growth.

The 7 year old pecan nut tree finally decides to grow after a good feed of what it wanted

And despite many of the fruit trees going deciduous as winter approaches, most of them are continuing to grow.

The truth is, after a decade of applying mulches and composts to the soils, the place looks green and lush, but I don’t really know what’s actually in that stuff. And you’d have to suggest that if those materials originated in a location which has some sort of mineral deficiency, well it is hardly surprising that the farm would also have same mineral deficiencies. The larger implications of this story is that its a bit of a worry, as given the mulches and composts source materials come from a wide geographical area the story must be playing out in the wider area.

We didn’t do anything around the farm this week. The weather was fine for work, we’d just spent so long doing paid work, that we needed some time out. On one of the days we visited a lovely old farm which is open to the public. The old farm is very pleasing on the eye, and was fairly quiet.

An old stone building shelters racks of drying lavender
The orchard is adjacent to the chicken pen with a very delightful picket fence
Rows of lavender are grown and harvested and in the background is another old stone building

Oh, I did do something this week. Ollie and I planted another Salvia plant, whilst Plum and/or Ruby had contributed by attempting to dig up a different Salvia plant.

Ollie and I plant another Salvia plant

And just to feed the Olliemania, here is a profile photo:

Handsome Ollie. Nuff said!

Despite the mineral deficiency, there is a lot of life on the farm. The other night I spotted a southern brown tree frog swimming in the dogs water bowl.

A southern brown tree frog swims in the dogs water bowl. The water here is rainwater and it is so very clean and clear that you can barely see the water line halfway through the frog

The other night Ollie alerted me to a possum consuming the leaves of a plum tree in the orchard. The brush tail possum looked rather pleased with itself.

A brush tail possum high up in a pear tree

And it’s leaf change time.

A beautiful Japanese maple

Onto the flowers:

The roses are continuing to bloom
This is a very old variety of rose
This lemon scented Geranium is beginning to hybridise the colours
The local honeyeaters love Salvia plants
Lavender blooms even though the season is late

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 331.8mm (13.1 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 324.6mm (12.8 inches).

65 thoughts on “Freak Show”

  1. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the clarification. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed some chocolate, so I can’t actually recall whether that happens.

    Incidentally, it’s not for any great reason that chocolate hasn’t been part of my usual food stuffs, I just hadn’t thought about it.



  2. Hi Lewis,

    Speaking of the grief of graduate jobs, my mate Simon wrote about BS jobs recently, and I couldn’t fault his analysis. But then I work in small business and so the machinations which go on in large curporates and gobarmint departments just seem like an entirely different and other world to me nowadays.

    Sometimes I do wonder with these larger moral and ethical issues, how much responsibility falls onto the family to teach the kids about such basic stuff which they’re going to encounter anyway, or should it be the schools? Dunno really, but the more complicated social stuff becomes for the kids, the more expensive the entire system becomes (or there is a shift in what is being taught). People think of such things as ‘free’ but it ain’t so.

    Thanks for understanding, and that has actually been the way of the world for me over the past year, and I’ve done my best given my own personal failings. I have to keep remembering to look after myself too, and it is possible that the worst is yet to come.

    I agree with both of you. Blessed are the competent, for they are busy! 🙂 And exactly, competency is sometimes not reflected in a person’s remuneration. I turned my back on the concept of status over a decade ago, and it works fine for me. If I were so inclined I could lay claim to status, but I seek not that high estate.

    Tell you an odd story from earlier today. A local bloke who I hadn’t met before, drove down the driveway this morning and got out of his rough looking farm utility vehicle. He looked sort of agitated when he got out of the car. This looks like trouble, I thought to myself. Taking a leaf out of Sun Tzu’s maxims I walked straight up to him and asked what he was about. Introductions were made, and it turned out that two black dogs had been attacking his sheep way down in the valley below. I have two black dogs, and so he tells me that another neighbour (whom I know and he named) suggested to come around to this property, and make inquiries. I knew straight away it wasn’t Plum and Ruby, if only because I don’t let them out together at the same time.

    So I suggested to the bloke to come and have a look at the two dogs and identify whether they are the ones giving him sheep trouble. And I had to take the guy around to the dog enclosure, and he’s looking kind of nervous that I’ll bop him over the head and disappear him. But manfully, he met the two sheep dogs and ruled them out. The two naughty dogs are much bigger and of an entirely different breed than my two small Kelpies. Honestly, trouble sometimes comes to your door, but basically it is not my problem.

    And because I know the workings of the bush telegraph, I had to get on the phone to the neighbours and say no, it wasn’t my two dogs and clear the possibility. The problem is that sometimes in small communities, perceptions can become reality and so you have to nip those sorts of troubles in the bud before they become entrenched beliefs. So yeah, bearing bad news and all that stuff has been honed as a skill over the past year. I doubt that a decade ago I would have as easily understood and extricated myself from today’s troubles. The two dogs in question are known trouble dogs.

    Actually, I had reservations about sending the please explain yourself letter as there could be a vindictive response from the department. But yeah, who knows what will happen? That one is the editor’s show. At best nothing will happen. The members services at the professional body was also contacted for comment on this fee gouging.

    Exactly, well connected older families can cause all sorts of mischief for the unwary, so best not to have any interactions with them. I’ll suggest to contact the former owners, and find out what is going on with that arrangement.

    🙂 So not very politically correct. And three weeks sounds about right to me too.

    You know the discussion about Allectus in the Camulod series was probably lost on me (or more properly now forgotten). But I do recall the very competent Stilicho being volunteered to enter the afterlife before his time. I’m guessing that when connections mean more than competence and results, a civilisation is in deep trouble.

    Thanks very much for the commentary on the Roman household relations and arrangements. I’ve long wondered if there was any mechanism to remove a pater familias from the role if he was failing to meet his obligations to the family or was basically incompetent in the role?

    Ah, that makes sense about shipping off the excess freemen to distant Roman colonies in return for benefits. I get that and the colonies in turn I’m guessing would be sort of loyal to the Emperor. Hmm. You’ve given much information about that era to ponder. The English likewise had similar practices.

    Intriguing about the private label same, same goods. And the idea that national advertising costs aren’t part of that story was something which I had not considered. Makes sense. Not sure about where you are, but such private label products are consistently and very basically branded. They intuitively look like no frills products.

    Ah, H dodged the dreaded pom-pom, but retained the tail flag! I’d also ignore such complaints and likewise keep the rear end free of fur. My experience of that breed of dog is that they can end up with poo-dags unless the fur is kept short.

    There was a bit of craziness with sheep a few years ago. Some activists seem to have gotten it into their heads that sheep rear ends didn’t need attending too. Unfortunately, the activists were wrong in that regard, and sheep most definitely need a bit of cleaning up. Flies laying eggs in the poo dags and that is a really nasty problem.



  3. Hello Chris
    Your comments on the subject of lime are very interesting. The fields around here used to have lime added all the time when they were being actively farmed. I shall discuss this with Son.

    We had another icy cold night. Unless we get very good weather in October, this is going to be a very short growing season. Spring is noticeably struggling.


    Your remarks about H tied in amusingly with a book that I am reading. ‘Beware of the dog’ by Mary Dunn. I enjoyed the book although I prefer her Lady Addle books.


  4. Hi Chris,
    Your experience with lime has me interested. Wondering if that’s lacking here as well. I have been planting quite close together to minimize weeds and keep soil from drying as quickly. Then I read a Steve Soloman book and he says to space out plants. I used to be a purist myself but not so much anymore.

    My aunt is not doing well. It seems she and her daughter were only given the best outcome – that she would be tired and only in the hospital for one to three days. Well she was transferred to a Rehab facility. She has double vision, dizziness and a fair amount of hearing loss. As she’s somewhat frail anyway and has basically been laying in bed for a week she is unable to walk by herself and anyway is a fall risk with the dizziness. Both my sister, Nora who spent much of a day with her in the hospital and my cousin who was with her in the Rehab facility yesterday reported that nurses don’t come when she calls for them for up to a half hour. They often don’t even answer. Visiting and who can visit is very restricted as well. All my family members who are in or have been in the medical field have said someone should be with a person as much as possible when they’re in the hospital for just this reason especially if they are not able to care for them selves or are cognitively out of it. This can’t be done now due to you know what. A sad and worrisome situation. I won’t be going to see her until she gets home (if she gets home). She can have only one designated visitor per week and I could only come one day in a week or maybe two due to the distance. Her daughter has wanted her to move back to California but my aunt is stubborn and won’t. The tough thing is she thinks me and my sister will jump in and care for her and other than doing a few things on a emergency basis we just can’t and won’t as it’ll just enable her. I know lots of people who when they get to a certain age move closer to their children even though it’s not really what they want.

    Warming up but still no rain.


  5. @ Inge – The Lady Addle series sounds like fun. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mary Dunn was ever published in the US (our loss). I checked WorldCat, and all I see are a few stray copies, in university libraries. Lew

  6. Chris,

    Neat and clean endings are a nice fantasy. Life doesn’t provide that type of ending. Watching and reading things where “they lived happily ever after” might not be the best thing for us?

    George R R Martin has had some recent writings on his blog, etc., in which he mentions the ending to the tv series. He ceased being a creative consultant after the 4th season, having supplied an outline of where he thought he was taking the books, but, well, tv deviated. He did specify that in the case of one or two characters, he will not change their outcomes from the series in his completions to the book series. Ha! He’ll never complete the book series.

    Thanks for the link to more goat history. I’d forgotten about the controversies.

    Oh, the electeds got Dread Grant Money to revamp the ice skating rink that was on the floor of the old US Pavilion. The design they decided upon was a wandering “ribbon” rather than the rink. That was constructed the grassy area was. Nobody likes it. I used to skate on the old rink regularly in winter lunch breaks. There were always a few people trying figure skating spins in the corners, as well as a hockey referee who used the rink for his conditioning workouts. None of that can occur on the ribbon.

    We happened to watch Gladiator 10 days ago. That opening battle scene, while impressive, didn’t match with what I’ve read about Roman battle tactics of that era. Hollywood. Bah!

    Officially, the weather station received 1.78mm of rain. I think we got closer to 5mm here. Enough to help for a day, but not enough to make a real difference. Our ground is still to cold for planting seeds.

    Amazing how proper soil nutrients make such a dramatic difference in tree size and fruit production. And also vegetable production. The photos made things obvious.

    Nice photos of the nearby farm. Stone building. Stone patios and walkways. Stone walls. The ancestors would already be planning a “scavanging raid”.

    Good on Ollie for mentioning the possum to you. He’s earning his keep.

    Running on fumes here. Allergies and another series of family crises have us run down.


  7. Yo, Chris – Many are the battles for a productive front garden. At least, judging from the articles I see from time to time. Some people just can’t stand pretty or beautiful in the world. No, I don’t understand that mind set, either. Any time I’d try and dress up the front of my store down on Tower Avenue, someone would come along and spoil it. The city also had ongoing problems with the planter boxes they put in.

    Too bad whoever cut the power cord to your fairly lights was well grounded. It would have been so satisfying to find a cooling corpse on the walkway, with a pair of wire cutters in their hand. 🙂 .

    Soil. Your mileage may vary. Just connect. Or, make connections. Suppose you’d overlooked that little piece of information, in Solomon’s book? Well, using Sherlock Holmes’s method of deduction, I’m sure you would have figured it out, sooner or later. But sooner is better.

    Just to be a Debbie Downer, I did a quick search. “Can you overdo, lime in a garden?” Well, yes you can. Just something to tuck in the back of your mind.

    Your old farm field trip sounds like a lot of fun. But more importantly, were there baked goods?

    Your so lucky to have benign possums. Unlike ours, which when threatened, will run up your leg and go for the throat. But which was it? A plum tree or a pear tree? 🙂 .

    Your roses are spectacular. I wonder about that geranium. Given the color and petal pattern, I think it’s reverting to it’s wild variety. We had a wild one volunteer in the garden last year. Wonder if it will make an appearance, this year.

    And, to your missive ….

  8. Yo, Chris – I’ll have to look up Simon’s post on BS jobs. Often referred to as McJobs. 🙂

    There was even a book, “My Secret Life on the McJob.” (2007). I really don’t think some of those jobs are a bad thing, but, at least be good and competent at them. I found it interesting that in the synopsis of the book, the author made the point that there were good and bad jobs. And that it was management, that set the tone.

    “People think some things are free…” And then scream bloody murder when their taxes go up. As far as schools go, there has been a lot of bloat, over the years, as far as administrative costs. But, there’s also an argument to be made for tax money going to waste. We see it all around us, every day.

    That was quit a tale of the dog incident. Maybe you’ve made a new friend? 🙂 . Well, why not blame the newly arrived “city folk” who don’t even have electricity, and work way to hard and make the rest of us look bad?

    “Trouble comes to your door.” When Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer died, dozens of people came to my door. “Heard Bob died. So sad. When’s the farm sale / auction? Heard he lay on the floor for days, and days.” My reply? “No farm sale or auctions. Bob was found the next morning, in bed, with a smile on his face and his faithful dog at his side.” Took the wind out of their sails. Not so near an interesting narrative, but there you go.

    Yup, one doesn’t want to become a target. There’s the old story about the paper queue, and if you goad them too much, your application (or, whatever) gets put on the bottom of the pile. On the other hand, you don’t want to be a doormat. Or, milch cow.

    That’s a genius suggestion. Contact the former owner. Elegant in it’s simplicity.

    I think the Allectus “news from afar” story, in the Camulod Chronicles, stuck in my head because I think I read a novel about that, decades ago. Ah! Rosemary Sutcliff’s “The Silver Branch.” The whole Stilicho debacle was more a plot point, as major characters were involved. But both those plot points were red flags, that it was time to raise the draw bridge, and hunker down.

    Remove an inept pater familias? Probably about as difficult as removing an inept president 🙂 . I suppose financial ineptitude could do it, or, backing the wrong political horse. So, everything is seized and probably auctioned off. The freemen were probably cut loose and set adrift. But, I’d guess the “good” ones, having made contacts over the years, could attach themselves to another household. If they so wished.

    In an aside (interesting or not? You decide. 🙂 , the Roman writer Horace (65-8 BCE), his father (who was a freeman) was an auctioneer. “With some function of a banker.” Horace also wrote a bit about agriculture.

    There were also a lot of army veteran’s, in the Roman colonies. And quit a few of them were recently made citizens of Rome. That was one of the benefits, of completing a term of service. It was another path to Roman citizenship.

    I forget which store it was, but years ago, one of the generic store brands was a simple black and white label, that only stated contents. “Beans.” “Tomatoes.” Whatever. It almost became a joke.

    Poo dags. AKA Dingle berries. Dingle berries can also refer to the arse end of the bush.

    Well, more from supply line problems …

    Who knew? What are these things. How could I have missed it? That free floating anxiety, and the vague feeling of a huge gap in my life is probably because I was unaware of this product. And now it’s unattainable! 🙂 Lew

  9. Hi Chris,

    What’s the pH of your soil? My basic understanding is that pH affects which nutrients are available to a plant. For example, if memory serves me correct, iron and phosphorous become a lot less available below about 5.5pH. Would be interesting to know if that was the decisive factor or whether the limestone was adding something. Calcium?

    I just finished reading one of the works of Albert Howard about the Indore composting experiments done in India. This is one that is very popular in permaculture circles. They were primarily concerned with adding nitrogen to the soil with their compost. Didn’t hear much mention of anything else in the book. I think the idea was the composting can work with intensive gardening. So, suburban blocks would be a prime candidate as the compost itself could made a meaningful difference to pH and other things but your property is perhaps a little too big?

  10. Hi Inge, Lewis, DJ and Simon,

    Tis the dreaded mid-week hiatus. Didn’t do much work over the weekend, and am now feeling the even greater slackness factor eleven (which as everyone knows is one more unit of slackness than factor ten).

    Promise to speak tomorrow!



  11. Hi Lewis,

    We’ve spoken about front productive gardens over the years. Maybe a few years ago I wrote a blog which may have been titled ‘a sad little box’. The blog followed the adventures of a mind bendingly complicated legal process so that a small raised garden bed could be installed on a footpath. Except after all the hoopla and hype, the box was growing common mint. What the heck is wrong with people? And the front garden was planted to ornamentals, although to their absolute credit, they’re now growing vegetables in two raised garden beds. So, that’s good – and the raised garden bed on the footpath – that was disappeared. Hmm.

    I’d seen signs in quite well to do areas requesting people to not steal the plants, so I can well understand the troubles your city had with their planter boxes. Let alone random acts of vandalism. You mentioned something a few years back about nice things, and I tend to agree with you.

    🙂 Yeah, the nefarious individual who took out the twinkly lights unfortunately was only dealing with extra low voltage. It sure would have sparked though when whatever they used shorted the transformer. I’ll always assumed that whomever did it may have considered that the lights were gaudy and lowered the tone of the neighbourhood. Not sure that I would do so well with a home owners association breaking me about this, that and the other.

    Exactly, sooner was better, and the downhill growth affect of the limed paths was becoming harder to ignore. The kiwi vine in particular has dozens and dozens of fruits hanging. That’ll provide months of breakfast fruit and they seem to keep well during the winter.

    A dead rat was discovered in the engine bay of the car earlier today. I took a photo. The poor thing had died under the exhaust pipe and had been dessicated like a rat mummy. The mechanics were amused by the find and gave me heaps about it.

    True about the excess lime. And with the next round I’ll swap out the dolomite for gypsum, so it will be a 50/50 agricultural lime to gypsum mix to add to the coffee grounds at the rate of about 50 pounds per week. Given the acreage, I’m not worried about over dosing the soil at this stage. But am also keeping a sharp eye out for any side effects.

    🙂 I mentioned the scones which ended up being some sort of bread like product – the minor whinge doesn’t detract from the beauty of the place. And in the past the scones have been superb, so it may have been a one-off.

    Your opossums honestly sound like the native cat (spotted quoll). The Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983 finished off that population here and nobody has yet thought to re-introduce a population here. The possums have been more commonly seen lately, and the owls have been quiet. The owls do become quieter over the winter, although I’m not sure why, or where they even go? The other day I spotted a possum high up in a huge and old eucalyptus tree. There is a story there about the trees. It was a pear tree and please keep your opossums to yourselves. 🙂

    It is possible about the geraniums, and they do self seed and volunteer here. The leaves of that particular variety have a strong aroma of lemon sorbet. Beautiful.

    Hope your volunteer geranium makes a reappearance.

    Hadn’t heard of a McJob before, but yeah makes sense. Tight regulation and lack of job security are apparently common features. Great. I’m inspired. It never even occurred to me that dictionaries could come under attack. And I’d never heard of the principle that dictionaries simply record linguistic usage rather than judge it. Interesting. Wow, the company doth protest too much me thinks.

    I don’t think those jobs are a bad thing either. And um in the recession of the early 1990’s I had to take any job, and well you learn a lot during four years of debt collection work. But then status has little to no meaning to me – it is probably a major character flaw.

    Well that is the thing about demands for increased this and that complexity. The people doing so, usually want someone else to pay for their demands to be fulfilled. Ask not what the fulfillment of your demand can do for you, ask what you can do to assist your demand. I might have ripped that one off, but it is a goodie!

    It is possible, and I checked up to make sure the guy was who he said he was – not hard to do if you know. But allaying his suspicions and letting the other neighbours know that they were wrong, and advising others that mischief is afoot, is not a bad idea. The bush telegraph is a like a tree and you just have to work out where things began, went, and where they are going next. A decade ago that problem would have escalated beyond me.

    Well done you with dealing to people in relation to Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer and his concerns. That act does you credit.

    Never heard of the term ‘milch cow’ before. Oh, that’s good. Yes, we were being shaken down for mad cash and being treated like walking ATM’s. Time will tell how that turns out.

    Thanks! Yes, simple is often the easiest approach, and it is possible that the former owners (who have offered assistance with some of understanding some the infrastructure have taken themselves out of the game). If my friend was smart, she might be able to get the former owners to resolve the situation and be the bad guy – but that might also look weak if the people are not well connected.

    Ah, very insightful. Yes “But both those plot points were red flags, that it was time to raise the draw bridge, and hunker down. “ A lovely way to put things and so appropriate even for today.

    The pater familias concept is still seen in some cultures connected to that ancient regime. I’m not a fan, but then I tend to favour ‘runs on the board’ over ‘position in the family’. The second is a bit random for my liking.

    Large military units for the Romans would have necessitated that they have somewhere to put them all upon completion of their service. Interestingly, after WWI that was done down here too for the veterans, but the drought during the depression era and the general lack of soil fertility put an end to a lot of those hopes of a return to the land.

    Thanks for the private label article and photos. To be honest, a plain label can with the word ‘beer’ on it does not inspire confidence that the contents might be any good. Of course I may also be very spoiled in this regard.

    Bubble tea. Not a fan, although as a kid my grandmother used to make a very tasty tapioca pudding. And there was a Singaporean restaurant in the big smoke (you’d like this place) and they served tapioca pudding with golden syrup for dessert. It was pretty nice actually.

    Sadly, you’ve missed the bubble tea craze. These things happen and your life may now not be entirely complete (as you rightly guess).



  12. Yo, Chris – Late today. Master Gardener’s came this morning. I usually try and get out early, so I look productive when they show up 🙂 . I weeded half my big bed and buried lots of kitchen scraps. Which was my goal for the day. And other odds and ends. For some reason, our communal rhubarb wants to bolt. So, after a bit of research, I cut all the seed stocks, out last week. My, I think they doubled in size. But, it keeps trying. Cut out two more seed stocks, this morning.

    Elinor’s new planting box is coming along. Should be finished, next week. They brought in another stock tank (the last one in town of the right size), and we’ve got it out of the way. I helped unload it, and place it in it’s temporary position.

    I remember the tale of the Sad Little Planting Box. Sounds like a children’s book. Maybe the owner’s just got disgusted with all the hassle. Or, moved on.

    I would never buy a place with any kind of a home owner’s association. I’ve read to many stories about their weirdness. Dictating exterior color palettes and banning clothes lines. And other nonsense.

    Oh, I’m familiar with rat mummies. When I moved out of my little house, I moved a dresser and underneath … a rat mummy. What killed it, I don’t know, but it was rather disconcerting to think the thing was around and I didn’t know it.

    The Tale of the Sad Scones. Maybe the usual cook was out sick? I’d give them one more go, and if quality hasn’t improved, it’s time to move on.

    Australia has 11 species of owl. Some seem to migrate. There’s one that migrates between Australia and New Zealand. It’s good there’s a travel bubble now, between the two nations 🙂 . They may also just migrate to lower elevations, in winter. Winter, at least for some species, is also breeding time. So, maybe they’re just off doing … other things. 🙂 .

    Pear tree. Got it. Now I can sleep soundly, at night.

    I read Simon’s post on McJobs. Very interesting. I also discovered that our library system has a copy of the book he mentioned, with the un-family friendly title. I’ll put it on hold, when I free up a bit more space on my hold list.

    I finished “House Lessons” and may read one of the author’s novels. About a restaurant, that has a cooking class, one night a week. And the ins and outs of the students. I’m still dipping in and out of “Freedmen in the Roman World,” but have also started “The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance.” (Ross King, 2021). It’s a biography of Vispasiano da Bisticci.

    It’s pretty interesting. Florence in the 1400’s and 1500’s. People running around Europe, ransacking old monasteries to find “lost” classical literature. Things coming in from the eastern Med.

    This building has it’s own bush telegraph. Not very reliable. You’ve got to take everything with a pound of salt, unless you hear it straight from the horses mouth.

    This state had some pretty stringent ‘blue laws”, up until the World’s Fair. Some very weird one’s, too. A lady couldn’t sit by herself at a bar. Only at a table. If you wanted to move from the bar, to a table, you couldn’t carry your own drink. A waiter had to do it. In places that sold hard liquor, a percentage of the sales had to be in food. Etc. Early on, beer couldn’t be stronger than 3.2%. So those generic cans of “beer” were pretty watery. There were jokes. But, things have evolved and changed. Today’s liquor landscape is quit different.

    Maybe this will work. It’s a Saturday Night Live sketch, which is a take off on Star Trek / Political correctness / being Woke, snowflakes, etc. etc.. About 4 minutes.

    Finally. One of our news outlets, that’s pretty far left, had an article titled, “Finding Your Way to a (High-Paying) Trade Job – Without College.” They’re usually all rah-rah, college, college college. Maybe they’re coming to their senses? Lew

  13. Hi Chris
    Here in the States, (Maine in particular for me), a federal agency called Cooperative Extension (see Wikipedia for interesting history) will do “soil samples” for gardeners, farmers, etc. for a reasonable fee. If there are any deficiencies, they will make recommendations on what to do about it. I’ve had several done for gardens in the past. Every state here has their main office at the “land grant college” in that state. See Hx note above. Here’s the link for the one in Maine – several options listed.

    It looks like there’s a similar organization for Australia. I highly recommend looking into it and having tests done for several locations on your farm.
    One Australia site:

  14. @ Chris – I’ll write tomorrow, when it’s raining.

    @ Margaret – I’m sorry that your aunt is not doing well and hope that she recovers soon.

    @ DJ – I wish you and the Princess rest, a quick end to allergy season, and the best possible resolution to the family crises.


  15. Hi Chris,

    Nice detective work on the fruit trees, the photo of the vines is very telling! On the family farm (dairy cows, 300 acres) we used to bring in truckloads of lime on a regular basis (along with super phosphate and a bunch of other goodies). Not only did we have high rainfall (2000mm+), but the end product shipped off farm was literal calcium in the form of delicious milk. So, no wonder we needed bulk quantities of the stuff. No idea what yields you would get without it, but I am guessing it doesn’t rhyme with $2 a litre at woolworths!

    In other news, other readers without access to Triple J might be interested in this song I am really loving right now, Get Me Out by King Stingray:
    It evokes feelings of a long roadtrip in me, and I think is very “Australian” , and not just because of the artists background. Great tune, hope everyone likes it!


  16. Hi Damo,

    Thanks very much, and we’d noticed the considerable differences in the rate of growth and fruiting, but not understood the actual mechanism behind the difference until I’d read a chance comment regarding the mineral and its workings in the soil. For years I’ve been reading people who suggest that all you have to do is add enough compost or mulch, or whatever, but I suspect now that people talk a lot of dog poop on this subject. But they’re more than happy to give advice, and then like a huge echo chamber, the advice gets repeated ad nauseum. Oh well.

    Hey, I’m no purist with this new information either and will probably just apply the pareto principle and look for the 80% results with 20% of the effort. There’s only so much time, and there are many rocks that require splitting (I’m getting quite good at that task).

    And exactly, you nailed it. Entropy is hard enough, but if produce is leaving the farm gate, well there goes the minerals. I’m quite the fan of dairy products and am happy to (and do) pay more for milk. Mate, most people don’t get it, or just don’t want to get it.

    Damo, you’ve got great taste in music. I’m lovin’ that song too. For me its got an escape vibe that’s effortlessly cool. 🙂

    I’ll bet you lot have been talking submarines recently…



  17. Hi Eileen,

    Welcome to the discussion.

    Maine looks beautiful!

    Thanks for the suggestion and I’m always envious at how cheap things are in your lovely country. At this far remote end of the world, the laboratories are all privately owned and they cost an arm and a leg to get the samples tested. It is possible that I’m going to have to fly blind on this problem. What do you do?

    The organisation you linked to advises on how to take a sample correctly, they don’t do the laboratory analysis.

    The mountain range here was logged from about 1860 to 1960, with the clearings put to potatoes and berries so it is hardly surprising that there are vast deficiencies of some minerals. I haven’t come to a decision yet, but am avidly reading up on the matter. It’s a really complicated subject.



  18. Hi Simon,

    Without even thinking too much about it, or even testing the soil here (which I can do if needs be), I reckon the soil is acidic. Most forest soils in these areas are.

    The Calcium I’ll bring in as the year goes on are:
    – Agricultural Lime – Calcium Carbonate (the most)
    – Dolomite – Calcium Magnesium Carbonate (not as much)
    – Gypsum – Calcium Sulphate (a bit more than not as much)

    My understanding is, and I’m no expert, is that the Calcium allows the plants to take up other minerals in the soil – so the plants grow faster and fruit better. But I’ll probably end up exhausting some other soil minerals, so it will be a journey of two steps forward and one back.

    Exactly. You totally nailed it. Advice which is suitable for one area is not necessarily applicable to other areas, and I’ve been following the compost and mulch story for long enough to have tested it thoroughly – and it is not the be all and end all that people make it out to be. The thing I’m rapidly coming to terms with is that I might not be smart enough to entirely understand the science behind this stuff. Far out it’s a head trip and my brain only has so much free capacity for large chunks of new information. Ook!

    Actually where you are is probably superb for growing vegetables based on what I’m reading, and your place has probably not been flogged hard like some of the market garden areas around you. You’ve done really well.


  19. Hi Inge,

    🙂 Not much of the land around these parts is actively farmed either, so it is surprisingly complicated to track down and purchase these materials in bulk quantities around here. If ever there was a pressing need to bring the land around these parts into productive use, wow, there would be a lot of tears that’s for sure.

    Ruth Goodman has an amazing video of her two trusty assistants producing a massive load of agricultural lime for the paddocks. And they burned the stuff too in some sort of low oxygen kiln, which I assume changed the molecular structure of the Calcium.

    Hopefully you don’t get to experience the sort of short growing season I enjoyed – it was a disaster. There are a few sunny days coming up this weekend and hopefully some more tomatoes will ripen. We might have done OK with the tomatoes in the end, but it was touch and go and I’ve barely eaten any fresh ones this season.

    Hope your weather warms up for you.



  20. Hi Margaret,

    In my reply to Simon I mentioned the actual sources of Lime being applied. Already they have made a difference, and with growing fruit trees I hope that the Calcium hangs around a bit longer than otherwise would for annual plants. Steve in his book recommends to go easy on the Dolomite as it can lead to slumping and compaction in some clay soils, although I have volcanic loam here. And you know he wasn’t very polite about soils in your part of the world and mentioned that they probably could use some lime. You get reasonable rainfall from memory, don’t you? 31 inches was the tipping point from memory.

    I’m no purist either, but I’ve done the compost and mulch thing to death and have to try something else. I’m really not sure that my brain is up for the intricacies of soil science though, and might have to find a good enough solution to fertilising, which he provided.

    Sorry to hear that your aunt is not doing so well. The consequences from falls is sometimes not good, so yeah staying in rehab is a wise move for now. Interestingly, down here there have been restrictions placed on visitors and they have to have the influenza vaccination paperwork from what I hear from other people. It puts you and your sister in a difficult position that’s for sure. Some people I’ve noticed are very free with other peoples time. In the end your aunt may have little choice in the matter.

    Glad to hear that things are warming up for you. Happy gardening!



  21. Hi DJ,

    Well, you and I watched Fractured Fairy-tales and we both know that things rarely go smoothly or according to plan. We’re what you might call ‘realists’. 🙂

    Yeah, I’d heard that the author had shared his opinions. He’s in such a difficult position as someone else completed the story for him, and it seems much beloved. If he was of a difficult persuasion he could complete the books with an entirely different outcome just to annoy the fans. But so much work, I dunno. I’m with you, he’s showing no signs of finishing the job.

    Who’d have thunk it that a trash eating steel goat could get peoples noses out of joint? Crazy stuff, and I’ve seen worse art installations, no doubts about it. Melbourne’s Yellow Peril comes to mind.

    An ice skating ribbon? Sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

    What? You can’t just lob in a comment like that and then say nothing further. 🙂 So how did the Roman battle tactics differ? And what the heck would anyone run towards such a well defended legion? Crazy stuff. My brain felt assaulted after having watched the five minutes of that battle scene. And did you even enjoy the film? So many questions, so few answers…

    It’s early days for you for the growing season. Hope it warms up soon, but doesn’t get too hot.

    Mate, I’ve been looking at the differences in plant growth for a while now, and we just didn’t understand the mechanism. But from hindsight it is so obvious. The talk I’ve heard repeated over the past two decades of reading into this matter is just add more compost and mulch – but it wasn’t working.

    Hehe! This theftiness of stone thing, well it’s in our blood isn’t it? Old habits die hard. 🙂

    The possum is totally unlike your unpleasant bitey critters (please keep them to yourselves). Our possums have become something of a major pest in New Zealand though.

    Take it easy on yourself and your lady and remember to look after yourselves.



  22. Hi Lewis,

    Left the best til last! 🙂 And yes, standards and perceptions do have to be maintained. Hey, it’s a bit like cleaning up before visitors descend don’t you reckon? For this reason I try not to have too many visitors around. Out of curiosity, are your kitchen scraps breaking down quickly in your soils? I used to do that early on, and when the wildlife didn’t dig the scraps up and eat them, they disappeared amazingly quickly, and the wildlife turned them into poop. Since those early days, the place is unrecognisable. Rhubarb happily self seeds here, and how do they go if you cut the flower and seed heads off them? They seem to keep growing and growing here anyway. The rhubarb flowers don’t smell that nice, but the bees do seem to like them.

    Total score with obtaining the last stock tank in town of the right size. How are you going to fill it with soil? I assume it has a drainage hole in the bottom?

    I’ll never know what happened to the sad little box, but it was such an extraordinary amount of resources and paperwork to plant something that would happily grow in the bluestone (a local form of basalt) roadside guttering. At least the person appears now to be using their front garden to grow vegetables. I saw the guy once maybe two years back now, and I gave him a nod to indicate respect for his efforts. He looked well pleased with himself, and who knows what the effort might lead to? But the sad little box itself – probably in landfill now.

    Those home owners association things are like my total nightmare. If the more problematic of locals around these parts could exercise some form of control over what goes on here, they probably might give it a go. I can’t imagine what people get out of such arrangements, but then maybe it is you and I who are at odds in this regard? Does anyone ever go postal in those areas or people just loose it and dig up the front yard and begin planting vegetables? Or worse, hang their washing out front of their home in the nice afternoon sun? Can you imagine that happening?

    Hehe! Rat mummy! At a wild guess Nell or Beau did the deed? They were both up for it, although personally I’m leaning towards identifying Nell for the role.

    That was my thinking too with the scones. I’ll leave it a few months and see whether they can get their act together again. As you say, it might just have been a one off. I’ve been to some places the first time and they were having a bad day, so it can happen and be a one off. The weird thing was that the bad day wasn’t repeated. First impressions and all that can be a problem.

    What? No way – an owl migration to New Zealand? It’s a long way from here to there. There was an interesting article on owls: The owls of Australia. The most commonly heard owls here are the Southern boobok. There are also Barking Owls, Powerful Owls, Eastern Barn Owls, and I remember seeing a Nightjar once. It’s pretty active out there in the farm at night. I should set up one of those night time cameras.

    I was incorrect – it was an apple tree. Apologies for ruining your sleep! 🙂

    Do you reckon family unfriendly titles for books is a sales-volume-killer? There was some parents book a few years back amusingly titled: Go the f!@# to sleep, although I have no idea what the title alludes to. That seemed to sell well by all accounts.

    Thank you for the introduction to Vespasiano da Bisticci, a bloke with a love of his books. I’ll bet the characters found some interesting items in their journeys through ancient Europe?

    Exactly, and that’s the thing with a bush telegraph – it ain’t necessarily factually accurate. And such was the case here too with the dogs. There is an old saying about throw enough mud and some will stick. That is one brutal technique though.

    The cheeky tech people gave this message: Video unavailable + The uploader has not made this video available in your country. No fun.

    Yeah! With journalism in decline down here as a way to earn a living, you’d imagine that they’d be spruiking any other employment path as a survival tactic? At one stage down here, I believe there were more students studying journalism than there were journalism jobs on the entire continent. Bonkers. If I was doing my time over again, I definitely pick a trade over what I did end up doing. I’m hearing anecdotal third-hand-accounts of shortages of accountants.

    It was a beautiful day today. Cool and sunny, and not a breath of wind. The green mustard’s look like they’ve only just germinated in the now weak sunshine. Yay! They’re my go-to winter green.



  23. @Claire
    Thank you. Yesterday was the first day she had some significant improvement. The doctors keep saying this will most likely resolve itself in 4 to 6 weeks.

    We have been rainless here so I’m jealous of yours.


  24. Hi Chris,
    As I mentioned to Claire above my aunt has had some improvement finally yesterday especially in improved hearing. There are memory issues as well. It is expected to resolve in time so we’ll see.

    My cousin who was supposed to return to California tomorrow is now staying until it’s determined if she can still live on her own or will need help. Being a child they waited for many years she was always coddled by both my aunt and late uncle. It took some tactful pushing for her to realize it was her responsibility to be here for her mother (she’s an only child) even if she would lose pay.

    We may get some rain next week but not counting on it. I got a 35 gallon tank that I can put on our gator and water new plants that are even too far for our hoses. We have a large pile a chopped leaf mulch collected last fall that I’ll be using sooner than expected.

    I am reading the book, “Bright Green Lies” by Derrick Jensen. I’ve never cared for his writing style but he sure lays out the case that renewable energy can’t power what we have now. Not an uplifting book.


  25. Hi Chris,

    I like the photo of the frog in the bowl, who appears to be posing on purpose. Of course whoever took the photo had to have camera at the ready for just such a moment, so a shout-out to the photographer!

    Some subdivisions and cities in the US have ordinances against vegetable gardens and/or food plants in the front yard, among them the subdivision Mike’s parents lived in and Ferguson, the nearby town that was in the news several years back. Both have delusions of grandeur since they are in unfashionable north St. Louis County, where Mike and I also live. They’ve already lost their seats in the musical-chair game of our economy but they haven’t come to terms with that loss.

    My evolution as a gardener followed much the same path as yours. I too read the books and magazines extolling the cure-all-ills virtue of compost and added compost every growing season. My garden also failed to listen to said books and magazines and insisted on providing disappointing yields and poor plant health. It wasn’t until I read Solomon’s books and took the first soil sample back in 2013 that I began to understand what my garden really needed for its best health. Your kiwi vine photo says it all.

    A friend and fellow blogger has brought my attention to software that I may be able to use to replace the widget that Blogger is soon to delete. Next month I’ll check into it. I may have been premature in assuming that the blog would have to move.

    If you’d like to comment on my blog again (and I always enjoy your comments and responding to them), I have two suggestions. The first is to get a free email address from Gargle (the gmail ones) that you can use to post to the blog. The second is to email me your comment and I’ll post it to the blog for you. You’ve earned the privilege so please don’t hesitate to take advantage of it if you prefer that option to the first.


  26. @ Claire,

    Thanks for the thoughts. The allergies are a predicament to slog through. Interestingly, the current crises are more predicaments to slog through than they are problems with solutions. Life is like that.


  27. Chris,

    “Realist” is an appropriate moniker. 🙂 The ancient Norse had a very realist outlook, too. Stanza 40 in the Havamal (part of the Poetic Edda) has something to say about this: “Of his worldly goods which he gotten hath, let a man not sting overmuch. Oft is lavished on foe, what for friend was saved, for matters go often amiss.”

    The author sorta brought that on himself when he quit the tv series after season 4. And he kept adding more and more characters and plots and complications to the books, well, I don’t know how he can extricate an ending from what he’s written. The story can take over and tell itself, according to Mr. Greer, but it also takes some discipline by the author to have limits and boundaries for the story, lest it become an unwieldly thing.

    OMG!!! I gaggled the yellow peril. Found pictures. Icky. How hideous that thing is! Wikipedia says that it is supposed to “suggest dynamic movement”. It looks like an abysmally constructed (and large) tent to me.

    The ice skating ribbon didn’t wait long before tragedy struck. The regular rink could get crowded and have a few minor accidents, but there was usually space to allow for slow skaters, risky kids, good skaters, etc. The ribbon? Not wide enough to allow fast skaters to pass a slower skating couple. So, a few weeks or so after opening, for whatever reason a woman fell and landed on her head. She didn’t make it. They closed for the remainder of that season, added a lot of safeguards including helmet rental before reopening the next season.

    Gladiator? Totally enjoyed it in the theaters and each time we’ve watched it since. We own a copy. I know when to turn off my knowledge and just watch. The battle tactics? Okay, the Germanic tribesmen weren’t stupid. They’d whomped several Roman legions before Marcus Aurelius showed up. Yes, they were unlikely to attack the fortified Roman position. The use of Roman cavalry was fine, as were the uses of the Roman archers and artillery. But, the Roman infantry left a fortified position to attack uphill. Unlikely. Also, the infantry typically (and I think still true in this era) used large shields, short swords and advanced in unbroken ranks. Any casualty in the first rank was replaced by one from the second, etc. That discipline wasn’t apparent in that battle scene. I think it was sometime after Marcus Aurelius that the standards began to decline. The Roman’s disciplined tactics is what made the legions so nearly invincible among the Gauls and Germans.

    Invincible. That reminds me…Back in university days, I was at times called “DJ the Vincible”. Why? I freely admitted that I’m not invincible, therefore I must be vincible.

    Supposed to be about 25C for a few days, then cool a bit to 18C or so for the highs. Evenings about +4C. I’ll start putting the rich soil from the compost pile into the containers soon, but no rush. The 15 day forecast is for more of the same. Not quite warm enough to plant yet.

    Adding more compost and mulch might work in some cases. Your situation is different – such a variety of plants and trees! Some varieties need special soil additives, as one size does not fit all. And things get washed away on that hillside over time. Glad you’ve got it figured out better now.

    Yes indeed, some habits die hard. It might be ingrained in our very DNA to, er, relieve someone else of stones so that they can be used more appropriately. Appropriately in the sense of “I use the stones and they don’t”. There was a lot of that attitude about cattle among our ancestors also, IIRC. 😉

    Thanks. Looking after ourselves is much needed right now. As I mentioned to Claire, it’s another batch of predicaments to muddle through. Which means caring for ourselves is paramount. Limits and balance and all that.


  28. Yo, Chris – I don’t have visitors, therefore …. 🙂 .

    Well, I keep a double plastic produce bag, in the fridge. So the stuff is a bit mellow, by the time it’s full. Then sometimes, the bags sit out in the garden, for awhile. More mellow. I don’t know how fast that stuff breaks down. But I do notice that I have a little hillock, for about three days, and then convex becomes concave 🙂 . I was digging in an area where I put in some, last fall. All that was still detectable were a few eggshells. I’m seeing worms, around the garden. When I moved the scrap bags that were outside, there were worms, underneath. I scoped them up, quick, and moved them to where I was burying the scraps. So far (knock on wood), no animals have been rummaging around in my scraps.

    After I cut out all the bolts, from the rhubarb, last week, the leaves more than doubled in size.

    The Master Gardener’s drilled holes in the bottom of the stock tanks. A bit of garden cloth, to hold the soil in. Soil is coming from the old raised beds that are being broken down. I did a leisurely water, this morning, when I could take a good look at what’s being done, without a lot of people running around. They’ve “toed in” the plants that are going to be salvaged from Elinor’s old plot, in the new one. Next week they’ll top up the soil, and the plants will be installed in their new positions. They have a bit of a different idea, about where plants should be placed (due to sunshine and tomatoes.) Elinor is not happy, but resigned. But then, she’s that way about a lot of things. She’s still banging on about how people are going to steal her vegetables. All two tomato plants, of them. Which will be on the backside, away from the path.

    Also, when I was watering I noticed, late to the party, the venerable old rosemary was full of European honey bees. Finally! Hope they find the communal strawberry patch, which is now full of blossoms.

    Well, I’d say home owner’s associations are all about power and control. Though what they’ll say is that it’s all about preserving their property values. Well, what happens to violators is that the authorities are called, citations are issued, then there may be a court case. Usually doesn’t go well for the violator. After all, they did sign on to the association, when they bought in.

    Yes, that’s the article on owls, I was looking at. Fernglade Farm: parrots by day and owls by night. “One if by land, and two if by sea.” 🙂 .

    Now are you sure it’s an apple? Did you consult your detailed Fern Glade Farm planting map? 🙂 . Speaking of apples, we usually get a bag of apples, in our food boxes. I can usually score another one, off the swap table. Well, last months batch were pretty rubbish. Mostly went into the kitchen scrap bag. I may actually have to BUY apples, when I go to the store, tonight. If I want apples in my daily oatmeal.

    Well, books with family unfriendly titles seem to do well. Probably appeals to a different demographic. The slightly naughty / shock your moma, segment of the population.

    A few years back, I read a book about one of the fellows who ransacked decrepit monasteries. Title and name of fellow, escape me. From mentions, and odd quotations, here and there, the 15th century folk knew there were works, that hadn’t been yet discovered. Sometimes, collectors would even furnish wish lists to book dealers and manuscript hunters. At the time, Aristotle was pretty well know, and most of his books were in circulation. But Plato … hardly anything left. And then someone came up with a complete works, in Greek, from the eastern Med. Another problem was, if you only had one copy of something, how accurate was it? The people of the time were very aware of “error creep.” So, it was best to have multiple copies, compare them, and then produce something as error free, as possible.

    I ran across an interesting article, yesterday, about the rising cost of lumber.

    Best start stockpiling salvaged lumber. Lew

  29. Hi DJ,

    I love Gladiator as well 🙂 The plot might not have happened per se, but the overall “feel” of the movie I think is pretty close to what we know of Roman life at the time. Master & Commander is another historical movie I put in the same category. None of the characters, ship or events actually happened – but it is still a very “true” movie of life aboard a man-o-war. If I am not careful, things could starting getting philosophic!


  30. Hey Chris, I have read a number of Steve Solomon’s books, including an incredibly dense read, The Intelligent Gardener, which i highly recommend. basically, Australian soils are incredibly old geologically, so quite bereft of minerals. We haven’t had the glaciers or volcanos that much of the rest of the world has benefited from to remineralize their soils. Our native plants have evolved to be niche dwellers – they adapt to a particular regions minerals or lack of them, and this is manifestly unsuited to grow the very mineral hungry fruits and veg that we brought with us to Australia. Hence, mineral supplementation is very necessary for food growing.
    I use blue metal crusher dust as a general fertiliser – put a shovel in every time I plant a fruit tree, and cast a few handfuls over the vegie garden every year. The rate you are using sounds a bit excessive just for lime, unless you are broadcasting it over a wide area.
    Have a look at The Intelligent Gardener – it will give you some ideas about quantities, and the different minerals you can use.
    Steve Solomon lives about half an hour away form me – I went to visit his garden once and he said he had done extensive soil testing around this valley, and the only mineral in high enough quantities for growing food was iron. That was it, everything else was depleted.
    Compost and mulch are enough only for areas of the world that have good basic fertility, generally places with volcanic, alluvial or recently glaciated soil.
    Have fun with the soil research, and it’s great to see such good growth with the extra minerals:) Gardening wins are the best!

  31. Hi Chris,

    It would be really interesting to know the pH. The coffee grounds would lower the pH too. So, if it’s already acidic that might make a difference.

    I guess to test the theory properly, you would need to have two sections of the garden. In one you raise the pH without adding calcium and in the other you add calcium without changing the pH. Easy for me to say from my armchair/computer seat 🙂

  32. Hi Simon, Jo, Damo, Lewis, DJ, Claire and Margaret,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but ’tis the second mid-weekly-hiatus-instalment-factor-slack-six. Whatever that means anyway. Will speak tomorrow, but until then!



  33. @ Damo,

    The overall “feel” of Gladiator is what allows me to overlook my relatively minor quibble about the opening battle scenes. The casting was good, the acting was good, and the feel was good.

    Master and Commander? I grew up reading and rereading the Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester. I read 2 or 3 of the books in the Master and Commander series and for some reason couldn’t get into the series. However, I really enjoyed the movie. The feel was correct again, and as with Gladiator, it wasn’t overly “Hollywoodized”. I was disappointed that there were no sequels.


  34. Yo, Chris – Well, then, I’ll just leave you with a few links 🙂 .

    If you missed it, over at Mr. Greer’s (Archdruid, ret.), at 9:12 pm, there was an interesting comment on supply line problems.

    Then there’s this, about a company called Tractor Supply. We have one in our town. I’ve shopped there, a bit.

    Then there’s …

    Think I’ll wander down to the library. Stuff, awaits. Mostly, books. Stephen King! Lew

  35. Hi Chris,

    Not much talk here of Indonesia’s submarine accident at all actually. Two frigates were sent off last week to help find it. I see there was talk of some sort of underwater wave that might have sunk it :
    The boat was old, and the waters there are treacherous, with large oceans getting funneled through narrow straits. Who knows?

    Good luck with the lime. My passionfruit vine is only just hanging on 🙁 Although to be fair it is literally in sand and gets 35-40kph winds on a regular basis.


  36. @DJ

    I was also disappointed at the lack of sequels for Master and Commander. In my mind, it was a perfect film translation of the books. Personally, I love the book series. Indeed I have re-read all 20 books 3 times now, and am probably due a re-read soon. Unfortunately, some of the books are a different edition with different cover artwork and part of me is wont to replace these otherwise readable books so my shelf looks better 🙂


  37. Hi Simon,

    You’re right, the coffee grounds would lower the pH, but then the sort of soils and minerals required in the orchard would be far less demanding than what the vegetables and other annuals require. And I’ve only ever been spreading the coffee grounds in the orchards. The vegetables have been fed compost.

    With that in mind, each week I’ve been mixing in a 12kg bag of Agriculutral Lime and another 12kg bag of Dolomite with the coffee grounds, so that will raise the pH and give the trees a feed. And I’ll keep that up for the rest of the year. Although soon, I’ll switch over from Dolomite to Gypsum on the basis that there is probably plenty of magnesium in these soils already (at a guess).

    And yeah, if I was to take a soil reading, where the heck do I even take that sample?

    Your soils are pretty good where you are.



  38. Hi Damo,

    Yeah, word in the newspapers was that the submarine was an older beast. And I saw that article too about the wave and treacherous waters, and had no ideas that such things could be a problem for a sub.

    As a salty sea dog yourself, you’ve probably seen the Perfect Storm film? The freak wave scene was pretty horrific, but then the small ship got tossed around on the high seas, that’s for sure and of course it didn’t end well.

    Have you ever checked out the stats for the wave rider buoys off the west coast of Tassie? They do storms all proper like and stuff over there.

    I see that you are due for some rain over the next few days. For April, it has been remarkably dry over here and today was sort of warm, but that is a good thing with all of the work we’re doing around the place.



  39. Hi Jo,

    I’m really happy for both of you and also that Paul is recovering super-swiftly. He’s made of tough stuff, and by all accounts word on the street is that you’ve been an angel. 🙂

    That is the exact dense book I’m currently working my way through. Candidly, my brain is not wired for exotic science so the book is very heavy going, but on the other hand I’ve been reading the book with an eye to developing rules of thumb and what to look for and thus know how to respond. I’m also learning some basic stuff to do as a matter of course and also the tell tale signs of mineral deficiencies and stuff. After all, our forebears didn’t have access to laboratories. And um, well, it is a personal failing, but I can do the 20% of effort which results in 80% of the results. The remaining 20%, I might not be able to do.

    Jo, blue metal rock crusher dust is an awesome soil addition. Respect. 🙂 Like your style too with that basalt stuff, and I can buy it by the trailer load here, and have also applied it to the orchards in the past. The local granite here is of a lighter – to reddish colour, so clearly the same deficiencies are true here as it is of your part of the world.

    Wouldn’t mind checking out Steve’s garden and you are lucky to be able to be so close. Might drop him an email of appreciation, can’t hurt.

    And exactly, if the mulches and composts are sourced from areas with mineral deficiencies – how could you not experience the same problems? Clear as mud from the point of view of hindsight.



  40. Hi Margaret,

    Glad to hear that your aunt is slowly getting better – and also that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Memory issues come to all of us as our brains wear out, but if that were exacerbated to an extreme it would be a total nightmare – for other people. On a side note, dementia is an odd phenomenon which I’ve seen in others over the years. It doesn’t seem to be part of my family’s journey, but there can always be the exception.

    I assume that the tactful pushing came from you and your sister? Anyway, there are obligations which can’t be pushed to the side, and the only child has to deal with them – that’s life. As a general observation, I’ve observed that people seem to be largely unprepared for the sort of situations which they are often rudely thrust into, and whilst life can be smooth sailing, inevitably that state is only ever but a moment in time.

    To be frank, I’ve been having my own drama’s here yesterday and thus why I was unable to reply. This journey called life can be occasionally quite messy.

    Some rough math, very rough math, revealed that a 35 gallon tank of water when full weighs almost 300 pounds. So the question becomes what is a gator? It sounds like an intriguing machine. The local farm machine dudes have a second hand farm vehicle for sale which I’ve sort of named as a gator, but not sure why – it may have had that logo on it.

    Yours is the third mention of the book ‘Bright Green Lies’ over the past few weeks, and a friend of mine wants to put on the film for his local community. Whilst I’m uncertain of the exact contents of the book, I’ve been mucking around with the technology for a dozen years now, and it is good, but it is no panacea. I wish it were. Mr Kunstler wrote an outstanding chapter in his most recent book on this very energy subject, and his observations matched my observations exactly.

    Exactly, it is not an uplifting point of view, but it is how things are.



  41. Hi Claire,

    Looking forward to the interview! 🙂 And oh my, snow and blossoms are a heady mix of plant problems. Last season I lost most of my apricot crops to a late frost followed on a day or two later by a hail storm.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret, the tree frog in the dog water bowl is the sort of thing that happens all of the time around here. The farm is jumping with life. So, we both keep an eye out for unusual events and then grab the camera and take a photo. As the years have gone on, the editor has taken a bigger role in the photographs.

    Musical chairs is a really great analogy for how the future will play out. It’s a brutal game, but in many ways it reflects reality where some folks will do really well, and others will do not so well. It’s awful though when the folks don’t realise that they are doing poorly, and yet they keep on trying to apply the same strategies which worked before even when they no longer work. I dunno, you can only ever do so much and care for so many things, and the rest you have to let go and not be drowned. I wish that it were easier.

    Thank you, and the application of lime onto the paths was a random chance at the behest of the local earthworks contractor. He was a really lovely bloke and we had many enjoyable discussions, and had both been trolled by the same local. True story, and the editor once said that one of my conversations with him was like a therapy session! 🙂 And I note that he moved to an area to the west of here which has some of the youngest and most fertile soils on this continent. He now grows grains, believe it or not.

    But yes, I fell hard into the just add more compost and/or mulch school of thought, and well I’ve done that experiment to death, and it works to an extent, but then no further. The answer was always too simple.

    Claire, I can’t afford the soil laboratory tests. Things are cheaper in your country. I’m reading Steve’s book with an eye towards developing rules of thumb which will guide my way forward. If there was any other way…

    Thank you for the suggestion and I’ll definitely email you. Gargle just up and deleted my former account – we’re clearly not friends gargle and I!



  42. Hi DJ,

    The Hávamál is deep indeed, and many thanks for mentioning it and continuing to improve upon my education. Do you know, when I read the lines your provided “what for friend was saved, for matters go often amiss., I thought to myself of the times where an inch was given and a mile was soon expected. It is possible that the lines in the ancient verse were of other matters, but I think not.

    Exactly! The plotlines were unwieldy, and I for one had a great deal of trouble recalling what was going on in other parts of the world when events of great import were being reported on in the present pages. Other people may have greater gifts, than you or I, and somewhere or other I read that we can only recall a finite number of social threads. Perhaps the author had gone one step too far in that matter? And he would have made some serious mad cash from the series which could soothe many a troubled soul.

    Dynamic movement indeed! Hmm, the local population were far less kindly to the structure (which they’d incidentally paid for) than the wikipudding entry. Certainly many family unfriendly things have been said about that yellow thing.

    Ouch, and that was unfortunate for the lady involved in the head squooshing ice skating incident. Years ago I used to regularly go swimming, but the facilities kept getting busier, and sometimes in the slow lanes, people would try to swim over the top of you. Personally I felt that they were just trying to steal some human contact, and eventually I stopped swimming.

    Thanks for the explanation as to the Roman battle scene, and I too wondered why the Romans left their shields to engage with a marauding and rapidly advancing enemy. All makes sense now, they didn’t until much later years when decline had taken root. The phosphor on the arrows would have been horrendous to have encountered on the wrong end, and it would have given the Roman archers a good chance to not waste arrows and properly sight their shots.

    Hehe! Aren’t we all vincible. Oh mate, I can’t tell the half of that story. Far out, this week has been complex and yesterday was a poop day. Nuff said.

    Your weather and ours is almost identical, except our evenings are warmer. Of course you may not be soon to enjoy the delights of an unstable cut-off low of brisk Antarctic air full of moisture and cold and stuff. Winter! At least there was a pink moon recently. Very impressive. And likewise, I too would not plant out tender seedlings with such a forecast.

    Thanks, and I haven’t quite gotten it figured out yet. To be honest, I’m doing a very deep science dive into the topic of soil minerals, and then trying to work out rules of thumb for using my senses and brain to detect the mineral deficiencies by the simple act of looking around me. I mean far out, in any resource constrained future, nifty laboratories might not be so easy to get access too so best not to become overly reliant. Anyway, such an approach suits my ‘good enough’ mentality. But more importantly, I’m also working out how to get these minerals from the local area. People think nothing of shipping this stuff from half the continent away and so working around that not inconsequential matter is a worthwhile activity. Not one for the purists though! 🙂

    Mate, it’s genuinely been that sort of week for me too. You have my empathy.



  43. Hi Lewis,

    Sorry about yesterday, I’m normally far more reliable than that. However, very occasionally dramas strike swiftly and hard and they take no prisoners. And such was the case yesterday. As you’re probably already aware, I rarely burden others with such stories, and that is how I’m wired I guess. But yeah, yesterday was a pain in the…

    Very wise to not encourage visitors – the pesky critters. When I can no longer put off the inevitable visit, an epic amount of spring cleaning has to take place beforehand. Bizarrely, I’ve long since noted that visitors are more likely in either Autumn or Spring than in the other more extreme seasons. People are a bit soft and over summer they worry about bushfire, and in winter they worry about the cold climate. One notable visitor used to complain if the house wasn’t kept at 72’F, and even then they used to whine. Do you know how much firewood it takes to heat a house to 72’F? Well, it’s more than I usually use by a long margin. Mind you, they never dressed appropriately for the winter conditions either. Fun company though other than that, but the whinge was consistent.

    Tried tackling the Moby rock today and that rock is way hard. I succeeded in taking off a few surface layers, but I might have to call in the experts. Al will so love that! And if I’m really lucky the bloke will post it all on a utoob clip. But the Moby rock is too big for me.

    After a few hours of trying to bust the Moby rock then giving up, I tackled another very large rock and produced eight large rock chunks. Hard work, but at least it is possible to do, and I managed to seriously upset a very large ants nest in the process. The ants seemed none to happy with my actions.

    Exactly, that happens here too with any cuttings in that what was one a convex pile, soon transforms into a concave pile. Yup! The stuff doesn’t go nearly as far as you’d imagine. Go the worms! And that’s what I’d call an awesome sign for the health of the soil. You’re lucky that the critters aren’t digging up your scraps. If I did what you were doing, the rats would be having a super fun time of it.

    Wow, I’ll try that experiment with the rhubarb here and see whether that happens. Put some agricultural lime on green and red mustard’s yesterday and they’ve grown substantially over the past day or so and yet others have begun sprouting from seed.

    🙂 People can get funny ideas in their heads about things, and vegetable stealing is one of those funny ideas. Tell ya what, most people have such limited knowledge of plants that they wouldn’t know what plant is edible anyway, let alone thiefing off with the produce.

    Good stuff that the European honey bees are finally deciding to do a special guest appearance in the rosemary. The bees do love that plant. We noticed yesterday that the bees were all over a succulent too, and so we pinched a few cuttings which we’ll plant out over the next day or so.

    Oh really, wow. Taking your neighbours to court over violations in home owners ordinances seems kind of weird to me. But then I would never agree to such nonsense in the first place. And I imagine that the folks on the enforcement end of things could be right pedants. Pedants, can’t live with them… pass the beer nuts. 🙂

    🙂 There is a lot of life here, and the King Parrots have only just decided that the kiwi fruit are now ready for them to eat (otherwise known as unripe, but close to being ripe). We’ll have to harvest them all (the kiwi fruit not the parrots) over the next day or so.

    Oh no, you know I thought that my general levels of apathy had killed off the farm map concept? I did my very best apathetic too. I wouldn’t even know where to begin such a map, but if my life depended upon it I probably could rustle something worthwhile up. It was an apple tree, I only realised after doing an inspection in the daylight. It’s pretty late in the season for your stored apples, and the ones here are new seasons apples full of flavour. But by late spring hopefully there are better fruits to consume because the over wintered apples are not so good.

    Ah, you’ve mentioned the bark eating beetles before, and yes who could forget the wildfires in your northern neighbour? The higher reaches of this mountain range are being harvested of their pines and Douglas firs, which were all plantations.

    Mate, I’ve barely read any of the comments at Mr Greers, although I usually get through them all one way or another.

    Lewis, I thought that they sold tractors! What the …. Ah safety wear and stock feed. And yes, inflation is real it is just that everyone seems to be pretending that it just ain’t so.



  44. Yo, Chris – You can buy soil testing kits. They run the gamut from “reasonable” ($15) to eye-watering. The Master Gardener’s ran me through a cheap-o test kit. Basically, it just tests for the big three. For our needs, they seemed pretty comfortable with that. I really need to do it, again.

    Usually, I try and follow your missives, when replying. In a departure … I’ll mention something, from the end. Inflation. So, I’ve begun poking around in “Why doesn’t official inflation figures reflect real life?” I’m just starting, but, did find this…

    I noticed (but didn’t look at) several articles from British sources. So, apparently, it’s also a problem in “The Empire.” I will continue to poke into what isn’t considered in official inflation figures. Why? Maybe my Outrage Tank is a quart low? 🙂 . So, they don’t figure in energy costs. (oil, gas, electricity.) I think in the past, I’ve also read that they don’t figure in health care costs and education costs.

    Well, if your winging guest comes back, you can always pass them the Jumper That Is Not To Be Worn Off The Place. 🙂 .

    Well, Capt. Ahab, you’ve finally met your Moby Rock. That was a cautionary tale, you know. Well, at least you soothed your bruised ego, by smashing up another rock. Which is quit a feat, that you can be proud of.

    Well, I don’t know about your rhubarb. Yours is bolting at the time of the year it’s supposed to bolt. Ours is bolting at the wrong time of the year. Who knows why. Well, as you know, in general, if you can whack off some parts of a plant, more “energy” will go into other parts of the plant. As in, cutting off the garlic scapes. Cut those suckers off, and you’ll get bigger garlic bulbs.

    You might want to harvest some of those parrots. There’s money in them thar parrots 🙂 .

    Yes, keeping up with Mr. Greer’s comments can be daunting. Generally, I skim through and skip things like, “Now in paragraph 4, subchapter B, of the Cosmic Doctrine …” or, “When the moon is in the seventh house, and mercury aligns with mars …” Besides that initial post I mentioned, on supply line problems and rising prices (the garage door), there have been 5 or 6 other comments … spot reports … on shortages and inflation.

    LOL. Yes, it is odd that the Tractor Store, doesn’t sell tractors. Ours was a locally owned business, that was bought out, by the Tractor Store. They kept the old staff. It’s pretty nice, for all the reasons mentioned in the article. Also, if you buy something heavy, like a 50 pound bag of dog food or chicken feed, you pull around back and a nice, robust country lad loads it in your truck.

    Reading more about Ye Olde Days in the Italian manuscript trade. The plot quickens. 1453. Constantinople falls to the Turks, and the entire Med world is shaken. Also, around that year, rumors of a German fellow named Gutenberg has been fiddling around with moveable type.

    We’ve talked about how nice dressed stone seems to be recycled. There’s a bit about Rome, in 1447. “The ancient temples were roofless, overgrown with thickets and brambles; their stone had been scavenged for buildings as far away as Westminster Abbey and the cathedral at Aachen.” I didn’t know there was such a far flung trade in stone. But, you may remember from the Camulod Chronicles, that our heroes had quit a run in with bad guys, stripping out marble from abandoned Roman British cities.

    Second round of food boxes, come today. The one that the Rev used to bring. He always managed to get us some useful extra goodies and staples. Doesn’t look like that’s happening, any more. Lew

  45. Chris,

    I’m not convinced that there is one and only one interpretation of the quote I cited. Friend and foe aren’t closely defined, nor is the meaning of matters going amiss. This stanza reminds me of Sun Tzu (I think he said it): your battle plans change as soon as the enemy is engaged. Things like “change happens” and Newton’s 3rd Law and plans going amiss seem to be universal laws that govern many aspects of life and nature. Thus, I think your gleaning from the quote works.

    I watched the HBO series before I read the books. No way could I have understood the books as well on one reading without having seen the series. However, the books helped explain a lot of the series, as it, too was complicated as. The author was making oodles of cash on the books. He made much more by selling the tv rights to HBO. One of his recent comments basically said “I’m worth over $47 million and I can do what I want and I’m tired of writing this Game of Thrones series crap. My fans can’t tell me what to write!”

    I can imagine a lot of “yellow comments”! When I worked at the local university 30 years ago, I went to an art exhibit on campus by a chap I’d been in high school with. Very psychologically disturbing, it was, as is his current stuff, but at least it is clearly art. That yellow monstrosity looks like something a dog might’ve horked up.

    I quit going to public swimming pools long ago, for much the same reasons you did. Too crowded and that.

    Yeah, the legionnaires began complaining about carrying stakes for building walls nightly when on march. And then they complained that the large shields were too heavy, resulting in less sturdy smaller ones. The heavy spears were discarded, and fewer lighter spears carried per soldier. Without the arms advantage, it was harder to maintain the tactical advantage. Without building a stockade every night, the armies could succumb to night attacks more readily. They got soft and it showed. Their foes ceased to fear them and…

    I can do without the complex and poop weeks. But this is real life and not Disney, so what can I say other than “Stiff upper lip, DJ the Vincible”? And such a nickname is a great aid in maintaining humility. 😉

    Tender seedlings? Too early. Seeds? Maybe some of the flowers…

    Empathy both ways, mate. At least I got something useful done Thursday that was meditative at the same time. I emptied several inches of soil from my containers, then replaced it all with compost. Then I moved the the remainder of the compost pile onto the veggie patch area. Good growing soil everywhere. The compost pile will be at a different location now. It has been near the nut trees forever. The roots from the trees have begun growing into the compost pile from the bottom and stealing nutrients.


  46. Hi Margaret,

    Yeah, that gator is exactly what came to mind. What a machine! The local farm machine repair dudes have an older 6×4 gator second hand for about $12k, from memory although I could be wrong about that. Interestingly it has a much bigger 22hp motor than the ones in the link you provided. That sure is a lot of horses. 🙂

    Moved a heap of rocks around today and have finally completed the first layer of rocks in the 50ft long utility area, and then back filled it with soil. This ramp and utility area project sure is eating up a huge amount of large rocks. And all up there are three layers of large rocks across the whole project. So many rocks… I’m feeling tired tonight.

    Hope you get some rain soon.



  47. Hi DJ,

    Well, my interpretation was perhaps representative of background affairs at the time, and thus bias crept into the analysis. But yeah, I reckon you nailed it, friend and foe can be hard to discern (until it is discerned – note the use of past tense). But also things change. Very true I hadn’t thought of it that way. Thanks.

    How’s your wood carving group going? Are you guys still meeting up? And with your increased creativity due to extra free time, have you had any inspiration for any projects? I forgot to mention but the Bendigo Woodturners group had a tent displaying their creations at the recent farm expo. Impressive work.

    Really? Well if that is the case, at least the author is providing a surprising and candid response to fan demands. Yeah, not sure I would have written such a comment myself, but then the world sure is an interesting place full of quirky (and sometimes eccentric as in, full up to their eyeballs with mad cash) kind of people.

    Thought you might be interested in a bit of further local history on the steel sculpture: Vault (popularly known as The Yellow Peril). Well it turns out that the state government ended up sacking the Melbourne city council not long after the initial installation. I remember the public outrage at the time. The sculpture was relocated to a less prominent location than the city square. Incidentally, the city square is now a major construction site as the state government is constructing a second underground rail loop. Not a bad idea. The trams within the CBD are free of charge, and they often get quite packed.

    I guess that is a bit of a risk with art isn’t it? The artist ends up using his/her audience like one giant therapy session. And our senses get assaulted by the art as it’s presented in all its brutal rawness whilst the artist enjoys a bizarre form of catharsis. I often considered that the out of left field and wildly successful rock band Nirvana (from your part of the world) were exorcising their demons with their art. But that’s just a random perception.

    Yup, no fun being swum over. I tended to believe that it was a massive ego trip for the person doing that, and I stuck to the slow lanes if only because I’m a slow swimmer.

    Mr Greer once wrote that it is an ancient Chinese proverb that empires rise on hob nailed boots, and descend upon silk slippers. And your description of the Roman’s lax standards certainly tells that tale in full.

    Ah thank you, yes, stiff upper lip ol’ chap, and we’ll get through this minor inconvenience and come out the other side stronger for the experience. 😉 Pah, the war will be over by spring, of this I can assure you!

    Hehe! Yes, tree roots are indefatigable when it comes to a free lunch courtesy of your most excellent compost pile. I respect your composting efforts and suggest to add some agricultural lime to the compost beast (although rainfall is lower where you are and so leaching is not such a drama). Anyway, the tree roots are hardly much different than tiny little critters taking on the Martians in H G Wells notable story. And who would have thunk that events in this little corner of the planet inspired the story?

    Believe it or not, at this stage I do not have enough excess organic matter to begin a compost pile. You’d think that after a dozen years of occupation that there’d be excess stuff everywhere, but no.



  48. Hello Chris
    I have just been sitting out in the sun, reading a book and drinking coffee. The only sounds were birds and insects, sheer heaven after a freezing night. We are supposed to have had the frostiest April for 60 years. My pond has dried up yet again. Growth has slowed down. My first potatoes will be at least 6 weeks late. May be longer as not a single leaf has come up yet.

    My elder honorary son will arrive on a visit from the US in just over a week’s time. I think that he is nuts to do this as he is having to jump through innumerable hoops.


  49. Hi Lewis,

    There are times that I’m gobsmacked by what can be purchased, and who knew that there were home testing kits for soil? Mostly the more higher end tests, test for NPK and nothing else. It’s not a bad idea at all. As you note, it’s the big three getting tested although the other minerals are equally important, but I’ll probably just wing it for now and observe what happens. I like to learn that way, and a lab test might be more appropriate in another year or so. But yeah, if the results in your veg aren’t quite what you expect them to be, a test isn’t a bad idea. I’m going with the more is better approach based on my new understanding of the approximate appropriate balance of minerals concept. It’s complicated, but then I never thought that all of this stuff would be easy.

    No, feel free to wander all over the shop. 🙂 Digressions are an intrinsic part of my life. And where would we get if we stuck to the script?

    Mate, I moved rocks today. Lots of large rocks. The first layer of large rocks in the 50ft long utility area have now been placed, and soil was moved into the far end of the locale. Some of the final third layer large rocks where the low gradient ramp and utility area intersect were also put in their final locations. Hopefully next week we can excavate some soil and bring it down onto those projects. Maybe. We had to do the rocks today because there is some very odd weather set to arrive late tomorrow. A chunk of Antarctic air (A.K.A. a cut-off low) looks set to make a special guest appearance with thunderstorm in May of all months. Ook! Some of the forecast rainfall maps look quite disturbing for this location: Unsettled weather is on its way. It is interesting that the various weather forecast models are having a very hard time of tracking this pool of super cold moisture laden air. And tomorrow’s forecast is warm at 77’F. Bonkers for May.

    Thanks for the link to the inflation article. I noted that the author was ringing alarm bells as to the expansion of the money supply, but way back in 2014. Wonder what M2 is today? Oh, it looks like M2 is about $14.6tn, oh that is about a 33% increase in only seven years. Not a bad effort, huh?

    One must seek outrage in uncertain quarters, and hopefully find enough grist for the mill? 🙂 Sally ye forth and take no prisoners! But yeah, paying bills by printing money has never ended well. The annoying gobarmint bill I mentioned the other day went from $950 to $1,400. I feel like a walking ATM – the cheeky scamps.

    A top idea! Yes, the most awful jumper which dares not see the light of day off the property is a powerful fetish. Lewis, I tell you this, that jumper has serious quote mojo. Nobody ever dares quote too high a price when they encounter the true majesty of that tatty old woollen jumper. It’s earned its keep that item of clothing, although it is candidly not widely respected.

    Hehe! I think I’ll have to get Demolishun Davo (sic) in to sort that Moby rock out. I’m kind of looking forward to the idea of blowing the beast up, or at least just splitting the monster. I’m getting pretty good at splitting rocks, but that one is some super tough granite. I’ll excavate the entire site first before calling him in just in case I discover another Moby rock lurking just beneath the surface.

    Actually I read today that rhubarb is a heavy feeder, and I didn’t know that, as they happily grow in the garden beds here. Although those particular garden beds have had many cubic metres of compost and mulch added to them. Never tried that with garlic scapes, and fair enough too as the plants don’t set viable seed.

    I doubt very much that the parrots would enjoy your winters, and given how much of the fruit they consume from the orchard, they’d be like the gift that keeps on giving. Far out.

    Astrology is beyond my understanding, although Mr Greer has stated on a number of occasions that millionaires don’t hire astrologers, billionaires do. An amusing and possibly true observation – I can’t really confirm the observation. I try to read most of the comments there, but usually within the first sentence I can sort of tell whether the comment is relevant to my worldview.

    The business name sort of implies that they sell tractors – or parts for tractors. Maybe they once did? Who knows? The local stock feed place sells food in slightly less than 50 pound bags (rounded to a metric 20kg as distinct from your 22kg) and yeah, can’t say that they’ve helped me load the bags into the car. Clearly I’m missing out here.

    Johannes Gutenberg was a pretty smart bloke with a practical bent.

    It is amazing to think that dressed stone could travel so far from its source in those days. And it is equally impressive that the Romans were even able to dress stone as that is no mean feat of their technology. And I recall that sub plot with the marble thieves. The stuff would have been worth thieving if only because nobody else was making it, yet demand existed. It is an odd thing to imagine that demand for an existing product exists, and yet the product is now impossible to manufacture. Sounds like the future to me.

    Oh no! You’re down to one magic food box. Have you encountered the rev recently?



  50. Hi Inge,

    Your afternoon sounds truly lovely and books can be such delightful companions. Hope the weather warms up for you soon. The old timers down here used to quip that cold years were also dry years, but this past cold summer was also quite damp, so maybe they were observing winter conditions?

    The straight and crooked thinking book turned up in the mail recently, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    I moved an enormous quantity of large rocks today. The ramp and utility area projects are really starting to edge closer to completion. But they’re very usable even in their current unfinished state.

    It is very sweet that your honorary son (and initially I spelt the word honorary with a ‘u’ – the more usual spelling doesn’t look right to me, but I’m clearly in the minority here) is travelling to your country. Not sure that I would do such a thing, but then international travel is being highly curtailed down here and looks to be something for the wealthy. And candidly I don’t really know what is going on in other countries on that front.



  51. Yo, Chris – One could lose the plot, entirely 🙂 .

    All rocks and no play make Chris a dull boy. But, from your reports of (really well deserved) days off and baked good, I’d say you’ve struck a pretty good work/life balance. If you end up using explosives, you must get video. Post it to U Tub. “Chris Bakes Bread.” “Chris Blows Up Rocks!”. Guess which one will be more popular? 🙂 .

    Looks like your in for a bit of weather. We had rain, yesterday, and today and tomorrow should be ok. Our overnight lows are still in the 30sF.

    I poked a bit more into government inflation / cost of living figures. Somewhere along the way, someone spilled the beans. It is in the government’s best interest (no matter who is in power), to keep the official figures low as (wait for it) Social Security increases (and, other government safety net programs) are tied to those figures. Hence this years piddly 1.3% increase in Social Security. Never mind that all around us, costs are sky rocketing. I ran across this article …

    The comments are pretty interesting … if you discount the one’s that are clearly partisan, or that trot out a conspiracy theory or two. The poor author is all “this is the way it is” and the commenters are all, “But, but, but …”

    M2? Well, the Powers That Be must know it’s going to end badly. But, I suppose they just figure they’re well padded enough to ride it out.

    When the Mojo Jumper reaches the end of it’s life, it should be enshrined. Maybe pilgrims will come and worship … The Trickster Jumper.

    Gutenberg seems to have been ok with his technology, spreading. Maybe not so much, his bad business partners, who he split from, early on. Apprentices from both camps, spread all over Europe, and set up their own presses. The author stated that presses were (at that time) pegged together and easily disassembled and moved. Presses could also print on either paper or parchment. People who encountered the early printed books, really couldn’t tell the difference between scribe produced and printed books, unless they took a really close look.

    Every once in awhile, a Roman shipwreck is discovered, stuffed with architectural bits and pieces. Also, sculpture. Mostly looted from Greece. I seem to remember a story about a sunken cargo that was an entire small Greek temple. What a garden feature! Rome began the conquest of Greece in 146 BCE. It pretty much ended with the capture and sack of Athens and it’s port, in 87 BCE. Greece really wasn’t so much of a country, as a collection of city states. So, Rome scooped them up, piecemeal. A city (or three) here … and island, there.

    Well, we still get two food boxes a month, plus a box of produce. They just come at different times. I’m pretty sure the Rev is still around. He’s been banned from the building, but I’d guess he shows up when Administration isn’t around. Sundays, mostly.

    Yesterday’s food box was pretty good. A pound of butter (salted, unfortunately), a pound of ground frozen turkey. The usual collection of boxed and canned highly processed foods. A big jar of mayo and a jar of some kind of imported preserves. A few oddities. A box of baking soda and a tube of toothpaste. I kept the turkey, butter, canned black beans, baking soda, and small cans of chicken. A can of peaches. The rest I put on the swap table.

    LOL. Mars Boy tells the truth! “A bunch of people will probably die.” I guess that’s pretty straight forward. Lew

  52. Hi Inge,

    It is weird isn’t it? Looks a lot like history being re-written in the flesh. According to many sources on the interweb, using the ‘u’ is an ancient form of the spelling. I’m pretty certain that the supposition is an outright lie. And just to be certain I pulled out the trusty: ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary’, fourth edition 1952, from the bookshelf. The collators of the language used the ‘u’ in the spelling and thus the word is spelt: honourable – worthy of honour. Someone is playing jokes on both of us, except that it is not funny.

    Took a leaf out of your book today, and sat out in the late autumn sunshine for 15 minutes, with Ollie of course. A very pleasant experience.



  53. Hello Chris,
    Another great post and a week to think about it.

    I would like to thank you for sharing your observations, this time regarding the soil side of growing greens. You share what you see and what works for you (and what does not work for you) with a delightful low-key humour. And you don’t tell anyone else what they should do. This is why I come back, week after week, and read and ponder and learn. And sometimes, as in the last weeks, come with a comment.

    There are too many people who make an observation of something that works in their garden, and who proceed to proclaim having found The Silver Bullet for all gardeners worldwide. The Silver Bullet Thinking is based on (immodest and out-of-scale) generalizations, turning observations into models.
    Like you mention, if someone has put old beech leaves around their summer squash in their back yard and got good results, the generalization/model is that “mulch is good for growing vegetables everywhere”.
    I suspect that our “modern” school system is part of the problem, since we train kids to believe in models and books, and to distrust their own observations.
    Another part is of course the joy of proselytizing. It is great fun to share The Truth. And to gain prestige and fame for being a prophet…

    What do you think?
    How can we come back to honoring reality and phenomenology, to treat them at least on par with abstractions?

    Again, thanks for sharing your soil searching introspective observations!


  54. Hi Lewis,

    It would perhaps be unpleasant for others if either you or I lost the plot, so we’ll best have to chance it, and keep our brains in good working order.

    Thanks and hadn’t mentioned it before but two weeks back I was sic (sic) and despite such things being a very bad look these days for obvious reasons, I just had to keep on going – and nobody cut me any slack. That lack of benefits is certainly one of the downsides of my present working arrangements. Anyway, mustn’t grumble as the English are wont to say. I recovered speedily enough though, and was eating plenty of fresh herbs out of the garden, although I usually do that anyway. The normal salad consumed here would frighten maybe 90% of the population due to the unique combination of flavours. For visitors I tone that gear right down and stick to the basics, as most peoples palates have become accustomed to very bland tasting food (or they prefer salty or sweet flavours). It’s probably not that good for their health eating that bland stuff all of the time.

    Yeah, how cool would a proper video be of blowing some rocks up here? 🙂 I’ll finish off the excavations just on the off chance that we discover another Moby rock, but oh yeah – it’s happening!

    It was super warm here today at around about 72’F and it would have been warmer again in Melbourne. Looking around the country, the city of Adelaide in the state of South Australia had its warmest start to May in 60 years at 84’F. Not a bad effort given we’re only about 7 weeks out from the winter solstice. The next two days of weather will be err, interesting and dynamic. Ook! A thunderstorm is brewing outside right now and there have been a few flashes of lightning accompanied by the rumble of thunder.

    Your overnight lows will sure slow down the warming of your soils. Brr! Mind you, that happens here too. Makes gardening annual edibles rather difficult. Not impossible, just difficult. Add nitrates. 🙂

    Mark Twain popularised the saying: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” He’s not wrong, and yes someone did spill the beans on that inflation story. If it looks like hyper inflation, sounds like hyper inflation and is about as unaffordable as that situation, then it probably is hyper inflation. The other day I read an article about how property prices in rural areas have gone up an extraordinary amount in one year. Nothing quite says that money ain’t worth what it used to be when that happens. In more cynical moments I do wonder if people are supportive of this state of affairs because it inflates their way out of debt, but I don’t really know and am only guessing. They might be right too, being prudent seems to be very unfashionable these days.

    Actually I thought that the article you linked to highlighted the never ending discussion regarding definitions. People can think that something has a certain meaning, as it may have at some stage in the past, but then the definition changes, yet people hang onto the past meaning of the word. I’m always wary when discussions descend into an argument over the exact meaning of something whether it be a word or concept. And it is doubly alarming when new and even more obscure technical words are brought into the discussion – that’s when you know that things are on very shaky ground.

    I wonder about that with M2. I guess the people holding the levers have only a very short term focus – which perhaps suggests some of the reasons for their ongoing shenanigans.

    Oh that’s clever having the early printing presses held together by pegs / dowels and then having them easily transportable. And it is a credit to both the scribes and the creators of the printing press machines that their works were of similar, if not, equal quality.

    Wow, the rain pelted down on the roof just then. Not a nice evening to be caught outdoors all unaware and stuff.

    You’ve mentioned the ancient Greek temple found in the ship wreck before, and yes it would have made for a very impressive garden feature. 🙂 Perhaps the Romans had incurred the wrath of a Greek god or goddess, by thefting off with the temple in the first place, and thus the ship wreck consequences? But your larger point is all too clear, there is safety in numbers as the Greeks possibly discovered to their dismay. And the Romans would have secured a beach head. Word on the street was that the ancient Greeks were weakened anyway due to over extraction of their once fertile soils.

    Sorry, my misunderstanding and I’m glad that you still get your two magic food boxes. Well, butter used to be salted way back in the day, but then sodium was probably not as all encompassing in peoples diets as it is these days. And I purchase unsalted butter, but add salt to the bread I bake most days. Bread without salt tastes really strange to me, but that maybe what I’m used to consuming. Not sure really. Is ground turkey similar to what we would describe as mince meat? The baking soda could be useful, although only in small quantities. My grandmother used to bake chocolate cake, but she was a bit heavy handed with the baking soda and memories from long ago can sully an otherwise tasty product. Ooo, I’ll bet the cans of peaches tastes good! Yum!

    With the impending forecast rain and the loving ministrations of the King Parrots (may they be sold at profit!), I decided to pick the kiwi fruit vines today. Ended up with two very large buckets of fruit and that will definitely see us through the winter. I left the smaller fruits for the parrots who will enjoy them. Like persimmons they have to ever so slowly soften inside the house. I’ll try them every week and see whether they’ve become edible. The very last of the summer tree fruits are the persimmons and they’ll be picked in about a week or two – depending. Then over winter are the citrus fruits which have responded very well to the recent heavy feeding.

    Mars boy is a trickster that’s for sure and he keeps the masses entertained. I’d like them to succeed, but my gut feeling suggests that without the magnetosphere, things will get ugly real quick. But then I could be wrong.

    Wow, the rain is coming down hard!



  55. Hi Chris
    Late comment . Slow warming seems to mostly over in my area. Overnight temps just not staying above high 40s F maybe next week??. First noticed the the full parking lot at our best local started plant store. Time to buy! Both started plants and seeds twelve successful tomato plants , 4 in each of three half wine barrels That’s my tiny garden.

    Locally our wild fire season launched this past week. Fire started in a wild drought plagued “wet land” fertile area. An alluvial river delta where the Yakima River joins the Columbia River. Wind seeded trees and plant life of native, and imported species have thrived on several square miles of flood plain area. The fire has been contained (subject to under ground hot spot break out). No human injuries. Lots of scary smoke and both Black and white ash fall on town. Hopefully, not too much critter loss ?. Area burned : 10s of acres. Unfortunately this will likely be a recurring problem in large areas of the Northwest this year due to droughts.

    Chris I’m almost positive that D. Dave can help you with present Big Moby. Of course there be co$t ? I’m voting for the hydraulic retractor cracker he has recently been attracted to.
    Real explosive, though stimulating , would require blast suppressing dirt cover and clean up . Also likely only have a moderate unfulfilling wuummpp sound and blast wave.
    Equipment on site: truck, Diesel air compressor, air drill,
    cracking / breaking equipment, video equipment, mobile toilet, mobile electric gen set , crew truck. Go for it mate!

    Damo, thanks! for your music link ! KingStingray song : Get Me Out . much enjoyed. Ewe toob also offered up another of his songs that was also good.?

    Cheers Al

  56. Yo, Chris – Ahoy, matey! Fatberg sighted off the port bow! In the sewers of Birmingham, England, they’ve discovered a fatberg, half a mile long and weighing an estimated 330 tons.

    I am sorry to hear that you were sic (sic) (funny!), but I am glad your on the mend. Mended.

    Re: Your salads. People are so funny about food. Where’s the sense of adventure! I’ve did my weekly weigh in, and I’m down to 195. So, I lost about ten pounds, in just over a month. My Idaho friend is (continually) struggling with her weight. She wants to know my “secret.” Same thing I’ve been telling her for years. What Michael Pollan says. “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” Ditch the highly processed food, stop eating out all the time, and cut WAY back on the meat. But, no. She’s off to a dietician and then off to a nutritionist. I think she’s looking for that Silver Bullet, Goran was talking about. You know, the only time I’ve ever eaten in a Mickey D’s, was when I visited them in Idaho. I’m about ready to tell her to eat whatever she wants. She may live a few years less, but at least she’ll be happy.

    Well, it sounds like your in for a bit of filthy weather. I suppose you’ll be out checking the downspouts. Break out that slicker and don’t forget the bumpershoot. Brolly? 🙂 . Can’t find it? Check with that Poppins woman. She has a bad habit of nicking them.

    Speaking of rural property, the Idaho folks have put the Riggins property on hold. “Clouded title.” I guess it turns out the “owners” of the property still owe quit a chunk of money on it. Oh, well. Given the state of the world, they were wondering about being even able to get a cabin built, on the site.

    Word meanings can be “flexible.” An ever shifting landscape, that does not bode well.

    I usually buy unsalted butter, as that seems what the majority of baking recipes calls for. Not that I worry about the amount of salt in butter. Given that I use so little salt, in the course of things. Ground turkey, at least here, is not mince meat. Here, you only hear the term mince meat, around the holidays.

    Ground turkey, ground beef is the stuff you can turn into a patty and call it a hamburger. Which has no ham in it. Clear? Good. 🙂 .

    Baking soda has sooo many uses. Besides baking, it’s good for cleaning. And, a box every three months or so in the fridge or freezer will absorb odors.

    The canned peaches are quit nice, as long as they’re not packed in corn syrup. The cans I kept are packed in the peaches own juice. And, I see from the label, also some pear juice. I wonder why?

    I’m glad you’re getting a good crop of kiwi and persimmons. That ought to see you through the winter. I picked quit a few chamomile blossoms, yesterday. Getting them dried up for next winter. A late night cuppa, is so nice. And, now that the chamomile have established themselves, pretty much free. Lew

  57. Chris
    Correction?the actual fire involvement was 230 acres. I saw a an aerial pic that showed the area , doesn’t look like much left for for near term future fires this year anyway.

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