Background Colour

A month ago I’d penned two blog essays on the subject of Oil. To me it seems like an important subject which was worthy of discussion. After all, the price for oil only a month ago was pushing around US$120 a barrel. A month later, and oil is still expensive, now a bit over US$100 a barrel. It sure makes for interesting times. And with an Australian Federal election due sometime later next month, the Federal fuel tax was recently disappeared. Petrol (gas in US parlance) has become cheaper at the petrol station, although historically speaking, the stuff is still super expensive. That’s decline.

After the second week writing about the subject of Oil, the Editor offered the friendly suggestion: “Don’t write about oil next week”. Fair enough, there are plenty of other subjects to write about each week. Tell you what though, if I were chasing reader numbers, writing about Oil would be the way to go! Reader numbers jumped markedly when it came to the subject of Oil.

Who were all these new readers? I don’t know them, and they lurk without commenting. So the week following the Editor’s suggestion was implemented. I wrote about some other subject. And the new lurkers rapidly disappeared. No great loss.

The incident did however bring to mind the question as to why I write weekly missives. The answer is pretty simple: I enjoy the act of writing and I also enjoy the ongoing dialogue with the many lovely people who take the time to comment. To be an influencer, or make money off the blog, or even to seek acclaim, are goals for other people. My aim is humble, and to my mind it is the preferable option.

Each week I write about whatever is on my mind. Of course, the background colour to the essays is the slow decline of our civilisation. It’s an oft repeated meme. When fuel prices at the pump are at historic highs, and you haven’t seen white vinegar for sale on the supermarket shelf for a few weeks, decline is kind of hard to ignore.

My mind travels across various topics from week to week, and even a long term reader would be hard pressed to know what the next essay will be about. But essentially, I contribute what I know. Readers will by now realise that I rarely, if ever, write essays which include references to current affairs, unless of course police were allegedly shooting protesters with the amusingly described: ‘non lethal projectiles’. Who can forget those cheeky scamps?

The world is full of people whom command superior erudition than I (see?), and they’re are all too happy to talk all day long about current affairs or politics. There are times I just want to talk about soil, dogs or how renewable energy technologies won’t ever replace fossil fuels. Amusingly for me, even those subjects can be considered controversial.

The comments are usually a joy for me. A few weeks ago, a regular commenter penned an out of context comment on the situation in Ukraine. In almost eight years of continuous blogging, with a reasonably large readership, nobody had ever penned such a comment before. And to put the comment into perspective, the Australian military has most certainly been involved in prolonged action in a number of countries during these eight years. Nobody ever made a comment about that.

So, I made the decision to disallow such comments, then and into the future. It’s my blog, and I’m not here to envision world peace. That’s probably a step too far!

From my perspective, the media is just so weird. Australian forces were in Afghanistan and Iraq for so many long years, and yet after the initial ballyhoo, the media here barely took no notice. The same is true of the health subject which dare not be named, formerly a whole lot of noise, and now only an article here and there, penned for the faithful. Best not to feed that beast. Roundly ignoring it is always a solid option. Even better is simply getting on with life and asking the harder questions: Like why wasn’t my favourite cheese on the supermarket shelf last week? Where is it?

When I was a young child, adults used to lie to me all the time. They’d say to me repeatedly: Chris, you can do anything. I didn’t observe them doing anything they wanted, so yeah, the facts spoke for themselves. The lesson I took away from this experience is that people in positions of authority lie.

The same situation is true for what you choose to care about. If you follow the media, they’ll ask you to care about a particular subject for a while, before then moving on to the next subject. That’s what they do. But forget about what you’re being told to care about, instead I ask you: are your concerns, genuinely your own?

This week I care about rodents. Last week we purchased two new chickens and they’re slowly settling in. On the first night we introduced them, the Editor and I went out to check upon the chickens arrangements. We were astounded to discover that the clever rats had somehow broken into the supposedly rat proof chicken enclosure. We were feeding about sixteen rats – every night. They take a lot of feeding.

Over three days now this week I’ve modified the chicken enclosure so as to exclude the rodents. During the daylight I make the modifications. At night the rodents put the modifications to the test, and I observe how they are attempting to enter and then exiting the enclosure. Additionally, the super awesome Dame Plum the Kelpie dog, assists me by hunting the rats. The rodents are either caught hanging onto the sides of the enclosure trying to break in, or I try to scare them out of the enclosure where Dame Plum patiently waits. So far Dame Plum’s score is ten rats, including the boss rat (which was huge), and my score is one rat. What can I say, the dog is faster than I.

A Dame Plum confirmed kill

By day, Ruby assists me with the chicken enclosure modification works, and she loves that work.

Ruby assists with modifications to the chicken enclosure

It’s been quite the learning experience to go head to head with the very clever and determined rodent population. And I’ve discovered that the smaller rats can get into tiny gaps. I’ve been using rolled up sausages of aviary mesh to plug up any and every gap.

Rats were just able to squeeze under these roof corrugations

Every conceivable gap has been sealed up, yet the determined rodents are finding the next weakest point. And every day Dame Plum is reducing the rodent population. It’s been a real tag team effort, which is ongoing.

Every conceivable gap has been covered over with strong steel

The zucchini (courgette) plants began to succumb to powdery mildew, so we harvested the few fruits which the plants produced. Given it has been such a cold and damp growing season, I’m impressed that we’ve harvested any.

A few zucchinis (courgettes) were harvested

When the sun does occasionally peek from behind the thick clouds, the insects abound. We spotted this very attractive moth the other day:

A very attractive moth
An ant harvests pollen or nectar from this Alkanet flower

Onto the flowers:

Feverfew is a very useful plant with cheery flowers
The Geraniums have produced some lovely flowers
Geraniums come in a variety of colours and scents
Geraniums are also one of the hardiest plants in the garden beds

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 235.8mm (9.3 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 232.4mm (9.1 inches

49 thoughts on “Background Colour”

  1. Rats- I only had them in the coop one time a few years ago. They had actually tunneled under a concrete slab from another part of the barn. Oddly, at the same time, a stoat or ermine chanced on the rat colony, and laid waste to it. Unfortunately, it then turned to the chickens for meals. Not being the same level of excavator as the rats, I used some mortar and crammed the tunnel entrances to block that route. Being small, (s)he proceeded to find other opening that I slowly found and sealed. I lost six chickens before the one per night buffet was ended.

    Since then I think our three barn cats have kept any more rodents from getting ideas. While they eat most of their catch, they sometimes leave one on the sidewalk for us, being polite and all. I think they know we are lousy mousers.

    Oil- the essential underpinning of “modern” life. I can’t remember if we’ve mentioned the good work that Alice Friedemann the energy skeptic is doing with dispelling the technotopian denial that is so universal. Yes, I work at and like to discuss gardening, home brewing, tree pruning, other homestead sorts of things, but a part of the underlying motivation is my unease at how things may unfold as fuels wane.

    Just remembered how jealous I am of your big pile of wood chips you have had access to. I’m mulching around various young trees this spring before the weeds get too established, and had to buy a load of chips. $30 USD for about 2-1/2 cubic meters.

    I’ve been clearing brush this spring, and will rent a chipper, but that costs also. My small chipper will be for smaller tasks.

    Planted all the brassica seeds in starter trays today, they are now snug in the sunroom. Red and Green cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and collards. Also reconnected the rain collection tank for the orchard. Spring has sprung! ( Even though last frost date can be late May).

    And lastly, a bit of aussie humor. Some naughty words, but rather funny take on carbon credits and dodgy accounting. Hope I’m not straying too far.

  2. Yo, Chris – I had a thought today, that may relate to your comment on acclaim. I noticed how a lot of articles on archaeology (and, other areas), always has someone who leaps into the fray, with a counter argument. I wondered how many of them do that, just to get their name in print?

    Vinegar may have disappeared due to the time of season. Not the time of year (months, etc.), but season. Late summer / early fall. Same thing happens here. Because … it’s pickling and preserving season. I try and stock up with four or five gallons, to see me through the month and a half, or so, when there is no vinegar to be found.

    Thank you for delivering us from a screed on the Ukraine. 🙂

    I still like the rooster art, in the gable of your chicken fortress. Those sausages don’t look near as tasty as the ones you usually talk about. Dame Plum and you make a great team. It should be an Olympic sport.

    They may not be many, but those zucchini are fine looking. That is an attractive moth. There are so many insects we don’t see, too often, that are just beautiful. Bees don’t rip up the blossoms, just to get at the nectar. What’s wrong with those ants? Smash and grab. Why we can’t have nice things.

    I quit liked Steve C’s link to the riff on carbon credits. Is anybody listening?

    As I was coming back from the Club, this morning, we had a downpour of something between hail and snow. Snails? 🙂 And, it stuck, too. But, it didn’t go on for very long, and melted pretty fast. Now our National Weather Service is saying we may get 1-3″ of snow, overnight. We’ll see. Lew

  3. PS: Prof. Mass changed his mind. He thinks we’re going to get lowland snow, and maybe a lot of it. Lew

  4. Hello Chris,

    Your weekly contribution to the chronicles of the collapse of the combustion engine era are lights of clarity in the thickening fog of madness. Thanks again for sharing your observations and experiences with all of us readers in remote regions.
    I would like to add that one strong suit card on your deck is that you write about what you know and of which you have first hand experience. That is increasingly uncommon. At least in my neck of the woods. Kudos.

    Here in Holland, I see an increased interest in agroecology during the last year, partly driven by fuel and fertilizer prices. But partly driven by ecological pain.
    I am happy every time I can plant nut trees on farms, and there are more and more people who want to grow food with less diesel and more manpower.
    This week we formally end the bare-root-planting season, and the main focus throughout April will be grafting.


  5. Ha humans!

    What you pretentiously call ‘defences’, we at the Global Rat Collective like to call a challenge.

    Or, less politely, a big joke…..

    When have our highly-trained, assault and deep penetration, units ever failed?

    See you later – really we mean that, as We Will be Back!

    PS Although our victory may not be assured, we are and remain the Undefeated.

  6. Hey Chris, I am riveted, because I just noticed the complete lack of white vinegar on the shelves of my local supermarket shelves today. Do you have any theories as to Why?

  7. Hello Chris
    I found you very interesting this week. Is it a sin to lurk and not comment? I read a number of blogs but yours is the only one where I comment. There are many subjects where I hold quite strong views but don’t necessarily want to go public with them.

    As you know, dogs don’t interest me and if I were to mention my veg. growing it would now become repetitive. I grow the same things each year.

    My greatest joy currently is the fact that the ghastly coastal footpath is no longer planned to go through my land. It is also going to completely avoid the next door creek. Hurrah! The best way to care for the wild life is to keep away from it.

    But oh dear, rats. They are in my walls and it is impossible to get at them. I was woken the other night by a fight in my bedroom wall. This was accompanied by squeaks.

    Weather still very cold particularly the wind.

    I think that we can earn £12, 573 before tax or around that amount. My income is way below that and I manage fine. Admittedly I own my home with no mortgage and have no debt or a vehicle.


  8. Hi Lewis,

    Yup, the colony of South Australia took few if any convicts and there is a touch of pride about that. They were all free settlers I believe. I doubt they would have understood the challenges in the different very climate encountered there, and it would be like going to Mars, it’s possibly a one way trip. It does make you wonder what inducements there were to get people to go? The land came cheaply for the settlers, so I’d imagine that was part of the story.

    Like it! Yes, I do likewise, and you’re right about the cost. Such social niceties are there to ensure members of a society don’t go postal. Hmm.

    That’s my view on the subject of family too. It wasn’t my decision to get lumped with them, but it was my decision to move on. There’s just no upside, like none to getting involved with them, in fact there are only costs.

    I’ll have a look into the lost books of the bible when I get a quiet evening. Monday evenings are usually pretty quiet, it’s just you and me having a yak, but this subject for some reason has brought people out of the woodwork. I have no idea what topics will interest people, but this one seems to have done so.

    Hubris alert! Whoop, whoop, whoop! Fingers crossed that you haven’t spoken too soon about the critters.

    Did you get the snow? It was an ordinary day here today. Cloudy and on the cooler side of things. The green and red mustard plants grew a bit in the warmth of yesterday, maybe not so much today.

    What would possess continued tinkering after zombies escaped from the lab? That sure is some super-focus on the part of the tinkerers.

    Ah, yes that was a wet year, and the deserts turned green which may have been confusing for road warrior film purists. They could have waited for the summer sun to bake the landscape?

    You know as a strategy to get your name out there in the academic field, it’s not a bad strategy, especially if a person can be entertaining. Is it academic though?

    Curiosity got the better of me with the vinegar question. Turns out that down under we produce some and import some with the main source for imports being India. I’m honestly not sure why there would be shortages, but it is no small thing to set up a commercial distillery for the stuff. And the price on the supermarket shelf is very cheap so I don’t really know whether it is a massively economic proposition.

    Yes, nothing is as dull and boring as repeating sound bites provided by the media. It is my pleasure to blithely ignore that lot.

    The rooster art is pretty cool and it’s standing up to the test of time well. Plus it’s a bit of bling for the chicken shed. Performed a few more modifications late this afternoon and went out to check this evening. Dame Plum was disappointed that we found only the single rat hiding way up in a pear tree. I tried to shake it out of the tree, but rats are a bit too smart to fall for that trick.

    Thanks. The harvest this year has been candidly problematic, so it is great to see some marrows. We add them to the dog food mix so those lot will last for months. Bees sting, ants bite. Except a bee stings once, whereas an ant can bite multiple times and just for good measure spray the entire wound area with formic acid producing chemical burns. Nasty little critters and yup, they do rip apart blossoms, but they can also farm aphids. Super smart insects, be thankful your lot don’t bite. You don’t have those fire ants do you?

    I haven’t had a chance to listen yet! Yikes!

    Sleet? So did you get the low land snow? The good Professor is occasionally wrong, but I’d back him in a cage fight against the fellows in his profession. 🙂



  9. Hi Steve,

    Yeah, exactly. The rats can tunnel under concrete slabs. To get around this issue, the enclosure steel goes into the ground and the trenches are filled with cement. That trick I was onto.

    Please keep your stoats in your part of the world! The foxes are bad enough, although they stand no chance with the chickens, unless human error plays into the story. Spotted a fox running through the orchard last night and I reckon they’ve cleaned up the rabbit population as I haven’t seen any for a few weeks.

    Sorry to hear how things went with the stoat – chicken interaction. And your persistence paid off.

    Cats are great for such work, and I like cats, but they’ll destroy the bird population here. We have a huge variety of birds and they seem to have a bit of balance to their populations – and keep each other in check. It’s pretty rough in the world of bird.

    Steve, the Editor says I’m not allowed to write about Oil!!!! Just kidding. Mate, the stuff powers everything so I have no idea what the future holds in store on that front.

    15 cubic meters of the stuff for free. It was awesome and has now all been used. I purchased a replacement pile, but that stuff ain’t free and costs about twice as much as what you paid. Chippers are good, but small home units, even my scary old 9hp chipper will only take about a two inch branch. They’re good, but you can also burn and spread the ashes as an option. Dunno. I worry about fertilisers.

    Good stuff with the Brassica starts! I look forward to hearing about your harvest.

    I’ll check out the clip later in the week when things are quieter! 🙂



  10. Hi Goran,

    Nice to hear from you and respect.

    Thank you for saying so, and I too enjoy hearing stories from your part of the world. To be honest, it is hard to ignore the braying in the media, and focus on the job or task at hand that needs doing. But I kind of think that that is an important place to get to. And none of us really know whether we are genuinely concerned about an issue, or we’ve been poked hard and continuously by other parties. And getting to the core truth of any matter is super hard, so I write from what I can know – and that is a different story to what you’ll see in the media.

    I had to look up exactly what agroecology was all about. Ah, a fascinating subject and one close to my heart. Hope people don’t expect commercial yields from such systems, as you do have to put back into the soil – and that consumes produce, unfortunately.

    I always think about you when I check in on the nut trees here. The chestnuts have grown well this past year as they’ve enjoyed the cooler conditions, but more importantly they seem to have appreciated the extra feeding. 🙂

    Grafting is a handy skill, and try telling people they can grow their own orchards and there will be an element of disbelief! Oh well, can’t be helped, people who want to learn, will learn.



  11. Hi Xabier (representing the GRC), Jo and Inge,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however I have run out of time to reply this evening and promise to speak tomorrow. Until then. 🙂



  12. Yo, Chris – I suppose the draw for your early settlers was cheap land, fresh start and getting away from pesky family 🙂 . And, given the inheritance laws, back then, there was probably a lot more opportunity in the wild, wild east.

    Winter wonderland. It started snowing about 1am, and it’s still coming down, this morning. I’d say we’ve had 3-4″. I think we lost power, overnight. I’m not sure for how long. But the time on my alarm clock and stove was wonky. The forecast for the next five days, is … problematic. I had plans! Oh, well. Stay loose and do what I can do. Garbage pickup will be a shambles. Wonder if the postie will make it through?

    “Resident Evil,” over six films, had lots of twists and turns. A late breaking sub-plot twist had the rich and famous, in their little sleep pods, waiting for the rubble to stop bouncing. To emerge to be served by minion clones. Yup. There are clones.

    Vinegar here, in the regular grocery stores is expensive. Pushing $5 a gallon, now. But I see it at the cheap food stores for under $3. I usually grab a gallon, when I see it.

    Your rats are like my slugs. Not near as much fun when there’s not much to hunt.

    There are fire ants, down in our SE US. Given climate change, they’re on the move, north. Along with other beasties, I’d rather not deal with.

    You mentioned a fox, cleaning out your rabbits. I guess there was a fox, loose on our Federal capitol grounds. Bit a few people. Turns out it was rabid. Lew

  13. Chris,

    What? You only write about what you want to write about? Not what everyone else wants? Here I thought what you wrote was by popular demand. Well, not really. Rats. 😉 Your topics and writing style are enjoyable.

    Good on Dame Plum! She’s earning her keep and then some. And Ruby is involved by supervising your rat-proofing work. I assume Ollie is keeping the deer away while the Kelpies are helping you with the rats?

    Let’s hope that your efforts and Dame Plum’s hunting skills keep you ahead of the rats. Rats are smart and cunning.

    I travelled across the dread Snoqualmie Pass last Monday to spend most of the week visiting my friend at the north end of the Seattle metropolitan area. (Dread due to volume of traffic, not elevation. The other passes over the Cascades are all much higher than Snoqualmie.) Twas supposed to be a nasty trip, with multiple inches of snow falling on Snoqualmie with hideous winds and blowing snow and ice. What I actually faced was, yes, winds, but not as bad as forecast, and intermittent slush. Not a problem. The Princess noted that there was a rather nasty windstorm in Spokane that I missed. No damage at our house, but several trees and branches were felled in the area.

    The visit was fun and relaxing. The drive home was easy – it was +22C coming back over Snoqualmie Thursday afternoon! I hit the window just right, as the passes got hammered all weekend, whereas we were “blessed” with frost, clouds and a series of squalls featuring snow, graupel, hail, or any combination thereof.

    The Princess had plans for the week, so I left Avalanche with our friend who has Killian, the 120 pound Doberman who is best pals with Avalanche. Apparently, they had a wonderful time chasing and chewing one another when not eating and sleeping. Then friend left on a day outing Saturday, so Avalanche and I visited Killian. Fun for the Fluffies!

    Thanks for the moth and flower photos. Trees are budding properly here. Some of my tulips are blooming now. As is proper, as your flower season is winding down, mine is beginning.

    My friend took me to a small shop that sells “Celtic” goods, mostly imported from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They have a lot of clothing and jewelry. They also had some tee shirts that I found amusing: they said “I can’t keep calm, I’m Welsh!” Other versions substituted “Irish” or “Scottish” for “Welsh”. So I bought a box of Scottish Breakfast Tea. It is very good and is much stronger than American teas.


  14. Hi Chris and Dame Plum,

    Congratulations on your excellent work against the Global Rat Collective! Or at least the branch of it that was raiding the chicken enclosure. Rats love a free meal (OK, who doesn’t?). They aren’t picky eaters either. Trash with bits of food mixed in, dog food left out in dishes, chicken food … all that and much more are on the rat restaurant menu.

    Since I removed the rabbit resort a few years ago and fenced in the vegetable growing area, I have had almost no problems with them. We’ve yet to see a rat in the 20 years we’ve lived in the current house – not that they aren’t here, but their preferred food sources aren’t nearby so they and I remain in blissful ignorance of each other. Mice live in the garden shed, where I leave them alone. If they come in the house – and they do – eventually they find the peanuts in the snap traps in the kitchen, and that’s it for them. Squirrels and voles, on the other hand, do eat the food I’m trying to grow. Voles are too small to eat back, but as long as I refrain from growing sweet potatoes, their population seems to remain low enough to cause little trouble. Squirrels, on the other hand, who ate all my popcorn last year, are subject to being caught and eaten during hunting season. However, that isn’t making enough of a dent in their population, due to the massive oak trees lining the street which supply them with their staple food of acorns.

    Our low was 32F/0C on Saturday morning. Sunday’s high was 78F/26C. Spring in the Midwest! Our local National Weather Service office is making worried noises about the potential for a significant severe weather outbreak on Wednesday afternoon and evening. A veritable spring banquet of hazards – tornadoes, high winds, and hail are on the menu. Should be interesting. 😉


  15. Hi Chris,
    I always enjoy your writing. If one is looking for current events there’s plenty of places to find it though your writing reflect the current events that directly affect your life and probably most of ours.

    Impressed with Dame Plum and you too. Do you think you’re winning the battle? Fortunately we only rarely delt with rats and the cats pretty much took care of them. Predators were a continuing battle – particularly racoons and weasels. A weasel or a mink can squeeze through the tiniest hole and they’ll take all or most of a flock just eating the head or not even that. They’ll just kill the whole lot. I’ve heard that they intend to come back but I’m not sure that’s true.

    You asked last week about heat and keeping chickens in the chicken tractor. The roof is peaked and has a heavy white tarp reflecting the heat. The tarp can also be folded back so weather permitting it can be opened. Doug put a door on as well so the chickens can get out and roam as well. The hot sun was an issue at our old house as we didn’t have near as much shade but we’d plan the path so the tractor would get at least some shade when the chickens were almost grown as that was when it was most likely they could succumb to the heat. Here we have lots of trees so it’s easy to keep them shaded.

    I spent the weekend with my aunt in Chicago as I haven’t seen her since January. As it was quite cold we didn’t do much. She does have a nice view of Lake Michigan though between all the tall buildings. Cecily joined us for lunch on Saturday and here’s my rant. During the height of the pandemic many restaurants when they were open starting using QR codes for their menus. I guess many think it’s a good idea so continue to use them as did the restaurant where we ate lunch. We asked for menus and where provided with flimsy paper with very light print. Then Cecily, who loves sweets, wanted to get something so we stopped into a cupcake shop. There one had to order on an ipad type thing and they didn’t accept cash. Just today my sister, Kathleen, was trying to order a shrimp tray from a chain restaurant where she has ordered for years. They told her she had to download the app and they wouldn’t even take an order over the phone. They too would not accept cash. At least for her she complained enough that the manager finally called and took her order as requested. He even said he had trouble with the app. People like my brother, Marty, who don’t have credit or debit cards are shut out of many places now. His apartment complex has a swimming pool where he can bring a guest for a small fee but yet again they won’t take cash so he can’t take Gwen. Personally I pay in cash most of the time and I’m at the point if it’s not accepted I’ll just walk out. Anyway end of rant. Oh yeah and then there’s Venmo and the like. We have friends who might own us money for something and get kind of mad that we won’t take Venmo. Now it’s really the end of rant.

    We are enjoying a couple of really nice days and then it’s back to cold again. I think the weather system that Lew is experiencing is headed this way but preceeded by severe weather that Claire mentioned.

    Good luck with the rat hunt.


  16. Weekly notes to the Global Rat Collective c/- Xabier,

    We at the Fluffy Collective c/- Chris, salute your braggadocio, but we shall never surrender! Despite the fearsomeness of the GRC’s little twitchy noses and whiskery faces, accompanied with cutting edge rat cunning!

    If truth be told, your highly-trained, assault and deep penetration units are formidable adversaries, and err, yeah, difficult.

    But the fluffies shall prevail, maybe, for a just little bit at least… Maybe?

    In the meantime we will wrest the sneakier details of your dastardly program from the forward rodent scouts who were foolish enough to get caught.

    Commander Plum will stay on high alert during this emergency.

    Yours uncertainly,

    Brother Fluffy, leader, Fluffy Collective

  17. Hi Jo,

    The white vinegar is a bit of a mystery to me as well. Supplies have become patchy over the past few months. I believe some of the white vinegar is made here, but a goodly portion is also imported from India. Freight costs have gone way up of late. Not all that long ago to get a container from Europe to Australia was about $8,000, and nowadays it’s in excess of about $24,000.

    It’s quite an industrial process to make white vinegar, so I’m not really sure whether local production will ramp up in the short term. Dunno.

    Hope you and Paul are doing well.



  18. Hi Inge,

    Thank you for the praise, and I never really know what subject will strike a chord with people. It’s something of a mystery, but I write about what is on my mind in any particular week.

    Maybe it is a sin! Yes, maybe it is. 🙂 On the other hand, I too lurk on some other websites and never comment, so you are in good company in this regard.

    I understand your perspective, and must confess to also wrestling with that particular issue. I don’t know how much of myself I should give away, and I have to be cognisant that this is a public forum and friends and sometimes I certain that even clients are reading these words. That last one can be a touch awkward. Ook! One area I will not mess around with is the comment moderation process. The interweb may be viewed as a free space, but that is not true of this tiny little corner. Fortunately, that is rarely an issue.

    Hmm, yes, it is funny you say that about the vegetables, but I am aware of some writers who repeat themselves over and over again, and I wonder what passions drive them to create such works?

    Congratulations, and I too would be happy with that win. 🙂

    Down under the forests do require human management and have adapted to that circumstance over tens of millennia, and I acknowledge that things may be different elsewhere on the planet. From my perspective, it is challenging to consider each of the many species and how my own acts impact upon them all. And whether any of those species are over doing it.

    The squeaks are never good. The rats make such noises when Dame Plum does her work.

    Ah, your tax free income threshold is a little bit better than the £10,400 equivalent here ($18,200). I must add that the AUD has gained against the pound.

    Interestingly I was speaking with a young bloke I know this morning about how everyone seeks to increase their income as a strategy. I suggested for him to consider the alternative strategy which is reducing his expenditure. Most people disregard that option, but like your example, it works. I end up in some fun conversations.



  19. Hi Lewis,

    It’s a few years ago now, but way back in 2015, the Editor and I went to the cinema and watched the film Brooklyn (2015). The film left me with an understanding as to why you would want to leave your homeland. Things are still pretty good here, all things considered, and they’re far worse elsewhere. For example, you could be in Sri Lanka. It was a massive gamble to go organic, yeah lower yields and stuff.

    Incidentally the film had a great bit of music: Brooklyn 2015 – Singing Scene HD (Iarla Ó Lionáird – Casadh An Tsúgáin). Not my usual style, but as the kids say, it pulls the feels.

    We went to another comedy show in the big smoke this evening, and got home very late. There was signing and a ukulele, a sensitive person might use the terminology: musical theatre regarding the subject of mediocrity. I can relate to that. Yes, yes, musical, patterns! Nuff said. The blurb for the show is as follows: ” Emily Carr: Beige Bitch – Remember when they said you were special? You’re not. Emily has spent years believing she was destined to become ‘somebody’ while denying her inevitable fate of mediocrity.”

    The concept tickled the Editor’s fancy, and the show was pretty good.

    Yay for snow! So nice too, as long as you didn’t have to head out into that? I would have probably crashed the car in such conditions. 🙂 Remember what I recently suggested about patterns? Plans are one thing, and snow is another altogether. Stay warm, don’t run out of food, and remember H will be an unfussy eater, in the end.

    Sleep pods waiting for the rubble to bounce. This would be my reaction to them: “Guys listen up, we need the power. Yeah I know it’s an inconvenience, but that isn’t my problem. Right now, we need the power. And whilst you’re up and about, get up there and man the wall. What do you mean you’re cold. Get up there!” It’s not going to sell… Makes you wonder what all those rich people want with land of our friends over the sea in New Zealand? Much better over here if history is any guide. Good to hear about the plot twists and turns.

    Clones would be boring after a while. What if they ended up with bad attitudes and a surly disposition?

    I’m enjoying the Margaret Atwood essays. Her response to the hectoring as to her take on the art of writing was both delightful and insightful.

    Oh, vinegar here is a bit over $5 a gallon, and I’d thought that was super cheap. Ook! $3 a gallon would be unimaginable. Do you reckon you’ll make it to the Club over the next couple of wintry days?

    The gourmet burger place was closed after the show this evening. Staff shortages are a real thing. We ended up having some very tasty pasta instead. I did a Linguine Bolognese and the Editor had Tortellini Lamb Ragout and they were both excellent. It’s so late now, me sleepy…

    Exactly, a no show hunt is a disaster. Dame Plum was rather upset this evening. There were no rats inside the chicken enclosure, and only one rat on the outside aviary mesh trying to break in. And the rat jumped from a height of about six feet and proceeded to run away from Dame Plum, and it escaped to safety – just. May you be equally disappointed in your slug hunt. I doubt the slugs would enjoy the snow?

    Yeah, you don’t want fire ants, as they sound almost exactly like our bull ants, which are astoundingly war-like. Best if they are elsewhere.

    I saw that about the rabid fox. Wow. Not a disease to mess around with as once it is past the brain barrier it has 100% fatality rate – very few diseases are that lethal. Up north here I believe there is a type of rabies, but it has killed only three people in recorded history.



  20. Hi DJ, Claire and Margaret,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however we went to a comedy show tonight – the comedy festival is on at the moment – and we ended up getting home very late. It is now 11pm, and bed is calling. Sorry, but gotta crash. I have nothing planned tomorrow evening – yay! And I promise to reply then, but right now, it’s today and not tomorrow. Neither is tomorrow today. And neither is next week tomorrow. Tomorrow is tomorrow, if you get what I’m talking about. Come to think of it, I don’t get it either, and my brain is rapidly becoming confused and I must get some sleep… Snooze…



  21. Yo, Chris – I’m pretty sure I saw “Brooklyn” but it didn’t make much of an impression. Sometimes I need to see a film twice, before it sticks in memory. Every once in awhile, I watch a show called “Finding Your Roots.” They track down the family histories of celebrities. Some I know, some I don’t. But it’s all pretty interesting. But my point (there is a point), is, that most of them don’t have a clue as to why their ancestors (some, not so distant), left the homeland. Usually, it was grinding poverty, lack of opportunity or war.

    The comedy show sounds like a lot of fun. Emily Carr is ahead of most people, in realizing she’s probably not anything special. 🙂 I occasionally say in meetings, “The rock star and super model who are your “real” parents are not coming to claim you.” (© Lew).

    Snow switched to rain and the temperature went up. Our 3-4″ of snow were gone by 5PM. I nipped out to the cheap food stores, and bought a few things for the Club pantry. If it doesn’t start snowing in the next hour, I’ll head down for biscuits and gravy, and to drop that stuff off. There’s not supposed to be any snow, today, but it’s in the forecast for the next three days. H’s much needed trip to the groomer may have to be postponed. But, no drama. We’re prepared (mentally) for that possibility.

    Oh, the “Resident Evil” rich, evil folks probably had a small nuclear reactor, keeping everything ticking along. Fusion? 🙂 And you guessed it. Some of the clones did develop a bad attitude and surly disposition. Well, when you treat people like disposable kleenex … Hmmm.

    When I take H out in the evening, I check around the garden to see if there’s any slug activity. So far, not much, or enough to justify a trip out in the cold. Night before last, I saw six. But, a swift double tap with the foot (using the patented Woody double tap method) quickly dispatched them. I must keep it a brisk tap, otherwise, they’re likely to stick to the bottom of my shoe. Not pleasant. Only saw once, last night.

    A rabid fox in our capitol may explain a lot of things. 🙂 So far, I seem to be the only wag that has made that connection.

    I read Mr. Greer’s post this week, and saw your exchange. Some places can be pretty disquieting. Weird Old America. The places that make you feel uncomfortable usually have some human component.
    “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” indeed.

    I found Margaret’s narrative about payments, very disturbing. There’s been a change in our usual shipping methods. Now it seems, one of the two major private delivery companies picks up or receives the shipments. And somewhere along the way, it gets handed off to our posties. And it’s as if any tracking falls into a black hole. I think the tracking now costs extra, or maybe it’s just that you can get tracking if you have a smart device. I’m seeing more self checkout, at the big chains. Lots of cards being used, for payment. Usually, they’ve got to have an employee or two, to oversee the transactions and work out any kinks. But they still have cashiers with drawers with real money in them. Disintermediation is not going well. Actually, someday, if you feel so moved, it might make an interesting topic for your blog. Lew

  22. @Inge

    Venmo is an app that allows individuals to exchange funds. It’s often used when people are splitting bills etc though many merchants use it too. We’ve annoyed people when we say we choose not to use it.


  23. Hi DJ,

    Happy to take suggestions as to topics, but that isn’t exactly the same thing as actually writing about the suggested topics. 🙂 The Editor also often suggests topics, and I always retort with: yeah, so what’s the story there? I get vague responses. A topic suggestion accompanied with no story is a hard write. Of course that is extra work for the sugestee.

    Thanks for the kind words, and yeah it’s a whole bunch of fun! I do have to worry about the clients reading the essays, but you know, I also discuss these sorts of issues with them from their perspective and um, story telling is a learned art form. However, sometimes you just have to just own it. But yeah, I have been politely told off recently by a truly lovely person. Mate, sometimes I disappoint even myself, but the writing calls, like the sirens on the far shore. Can you hear them calling? 🙂

    That’s about how it works. Ruby is a good dog, but she prefers the chase, which is kind of pointless. They come back. I’m far more impressed by Dame Plum’s willingness to do the required job with minimal fuss whilst avoiding the emotional spikes that some dogs can fall into. Ollie is held in reserve to deal with the deer should that necessity become necessary (if those words even make sense?) Sun Tzu advised not to wear the troops / champions out on stupid stuff. He’s right too.

    Three nights in a row, and no rats. Winning! For now… One of the issues I had with a rooster was that the rats used to annoy the roosters I have kept in the past and they’d crow all hours of the night. Eliminate the rats and a rooster becomes possible.

    Kudos. You crossed the dread Snoqualmie Pass and survived. Oh, the Snoqualmie Pass is not that much higher in elevation than here, but much further north in latitude. Ook! I checked out the climate charts for that area, and it’s cold, but it’s not that cold. However, compared to down here, it is positively toasty warm. So I scratched my head a bit and tried to come up with an equally freezing place on this continent and I reckon this is it: Mount Hotham. The climate notes are the sort of thing you’d only rarely see on the Australian mainland.

    Those old Viking weather gods of yours had your back those few days. Glad you had a nice road trip and catch up. Always fun.

    Avalanche was spoiled rotten with the Killian company. You’re lucky to have such a reciprocal agreement in place for the dogs.

    Go the tulips and buds may they dodge any inclement weather and put on a good show. It is proper isn’t it? A mate of mine grew up in the warmer north of the country and he pointed out to me that the winter months provided a break from the insects. He’s right too.

    Yes, I can see that about the teas. I do rather hope that you have a proper Celtic hat somewhere in your collection? Hey, the two tea camellia’s here in the greenhouse are flowering. They grew very poorly outside. Fingers crossed, but the new greenhouse project may progress tomorrow. Maybe.



  24. Hi Claire,

    Dame Plum sends thanks and cordial tail wags for the kind words. Ruby is in fact the extrovert, whereas Dame Plum is of a quieter disposition and she simply gets on with the job which needs doing.

    Claire, the rats were awful. I believe that there were sixteen rodents, and they take a lot of feeding. After modifications to the chicken enclosure spread out over four days, we’ve now had three rodent-free nights. It is a brief respite in hostilities, but one must be thankful for small mercies.

    I’d imagine that rats would be attracted to a large crop of corn or other grains? One of the issues with the terraced vegetable beds is that rodents can burrow into the side of the terrace, and so we have to be alert for burrow entrances. Please keep your squirrels in your part of the world! You know, one of my goals with this farm is learning how to live with and adapt to all of the many critters who live in and around here. It is not as easy a task as you’d imagine – hence your rabbit proof fencing. I’d be curious as to your thoughts in the matter, but I’m of the opinion that eventually the critters can be out produced. After all, I’ve noted very old feral fruit trees around these parts that produce huge volumes of fruit. I expect that time is what is required, maybe.

    Those are some variable weather conditions. Fingers crossed for your part of the world that the conditions don’t end up being too severe. We’re about to enter a run of stable warm weather, before conditions turn next week.



  25. Hi Margaret,

    Ah, you have a discerning intelligence to have noted my evil plans! 🙂 Respect and thanks for the lovely words. I also enjoy our conversations.

    I’d like to believe that I’m winning the rodent battle, for now. Habitat destruction and/or exclusion is often an effective method of dealing with rodents. I purchase high quality grains for the chickens, not to mention the fruit, greens and occasional chunk of mince meat (which the birds would never leave laying around), so feeding so many rats was an expensive proposition. After Monday evening’s modifications, we’ve had three rodent free nights.

    The very old shed near to the chicken enclosure is where they are hiding, and it’s a problem and has to come down. A risky job due to the rodents, but we might do the job slowly. The shed has an inner and outer skin of steel sheet, so the rats live in the walls and are protected. It was the access to the chicken feed which allowed the population to build up, otherwise the winter months would keep an upper lid on the rodent population. And they provide a ready re-stocking facility for rodents elsewhere around the farm where they are not as prevalent.

    Racoons and weasels are feral, and I would not like to have to deal with the likes of them. The foxes are wily enough. Hmm, foxes also tend to kill a flock, and my understanding is that it is their intention to come back and retrieve the carcasses for their cubs. It makes a certain sort of sense because it is a big investment for a fox (or whatever) to kill all of a flock rather than just smash and grab.

    Thank you for the excellent description, and that makes sense as I’d long wondered about that aspect of chicken tractors. The chicken enclosure here is in mostly shade all year around because the summer sun is way too hot. I’ve seen less shady chicken enclosures and people throw shade cloth and/or tarps over the roofs on hot days. The problem is if you forget – like forgetting to water plants in a greenhouse. Ook!

    Is Chicago looking more normal now people wise? One thing I noticed about the comedy festival last night was that there were a lot more people around and despite the closed businesses due to staff shortages, it was kind of looking more like it used to.

    The QR codes are good as long as you have a QR code reader. A mate of mine continues to pay cash on principal, although even he comes unstuck every now and then. Wow. Download the app is some cold gear to hear. Not nice at all. A mate was confronted by that at a car parking business, and before hearing that story, the possibility had never occurred to me. Not everyone has a smart phone, like Marty. And some people should not be given such things due to the mischief they’d end up in, which means that they are now excluded. It’s not right. But a lot of administration is being pushed downwards.

    It was a fine rant!

    The Editor recently read Wuthering Heights, where it was noted that people do not oppose oppression, it is generally pushed downwards upon the next level and so on – or words to that effect. It’s a good book too, although Heathcliff is hardly a warm and engaging character – he sounds like a psycho from the snippets I’m hearing about. Those Bronte sisters wrote some dark tales.

    Ah, had not heard of that platform before. Hmm, shadow banking is possibly kind of shadowy! Makes me wonder what would ever stop such folks from conjuring up some mad cash for themselves? You’d hope that checks, balances and internal controls are in place. We must be careful not to slander these fine folks.

    Hope the weather is not too severe? Not something you want to experience once the growing season begins. I watched last year as the blossoms flew off into the blowing and freezing air in a cloud pretending to be little snowflakes. The consequent fruit harvest was not good. We’re in for some fine weather over Easter.



  26. Hi Lewis,

    I’m pretty certain that you saw the film, as I have a vague recollection that we discussed it way back in the day. Ooo, I can see the appeal of the ‘Finding your roots’ show. Occasionally the medium of television comes up with some ripper ideas and/or story lines.

    But yes, I suspect that those trio of explanations are behind the vast movement of people. I’m pretty certain my grandfathers side came over during the Gold Rush era and settled in the far south west of the state – good diary country, but hardly an exciting place to be. The old bloke commissioned a family history, and I was only a young kid and at such an age a person cares not a whit for such things and no copy was provided for my benefit. I do recall the leather covers of the book which quite impressed my young mind. Such quality work is rarely seen.

    Easter looks like it will be a run of warm and dry days here, which is nice. I’ve had the wood heater going for most of the day, admittedly I was sitting down all day long. If I were active today, I would not have run the heater. The plan tomorrow is to get stuck into further earth works for the new greenhouse project, but by tomorrow night I should know more about that.

    I like the sentiment of your saying. Hopefully your audience takes the wisdom on board (which I’m guessing was your intention) and doesn’t get too upset? I have this odd notion that young Emily discovered mediocrity the hard way – through exposure to the theatre / film industry. That would be a tough business to do well in. She did mention something about years at arts college, followed by years of rejection and some work in advertisements. It was a good idea to channel the emotional energy into a comedy show.

    Did your window of no-snow allow you to get down to the Club to enjoy some biscuits and gravy and restock the pantry? I’m assuming that biscuits and gravy are a food thing in your country? I’ve never encountered them down here, although you could find chips and gravy, and I refer to the freshly deep-fried chips rather than the pre-made and packaged baked chips which are usually consumed cold.

    Poor H, I do hope that she is not suffering from any unnecessary hair mats? The Fluffies romped around a bit today in the middle of the day when the sun was out, but with the cooler weather and the opportunity to bake their brains in front of the wood heater, they took that zombie opportunity whilst it was available. Tomorrow will be a whole different story for the fluffies.

    The thing I always wonder about concepts such as sleeping pods is who in their right mind would trust technology to that extent? It’s good, but to not get anything wrong over decades seems like a big call to me. The surly clone with a bad attitude was just a wild guess. Speaking of which I confirmed today that the 16 hour in a day job meant wearing a mask for that long. Before was a guess, now it is confirmed. No thanks very much. I’d feel sick after such a length of time. I wonder if they have troubles filling the roles?

    Interestingly, I’m hearing stories about major dramas at airports due to I’m guessing chronic under staffing, although allegedly one exec blamed travellers as not being match fit. I’m sure he didn’t say that in front of an angry crowd. Imagine the cheeky scamp doing that?

    Hehe! The Woody double tap manoeuvre. 🙂 Very amusing. I found a dead rat today. One of Dame Plum’s kills, except a few days afterwards. Yuk! Chucked that carcass into the worm farm where the worms are even now chomping away upon the mess. Notably unfussy creatures who will most likely win in the end.

    Oh, that’s really a great observation about the rabid fox. And you’re probably right.

    Hmm, yeah well, remember the story of that couple who disappeared and were later found – far from fresh. I used to think nothing of going camping by myself for days up in remote parts of the alpine areas. I never knew there were anti-social elements lurking around, let alone pranksters. Puts a whole new spin on the area for me, but yeah people can be trouble that’s for sure. Hanging rock is an eerie place. I’ve been to Ayres rock / Uluru in the centre of the continent, and that is an eerie place too. The slow beating heart of the continent, and it’s huge too.

    The payment thing is disturbing because it presumes upon the individual. Mate, a lot of businesses are pushing their administration downwards. Possibly when two companies are handling the same package, there is always the difficulty of chain of custody for any item. The QR ordering at restaurants is an odd thing to me, but other people seem fine with that. I tend to steer myself towards the cashiers, as they need jobs too.

    The whole tech thing is predicated upon a stable power grid, and idealists are doing far from ideal things to that system, so I don’t worry about this intrusion of tech, unless it still becomes necessary even when the grid become unstable. That will be difficult. What people forget is that 99% uptime still means 3.65 days per year that there’ll be no power.



  27. Hi, Chris!

    I am so grateful that you like to write, and that you keep going through all the effort to construct these thoughtful and entertaining essays. They are a joy to read, no matter what the topic.

    I suspect that your rats are a never-ending problem, that even if Dame Plum wipes all this group out, others will smell where their kindred were, and the great knosh to be had – if only they can get in (and it sounds like you’ve about got that sewn up) – and head on over. I think Dame P. has a job for life.

    Every time I see that hen house (er, Chook Palace) I wish it was mine. No, I have no chickens, but it would make a dandy retreat/studio for some lucky person; it is so charming.

    Even when we buy powdery-mildew resistant zucchini seeds they still usually get powdery mildew. But one never gives up; I love zucchini.

    What a handsome moth. A mosaic moth? A stained-glass moth (needs more color, I guess)? A mantled moth, like some ancient king?

    I’m not sure I knew that ants pollinate. Depends on the ant, I guess?

    The geraniums are especially lovely. That made me realize that this is the first winter in 30 years that I haven’t had even one overwintered-indoors geranium to plant outside for the summer. The end of a dynasty. I shall have to buy some.


  28. Yo, Chris – LOL. I’m glad you keep track of the films I watch. 🙂 I’ve often thought I should keep a list.

    “Finding Your Roots” is always interesting. Twists and turns. “Your grandfather wasn’t really your grandfather. We’ve done DNA sleuthing, and your real grandfather was … the milkman!” “Your umpitty great grandfather was a Free Person of Color. (Yeah!) And … he owned a plantation along with 50 slaves.” (Uncomfortable silence.) Season 8 just hit our new list, and I put it on hold. There’s also a British version called “Who Do You Think You Are?” It’s had 18 seasons. I’ve seen a few episodes, and the format is pretty much the same.

    “…good diary country.” So people journal out there, a lot? 🙂 I know. your just checking to see if I’m awake.

    My friends in Idaho’s new place has a wood stove. She was just commenting this morning that the quality of the heat is so much nicer than electric heating.

    I think I told you the story about a woman I met (who hadn’t heard my quip about rock stars). She mentioned that she had recently found out that her father WAS a rock star. She was cagey about naming names. I blurted out something that came to mind (who knows from where) and hit the nail on the head. Gosh, I wish I could turn that stuff on and off.

    No biscuits and gravy, yesterday. Our usual chef called in sick. Yes, it’s kind of a national dish. On the menu of most restaurants. A real artery clogger. But, I figure once a week won’t kill me. At least, not immediately. 🙂

    Prof. Mass has a new posting about our cooler than average, spring. That’s what the Old Farmer’s Almanac said. “Cooler and wetter than average.” It started snowing last night. And, it was snowing this morning. But, it stopped and the roads were clear, so I was able to take H down to the groomer. They’ll call me and I’ll go pick her up, this afternoon. But, a glitch. When I go back they would like to see her vaccination records. I knew that was going to be a problem. I doubt Elinor will be able to lay her hands on them.

    Next big hurdle is getting down to Frank the Mechanics, tomorrow morning. We’re supposed to get more snow. Sigh.

    We’ve got an outfit over here that does cyro storage. You can have your whole body done … or do it on the cheap and just have your head frozen.

    There’s always been anti-social elements around. It just seems like these days there are more of them and they’re bolder.

    It’s interesting how when power is lost, around here, a lot of businesses are dead in the water.

    I went to the library, yesterday, and picked up a couple of new books. “After the Blast: The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helens (Wagner) and “Heaven is a Place on Earth: Searching for an American Utopia” (Shirk). I read a bit of both of them, last night. They’re pretty interesting. I’ll probably switch back and fourth between the two.

    Speaking of books, my Australian cookbooks didn’t show up, yesterday. And now some of the wonky tracking says they might not get here until the 26th! Lew

  29. Chris:

    Every evening I watch for Charlene the White Squirrel to come out on the branch that is her back porch on her hollow oak tree. She lies down and watches the sun set behind the mountains. She has been doing this for years on nice evenings. Tonight she lay down on the branch and two small squirrels joined her. She had her latest litter some weeks ago – we didn’t know it – and there they were, her two children, and one of them is grey – and one of them is pure white!


  30. Hi Pam,

    Thank you and it is my pleasure to entertain you. I really enjoy the writing process, and it is a great creative outlet, there’s this very dull day job you see… 🙂

    I’m sitting at my desk right now typing out the reply and the world feels as if it is moving around me. Ginger wine may have been involved, however the small half a glass was probably not the culprit in this instance. I’ve spent the day standing on the back of a mini skid steer loader. We cut a flat site for the greenhouse project. Yay! That bit of the project is done at least, but my brain is telling me I’m still on the loader. It’s a weird sensation – do they call it sea legs? I dunno.

    Pam, I so have to agree with you about the never ending problem. What I aim to do with all of the critters here is to limit the worst zombie, sorry I meant to type the word rat, outbreaks. And you’re right too. It’s like a game of whack a mole, but I am trying to skew the outcome in my favour, whilst not completely eliminating the rats. I’d be certain that they perform some sort of service in the ecosystem, but they can manage well enough without chowing down upon expensive chicken feed. Dame Plum is of a noble lineage which stretches back to the original fluffy – Old Fluffy. She was one bad-as dog, but super delightful too. All dogs submitted to her will, except her nemesis the Crunchy Beagle.

    Hehe! Guests would have a massive super freak out over the rats. I’ve got planning rights to build a Bed and Breakfast if I wanted.

    I wouldn’t worry about it, they all succumb to powdery mildew. My advice: Don’t believe the hype. 😉

    The ants and I are not on good terms. They’re so aggressive and the consequences of a few bites is an horrendous experience.

    Out of curiosity, what happened to your former geraniums? Surely, Mr Musty and his trusty sidekick Mr Dumpy didn’t cause any dramas for the cheery plants?

    Go Charlene the White Squirrel! To watch a sunset is a beautiful thing. The magpie family here will perch themselves in the highest trees and watch the sun setting. I’ve never really known whether they are enjoying the spectacle or keeping an eye out for predator birds, but I’d like to think that they are enjoying the spectacle.

    Oooo! There was a white kangaroo in the news the other day – Charlene is in good company. Elusive white kangaroo a sight for sore eyes on outback Queensland station.



  31. Hi Lewis,

    It may seem like that, but sneaky film recommendations to me are unfortunately in the same category as sneaky book recommendations – and I am weak and can easily succumb to temptation and purchase the said recommendation. Oooo! Hey, Jack London’s Call of the Wild turned up in the mail yesterday. I might read that next as we have established a proper pattern of one non fiction to every fiction book. And as such, the patterns are now correct. But far out, do I ditch Jack London and instead read A Japanese Tavern next? So many questions, so few answers. Which would you choose? A direct question avoids evasive manoeuvre number five. 😉

    Man, my head is actually spinning this evening like someone with sea legs who is forced to dwell upon the land. I’ve stood all day long on the back of a mini skid steer loader as we cut the flat site for the new and much larger greenhouse. And the site cut earth works is now complete, and we can get onto building the thing.

    I put the machine to some good work and had a little bit of spare time to push some huge rocks in the paddock down the hill (so much fun) and also began to clean up some of the mess the loggers left behind. I don’t know what those old timers did but they’ve left huge old half burnt tree stumps around the property. It is possible they used bulldozers to dump them in a pile so as to burn them off, and they just couldn’t quite finish the job. Anyway, I moved a few of those tree stumps around, and cleaned off the clay which prevented them from burning in the first place, and I might finish off the work they didn’t do. We do neat, and I kind of enjoy neat. 🙂 It’s probably indicative of some sort of personal failing, but neat is good.

    Ook! Ah yes, I can see how such news would offend people’s sensibilities and their view of themselves. Talk about Bad Great Granddad! Uncomfortable silence indeed.

    I have a free day tomorrow. There is nothing planned, and I have plans to do very little. Perhaps I’m resting on my laurels, but the batteries could use a bit of a recharge, and there’s nothing planned!!!! Woo hoo! You may note that I am super excited about this situation. And the Editor is having a girlie night, so it’s party time here with possibly one or three dogs on the bed – they’re never allowed to do that, but surely I will win brownie points with the dogs for this act of generosity? The dogs and I may even watch Zombieland!

    Did I really write: good diary country? Man, I don’t doubt you but far out, that one was a rookie mistake. 🙂 Good to see that you were awake. And yeah, maybe I was testing you.

    Glad to hear that your friends in Idaho now have a wood stove in their new digs. And I wholeheartedly agree. People are super weird about firewood, but if the resource is just outside the door, and it takes a huge amount of effort to convert into an energy source, then how can that be bad? Nature produces some surpluses.

    It would be handy to turn that faculty on and then off again. Hope that it was an OK rock star too? I hear you about that though, and you would not want to have had the insights I had last Saturday night. No siree, it was not nice at all. And may even be part of the core of the next blog.

    Bummer about the biscuits and gravy, but did you have any good chinwags at the Club? And did you manage to dodge the snow?

    Speaking of weather, it was a beautiful day here today. Blue skies, warm sun and 68’F. A perfect day for earthworks, and I’m glad to have that job done before the rains return. Mud, I hate mud.

    The good Professor takes mis-reporting seriously. Glad someone in science is prepared to take out the big stick, but there is a lot of that gear going on, in both camps. Far out, you might be getting a glimpse of the crazy no-summer I’ve experienced for the past two growing seasons.

    Ah, so you did dodge the snow. Well done! What? I’ve never heard of any dog groomer asking for those records. Welcome to my world, it’s a strange place. Down here, dog stays will ask for such records, but a groomer? It seems a bit over the top.

    So how did you dodge this issue?

    How is the axle leak going? I read an article today about a lady bemoaning that it cost so much to fill up her gas guzzler – then it is casually dropped in that she has seven kids. Well there’s a lot going on there, and sure fuel is expensive, but I’d imagine that household has other financial issues.

    Do it on the cheap and have your head frozen – what could possibly go wrong! Cremation for me. No zombie has ever come back from the ashes of cremation. A very old friend used to say all the time: They don’t muck around in the crematory. I’ll bet they do.

    I tend to agree about the anti-social elements, but then it is a numbers game, and more people will provide more fodder, and importantly, more pressure.

    That happened to me at the local animal feed store, and I was the only person holding cash, and so I paid the money and left whilst everyone else was standing around wondering what to do. Crazy.

    Mount St Helens has always intrigued me – I blame National Geographic of course for their superb photographs and story. So, is it recovering?

    Beware Utopia! I’m curious enough to ask whether the author found any such place? It seems like a big call to me.

    Oh that is slack. But on the other hand the Jack London book turned up in the mail, so this is a good thing is it not? Shipping is pretty slow these days. Do you reckon it might have been a print on demand version?



  32. Chris:

    Hmmm – sounds more like land legs, considering your craft. I can see why you’re all shook up, though. How neat that you could build a B & B if you wanted to.

    Too many other priorities is what happened to me geraniums.

    Thanks for the white kangaroo – Charlene on a massive scale, but give me our little Charlene any day, and now Darlene and Donald.


  33. Yo, Chris – I’d say, go for the Jack London. You know you want to 🙂 . “Japanese Inn” is a gentler book, and will wait patiently.

    Well, speaking of direct questions, what do you do with your persimmons? Inquiring minds (and Julia), want to know!

    Skid steer loader. So, did you have a lot of steers to load? 🙂 More on sea legs, later.

    You weren’t tempted to break up those rocks? Saving them for a rainy day? The Bank of Fernglade Farm has many rocks in it’s prudent reserve. Your contributing to “earthflow.” A new term I picked up from the Mt. St. Helens book. Kind of a slow motion landslide. Sometimes, only inches a year. Sounds like the loggers were burning a slash pile. They do the same here. And then come back when conditions are better, and burn it. Maybe at that time, in that place, it wasn’t a practice. Or somebody just didn’t check to see it had been done.

    Always good to have a free day. Don’t let anyone harsh your mellow. Didn’t Mr. Greer bang on about slack, recently? “Zombieland” is always a good choice. Pile on “Zombieland 2” and you’ve got a Woody / zombie festival.

    “I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.” (Walt Whitman).

    Yes, it was an OK rock star. Oh, he had his personal problems, but got them all sorted. I’ll be interested in hearing your insights. Always up for a new way of looking at things.

    Yup. Had a good chin-wag. Well, when your dealing with volunteers … I’m of the mind frame now, where if they show up, I’m happy. If they don’t, it’s no big drama.

    The trip to the dog groomers was a success. I’m telling everyone we traded the old dog in on a new one. Most importantly, other than a few minor quibbles, Elinor was happy with the job. That request for vaccination records caught me kind of flat footed. And I pretty much knew Elinor couldn’t lay her hands on them, with any speed. But she was more on top of things, than I imagined. She called her vet and had him fax over the records to the groomer. But tonight, I’m going to suggest next time she runs across them, to let me make a copy and file it. I’m slightly more organized than she is.

    I took H for a walk when we got back home. Talk about sea legs. She had to learn to walk again, without dragging around all that hair. And some of the minor behavioral problems she’s developed over the last month have cleared up. I will not let her get in that condition, again.

    Usually when someone says they have 7 kids, I remark that they must not have had sex ed, wherever they came from. Or, I inquire as to if they know where those kids come from. You can get away with a lot, when your old and decrepit. 🙂

    Frank put the truck on the hoist and pulled the wheel. Everything is dry. So, no problems with the axil seal. What did he charge me? -0-.

    Usually, if the powers down, they can’t get the drawer open. Although there’s usually a way, that they don’t bother telling the employees about. If you have exact change, you “might” be able to force real cash on them, and go on your way.

    The recovery of Mt. St. Helens was really pretty amazing. A geologist was there, four days after the blast. The ground was still warm. He was trying to piece together the progress of the eruption. So, he dug a hole, and notice the ground was already laced with mycelium of a fungus that grows after forest fires. Pocket gophers that had survived in their burrows, dug out, churning up the soil. Elk wandered through to break up the soil more. And left a bit of fertilizer, behind. Fireweed sprouted. The whole process moved a lot faster than any one had imagined.

    Early days in the Utopia book. She’s looking, but realizes the whole venture is probably a bit pointless, but she wants to look at why the many attempts have failed. One interesting observation she made was that in literature, most Utopias are cities. Attempts at Utopia are usually pastoral.

    My books have emerged from the black hole, and have apparently been handed off to the USPS in Las Vegas, Nevada. Books go media mail, which is the cheapest way to send a package. But it goes “space available.” This time of the year, that’s not much of a problem. Lew

  34. Chris,

    Sirens? I hear them often. Living midway between 2 firefighting stations and near several arterials, sirens from police, ambulances and fire trucks are regularly audible. Oh, you meant that more inspirational, esoteric sirens of the ephemeral variety? Well, yeah I hear those also, but not as often.

    Sun Tzu was right about a lot of things. Humans haven’t changed since his time, really. Or for even longer ago than that. Insights into how people behave from his era, the Viking era, whenever, still have a lot of validity today. I understand why Mr. Greer enjoys reading a lot of things written by people who are no longer alive. Some of their writing is very appropriate to today.

    Hush, now. Keep mentioning that you are winning the war on the rats and you will find that the baby rats will appear as young adult rats. In other words, Don’t Jinx Yourself! Prediction: Get a rooster, rats will come.

    Snoqualmie Pass is the lowest of the passes across the Cascades in Washington. It’s also bears the heaviest traffic, as it begins in Seattle and heads eastwards. Stevens Pass, the next one to the north, is about 320m higher and gets slammed worse with snow. The North Cascades Highway, further north yet and famous for the highway signs warning about “Sasquatch Crossing”, is far to the north, higher elevation, and is closed from October/November into April or May. Yes, they get that much snow in that part of the state.

    I’ve had to cancel trips to visit my friend several years in a row due to nasty weather over the passes. I hit the Elusive Window of Drivability just right.

    Yes, we are spoiled with the dog agreement. Killian’s owner has been a close friend of mine from my working days, and is someone who gets along well with the Princess also. The fact that Killian and Avalanche get along so well is an added bonus.

    Most of the week has been cold, spitting snow throughout much of the day. Cold enough to snow, too warm for it to stick. But Wednesday was spectacularly clear and sunny. So the Princess and I ran errands, did some shopping for the hard-to-find shoes that fit her feet and actually found some. We bought 2 pairs. We also stopped at our favorite locally owned sandwich place and enjoyed having dinner out. Just the 2 of us. Very enjoyable day.

    Yes, your mate is entirely correct. We get a welcome break from the nastier types of outdoor insects during most of our winters. That is a very positive part of our winters.

    Aye, I do own one Celtic style cap. It’s old. I need a new one. I know that had I bought one when visiting my friend, I would’ve gotten one that is almost entirely unlike what the Princess would have chosen for me. It’s added incentive to visit there with her in the reasonably near future.


  35. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for the correction, yes land legs it is!

    Today, I set another seven fruit trees free from their wallaby proof cages. The cages do the trees no good due to the build up of grasses around the base of the tree trunks. And the growth of the fruit trees is really slow as a result. However, wallabies do far worse to the young fruit trees, so they’re a necessary evil. Plus I do wonder if the steel wire burns the foliage and branches during really hot and/or cold weather. And like your deer, I too have no idea whether the wallabies will destroy the now set-free fruit trees. Dunno, but I do know that the tree growth goes off like a frog in a sock once the cage has been removed.

    B & B’s aren’t the great money spinner that people presume that they are. That is unless the property owners muck in and do all of the work themselves. And I’ve known of a few such businesses from acquaintances over the years where strange things happen such as inexplicable breakages and bizarrely, thefts, such as remote controls for televisions and what not. Why anyone would thief off with such an item is a mystery to me, but it happened often enough from what I’d heard. You just wouldn’t imagine that such things go on, but they do – and each incident reduces the profitability. Perhaps a super low tech city-folks-tech-detox cabin would avoid such issues? Imagine that sales pitch: Nah, good folks, there’s no interweb, we take the tech-detox issue seriously!

    You have my sympathies and understanding for the whole bunch of other stuff which needs doing story. Yup, I hear you about that and also wonder when things will get quieter. The quiet and slow I can deal with, I’m sure you understand. 😉

    Hehe! Those are great names for the progeny of Charlene the white squirrel. I do hope that either one of those learn to carry on with the various squirrel activities which need doing?



  36. Hi DJ,

    It’s funny how we’re never quite without the sounds of industrial activity. As it is Easter here, I’ve noted that the number of flights have increased, but they’re still nowhere near the volume which they used to be. The mountain range is in a bit of a flight path and for some reason that means right overhead the house and farm. So the reduction in that noise is one of the good outcomes from the slow decline of the civilisation. Flying is not for me any more, and I’d heard that the airports are apparently chaotic due to the sudden increase in volume and the paucity of employees.

    Beware, the ephemeral sirens might lead you to a nasty end! History is consistent on this subject.

    One of the complications I’ve had to navigate is the ebbs and flows of work sources due to the health subject which dares not be named. I have this old school notion of relationships in that they have a weight and meaning. This attitude is still found in rural areas, and I am judged around these parts based upon my actions. Interestingly the situation is different in the city, and one source sent me very little work during the health subject which dares not be named, and now they’re crazy busy. Except that during that time the Editor and I made other arrangements. It’s a predicament for both us and them. I have opened a dialogue with them on the subject, but given the lack of respect for relationships shown, it will probably end up not in our favour. Still, it is a real thing that there are shortages of people who know what they are doing. The big J may have said on the mount of olives: Blessed are the competent, for they are busy! Surely he said that?

    🙂 The Jack London book turned up in the mail a few days ago, and Lewis has tilted the decision in favour of that book next, which was incidentally penned almost 120 years ago. Long dead authors have something to say, although it is a truth universally acknowledged that they may not technically be able to add to what they’ve already said.

    The Rodent War will be long, there will be sacrifices, but we shall prevail!

    Holy carp! The camera at the Stevens Pass road looks worse right now than the highest road crossings over this mountain range during the very worst of winter conditions! Admittedly the authorities close the highest road here when snowfalls are too deep. A sensible precaution, and a few years ago I didn’t think to engage four wheel drive, and the Dirt Rat Suzuki spun around on an icy / slushy road. The wrong side of the road facing the wrong way is not something that is an enjoyable experience. That was frankly a bit too much excitement for me.

    Good stuff with your reciprocal doggie arrangements, and it’s good for Avalanche to hang out with other dogs whom she knows. Years ago I looked after a neighbours dog, and because we fed her better food and brushed her coat, the neighbours got a bit obsessed about whether we’d bathed her or not. Being asked the same question six times does not necessarily mean that a person will get a different answer. I only wash the dogs when they’ve rolled in something unpleasant, and they usually only do that when they’ve picked up ticks. Submit to the treatment, that they then do!

    Hmm, I used to work in footwear manufacturing – such talk is like catnip! 😉 Alas, I know too much now about feet and how shoes are made. You both sound like you had a lovely time.

    Having written that about insects, I did spot a single mosquito this evening – it was a bit sluggish and succumbed to a solid slap. The bees are still very active, but most of the local insects are settling in for the cooler weather. The frogs are still singing their nightly choruses.

    Hehe! Two words: Good luck! And you thought I was about to type something else… Hats are an ingenious technology and I keep a number of them depending upon weather conditions. Wore a cap yesterday when I was hanging off the back of the skid steer loader, and despite the moderate UV there were times in the mid afternoon sun where it almost felt as if the sun was burning my skin. That was unexpected. It is nice to have that excavation job now done. Had a much quieter day today.



  37. Hi Lewis,

    I defer to your good judgement and experience in the matter, and will read the Jack London book next. Interestingly, the Editor picked the book up this morning and remarked that her grandfather had the book, although she herself had not read it. It is remarkable that a book title could leave such an impression over such a length of time.

    Persimmons. Respect for the getting right to the pointy question. The variety is Fuyu and it is a non-astringent variety. The fruit hangs on the tree until the point where all the leaves have turned and/or are about to, have fallen. The fruit starts off green (when the tree is in full leaf) before then turning an interesting orange colour (at leaf change). At that point the fruit is picked. The fruit benefits from mildly fermenting – i.e. getting a bit soft. That’s when it is ready to eat. If the fruits are firm, they’re probably not yet ready. I can’t recall exactly if or how long the fruit sat in the warm kitchen, but my memory suggests that it wasn’t all that long. Pears, as an interesting side note also ripen off the tree. The thick skin is peeled, and like a ripe banana, it pulls away from the flesh. The seeds are a bit large for my tastes and from memory those were chucked into the worm farm bucket. The fruit is pretty good, but I tend to appreciate citrus fruits during the colder months instead, and that is probably due to not having grown up consuming persimmons.

    Lewis, the steers were positively awful, the rotters. Fortunately, the two Kelpie girls were running around yesterday (avoiding the noisy machine like the plague) and were instead rounding up the errant steers. I teach the dogs to beware of machines by, and this will probably incur the wrath of I forget who were the animal activists causing so much hassles with sheep? Anyway, whatever, that crazy lot who would prefer to see sheep with maggots on their poop caked backsides than for the sheep to incur a brief bout of pain. Oh, I digress, yeah the vacuum. That job in the household is mine, and yeah the dogs are now wary and alert to vacuum mischief. Makes you wonder whether they think to themselves: Chris is OK, but not when the vacuum is in play. So the lesson the dogs learn is that machines are bad and best if the canines are safely elsewhere. Barking at low flying aircraft is probably taking the lesson to an extreme which it needn’t go.

    Being Easter and all, the number of aircraft flying overhead has increased over the past day or so, but truthfully, it is nowhere near what it used to be way back before you know what. I appreciate the quietude, before this present bout of Easter noisy aircraft incidents.

    No. I was not tempted to break up the large rock, otherwise I would have already done so. There is logic to my logic. 😉 I knew with that particular rock that it has a very solid granite core which will not easily yield to the tools which I have access to. No, get thee from my sight was the way it worked, plus it was a super fun act to roll a huge rock down the hill! Like billiards on a monster scale!

    It is funny you mention that about the prudent reserves of rocks, but I put the machine to the test to see whether we could access some other large rocks around the property, and the machine will do the job easily. The only problem I have is that possibly the machine is long in the tooth and rumour has that it won’t be replaced.

    Mate, the ground here moves for sure. I’m uncertain of the process, but it does happen and if you observe the land for long enough you’ll see it.

    I don’t know what the loggers were thinking, but the facts suggest that they didn’t finish the job. 🙂 I took a photo of the stump today and hopefully it turns out well. It is possible that it wasn’t a practice here to clean up, or that the loggers were clearing stumps left over from even much older logging practices? From what I understand, the last lot used to use bulldozers and chains. How else can a cut stump left upside down half buried in the soil be explained? Nothing natural would do that.

    I stayed strong today and was true to my slack. Even had a nap around lunchtime. Then spent the afternoon pottering around doing whatever pleased me accompanied by happy dogs. The dogs walked for hours in that process and are now fast asleep. Set about seven fruit trees free from their wallaby proof cages. The orchards are easier to maintain without the cages, but the trees become established without them. The wallabies fill the same niche as goats and all they want is to keep the forest under story open so that there is feed for them and they can move about. But must they destroy my fruit trees?

    All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine

    Problems can be endemic to that industry. I recall a quote (hopefully correct) allegedly from the actor Robin Williams on the subject of recreational substances: He claimed he never bought them, people bought them for him. The claim had the ring of truth to it. And yeah, it’s a complicated essay subject which I need to think about over the next day or so. Haven’t quite worked out the story details yet, but the core is known.

    That is the thing with volunteers, there has to be some flexibility with the arrangements. At some point I began viewing the volunteer fire fighting as an unpaid job – what surprised me was that the social element was squashed following on from the Royal Commission into the 2009 fires. I didn’t get that outcome, and would not have run the group that way because it makes little sense to me. It is possible that the push came down from above, but I don’t know. All I know is what I witnessed.

    Please humour me here, I have never heard that dog groomers had become so staunch about such subjects. If the dog clearly ain’t ill, what is the big problem? It sounds very much like a legal response to me. Glad to hear that Elinor had it sorted out, but yeah, you might need to get a copy of the records, or go the scissors option. 😉

    That’s pretty funny, and I salute your intellectual position of wise elder. I’d never thought of such a response, but yeah he says that whilst taking notes for the future.

    Cool. Frank has earned your loyalty, and it is in a good place. Mate the rural areas here have that sort of thing going on. I haven’t yet paid for the machine, but it is understood that I will go to the business tomorrow and pay for the machine, and that will happen. That outcome wouldn’t happen in the city, but the country, well it’s different, and I have more than a few arrangements around here like that – and I tell you truly, I don’t mess around with them. They’re hard won and probably easily lost. I prefer working on that basis. Now, grifters on the other hand…

    Hey, when that power out thing, no card swipee machine thing has happened to me, and the mad cash change is insignificant, I leave the change. Actually, it happened to me last weekend and the staff were hanging around the register scratching their heads and trying to look busy, the queue was long, and I said to them, don’t worry about the change, and walked out. They had hassles, but I wasn’t one of them.

    Ah, your fireweed and ours are a different species: Senecio madagascariensis here and Chamaenerion angustifolium in your part of the world. Interesting, and I’m amazed that mycellium would already be onto the mineral rich ash bed, but yeah it makes sense. I’d imagine that fire adapted species tend to do better in volcanic areas as well, because the burrowing species tend to do better here in fires as well as your pocket gophers – think wombats. Although they can have a tough time of it looking for feed afterwards. Breaking up the soil, AKA tilling, is a way of releasing soil minerals into the food chain. It’s not all bad, although some folks would suggest that it might be.

    Ah, I had not appreciated that the author was looking at the failures, and the why of that. Not many survive, and many years ago I did visit a, what do they call them here nowadays: A multiple occupancy. Had to laugh, one interweb site asked the hard question: where can I “buy community”! Too funny and I’m not entirely certain that the authors might have picked up on the irony of that sentence. Cities are too mediated for the outcome to be even remotely possible, unless of course they’re in Detroit like conditions. That’s a different ball game.

    Hope your books don’t succumb to Stephen King’s ending of The Stand, as I doubt they’d survive that incidence given their current location. And then we’d never discover of get to discuss your opinion as to a vanilla slice. They’re a thing down here, you know and bakeries lay claim to the ‘best vanilla slice’ from some award in a given year.



  38. Yo, Chris – Speaking of mountain passes, out in the eastern part of our county, we’ve got White Pass. Elev. 4,500 ft (1.372m). The road runs from Interstate 5, over the pass to Yakima. From there, one can either keep heading east, or drop down to the Columbia River Gorge. A lot of produce moves over that road, from eastern Washington to I-5 and points beyond.

    Speaking of weather, last night I decided to go get some gas ($4.84 a gallon) and stop at the chain grocery, on my way back, to do some weekly shopping. We’ve been having some hail storms, over the last week or two. But usually of short duration. Well, we had a huge hail storm that lasted a good half an hour. The roads were covered with the stuff. But it melts fast, so I waited awhile, before setting out. When I was half way to the gas station, I ran right into the storm. Must have been slow moving. There was a good inch of hail on the road. Terrifying, invigorating and cleared my sinuses out. 🙂 I’m glad I had new booties on my truck, and no one was climbing up my … tail.

    Thanks for the persimmon information. I’ll pass it on to Julia. I see you can also dry them.

    H is ok with a vacuum in the apartment, where she can see what’s going on. But when the cleaning lady goes down the hall, she goes pretty wild. Sirens don’t seem to bother her, but she will sing along with the fire trucks, with a little encouragement. 🙂 Anytime I go at her with a brush or scissors, I show her the tool, so she knows what tool is coming at her. I wonder how she’d react to my hair clippers? They have a pretty loud buzz.

    I really think we’ve had a bit of ground movement up behind the Institution. Things just seem a bit more out of kilter. My feet tell me the sidewalks have a bit more tilt.

    It sounds, to me, like someone was trying to break up the sense of community, among the volunteer fire fighters. It sounds and feels so much like what happened here at the Institution. That horrible woman came up with anything she could think of (and get away with) to isolate inmates, one from the other. I don’t know how much we’ll be able to get back. What’s with that? Some new management theory?

    I’d say the song and dance at the dog groomers probably has to do with insurance.

    I read a bit more of the Mt. St. Helens book, last night. Different zones had different modes of recovery. And there were a lot of “what ifs.” If the volcano had exploded on a Monday, instead of a Sunday, hundreds of more people would have been working in the woods. If it had happened later in the year, there would have been a harder recovery. As there was still a lot of snow cover, and there was lots of stuff under that snow, that was just waiting for it’s time in the sun. Next up, what’s been going on in the lakes.

    The Utopia book. Detroit … or the Bronx, NY. Which the author has talked about (and participated in). The Bronx was pretty much a burnt out shell, by the 1980s. Then, people started pulling together to recover. But then came gentrification. So I think what she’s driving at is Utopias can start off “good” (a total value judgement), and then go bad, in a number of ways. The rise of a little tin god-king, etc..

    The books move. Elvis has left the building. My books have moved from Las Vegas, Nevada to Reno, Nevada.

    We get a food box, this afternoon. It’s the one that may have produce. Lew

  39. Chris,

    We live under/near a flight pattern also and have noticed significantly less activity since the nameless thing began. Used to be a lot more traffic. I don’t mind the quieter skies at all!

    I’m sure your quote was at the core of the original sermon on the mount. Alas! It got edited out and has apparently been replaced with “blessed are the rich for they shall become richer.” At least that seems to be common practice. 😉

    Glad you’re gonna read the Jack London book next. I hope you enjoy it.

    Breaking News: Rodent Wars Expand to Spokane! However, Avalanche underfoot the Shadow, the Puppy Deluxe, was at peak form this morning. She neglected her breakfast to go hunting and got her First Confirmed Kill, a mouse. Which she played with and flung about and rolled on and buried and dug up and flung about and rolled on for several hours before depositing it at DJSpo’s feet. She has now been promoted to Apprentice Lady of the Green, in Training.

    Yup, that’s Stevens Pass. It can get clogged by snow from mid-September until early May. Sometimes a bit later. Any trips over the Cascades are judiciously planned with extra eyes monitoring the pass forecasts. I’m getting to where I do NOT enjoy driving in those conditions.

    It WAS a lovely time. We turned down our phones and refused to look at any clocks. It has been a LONG time since we had such a day.

    When walking Avalanche today, I heard a raven calling. There are at least 4 raven nests in the area this year. Naturally, said calling raven was being pursued by 2 crows. 600 meters further along, there was another raven making noise accompanied by a higher pitched noise. This raven was hot on the tail of one of the neighborhood’s sharp shinned hawks. Quite the interesting walk.

    It was also the day that teenagers were in the area in their marked “Driver’s Education” cars. One instructor had his window rolled down and asked me if I ‘d like to trade my dog for his teenaged students. I quickly replied , “Nope”. Hunting husky or teaching teenagers to drive??? I’ll take the husky every time, thank you. The student quipped, “Hey, that doesn’t make me feel any better!”

    Oh, and we had 3cm of snow this morning on the grass and the cars. No snow on the roads, but the melted snow froze, so everything was icy this morning. It was another day that made me happy to be out of the work force.


  40. Hi DJ,

    The skies were much quieter today of aircraft traffic, and I suspect that the flight paths are moved around. But when conditions are such, right over head go the planes. So yeah, like your observation, it is nice that things are quieter nowadays. Of course plenty of people love their seven league boots, and who are we to argue with their desires?

    On the other hand, there were a huge number of vehicles roaming around the mountain today. I wonder whatever they were seeking. And some of them were dawdling and not letting me get around them. Yes, meet the friendly locals indeed!

    It was 26’C here today with blue skies and little wind. The past few days have been a proper Indian summer, and unfortunately late tomorrow night, things are set to change. With the forecast in mind, I brought in three trailer loads of the crushed rock with lime, and placed it on the excavated soil surface so as to protect it from the forecast rain. If I fail to make sense this evening, blame hard work! 😉

    When I was a kid, being a millionaire was something. Now that due to I’m guessing money printing expansionary money supply policies, median house prices have reached that marker. Well, I guess it ain’t worth what it used to be. And nobody had a billion when I was a kid.

    Yeah, I’m looking forward to reading the Jack London book. Expectations are high.

    Go Avalanche! Well done her. A fine achievement, and I’ll bet that she has had her eye on the mouse for a while now. Is this the first time that she has encountered a mouse? Like the name! We’ll have to somehow adjust the title guidelines to your local conditions. I mean ten confirmed kills in one week is probably not possible in your circumstances. I’m rather uncomfortable that it was possible here.

    Far out, two rats have been trapped inside the chicken enclosure and tonight I scared one out of the open door. We might modify the enclosure further to eliminate the area where the stuck rats are hiding. That will be an interesting experience because I will have to do the work during daylight hours. Chickens are brutal, although the rat/s will put up a fight.

    I wouldn’t enjoy driving in those conditions either. Do you have to take chains? I have no idea how an ordinary vehicles tyres would manage to stick to the icy / snowy roads over those passes. That is outside my experience. Too nerve wracking for my comfort levels.

    Tuning out to constant tech interruptions is a worthy goal, and glad to hear that it worked for both of you and that you enjoyed the experience of being in the moment. And I reckon bad news rarely gets better from having been received immediately. It is relaxing to not be bombarded by beeps and boops from a device. When I’m working around the farm, I tend to keep the phone inside the house so that I can just enjoy the moment – and also keep my wits about me so I reduce the risk of injury. Unfortunately it does annoy some people that I’m not instantly contactable (and that does not include the Editor, who is of a similar mindset) but what are you meant to do? I have to set and enforce boundaries.

    The world of bird is a rough and tumble old place, where one false move and you’re done. The birds here are always alert for other predator birds, and I dunno about your part of the world, but you can tell their predator warning calls. And they probably know all about you and Avalanche. The magpies here treat Ollie very differently from Dame Plum and Ruby. They know.

    Hehe! A rather unusual conversation to become unwittingly embroiled in. The instructor clearly wasn’t enjoying his work that day, although possibly also he recognised a fine dog when he spotted one. 🙂 I’m going with the fine dog thesis!

    DJ, those are horrific driving conditions, but yeah, your general principle is true, and I agree!



  41. Hello Chris
    By ‘wildlife’ I was referring to creatures that walked, swam or flew. I agree that vegetation is different and has been messed about so much with that it is impossible to know what is the best thing to do or not do.
    Tomorrow I will be 87 and really don’t believe it, how did I get to it!
    Have decided that the problem is the word ‘lurk’ which implies something not nice. I am not considered to be lurking if I read a book without comment. I should add to the praise for Jack London though it is many years since I have read him.
    People are endlessly on about poverty on the radio and television. The other day a woman wept on television. I wept too but with laughter. She had 2 small children and her tragedy was the fact that she had to put them in the bath together, then dry them with the same towel and then use the same towel when she next bathed them as her washing machine was expensive.
    I told a friend of mine and she reminded me that we also went in the same water. I had forgotten this. Yes, first the children went in, then I went in the same water and finally my husband bathed in it. No washing machine of course and we heated the water in a calor gas tub and then saucepanned it into the bath. I remember ditto with my sister and the argument as to who went in the tap and plug end.
    The definition of poverty in our society is remarkable.
    People are welcome to come in and damn me.
    Gorgeous sunny weather here.


  42. Hi Lewis,

    I really do hope that I make sense this evening. Today in the 78’F sunshine, I moved 2 cubic yards of crushed rock with lime. It took three trailer loads to bring the rock back here from the supplier. Anyway, the crushed rock was placed onto the soil surface of the newly excavated site. Me tired. About 7pm I dropped off for a few minutes just to refresh the brains batteries, but there was trouble keeping the eyes open.

    Oh, almost forgot to explain why… Told you I’m not operating at my peak brain-fart capacity. Tomorrow night into Monday through Wednesday a couple of inches of rain look set to fall. Yikes! So I had to ensure that the excavated site doesn’t wash away down the hill. Never good, and yes, it did happen once to me, long ago.

    White pass looked very cold and mildly snowy in the pre-dawn road camera. Not a pass to be lightly traversed in the wrong conditions. That makes sense to given all the stuff produced in Yakima. A risky pass at what to me seems like a reasonably high altitude, especially given your latitude and it is already a good way north.

    Wow! Are those prices similar to the prices during the Oil crisis of the early 1970’s? Although if I recall history correctly, weren’t there also shortages during that period?

    Glad to hear that you and the Ranger survived the hail storm intact. Those things are like ball bearings. Hail is an interesting phenomena because normally when it falls here the hail is quite small, but at lower elevations and closer to the big smoke, the stuff can destroy cars and break windows etc. The damage from those larger sized hail stones is not something that you’d want to feel on your person. Probably hurt. The new tires have now earned their keep, and saved you from using up one of your nine lives. Imagine being on a motorcycle during such a storm – haven’t experienced that sort of storm myself on a bike.

    Yeah, I’ll be curious to hear what Julia has to say about the persimmons when they form on the trees later in the year. My impression of store purchased persimmon fruit is not good. Hadn’t known that about drying them. Went and checked them today and the fruit is just starting to produce an orange blush.

    Went out to check the rat situation in the chicken enclosure tonight, and spotted two rats inside the enclosure. It may well be that those two have been stuck inside given where I found them hiding. I opened the chickens door and one escaped, but the other has chosen to do otherwise. Given the work we’ve done, we might further modify the area where the rats were spotted hiding. I suspect that this will annoy the rats on a grand scale and I don’t know if the chickens can take a rat down. What a rabbit hole the interweb is and people were saying both yes and no to that question. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

    Hehe! Thanks for the mental image of H singing along to a fire truck siren. I’ll bet she enjoys the work too. That’s a really good idea about showing her the tool first so that she can get an idea of what is to be. Dogs can get a bit weird about some tools, and they’ve seen me use the fly swat on pesky flies, and they get all freaked about that one too. Fly swats are delicate tools and it would be unwise to waste one on remonstrating with a naughty fluffy. They don’t care anyway, the aim of dog training as I see it, is to ensure that the dogs actions are aligned with your expectations of their actions and hope you meet in the middle ground. I don’t seek to control them to the nth degree as this is a risky place for a dog so they have to exercise common sense, and too much control dulls that sense, there is a just-right amount of control, and even that varies between dogs.

    Ollie had his heckles raised over something this morning up on the road – I couldn’t see anything. So I didn’t let him out until he calmed down. He seemed fine this afternoon.

    Good luck with H and the clippers. You never know with dogs. Are you going to put the clippers to the test with H?

    Actually from what I’ve noticed, side walks can get broken up or moved around by tree roots too. It’s not just the soil expanding and contracting due to water levels in the soil. Mate, makes you wonder how long infrastructure such as concrete paths will last in a low energy future?

    Yeah, probably. It did seem to be the way of things. Community has to be worked at, and that involves social stuff. I’d read somewhere recently that Machiavellian behaviour is a sign of psychopathy. Some people just do really weird things, and I reckon they enjoy it. It was a bit like that story I wrote a few weeks ago about the bloke enjoying my misfortune moment, which it is possible he set up in the first place.

    Insurance was my thinking in the matter. It seems a bit over the top though. Who’s to say where a dog picked up a disease from another dog? What did they used to say about a long bow to draw?

    Hmm, the snow would have acted like an insulating blanket, plus I reckon it might have meant that there was a ready supply of water under the mineral rich ash bed. And yeah, the fungi would have enjoyed the extra minerals, although they might have been light on sugars until the fireweed became established. Complicated.

    Weren’t some of the rivers in the area altered after the eruption?

    Hmm, having experienced gentrification back in the big smoke, I can’t say that I’m a fan. We used to upset the neighbourhood by placing our washing horse in the small front garden to dry in the afternoon sunshine. And there was the mysterious disappearance of the transformer for the fairy lights. Then there was the adult kid from across the road who I caught checking out the tow bar on the Dirt mouse – I said to him I have enough money I don’t need steal from the likes of you, now get lost. Yeah, don’t upset the neighbourhood and maybe after a while you can be no longer wanted there. Their loss.

    How is Reno different from Las Vegas? Hey, has your book developed a gambling habit?

    Did you score any good produce? Had a very tasty linguine with mushroom chili sauce for dinner. So good. I must have worked hard today because I’m feeling hungry now.



  43. Hi Inge,

    It’s a really complicated and fraught subject, and I don’t know about your part of the world, but down here what people expect to see as a ‘normal’ ideal of a forest is I’m guessing, anything but that. Certainly what is considered normal nowadays does not appear to match the descriptions of the earliest Europeans. And of course, the vegetation arrangements directly affect what critters will live in any particular area as they impact upon both feed and available housing.

    Out of curiosity, have you ever encountered any historical descriptions of your part of the island?

    Happy birthday! One foot in front of the other is possibly how you achieved it. And from my perspective it is an impressive achievement, which I have doubts that I’ll match.

    Exactly! Thanks for sharing your observation and insight, as it is an awful word to use for what is an innocuous activity. I had not considered that aspect before. There is nothing inherently wrong with reading and quiet enjoyment. A lot of people do just that. People who take the time to comment are the rare ones.

    Inge, I tell you truly, the Editor and I have travelled to many a third world country, and we have a long way to fall as a society before we get near to the conditions I’ve seen people living in whilst plenty of folks in western countries were living large. One problem I’ve noted is that most people from western countries tend to shun such places when they travel and instead head to destinations similar to where they only just departed from. Encountering a beggar in the streets with leprosy is an eye opener.

    Hehe! Yeah, I recall as a very young child having baths with my older sisters too. I’m sure they hated the experience of having me there, but that was what happened. I’d describe the scenario you wrote about as a first world problem. It’s not insurmountable, I have been very poor in my life and it takes a bit of skill to make that work out. Do people have the skills nowadays? I suspect that economics will sort the matter out. People only do what they do, whilst they can, because when they can’t, they won’t. I believe that it is that simple.

    I am certainly in agreement with you, although others may feel differently, although I doubt they will.

    Hope your garden is growing in the sunshine. The sun was shining here today too. Me tired from a lot of physical work today. Must go to sleep.



  44. @ Inge:

    Happy Birthday, Inge! You are a treasure to us all. Your wonderful comments are so much enjoyed.


  45. Yo, Chris – You make sense. You had to work very hard because things needed to be speeded up, due to incoming weather. Pretty much like around here. One eye on the weather, to determine what and how much can be done in the gardens. Even given our recent crazy weather, I notice some of the beets have sprouted. I think our apple tree and pear might be a bit of a wash, this year. The hail stripped off just about all of the blossoms. And the bees disappeared about two days before the snow set in.

    White Pass is also a big ski area. So that contributes to the traffic. There are usually big reader boards, down near I-5 that occasionally say, “Chains Required.”

    Gee, that was 50 years ago, so I really don’t remember what gas was selling for, then. But five or so years before that, it was 25 cents a gallon 🙂 . Gas was rationed. We had even/odd days. Whatever your license plate ended in (the number) determined if you could buy gas, or not. I was living in S. California, then. The things I saw in those gas lines …

    Most of our hail, here, is small. Pea size would be considered very large. At least in this part of the world, hail is very small. Subject to change.

    I think chickens are like dogs. Some are born hunters, others aren’t. I’d say a rooster would be more likely. I’ve seen hen chickens go after frogs, and mice.

    H and I have a nice two part harmony, worked out, when a fire truck goes by. 🙂 But I don’t think the Beach Boys have anything to worry about.

    I wonder what Ollie sensed prowling about? Deer? The demented neighbor? Triffids? Zombies?

    I finished the Mt. St. Helens book, last night. I really enjoyed it. Basically, the scientists wanted to leave things be, and track the recovery, minus human intervention. At first, that was hard to pull off, as the whole area was a patchwork of public and private lands. Then it was made a national monument, and things got a bit easier, but it was not clear sailing. Some of the scientists have been following different aspects of recovery for 30 or 40 years.

    Yes, the rivers were pretty problematic. Some wandered all over the place, before settling into some kind of predictable order. Spirit Lake was plugged with a debris dam, and a tunnel had to be dug to keep it drained. Silt kept clogging up the shipping lanes in the Columbia River.

    And someone restocked the lake with trout. On the sly. It’s interesting how different populations (plants, animals) would have big population increases, and then crash back to more normal pre-eruption levels.

    We got some small heads of cabbage, carrots and potatoes in our food box. The usual run of tinned stuff, pasta and cereal. Shelf stable milk and peanut butter. A big brick of processed cheese product. A frozen pound of lean ground beef.

    Reno is pretty much like Las Vegas, but smaller. Every year, at the end of our vacation, my folks would swing through Reno. But we never went to Las Vegas. I think Reno is kind of a poor man’s Las Vegas. I think it’s kind of a class thing.

    As of last night, my two Australian cookbooks, were in Seattle. The post office said they’d be delivered, today. E-Buy said Monday. Low and behold, when I got back from the Club, today, there they were. Both are hardbacks, and in good condition. The older one is actually author signed. But I wonder about the newer one. It’s got stickers from the Hume Library, in Victoria. Usually, when a book is weeded out of a library, it has a stamp that says “discard.” This doesn’t. Now, here, it’s a new book. But I noticed it was published in Australia in 2014. So it is possible that it was weeded out. But still, I wonder. Hmmm.

    Well, you can sleep now. 🙂 There is a recipe for Anzac biscuits in the older book. And, another recipe for lemon slice, that is simpler than the newer book’s recipe. But I think the newer books recipe is more … “authentic.” Lew

  46. @ Inge: a very happy birthday to you!

    My parents sometimes bathed my sister and me in the same tub until I was old enough to take a shower on my own. My father grew up during the Depression; he was careful to not waste anything all his life. My mother wrote in her memoir that she didn’t remember the Depression (she was born in 1933), but her older siblings told her about the difficulties her family experienced during it.


  47. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, that’s the thing isn’t it? Despite the crazy weather, things have to get done and something will be produced out of the garden. A good reason to have a diversity of plants growing at any one time, and also a tidy reminder to try plants that are considered only just outside your climate zone (if you can afford the losses that strategy entails).

    Beets are super hardy, and they self seed here, although the Portuguese millipedes ate them this year. I went to harvest them (admittedly it was couple of weeks past the correct time to harvest them) and discovered not much left below ground – spoke a few choice words, but really I left them in too late. Pulled out the Japanese butternut pumpkins today and managed to get five, albeit smaller than expected, pumpkins. The squashes are continuing to grow, and I watch for the powdery mildew on the leaves of the vine, then harvest.

    It was another beautiful warm day today, but I see the rain on the radar, and it is about two hours away. Kept working around the orchards today and cleared grass away from the trunks of about a third of the trees. It’s a big job, but too high a humidity combined with grass creates an excellent environment for wood lice whom eat wood. Yeah, not good.

    Tomorrow being Easter Monday will be very wet, and there are no plans whatsoever. And yup, make hay whilst the sun shines is far deeper advice than most people realise.

    Ook! Your description of the hail storm matches my experience last year, however apple and pear trees are very late to blossom so you might be lucky with fruit production, but probably not.

    I doubt anyone around these parts have chains, or could fit them to their vehicles. When it snows, nobody goes anywhere here! 🙂 I’d be curious about your opinion, but I’ve tried skiing and it was just hard on the knees – and the cost was astronomical here. With all of the lock downs, those business in our alpine areas must have haemorrhaged money.

    Very funny about the gas prices, but 25 cents per gallon is astounding. When I was a young bloke and had only just gotten my license petrol was about $1.80 a gallon.

    It’s getting late, and time is short so I couldn’t get my head around the hailstone formation matter in the time available. A mystery! However I did notice that the largest hailstones were reported in South Dakota and were 8 inches in diameter. Ouch, they’d hurt like being hit by a cannonball.

    I agree, and I too have seen some chickens go after a nest of baby mice. What can we say, other than that they’re dinosaurs. I watched the chickens sizing up the baby mice, and then they just destroyed them.

    🙂 I’ll have to take your word for the duet. You two may have a hit single there!

    Dunno, Ollie was out today working with me and he was fine. That was unusual behaviour from him.

    Have the scientists had any ah-ha moments whilst observing the recovery over the past almost four decades? I recall you writing about the rivers, and it’s an awesome force to simply divert a river. You wouldn’t want to have been there the day the river water met hot gases and hot materials – steam, not good.

    Humans are no different, and access to fossil fuels allows us to erupt, but access is slowly declining, and here we are today. What interests me about all that is that the ecological consequences aren’t unique – it’s an old story.

    That sounds like a pretty good score to me. I don’t recall your recent food boxes being that good, or have I misremembered? Always possible.

    Candidly I’m not certain that I’d enjoy a trip to Nevada – no disrespect intended for the good folks who choose to live there. Ah, thanks for the explanation. Did you enjoy the road trips?

    Hume is the next local government area to the south of this one. How funny is that for a coincidence? The area contains the largest commercial area anywhere near to these parts. And the book has travelled a journey all of its own. The book may have been loaned permanently from a library, and was sold? I’m sure such things happen. I’d heard a story from your part of the world about a large library providing an amnesty on fines, and the result was a deluge of over due books.

    Cheers – and better get writing!


  48. Yo, Chris – Happy bunny day! We had a frost, last night. Just -1C, so, no big deal. But looking at the forecast for the rest of the week, it might be the last frost of the year. Maybe. Our latest frost was the end of April.

    The sun is shinning this morning. It’s supposed to be a nice day. If so, it’s out to the garden, I’ll go! The weather radar was looking rather odd, over the last four days. Usually, the bands of moisture move in off the ocean, west to east. And, south of us it was doing that. But to our north the rain was moving east to west. I’ve probably seen that, before, but not often enough that it didn’t look odd.

    Yes, it’s always worth trying out new things in the garden. Not that if something does well one year, it will the next 🙂

    I’ve never been skiing, but it seems it would be hard on the knees. If you don’t just downright break something. Snow boarding is also big, here. Snow boarding, surfing, skateboarding. All very similar. Cheaper than skiing, I think. All with a bit of a louche subculture.

    When I want to astound the youngsters, I say “I can remember when a gallon of gas and a pack of cigarettes cost the same. A quarter.” They’re always impressed by my venerable old age. 🙂

    The scientists were surprised that so much survived inside the blast and blow down zone. They thought most of the recovery would be incomers from outside. One surprise was they’d see a patch of green, dig around a bit, and discover the remains of an elk. Seeds in the elks guts, had sprouted.

    The box on Friday was our government commodity box. It’s slightly better than say a year ago. Less tinned green beans and carrots, more tinned peaches. The box at the end of the month is from our local food bank, and there are more surprises.

    I’m sure there are lovely parts of Nevada, but the land and weather is not to my liking. At that time, the 1950s, Nevada was about the only western state with legalized gambling. My folks would set aside a little bit of money, all year long. When it was gone, it was time to head home. All the casinos chipped in to provide a theatre, where people could park their kids.

    The road trips were ok, but could have been better. We rarely stopped to look at anything interesting. We never got a motel with a swimming pool. And my brother and I were usually sick on the way home. Who knows why. Water? Food? Just encountering bacteria and virus we were unfamiliar with?

    Nevada was also “the divorce capitol of the world.” Back in the day, it was very difficult to get a divorce. Nevada had the most lenient divorce laws, at that time. A lot of the plot of the 1939 film, “The Women” revolves around getting a divorce in Reno. Nevada also has another legalized industry, that we really can’t get into on a family friendly blog. 🙂 Dare I say, the oldest profession in the world?

    I took a look at the Hume library catalog, and neither book was listed. I need to go back and take a longer look. There’s a lot of problems with people stealing from libraries, and selling books on-line. I may have received stolen good! 🙂

    I think it’s going to be a popcorn night. In fact, I know it. Picked up a newish movie, yesterday. “Overlord.” Nazi zombies! Produced by J. J. Abrams, so at least the quality will be high.

    Reading more in the utopia book. The author gets into a lot of personal stuff, but, I guess that’s ok. Turns out she is from Portland, and descended from most of the old, founding families. There were a lot of Utopian experiments, in the Pacific Northwest, back in the 19th century. In fact, when I was in high school, we had to take a half year of Washington history. And, write a paper. I wrote mine on utopias, or, communal groups in the Northwest. I remember there was a book, I think it was called “Utopias on Puget Sound,” I got most of my source material from there. That I remember. After all, that was more than 50 years ago! Lew

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