Make Yourself Mad

The road was steep. Trees grew on either side and branches loomed overhead. A utility vehicle had stopped on the steepest section. The nose faced uphill. The Editor and I were travelling downhill along the same road. Dinner at the local pub was the destination. If I’d known the people in the utility vehicle, I would have stopped to see if they’d needed some help. The driver looked agitated and angry, buzzing around like a blowfly. He frantically waved me past. The passenger of the utility vehicle appeared despondent.

I slowed the Dirt Rat Suzuki as I passed, and it was then that I noticed that the utility tray was full of firewood. And they were also attempting to pull a full trailer load of firewood up that steep section of road. Then I guess something went horribly wrong with the vehicle.

Hours later, the vehicle and trailer had disappeared. There were indications that the vehicle and trailer had parted company. It was the second time I’d encountered a similar vehicle in trouble at that location. A bloke who runs the local earthmoving business, said to me a decade ago, that if his dump truck was going break an axle around these parts, it would happen at that spot. Perhaps the location carries a curse? Curse or not, the pub feed was excellent.

The Dirt Rat Suzuki gets used to pull heavy loads of materials back up the steep road regularly. However, there is no chance in hell that the Dirt Rat could ever pull the huge load of firewood that the diesel powered utility vehicle was attempting (and failing) to move. It is of interest that the earthmoving dudes truck also ran on diesel, as did the other vehicle stuck at the same location a few years ago.

The other day I’d been contemplating the subject of diesel fuel. Just in case you hadn’t heard, there is a worldwide shortage of an additive used with modern diesel engines which makes those engines run cleaner. It’s now in short supply for the exact same reasons that mineral fertilisers are in short supply. Urea! Eureka! In fact, the additive probably could be used as fertiliser given that it is mostly refined urea and deionised water.

You can listen to a brief audio discussion on the implications of the shortage of the fuel additive at the link here:

I didn’t speak with the bloke who’s utility vehicle had come to an unexpected stop. He didn’t look as if he wanted any assistance. An interesting aspect of living in a rural area is that a lot of social interaction arrives via chance conversations. In a city a person can be anonymous, but in a rural area you’re usually known and conversely, you know other people in the local area. It’s sort of like social media, but better.

Anyway, as events turned out I had a chance opportunity to speak with a local mechanic last week. I asked him about the additive. The mechanic said that the diesel engines will possibly run without the additive because the stuff gets injected into the exhaust gases, and is not part of the combustion process (i.e the process that makes engines work). But the lack of additive will show up in the diesel exhaust, which will get really dirty, like stinky thick black belching truck smoke was way back in the good old days.

And the chat moved on to the wider subject of modern diesel engines. The mechanic mentioned that in an effort to make them run cleaner and with more power and torque (i.e. turning force of the engine), the diesel engines might not have the same lifespan that they once had. The increase in power is great for pulling huge loads of firewood up a steep section of road (unless something goes horribly wrong). But on the other hand the increased complexity of the newer motors will possibly increase the probability of something going wrong.

Technology has that affect in that it can solve one problem, only to then create other problems. In this case, diesel engines produce some nasty and visible exhaust gases. The solution: inject a refined urea based additive into the exhaust gases to make them relatively cleaner. Plenty of cars and trucks on the roads with diesel engines use the additive, and so the additive is a good thing. Voilà! But wait, there’s more to the story: urea has an alternative use as a fertiliser.

And therein lies the problem. The land of stuff is the place where Australia sources most of its refined urea, and let’s not forget all of the other fertilisers sourced from that land. And the land of stuff has abruptly stopped the supply. Rightly or wrongly, due to internal supply concerns they wish to use the fertilisers for themselves in order to feed their own population. It’s almost as if the technology inadvertently posed the predicament: Do we have cleaner emissions for diesel engines, or do we produce food to eat? Will we even have a choice?

I’m not proposing an answer to the questions. Time itself will provide the answers, but my gut feeling in the matter is not good. It would be nice if this were the only incidence with this type of predicament produced by the use of technology, but it doesn’t take too much effort to point out plenty of others, some of which take up plenty of space nowadays in the daily news.

About mid-week a huge storm rolled in from the Southern Ocean.

A storm rolls in from the Southern Ocean

It has been a cold and damp spring and summer already, but for a few days the climate somehow managed to get even colder. We had the wood heater running for about two days. The farm was cold, the air was humid and thick low clouds ruled the skies. This year is a crazy growing season.

Cold weather, high humidity and thick low clouds ruled the skies

Friday morning was so wet and cold that we had trouble deciding whether to begin dismantling one of the sheds. The plan was to reuse the materials in that shed in the new and replacement shed. We toughened up and just began the work.

The author begins to dismantle an old shed and recover the materials

Observant readers will note that in the photo above I am wearing a thick windcheater to ward off the cold and damp. It is notable that the summer solstice is now less than two weeks away.

Materials are becoming expensive and hard to obtain down under, so there is no point wasting what you already have access to. Therefore the shed was very carefully dismantled. Some steel strapping and some screws where the heads had stripped or broken were a total loss, but other than those, everything else was recovered for reuse.

Ollie is impressed with the speed and care with which the shed is dismantled

Dismantling a shed is done in the reverse procedure as to how it was constructed in the first place. In this instance, we began by removing the roof.

The roof is mostly removed from the old shed

Even the timber posts were recovered. The posts are an aromatic local native timber known as cypress pine. They’re an excellent species because the timber contains an oil which prevents termite attack and protects the timber against decay. The posts had been set into water tight concrete many years ago, and the timber was pristine – and still smelled great.

The author uses an electric jack-hammer to recover the timber posts

By the end of a very long work day, the shed had been dismantled.

Ruby asks the hard question: Hey dude, where’s the shed?

It took a few hours further work to move the materials down to the new shed site where they will be used. The power wheelbarrow was invaluable for this task.

Once the materials were on the new shed site, a few of the recovered timber posts were set into cement and used in the new shed.

Ollie is impressed that there are no more deep post holes to accidentally fall into

I’m really enjoying this shed project, and in a burst of enthusiasm, I made and then put into place about half of all of the roof trusses.

About half of the roof trusses have now been made and put into place

The Editor was busy that morning, and so I used a ladder to support the weight of the roof truss so that it didn’t inadvertently fall onto my head. Observant readers will note that in the photo above, I use a string line running between one end of the shed and the other so as to provide the exact placement for the centre position of the roof truss.

Plum is wondering where the next rabbit will be found

The growing season has been very difficult, however the Globe Artichokes have continued to give huge quantities of very tasty vegetables for many months now.

Globe Artichokes are a regular and very tasty item on the table

Onto the flowers:

A delightful Ollie flower. Very rare, hardly ever seen in the wild these days!
This hedge of Lavender is adored by the bees
European Poppies grow here like weeds
As do the Californian Poppies
This flower is a bulb, possibly an Ixia
The Roses set the bar for excellence

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 23’C (73’F). So far this year there has been 1,213.4mm (47.8 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 1,176.8mm (46.3 inches)

46 thoughts on “Make Yourself Mad”

  1. Yo, Chris – Let’s talk about pee. 🙂 . A good deal of urine is made up of urea. As you, I’m sure, know. Time to get over our squeamishness and use a source that is close at hand, so to speak.

    Somewhere, I saw a picture of an amphora, outside a Pompeii fuller’s shop. It was used for the collection of, well, urine. As it was used in cloth fulling. They also used it as a teeth whitener. The best came from Portugal, and Nero even taxed it’s import. No wonder they hounded him, to death. So, maybe if you just urinate in your tank … No, probably not.

    When I worked down on Tower Avenue, an old duffer used to stop by the tavern, across the street, every day for his morning tipple. He would spend an inordinate amount of time “warming up” his diesel rig. As the black clouds of exhaust rolled across the street, and into the cafe. Good times.

    People often ask more from their vehicles, than they’re able to give. I’ve had a couple of serious conversations with my mechanic, as to what kind of a “camper” I could put on the back of my truck. Not much. About 1,700 pounds. But it can tow about double that.

    I like the idea of a cursed bit of road. Any phantom hitchhikers? I don’t know about Australia, but here, in several parts of the country there are urban legends about phantom hitchhikers. Usually, young ladies.

    You made short work of dismantling the shed. So which is more satisfying? Building something, or dismembering it? That’s a nice space, where the shed was. Any plans for it? Maybe an avery? 🙂 . So, will the chunks of left over concrete stand in for any rocks? Maybe, on the interior of the next rock gabion.

    Your mead hall is really coming along. So, where will the casks go? Service bar?

    The artichokes really look yummy! The Ollie flower, is endangered, due to the (dangerous) over harvesting of the fangs. Boy, those European poppies are RED! The orange ones are nice, but the red ones are real knockouts. The place I lived before, had some pink poppies. They made a reappearance, every year. Lew

  2. Hi Chris,

    Yes, it’s meteorological winter here. The average high temperature on the day the tornadoes went through is 46F/8C. The actual high of 68F/20C was much above the average, but not a record for the day. As Lew noted, warm moist Gulf of Mexico air meeting cold northern air under the right conditions makes for many different varieties of severe weather, including tornadoes. While tornadoes are less likely during the winter, they are by no means unknown, even this far north.

    We get tornado warnings often enough that we have a bench seat set up in the basement under the stairs to sit on while we wait out the warning. In fact it’s one of the bench seats for our minivan. Unless we have more than four people in the minivan, which almost never happens, we leave that bench seat in the basement so we have a reasonably comfortable place to sit during the half hour or so that a typical tornado warning lasts.

    @ Margaret and Lew, thank you for thinking of us! As it turns out, the Amazon facility is closer than I realized, not more than 10 miles away. The tornado that hit it has been rated an EF3. I haven’t heard if damage ratings for the long-track tornado have been released yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there was EF-4 damage at least, maybe EF-5.

    It’s been so warm that I still have vegetables in the garden that I’m harvesting from. I expect to harvest the rest of them this week. Sooner or later it will get cold enough to kill the remaining plants; I aim to harvest them before that happens.


  3. Hi Claire,

    Variability of climate seems to be the rule these days, although I’m coming around to the belief that your summers miss the upper temperature extremes of here, but on average are warmer. On another note, I’m really happy to hear that you were spared the worst. It is rather alarming just how close the tornado made it to you. 10 miles sounds like a lot, but for weather systems it is a mere hop, skip and a jump.

    As a bit of feedback to you, you were right. The strawberries recovered from the rough treatment I dished out to them over winter. And curiously, after the feeding (again nod of respect to you), the plant stems are stronger and taller than I’ve previously experienced. Unfortunately due to the crazy cold summer weather, today the very first half ripened strawberry was harvested – and it had promise.

    Wise to have somewhere comfortable to wait out the worst of the weather. We have a list of things to grab in the event of a major fire, and have put it to the test on one or two occasions. Yup, fortune favours the prepared!

    Incidentally, I’ve reduced watering to the tomatoes this year simply to keep the soil warmer. I guess everything is a compromise. Oh well.

    And there are plans afoot for a much larger vegetable bed.



  4. Hi Lewis,

    Of course, the interface between warm and cold air systems makes for an exciting place to live. And that is the case here as well, but without those sorts of scale of tornadoes. Mate, the destruction in the images from that part of the world is terrible to behold. The news down here mentioned that particular long distance tornado specifically. Yikes!

    But yeah, we get the cold southern Antarctic weather pushing up against the warmer northern weather from the tropics (humid) or the inner parts of the continent (dry), and that leads to all manner of storm craziness. I’d imagine that is the case in your part of the world too, but in reverse and with higher geographical features? Mountains do weird things to weather.

    It was quite warm today, but the cloud layer made it feel cooler than it otherwise would have been. Despite all that, we put the fire shutters up over the windows just so as to keep the house cooler. And earlier this morning I did some scrounging around the local area for the final few materials needed to finish the shed. As a general rule I am a very pleasant and respectful person, and one business gave me trade discount which I was well pleased with and grateful for. And I won’t mention that they supplied me the last few items they had in stock. Yeah, it’s a bit of a worry. Moving on…

    Then this afternoon I just kept out of the heat and did paid work until almost 7pm, so the finish was late, but not too late. The weather looks set to cool down again tomorrow. Unfortunately, the plants do need the heat in order to grow.

    Hehe! Snow. So lovely, in small amounts. 🙂 Hope things don’t get too crazy snow-wise for your friends in Idaho this year? Mind you, they’re probably well prepared for it. How’s the young blokes recovery from the incident going?

    Yes, long tailed shirts do have that undocumented helpful feature. Very wise. Shirts are handy, but I no longer work in the big end of town and so reserve shirts for some client visits. Other than that, I have my standard wardrobe attire. Now this really annoys me, because I reckon back in the day Steve Jobs knocked off my style. 🙂 True, it seems an unlikely proposition, but the boots, blue jeans and t-shirts and/or black skivvies are my go-to, and I reckon I got there first. I’m not saying it was like when all the IT folks began sporting goatees way back in the 90’s, but it was kind of like that time. I had to ditch the goatee in favour of the neat beard when that happened, then people started doing that too. What’s going on here? 🙂 Fortunately, I never attempted the: Ned Kelly bushranger overdrive 5000 style thick beard. The Editor says no. Probably couldn’t manage to pump out such a thick beard anyway…

    Sorry I digress.

    Toff! Very funny, but I don’t think so. A little bit of decorum goes a long way, and anyway I hate the waste involved with take away food, but had to buckle under anyway due to you know what.

    Mate, Now I’m feeling the pressure. I do try and as was averred: practice may not make perfect, but it sure might help. It is very possible that I absorbed Mr King’s shared wisdom, but then forgot it all. How awful would that be? I have attempted to reduce the number of words ending with the letters ‘ly’, but I’m unlikely to be completely successful! Oops broke the rules there. 🙂

    Political correctness can be taken too far. The Editor was describing an odd example of that only yesterday. Hmm.

    I hear you about The Matrix films. Yup. The only thing which concerned me about the film franchise was that I never really understood why I was watching the second and third instalment of the franchise. The psychology of previous investment perhaps?

    So to expand a bit further on the DVD player discussion, that possibility your librarian contact suggested was that not all players are of the same quality. I was coming to terms with that reality yesterday with second hand machines interweb rabbit hole, before I promptly ran out of time and had to get a writing wriggle on. Your mission should you choose to accept it… (insert natty theme tune). Now you may laugh that I’ve been occasionally acquiring older high quality tech and then refurbishing it, but the player quality thing wouldn’t surprise me at all. If you’re going to replace the machine, you probably have your homework cut out for you. I don’t believe that there is any easy way around the matter.

    Possibly, about the guy, but I don’t believe that to be the case. Interestingly, one significant difference between Universities down under and your equivalent institutions is that students rarely live on campus. I’ve met some people who did so, but they are in the minority. There is a different culture with those institutions, plus they’re significantly cheaper. And part time Uni was a get in, get on with it, and then go home experience. There was no social life, and often the student union facilities were closed by the time I was on campus (i.e. in the evening) – yet that union lot still wanted their compulsory fee. Because of that experience I voted to end the compulsory student union fees. I reckon that lot got complacent as they kind of forgot to engage with the part timers.

    It’s funny you mention that, but I too have had a canvas bag that tore. Hmm. That outcome was unexpected to say the least.

    Yes, I knew that about urea. I don’t know for sure, but the exact ingredient in the additive is described as refined urea, whatever that means. But yeah, it is not a hard chemical to obtain. How lazy have we become as a society? And I learned some interesting stuff on saltpeter too. Fascinating stuff. The poem regarding the toothy Egnatius was rather amusing! The poem translates rather well into English.

    The old duffer could only do such a thing with his truck when fuel was cheap. Idling engines use a disproportionately large quantity of fuel. It makes you wonder how an electric vehicle would cope if the road was snowed in, and a wait of many hours was required and the temperature plummeted. The heating elements in those machines would use quite a lot of electricity I’d imagine. The situation would be a horror story.

    Mate, but far out do I hear you about that. When we lived in the housing estate in the nearby town whilst we constructed this place, an old duffer used to arrive every work day at some unholy hour to pick up the young apprentice who lived next door. And of course he could never do it quietly and even used to regularly beep the horn on the truck. I so hated living there.

    That’s a pretty decent towing capacity for your ranger. At a wild guess, the bloke was towing a far larger load than that. The trailer had high welded mesh sides and the firewood was stacked almost as high as the top of the cabin. And the tray was stacked full too. It was an ambitious move.

    Wow! I’d never heard of The vanishing hitchhiker story. It gives one the chills doesn’t it?

    Building is more satisfying than demolishing. And without a doubt, demolishing is far quicker than building. I don’t think so about the aviary suggestion. 🙂 There are a lot of hungry birds on the farm already!

    Actually, the chunks of concrete are going to be used in a new concrete staircase. Why waste them? I’m always astounded at the sheer casual waste that goes on around me. What me worry? 🙂

    You may scoff at the mead hall, but it’s a darn fine idea! 🙂 Hope the revellers can deal with industrial shelving for seats and tables? Anyway, they’ll deal. Hehe! Nah man, we haven’t really sorted out how the internal arrangement of the shed will work. We’re getting ideas though.

    Globe artichokes are really tasty and worth the effort because they’re so prolific. Cooking them is not for the careless though. The poppies are great aren’t they? And so reliable, they set seed every single year (so far). I accidentally long ago decided to purchase a large bag of poppy seed and neglected to pay attention to the price. Yikes!



  5. Hello Chris,
    Again leading by example, showing how re-use of components from a tear-down can be (should be?) repurposed in an even better (=larger) shed.

    The urea story is sad. As we run out of fossil gas, this kind of stories will continue to pop up, and our elected leaders will try to look somewhere else.
    Globally, around 80% of urea is used as a fertilizer. I think it is the most weight-to-Nitrogen efficient fertilizer and is popular in some countries. However, it is easy to locally overdose, since it turns into ammonia at dissolution. Fuel additives is a small part of the total use.
    I think the urea/adblue addition is a diversion from the real story of over-use of diesel fuels. Indeed, as you say, increasing complexity is a risky trade-off.
    The constant increase of power density of engines is another example of risky trade-off…

    I had an interesting technical breakdown of a small computer (raspberry pi 4), where the OS and my log files were all on a micro-SD-card. Small and neat and power-efficient. But… the SD-cards were designed to handle a million writes over a few years time (e.g. photos in a digital camera). Not for a frantic operating system with a database logging measurements, with thousands of reads and writes all the time. So, now I cannot read out any of my logged data. I just have a very small, well-fried micro-SD card…
    Next run I’ll use an SSD instead, since they are designed for this. A bit more power use, much more robustness. No failure is wasted, we always learn something.

    Back to urea and MAP and other Haber-Bosch-products. I think the best way to navigate the long descent is to reduce/limit/stop chicken-meat and pig-meat production. A large chunk of the fertilizer is used to grow grains for broiler chicken and pigs. We don’t really need this.
    IMHO it is smarter to use the available resources to grow healthy veggies, nuts and have some egg-layers. Some meat is probably fine, but far less than today’s mindless consumption.
    Which countries will be able to do this kind of shift?

    Have a great day!


  6. Another construction question (or two) for you.

    I don’t see a bottom chord on the trusses, but do see small collar ties. Is that the final arrangement? I always worry about snow loads here, but not really much of an issue for you.

    Also, I think I see nail plates at the ridge. Did you put those in place yourself? If so, how did you do it?

    How deep were the posts set in concrete in the old shed? Impressive reuse of materials. I wish cypress pine grew here.

    Finally- I’m once again humbled by your energetic pace. My greenhouse project is on hold till warmer weather, so am left with tinkering in the shop.

    OK, carry on.

  7. @ Claire – Glad y’all are OK. My Dad had a favorite sister, that he called every week. Western Nebraska. Seems like half the time he called her, she was in the storm cellar, knitting by lantern light. Lew

  8. Yo, Chris – Most of the tornados in our midwest track from SW to NE. One of those odd meteorological quirks. I was driving to the Club, yesterday, and thought, “Gee, that rain’s looking thick.” By the time I got down there, it was mixed rain and snow flurries. The National Weather Forecast keeps getting worse and worse, for this week. More days of mixed rain and snow. More days of possible small accumulations. We’ll see.

    Oh, yeah, my Idaho friends are getting snow. Three inches one day, six the next. And, it’s piling up. They mentioned, this morning, that the city had plowed their street.

    From what I hear, my friends son-in-law has made a pretty miraculous recovery. He’s pounding and sawing away, on this project and that. I’ll ask for more details.

    Re: The zeitgeist ripping off your style. They’re watching you! 🙂
    Next you’ll be demanding white linen. The best is (was?) Irish.

    I understand that if you slip a book under your pillow, you can absorb the knowledge, as you sleep. 🙂 . You might try that with Mr. King’s book.

    Oh, I’ve already done my research on which are the best Blue Ray players. I’ll pay a bit more, but not that much more.

    Back when I went to Uni in the late 1960s, their administrations had more of a “in loco parentis ” attitude, toward students. Which at that time, had begun to crumble. Students came in three flavors. The dorm rats (separate dorms for ladies and gentlemen), frat rats and independents. There was a bit of tension, between the groups. Nothing serious. I was an independent, but had friends who lived in the dorms, or belonged to the frats.

    All this talk about urea, jogged a memory. Back when I was in the book biz, I always tried to keep at least one copy of “Henley’s Formulas for Home and Workshop” in stock. It sold slowly, if steadily. As it was published in 1907, it’s now in the public domaine. Heck, you can even download it in pdf. Probably a pretty big file. I see used copies, are pretty cheap.

    “Vanishing Hitchhiker” is one of those great ghost stories. To be told around the campfire. Just part of Weird Old America.

    That is a wizard idea, to use the concrete bits in stairs. Sure cut down on the new concrete you’d have to use.

    I don’t scoff at the idea of the mead hall. Heck, it was my suggestion. 🙂 . I think you should call it “Lew’s Memorial Mead Hall.” Make sure the sign is neon. Blue, please.

    H got her fortnightly bath, yesterday. Elinor thinks she has fleas. She does scratch a bit, but that could be small mats. She’s overdue for another trip to the groomer. Elinor’s caregiver is back today. The one that was shaping up to be pretty good, and injured her knee. I’m sure I’ll hear all about it, tonight.

    I think I’ll make “pumpkin spice truffle cookies” (biscuits), today. Not that I’ve ever made them, before. I was in one of the cheap food stores, and the same people that make chocolate chips, had these pumpkin spice candy pieces. With the recipe on the bag. I also picked up some chocolate expresso bits. But those can wait, til later. If I can stop eating them right out of the bag. Lew

  9. Hi Steve,

    Great question. I describe these trusses as boomerang trusses, but technically they’re a form of scissor truss. You’ll note that in the design I used the main timber members are way over sized. I’ve used this design for many years without troubles. If I used weaker and smaller timbers, I really would have to add a bottom chord and also the supports, otherwise the roof is at risk of collapse, not due to snow loads, but more due to excessive wind loads (and we have been direct hit by a minor tornado on Christmas day many years ago). Also the thing to note is that only half the trusses are in place, and there will be battens and steel strapping to install. All in good time.

    The nailing plates are super clever devices. They’re from a company called Pryda and they are described as a Nailplate Knuckle. They’re very easy to use and are very tough. Obviously there are one on each side, and you can join all manner of timber with them.

    I generally follow the old school rule of thumb which suggests one third down and two thirds up. Works for me.

    Do you have Black Locust there? I’ve inadvertently grown one here, and it is very hard timber.

    Thank you, and enjoy your tinkering! I may not have mentioned it, but I also have a desire to get all these jobs done before the season turns colder.



  10. Hi Goran,

    Thank you, and I don’t know about your part of the world, but it wasn’t that long ago that buildings were dismantled and the materials were recovered and resold at house wrecking yards (super fun places, but are very rare these days). Only an incredibly wasteful society would send a house to the landfill, but it happens.

    I don’t know how this story will play out, but certainly there are now worldwide shortages of natural gas, and that story will not play out well. I mean what do you choose to do with the stuff, keep peoples houses warm and the cook fires going, or produce fertiliser? And it might get down to that choice.

    And yup, urea is a pretty potent fertiliser, but like you say, there is plenty of wastage. I’m assuming that a lot of cleaning products use ammonia, and I expect to see changes to that too. And I can’t argue with you, transport has been very cheap for a very long time, and if you talk to be about shipping containers, you hear horror stories. But I’m also surprised at how locally products source materials from all over the planet. We haven’t heard the end of this story – no way.

    Now, having just written all that, I use SSD devices and compared to hard drives, they’re amazing. Haven’t had one fail yet, but that might be only a matter of time, but I’m not really sure what their lifespan is. Interesting. Those devices have cycle limits which are quite huge, but they’re still limits. Probably longer lasting than physical media like hard drives. The computer itself won’t last that long from experience. Probably eight years at best at a guess.

    I totally agree, it is wise to learn, and continue to learn.

    I’ve never applied urea or MAP, so it can be done, it’s just harder, slower and the yields are lower.

    What you are saying describes my current diet, but culturally it is outside peoples expectations. It’s not hard though, and the food we eat here is usually viewed very favourably by guests. And I agree, the diet became obvious once I began experiencing the pitfalls in growing something edible and then feeding it to another animal so as to concentrate the proteins. I get it, but my systems are too small for that to be possible on a large scale. And I guess most peoples systems are like that. And it also goes to concentrate any mineral deficiencies – oh yeah, those will make a come back too.

    I don’t believe it will get down to a choice. It will end up being the reality. How could it not?



  11. Hi Lewis,

    Ah, that makes sense about how your tornadoes track. The warmer waters and air from the mid SW provide the energy to the storm, and the impact against the cooler NE derived air really amps it up. Yikes. Our thunder storms are produced by that sort of interaction as well. Interestingly the tornado that hit here came up from the SSW direction, so that surprised me. The bulk of the mountain range protects me a bit from the worst of the Northerly weather (read hot and windy), but still the NW winds can be very destructive.

    Snow! Yay! Hope the roads weren’t too icy? How did the garden cope?

    Oh my goodness, that is more snow than I can even understand. Hope they have plenty of heating fuel? Mate, if such a snow fell here, you’d hear me sooking my socks off!

    Speaking of which my collection of socks were getting a bit threadbare and have been replaced with bamboo fibre sports socks. Nice stuff. The old socks have been downgraded to rag status, and they’ll get a long life yet. I reckon the original socks lasted about five years, which wasn’t bad. Clothes can be hit or miss when it comes to longevity, and it is hard to know in advance.

    Worked in the big smoke today. Picked up the coffee grounds too. The traffic was busier than it has been recently.

    Mate, he’s lucky to have recovered speedily and is able to get back into things. I hope that he has learned some caution? I gave up motorcycle riding after one too many incidents, but of course I commuted in traffic, so it was a risky place to be. I’m a super chill driver now and don’t let things faze me. Life’s too short for that.

    They’re watching you! 🙂 I’m pretty sure you once mentioned to me that it’s not paranoia, if it’s true! The thing is, between you and I, I doubt I could come up with a better style that would also fit. Something, something, creatively bankrupt! Hehe!

    The Editor is a fan of linen materials – I shall mention your cheeky observation to her and see what she makes of it.

    Hmm, I might just send Mr King an email and see what he says. The email might go something like this: So I’ve got this mate who reckons… Honestly, from what I read of his excellent work ethic, I have strong reservations that he’d side with your ‘book under pillow technique’. Look it’s worth a try though.

    That tends to be a workable strategy. Sometimes there is such a thing as too cheap. And often with electronics, a little bit more for new or second hand, can yield wonders.

    Thanks for the Latin phrase, which I had not heard of before, but I note has a common law origin. Hmm, I would imagine that the institutions would attempt to shirk those obligations, and perhaps thus the shift in culture you referred to? Oh, so are there dorms as well as frat houses? I had not understood that arrangement before. Mate, the vast majority of people down under are of the independent group, but your experience is mirrored here from the people I know who attended full time. Many of those people I know formed strong friendships with the people they attended Uni. It is a culturally different environment than say High School, which always seemed a bit forced to me, but you know I went to two very different extremes. The Editor still has a good friend who she met at Uni. I had my own mates outside of that institution and part time was not a fun experience by any means. Fun was for outside Uni for me at least.

    Many thanks for the sneaky book reference, but I hear you! Oh yeah, do I hear you. Thanks. 🙂

    Creepy ghost stories told around a camp fire whilst out in the bush have a great deal of narrative force to them. And hey, button man is a real dude, out there, somewhere. Don’t annoy him seems like a good strategy. The best story I heard was the one about the wildlife photographer camping out alone who discovered that the camera contained an image of him sleeping in his tent. Yup.

    Kudos for the mead hall suggestion and apologies for assuming incorrectly that you were scoffing. The way that the European honey bees are enjoying the gardens here, mead seems like an option with legs. Interestingly, I’m coming to terms with the fact that some areas are better for grains, and those that are too damp and cool are better for tubers. Sugar beet might be a good option. A mate of mine boiled some of them down to produce an earthy tasting sugar. It’s a good option for sugar in a cold environment as they produce something like 20% sugar content. Maple sap by contrast is about 2% sugar content (before boiling down of course). Haven’t tried sorghum yet, but it might be too cold here for that. Dunno.

    Go H! Itchy might be a skin thing too? It can mean a lot or little.

    Both of those options sound really tasty. How did the pumpkin spice turn out?



  12. Yo, Chris – Prof. Mass has a post on tornados. Something about an ap for early warning. Of course, no one asks the hard questions. What if you don’t have a smart phone? What if you don’t want one? We have a county warning system, that works just fine on my little flip phone. I get a text message. Usually, flood warnings or Amber Alerts. (Those are when a kid goes missing.)

    When I went to bed last night, around 2am, there was a bit of snow on the cars in the parking lot. All gone, this morning. No icy roads.

    When Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer, died, I got an unopened bag of socks. I didn’t pay attention to what brand they were, but boy have they worn well. I’ve still got quit a few pairs. They’d probably last longer if I trimmed my toe nails, more often 🙂 . Our local variety emporium (Sunbirds) carries American made sox. They last pretty well. American made, but I just had a thought. I wonder where the thread comes from?

    When I was cleaning out my Uncle Larry’s attic, to get stuff to consign to my tat shop, there were trunks full of Irish linen. Some with the tags still on them. I still have some of them. Nice heavy stuff.

    I forgot to mention the Ladies version of fraternities. The sorority. Plenty of those around, too. I don’t know what the situation is now, but the University of Washington had several high rise dorms, in the late 1960s. Ten and twelve stories. Some for the boys and some for the girls. The breakdown of oversight began happening about that time. But it didn’t come from administration. It came from the students. “What do you mean my girlfriend can’t spend the night?” 🙂 . University administrations really weren’t to keen on giving up that much power and control. There are some colleges and universities that still maintain a kind of mid-century oversight. Mostly, religious schools. I had a buddy whose girlfriend was living with him off campus. Full time. Her parents were paying for a dorm room. It was always a mad scramble, when they came to visit.

    I went a year to a local community college (two year), before moving onto the University. Some wags referred to them as “High School with ashtrays.” 🙂 . But really, the whole atmosphere was different. As most of the people there were there by their own desire. No captive audience. And you had to pay for it.

    My Idaho friend made a comment that surprised me. They’ve always had wood stoves, wherever they’ve lived. Not in this new place. She mentioned Ron didn’t miss the mess. I asked her for a more complete report on the son-in-laws progress. Report to follow, tomorrow 🙂 .

    All that extra traffic? Tis the season 🙂 . I went to the Club this morning, and stayed about an hour. Not many people around. I was the only one that had biscuits and gravy. I took down a dozen + cookies, and they were still languishing, when I left.

    The cookies were pretty good. Pumpkin spice. The little bits of pumpkin candy, didn’t really melt, like chocolate chips do. And here’s another mystery. The package said it would make “about 4 dozen.” I doubled the recipe. And got 4+ dozen. Same thing that happened with the muffins. Maybe they’re disappearing into a temporal anomaly? Other than the spices, I didn’t mess with the recipe, at all. It even had a can of real pumpkin in it.

    There’s a TV series called “Time Team.” British archaeologists uncovering everything from Roman villas to plague pits. I didn’t know that there’s an American version, called “Time Team America.” One of the episodes was interesting. It was an extinct bison kill from about 10,000 years ago. The beasts were butchered with obsidian blades. One of the archaeologists mentioned that a few years back, he needed some surgery. And, he convinced his surgeon to use an obsidian blade, rather than surgical steel. In microscopic view, it was clear that the obsidian was a sharper blade. The archaeologist tossed off the comments that sometimes, older technologies were better than new technologies. Lew

  13. Chris,

    We got our unmentionable booster shots last week, the Princess mid-week, me on Saturday afternoon. It knocked her on her backside for several days. I had a rough 40 hours, but not even close to how severe the poke was 7 months ago. Now we’re trying to play “catch up”.

    Darn, on 2nd thought, dad’s wonderful cast iron wrecking bar? I gave it to my sister and her husband years ago. They live on 20 acres of rocky soil and have more need of it than I do. I have a 30″ cast iron version that I kept. It was also dad’s. It is extremely useful.

    I see that Lew corrected our time frame on monks and coffee. How did anybody do anything before the days of coffee and tea?

    Your Myrmecia ant is positively frightening. Thanks for the link to the article. Those are best avoided whenever possible it looks like.

    Interesting article you wrote this week. Lots of things to contemplate. Thanks for writing something that will exercise the brain.

    The “Ollie flower” looks familiar for some reason. 😉 The lavender hedge is glorious.

    That’s good work on the sheds – take down, relocate, reuse. Looking good.

    I’m enjoying your food conversation with Goran. Interestingly, as we’re aging, the Princess and I find that we’re eating a lower percentage of meat in our diet while still feeling fine. Humans are omnivorous, but our culture wants us to eat nearly like carnivorous beings. Even dogs are omnivorous!

    Which leads me to a question. I know you make a lot of the food for your dogs. Would you mind sharing the recipe you use? I understand that the cooking process is rather smelly to sensitive human noses.


  14. Hello Chris,
    You hit the nail: “I mean what do you choose to do with the stuff, keep peoples houses warm and the cook fires going, or produce fertiliser?”
    Let’s see what “we” choose to do. I suspect that it will play out like resource crunches have done in the past, that some people will get a lot and some will get nothing.

    Same with the food “choices”. As you say: “I don’t believe it will get down to a choice. It will end up being the reality. How could it not?”
    It is a choice until it isn’t.
    There are lots of people on the planet who are already in that reality (beyond choice).

    Have you seen the sequence of posts by Ugo Bardi on The Seneca Effect, about the Irish Famine and resource-adaptation choices?
    I think that Bardi is a brave scientist who dares to say what his conclusions are, even when they are uncomfortable and not in line with the official story. These articles have helped me to better understand how this kind of predicaments can play out.
    Of course every tragedy is unique and particular, but the patterns repeat.

    May your harvest be bountiful!


    @DJ – I also enjoy your iron wrecking bar adventures. 😉

  15. Hi DJ,

    Glad to hear that you and your lady are now feeling better. Mate, your story reads like a nightmare for me. I was pleased with the refreshing honesty of the pharmacist who stuck it to me and Editor, because at least she had the decency to say that the long term consequences were unknown. I’m not a fan of this course of action, but you know, I also have to do what I’m told because the consequences for not doing so are pretty harsh down here. Oh well, mustn’t grumble. I’m a bit torn on the subject as a whole, but my thinking is that if you’re in a high risk group, you probably should do something, but others, I dunno about that. The show must go on I guess. Anyway, not to take away anything from your recovery, glad to hear that you are both feeling better.

    Ah, rocky, I remember Rocky. The word on the street, and I have this from a fan of the film franchise, is that Rocky III was the best of the films. The storyline is superb, the champ gets complacent and lazy, the champs trainer dies, the champ gets a dad talk from his nemesis, buckles down to action, and the champ goes onto triumph – but get this, the conclusion was the champ going head to head with his nemesis, but the conclusion was left out. Great story telling, and there is a metaphor in there for us all.

    On a serious note, your dad’s cast iron wrecking bar is a proper heirloom tool, and it does sound as if it went to a deserving home. The six foot wrecking bar I’ve long used to lever rocks and sometimes break them, now has a pronounced bend, but shows no signs of fracturing. I do wonder if I should obtain a spare, and the difficulty becomes this: how do I know what the underlying quality of the steel is? Can you even test for such a thing in the shop before committing?

    30″ is useful, but sometimes you need to bring out the big levers. Sorry, but it’s true.

    Yes, I too was worrying about how the folks managed to begin work of an early morning before the advent of coffee and tea, and all I can say is that my gut feeling suggests that they were probably a bit bleary eyed and mildly sluggish. No doubt, the Abbot would have written up, say Chester’s (I pulled this name out of thin air), annual cleric evaluation report with the lines: Chester is a good worker. I have noticed that early in the morning his output is not great, and much time is spent doodling killer rabbit capers in the margins of our epic tome reproductions. However, of an afternoon, output improves just prior to the mid afternoon nap, but often after this time, Chester works late into the evening by candlelight. Candles being expensive for the monastery, Chester’s return on investment is relatively not that great. Recommended action: no increase in Chester’s gruel stipend until output improves. Signed. Abbot. 🙂

    The Myrmecia ants and I are not friends, but the Editor endures worse reactions. However, these ants do not enjoy Humic acid and so we do our best to ensure that elsewhere is a fine place for those rather aggressive little scamps. Know thy enemy is the watchword here.

    Thank you and I can only but hope that your brain doesn’t get stretched too far, as that would be uncomfortable for yourself, and I’d miss our correspondence. Hint: you might not survive the experience and zombies will get the sniff of brains from hundreds of miles away. Stay safe!

    Nowadays when people demolish buildings, they get a dirty great big excavator and then proceed to trash all of the materials which then end up in landfill. Only those who have constructed can de-construct, that’s life. Looking into the future I see the old house wrecking yards making something of a comeback. Never fear, proper recycling is here.

    I aim to entertain, but also inform for those who care to listen. I tell you this, the folks who eat from their well fed gardens have some of the best skin around regardless of ethnicity. And what does that then suggest? I concur, dogs will eat whatever is necessary for them to eat. As a suggestion, your lovely, tiny little Avalanche may supplement her diet with quite horrid things, and in doing so she is inoculating her guts with flora and fauna. Just watch out for the worms. I’ve watched the dogs eating possum poop and the experience turns my guts, but it seems to do them no harm. Puppies do that, for that reason. Humans do the same thing with breast milk and plants (you just have to hope they’re non toxic). I once had a mate over who’s two kids were eating the soil here, and we all just sort of went: they must know what they want – and then didn’t mention it again.

    OK: We make dog biscuits and dog brekkie food.

    The dog biscuits include: organic rolled oats; honey; peanuts (unsalted and roasted); sunflower kernels; pepitas; desiccated coconut; apple; carrot; banana. That gets mixed into biscuits and then baked in the oven. The brekkie cereal is the same except that it includes pasta but is fried up. The dogs love the stuff.



  16. Hi Lewis,

    The good Professor’s article on the tornado was excellent, and I always learn something as I’d not previously appreciated that tornadoes are often associated with supercell storms which are alarmingly common in my corner of the world. Given the prevailing conditions, I expect one such storm within the next month or two. It’s been that sort of year.

    Man, I hear you about the smart phone app. It’s a good idea, but not everyone wants a smart phone, and I don’t even carry my phone around with me all the time. And I won’t mention that I’ve switched off the facility for the thing to keep an exact track on where I am at all times. I’m not a fan of the technology, and there are times I just don’t want to be contacted. I’m sure that you’d understand. Do you reckon you’ll eventually be forced to smart phone it up? It was either continue earning a living or not and there was no way out of the trap set for me. A pretty brutal approach if you ask me, but unfortunately nobody did, instead I was so informed that things will be as they are now. Mustn’t grumble.

    Interestingly, I’m noticing that a sullen sort of disobedience has crept into the culture down here. It’s quite repressed English and all that, but you know, it kind of warms my soul to see. There are state and federal elections next year, and I expect that there is quite a percentage of the population that has had a gut full. The compulsory ballot box is a nice quiet and anonymous place to lodge a protest. I was offered some work in that area very recently and the thought of having to wear a mask for 16 continuous hours curdles my good feelings, so they can go and take a long jump off a short pier.

    The bushfire alerts work by text message too. It’s a bit more realistic an option than some app (although there is an app for that). Makes you wonder if zombie alerts would work well that way. Imagine getting the text message on your phone: Impending zombie incursion. ETA 1 hour. Run for your lives.

    It’s probably for the best that there were no icy roads, and you got to enjoy the brief snow. It was pea soup weather here today, with a bit of drizzle earlier this morning. Uninspiring, but fortunately I was not in need of inspiration. Ran a whole bunch of errands early this morning. Plans are coalescing, whatever that means.

    Hate to be the one to tell you, but I used to work in the clothing manufacturing industry, and I recall the sock machines. Fun stuff, and they produced really good products which lasted a long time. Alas, all in the past. But yeah, I can’t recall what went on back then, but nowadays, thread comes from either Europe or Asia. Still, it is better to retain some of the manufacturing process than be dependent dopes like us down here. I never agreed with that path, and what surprised me was that it was the left leaning mob that threw tarrifs to the wolves. I mean how do you compete against countries that pay workers stuff all and don’t give a toss about environmental standards. That was what that lot were supporting. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sorry, I’m ranting, but it is a pet hate of mine.

    Linen is good stuff, and flax grows wild on the margins of the farm.

    Thanks for providing some insight into the living arrangements and cultural changes with the students. I guess that with benefits come costs. Hmm. But is it a better arrangement overall? I don’t know, maybe it is just different? I hear things, and these days parents seem cool about having kids partners staying over. That certainly wasn’t the case back in my day, and there was some fun in the whole sneaking around aspect to it all. Maybe it is like the abundance of porn that people want to subject themselves to – a little bit is OK, but huge volumes of the stuff is a real worry. Dunno.

    That’s a great option, and I probably would have taken a similar path to community college. And yes, I agree, people would be there because they want to be there. Although there might be some kids who’s parents pushed them, but they inevitably drop out. One must seek for energy from within themselves, and it cannot be imposed from outside. Had a mate who’s parents pushed him beyond his educational limits, and of course he just flunked. It didn’t seem to hurt him, although it seemed a waste of time and resources.

    Incidentally, the school bully only went for me in year nine because I was fresh meat – newly arrived at school and yet to establish friend groups. And the school managed him out at the end of that year because he was never going to assist their academic rankings.

    What? Who would remove a wood stove or be in a remote region and not at least consider putting one in? Gives me the ooks that does. Mind you, I spoke with someone recently (and may have mentioned this to you) who has access to firewood, yet was removing their wood heater. I did mention rising energy prices, but they looked at me like I was a weirdo from outer space, so I let the topic drop. It’s not my problem.

    I’ll be interested to hear how the young bloke is recovering from the injury.

    Possibly the cold weather has put off visitors to the Club? I’d be certain that the cookies don’t go to waste.

    Pumpkin candy! Whatever will they think of next? It’s sounds like an excellent cookie. Yeah, don’t believe the hype as much depends upon how much mixture you use for each cookie. I usually aim for 35 per batch, if only because that is what the baking tray holds. Although sometimes it ends up being slightly lesser, and I’m stuffed if I know why that is. A spatial anomaly, yeah, maybe you’re right. 🙂

    Lewis, there was a claim made about that show: “Robinson claims that the archaeologists involved with Time Team have published more scientific papers on excavations carried out in the programme than all British university archaeology departments over the same period and that by 2013, the programme had become the biggest funder of field archaeology in the country. If the claim is true, it’s an impressive achievement indeed, and possibly does not reflect well upon the others.



  17. Hi Goran,

    🙂 Thanks. You know, we have some free will, and some possibilities in life, but to exercise those are one of life’s little challenges. And the food story is all part of that. We are where we are today, and with the stuff available to us today (you and I, and everyone else), but who wonders whether that will be the case tomorrow? And unfortunately, inequality is rising, but luck and chance can also play into that food story too. Some areas will just be less over burdened, but which are those places? That’s hard to know, and lack can be repaired (as you probably already know). Mate, I also work on the local social networks. It’s hard to know though, but with the loss of fertiliser imports from the land of stuff, let’s just say that things are not good, but nobody seems to want to discuss that. I assume that the direct import of fertiliser thing is affecting your part of the world too?

    Mate, we’re a long way past ecological carrying capacity everywhere, sorry to say. I wish it were not true.

    Had to laugh, apparently the urea stuff is set to be flown into the country. What I wonder about, is what happens after that stuff is used up? Sea freight is much cheaper than air freight for good reasons, and things start looking really strange for the economics of heavy transport when you have to fly in urea.

    I’ll have a look at the link, thank you very much for providing it. At present I’m reading William Catton Jr’s book ‘Overshoot’, which covers that potato topic as a minor side story, and it is an excellent read. First published over 41 years ago – they knew back then. They knew.

    Well, that’s the thing too. It is tragic, but from an historical and ecological perspective, it is not all that uncommon. We’re deluding ourselves just because of the scale, but you know, same, same, but bigger.

    Brought back a goodly supply of compost today. I’d heard that it is getting snapped up due to the lack of synthetic fertilisers. But I doubt that broad acre farmers can economically apply the compost stuff. It’s not cheap. And if it were cheap to do so, they’d already be doing just that. And to date they have not been doing so.

    I envy you your chestnut tree harvest. 🙂 Happy bountiful harvest to you too. The two chestnut trees here are now about three metres tall, and are now growing quite well. Incidentally, the horse chestnut has some buckeyes on it this year. Both trees took a few years in the ground before they began growing well. Does that reflect your experience with them?



  18. Yo, Chris – That was an interesting article that Goran linked to.

    So, the report on the Idaho son-in-law …

    “Shalen’s doing well! Still has swelling in his left leg at the end of the day. Not gaining any weight but has a decent appetite. He canceled his Dec 17th appt with the leg doctor…. stubborn boy. But with the OneShare policy still not paying any of his hospital bills I don’t think he wants to add to them. Looks like they’ll probably be filing medical bankruptcy because there’s no way they can pay close to $460,000. Even then it’s $20,000 for the lawyer so we’ll help with that. Just need to try to keep sis positive but it’s hard now because OneShare is losing docs she’s sent in and some that have been sent than several times. A real hair puller.”

    Oneshare is a (religious) aid program. I did a bit of a dive down the rabbit hole, this morning, and had to gently break the news that it may not be all it seems to be. I think I mentioned that there daughter is a newly minted real estate dealer. Today, she may have to snowshoe in to a property, to show it. 🙂

    I maybe check my phone messages, once a week. Otherwise, I keep the darned thing turned off. I can’t imagine the situation where I’d need a smart phone. But, it could happen. My primary grocery store seems to be moving to “all ap, all the time.” If you want the sale items. I’m making other arrangements. I suppose if there was something major I needed to do with a smart phone, I could just borrow one.

    I think our mid-term elections, next year, will also be … “interesting.” One of our national right wing groups has defused it’s national profile. Due to all the attention they got during the attack on the Capitol. Now, there a local presence. School board meetings and city councils. County administrations. Sometimes, they’re confrontational. Sometimes, just menacing.

    Snow is out of our forecast, for the foreseeable future. Lots of rain, though.

    Yup. We also shipped most of our manufacturing machines, overseas. There are a few holdouts. But they do it rough. Which in an odd digression, brings me to a documentary I watched last night. “Pizza: A Love Story.” 🙂 . New Haven, Connecticut may have the best pizza in the world. It’s the story of three pizza parlors, in that town. Sally’s, Pepe’s and the Modern (which has been called Modern, since the 1930s 🙂 . But, it’s a tale about more than pizza. Back in the 1890s, New Haven had a huge industry. The Sargent Lock company. They made all kinds of architectural hardware. They started actively recruiting young Italian men (mostly from Naples, south), around 1900. Thousands of them went direct from the boat, to the factory. A guy’s gotta eat, and soon Italian groceries and bakeries followed. In the 1920s, the first pizza places appeared. It’s an interesting film, and well worth a look.

    The evolution of students is kind of interesting. When I was taking those on-line library courses, a couple of years ago, there was a marked difference between the younger and older students. A sweeping generalization, but, the older students mostly had their noses to the grindstone. Get on with the job. The younger ones were a rather whinny bunch. And expected a lot for very little effort.

    My baking tray holds a dozen cookies. Usually. If I had made a single batch of cookies, and doled them out in teaspoon sizes of dough (not the tablespoon as suggested), I might have gotten the four dozen biscuits, promised. But they would have just been single bite nibbles. In my mind, a biscuit should be about 2 1/2 – 3″ across.

    “Time Team” had more money to play with. And, high tech gear that most archaeologists can’t afford. Robinson’s the one whose smile never reaches his eyes. I see they’re making a comeback, due to popular demand. Robinson won’t be on the team, due to “prior commitments.” Lew

  19. Hi Lewis,

    I have not yet had a chance to read the article, but the basics are known to me already. Farming has become something more than just a casual interest over the past few years. We’re eventually going to get to point where food quality becomes very low (lower than today – as in further reduced proteins and higher carbohydrates), or availability becomes scarce. This outcome is baked into the cake as far as I can understand the situation. Look, I could be wrong, and I’d like to be wrong in this instance.

    Holy carp! A $460k medical debt sounds horrendous. At least he has an option to wipe the slate clean, but there are costs to that option. Oh yeah, it was not designed to be easy. Still, if he’s a young bloke and owns nothing, he’ll probably be fine – eventually. But on the other hand, it is good to hear that he is on the mend, after all that was what it was all about. And their snow scares me a bit.

    I no longer answer calls that come through on unknown numbers. This sometimes causes difficulties, but most people are understanding. And why some company keeps sending me text messages offering cheap wine (when I’ve never bought from them) is a matter that is beyond my understanding. And let’s not start up about the politicians who exempted themselves from nuisance phone call legislation. They don’t realise that they don’t win friends by pursuing that strategy. I assume you get such calls in your part of the world too?

    I’m not saying that the group has decided to get an air of respectability whilst getting things done for their supporters, but it kind of looks like that. And candidly sometimes change can channel the energies and menace of young blokes. Some officials might be less inclined towards corruption, greed and peculation if there was a legitimate risk that they’d get a punch in the head as a result.

    Yes, I noted that the good Professor said that low land snow looks like a non starter.

    Mate, I worked on some factory shut downs (which I previously used to work at) and watched the machines go overseas. They were never wasted as far as I could tell, but the loss of skills was appalling and eventually I too was told: ‘don’t come Monday’. Not words you want to hear, but there aren’t all that many accountants around now with my background, and the need hasn’t gone away.

    Thanks for the film referral.

    Hey, we got the rest of the roof trusses made and then put in place today. A long work day in the sun, and although the air was cool, the sun has some bite.

    No, I tend to agree with your conclusion, although it is as you say a sweeping generalisation and by no means applicable to all. Those places of learning have become a sort of vocational training ground, rather than teaching the students to think critically, but then if that skill was fostered, imagine the mayhem that would result?

    Ah, the Anzac biscuits I bake are sort of round shaped, whilst yours may be flatter? About an inch to an inch and a half, which is how I get 35 on the baking tray. I stopped adding baking soda a while back because it flattened the biscuits out.

    That’s not good, and it says a lot about the underlying character of the person. A bit scary really. I can spot fake smiles too, they look weird to my eyes.

    I now call on the ancient rite of the mid-week hiatus, and then disappear into the night! Like the scar something pumpkin, whatever that was! 🙂



  20. Hello Chris,

    You are so right about free will. We have it and we don’t. Culture blinds us to all kinds of opportunities. Maybe that is the whole point of culture – to lead us like lemmings? As a way to reduce the total thought-effort? I think cuisines are interesting in the way that we only eat a small fraction of what is available in our bioregion, leaving the rest for difficult times or for the next civilization that rises out of the ashes.

    This year I have harvested a good load of chestnuts. I also learned a method to use Japanese Koji-yeast to ferment chestnuts into a substance very close to cocoa-powder, as a locally grown chocolate-substitute. It is not the same, but in desserts like a cake, it tastes somewhere between coffee and chocolate. Quite interesting, but quite labour intensive. I made a few kilos.
    Much easier to just peel and dry the chestnuts and then they store for years. I bought a chestnut peeling machine from the land of stuff (150 USD incl. shipping) a few years back, and it is truly great. There are still manufacturers in Italy and France who do this kind of machinery, but only for larger scale processing, which is not where I am, yet…

    It is also my experience that some fruit and nut trees stand for a year or two before they start to grow. One hickory tree I planted looked like it was shrinking for three years in a row, until it started it’s upward journey. Now it grows 1 meter per year.
    I think they need to root well first.
    I have not systematic evidence, but my hunch is that pot-grown trees have more trouble to get started out in the real soil, compared with bare-root trees.
    The only exception is an excellent pot system called Air-Pot that creates well-rooted trees that also root fast in the soil, but it is quite expensive and not many people use it. I do it only occasionally… If you search for these pots, you find that most users are pot growers, if you know what I mean. Here in Holland it is legal with 5 plants for domestic use.

    Do you plant trees that you get as bare-root or in pots?


  21. Yo, Chris – Yup. I also know the basics covered in the article. But it’s nice to have it all wrapped up in a neat package. Just like Christmas! 🙂

    But, no drama. Things are being attended to. Last night was a bit of an Australian film festival. I watched “2040”.

    Rather Pollyannaish. I think a bit of it was filmed around Melbourne. And the farming section was Victoria State. Nice graphics.

    I also watched, “Australia’s Great Wild North.” Lots of salt water crocs, birds, frogs and snakes. Beautiful country, up there, but dangerous. There’s a forest where even the trees can kill you. And, they don’t even have to fall on you! 🙂

    I also watched the first episode of a Korean series. “Zombie Detective.” A guy wakes up in a rubbish dump (medical waste) and discovers he’s a zombie. Doesn’t remember who he is. Parts of it are pretty funny. As when he has a smoke, and it pours out of a bullet hole, he hadn’t noticed. Don’t know if I’ll watch the whole thing. I find some Asian acting style a bit off-putting. It’s all so … earnest.

    I expect, sooner or later, they’ll plug that medical bankruptcy loop-hole. As they did with student loans. 2/3 of the bankruptcies in the US are due to medical bills. 62% of the medical debt is carried by people who had insurance. “Life in These United States.” Which is (or was) the title of a humor column, in “Reader’s Digest” magazine. Our health care system is no laughing matter. Unless it’s that bitter, cynical kind of laughter.

    I don’t seem to get (knock on wood), robo calls, anymore. I attribute it to having my phone off, vast amounts of time. But I’ve also heard a bit about crackdowns on those types of operations. New laws. But I think I remember that the ball was firmly planted in the telecommunication companies court. They had the technology to stop that kind of thing. Now, they’ve got to use it.

    I went and got gas, this morning. Still $4 a US gallon. Stopped by one of the cheap food stores. I usually buy stuff in units of three and four. Things seemed a bit thin, but I got mustard, ketchup, hot sauce, apple sauce, cranberry sauce, tuna (6 cans), and two kinds of soup. All for $18.

    We got our notice of how much our Social Security payments will go up, next year. The COLA (Cost of Living raise.) I’ll get the princely increase of $31 a month.

    After I went to the library, last night, I stopped by the Club for a cuppa. I guess they’re going to do a turkey and ham feed, on Christmas. As they did at Thanksgiving. Lew

  22. Chris,

    It’s just after noon right now. Snow started about 3:00 a.m. Not much accumulation yet, but maybe up to 5cm by this evening. This sums up the day: “Today has been canceled due to lack of interest. Our sincere apologies for the late notice, but the overwhelming malaise and underlying ennui made timely notice impossible. Please check back tomorrow. But, if today was canceled, is it already tomorrow?”

    Of course, since I had the wherewithal to make that up, wouldn’t that negate the claims of lack of interest, malaise and ennui? These are all important and difficult questions! 😉

    I’ve watched the entire Rocky series multiple times, mostly because the Princess likes them. I have to agree, however, that Rocky III was the best of them for many of the reasons you gave.

    Today’s steel is not made with the same rigor as that of 40 years ago, IMO. Could be cost cutting measures, maybe the raw materials aren’t of the same quality. I do know that asphalt doesn’t last as long as it used to – it’s a problem of raw material quality AND the asphalt contractors talked the governing bodies into allowing a host of “fillers” to be added, also weakening the finished product. Maybe something similar with steel manufacturing?

    Hehehe. Nice one with Chester and the Abbot. My response, under my breath of course, would’ve been, “Bleeping Abbot is a bleeping morning person. Morning persons are the lowest bleeping bleeps of bleeps that there are and need to be shut away until a reasonable hour, like AFTER LUNCH, when the rest of us can deal with their bleeping cheeriness!”

    Thanks for the list of ingredients. Avalanche was having a few days of “anorexia” as the vet called it, not eating much but otherwise pretty normal. I think she was getting bored with her normal food, the food having been suggested by the dog rescue group from which we got her. They adhere to the idea that dogs should have NO grain and mostly meat/fish in their diets. So the food has turkey, fish, lentils and chickpeas. Seems to me that’s a little low on the diversity scale! The vet concurred, even suggesting that dogs need some grains in their diet. I’ve since bought one of the brands the vet suggested and am mixing it with the original. Adding a few tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce has also helped. Avalanche is eating like a champion again for the past several days.

    I thought I remembered that your Fluffy Collective ate a lot of stuff made by you and pretty low on the meats but still high enough in protein and fats to be healthy. Thanks for verifying with the ingredient list. My mental wheels are chewing on this, also.

    In addition to her eating woes, there’s the supply chain problem. Gatorade is almost non-existent in stores right now. I find that when dehydrated, it works best for me and the Princess. Supply and labor issues is the manufacturer’s claim. But other things are problematic also, especially in the meat department. So I’m doing a lot of contemplating how to feed the household going forward with things that will likely be around.

    There’s a movement afoot in the USA about feeding dogs “Their ancestors ate only meat and a minimum of other things that they could scrounge, so we need to feed them meat/fish almost exclusively”. I remember sitting under cover one hunting season, watching an apple tree. No deer came to eat that day, but I watched a coyote for over an hour. The coyote would jump up, knock down an apple or 3 and eat them, then repeat. Got creative when the low hanging fruit was gone, but in true coyote fashion learned how to hit the tree trunk and knock down a lot of apples. I’ve also read accounts written by some people who spent extended time in the wilderness with wolves, only to discover that there were times of the year in which they only ate grasses and wild grain. Your recipe is a breath of fresh air on that topic.


  23. Hi Goran,

    So true about culture and opportunities, and there is also an inherent resistance to change, and of course the desire to recognise a loss is not something that us humans do willingly. Hmm. You’re probably right about culture and lemmings, and reducing thinking time / energy. Considering that matter for a bit, it occurs to me that culture is a system which usually produces more benefits than costs and has been tested over time, but despite that, there are still costs, and like all systems it can’t be equally applicable in every situation. Sometimes a dysfunctional culture might not work out so well. Cultures basically stuff things up, and history has plenty of examples of that story.

    Mate, you know, far out, what I eat and produce here, is a transplanted culture. I know of a few local edible plants, but it would hardly be enough knowledge to survive upon. So I grow what I know. But here is the thing, humans have been mucking around with the environment for as long as there have been humans, and trading plants is something that has happened – everywhere. What I’ve learned recently is that some areas are good for growing tubers, whilst others are more suitable for grain production. And outside those two regions are other edible options – that unfortunately may all be outside our knowledge though. I’m reasonably chilled out about the situation because plants are an easily tradable commodity, and even really low tech methods can move useful plants over significant distances.

    Goran, thank you. I had not previously been aware that chestnuts could be fermented. This is a reason as to why I write. 🙂 The Editor makes all manner of wines, and Sake is a speciality which is produced for friends.

    The ancient soils here are perhaps far less fertile than your part of the world, and they are certainly deficient in phosphorus, and so some trees can stand for more than a few years doing nothing at all before suddenly beginning to grow. I feed the soil and have done so continuously for the past fifteen years, but still growth is slow – until growth suddenly is no longer slow. Calcium Carbonate additions seem to have produced the best results but other additives are part of that story, although I have it on good authority that the particular mineral allows the trees to absorb other minerals – but the quantities I’ve had to supply to the soils are eye wateringly expensive. And things may be different again in your part of the world.

    Actually, I’ve planted both bare rooted trees (although mostly those) and trees from pots, and they seem different enough in growth patterns that I have difficulty considering which is better, but I’m happy to accept your perspective if only because pots can only contain so much soil which is not good for fruit trees in most circumstances. A few apple trees purchased from a specialised heritage nursery and which were grafted in front of me, have grown very well indeed and they seem to be exceptional – but again I have no idea as to the rootstock used. For your interest, there is now enough plant diversity here that many fruit trees are beginning to self-seed and some of those I let grow – and those ones are the fastest growing of the lot.



  24. Hi DJ,

    Did you end up getting the 5cm of accumulated snow? Far out, when the weather turns in your part of the world, it sure does turn quickly. Yes, a complicated maze to traverse indeed (and thanks for the laughs), and hopefully you’ve noted that winter is traditionally the time for rest and recuperation? Man, tomorrow is set to reach 33’C with a chance of a thunderstorm, most likely in the morning and early afternoon – what does that even mean? Does this mean rain for the entire day? All shall be revealed, tomorrow evening… I’m at a bit of a loss as to what work to do given the forecast, and Sunday looks wetter, but not as warm. Did you have to get out Big Bertha at least?

    It was as hot again today, but with late gathering storm clouds. Went into the big smoke last night for the work Christmas function, and with just the Editor and I employed by the business, we had a fun evening and dined at one of the lane way restaurants the big smoke is well known for. It was good to see some life left in the old city, despite the best efforts of the authoritas. On the way home again today, we purchased a swamp cooler, Also-Known-As, and in more polite circles: An evaporative cooler. Plus picked up some of the final few items for the new shed project. It’s been doing my head in a bit, working on paid work, constructing the shed, and also trying to sort out all of the details and materials to ensure that the shed job gets completed. My brain has only so much capacity! 🙂 And it is a busy paid work time of year too (ah, for some snow, that would top things off nicely).

    Yeah, Rocky III was a bit like the Empire Strikes Back film in that the good guys weren’t always good, and didn’t always win the day, but may have merely done OK. And perhaps I’m holding on too tight, but teddy bears never took out any interstellar Empire – just saying. 🙂 Mind you, the Universe is a big place, so it’s not impossible, just really difficult.

    You know, it is very possible that steel probably has more impurities in it these days, especially if the origins are from countries which accept metal recycling wastes. And the grades of ore deposits are not as good these days, due to simply using up the better stuff in the past. We ship a lot of ore from this country pretty much more than anywhere else, but I used to work in the steel distribution biz and watched the percentage of imports rise from virtually nothing, to a significant share. I sometimes consider this matter when stopped in traffic upon a bouncing bridge.

    And thanks for mentioning the roads side of the story, as I’d heard that from other sources. They use cold fill down here, and it’s OK, but doesn’t seem to have the same longevity. Incidentally, there are often contractors advertisements for asphalt driveways dotted at strange spots high up on trees in the forest along the side of roads. Along with those signs, water boring service signs are also ubiquitous too.

    Yes, morning people are not to be trusted! 🙂 Hey, my nightmare job would be a stint on early morning radio. How would that work for you? For some reason they feel the need to be inordinately perky. Tes not natural! 🙂

    I’d have to suggest that the conventional wisdom is incorrect, and the fine example of the coyote reveals the truth of the matter. The dogs I’ve known also enjoy apples, and often when they have fallen from the tree and are mildly fermented in the sun. The dogs here sample all manner of plants. I’ve seen them chowing down on Comfrey, let alone the various grasses and greens from the garden beds they consume by choice. I was only seriously annoyed when they also began consuming all of the remaining strawberries (thus the cage the plants now grow in) .They’re happy to eat what we do with a few notable exceptions such as onions and sultanas (grapes etc) and there may be a few others. Whenever I bake up a batch of Anzac biscuits I include some biscuits without sultana grapes and those are for the dogs. One really interesting ingredient has been a minor addition of solidified coconut oil to their breakfasts and that wards off itchy skin (works for my eczema too). Who’d have thunk it? Many years ago I looked up dozens of websites in relation to natural dog food and home remedies and whilst many parrot the other websites, it’s worth mixing up your own feed from whatever is easy for you to obtain. And did I mention that it is cheaper? And have you got something else to do whilst snowed in? 😉

    The dogs get a little bit of meat each week (a tiny amount actually, and that is redirected from the chickens who probably need it more), but they do get a fresh egg each in their breakfast too (but we have plenty of eggs at this stage of the year). They love honey too.

    Ook! Gatorade is rather useful after a hard days work in the sun. Pharmacies have rehydration solution tablets which would probably work better, so that’s an alternative – and I use them if I’ve accidentally cooked my head in the sun whilst working (midday sun, mad dogs and Scotsmen and all that stuff).

    Yes, be adaptable is the word of the day!



  25. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, I’m so busted. I really did want to read the article as Ugo Bardi recently quoted a mate of mine: Simon (For the Dissenting Opinion blog link). I believe Paul Kingsnorth has also quoted Simon. I’m starting to wonder if I now know a famous author? How cool would that be? 🙂 Anyway, so I didn’t actually end up reading the blog and had only the briefest of looks and I may even have replied to you yesterday in under 15 minutes (not my usual style, but there you go – it happens).

    We worked on the shed in the morning up until a late lunch. Then we cleaned up and went into the big smoke for our work Christmas function. Of course there are only two employees in the business, the editor and I, but a difference in scale does not denote a difference in quality in this instance. 😉 Had dinner in Hardware lane, which was originally the lane for hardware suppliers back in the Victorian era, but now has a number of restaurants catering to locals and tourists, and you can dine at tables on the closed off street, or inside the restaurants. It’s all very charming, and it was great to see so many people out and about enjoying the amenities. Actually, the city looked as if it had some life in it, but I noticed that the retail sectors appear to have converged into the centre of the city (the periphery seemed more quiet with empty shops). And office workers seemed in short supply on the streets this morning. And I have no idea why that would be as they can go into work.

    Stayed at the old and regal hotel which is my usual haunt. You may recall the Overland Hotel of Mr King’s ‘The Shining’ book? The Editor recently re-read the book and learned about how such buildings are heated, whilst also enjoying the story. Anyway, the room was hot. I’m assuming that people prefer overly heated rooms as a sign of luxury? I’m not into that, but not to disparage my peers… So they couldn’t necessarily cool my room without cooling the entire wing, so they brought up an evaporative cooler (AKA in less polite circles: a portable swamp cooler). And that machine worked really well and used no more electricity than an old school light bulb.

    I had no idea that such machines were even available (not that I’d looked into it). We can feasibly run an air conditioner with the solar power system, but really just don’t want to for all sorts of reasons – like getting acclimated to the prevailing conditions. But a swamp cooler will work a treat, so we picked up one today on the way home and have put it to the test. It’s amazing, and the machine comes with two packs which you can chuck in the freezer (and use one at a time). Such an elegant technology and it will work well with the ceiling fans on really hot nights, which are usually low in humidity. Basically it takes coolth from the freezer (or water) and applies it to the room, just taking the edge off a bit.

    Also stopped off at the fresh food market and topped up the bulk grain supplies.

    Have to admit that I really liked the line in 2040: What were you guys thinking? Yeah, sometimes we weren’t thinking, came the reply.

    I tend to agree with you about the Pollyanna-ish perspective. Mate, we can only have what we have today because of the energy derived from fossil fuels. I doubt that we’ll go back to a hunter gatherer existence, but holding onto what has been done today is only possible if fossil fuel usage does not decline, and it is bound to do so sooner or later. That is what finite means. Just for a horror show, you should look into how complicated producing near pure silicone is and nobody even thinks about that stuff. I tend to believe that what we’ll go back to something different, maybe a shandy between what is and what was, but by necessity we’ll travel down the slope that the fossil fuel availability provides. A shandy is a beer-lemonade mixed drink and is a colloquialism for mixing two disparate things together to produce a different whole.

    There are lots of pitfalls and toothy things that want to seriously kill you dead down under, some of which aren’t very large. It makes for an exciting experience. At least when a bear kills you in your part of the world, just before it happens, you know what the end point will be.

    Speaking of series from Korea, I’ve been hearing about ‘Squid Games’ of late, but it does not sound like my kind of show, although it appears to have tapped into a cultural nerve. On the other hand, you might have missed: Warwick Thornton’s new TV series Firebite is about Indigenous vampire hunters in outback Australia. Looks like fun.

    That’s possible, but then in some ways student debt is different to medical debt. One is deliberately taken on, and the other is a by product of chance (or elective?) incidents. There’s an old urban legend about some specific groups of students (no need to name them) originally getting out of the student debt. That same group are also forced to keep up to date with their annual income returns for similar reasons. There’s an old saying about bad apples ruining things, and it might be appropriate in this circumstance? Not sure. But there are vested interests that want to see the flows of mad cash, and they’ll lose out if the laws were changed.

    That’s possible about the robo calls. They do seem on the decline down here too, but it is also possible that they just weren’t that effective. I realise that it is rude, but I now hang up on unsolicited phone calls trying to sell me something or other. Anyway, who wants to speak to a robot?

    For your interest, I reckon dining out now costs about 25% more than it did not all that long ago. And I’m hearing of staff shortages and restaurants not opening some days because they can’t staff either the kitchen or front of house.

    Well done you with the COLA score. Things could always be worse.

    Oh, that’s really good that the Club does a Christmas feed. I’d imagine that a few members have somewhat strained relationships with their families and friends and could use the social warmth on such a hyped up day.



  26. Yo, Chris – No worries. You’ll get around to, what you can get around to, when you get around to it. 🙂

    Sounds like a very nice Christmas trip, to the big smoke. You’ve posted a few pics of the hotel, from time to time. It’s really grand. A little bit of grand, from time to time, is nice. So, see any spooky twins lurking in the corridors? Dead ladies in the bathtub? I think “The Shinning” is one of King’s more terrifying books. He later did a couple of more books, with the psychic kid, all grown up. They made a mini-series, out of one of them. It was really good.

    The “American Horror Story” series, did one based around a hotel in Los Angeles. The hotel was a Deco extravaganza. Eye candy, to me.

    Might want to keep an eye on the humidity, when you use that swamp cooler. Might mold your books. I was aware of swamp coolers, but that one sounds like a really ingenious device.

    I’m thinking of stock piling, more bulk grains. Maybe another 25 pound bag of oatmeal. And, a bag of all purpose flour. One place in town sells a lot of Bob’s Red Mill, at a pretty good price. As with so many things, it’s on hold til the holiday madness is over.

    I’ve looked into producing white vinegar and sugar, from sugar beets. To get the quality you buy, the industrial process is pretty much a horror show. Dr. Frankenstein’s lab … writ large. 🙂

    You’re talking to an old bartender, here. Of course I know what a shandy is. A shandy is one of those drinks, melodious persons try to spring on a new bartender. Old drunks who think they’re being cute.

    I have studiously ignored anything to do with “Squid Games.” Just from the headlines I’ve seen, it seems to be a cross between “Lord of the Flies” and “Survivor.” Not my cup of tea.

    Ohhhh! “Firebite” sounds really good. I see it’s been picked up by an American distributor … that puts their offering on DVDs.

    Couldn’t bring myself to watch the Korean zombie series, last night. So, I think it’s going back to the library. But I did watch a documentary called, “The Gig is Up.” It’s about the gig economy. Not just ride share, but also food delivery and a lot of people who work gigs on-line. Some of the talking heads observed that these companies, make no money. Or, claim not to. Workers are treated bad. Then there’s this ….

    Bike sharing in the Land of Stuff is cut-throat. Companies go out of business, and their bikes end up, here.

    So, then I hit a couple of books I have, on the go. George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London.” “It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”

    I’m also reading “The Plant Hunter: A Scientists’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines.” (Cassandra Leah Quave, 2021). Ms. Quave has some serious problems. Due to some birth defects (probably caused by her father’s exposure to Agent Orange, in Viet Nam), she had to have her legs amputated, when a small child, below the knee. But that hasn’t stopped her from traipsing off into the Amazon jungle or the wilds of Florida.

    When I get re-certified, this year, 1/3 of that COLA increase will go to rent. So, I’d better live it up, for the next couple of months. 🙂 . Still cheap rent, at twice the price. I got a notice today that I don’t qualify for one of the food boxes, I get. No reason why. I’ll see if our Community Outreach person, can get it sorted.

    Yeah, the holidays can be pretty rough, for the denizens of the Club. Especially early on. Boozy family parties, with everyone urging you to, “Have just one. Can’t hurt.” We suggest that if such functions can’t be avoided, to plan your escape route and make sure you have a ride out of wherever. If things get too fraught.

    Think I’ll make some biscuits. The chocolate expresso ones. Lew

  27. Hi Chris,

    Good to see Ollie get the place of prominence this week. Nice work on the shed. Doug is pulling apart the metal pig hut and rebuilding the whole thing using some of the existing metal and some “new” metal given to him by a neighbor.

    We had an even worse wind storm Tuesday night with gusts of 60 mph. The house was making some disturbing sounds and we fully expected to wake up to no power and damage or trees down but to our surprise this was not so. In fact we saw very little damage overall though a fair amount of people lost power. Someone I know opined that we’ve had several pretty major wind storms so maybe much that was due to fall has already done so. We went to our neighbor’s acoss the street for dinner last night and another couple just down the road who we hadn’t met was also there. After the wind storm the night before the two tornadoes that had hit the area in 2009 and 2012 were much discussed. I may have mentioned that a sizeable garage type building where Doug stores much of his equipment was destroyed by both tornados and rebuilt.

    Busier than usual but mostly with fun holiday related gatherings.


  28. Chris,

    Yup, the weather changes here fast. It does that in other places too. We did get the 5cm of snow. It was wet snow, as it was about -1C most of the time it was falling. Then it cleared up and plummeted to -14C overnight! The cold sucked the moisture out of the snow. The snow settled a bit after losing the moisture, so there was about 4cm on the ground this morning. Didn’t really need Big Bertha, but this was prime time to get her started. So, I did the bulk of the work with Big Bertha, who by the way, is loud enough and stinky enough that Avalanche ran far away from her.

    I had to gaggle “lane way restaurants”. Found a bunch of pictures. We have a few of those here, so I’ll have to introduce that term. Glad you were able to dine out.

    Hope the swamp cooler works. The good ones are wonderful. Then there are the cheap ones of poor design. A lot of landlords had the cheapos in the apartments they rented to the university students in Las Cruces, New Mexico. They succeeded not in cooling the apartment but were extremely good at raising the humidity. An apartment at 30C with increasing humidity is not a good thing. Hopefully you got the good variety.

    I watched the Empire Strikes Back in the theater once and have never seen it again. Why? Because of the teddy bear thing mostly. I mean, REAL little furry creatures from Alpha Centauri just aren’t going to be able to compete against a Vogon Constructor Fleet. I remember thinking that even while watching the film.

    The conventional wisdom bothered me. I’ve never fed a dog that way. Heck, I had to fence off the raspberries to keep Thordog and Cheyenne from eating them all! I saw a dog alternating between raspberries and gooseberries once, too. Remembering those things and the coyote, plus your information, that’s giving me ideas. So, research, think, plan…Appreciate your input!

    If Gatorade etal continue to be in short supply, I’ve found that keeping salty broths on hand are a close second, then supplementing with bananas or potatoes for the potassium, is a close second to Gatorade. And I know what the ingredients are that way, too.

    Interesting times, as you keep saying. Accept, adapt, move on is the only thing I know how to do.


  29. Hi Margaret,

    Ollie is a true gentle giant of a dog, and he appreciates your kind words and thoughts. That dog has changed my perspective on big dogs, he just has such a pleasant nature, despite the powerful toothy grin.

    Respect to Doug. Yup, the best materials are the ones you don’t have to purchase (if they’re any good and can be reused). I’d imagine that with your winters, the pig hut would occasionally have to deal with some serious snow loads? I have it relatively easy on that front, and snow is usually no more than two inches – at worst.

    Out of curiosity, what inspired Doug to rebuild a new pig hut? Did you inherit the existing arrangements with the house?

    And I hope Gwen and Marty are going to grace you with their presence at Christmas? 🙂

    Glad to hear that the house survived the wind storm intact. Even our news was reporting on the weather in your part of the world: The jet stream took a sharp turn, and the US got unprecedented tornado weather in December – here’s what happened. The satellite image looked pretty amazing.

    A batch of yoghurt just finished. Speaking of dairy products, my mates of the big shed fame have ditched the cows and are now concentrating on goats. They have Anglo-Nubian goats. Apparently I have to do a blind taste test on the dairy products soon. Thought you’d be interested given your background with goats.

    Ook about the destroyed garage type building. I don’t really go deeply into details of the construction techniques, but I cement the posts into the ground one third, and use seriously heavy duty screws and tensioned metal strapping to hold the whole new shed frame thing together (let alone what I had to do with the house). The experience of the recent earthquake and the minor tornado direct hit has proven that the extra steps are worth the hassle.

    Not everyone feels this way though.



  30. Hi DJ,

    That’s true about the weather changing fast. This morning was 33’C and quite windy. We’d installed the fire shutters over all of the windows in order to keep the internal temperature of the house fairly cool. Despite the warmer weather (yay, the second growing day of the season), we still got outside and worked this morning and I’d had a machine down for a very minor service and that had to be collected. I removed the final timber post from the deconstruction of the old shed, and then we made the first concrete step of a new staircase too. After a late lunch, Plum and I fell asleep on the couch under the ceiling fan. When I woke up, it was cooler outside the house than inside. A south westerly change had moved over the area reducing air temperatures. The sun was still very hot. I can’t get my head around tomorrow’s forecast because it sounds stormy – whatever that means, but it might not be.

    Mate, I don’t know much, but I do know that -14’C will kill off that coffee shrub you were intending to plant. 🙂 Softies. Hey, the mechanic was suggesting that even with fuel stabilisers it might not be a bad idea to run machines every two months. What he said was that the diaphragms in the carburettors dried up and became stiff and eventually have to be replaced. Just running the machines every two months is a form of preventative maintenance, and possibly put him out of a job (his words). Of course Big Bertha may be fuel injected, but I have no idea about such things. So, just running her regularly is a good thing from a longevity point of view. And don’t give her any attitude! 🙂

    It’s kind of like the taxi vehicle that has 600,000km on the odometer and still continues to run – despite the best efforts of all and sundry to the contrary.

    Yeah, I was glad to be able to support the lane way restaurant and hotel. Last time we went there in June, things in the big smoke were looking pretty bleak, and my tip reflected that. They’re doing it tough what with everything that is going on, and I noticed that they’d retained many of their staff – not something you see everywhere, but is usually the sign of a well run business. And I nabbed a Christmas pudding and am looking forward to sampling it in a week or so.

    The Editor is annoyed that I’m describing the evaporative cooler as a swamp cooler. I’ve promised to not call the machine a swamp cooler any more. 😉 Oops, just did exactly that. You see how hard it is for me sometimes? Hehe! Hot days here are usually low humidity so I’m guessing the machine will work well.

    I would have thought that Las Cruces, New Mexico, also had low humidity during hot spells? Incidentally the mountain range rising up behind the city looks forbidding but at the same time sings to my soul. Probably why I am now in this little mountain range. Did you ever go hiking or climbing up in them thar mountains?

    Incidentally, 30’C is not bad for an indoor temperature reading. On Black Saturday of 2009, I experienced temperatures inside the project house we rented which exceeded 40’C. Without doubt, that was the worst house I’d ever lived in. And if people expect that as the norm, things are not good for society. The black uninsulated ceramic roof tiles certainly would not have assisted things that day. We broke our resolve and switched on the air conditioner in the afternoon of that day whilst huge chunks of the state burned with a great deal of mortality. My old boss dog who I was rather fond of, began having seizures due to the heat. A truly revolting day.

    Hehe! We are of one mind in relation to the cute teddy bears taking on the evil empire and winning. It just doesn’t happen.

    Yeah, I look forward to hearing what you come up with in relation to the dog food and whatever treats you imagine and then convert into dog food reality. It’s not hard, you just have to avoid the few food items that make dogs ill (and there aren’t many of those and they’re well documented, but still research will provide guidance). Avalanche will benefit and you can make a mix of purchased food and home cooked stuff and that will sort out the protein side of the story. People have a bee in their bonnets about diet stuff, so I don’t really go on about it much. I rarely if ever have to take the dogs to the vet, although this approach does not protect them from accidents, or chance encounters with snakes and other unpleasant and toothy critters.

    Yes. Wise. Very wise indeed. Before the second vaxx thingee, the Editor had cooked up a batch of lentil and salty ham hock soup for us to consume. It was necessary to rehydrate and keep hydrated after those things and the additional salt didn’t hurt at all. But bananas and potatoes are on the money too. 🙂 Fortunately, potassium is one of the minerals that somehow doesn’t get leached out of soils by the rain and can sometimes become too concentrated. Dunno why.

    🙂 What else can one do in such circumstances as these?



  31. Hi Lewis,

    It was quite warm here today at 91’F in the shade, and because I have something in common with mad dogs 🙂 , up until lunchtime we worked outside. I removed the last timber post from the now completely deconstructed shed, and also poured a cement step for a new concrete staircase leading up into the garden terraces. The new staircase is in a very appropriate location which makes more sense when accessing them from near to the house. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought about it originally? We were probably a bit busy…

    Anyway, after lunch my brain shut down for about forty five minutes and Plum and I fell asleep on the couch under a ceiling fan. I guess that it was hotter than I realised – and Plum had been running around like crazy in the sun.

    Oh anyway, when I woke up because the alarm on the phone had gone off, and the editor who’d also been working out in the sun was still asleep on the other couch. I had a quiet chance to use the phone to read up the article on food we mentioned the other day. Honestly, what was with the conclusion? I’m pretty certain the Roman’s cooked at such a community scale, and it did not preclude them from collapsing. I enjoyed the journey, but was somewhat disappointed with the ending. The central point was missed – entirely.

    Harvested the first sun ripened raspberries today. Yum!

    I never looked for the spirits of the dead twins in the hallway, but then I noticed that you are suggesting for me to do this rather than you yourself, so yeah, I dunno. It would not surprise me at all to learn that the building was haunted. I neglected to check whether the concierge who brought up the swamp cooler (oops!) was alive. You never know, he was working the night shift, and strange things can happen. The Shining is a terrifying book. 🙂 Yeah, we’d discussed the sequel a few months ago. I’d assume that such gifts do not atrophy with age? I must say that Jack Nicholson really channelled crazy as dude well. The Editor noted in her recent re-read that there were several red flag warnings for the character, even before events escalated.

    Deco is rather lovely, and often the buildings were very well made. I often see mushrooms growing on the side of tall trees around here, and they do look like art deco light fittings.

    Hot days here are usually low in humidity. I reckon it is the winter weather that pushes the mould thing. For six months of the year, humidity is in excess of 90% continuously. It’s not for everyone living up here.

    Wise to keep some supplies ready to hand. And anyway, few people even know what oatmeal actually is, let alone what to do with it. I’d heard years ago some statistic from the UK that the average person in the medieval period had to be aware of the uses of 120 plants in their local area. Most people these days just see ‘tree’ or ‘plant’ and they’ve got no idea at all. I’ve even had someone tell me that the trees up this way are scary. Who knew?

    I reckon we’ve got the equipment and know how to produce sugar from sugar beets, although it tastes a bit earthy. Proper white vinegar is something that is beyond our skills – at present. I’m interested in that one, but time is short and there are other more immediate projects. We can make apple cider vinegar easy enough, but I’m not a fan of the taste. Still, if that is all that you have being fussy might not be an option.

    We interrupt this reply to enjoy a home made pizza…

    To be continued.

  32. Hello Chris
    I walked out the other day to take Christmas cards to certain neighbours. Timed it for the low Spring tide. Son had warned me about the state of the beach. The beach comes and goes according to wind and rain direction. Currently it has gone almost completely down to the clay. Literally the beach was coloured blue due to the blue slipper clay. Very difficult to walk on as ones boots became ever more heavily coated. I had to look for bits of flat rock or some gravel for easier walking as one also sinks into the stuff.
    I wanted to look at all the current building works and illegal frontage preservation.
    The area is going to hell in a handcart.
    Once upon it was inhabited by loners, eccentrics and country people plus a few minor criminals. Now money has arrived with a vengeance. People looking to build their seaside residences and then stop them sliding into the sea. It all looks ghastly. As Son says ‘They arrive thinking, how lovely, how green’ and then they ruin it. This was just woods and beach once. Now there is concrete, huge boulders that have been brought it, red notices warning people to be careful. All quite horrible.
    I did wonder whether this is starting to happen where you live? The amount of money washing around is absolutely incredible. I do wonder whether they will get into trouble as it is not permitted to defend the foreshore but I guess that money will talk.


  33. Hi Lewis (the double secret cont. edition),

    Fair enough, most people have never heard of a shandy before. Actually, I always thought of it as a ladies drink?

    Squid games is not my cup of tea either. But Firebite sounds like it will be fun, and not too serious, except when it has to be serious.

    There are many things about the gig economy which I don’t rightly understand, and the profit claim is one of those things. I’ve heard of multi-national companies using profit shifting arrangements to get profits to low tax havens but that isn’t something that any small businesses (or even mid sized businesses) can do. I tend to believe that there is a meme going around which suggests that this practice is more common with small and mid sized businesses than it actually is. Of course I see all manner of weird claims made in the media. Stopping that activity is possible, it just takes the will to enforce, and sometimes the facts on the ground speaks volumes regarding the culture.

    There are bike sharing services in the big smoke, and the bikes appear to be strewn across the landscape. I doubt the model is a good fit for the culture.

    The author George Orwell (a nom de plume I now know) took his research rather seriously. I knew a guy years ago who told me that he got down to his last fifty five cents and it became something of a turning point in his life. To be candid, I didn’t much like the guy, but was tolerant of him as he was a work buddy of the Editors. I guess sometimes it is important for people to let go, but in what manner that happens is unique to the person making that choice. Did you enjoy the book?

    Top work for the author, and plant hunters are always knowledgeable folks living their lives in exotic locales. Yeah, there have been a few such incidents in my living memory, and as a society we are occasionally very careless with other peoples health.

    Really? Mate, you win some, and you lose some, but for now with the COLA increase, you’re winning. 🙂 Holy carp about the food box. Both of them sound usually pretty good. Makes you wonder if other folks aren’t going hungry?

    That’s what I was thinking too about the holidays, family and the casual cruelty. You wouldn’t get that at the club. Isn’t it funny how with some family situations the people involved resist any change, and in fact they’ll actively pervert any change so that things return to where they once were. Yeah, family…

    That’s was a bit of a downer! Hey, I finally got to watch Dexter without the dogs having some sort of medical incident. Those Kelpie’s have something deep against Dexter because one of them took a very rare protest dump in the house. I’m very annoyed at them, and I’m not sure which one it was. They have nothing to complain about, but were acting a bit weird tonight. Almost a touch of jealousy between the two of them.



  34. Hi Inge,

    I’m really sorry to hear that. Did you get the cards to the certain neighbours?

    And the sea reclaims its own, despite rock walls and other concrete fortifications.

    Many years ago when we purchased the property and began constructing a house, there was a bit of polite interest in our goings on, but I did try not to annoy the locals and have always sought to make the property attractive to the casual passer-by. Things change though and people come and go. I may have mentioned that over in the more fashionable western end of the mountain range, there are old hill station gardens, and some quiet old money. Way back in the early days, an old timer once remarked to me that there was an anti-development group with links to the old money. To be honest, I thought that he was pulling my leg, but nowadays I’m not so sure that he was joking around. I’m not seeing a lot of change.

    I tend to have this hunch that there is a lot of money sloshing around these days, but real wealth is declining. And this is pushing up prices, so how long can those developments keep going on, and what they leave behind in your part of the world is really going to play out in the next decade. And whether those buildings are constructed and can even get basic services will be put to the test. I don’t believe that our culture is well set up to handle an inflationary spike, or a reduction in material stuff. Dunno. How does that theory fit what you are observing?



  35. Hi, Chris!

    Rural society – better than social media, indeed.

    Yay for old diesel engines like Mr. Dumpy and Tractorzilla.

    I thought we had wacky growing seasons . . . I see that it warmed up as further on Plum’s in the sun with her tongue hanging out.

    With your sheds – screws or nails? Poof – well, not poof – the shed is gone.

    I can smell the lavender. Thanks for the flowers!


  36. Hi Chris,
    The pig hut had some rusted areas and was beginning to fall apart. We transferred it from our old place as it’s not a permanent structure. In fact he rotates the pigs between pens each year so has to move the hut. Ours looks something like this and large enough for up to 4 pigs.

    He also rigged up a heat lamp last year for the first time. Many years we get the pigs early May when there can regularly be very damp, cold periods. The young pigs – about six weeks old come from a pretty warm building and go right to the hut and there feed while similar isn’t the same. Sometimes the males have only recently been castrated. All these can really stress them and often they’ll develop scours which generally resolves itself but more recently there’ll be one who gets quite sick and one (the only one) died. Having raised a lot of goat kids I thought they needed some supplemental heat to start and finally Doug took my advice and rigged up a heat lamp last summer. Could be a coincidence but there was no scours or illness of any kind last year. After he refurbishes the hut he wants to do a more solid installation of the heat lamp.

    Yes, Marty and Gwen will be joining us and are very excited. She had the lumpectomy on Monday and is doing well. I am a bit worried that Gwen’s agency may decide she can’t come now with the latest version of the unmentionable. She’s supposed to be staying with Marty for about 10 day which usually happens over the holidays except last year.

    We mostly raised Nubian goats as that was the breed Carla picked for her 4H project. Little did we know that they are the loudest breed and tend to be flightier than other breeds as well. They sure had personality though.


  37. Yo, Chris – Terrible weather, today. Even though it’s in the 40s, there’s was a bit of wind blowing (gusts to 30mph), so the wind chill was down there. My apartment was freezing. By the time I took H out, the wind had died to nothing, but the rain was a’comin’ down. Usually, in such weather, she does her business, with dispatch. Not today. Wander here and wander there and both of us got thoroughly soaked.

    A swamp cooler by any other name … 🙂 . Tip of the hat to the Bard.

    You and Inge were discussing how old money likes things, exactly as they are. We sure see that here. Elinor and I talk about it, often. She’s got a longer view. And, being a waitress, was of no account. Just part of the furniture. Things were said in front of her … The good old boys network. Oh, they’ll welcome anyone to town with an idea and a pocket full of money. And then pick that pocket, either overtly or covertly.

    I’m looking forward to pictures, this week, of all your hard work and progress. So what kind of a roof are you putting on the new mead hall?

    I watched the trailer for “Firebite.” Not very good. Too chopped up to tell what in the heck is going on. But I read enough articles about it to know it’s probably a winner. I stopped by the library, today, and “Dry” popped up on the new list. I put a hold on it. Probably won’t see it til well after the first of the year. The cataloging gets worse and worse. I wondered why it didn’t show on the search I do for “Film Australia” and “Screen Australia.” Because other than the actors, the catalogue entry has no source listed. Also, I can’t tell if there’s a hold list, on it. Hold list numbers have gone away.

    LOL. Orwell wasn’t doing research. He was just living. Ups an downs. Good luck and bad.

    News in yesterdays post, about one of my food boxes. I’m disqualified. No reason given. I’ll punt it to our Community Outreach person. Let her sort it.

    As far as families go (holidays or otherwise), I’ve often suggested to people if they hear, “Who do you think you are?” or “Do you think your better than us?” to head for the nearest exit. Run, as fast as you can. If you want to better yourself.

    Dogs and Dexter. Dogs are like small children. They want attention. Sometimes, when Elinor and I are trying to have a conversation, H starts barking, just because she wants us to pay attention to her. If she keeps it up, she’s put on the walker and shoved into a corner. She gets the message.

    I made double chocolate expresso cookies, last night. A couple of months ago, I got a box of some kind of mix, in our food boxes. “Kodiak Cakes Double Dark Chocolate Muffin Mix.” “Nourishment for Today’s Frontier.” With a very grumpy snarling bear on the front. Whole grains, protein packed, etc. etc.. I noticed there was a recipe on the back for cookies. I replaced the chocolate chips with chocolate expresso chips. I took a plate down to the Club, this morning. They seemed to go over, pretty well. Lew

  38. Hi Lewis,

    H certainly exercises her own thoughts when it comes to her business. Sometimes the Fluffies do that too in such weather, and it drives me bonkers. Get on with it ya scurvy dogs! But no, they dither and dather and we all get drenched – as happened to your good self.

    The weather here was not all that different from your part of the world. 57’F and the rain bucketed down from time to time. Unfortunately many weeks ago I’d committed to cutting up the Moby rock which is up above the house and was unearthed many months ago. A very special granite cutting blade was ordered via the local equipment hire folks and today was the day to use up the potential of the entire blade on that dastardly Moby rock. Me tired tonight so I hope the blog makes sense, but the Moby rock is now no more. The machine had a hose connection to keep the dust down and the blade cool. So I ended up getting very dirty, and at one point the heavens opened and I had to run for cover. Yeah, not my idea of the ideal day, but beggars can’t be choosers etc… The very special blade was expensive and I’d set that ball in motion many months ago – and here we are today.

    Hehe! Yeah, let’s keep calling the thing a swamp cooler. I don’t get what all the fuss is about anyway. 😉 They’re hardly a new technology because back in the day, people used to store their meat in a similar form of technology (the Coolgardie Safe). My grandfather had one at his illegal campsite way out in the alpine area. Had to laugh because every time the authorities knocked the campsite down, him and his mates used to construct it bigger. You should have heard them talk about that official treatment, WWII was mentioned…

    For some reason the old money folks have a different perspective here from what I can glean. They appear to be funded from sources that derive from off the mountain. Interestingly, way back in the day, those folks were the main source of income for the most of the people and families who lived up here year round. I’m unsure why we’d have differences in the expression of that culture, but certainly I’ve not yet been shaken down for mad cash?

    The roof is to be a corrugated zinc roof, and the colour is a very dark charcoal colour. For some unknown reason, people get upset whenever someone uses shiny reflective surfaces. I can almost hear the possible whinge now: I looked up into the hills and was startled by the reflection of the sun off the shiny roof… And that would be the first whinge.

    That’s not good about the catalogue. And I enjoyed the film. My grandfather grew up around that area, and the Depression years were also dry years. Do you have any idea why they are mucking around with the catalogue system? Have those folks nothing better to do with their time?

    Ook! I had not realised that about old Orwell. I was under the impression that his family had some money?

    Good luck and I hope your community outreach person can sort out the food box issues. It’s not a good sign.

    Exactly, run for the hills! Run for your life! 🙂 Far out, if only it weren’t true. The problem is that if you do rise beyond the family, they will do their level best to prune you back to a size the family is comfortable with. This may not necessarily be what you want.

    I don’t know what was going on last night with Plum and Ruby, by they were pains. Your suggestion is a fine suggestion. The first attempt at Dexter, was a different situation because of the complications from the fixing up surgery. Ruby is rapidly recovering too, although there is still a small amount of inflammation. But she’ll be fine.

    Yummy! The double espresso chocolate muffins sound pretty awesome. No wonder they didn’t hang around. 🙂

    Better get writing.



  39. Hi Inge, Pam and Margaret,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but I dealt to the Moby rock today and vanquished the bonkers hard-as granite. Me now tired, but no rest for the wicked (or formerly wicked in a past life) and there are words yet waiting to be written. Will speak tomorrow.



  40. Hello Chris
    I missed the question about card delivery. Yes they were all delivered. One of the new mansions caused a problem because they had removed their post box from the gate. Some men were working there and they pointed out the new difficult to get to post box. However they very kindly took the card and dealt with it for me. I bet that the postman is cursing.

    I was talking about new money not old money. We did, in the past, have one old money fellow but he was eccentric and few would have realised. It is all new money now and wow have they got it!


  41. Yo, Chris – I forgot to mention that I read more of “The Plant Hunter.” The author’s second field assignment (while still in school) was to southern Italy. It turns out there are many hill villages where the people are of Albanian descent. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, there were waves of migration of people running from the Ottoman Empire. And, they’ve kept their language and culture, mostly.

    So, she was interviewing the old healing women, the aunties. Interesting. Most of their plant healing is attended by a certain spiritual dimension. And the elderberry and walnut trees play a big part in that.

    As her ethnobotanist career continued, she’s honed in on trying to find a plant based cure for antibiotic resistant staph infections. MRSA. It was mentioned that around the world, traditional medicines are 1/3 concerned with skin ailments. Besides collecting plants, she also collected a husband. 🙂

    Ah, Moby Rock. We knew him (her?) well. I forget. What are you going to do with that space?

    Dark roof. That will be a warm mead hall.

    Well, what happens with the library catalog is that, sooner or later, every version is “no longer supported.” So, then they’ve got to migrate to a new version. And every version seems to get worse. There’s a certain amount of tweeking the local staff can do. But there are limits. Apparently. I can think of two or three helpful functions, that have been lost along the way. I wonder what the endgame is? Aps, I suppose. Or maybe a functional catalog in the metaverse? 🙂

    A shallow dive down the rabbit hole. Orwell was born in India. His father was a “minor customs official.” He referred to his family as “upper middle class with no money.”

    I’m glad to hear the doggies are fairly well mended. Now to get back to those rabbits and rats! I don’t know if my Idaho friends retrieved their new pup (or, there daughter’s pup) from Boise, as planned. Internet problems. Again.

    I’m heading down to the Club. The complex the Club was in was just crazy, yesterday. Parking lot was jammed, and there were people running in and out as if they were crazy. Tis the season. I’m picking up my good eggs, from the veg store. Also taking a look at what I can perhaps buy from them, to avoid going to my usual grocery. That I’ve entirely lost patience with.

    Back to Melbourne. I thought. I picked up season two of “My Life is Murder”. Turns out our police consultant, has moved to Auckland! She’s from there. Dual citizenship. The over arching season story is some mystery about her family background. You get a bit, each episode. But each episode is solving the most recent crime. Usually, a murder. A lot of crime shows seem to follow that formula. Lew

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