Little Talks

The sun dipped below the horizon. The sky near to the horizon has a really weird and ominous pink hue. And air near to the horizon looks seriously dirty. Above the pink hued dirtiness, where the previous summer clear bright blue sky only recently dominated, there is now a washed out duck egg blue colour. Who can forget the days when the colour: ‘duck egg blue’, was fashionable? In those days, you’d see cars driving around the roads with that lame colour. And no disrespect to the folks who bought the cars, but the choice raises the question: What kind of story do you have to tell yourself to purchase a car that is such a lame colour?

You rarely if ever see such coloured cars nowadays. I’m sure that there are a few quirky folks lovingly maintaining their duck egg blue cars of yore. And I have no doubts that if the machines have survived this many long years, they’ll probably continue to offend all of us with their drab colour palette for many more years to come.

And that was when realisation hit me – hard. The desk on which I’m happily typing away, has a small mountain of electrolytic capacitors in separate zip lock plastic bags. Here I have to fess up to all of the thousands of lovely readers of this blog, that I have absolutely no idea what an electrolytic capacitor is, or even does. All I know is that the super trusty and very high quality early 1990’s Kenwood FM tuner needs plenty of those devices replaced before I can actually use the machine again. Whilst I don’t know what the parts do, I do however know how to perform the repairs.

It’s been a bit quiet in the household of late. I dare not switch the Kenwood machine on, and listen to the tunes from the national youth broadcaster – Triple J. Some of the components on the circuit board of the tuner, way deep inside the guts of the Kenwood machine, have strange white crystals oozing out of their innards. And when the machine is put to work, they kind of smell a bit odd too. A strange sort of ozone stink. It’s probably not a good sign.

Anyway, the realisation hit me that I’ve become one of those geeks, like the great keepers of the boring duck egg blue cars of yore! Somehow, I’m also keeping older technology alive and kicking hard. The music and the artists which produce it, demand such respect! But maybe I’m old school enough that listening to flat sounding compressed music over computer speakers doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

Yeah, boring old duck egg blue cars being kept alive by enthusiasts. Fancy that. Anyway, my point of differentiation with them is that the Kenwood FM tuner has black writing on a black background – and how cool is that?

Most people don’t bother keeping older technology going. When it breaks, chuck it out, is the learned lesson these days. And such reactions make the ecologically sensitive person quail in fright. It needn’t be that way. When I was a wee little kid I’d heard adults seriously suggesting to re-use, repair, and only ever lastly recycle. Somehow that story disappeared, and it makes you wonder where it went? The preference these days is to recycle first, worry about the details later. But my gut feeling suggests that plenty of stuff intended for recycling, ends up in landfill or accidental industrial fires at storage facilities.

It’s kind of funny, but much of our current problems stem from the stories we are told.

Speaking of stories, recently I’d re-read, for maybe the third or fourth time, a collection of four books penned by my favourite author, the now deceased, Jack Vance. The four books were the collected: Tales of the Dying Earth. The stories are set way off into an imaginary future where: ‘it was a dim place, ancient beyond knowledge’. There were no duck egg blue summer skies in those imagined futures. The sun was going dark. The fictional dwindling red sun of that far distant future meekly fills a dark blue sky, and magic and science mean the same thing. Apparently a few thousand strange human souls yet still live at that time, and according to the books blurb: ‘There is evil on Earth, evil distilled by time’.

It was a great read, but what struck me was that the throughout the four books, the author continually imagined and then went on to describe new and highly localised micro societies in which the anti-hero/s of the story existed. Some of those micro societies were very occasionally even, off planet. In fact, the sheer variety of micro societies imagined was quite astounding. And often they were introduced in a very casual or off handed way as if it were nothing special or out of the ordinary. For example there was the brief excursion to the planet Jangk, where a disgruntled human wanted to wreak revenge upon the Archveult’s who had done the character a great wrong in the far past.

Just for this one minor example, the description of the fictional planet Jangk read: “Guarding themselves against the poisonous air, the magicians descended the marble steps and walked out on the bluff, where an inspiring vista spread before them. Monstrous Kerkaju (the local star) bulged across the green sky, every pore and flocculation distinct, its simulacrum mirrored in the Quicksilver Ocean. Directly below, at the base of the bluff, quicksilver puddled and trickled across flats of black hornblende; here the Jangk ‘Dragoons’ – purple pansy-shaped creatures six feet in diameter – grazed on tufts of moss. Somewhat to the east, the town of Kaleshe descended in terraces to the shore.”

Such a description represents a descriptive narrative that is utterly alien to my senses, and yet the four books are full of such places and descriptions. This story was commenced in 1950.

A few years ago now, I stopped reading newer science fiction books. There was a sort of horrid, but repetitive narrative to many of the books which I read. The narrative was that technology will save the human race, or artificial intelligence would, or even in one case a ‘singularity’ came to the rescue, whatever that is. There was always this need for rescue, after numerous boring repetitions of that narrative, I’d begun to wonder if the current authors couldn’t simply instead just tell a good story. By way of comparison, in the much older Jack Vance books, the characters lived or died by their wits alone – they weren’t saved by anyone, other than themselves.

The contrast between the two not-all-that-far-apart eras of science fiction writing is just so great, that I can’t but help think to myself that something in our society has shifted and the shift is being reflected in the literature.

Such a shift doesn’t necessarily surprise me, because I mean after all I hear serious people suggesting as a plausible narrative that renewable energy systems such as solar photovoltaic systems, can and will replace fossil fuel energy systems. Maybe this outcome is what was meant by the ‘singularity’ which saved humanity?

Such claims defy my imagination because after all, I have lived day to day with renewable energy systems for over a dozen years now, and they’re good. However, they’re just not as good as fossil fuel energy systems. And in a time of decline, so many things are like that nowadays, that it makes me feel very uncomfortable whenever serious people talking such wild nonsense. But then I think to myself about what happened to the re-use and repair narrative which is rarely heard these days. And maybe we should reattempt those two options, even if the thing being preserved is duck egg blue coloured.

The growing season so far has been cold and wet. I’ve heard growing days described as days where the air temperature exceeds 30’C / 86’F. The farm passed the official start to summer, and we’ve experienced one growing day this season. It’s an impressive effort. Anyway, not to worry, the other day a tropical storm dumped half an inch of rain over the farm in only a matter of minutes. There was even some hail during the storm, as captured in the next two images:

Hail from a tropical downpour falls over the farm
Half an inch of rain and hail fell in only a few minutes

After the tropical downpour, the weather forecast promised three cooler days in a row. The decision was made to excavate a flat spot immediately below the new machinery shed for the many water tanks that will be relocated there.

After the first day of work, the flat land emerges from the hilly slope

After a days work, we’d cut a 52ft by 7ft wide site below the new machinery shed. All of the work was done by hand, and by the end of that day we were both exhausted.

However, we’d inadvertently made the site slightly wider than we’d originally intended – and then promptly run out of soil. That was when we looked over, and into the orchard to consider the two mounds which had been smooshed up (the technical expression) a few weeks ago when I’d had access to the loader / digger machine.

All of the soil from the two mounds were laboriously carted over to the new flat site

All of the soil from the two mounds were laboriously carted over to the new flat site. That was another long days work. But at the end of the day, the flat site was looking, err, flat.

The water tank site is now looking very flat

In order to protect the flat site from washing away should say another tropical downpour become heavier than the most recent incidence, we added a surface layer of crushed rock with lime.

The excavated site is now ready to take the many water tanks

And the area where the now smooshed mounds used to be, ended up looking like a total dead zone. In order to bring the dead zone back to life – like Frankenstein was brought back to life – we added a couple of wheelbarrow loads of coffee grounds mixed with agricultural lime. Unfortunately the Frankenstein like dead zone could not be brought to life using the traditional electricity method – the off grid solar system could not generate enough power. And on top of that heady soil mix, was added several bags of coffee husks. To top it all off, four large wheelbarrow loads of litter from the chickens run were added. I expect that in no time at all, the grass will be growing strongly in that locale.

Ollie is obsessive about chicken manure. Yum!

The wet and tropical weather (despite being on the cooler side) has brought out the tree frogs:

A very wet looking Southern Brown Tree Frog hunts insects attracted to the house lights

During the day there are a huge amount of flying insects. Sometimes you accidentally breathe them in. Always a mildly yukky experience!

A very attractive moth clings to the lamp post

Onto the flowers:

It’s Rhodie time!
Geraniums are also enjoying the climate and soil
Succulents are growing really well this season
It doesn’t get more colourful than this succulent!

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 18’C (65’F). So far this year there has been 1,176.8mm (46.3 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 1,165.2mm (45.9 inches)

50 thoughts on “Little Talks”

  1. I think this is the first time I’ve seen the new bench for the shed from this angle, where the shed columns appear rather close to the edge of the drop off. Have you described how you’ve bolstered the edge of the bench to prevent slumping, erosion, or issues with the columns?

    I assume the tanks will be harvesting from the roof of the new shed. Are they also receiving overflow from any uphill tanks?

    Sounds like new pumps will be next on the projects list? Too bad water doesn’t go uphill on its own.

  2. Yo, Chris – What’s wrong with Duck Egg Blue? After all … it’s blue! 🙂 I think your antipathy, is due to early Australian vintage police cars, being Duck Egg Blue. In a previous life, you were probably some crim. Hence, the unease due to the color. Your always saying you must have done terrible things, in a previous life.

    The radio. Pretty soon you’ll be setting up a ham outfit, in the new mead hall. 🙂 . We preserve what we can.

    I still don’t want to read Vance.

    Hail marbles. I hope nothing was damaged. Plant or structure. Today, it was supposed to be sunny. Didn’t happen. Not even the brief beams we occasionally get, when the sun sets between the cloud cover, and the horizon. That small fracture of sky.

    Terraforming the earth. Today, Fern Glade Farm. Tomorrow, the world! 🙂 . I also wonder about the weight of tanks and hall … held up by those turf buttress. Oh, well. Live and learn.

    “Igor! Open the roof and let the lightening come in!” What with all the good stuff you’ve dumped on the dead zone, that ought to kick things into gear.

    Cute frog. I’ve been hearing a single frog, the last few nights. Poor confused thing. He ought to be tucked up tight, in his little mud bed.

    It’s Rhodie Time! An obscure popular dance, from the early 1960s. 🙂

    Gotta run. I’m baking a double batch of banana / cranberry muffins. Will I finish, before it’s time to walk the dog? It’s a race against time! Lew

  3. Hi Inge,

    You’ve impressed your writing advice into my consciousness. Yesterday the process involved: Writing, and editing on the fly. Another complete re-read and edit. The editor then took her razor to my words. Then this morning I did the final edit before pressing the publish button.

    And that was when I could almost hear your mind yelling at me: Concision! And so I cut further words. I believe that the first paragraph pleased me.

    Thought that you may be interested.



  4. Hi Al,

    I’d wondered where you’d gotten to, and I’m glad to hear that things are going well for you – more or less. Mate, Lewis alerted me to the record breaking maximum winter temperatures which had been occurring in your part of the world – plus the fires. It’s not good, and I’m glad to hear that your neck of the woods has escaped largely unscathed, albeit dry.

    Al, you can adapt agriculture to such conditions and your words describe the situation down under. The question I have in relation to this is: Will we adapt? Our society tends to extrapolate conditions from the very best seasons and not the worst ones. But yeah, dams are good when full, no doubts about it. Managing the water resource though can be a bit problematic.

    Thank you! And yup, rock crusher dust is an astounding fertiliser. As a general rule, the darker the rock crusher dust is, the wider variety of minerals that it contains. Interestingly, the local granite here is of a middling colour, and so it’s OK, but not particularly great. The areas which produce the darker ‘blue’ granite are much more fertile again. It amuses me to see a preference for the darker blue granite in construction related purposes. Oh well.

    I’ve applied several trailer loads of rock crusher dust to the paddocks and orchards, and it’s worked a treat! And your suggestion is excellent. It would just work, but mixing it up would be a job for a very large and powerful machine. I mix up small batches of fertiliser using the oversized electric cement mixer. No point breaking your back over that mixing job.

    And the replacement electrolytic capacitors finally arrived for the Kenwood FM tuner. The power supply board has a few dodgy looking capacitors.



  5. Hi Steve,

    The shed timber posts aren’t that close to the edge of the excavation. It just looks that way in the photograph. And I was surprised to see that the area looks far smaller in the photo than it actually is. At 52ft long and 7ft wide it will hold all of the water tanks easily.

    The clay here is quite stable so long as there are no opportunities for epic storms to concentrate and then channel water. Basically, you have to break up the flow of water, and then the cutting will be fine. I’ve seen examples of these soil arrangements which date back a century to the old hill station gardens, which is where I got the idea for doing this a few years ago. And the house actually sits on a similar arrangement.

    In order to protect the edge, a rock wall will be set back a little bit from the edge of the drop off. Composted woody mulch will placed between the rock wall and the drop off, and that arrangement will absorb the worst that any torrential rain can throw at it.

    Eventually, the mulch will break down and plants will grow in the rich soil medium, and their root systems will hold the whole lot together. Easy, and we’ve tested this system over many years.

    Additionally, the water tanks themselves will form part of the retaining wall. 😉

    Nope! I already have the water pump/s and connections, and anyway, with the exception of several bushfire sprinklers attached to the shed, all of the other water will be used downhill. There are plans for a much larger and more expanded vegetable patch below the new shed.



  6. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the link to the cream cheese shortage. I’d heard that there were problems with the supply of rennet last year (which is an enzyme used to produce cheese), and it would not surprise me at all if that was at the core of this issue. None of us really know how these complicated supply chains work, and I may have mentioned at the time when we originally spoke about this matter, that I don’t believe that it is produced in Australia. And who knows what goes on in your country? But it is a truth universally unacknowledged that perhaps it wasn’t all that bright an idea to shut down major industries – and continue to place arbitrary restrictions upon them and their employees. History may judge this current state of affairs poorly. Mind you, something was going to unhinge the gravy train. Sooner or later though, we’ll get to a decisive point in the current affairs: Do we eat well; or do we stay safe? Diving the answer is not hard.

    Having written that the cheese I purchase is made using a vegetable enzyme, so substitutions are possible, but you might not get the same product, or at the same cost.

    Anyway, that’s my twenty cents on the issue. I feel much better having just had that rant. 🙂

    Hey, what do they say about the midday sun, mad dogs and Englishmen? 🙂 Friday is the first day of forecast extreme UV rating. Sizzle is the word that you heard! Tomorrow is forecast to reach 60’F. Brr!

    Yeah, that’s the book! A boy’s King Arthur. Although, like you’d I’d read the book via the illustrations. Nothing wrong with that option at all.

    Sadly Lewis, this is a public forum, and I cannot share with you some of the juicier local historic stories. We’ll have to leave those to the imagination. However, should you ever pass by the mead hall here (no obligation to imbibe, we can whip up a tasty lemon cordial as we do with most guests) I’ll show you some frightening stuff which will raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

    My understanding is that the previous owner is now deceased. From the reports I’ve heard, and some have arrived by unlikely sources, they paint a favourable picture of the dude.

    Sadly, winter provides little respite in the work around here, although sleeping-in is easier when the sun also fails to arise early.

    Hehe! Lucky you, as far as I can tell, there are few if any boundaries placed upon children down here. The thing is, plenty of people are looking for trouble, so I do my best to ignore them and not engage.

    Ah front of house, I see. I reckon in some ways, that is the harder job. At least in the kitchen, despite the heat, stress and noise, you can be yourself. Front of house, means dealing with customers, and they can be a mixed bag. And some customers can be downright rude or demanding. Not fun, and I’ll bet you’ve seen your fair share of those? As a general rule, I am polite with people who are serving me. That rule is fixed. I have worked retail. I am very embarrassed when friends or acquaintances can’t manage to live up to that rule. It isn’t much to ask.

    I too have a vague memory that we discussed the book at least five or six years ago. I wouldn’t worry about it, the book is a great read.

    The editor is currently reading a fascinating and serious book on material stuff in our society. The book is titled: ‘Rummage – History of the Things We Have Reused, Recycled and Refused to Let Go’. And it was written by the author : Emily Cockayne. Highly recommended.

    It’s an outstanding aphorism. It does allude to the risk that you’ll eventually be fooled at least once. Hopefully it occurs only a single time? Hehe! Yes, and lifestyle choices should be the cause of death on many a death certificate.

    With what went on down here, a food author would be hard pressed to write anything meaningful during this past year.

    Food in your country is cheaper than here. I can’t say for sure as to why that is the case, but it is. I’m always blown away when I hear about prices for basic items in your country. I’m unsure whether anyone is studying food price inflation down under, but it seems like a real thing to me. And I purchase heaps of items in bulk as well as sticking to basic raw materials whilst cooking from scratch. As a subject, it’s something of a mystery.

    As to the duck egg blue colour, well, here I have to fess up. You may already have guessed it, but I’ve never owned a duck egg blue car. Is my reaction some sort of jealousy, or even an unfulfilled desire – who knows? But, between you and I, I have no great feelings in the matter. It was a plot device to tie the story together. 🙂 However, there was that guy I wrote about many years ago. I believe he was called: The Camry Man. The cheeky scamp used to use his duck egg blue car to pull burn outs in the otherwise quite inner city street. An intriguing ambition. Perhaps I hold something of a grudge?

    Yes, mate we do what we can – as I’m sure you do with your books and prints.

    You’re missing out on greatness with Vance! Tis not Dickens. And tis not Holden Caulfield, so perhaps that’s something to be grateful for?

    The fruit in the orchard has taken something of a pounding this growing season. However, I noticed plenty of apples and pears, and of course the Anzac peach is going off like a frog in a sock.

    I left a detailed description as to the earthwork arrangements in the comment to Steve. It’ll be fine and the timber posts are buried in water tight concrete to below the natural soil level. And the water tanks will sit on the natural soil level. It looks precarious, but isn’t. We’ve tested this arrangement for many years and a few of the local hill stations employ such earthworks. Proving that sometimes the best ideas are other people’s time-tested ideas.

    I’ll be very curious to observe the dead zone coming back to life. I trialled the soil arrangement in another part of the farm about two years ago, and it now looks quite lush up there. I was very grateful not to find the dead (please excuse my dodgy music pun). 🙂

    Oh yeah, frogs are not partial to cold weather. Hope the frog finds a nice spot deep in one of your garden beds.

    Which came first: The muffin or the dog walk?



  7. Hello Chris
    As long as the Editor is applying Occam’s razor all will be well.
    Your work ethic is really incredible, I very much admire it.

    We had an incredible red sunrise this morning. No doubt the harbinger for storm Barra which is supposed to be on its way.

    Took my laptop into town to have its anti virus updated. Was unbelievably puzzled for quite a while when I had it back. There was no spare socket near me to replug it in. Others will be highly entertained by my idiocy. I nearly went completely nuts trying to fathom it out. Finally realised that I had failed to send part of its plug in wiring with it. One that was lent had accompanied it back.


  8. Yo, Chris – Cream cheese is not made with rennet. The best the major cream cheese company could come up with is that more people are staying home and making breakfasts, and deserts. When in doubt, blame the consumer 🙂 .

    From the stories I hear, customers are far worse, these days, than in the past. And they were bad enough, then. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the great unwashed. It wouldn’t be so bad if business owners (large and small) would stand behind their employees, and occasionally say to the customer, “You’re out of line.” Of course, they all worry they’ll get a bad review, on-line. They don’t seem to “get” that one bad review on twenty good one’s, is nothing to worry about.

    I’ll have to see if my library has “Rummage.” Sounds interesting.

    We have cheap food as our food “industries” are heavily government subsidized. Our tax dollars at work 🙂 . Of course, that leaves the small producers (think farmer’s markets), out in the cold. So they have to charge the real cost of goods. But, there seems to be a trend to support those smaller producers. You do it, and so do I.

    Yes, I see what you said to Steve about your “turf walls.” A term I couldn’t quit bring to mind, yesterday. Well, if it worked for Hadrian … 🙂

    It went, walk the dog, make muffins, walk the dog, again. 🙂 . The muffins were very tasty, but a bit “dense.” I was surprised. I doubled the recipe, but still only got 2 dozen +3 muffins. Hmmm. Might be because I put so much “stuff” in them. Plumped cranberries, walnut pieces, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Or maybe because I used half all purpose flour and half artisanal flour. Would be good with a smear of cream cheese 🙂 .

    I hold no great expectations of the next round of food boxes. Given the lackluster showing before Thanksgiving. We’ll take what we get and be happy 🙂 Lew

  9. Chris,

    “Almost exclusively” means that we use the Bodum for our daily mugs of coffee, one for the Princess and one for me. On the extremely rare occasions when we have coffee drinking visitors, we will use the Mr. Coffee machine and brew a large pot. The Bodum produces a much better product. Worst case scenario, meaning the electricity is out? Fire up the camping percolator on the natural gas stovetop,

    Coyotes not only roam near to towns, but they roam in towns and even are known to live in New York City. They are very adaptable animals. At least one pack lives in the forested area about 2.5 km from here. They roam the neighborhoods at night and keep the stray cat population under control.

    Once you live in an area with significantly reduced human population, you discover just how noisy nature is. I prefer nature’s sounds to cars and airplanes and trains.

    Braveheart? The movie is exciting. However, there are so many hideous historical inaccuracies that I just don’t get the same level of enjoyment when watching it now. The last time we watched it, I got bored and went outside to do some yard work.

    I still enjoy the opening battle scene from Gladiator. Unfortunately, I cheer for the Germanic tribesmen every time, and still get disappointed when the Romans win. 😉

    Yes, very happy that we have Avalanche. She is a lot of fun and a good addition to the family. It snowed most of the morning Monday, with a total of 5cm accumulation. Avalanche never quit running when I was outside in the afternoon and later in the early evening. She loves the snow. I prefer snow to the hail you received, even though it makes driving hazardous and means that I have to either shovel the snow or pull out Big Bertha Snow Blower.

    Oooohhhh, nice work on the new flat areas. I bet you’ll be happy when the shed is completed, and the new water tanks are in place. I’ve levelled small areas before. It is HARD work. Good job!

    Yikes, it sounds like you placed a lot of organic material into the smooshed mound area. Careful…a new life form might get its start there.

    Near the first frost, we have an outbreak of fuzzy gnats that are with us for weeks. Some years, they are very thick and one cannot help but inhale some of them when outdoors. It is not a good feeling when some of them are up the old nose!

    That moth looks like a miniature wooly mammoth with wings.

    Those succulents are doing extremely well! The blooms on them are beyond spectacular.


  10. Hi Lewis,

    Oh no, that’s not good. I became interested in the cream cheese production method after reading your reply. Hmm. The stuff is as easy and quick to make as yoghurt, and is not all that different in reality. To be honest I’d had the thought that it would have been harder to make than that, except that it isn’t. There is a story as to the why of the shortages, and yes, I’d read that explanation, but there is a part of me which suggests that it doesn’t pass what is known down here as the ‘pub test’.

    My gut feeling also suggests that customers are worse nowadays. There is a middle ground between treating customers like dirt, and customers treating staff like dirt, and I’d have to suggest that we’ve swung from one side of the pendulum to the other extreme side. Someone once remarked to me that their mother advised them when they were young to consider carefully who’d they take poop from. I heard that as an adult, and it seemed like sound advice to me.

    And I’ve heard the threat of the bad review is used to strong arm business owners, but like what you wrote, most people understand that you can’t please everyone, and a couple of bad reviews are fairly meaningless. Mind you, years ago my own business received a bad review from someone who wasn’t even a customer. I may have mentioned this matter to you at the time and how I dealt with it – in the real world. But the incident also raised several issues with advertising on the interweb, and after careful consideration of the benefits and costs, I deleted all traces of interweb advertising. I get referrals from word of mouth and real world relationships. And I’m at the stage I can be very picky about the sort of work we take on, and also have a good idea as to who will be trouble. Of course, as you’d understand, you learn such things by trial and error, but mostly the route of error. It is a hard way to learn, but the lessons get rammed home.

    Anyway, I was speaking with someone a few weeks ago about interweb ratings, and they remarked that 4 out of 5 with a statistically valid sample size, was pretty good.

    Yes, you’re correct, and I do support small scale producers in the best way possible – with mad cash. And after many years of that, it becomes something of a relationship of sorts. And during this crazy time, the relationships have paid dividends as they’ve continued to supply when perhaps others weren’t being supplied. They know if things return to some semblance of normality then I’ll continue to purchase from them. The other newbies are perhaps a touch questionable as to their future plans.

    Ol’ Emperor Hadrian knew how to get a solid wall constructed, and it is the same technique for the earthworks. The sod houses you linked too are a similar concept, but the sod bricks I use sit on solid ground and so will have less chance of crashing down onto the occupants heads during notable storms. It’s a stable system, which we’ve tested for many years.

    Had dinner this evening in the big smoke. Gourmet burgers to be precise, and yes there was beetroot in the one I chose. Go on, you’ll like it – maybe. 🙂 Afterwards there was a gelati, and then home again. On the way back home we stopped off to check out the Christmas lights in the nearby town, and they were a little bit subdued this year, but still good. We were rained on, but that didn’t stop the fun.

    Ah, dense muffins are something of a mystery to me too. The most excellent cafe I nab the coffee grounds from, makes superb muffins. However, sometimes they’re a bit dense, almost as if they failed to get out of bed on time, and as such had not yet risen. Perhaps they will rise later in the day, a person can but hope for such a satisfactory outcome?

    Far out it was cold today. A maximum of 59’F and it is now a mere 45’F outside. Brr.

    Incidentally, yours was what I describe as a two walk day. 🙂 I trust that H is appreciative of the effort? Do you use baking soda to get the muffins to rise? And not all flours are the same. The bread supply folks sent me wholemeal spelt flour in the last batch, and it’s quite good, but would I’m guessing produce a dense loaf. I use the stuff to roll the bread dough in so as to dry it up before placing the dough in the bread tin.

    I had to run the wood heater tonight, and we made it home very late.

    Interestingly, the youth news radio program discussed petrol prices today. One question was asked that fascinated me: What is crude oil? A truly fascinating question, which I assumed that most people would know. Turns out that I’m incorrect in that assumption, and also thus proving the old adage about assumptions making an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Jokes aside, nobody thought to mention that the heady black brew is also a finite resource. I was rather surprised by the omission. Apparently the conclusion was that OPEC was/is to blame, whatever that means. It seems like a massive over simplification of the issues to me.

    How is the cream cheese supply in your part of the world?

    Lewis, you and I may end up owning nothing, and pretending to be happy. I read that prediction somewhere, or other. 🙂



  11. Hi Inge and DJ,

    Thank you very much for the lovely comments. Unfortunately I have run out of time to reply this evening as the dreaded mid-week hiatus has come into force. And I’m about to drag my tired body off to bed.

    Until tomorrow!



  12. Yo, Chris – Your opening photo tickled something in my memory. I think it was a picture from Bunyan’s (no relation to Paul) “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Which I have not read. Not the exact picture I had in mind, but something like this …

    We don’t seem to have a shortage of cream cheese, here. At least, there was piles of the stuff, before Thanksgiving. And on sale. The store brand which comes from California. I don’t know about the major brand, that is in short supply on the east coast. I’ll have to check the next time I’m at the store. I think cream cheese, clotted cream, and cream fraiche are all kind of related to each other. All different, but similar. All a distant relation of butter 🙂 .

    I was talking to someone at the Club, about supply line shortages. Now there’s an aisle at the store, that I never go down. Snack foods. Crisps and things. They said there’s huge gaps in that aisle. I also saw an article last night, about things that are not in short supply. Milk (due to so many people switching to non-dairy), luxury watches and luxury leather goods … and avocados. From Australia. I guess prices are so down that farmer’s are plowing them under.

    Anytime I’m thinking of buying something, I look at the reviews. If they’re 90%, or better, I’m pretty comfortable ordering.

    Yup. Small scale producers is the way to go. This morning I picked up my local eggs, and locally made yogurt. Ideal to smear on banana / cranberry muffins. Speaking of muffins, I was talking to the woman about my muffins, and the number I got. She said she has her grandmother’s recipe (from the 1940s) for some kind of simple muffin. Uses the same recipe, every time. Sometimes she gets 12. Sometimes 8. Other times, 14. Now I did use half all purpose flour, and half artisanal. Maybe I should have stuck with all, all purpose. Yup. The baking soda (double amount) made it into the muffins.

    A lot of Hadrian’s wall, was built of turf. Especially the western end. But, eventually, most of it was replaced with stone.

    Beet root burgers sound really good. I will get around to trying them, sooner or later. Here, Christmas lights were going up, before Halloween. Looks like there’s going to be a good showing, this year. Anything to cheer up the mob.

    With H, it’s always a three walk day. 9:45am, 3:45pm, 9:45pm. H might be getting a little friend, from time to time. One of the guys at the Club has some kind of a long haired dachshound. Gunther. Could be the brother of the pup on the other side of me. Olive. H’s best bud. Any-who. He might be going to California in a month, or two, and I kind of volunteered to take care of the dog. They’re rather low key. Almost timid.

    Zombies! How did I miss this? When I was at the library, I picked up a two film set. “Resident Evil,” and “Resident Evil: Apocalypse.” Turns out they’re the first two films in an eight film series. Hope the library has the rest of them.

    This morning, I swung by the Credit Union, to get some jingle out of the ATM. It was blocked off. Apparently, someone tried to steal it, again. About a year ago, there was a real comedy of errors. Some totally addled guy, stole a front loader, scoped up the ATM and was trying to load it in a U-Haul truck, that he had also stolen. Somehow, having a regular job sounds like a lot less effort. Lew

  13. Hi, Chris!

    I missed you last week. I literally crashed and burned, and was too pooped to pop. That is, I hadn’t had a day off since early last April, caring for my parents, and could go no further. I also had let some health issues go unattended. My husband has been largely taking over, with my son helping when he’s home, and I am getting back on track. Not sure how to avoid the same problem in the future, though. I don’t think hiring help will work.

    Isn’t it interesting that one can repair something, and make it work like new, without even understanding what the parts do that made it so?

    I enjoyed your Vance excerpts.

    The Flat is good! Very good!

    That moth reminds me of the Groovy Guru from “Get Smart”, though I can’t imagine why. It’s not even colorful.

    Those are some of your most beautiful flowers ever; the succulents are out of this world. Am I to suppose that your geraniums live all through the winter to continue into the spring and summer, unlike mine?


  14. Hi Inge,

    The Editor does view the final work from a perspective of logic and flow, and we have had much discussion of late as to applying the concept of flow to the essay. The subject is perhaps more dense and complicated than most people would imagine. The changes were applied after the Editor had done her cutting work. I do try to be concise, but sometimes the little devil sits on my shoulder and demands that such an such words be put to pen.

    Thank you for saying that. I’ve never stopped working hard. My observation of others and personal experience is that should there ever be a prolonged break, the effort to wind oneself up again can require a lot more energy than simply sailing along. I learned that lesson the hard way after succumbing to the influenza virus a few years ago. You may remember the sooking and whinging at the time? And let’s not forget the Editor’s disbelief of my hardship and the casual accusations of ‘man flu’ thrown around. However, the experience for the Editor turned into a sort of hard won horror story for herself as she went down like a sack of spuds with the same virus. An horrific time for the household, but survivable. Anyway, do you have any opinions you’d wish to share upon my observation as to the energy required to wind oneself up again?

    It looks as though Barra lacks the punch of Arwen. Today was another glorious summer’s day with thick clouds, precipitation, cold Antarctic winds and a maximum temperature of about 48’F. I’ve had the wood fire running all day long, and letting it run out of fuel now. I sleep better in an unheated house.

    Hehe! That was very nice of the computer repair dudes / dudettes to supply you with another power supply for your laptop. A lovely touch, and an amusing story.



  15. Hi DJ,

    Respect. I applaud your most excellent thinking with the coffee machine for every occasion for you and your lady, and of course guests. And I must add that it appears that your systems have been well tested by time. Trust me, it is an awful feeling, way down deep in your guts, when you discover that the coffee machine you’ve so long relied upon, has gone toes up. Awful. And has this been your experience in the dim distant past? 🙂

    I tell ya, that at one point when the coffee machine broke, we were reduced to boiling coffee grounds in a saucepan, and then running the result through the finest mesh filter we own (a cheese filter). The result was passable, and met certain immediate caffeine needs. It need not be mentioned that the resulting beverage was rather horrid. The brew would never win awards.

    Went to the nearby town last evening on the way home from the big smoke so as to check out the Christmas light displays. Most people drive, but we parked the car (on wet grass) and walked. The town is not noted for its wealth, although it seems much like any other town to me. However, the area with the Christmas lights pokes up from the surrounding plain on a tiny extinct volcano. The relatively larger houses and curving roads hug the contours of the hill, and the view looking across to the city lights really is something else. Last night the cold Antarctic winds could be felt at that elevated locale. Still, the lights were good. One or two houses either hadn’t put up lights this year (they were banned last Christmas due to fear of you know what).

    What? I guess that there would be a lot of rubbish in a place like New York City for coyotes to consume? Hope the coyotes there don’t have a preference for cream cheese bagels. 😉 I can see that a small pack of coyotes could take out a feral cat. Animals are highly adaptable aren’t they? I’ve read of spotted quolls (a native marsupial cat which used to be widely disbursed on the continent) have been known to explore rubbish bins looking for tasty treats.

    I’m with you about that, and yup, the sounds of nature are supreme.

    Thanks for the explanation as to the Braveheart film. Sir William Wallace had heart and could lead men. The odds against him were overwhelming.

    I understand what you’re saying about the tribesmen, and I’d imagine that the Roman legions would have had more trouble when faced with guerrilla tactics, although they certainly weren’t about a scorched earth response, as well as some other brutal tactics involving the remaining locals. The phosphor arrows were pretty nifty and would assist the bowmen with ranging. I noted that the Welsh archers were considered superior to the Scottish archers. It makes you wonder if different trees were involved in that advantage story?

    Go Avalanche! Strangely enough, the hail which falls here is rather small, but plentiful. At lower elevations, the hail can destroy cars. Someone, somewhere must have understood the story behind why that may be?

    Thanks, and yup, the flat site was indeed hard work. By late Sunday, I was physically done and had nothing more to give. I was pleased that the blog essay – which was written after that – made as much sense as it did! Not always guaranteed. 🙂

    There is a story there about the flat site you levelled off?

    Yuk! Double yuk with a gnat up the nose. Not good.

    Yeah, the succulent garden is coming along nicely. And they grow very well in this climate. And they’re loving the plentiful rain of this year.



  16. Hi Pam,

    I’d missed your words last week too.

    Pam, I understand that feeling, and you’ve had a hard year, what with bringing your folks back from Colorado. Given the continuing dry and warm weather in that part of the world, it was a good move for that reason alone.

    If it means anything to you, I have also been pondering that question for many years. And I don’t fully understand how to avoid such things. Doing less seems to be a good start, but there are times when others still expect output from you, and it becomes a tedious job of managing other peoples expectations. And they can be resistant to change.

    I hit the end point when I quit working at the big end of town. That was a complicated time, and it involved renegotiating the entire household arrangements, and working out how to make a living from that point onwards.

    There were good outcomes from all of those changes, but one negative outcome was that I have a great deal of trouble taking any extended leave now. Even getting a single uninterrupted week off with no paid work, is very difficult to manage. I just do my best to take the good with the bad.

    None of that is useful to you, but on the other hand, you’re not alone there with that trouble.

    Repairing items is a little practised art form in these wasteful days. Hope Mr Dumpy is not shivering out there in the cold weather?

    Jack Vance is a delightful author. The editor might describe some of his language as flowery, but I rather enjoy the word play, and it brings a smile to my face.

    Haha! Flat land. It takes one to know one – as they used to quip in primary school!

    Thanks for the blast from the past. Very Groovy! The character looks a bit like my old Sensei.

    Yeah, the geraniums flower all year around, although between you and I, they do prefer the warmer seasons. From what I’ve observed, the geraniums are cold hardy to 28’F – confirmed. Colder than that is beyond my experience, so I can’t hazard a guess as to how they’d perform. The succulents are great aren’t they?



  17. Hi Lewis,

    It’s been a heck of a journey. My ears pricked up at the mention of allegory in Pilgrim’s Progress. The sermon is of course an excellent vehicle for the essayist and a useful place for allegory. Ah, I note that author John Bunyan was imprisoned, of course.

    At this point, it is worth noting that there is a vast difference in legal freedoms between your country and this one. There have been many an occasion when I read blogs from your part of the world, and am astounded by your freedoms. Certainly if I’d penned them, I’d be nabbed by the authorities or, more likely, had the pants sued off me. I’ve have heard of people getting in trouble for merely agreeing with something that someone has said. Yes, rethink the use of the ‘like’ button. Writing down under can be a fraught experience, thus my dependence upon the allegory. If I had the freedom to speak as I wished, well, that’s a fools hope. It ain’t gonna happen any time soon.

    It seems very strange to me that there may be a localised shortage of such a product because it appears to be rather simple to make. That alone suggests that there may be other factors at work – such as just randomly guessing, a lack of milk transport. Plus I’d imagine that during the production process, milk proteins are added into the milk, and they could be in short supply.

    And yes, I agree, those products do appear to be similar and interchangeable. Fetta cheese is also made in a similar process. There are a lot of substitute products, but who knows if the supply shortages can be worked around.

    The editor went out to dinner with a mate of hers this evening. I batched it up tonight, and made a dinner of linguine, with mushroom, capsicum, onion, chilli, pepper, all fried up in butter. It ended up being very tasty. But before dinner I took the dogs out for a walk. Now that the two Kelpie’s are feeling better (Plum is fully recovered), the three combined dogs had some pulling power. If they don’t tone it down though, I might hook them up into a three dog harness. 🙂 That’ll teach ’em. 😉 Fortunately they didn’t quite manage to disconnect the arm bones from the shoulder bones, but they came close to doing just that. After the initial burst of excitement the dogs settled into the walk, but before then they were a bit hyped up.

    Butter is good. Speaking of food, how are you enjoying the Jason Sheehan book?

    Very wise not to put yourself in temptations way, by avoiding the snack food aisle. The aisle doesn’t speak to me, although from time to time I occasionally have a hankering for chocolate, and your iron willed resolve in relation to the 80% cocoa butter is an example to us all. The Editor loves her Lindt ball chocolates, and they had a Christmas version which looks pretty good. Sorry, I digress. Did you get a chance to check out whether the aisle has a few gaps. I noticed at a hardware store recently that products were pushed to the front of the racking so as to give a certain perhaps, full, impression. I’m heading to a grocery over the next day or so and will have a look and report back.

    The farmers had an amazing season for avocadoes, but unfortunately there was some talk that the price they were receiving was maybe at or around the cost to produce. My mates of the big shed fame have a huge avocado tree in their shed. And the tree fruits. I’ve trialled a few avocado trees, and whilst they don’t die, they’re thriving either.

    I’m with you, and 90%+ is good enough for me. I have this vague notion that there is a 10% idiot element. I recall reading one review where the negative button had been clicked, and yet the words were glowing. You see what I mean? That review was very hard to explain.

    Hey, it’s great that your egg arrangement is working out. Home grown eggs are just better. A muffin mystery, but it sounds like you may have to run a comparative experiment between the two different flours? I’ve heard many people discussing the relative merits of flours, but much depends. I’m also of the belief that even the seasonal conditions can influence the end product. Humidity, temperature of the kitchen, temperature of the water used etc… Even eggs would vary greatly in terms of the protein they provide.

    The raised earthworks at Hadrian’s wall suggests that such techniques were used. Humans have probably been using those construction techniques for millennia. Although, I’d never heard of houses made of turf sods before you mentioned them. Down here, timber was plentiful, so timber was used early on. From what I understand, lime kilns were run by the early convicts too. They may have used sea shells.

    Christmas lights are kind of cheery, although most of the symbology used makes very little contextual sense down under. Still makes for a fun showing. And the electrical sub station on the street sets up a proper and solid hum. Buzzing with authority!

    Gunther the dachshund is a great name. I like dachshund’s and Mr Toothy was a long haired variety, but they do tend to express their displeasure should circumstances move beyond their control. Gunther may however be a delight, and they’re a fun dog too. Gunther the dachshund might be like the clichéd hot librarian (you’ve probably worked with a few) who hides behind their bottle glass thick glasses only to let their hair down after a few drinks at the Christmas party and embarrass everyone with candid observations as to their fellow employees? I guess the upshot is timid today, but who knows what the future holds in store for Gunther the dachshund? You’ll have a blast.

    I thought that I’d heard of Resident Evil. It’s a video game as well. It’s a great title. Did you enjoy the first film and was it of Japanese origins?

    Yup, the lengths some crims go to for such small change. Crazy stuff.



  18. Chris:

    Thank you for the wise, and kind, thoughts.

    Of course Mr. Dumpy is shivering out there, all alone except for Tractorzilla.


  19. Yo, Chris – “Kill (or murder) your darlings.” Often attributed to Faulkner, but it goes back even further.

    I believe you’ll find a discussion, of same, in “On Writing.”

    After the biscuits and gravy (yum!), yesterday, I wanted something lighter for dinner. Just a simple rice, peas and mushrooms. With a side of brussels sprouts with a bit of butter and pepper. Of course for desert, I had a couple of banana muffins with cranberry sauce and a dollop of yogurt.

    I finished the Jason Sheehan book, last night. I’d forgotten so much. Such as his getting popped in the face for the crime of reading in public. 🙂 . So then I poked around in his life, a bit. Shameless, I know. He doesn’t seem to have a blog, but he does have a twitter feed. He’s also written two science fiction books, and a children’s book. But mostly he keeps food on the table by writing essays. I’ll have to hunt some of them up. When I pass the book along to the Ladies at the library, I’ll have to warn them, a bit. Something along the lines of, “Rude, crude and occasionally gross. But an engaging tale of a young man growing up and becoming an adult.” Or, something like that.

    Re: Mallory and Bunyan. I guess, if you want good English literature, you just need to lock your authors up, from time to time. 🙂

    I’ll probably go the the grocery, tonight or tomorrow night. I’ll have to pay more attention to what is, or isn’t on the shelves.

    The Vikings were big turf builders. Greenland and even what they left behind on our continent, was turf construction.

    Well, the whole Gunther thing, might not even pan out. Time will tell.

    I finished watching the first two movies of “Resident Evil,” last night. It might have Japanese roots, but the products I saw we’re American products. Pretty fast zombies, by the way. And two kinds, with one kind being super fast. At least, in these films, it’s pretty clear why there are zombies. Multi-national powerful corporation is messing about with genetic and bio research. The first film opens with a scene very similar to the opening lab accident in “The Stand.” Lew

  20. Chris,

    As you surmised, the testing of the systems is due to a past system failure. One morning an old Mr. Coffee didn’t work. Could’ve been one of those horrid days as a result, but the Princess reminded me that I had our camp percolator in the basement. Fired it up on the electric stovetop and we had coffee a while later. I like the percolator coffee better than the Mr. Coffee, but the Bodum coffee is by far the best.

    I’ve had boiled coffee poured through a mesh filter. The best thing I can say about it is “At least it has caffeine.”

    Glad you got to see some holiday lights. We’ve been enjoying some festive decorations on our walks through the neighborhood with Avalanche. The Princess and I were out for a bit Wednesday evening, so we took a few extra minutes to look at some lights.

    This has been a busy week. We were near the right place both Monday and Tuesday, however, so we got our favorite sandwiches to take home from our favorite deli. They were yummy.

    In addition to the rubbish in New York City, there are a zillion rats in places. The coyotes help keep the rat population in check. My uncle used to find where the coyotes had hunted and eaten cats in his yard in urban Orange County, California. Coyotes are very adaptable.

    The biggest difference between the Welsh and the Scottish archers was the size number of archers in their armies. The Scots fighting forces didn’t have a large number of archers, especially in comparison with the Welsh. You might find this discussion interesting. It mentions Welsh longbows at places.

    Dad had to level several areas so he could lay concrete blocks. I helped. It was rocky soil, so there was always a pebble or larger rock keeping an area from being level. This would get removed and then some sand he’d bought was used to get things level. Occasionally, the “pebble” that was dug out would have been a grand addition to any of your rock walls. Many of these same “pebbles” were in my rock garden and have now found other uses. Took us 2 weeks during a summer vacation from school to level that pebble-strewn area. Would’ve taken maybe 3 days in sandy soil.

    Hmmmm, I’m thinking that Eric Gnat-Nose would be a good nickname for the Borders area. Worse than a gnat up the nose, however, was my friend who was riding his motorcycle with no face shield on his helmet when he ran into a cloud of gnats. With his mouth open. Gak! Ick! Yuk!


  21. Hello Chris
    The reason that storm Arwen caused such a problem, was the fact that it came in from an unusual direction. Barra came in the usual way. As I am sure you know, trees adapt to deal with the usual wind direction.

    I found your comment on winding oneself up to work after inactivity, extremely interesting. The other week I did far more outside work than usual. Then went on to another big job. When I came indoors, I felt very puzzled at the amount that I had achieved. This suggests that even in old age, the more that one does, the more one can do. Rather surprising!


  22. Hi Pam

    🙂 My pleasure. My mate who unfortunately died late last year, was fond of suggesting that the only people who know where the edge is, are those that have fallen off. Thus he correctly suggested that a person learns ones limits the hard way. I wish it were otherwise. And also you could possibly divine from his quip that other people are perhaps in danger of discovering the edge – they just haven’t got there yet.

    Hopefully Mr Dumpy and Tractorzilla can become best mates? This of course necessitates that they are both in working order.

    What a surprise, tonight is another cold, windy and drizzly summers evening. And over half an inch of rain fell today. What a summer, may you never experience it.



  23. Hi Inge,

    I had not realised that about storm Arwen. Such storms now arouse a touch of trepidation after the similar experience down here a few months ago. Swathes of forest higher up the mountain range look as though a couple of very grumpy and rather agile thunder trolls decided to have a punch up. Large stands of trees were flattened. Some of the roads up there are still closed off.

    Today looked as though winter had returned. If anything, it was colder than yesterday, the wind was stronger and about half an inch of rain fell. I despair of getting any tomatoes in these sorts of growing conditions.

    Well done you! We’re all subject to the vagaries of nature, but I have a hunch that the use it, or lose it school of thought applies. It is impossible to defeat entropy, but the worst impacts can be abated with a bit of care and luck.



  24. HI DJ,

    You dodged an awful fate there. And your lady also proved that back up systems are worth their weight in gold during in an emergency. Respect. Out of a professionally caffeine addicted low-tech guy sort of interest, can you please link to an image of your camp coffee percolator (or a similar arrangement)? I did a gargle search and came up with a bewildering array of devices, and I was curious to hear how well your device worked.

    Bodum devices are pretty good. The spring and filter plunger arrangement (being mechanical in operation) are perhaps the weak point. The glass always seemed super tough to me. I wonder how the monks of yore used to produce their coffee? Ah, I see it was the work of the underworld influences, so obvious. How could it have been otherwise? 🙂 Crazy stuff. There is a lot of repeated history of the bean, but I couldn’t discover how they prepared their coffee brew.

    Yup, true words. And only those who’ve attempted such fine mesh stratagems would understand.

    The lights were nice, but the weather was sub fluffy optimal – as it has been for a lot of this growing season. At this rate I hold grave doubts that any tomato ripe fruit will be produced. Glad to hear that your winter weather is good enough for you and your lady plus Avalanche to go for a walk and enjoy the local sights. I’ll bet your lady has Avalanche under her thumb? 🙂

    Yum! The Editor and I enjoyed dinner out tonight. We’re having a lower key day today and getting all of the administrative tasks – you know, all the stuff you need to do to keep a household going. Tomorrow if the weather co-operates we’ll begin deconstructing (I like that word better than demolishing) one of the sheds so as to scrounge the materials for use in the new shed. Materials are in short supply down here, so a person must get as they used to say: canny. Although I have no idea what that word actually means, I just heard it a lot as a kid.

    Coyotes sound very useful from an ecological perspective. Any animal which can hunt rats is alright by me. I watched a small rabbit saunter past the glass door to my room / office. Plum and Ruby were sound asleep. Plum was rudely awakened and chucked outside. She picked up the scent immediately but headed in the direction the rabbit came from rather than were the rabbit went. Good help they tell me, is hard to find.

    Thanks for the link. It’s good. And the article discusses the relative merits of each methodology (volleys versus snipers). I had not known any of this information. The English appear to have favoured numbers over accuracy – who knew? And that speaks of a lesser need for economy. Archers are an expensive technology and were probably not that good when conditions became closer.

    Did you end up using a steel wrecking bar as a lever so as to remove the err, pebbles? You are understating the case, because removing pebbles does not take two weeks of work. 🙂 Out of curiosity, did you dad ever end up using the flat area with the all weather surface? A mate of mine has a similar horror story, but his dad wanted a brick (on sand) driveway, except the driveway was 40m long. The words my mate used to describe the job would breach the protocols here. And from what I observed, the actions of vehicles using the driveway compacted the sand and produced an uneven surface. Given the emotional state about that job, I didn’t dare ever mention lifting the bricks and packing out the sand.

    Your gnat mate has my sympathies, and helmet face shields in summer weather are useful devices to keep the squooshed bugs off ones face. They can hurt at speed, especially the bigger bugs. An old friend used to have an allergic reaction to bee stings, and one flew up his jacket arm – at speed. Ook!



  25. Hi Lewis,

    The consensus of the scientists in the article suggested that the swarm was interesting but unlikely to cause the big one. I have a new appreciation for earthquakes after recent events. Definitely not a nothing burger event, no siree. And thanks to the link, I learned a new phrase, which sounds very young and hip: “Because that would be all kinds of not good,” A lovely way to put the concern about the big one. Nothing to see there, but then the article concludes with the following observation: “Oregon has the potential for a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake caused by the Cascadia Subduction Zone and a resulting tsunami of up to 100 feet in height that will impact the coastal area,” Mate, not good and you’d want to be a long way in land during such an event. I read a story which involved a tsunami in New Zealand back in the 1930’s. Apparently the ocean washed back a long way and exposed the interesting life forms and rock shelves until only very recently hidden below the waves. As things happen, the water washed back again with some force. It was a minor story in a book written by Ruth Park titled ‘A fence around the cuckoo’. Not a bad read, but the Depression era made for some bleak times.

    Yes, and I’d read the section on ‘Kill (or murder) your darlings’ as it applies to writing. The advice did not surprise me, and it is a wise aphorism. It’s funny, but we’re in the process of deconstructing a couple of sheds in order to obtain the materials. Some people might be troubled at the volume of work that this requires, but the overall effect after the materials are reused will be more pleasing than the current arrangements. I expect that this was what Mr King intended with his advice. And I have been taking the axe to the blog essays recently with that in mind. It also proves that the best ideas can often be other peoples. 🙂 And to cliche it up, good advice never goes out of style.

    Rice peas and mushrooms sounds pretty good to me. But did the meal hit the high notes? Brussels sprouts are a touch bitter for my palate, although people swear by them. My mother used to boil them up when I was a kid, and I have a vague notion in my head that there are perhaps better ways to cook those vegetables? They won’t grow all that well here (and likewise cabbage has problems) due to the incidence of cabbage moth. They’re feral and so are their larvae. Have you ever grown Brussels sprouts? The only reason kale and purple sprouting broccoli does well here is because they both over winter. Summer is brutal. Although I read recently that the Cavolo Nero variety of kale is one of the most heat hardy Brassica varieties. It interests me that the Russian krinkly kale has already gone to seed (despite the cold summer), whereas the Italian kale is happily banging along, sans moth larvae. The small fairy wrens are gorging themselves on insects in the green mustard and rocket patch.

    Your dessert sounds pretty tasty! Yummo! Had a chicken parmigiana with chips and salad this evening. Lots of work to do tomorrow, so some of the fuel will disappear.

    In an interesting situation this morning, we went to see the farm machine repair dudes, and they are having some troubles obtaining replacement parts, and they said something about not being able to obtain stock of the four wheel drive mower we splashed out on recently. Talk about cutting things fine. The farm machine repair dudes like talking to the editor as they don’t get too many ladies with working knowledge of such machinery as what they supply and repair. If the editor is around, I noticed that they speak with her most of the time. It’s a really good business.

    Oh, I’d forgotten that revolting incident as well. Fancy someone taking a physical dislike to a person doing such a basic activity. No, that is what the interweb is for, apparently, and I’d be curious to learn what he was up to these days as well.

    There is good money in kids books, if you can crack the market. Candidly, and this is pure bias, but I respect the essay form. Interestingly, I read the authors name recently, but can’t recall where. Probably I’ll wake up at 3am after my brain has processed upon this problem and the answer will pop into my consciousness.

    Hey, the kids would call your advice regarding the book a: trigger warning – whatever that is.

    Lewis, between you and I, I would be rather uncomfortable should either of us have such free time on our hands. Forget about Gunther, would they let you have H as a service dog in such conditions? On the other hand, society may benefit from the major work of fiction produced from such incarceration. I’m torn. Do the benefits outweigh the personal costs? I tend to think the personal cost would be too high. What is your take on that point? As you allude, the free time on their hands gave them the ability to focus their efforts and alleviate the monotony, and very bad food. Unless of course you opted to work in the garden – that’s what I’d try to do if in that unfortunate situation.

    We went to the local shops today, but the only shortage I noted was powdered milk. Hmm. There is a story there, possibly involving cream cheese.

    The Vikings, given their propensity to make friends in new places, would probably have wanted to erect quick fortifications, and the use of turf would have been initially quicker than palisades. It’s amazing that they made it to your continent, but were rebuffed.

    I hope the Gunther thing works out. Dachshunds have strong personalities, and they’re a lot of fun. H, will enjoy the company too.

    Oh my! Fast zombies are bad. Super fast zombies are doubly bad. The unfortunate thing about lab accidents is that they kind of happen from time to time. Not good. Didn’t we discuss such an incident with smallpox in the UK many long years ago? A revolting incident.



  26. Yo, Chris – A few things reading over your shoulder. Cowboy coffee. Take a handful of coffee and throw it in a pot. Usually enamel or granite ware. (Lots of those kicking around the tat trade.) Bring to a boil. Let grounds settle. Secret ingredients. A pinch of salt and some eggshells, which helps clarify the brew. Lethal stuff.

    You may remember there was a continuing theme in The Camulod Chronicles, about the Welsh and their bows. Made from Yew wood (which, these days, is the source of a chemical that does a good job fighting certain types of cancer.) When the Mary Rose went down (1545), there were a lot of archers and all their kit, on board. They can identify the bones of the archers, given the well developed arm and shoulder bones, on one side.

    “Because that would be all kinds of not good.” The grammar is suspect. Can you imagine the creature that came up with that sentence? I had a dream, last night, that I was in a tsunami. But, no worries. I was on some kind of a high overpass, and the waters just swirled around, below me. Wait until you’ve been through three or four major quakes. You start noticing details. The P Wave, the S Wave. Which direction it rolls in from. I keep forgetting to put my ear to the ground. I understand you can hear the earth grinding away.

    Butter and a bit of pepper really take the edge off Brussels sprouts. Or, any number of sauces. Hollandaise sauce is a good choice. I grew sprouts, year before last. Except for the cabbage moths, they grow well. And they’re very interesting plants. The only way I could get them to harvest, is frequent applications of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is pretty expensive. I might try them again this year, and use netting. The rice and peas side of things was jazzed up with turmeric, nutritional yeast and hot sauce. I was too lazy to hack up some garlic.

    Let’s see. If I were in prison, I’d either work in the garden or library. Jail house lawyers, are a valued commodity. 🙂 . I’ve heard of some prisons that have the inmates train service dogs.

    I went to the grocery, last night. Paid more attention. There was plenty of the major brand of cream cheese, that is in such short supply on the East Coast. Even some in flavors, such as, smoked salmon. I got the last box of popcorn, and, the tea I wanted was out of stock. I should mention, that for some reason, my store has a kind of weird separation of things. Candy and popcorn is in one place. The crisp snack aisle (yes, a whole aisle. Crisps on one side, soft drinks on the other). And then, biscuits and crackers are somewhere else. Maybe the reasoning is, it gives you three places to do yourself serious damage? The crisp aisle was, indeed, a bit thin. But not entirely empty.

    I went to the library, yesterday. Turned in the first two movies of “Resident Evil.” To discover that it wasn’t theirs. It was something I’d picked up at the book sale. And, they don’t have ANY of the series. So, I ordered the third one on interlibrary loan. It was a jackpot day. 5 DVDs and one book.

    Last night, I watched “My Salinger Year.” Actually, quit good. A true story, by the way. A young woman goes to New York, about 1995. Gets a job in a literary agency that happens to represent Salinger. One of her jobs is to answer all the “fan mail”, Salinger gets. Or, doesn’t get. So, a lot of the rabid fans and nut jobs, hold her personally responsible for preventing Salinger from getting their letters. Sigourney Weaver is one of the stars. I liked it. The book that the film is made from, was written by Joanna Rakoff.

    I also watched a documentary called “Bread in the Bones.” It was kind of an artsy-fartsy film. A meditation (?) on bread. A bit of philosophy, a bit of history. A few crusty old hippies who either bake bread or build ovens. Or, both. Who knew there was a sourdough library, in Belgium?

    I started reading “Best American Food Writing 2021”. And, yes, You Know What, figures large. The first essay is about a restaurant in New Orleans (actually, they own two). And how they’re muddling through. An essay on “How Cheese Goes Extinct.” Yup. It happens. And I’m deep into an essay on a fellow who’s working in a neighborhood bread bakery, in Lyon, France.

    Saw an article that might explain some of your weather weirdness. It seems the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (the ACC) is speeding up. Heat gradient was mentioned. Something, something, it forms a barrier between the Antarctic air, and the rest of the oceans. It’s breaking down. Might want to try growing some of your tomatoes in your greenhouse? Lew

  27. Hi Chris,

    If you can believe it our weather here next week will be similar to yours if what your experience holds except lacking much precipitation. Next week will be in high 50’s and even low 60’s. As you said cooler temps are right for physical work but still a second year in a row – must be frustrating.

    One of my granddaughters was in the play adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen. She is not one of my favorite authors but Anna had one of the leads, Elinor, and did a good job. Unfortunately the cast was required to wear masks which made it difficult to understand some especially the boys. Older ears with less than optimal hearing didn’t help. Both daughters and my aunt enjoyed a nice dinner out afterwards.

    Early this week I had some minor cold symptoms and as I was going to see several people yesterday and today who if they contracted that which can’t be mentioned would be at risk of a serious outcome I decided to get a test just to be on the safe side. There’s a free test site in town (really just a trailer). One drives up and had to download a QR code and fill out a lengthy form on their phone (what one does if they don’t have a phone I don’t know) including having to upload photos of ID and insurance card. Well I did struggle some and the attendant (as I was taking a long time) came over to check and gave me a few hints. Mind you it was 8F that morning and one does all this while sitting in the car. Then you administer the test yourself. I had never done this and had no idea what the process entailed. Anyway I did finally complete and as expected results were negative. At least I know the drill if I have to do it again. I was relaying the story this morning at the retiree breakfast and one of the other women who is in her mid 80’s said she just handed her phone to the attendent and fed her the information haha. I said to the attendent “You must get a lot of old people needing help.” and she replied “Oh yeah!” Can’t be much fun for her running in and out of the trailer and back and forth to cars in all kinds of weather.


    PS I always have a back up coffee pot stored in the basement.

  28. @Pam

    Hope things get a little easier for you. I can relate as I’ve been in your shoes – not at all easy and not easy to find time to take care of yourself either.


  29. Chris,

    My percolator is about 35 years old, a Mirro 16 cup aluminum. The Coleman 12 cup stainless steel is very similar. The steel “basket” is perforated with tiny holes. The coffee grounds rest in the basket, the boiling water shoots out the tube into the glass bubble, where it flows onto the grounds and seeps through them back into the water reservoir, which eventually turns into a coffee reservoir. Yes, the coffee gets percolated through the grounds multiple times. This is the walmart version:

    How did the monks of yore brew their coffee? Trade secret, mate, trade secret. (In other words, I dunno either.)

    Avalanche is as yet under nobody’s thumb. However, the Princess is the closest. “Never mess with the Princess” is an axiom that Avalanche is learning. Quickly.

    I always viewed “canny” and “shrewd” as being exceedingly similar.

    Hehehe. Plum got you. Her following the scent the wrong direction was her way of saying, “Papa, you can wake me up and set me outside to catch the rabbit, but I do NOT have to cooperate. Neiner, neiner, papa!”

    I read somewhere else that a group of 6,000 trained longbow archers could shoot nearly a quarter million arrows in well under 15 minutes. With that kind of volume shot at a massed army, who needs sniper level accuracy?

    Dad had 2 cast iron wrecking bars that we used. I still have one of them and use it for various jobs. Very useful tools.

    No, we never turned it into an all-weather surface. He understood the problems with keeping it level under use.

    My patio and the adjoining walkway from the patio to the alley gate are bricks atop sand. The sand was packed by hand. Human foot traffic has caused the bricks to settle at places. The walkway is more of a “sunken lane” now. The sugar ants dug enough sand out from under some of the bricks, both in the patio and the walkway, that they’ve really sunk. I need to pry those bricks up and repack with more sand.

    I sorta felt sorry for my gnatted friend, but sorta not. Several of us told him to ride with his mouth closed, but he obviously didn’t listen. He bought a helmet with a face shield after he was publicly referred to as “The man with the gnat eating grin.”


  30. Hi Margaret,

    Sorry to hear that your weather has been so dry of late. Dry seasons are a real worry, but if you have access to plenty of water, that combination makes for awesome growing conditions. Monday looks as though it will heat up a bit, but then it will cool down again. It’s gradually becoming warmer, but it’s slow. This morning, the farm was in pea soup thick humidity, and then it eventually cleared but thick low clouds continued to dominate.

    Two years with no summer is not a bad outcome as it gives us time to sort out infrastructure – and we’ve been taking advantage of that opportunity. Today we dismantled a shed and recovered all of the materials. There was a tiny bit of waste with some steel strapping and plenty of wood screws where the heads ended up getting stripped. All the wood screws that were recoverable though, were recovered. The new shed demanded more materials than we could easily purchase, and so something had to happen.

    Thank you for your honesty. Jane Austen is likewise not a favourite author. And my reason for that opinion was that I had a great deal of trouble empathising with the concerns and plight of the characters. It’s great literature, it is just not for the likes of myself. Ook!

    I don’t even know what to say about the masks. I do what I’m told, but it makes no sense. On the one hot day of the growing season so far, it found me in a long warehouse where I was picking up materials for the shed. The warehouse guy had given up wearing a mask due to the conditions, and sweat was pouring from my forehead. And all the while I was hoping that the bloke didn’t think I was sick, I was just crazy hot. It was a notable experience which I may expand upon this week. It’s some kind of cruelty.

    It was a nice touch heading out for dinner afterwards.

    Glad to hear that it wasn’t that which shall remain unnamed. Things are different if you were down here. Firstly I believe that the testing is free, although ID is demanded. And also I believe that the swabs are taken by a person performing that job rather than your self administering. From what I’ve heard, something gets shoved up your throat and then the same thing goes a long way up your nose. I’m not kidding around, last week the queue of cars waiting to get into the testing centre I went past was probably half a mile long.

    Respect for the Plan B coffee arrangements. That’s proper planning that is! 🙂



  31. Hi DJ,

    Thanks for the coffee details. I’ve never heard of such a machine, although it does work in a similar way to the Bialetti stove top device (my Plan B machine), except that the brew is collected in the lower half of the arrangement. Same, same, but different. However, the recirculation of the brew throughout the process is an innovation which would require a deft hand to manage without introducing a burnt flavour should the grounds and brew become too hot. The device would require a lot of skill and care to operate. I’d be certain that you have mastered this skill?

    That was the dead end I’d arrived at as well. Possibly the folks of yore enjoyed their coffee beans in a less refined manner than we can today. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It was hard to ignore that eventually the Catholich Church took the matter right to the humanly possible top of the hierarchy. The big boss himself, Mr Clement. When reading about that historical incident I did note that the word Clemency tends to indicate a forgiving and tolerant attitude. Imagine if the coffee fandangle occurred when a zealot was at the helm of that ship.

    Many years ago I obtained a coffee shrub, and it grew beautifully in the soils and conditions here. Then as the local conditions would have it, a snowfall, fell, and the coffee shrub looked OK at first. After a couple of days, the coffee shrub succumbed and turned toes up. A sad experience because prior to that snowfall, the shrub acted as if it had Triffid genes.

    Hehe! Respect to your lady. It must have something to do with the gender, because the two Kelpie girls know not to mess with the Editor. There was that time when they attempted a complicated ruse, and after some mischief, they sought to hide behind me. Like you, I’m no match, and the Kelpie’s had to face the music.

    Avalanche, like the Kelpie’s, have their own thoughts on matters, and perhaps are not afraid to express them. 🙂

    Holy carp! Some rough mathematics suggests that a quarter of a million arrows works out to about only forty shots per archer. And if those archers sought their own arrows and did all the fletching business, and maintained their own bows, then it is probably an horrendous phalanx to encounter on the wrong side. I guess that what is suggested is that nowadays, ammo is relatively cheap. Armies of the past would have died or triumphed on the basis of their economics? Awful to consider, but most likely very applicable to reality.

    Yes, I too have a very old six foot steel wrecking bar, which maybe unlike your cast iron version has some flexibility as it has a bent slightly over the years of use? I have a favourite old mattock which is well over three decades old. Candidly, it now looks a bit worse for wear, however the steel has never once bent. I’ve discovered that the replacement mattock is not as strong and the steel head can bend if too great a force is placed upon it. It is possible that newer steel is not as good as the older steel?

    Sugar ants can mean much or little depending upon the species. If you are up for a horror story, here’s the dominant variety of ant here: Myrmecia (ant). With such good eyesight, the ants will hunt you down. Ouch. Actually the more I get exposed to their venom over the years, the less the bites bother me. Having said that, the bite and chemical spray will be inflamed for many days. I’m no friend of those ants.

    That’s funny! Dunno about you, but I never rode without a full face helmet. Just too many bugs at high speed. No fun at all.



  32. Hi Lewis,

    One of the great challenges that our civilisation faces is how to re-engage with the harsh limits imposed upon us by the environment that we live in. The fertiliser story is all part of that, and synthetic fertilisers derived from natural gas were a finite resource. It amazes me that people would believe that it could be otherwise. The fertiliser issue will hit yields pretty hard over the next few years, and that translates to less food and raw material inputs for all sorts of processes. And transitioning from industrial to organic agriculture is a real nightmare which can take years depending upon the climate.

    Farmers turning to alternative growing methods in wake of sky-high fertiliser price

    A lot of manures come from feedlot operations such as the final stage of beef production, or poultry is another great source. I should probably pick up a few bags of the stuff. 🙂

    McIndoe and his birds aren’t real ideas might be right. I’ve been pondering the idea of late, that they could all be wrong. I picked up the hint of the idea a few weeks ago and it kind of resonated, but I need to cogitate upon it a bit more. In the meantime, it’s good to see that people such as McIndoe are sending up people who need to be sent up. They have it coming.

    Ha! You may laugh, but do you know what it is like to co-exist with the two smartest bird families (magpies and parrots) around. It’s like the rats, sometimes the devil came down to Cherokee, and you knew you’d been beat.

    We discovered the first ripe raspberries today. The two berries were very tasty. Hopefully warmer weather arrives soon. When I went to bed last night, the fog was thick – a real pea soup experience. So the alarm was set for a late wake up. And the pea soup weather was still there in the morning. The Editor was expressing doubts about working outside today. On hearing those doubts expressed aloud, I knew that the weather would soon improve. The fog lifted, but thick low clouds ruled the skies for the day.

    And we did work outside up until about 6pm. The shed I mentioned yesterday was deconstructed, and we recovered all bar a few minor materials. Some of the screw heads became stripped, and they’re no good for any future use. And also some steel strapping had to be cut. But other than that, the whole lot came down in one day and is neatly stacked and awaiting re-use. We’re setting a cracking pace, and business be cracking! 🙂 Oh, far out.

    We’re considering visiting a local orchard that specialises in cider over the next week or so. Should be interesting.

    Hey, I spotted the local young bloke who’s made it big in the egg production business in the national media. I met him a few years ago at an open day held at the farm, and was very impressed. A smart bloke and a smart mum. He’s not mucking around.

    Josh Murray started his egg business when he was 9. Now he’s sold 40 million

    Thanks for the Cowboy Coffee recipe. 🙂 Actually, that recipe is not far off how we made the coffee the awful day the espresso machine packed it in. I’m very careful with the machine nowadays, and also maintain the thing more frequently. Learning by trial and error is prone to produce as many errors as there are successes. There is a paradox in there somewhere? But yeah, a lethal brew for sure.

    I’d never before heard of the Mary Rose. I must add that the cheeky French claimed that they sunk the ship, and yet the English claimed that the ship was sunk due to negligence. Given that some channel ships do go under due to not sealing the ports, it is a plausible explanation.

    Actually, I can imagine the creature who came up with the grammatical amusement. Such people are sent to amuse us all, despite the inherent lack of grammatical correctness. 🙂

    Lucky for you that in your dream you were on the higher ground. Nightmares are no fun at all, and can leave a person feeling alarmed and abused.

    I keep forgetting to put my ear to the ground Surely you’re not serious? You may have more battle honed and experienced nerves than I, because the incident here scared the daylights out of me. And later that day I had to go and get stabbed with the vax. A disturbing experience.

    I defer to you in relation to the Brussels sprouts. When I was a kid, I don’t recall sauce – any sauce – being added to any foods, and so the scars run deep. I’ve heard that the plants grow well too, and given the size of the mini-cabbages, they’ll be hardier than cabbage. Dunno about, but I’ve had considerable trouble getting cabbages to form proper hearts. The heat the vegetable requires comes at the exact time that there are any number of insects waiting to snack on the cabbages.

    Oh, the library is a good call too. Yes, a very wise choice. And you might get your education for free too? That has happened down here from what I’ve heard. I noticed that the Federal gobarmint is now offering to clear student debt for medico’s who work in remote areas. I have fond memories of a film of a doctor caught by a small town entrapment in your country: Doc Hollywood.

    A helicopter is flying low and vibrating the house… Either the police or the air ambulance I’m guessing due to the time of night (almost 11pm here).

    The whole shortage issue is really hard to come to grips with due to how random it all appears. Although some shortages are unlikely to have easy substitute products. It surprises me that so many people believe that it is otherwise. It ain’t!

    Hehe! Did the folks at the library want to borrow the copy of the film from you? But yeah I can understand that one. A lot of the books I purchase second hand are actually ex-library books, covers index and all. It seems wasteful to me.

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed the film, although I quail in fright at the thought of Holden Caulfield. I could see that the fans would exert a fascinating emotional content, and could only hope that they were, elsewhere!

    Gonna crash out and head to bed.



  33. Hello Chris
    I have been to the Mary Rose and found it the best exhibition that I have ever seen; unforgettable. I remember the archer’s shoulder and arm.


  34. Hello Chris,

    Keeping “obsolete” technology going is a wise move. One of my favourite writers is Kris de Decker, with his “”. Many gems and thoughtful topics.
    I have a scythe that comes from my granpa who was born in 1903. It still cuts like a charm.
    And this year, we started using a “foot-stove” we found at a thrift store (, with a hot stone that we heat with the wood burner. It is amazingly comfortable to heat the feet.

    Regarding steel and quality: The market is the answer.
    There are better steels available today than ever before. However, most producers of tools downgrade their products to increase profit margins. I use shovels a lot in my tree business, and one of the shovel experts I talked to recommended the Spear&Jackson shovels made before 1975, since they used a better steel in the older shovels. I have not been able to verify this claim. What I do know is that I have tested quite a few shovels, and there is a lot of rubbish on the market available at all price points…
    When I worked in industry, most projects were about reducing input cost to products, i.e. reducing steel cost, i.e. switching to other grades, to find the minimum acceptable performance. Sometimes, however, I was lucky enough to work on significant material/performance improvements. I like that better…

    Have a good week-end!


  35. Yo, Chris – Odds and ends. Avocados were on “sale” here, this week, for almost $2 per. Someone’s making money on them. Ours come from California, Mexico and a few South American countries. I saw an article that our walnut growers are having a problem shipping walnuts out to Asia and Europe. For some reason, containers that manage to unload, leave empty.

    Billionaire Battery Boy states that world population is actually falling, and that’s a bad thing. That it will bring about the fall of civilization. He’s doing his part. He has 6 kids.

    That was an interesting article about fertilizers. At least they’re casting about in an organized manner, to find alternatives. That handful of stuff in the photo at the top of the article, well, that’s what the Ladies, cast about their plants. That and epsom salts. Great for short term gain. Nothing grows in that soil but veg and weeds. No worms. And each year it gets a bit more compacted.

    I just hope “Birds Aren’t Real,” doesn’t move to the mainstream. As Mr. Greer speculated a few weeks ago. Birds are doing it tough enough, as it is. You wouldn’t believe the craziness going on. A few weeks ago, many Q followers rallied in Dallas, Texas. To await the return (resurrection) of John Kennedy Jr., who would sweep a former president, back into the White House. Some how or another.

    Go Raspberries. May your jam, jell. 🙂

    Let’s see. You could use stripped screw heads as fishing weights (if you fished). Or maybe an art project? Did you run across any wildlife, when you were taking apart the shed?

    The trip to the cider orchard, sounds like fun. Field Trip!

    Thanks for the article on the young man and his egg business. You linked to an article about him, years back. Nice to get an update.

    Coffee percolators were in wide use, here, before the drip machines took over. Pyrex made a nice one (in several sizes) that was mostly glass. The glass bell on top, was a major improvement. You could see what was going on. Generally, you’d bring the coffee to a boil, turn it down to simmer, and, generally, got a perfect cup. Even the cowboy granite ware one’s occasionally had the basket and hollow tube. But that was just for the tenderfeet. “Real” cowboys didn’t put up with such fripperies. 🙂 .

    Monks of yore didn’t have coffee. Or, tea for that matter. Neither reached Europe until the 1500s. It’s a wonder anything got done.

    I watched “Roadrunner,” last night. The Anthony Bourdain movie. It’s well worth a look, though, the language is pretty rough. It’s a bit of a mystery why he killed himself. He left no note. Odd for a man who wrote and had so much to say. It’s also of note, that he had no drugs or alcohol in his system. Clean as a whistle.

    Well, three out of five ain’t bad. I guess. Two of the five DVDs I picked up from the library the other day, wouldn’t play. For a change, I didn’t get the dreaded “Format will not play in this region.” One just did a “load … load … load,” accompanied by a “click…click…click.” More interesting is that was a series, and disc two and three played just fine. Not that I’m going to watch them. I want the full meal deal. The other disc, when I put it in, just announced, “No disc.”

    I poked about on the internet, a bit, and came up with an article titled “The Rise of Defective DVDs.” That author speculated that the studios aren’t doing a lot of quality control, because they want everyone to switch to Blue-ray. I’d guess, streaming.

    Elinor cancelled her doctor’s appointment, this morning. She just wasn’t up to it. Yesterday, she called the caregivers agency. Did I mention her last one (who might have been pretty good), blew out a knee (not at work.) So, she’s “on the list.” They also reamed her out about “treating her caregiver mean.” The one that lasted two years.

    We’re supposed to get a windstorm, tonight. Maybe gusts to 35mph.

    We get a food box, this afternoon. Early this month, due to the holidays. Lew

  36. Hi Inge,

    I envy your visit to the museum, and would have loved to have visited the remains of the Mary Rose. What a museum to visit!

    Many long years ago, the Editor and I were in the far south west of this continent and happened to visit the local museum where chunks of the US space station Skylab were on display. The Americans had kindly dropped the space station onto that part of the world, and the canny locals fined NASA for littering. It lacks the history of the Mary Rose, but on a long enough time scale all our works will be as such: A space station crash landed over Esperance 40 years ago, setting in motion unusual events.

    The current international space station is much bigger again, but eventually the Earth will reclaim its own.



  37. Hi Goran,

    Thanks for mentioning Low Tech magazine, and it lead me on an interweb rabbit hole. I particularly enjoyed the lost tech article on the bloke who worked towards developing simple solar panels back in the early 1900’s. An impressive achievement.

    The funny thing about the world as it is now, is that there are and have been other technologies which may have lead to very different outcomes than today. Humans being what they are, we end up usually with the cheapest or most profitable arrangements. It needn’t have been this way, but as a species we love technology, but we just favour some varieties of technology over others. And there are usually good reasons for doing so.

    Like take organic agriculture for example. We’re hell bent on discovering whether this technology can be applied en masse. It’s a good experiment to run, but I hold grave fears for the outcome of the experiment. And my fears are borne from many years of experience, but what will be, will be and all that.

    Respect. 🙂 I too have an old Sheffield steel scythe blade which can be easily fitted to a timber handle. But yeah, I understand that problem too and maybe two decades ago worked in the steel business and watched with horror as cheap imports grew in dominance. The cost for that will play out sooner or later. I can still hear the claims that the paperwork implied adherence to standards, but they were so cheap.

    The steel story drives me bonkers. My wood heater could be made from crazy high quality steel and last for decades, like Bisalloy for example. But no. Most of the unit is surviving well, but the pins that hold the baffle are delaminating faster than the baffle plate is wearing. Crazy and I just don’t understand why we would travel such a slipshod path. As I said before, it needn’t be that way.

    Thanks for mentioning the foot stove. A sensible device, although there is little accessible coal in Germuny these days from what I hear.

    I hear you about that. Many long years ago I knew an automotive engineer (back in the days when cars were manufactured down under) who was told to remove 1kg from the brake calliper design, and had to sign off on the reduction in weight. There are diminishing returns to engineering.



  38. Hi Lewis,

    My memory gets hazy as I age, and I now forget whether I linked to the farmer article on the subject of avocadoes. Anyway, the farmer mentioned that $2 a fruit was about the profitable mark for them. The trees do produce a lot of fruit, but your comment reminded me of a blueberry farm I once visited long ago and a subsequent discussion I had with mates who’d also been there. During the visit, I had a lovely chat with the bloke who ran the farm, and during the discussion began to glean an idea as to how much profit the farm produced. I didn’t discuss my insights with the bloke, but I sure as did with my mates who had also independently visited there.

    Hey, did you spot that there is going to be another Matrix film instalment? I wasn’t much of a fan of the films, but people raved about them, so I assume that a new instalment in the franchise is a big deal. Like the Terminator I asked the hard question: Why wouldn’t you simply switch the darned thing off?

    Yup, I’ve heard those stories too about containers arriving full and leaving empty. From what I understand of the situation, someone is making money somewhere. Of course I have known of some people with a self destructive bent, and they intrigue me, and for some reason it brings to mind those ancient Greek morality plays which I’m guessing were intended as a warning – not that it did them any good.

    Well the Mars Barz bloke might want to get some good ideas as to like for like replacements for fertilisers pretty darned quick if he wants population to continue to climb. Other than that, decline will be the story. Mate, I’d really like to be proven wrong, but nature has her limits, and demanding otherwise is a pointless strategy. I’ve met plenty of people who are very good at demanding. The action is one of the main tools in their toolbox. However, as a tool it only works some of the time, and in decline, adaptation becomes a more workable strategy. Like you, I have not contributed to that matter either, unless you’ve heard otherwise? Imagine being confronted by some kid you don’t know going: ‘Dad!’ A frightening thought. It would make a good story along the lines of Fatal Attraction, especially if the creepy but otherwise outwardly pleasant kid turned into a proper scary bunny boiler. Nobody wants that. 🙂

    And that is the thing with most industrial fertilisers from what I’ve heard. Which reminds me. Today we cemented in the final recycled timber posts into the new shed project. Of course firstly they had to be laboriously moved into that area. When I dug the muck out of the bottom of the post hole, I must have removed dozens of worms. It was feral. All of the future vegetable beds will be located below that site, and so I’m now pretty sure the soil there is sort of OK. Between you and I, I’m now wondering if I should get a bulk delivery of compost given the state of the world? Dunno. What do you reckon?

    After all that work, the editor then cajoled me into moving several large rocks to another part of the farm. Me tired this evening. Anyway, over a very late lunch (well past 3pm) I read Mr King’s horrific encounter with the van. Do you know, that chapter struck more fear into my heart than any horror story I’d previously read. Yup, life can turn on a dime. And I have nothing but respect for the stoicism on display to get back into the ring. A lesser person may have buckled and thrown in the towel.

    On a lighter note, Mr King’s suggested letter from an author to a potential agent produced a wide smile. Of course as things would be, over the years as an employer, I have had to wade through hundreds of Curriculum Vitae’s, and have been amused at the low standard of written thought. One notable example even recycled paper, which I approve of, except that on the reverse side to the text was printed porn. Yup, who’d have thunk it? Another notable example mixed up the word adept, and instead inserted the word: inept! (As in the person was inept at…) The facts in that case spoke for themselves. 🙂 Ah the public, so much fun.

    Ooo. I’d never considered that matter about the birds aren’t real folks. Mind you, I have heard of people complaining about bird losses due to wind turbines (and let’s not discuss the willingness to disengage from such a system) but gawd knows how many birds they’d hit in their over sized vehicles? Hey, it might get some traction, stranger things have happened. Oh, anyway, that lot you mentioned, they’re all being played. I’m coming around to that point of view.

    Yes, I also hope that the jam this year jells. I added pectin to some of the jams last year and I have this odd notion that the consistency and taste was changed due to that addition. I’m going to ditch the additional stuff this year and stick to basics. The editor has read a fascinating interweb site on the science behind jam making where many aspects of the process are described in detail.

    I admit defeat and will send the stripped screw heads to the metal recyclers.

    The young bloke in the egg business is doing really well, and when my chooks aren’t laying enough eggs, I purchase from him. Looking at the photos his chickens are commercial breeds, and I tend to steer clear of those birds – which is right for my setting, but not for what he needs to do.

    Lewis, trust me in this. Cowboys may be super tough and all, but the coffee basket with the pipe leading from the boiler, really does make a difference to the brew produced. 🙂 OK, OK, I fess up, I’m a coffee snob, but what of it? There are worse things to be! Hehe! Mate, when we boiled the coffee Cowboy style, that was a super rough brew, and something not to be treated lightly.

    Hehe! Oh, that’s funny about the ancient monks. Thanks for the laughs. Mate, they were probably into the cider or mead, and in that case, your point still stands.

    Who knows what demons were riding him? Thanks for mentioning the film, it’s on at the cinema’s here and I’ve been hankering to go to the cinema recently (those businesses have been doing it crazy tough). I just like the big screen. I doubt he could make me blush with his language and I’m sure that the language is probably better than: “All kinds of badness”, whatever that means. Possibly that way lies madness. The narrative of the trailer for the film suggests that the chef was restless, and who can now know?

    Man, the physical world of the DVD maybe like the Matrix. Is it real if it doesn’t work? Sorry to hear that you’re having tech troubles. And if it means much to you, I have this odd notion that few manufacturers conduct quality control nowadays. You may note that I have a preference for Japanese made machines, well there is a reason for that. And having worked as a manufacturing accountant in the clothes business way back in the day, I’m basically startled at the poor construction of many articles of clothes nowadays. In fact I heard a school of thought which suggests that due to the crazy scale this stuff goes on at nowadays, fit and finish is barely a consideration. Thus the rise I’m guessing of baggy clothes or the use of stretch fabrics – it is easier for the manufacturer.

    I’m sorry to say, if that is the case, maybe Elinor can’t change her ways. As a guide to better living I am never rude to people who are assisting or serving me.

    Did you get the windstorm, and was the food box good?



  39. Yo, Chris – Just a quick one. I hope Pam, Margaret and especially Claire are OK. Terrible storms in that part of the country. Lots of tornados. I am worried most about Claire. There was an Amazon warehouse, 25 miles from St. Louis, that was hit by a tornado. It collapsed. Still lots of people trapped, inside. Lew

  40. Yo, Chris – I really liked the Skylab article. I loved the local official who said, “We have used it shamelessly for publicity.” That all officials, could be that honest. I’ll never forget my brush with falling space junk. The most interesting and spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in the sky.

    Your memory? Well, as a little known nonagenarian (who lives right next door) states, “Just you wait!” This morning, I headed for the Club and then intended to make my usual Saturday morning trip to the library. And, forgot my library bag. So, it was Club, back home, library. Pretty soon I’ll be putting a sticker, on the inside of my door, that says, “Pants?”

    So, you were doing industrial espionage, at the berry farm? Is there a movie in it?

    I really didn’t realize that there were three “Matrix” films, so far. So, the library gets a 3 DVD set, I order it, and then come to discover it’s only Blue-Ray. Well, I think one of those players is to appear soon in my future. The problem is, there’s only one place to buy electronics, in this county. The dreaded Store of Walls. The other option is to drive to Olympia, which, as far as I’m concerned, is in a galaxy far, far away. There’s mail order. But, I worry about delicate electronics being bashed about. Someone mentioned today … pawn shops. Hadn’t even thought of that. Or maybe, some of the flea market stands, at Yardbirds. I may just wait until after Christmas, and things slow down.

    Given my Dad’s history, I wonder if I have some half brothers or sisters, wandering around. They might be Italian. Or German or French. Or even closer to home ….

    Well, if you can source good compost, it might be a good idea. When all the articles started appearing about fertilizers, I picked up 6 bags of chicken poop compost. While it was still available and cheap.

    Yes, the story about Mr. King and the wayward van, was pretty hair raising. So, he gets his act together and gets all clean sober. And then gets nearly wiped out, by a drunk in a van. There’s irony there, somewhere. We almost lost him. And for a long time after, when I’d see interviews, and such, he looked like death warmed over.

    So, did you happen to notice if the porn on the back of the CV was of the person submitting the CV? Might have been part of the “pitch.” Might have been an accident. A couple of times at the library, some young wag printed off a bit of smut, and then put them in the paper tray, of the printer.

    Some people who cook up conspiracy theories, have agendas. And consider anyone who laps it up, to be useful idiots.

    Well, if you happen to see “Roadrunner,” I’ll be interested to hear what you think. I’m still trying to process parts of it. For several months, the parking lot of our local multiplex has been jam packed. Never mind that last week we had 183 new cases, and 5 deaths. I would like to see “Don’t Look Up,” but, I’ll just wait for the DVD.

    The wind got pretty lively, last night. Gusts to 30 mph and sustained winds in the upper 20s, for most of the night. We didn’t loose power. I saw my friend Julia, this morning, and she’s in a kind of sheltered place. Didn’t know there was a windstorm going on, til she lost her power. Today? Sunshine and blue skies.

    Food box came. Produce was carrots, potatoes, onions and apples. The usual canned and boxed stuff. But there was a canvas (or, what passes for canvas) bag, that was full of … junk. A Christmas ornament, a calendar, a jig saw puzzle, sippy cup, ladies socks, a large print crossword puzzle book, etc. etc.. I’ll take some of it to the Club, and junk the rest. I do hope all that stuff was donated, and that they didn’t spend money on it. Money that could have gone for food.

    Getting back to earthquakes, after you’ve been through two or three, you kind of know what to expect. You know more, what to do. When we had the Nisqually quake, back in 2001 (a 6.8 that lasted for 45 seconds), I was in the back room of the Centralia library. As soon as I felt the P wave, I leaped to my feet, yelled “Earthquake” and headed out the back door. As there are several doors in the back room, I actually had the presence of mind to stop long enough to kick the door stop down. I had the thought that if anyone ran in the back room, they might not know that that was the door to outside. So they could see a clear path, out. I moved to a fairly clear area, and knelt down. Noticing I was probably a bit to close to poles and trees, I adjusted my position and knelt again. The ground was still rolling.

    The library suffered no damage. And, even the books stayed mostly on the shelves. A few fell on the second floor. I believe this was due to the footprint of the building. Across the street, all a car dealerships front windows, where blown out. But generally, damage in town was minor. A parapet crashed through a store ceiling. And, a few days later, a two story building entirely collapsed. Plenty of warning. No one injured. The damage was horrendous in Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. Lew

  41. Hi everyone,

    I’m fine. Mike and I spent over an hour in our basement due to two different tornado warnings Friday evening. The Amazon warehouse that was cut in half by a tornado is in Edwardsville, IL, about 15 or so miles east of us. The final death toll isn’t yet known as they are still searching through the wreckage. That tornado developed in Illinois east of us and traveled northeast.

    A different tornado went through the Missouri part of the metro area, with at least one person killed in Defiance (about 30 miles southwest of us), but that one stopped short of us. We never lost electrical service and there are no large limbs down in our area.

    At least we got some rain out of the storms, which should ease the developing drought.

    It has been a very warm month. We have already tied the record high for St. Louis for December (76F/24C) on the 3rd, and it might be tied again next Wednesday. On Friday just before the first storm went through the temperature was 68F/20C at around 8pm, more than three hours after sunset!!! The humidity was extremely high as well.


  42. Hi Claire,

    Glad to hear that you and Mike were OK, and received some much needed rain. The photos of the tornado damage in our media show appalling levels of damage, let alone the roof of that warehouse. A freight train appears to have been toppled.

    My thoughts and sympathies go out to any readers affected by the storms.

    I was surprised to hear that you’d even had any tornadoes (and quite a few to boot) as aren’t you near to the official start to winter?

    It was 76F/24C here today but sunny, and the sun is shining with force now despite the cooler air temperatures. Burn off restrictions come into force in another week’s time. It’s still very green here.

    Cheers and glad to hear that you are both OK.


  43. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for letting me know about the storms, and so far we’ve heard from Pam and Claire. That just leaves Margaret. Time will tell.

    We went to see that little small town museum and the chunk of Skylab they had on display was large and fortunately did not land on anyone. I remember the aftermath too as souvenir hunters went out looking for chunks of debris. As well as shameless promotion, which never goes out of style, there were prizes on offer for the debris. The state of Western Australia is beyond huge and only lightly populated, and the coastal town of Esperance is about 450 miles from the capital city of Perth. Definitely not a quick run down to the shops.

    Lewis, you keep saying that about ‘just you wait’. But then when the time comes, will I remember the advice? Probably not. 🙂 The list will be endless because once you have the pants act sorted out, the next issue becomes is the zip done up. It’s a slippery slope we travel.

    Finished reading ‘On Writing’ this morning. An excellent read, and if I had to hazard an opinion, Mr King is big on learning by doing. I approve of such a stratagem, and it is hard not to be influenced by the words that you read. My reading time has increased lately due to the ability to sit in at cafes and use proper table ware. This whole take away business is over rated – and dare I mention the waste produced by that?

    The chapter describing the van incident was harrowing. And you’re spot on that there is irony in the incident. A disturbing sort of irony. Mr King penned the observation that he was hit by one of his own characters. The frustration felt during the recovery process shone through the words. He’s a tough customer.

    No, not at all. My profession tends to perform subtle changes upon the casual observations made every day. Some folks can walk into an empty restaurant and be content to the economic story. Instead I tend to divine that the business is not making any money, and may in fact be haemorrhaging the stuff. My insights are possibly not an advantage.

    I’m not a fan of the Matrix films, but word on the street is that the first was good, and the second and third I’ve heard suggested were possibly tapping into the market demand. That of course was pure supposition, and the films may be masterpieces. I just don’t know, and I couldn’t relate or empathise well with the characters.

    Mail order electronic gear is usually OK if it comes with a dead on arrival warranty. Second hand gear is like a lucky dip and you never know what quality you’ll end up with, and people treat electronic devices carelessly. That’s not to say that you couldn’t score really well. Some high end stuff is very cheap second hand, and the price does not reflect the inherent quality.

    Just dipped my proverbial toe in the interweb rabbit hole that is: are second hand DVD players any good? Lot’s of opinions out there. Sorry, I have to come up out of the rabbit hole for some air.

    No, it was a workplace and so the CV with porn printed on the back was quietly ditched. The fact that such an incident occurred tells me everything which I needed to know about the candidate. There is an alternative suggestion though. The dude (and it was a guy) could have been heavily influenced by Fight Club. Many years ago I encountered a pick up artist training. Again it was a guy, and he was standing outside the local supermarket holding an adult toy which the dog lead was attached too. I just looked at him and gave him a – you’re a zoo exhibit – sort of searching look. You don’t see stuff like that happening everyday. I read about that lot years ago via the work of the author Neil Strauss. Amusing and very strange, and their acts stick to them, although they may have no appreciation of that side of the story.

    Yes, I tend to agree. Some of the problems with conspiracy theories is that the strongest always have a grain of truth.

    The trailer was suggestive that Mr Bourdain was a complicated fellow. I’ll see how time goes, because it is under a fortnight to Christmas and things can get hectic at this time of year. Don’t Look up has a great cast. It’s only just been released down under.

    It’s kind of weird being in a sheltered place like Julia’s, when there is a storm raging around you. After the big wind storm earlier this year, it took a couple of days before we realised the power had been out for days. The Editor and I were discussing how dark it had been around these parts recently. I was genuinely surprised that nobody took up our offer of assistance. I spotted plenty of people in their cars of a morning warming up and charging their devices. It was winter.

    Can you reuse the canvas bag? Could be handy. Dunno about the junk.

    Thanks for describing your experience during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, and in a rabbit hole I noted that there were relatively few injuries, despite a fair bit of damage. Hey, I noted that the earthquake was quite deep, which was perhaps a good thing given the severity. And quick thinking too! 😉

    Better get writing



  44. Hi all,

    Everything fine here. Not even any tornado watches. Pretty high winds and some much needed rain. Thanks for checking, Lew.

    Claire, was especially thinking of you when watching the news about the Amazon warehouse as I knew it wasn’t far. Sure glad to hear all is well.


  45. Yo, Chris – You note from what Claire said, warm, humid air from the Gulf meets cooler northern air. They do not play well. A new weather term, for me. “Long-track tornado.” They think one of the tornados traveled a good 250 miles. I’m happy we heard from her and Pam. I hope Margaret (and her extended family), is ok.

    Our forecast is for “mixed rain and snow. No accumulation,” Monday and Wednesday night. My friends in Idaho, are getting snow. And, it’s accumulating. Three inches here, 6 inches there.

    Well, the whole “is the zip up” problem is solved with long tailed shirts. 🙂

    All this fixation on “proper table ware.” What are you? Some kind of a toff, or something? 🙂

    I’m glad you finished King’s “On Writing.” I expect your this weeks post will be a stellar performance. No pressure. 🙂 . I finished the “Best American Food Writing 2021,” last night. A good read. Mostly. When the essays didn’t slide into layering on the P.C.. Political Correctness.

    Can’t say I was a real “fan” of the “Matrix.” But, it’s one of those films that seems to have launched a lot of cultural references.

    I took my wonky DVDs back to the library, yesterday. One of the librarians had something interesting, to say. Some of the DVDs are coated with something, that makes them so they won’t play in a DVD machine … but will play in a Blue Ray machine. Even if they are not Blue Ray discs. Sneaky, no?

    They guy outside the supermarket sounds like a university fraternity hazing victim.

    I think some of the “canvas” bags are actually some kind of paper fiber. I had one similar, to the ones we got, and after it had worn for awhile, it actually started tearing … just like paper. The “feel” is different.

    Guess I’d better get on with my day. Miles to go, before I sleep. Lew

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