The Trickster

Recently I’ve been reading another instalment in the Arthurian saga. For those who don’t know, the Arthurian tales are set in the years following the departure of the Roman legions from the fifth century AD Britain. Nobody really knows what went on in those days because the people back then were simply struggling to survive in a suddenly hostile world and niceties such as writing down events as they occurred just didn’t happen. Rome had been an occupying force in Britain for four centuries. But by the time the Imperial troops in Britain were recalled to mainland Europe, Rome was in terminal decline, and the troops never returned. Law and order suddenly got chucked out the window, population took a nose dive and cities were sacked and looted. And yet, through the whispers of history there was a King, Arthur, who with his adviser Merlin, brought order to the chaos for a while at least. That was before those characters themselves descended into tragedy. The common day to day experience from those dark ages days is probably not much different from what it’s like to live in Kabul today.

The Arthurian tales are a worthy read, and they form the few scraps of light in the dark ages which followed the departure of the Roman legions. The tragedy of the stories is not lost on me either, and it makes an especially chilling read with everything strange which is going on all about us over the past two years.

If you’d told me two years ago that the world would look as it does today, I would have doubted your sanity, but then here we all are. Change can come in sudden strange ways. And it sure has been a strange old two years. There is a lot going on now, and most days now I check in on the ever increasing cost of oil per barrel. The daily increase in price is alarming for what it portends. As a spectator sport checking on the oil price probably isn’t as exciting as attending a Roman arena to watch the gladiators compete. Still tragedy lurks with either sport.

Oil underlies everything that we do as a society. At the farm, we use a number of petrol powered machines to perform all manner of tasks. Big commercial farms on the other hand, use big commercial machines which use huge quantities of fuels, usually diesel fuel. That is how it can be possible that only 1% of the population now works in the agricultural sector and feeds the other 99%. Historically, the ratio was about 90% working on the land, and 10% other occupations. Oil has made a big difference, but it’s a finite resource. Whatever, from what I’m guessing, that handy oil stuff is shortly going to get super expensive compared to what we are used to paying at the pump. And it will drive up prices for everything.

Oil getting super expensive has happened before, and we’re not yet near the heady heights of $140 a barrel back in 2008, but we sure do look as if we are headed in that direction, and you all know what happened back then. That’s when economically the proverbial manure hit the fan.

Both Sandra and I have experienced hard economic times before, and no doubts we will do so again in the future. However, that experience has meant that we are inherently conservative in the old school meaning of that word: to conserve, something or other. Not everyone is conservative though, and maybe the looming economic troubles won’t be all that bad. I really don’t know, but there is an ill wind blowing.

At this time of the year, we are doing a lot of preserving activities. Nature provides in the warmer growing seasons, and then you’re on your own. The problem with relying upon oil is that it is a use-once and then it’s gone resource. Our civilisation can currently blithely ignore the growing seasons, and in fact has become used to plenty of stuff all year around. That’s fine, so long as the oil supplies continue and are affordable. If they are interrupted, restricted, or get bonkers expensive then there is suddenly less stuff to go around. And here we are today facing those exact problems.

Way back in the day, a lot of our civilisations technology was focused on producing and then preserving the harvest from the growing season. Making jam, or wine or even bringing in the firewood for use in the colder parts of the year, might seem like boring activities. But when that is how you feed yourself and your family in the coldest parts of the year, well it takes on a whole new dimension of seriousness. Fortunately, most people in this country don’t even think about such things. And yet there have been inexplicable shortages in supermarkets and price hikes due to the break down in global trade. And here we are today.

It feels like change is in the wind. The future I’m guessing, may well belong to the flexible and adaptable.

The weather has been varying between warm and cold this week. One afternoon the outside thermometer recorded a maximum temperature of 11’C / 52’F. It was so cold that day that we ran the wood heater just to keep warm.

1.34pm and 11’C / 52’F is bonkers for a late summers day

Mist and drizzle hung over the area all day long, and it was a pleasure to feel the warmth from the wood heater on that cold Thursday.

Very little rain was recorded and yet it drizzled all day long

Once the storm passed, the next warmer day produced beautiful clear blue skies, with thick fog in the valley below.

Thick fog settles over the elevated plains and valley below the farm

This is the time of year to haul in and stack undercover out of the weather a years supply of sun-dried and seasoned firewood. The firewood has to be cut and split about two years prior to use, otherwise the sugars and other chemicals in the firewood produce gases which damage the steel used in wood heaters and flues. Also, unseasoned firewood just doesn’t burn as hot or as readily as dry and seasoned firewood.

The larger firewood shed is now about another days work from completely filling.

Ruby admires the rapidly filling firewood shed in the Cherokee Bank of Firewood (CBF! look it up folks)

Many years ago we used to cut and split seasoned logs during the summer months. Nowadays that job is done during the winter months and the pile of drying firewood is hauled and stacked during the summer months. It’s hard work hauling and stacking firewood, but it is far harder work on hot summer days to cut and split the firewood before then hauling it. The firewood pile adjacent to the orchard has diminished in size after this weeks efforts, but even so, it still may contain half a years firewood.

The pile of drying firewood is waiting to be hauled and stacked in a shed

A large batch of blackberry jam was also made and bottled this week.

A batch of Blackberry jam was made

The shed has been constructed, and work continues sorting out the internals and ensuring that everything has a place, and everything is in its place! We do neat here:

Heavy duty electrical extension cables hang neatly from hooks

The downhill side of the shed is protected from erosion by a combination of large rocks and a thick layer of crushed rock with lime. We’ve done about half of that job so far.

Large rocks and a thick layer of crushed rock with lime will reduce the effect of erosion

Using a bunch of spare components, plus one brand new solar panel, I was able to put together a small 12 volt off grid power system for the shed. The power system will run lights, a high volume pressurised water pump and a block rockin’ radio.

Two new solar panels have been added to the roof of the shed

The small power system is very simple, but should prove to be useful, and block rockin’.

A new small 12 Volt off grid solar power system was installed into the shed

The weather has switched between cold and then warm again. The warmth has been well received and I’m hoping that the huge number of currently green tomatoes, ripen.

The tomatoes still are green, but I shall not worry until March

Onto the flowers:

A hoverfly enjoys the Yarrow flowers
This Escalonia from Mexico is a real stunner of a plant
A bee enjoys the Globe Artichoke flower
Some of the Roses are amazing
The many Agapanthus flowers provide plentiful food for the bees

The temperature outside now at about 9.00pm is 16’C (61’F). So far this year there has been 100.6mm (3.9 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 100.0mm (3.9 inches)

53 thoughts on “The Trickster”

  1. Yo, Chris – That was a very good sketch, an overview, of the end of Roman Britain. I don’t think many people wonder, “What did it mean? What was it like? How does it, perhaps, apply to us?” There’s a newish book out, “UnRoman Britain.” I’ll have to see if I can run down a copy. Hmmm. Looks like there’s also some interesting things by his co-author.

    Oil. There’s another thing people don’t think about, much. Other than maybe what they put in their tank. That just about everything that is brought to us, is brought to us through oil. And that it’s a component in everything from plastic bags to fertilizer.

    Your weather really has been up and down. But your still pulling in the produce. Maybe not as much, or in as great a variety. But enough good tucker to keep body and soul, together. Fingers crossed for the tomatoes.

    The blackberry jam looks yummy. Can strawberry and raspberry be far behind? How many other jams and jellies do you make? Oh, I see you could make lemon marmalade. To paraphrase, if life won’t give you oranges, make lemon marmalade.

    I think 12 volt systems are underrated. They don’t look that complicated, even to me. A bit of light and tunes. What more does a fellow need? 🙂 . How many batteries does you system need?

    I’m surprised an artichoke didn’t make it to the table. I’m sure the bees appreciated it.

    The roses are lovely. Real stunners. Lew

  2. Hello Chris,
    What a great shed. It seems like a good move to have separate PV systems for the different buildings.

    Regarding the Trickster, I think Radiohead and “Who do not want to climb down from their chestnut tree?” Of course they sing about the druid collecting mistletoe.

    We are indeed in strange times. Oil is not the sticker shock here. Brent Crude from the North Sea is at 90 USD approx at the same price since 2017, with a small dip in the early phases of you-know-what.
    The talk-on-the-streets is the natural gas price, which has quadrupled in the last six months, compared to a slow and steady price that was in place for a decade. (The price peaked at 10x for a few weeks in October.) All of a sudden it makes “economic” sense to insulate your house. We did it a few years back, which has been good for the comfort, and resilience, but until now was it not really worth the money on such a superficial comparison.
    Now that Ukraine is in the crossfire, price could go anywhere.

    I stay in my Chestnut tree…


  3. Hi Goran,

    Thanks! The new shed has solved many background problems on the farm. The next project on the cards is expanding the greenhouse. That building has earned its keep this past year, and it can be better in a few interesting ways. But it needs to move to a sunnier spot and there will be permanent raised beds set up inside. That is going to be a game changer for our food production. Oh yeah.

    Mate, we’re all about ensuring that there are multiple systems in place and tested. And there are actually four off grid solar power systems in operation here. Each system has a different use.

    Radiohead – respect! 🙂 And kudos for the reference. I’m quite the fan of their song: Fake plastic trees. 54 million views on utoob can’t be wrong!

    There is a local indigenous mistletoe bird and she plants her seed way high up in the tall eucalyptus trees where she comes back to harvest the fruits. When I sit in the bath after a hard days work and look out over the distant valley, there is a mistletoe hanging way up high off an enormous eucalyptus tree. Makes a person wonder which will win in the end, the 50m tall centuries old tree or the upstart mistletoe? And I dunno. Life is great like that.

    You’re not wrong about the demand destruction last year which brought Brent Crude down to $60 a barrel, but yeah it’s been this high before, but the trend my friend, the trend is where we be a going. Oh well.

    You’ve heard it before, and no doubt you’ll hear it again: I love renewable energy technologies, but they just aren’t good enough to replace fossil fuels. You already use renewable energy technologies in your nursery. 😉 The old school variety of that technology. It’s crazy, most countries bet their farms on gas fired power stations to make up for the intermittency issues with renewable energy technology and that’s cool. But what happens if the gas gets turned off or throttled? What then is the question I’d ask, but nobody seems to be thinking that far ahead. And you lot are poking the bear which supplies your gas. Why would you do that? It makes no sense to me.

    Yes, I agree respect to the chestnut tree elders and those that are emerging.



  4. Hi Lewis,

    You set me on the Jack Whyte / Camulod path a few years ago and I can only but state for the record that I have enjoyed every minute of the journey spent in that space. Such a lovely recount of the Arthurian saga, blood, guts and all.

    But yeah, I have to agree, very few people wonder what that ancient story all means. It’s like the last two years, nobody seems to be saying: that was strange, I wonder what it all means? The absorption in the minutiae of the weirdness is embraced by the vast majority of people I speak with and observe. It’s the core of the story that interests me. And it hints at histories arc.

    An intriguing book. The mention of the populations indifference piqued my interest, however, four centuries of rule followed by a dark age tends to suggest that things may have been otherwise. Dunno.

    Well yeah, who really wants to consider that every meal was derived courtesy of the power of oil – a finite resource after all. It’s an horrific thought. And then the astute and alert person might ask the even harder question: Yeah, but what about the future? Few can stare that demon in the face and walk away. And the fertiliser issue is linked to that one too. Oh yeah, it’s a mess.

    Thanks! Hehe! Yeah, the growing season has been total rubbish, but on the other hand, we’re managing and still producing. And things could always be worse. The zucchini are finally beginning to produce some fruit. You know the season has been super cold when those plants don’t produce monster feral Triffids. The pumpkins (your squashes) are miles behind that too.

    The sun is currently setting, and the Currawongs are singing their mournful last call dusk dirge. Really nice. It was a pretty nice day here today, but alas I was inside for most of the day doing paid work. Outside was calling…

    We made batches of strawberry and raspberry jam a couple of weeks back. Because those fruits are earlier in the season when it was cold and damp, the hauls of berries were not good. Those jams turned out really well. With the blackberry, we may have to reprocess them as they’re a bit runny and probably require more sugar in order to set better.

    12 Volt systems are in wide use so there are plenty of devices to take advantage of that extra low voltage. A decade or so back there weren’t as many devices such as super efficient car fridges which run on 12 volts. Those machines are amazing. I’ve been trying to get Sandra to put her sake (rice wine) in one of those machines and out of the household refrigerator where it is taking up heaps of room. You never know, eventually she’ll succumb to the suggestion. There are now four off grid systems in operation here, and they all perform different tasks. And yes, they are super simple power systems. I’m testing various battery chemistries and some are better than others, but they’re all good in their own way. Batteries are a really old and mature technology so I don’t believe that there will be any easy gains in the future.

    🙂 Sometimes the globe artichokes grow faster than we can eat them. A failing for sure, but there are a lot of those plants growing.

    That rose is a real stunner.

    Out of curiosity, with tectonic plate theory, did the old war horses really hang out to the bitter end? It does not speak well of their ability to learn, but their education perhaps encouraged that outcome.

    🙂 High tea, but with coffee and at the end of a work day and no scones, jam and cream. The need to compartmentalise our activities became quickly apparent when we began the construction of the house. Hmm. Not everyone gets that memo, and way back in the start – for only a few days – Sandra reckoned I was treating her like an employee. Well that’s not on with such an adventure, and I can change my ways. Oh well. The other thing we began doing is to review at the start of each day what we want to achieve, how we are going to go about doing that, and who’s in charge if a decision needs to be made. It works, but again, it’s not for everyone. We would have made effective pirates!

    How did H enjoy her bath? Hope that it was a warm bath?

    Well, burying a dead chunk of white goods is always an option, but you’d hope that there are better options out there. Maybe. Ook! The local tip takes dead white goods.

    I don’t get blowers either. The leaf rake is an elegant item of technology. Full disclosure, I do have a blower, but it is a mains electric powered unit and I use it to blow leaves out of the roof gutters. It also gets pressed into service to clean up machines after they’ve been used about the property. One of the farm machine repair dudes suggested that cleaning process a while back so as to save on future maintenance costs. It works too, and the electricity is there waiting to be used. The fossil fuel powered devices blow. 😉

    Money making pyramid scheme indeed. Who can forget the ostrich craze a few decades ago? I never understood that one. Donkeys can cope with higher temperatures than alpacas – from what I understand.

    Your friends are travelling a similar path to many of us. Rural places tend to disregard folks who haven’t been there for at least three generations. But on the other hand, not everyone in Idaho are mormon, and not everyone where we live are old timers. The social connections I make are usually with the newer but well established people. I accept that, and just try to avoid offending the real long timer families who are in good repute. It’s easy to mess that up so you have to tread warily.

    And exactly, your experience with high school matches mine in that regard. When you’re a transfer student, it’s hard breaking into well established cliques. But you know, life ain’t high school (which I tend to believe is a super artificial environment), and the experience kind of forces you out of your comfort zone and did I not just recently pen the words: the future belongs to the adaptable?

    It’s funny how we as a society tend to think we’re all super advanced, and yet here we are using words and concepts (such as urbs) that are several millennia old. Far out.

    Yes, neat and tidy does attract far less criticism and questions. Nice one. And you’re slowly ramping up to your growing season. Have you got all your seeds yet?

    Was the new ghostbuster’s film good? I’d heard that the latest instalment was a pretty good storyline. Back to the roots and stuff.

    Yeah, I read about the fire over in that part of the continent. They’ve had a dry and hot summer there. That state does pretty well at conducting large scale regular burn offs.



  5. Hello Chris
    Goodness knows what is going to happen. I get fed up with people weeping and wailing on the radio and television, about their financial distress. They really haven’t a clue as to how to manage and things are about to get way worse here from April on. One such fellow was asked what his income was. It was £50,000. He did add, aggressively, that he had a large mortgage.

    We are metric here but I don’t pay much attention to it unless I absolutely have to. I automatically understand the old way and certainly all my recipes are in lbs and ounces.

    I have never made blackberry jam. I used to make blackberry and apple jam, equal quantities of each. Did the same with blackberry and elderberry jam but wasn’t that keen on it.


  6. Rock blockin- two thumbs up for that use of precious electrons. Gotta have a bit of fun. My son is an audiophile, and so when he was here visiting at Christmas, we rigged up a pair of monster speakers for my workshop. Pictures to follow.

    Oil- Gail Tverberg has been offering opinions on how the peak will unfold for years, and the actual path is still murky as supply and demand and EROEI all affect each other.

    As the little wise one said: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”

    Post empire arrangements- I recently finished a book called “The Dawn of Everything, A new history of humanity”

    This is nonfiction, written by an anthropologist/archeologist duo. , and uses the most up to date research to point out that the standard narrative of hunter-gatherer- agriculture- kingdoms-nation states is a gross simplification of what has transpired. In some ways hopeful, in that many varied ways of organizing have occurred that bypassed this fate, but a bit of a downer, as they struggle to explain how we ended up stuck in the power structures we currently have. In my opinion, they are not accounting for the secret sauce of oil and fossil fuel slaves, but still an interesting ( but long!) read.

    DC solar power- FINALLY got the second solar array hooked to our water heater this week, so our electric bill will take a plunge going forward. A local electrical whiz has designed a homemade controller that does MPPT for the array and is letting me use his beta version while he refines the design. It is programmed to shunt to a secondary load when the water heater hits its set point, so I have that sent to an electric baseboard heater. Still thinking about what the secondary load might be come summer.

    Yes, separate standalone systems are easy enough, when it makes sense.

  7. Yo, Chris – Re: Camulod Chronicles. Let’s do it again! 🙂 . Of course, you haven’t read “The Burning Stone” which is the newish prequel. Kicks off the whole glorious mess!

    What’s it all mean? 42. Some people would rather think of more pleasant things. Or think of nothing, at all.

    I also have some reservations about “UnRoman Britain.” I’ll probably get it on an interlibrary loan, and take a look.

    Nothing lovelier than the sunset hour. Or, as the French say, L’ Heure Bleue … the blue hour. If the weather cooperates, I’m usually out in the garden. Given it’s around dinnertime, I usually don’t have many people underfoot. I had to look up what a Currawong is. They do have a rather plaintive cry, which is somehow just suited for the dying of the day.

    I was pretty unaware of 12 volte systems, for a long time. Who knew electricity came in flavors? 🙂 . Used to be pretty much a boat thing. But, with the rise of behemoth RVs, all kinds of appliances and gizmos entered the market. Not a bad thing, I think, in general.

    LOL. Given I hate to do anything twice, I’d probably just use the runny jam on ice cream! Or, drizzled over cake!

    Well, geologists have these conventions, and people read papers. It’s been awhile, but I read accounts that some of them got pretty … lively, when the theory of plate tectonics was introduced. And it went on for years.

    As far as I know, ostrich didn’t catch on here, as the pet du jour. Maybe because they’re generally grumpy and a kick can kill you?

    Life ain’t high school. How true. As many a foot ball hero and rally squad girl, found out. Didn’t seem to sink in until three divorces and five kids, later. I started an idea (anonymously) that there were some historic parallels between rally girls and camp followers. 🙂 .

    I don’t think I’m going to have much to buy in the seed department. I’ve got some left over from last year, and, depending on viability, will go with that. Plus what I saved. What I am looking for is some red rhubarb. We have green, but I’d like to plant a bit of red, just for variety. Territorial has it, but their shipping costs … Nichols, does not have it. I’ll check my local seed and feed. Territorial has one bit of root stock. For $20!!! The big question now, as it is every year, is when to start the tomatoes and peppers, inside.

    I’ll probably watch the Ghostbusters movie, tonight.

    I feel so lame. I went out yesterday morning, to find I had a flat tire. Not low. Flat. Lot’s of fooling around, reading the manual and watching a few U Tub videos. Just getting the jack out (required penetrating oil) was an ordeal. But the bottom line is … I couldn’t get the lug nuts to move. Not one of them. I tried the oil. Jacked it up a bit to take the weight of the lug nuts. Tapped the lug wrench with a hammer. Zip. Nadda. Hacked away at the grape vines for an hour, just to mellow out. Called Frank the Mechanic, this morning. It’s Monday, and he said he had four people standing in front of him. But, I told him there was no hurry. One of his guys, or he, will get to me in good time.

    I usually go to The Club on Sunday mornings. I called and let them know “I’m not dead. Just a flat time.” Lew

  8. Hi Al,

    Good to hear from you and hope that winter is not too extreme.

    As a bit of an update, I’m about a third of the way through the Kenwood KT-1000SD refurbishment, and it sounds great already.

    Had to actually purchase a genuine service manual for the Yamaha T-80 tuner because the PDF copies online were both missing pages and the parts lists were a bit hard to read (best not stuff that up). On the other hand you can actually buy the service manual for only a couple of bucks which is amazing!

    Hey, I might have to get some test equipment so as to fine tune that Yamaha, it sounds a bit flat to me right now, but I’m certain that the refurbishment will lift the quality of the sound.

    Hope you are doing well.



  9. Hi Inge,

    I’m at a loss to know how things will play out on that front too. It was hard not to note that your central bank lifted interest rates, albeit a tiny increment. What did people expect? Nothing stays the same way forever, and you know, people can always sell their assets. That’s what they used to have to do. I dunno, maybe if the people whine loudly enough, someone might bail them out – although I can’t imagine who would do so.

    I have a mate who talks about debt jubilees, and I don’t believe that our culture is wired for such a possibility.

    I’d be curious as to your point of view, but one of our household strategies is simply to spend less than we earn. As a strategy it works. But for some weird reason I can’t put a finger on, the vast majority of people I speak with wish to earn more as a strategy. I’ve had reactions bordering on horror when I suggest the alternative strategy of spending less. Far out.

    No worries, I grew up with imperial measurements but was educated in the metric system. I’m actually cool with either way, it bothers me not at all. 🙂

    Hmm. I like the sound of the blackberry and apple jam, and the apples provide pectin (I believe), but elderberries, well, I’m not really keen on the berries and leave them for the birds. Sandra makes a delightful elderflower wine, which really is very tasty.

    Things in the big smoke look as though they are becoming more normal, except for the pesky masks, which must be the bane of people working in hospitality. I really feel for them having to wear those things in hot weather all day long. It’s not right.



  10. Hi Steve,

    Ah, your son was serving you up some block rockin’ beats for your workshop! Clearly a bloke after my own heart given I’m also in the process of setting up a similar system. Hope it sounds good in there.

    Thanks for mentioning Gail Tverberg’s writing as I had not come across the author before. Murky and uncertain is probably the way of it – and expensive too!

    How good are Yoda quotes? And from the best film of that series.

    That’s the difficult thing about such works. I read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse many years ago, and I dunno I reckon that the examples were cherry picked so as to posit a certain viewpoint. The author didn’t tackle the fall of the mighty Roman Empire, and that was long, drawn out and painful in its fall, and hardly at all neat. But yeah, I agree oil is the wild card, and everyone talks about by using the word ‘production’, which is only sort of correct. Extraction and refinement would be more appropriate, but the words actually used hide meanings and obscure truths. It’s no good.

    Oh good stuff! How large is the array in kW you have connected into hot water service? That sounds like a very clever device. The local solar dudes down here make a similar controller which they showed me the last time I was there. And um, err, yeah, what to do with the excess load during the summer months is a real problem. If it simply switches off, which is fine, only the potential is lost. But then, you need hot water during the summer months too, hopefully not the heater though.

    We have a huge number of electric tools so as to take advantage of that lost potential, but even so, there isn’t much else you can do. Maybe a swimming pool pump which has to run all day long could take such a load during that part of the year, but yeah, welcome to my conundrum.



  11. Hi Lewis,

    Oh man, that’s sad about the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub closing its doors due to the health subject which dare not be named. Small business is doing it tough for sure, and even now some industries such as the music business isn’t economically viable. I read an article about the lead singer of a local band whom I quite enjoy, and they were a proven economically viable band for many years before you know what, and wow, it’s been brutal for that industry in particular: Why The Rubens lead singer Sam Margin was forced to turn to charity during the pandemic.

    What interested me about the article was that the the article voiced something I’d had at the back of my mind stirring around and it was that: “They told everybody to get vaccinated. We supported that as an industry. Everyone’s 95 per cent [double vaccinated] and 36 per cent triple vaccinated and yet we don’t think it’s safe enough to go and see live music.” That could possibly be and expression of disillusionment right there. What is the point doing what you’re asked to do, if there are no benefits and only demands for more costs. It’s a tough sell, and the market ain’t buying it, well a large majority are no longer buying that story.

    Sorry, I digress. The Devil’s Tavern as the pub was formerly known has an ominous ring to the name, and certainly attracted some seedy characters of dubious repute!

    Hey, Loft’s “Wayside Tavern” is sitting in the to-read pile, and has just moved further up the list. So it was you who did the original sneaky book recommendation for the book? 😉

    You’re probably right about people not thinking at all. Funnily enough I was thinking tonight about the horse character in George Orwell’s book ‘Animal Farm’. Did everything that was asked of him, and came to a nasty end. Anyway, I see people in the day to day world struggling with that story, and it is difficult because they have that primary story to act as the horse did in their own lives and give themselves over to work, and then recent experiences over the past two years have got them questioning that story. I keep hearing people talking about retirement and was wondering if it could be generalised that people in their late fifties (I’m not anywhere near that yet) have an existential crisis of sorts?

    Mate, I’ll be curious to hear what you have to say about unRoman Britain. I dunno, four centuries can provide plenty of fertile ground for indoctrination.

    Always good for the soul and spirit to get out into nature during the bluish hour. Hey, I try to spend as much time outdoors as possible too. It makes you wonder if a lot of folks these days don’t get enough Vitamin D from that old fusion reactor in the sky?

    I agree, the rise of good 12 Volt appliances is a good thing. And basic solar power systems are super easy to set up and provide emergency lighting, radios (they’ll power ham / CB rigs too), refrigeration and water pumps. That can provide some comfort during rough times.

    Sandra, like you would be, is reluctant to reprocess the jam. It happens.

    Hehe! Hope the geologists weren’t throwing punches and knives at each over the plate tectonics theory? Makes you wonder who the last hold allegedly out was?

    What? I had no idea that Ostriches could kill you. Holy carp, it’s true. Why would anyone want one of those birds in their paddock? Ah, apparently Emu eviscerations of humans is apparently quite rare. The Emu’s probably taste like chicken.

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is a poor choice to peak in high school. Afterwards it’s all down hill from there! 🙂 Oh you’re like super cheeky with that one.

    Fair enough, and no doubts the seed will be viable for many years if stored well, and even then they can be forgiving. I’ve never seen or heard of a green rhubarb, and they self seed here. I’ll have to keep a watch out on those self seeded varieties. Such easy to grow plants.

    That ghostbuster’s tune was very catchy. Quite enjoyed the original two films, dunno about the latest instalments. I await your review.

    Bummer about the tire. Hope Frank can get the thing fixed. Actually a similar thing happened to me with lock nuts on wheels about two or three years back. We purchased better quality wheel braces. The standard one that came with the car was not good, and only barely adequate for the job. The new cross brace works much better – it’s an old school design.

    A very thoughtful thing to do. Nobody wants news reports circulating suggesting that outcome, although it does happen to some folks from time to time. A quiet news day perhaps?



  12. Chris;
    The array is 2.6 kW, so good sized, how much hot water does a guy really need? The big payoff is the electric bill reduction. Water heating is our biggest load. Local electric coop charges $0.14 per kW-h for usage.

    I am going to experiment with making an electric oven and hot plate for cooking/baking on sunny summer days. Maybe combine that with a hay box cooker.

    I’m mostly thinking of resistance loads, since I don’t have batteries, off grid inverter, charge controller, or DC tools. If it comes to it, I could pony up the mad cash, but that point has not arrived.

    Reminds me, here is a gang here in the states you might find interesting doing wild off grid stuff with DC power:

    Gail has been putting out thoughtful and original analysis of the interplay of peak oil and the economy for quite a while. She is widely followed, but unfortunately, does not moderate her comments, so there is a lot of chaff there.

    I have an embarrassingly long list of bookmarks regarding peak oil and the descent. A few of the better ones have gone dark, or repetitive, or just weird or off the rails, but I skim the remainders every so often.

    I ran across you through the old JMG ADR, which I followed closely for a time. Most new bookmarks are more of the hands on, practical application side of things.

    Which reminds me, I’m going to try sugar beets this coming garden year, as I’m a terrible beekeeper, but love the sweets.

  13. Yo, Chris – Yes, the whole That Which Shall Not Be Named situation is a mess. And having to seek charity is a humbling experience. But I had a couple of idle thoughts. Is it, perhaps, a toughening up experience, for what is to come? And also, would The Editor (I hope I can get a dispensation. I’m old and set in my ways. And thought her anonymity was really cool) and you be the people you are today, without The Recession That Had to Happen? As I said, just idle speculation.

    I see things are getting a bit back to normal, here. In the newspaper, yesterday, there was an article on the Master Gardeners. They’re starting up their seminars and classes again, this year. I’m quit relieved. I see they’re going to do a blueberry class, here. I thought I’d have to tackle fertilizing and pruning, on my own. I’ll help. I see Ted is also going to do his tool sharpening class, again. Here. I was hoping for that. There was also an interesting article about the flood damage. Looks like the total, public and private is around 4.5 million. And, also, this …,284163

    LOL. As far a sneaky book suggestions go, well, you asked. 🙂 . I think you asked how I got so interested in Roman Britain. That was the book. I read it when I was 10-12 years old, and was just gobsmacked that the Roman’s had been in Britain for 400 years, and everything had gone in the pooper. Lofts had a number of books where she invented a house, and followed one family through great chunks of British history. But I think “Wayside Tavern” is the only one that goes all the way back to Roman Times. I think I also mentioned “Japanese Inn” (Oliver Statler.) Different author, but same premiss. Large chunks of a nation’s history, told through the story of one family in one house. It’s an interesting way to structure a book.

    For the past couple of decades, I’ve been seeing a lot of people relating that “they followed all the rules, and things didn’t turn out as expected.” The American Dream. “The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.” The streets are paved with gold, etc. etc.. Didn’t work out that way. Which leaves a lot of disappointed people. And, resentful.

    Well, I made banana muffins last night. And only had one major disaster. 🙂 . Once again, I left the bananas in the oven, while it was pre-heating. The over ripe bananas I was gong to use, were a total loss. The greener bananas were totally black. But, after they had cooled down, I decided to see what they were like, inside. Not burnt, totally white. So, baked bananas instead of over ripe. I thought if they made an improvement, in the flavor, perhaps I’d do that, in future. They didn’t make a appreciable difference. But, if I ever have a craving for banana muffins, and don’t have any over ripe ones, on hand, I’ll just bake a couple. The oven is quit a mess. Added walnut pieces, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

    I do remember that there was one last cranky old hold out, as far as tectonic theory went. But he finally passed away and the way was clear for the young mavericks. Happens in a lot of academic areas.

    Yup. Ostriches can kill you. Would I lie to you? 🙂

    The green rhubarb was planted by Ruth, one of the Garden Goddesses. She’s moved on. When things started changing, here at the Institution, she decided to move over to eastern Washington to live with her son, who was recently widowed. Took some of the rhubarb root with her. I cut out the seed heads. It happily regrows from the roots, anyway. It’s right next to the strawberry patch. That could give one, ideas.

    The new “Ghostbusters” was well worth a bowl of popcorn. But, of course, it’s not quit as good as the first movie. But it is a real love letter, to the original movie. The son of the director of the original, directs this one. And, he brought back as many of the old crew as were available.

    Frank didn’t make it, yesterday. Maybe, today? I told him there was no hurry. I’ve managed to keep the space next to the repair, open. Two tomato cages and a concrete brick were employed. No worries. There’s plenty of other parking spaces. Lew

  14. Chris,

    Good job on getting the firewood in. The changes you’ve made in the firewood system are spot on – allowing the cut wood to dry out for a longer time than when you first started burning. The more seasoned the wood, the better.

    Ever have one of those days when you totally CANNOT write? That was me yesterday. And I’m trying to write 2 letters also. Maybe that part of my brain is working better today? Or maybe not…I typed “yeasterday” for “yesterday”. Would “yeasterday” be the day one added yeast to some dough and then let it sit and rise before baking?

    I’ve read a fair amount about the Metis people. Think descendants of the fur traders from the 1600s on, a mix of Native Americans and French and Scottish, a bit of English. It turns out that some of the traditional Metis songs are actually “maps”. The Red River of the North was the main canoe route from Hudson Bay to Manitoba and the Dakotas. It flowed into Hudson Bay, but throughout Canada it widened at many places into lakes. Some of these old songs actually listed the names of the lakes in order, some from east to west, some from west to east. Gotta have some way of knowing about where you are in the wilderness!

    Ah yes, sanitizing life. And death. And childbirth. Everything needs to be pristine and perfect. Of course, this entirely ignores the fact that life is messy and dirty and filled with very unpristine things. Best to be exposed to natural parts of life, no matter how “disturbing” they might be. They’re normal and natural and ignoring them won’t make them go away, but will keep one from properly responding to things in as healthy a manner as possible.

    Part of the discomfort with accepting assistance, or barter or gift giving is that much of the “New World” countries (including Australia) has this myth of the “self-sufficient pioneer who lifted himself up by his bootstraps”. Add in things like television, and especially all of the easy interweb access, and it has added even more isolation, so that people don’t know how to interact and cooperate. Barter and gift giving used to be at the heart of economies even for our European ancestors if we go back far enough.

    We’re having a heat wave. Rather, maybe early springlike weather. With NO precipitation forecast for at least 2 weeks. The Princess and I were running errands Monday and didn’t need the heater running in the car. +7C and higher days forecast indefinitely, frost at night. Balmy. 😉

    How do you keep your heavy-duty electrical cables so neat? No matter HOW I treat mine, they end up twisted and tangled. I think we have Tangling Faeries or something. These are clearly related to “Car Key Gnomes”, who appear in the wee hours of the morning and move the car keys from where they were left into the deep, dark recesses of the sofa or other pieces of furniture.

    Also, good work with the downhill side drainage. Bad things happen when the downhill side of a building gets undercut by eroding water. I can imagine the glum looks that would result if the downhill side got washed out and the foundation started to shift…Ugh!

    Nice phrase. When working in the shed, sometimes having a “Block Rockin’ Radio” is required.

    I didn’t know, until reading your blog, that artichoke flowers were so beautiful. That’s a grand photo of the flower with that bee enjoying the pollen.


  15. Hello Chris,
    Jam is a great way to store sunshine to the dark winter months. What would we do without sugar? A friend of mine who is active in the Food Forest movement here says that the exotic plants grown in these systems all need a spoonful of sugar to go down. Every food forest garden will need an equal sized field of sugar beets… Runny jams we also sometimes get, and it sucks to boil again and clean the pots. I suspect it depends on the maturity of the fruit and their pectin content.

    Greetings to Sandra, thanks for coming out with your name. Maybe we will even see you in a photo one day? 😉

    “Solar power to the green little men” – could have been a news headline here. Sometimes we hear first what is coming from insurance companies and the military, since they have to act on realities, and have no need for politically correct wishful thinking.
    Around several military bases in this small country, the ministry of defense is buying up or long-term leasing lots of land for large solar parks. Maybe they know more than us about the availability of Russian gas in the coming years?
    Heating our place with wood works well, but for cooking I will need some infrastructure investments.


  16. Hi Steve,

    That’s a good sized array for that purpose, and heating elements aren’t often rated at more than that output anyway, so it’s at a guess well matched in the full sun when that fusion reactor in the sky is well located. It’s actually a really good idea for excess electricity. Wow! Your electricity is cheap, from what I hear people pay about $0.30per kWh down here.

    And absolutely with the oven and hot plate over the summer months, although the oven and stove top I use can draw from the system as they need – your set-up might look a bit different. We have an outdoor under cover summer kitchen and it means that fresh bread can be baked on hot summer days and not heat up the inside of the house.

    I hear you about that, but I’d probably pony up the mad cash for a 24Volt LiFePO4 battery arrangement, charge controller and pure sine wave inverter of at least 3,000W continuous output. My best guess is that your panels are naturally suited to 24 Volts output and all will be wired in parallel, but who really knows what voltage your current water heating DC element runs at? Anyway, it’s possible that it’s extra low voltage given that the entire system is a DC system, but I don’t really know and forget whether you mentioned that detail before. Such a system gives you more options to run mains powered items direct from the inverter without all the unnecessary intermittency issues.

    Thanks for mentioning the link to Living Energy Farm folks. They sound like people with hands-on knowledge who put their money where their mouths are. I’ve long been curious as to the Nickel-Iron (NiFe) batteries after learning about the longevity, and may one day stump some mad cash to put the beast to the test. The problem with those batteries is that the electrolyte has to be replaced once every decade – do you want to do that? I know a local bloke who uses that chemistry battery in an off grid arrangement and the voltage drops way low and switches off his inverter to his house due to low voltage disconnect. What really needs to be done with those batteries is connect them to a custom made inverter which can accommodate the lower voltages – and the local mob I bought my two inverters from (Latronics) will actually custom make those devices, but it’s gonna cost ya.

    The system I installed last weekend included a Fullriver US made 12V 200Ah AGM sealed lead acid battery which I purchased back in 2006. And the battery still works beautifully. Respect to your countries manufacturing prowess. So the problem I have with the Living Energy Farm folks is that if they misrepresent the performance of Lead Acid batteries, then… I have babied that battery since day dot though, but all the same claims of failure and short life span are very difficult for me to accept. I fully accept that the lifespan won’t be as long as an NiFe battery, but there are so many variables with this stuff that making sweeping generalisations becomes problematic, and so I just don’t go there myself.

    Yikes! I avoid commenting on unmoderated websites. There are these things called trolls, and they discourage dialogue.

    Hehe! Mate, we do practical down here for sure!!!! 🙂 Thanks for the laughs, but yes I avoid armchair theorists as well.

    Yes, I too have decided to plant out some sugar beets next season too. A good mate of mine grew them, produced sugar syrup after boiling them down (what a mess I was told!) and also produced alcohol from those beets and I got to taste the results. Our imagination here did not extend that far and all we did was roast them, and they were alright tasting. Quite sweet, but then it is possible that your pumpkins have higher sugar contents than what we grow down here.



  17. Hi DJ,

    Yeah, the firewood is one of those systems which is working really well. I’ve been in contact with the manufacturer of the fire box too, and could produce some hard statistics as to firewood moisture content – which was seriously low at around 14% for the local hardwood. Between the manufacturer and Sandra (with me in the background), the problem with the delaminating pins which hold up the very thick steel baffle (which sits between the combustion chamber and the flue) is getting resolved. They’re having trouble obtaining replacement parts, so just in case I bought some heavier duty stainless steel tubing which I can insert over the damaged pins and that will extend the life of the device for a very long time. Stainless steel is an amazing product! Very heat and corrosion resistant.

    People around these parts despair of using the local hardwood, but as you say, seasoning is everything, and the longer the better. Two years is enough in my experience. I once had the local gobarmint folks tell me that it would be preferable if I used firewood from very slow growing red gum forests (i.e. 600 years to full size and then some) which are several hundred kilometres away from here. Hmm, it sounded like a dumb suggestion to me, so I ignored it. I have as-of rights to procure firewood for personal use.

    Hehe! Mate, heck yeah! 🙂 It happens, and sometimes you commit to schedules that are beyond your ability to supply. And the words don’t then flow. Dare I suggest recalling Sandra’s brutal summary of one fine and outstanding blog essay: Not your best work! I hear ya!

    On the other hand, the word ‘yeaster-day’ may be inspired genius. It could form the central part of an instructional song in relation to bread baking using natural yeasts: Yeaster-day, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though the bread won’t rise. Oh, I believe, that the bread is f$%^&d! 🙂

    Sorry, I’m still giggling… Get it together, Chris!

    Hmm, I had not heard of the Métis peoples before. Fascinating, and Hudson Bay is far greater than just a simple bay. It’s huge. I had not heard of such developments down here, but the First Nations folks took in European settlers for sure, and there was the very famous case of: William Buckley (convict). I’ve visited the blokes resting ground. An interesting person, and I was dismayed that some historians have talked down his intellect. It seems like a big call because he survived learning new languages, new ways and was able to walk between two or more cultures. Few can do such things.

    You’re right on both accounts, and I can’t fault your logic. Hmm, I tend to believe that the myth of the self-sufficient pioneer, is also an extension of the divide and conquer strategy which gets wielded out with a heavy hand in English cultures. Yes, best make sure that the common folk don’t get too obstreperous. An education can be a dangerous thing in those with the will to think for themselves.

    Haha! I don’t think so, but yeah whatever. 🙂 Heatwave indeed. Dare I mention that it will be 36’C here on Sunday? Ouch! I can’t complain, we have not yet had a day 40’C or over this season, and that is remarkable. Most normal years we’ll get three such days, and when things are bad, there’ll be at least a eleven rotten things. I can recall a run of three over 40’C days in a row… Far out, that was a hot year. But the plants did grow really well and fast that year. I’m hoping that Sunday’s weather ripens some of the tomatoes.

    Hehe! Mate, years ago I put up a photo of less than neat wiring, and it was commented upon. They know. They know. The wire was twin core 16mm2 wire with an outer UV protective sheath, so the stuff makes it look easy. But also over the years I’ve refined the way that this stuff gets wired up just through trial and error and using what is commercially available. DC circuit breakers cost almost two to three times what they used to. If I’d been more alert I would have stocked up way back then… Oh well.

    Thanks, and I might get that uphill drainage job done this Friday. The weather looks conducive for such heavy and hard digging work.

    The colours in the artichoke flowers are delightful, and you can’t see it in the photos, but the purple spines ripple with the bees activity. Lovely, and also very tasty. The older plants are dying off and new ones are forming at their bases.



  18. Hi Lewis,

    Worked late tonight on paid work. Definitely must have done something bad in a past life to have to work so hard. Oh well, mustn’t grumble. 🙂 Well, maybe a little bit. I’m still giggling to myself about the naughty rendition of the Beatles classic in my reply to DJ. Hehe! Ook. Better get serious…

    There’s truth in what you say about surviving hard times, and using that experience to grow. The problem is that we’ve had almost a quarter of a century of up, up and away, and most people I speak with don’t seem to consider that this is an historically unparalleled time. It just doesn’t happen, like a hot chick party, which was a quote from the amusing film: What happens in Vegas. I enjoyed the film anyway. But yeah, it’s hard to recall to be prudent and conservative when the mechanisms in society don’t reward you for being so. I recall that it is historically unparalleled.

    Yesterday I was recounting the story of what my grandfather went through during WWII and what he endured (from what I heard about at least) as a discussion point. And things have been super cushy in the west the last quarter century. It just isn’t possible to avoid reverting to the historical mean. Even the best kept, improved and modified soils follow that trajectory back to the historical mean.

    And humility is not a response that is actively cultivated or respected in our culture, and yet it plays an important part. Well, at least I believe it does smooth the choppy social waters.

    So yeah, I agree with your idle speculation.

    And yeah, call the Editor by her name, the Editor. I liked the anonymity too, but that was her call just out of the blue. As I mentioned that day, the wind is changing. I’ve noticed very recently that the people who soldiered on during the recent bout of craziness seem to have the best outlook on things. There are some who stopped though due to fear of you know what, and they are currently displaying signs of fatigue. That’s not good, and there is a use-it-or-lose-it element to this entire story.

    Glad to hear that the master gardeners are getting their acts together. It’s funny you mention mentors and/or role models…

    The farm pads are a great idea. What more could you ask for during a possible flood event, other than higher ground? There’s a huge farm at the valley to which this part of the mountain range drains into. It’s a really well run farm and I get a more or less eagles eye view on the activities. Before forecast heavy rain that farm always moves their stock to higher ground. And sometimes the low lying ground down there gets pretty wet – I can certainly at various times of the see some flooded paddocks. But on the other hand the soil would be super rich.

    Thanks for clarifying that it was you who made the super sneaky book recommendation – I scored an old library hard cover book version of Loft’s book. It’s rising higher through the to-read list, and candidly may be the next in line. The more I learn about the Roman’s, the more successful I can see that they were, and over huge time periods too. But then they weren’t successful, and that is an interesting story too. I quite enjoy historical novels, and at a similar age encountered James Clavell’s tome: Shogun. I loved that book, and the mirror it held up to our own culture at that time period was not pretty. And such an engrossing tale as told by an outsider. Oooo! Another sneaky book recommendation… Like your style! 😉 Nabbed a used hardback version of the book from Statler. Did your mum ever tell you that you were a bad influence! Hehe!

    Hmm, I’m hearing people expressing that particular opinion about the rules. The core of what annoys them is that the baseline has shifted, and each shift in the baseline has produced great discontent. It’s a fascinating thing to watch playing out in the population, and it is destroying the initial burst of goodwill with each and every knife thrust. People for whom the dream has worked out for, are more often than not, the ones I’m seeing that are fatigued. What I don’t understand is how people live with the cognitive dissonance arising from the reality that their kids can’t enjoy the same journey and perquisites. That fascinates me how people cope with that sense of loss. Often anger and derision is how they do so. I have no skin in that game.

    Hey, this is super weird. As I was reading your comment earlier this morning, I too was consuming a banana muffin with a coffee. Ollie graciously agreed to assist me with the muffin and I reckon he got more than half. He’s doing it tough that dog. I know when banana fritters are deep fried (an old down under classic served up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of golden syrup) they tend to want to use more over ripe bananas. Interesting to hear that the early stages of the fermented banana process didn’t seem to make that big a deal.

    Yikes! I hope that peak oil theory doesn’t have to wait that long for the true believers in flying cars and biggerest and betterest stuff to die off before people come to their senses in relation to energy? There are times I think to myself that we could be doing some good things to cushion the eventual hammer-to-fall blow in relation to energy. Oh well, moving on, nothing to see there.

    Maybe you would. Maybe… 🙂 Have you ever seen an Ostrich? Can’t say that I have, although there must be some around the place, somewhere. I’ve seen Emu’s though. A couple of local farms have them. The fences on those farms are bonkers and possibly expensive.

    Hope Ruth’s son wanted his mum to move in with him? I’m not sure I’d want that outcome unless there were kids to look after.

    Speaking of plants growing – a self seeded rose has appeared. Do you know how unusual that is here? I’ve seen places with wild roses, but they’re not anywhere near these parts. I’ll let it get a bit bigger and see if the flowers are interesting. Who knew that could happen?

    Thanks for the film review. If it was half as good as the original it would have been excellent. And Bill Murray is always worth the while. 🙂

    Did Frank make it to the stranded car today?



  19. Yo, Chris – I think I’ll leave your rendition of Yeasterday, alone. Hard to top and gave me a giggle, too. Although there may be possibilities in Jacques Brel’s “Yesterday When I was young ..” Yeasterday when I was young, there was no rise, among the buns …” Now how to get “yeasterday” to rhyme with “sourdough?”

    “Unparalleled time” is right. We were happy as hogs in slop and didn’t even know it. To continue the musical theme, “Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

    The Editor … Woman of Mystery!!! 🙂 There’s something intriguing, about that. A little mystery makes life interesting.

    Lofts was pretty popular, back in the day. She wrote over 50 books. Made the best seller lists, several times. She was a book club favorite. Now she’s barely remembered. I read “Shogun” when it first came out. And who can forget the miniseries? I wonder if it holds up, over time? Odd, though. I really didn’t care for any of Clavell’s other books.

    Ollie well deserves a bit of banana muffin. For his yeoman service in keeping deer off the place. Poor H. Baked good are forbidden her, due to her delicate digestion. I also tossed in some walnut pieces, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. A squirt of honey. As I was salvaging the bananas, I thought up a plan B. If they had been a total loss, I would have substituted apples. Heck, or even carrots. Hmmm. The bananas I salvaged came from a slightly green bunch. The over ripe one’s I was going to use were a total loss. The green bunch were entirely black on the outside. I was surprised when I opened them up and discovered the interior was not burnt tasting, but soft and white.

    I’ve only seen Ostrich, in zoos. They’re quit tall, and look down on you with their cold, beady little eyes. There’s a bit of “nasty dinosaur”, about them. Of course, you’ve got the Cassowary, which can also be pretty dangerous. A Cassowary plays a major role in the sequel to “Hollow Kingdom.” Which wasn’t near as good as the first book.

    Well, Ruth’s about 90, so her son is really up there. His wife died of Old Timer’s Disease, and Ruth used to go over, frequently, to lend a hand and give him a break.

    Well, as you probably know, rose volunteers are like apples. Might be good … or not. Might make your fortune … or not. Maybe it will be blue? 🙂

    Nope, I haven’t heard from Frank, yet. When you’re probably the best mechanic in town, and an all around nice guy, you’re in demand. Frank once said that a car stuck on the freeway, full of kids, has priority. I fully agree, with that. My needs, at this time, are low. And I told him there was no rush. I may give him a call, this afternoon, or tomorrow morning. But I think I need to strike the right tone, of not being pushy. More, idle curiosity 🙂 .

    It’s my phone that makes me edgy. It hasn’t been out of reach, since I called Frank. And I don’t live like that. What makes it worse is that sometimes it’s a bit wonky. Last week, I was waiting on a call, and it didn’t ring. Just went to voicemail. That’s happened before, but it’s not consistent. The very next day, I got a nuisance call at 8:01 am. I don’t know why it does this. I treat all my electronics, gently. It’s never been dropped, or anything like that. Just more modern mysteries.

    I called my local feed and seed, yesterday, and asked if they had any red rhubarb. It will be in, next month. Then they asked if I wanted a call, when it came in. I was surprised at the service. Lew

  20. Hi Chris,

    The shed – what an accomplishment!! The jars of jam with the red checked lids look almost like a commercially produced product sold around here.

    Had an unexpected overnight visit from Cecily, Carla and Ruth, the dog last weekend. Doug’s friend is arriving in a few hours for five days so they can have their traditional Super Bowl fest – something that I do not need to be a part of. I’m off to Carla’s on Friday for three days to escape. Her husband will also be out of town for the same reason. A ladies’ overnight will take place on Saturday with some family and a few of her friends. Of all professional sports I dislike football the most so at least this Sunday marks the end of the season.

    Our weather is moderating a bit and it’s time to think of starting some seeds. Of course with the recently revealed state of my back time will tell what I’ll actually get done.

    Our retirement home friends, Bill and Kathy, both have the unmentionable and yes, they’ve had the vaccines and boosters. They are doing OK at any rate. Both have quite a few risk factors especially Kathy.

    Hope the hot weather gives the tomatoes a boost.


  21. Hi everyone,

    A note of warning regarding Kelpie dogs: Kelpie breeder warns increasingly popular dog breed is not for everyone.

    They’re a great dog breed, but wow, they need some area to run around in, and stuff to do in order to keep them occupied and engaged. Not for everyone is a good way to put it, but they’re good with the program here. One of the photos in the article shows a Kelpie standing on the back of a sheep – surfing, as they can do. Glad Plum and Ruby never tried that with Ollie, that I know about.

    Who knew that the dog breed was on some sort of TV program? Tuesday I spotted a bloke walking one such puppy in the big smoke. It was a fine looking dog and seemed relaxed, but I did wonder how the dog was coping in the big smoke.



  22. Hi Goran,

    Actually a lot of the technology we utilise here (and jam making and preserving is a technology just like all the rest) is about preserving what is in season. Even firewood (and the primary firewood shed was completely filled today) is a form of preservation. The problem as far as I understand things is that people are so used to someone else doing that preservation job for them and nothing ever seems to be out of season – including energy, that they don’t value what it is that they are getting. So the skills themselves are looked down upon as grandma skills – and that’s a big call in my books, but I see people thinking that. And also nowadays the preservation jobs are so specialised that the skills are spread very thinly. No wonder people are oblivious to the risks.

    But yeah, in your part of the world, the sugar beet ruled. Sure there was honey from bees, but the volume of honey produced is too small, and the bees need their winter food source in order to survive the winters.

    🙂 I dunno about the photo, that’s up to her.

    That’s possible about those solar infrastructure works, and there is something to be said about having the lights on in the depths of winter. It’s a complicated technology and importantly, the stuff can’t produce enough energy to reproduce itself. And what does that suggest?

    I’m in the same situation with cooking heat. We used to have a wood oven and stove, and it was the first steel wood heater we had used and we burnt the steel out, mostly by running the thing too hard and using poor firewood. The cost to replace that unit was expensive, and we aren’t repeating those mistakes, we’ll probably make new mistakes.



  23. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the revenge of analogue article, and it is good to see the revenge in full fight club mode. The guy sounds like a real can-do sort of guy. And yup, I used to review the discontinued product list whilst at Tandy and nab any of the really good electronics stuff on the cheap. Built up quite a good system which could doof the neighbourhood – I should swap notes with that guy, we’d have a laugh for sure.

    It was pretty funny twisting the song around like that. That’s the kind of stuff you get when you’d been exposed to Mad Magazine as a kid – I’m sure you understand (takes one to know one!) The magazines take on films was always pretty funny too, but the format worked your imagination. Very funny too with your interpretation. 😉

    Yes, who can forget Big Yellow Taxi? As a kid I was always a bit horrified by the concept of a tree museum. It sounded like something out of planet of the apes, or some other weird dystopian sci-fi novel. Isaac Assimov’s robots and spacer novels come to mind, and those worlds, whilst enjoyable at the time, seemed kind of dead. Mind you, I didn’t mind the concept of the Foundation series with the prediction hologram bloke popping up from time to time making a pronouncement and then going back to where ever the hologram rested. I might have been tempted to pull the plug, because history can go in all manner of directions – go back 65 million years ago just before the big rock hit and ask the dinosaurs what they thought about the future arc of history?

    Yes, it took eight years to get to a name, I don’t believe anyone should hold their breath waiting for a photo. It might be another eight years, and holding your breath for that long is a bad idea.

    I had not heard of the author prior to you mentioning the name. A shame. Truth to tell I had not read any more of James Clavell’s books, and I tend to agree with your reviews, and so I respect your opinion in such matters.

    Ollie is an idiot. He hurt his back leg today. He attempted a jump and cleared his front legs, but one of his back legs hit a chunk of unyielding steel. No he is a sore Bull Arab. I gave him some pain killers and he’s now asleep. He didn’t seem too troubled because he managed to walk into the kitchen fine for some beef jerky.

    Man, gotta get some sleep. Went to the pub for dinner this evening and it was cool with a bit of a breeze but we could sit outside and everyone else seemed huddled inside the building. If ever I get asked about such things I reply that we’ve lived up here so long that I no longer feel the cold weather. It seems like a less confrontational approach.

    Speak tomorrow.



  24. Yo, Chris – That was an interesting article about Kelpies. So they need a lot of mental stimulation. Maybe if you got them one of those thousand piece picture puzzles …. People are so thoughtless when they consider pets. They don’t do the research. Heck, I had an urge to get a parakeet, picked up a book, and decided against it. If you have one, you should play with it at least an hour a day. If you get two, they entertain and bond with each other. And ignore you. One bird sounded like too much fun. Two birds, not enough fun.

    Back when I was a wee small lad, and was trying on one hobby after another, I had a fit of leather tooling. The Tandy Leather store was one of the most fascinating stores, to visit. I was surprised to learn, much later, that they got into the electronics business. Which I think has kind of bit the dust. But I see they still have well over 100 leather stores. I sure do miss our Radio Shack. And the Sears. And the K Marche. 🙂

    Yup. Mad magazine warped a whole generation. And the movie parodies were a lot of fun. Speaking of movies, I (re) watched “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, last night. It’s 45 years old! I think it’s really held up well. And a lot of the tunes are still real toe tappers.

    Yes. Tree Museums. Did you ever see “Silent Running” (1972), with Bruce Dern? I think it’s where the “Star Wars” folks got the idea of cute robots. Ms. Baez wailing the soundtrack was a bit much, but otherwise, a pretty good movie.

    I think the author Lofts fell out of favor, as there’s not much sex, graphic violence or bad language. 🙂 . Funny to think the “hot” book (banned in Boston …and other places), at that time, was “Forever Amber.” Pretty tame by today’s standards. I managed to get hold of a copy, when I was about 12. I was a lot more interested in the London plague and fire, than all that sweaty stuff going on behind the curtains of the old four poster bed. And then there was “Peyton Place…”

    You didn’t expect Ollie to play it for all it was worth? I’m glad he wasn’t seriously injured. H occasionally plays “helpless” just because she wants to be picked up.

    Well, Frank didn’t call yesterday. I gave a call about 4:30, but they’d already closed for the day. I left a message, so, I expect I may hear from him, today. Management removed my barricade twice, yesterday. So, I’m leaving it alone and hoping for the best.

    But, I struck back, in a way. 🙂 . Another Dumpster Drama. I happened to put something in, in the afternoon. Someone (looking at you, Jack), had dumped two sets of blinds and boxes, down the garbage chute. Of course, they extended up into the chute, and blocked it. I took care of it. And left a note for management, to assess them of the situation. I suppose I’ll get a hot phone call, that it’s “not my responsibility.” It’s happened, before. Lew

  25. Chris,

    Yes, I’m shamelessly eavesdropping again. I, too, find the book “Shogun” to be very good. I could never finish any of his other books. I rewatched the miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain recently. It is still good. However, I was and am of the opinion that Richard Chamberlain wasn’t the correct person for that role. Agreed that it put the English/Dutch sailors in a different light than we’re used to seeing. But the European culture was rather lacking in personal hygiene at that time.

    Nice article on the kelpies. How does that old Beach Boys song go? Oh, yeah, “Everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin’ on a sheep”. That must mean another one of their songs, “Surfing Safari”, is for when Kelpies are hunting for sheep to surf.

    Meanwhile, at junior rodeos, the youth rodeos, there is an event for the little kids. It’s called “Mutton Busting”. The wee bairns try to ride a sheep instead of a bucking bronco like the adults ride. My niece won the Mutton Busting at a rodeo when she was 4 years old. 25 years later and she is still scared of sheep.

    Glad to hear you’re getting your delaminating pins sorted. Stainless steel is a marvel of modern technology.

    Hahaha! I liked your lyrics to “Yeasterday”.

    Thanks for the link to William Buckley. That was a fun read. Intellect is a funny thing. Maybe he was “illiterate”, but he wasn’t stupid if he could learn multiple languages.

    No, don’t get me started on the dumbing down of our society. Having a populace that doesn’t know how to think is good for those who prefer to govern dictatorially.

    Ya know, you can keep your 36C temperatures. I’m fully enjoying highs in hte +7C to +10C range right now. It’s about right, although warm for this early in February. And dry again…

    Like the Kelpies, Siberian huskies need a lot of mental stimulation. Otherwise, they get destructive and troublesome. I may try Lew’s idea of trying to have Avalanche put together a 1,000 piece puzzle. That would do something.

    I was on the jury in a civil trial once. The plaintiff, it turned out, raised emus. They got out, so he tried to chase them back into their pen, dived at one and got kicked in the head by the running emu. A trip to the hospital resulted in multiple stitches and a diagnosis of a concussion. There was only one problem. According to the plaintiff, he was supposedly incapacitated at the time due injuries from an auto accident 6 months earlier. If he was incapacitated, how could he be running around chasing emus???


  26. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks and we sure did hack that shed in no time at all. Dare I mention that there are plans afoot to extend the beast another 12 feet? Oops, broke my own rule there. Anyway, we have to do the ground works before all that happens and the greenhouse project takes priority, which is part of the same ground works. It may look chaotic, but some serious thought has gone into all of this stuff. And I’m super excited about what we are going to do with the new greenhouse.

    🙂 Funny you say that about the jam, but we used to purchase a French produced jam which is really so good, and re-used the jars and lids. Sandra never quite forgave me for gifting a small quantity of those glass jars away – to a good cause. The black lids are replacement items which we purchased in bulk, and they’ve proven to be longer lasting than the original commercial lids – which rust.

    An unexpected visit would possibly turn into a fun evening. 🙂 But yeah, I hear you about the sports fest. Yeah, I used to be a voting member of the super exclusive Melbourne Cricket Club. My grandfather signed me up as an infant and it took almost twenty years to be allowed entry. But you know, I’ve attended my fair share of cricket matches, and then other things attracted my attention and well I gave the membership away so that a more passionate person could take my place – numbers are strictly limited.` I dunno, a person has only so much time and energy and sports are great and plenty of people enjoy them, but like you, I just don’t need to be a part of that.

    Good luck with the seed raising, and my mind would also be turning towards that activity. Summer is waning here, what little there was. It’s funny you mention obtaining seeds… I forget, do you have a warm and sunny spot to raise your seeds in?

    Not to make light of your back, but Ollie is in a similar condition after attempting to jump the A-frame end of the bright yellow trailer – and failing. He can barely climb onto his couch.

    Margaret, one of the awful things about getting older is that these sorts of injuries can happen. I tell ya, it threw me that early last year my shoulder didn’t just magically heal as every injury to that date had done so. Yeah, getting older ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Now, every single day I have a stretching and muscle building and nerve considering routine and incorporate new exercises as the need arises. Yeah, no fun and I can only but wish you well.

    Yes, it’s all very weird. I’m listening to the national youth broadcaster and the presenters are going down like flies. Now they’re gobarmine employees and would have had to get the shots. Hmm. It ain’t turning out so well.

    Thank you, and my fingers are crossed too, because today was hardly what you’d describe as a summers day at 64’F. Good for digging compacted clay though… Me tired…



  27. Hi DJ,

    Hehe! I love the word shamelessly, because it says so much, and so little, whilst also setting the tone. 🙂 In the early days of the blog I used to just drop a comment on other websites with the line: This is a shameless plug… What can I say, that cheesy marketing gimmick works. Nowadays, I require no more readers. It’s super weird just how many folks lurk here from week to week and never say anything. Some of my mates in the real world do that! On the other hand it provides lots of people with entertainment, and this is a good thing.

    Mate, I’m pretty sure that I was a teenager when I read Shogun, and in fact got the book via my mother who also enjoyed the tale and recommended it to me. This was all before the mini series, which I would have loved to watch, and in fact my mother and I used to haunt the local video shop (remember those) looking for any film productions of the story. What amazed me was that there were a number of film titles with that name, thus proving that copyright does not apply to titles (thank gawd!) This goes to prove that I have been subjected to sneaky book and film recommendations or so long that I’m possibly vulnerable to such outrages! 😉 But I do love a sneaky book or film recommendation at the same time – it’s complicated being me! 🙂

    Those two Kelpie dogs are a new introduction to the canine world for me, and there are times I watch them jumping through the air like gazelles whether they be after some miscreant on the farm or just leaping for the sheer joy of the act. I dunno which it may be, but the sight always warms my heart.

    I’d never heard of mutton busting, but it is a truism that you learn something new every day! That may be so, but when Ruby was as small as a bean at twelve weeks, I threw several chickens at her. Nowadays I kind of suspect that she’d like to eat the chickens. Trauma affects all of us differently.

    Absolutely! The boiler at the back of the wood box is constructed of stainless steel and the first sleeves I added over the existing delaminating steel pins seems to have somehow welded itself to the wet jacket. Hmm. Since then I purchased much thicker stainless steel tubing to add over the original material. The material is a marvel! Just for your curiosity, we are surrounded by such marvels and the new low gradient mower uses Damascus steel blades. The things slice through rocks…

    Yeasterday was just asking for it!!!! It would make a good advertising campaign for Hot Cross Buns (not far away at this stage of the year).

    Well that’s what I thought about the escaped convict. Not only did he learn to live off the land, in an alien (to him) environment, but he also managed to navigate the complexities of another culture and be accepted by them. He was no dummy, despite what some of the historians may have suggested.

    Yeah, you’re probably right about the dictatorial situation. After all, some pigs are more equal than others!

    It won’t be long until you have to start some seeds for the spring. I forget, do you have a greenhouse or some such arrangement?

    Avalanche is a wise pooch, and for all we know, she might be able to go the next level with a 5,000 piece puzzle?

    Really? Are there really Emu’s in your part of the world? You raise an excellent point and such folks need to get their stories in order, and maybe even pass them by some intelligent soul to do a proper ‘pub test’ on the words. It could save a lot of dramas.

    Respect for doing your jury duty. I work with small business and am self employed. There are no allowances for such loss of income and time away from clients with jury duty. They offered something like $30 per day, and I was dubious about the scarce remuneration and had no desire to be drawn into any long and protracted legal debate.



  28. Hi Lewis,

    The Kelpies are pretty smart canines. Here I need to digress and suggest that whilst they’re smart, they’re not as smart as Sir Scruffy was. That dog was whip smart and had somehow managed to arrange for three separate beds (the other dogs didn’t enjoy such perquisites) and then somehow he ended up sleeping in the bedroom. I don’t know how that came to be and no other dog had managed that feat, but the old dog sure knew his perquisites and then commanded them. He had this knack of observing the other dogs and then emulating whatever strategies they performed which were rewarded and ignoring the ones where the outcome was not as good. And with such a keen eye, it didn’t take long before he was the nicest behaving dog behaving with charming mannerisms. It was uncanny as he’d grown up for his first decade with only a cat for company, but he had a flexible can-do attitude that dog. At nights when he was very old, I used to take him outside and we’d look at the sky full of stars and I’d say to him: I love you Sir Scruffy, and he’d give me this look which said: Can you put me on the ground so that I can go to the toilet? Then after he’d done his business, he’d want to be picked up again and carried back inside to his bed – he was a very old fella by that stage. The Kelpie’s can leap through the air like gazelles, and whilst they’re no dummies, they can’t hold a candle to the old Sir Scruffy. Never met a dog as smart as that one before. Sometimes an errant wind blows leaves into your life.

    You sure dodged a bullet with the parakeet. Take it from me, parrots are very good at announcing the dawn of a new day. Oh yeah, the birds here on the farm go off like a frog in a sock at first light. Can you imagine a caged bird not wanting to share the joy of the early morning hours?

    You know, despite having worked for Tandy (Radio Shack) as a kid, I had no idea that they were also into leather? That sounds a bit weird, but you know I mean. 🙂 Interestingly, the leather stores seem to supply to the LARP (Live Action Role Playing) folks. Had a mate of mine who used to get into that act at the Kryal Castle. In an odd side story, my mum took us with a whole bunch of other families on a parents without partners tour of that castle way back in the late 1970’s. My memories of those days are pretty thin, but I can remember that day for sure, and it was a fun and very different day. They even had a display of medieval torture implements which is not something you normally see as a kid. Things were different back in those days – I’m sure it’s all a bit more sanitised now. We should go and check it out purely for research purposes for the blog. 🙂

    And yeah, electronic shops are few and far between these days. They used to sell parts in those days, nowadays electronic shops tend to be white good suppliers and good luck finding parts to repair the things at the same business.

    My education, what can I say? Never heard of the film Silent Running before, but I can see what you mean about Joan Baez. It didn’t work for me. A symphony orchestra may have been more appropriate playing err, Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra! The drumming is superbly timed. I can see what you mean about the drones. I read the synopsis of the story, and it was good.

    Once I get started into Norah Lofts book, I’ll let you know. There is not much left in the Uther story, and like you said, it’s going to end badly. It’s funny you say that, but the Editor is currently reading Jane Eyre and was noting that the character is being err, groomed, but also is thoroughly enjoying the read. People are people, and we haven’t changed all that much over the years. Grace Metalious sure did cover some ground, that frankly probably needed covering. There is a bit of shock yo moma in the contents. Mr King, does indeed cover some of that geographical locale in his works, and all I can but imagine is that there must be something in the water. 😉 Incidentally I never watched the Game of Thrones series, despite having read the book (hire a freakin’ ghost writer Mr Martin – it’s not that hard to do for those with oodles of mad cash) just because I didn’t want those images in with the bonkers complex story line in the books.

    Ollie is better today, although he his having trouble climbing onto the couch without squealing. I had him outside for several hours today loitering around whilst I dug by hand a very long trench in hardened clay on the uphill side of the new shed. Yeah, put in a plastic reln drain on the uphill side of the new shed in the trench. Me tired tonight. The trench was 45 foot long. All done now – thankfully.

    Fingers crossed that your flat tyre gets fixed, or you purchase a more appropriate tire lever – always an option. And not saying, but I had to do that. Speaking of vehicles, far out man. Petrol hit $1.90 per litre today. Whooo Wheee! So I filled up the Dirt Rat Suzuki and a couple of jerry cans this afternoon and the bill came to $155. Yup, you read that number correctly. I am very grateful that both Suzuki’s are fuel efficient cars, I’d hate to think what some of the behemoths on the road these days cost to fill. Yikes! Sucks to be them.

    You did call it, and naughty Jack for doing that. I can’t imagine what anyone would have thought would happen. It’s a case of curse of the commons for sure. I hear you about getting told off about such things and have also been in such a predicament. So were you told off?



  29. Hi, Chris:

    Thanks so much for this. You make our situation so clear, while tying it to the past in such an enthralling way. We know what we need to do . . .

    Well, one thing is to – make jam! And cut firewood. We (not me) have been cutting firewood as it is winter. And burning tons of it because my mother loves to sit near the fire and read.

    Thanks for the flowers, especially what I would call a York and Lancaster rose.


  30. Chris:

    I see in a comment of yours to Lewis #35 that you mentioned about electronics repair being so hard to find now. So true, so true – but one of our neighbors does that. He does not work out of a shop anymore, but at home, where people send him things to repair. He even fixes ham radios! So far, I have not found anything older that he cannot fix. He is a very interesting person. Until he was 16 he grew up on a cabbage farm in North Carolina with no running water and wood fires for heat. They did have electricity, but the toilet was out of doors. I would guess that he is about my age, 65.


  31. Hi Chris,
    I have a 3 shelf grow light in the basement which my great uncle gave me decades ago. It’s served me well. I’ll harden off the plants outdoors. Wish I had a cold frame as the wind can really do those new seedlings in.

    We’ve given our dogs buffered aspirin if they hurt themselves and it seems to have helped.

    Alas, my back is not due to an injury but rather aging so it won’t get better but with care, exercise and stretching I should be mostly OK with limits. One has to accept limits, yes?

    Your weather sure has been crazy.


  32. Yo, Chris – Sir Scruffy was a rarus dogus. A good ‘un. Maybe the Kelpie’s will develop a few of his traits. They’re young yet. I can’t imagine finding another dog with the good traits of H. When you get a pup, you just never know what you’ll get. You can shape and mold a bit. To a certain point.

    To avoid the dreaded parakeet dawn patrol, some people put covers over their cages. I don’t know if that works, but it might.

    Kryal Castle is really something. And, given it’s near Ballarat, which is, I believe in striking distance of you, perhaps a purely investigative trip is in order. Do they have baked goods? Pies? 🙂

    I hadn’t even thought of the LARPer aspect of leather supply. Cowboy western gear is often heavily tooled. Especially fancy saddles. Oh, a lot of leather gear is stamped by machine in The Land of Stuff. But the hand tooled stuff has a certain … cache.

    I haven’t watched “Silent Running,” in years. But I’ve always been a Bruce Dern fan. He does psychopath, so well.

    Some small towns rightfully “catch it in the shorts,” when an author is turned loose. “Empire Falls?” Sinclair Lewis wrote a number of books eviscerating small towns. I’ve never picked one up, but they’re out there.

    I hope Ollie is on the mend. Maybe he’s bucking for Worker’s Compensation? 🙂 . Which is what the emu guy, DJ mentioned, probably had. It’s a State insurance for industrial accidents.

    I’ve taken to putting about $30 worth of gas in my truck, at a time. Less of a shock to my wallet, and I figure the crims will start stealing the stuff, pretty soon. Our State legislature is about to make stealing a catalytic converter, a felony.

    I talked to Frank, this morning and he might make it up, today. Fingers crossed. It’s Friday, after all. I decided last night I’ll probably get the roadside assistance insurance, from my insurance company. If the net got it right, it’s only $25 a year. Then I don’t have to bother Frank for the piddly little stuff. He really does it out of the goodness of his heart.

    No, I wasn’t told off by management. Must have been in one of her good moods.

    Pun alert!!! I lost a crown, last night. Didn’t know I was the king of anything, did you? No, a tooth. Well, it lasted about 20 years. The cheap clinic I go to doesn’t do crowns. So, I guess I’m going to have to bite the bullet, and see a dentist. Elinor seems pretty happy, with hers. But, as it causes me no pain, I think I’ll wait awhile. Until the You Know What numbers come down a bit more.

    We get a food box, this afternoon. Earlier than usual, as they’re really short staffed. It comes from the county north of us, and they’re weekly figures are running 2 or 3 thousand.

    Reading over your shoulder, I was just thinking the other day that it’s almost hot cross buns season. Along with bunnies and all that religious stuff. 🙂 Lew

  33. Chris,

    Some words perfectly describe what they are and what they mean – and don’t mean. Shameless is one of those. Don’t most of us shamelessly moth around several blogs without ever posting?

    It DOES bring a lot of joy into my life when watching a dog just running or leaping for the sheer joy of being alive! The Kelpies for you, Avalanche for me, just watching their total enjoyment is a pleasure.

    Damascus steel mower blades? Whoa, dude! Those sound fantastic. As you said, those things slice through rocks.

    All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others. No animal shall sleep in a bed, with sheets. Etc. Good book, that was. Required reading when I was in 7th grade.

    No, I have no greenhouse. I do have the brick patio with a roof, could probably get a slight head start under that roof. However, with Avalanche around, I’ll have to fence off the containers, so she doesn’t leap on top of them and dig up all the seeds. She’s not as good a leaper as the Kelpies, but she does have a good set of springs in her legs.

    Some people do raise emus hereabouts. Dunno why, maybe they raise them for meat? Otherwise, they seem sort of useless in our coldish winters.

    The remuneration they give for jury duty is an insult. The 2 times I was on juries, it was $10.00 per day. However, because the court system and public works were both smaller parts of the larger whole, I was paid my salary to be on the jury but had to forego the $10.00. They also paid us $0.50 per mile for the travel distance from home to the courthouse. Since the courthouse was 100m from public works, I tried saying that I travelled 100m. By State law, they had to pay me for the actual mileage to my house, even though I was required to show up for work, then go to jury, then return to work if jury got out early. Seemed stupid to me.


  34. Lew,

    You were mentioning a certain movie’s soundtrack? Interestingly, back after WW2, the physics dept. where my dad was studying had 2 professors. Dr. Baez was one of them, and he often had the upperclassmen from the physics department over to his home on Saturdays for tea or something. It was not uncommon for the good professor to holler, “Hey, Joanie, get us another pot of tea and more cookies, please!” Apparently, in addition to serving tea and cookies, she could sing a little bit and had a rather successful career singing. 😉


  35. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, exactly. When you can find someone to repair an obscure item of electronics, that’s exactly what the business will look like. 🙂 What a great local resource you have there. Operating out of a garage (or work room in a house) is about what I’d expect. In the big smoke I believe there are now only two businesses that provide the sort of repair and refurbishment of old audio equipment, and as you can imagine, in a city of five million souls, there’s probably enough market to keep them busy (as I understand them to be and the wait list is very long). It’s not very glamorous work, but I’d imagine they’d do well enough, as does your local bloke. Always good to know a bloke (with the implication that they can either source stuff or who can get stuff done)! 🙂 Hey, a lot of my social networks are comprised of such people – good to know.

    Truth to tell I’ve lived in plenty of houses with an outdoor toilet. One never lingers in such an outhouse reading a book during the depths of winter. Sometimes, the only place of quiet in a house where you can read a few pages of a book in peace is the outhouse. This is known…

    Yeah, people know what they have to do. That’s why everything is going bonkers overdrive 5,000 right now. Everyone knows, they’re just hoping that nobody is foolish enough to blow over the house of cards. They know. But do they want to do? That is the question, and I believe that most people want to keep things as they are, forever. There is risk in that strategy because nothing ever stays the same and entropy eats all before it and the longer the pretence goes on, the harder the fall.

    Respect to your mother for enjoying such a simple pleasure. I would imagine your part of the world is warmer than Colorado? Doing firewood in the colder part of the year is a wise move. Spotted a snake Thursday, always gives one a start. Need they be so deadly?

    You’re more correct than you know. Sandra picked many of the roses for their fragrance and there are a few David Austin roses in the collection. Imagine fighting over roses like that old English civil war business – dull and grasping folks with little in the way of imagination.



  36. Hi Margaret,

    Thank you very much for the description of your seed raising set up. A wise option in your part of the world. Never used grow lights myself, but they are available down here and combined with heat pads they are a good use of electricity.

    I hear you about hardening off seedlings, and am very slack where that task becomes necessary (which is almost every year). We’ve been discussing how to do that task easier and more simply, and the new greenhouse will take that aspect of seedling production into account.

    Actually, my mates of the big shed fame, like you, also have to contend with the wind as their location is more exposed to the wind than here. But on the other hand they get more sun, however all the same the wind can be pretty brutal with delicate seedlings. They recently built a poly tunnel and I’m curious to see how that works for them – probably well, but I have little experience with such constructions. I really don’t know enough about these types of buildings but here we really need to extend the growing season so as to accommodate the sort of crazy no-summer-seasons like this one. They happen often enough to be a problem.

    Ah! Of course. I’d never heard of buffered aspirin before, but yeah Calcium Carbonate would make all the difference to the acidity. The dogs don’t respond well to low dose aspirin because of that acidity. Thanks for the tip!

    Ook! I hear you about that, and let’s just say: shoulder. I agree wholeheartedly, one has to accept limits. However, I’m coming around to the thought that life is telling me to balance out the physical work I do, and also perform regular stretching and strengthening routines (which have been an eye opener for me). It was my time to take better care of myself, and probably it was yours too?

    Margaret, I have this awful feeling that summer has come to an end, and the warm weather may soon depart (although tomorrow looks set to be warm at 93’F).



  37. Hi DJ,

    You know, it’s really awful when someone calls you out on your BS, but yeah I too lurk around some websites and don’t post comments. 🙂 Man, I dunno, you’ve got a solid point there, and fair enough, but some websites encourage dialogue where a complicated topic can be dissected, but most websites from what I’ve experienced (whilst fully acknowledging that I don’t travel far from home on this here information super highway) tend to comment in the form of a ‘smash and grab’. Yeah, that’s a different way to communicate than I’m personally comfortable with, and I kind of prefer a slower paced discursive mode.

    We’ve talked a bit over the years, and I’m kind of guessing that when you were a younger bloke you might have experienced the world in terms of a black and white kind of dualistic (gawd the standard speller checker which comes with interweb browsers are dumb lists of do’-know-nuffin-anywhoo!) arguments. Then one day you discover that the world is far more complicated than those stupid arguments can restrain. Boom! That was the sound of your mind exploding! But yeah, that’s when you realise that complex ideas require complex discussions and analysis. And the real world is messy and unable to be dissected in neat sound bites. So yeah, a lot of website comments are sound bites. It’s like talking to a lot of boring do’-know-nuffin politicians, and so I don’t comment there.

    Well, that was a long explanation!!! 🙂 But you knew already.

    Mate, I’m seriously glad for you that you brought Avalanche into your life. The name is kind of appropriate too. Things were quiet, before the Avalanche!

    Yeah, the new Japanese made low centre of gravity mower was an expensive bit of kit, but far out, the things it can do would astound most people. Like climb a thirty degree slope, whilst mowing. The land is steep here, but it is not that steep! So the machine feels super safe all of the time. And the local farm machine repair dudes can repair the machine, and that is worth something these days. Rocks are scared! For your info it is called a Razorback – a moniker for a feral pig.

    We’re all animals! The only time the dogs piled into the bedroom was when the thunder storm raged over head and the house rocked to the sound of cracking thunder early one morning. It was pretty loud, but unwise of the dogs to wake me at such an early hour. Needed a second coffee to recuperate!

    Ah, of course, dogs can be problematic with gardens. Digging, they will, and digging they must. On the other hand, tilling the soil does increase aeration and fertility, so maybe that’s natures way?

    You got me wondering as I have never seen Emu meat for sale: Butcher tips big bird will take flight with foodies as he chucks another emu steak on the barbie . Kangaroo is pretty tasty too, although it should never be over cooked.

    The whole jury system arrangement is financially brutal for people in small business or who are self employed. And yup, those were the sorts of offerings on the table here. I pleaded for an excuse twice because it would have been financially ruinous if it went on for a long period of time. It’s not as if you can say to the people picking you: If you pick me, everyone is going to be guilty, I don’t care. Yeah, probably can’t say that, but you might think it!

    Ollie has an attack of gas and the air in the room is somewhat fetid (the spell checker didn’t know that word either).



  38. Hi Lewis,

    The problem with living for long enough is that you start to notice that certain dogs have acquired certain traits of former and now deceased dogs. So Ollie has many of the traits that the former Sir Poopy had, without the extreme laziness of that dog. I really liked Sir Poopy, but far out he was a lazy dog, and if he could have spent every single moment of every day sitting in the bean bag watching the world go by, he would have been super happy. When I did Poopy-tip him out of the bean bag and sent him into the wider world, he’d either try to find some other comfortable and out of the way place, or he’d do something amazing like take on the local fox population single handedly. The extreme nature of that dog was bizarre, but then he’d want to go back to comfort land. That made no sense to me. So, Ollie enjoys his comfort land, but he’s also happy to follow me around the farm and keep a close eye on things that are going on and then alert me to that. A more measured response. Anyway, that’s how we discovered the snake the other day. But then he knows enough to leave things well alone, as did we that day. And everyone is happy and lives to face another day.

    Plum for some reason has taken up a bit of old Toothy’s nature in that she can be occasionally grumpy about things, but she doesn’t take it as far as old Toothy used to – you may note that Toothy never scored a title.

    So yeah, maybe the spirits of the dogs get better over the years, although another school of thought may suggest that we interact better with the dogs? Dunno. Ruby has aspects of the original Old Fluff super tough boss dog and that is no bad thing at all.

    Anyway, the thing is, we got Ruby and Plum at twelve weeks of age, and even back then you could see that their different personalities were hard wired and whilst they’ve developed since then, the core personality is still much the same. It’s a big of a mixed bag really. But yeah, before those two we’d usually introduced older dogs to the household. It’s been an instructive experience those two dogs.

    Had a quiet day today, and procured some very tasty fresh scones and home made jam. So good. Walked around two gardens to the west of here, and picked up next seasons stock of vegetable seeds. All up, a very pleasant day. Work is never far away though, and I made a batch of Anzac biscuits, toasted muesli and some yoghurt.

    The yoghurt has been weird lately. As per Sandor’s advice I back-slop from one batch of yoghurt to the next and have done so for many years. Also, nowadays the milk gets pastuerised for an additional hour before mixing and cooking. I also add in a tiny bit of dried innoculant each week. The dried innoculant is kept in the freezer, but after a few years storage there it began recently smelling a bit not-quite-right to my nose and the yoghurt started to get a mild acetone smell. So I had to ditch the innoculant and purchase more of the stuff. I really don’t know if it’s even required to add it now, but I just add it in more out of habit. Might have to run some tests to see what happens. It never occurred to me that innoculant would go bad if kept in a freezer over such a long period of time. Have you ever heard of such a thing happening?

    Exactly, H is a lady of the finest breeding. And also you are used to her quirks and foibles, but I absolutely agree with you in that you work with what you have.

    Ooo! A unique selling feature for the investigative day trip. Gourmet pies are always a lure. Hmm, they do food at the castle… It’s been a few decades since the last visit.

    The LARP folk didn’t occur to me either with the leather goods supply, but the website for the business had pictures of folks decked out in medieval gear – always handy garb if inadvertently dropped into a melee! There is a town far to the west and just over the state border, called Mount Gambier (obviously named after a nearby volcanic mount, not that old either hashtag just sayin). Anyway, when we were there last century, one of the local shops sold rubber products and they had the claim that they were the town’s most unusual store. It’s a big call, but they know their business and are still in business today.

    Which reminds me, this morning I came across an article about an old timer from that part of the world who has dedicated his time to restoring the local train station which he used to work at and was closed in about 1985. Why Peter Savage devotes himself to ensuring his beloved Kalangadoo railway town doesn’t disappear . In some ways it reminds me of a certain film we discussed and watched recently.

    Bruce Dern has great quotes attributed to him, and how good is the title to his memoirs? Yeah, you’re right about that, and in the trailer I had this manic sense of energy from the actor.

    Sinclair Lewis sure did tackle some complex and touchy subjects. Yikes! Let’s hope your current batch of numpites in charge haven’t read some of those works and thought to themselves: We can do that. It is possible our lot down here are salivating at the chance…

    We’ve got a similar workers compensation insurance arrangement in place down here which every employer has to chip into. Ollie is doing better today, despite his current bout of flatulence.

    I believe that theft from petrol stations ‘a fill and dash’ operation is a thing as there are number plate readers and cameras and other signs in place, but you’re probably right, siphoning may start sooner or later. I remember that happening as a kid, and the authorities were always careful to mention people getting ill from that activity.

    Man, I get the roadside assistance thing here through the statewide automotive club. It makes sense and from time to time I’ve had to call upon their assistance. One time I did so, I discovered that it is possible to flood fuel injected vehicles – and how to fix the problem. Who knew?

    Sorry to hear about the crown, but glad to hear that you’re doing OK. I’d be having a minor melt down… I hear you, that thing is coming to a close – thank gawd. Anyway, it would have been a fine thing to hold the crown for the two decades you did so – lesser folks have enjoyed far less time. Like imagine the six Emperors in a year fiasco?

    Did you score OK with the food boxes?

    Hot cross buns are always good. Toasted with a touch of butter. Yum!

    Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! That’s the sound of a rom-com alert! It sounds like fun, and Owen Wilson is an actor with a sense of fun about him, although, well he’s a good character actor. I’ve forwarded the article on to the Editor.



  39. Yo, DJ – But did she feed them oranges, that came all the way from China? Ooops! Wrong artist.

    My feelings about Ms. B are probably colored by the fact that while at the U (circa 1970), I shared a house with 6 other people. Two were sisters, who had delusions of Joan Baez. Lugubrious folk songs, day after day, from early morning to late at night. But, things could be worse. Later on I had a room mate who was a Yoko Ono fan.

    Actually, I quit liked some of Ms. B’s stuff. I’m quit fond of her “Joan of Arc.” But every time she’d come out with a new album, I’d think,”Is she ever going to get over the breakup with Mr. Dylan? It’s time to move on! After two weeks, none of your friends (or fans) want to hear about it, anymore. Lew

  40. Chris:

    So true: “nothing ever stays the same”. And in a nod to Sparklehorse (a Richmond, Virginia band of some years ago): “Everything that’s made is made to decay.”


  41. Yo, Chris – I see several of the states north of you are making the Koala an endangered species. Are you still hearing the little fellow, in your forest?

    Dogs are about as complex as people. Oh, yes. H has her quirks and foibles. But she forgets I’m bigger than her, and can just pick her up and move her about, if need be. On the other hand, that may be all part of her nefarious plot to be picked up and made over! 🙂

    That is odd about the yogurt. Might be a stray, free floating something or other, landed in the mix. Have I heard of such a thing? Well, since I’ve never made yogurt … But back when I gave sourdough a whirl (which I’m going to try again, one of these days), once a batch went off and I got that acetone smell. In the interest of recycling, I wonder if you could remove paint with it?

    Well, this being a family friendly blog, I can’t say to much about what I thought about the rubber goods store. I bet they do a banging mail order business. Probably have a back showroom for those “special” customers.

    That was a great article about Mr. Savage. I guess he’s what you’d call a “colorful character.” I wonder if the young bloke in Melbourne, who might take over, is vertically challenged? It’s always encouraging when someone is trying to preserve something.

    Getting back to the yogurt, there’s a lot of things people do, more out of habit. Little things you do that really don’t effect the end product, but you do them anyway, because you’ve always done it that way. I certainly do. Thought about that the other day, but can’t remember the exact instance. I usually just chalk it up to being neurotic. But I wonder if there isn’t a certain amount of superstition, involved?

    Maybe Ollie is expelling the evil vapors, the miasma, to heal his leg? He’s trying to balance his humors.

    I’ve got about three possibilities for roadside assistance. My insurance company, the AARP (American Association of Retired People) and the triple letter company that’s been doing it for eons. More research and asking around, will be needed.

    The food box was OK. But this lot usually is the one with produce. Nope. Not this time. Zip. Nada. It was the usual mix of tinned stuff, cereal and rice. Peanut butter. Rice and pasta. There was a couple of tins of three bean salad. That was new. I tried some last night, and it’s pretty good. No weird stuff listed in the ingredients.

    Well, I talked to Frank, yesterday, and although he didn’t use the words, it’s supply lines. What he said was, he had heaps of work stacked up, waiting on parts. And, finally, they all showed up at once. So, he’s digging himself out. But, it looks like another weekend, with no truck. So, I walked to the grocery, last night. Which would have been easier, if I wasn’t carrying around an extra 30 pounds. I don’t think I mentioned the pumpkin pie ice cream was available …. through New Years. But, I’m working on it and took of 5 pounds in the last two weeks.

    And, walked to the library, this morning. It was Australian Recommendation Day, at the library. The film “Dry” showed up. As did the book “Rummage.” I put the book “UnRoman Britain” on interlibrary loan. Checked for the Bruce Dern book, but they don’t have it. Don’t know if I’ll watch “Dry”, tonight, but will in the next few days.

    Life is full of little exasperations, and I usually handle them pretty well. But lately … I’m trying to sign up for the Net Flax DVD by mail. No problem setting up an account. But when it came time to enter my credit card information, it wouldn’t take it. Called their customer service, and they said my company had rejected the charge. But maybe it was my old computer. So, I tried it at the library, this morning. No dice. Then I tried to do a small order from Nichols Garden Nursery. When I got to payment, there was a notice that their credit card processing, was down. Please call or check back later. Sigh. I wanted to check the pressure in my spare tire, yesterday. It bounces, just fine, but I wanted to see how much was in it. My tire pressure gage, which has given years of service (just used it last month), no longer works. It just piles up. Oh, well. Life on life’s terms. 🙂 Lew

  42. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for mentioning the band. They performed an outstanding cover of Pink Floyds classic: ‘Wish you were here’, but with Radiohead, as you do. Stirring stuff and difficult to view imagery.

    To attempt to keep things exactly as they are is a dead end. It can’t be that way, and yup they called it.



  43. Hi Lewis,

    I’d heard that there were efforts afoot to declare the Koala an endangered species, but had not known that it has come into effect. Hmm. Koalas now considered endangered in NSW, Queensland and the ACT. Nobody got around to telling the little fella in the trees around here. The Black Summer fires would have been horrendous on the Koala populations right up the east coast of the continent, and those who survived that fire were I’m guessing pretty short on feed for many months afterwards. The fires would have killed a bunch and then starvation would have done in many more of the survivors. The thing is we don’t manage the forests in any meaningful sense in this country. We’re utterly bonkers when it comes to that story, and the attitude is so entrenched and stretches back over two centuries of complete mismanagement that I doubt there’ll be any change any time soon. The culture has to utterly fail before change can take place. It’ll happen. The thing that interests me with the really large and oldest trees here, which also happens to be where the Koala gets his tucker, is that if you increase the spacing between the trees, the canopies become more lush, and there’s more food for the wildlife. My gut feeling suggests that the trees are less stressed due to lower competition for scarce resources. But that simple concept offends so many people, that I dare not mention it. The alternative is to watch the whole thing burn to a crisp on a semi-periodic basis – old trees and young alike. The more foolish people point to climate change, but hey, the 1851 fire in this state was bigger than anything seen in my lifetime and for generations beforehand. A lot of people get super passionate about this stuff, but the Earth’s systems of which we are all a part of, will simply shrug a vast portion of us off if we muck things up too badly. The other day I learned that at one stage of the planets history when the coal and oil was being laid down, the oxygen content of the atmosphere was something crazy like 34%. Be careful with matches in those atmospheric conditions!!!

    Dogs do have complex personalities. Yup. Hey, I watched the first episode of ‘Muster Dogs’ last night. Let’s say that I have an interest in the subject. Such a lovely show with Kelpie dogs as the stars. 🙂 At 3 months the dogs had distinct personalities and we found that with Ruby and Plum too, and they arrived here almost two years ago today. Well yeah, who plays whom, in your relationship with H? H is of an old breed and would have some serious smarts.

    The acetone smell is a warning that things are not as they should be. Probably won’t kill you, but the bread might not be all that tasty. Mate, I haven’t tried a sourdough starter either, but over the years people have gifted me their fuzzy sourdough creations. Like you, I’ll try again one day when the need presents itself. It’s not hard, and who knows, Lewis County might have the finest strains of yeast on the planet? Probably not though as you would have heard of it by now. The wild yeasts strains here are fairly unpleasant tasting, but the property and orchard is getting infested with bakers yeast, so who knows who will win that cage fight? Probably the wild yeasts…

    Respect! Thanks for the laughs. Very ‘Are you being served?’ 😉 We like to keep things family friendly here, and you know there is plenty of lee-way for innuendo.

    I agree with your observation about the superstition. You’re spot on right, and do I want to find out what happens if proven patterns aren’t followed? What if the patterns aren’t right? Yikes! That sounds like a quote from Top Gun!

    Ollie and his Kelpie ladies enjoyed a fresh bone between them yesterday and the stink was shocking to the senses. Fortunately they also consume a good quantity of fibre in their diets and the stink was ejected from the other end of the beasts.

    The triple A thingo is done on a state base down here and unlike yours it has some weird form of royal patronage: RACV club. Bizarrely enough, the actual members club (not the roadside assistance arm) is quite exclusive. My grandfather in his final week of life wanted to take me to the exclusive members only dining facility for a chat. I dunno whether I did the right thing, but we met up for the chat elsewhere – my gut feeling in that instance yelled ‘no’. Was it the right thing to do, I dunno? The chat as you might imagine was a complicated affair, and he tried to dump a whole bunch of responsibilities onto my shoulders for things he himself had messed up, but without offering anything in kind. I may have pointed that out, and yeah got nothing from the will. I can’t say that I was enthusiastic about the attempt at loading me up, and there in lies the dark side of being a responsible person. Sometimes people do try it on.

    Ooo! Three bean salad is actually quite tasty, even the tinned varieties. It makes you wonder if old Captain Cook had proffered that stuff to the crew as a tonic to prevent scurvy, the crew would not have had to have been duped into eating sauerkraut by being jealous of the officers rations.

    Frank is at the coal face of such parts weirdness. And yup, I’m seeing that here too. Nothing, then a whole bunch of stuff. Then nothing. What it suggests to me is that the old just-in-time inventory system is a bunch of dog poop. I know of businesses that now have to carry extra inventory, but then that comes at a cost – and thus margins are squeezed. The walk will do you good! Although you may not think so. It is possible that out of all of this, people will take up walking more as a hobby and necessity?

    Stop it! You’re teasing me now with this talk of ‘The Dry’. I enjoyed the film, and my grandfather grew up in that area on a farm during the drought and Great Depression. It may have been the second last film we watched at the cinema before things got really strange down here. I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say about ‘Rummage’, and now I’m torn, do I read ‘Wayside Tavern’ or ‘Rummage’? Uther is close to his finale…

    Exactly, life on life’s terms. I hear you about that.

    Better get writing!



  44. Yo, Chris – Maybe the Koalas live in the oldest trees as they like their leaves aged? 🙂 I watched “The Dry”, last night. Being a DVD, it had “extras”, as some do. “Making of” and all that. I see Wimmera is to the NW of you. What a difference in the landscape, from there to around your parts. I quit liked the movie. Boy, there was some real twists and turns, in there. I was kind of holding my breath, as, once they’d cleared up who killed Luke and his family, I was wondering if they’d get around to who killed Ellie. Some directors would leave the question hanging. Glad they cleared that up. Awful though it was.

    Oddly, I picked up a National Geographic magazine, from the lobby. It was an old one. From 2000. It had an article about Australia, which is why I snagged it. Read it after watching the film. It had an ecological slant. The author traveled all over the continent, looking at this and that. Basically, Australia is old, static and very, very fragile. The Europeans came, and put their foot in it by wanting to make it look “more like home.” There was a lot of wailing, and breast beating, from all quarters. “If only we’d known!” Hindsight, 20/20 and all that. Great pictures.

    I can do innuendo. “What the horse leaves behind.” 🙂

    Why go eat somewhere where you’d be uncomfortable. Bad for the digestion! And trying to unload that whole bunch of carp about soon being the “man of the family?” Seems like once a day, I’m glad I’m an orphan. I think you set the record for earliest instance in a day.

    Of course, the tinned three bean wasn’t as good as homemade. But still pretty tasty. Homemade, I use the recipe from good old Betty Crocker. It includes things like a bit of dry mustard. Which reminds me. I was running low of Colman’s and … there’s none to be found in the store.

    Read whatever your in the mood for. But I think I’d slip in a nonfiction, between the two fictions. As a palate cleanser. 🙂 I started reading “Rummage,” last night. I’m quit enjoying it. I didn’t realize it was a historic overview.

    Reading over your shoulder, I see your going to extend the mead hall. Business must be good, and the crowds overwhelming. But first the greenhouse. As a palate cleanser? 🙂 .

    “The Dry” had a trailer for something that looks interesting. “Made in Italy.”

    Looks like a fictionalized “Grand Designs”. Lew

Comments are closed.