A maze of death

The light from lamp posts defined civilisation, the circle beyond their glow the unknown wilds. Winter weather had stripped the leaves from the fruit trees leaving only bare branches. Short grass provided little cover for whatever was out in the cold winter night. A silent large white presence waited patiently high up in an apple tree. The tree bore the weight. In the dark, silence prevailed and the predator perched, waiting.

Into that wild dark silence blundered Ruby. I followed. It was all part of the night time ablutions for the dogs, and I’d never expected to encounter a Powerful Owl, alert for prey, way up in one of the fruit trees. The owls are noisy over the warmer months as they call to one another, alerting each to the others presence. But in winter, they’re silent and mysterious, and just as deadly.

The farm supports a huge diversity of bird and animal life. And owls rule the night air, as the Wedge Tail Eagles rule during the daylight. Some of the bird life though, I’ve introduced to the area, such as the chickens. We’ve been keeping chickens since 2010 when we unexpectedly got a call from the local breeder telling us to come and pick up the heritage variety chickens. We’d ordered them a few weeks before thinking that we’d have a few months to put together a proper hen house and attached run. But no.

We hurriedly constructed a hen house and chicken run. It wasn’t good, but neither was it entirely bad. Reading books is one way to absorb knowledge, and trial and error is a great way to put that knowledge to the test.

Twelve years ago, Dame Scritchy inspects the original chicken enclosure

There were so many things wrong with the original chicken enclosure, but then there were a few things we did get right, so the results of the construction was something of a mixed bag. More importantly, the enclosure taught us a lot about housing and caring for chickens.

The weather can be terrible here at any time of the year, but the persistent cold and wet winter months often drives away lesser folks.

This week in weather: Cold and wet

The original chicken run protected the chickens from foxes, but the run was unfortunately exposed to the weather. For many weeks during winter, the hens refused to budge from their dry hen house, and that isn’t good for their health. But in the end the deciding factor as to its fate, was the rats. Chicken wire is no hindrance to a rat. In fact the well spaced wire is like a super highway for the rodents. And we were feeding a huge population of rats. They sure can eat a lot of food. A decision was made. Four years after the initial chicken enclosure was built, we replaced it.

Dedication is working out in the snow

During the winter of 2015, we constructed a new chicken enclosure using all of the things which we’d learned from the previous incarnation. And one thing we really wanted to address was the rats. The amount of effort we put into the thwarting the cheeky scamps was extraordinary. There are concrete trenches, super strong welded mesh steel and other intriguing adaptions.

Seven years on, and the pesky rodents had found every vulnerability. Maybe a month ago I’d discovered I was feeding a population of about twenty rats. And here’s where the owl comes in. We could simply lay baits for the rats, and poison them. People use poisons all the time, even people who think they’re not using poisons, they’re using them. Unfortunately, poisoning the rats would eventually mean that I’d be poisoning the owls, and I don’t want to do that.

So, over the past month or so at night, we’ve been observing how the rats enter and exit the chicken enclosure. Then I block up those exit points with heavy duty welded steel mesh. So far there have been thirteen modifications to the chicken enclosure, and the job is not finished.

After each modification, we observe the behaviour of the rats and how they’ve adapted to the changes. I’ve learned a thing or two about rats over the past month. They truly are some of the greatest high-wire artists the planet has produced. They can jump from huge heights, scamper up vertical walls, squeeze into the tiniest of gaps, leap from nearby trees. The list goes on, and I’m frankly in awe of the rats.

However, I’m also sick of feeding them as they consume about 10kg / 22 pounds of grains every three weeks or so, and I don’t doubt that they’ve been consuming fruit from the trees when in season. As part of the observation process I’ve been scaring the rats and observing how they exit the chicken enclosure. Dame Plum – the awesome – waits on the outside of the chicken enclosure and she has been killing the exiting rats and leaving the carcasses for the owls. Everyone wins, except for the rats, they’re not doing so great now. The tally so far is: two for me; and fourteen for Dame Plum. But I reckon there are a couple of rats still to go, and the chicken enclosure is not yet rat proof, and it is very possible that it never will be. But I’m gonna make it hard for them.

The modified supposedly rat proof chicken enclosure

Long term readers will know by now that if infrastructure here doesn’t work well enough, it gets replaced. For the past month or so, we’ve been working on replacing the old small greenhouse, with a new and much larger version. Over the past week, the order for the steel ridge and edge capping arrived at the local hardware store. We picked up the steel, installed the other half of the polycarbonate roof sheets (only one half had been previously installed) and added the steel. Did I mention the steel capping had been ordered in a white colour so as to match the visible frame? I reckon it looks great.

The roof and steel ridge and edge capping was installed

In the greenhouse, because the roof and walls are transparent, we’ve had to be super careful so that all aspects of the building look neat and lined up.

The new greenhouse is looking good

Unlike the chicken enclosure which is located so as to shade it from the summer sun, the greenhouse does not sit alone. It forms another part of an area of the farm set aside for infrastructure, and it’s part of getting all that stuff here working just right.

The greenhouse sits between the machinery shed and a large solar panel array

The recent rains have been a good test for the drainage systems in that area. A ground storm water drain channel has worked far better than we’d expected.

A ground storm water drain channels water away from the machinery shed

Regular readers will recall that last week we milled up some scrap hardwood timber for use in the repairs of a pair of garden bench seats. This week, we used the shelter of the greenhouse (it had been raining heavily), to repair both garden bench seats. And one of the bench seats is so comfortable that it has volunteered to spend the rest of its days in the greenhouse. I have visions of sitting on the bench seat and enjoying a good book, but first there is the little matter of the other work to be done.

Two repaired garden bench seats

Every month or so, some burly Samoan dudes work at the farm. I’ve known them for a decade and they’re lovely folks. A few days ago they helped me clean up some more of the mess the loggers had left behind. I really don’t know what the loggers were thinking, but possibly: Don’t worry about the mess, this’ll be cheap. Of course this is part of the reason the land was cheap to purchase all those years ago.

This cut tree stump on a funny angle retains the scars of the 1983 bushfires. How did it come to be?
The remains of a burn off as part of the cleaning up process

The land here contains a few mysteries, one of which were two stone rings set on contour not far apart from the other. We’ve now repaired both stone rings, and a few years back, one was filled with good soil into which we planted an oak tree. It seems to be growing very well.

A stone ring with an oak tree

A number of holes in the paddock were recently filled with soil excavated from the greenhouse cutting. Soiled chicken straw and litter was placed over the top of the fresh soil, and now the grass has germinated and has begun to grow. Grass is one of the fastest growing plants, and over time the diversity of plants in the paddock increases – but here, you have to begin repairs with grass.

Repairing the soil and ground covers

Did I mention it has been very cold and wet this week? Ruby seems to think so anyway, and she has re-discovered the joys of the wood heater.

Ruby, enjoys the wood heater on a cold and wet day. Time for work, later

And serious people tell me that the local over story Eucalyptus Obliqua trees require fire to germinate. That ain’t necessarily so.

A Eucalyptus Obliqua seedling in the paddock

It’s mushroom season too. All very deadly for humans, except the local wildlife eats them.

Mushroom time
Candidly, it looks a touch slimy

Onto the flowers:

Geraniums soldier on in the cold wet weather
A pink form of Rosemary has decided to flower
As has a purple form of Rosemary
When is leaf change going to finish this year?

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 5’C (41’F). So far this year there has been 453.2mm (17.8 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 392.2mm (15.4 inches)

57 thoughts on “A maze of death”

  1. Yo, Chris – That was a quit nice Gothic lead in, to this weeks post. I half expected you to observe Dracula, roosting in a tree. 🙂

    Snow? What snow? Are you sure that isn’t just a bit of cotton wood fluff, floating through the air? 🙂 It’s cotton wood season, here. H can’t bark at a deer, coming out of the woods. But a bit of fluff, rolling across the pavement, drives her berserk. No, it’s not a mouse. Or even on overactive dust bunny. She is unconvinced.

    I get it about not laying out rat poison. Food chain in action. Part of why I prefer a more hands on approach to slug eradication. Ammonia in a spray bottle. I think the Master Gardeners use some slug bait, but up at the other end of the property. As with your rats, the battle is long.

    Just to get all Zen, your meditating on the rats, and gaining enlightenment. You’ll reach Nirvana, when the rats are gone. 🙂

    Your greenhouse is looking very spiffy. Weren’t you even tempted, a little, to get the steel capping, in a contrasting color? Now if my friend in Idaho, had been turned loose on your project, there would be fire engine red, lemon yellow, and probably purple accents. I don’t know what it is with that woman, and color.

    The garden benches turned out really nice. Inviting.

    So, you’ve got a stone circle and the start of a sacred oak grove. Can mistletoe and golden sickles be far behind? You get to wear spiffy white robes. Hard to keep clean.

    The mushrooms. “All very deadly.” Really? You need to get a good mycologist out there, to see what you’ve really got. You maybe passing up some tasty treats.

    The Geraniums and Rosemary really dress up the place. When will the leaf change end? When you get a couple of days of seriously cold weather (think 17F) and then a good windstorm.

    I saw your post over at “The Daily Impact.” It will be interesting to see if anyone (who doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing) comes back at you, in the comments. They don’t know who they’re messing with. 🙂 Lew

  2. Hi Glenn,

    I read your comment, closely. And then re-read it. Had you noticed that your comment reads as if it were a long list of worries? Please be aware that I am of the philosophical school of the great Alfred E Neuman who was once famously quoted as saying: What? Me Worry?

    As easily as you have done, I could come up with all manner of concerns such as: What if Aliens demanded to trade the Editor for a MOOG synthesiser?

    Dude, if I can give you some friendly advice at the risk of utterly annoying you and me having to block your interweb address? You are trying to convince yourself, and you need to search your heart. The answer is in there.



  3. Hi Lewis,

    The gentle art of cooking proceeds at but one step at a time, and your oatmeal recipe sounds a lot like that. And yeah, we also substitute breakfast fruits depending upon what is in season. I tell ya what though, by late spring I sure do get sick of the winter fruits and have a hankering for the tastier stone fruits.

    Hehe! Yes, you are most correct about the feeling of cold being a relative matter. I often remark that there is a reason that there are no homeless people anywhere near this area due to the persistent cold weather. But then I think of some of the films from your part of the world that I’ve seen, and it gets heaps colder there. I guess people are adaptable? The film Captain Fantastic comes to mind.

    There was a small round table which will accompany the garden bench, and I reckon it will do nicely. Without a lot of the wall cladding on, the greenhouse still feels warmer than out in the paddock and orchard where the cold winds blow.

    The sun shone today too, but everything is very damp outside. I had to place some of the larger diameter crushed rock today in the dogs enclosure. Puddles of water had formed in there, and the dogs don’t spend much time out there, but when they do such damp conditions are no good for their health.

    That’s a good point about enticing people to read. Angsty teenagers are probably a ready audience to read about other angsty teenagers, although other subjects are much higher on my list of reading or viewing interests. But then I don’t do high-brow all the time lest I become dull and boring. There was talk this evening of going to the cinema at some point in the future to watch the latest Top Gun instalment. Why not?

    Fork, try solar and you’ll be forked! 😉 Hehe! Apologies, bad Chris.

    I so hear you about being beaten over the head by an agenda. And it is tiring because it kind of is used to stop a discussion and instead present a view. But two people can see very different things out of the same window, that’s for sure. I’ve observed changes in the presentation of the convict story over just my lifetime. Strange things go on. Bizarrely, can you believe that the Prime Muppet chose the Queen’s anniversary to announce a republican agenda? I note that the referendum failed last time.

    We might be indeed. It does smell as if a hurdle was crossed at some recent point and it’s now different. The money big wigs are expected to meet tomorrow to discuss interest rates, and equities be a slidin’. Slip, slidin’ away, slip sidin’ away-a-yay. Grew up on Simon and Garfunkle. Lovely music. I really enjoyed the Boxer, although it’s one of their lesser hits.

    Thanks for the advice. Life’s bounty, and not one thing more = Acceptance, because it’s mostly pretty good.

    Go Elinor, although I’m sure H will be well catered for if such a thing eventuates.

    Look, really I blame Jack London for taking my imagination out into the vast unexplored wilds of the Klondike region. The owl did the rest. 😉 Thank you for the kind words, and I penned the first paragraph quickly, and later refined it. The Editor and I were then much later discussing the relative merits of: Show, don’t tell! Incidentally, the essay began with but two ideas, the rest wrote itself.

    Hey, that is snow for here! 😉 It was pretty cold that day. Yeah, yeah, I hear ya though. H is a sensitive lady of extensive pedigree, and for all you know about the cotton tree fluff, it might be the advance probes of Aliens. People did rather seem to be being probed a lot by Aliens in the 1950’s and 1960’s, all sounds rather exciting. H is merely trying to warn you as to the danger. The deer, well she may consider that to be your job?

    A little bit of poison carefully used, is no real drama. When it becomes the first choice of action, well, there are hidden costs and we are very foolish to pretend that other things won’t adapt. Anti-biotic resistance is part of that story.

    Did you just say that enlightenment is outside of my reach due to the limitless number of rats? Oh well, just my luck. I assume that if I eliminate that bunch of rats, another lot will make the attempt at some unspecified time in the future? Found a rat nest in the engine bay of the Dirt Rat Suzuki the other day. What a pain, and I forgot to check the Dirt Mouse Suzuki (he says whilst writing a note to be actioned over the next couple of days).

    No, not at all. The colour of the steel matches the timber paint, otherwise the patterns would be wrong, and nobody wants that, you never know what might happen? 🙂 Your friend in Idaho may wish to simply brighten the environment, but applying those same skills here – I don’t think so. The Editor knows more about the subject of colour than I ever care too, and I take advice and guidance in this matter from that source. It’s hard to tell from the photographs but the roof space is one third the height, and the walls are two thirds of the height.

    I really do like where you are going with those suggestions as to the sacred oak grove. Tell ya what, some of those Pre Raphaelite forest nymphs might add a certain sort of charm and Je ne sais quoi vibe to that part of the farm? They’d probably get very cold over the winter months though, and then use all my firewood and eat everything in the greenhouse and vegetable patch. Oooo! It’s not sounding all that good upon reflection. 🙂 No, off to the forest with you lot – and stay there.

    I believe very little is known about the edibility of the native forest mushrooms down here. I have a vague notion, which I’ve never been able to shake, but it was that some societies in the long distant past have used crims for that testing purpose.

    Yes indeedy, when will the leaves just drop right off and put an end to the goings on? I expect that fuel prices and interest rate hikes will do more on that front than the wind will. Holy carp, I hope not to experience 17’F, the whingeing, you will hear it for sure.

    My personal favourite reply in relation to solar is the one where someone has this here model which says… I must say, writing on the interweb is not all that different from writing for publications (excluding the lively comments and lack of mad cash), but the trolls really threw me when I first began using the forum. Now, delete, movin’ on.



  4. @ Inge – I had a spare lemon, and decided to make your oat cake recipe, again. I didn’t have almond meal. So, I used an equal amount of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Got out my small (and only) stone mortar and pestle and gave them a good whack.

    It turned out tasty, if I do say so, myself. I used an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish. Recipe didn’t specify, and I think that’s what I used the last time. Lew

    PS: I also added a sprinkling of nutmeg. As “The Two Fat Ladies” say that a sprinkling of nutmeg improves just about everything.

  5. Yo, Chris – My credit union (aka: bank), is moving. Down to the traffice congested flood plane. 🙁 There was an announcement, in the paper, that their old digs are going to become an overnight homeless shelter. We need it. So, are the locals doing it because of some altruistic impulse? Well, no. There’s a State (or Federal) new mandate, that cities over a certain size have to have a homeless shelter. They’re doing it to avoid State (or Federal) people, mucking about in OUR local business. Whatever. Just so it gets done.

    Yes, best lay down the gravel. You wouldn’t want the dogs to get hoff rot 🙂 . I was often pitching down rock, in the chook run. To keep the Ladies (and me) out of the mud.

    I don’t care what angsty teens pick up to read, as long as they read something. Something with whole words, laid out in a fairly logical order. Might stimulate their brains, or something.

    Of course, my question over seeing “Top Gun” is, “Why?” When it opened here, at our little local quadraplex, people were camping out in the parking lot. Seriously.

    With all the coverage on the Queen’s anniversary, here, you’d think she was our head of state. 🙂 Every twitch analyzed. There was an interesting chart, of order of succession. The top 20 hits. Seeing them all gathered together reminded me of the opening scene of “King Ralph.” 30 seconds.


    I still don’t quit get “show, don’t tell.” More study is required.

    “Probed by aliens” has become a punch line. For mostly very bad jokes.

    Grasshopper, I’m sure you’ll eventually reach Ratvana. The road will be long and hard … Engine bay, aka engine compartment, aka under the hood. I think the rats are trying to cut off your escape, before they launch their final offensive.

    I think my Idaho friends color choices are guided more by a “shock your mama” ethos. It probably helps to have a husband who’s color blind. 🙂

    There were stories of Cleopatra using crims to test poisons.


    But then, there were a lot of Romans who seemed to enjoy giving her bad press. Mostly made up. Hmmm. They were a lot like us.

    Well, I’ve made the next few days oatmeal. Think I’ll go out and pick some more chamomile. I think I can rip it out, this afternoon. Looks like it might be a good afternoon to work in the garden. Lew

  6. Hi Chris,
    Keeping critters out of the coop and run is always a challenge. I am glad I never had rats but did have mice and birds. They didn’t consume nearly what the rats do and the cats did help some.

    The greenhouse is coming along quickly. Maybe you’ll be using those benches soon whenever there’s a somewhat warm day.

    Ruby is striking a typical Salve pose. Speaking of dogs, Carla, her husband and their dog Ruth were here this weekend to attend the annual Milk Day parade and festival which was cancelled the last two years. The day was pretty chilly and drizzly but we had a good time nevertheless. The next morning I let all three dogs out and they disappeared around the house in a split second. Salve and Ruth came back when I called but not Leo though he can’t hear well lately so I looked around the house and saw him sniffing around the deck but next to my dismay there was the distinct smell of skunk! Yes there was a skunk under the deck and he was hit but not too bad. So I mixed up the special skunk odor remover – hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap and got much of the smell out. He still was pretty stinky. Anyway we kept a good eye on the dogs for the morning, Carla et al left and Salve and Leo spent a good amount of time outside as we figured the skunk would have left. Well we just sat down on the front porch with our evening drink and the two dogs tore off again. Yep, you guessed it the smell of skunk. This time it was Salve. Doug got down to look under the deck and yes there was the skunk though injured. He lay down with a flashlight and shotgun and put it out of it’s misery. Turned out it was pretty young which explained why the smell wasn’t as potent as previous skunkings. Still the smell does linger for a few days gradually diminishing.

    We did get a bit of rain finally though it’s been cooler than normal. I seem to have gotten myself pretty booked up for June. Along with the gardening there’s not as much free time as I’d like. Hope it gets a bit warmer for you.


  7. Hi again,
    Forgot to mention gas has really shot up – no surprise to readers here. I went into town one day and it was $4.99/gal. When I returned a couple hours later it was $5.55. People don’t seem to be changing their driving habits too much but I can’t imagine that lasting. We’ve always tried to consolidate trips but are really doubling down now.


  8. Hi Chris. I’ve only commented a couple of times but enjoy reading your missives each week. The new greenhouse looks excellent, and Ruby is certainly worth her keep with the rat population! I would love chickens again but rats are a serious problem where I live and after a couple of house infestations I’m very wary! I live on the west coast – actually central- of Vancouver Island B.C. Canada and climate change has been evident here over the past few years. Last years the highest temps on record with the Heat Dome and very damaging forest fires in the province and now the most rain recorded in my town in April and unseasonably cool and wet weather since last fall. My poor vegetable garden is really struggling although hardy green crops are lush having been covered with floating row cover until this week. My fingers are crossed for the tomatoes, potatoes against blight and other heat lovers like cucs are being protected with domes. Time will tell and gardening is never straight forward in my experience!
    I’m envious of the energy and stick- with- itness you and the Editor have and the amazing amount you accomplish! I’m in my 70s and live alone now so progress has slowed down. Luckily I have a handy DIY neighbour who helps me and charges me a minimal amount. He’s currently replacing my falling down fence and not a moment too soon as we have a large deer population who would destroy my garden in a flash!
    Very sadly he is moving so I’m hopeful I’ll find someone else to help me with the heavy lifting.
    Life carries on in spite of the foibles of politics, economics, global uncertainties and climate change. I feel fortunate to have some skills that are invaluable as we proceed in this catabolic decline. JMG continues to inspire me along with his outstanding commenters.
    Keep up the good work!

  9. Hey Chris,

    Have you thought about covering up the chook feed overnight to keep the rats out of it? That’s what I do. Since I let the chooks free range, I have to open and close the door of the coop in the morning and evening anyway, so it’s no skin off my nose to secure the feed when I’m doing that. I also have a lot less chooks than you.

    I think I’ve managed to convince most of the rats I had at my place to go somewhere else through a variety of measures. Having said that, I saw one the other day scurrying over the frame of my grape trellis. Just a couple of months earlier, I’d put up what I thought was a large board to block the way because I’d noticed the rats going across there. The rat just effortlessly swung itself under the board and continued on its merry way. Makes me feel a bit like Elmer Fudd chasing wabbits.

  10. @ Lew
    That oatcake recipe can be varied ad infinitum. I use an 8″ x 8″ roasting tin.

    Hello Chris
    Son has rats galore because of his animal feed and also won’t poison them. It might be different if one could feed the rats with poison individually.


  11. Hi Margaret,

    The rats are very challenging, so glad to hear that you dodged them, although birds and mice can consume quite a bit of chicken food too. When they jump at you, it can be quite an alarming experience, and I don’t recommend it. Gets the heart pumping a bit. Mice can get into even smaller gaps than rats.

    Fingers crossed for some warmer weather – it’s 37’F outside right now. Brr!

    Isn’t it great to see the dogs kicking back and relaxing, and glad to hear that Salve is likewise acquainted with the joys of a wood heater / any heater. 🙂 Does Salve like to cook her head in the summer sunshine too? How did Carla’s dog go with Leo and Salve? Hopefully Leo doesn’t get too annoyed by the pup?

    Eeee Gaks! A skunk. Leo and Salve (as well as yourself and Doug) got off lightly. It could have been worse. And your home remedy mixture sure sounds like it will do the job. Skunk stink removal, strong stuff! 🙂

    Glad to hear that you’ve had a bit of rain now, but by way of comparison it’s early days for winter with two weeks out from the solstice. I’ve had to bring out the generator a few days ago. Oh well. There is an old adage which suggests that it is better to be that way than be too quiet.

    Petrol is around $2 a litre here which works out to be $7.60 a gallon. Possibly it will get more expensive. And kudos to you for combining trips as we practice that fuel / cost saving technique too. Interest rates were lifted here today by 0.5%.



  12. Hi Simon,

    I have heard of people doing that and there are feeders which the chickens can learn to open, but the chickens scratch their food around anyway, and rats are opportunistic feeders. It is possible that the rats could consume the chickens manure and do well on that diet. We’re going full on exclusion as a strategy, which candidly hasn’t worked so well in the past, but it is getting very hard for the rats now, so who knows. And the rat numbers are way down now thank to Dame Plum.

    Your chicken arrangement is pretty good and your chickens lead charmed lives.

    Hehe! Elmer Fudd, we goin a hunt some wabbits. 🙂 I really enjoyed the Warner Brothers cartoons. But yeah, the rats are amazingly agile high wire artists of the finest pedigree. And if there is an easy feed and warm housing, they’re into it. I reckon they’ve consumed much of the pear harvest last year – the pears being closest to the chicken enclosure. Oh well, if at first you don’t succeed…



  13. Hi Inge,

    Having tested myself against the rats for almost a decade, I have to say that I’m quite in awe of the rats, because just when you think you’ve got them beat, they’ll go and do something rather unexpected.

    I can understand how things came to be with your sons experience with the rats. It is possibly one of those situations where the scale of the feed stored and used, determines the size of the rat population. Has your son reached the acceptance phase with the rats?

    I’d heard about an old timer rat bait which was a small ball of plaster of Paris wrapped with something tasty. The rats cannot pass the plaster. I have not tried that myself on the basis that just like with the poison baits, it is not possible to control what else consumes the baits. But more importantly, once you begin baiting programs, you’re on a treadmill.



  14. Hi Robyn,

    Many thanks for dropping by and saying hello.

    Rats are a bit of a problem with houses too, I hear you about that. Years ago, one of them chewed through an expensive pipe in the car. The pipe was under pressure and the rat was killed in the incident. Not a good thing, let’s put it that way.

    You live in a beautiful part of the world and with a mild climate for that latitude north. Incidentally, how hot did it get? But yes, we get forest fires here too and we do our best to manage that risk.

    The row covers are a great idea, but I’m not at all certain they would have helped here last year (it was an overall lack of heat throughout the summer months) – we’re intending to move the vegetable rows to a sunnier location. 🙂 Gardening is never straightforward, I hear you about that. Just wish I’d listened more closely to my grandfather back in the day. He had an extensive vegetable garden, and I have no idea what information he was trying to impart. It may have been important…

    Hey, I expect my efforts to slow as I reach your age too. And in order to manage that future, we’re making things easier now. Sorry to hear that your DIY neighbour is moving on, and I do hope that you get a similarly excellent neighbour, or at least one that doesn’t end up annoying you. 🙂 Mate, what do you? Very few people in this area are interested in edible gardens, but I’m slowly becoming aware of a few that are. Unfortunately they are mostly female and it is probably not socially appropriate that I make connections mostly because people are people, and it’s a small rural area. I’m cogitating upon that problem, but there are many things to be done. Oh well.

    Life does carry on. Onward brave gardeners! And Mr Greer has an excellent collection of commenters.



  15. Owls- We have barred owls here, who seem to be less inclined to wait till dark to hunt, so sometimes see them perched in their lookout trees in the evening. They are a larger owl, so a bit startling when you see one.

    bigger owls- My wife is currently reading “Owls of the Eastern Ice”, and quite enjoying it. It’s about these very large owls (Blakiston’s Fish Owl) that primarily hunt on stream banks for fish.

    Water- We are having a contractor come by today to scope out our buried concrete water cistern (gets very cold here!) project. We are shooting for 10,000 gallons, ( 37,000 liters) so we can water the gardens, as well was backup house water. One never knows when the deep well pump might be nonfunctional. This project is much too large for me to do, much as I prefer to DIY.

    Have been way busy this spring, or would be commenting more often. As usual, you sprinkle plenty of launching points in you essays one could use to expound on, but mother nature waits for no one.

  16. Hi Lewis,

    Will your credit union be further from your abode once it’s in its new digs? And you do have to wonder whether it is such a bright idea to go to the effort of moving a business into a flood prone area? Fit outs are not cheap, and um well, fires don’t take out everyone, but floods mostly do. At least they’re setting up a homeless shelter, I still have troubles understanding how anyone could be homeless in your part of the country – and survive the winter months.

    Hoof rot indeed! I try to ensure the dogs have a clean-ish environment. You don’t want it too clean, but neither do you want it too filthy, there is a balance that is just right. And the finer crushed rock was mixing with the clay (because the dogs like to dig) and that was producing a slushy mud like substance. Combine that with a bit of their excrement and urine, and I was a touch concerned that there may be a health outcome. The dogs I’ve seen with lupus (a pooch disease) tend to have access to too much mud, but that is a mere casual observation which may mean much, and may mean nothing at all.

    And chickens, oh yeah. I end up turning the chickens deep litter (soiled sugar cane bedding straw) every day just to get some air into the mixture. The rain and constant humidity can make a steaming mess of that stuff in short order, which is no good for the chickens health. As part of the modifications for the chickens enclosure I’ve been making the whole system easier for me to maintain. There’s a bit of a ways to go with the whole rat problem. And it’s never a good time for mud. 🙂

    Yes, I agree it’s a wise path. In fact, I don’t really care what they read either, if they want to read, say, Catcher in the Rye, then that’s cool with me.

    Everyone needs a bit of fluff entertainment every now and then. 😉

    Oh yeah, King Ralph was funny. Yes, the ‘Oh Dear’ was a classic of understatement.

    I don’t know what the more learned authors are going on about either… Are they playing game on us both? But I did make an attempt to describe and narrating, whilst avoiding telling – if that is what they even mean.

    Thought you might enjoy my little joke. And I chucked in a MOOG reference too, always fun.

    Oh my gawd! You might be right about the rats. A dastardly plan, almost perfectly executed, until you spilled the beans. Be careful the rodents don’t put you and H to the question. I assure you, it would be uncomfortable. Wasn’t that a scene in the book 1984?

    Hehe! Yes, if he’s colour blind, he wouldn’t care. Why would he? But a loose hand with colour can also go right off the rails, and does mum really need to be shocked? It didn’t work out so well for King Ralph’s crew.

    Ooo. I must have read about that testing method. Incidentally, I’m enjoying the new Dexter, they’ve still got it bro! We shall have to agree to disagree here.

    The Roman’s were so alike us, it is sometimes a touch frightening. Maybe economics meets base human behaviour, and it was the cheapest way to go? Dunno.

    Hey, interest rates were lifted by 0.5% today. I wonder if deposit holders will enjoy the same lift?



  17. Yo, Chris – Where the credit union is moving, is not on my regular beaten path. Though two of the cheap food stores are in the general area. I can see myself going down, more late in the evening.

    How do people survive homeless, in our winters? See: snow camping. 🙂 You know, there are even homeless people in Alaska. Layers, man, layers. And good shoes and dry socks. Last night, I watched “The Great North.” It was a documentary, that switched between looking at the Inuit people of northern Canada and the Sami (my people 🙂 in norther Sweden. A lot of the Inuit people’s culture is centered around hunting the caribou. The Sami people around the reindeer. I did not realize that the Sami people lived in teepees, in summer. There was a bit of film, that was really interesting. A one room, part subsoil house. It was really quit lovely, on the inside. One of the Inuit fellows, who was interviewed was the grandson of Nanook of the North. Who? In 1922, a film of that name was made. It was really one of the first documentaries. And it was a sensation, world wide. It really kicked off the making of documentaries. In both the historic footage, and the new documentary, an igloo was constructed.

    Yesterday, I wove together jute to make the trellis for my green beans. Took a couple of hours. I tied off each intersecting vertical and horizontal. To give it a bit more tensile strength. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I also pulled out all the chamomile. I’ll fertilize the ground and plant a tomato, there.

    I’ve given up on the green zucchini, from seed. So, this morning I stopped by the nursery, and looked for some zucchini. None in stock, but then a shipment arrived. I also picked up a sweet sungold tomato. Jody had one last year, and they’re a cherry tomato that did really well. They also dried really well.

    We’re going to have two nice days, and then Mother Nature is turning on the fire hose, again. Lots to do. Lew

  18. Hi Chris- in response to your question about the temperature highs -we got up to 46C during the heat dome! Our town is consistently the hottest on the island and I normally enjoy summer. 46C though was too hot. This summer- if it ever arrives- will be much more pleasant but who knows? The weather is certainly predictably unpredictable these days. I continue to plug away with the garden regardless and try to mitigate the variation in temperatures as much as possible.
    I heat with wood in the winter but after that scary hot period last summer I had a heat pump installed to cool the house in summer. It was expensive on my small pension but it was a health danger- a lot of seniors died from the heat last year. I don’t doubt we’ll have more severe weather as we move forward. I’m trying to do what I can now to set myself up for whatever comes.

  19. Chris,

    The carving event went well. Yes, it rained. Friday near the end of the day, but nearly all-day Saturday until the outdoor barbecue dinner, when the rain quit for a few hours. Sunday was very wet, also. That area and my part of town received about 50mm of rain in 3 days. Things have been rather soggy. But the event was fun and a success. The total month of June typically receives about 30mm of rain, so we’re well past that.

    Let’s see if I have this correct. Over the years, you have discovered two stone rings, aka small stone circles. An oak “grove” has been started in one of the stone circles. You have also obtained a Round Table. Will having regal feasts with the best knights of the area begin soon? Will the burly Samoans receive knighthoods so that they can feast with you at the Round Table? Will there be knightly quests? Most importantly, will there be shrubberies supplied by the Knights who say Knee Shrubbery Company?

    Sounds like you, Dame Plum and the owl have been doing well with the rats. Congrats. Don’t shoot the messenger, but something tells me that rats are never completely eradicated. Ever. Just minimized.

    Avalanche caught her second mouse Monday. Then she horked up her breakfast. Naturally, in true canid fashion, she then cleaned up the horked-up breakfast for me. I disposed of the mouse carcass. She is earning her keep.

    Well done with the greenhouse!

    Those ground storm water drains are amazing, aren’t they? I once knew a guy whose house was on a hill, similar to your situation. His paved driveway would spring leaks and crumble. He was able to place 4 or 5 of those drains under the driveway, running from the uphill side to the downhill side of the pavement. No more problems.

    Lots of garden and yard chores to do the next two weeks. I’ll be busy. It has also gotten hot for a few days, so I’m walking Avalanche early in the day before it gets hot. She is still shedding fur and is uncomfortable during these suddenly warm days.

    Nice garden benches. They look sittable.

    Ruby is enjoying that wood stove. Meanwhile, Avalanche has been enjoying things indoors where it is cooler than outside. And her people are indoors.


  20. So, you are watching us, while we watch you……

    Impressive, we shall have to innovate!

    Delighted you found the nest in the Dirt Rat (thanks for the compliment!): just a calling card as it were. like a horse head from the Mafia.

    Just bear in mind, without Plum, you would be almost powerless, even if you ‘went nuclear ‘with the poisons.

    Until we meet again,

    The Mother of All Boss Rats.

  21. Hi Steve,

    It’s always such a good sign for the health of your place when you encounter the higher order predators, of course there are some – like here (think deadly snakes) – you wish were elsewhere. But to have a place which is alive, means exactly that, it’s alive. I read somewhere years ago where the author suggested that a flock of wild birds can deposit a whole bunch of fertiliser. Not a bad way to look at the world.

    That’s a good sized tank, and I wouldn’t tackle such a project myself either due to the size of the thing. And in concrete it would be either super heavy, or you’d have to be very careful with the cement pour. Definitely a job for the person who knows such jobs. But yeah, burying it, I get that in your part of the world. Incidentally, I’m glad you are considering having a plan B for the deep well – I wonder about those as they are very deep and probably not wide enough to chuck a bucket and line down (imagine that!)

    No worries at all, and I always appreciate our chats and your updates. You’re always up to interesting projects.



  22. Hi Robyn,

    The definition of incongruous goes something along the lines of: not in harmony. How is it possible that your hottest day last summer equalled Melbourne’s (and it was slightly cooler up here in the mountains) highest ever recorded temperature which lead to the 2009 Black Saturday fires? And that was recorded in the shade. Now you may argue and point to another word other than incongruous, and that’s fine, but it is a pretty unpleasant temperature.

    That was one hot day that one, and we were renting in a project house in a nearby housing estate. The inside of the house reached 40’C, and that was our upper limit and we cranked on the air conditioner in that house. A revolting place. One of the dogs began having seizures. Have seen similar temperatures in this house, but the inside of the house was a more manageable 29’C as it is constructed to insulate from heat. Houses these days…

    Predictably unpredictable is a lovely way to put things, and the same is true down here too. Many vegetable varieties prefer more stable climates, and plant breeding does assist – but moving the whole lot to the sunniest spot on the farm will do far more. Top work for keeping up the garden.

    That’s true and far more people die from heat than from bush fires, and yes you are at risk.

    PS: Wood fire is a lovely heat source. And it doesn’t dry you out like other forms of heating.



  23. Hi DJ,

    Proving that your wood carving friends are hardy AF, they kept at the event, enjoyed dinner and came back for more the next day. I respect such dedication to the cause, but hope you had a marquee, shelter or something like that? How did your 3 hour instructional session go? Did you enjoy taking the session?

    Some years are like that: Yeah, that’s enough rain for now, how about coming back later? The tricksy forces behind the rain care not a whit for our concerns. 🙂 It is crazy wet here, what a couple of years.

    Hehe! DJ, mate you’ve busted my super secret plan for the round table. Well done you for working it out. It was all sounding very good until mention of the shrubbery. Then things indeed went sour and I’m nervously looking around in case there is a very tall and threatening knight who says awful things to strangers such as: Ni! Don’t make me, err, sorry them, say: Ni!

    Holy carp DJ. I have to interrupt this reply as there has been a new comment from the Global Rat Collective. It reads a bit scary… I shall say: Ni! to them and see what shall eventuate.

    Dame Plum and I have been working well together with the rats, and admittedly she does most of the hard yards and I simply shoo them in her direction. It took a little bit of training to get her to work with me on this project, and even now she can get a little bit distracted.

    Go Avalanche! Good shot girl! Hope the Global Mouse Collective doesn’t notice… It’s a worthy and useful act for Avalanche to perform.

    Thanks. I hope to get the rest of the cladding on the greenhouse over the next few days.

    Yes. Absolutely. The storm channel drains work very well. Where I’ve seen them fail is where people fail to lift the grates and clean them every now and then. And breaking up the flow of water down such an earthwork has been on my mind too.

    Good to hear that the sun is out after the rain – hopefully it is not too humid. But the future belongs to the adaptable, even if that means getting up early in the morning. Yuk!

    And also good to hear you’re keeping out of the hottest part of the day.



  24. Hi Lewis,

    Worked quite late this evening, and we’re having a long weekend this weekend (Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday on Monday) so I had to head out and about this morning to pick up all manner of supplies. All being well, I’ll get the cladding on the greenhouse over the next few days, but we’ll see. The weather forecast looks a bit feral. Oh well, that’s winter for you.

    Spotted an article on food prices down here, but from the growers perspective: Why is there a lettuce shortage? Australians warned prices won’t come down any time soon. Very interestingly, gardening as an activity, may be getting cooler. The ABC (ours, not yours) Gardening Australia presenter, well, he’s cool: How to help kids set up their own garden. And he was taking questions and answers on the national youth radio broadcaster this morning. He seems like a really lovely bloke and he has a sense of fun and seriousness about him. A bloke for the times I reckon.

    Mate, did you see that the Global Rat Collective has lobbed a salvo here… Far out, this is getting serious.

    What? I don’t doubt you about homeless people in Alaska, but I just don’t get it, but then I have no experience with such bone chilling temperatures.

    That is genuinely amazing that someone at that time used their brains to utilise the imaging machines available to them to capture what they saw. Even if some of it was staged, it’s still an incredible time capsule. I’ll check it out after replying here.

    Out of curiosity, how do you remove the dead bean vines from the jute at the end of the season? Or do you compost the lot – that’s a good option? We’ve used sturdy chicken wire, but I have not yet got around to the job of cleaning the wire (maybe my gut knows something about this job). Did it take long to dry out the chamomile? I had a chamomile tea this morning, and quite enjoy the taste, although I have heard people disparage it, but what do they know?

    Do you reckon it was too cold and/or wet for the zucchini to germinate? Sometimes the supply of seed can be a bit dodgy, especially if demand for seed is very high. I had a year when cucumbers did not germinate, and this past season, they germinated and then turned toes up. Not all seed is equal, so the seedlings are a good idea.

    Your timing was good with the shipment. Nice one, that is what I call a message from the Universe telling you to buy the seedlings. I had such a call from the Universe last year, and it lead to a lot of work – a whole lot of work. I was prodded three times by different and unrelated directions to do something or else, and so I did. Just so much work though, but no matter, I’ll rest one day. Everyone does.

    Rain is forecast here every day for the next five days. Maybe Monday will be dry, maybe. Hopefully you and H enjoy the warmer dry days before the soaking.



  25. Dear Global Rat Collective Supreme Command,

    Dame Plum and I, we fear not and shall say: Ni!

    Lest you are not quailing in fear at our threats of Ni!, you are to be bored to death by speeches:

    We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in the Orchard and on the grass and in garden beds; we shall fight with growing confidence by growing vegetables. I forget the rest…

    Your nefarious plans and ability to thwart our defences has been noted, and we quail a bit in fear, and might do something. I dunno, but we shall do something indeed. And it may be toothy.

    The nest of vipers was cleaned out, and ’twas the mechanic who discovered the carcass. Investigations were held, and apologies were made.

    Oh no! Our secrets are known, and your secret agents are everywhere. Ruby, over here – I’ve got a job for you. What do you mean you don’t want to do it? What the heck girl?

    See you in the trenches. 😉

    Chris and Dame Plum

  26. Hello Chris,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with the chicken coop/run. We had a few layers for a couple of years when we lived in Shanghai, and the assembly-kit chicken house needed several adjustments before it worked ok… In our new place, I will build a new coop, and I am sure that it will take years of refinement and adjustments before it will work well.

    Regarding bird brought fertilizer, I remember the old dovecots that littered the countryside of southern France. Beautiful round stone buildings that somehow attracted doves from all over to come and share their NPK goodness. Some were probably built already in the Roman times (columbaria). See some pictures here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dovecote
    I consider building one. But a stately beech tree in the right location maybe works just as well?
    I think that this kind of infrastructure and patterns are useful, since it is a long term investment. Just like the walls of a walled garden.
    Did you ever consider walling your veggies with more than the bird netting?


  27. Yo, Chris – Congrats on the successful supply run. You don’t want that holiday to go to waste. 🙂

    That was an interesting article on veg prices. Sounds like the farmers are going it tough. Like reading, kids gardening can’t be a bad thing. The chef / restaurant owner Alice Waters got some programs going in the schools, for kids to grow food. The idea has spread.

    The GRC (Global Rat Collective) have tipped there hand. Just keep talking, guys. Hubris, hubris.

    Bone chilling temperatures? You’ll adapt. Adapt or die. Or at least feel very, very uncomfortable. I saw an article, last week, that was something like, “20 Tips from the Homeless.” I also saw an article about caravan (trailer) parks. Their rentals have also gone through the roof.

    I suppose I could compost the jute, if I had a compost pile. But, I don’t so it just gets binned. Cleaning dried vines from chicken wire is very zen. 🙂 Seems like every year, I do a bit of that.

    I spread out the chamomile on a plate. Takes about a week and a half to dry. I find chamomile quit nice, too. Some people’s taste is in their mouths. 🙂

    Oh, the zucchini seeds germinated. It’s just something ate the primary leaves, as they emerged. I noticed that once they get their secondary leaves, well up off the ground, there’s not a problem. I planted my green beans, last night. And, the zucchini plants. Hit the Brussels sprouts with a bit of BT.

    Our strawberries are beginning to turn red. Looks like we’re going to get a bumper crop of grapes, this year. When I ordered the mesh bags from the sprouts, I noticed they have individual bags for grape clusters. I think I’ll pick up some.

    Elinor’s daughter stopped by, yesterday. On Friday, the doctor will decide if she can go home, or go to rehab. Elinor’s daughter said she can only walk a step or two. So, probably rehab. There’s also an Elinor fire drill, over getting H’s license. Falls to me, and I’ll have to sort it out, today. Because her rabies shot expires on Friday and … never mind. Lew

  28. Hello Chris
    I asked Son whether he had reached the acceptance phase re the rats. He said that one can never win and he admires their intelligence, not sure about acceptance. None of his dogs are interested in the rats which is a shame. He had a dog many years ago that was a great ratter. This variance in dogs is strange.


  29. Chris,

    The carving club owns these heavy and huge tarps that go over a structure of poles. We have 3 sections, so we have a large area whose only rain “leaks” are where the sections meet but don’t overlap. The tables are set up to avoid a soaking there, but we still get dampish. The condensation on the underside of the tarps got pretty thick Saturday with all the rain. It occasionally congealed and fell. One particularly well aimed condensation drop landed on the completed wood burning of a koala bear – right next to the eye, making it look as if said koala were crying.

    The class I taught went fine. I had some weird kind of wood from trimming one of the shrubberies in the yard whilst avoiding any semblance of “Ni!” Bark removed, there was still a “skin” on each of the sticks. Sticks – about 2cm long and varying in diameter from 3 fingers to a finger.) I figured out how to woodburn the skin and had a fun little project to show. Class title – Sticking Around. Two students, an expert carver and our club’s master woodburner. The latter never figured out the “skin”, so he ending up with more of a melt than a burn. The carver carved the skin away from the top quarter and was able to carve and woodburn the stick into a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans. I learned a lot watching these two masters.

    Good job Chris! There is only one proper response to that Global Rat Collective – “Ni” it is! Hope it works. I have this feeling that the Global Mouse Collective isn’t anywhere as organized as the Rat Collective. I hope.

    Speaking of pests…I was weeding the raised beds this afternoon. Time to plant the veggies. But…frack, zarquon, shostakovich, bleeping bleep of a bleep. Frammin on the jim jam, frippin at the krotz! There are three sugar ant colonies in the raised beds, taking up about a third of the growing area. One nest is very large, one is ginormous, and the third is just starting, but is larger than many sugar ant nests that I’ve seen. This is a banner year for sugar ants – I’ve seen signs of nests in some of the streets in the area, in cracks in the asphalt. I do NOT want these ants in the garden area. I might have to concede the area and start again elsewhere, but I don’t want to say adieu to 25 years of soil building.

    The worst urban flooding we get in this neighborhood is due to storm drain collector grates being plugged with leaves. The nearest resident is supposed to keep these clear. Of course it doesn’t work that way! I’ve been known to walk around with a longish stick so that these get cleared a bit during heavy rains. However, some of the little girls down the street enjoyed the big dumping the other night, as they were splashing around in a giant puddle barefoot. Looked like fun. Their older sister, maybe 8, had a shovel that was bigger than she is, trying to find the grate and scrape it clean. She DID find and clean it eventually.

    Today got humid. It rained in the morning and was partly cloudy all day – thus the humidity.

    More rain expected starting Friday. No complaints. After last June’s hideous heat, this wet and cool June is appreciated and welcome.


  30. Hi Goran,

    Yeah, exactly with the chicken coop. It might work well, maybe. 🙂 And have you found that people often give advice on such matters (and you might find this with your nut trees) but the advice is locally specific. Elsewhere things are different. I saw a comment over at Mr Greer’s about ash trees over in the UK, and that experience wasn’t the same here with ash trees (and Elm’s do very well here). Things such as your original layer coop are a starting point, the rest is acquired knowledge.

    I’m aware of the dovecote’s and they do seem like a really good idea for collecting guano (bird manure). What I like about those buildings is that they are purposeful, but also very attractive and pleasing on the eye. The huge variety and diversity of bird life here on the farm is welcome because I appreciate all of their manure. Maybe about the Beech tree (I have a European Beech tree growing here) and it would be an easier system, but what I noticed about the dovecotes is that they have roofs so that the doves are protected from the worst of the weather, and I assume that the manure is drier.

    None of the vegetables have bird netting over them, and neither do the trees in the orchards. Only strawberry and grape vines are entirely sealed off with aviary mesh. A walled garden would be a good idea from a bushfire perspective, but the plan at this stage is to move the entire vegetable rows to a sunnier spot on the farm. I don’t actually know whether this will work, but I have to do something. The walls are a much larger investment of energy and resources.



  31. Hi Inge,

    Thank you for asking your son that question, and I appreciate the reply. He’s right too, and I have my doubts that I can defeat the rats. The best I’m hoping for at this stage is to make life here as difficult as I can for the rodents through a combination of reduced opportunities for easy feeding and also habitat destruction. I’m not really sure, but I believe the role of the higher order predators is not to decimate another population, but rather keep it in check.

    That is a shame, as it would be more useful if either Flynn or Ren were interested in rodents instead of sheep. Yesterday morning, I met a couple of younger blokes from the valley below the farm who were looking for their dog. Apparently the dog went off chasing deer, and that was the last they saw of the dog. An old timer I know from over in that area suggested to them that the deer herd and dog may have ventured up this way. I hadn’t seen either.

    Yeah, aren’t dogs are strange like that. You can never pick in advance what will interest them, and I’m unsure of your opinion, but I don’t believe even breeds are an exact guide to that activity. Ollie’s breed is meant to hunt feral pigs, but I hold strong doubts that he would be interested in that work. I’m very grateful that Dame Plum is interested in undertaking the task of hunting out the rats and rabbits. I watched her chase a rabbit today, and she is fast, but the rabbit was faster.

    More rain today, and more in the forecast for tomorrow.



  32. Hi DJ,

    Confucius says that where roof joins, will be point of leakage, and best not to be underneath join during rain. 🙂 It’s really good that the group continued the weekend activities despite the weather – that is the sign of a cohesive group (in my opinion). Lesser folks would be elsewhere. Speaking of which, it was cold and wet here today and we had a very late lunch at the local general store and guess what? It was quiet and back to how things used to be before the tourist onslaught. Yay for us!

    It is possible that the Universe had decided the issue and that the Koala Bear was to shed a tear. In some parts of the country, the Koala’s are doing it tough, but like the other healthy looking marsupials, they seem OK around these parts. The wildlife enjoys plenty of good feed here and a lack of fencing. Last night we spotted a very healthy looking wombat happily grazing. Where you happy with the Koala carving? It would be a tough critter to carve. Tonight at the pub we sat at a table which had an enormous chainsaw carving of a wedge tailed eagle. I didn’t take the phone in with me, otherwise I would have got a photo for you.

    Well done for avoiding the use of the awful: Ni! (sorry the word was provided for illustrative purposes only, and sure you were doing the same, maybe?) Yeah, isn’t it good to be able to observe knowledgeable and experienced people at their work? The work itself becomes a thing of beauty.

    DJ, be very careful about invoking the Global Mouse Collective and saying derogatory things about their Supreme Commander, because as you know, hubris soon turns to nemesis. Sharpen up those Ni’s, and be prepared to use them! And in the meantime put Avalanche onto the mouse job, she seems to have a solid track record.

    Ah, good luck with the sugar ants. They’re also down here. At a wild guess, your soil is too acidic, and the addition of some garden lime (Calcium Carbonate) to increase the soil pH, mix it in well, will send your new found ant friends packing to other easier to live areas. There are other forms of Calcium which will work even faster such as Calcium hydroxide, but ooo, exciting stuff to work with, and the sudden change in pH will harm both ants and plants. The other forms of lime are slower acting.

    Yes, you do get to see where the water travels and accumulates when it rains heavily. And splashing around in the rain is a traditional activity.

    Yes, rain and more rain, combined with humidity. Fun times. It rained here today, and is forecast for tomorrow too, just for good measure.

    Did a little bit of the finer finishing carpentry work on the greenhouse this morning. All the little fiddly bits, kind of like fjords, huh? 😉



  33. Hi Lewis,

    “I never thought I’d be trying to burn one of my own books… and failing,” What a great quote. Margaret Atwood has some spunk! It’s a great idea, and PEN America was mentioned many times in the book of essays. Banning books is stupid because it can increase interest in books that aren’t really worth it. It’s like how songs, or albums were banned – they’re not all worth the effort, you know. But yeah, bannings continue apace because I’ve noticed over the past few years that even thoughts, or stupid things said on the interweb seem to want to be policed by some folks – and over the past two and a bit years some of that gear was physically policed. They’re very dull people that lot, and often fear and/or lust for power is at the core, but it could also be a distraction technique.

    Not saying that lettuce is cheap in your part of the world, but yeah it does look that way. $10 per lettuce is a crazy price. You may have noticed that the Editor and I mention Kale, Rocket, Mustards and other herbs at this time of year. Lettuce is a summer leafy green, and last I checked, it ain’t summer.

    Ooo, I hadn’t heard of the unfolding cabbage-gate story as I don’t eat there. But I could understand how die-hard fans of that chain’s produce could get so upset at the sudden change to the contents. It’s a bit like buying mince meat at the supermarket, thinking it is beef when it is in fact horse meat – might happen 😉 . I tend to enjoy cabbage, but that’s me, and maybe they need to swap the lettuce-cabbage mix for a coleslaw mix like you wrote. People would like that taste. Iceberg lettuce has little taste in my opinion anyway. Incidentally, I too noted the apparently notably highly emotional comment on the change. I don’t think so. If zombies were storming the fast food place, yeah the undead are pretty apocalyptic, but cabbage? It seems like a long bow to draw. Good to see we’re on the same page about the coleslaw substitution – yummo! Beets are good and tasty.

    Hehe! Yes, now thanks to the explosive revelations from the Global Rat Collective, we now know the true extent of their program, and despite it’s awesome, awesomeness, I agree hubris may be their undoing. Just like the Martians in that H. G. Wells book.

    Probably die due to sheer inexperience in those cold conditions. It would be like a Jack London story, except readers would be thinking to themselves: Chris, don’t be so foolish, and then I’d go an do something foolish and that would be it. Actually the same thing is going on down here with weekly rents at caravan parks. Incidentally, there is a vast difference between permanent and tourist caravan parks.

    Probably a good idea not to have a compost pile as it attracts, rats, at least if it is not well sealed. In my more lazy moments I do imagine what would happen if I used a blow torch to clean the dead bean vines off the chicken wire? Probably wouldn’t be good. Then there was the other idea of the battery drill with the rotating wire brush. That might work, but yeah, maybe I’ll just remove the vines the old fashioned way.

    Thanks for the chamomile drying tip. An excellent idea. I’ve heard someone suggesting the herbal tea tastes like compost, but I believe this to be an error. I once heard the potty mouthed chef suggest that someone had the palate of a cows backside. It was a very good critique.

    I’m not sure, but I believe the first leaves have the most sugars which is probably why they were snacked upon. Brewers employ that knowledge. I am envious of your summer Brassica’s because there are so many cabbage moths here at that time.

    I look forward to hearing about how good the strawberries are tasting, and yes, both those and grapes are very attractive for critters to consume. The bag is a good idea.

    Hope Elinor continues to recover. Ah, license = dog registration. I can sort of understand the rabies shot, oh yeah. Good luck!

    Did a bit more carpentry work on the greenhouse today. Lots of the fiddly bits that nobody notices, but it’s probably important to have them.



  34. Yo, Chris – I want a refund! I want to talk to the management! (Or, maybe not.) We weren’t supposed to get rain, until after 2pm. When I took H out for a walk at 8:30am, it started to rain. Hasn’t quit. I had a few little things I wanted to do in the garden ..

    I went and got gas, this morning. $5.60, regular grade, our gallon. I found a penny, on the ground, in front of the pumps. So that offset the price, a bit. 🙂 I also stopped at the cheap food store. The one that looks like it ought to have rats. Didn’t get much. Their prices are up, and, their canned goods bins have been empty. I wonder if the “little guys” are having a problem getting stock? The other stores seem ok in the canned good department. But, I got a few things for me, and a few for the Club.

    I think if I had a book out, I’d pray that it would be banned. With all the attendant free PR. If the picture of Margret Atwood had a music track, it would be “Burning Down the House.” 🙂 One of my favs.

    I was thinking how the mustard tasting greens you grow, would be quit nice on a burger. I bet horseradish leaf would also be nice. People take their fast food seriously. Seems like every week, there’s a story about some poor fast food worker, who either gets shot, or beat up, because they got the order wrong.

    Oh, I think you’d adapt to the cold. There would be a lot of whinging, but you’d adapt. 🙂

    Blow torches and battery drills? Zen out, grasshopper. Zen out.

    If someone told me they thought herbal teas taste like compost, I’d ask them if they’d eaten a lot of compost. I picked up a new book, at the library, yesterday. “The Garden Apothecary: Transform Flowers, Weeds and Plants into Healing Remedies.” (Cole, 2022). It doesn’t have a lot of plants (20), but several that grow around here. Mullein, Nasturtium, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, etc. etc.. Might have to get this one. It’s quit good.

    Well, we’ll see how the Brassica battle, against the cabbage moths, goes. I got the green beans in, last night. The rain ought to get them off to a good start.

    Now they’re saying Elinor will be in hospital, until the 16th. Then they’ll decide if she comes home, or goes to rehab. Now she’s fretting over if the dog has enough dry food. Yup. I’m going to starve the dog. I have an unopened 11 pound bag, and an unopened 5 pound bag. And she doesn’t eat all that much.

    The Ladies in dog registration, at our City Hall were lovely. They even waived the late fee, so it only cost $5. Of course, I did my “old lady in the hospital” song and dance. (Tap, tap, tap.) They weren’t overly concerned about the rabies vaccine, either. It’s due in two days. They just said, make sure she has it, by next renewal time.

    Wondering what Simon Pegg is up to? I just finished watching season one of “The Boys.” It’s about super heroes who are in the control of a large evil corporation. Well, it’s a corporation that wants to make a lot of money. And, there’s the problem of collateral damage, when the super heroes, do their thing. Any-who. Mr. Pegg plays the father of one of the major roles. It’s a small part, but meaty. At first, I wasn’t even sure it was him. Our heroes are aging. Lew

  35. Hi. Chris!

    I may not be here for awhile. My mother fell and broke her hip a few days ago, tho she is doing really well. I am very busy!


  36. Hi Pam,

    Sorry to hear of your mothers fall and best wishes for a full recovery. I do hope that you get some time for yourself to breathe in between the care giving, and it was such a good thing to have retrieved them from Colorado. Imagine if this had happened and you had a vast distance to traverse, or you had to repatriate her. What a nightmare. Again, best wishes and remember to look after yourself too during this time.


  37. Hello Chris
    Actually Ren doesn’t chase sheep and is running free again. Flynn is the nightmare. Ren is a really strange dog as he doesn’t seem to be a pack animal. It was a long time before he would go to Son and even longer before he would come near me. He won’t go within touching distance of any other human beings, yet he was born into the family, so has no history of being ill treated by human beings. Flynn hates him and will attack him given the chance.


  38. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the two articles on chickens. The sheer spread of the birds by humans indicates just how important they are to our existence. But most of our food sources are like that in that our forebears have spent countless hours selecting for the best of the best traits. Then if the selection process was replicable, the successes were disseminated. The mortgage lifter tomato comes to mind! But it’s true, and that’s the joke too, selective breeding probably out performs mucking around with genetics in the lab, because it is easier and can be done by any knowledgeable person – therefore the cost base has to be lower.

    Your Brussels Sprouts are a good example of selective breeding. That Brassica variety hasn’t been around all that long, whereas a more wild variety such as Kale was known to the Roman’s and well before their time. I noted in reading upon this subject that the Roman’s were also great plant breeders. Interestingly too David Fairchild’s name turned up, but I had no idea that Kale leaves were considered decorative in your country because we’re too busy eating them. 😉 Such an easy going plant that it makes us look like we know what we’re doing. We’ve now got several long rows of self seeded Kale, and they just look after themselves and run their own cycle. Interestingly, I noticed that Kale is quite high in Magnesium and so I’d suggest that they are very good at converting clay into more friable soil, but I need to put that theory to the test.

    It was so lovely to have a day of doing nothing whatsoever. Nothing was achieved other than recharging the bodies batteries. We went out for a late lunch and sat under an awning in the cold wind and enjoyed lunch whilst the rain fell just out of reach. Very pleasant because due to it being a long weekend and all, the inside tables were packed. Only the hardiest of the hardy, such as the Editor and I braved the outdoor conditions. And as a consequence we enjoyed reading our respective books whilst chowing down upon tasty lunch stuff. The Editor finished reading Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild’ this morning, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. The weather here was so appalling that no outside work could be done. Tomorrow will be different again and the plan is to work.

    Ah yes, when forecasts fail, it is always best to complain to management. After all, they do want to set the tone of the day, and we are but humble followers of their advice. 🙂 Mate, you should have experienced the filthy cold and wet weather here today. Brr! Being a Friday there were a few hardy tourists around, and one can but hope that they fill social media with tales of horror. And don’t we all have things to do… How’s H enjoying her prolonged holiday with you?

    Your gas is rising in price for sure. I filled up the little Dirt Mouse Suzuki today, you know the one with the slightly under 10 gallon petrol tank, and I was surprised to hand over $66. Makes me wonder if some folks are regretting their choice of behemoths? Haven’t heard any complaints on that front, but perhaps it is still early days and people are bumping up debt and/or drawing upon savings (a suggestion I read earlier today)? Dunno.

    For your interest, I shop at a local independent supermarket, and they seem well stocked, but they don’t aim at the bottom of the market. Lately, it has seemed quieter, but we’ve changed the times we shop there so I can’t make any valid comparisons. I remember observing a middle aged lady a few years ago shop lifting and then heading out into the carp park to drive away in a huge four wheel drive vehicle. That was weird, and I’ve often wondered about her story. Was it a compulsion, or was it a necessity? Dunno. It may have been something else altogether. Very thoughtful for the Club’s stores – that’ll be needed.

    Yeah! Oh yes sir indeedy! Being banned is a great way to get free PR work. Dude, what a song. Respect. I was a fan of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ too. Such great art, and so unique. I believe that Mr Byrne is an Aspie, and watched a delightful interview of him suggesting that he made the experience fun, although I didn’t catch whether he was referring to himself or others. A very clever bloke.

    That’s a great idea. Red or green mustard leaves would pack a good punch in a burger. And they’re so easy to grow and self reproduce. Great plants, although I have noted a shortage of green mustard plants this year and am unsure what that means. Red mustard plants seem to be doing better. Horseradish leaves are also a good option, but a summer option – the paste from the mashed roots though are a different story. The stuff grows like weeds here.

    My favourite fast food gone wrong footage was when someone declared: “Don’t make me take my ultimate form”. What the heck did that mean, and I can’t say I’d want to stick around and find out. Falling Down was a good film which kind of navigated the toxic side of that story.

    No. Just whingeing. 🙂 Hehe!

    Put it this way: Ideas sound good in theory. Did I just make that up? It’s good. The road to quotable phrases has been well traversed unfortunately.

    About a decade ago I did a deep dive on herbal remedies and have amassed quite a small library on the subject. There are some good books out there (and one absolute fave) and what interests me is that our forebears had far greater knowledge of plants and their uses than we seem to do today. And interestingly, Henley’s formula’s book seems to also point in the direction that we are now a somewhat super-dumbed-down-cut of former selves.

    Planting with spring rain is an advantage, and I plant with the weather forecast in mind.

    Anxiety is an unappealing character trait, but on the other hand it is quite commonly encountered. I shrug my shoulders and recognise the words for the reminder that they are to attend to others concerns. But I exercise my own judgement in that matter. Why would you starve H? That makes no sense to me – or you for that matter.

    On the other hand, if Elinor has the energy to transfer her concerns about H, then it sounds like a good sign as to her health.

    Oh, wow, your dog registration is very cheap. It costs about 10x that amount down here, and when the girls were not fixed up, it was about 30x that amount. Glad to hear they helped you out, and were super-chill. And tidy foot work! Nice one.

    The Boys looks like a lot of fun. Go Mr Pegg (a fave), what an interesting journey he has travelled. As a side story, due to some life events, the Editor and I were discussing life’s journeys and lessons this evening, and I have a view which says that we’re where we are and experiencing the then, because that is what is required. All sounds a bit zen, but to dig deep has costs I reckon, but how to learn how to reach there without assistance is the challenge, and then how to recharge the batteries, harder again.



  39. Hi Inge,

    I’m terribly sorry and please convey my apologies to the inadvertently maligned Ren. I forgot the details as to which dog was being obstreperous, but the name of the dog may help me to recall that sorry detail.

    Hmm. I’ll tell you a funny story which relates to Ren’s tale. Prior to the two Kelpie’s we’d only ever taken on adult dogs. I’d assumed that the dogs came with what may politely be described as ‘baggage’ due to earlier treatment and/or maltreatment. All of the dogs I’d known to that time (and afterwards) had distinctive personalities. So, after decades of having adult dogs and their distinctive personalities in my life, two 12 week old Kelpie’s found their way into our care. Their personalities were already hard wired at 12 weeks old, and for most of that time they were – being puppies – blind. I took especial note of the conditions the puppies lived in, and it seemed fine to me and they seemed pretty happy. They were from the same litter too, but they’re just different and the personalities are much as they were when we first got them.

    What they’ve learned over their lives are coping mechanisms, socialising skills and limits to their behaviours.

    I’ve been watching this story quite closely, and it is fascinating. So my best guess is that Ren and Flynn just are, and if Flynn cannot limit his activities, then it is our (or your sons in this case) responsibility to do so. Flynn has to learn the hard way – I’m seeing a lot of that story about our society.



  40. @Pam
    I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s fall. Hope you are able to take time for yourself.


  41. Yo, Chris – I am such a klutz. I made almost 4 dozen peanut butter cookies, last night. And that was half the recipe. I have an old hand mixer. A Kenmore, that may have been a wedding gift, to my parents. It’s been smelling a little “funny”, from time to time, if the dough is thick. Any-who. We have these circuit breakers, right on the wall outlet, in our kitchen and bathroom. It tripped, while I was mixing the batter. So, I set the mixer down, with the blades hanging over the bowl. Reset the circuit breaker, and … I had forgot to turn off the mixer. Lucky I move fast, but there was still a bit of dough, flung about the kitchen. I’m sure I’ll be finding it in odd spots, for a long time. 🙂 I gave half a dozen biscuits, to our postie, who does yeoman service. He’s quit the gardener, and some of his fruit trees have been languishing. I told him my Australian friend uses coffee grounds and lime.

    Another thing I forgot about our gas crisis, back in 1973. I don’t know if it still holds true, but it was discovered that a steady 65mph gets the best gas mileage. So, the speed limit was lowered, nation wide, to 65. There was lots of screaming and gnashing of teeth. Many speeding tickets, were issued.

    You may remember the Roman chicken eggs, discovered in Britain. I wonder if they ever got any genetic material, out of those?

    I did my weekly shopping at the local big chain supermarket. Often, they put frozen veg, on sale. But never any of the Brassica. A one pound bag is $3.49. I have a craving for Spanish Rice. A green bell pepper cost me $1.25. Oh, well. I’ll get at least 2 meals out of it. Whole shiitake mushrooms finally did a price rise. A jump of 50 cents, for 8 oz. The store brand of dark chocolate bar has been MIA (Missing in Action), again, for quit a few weeks. So, I’ve had to resort to the Lindt. $2.50 a bar. On sale. Swiss cheese? $5 a pound. A small bottle of malt vinegar? $5.

    People grow a lot of kale here, for food. It’s very trendy 🙂 .

    The Romans also really spread plants around. You may find this article on what they brought to Britain, interesting.


    Keep in mind, Britain was going through a warm spell, at that time.

    It’s nice you had a day off. And since you mention books … 🙂 I’m reading one that the Editor may find interesting. I do believe she’s an Austen fan? Last week I read a book, called “Bloomsbury Girls”. About a bookstore in London, right after WWII. It was quit good. Then I discovered the author had written an earlier book, “The Jane Austen Society.” (Jenner, 2020). It’s a novel, but based on some historic fact. It takes place in the little village of Chawton, Hampshire, before and after WWII.

    Something interesting, I hadn’t picked up on. One of Austen’s older brothers, was adopted by a very well to do family. Stately homes, extensive estates, etc.. They were childless, and needed an heir. Funny, a lot of cultures did that. The Romans. The Japanese. You’ll discover that when you get around to “Japanese Inn.” Well, there was a little cottage, on the estate, where Austen spent quit a few years, at the end of her life. Probably wrote three of her books there. It’s about a group of people from the village, coming together to save the cottage. Very different people, bound together only by their love of Austen. It’s a good read. But when I need a break, I’m dipping into “The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten.” 🙂

    I’m seeing articles that people are bumping up their debt and dipping into savings. Which after You Know What were pretty high. See, the whole inflation thing is just to get at those savings. It’s a nefarious plot. 🙂

    “Falling Down” is a great movie. As is “God Bless America.” I really like those kinds of movies, where irritating people are slaughtered, left and right. Very satisfying. Satisfying enough, that I don’t have to do it in real life. Running amok with an ax has it’s appeal.

    Life’s journeys. That’s a deep topic. I think if varies, from person to person. I think I’ve mentioned that looking back, I’ve pretty much fallen face down in good fortune. Though it didn’t seem so, at the time. Lew

  42. Chris,

    The koala project was being taught by the master pyrographer. It is one of his projects I’ve not done. Wood burning one would be a challenge, but I think it would be much easier to do than to carve one. The teary-eyed koala was the one the master pyrographer had done many years ago.

    Those chainsaw carvers amaze me. I’ve watched one guy work. I don’t know how they do it.

    It IS a joy watching someone work who is skilled at his/her craft. When we had our bathroom remodeled a few years ago, I enjoyed watching the young man who did all of the tile work, floor and shower stall walls. Many of the tiles had to be specially fit, requiring measuring and cutting. Simply cutting them took skill, lest the tile shatter. He broke none of them. He demonstrated practical geometry skills on that job. He also had an artistic flair: he showed me the plans, showed me what that would look like, then showed me what he would do instead. His version was a huge improvement over what the plans showed in how the finished product looked. I asked him how he learned his trade. He replied, “Father teach.” 😉 Yes, his father is a master tiler also.

    I’ll be careful with the Global Mouse Collective. However, I am much more concerned with the Global Sugar Ant Colonizers! I found another nest in the compost pile. Arghhh! Thanks for your suggestion about adding garden lime. I’ll try that. Apparently, a mix of sugar and borax will clean out a nest quickly, but the mix must be kept dry. We’re in the midst of another wet spell, so that will have to wait.

    Fiddly bits and fjords are necessities! Interestingly, I once had a girlfriend whose mother didn’t like me. When I wanted to see the young lady, I’d leave a message on their phone answering machine, disguising my voice and saying, “Slartibartfast fjords again!” A tryst would soon be arranged. Alas! Her mother soon figured it out and that was the end of that.


  43. @ Pam
    All the best wishes to you and your mother.


    Hello Chris
    I forgot to mention that it was a long time before Son realised where Ren’s injuries were coming from. Flynn behaved impeccably when Son was around.


  44. Hi Inge,

    Oh my, but dogs are clever and can read social circumstances with ease. Your son is wise to have observed, and then continued to observe Ren until the facts were known. Flynn has a devious mind.

    I’ll tell you a funny story. Toothy and Sir Poopy were never best mates. If the two headed out into the forest, Sir Poopy came home first, looking well pleased that he’d outfoxed Toothy who’d foolishly met his fate in a wombat burrow. You may think harshly about that, however, one quiet day long before this time, Sir Poopy was resting and Toothy and his willing side kick, Dame Scritchy, trounced him. There was blood. For a month or two afterwards Sir Poopy limped. And I suspect Sir Poopy never forgave the feckless Toothy who had aggression aplenty, but not the makings of a boss dog. Dogs can be complicated.

    As you replied I was reading the notayesmanseconomics blog about house prices and cannot fault the analysis. I’ll tell you a weird thing. The banks offered 2.25% term deposit rates in the past few days. Who about that huh?



  45. Hi DJ,

    As someone who spent much of this morning in the freezing cold wind, cutting and installing polycarbonate sheeting onto the new greenhouse walls, I can only but agree with you: Skills and mastery, are hard won. 🙂 I hear you about the mastery of the carving and burning.

    The polycarbonate sheets on the side walls have to accommodate the pitched roof and there was many times more measuring and marking, than cutting (and they are only UV protected on one side of the sheet). Someone once long ago said to me: Measure many times, cut once. So true. And I’d inadvertently mucked up the order for the polycarbonate sheets and purchased a couple of slightly shorter sheets (2.4m instead of 2.7m), so we’ve been adapting. Turns out that the mistake wasn’t too much of a drama. But each sheet is its own special shape. We didn’t quite finish the job today, and tomorrow the heavens look set to open, and there was to be much rain. 🙂

    I don’t know how the chainsaw carvers do what they do either. Not to mention that the carving is a three dimensional problem. What I’ve noticed is that they use small chainsaws (which provides manoeuvrability) and a weird pointy bar (as distinct from the more usual half circle you’ll find on the end of most chainsaw bars). A person would have to ‘see’ the result before anything was carved. Beyond my understanding and/or skill set. I’d imagine you see that technique of ‘seeing the end result’ taking place with the carvings your group does?

    Yes, tiling is another application of those sorts of skills. It is complicated geometry, yeah. And getting tiles spot on is a challenging prospect – not to mention cutting tap holes and outlets through the tiles, without upsetting the overall pattern.

    Funnily enough when cutting the polycarbonate sheets today, we’d measure and then draw the shape onto the sheet using a permanent marker. The sheets are transparent, and so it was very difficult to even see where the ridges and valleys in the corrugations where. But also because the cutting took place with the sheet on the ground (and only one side of the sheet can have its face shown to the sun), before cutting you’d have to mentally flip the sheet around in your mind, just to make sure you’d got it right. No point wasting expensive materials.

    Yeah, well compost piles are also very acidic and are perfect places for sugar ants. Never tried using borax on an ant nest, and I’ll be interested to hear how it works out. Boron is a necessary plant mineral, so there may be some good side effects from your experimentation, but for the plants and not necessarily the ants.

    The ways of mothers can be something of a mystery. Liked your code word too, but alas people can readily adapt to our best endeavours. Unfortunately, if the tide of public opinion turns upon your good self, then mate you’re f!@##d! 😉



  46. Hi Lewis,

    Out of curiosity about the hand mixer, by ‘funny’ does that mean it smells of ozone? The Editor likewise has a hand mixer which was once her mothers, and talk about built to last, but it smells of ozone, but is not used often enough to be a problem. It is possible that the brushes in the motor need replacing – that’s my best guess. Finding someone to do that job is not always an easy thing, as small appliance repair is one of those things that may have a good market in the future, but not now due to there being too much stuff available new. Mind you, if small appliances go the way that the supply of new cars seems to be, things may change. Already I hear stories that the second hand market for stuff has risen in price.

    I do rather hope that H assisted you with the cleaning up process. Dogs are very happy to help in such circumstances. 🙂

    Agricultural lime combined with coffee grounds does wonders for fruit trees. Speaking of such things, we brought back a trailer load of compost mixture for the first raised bed in the greenhouse. Plus the back of the Dirt Rat Suzuki is full of bags of all manner of soil additives. It sure smells interesting in there.

    Man, it was so cold today, and the wind blew whilst it drizzled. We put up most of the rest of the polycarbonate corrugated wall sheets on the greenhouse, and they’re hard to cut correctly because you look through the material as it’s transparent. Had to use a permanent marker on the sheets just so that I could see where to make the cuts. But by lunchtime we were done (that’s when I headed off to get the soil stuff). There’s about four or five smaller sheets to put up, but the job is mostly done. The weather forecast for tomorrow looks worse than today (and I had thought that today was the better of the two days) and there is no way I want to work out in those forecast conditions. Hopefully on Monday we’ll get the first raised bed set up and get the plants in the ground. Looking forward to that. It was an unpleasant experience to have to move in and out of the greenhouse as the contrast was a bit of continual shock to the system.

    The speed limits out of towns came into play down here around that time too. My understanding of those days was that outside of town limits, it was considered an ‘open road’ and well, some people took that invitation literally. Incidentally, about that time change was coming anyway as there was the infamous: ‘Supercar scare’. The story goes that a journalist penned an article about 160mph locally manufactured cars and then the politicians latched onto it, and that put an end to that. It was probably a bit fast really…

    Never had a speeding ticket. Dunno, it’s possible I’ll get one now having just written that. And they use speed cameras here – it’s feral. Was booked once for going through a red light on my motorbike quite a long while ago. Vehicles can get impounded for these sorts of things down here, and I used to work near to the impound place. Often when vehicles were retrieved by the unhappy owners (after weeks or months of having no access) I noticed that a goodly percentage of the owners expressed their opinions of the process by pulling a burn out and/or roaring up the otherwise quiet street. Ah, the cheeky scamps.

    Those prices are beginning to sound expensive. Mushrooms down here are about $17 for 35oz, but were on the up. Now, the Lindt may hurt the wallet, but will it hurt the taste-buds? That is the question! It’s like changes in the cost of fuel in that the overall trend is up, but the details as to how it gets there are obscure and all over the shop.

    Thanks. You know we’re not eating kale because it is trendy, but because it grows well here during the winter and lightly cooked it’s quite tasty, almost spinach like. It’s an easy way to up the amount of leafy greens in your diet. I tend to disregard things that are trendy, but self-evident easy to grow edible plants, such cannot be ignored!

    I spotted this in the news the other day (gardening is getting cool – you heard it here first!): Fresh food prices soar, sprouting demand for grow-your-own seedlings. Ballarat is to the west of here, you know, bodies, dragging, lake stuff. 😉

    Far out! Just reading the article on the plants the Romans introduced to Britain, sounds like reading about my own diet and the plants that I grow here. Long shadows my friend, long shadows. The prevalence of eye disease was not a good thing.

    Thanks, and the day off was very much enjoyed. The Editor prefers the works of the Bronte sisters to that of Jane Austen, but I shall mention the book to her.

    It’s funny you mention that, but I have read about such things going on in other parts of the world too. People’s notion of family today, is most certainly not what it once was. The Editor has read a book on stories from rural Italy following on from WWII, and the notion of family was very loose as there had been so much chaos. Yes, what once was, will be again for sure – it works for all parties. One of Margaret Atwood’s essays dealt with the subject of Anne of Green Gables.

    I really do hope that the zombies haven’t destroyed Lake Woebegotten. Whatever would the notable residents think? 🙂

    Sure it’s a nefarious plot. It looks more to me like the actions on one hand, lead to consequences on the other. The money supply has expanded far beyond any increase to the underlying wealth over the years. I’m surprised that people seem to be genuinely surprised. Now I may have stepped away from that story early, but better in this case being early than being late.

    I’d never heard of the film God Bless America, but yeah, it does appear to have more of a comedic side than the film Falling Down (which I too really enjoyed – don’t push the dude is my thinking). There is something rather hedonistic and just so inappropriate about the film.

    Life has been good, sometimes unpleasant, but overall it sure beats the alternative. Anyway, we’ve travelled to third world countries and whilst I hear a lot of sooking, sulking and whingeing in the media, things are far worse elsewhere. It’s such a shame that people have lost sight of this.



  47. Yo, Chris – Yup. Ozone smell. I figured it was the brushes. When it comes time to replace it, I might go with a stand mixer. Metal gears, not plastic. Will be pricey. Yes, H volunteered for the clean up crew.

    It sounds like your banging along on the greenhouse. You’re almost to the fun part. The planting. The weather here is … constant drizzle. Not a hard rainfall. But I don’t think it quit here, once, yesterday. There are flood watches and warnings, beginning to pop up in the forecasts. We may get a break or two, today.

    I don’t remember getting a speeding ticket. If so, so long ago it’s lost in the mists of time. Parking tickets? Not in years, but there were a few.

    The Lindt and store brand are both 85% cacao. But the Lindt tastes sweeter. I think I prefer the slightly more bitter store brand.

    That was a great article on the plant start give-away. Yup. I think more people are giving gardening, a whirl. But I’m hearing some disappointment, with results. Gardeners have to cope with ups and downs.

    I finished the book about Austen, last night. Couldn’t put it down :-). I was never a “Anne of Green Gables” fan. More a “Little House on the Prairie,” kind of guy 🙂

    The Lake Woebegotten zombie book is a kick in the pants. Here’s one scenario I had never considered. Suppose you’re a serial killer, with a bunch of bodies buried in your basement … And along comes the zombie apocalypse …

    Another good film similar to “Falling Down” is “Serial Mom.” Also funny, in it’s own twisted way.

    I read last night that there was a big dinosaur find in the back (front?) yard of our mutual friend on the Isle of Wight. A big fellow related to T-Rex. Of course, the article disappeared, before I could link to it.

    Well, as our Institution library (and computer) are still locked up, it’s off to the library to take a look at the “new” list. Then it’s down to the Club. With H in tow. Lew

  48. Hi Lewis,

    The stand mixers are good, but my mates of the big shed fame tested them and eventually went with a commercial machine at normal mains voltage – and yup, with metal gears. They seem happy enough with that choice. Plastic gear sets on the other hand are the kind of like a fail safe way to protect the electric motor from burning out when the machine is over loaded, which you wouldn’t think possible to do. It would take a bit of punishment to strip the teeth off the plastic gear set, but then the pessimist in me might suggest that the gears were plastic for that very reason. The stupid thing is, there is a chunk of my mind which suggests that such things should be fit for purpose, and if the bowl can take the load, so should the motor and gear set do likewise. Maybe I expect too much. And yes, if it is smelling of ozone then the brushes would be suspect items. Bizarrely, they might be a repairable item as brushes are available in all manner of sizes. The commercial mixing machines are expensive though, and there is no getting around that.

    Fingers crossed we get to planting out the greenhouse tomorrow. Maybe. On the other hand the bright yellow trailer is full of compost and has to be emptied. It all depends upon the weather really, and we have a public holiday too for the Queen’s Birthday. I feel well disposed towards our head of state simply for giving us all a public holiday. I must say, those ancient Roman’s were onto something. In my lifetime, the number of public holidays have been reduced due to economists demands for increased labour productivity. Now by comparison, I don’t feel kindly towards either economists or politicians for having acted so, and their constant striving for a republic will not get a look in here, however, they may now know my price! There is a difference in there somewhere between the two groups… 😉

    The Asimina triloba (American paw paw trees) have finally lost their leaves and I’m thinking about moving one or two of them over the winter. Haven’t seen any fruit from them yet, but you never know what the future holds.

    Rain here most days for the next week and maybe for the next month. It is rather wet outside right now, and the sun has been in the wonderful land of elsewhere. Ah solar power, so good in theory. Hope you enjoy a break in the rain and get to enjoy the growing seasons sun, sometime soon. Almost time I wrote about solar energy again as we’re not far from the winter solstice when the sun is at it’s lowest ebb in the sky.

    Apparently in the north of this country, serious people calculated that the dwarf planet Pluto passed in front of a star very recently and could be viewed from one spot up there. And the serious people who attended to the event up there in the north of the country, the eclipse provided information on the planets atmosphere – which is apparently getting thicker as the dwarf planet moves further from the sun. The planet sounds like a nightmare environment to me.

    Anyway, hope that any flooding doesn’t affect your credit union in their new digs. Imagine if their computer was affected and added a few extra zero’s to your account? Many years ago I attended a professional (i.e. serious) talk by a forensic accountant who made the observation that the difference between ten thousand and one thousand was the addition of the extra zero.

    Parking tickets are a hazard in any country. Had a few myself over the years, and just copped them on the chin and paid them out. Mind you, I do not deliberately seek them out either. I’ve had a few where parking restrictions had only a few minutes to go, and that is a matter of weighing the odds and chances of being caught. Haven’t had one for many years, and before everything went crazy I noted that such enforcement folks took photos of the offending vehicles. Best to look like you can’t afford the fine, and from what I see, plenty of people haven’t got that message.

    This is a subject close to my heart, and from my casual observations and experiments during travels to far distant countries, the taste of chocolate differs depending upon the country. I wouldn’t describe Lindt as being sweet, but it is very possible that the chocolates you taste have been specifically altered for your average market tastes. For all we know, we may be enjoying different recipes? Dunno.

    Gardening is an up and down hobby and maybe it will alert people to the difficulties of agriculture and overall food security (whatever that means)? Pretty picnic’s can be planned, the weather may have different ideas. I’ve often wondered if weather conditions are more settled in parts of the northern hemisphere because by comparison, they’re very random here and the seasons are not at all consistent. Dunno.

    I get what you mean about the book comparison, and that book would also appeal to me.

    Mate, Dexter would be in so much trouble during the zombie apocalypse – hope the zombies don’t hold grudges? I’m enjoying the new series too, they have retained their mojo, but I respect your difference of opinion in this matter.

    Oh, Serial mum is bad as. Best not get on her bad side.

    The Spinosaur news from the Isle of Wight were still to be found on the interweb. Not the sort of dinosaur you’d want to encounter. Way back then it must have been warmer in that part of the world.

    Sorry to hear that your place is still locked up and hope that there have not been too many late night visits and swifting away of your fellow inmates. That’s probably a bad thing. Hope H is enjoying the change of pace at your place? How’s she coping?

    Better get writing.



  49. Yo, Chris – Before I forget (as I have the last few days), Prof. Mass had an article on wildfires and grass and foliage load. June 9th.

    Ohhh. Just a quick look down the rabbit hole, and I see there are several articles on repairing Kenmore mixers. And I need to run down that site with repair advice and, maybe, parts. Plastic gears sound like planned obsolescence.

    Well, the weather here has been changeable. It looked threatening here, yesterday, but didn’t rain. Contrary to forecast. So I got that tomato in the ground. Along with a bit of eggshell, composted chicken poop and a pinch of lime and stove ash. We’ll see ….

    Pluto. Planet or not? The conversation is quit lively. Talk about cold!

    Yeah. They might be bending the Lindt, a bit, for “American” tastes. Remember the Worcestershire sauce? Bought by a conglomerate, and the recipe is different, now, for Britain and here. I KNEW it tasted different, from years ago.

    There’s been all kinds of articles, recently, on getting the most out of your buck, grocery shopping. What to do with the stuff once you’ve got it (cooking). Raising your own food. Basic financial advice (Save. Avoid debt). The information is out there. For those who look. The Truth is Out There. 🙂

    I started watching the first season of “La Brea”. That’s the one where a whole bunch of people fall into a sink hole, in the middle of LA. And end up in the L.A. of 10,000 BCE. No dinosaurs, but fighting off saber tooth tigers, dire wolves, etc.. is pretty exciting. It was a good haul, from the library. A new biography on the poet Frank O’Hara. Another book on grains. One on Mexican cooking. Etc.

    There hasn’t been any trips by the EMTs, in a long time. I guess everyone who was going to get sick, got sick. There might be some kind of medical decision on Elinor, tomorrow. We’ll see.

    H is doing well. She gets her bath, this afternoon. Always an adventure. Lew

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