Back to the past baby

The Editor, Sandra, had warned me about the perils of relying on the country train services. It just wasn’t all that great a service way back in the day. The infrequent services were inexplicably cancelled or late with little warning.

A formative memory for her was heading into the city in order to sit a Botany exam at University. Sandra’s mother had dropped her at the train station, waited a bit, and then departed. All seemed well. Then the train was cancelled, and she had to draw upon all her resources to get into the city and sit the exam. This was in the days before mobile phones. Taxi’s were mind bendingly expensive. And it was no easy feat to get in touch with anybody. Fortunately, a friend came to the rescue.

But there I was at the country train station car park on Saturday morning. For a summer’s day it sure was cold. 14’C (57’F) and the windscreen of the car was soaked with drizzle. The radio station was playing a haunting and beautiful song from a few years back by Vallis Alps (East). I was reluctant to step out of the car, but the country trains wait for no man, or song.

A woollen jumper was necessary to protect against the cold wet weather. Thus armoured I walked through the empty car park towards the station – which admittedly wasn’t far. The station dates back to the Victorian era where it was an important stop along the train line from Melbourne to the goldfields and distant inland river port of Swan Hill.

The station was not manned that morning. Standing on the platform the information screen displayed the next train as being due in over an hours time. What had happened to the 10.33am train? Bing bong sounded a noise from a speaker. Mumbling is never pleasant when you need to hear what has been said, and the ability to enunciate gets about as much teaching time in the education system these days as does spelling.

I couldn’t be entirely sure, but the message over the speaker was either ‘Big Brother is Watching You’, or ‘the train had been cancelled’. Usually when trains are cancelled, a bus replacement service is provided – but not this time. A young lady who was also waiting for the train informed me that she had heard that there was a shortage of train and bus drivers due to the health subject which dare not be named.

The few passengers left the station platform and headed in all directions. Fortunately with a mobile phone, I could have a whinge to Sandra about the situation. A knowing sigh was as good as ‘I told you so’. We’ve suddenly gone back to the past and it’s now thirty years ago, without all the super angsty alternative grunge rock bands.

It would be nice if the only disruption was a cancelled train, but things are very strange right now. That morning I drove into the city and paid for all day parking. The restaurant where I grabbed some lunch had more staff than customers, but hey, at least the business had staff. And compared to two years ago, the city streets are quiet.

I’m of the opinion that the future belongs to the adaptable, and both Sandra and I learned how to survive the recession we had to have in the early 1990’s. Back then you had to struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, what with the low wages, 10% unemployment, angsty alternative grunge rock music etc. We’re adaptable.

One of the constant themes I hear since commencing writing this blog eight years ago, is that we work hard. I’ve never been entirely sure what the comment means. Working hard compared to whom? Anyway, whatever the case, I’d prefer to have infrastructure and systems on the farm which work and have been tested by time. And if there are systems or infrastructure on the farm which have proven to be good, but not good enough, we’re adaptable. We have no problems modifying or replacing them. It is harder to live with systems that fail or could be better.

Right now however, it is not just the train system and restaurants which are looking a bit strange of late. There are shortages of building materials, and when you can get them, they cost heaps more than only just recently. Who knows where this strangeness will lead us all? Probably nowhere good. But with that uncertainty in mind, we’ve decided to modify a number of items of infrastructure.

Regular readers will know that over the past three months the new shed has been completed. Except that once we put all of the items in the shed, the building proved to be too small. Sandra had warned me about this possibility several weeks earlier, and I can only acknowledge that I was wrong. This week, we extended the new shed by six feet.

The three days of work that took did not include the time I spent gathering materials for the extension. That itself was no easy feat and neither was it cheap.

The first step was to dismantle the front of the shed.

The front of the new shed was carefully dismantled

The front posts for the shed then had to be set into the ground six feet further in front. And because the cladding was steel and had already been cut to size, the new posts had to be set at exactly the same dimensions – to the millimetre – as the original front of the shed. Just for a touch of excitement the weather that day was 35’C (95’F) sunny and humid. Sweat poured out of every pore of my body and Sandra suggested that I was a bit snippy towards the end of that work day. I’d have to suggest that she was also a bit snippy. When we took the photo at about 2.30pm that hot afternoon I had my best mardy bum face on. By way of explanation we’d gotten up at 5.30am that morning in order to beat the heat – yeah right.

Posts set, author tired and wanting to get out of the hot sun

Just to add to the fun, later that day a tropical air mass increased the humidity but brought no relief from the heat.

A tropical air mass increased the humidity but did nothing to cool the already hot air

Even the super upbeat Ollie had had enough.

Dudes, I’m done in by this heat

Another early morning – who knew it was dark before 6am? And another mid afternoon finish on a hot and humid day. But by then, all of the carpentry had been completed and the barn doors had been rehung.

Another hot day and the carpentry was completed

At that stage the mardy bum face had not quite been replaced with my more usual upbeat expression.

The next day of work was again hot and even more humid than previously. A storm was forecast to hit the farm at some point in the afternoon. Fortunately, I’d managed to install the additional drainage and all of the roof and wall cladding before the storm reached here.

You’d never know that the shed had been extended by six feet

The tools were put away and the area was cleaned up. Then it got dark fast. By 3.30pm it was so dark that I had to put the lights on in the house in order to see what I was doing. Lightning flashed nearby like a rave, and the thunder cracked loudly over head. It was one of the loudest thunder storms I’d heard and fortunately none of the tall trees on the farm were hit by lightning. The wind picked up, and the rain smashed down. It was an awesome storm and it continued to rain into the next day. I cooled off after the mornings work by heading out into the torrential rain just to make sure that the many water tank inlet filters didn’t clog up and overflow. Even with a large and sturdy umbrella I was soaked. It wasn’t cold that day, the cold weather came the next day.

In the aftermath of the storm the humidity increased yet again

The new shed is working really well, and we’ve finally been able to neatly store all of our hand tools in one place along the walls inside the shed.

We do neat here – even when it comes to hand tools

All the other work which goes into keeping this juggernaut on track continued quietly in the background. Batches of strawberry and raspberry jam were made. Yum!

Both strawberry jam and raspberry jam was made this week. Yum!

The combination of heat and rain is causing the plants to finally grow. This is great because the start of the growing season was very cold and wet and plant growth was so slow. But that seems to be changing now.

Cucumber plants have put on a lot of size this week

Due to the cold early start to the growing season, there wasn’t a lot of fruit on the trees. But the very late plants such as kiwi fruit vines are making up for that lack and have produced hundreds of fruit. They should be ready to harvest in a few months time.

Kiwi fruit vines are prolific

Triffid alert! The tomato plants have doubled in size this week:

The tomatoes have doubled in size this week

And they have produced a lot of green (as yet unripe) fruit.

There are now lots of unripe tomatoes

The tomatoes will still require some decent hot weather in order to ripen, but compared to a couple of weeks ago, the plants are doing amazingly.

The beans were also a bit late to start this year, but they too have made up for lost time and are producing heaps of beans.

There are now heaps of beans to consume

Most days we are harvesting a decent sized tub of large blackberries. Some are used in breakfast, some will be made into jam, and the remainder will produce a very tasty wine.

Blackberries, so yummy!

The combination of the heat and rain has been very good for the vegetables, and even the pumpkins have finally begun to grow.

The pumpkins were planted late this year, and they’re finally growing

The tree frogs are enjoying the plentiful rainfall and feed this growing season. I like the tree frogs as they happily consume spiders.

A happy tree frog

Onto the flowers:

Oregano is in full flower and the bees enjoy the pollen or nectar
The garden beds are growing strongly and provide plenty of feed to the insects and small birds. The Gargoyle watches over all

The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm is 22’C (72’F). So far this year there has been 100.0mm (3.9 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 33.8mm (1.3 inches)

48 thoughts on “Back to the past baby”

  1. Yo, Chris – A certain segment of the population thinks mass transit is the end all and be all. But, like a lot of other technologies, it’s great when it works. 50 years ago, the trains pretty much ran on time. During the 1940s, 42 passenger trains a day, ran through our town. Not much margin for error. Sweeping generalization, but I think us oldies, well, we’d be taking names and wanting heads to roll. The younger folks … there’s a lot of technology, when it goes wonky, they just shrug and walk off. I think they need to demand more. But, I suppose they’re worried about being accused of being a “Karen” or “Chad.”

    PA (Public Address) systems are so lame, that they’re practically a trope in some films, and provide grist for many stand up comedy routines. You think someone would work on that. I mean, they did build a better mouse trap.

    You do work hard. Take it at face value. Sure, other people work as hard as you two, but, perhaps not as consistently. I mean, even I’ve had my moments … 🙂 .

    Well, the big reveal was quit satisfying. At least, unlike some gender reveals, you didn’t set the forest on fire, or kill anyone. Early on, it looked like you were constructing a dooryard (“When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d…”). Then I thought maybe outdoor seating, for the mead hall. Your extension is flawless. Hard to pull off. Extensions can look so “tacked on.” Our Hoquium Timberland Library is a little Arts and Crafts jewel. A few years ago, they doubled the size. It’s almost a perfect extension. They even found the old molds for the terracotta frieze, under the roof overhang, and were able to extend it.

    Sounds like your having a bit of wild weather. Changeable weather. Snow is back in our forecast for early Wednesday morning. Not much. Prof. Mass has a post about radiosonde. AKA weather balloons. And here I thought they were harbingers of alien invasion. Next he’ll be dissing Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

    The raspberry and strawberry jam look yummy! I see the picture of the cucumber looks like it has one of our cabbage moths on it. Only ours don’t have spots. You have a tomato jungle, there. When I lived in S. California, one of my roommates planted two tomatoes. Next thing we knew, we had a tomato jungle. For young men from less tomato friendly climes, it was a wonder.

    I see your scarlet runner beans are blooming. Who cares what they taste like, they’re pretty and really add a splash of color, to the garden. Oregano. Pizza on the hoof.

    I see Ollie has been practicing, and has perfected his swoon. That boy is Broadway bound. Are all gargoyles grumpy? Lew

  2. Hi Lewis,

    There was an article in the newspaper the other day about fusion energy. Apparently the amount of energy returned from the stupendous expense was in the order of measurable mouse farts, otherwise known as MMF units. Yes, the future is looking bright, and we might have to all soon wear shades. 🙂

    Mate, two years ago the trains ran on time here, but they weren’t all that great three decades ago. But you’re right, with that volume of train traffic there wouldn’t have been much room for error. Hey do they still run passenger trains through your station, or is it all freight nowadays?

    I can’t speak about your sweeping generalisation, but I am seeing a lot of young folks with low risk taking a big hit economically and socially for the benefit of the older / vulnerable folks with higher risks and you know, maybe folks like Neil Young should maybe cut them some slack. They’re doing OK those musicians and have done so for a fair while. I really don’t know what to make about it all and time will prove how it all plays out. One thing that troubles me about all of this health stuff which dare not be named is that I’m seeing no compromise anywhere – that sort of stance usually doesn’t end well.

    How hard is it to enunciate words well enough that a message could be understood? But then, we’re both making the assumption that understanding the message was the goal. It may not have been the goal. Anyway, no train and no bus on a cold wet summers morning was enough message for me.

    🙂 Yeah, sure, I dunno though, we just never stopped and have kept at this work pace for, maybe, since I was a kid. It seems natural to me. We take time off work, and when we’re not working, we really are not working and people would struggle to get in contact. Maybe we compartmentalise work more strictly than most people seem to be able to do – and that reduces any mental stresses during down time. I really don’t know, but conversely I tend to wonder how other people live their lives on that front?

    Ooo! Don’t put the kiss of death on me with that forest fire talk. 🙂 I do wonder about the lack of common sense with those folks. Most of the time such strange antics will have little to no consequences, but there are rare times when things will go horribly wrong for them and everyone else in the area. It does go to prove the general thesis that you’re only ever as good as the weakest link.

    The timber shelves at the Hoquiam Timberland Library are beautiful, and the chairs are just asking to be enjoyed – with a good book of course. The building actually reminds me of some of the art deco / depression era public buildings constructed down here. Very solid construction and quite well thought out inside. Some buildings are so poorly laid out that you’d have to wonder whether the architects hoped that not too many humans ever dared step one foot inside.

    Other than the storm, it has been hot and dry here, and today was no exception. However, the storm has meant that it is now very humid here and feels far hotter than it actually is.

    What do you mean weather balloons aren’t a harbinger of alien invasion? It’s all a cover for the wombat people. I can’t say much more as this a public forum. Who knew the advice was to chuck out the radiosonde devices? And the frat story was pretty funny timing wise. Santa is dull, however there was that film from a few years ago with Billy Bob Thornton: Bad Santa. Very cool.

    The two jams worked really well. We went right back to basics with the recipes and used the ‘Cookery the Australian way’ classic. That stuff works, and it is possible that in the past we cooked those two jams for a bit too long. The cook time in the old school recipe was fast (with no pectin) and it just worked. Lot’s of happies here at that result. We’re trying to avoid using pectin (jam setter) as I feel that it alters the taste and consistency.

    Tomatoes seem to love the heat if the past few weeks have been any guide. I’ve stopped the irrigation system so that the soil stays warmer in the hope that the fruit ripens quicker.

    The exact variety of bean is this intriguingly named monster: Bean lazy housewife. It works!

    Ollie sure is not a hot weather dog, despite the breed originating in Queensland. The two Kelpie girls are not much better when it comes to hot days. Don’t you reckon the Gargoyle looks a bit like Ollie? The resemblance is uncanny.

    Don’t worry, be happy! Unforgettable. A massive anthem. How Bob Marley was attributed that song years after his death is a mystery. I’ll bet some cheeky wag started that ball rolling, and the ball became too big to stop. I wasn’t a fan of the song either. Sometimes worry can be a useful tool, especially if something needs to be done. It can get people off the couch! And the happy all the time thing just doesn’t sit well with me – contented, yeah cool. But happy is an emotion best reserved for happy times and events. It probably struck a chord with the brightsided folks…

    Hehe! I hear you about the 2016 vote. 🙂 Funny, mate it’s gonna end badly… One must accept reality here. No disrespect, but who gets a peace prize when they’re conducting wars? It’s like that old Star Trek song from The Firm: We come in peace, shoot to kill! The utoob clip is a hoot as it is all lovely clay animation.

    Mid 50’s’F is pretty cold to me too (that was the temperature on Saturday with the train incident). Brr! And that would be a four blanket night. Do you have any choice over the temperature your building operates at? It might be a cost savings drive. The nuns would probably personally do it harder – thank gawd they’re not in charge, or are they now?

    No, I can’t say I’m defending King Lot, but the author is fleshing out the character, and well he’s just a greedy regent wanting more and more and more. I had wondered at the guys motivation as he seemed like a bit of a madman from Uther’s and Merlyn’s perspective. Not saying I would have made more of a point after the first incursion, but I probably would have. I’m unsure why the Camulod and Pendragon folks didn’t seize the initiative the first time around? Ouch. Lebensraum is also indicative of ecological and resource pressures for a community that believes it can expand forever (there are unfortunately plenty of those around nowadays – yikes!)

    Your assessment of farmers rings true to my ears. I’m genuinely glad that this place does not have to make economic sense. That would be a problem.

    Not good about the cook books allegedly falling overboard. Freight by sea is no guarantee that the goods will arrive. Used to work in the transport industry a very long time ago. Some customers used to forgo the option of insurance, and most of the time that works out well for them, but sometimes it doesn’t.

    I’m amazed at how cheap ex-library books are. It must be a nightmare of a job to offload old books from a library?



  3. Hello Chris
    Why has the Editor decided to shed her anonymity? At least I hope that it is her decision.
    Our train and ferry services are now just as bad.
    Filming for a Bollywood film has been taking place nearby. Son was hoping to see a beautiful Indian woman. No such luck. He said ‘They do have one don’t they?’ I said ‘I believe so’.
    They were packing up when we went out today. Indians everywhere and not a woman to be seen. A vast collection of vehicles lining the road. Someone was repairing a fence which they had probably been given permission to break. This made me think that the site was probably used to film a man arriving or escaping via the creek. Filming is going to continue on 2 other sites on the Island.


  4. Hi Chris,

    The trains and buses aren’t running as reliably here either. The health subject I can’t name led to many who used to ride them to decide that a car was safer. Some of the drivers died from the illness. Ridership dropped, so fares dropped. And so the frequency and service area of the buses and the frequency of the trains has been reduced. The buses no longer enter our immediate area after 8pm. Irony … after my 65th birthday next week, I can receive a senior pass for half off the fare. Thanks for not much.

    And in the spirit of a continuing rant, because Medicare kicks in at the beginning of the month one turns 65 if one completes the application process on time, as of tomorrow (Feb. 1) I have medical insurance, for the first time in 21 years. Just as the complete brokenness of the US medical industry is visible for all to see, I get to pay to enter it. Did I say irony? If you suspect that I am feeling some bitterness, you would be right. One compensation is that I am starting on Social Security as of the same date, though I will not receive the first payment till March because it pays the month after. So all told, even after I buy a Medigap policy to cover the 20% that Medicare doesn’t pay, which I can do after I turn 65, I’ll still receive more money than I have to pay out, for as long as either of them last. I wish I felt some confidence that they will outlast me.

    You referenced one of my favorite songs in your reply to Lew! Yes, back in 1984 when that song came out and I got my PhD, the future was bright and I loved that song … and here we are. Irony again.

    Meanwhile, we are supposed to get a major winter storm on the 2nd and 3rd. Anything from 6 to 12 inches of mostly snow with some sleet and ice mixed in. Fun times! Our snow shovels stand ready and waiting, and a wheelbarrow load of wood for the wood stove sits on the back porch, staying dry. If the electricity stays on I will participate in an online dulcimer festival on the 4th and 5th. Fingers crossed!


  5. Yo, Chris – I see your very sly reference to Timbuk 3 and raise you Thomas Dolby …

    As we’re on the main line (the only line) between Portland and Seattle, there are 3 round trip passenger trains, a day. I can see them pass from my window. I still think equipment is half the problem with public address systems. The speaker part is probably stuffed full of bugs. And the acoustics of transit buildings, isn’t the greatest.

    There’s a lot of banging on about “work/life balance.” How other people live their lives? Well, there’s 8 million stories, in the Naked City. 🙂

    I worked at the Hoquium library, a few times. Besides having a great building, the people who worked there were lovely. Ah, yes. The Morris Chair. Invented by Ephram Colmon in the 1860s. Sketched by Worrington Taylor. Adapted by Phillip Webb. Produced by William Morris & Co.. The library also had a lovely river stone working fireplace. There’s a story that during the Great Depression, the library couldn’t afford the handyman / janitor, anymore. But they worked out a deal. He got a cot in the furnace room, to keep warm and a roof over his head. They kept him fed. He kept providing his services.

    Wombat People? And I thought all we had to worry about was the Lizard People. Maybe they can be played off, against each other? I knew you’d like the part about chucking out the used radiosonde. 🙂

    Yup. I know about pectin. I prefer not to use it. If making jelly or jam for myself, I really don’t mind if it’s a bit runny. But I’ve never had that problem.

    I think happy all the time is just as hard to maintain as angry all the time. Or any emotion, for that matter. We seem to be designed to have our ups and down.

    Speaking of clay animation, I watched a hoot of a movie, last night.

    1960, In Cinemascope!!! I loved how the trailer used the phrase, “primordial slime.” It’s not a Ray Harryhousen picture, but the guys who did the stop motion had all worked with him, or were trained by him. All the actors in this film were never heard of again. Except in the world of real estate sales and used cars. 🙂

    Well, of course every apartment has it’s own heating and cooling systems. But at the ends of our hallways, are heating / cooling units. Whose controls are accessible to every Tom, Dick and Mary. And windows that can be thrown open, or closed. As everyone has their own ideas of thermodynamics, well, it’s a mess. The nuns are long gone. I think we would have been better off with them.

    The way King Lot treated his own people … And there was that Cambrian clan king, Mordoc? Seems to be a bit of a theme. Treat your people badly, and things will end badly, for you. I’m nearing the end of the book.

    Well, that’s where it all began. Insuring ships. Lloyd’s of London, 1686. A bunch of guys sitting around a coffee shop with too much time on their hands.

    We may get snow, early Wednesday morning. Small amount, little accumulation. I’ll hold them to that. Lew

  6. Lots to comment on.
    Never heard of the phrase “mardy bum”, but it does bring to mind some folks I know that seems to be of that inclination rather more often than not. Another Aussie term that has a nice ring to it. Oh, I might get mad at times and throw something on occasion, but it fades quickly. I’m usually mad at myself.

    Planes, trains and automobiles- yeah, I see it coming, and there looks to be nothing to be done about it. USAnians seem to think personal transport is the only option, so the passenger train system here is abysmal. I hear that in most of Europe, it is scandalous if a train is a minute or two late. My wife and I take the Amtrak whenever we venture far, but we are lucky retired boomers that can afford it and aren’t hamstrung if the darned thing is six hours late, which happens often.
    Unfortunately, instead of backtracking to a rational and energy efficient rail system, we are in the early stages of going all electric cars, even thought the grid, lithium, and energy sources are all inadequate to make this happen. A gigantic investment with a very short future. At this pace, the needed rail investment will never happen, we will have shot our wad on cars that end up at the curb, rusting, or whatever plastic does in the sun.

    Amazing how our tomato plants just sit there for weeks, then BAM! they shoot up and allay our fears once again.

    The shifting baseline! Yes, another factor in the decline. Younger folks see incompetence or low standards and shrug, accept, and live with it. They have no idea how well things went in the past, and how things don’t have to be as shoddy as they now often are. But; I say it’s up to us older curmudgeons to set example and raise holy hell when customer service is lacking, and expectations are not met. We see the change for the worse that they may not, so we need to do our bit and tell it like it is. Feedback! loud and quick feedback I say.

    Public address systems- ACK! you’ve hit another of my hot buttons. Folks, it ain’t that hard! Actually, I saw a comedy skit where the announcers were actually naturals. You might like this:

    And one last- I don’t catch every single post of yours, but been following for years. Is this the first time you’ve stated the editor’s name??

  7. Chris,

    News Flash: The Editor Has a Name! I was reasonably certain that you didn’t call her “Editor”, but it IS nice to know that she does, indeed, have a name. Old habits being hard to break, so I will probably continue to refer to her as “Editor”.

    I can hear the conversations now.
    Editor: The new shed isn’t going to be big enough. Redesign it a bit larger.
    Chris: It will be just fine.
    Editor: I can tell, though, it will be too small.
    Chris says nothing but his gargoyle face is threatening to appear.
    Several weeks later as construction has commenced…
    Editor: The shed is going to be too small.
    Chris: We’ve been through this. It will be perfect.
    Gargoyle face still threatening to appear.
    Construction completed.
    Editor: I hate to say I told you so, but…the shed IS TOO SMALL!
    Chris: mumblety grumblety (that’s Chris’s impersonation of the train station PA system) you’re right. Now I have to extend it. In the heat and humidity. mumblety grumbelty.
    Chris then puts on his gargoyle face and has 2 photos posted with his gargoyle face featured.

    Yes, gargoyle face. The look on your face DID resemble the look on the gargoyle’s face from the final photo.

    I can tell how hot it was. That picture of Ollie says it all.
    Sherlock the Wheelbarrow: Hey, Ollie, it’s intolerably hot out.
    Ollie (wilting in the heat): No sh*t, Sherlock! mumblety grumblety.

    Saturday the 29th was our Big Event. It was the traditional memorial service for the Princess’s brother who died just before Christmas 2020. Being the oldest female in that family, it fell on the Princess to plan the event. The 2 weeks leading to the event were insanely intense. The event went well, however, and the Princess is feeling very relieved. I arrived home late Sunday afternoon. Princess and her sister had to stay for another day and should return late Monday evening.

    Meanwhile, Avalanche really couldn’t come with us. My car was so full of food for the ceremonial dinner that there was barely room for me when I drove there on Friday. Avalanche spent Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening with a good friend of mine that I used to work with. She has a 120-pound Doberman named Killian, which is 3 times the weight of Avalanche. Killian and Avalanche have met several times and romped together in the snow in our yard once or twice. They’re good friends. They played hard for entire time I was gone, chasing one another. Avalanche is still tired from that. And their favorite game??? It sounded very familiar to me when my friend told me about it. Avalanche would chomp onto Killian’s ear or jowls and hang there. Eventually, he would shake her off and put her entire head in his mouth. Friend was horrified at first, but I just laughed and laughed and told her some stories of Ollie and the Kelpies.

    The extended shed looks good.


  8. Hi Chris,

    I hypothesize that when people say you work hard what they mean is that you are not lazy (like them).

    I never see pictures of the dogs all together. Are you still keeping them separated outdoors to avoid a domestic revolt?

    You have mentioned your grandfather on these pages. I remember my grandfather (the one I knew) as a highly competent and determined individual. I sometimes suspect that the current mess we are in is partly due to a lack of such individuals, especially in positions of power, individuals who would gladly smack some sense into those that do or do not listen to them (otherwise known as ‘everyone’). Of course, an overdominance of such individuals brings with it its own health problems.

    Have you or the editor considered upgrading the fluffy collective? Surely space for a fourth now with the big shed or does Olie count as two?


  9. Hi Inge,

    I’m not entirely 100% certain why Sandra made the decision which she did, but it was her decision without any prompting on my part. You may have noticed that of late the imminence of change is in the air? A sensitive person can almost feel the weight of it.

    Inge, the public transport service here only previously ran like clockwork – especially the country train system and I just can’t seem to come across people who are evenly remotely concerned at the loss. And trains are one thing, but a ferry service is something else altogether. Hope they are keeping up on maintenance for such things.

    Fingers crossed that your sons wishes are granted. When we travelled in India, we stayed at an old Maharajah’s palace. The building was nowadays used as a hotel, and the whole place including the gardens was delightfully far from it’s glory days. However, there was an elegance to the whole place and it fitted its environs well. During the stay a film crew were filming a Bollywood film (I have no further details) and it looked like a lot of fun. And there were peacocks roaming the gardens – as you do. An interesting country.

    Arriving home again we discovered that the gritty inner urban suburb we lived in lacked colour and was also really quiet. You get used to the noise and affront to your senses of such exotic places.



  10. Hi Claire,

    That has also happened down here too with people opting to use private vehicles instead of public transport. This underutilised service cannot keep operating as it was with fewer passengers. It doesn’t necessarily have to pay its way, but neither should the services become uneconomic. It’s a problem, that might get worse the longer this craziness goes on.

    Happy birthday for next week! 🙂 You don’t look a day past 30.

    Incidentally, I read somewhere that used cars here have seriously gone up in price (due to increasing demand) and there are very long wait times for new cars. Welcome to the fun future!

    I don’t really understand your medical system, but I do know enough to be frightened of coming into contact with it. The thing is though, we have cheaper medical costs, but housing is bonkers. Same, same but different.

    You raise an interesting question. Yes, how long indeed is not something that most people consider. I’m of the opinion that the system is busily setting itself up to be the fall guy for when the economy next takes a dive, with all that that entails for them and the people who rely on that system. You can hear that possible outcome in the politicians double speak down here: We’re acting under advice from experts, they say. Another way of phrasing that is that: we know who to point the fingers at when the poop hits the fan.

    Hehe! Such a good song, very catchy too. Glad you enjoyed the sneaky reference. I chuck in jokes and music references all of the time, and it pleases me greatly whenever they get picked up on. Respect to you for the heights you achieved.

    You know, it kind of feels to me like we are on a roller coaster ride and the peak was back in those days, maybe a decade beforehand even, and we’ve just slowly been coasting down, and will continue to do so. It’s not bad really, and we’ve had a lot of fun, and probably will continue to do so.

    Brr! From my perspective, that is a lot of snow. Stay warm, and I usually keep three wheelbarrows of firewood ready to hand for most of the winter (but then we have no plan B for heating). Can’t wait to hear if you get the snow or not. Good luck with the festival, it’ll be fun and I’m guessing that you may be performing (based on your word ‘participation’)?



  11. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! What a fun film clip, and I recall that song. Thomas Dolby has had quite the career in the music business. I guess you owe me for the Timbuk 3 sneaky reference. Claire picked up on it too. 🙂

    That’s true about the equipment. It’s kind of like expecting to find a high quality listening environment in a car, although I’m sure some folks spend enough on that front to achieve the outcome. The arrangement is probably sub optimal. Sometimes in the city I’m confronted with noise everywhere you turn, and I do wonder how that plays along with our primate nervous system and core threat responses? Surely it can’t be good. The very loud thunderstorm the other day had the dogs scared and they’d visibly jump at each crack of thunder.

    You’re right about there being so many stories, and I appreciate the insight. I have a hunch that the talk about work/life balance is just that – talk.

    Hey, do you reckon that perhaps the environs such as the Hoquium library have a calming effect on the staff there? And yes, that was it exactly: The Morris Chair. The arrangement near to the stone fireplace was delightful. The Great Depression has many such stories, and sometimes it seems so long ago, but in reality it was 90 years, which is hardly that many generations ago. My grandfather grew up on a farm during the drought and Great Depression, and he didn’t really talk about it. It would have been rough living, but I’d imagine he got up to more than his fair share of mischief and hard work.

    The wombat people would destroy the lizard people for sure. Crush them against the roofs of their well kept maze of underground hollows.

    Maybe it is just me, but sending a thousand of those devices into the air every day across the planet seems a touch wasteful. And yeah, you called it. 🙂

    We didn’t know that about the pectin, and had only experimented with the stuff last year. The results were not good, but so many recipes call for the stuff to be added. It’s bonkers many of those online recipes but you don’t know until you try them, we used a basic old school recipe from ‘Cookery the Australian way’, and it just worked. The speed of the cook time surprised us as well as the lack of steps. Hmm. And I don’t mind runny jam either – it is the taste that is most important.

    Exactly, why would anyone want to be angry all of the time – although I’ll bet you’ve encountered some folks like that, I have. Another emotion that gets wheeled out from some folks as I’m guessing a control technique is a permanent dissatisfaction. I imagine they want people to appease them? But yeah, any emotion carried on too long is rather dull and it becomes increasingly ineffective. It is not healthy to be in one emotional state for extended periods of time.

    Lewis, she tripped over! What the heck? I’ll bet the ankle was sprained too. The clay models were fun. A bit like Jurassic Park, but in the early 1960’s. Primordial slime should be avoided at all costs – just like Triffids! Yeah that fate can be in store for reality TV folks and also sportspeople who didn’t make enough mad cash to retire and couldn’t get into a media career.

    It’s possible, the nun’s would have whipped you lot into submission pretty quick smart. They’ll brook no nonsense about oddball theories in relation to airflow. In fact, they might cut off the heating just so you lot can do some penance. You never know… Remember the story I recounted to you about my old guitar teacher and the nun with the ruler. He used to get thwacked whenever he pressed the wrong chords on the keyboard, and so he took up the guitar. Yeah, don’t mess with that lot.

    That occurred to me too about King Lot. Best not to arouse the jealousies of the nobles, or the ire of the peasants. Accidents could happen. Uther has just nabbed Ygraine.

    Did you get any snow?



  12. Hello Chris and any interested others
    I have never ever used pectin when jam making. For those fruits that need help to set, lemon juice is the answer.


  13. Hello again
    I know that postal services seem to be terrible everywhere but this is my worst. I received a Christmas card this afternoon from a friend in Queensland; it was posted 9th December.


  14. Yo, Chris – Steve hit the nail on the head with the comedy sketch. I knew there were one’s out there. Ah, simpler times. No one objected to the sketch on the grounds that it might offend someone with a speech impediment, somewhere. 🙂 Speaking of which, I’m surprised someone hasn’t come down on Mr. King. For some of the things he said in “The Stand.” I’m sure someone will get around to it sooner or later. We seem to be having a spate of book banning, in schools, at the moment.

    Well, you know how I feel about noise. We sure get enough of it, around here. A “generation” is generally thought to be about 20 years. I went grocery shopping last night, and had a very young clerk. Somehow, I got on how Elinor remembered the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The clerk said, “I don’t remember anything major.” I said, “Twin Towers?” Nope. Before her time. Makes one feel old 🙂 .

    The Hoquium library had a very relaxed atmosphere. But then, it wasn’t as busy as some branches I worked in. But, I think the Arts and Crafts atmosphere, helped. Big comfy chairs, a fireplace. And leaded and stained glass lighting fixtures.

    Go, Wombat People!!! We’re all mammals in this, together!

    Canning has gotten pretty paranoid, over the last few years. My friend in Idaho, took a canning class, from our County Extension Office. She had canned a lot, but decided to take it, maybe just to sharpen her skills. She also thought some of the “safeguards” were over the top. She picked up a few tips, but reverted back to her “tried and true.” I’m sure there’s a certain segment of the over concerned population, who think Mr. Katz’s books are the road to food poisoning.

    “Dinosaurus!” had extras on the DVD, that were interesting. The lead man was still alive, and so was the producer. There’s a funny scene where the caveman carries off the blond to his cave (an old mine). After saving her from the T-Rex. She had to do some pretty fancy footwork to keep him friendly, but at arms length.

    We’re about neck and neck, in the “Urther” book. I think I can finish it off, tonight.

    I wonder if we’ll wake up to a little snow, tomorrow morning. It’s still in the forecast. Not much, and won’t last long. Oh, well. Nothing on my dance card, for tomorrow. I can stay in and watch it come down. Lew

  15. Hi Inge,

    The postal service is not what it once was. That’s not the only thing which has changed in recent times. It’s funny from some respects at how we adapt to all of these changed circumstances. You may laugh, but nowadays I’m just quietly grateful when stores are open and they have whatever it was that I was intending to source there. What do you do?

    Yes. The recipe for raspberry jam called for lemon juice, but the strawberry jam did not. I read somewhere a few years ago that the fruit being bred and grown these days is lower in acid than what it was even a few years ago. I have since wondered if many of the online recipes were written with shop bought fruit in mind? Dunno, but the fruit we grow here has taste, whereas that other shop bought stuff may have some taste, but it is not the same at all. I assume that a lot of fruit sold in your shops would have had to travel vast distances?



  16. Hi Steve,

    It’s a fun phrase isn’t it? There’s a very excellent English band who penned a song about the phrase: Mardy Bum – Arctic Monkeys. Their other music is beyond good. Few can keep an even temperament, and there have been times I’ve cracked the sads – need I mention the firewood story?

    Hey, it was only recently that it too was scandalous if a train was a few minutes late down here. And the country trains are clean, new and fast and they run hourly. But, this nothing at all experience was just how things used to be thirty years ago. It’s not good. Your planes are a form of accepted mass transit in your country. People down here are unhappy about the restricted interstate travel – can you imagine that happening in your country? Respect for persisting with the Amtrack too.

    That’s my understanding about the resources side of that story. I’m sure bucket loads of electric vehicles will be made, but like the solar energy system here they’ll be good, but perhaps not good enough. I know enough about electricity systems that I have strong reservations that you can charge too many of those vehicles with the grid arrangement in place now. They just draw so much electricity it creates hot spots in the grid and stresses out the transformers. But hey, if they want to give it a go, by all means…

    Yes! So true about the tomato plants. They’ve had me worried. Right now outside it is 50’F. A crazy summer.

    True about the feedback, but I dunno as a lot of younger folks who are forced to accept such outcomes are also at the front line facing customers. It’s not their fault.

    Thanks for the laughs. Was that Robin Williams?

    Ah, you’re an astute observer – and also correct, for there is change in the very air. Can’t you smell the change in the winds?



  17. Hi DJ,

    You’re spot on, and no worries at all. For some reason which bears no relevance to you or your lady, I don’t describe your lady as ‘the Princess’, which she may well be for all I know having royal bloodlines, so you using ‘the Editor’ is good with me. It’s all fluffy good.

    What, were you there at the time of construction? It’s uncanny, you’ve got a like, seventh sense about that stuff (the sixth is reserved for comprehending dog conversations). 🙂 The truth is rather lame actually, I just didn’t have the materials to add on the extra six feet in the first place, and I was gearing up to rebuild the firewood shed. Obviously plans were big, energy was big, materials were a bit tight, but it was time that got away from us. Plans were then changed. It’s a bit of a relief actually! 😉

    There are some interesting plans afoot, they’re just a bit more realistic than the original plans. It’s a big job getting this infrastructure stuff right.

    Man, 95’F in the shade and doing millimetre accurate carpentry for hours and hours on end is not all that it’s cracked up to be! Rehydration solutions were my friend that day – and then an afternoon crash nap. My head hurt after that first day.

    I told you, you had a sixth sense for animal speak! 🙂 Takes one to know one! Hehe! Ollie was done in that day – far out it was hot. And now it is not hot and I’m wearing a woollen jumper. And we both think of that phrase too when we use that wheelbarrow. I don’t even know where that phrase came from?

    You again have my condolences for the loss of your lady’s brother. Out of curiosity, and feel free not to answer if it is inappropriate, but was the timing a cultural practice? I’d read about such practices and tend to agree with them. My experience with funerals in western culture is that they don’t tend to align terribly well with peoples emotional states and often people who attended (but not as close as direct family) have this sort of thing after funerals where they believe that is the closure point. That’s never made much sense to me, but what do I know?

    🙂 Go Avalanche! Yeah exactly, that’s how dogs play – it’s pretty rough, but as the good book suggests: Mostly harmless. 😉 I watched Ollie and Ruby, and Ollie and Plum play that game this evening. Poorly Ollie – he gets yelled at if he is ever less than a gentleman with them, and the Kelpies take full advantage! Is Avalanche missing Killian?



  18. Hi crow,

    🙂 Happy, but strange days! Far out. Your politicians sure know how to party! Hehe! Our lot seem overly serious and controlling. I know someone who describes our state premier as Chairman Dan. Very amusing. However, I’m not at all sure who is winning here. Probably no one in particular.

    The thing is, people forget that for my paid work a couple of days per week I sit on my rump, and that is recovery time, plus I have to stretch daily. I’m not at all sure how people who work physically keep up the sort of pace required of them as they get older.

    Well there is a good reason for not allowing the dogs out together – they will operate as a pack. And I have neither the time nor inclination to be their pack leader in such a scenario. They’d require more hours than I can give. The current situation with the dogs is a happy middle ground and they spend time inside the house together, and also in their very comfortable dog enclosure attached to the back of the house.

    I tend to agree with you about our political leaders. There are times that I wonder similar things about them. They’re not there to be our mates, they’re there to do a tough job. I read somewhere a while ago that many politicians these days rise up through the ranks from a few paths as they are looking for a career. Such folks are not to be trusted in that role. When I was a younger bloke, this was not the case and often politicians came from all walks of life. For example, we have very few politicians who have served in the armed forces, and that’s just one example. Career politicians are probably fearful people that they’ll lose their jobs.

    I like how you think. Yeah, and maybe you’re right. The fourth fluffy theory. 😉



  19. Hi Lewis,

    The flowers preserved in amber are amazing. Interestingly, those same flowers grow really well here. Ah, amber is fossilised tree sap. That makes sense, and it does have the same hue as tree sap. Some of the eucalyptus species around these parts (usually closer to creeks) produce a tree sap that was apparently consumed by early colonial kids . The tree is the manna gum and is also a favourite food of the koalas. I’ve never tried the sap myself – it’s probably high in sugar.

    There are still about 300 pages for me to get through before Uther is complete. He’s alright, Uther. I went into the book feeling a little less than sympathetic towards the character, but kept an open mind and he’s OK. More Earthy in many ways than Merlyn, and more in the thick of the action. Merlyn tended to hang out with the officers by way of comparison.

    I laughed at the comedy sketch of the transit folks. So true if my recent experience was anything to go by. I’m a bit bored with people getting all offended and stuff. Dialogue and engagement is a superior tool, but perhaps I expect to much? And yeah I did wonder that about Mr King. Oh well, he’s a national treasure, or something like that. Anyway, be careful what you wish for – you may get you hearts desire. I can’t recall now where that threat came from, but it was ominous, and nobody really wants their hearts desire. It may have been Edgar Allen Poe?

    I hear you (hope you enjoyed my dodgy noise pun?) Other people can be my nightmare on a noise front. The other day I was enjoying a coffee and reading Uther and someone on the next table over turned on their phone full volume and began watching the tennis on the little screen. I’m sure it was interesting, but did they need to share the experience? It looked like a grandmother and grandson catch up.

    More or less sounds like the 20 years per generation is a subject which is debated in some circles? Dissertations may have been written and academic careers won.

    Ooo! I missed the lead light glass, but yeah very much of that arts and crafts movement. Incidentally the building looks very well constructed.

    Yes, the mammals shall prevail over the reptile folks – unless they wheel out the super poisonous toothy ones and then were done for mate. Not good.

    There is a sense that everything has to be sterile and dead, and when it comes to food, the people who believe that are doing themselves a disservice. It won’t end well that story.

    Gonna crash. Speak tomorrow!



  20. Yo, Chris – Gargle was very disappointing, this morning. I wondered if anyone had every made sugar out of gum trees. To assist you in your search for sugar. 🙂 . I thought maybe the yield might be better than maple trees. Just a lot on sugar gliders and indigenous people making a kind of candy out of it. Otherwise ….

    I read, but didn’t finish the “Urther”, last night. I seem to be reading slower and slower, as I approach the end. Might be because I know it’s all not going to end, well. I discovered who killed King Lot. And it was as I suspected. Several loose ends tied up, in that scene.

    Gargle fails, again. The “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it,” quote, is attributed to Aesop’s Fables. But not a clue as to which fable. But just about everyone from Oscar Wilde to Mother Teresa lifted it.

    The snow was a no show. Probably a good thing. Today was garbage pick up day. Don’t want a repeat of the last go-around. No more snow in the forecast, and the week-end is supposed to be nice.

    About your noise story. Don’t people give a thought to others? I guess not. I have dozens of similar stories, to yours.

    Yes, I saw some debate over if a generation was 20 or 30 years. Someone always has a better idea. 🙂 . Then there’s “living memory.” Pearl Harbor is still in living memory. Right next door. 🙂 Hmmm. But if I wasn’t there for the event, but remember what Elinor told me, is it still in living memory? Probably not. Must be someone who actually witnessed, or heard about, the even, as it happened.

    Odds and ends. I swung by the Senior Center, yesterday, to pick up some paperwork (more paperwork!) to get my taxes done, on Monday. I had never been there, before, but have driven by it, numerous times. It’s right next to our fairgrounds. So, I found a parking spot, and went marching in. There was a very young man at the front desk, and I commented on it. He said he get’s that, a lot. But then when I told him what I was there for, the plot was lost. An older lady stepped up, and told me that I was in the fair offices. The Senior Center is in a building, next door. Well, we all had a good laugh. And I went to the correct building.

    I dropped my truck insurance off at the post office, that night. They leave the lobby open, in the evenings. There was a sign on the door. “Closed for Lunch 12-1.” That’s a new one. I’d guess they don’t have enough staff, to cover lunches. There were also a lot of posters around, announcing that they were hiring.

    And, lastly, we got an flyer yesterday, that one of our food boxes will be here, a week from Friday. That’s very early in the month, compared to usual. Maybe because it’s a short month?

    Elinor has a new caregiver, this morning. She hasn’t had one, for about two weeks. The last one just … wandered off. Didn’t even contact the agency. Fingers crossed this is a good one, and will stick around for awhile. Lew

  21. Hi Chris,

    The editor has a name!! Will a photo be far behind?

    The inside of your shed reminds me of one of our building at the old place. You and Doug would get along well as he’s got his shop building all neat and orderly. Wish he’d do something about his work area in the office though. The dust is getting the upper hand.

    Ollie has the right idea on a summer day.

    I am worried about the future of the commuter trains in our area. Used to be the schedules would rarely change. Now one better check online for the lastest changes. With the latest uptick of the unmentionable the train’s parking lot has only a few cars. I really prefer taking the train to visit my relatives in the city or nearby suburbs. The expressway is just crazy. As with Claire the fares are only 1/2 of the normal fare once one reaches the age of 65. Trains are still running fairly on time but it’s best to allow extra time if you’re on a schedule just in case.

    Much of the Chicago area south of us is getting socked in again by a major storm. We only got a dusting of snow and we really need the moisture. Just last week areas close to lake Michigan got his with a lake effect induced storm. I know Cecily who is near the lake had 11 inches in that storm and I’m guessing they’ll 18 or more inches total after today. My aunt downtown was hit last week and again today. She’s afraid to go out between fear of falling on ice or getting hit by a falling icicle.


  22. Chris,

    I didn’t need to be there during construction to know how the conversations went. I’ve been on both sides of those. At work, I was the one describing the upcoming problems and later spewing forth multiple “I told you so” statements. At home? Well, the Princess and Sandra share the same role. You and I share the other and need to heed our wives better.

    Rehydration helps. Prehydration helps, too. But in 95F weather? Headaches will result because 95F and working in the sun.

    I gaggled that Sherlock phrase. Apparently, it was uttered near the end of the 1986 movie “Little Shop of Horrors”. I’ve never seen it.

    Yes, the timing of the memorial was due to cultural tradition. Actually, it was a month late, but holding it 1 year after the fact would’ve coincided with Christmas, so we held it for an extra month.

    Interestingly, one of the Princess’s cousins and I were talking about the funeral process during the memorial. Parts of it I can discuss publicly, other parts I cannot. By tradition in this region, the Native Americans bury the deceased 3 days after death. Family and friends gather during those 3 days, help with preparations, cleaning the house, planning the funeral events, etc. There’s normally a family “wake” one night, a public “wake” the next night, and burial services the next day. There are meals throughout the events. There’s another big meal after the graveside ceremonies, followed by a big “give-away” of possessions and other gifts to friends, family, participants (cooks, pallbearers, grave diggers, officiants, etc.) and all attendees. The memorial a year later also includes a meal and another give-away.

    I’ve found this way of doing things to be much healthier than that of “western civilization”. There is support and healthy mourning up front. The memorial provides a release at the end of the year.

    Hahaha! Friend yelled at Killian if he was less than gentlemanly in his treatment of Avalanche. Maybe Ollie and Killian need to compare notes. 😉

    Avalanche did appear to miss Killian for a day or so. However, she was exhausted from how hard and how much they played. She got over missing Killian when the Princess and her sister got home the night after we did. She’s back to her normal routine.


  23. Hi Margaret,

    That is an intriguing question for which I have no answer. I was as surprised as you that the Editor was now happy to be known as Sandra – which is her name after all. There was no prompting on my part either. The change came out of the blue. As I’ve remarked upon before, change is in the air and you can almost smell it. Now as to a photo, I’m not entirely certain that we have traversed such far shores. Baby steps here, after all it took what, eight years to get to a name? One must be careful of over reach – the Roman Empire could have learned a thing or two about how that possibility plays out. It’s like wider photos displaying the contents of the insides of the shed, Sandra has said no, because you know, this is a public forum and all.

    Oh Margaret, you sent me down a rabbit hole of viewing old photos of friends – some of whom are no longer among the land of the living. Fun stuff, and fun times.

    Doug is a sensible gentleman after all and knows which priorities require attending too. A neat workshop is a thing of beauty, the stuff in the office, well, I can tell you a few stories about what I have encountered professionally (as perhaps have you yourself) over the years. As a hint, my office is super neat and stuff gets filed correctly – not because I enjoy such activities, but mostly because deep down I know this to be the lesser evil. 😉

    Can you believe that it was only 52’F here today and raining. We actually had to run the wood heater just to keep warm. Far out, what a summer. Over the next week it will warm up, thankfully.

    Lucky you two with the half price fares, and yeah I too prefer catching the train into the city. It’s nicer and I can at least read whatever book it is that I’m reading at that point in time. Occasionally I’ve taken the laptop along and responded here too. But yeah, it’s the same here with empty car parks due to fear of you know what. I don’t know much, but the vast majority of the population has been jabberwockied, and yet it still continues to spread. What does this suggest?

    But yeah, I’ve gotten to be like you and nowadays I have to check the train schedule and recent updates before venturing down to the train station. Having no bus replacement service was a new experience for me. The bus trip into the city is fine too. In some respects I enjoy that as much as the train because the bus for this particular local train station must come from nearby as it is always empty. If I had to fight for a seat or stand the whole way in, I might have a different perspective.

    The threat of being hit by a falling icicle sounds horrendous. Well, life can be hazardous that’s for sure.

    Looks like tomorrow will be warmer and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into getting the shed set up. The drain gutters need to be lifted at one end of the building by about 4/5ths of an inch. No real drama, but it has to be done if the water is to be collected.



  24. Hi DJ,

    Haven’t we all been there before, huh? Far out. We genuinely had plans to move the greenhouse and rebuild the firewood shed over the next few months. However, we have no real idea how long any of this stuff is going to take, but towards the end of the new shed build, we then knew and had to reassess what was possible given the time, energy and resources available. Unfortunately at that time of year, it was the Christmas break. That break is probably longer here than in your part of the world because it is summer down here (or meant to be). The materials for the extension just couldn’t have been sourced and so we had to go through the indignity of completing the shed and then doing that extension last week. Given the thing took three months to produce from the first break of soil, I reckon a three day extension wasn’t too bad – but that pace is unsustainable. The thing had to be locked up.

    I’ve been looking at drainage channels for the uphill side of the shed just to stop any water rolling down the hill and into the shed. I think that job has to be done properly otherwise it will be a continual point of failure. Anyway, there’s heaps more to go over the next year with sorting out that part of the property. Yup, plans, they be big! Time and resources, well, we’ll just find out how that rolls. 🙂 Firstly, before plans, finish shed, after plans, completely finish shed.

    All true about heeding ones wife. However, there are times when I suggest to Sandra that: ‘this is not a job for you to be involved with’. And there are so many activities which she is involved in that I have no idea about, that yeah it’s complicated. More than the sum of the parts and all that stuff. Frankly I’m a bit in awe at how many little details our ancestors had to be all over, merely in order to survive. There are times where I shake my head in wonder when current folks suggest that they are somehow smarter than their forebears. It ain’t necessarily so! 😉

    Hehe! The radio has a digital thermometer and I left it out in the sun that day playing music. Just before the liquid crystal screen went black I noted a reading of 55’C. Man it was hot. And now today is cold and we’re running the wood heater. No wonder my brain hurts!

    DJ, do you have a natural antipathy towards musicals? 🙂 Some websites suggest that the origin of the phrase may be at least a decade prior to that film.

    Thank you for directly answering the question, I both appreciate and respect that as well as the boundaries you touched upon. As I mentioned in the previous comment, I understand the basis for that tradition and agree with your assessment as to the practice being healthier. Mate, I’ve encountered people who have had very little exposure to the end, in their lives to date anyway, and they can be rather casually callous. We carry the departed with us and they are never really all that far, and yet at the same time they are gone.

    Had a really quiet day today, just pottering around doing the many things that needed doing. It’s amazing how many activities are required to be done in order to keep this juggernaut rolling along. And there’s so much strangeness in all sorts of unusual places right now. Had to metaphorically smack someone on the head for being lazy this morning and (from my perspective anyway) trying to take advantage of me. Hope things are more sensible in your part of the world?



  25. Hi Lewis,

    It’s interesting to me that nobody has thought to check the sugar content of that particular eucalyptus sap. It seems like a no brainer to me, and the trees are huge and can produce an inordinate amount of sap. So much knowledge is now not available. I read up a few years ago on the north American backyard sugaring process for the collection and processing of maple sugar. The sugar maple trees grow really well here for some reason, and I have two of them happily putting on massive amounts of size. But the sugar content of the sap was only 2%, and only an area with lots of firewood can turn that into an economic proposition due to the huge amount of energy required to reduce the 98% other liquids in the sap. A mate of mine grew sugar beets (20% sugar content) and that seemed really promising, but a bit earthy tasting. Genuine maple syrup is actually very good. I’ve only had it a few times as the stuff that most people see is err, possibly a reproduction product mostly derived from sugar cane.

    I can hear the sugar gliders and little marsupial bats zipping around at night. The doppler effect of their sounds give them away. But they are really hard to spot. The bats are the easiest as they hunt insects against the light of the setting sun.

    That’s true, it really doesn’t end well for Uther or Ygraine. You can’t say that the character Uther didn’t try. But then the entire arc of the story was one of tragedy and each step is suffused with it, but that was true for all the characters: the good, the bad and the indifferent.

    Had a quiet day today. As you might expect, a quiet day for me is still rather full of activity, it just lacked any deadlines or time constrictions. Enjoyed reading Uther over a long and enjoyable lunch. There wasn’t much to inspire me to work outside today. On and off all day it drizzled and it barely reached 52’F. Even inside the house got cold and so we ran the first wood fire for the year. Speaking of that device, I’ve heard back from the manufacturers and put on order some replacement parts and spares. Turns out that they themselves have run out of stock of such things. If it goes on for too much longer we’ll have to get the spares custom made by a metal fabricator. If that is the case I might get them made in stainless steel which by all accounts can handle higher temperatures far better than the plate steel the fire box uses. Dunno, I’m waiting to see how that story plays out.

    Speaking of weird and a return to the darker past: Human remains stolen from graves at Footscray General Cemetery in Melbourne’s inner west. Super creepy huh? Historically this sort of thing went on, but why now? One reason to favour cremation.

    Oh my goodness. Thanks very much for the 25 quotes on that wishes / consequences theme. Truer words are rarely spoken. You may note for the record that I have never once mentioned my goals. There’s a good reason for that. 😉

    What no snow? Well, it happens and hey, we had no sun today. Wherever has that thing in the sky gone? Ah, it looks set to reappear tomorrow. And for all I know, you may get some snow tomorrow, but possibly not if what the good professor suggests happening, happens. I’d listen to him in that regard. Mate, I get a touch nervous when you compare the fate of western civilisation to an inability on the part of the authoritas to pick up the rubbish and deliver the mail. You could be right about it all.

    Those communication devices things are just another way to intrude upon more usual and normal social relations – albeit in a smaller hand held format. As a general rule I don’t eat at establishments with screens on their walls. It’s too distracting seeing all of that colour and movement, and the weird thing is that often there is no sound, just the picture. I don’t get that at all, but then the device on the wall is not there for my benefit.

    Interestingly, I’ve noted of late that more fixed cameras are being installed on the freeways and back roads. It’s a bit 1984.

    The word ‘generation’ means much and nothing. I don’t believe that people can be generalised about that easily. Inferences yes, and trends maybe, but all of the same – I don’t think so.

    But as to living memory, I was kind of throwing that idea about my head recently in relation to inflation. A quarter century of up, up and away my beautiful economy and all that has left most people believing that this is how things will be forever. The word ‘forever’ scares me a bit – it seems like a sort of hell state. Not comfortable with that concept. I recall a Jack Vance side story in one of his novels where the faeries cautioned a human not to wish that they were with them forever, for the faeries would kill and bury the foolish human then and there, thus fulfilling the promise. Yikes! What an unintended outcome.

    Hehe! That’s funny about the building mix up. It’s a good thing to be able to laugh at such inconveniences. And an hour for lunch. Ooo, that’s good. Mostly I get a half an hour break and that is pretty short if you have to make the meal and clean up afterwards. I take my lunch if I head into businesses and nowadays just eat at the desk. When I first began working there were lunch rooms and things to keep you entertained, but nowadays things are leaner. And hey, the looking for staff signs are very common in the big smoke. Not so much around these parts, but yeah, the city is odd. Interestingly I’ve heard some people suggest that this is due to a lack of backpackers from overseas filling the roles, but that doesn’t stand up to the pub test because at times last year (when not in lockdown), businesses seemed fully staffed. Something has changed and I suspect that the mandates haven’t gone over so well with many people and they’ve just walked away and done something else. I know someone who is doing just that, despite a shortage of people working in that area. A crazy policy to enforce with many consequences on all sides of the fence. It won’t end well and was probably an unnecessary move when someone looks back on this time from a few decades in the future.

    Dunno. A food box mystery. I’m just happy to hear that you are still receiving them.

    That’s not good about Elinor’s caregiver just walking off. It perhaps does not reflect well upon anyone involved in the situation. Fingers crossed the new person works out well.

    The canning issue troubles me as I get a lot of well meaning concern. What is weird about that is that there are more subtle ways to work out whether the concern is valid before it is projected – like asking about the process. Sometimes the concern is like this here vast echo chamber we inhabit, and it may not be based on anything concrete other than opinion. That troubles me, and in many ways it makes learning new processes all that much harder. Not a fan.

    The caveman was a true gentleman not to ravish the blonde!



  26. Hello Chris
    Oh yes. Fruit and veg that is out of season seems to arrive from all over the world as do many other things. Quite ridiculous.
    Strange, I don’t add lemon juice to raspberry jam but do to strawberry jam. I also put slightly less sugar in strawberry jam.
    It is very warm here and I noticed the first asparagus spear showing its head.



  27. Hi, Chris!

    I had always thought that your trains had super service; I am sorry to hear that it is not so. But at least you have them.

    The two of you DO work hard, compared to ANYbody.

    Perhaps your next tool of choice should be a chainsaw mill so that you can make your own boards? Do-it-yourself timber. Your new hand tool storage is mighty fine.

    Listen to her, Chris, listen to her. But you are right about the shed extension: One would never know that it had been extended.

    Done in, poor Ollie – you and Sherlock.

    Rain here today, a lot of it. The snow and ice is finally melting.
    I am glad that you collected more water from your rain.

    Your tomato plants are outdoing themselves now. Yum and yum, and future yum! I think I have all our seeds for the coming season in order. I will start the tomato and pepper seeds inside at the end of this month. If there is room among the 600 small fig trees started from cuttings last fall.

    The other day we found a tiny baby 2-inch snake in the basement. He must have slipped in on a warmer day when the door was left open. The question was, was he venomous or not? It is hard to tell when they are so small. My son and I poured over the internet and finally decided that he was a non-venomous black rat snake, a snake that we love to have around (though they can grow to 7 feet long and climb trees). He is living in a bucket in a cold closet to get used to being cooler before he is put in a burrow outside for the rest of the winter. It should be 60F tomorrow.

    Thank you for the beautiful oregano flowers and the fruit and veg photos.


  28. Yo, Chris – DJ’s description of the recent ceremonies jogged a few things out of my memory. Potlach …

    Now the inland peoples, where DJ and the Princess live, are completely different cultures. But some things, such as the gift giving, is similar. The Portland Art Museum has quit a collection of things from the coastal peoples. What I remember, are the hats. Bet that made you perk up! 🙂 . They had three or four chiefs hats. Woven of cedar bark, and basically, with a round rim. But the interesting thing is, they had a post, projecting from the top. There were alternating rings of woven cedar and rings of copper (a very valuable trade good). For each Potlach, a ring was added. Some had five or six rings.

    Maple syrup is pretty available, here. But, expensive. As long as you pay attention to the ingredients list, and buy a good brand, you don’t get stung. In the “Little House on the Prairie” books, there’s a section on maple sugaring. And how a bit was poured on the snow, to give the kids a treat. I use it, every once in awhile, in baking. But, a less expensive option is molasses or honey. Maple syrup is often a target of high jackers.

    Urther / Arthur, the stories are pretty much just one long tragedy. Those stories seem to live on.

    Pretty much a quiet day, here, too. But with all the odds and ends to keep things moving along. I ran down to get gas, this morning. $4.10, our gallon. Then I stopped at one of the cheap food stores. Found a box of microwave popcorn, that was about half the store prices. AND a single bag of Bob’s Red Mill wheat flour. Those were for me. And two bags of tinned stuff, for the Club food pantry. A good mix. Tuna, some soups, hot sauce, individual oatmeal packets, and various fruit and veg. Came home to walk the dog, and it’s now making up a supply of oatmeal and rice. LOL. Hate it when those fall on the same day.

    Our weather is about identical to yours. Occasional rain spitting down and about the same temperature. My friends in Idaho are getting a used (one year) wood stove, to replace the one that came with their place. They said the old one had too small a firebox.

    That’s terrible about the graves. I’d guess someone was after skulls. A hot commodity among wanna be Satanists. I’m surprised it said there was no personal items, taken. There’s gold in them thar’ graves. Even the Romans had problems. There’s the occasional inscription: “Poop on my grave, and curses will rain down on your head.” They’re habit of lining their roadways probably didn’t help. Some of the more fancy one’s provided benches, if you wanted to take a load off and contemplate our own mortality 🙂 .

    “Forever” is relative.

    Well, so far (one day) Elinor’s caregiver is getting high marks. Married with a couple of kids, but more energetic. Younger than the usual. In general. Elinor really doesn’t ask for much. Stack stuff with the big stuff on the bottom and the small stuff on the top. Put things back where you find them. Previous caregivers have failed to grasp those simple concepts.

    Our local library branch has a new head librarian. Sigh. They come and go so quickly. Two years, max. But this one at least lives here. So, she may last longer. Lew

  29. Hi Inge,

    It is of interest to me that the state I live in covers the same landmass as your country including Wales and Scotland and there are 10 times as many people (67 million compared to 6.6 million). I have never travelled to your country, whilst sharing a common heritage, but I have no idea what the density of your country actually means. Whenever I watch Grand Designs UK, my eye keeps a close watch upon the background scenery, and to be candid it doesn’t look all that different than here but slightly greener. The only thing I can imagine is that your cities are far more dense than what I know of. Not sure really. But we down here are far past overshoot, and I have strong reservations that this state can feed its current population. At the moment we have access to far warmer climes in more northerly states with longer growing seasons, but there are a lot of things which allow that to be that are not necessarily guaranteed in the future.

    Oooo! Had to grab the book out and check what the weights were. Raspberry jam was 500 grams of berries to 440 grams of sugar whilst strawberry conserve was 600 grams of berries to 660 grams of sugar + lemon juice. The lemon juice was the same, but the sugar ratios were different. I wouldn’t worry about it, and whatever works is the guiding light here. 🙂

    Nice! Asparagus is a fave vegetable. Yum! So nice, but isn’t that a touch early?



  30. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, that’s the weird part. The trains and tracks are fairly new, and they’re fast (unless the temperature is over 95’F and then they slow down) and run on the hour. I do wonder how the lower patronage has effected the economic viability of the service and it is hard not to notice mostly empty trains running into the big smoke. Oh well, my gut feeling suggests that the craziness is nearing an end point and that change is imminent – but I could be wrong. Ook – do you have no trains in your part of the world?

    🙂 Maybe about the hard work. There’s plenty of down time too – someone once said something or other about everything in moderation. And it’s true you know!

    Ooo, Pam, lead me not into temptation, but you could be right there. Didn’t your son purchase one of those chainsaw mills? I’m intrigued, but yeah longer term a portable mill is probably the way to go. A neighbour and I have been discussing this possibility for many years.

    I do my best to listen to Sandra, but at the time the projects in front of us were insurmountable. Now that some consideration was given to the reality of the situation, we took a chill pill and gave ourselves more time to complete the projects (another year to be precise). But before that, there were not enough materials to hand and deadlines were tight. I’m sure you know that story yourself.

    95’F and both Ollie and I were done in that day. And the thunderstorms raging overhead rudely disturbed my recovery nap after ten minutes by causing several Kelpie dogs to pile onto me. It was a bit hot to have three dogs in close proximity, and Ollie is way to big to get onto the couch.

    Yay for rain for you! It’s been dry of late. The water tank situation here this year is pretty good. I reckon we have 65% capacity which is amazing for this time of year.

    Good work with nabbing the seeds. Do you save much seed? It’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of doing that task. Now, there is a story there – why 600 figs? And how easily did they take from cuttings?

    Rat snakes would be very pleasant to have lurking around the place – and they’d also serve an excellent purpose. Glad that you are able to re-home the rat snake.

    More flower photos to come! Fresh oregano is a superb tasting herb which I chuck into all manner of food. Never thought to dry any of the stuff, and it comes back every year.



  31. Hi Lewis,

    Ah, you’ve used the word potlatch before in relation to communal feeds, and I’d merely assumed (always unwise) that you were referring to a potluck meal – and that interestingly has religious origins. Thanks for explaining the difference. Gift giving is always wise when a person is in the upper echelons (many of those folks today might want to consider that!), and we have spoken before about how some crims of a generous mindset have far less problems than more miserly crims. Many years ago we had a gang land war in the streets of the big smoke – the body count was several dozen – and one of the instigators was a bloke who apparently regularly cheated hit men (and came to a bad end) – like who in their right mind would do that to such a morally flexible person?

    And yes, talk of hats did pique my attention! The workmanship is stunning. Wow. Interestingly, some of the motifs of the other items in that interweb link bear more than a passing resemblance to artworks I have seen from the Pacific Islands. I guess that connection makes sense given the PNW is on one edge of that ocean.

    Maple syrup is rarely seen down here by way of comparison. For your interest, the commonly encountered product is ‘golden syrup’. Not quite as tasty as proper maple syrup, but not far off that mark either. Hehe! That’s quite clever to pour the maple syrup on the snow for the kids. Ooo! Lot’s of interesting things with molasses. Did you know that it is sometimes derived from sugar beets and/or sorghum? I didn’t know that and had assumed that it was only derived from sugar cane. I’m going to have to grow some sugar beets again – they did well here last time I grew them, and were quite sweet when roasted. I recall at the time some commenter who rarely comments piped up and pointed out that it was considered animal feed in his part of the world. But you know, pumpkins used to be considered animal feed too. Who knows, but I am not so easily chastised! 🙂

    What? No way? Well, you learn something new every day. I would have thought that places growing sugar maple would have kept a close eye on their resources and also strangers. A bit like the truffle farms to the west of here – secretive folk and best not be messing around with their business.

    I noticed over at Ecosophia that there was a bit of talk about Merlin. I’d be more concerned about Arthur, but maybe that is just me. If Arthur is around, it is definitely not a time of comfort and relaxation. Bizarrely enough the other day I actually had to buy some honey as well as some milk from the local general store. And as I was doing so, the words: land of milk and honey, floated into my mind. One of those eerie moments you get every now and then. I’m sure you know what I mean?

    It was another cool, but sunny day today here. I mentioned nabbing some solar panels a week or two ago from the solar dudes. Anyway, I installed one new and one very old solar panel on the roof of the new shed. The thing is, I had this large battery hanging around, and you know, use it or lose it – and so I decided to use the battery. Wired it all up today, and I’ll use the little power system for a seriously good 12 Volt high pressure water pump and some lights (which aren’t installed yet). I’m thinking that I’ll connect up the water pump to a bushfire sprinkler. Not a bad idea. It’s cool and wet this year, but who knows what next year will bring (my gut feeling suggests more of the same given the Tongan volcano business).

    This continent sure has been wet this year, but lately the rain has taken the cake: Heaviest rainfall in 120 years in the Kimberley. Looks like Chehalis from a few weeks ago! 563mm (22.1 inches) in two days is bonkers.

    Hang onto your hat, for oil prices be crackin! They’re on the up, my friend. Just checked and they’re now over $92 a barrel. Yikes.

    You scored well with the grocery heist. Stopped off at the grocery store yesterday and it was well stocked, nothing missing that I could see. However, I seem to be spending more there for sure, although price rises are all over the shop and nothing I could point a finger at.

    The UV radiation here feels less intense and we’re beginning to slip from Extreme UV to merely Very High. But there is certainly less energy to the sun now. It’ll be spring in your part of the world before you know it! Hope you have all your seeds lined up? I’m thinking about next summer already (plus an expanded and much larger greenhouse).

    Out of curiosity, how does a one year old firebox become available? Mind you, I came across someone recently who announced they were going to remove a wood heater. With the price of gas as it is, I dunno whether that is such a good idea. But I get that about installing a larger wood heater. Such devices don’t work as hard as smaller combustion chambers have to. People burn out the steel by over firing the things.

    Satanists was my thought too. Strange people in that they imitate what they contemplate, but oh well, best not be involved in their nasty plans. Really, it’s a bit morbid for the Romans to use the sides of roadways as cemeteries, but then I guess that there is a convenience factor. That’s another new concept to me. That’s funny too about contemplating mortality at such a locale.

    I do rather hope that Elinor plays nice with her new caregiver and that they enjoy a long and fruitful arrangement.

    High staff turnover can be interpreted as an indicator that there are issues there.



  32. Hi Chris,

    The storm is now over. The temperature is cold but not as bad as it could be (28F), the sky is deep blue, and there is about 7 inches of snow on the ground. I took a few pictures, and with luck one will turn out well for my nest blog post.

    We are running the wood stove just because the radiant heat feels so good! We only got a light glaze of ice, so no trouble with electricity for us.

    The dulcimer festival is ongoing. No, I’m not giving any workshops, but I am taking them from several different teachers. There is a concert following the conclusion of each day’s workshops, which feature the teachers offering the workshops. It’s a great opportunity to learn and to hear the best players show us what they have learned during the pandemic. My ears suggest that the extra practice time has resulted in a gain in musicianship across the dulcimer performing community. The online festivals allow us to support them until TPTB give up on health subject madness.


  33. Yo, Chris – Even as a wee small lad, I could see some striking similarities between the Ainu of Japan, and our coastal tribes. They were the original inhabitants of Japan, but starting about the first century CE, incoming people from SE China pushed them north. Until the only foothold they had was on the northern island of Hokkaido. And, like indigenous people all over the world, until recently, they were treated very badly. So, finally, the degreed people got into the act, and yes, there are common origins between the Ainu, and our coastal tribes. Duh.

    Best keep your hit men well paid in a timely manner, and well fed. And hope that none of your competitors outbid you. 🙂 .

    Golden Syrup aka light treacle. The good stuff is made from cane sugar. Same with molasses. Which can be made from sugar beets, but cane sugar is preferred. I had a thought that perhaps Golden Syrup and molasses are products of turning cane sugar into refined sugar? Products that aren’t as refined, and, hence, cheaper to produce? Luckily, they are both very tasty and easily adapted for cooking. We don’t see Golden Syrup, here, at least not under that name. I wonder if some of our syrups are Golden Syrup under other names. We have many “pancake syrups” that are pretty similar. And, as things go these days, the best are made from cane sugar and NOT high fructose corn syrup.

    Seems like a lot of maple syrup outfits are co-ops. Like a lot of our cranberry industry. Harder for Big Biz to get a strangle hold.

    “Land of Milk and Honey.” AKA “The Promised Land.” Biblical. Moses, something, something … See: “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” 🙂

    It wasn’t raining when I took H out for her morning stroll. But, my, that wind! Cold. I see the next two days we’re to have sunshine, and not much wind. We haven’t had much rain, this week, so the soil ought to be fairly dry. Yup. The Kimberly looks pretty much like we did, a couple of weeks ago. Damage from that is coming in. A hundred or so structures damaged, and 2-4 million in costs.

    Yes, I went to the grocery, last night, and the stock situation seemed better. Yes, the prices seem higher, and it’s hard to put your finger on just where the increases are. Looking at my receipt, I got 15 items for $35. There were some “bargains.” A pound of Swiss cheese for $3.53. I have a hard time finding fruit for the Club pantry. There was pineapple, for $1.19 a tin. But there’s almost $5 on the tab. A box of cereal (for more Chex mix) was close to $5. I needed some small plastic bags. That section, at the cheap food stores has been empty. So, it was 25 bags for $5.50. Two boxes of tea (36 bags, total) was $6 plus. And that was on sale. 6 bags of popcorn were on sale for under $3. And, I got the variety I wanted. So, it seems like they give with one hand, and take with the other. But the overall trend, is up.

    In rural areas, there are a lot of wood stoves, floating around. For one reason or another. Ya gotta know a guy 🙂 . The fellow who took their old wood stove, and delivered the “new one” also took their old kitchen stove and refrigerator. I’d say, whoever he is, he has a lively trade in all kinds of appliances. You don’t know what people’s thought processes are. But one can speculate. Now, the last place my friends lived, they were glad they didn’t have a wood stove. “The mess.” But, in short order, I notice they’ve done an about face. Perhaps when the electric bill rolled in? 🙂 . Besides “the mess”, I’d also guess that advancing age, may have colored their recent lapse.

    Oh, a lot of wood be Satanists are angsty teens of the “shock your mama” variety. Death Metal devotees, etc. They get a copy of the “Necronomicon” (available in a handy paperback, at our local bookstore) and they’re off to the races. Leave that lying around, and parents get very concerned. Sometimes.

    The Romans forbad burial within city walls. So, along the highways was the best option. Besides, the closer to the city gate, and the closer to the road, the more it displayed your status. That was prime real estate! Tombs further back from the road, were for middling folk 🙂 .

    Oh, the library really doesn’t have high staff turnover, as far as the rank and file employees go. Some of them have been there for decades. It’s the degreed ones who come and go. The young degreed ones start in the small libraries, and then move on to the higher pay and bright lights of the big city 🙂 . So, they put up with the commute, for about two years, and then make the jump. Turns out the last one jumped to a large branch … that is 5 minutes from her home.

    Went down to the Club last night, to drop off food. It was very quiet, and our trusty and faithful counter person and I, were about the only one’s there for most of the evening. We watched a film (“Hangover 2” how … ironic), and I whipped up a batch of popcorn with melted pepper jack cheese. It was a hit.

    So what with the title of this weeks blog, will you be storing your Delorean, in the new shed? 🙂 Lew

  34. Chris:

    We do have passenger trains that run to various major cities along the Atlantic Seaboard and one can catch one from here to connect to them. I have never done so, though my sister used to catch one down here from New York City when she lived there.

    We have saved seeds for about 30 years, though we could not do so last year as we were too busy to plant. Still, I imagine that the ones saved from the year before and the year before that are okay. I have bought some extras just in case. I really wanted to try some new tomato varieties anyway as we have had a lot of disease troubles the last few years, but, then, so has everybody else around here.

    The 600 baby fig trees are my son’s project. He plans to sell them. He has several dozen varieties. He has gotten pretty good at starting cuttings, only lost a few that he said he was sure weren’t going to make it anyway as they came in pretty bad shape. He has gotten good at grafting, too. He has done a lot of grafting domesticated walnut cuttings to our wild black walnut trees. Ditto for domestic mulberries to our wild mulberries. The deer are the biggest problem.


  35. Chris,

    I was wondering about the need for drainage channels uphill of the new shed. You answered that before I asked. Necessary things when you live on the side of a hill.

    How did our ancestors do everything while attending to the details? From what I’ve gleaned from observation and reading…The cycles of the year led to certain traditional activities. Each of these activities had set patterns and steps to follow, almost ritualistic. These activities became part of the Way of Life of the culture. Anthropologists, of course, decree that these activities, being ritualistic, all had a religious significance. In my mind, the rituals were concocted so that all the various activities got accomplished and that no steps were left out of any given activity. Songs could be part of it, the songs including directions and lists of activities…it’s easier to remember lists via a song or poetry than it is to remember a dry, boring list.

    55C in the sun inside the radio? Did the radio literally fry and cease to work? We had a heat wave today: the sun appeared and we hit all of +3C.

    I noticed that the phrase may have predated the musical in question. However, the musical possibly brought the phrase into the mainstream.

    Antipathy to musicals? Bwahahaha! Not I! I once knew every line and all of the lyrics to all of the songs in “Wizard of Oz”. People refused to watch it with me. “Sound of Music” is also a favorite. Antipathy? No, I’m just picky.

    I once knew a man who was adamant for reality reasons that we all need to do 2 things each year. One is to see a newborn baby up close. The other is to see a dead body. The awe of childbirth and the realization that we’re mortal are part and parcel of who and what we are. You summed up what happens when people aren’t exposed to the end: callousness. Add lack of understanding. As you said, the lost ones aren’t far from us, yet they are gone.

    Sensible? No, the type of craziness you described is rampant here, also. And it was that way before the illness that shall not be named made an appearance. Sliding standards due to a decaying society is my explanation.

    We, too, have been having quiet days. Necessity after the stress of putting together the memorial with its huge helping of family politics adding to the stress.

    I see Lew mentioned Potlatch. Here’s a more in-depth article about the Potlatch.
    At least this article mentions that funerals and memorials often included a Potlatch. I’m not sure if the ceremony was called Potlatch east of the Cascade Mountains, but gift giving ceremonies for various reasons seem to have been typical of many Native American tribes.


  36. Hi Claire,

    The snow sounds lovely, and I look forward to seeing the photos. The snow and gentle conditions are a nice birthday present too. 🙂

    Photos don’t always work out and bright conditions such as the sun reflecting off snow is not always conducive to the perfect photo – but then I’d have to suggest that perfection is over rated, and unobtainable!

    Good stuff. You know there is something really nice about a wood fire. I’m of the opinion that as a fuel source, it’s about as sustainable as you’ll get when it comes to heat. The history in that regard is long indeed. Glad to hear that the electricity continued despite the extreme weather. Always best to test systems when there is plenty of fat with which to repair them if need be.

    Oooo! Thanks for the update on the dulcimer festival. It sounds lovely, and respect for taking the time to make the world a better place with old school music. 🙂

    It was cool here today, not hot, not cold, but just right and we hauled in about half the years supply of firewood. Me tired…



  37. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, down here you can travel by train overnight from Melbourne to Sydney, and I believe it also heads north onto Brisbane. A mate of mine did that trip maybe two years ago. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list, and I quite enjoy sleeping on trains what with the gentle rocking motion. I was unaware that a train traversed the eastern large coastal cities, but that makes sense, and it would be slow given the density of population there.

    Hey, is there some point on the east coast where the climate is considered to be near perfect? People say such things about the town of Byron Bay on the east coast of this continent, and it was nice when we visited a couple of decades ago.

    Oh yeah, I totally understand how your last year experience came to be. But respect for the three decades work before that year. I’m with you and my thinking suggests that you are correct – except for onion seed which quickly becomes non-viable. Most of the rest of them last for many years (otherwise I’d imagine the Dinosaur ending event 65 million years ago would have been a total reset of the planets ecology).

    We do the same with seeds – bring in a few more each year just to ensure that genetic viability continues. Ook! Please keep your tomato diseases firmly in your part of the world. What are these things? Is it similar to a blight?

    Respect to your son for his work and I’ll be curious to hear whether he discovers a market for the plants, and fig jam is an absolute favourite (I grow about a dozen fig trees, but only one seems to have grown fast – an African variety which came via a local lady who also gardens edible plants). And yeah, deer are a problem here too as are the wallabies. I can hear a frog croaking just outside the door.

    We brought in about half the years firewood today and stacked it in storage for the winter months. Dunno, but it has worked out much better cutting and splitting firewood in the winter months and then just hauling it in during the summer months than doing everything in summer. And the stuff is super dry.



  38. Hi DJ,

    Yeah, the uphill drainage is an issue at every point on the farm. With the new shed, I have to actually install a proper drainage channel just to ensure that the water doesn’t drain into the shed. But even so, if a bit of water does get in there, it doesn’t matter too much and anything which would be effected by that possibility is on the down hill side of the shed anyway. It’s more of a protection against the worst case scenario storm – which does happen here more than just a little bit.

    I might not have mentioned it, but the refurbishment of the FM tuner actually improved the sound from that machine – and it was already beyond good. There is another project vying for my time on that front, but alas time is rather in short supply. Brought in about half of the years firewood requirements today. That meant bringing the stuff uphill and then stacking it in the old firewood shed. I’d hoped to have an entirely new firewood shed, but you know, reality is a pain and limits are real. 😉

    Actually I tend to agree with you. The anthropologists are wrong. How else could anyone remember all the little details that need doing, other than making a ritual out of them. You see it in your garden and all around you, but the seasons do tend to move in a cycle – anthropologists may have other ideas, and that’s cool – maybe. We have to remember when and how to do all of this stuff, and that requires more than just knowledge. Ritual is the backbone of repetitive tried and tested behaviour that’s for sure.

    What irks me is that we genuinely are short of time this year, and you know I look at some things about the property and know that I have to do something about it, but you know, something has to give. But then it is an interesting thing to know which activity you can ignore, and which ignored activity will come back to bite you in the rear. Oh yeah.

    I totally agree with you about song, and I do appreciate listening to music when I work about the farm – now if the music could mesh in with the work, that would be a thing of excellence. In the meantime there is always the leading edge music of the national youth music broadcaster: Triple J. Older music tends to have associations with certain time periods, and change is in the very air all about us now.

    Very funny! 3’C is cold, nuff said. 🙂 Brr!

    Oh no, save me from the musicals. DJ, mate, I’m not wired for them, but can respect your most excellent memory – just don’t repeat them, especially the annoyingly catchy chorus lines. He says whilst slinking off warily into the bush keeping a sharp eye out for catchy toe tappers!

    Very few people in these enlightened times have actually seen a person die. Let’s just say that it’s an instructive experience. I dunno, there is a weird push to institutionalise and sanitise that experience, and it wasn’t all that long ago that people actually used to just drop dead. It happened when I was a kid, but somehow in the intervening years organisations have intermediated themselves. I’m not cool about that.

    Again I agree, yes, that does seem like a likely explanation for sliding standards – on all sorts of fronts.

    Enjoy your quiet time. Are your wood carving mates still catching up?

    Thank you very much for the article on the potlatch ceremony. The gift economy (an awful name) has great power. I’ll tell you a funny story. You may recall me mentioning the big wind storm during last winter. The power went out in this area for five days in this area. I didn’t notice at first, but then after a day or two it was hard to ignore how dark it had become. I let it be known in the area that people were welcome to bring their devices and chargers here to get a charge or whatever. Nobody took me up on that offer, and I asked for nothing in return. What I learned was that western culture seriously fears the gift and social (barter) economies. I dunno why they would, but they do.



  39. Hi Lewis,

    The wikipudding page mentioned that similarity as well with the Ainu, and then went on to talk about other things. To be candid, that particular entry for that particular subject said both much and little. People are people the last I checked. The Japanese seem to be following err, a program in relation to those folks, but then my own country has its issues on that front as well. When I was a young bloke I heard some strange stories and believed them, and now I’m older I’ve read more widely and have a different view.

    I tend to believe that humans have settled in remote corners of this planet for far longer than the degreed folks suggest. Even in my lifetime, the date to which the indigenous folks have been on this continent has been pushed back to something like 60,000 years, but it is possible that the date was earlier than that. And if that managed to happen here, it defies logic that your continent would have been all that much different.

    Yeah, that advice is exactly what I do too. Best not to mess around with such morally flexible folks.

    Ah, in the cupboard we have both treacle and golden syrup and I had wondered at the difference. Treacle has more molasses than golden syrup. The other day we just finished off a delightful Christmas cake – so good. We were eating it a few small chunks per day with the afternoon coffee. Not something for the dogs. Hey, the grapes on the grapevines have gotten bigger after the downpour last week. They still need more sunshine and warmer weather, but the grapes are beginning to have some flavour and size. I didn’t expect that this year.

    Golden syrup is readily available in the shops, treacle not so much, and I often believe that the pancake syrup you mentioned often is in fact golden syrup. Fortunately high fructose corn syrup is rarely seen down here, probably due to sugar cane being easier to grow down here in the tropical north eastern coast.

    A couple of weeks ago the normally dry and arid state to the west of this one had record rainfall. Well, it’s greening up over there: Outback transformed by summer floods after record rainfall in South Australia’s north. The ecology there is a boom and bust environment and there was even a photo of an inland crab.

    Is the cold wind from the north still blowing and sending chills to challenge H’s fur? Actually, given the extent of the flooding that sort of cost figure is quite reasonable, although insurers down here don’t tend to want to pay out on flood damage.

    That’s my experience with the grocery stores down here too. Do you reckon some of the cost increases is a form of ‘rationing by price’? I mean toilet paper is cheap and people can probably indulge their second and third over-shop, whilst things like meat can’t be easily stored and at higher prices, demand is reduced? Dunno. But at home we’re vegetarians, but the small chunk of meat I buy each week for the dogs and chickens is noticeably more expensive.

    Hehe! Yeah, it does pay to ‘know a guy’ when living in a rural area. 🙂 It does sum up rural living nicely. And they do have to know that you’re an upstanding person, and that factors in to the equation. People generally run a mile from such social obligations, but I’m cool dealing with people on that basis.

    That’s my thinking too about that guy. For all you know, he might recondition the devices and then on sell them. Did I mention the washing machine? Well a few years back we had to replace the decades old machine with a new fancy german built unit. Anywhoo, the machine developed some sort of controller error. Turns out that you can turn the dial a time or two and press a button, and the stupid thing resets itself, and the problem goes away. Except the instructions how to do that are not in the instruction manual. You have to look up how-to interweb pages from other people who met a similar fate. Glad it’s not connected to the interweb! Yikes.

    Whatever may be the case, it’s good your idaho mates installed a proper wood heater. Speaking of such things, we hauled and stacked half of the years supply of firewood today. Glad it was a cooler day as that is a big job. I was hoping to have the new firewood shed constructed by now, but err, no that ain’t gonna happen. Fortunately we left the two existing firewood sheds in place and didn’t scavenge them for materials. 🙂 Already the UV radiation is beginning to lessen. Hope the tomatoes ripen before things get much colder again.

    I’ve never met a satanist, although once read a bit about Ayn Rand and some of their belief systems are mighty similar.

    Ah, I had not known that about the Romans and their edict about burial within the city walls. That makes sense about the roadside graves. I’d imagine that the Roman’s had to occasionally expand their city walls? What an expense and you’d hate to be on land that they wanted.

    5 minutes from home is a great inducement as long as the people you work with are fine. 5 minutes from home and working for a pack of psycho’s (or even one) just would not be worth it. The lights of the city act as sirens singing of the hidden and not so hidden delights which accompany the destination. You hope the sales pitch matches the after sales service though.

    Man, I loved the Hangover series of films – so very wrong, but somehow just right. 🙂 I mentioned them to you once, but then thought that maybe that was a dumb idea. And yes, oh the irony!

    I knew someone who deliberately roofied themselves. That was weird and odd and they made for very dull company afterwards.



  40. Hello Chris
    I don’t know how to describe density or how it compares with that of other countries. A grand designs house would be placed in a suitable area for a grand design so wouldn’t be informative on the subject.
    Jam;- very odd. My raspberry recipe has equal fruit and sugar and no additions. The strawberry is 14 ounces sugar to 16 ounces fruit plus some lemon juice. My apologies for ‘ounces’ but I know that you are capable of translating.
    I think that the asparagus spear is early but I haven’t kept records. The weather is unusually warm at present.


  41. Yo, Chris – Just in the time I’ve been alive, they’ve more than doubled the estimate of how long people have been on our continent. Getting the old guard, to admit that, is like pulling teeth. But, people lived very lightly on the land and traces of their passage are hard to read. But, when you have a spear point, stuck in the rib bone of a mastodon that’s easy to date, well … Or a pair of sandals tucked up in a desert cave. Or the skeleton of a young woman, tucked up in a flooded cave, that was well above the water line, way back when. The evidence mounts up.

    That’s quit a feat of rationing, to make the Christmas cake last this long. I bought a box of chocolate covered cherries. And couldn’t even make them last 24 hours. Well, there were only 10 in a box …

    Wait til the parrots discover the grapes. 🙂

    We see articles here, from time to time. “Rainfall Causes Desert to Bloom!” And, it does. A bit of rain and the cactus and succulents put on quit a show. I think it has to do with a very narrow window of opportunity.

    Oddly, I have never seen H shiver, even in the coldest weather. Of course, I have a little coat I put on her, but it’s not what I’d call “full coverage.”

    Social obligations. Relates back to what we were saying about the whole gift giving thing. I keep my guard up. And prefer to keep the obligations slightly in my favor.

    LOL. Well, if they included instructions, you’d put the repair people out of business. And, the controller supply people would go bankrupt. 🙂 . It’s like the instruction book for small engines, lawn mowers and such. The “suggestion” that you use leaded gas is in small print … buried in more small print. By the way, California is banning gas lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

    What really throws me is when a web query throws up nothing. “What? I’m the only person in the world that has had this problem?” Usually, I’m not quit phrasing the question in a searchable way.

    Your washing machine is not connected to the web … as far as you know 🙂 .

    When my Idaho friends lived here, they had a grand old refurbished wood stove. Took the edge of the electric bill, and during power outages, could be pressed into cooking services.

    Expanding city walls or boundaries was a fraught undertaking. There were all sorts of religious red tape, involved. Just recently, a boundary marker was discovered …

    So. Are you going to lay down a good layer of gravel in the new mead hall? Seems to be what people do around here, in sheds and barns. Maybe you already have. Between walking and chewing gum. 🙂 Lew

  42. Hi Lewis,

    Exactly, the officially accepted belief systems can change, but wow does it take some effort to get that change to be acknowledged or what? Probably it’s a case of ‘or what’! Didn’t a similar thing happen with plate theory and tectonics – it was originally considered an outlandish and kooky theory, and then over the years it became accepted. But yeah, there is something weird about that hesitancy because something can be proven and then tested by peers, well that’s change. That was the thing with the wikipudding article, there were so many dissenting opinions and I assume people stake out their belief system and then fight off all comers rather than admit they were wrong, as distinct from keeping an open mind. Anyway, I don’t worry about all that because science is set for a fall due to, oh well I guess they have to make a buck too.

    It sounds like we were doing the hard yards with the Christmas cake, but the truth is otherwise. Most evenings after completing work, we sit down to have a coffee and either an Anzac biscuit or small chunk of cake. There were other cakes before the Christmas cake was cracked open! 🙂 It’s kind of like a ritual which marks the end of the working day, and we’ve been doing that for so long I can’t now recall when we started it. At a wild guess it may have been during building this house. It came about because of the need to compartmentalise that huge and complicated job with the rest of our life. An end point at the conclusion of each work day had to be reached and that was how we did that mental task.

    Chocolate cherries! Yum! And ten to a box suggests quality. Hey, I hadn’t mentioned it, but for most of the season we’ve been enjoying fresh cherries from the local cherry farm. New owners bought it a few years ago, and wow, the energy they’ve put into that farm is awesome to see. And it looks super neat and organised. Sometimes you need new blood.

    The parrots are in for a surprise because the grape vines are in a cage. Those cheeky birds don’t stand a chance against steel mesh.

    That’s true here with the arid lands getting a decent soaking. One thing that you see down here in such times is large flocks of budgerigars. Stunning to see en masse, although I’ve only seen photos.

    H has a double coat, and so snow is her element. I’ve never used a coat with a dog, however the winters aren’t as cold here. I’ve seen the Kelpie girls looking cold, but I’m not entirely certain either whether they shiver. Ah, the interweb suggests that they do indeed shiver. Who knew? Cold days we have the wood fire going (as happened earlier this week). Ruby camped out in front of the radiant heat and dutifully cooked her head.

    Mate, as to avoiding social obligations, it ain’t just you! 🙂 I don’t worry about such things, we’ll all get there in due course, for that is where we are a goin’.

    Hehe! Yeah, you make a solid point about hiding the ability to reset the stupid controller on the washing machine. Sandra and I were discussing the possibility of how to dispose of the machine should it be impossible to repair. Hmm.

    What? No way. Are they out of their freakin’ minds? As someone who uses battery technology and has done so for many years, this electric stuff ain’t good enough. Ooo! The articles on that small engine ban in the bonkers sun-head-cooked state in your country contain some rather candid views which I entirely agree with. Look, not to put too fine a point on it, but the little petrol engines I use range in size from 5 horsepower to 21 horsepower. The best you’ll get out of a mains electric service down here is 2.5 horsepower unless you go full on three phase electric which most houses don’t have. It’s not enough to do much that is useful. You may note that there is a lack of horses here. Tell ya something funny, there’s been a run on donkeys recently: Demand soars for donkeys as livestock owners seek them out to protect their stock. And that’s where things get weird: I noticed the other day that a nearby landowner had three donkeys.

    That’s database index searches for ya. That’s how they work, it’s all about indexing. It’s very dull really, and underneath the flashy graphics and stuff, it’s just a monster big SQL database.

    Stop it! The thing is not connected to the interweb. 🙂 Thanks for the laughs though. I do wonder if some of these machines don’t have a timer and self destruct code built in? Why not? Who would look through the code? The interweb connection here is heavily monitored in relation to access. I bought a proper router.

    Lovely with your friends who now reside in Idaho, and truth to tell, I miss the wood stove and wood oven. I’m working on that issue with Sandra, she is resistant to the expense, but LPG costs are just going up and up and away I’m guessing into the stratosphere, but they ain’t there yet. How are your mates going overall with the move? Have they established roots in that area?

    Lewis, oh my gawd: This symbolic barrier was the border between Rome proper—the urbs. Man hearing the Latin word ‘urbs’ brought on some chills. Yikes! Regardless, the rare boundary find is a little ripper.

    Yes! You guessed it, crushed rock with lime all the way. I was in that shed this afternoon and thinking about your comment and had a little flash of insight which suggested that at some point in the future, folks will wonder and enjoy all of the lime I brought up here at considerable expense and labour.

    Better get writing!



  43. Hi Inge,

    No, I don’t know either. I observe how the city and it’s outer environs look, but what does that actually mean, and how does it translate to other parts of the world? Dunno. It’s a complicated question that’s for sure.

    Actually, many of the grand designs houses are constructed in less than fluffy-optimal locales, for in a time of scarcity, sometimes even unencumbered land itself is the rare find. Incidentally, that was what was weird about this property where I now reside, it was unencumbered and unloved, and that is a rare thing. In a time of decline, many things have already been tried, for that is part and parcel of decline don’t you reckon?

    Maybe, the recipe difference was close enough that it did not matter? Interestingly the blackberry jam recipe suggested far less sugar, and has ended up runny. What a hassle.

    Imperial to metric translations are cool with me. When I was a very young kid I recall things being sold in pounds and ounces, so it is not a complicated step for me. Perhaps people younger than I might wonder what you were talking about. Am I correct to understand that the metric system was attempted to be introduced into your country via the EU?

    I don’t keep such records either. At this stage, it is perhaps a step too far for me. On the other hand I carefully watch the seasons and judge based on that.



  44. Yo, Chris – Plate theory crossed my mind. Took awhile to be accepted. All the old war horses had to die off.

    Your after work ritual sounds lovely. Sounds a bit like, oh, I don’t know … tea? 🙂 Well, I don’t know about quality, when it comes to the chocolate covered cherries. Ten to a box, but they’re very inexpensive. They make an appearance at Christmas, and near Valentine’s Day. The amount of packaging would make you cringe.

    I put the coat on H more for protection from the rain, rather than warmth. She’s a little sponge. Which reminds me, today is bath day.

    How to dispose of the washer, when the time comes? Well, you dig a large hole … 🙂 Yard art?

    I envy the Californians, a bit. The noise levels around here from small gas engines is horrific. And every Thursday I can count on the landscapers to show up, either 15 minutes before my alarm goes off, or, afternoon when I’m about to take my nap, with their leaf blowers going full blast. Right under my window. Interesting about the donkeys. A bit of pet du jour? Money making pyramid scheme? Herd protection is also given as a reason to keep Alpaca and Llamas.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with planned obsolescence. Sometimes myth, sometimes fact. Hmmm. Interesting. One example they used were “smart” devices. There’s been a couple of articles over the last few days about the end of 3G.

    Oh, I guess my friends are settling well enough into Idaho. But I think they’re pretty aware that they will never be entirely accepted. They’re not “from there” and aren’t Mormon. But I don’t think it bothers them, much. Except I think sometimes they end up paying more for services, for the above reasons. I also (just) think that people gravitate towards a parallel social system, that develops. People that aren’t from there and don’t have any particular religious affiliation. You know, when we moved out to the boonies, and I started at a small rural high school, my two closest friends were also transfer students. And other friends might have had local roots … but were the outsiders and odd balls. 🙂

    It wasn’t conscious, but now you know where the word “suburb” has it’s roots.

    I worked in the garden, a couple of hours, yesterday. Gotta get if looking a bit more neat and tidy, before they tell us we can’t have gardens due to neglect. Just to spur me on, I noticed the daffodils are pushing up, and a few ornamental trees are beginning to look like they might flower.

    I stopped by the library, yesterday, and the new “Ghostbusters” movie was waiting for me. Haven’t watched it yet. That will be a popcorn night.

    I see you’ve got a big bushfire going in Western Australia. Not much detail. Just a few pictures and a short article. Lew

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