It’s hard to say what’s the most important lesson learned during the past dozen years of living here. There are just so many contenders for that title. And it is not as if we can chuck the lessons into a cage and let them duke it out in a no-rules battle for supremacy. In these uncertain moments, the sensitive person has to fall back onto their intuition / gut feeling in order to come to a decision.

<insert background swelling orchestral music, or maybe some dirty stinking bass!>

The title for the most important lesson learned during the past dozen years (unconfirmed due to lack of cage fight test) is: People are bonkers about trees.

It’s true, they are bonkers about trees. The house frame was constructed using a combination of softwood and hardwood. The floor is a beautiful red colour from the Sydney blue gum (feature grade – i.e. the cheaper stuff) hardwood. And just to share a dirty little secret, the only heat source for the house is firewood sourced from, oh no, saplings and fallen timber from here. It’s outrageous.

People who think nothing of the environmental and social impacts of flying half way around the world, have upbraided me for daring to use a local resource to keep warm. Of course, they’re the good people, because after all, they heat their poorly insulated homes with electricity and/or gas.

It’s hard to know whether electricity or gas are a better option than firewood.

Electricity is produced in this state largely from abundant brown coal. That stuff has a high moisture content. It’s not all that efficient because it takes energy to dry the brown coal out so that it can burn hot enough. Not good.

The weird thing about electricity though, is given that the bulk of it is sourced from coal, politicians and other good people seem super excited whenever a coal fired generation plant gets retired, and isn’t replaced. They’re the crazy ones. The beliefs that lot heap upon renewable energy technology defies my lived experience. The technology is good, but it’s not good enough to replace coal, like for like. The sun doesn’t shine at night, the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and sometimes you’re in a drought or fog. A dozen years experience living with renewable energy technologies, has convinced me that the good people don’t have the balls to disconnect from the mains electricity grid.

And gas, well even Blind Freddy knows that there are threats of looming supply shortages in this state. Makes for exciting times.

Older readers may recall the very charming English television series: The Good Life. As a kid, the idea of producing cooking gas from a methane digester in the backyard fuelled by manure from the pigs, sounded like a pretty cool technology. However, the vast majority of people don’t get their gas that way. It’s a pretty industrial process extracting that stuff.

Coal and gas began forming about 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous period. Humans are burning through this stuff at a bonkers rate, and once it’s gone, sorry to say, but it’s gone. And our species will be a forgotten part of the fossil record before any of it ever gets replaced, if it ever does.

People sure are bonkers about trees though, the cheeky scamps. Compared to waiting 300 million years, the trees here grow super-fast at about a metre (3.3ft) per year. And there must be many thousands of trees on the property. Proving how bonkers people are about this subject, someone once suggested that it would be preferable to obtain firewood from the river red-gum forests 300km (minimum) to the north of here. It sounds like a good idea, until you discover how slow growing those trees are, and how much diesel fuel is required to truck the heavy loads that far. Yeah, nah, may have been the reply to that thoughtful suggestion.

Speaking of bonkers, it’s hard to not wonder at the unfolding energy drama in Europe. It’s nice to take a high hand when the summer sun gently warms your skin. Right now down here it is winter, and next week, two nights are forecast to be freezing. The holidaying good people tell me that Europe gets pretty cold during winter, apparently heaps colder than here. I wouldn’t know about that. But at a guess, I reckon it might take some heating, and heating requires energy. Yeah.

Regular readers will recall that a month or so ago, we reconditioned the wood heater. The device has been working really well, and it just need a little bit of care and attention – which it got. When we first installed the heater many years ago now, an order was made for spare parts for the components which get used up (nothing lasts for ever).

Those spare parts which we had stored were used in the reconditioning. We knew the job had to be done, and had a back order for more spare parts. That’s been with the manufacturer for eight months now. One part was recently delivered by post, the other (a baffle), might not be available until Christmas. Apparently, the manufacturers supply of steel has been halved. They have the customers ready to purchase, the workers and facilities to produce the devices, they just don’t have the regular supply of steel. Bonkers. And baffling!

Another wet week here

It’s been another wet and cold week. That’s winter for you. Late one evening a thunderstorm lit up the sky, and hail pelted the roof (and solar panels). The hail was a bit bigger than usual, and made a heck of a noise on the steel roof.

The hail was about 8mm / third of an inch

The air is very humid, but that’s usual for this time of year. It looks like a rainforest out there…

That’s what I call 99% humidity and 0% solar!

It’s so wet outside that very little work around the property got done.

Drips of water hang from this Japanese Maple

There’s still plenty of work which needs doing, just inside the house.

At the beginning of the health subject which dares not be named, we purchased a custom made bathroom cabinet. It was on the market because a builder had gone under, and the cabinet maker was just happy to offload it. It’s a beautiful looking thing made of Australian Karri timber oiled in Japan Black stain. Light falls into it!

It was one of those things which seemed like a good idea at the time. Two and a half years later, it still hadn’t been installed. Being stuck inside the house this week was the perfect time to get the job done.

Before installation

Honestly, it was a painful job. Ordinarily we’d install tiles on the wall behind the cabinet. Seems like a good idea until you realise that if anything goes wrong, the whole wall has to be pulled apart. We decided to make the arrangements easy to dismantle, and so opted for an acrylic splash-back sheet. Took four months to supply that sheet, but that’s another story.

Bathroom cabinet in place

The acrylic sheet is meant to glitter and sparkle, but no, it just looks like a sheet of white plastic unless you hold a torch to it. We sometimes have little bits of unexpected bling here and there.

The wood heater is on the other side of that wall, and the sheer amount of plumbing in the wall is bonkers.

The wood heater is mostly a boiler and it has some complicated plumbing

Just in case any of the plumbing ever requires repair, we created a removable panel which covers the hole in the wall. Incidentally, that hole in the wall had been there for well over five years.

Pretty neat! Almost respectable

Last September we experienced a 5.9 magnitude earthquake while the washing machine was on spin cycle. That was a new experience for me, and at first I thought that the washing machine was about to explode. We rushed outside to safety once we realised what was going on. The timber house frame is very strong and also flexible. Most of the damage was pretty minor being hairline cracks in the plaster joins in the corners of rooms. The hinges to the laundry door however, were damaged beyond repair and the washing machine had to be factory reset.

The door used to only open at 90 degrees to the wall and annoyingly it used to block the path between the laundry and kitchen. I replaced all four hinges with 165 degree opening hinges. Easy, except that the door frame had to be blocked out with sheets of plywood cut to size. All looks pretty neat, and now at least works.

Laundry door. Fixed!

By Sunday afternoon the outside had dried a little bit. We were all anxious to get outside. Dame Plum assisted Sandra and I in cleaning up the garden terraces. We’re getting them ready for the next growing season.

Dame Plum assists with cleaning up the garden terraces

Over the past few months, a lot of weeds had grown in the very rich soil on the terraces. The pile of organic matter will be left for a few weeks, then we’ll mow it up and the worms and other soil critters will feast!

Piles of organic matter removed from the garden terraces

Signs of the impending spring are everywhere.

Figs hang off the winter bare tree
Almonds are beginning to break their dormancy
Some of the recently moved citrus trees are enjoying their sunnier location
Mosses are enjoying the wet conditions
Bright red Leucodendrons provide visual relief from the murk

Onto the flowers:

Rosemary produces a number of different shades of flowers
The appropriately named Bushy Needlewood Hakea decurrens
Tree lucerne Tagasaste
The ever cheery Canary Island Foxgloves

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 2’C (36’F). So far this year there has been 612.8mm (24.1 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 579.0mm (22.8 inches)

42 thoughts on “Baffled”

  1. Yo, Chris – As far as everyone giving you unwanted advise about trees, The Bible has something to say about that. (I knew all those Sunday School classes would come in handy.) Something about people pointing out the mote in your eye, while they’ve got a 2×4 sticking out of theirs. I think that’s the way it went. Just to save you time, a mote is any small particle, about the size of a dust mite. The stuff you see floating around in sunbeams.

    I didn’t see too many episodes of “The Good Life,” but quit enjoyed the one’s I did. I loved the ever outraged neighbors. Speaking of nosey neighbors, I saw an article about outrageous actions by HOAs (Home Owner’s Associations). I think my favorite was the HOA that uses drones, to make sure you’re not growing vegetables in your backyard. Even better were the stories where the home owner struck back, and got the better of an HOA.

    The three photos, “Another wet week,” “99% Humidity,” and “Japanese Maple” are all just stunning. Calendar worthy.

    Foregoing tiles. That’s thinking ahead. Who wants to have to open up a wall, just for a minor plumbing repair? Good to know if the Respectability Police show up, you’re all respectable. You can sleep sound at night.

    Sounds, and looks like it’s been a week of fine tuning, this and that, at Fern Glade Farm. The laundry area doors look super.

    Is that a Dalek sneaking up behind Plume? The Daleks don’t know who they’re messing with. When I was out watering, this evening, I noticed two ravens sitting on a guardrail. Chowing down on something small and furry. I didn’t want to know.

    Your plants are beginning to wake up. Spring can’t be far behind. I had to tactfully tell one of the other gardeners, not to water our Venerable Old Rosemary, so much. “The Master Gardeners told me, that Rosemary doesn’t need much water. It’s a Mediterranean plant.”

    Speaking of that part of the world, the Italian olive oil crop is in trouble. Because, a.) drought and b.) a fungus. Watch the price soar.

    It was 91F, here, today. And is supposed to be a couple of degrees warmer, tomorrow. Then, declining temperatures and “Slight Chance of Showers” is still in the forecast. Lew

  2. Humans are a species of tropical origin, if the archeological record and our lack of a shaggy coat of fur are any indication.

    Prometheus’ gift led to a quick expansion to colder climes, and our fate has been tied to that of trees ever since. The carrying capacity ( for us humans, if we only take our fair share) of terrain is not just how much food we can grow/gather, but also how much tree material we can harvest for shelter and warmth.

    That’s the end point for what our future will look like when the oil wells dry up, but pretty much everybody does not understand that, or does not want to face that fact. Signs abound that this is coming, but I don’t need to belabor that fact.

    Yourself and others who are steadily working toward a life based on the annual solar budget are the misunderstood anomalies right now, but that’s ok, as long as they leave you alone.

    Tomato harvest begins this week, looking to be a good crop. Potatoes are just starting to turn, and other crops are close behind.

    Patsy has been making kraut and kim chee and preserving other veg for a while now. All part of living in a cold climate, and putting up stores to get through the winter. I’ll be grinding/pressing the earliest apple varieties later this week.

    An idle question for you- are your garden paths laid out with the aid of a surveyor’s level and snap strings? One marvels at the geometric precision.

  3. Hi Lewis,

    Hey, people give me unwanted advice on how to make money off the land here too – probably because we do the physical work here. It’s astoundingly common, and kind of falls into the same category of unwanted advice. The inference might be that we’re poor, but other than that, not really sure why that happens, but it does often enough. There’s a weird undercurrent where people who earn their living by using their brains alone consider themselves to be somehow superior to others. That’s not how I see the world, it seems a mite bit unbalanced, but you know the viewpoint is out there. Perhaps it is in the same category as ‘mysteries a person has to carry with them’? Dunno, but I don’t like it one bit at all.

    Good to see the Sunday school lessons came in handy. 🙂 Thanks, you don’t hear that word being used these days. Mite and Mote are possibly related words? It isn’t just sun beams either, at night if I take a powerful torch and direct it upwards, the air is full of stuff and you can see it passing through the beam of light. There’s a lot of moisture in the air too, and it looks really cool in a fog.

    Hehe! Yes, the upper middle class neighbours were outraged at the antics going on next door. Their lives and concerns didn’t look all that good by way of comparison. It is of interest that not a day goes by when there are not articles in the news media about how to save money. The funny thing is saving money is the easy bit, not spending the stuff is where people come unstuck.

    Dude, one of those home owner assoc. would be like my nightmare. It wouldn’t end well. Are you kidding me? Do they really check for vegetables in the backyards by drone. It seems rather invasive. Have to check this out… … Holy carp, things could be worse. Yikes! My personal favourite was this sad explanation: “I got a $375 fine for a flowerpot” Mind you, when we rented in a nearby town whilst building this place I repaired the damaged sections of lawn (the previous owners had turned it into a toxic dump where nothing grew) and scored a threatening letter because the grass was too long (about an inch from memory). Hmm. People can be weird with a little bit of power.

    Thanks. My favourite was the drips of water hanging from the Japanese Maple branches. It really is wet out there. Looks like the forecast rain over the next week has been downgraded.

    Yeah, we were talking about tiles recently, and they’re handy, but generally have to be glued to the wall. It’s a lot of work to remove them, and makes a bit of a mess. Much simpler to have everything easy to dismantle and inspect. Makes you wonder about how long a lot of this stuff will last, and down under they tend to set a lot of plumbing into concrete slabs which the house sits upon. I dunno about that, and you can only but hope that nothing was stuffed up or broken during construction? I tend to exist in the real world where things fail and/or need repair. Dunno, but I tend to believe that people like newer homes because they have an odd notion that they won’t require repairs, but alas, they do.

    The laundry is pretty cool and is as big as it needs to be – note no dryer machine. We made the area so that the doors would fit the space rather than the other way around. The doors were a standard tall and wide kitchen cupboard door, and to make the opening wider, we used two of them in a French door style arrangement. It worked well, except for that pesky earthquake.

    Dame Plum as you suggest, is more than equal to the task of taking on a Dalek and their plunger guns. She’d bite their wheels off! 🙂 Hope H steers clear of the ravens, they may have a taste for fur. Birds waste nothing.

    That was tactful. I might have blurted out: Why are you watering the rosemary? What’s wrong with you? And then people would start getting upset. A lot of hassle. Hope the watering has stopped? Can’t say I’ve ever watered that plant. Super tough. Mate, I’m taking notes on your deft word-work, could come in handy.

    Hmm. Have you heard anything about how those trees are going in that big state to the south of you? Hadn’t heard about any fungus, but have seen some olive trees stricken by sooty mould – the stuff has to be cleaned off with soap and water. Once had it on a citrus tree and had to wash all of the leaves by hand. That was fun, but I did a little bit of washing of the tree everyday until the job was done. Ah the news from south of you is not so good this year on that front. Oh my, the fungus is not good, but it appears that grafting on resistant varieties can work wonders – although not reproduce the same type of olives. Backed into a corner, a person must do what they will, even when plenty of others sit on their hands and whinge.

    How are you coping with the warm weather? And are you watering twice per day?

    It does sound a bit pervy, yes it does. 🙂 H is a lady and would not dare think such thoughts.

    Yes, I was aware of those small nuclear reactors and the first I heard of them was with the Voyager spacecraft. Ingenious, but yeah, you do kind of hope they don’t fall into your backyard. There’s some weird thermoelectric devices out there – just went on a deep dive.

    Streaming services charge down here too, but my memory of television was that it was free to air. I can’t imagine that the tax would be easy or cheap to collect. Pah! I recall students protesting in the streets about the reintroduction of course fees at Uni, and it didn’t matter in the least, the fees were reintroduced.

    Ah, the tire jokes are too much pressure for my brain! 🙂 Very amusing.

    Nasturtiums will bounce back, and they drop an inordinate quantity of seeds. I have a vague memory that the seeds are edible, but could be wrong. Peppers, well two years in a row there have been none so I’m in no position to proffer any advice. My friends in the big smoke seem to be doing better on that score and even got plenty of chilli’s. It’s warmer there.

    🙂 Thus proving a flexible mindset is perhaps required for the toffs? Those manors would be a responsibility. It’s a bit eerie though the caretaker bit. Almost as if the building itself was imbued with character?

    That would be a funny greeting down here too, perhaps suggesting that the person making the initial inquiry would be concerned for the other persons mental health. True, I wouldn’t go around saying such a thing, people would get their noses out of joint. Far out, imagine the reaction.



  4. Hi Steve,

    The bootleggers book turned up in the mail. It’s very good and thanks for recommending it. What I like about the book is that the bloke doesn’t say ‘don’t do this’, because he then goes on to explain in simple English why it is a bad idea. Just the sort of thing to keep a person out of trouble.

    Exactly, our existence is inseparable from the trees. And down here the trees have evolved in their present form to rely upon us humans. It would be a long and cold winter here without firewood for most of the residents in the area. Never seen a homeless person around these parts – doesn’t mean they might not be in an out of the way spot, but the cold weather here has a poor reputation. Not that it is that cold, comparatively speaking. It’s 2’C outside right now, a little bit chilly.

    The fun thing about peak oil is that supplies will run short, long before they run out. And learning how to live with less beforehand is a worthwhile challenge. The steel supply issue was concerning, and that is sort of what the future is shaping up to look like. You know, I still hear people talking about a return to the ‘normal’ of a few years ago, but as you say, it hasn’t sunk in yet, and people might not want to face up to that story. Dunno why, it’s not as if we’re not having a good time here – despite the hard work.

    That’s my hope too, but we’ll see, such situations can be fluid and subject to change.

    Top work with the tomatoes. Hey, out of curiosity, do you train your tomatoes upwards, or do you let them sprawl? Your winter food stores are filling up, and you’ll be enjoying the benefits of that work in the months to come.

    Most of the paths are constructed with string lines, levels and set widths. And incidentally, the excavation levels are done by a combination of eye and the use of strings and levels. I’ve worked on enough houses over the years that I can sort of feel when level is reached. And conversely, walking around other houses I can feel when the floor dips and bows, even when it is quite a minute difference. Believe me, I keep my opinions to myself as to that matter.

    When I was on the back of the loader / digger machine, the whole job was done by eye and feel, although we’d set the outer edges in such a way that they were easy for me to see from the back of the machine.



  5. Yo, Chris – LOL. I often suggest crazy ideas for making money at your farm. I don’t think you’re poor. I just want a cut! 🙂 .

    I’ll leave the mite looking, up to you. But, falling back on my Sunday school days, again, there is the tale of the widow’s mite. In that story, a mite is a very small denomination coin.

    But, you have to “spend money to make money.” Often attributed to Aristotle, but more likely Titus Maccius Plautus (254-184 BCE). A Roman playwright. Plautus, by the way, is a nickname meaning “flatfoot.” Hmm. I wonder if he really had fallen arches, or if he was caught “flat-footed” in some escapade or another?

    It’s supposed to be another 91+ degree day, here. But, the temperature starts going down, tomorrow. And there’s still a lot of lose talk about possible rain.

    Plumbing in concrete (as with underfloor heating) just doesn’t seem like a good idea … in the long run. To quote some Great Australian Philosopher, or another, “Yeah, nah.” 🙂

    The enforcement of the British TV license was left to the post office. They had enforcers driving around, with detectors, that would determine if an unlicensed home was receiving a signal. At least in the movie, they were pretty heavy handed.

    I didn’t realize that California olive oil was also having a problem. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any around in awhile. A shame, as their controls are about a stringent as Australia.

    Yup. I’m watering twice a day. My corn is up almost a foot. It will be a race with the frost. Looks like I’m going to get some more yellow zucchini.

    Hopwood Hall has a proper ghost. Even got a photo of her. Lady Susan, from the 1880s. She was quit the character. She was an early environmentalist. Used to travel around, taking pictures of spewing factory chimneys. Interesting. She always wore a white cloth mask, just to get conversations started.

    Elinor has her yearly apartment check, on Wednesday. Never mind that she isn’t here. The machine must grind on! There’s a check list. I went over last night, and did a few things. Changed lightbulbs, etc.. Her daughter came this morning, and we fine tuned a few things. We’re not going to mention it, to Elinor. She’s just fret. Of course, there will always be dings. H and I are going over to the rehab center, on Thursday morning. For a visit. That’s also the neighborhood where I’ll pick up a couple of flats of blueberries. Lew

  6. Hi Chris,

    I noticed the leaf design on the upper right corner of the mirror above the cabinet – very nice! Also the clear glass shower stall that is reflected in the mirror, and the overall pleasing nature of the bathroom decor. You do neat (and beautiful) in your house as well as your gardens!

    We may get yet another heavy rainstorm overnight to water the garden plants. After that the weather shifts to a cooler and more pleasant pattern with highs below 86F / 30C for several days. I’ll start digging potatoes when the cooler weather arrives. After I dig them out, the seeds for autumn crops will be sown in that bed.


  7. Hello Chris
    Hot and dry here still but the tomatoes are loving it, have been eating them for some days now.
    Nasturtium flowers, leaves and seeds are all edible. One pickles the seeds which then resemble capers.


  8. Hi Inge,

    Your summer weather sounds delightful, and hot and dry years produce the nicest tomatoes (a silver lining perhaps). At this stage of the winter, a person starts to long for some summer weather.

    It was actually sunny and cool here today. The greenhouse has been very interesting to observe, and it now sports a thermometer and a soil thermometer. Mind you, it’s near freezing outside right now.

    Yes, I’ve consumed nasturtium leaves and the seeds – which really do taste similar to capers. I haven’t consumed many capers over the years, so I’d have a hard time distinguishing between the two.

    The rain looks set to return everyday from Thursday. Yay!



  9. Hi Claire,

    🙂 Lovely words, and you’d make for a delightful guest saying such nice things. We’ve worked at ensuring the house is a pleasing aesthetic. The bathroom has a huge window which looks into the forest and off and away to the horizon (mostly trees and paddocks). Sometimes I sit in the hot bath and meditate upon the world, or try not to drop my book into the water (they don’t survive the experience).

    Oh, I’ve chucked a thermometer into the greenhouse and the other sunny day recorded a soil temperature of 15’C, but it dropped to just under 10’C over night (to be expected, I guess). The green and red mustard plants are growing very well in there, and I’ll plant more in there next winter. And the strawberries in there have begun producing new leaves.

    Oh my, it doesn’t rain, it floods in your part of the world. Hope the garden enjoys the regular deep watering. Your fall crops should grow pretty quickly given the soil is already warm (at a guess). Happy days, and I look forward to reading about your harvest this year.



  10. Hi Lewis,

    Nah man, I wasn’t thinking about your suggestions. I hear about them from a whole bunch of other sources that don’t know me nearly as well as you would. 🙂 And hey, they do think I’m poor, but it really doesn’t worry me, and in some ways I cultivate that perception. I’d rather know what they’re thinking, than be surprised by what they’re thinking if you get my meaning.

    One of the things which stuck in my head from reading about Roman Britain was the foolish folks who retreated to their villas and buried coins. Some of them might have done OK for a while, but plenty of them would have become history road-kill.

    The Big J was correct there for sure with the widow’s mite. It was funny when we were talking recently about soil and the impact of all the practices which reduce the nutrient density of food stuffs grown. But yeah, I kind of had at the back of my mind that a lot of that stuff going on is because people want all of the harvest, and that’s a problem which that parable sort of touches upon.

    Famous Roman playwright, I’m leaning towards the caught flat-footed explanation. Those guys sure knew how to party. 🙂 Making money isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, but that’s probably easy for me to say. Because of the work I do, I see numbers now rather than money, although it’s hard to put the feeling into words. Dunno.

    Your run of hot weather sounds perfect for the garden. Hope the tomatoes got the memo to grow and ripen, or risk being pulled out? It was quite pleasantly sunny here today, and a little on the cool side with a frost this morning, and another one tomorrow. From Thursday onwards rain is forecast every day. There’s a couple of trees I may move.

    Hehe! Virtually every Grand Designs show has heated floors. I’m gobsmacked by that and it sure must take a lot of energy because the heat would enter the room, but I can’t quite understand how the heat wouldn’t be lost to the concrete slab. Don’t get that at all. I’ve never constructed a house with a concrete slab. They do sit lower than stumps, but the winter cold radiates and makes your legs cold. When I was young people used to threateningly say: You’ll get chill-blains whatever they are, but then they used to also say don’t sit on the cold ground or you’ll get piles. Honestly, so many instructions. What was it again, sit on the cold ground, but don’t pick your nose in public? Too many instructions at once and that’s it for me I get confused. 🙂

    There used to be a story going around down here that enforcers used to drive around checking to see whether people were appropriately licensed for Citizen Band two way radios. Honestly, a lot of talk, very little action. I’ll bet some clever folks built their own devices so as to avoid the fees.

    Yes, it is a shame about oil from that part of the world, as we hear good things about it too. I’ve heard some rumours about mislabelling olive from the other place which is having the troubles. Hmm.

    Cool. Every proper mansion needs a proper ghost. And what a good candidate, and the mask is super creepy – but I do get the point about what the Lady may have been trying to convey. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying the book. There’s a DVD too I believe.

    Yes. I would not tell Elinor either. What a drama! Mate, you have to give them an easy ding, something can be easily rectified. If you set the bar too high, they’ll simply escalate their expectations. Who wants that? I’ve made that mistake in a job many, many years ago. It never ends well, and they hate you when you inevitably leave. Oh well…

    Blueberry flats. I assume for the chest freezer?

    Oh my, Elinor is going to love the visit.



  11. Yo, Chris – “People want all the harvest.” I feel a bit for the Bigger-Ag farmers. Not the corporations, but the “smaller” couple of thousand acres spreads. They’re really on a treadmill. The expensive farm machinery (that they can’t repair themselves, anymore), the GMO crops they can only buy from one source … the same source that sells them the “correct” fertilizers and herbicides. But some are getting off the treadmill. First their neighbors tell them they’re crazy, but then they notice that the crops, while maybe not bumper, are fine and the bottom line is healthy. And the land is better for it. It’s slow going.

    Money is all just ones and zeros, these days. A nice plump turnip, in hand. Now that has real value. Yes. Non-producers will be pulled up, chopped up and turned under. Food for the worms. 🙂

    It’s overcast, cool, and quit pleasant. I even felt a few drops of rain. Didn’t have to water this morning. We’ll see how it looks, this evening.

    So many rules. I started watching “The Gilded Age,” last night. Brought to us by the fine folks that created “Downton Abbey.” Talk about rules! It’s the New York elite, circa 1880. The struggle between old money and new, for social supremacy. I’ve only watched a couple of episodes, but my feeling is, it’s not quite as good as “Downton Abbey.” Can’t quit put my finger on why. The plots and subplots are engrossing. I really think it might be some of the acting. I can’t think of a single actor, in “Downton Abbey” that hit a false note through the entire series. Some of the actors in “Gilded Age,” aren’t quit as good.

    But back to Hopwood Hall. 🙂 I had forgotten a detail I meant to mention. The older fellow who mentors Hopwood? I think you wondered where he made his money. The Tandy Corporation. A Dr. Rolph. LOL. So while you were slaving away for minimum wage (probably), you’re bosses, bosses, bosses boss, was out buying and renovating a castle in England.

    Yes. Blueberry flats for the freezer. I don’t quit fill the gallon bags, and then mix in blueberries from here at the Institution. I wonder how much the flats will cost, this year. I’m preparing myself for sticker shock. I stopped by the veg store, this morning. They’re flats were $50 per! Which is about ten pounds. Luckily, I’ve got $80 in coupons, that I can use.

    Horror show in the frying pan! Last night, I was frying up three eggs. The first two were fine, but the third … Well, something was developing in there. No feathers or beak, but well along the way. Well, I’m not going to waste two eggs. So, I waited until it stiffened up a bit, and scrapped that one, into the bin. I’ve got to remember to crack them into a saucer, first.

    Yes, I think the visit with Elinor will do them both good. I’m also going to take over a small handful of my cherry tomatoes. I gave H a bath, yesterday, and now the trick is to keep her clean until Thursday morning.

    I also notice that when I was in the veg store, they have bins of peppers from the dry side of the mountains. Then we stopped by the Club for biscuits and gravy. H deigned to greet her Public. Lew

  12. Yo, Chris – An interesting article on the end of the automatic transmission.

    It’s odd, but until I got my 2004 Ford Ranger, I named all my vehicles. My 1967 GMC pickup, was Emma. But starting with the 2004, well, it just never suggested a name for itself. Although it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, it is computerized. It just seems … soulless. Lew

  13. Dear Chris,

    I love trees. I am crazy about trees. I spend a good chunk of my waking time working with trees. And I too meet lots of people with clear-cut abstract ideas about ideal Trees, and what other people should do with their trees. Sometimes I even get the vibe of a religious belief in the Tree-as-Savior, who will allow industrial civilization to continue in full steam, as long as some CO2-sequestration-trees are planted somewhere else. As you say, a lot of people are completely bonkers when it comes to trees and wood heating. John Perlins has written beautifully about the dance between forests and civilizations.

    I suspect that ideas about trees/wood touch a deeper problem that you posit regarding the “thinking classes”. The higher educated people have been conditioned to believe that they/we are superior to manual workers in every way possible. The myth of Meritocracy tells us that it is ok to earn many times more than the workers and have better working conditions, since we are that much smarter. The salary slip is seen as a proof of superiority. Maybe that is why this kind of people are keen to offer advice?

    I think that the worship of abstractions is part of what you mentioned earlier, when political leaders confuse strategy with reality. Abstractions are simplifications, and if we only use abstractions our thinking becomes too simple. I fear that we too become too simple. I prefer being close to where the rubber hits the road.

    Thanks for the advice regarding the consumables for the wood heater. The heater is 20 years old but quite well-maintained. It was built by a company with head quarters 70 km from here, but they have unfortunately discontinued this line, so I need to stock up with several sets of spare parts. (there are still a few dealers who have components on stock) The design lifetime of the consumables is 6 years of heavy use. A few spare parts were left behind by the previous owner (the widow of the previous firewood enthusiast…) but not enough for me to be comfortable.

    “The fun thing about peak oil is that supplies will run short, long before they run out.” Very well put! Indeed, the out-of-stock is even more visible in our corner of the world. I am not sure if I mentioned that there were no bike tires at all in a major outlet last week. Supplies are unreliable and the suppliers/owners have a strong hand. Unless they are bombed into splinters like Libya was in 2011.
    I think that the “First European Gas War” will end badly for everyone involved. (I suspect that the WWI and WWII will go to the annals as CoalWar I and CoalWar II.)

    Here on the farmlet, I experience the first summer in a decade without a veggie garden. It is a strange situation, to purchase all the greens. I do have some sprouts going, but we left lots of plants, and a small greenhouse full of tomato plants to the buyers of our house back in the Netherlands. We had one ripe tomato each before we left… Transition is about switching one set of advantages and disadvantages for another set. Only time will tell if the move was the right one, but now it feels great and it is still a bit overwhelming.
    I met one of our neighbors today, a dairy farmer. I got a very good positive impression, since he wore a t-shirt with the print “1984 was not an instruction manual”, and in addition a friendly welcome.

    Learning to live with a lower energy- and material footprint is indeed an amazing challenge, both physical, emotional and intellectual. As Jacob Lund Fisker writes, what he calls “the Renaissance Man” is a person who has skills instead of expenses. We don’t solve every problem with a purchase, but we learn to fix things and adapt and produce more than we consume.


  14. Chris,

    Yes, I’m keeping up with the exercises and stretches the physical therapist has suggested. Very important stuff. I’m also going to get fitted for custom orthotics. That should help a lot also.

    The smoke is pretty much gone for now. The weather is still hot and dry, but the local fires are nearly contained. Weather has been keeping smoke from other fires away for several days. This can change, of course.

    Well, sister decided to go, period. No discussion. Cultural things demanded that we not fight about it. She also stayed on the Rez and is moving back to the Rez.

    There were two Anglo-Saxon kings named Aelle. The Sussex guy might have been a contemporary of Arthur and Cerdic.

    I really like this week’s photo of the leucodendron showing up against the metal roof and mist. Nice contrast and an interesting study.

    The local paper had an article Sunday about new “green” programs that have both Federal and State backing. Qualifying people can get up to $8,000 to install a heat pump. I’ve got one. Works great for central air conditioning, is about 97% efficient for both heating and cooling. The *desire* is to get everybody away from natural gas onto electricity. The article talked about one local who is happy with his recently installed heat pump during this hot stretch. He has yet to see how it works in the winter.

    Here’s how they work here in the winter…They do okay until the outside temps drop below about +38F. Even at 45F, mine blows perhaps 65F air through the furnace ducts. It has a setting for “emergency heat”, which is when the heat pump can’t heat and the natural gas furnace kicks on. Heat pumps are being advertised as being very good to about +5F. Nope, not even close. And the gent in the article is under the impression that if the electricity goes out, then his gas furnace will work as an “emergency heat” source. Ummmm, no. It needs electricity to run; if it CAN fire the natural gas, the fan won’t work to distribute the hot air anyhow, as it is driven by electricity. The author of the article was also under this faulty impression.

    Meanwhile, the regional utility, which provides both electricity and natural gas, is warning that there is not enough existing power generation infrastructure to replace heating and cooking with natural gas UNLESS coal and natural gas are used for electricity generation. And natural gas used to cook and heat is more efficient use of it htna is electric generation and transmission. In fact, they say, there isn’t enough “green” energy to provide current electricity needs. Add the fact that when this change is desired to take effect, the change to only electric vehicles will take effect, and the demand for electricity will outpace supply even for existing electricity sources.

    I remember when we were shut down for that which shall not be named. There was a lot less automobile traffic, and very little airplane traffic. More people were staying home and using natural gas for heating and cooking than usual. After a month or so of this worldwide, satellite photos showed that urban air pollution was nearly nonexistent. Natural gas isn’t the problem compared with automobiles and airplanes.

    I remember about 20 years ago, I was walking on my lunch break, heading to the big Riverfront Park downtown. A family had just exited the “Flour Mill”, which had been an ancient flour mill but had reopened with a lot of shops and restaurants in the 1970s. The children had snow cones. Being late summer, there was barely a trickle of water in the Spokane River going over the waterfalls. What flow there was had been diverted into the southern branch of the river that ran an electricity generator nearby.

    The kids asked their parents why the river was dry. “Electricity” was the snarled reply from both parents. The kids responded, “Boo electricity!” So I asked if they had just had lunch in the Flour Mill. The kids excitedly said that they had. I asked if it was cool in there, even though it was hot out. Again, they said that was so. I asked if they were enjoying their snow cones. Again, they excitedly agreed. I then explained that the air conditioning to keep the Flour Mill cool ran on electricity, as did the machine that made their snow cones. The children looked confusedly at their parents, who were giving me the evil eye. I enjoyed my walk. I don’t know what that family did after I continued on.

    At the grocery store this week, a customer in front of me complained about the harsh noise the credit card machine makes when it is done with a credit card. She and the customer immediately behind her thought that the machines should have pleasant voices and say “‘Please remove your card now”. I asked if they wanted that for all machines like automatic doors. They liked that idea. I said, “So, you want all technology driven machines to have Genuine People Personalities?” They agreed to that. So I said that every automatic door would say (in my overly polite voice) “I would be very pleased to open for you”. I suggested that an elevator would say, “It would make my day complete if I could serve you by taking you to the floor that you desire.” I continued that maybe they’d run into a maniacally depressed elevator door that complained about “a terrible pain in all the diodes down its left side.” The cashier and the first person got my point and decided that wasn’t a good idea. The person who was 2nd in line? Well, she glared at me. Oh well.


  15. Chris,

    Just found this. At least someone in law enforcement has a sense of humor and good writing skills. True event.

    Deputies Catch Burglary Suspect Exiting Church
    Skunk Intervenes during Arrest before Fleeing the Area
    Spokane County Deputies responded to a reported burglary in progress at a church in Deer Park. As Deputies took the suspect into custody, a skunk appeared and let itself be known before running past the suspect. The suspect was arrested for Burglary 2nd Degree. The whereabouts of the skunk are unknown.
    On August 4, 2022, at approximately 3:10 am, Spokane County Deputies Knutson, Ballou, and Leighton responded to a reported burglary in progress at the Church of the Nazarene, 305 N. Margaret, in Deer Park.
    The caller advised they could see a male walking around inside the church on the surveillance live feed. The suspect, wearing a mask over his face, had a flashlight and was seen walking throughout the church and looking at the audio equipment.
    While waiting for a K9 Unit to arrive, Deputy Knutson observed a person inside the building, later identified as 28-year-old Grant M. Simonson, walk past an open window and then begin to climb out.
    Deputies commanded Simonson to show his hands and get on the ground. He began to follow the commands when suddenly a skunk came running around the corner, approached Simonson, and released its well-known and malodorous spray before fleeing the area.
    Simonson was taken into custody without further incident. After being advised of his rights, Simonson explained he was “wide awake and bored”. He went for a ride on his bicycle and noticed an open window at the church. He rode back home, returned to the church on foot, took the screen off the window, and went inside because he was “curious”.
    He was transported and booked into the Spokane County Jail for Burglary 2nd Degree. He was released later that day on his own recognizance after appearing before Superior Court Commissioner J. Stine
    The skunk is a wild animal and not affiliated with law enforcement or the church.
    Corporal Mark Gregory
    Spokane County Sheriff’s Office
    Spokane Valley Police Department
    Public Information Officer

    Thought you might enjoy that.


  16. Hi DJ,

    Mate, soon the skunks will be packing weapons and fighting the good fight against crime. The skunk probably thought to itself, ‘these perpetrators have it coming’. Hope there wasn’t much in the way of transfer, think of the poor CSI folks having to deal with skunk stink at other crime scenes the critter has attended. 🙂

    Before complaint about sore this and that, stretch. After complaint about sore this and that, stretch. Basically, stretch, and when you think you’ve done enough, know you might not have done so. I’ve got a routine I do everyday, and possibly over time the routine is going to get added to as needs be. Already it involves 50 push ups among other things. Get thee to Stretching!

    Good to hear the smoke has gone. As you suggest, probably not a good idea to put the air purifier away just yet. Maybe at the end of the month?

    Fair enough, I wouldn’t argue with such imperatives either. Sister has to follow her own path, and for all you know, she’ll be back. It’s hard to know where a person belongs and many paths can guide them to or away from that place.

    Ollie is sprawled out on Ruby’s bedding working his jaws and teeth with a rawhide chew. He looks pretty happy, and it’s good for his teeth.

    As usual, you sent me on a deep dive into the murky historical figures dominating the Dark Ages. Ælle was pretty handy with a sword, but then so was the Arthur bloke. And lurking in the background was famine driving all along with the crack of its uncaring whip. Having had little to no summer for the past two years due to I’m guessing the epic Black Summer bushfires, followed up by a certain Tongan volcano, you don’t need to convince me that swords may be required. The weather forecast has rain in it for the next seven days.

    Ollie has completed his chew – strong jaws that dog.

    Thanks, and I enjoyed the red against the background grey mist.

    Don’t heat pumps work on temperature differentials? Anyway, yes, a friend of mine lives in a very err, ‘green daubed’, inner city suburb and they’re pushing people off gas and onto the electricity grid. Yet the same folks are cheer leading the closure of coal fired electrical generation plants and not investing in replacements. The entire story is beyond my understanding, but my gut feeling suggests that things will not end well.

    I’d heard about the air pollution outcomes. All very nice and stuff, unless you want or need manufactured goods. And that is where the story comes unstuck. We were clever exporting pollution, but that doesn’t mean that it went away.

    DJ, man, I dunno know what to say. I get into those sorts of conversations too, and I feel your pain there. It’s not even trying to get one up on people, it’s more the disbelief at: You believe what? That makes no sense whatsoever. Then people get upset and do either of us need the aggro?

    Greetings Marvin! 🙂 Yes, who could forget such android wisdom? And no, genuine people personalities would be tiresome. My take away from robots and Artificial Intelligence machines is that do we really want to test the fates? What if the robots and/or AI felt that it was we who were the problem, and then put their fingers on the button? Yes, that would be a serious problem. Perhaps encountering a paranoid android would be easier?



  17. Hi Goran,

    🙂 Mate, generally the people upbraiding me have never interacted with a tree in their life! Hehe! And like you, trees are a part of my day to day life – not sure about those other folks who seem up to their eye balls in abstractions. One of my favourite activities is pointing out to concerned folks that once the city of Melbourne would have been a vast open forest and how’s that working out nowadays. Man, I really don’t know what to think sometimes, but industrial civilisation will stumble along for quite a while, but my gut feeling suggests that each year we’ll be poorer on many fronts.

    Possibly so, and the criticisms have generally come from that direction. Hmm, you’ve given me something to ponder. Surprisingly, I enjoy working as it gives me a sense of productivity and a connection to gain which may be lacking in some people. I’m not so sure of the meritocracy at the top end of town. There is a complicated dance between competency and being required to do too much work. Boundaries are often difficult to establish in such circumstances.

    The very word abstraction suggests that whatever is being spoken of is merely a sub-set of a much larger discussion. I tend to believe the tree crazy story fits that really nicely. There’s an old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees.

    And focusing energy on strategy tends to obscure the possibilities of consequences, and they are always there. As a concrete example of that I have to worry about the legal system down here with this blog and that is why there is a Code of Conduct. I am unable to do or say what I like. Some blogs written in the US, the things they say would have me swamped by legal unpleasantness if I was so bold as to say such things. There are few if any rights in this country – we did begin as a penal colony, and the law reflects that.

    Yeah. I had you in mind when I was writing about my own troubles attempting to get replacement parts for the wood heater – and yours is a much more complicated device (it has about four times the parts that mine does). I was hoping to steer you along that path, what with the gas, coal and nuclear problems besetting your corner of the world. And six years is about right for heavy usage. The parts I replaced were five years, and could have gone another year, but I didn’t want to risk failure. Interestingly I’m learning to run the wood heater at a lower output level, not by throttling the air supply, but more by managing the fuel load.

    What? No bike tires? Holy carp. Not good. Can you obtain them from more distant locales?

    You’ve gotta feel for the Libyan’s. They appear to have had the temerity to attempt trades outside the reserve currency – and paid a price. And I tend to agree. About the time of WWI, extracting coal from the ground using human labour became uneconomical – and what does that say about those energy reserves?

    Hehe! Yes, I can well understand your discomfiture at having to purchase greens. And it is probably too late in the season, however, there is already next season – and I’m guessing plans?

    Your neighbour sounds alright to me. May you two share a beer and a good discussion. Dairy farmers may be less burdened by harvest pressures, but then they have a constant work flow, which has its own challenges.

    Exactly, it is easy to consume, and much harder to produce. Take a good look around you.



  18. Hi Lewis,

    Hehe! A notable crime reporter down here also once quipped that if you don’t want your car stolen, buy one with a manual gearbox (stick shift). Not a bad strategy. Last I heard they make up about 20% of new car sales down here, although clearly the US is a wealthier country as the percentage was a lot lower than that. I’ve never owned a car with an automatic transmission. Occasionally I’ve driven one, and didn’t like the thing as it kept wanting to creep forward which annoyed me. Plus, cars with automatic transmissions tend to use more fuel and cost more. What’s to like about that?

    Emma is a fine name for a car. You’d be unsurprised to hear that the name ‘Suzy’ has been heard around here for obvious reasons.

    I’m still thinking that there is a market for simpler vehicles. Tell you a funny story about the Dirt Rat. It is having a few minor electrical issues, so I booked it in at an auto electrician. Anyway, I was on the phone to them (and being very polite) and they said there was a months wait time. I replied that ‘I understand, and we’re getting smashed too’, and they dropped the wait time to about two and a half weeks. That was pretty nice. Unfortunately it is one trade where I have no contacts so can’t pull on any favours. I’m trying a place I’ve never sent a car to before, so fingers crossed – they’ve been around for a few decades, so that is a good sign. There is nobody in the immediate local area (near to here) who does such work.

    Like yours the car is getting on and is up around eighteen years, and I never know how much to spend on repairs before it become uneconomic. But my gut feeling suggests the car was well made in the first place so is probably worth chucking mad cash at to keep in tip top condition.

    So true. Those guys are in a bind because they keep getting smashed over the head and told to ‘get big, or get out’. And that’s no good because in order to get big, costs have to be incurred. My gut feeling is that that huge system will unravel slowly over the next decade or two. I’ve often wondered whether the sudden popularity of working dogs is a publicity effort to somehow keep production up, whilst reducing reliance on machines. Far out, some monster cattle stations up north use helicopters for mustering. That can’t be cheap. Dogs reproduce themselves.

    Well, the worms do need a feedering. 🙂 But I do wonder about peoples pride in their lack of competency over physical skills. Tis not enough to be merely good with the brain, a well rounded person must traverse wider fields of endeavour.

    Did you get any more rain than a few drops? It didn’t rain here today, but not to worry, tomorrow onwards looks set to have rain each day for the next week. It’s exciting! 🙂

    Do you wonder whether it is possible that the Downton Abbey folks knew that the best years were behind them, and that gave the show its piquant flavour? The old versus new money kind of suggests more of a social power play as you say – it’s not nearly as relatable a storyline. Faded glory has a certain elegance don’t you reckon?

    What? Well, it takes a lot of electronics sales to support a castle renovation. 🙂 But it also proves that the six degrees of separation is always there. And yes, I was paid minimum wage. It wasn’t an exciting wage, but I loved looking through the discontinued items list and availing myself of electronics goodies on the cheap.

    Ook! That is getting rather expensive for blueberries.

    Lewis, that’s horrendous. Didn’t I previously mention something about cracking eggs into a cup and sniffing the contents prior to adding it to the food preparation? Hmm. Well, it’s a good way to learn, and possibly may have tasted like err, chicken? Sorry, that was a bad joke. 😉

    You should see eggs that are off. The stench is notable and the contents are this weird grey / black colour. Best dumped down the sink and try to avoid the wicked odour. Makes me feel unwell thinking about it.

    Fingers crossed H doesn’t roll in anything nasty before the visit. You tell her: Now young lady, you listen to me. You’re to be on your best behaviour. No dribbling. No unnecessary bottom licking. No jumping. No fun. No biting. No nothing. If you’re thinking of doing something – stop thinking. Nothing. I’m sure H will be on her best behaviour – maybe. 🙂 Good luck!

    Yum. Red, green or yellow peppers?



  19. Tomato training- the topic of endless deliberations and uncertainty here. We’ve used the cheap wire cages, sprawling no support at all jungle, and this year, a couple runs of sisal baling twine to sort of drape the vines over to minimize tomatoes on the ground.

    Issues we consider are ability to weed and water through the season, and also, to provide air and ability to minimize prolonged dampness of the leaves, as that encourages blight. Because of our unusual untilled grass strips between rows, we also try to keep them open so we can mow.

    We often seem to get blight anyway, and some years we don’t, so I remain uncertain what best practice is.

    We know folks who, in green houses, train a single vertical stem with twine and ties and pruning to optimize space in the green house. You’ve probably seen photos of this technique. While more work, they get pretty good results.

  20. Yo, Chris – Yes, you’d think some auto manufacturer would get a clue, and produce a line of less complicated, less expensive cars. The VW bug, rode that business model, into the ground, in the 1950s and 1960s. And they had really clever advertising.

    Good luck with your electrics. A whole new group of blokes, to play with 🙂 .

    I feel the same about my truck. Keep putting money into it. And pray I don’t get hit. LOL. I’m hoping the truck outlives me.

    Well, it sure was cloudy, last night. I think we had some rain, overnight. And just as H and I were coming in from our walk, this morning, a bit more came down. I watered last night, so I won’t have to water, this morning.

    I was cracking the eggs from Julia’s, into a saucer. But there wasn’t ever a problem, I got in a hurry, and … there was a problem. Using a saucer, from here on out.

    There were red, green AND yellow peppers. Bins of them.

    Oh, boo! Had a notice on my door, yesterday, that I have MY yearly apartment inspection, tomorrow. But that might actually work out, ok. Elinor’s is today. So, this evening, I can stash some stuff, at her place. Such as, 30 pounds of dog food and 25 pound bags of oats and flour.

    By the way. I “fixed” my toilet. I think. I put in a work order to get it repaired, moved the shelves that surround it, and took a good look inside. Looks like the rubber gasket, came lose. So, I re-seated it, and it appears to be in working order. I cancelled the work order. But, I’ll keep an eye on it. Closely watched toilets… Lew

  21. Chris,

    I’m thinking that the sheriff needs to deputize the skunk. Give it a special award for spraying above and beyond the call of duty.

    Yup, stretching. Static stretches. Moving stretches. Lots of stretches. Muscle building exercises. At least 2 miles of walking Avalanche each morning. Yard work and more stretching. Oh, and breathe. I don’t forget to breathe. Very important. 😉

    Yes, still running the air purifier. A new fire started upwind of us, and the local one is still smoking. Any shift of the wind adds smoke and decreases outdoor air quality. The air purifier helps a lot.

    Ahhh, you dropped into a fun rabbit hole! it appears like the entire northern hemisphere was gobsmacked by volcanic eruptions for several years in the 530s and 540s. Perhaps the years of no summer gave rise to the Nordic Fimbulwinter? Then the yellow plague hit, arriving in Britain circa 546. The Welsh prince of Gwynedd, Maelgwyn, apparently succumbed to this in 547. I’m guessing that much of Britain would have been easy pickings for raiders after the volcanic induced famines then the plague.

    Like you, I don’t understand the push to electrify while also getting rid of sources of electricity. I’ll be utterly flabbergasted if this ends well.

    I try to avoid such conversations nowadays. circa 2000 I could say things to make the point. Although irritated, the parents then wouldn’t do much more than cuss at me, if that. Now? Nope, the wrong person would escalate the situation into a physical conflict with weapons. Even 20 years ago, it really did no good and wasn’t worth the effort.

    Frank Herbert was very prescient about AI in his Dune series. “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind” was how he put it in his quote of the fictional Orange Catholic Bible. Make a machine that can actually think? Hmmmm, I’m skeptical of the results. Add in a Genuine People Personality, maybe a machine mistakenly gets “sociopath” and is smarter than everyone/everything? Yeah, careful what you wish for. Such a thing would make one prefer a paranoid android.


  22. Hi Steve,

    “our unusual untilled grass strips between rows” describes the exact system we intend to use. Good to hear that it works – I’m guessing that it does anyway. 🙂 My grandfather had an old asphalt tennis court in his backyard (tennis being a thing down here) and dug up rows and kept the asphalt as an all weather walkway and I took that as inspiration. It worked, but I’m equally convinced that grass would work just as well. We might eventually rock line the edges, but at this stage I don’t know.

    Over the years speaking with the people here, I’ve heard of blight, but never experienced it. But then we’ve been selecting for tomatoes that sprawl over the past dozen or so years, so who knows?

    Mate, I’ve spoken to people who swear by taking off leaves and training the vines to grow up a supporting wire and I have no doubts it works and is probably more productive than my more dodgy methods, but at this stage of my life I just don’t have the time or care to go down that path. The commercial growers do this technique, plus it looks really cool, but, yeah, nah.

    I’ll probably get the seeds started in a couple of weeks. Time is getting away from me – as I’m sure you’d understand.

    When you mentioned the bailing twine, instead I had this vision of the vines growing across square bales. Probably expensive… I’ll just let them sprawl, but may put down some sugar cane mulch. We’ll see.



  23. Hi, Chris!

    I have been thinking about trees alot lately. As you know, I live in a forest like you, so my life is much focused on trees. I think people are bonkers about trees because all humans have a latent (or not so latent) instinct about them. We know that they stand for shelter, heat, food, shade – and, of course, they are beautiful. How many things on this planet represent so much?

    I have been thinking about coal, too. Europe and coal:

    I still love watching The Good Life; watched it when it first came out. Don’t I remember the methane digester! I always wondered just how much electricity they actually produced with it.

    We had to replace a part in our wood heater/stove last winter. I don’t think we have spare parts. Thanks for the reminder.

    Your winter photos give me the shivers! Glad my husband has been splitting firewood this past week.

    What a beautiful bathroom cabinet, lovely wood. We have a removable panel in the wall outside of one of our two bathrooms. I daresay the other bath will eventually get its own panel – when something goes wrong . . .

    I am planting the fall garden now.

    Since I missed so many of your posts, and I haven’t seen him: How is Ollie?

    Thanks for the flowers!


  24. Hi DJ,

    The skunk sure has earned itself a medal, feed, or maybe for the brave among us – a hug! Oh my, what a drama that would be. But then in some countries people keep bears for pets, so who knows? My gut feeling suggests that with such pets: Don’t annoy them, and keep them well fed and engaged. Yes, the consequences for not doing so would not be good.

    Yeah, you got the message. 🙂 Mate, we’ve all got issues on that front, and that’s life – the alternative is perhaps darker and quieter? Too much health talk and you risk being fed to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. True. 😉 And it’s a two way street. Imagine the blog if all I wrote of was, arghh me shoulder… So I don’t, everyone would soon tire and go elsewhere. Thought you might appreciate a crystal clear reply? Or you’ll hate my guts.

    Thought you might appreciate the image which I spotted in the news today of the smoke from the Black Summer bushfires. Incidentally off to the north west of the continent there is a cyclone which is pulling tropical moisture in a south easterly direction and causing it to be wet here, whilst bushfires dominate elsewhere. Crazy stuff hey, and that I reckon combined with the Tongan volcano is why I’ve had three very wet years in a row. There’s a positive side effect to the smoke particles from your fires.

    Thanks for the rabbit hole. You have an outstanding comprehension of obscure characters of the Dark Ages. Those were the days of greats, famines and wars. Far out, only the toughest of the tough would survive to see a Fimbulwinter. I don’t know much, but I know enough to realise that these things happen with startling regularity.

    Exactly, the whole electricity of everything is a mystery to me. As a practical bloke, and I count you as another such bloke, I tend to ask hard questions like: So how are you meant to keep the lights on whilst your neighbour is charging their car? As the engineer Scotty may have once said: Ya canna change the laws of fisicks cap’n! And he was right too.

    That’s also known as ‘reading the room’. If an explosive response is a possibility, best not to ignite the fuse. So many folks these days have a hair trigger. We can do better than reacting to emotions, but I’ve upset some folks over the years and there is no upside for doing so. On a great enough perspective of time, time will sort things out.

    I see that you’ve read Dune (I have too, but several decades ago). A great book, but I slowly drifted away from the sequels – which may from memory have discarded the spice trade and settled for computers. It happens.

    But a paranoid android, that’s for ever! Three cheers for Marvin and his exploits across the Universe.



  25. Hi Pam,

    Trees are lovely, and the Eucalyptus Obliqua ones here now reach as high as 165ft (half their eventual height). Yes, both you and I know trees – other people, I’m not really certain what they know for sure about trees. They have ideas though, that’s for sure. And you’re right, I’m of the opinion that our lives are intertwined with that of the trees and forests – and best we don’t mess with that relationship. And yes, there is great beauty in the relationship.

    It’s a very informative website that one, and provides an insight into the oil futures market. Such a strange journey that thing.

    Coal to gas is a very old technology. The next image is of the long since demolished gasworks, but I didn’t used to live all that far from where this behemoth of the Victorian era was located. Used to provide gas for street lighting and other uses.

    Hehe! From memory, the bloke connected up the methane digester to the cook stove, but I could be wrong in the memory. Such a lovely show, and one doesn’t aim to, but it is easy enough to upset the neighbours. 🙂

    Yes. Get. Spare. Parts. Hashtag just sayin. Of course, plenty of people ignore me, and I’m cool with that.

    🙂 Bizarrely, winter is firewood splitting season what with snakes being an occasional nuisance. Best not to upset them, and hope that your firewood pile continues to grow and keeps you warm in the winter months.

    Nice one, and it is a truth universally acknowledged that the chunk of infrastructure to fail will always be the hardest chunk to get at. Your access panels are a very wise idea.

    Ollie is a delight and is currently sound asleep with Dame Plum on the couch behind me. It rained today and so they got to spend a lot of time indoors and are resting whilst the weather dictates that is the appropriate course of action. Humans aren’t nearly as wise.

    Glad to have you back here.



  26. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, you reckon they would get a clue. It boggles my mind some of the rubbish put into new cars. Do I need rain sensing windscreen wipers? Do I need lane departure warning? Do I need hill start assist? High beams which choose when to activate? Far out so much unnecessary stuff, but if people want it. I’ve been in some new cars where the amount of warnings and beepings from the computers is a positive distraction. I don’t need such geegaws and flim flammery. Can the thing get me from A to B and then back again. That’s what interests me.

    Thanks for the good luck with the electrics. I’m in two minds about the work because I could do it myself, but this is the busiest time of the year for me and I really need the assistance from them. There’s only so many things which I can take on board and do, and that one is a job for someone else (hopefully so).

    Exactly, that’s my fear too. At what point does the maintenance expense exceed the replacement cost? And it’s not like I haven’t maintained the thing for eighteen years now. Like you, I just don’t know what the future holds in store. On this note, this afternoon I had to shell out for a replacement camera body – the current lenses will work fine with the new (second hand, of course) device. The current camera is looking worse for wear and was in danger of failing. Oh, and the replacement device is coming from Japan where I’m assuming someone traded it in on a new one. And it’s blue! 😉 Thought you’d like that.

    Ah, clouds indicate that things may be cooling for you in the lead up to autumn? Of course by this stage of the year, you may be tired of the summer heat? Not sure really on that front as you have a stoic nature which I applaud. H would feel the heat for both of us really. 🙂 Half an inch of rain fell here today. I’m hoping to be able to get outside tomorrow and move a few more trees (a sugar maple and some figs and maybe a cumquat). Move trees whilst the rain falls is my motto! The recently relocated willow has begun sprouting leaves despite hacking away at the tap root. Tough trees…

    Your egg story makes me feel a bit queasy. And is this not a perfect example of act in haste and repent at leisure?

    Yummo! Did you avail yourself of any of the peppers? I do so enjoy those peppers. One of the things with living in a cooler climate is that full sized peppers do not normally grow well here. Like tomatoes, the small and thin sized peppers grow more reliably.

    Good luck and fingers crossed with the inspection. Did it turn out OK? Always a bit nerve wracking. You could claim that you felt like you were coming down with you-know-what and that would put a rapid end to the peering and poking around? Nice thinking too with using Elinor’s space for the bulk food stuffs. Out of curiosity, why would they be weird about such things?

    Tidy work with the toilet fix. You might have a knack for such things. Be careful you don’t tell the other residents lest they take advantage of your new skill set. Always a risk.

    Ended up working so late this evening on paid work that it was too late to get to the pub. What is the world coming to? It’s an utter travesty and blight upon western civilisation. Oh well, next week.

    PS: Hope you like the photos in the comments?



  27. Yo, Chris – Re: Complicated cars. Which people asked for it? I want names. That’s what “they” always say. They come up with some wizz-bang idea (that usually costs) and convince people their lives wouldn’t be complete without … whatever. Of course, there are some people who are “early adapters.” Couldn’t we breed that out of the human race?

    Well, since the camera body is blue, I’m sure it will be just fine. 🙂

    Not autumn quit yet. One morning, there will be a distinctive smell in the air. We got enough rain, yesterday, that I didn’t have to water. Not so, today. As far as the forecast goes, it’s going to be in the 80s, for awhile.

    Lesson learned, with the eggs.

    I’m really not a pepper kind of a guy. 🙂 They’re expensive (to me), so unless I get some free, or get a craving for Spanish rice, I don’t buy them.

    I haven’t had my inspection, yet. I don’t think. Yesterday, she did them in the late afternoon. I got to thinking, what if she hasn’t checked Elinor’s apartment yet? I did take over the dog food, but found a place (that she probably won’t like) for the three 25 pound bags of oats and flour. Well, some of the rules are weird, and even if they don’t apply to a particular case, tough luck. So, you’ve got a 525 square foot apartment. A 3′ “runway” must exist between the front door and the living room and bedroom window. In case the firemen have to throw you out (really that’s how it was explained, to me). You’ve got doors and drawers. Which all most open freely. Never mind if you store something in there that you seldom use. Nothing must be put within 12″ of the baseboard heaters. Never mind that I never use them, and other than inspections, leave them turned off at the box. Not that I’d tell them, that. It makes arranging furniture a nightmare. And nothing is really to my taste … or, convenience.

    Not so fast with the toilet fix. Well, it flushes, now. The tank fills. But, about every ten minutes, to half an hour, it “runs” for about 30 seconds. I’ll talk to her about it, when I have my inspection. She’s not getting off scott free. Needs a new gasket. Or, someone who knows how to exactly seat them. If a “real” plumber comes, I’m going to ask him if people ever request he replace the Star Trek jazz, with the old float and chain. I’m curious.

    She is a cold b____. I stuck my head in her office, yesterday, to ask about a couple of things relating to the inspection. I mentioned I was taking H to see her mom this morning. Did she inquire as to how Elinor was doing? Zip. No. Nada.

    I’ve been fretting about our night manager. I hadn’t seen him in a week and a half, or two weeks. Could be anything. But, I found out today, through someone we know mutually, that he came down with You Know What, and has been quarantining. I hear he’s back at his day job, today, so we’ll be seeing him, again. He’s pleasant and conscientious, so, I’d hate to lose him. Now did they let us know? No. So, for that period of time, security was probably a little slack. I would have done more, had I known.

    This morning, H and I ran over to see her Mom. Both were pretty excited. But, I happened to think, H gets excited over anyone. 🙂 Elinor looks good, but was still in a wheel chair. Still don’t know if she’s coming home. But if her rehab payments end, where will she go? She seems to like the place, well, enough. Has made a few friends and likes most of the staff. But I don’t know if she can stay in that facility, or not. Those places are really expensive.

    Then I stopped and got 2 1/2 flats of blueberries. Had coupons, so I didn’t have to pay anything. Then, onto the Club for a cuppa. Now just cooling my heels, waiting for the inspection. I’ll be glad when it’s done so I can get on with my life. Lew

    PS: Great pictures! Did the Editor, or you, take them? 🙂

  28. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, I don’t understand any of it. I mean why pay for complicated stuff that I don’t need or want? And to add insult to injury, the unwanted stuff will probably cost a small fortune to repair should it ever go wrong. Seems like a bad deal to me. Yes, who exactly are these people? A very good point. They say the early bird gets the worm, but the early bird might just as equally encounter the hungry lion looking for breakfast.

    🙂 Seems like that in Japan camera bodies can be ordered in all manner of colours – and I thought you’d be impressed with a blue camera. The thing could be up to a decade old, but it looks and sounds like it is in very good condition. The current camera was purchased through a similar arrangement many years ago and had done quite a bit of travel, but was originally well cared for (you can tell) and has held up well over the years. For all we know, the photos each week might get better! 🙂 Mustn’t raise the bar too high otherwise people will start expecting too much.

    You can sense a change in the seasons. It was relatively warm here today at 50’F, but far out did it rain heavily earlier this evening or what. Another half inch of rain fell, and the downpour was a heavy tropical rain. I stood on the veranda waiting in case the water tank inlet filters clogged up – which they didn’t. Still got quite damp cleaning out the muck that accumulated in the filters.

    We moved another seven fruit trees today. Added another row of trees to the sunnier area below the shed and greenhouse. Looking at the weather forecast, it was suggesting that they’d get a good watering in, which the trees appear to have enjoyed. Man, it’s soggy out there.

    The largest of the trees moved today was a Sugar Maple, and the thing was well over 10ft tall. We’ll see whether it tolerated being moved. Dunno, I got most of the root system, but you never really know.

    I’m waiting for the ground to dry up a bit so that we can bring in a roto-tiller and do a one off dig of the next row which will be for tomatoes. Whilst walking around the place today I found another five feral red mustard plants and moved them into the greenhouse. So yummy! In another month, things will be warmer again, but not necessarily drier. Oh well. Wait and see is my motto in this wet year.

    I see that much of Europe and the south west of your country is in something of a drought. Yikes! How’s things on that front in your local area?

    Peppers are expensive down here too, although I’ve noted that the green variety are usually cheaper than the red variety. Sometimes the peppers have both colours as I’m assuming they’ve hybridised somehow?

    I see, I don’t recall you mentioning the floor size before, but yes I can understand that would be challenging. And really a 3′ path so that you can get chucked out a window if need be. Hmm. Well, sometimes contingencies are part of life, but yeah that would make things difficult for bulk bags of oats and dog food. We began purchasing bulk supplies many years ago, and they do take up space for sure. A Tardis would be handy, but alas in the real world… The restrictions would definitely make things hard for you.

    It happens, and perhaps you spoke too soon in relation to the toilet repair? OK, I’d be curious to hear if that has ever been requested. My gut feeling says the answer is ‘no’, but I might be surprised. The new mechanism I installed a year or two back works pretty well, and is a fairly simple device, but the spring even though it is stainless steel, may be the weak point. Time will tell. On a very low tech front, the cisterns could always be filled and released with a bucket of water. But then if that was the case, the contents would be better used in a garden.

    Really? Wow, that is cold, but then she might not be paid to care? Or avoids the emotional connection due to the inevitable end point of life. But then it is possible that she just doesn’t care – met a few of those folks over the years. They’re a bit scary and hard for the other people around them. But then you’re stuck with having to interact with her.

    Get out! 🙂 H would know Elinor for sure! 🙂 Good to hear that the visit went well and that Elinor has recovered from you-know-what. That’s a really tough situation because your system over there is a bit scary on that financial front. Did you enjoy the visit? Fingers crossed that Elinor comes home.

    The bush telegraph spilled the beans and let you know what was going on. Dude, it’s getting around that thing. It’s surprising that your mob don’t have a plan B for such eventualities for the night dude given something is going to happen sooner or later. And exactly, you lot might have to eventually self organise at some level? Dunno. The bosses might interpret that as a threat though, which it isn’t. Maybe communication is the easiest option?

    Top score with the blueberries. Yummo! Hope you don’t get too stressed out by the inspection and that it all works out fine. Did you give them something basic to fixate upon?

    Hehe! Very funny, but did I not say that a Tardis would be useful? And the blue camera would match the external colour scheme of the thing. 🙂

    More rain tomorrow, but I might do something about the raspberries before the rain arrives. Maybe.

    I’ve noticed that utoob appears to be different lately. A lot of clips won’t play. Makes the sensitive person wonder when the service will go full on subscription?



  29. Hi Pam,

    It’s a pretty awesome photo isn’t it? And quite astounding given the plant closed in something like 1927. Makes you wonder if the photo was taken from a balloon or a biplane or something weird like that. I can confirm that there are definitely no natural vantage points in that area for such a photo.

    Mind you, in a nearby park one morning, I watched whilst a hot air balloon appeared to crash into the tops of the very old English Elms, and they almost dropped a heavy rope onto my head. Yeah, not a fan. And most crucially – there’s probably no toilet when in the basket. Ook!

    That’s a deal killer to me. 🙂

    It rained again today. Do you need any rain, we’ve had plenty and frankly at this stage we have a bit to spare.



  30. Hi Chris,
    Tiles look nice but not too practical if one needs to access plumbing or the like behind them. At our old place we had tile in one of the bathroom showers. As we have alot of iron in the water even with the water softener the grout got quite orange especially where the water hit it all the time and the floor. When it came time to sell I spent a long time trying to get the stains out and was only somewhat successful. Speaking of access also at the old house there was access to the chimney (which was very tall) for cleaning at ground level so Doug was able to clean it each year safely. Here the chimney isn’t that high but he would have to get up on the roof which he did the first year. We determined it would probably be worth the money to get someone out to do the cleaning after that.

    Last weekend was quite hot and acceptionally humid but now it’s a bit below normal so very pleasant. The tomatoes aren’t ripening as quickly though.

    Been battling the japanese beetles and now corn borer beetles. The Japanese beetles are finally slackening off but the corn borer beetles just descimate all the blossoms. As the only sunny spot for the garden is near the farm field and it’s corn again this year the beetles are quite a problem. After two years of corn they’ll have to plant soybeans next year so should be better.

    It’s been a bit of a play week. I went to Ravinia last Sunday with my sister, Nora, Cecily, Carla and Anna, one of the twins so see a tribute to Steven Sondheim with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was directed by a man we had met some years ago who is quite active in the theater.

    Yesterday we went to our county fair, one of the better ones in the state. There’s no poultry at the fairs this year due to bird flu.

    Forgot to mention that last Sunday we had 4.5 inches of rain with an additional 1/2 inch on Monday so no watering needed for awhile. Luckily there wasn’t any flooding.


  31. Yo, Chris – Our temps will be in the 80s, for the rest of the week. But the forecast for next Tuesday, is 91F (32.8C). Today, there’s a good onshore breeze blowing. With lots of scattered clouds. Reminded me of that old Simon and Garfunkel song, “Cloudy.” You ask a bit further on, about drought. Our local headlines are screaming drought, but Prof. Mass has had a couple of posts, where he says it ain’t so. And, he has the statistics to back it up.

    I hope the fruit trees will be happy in their new home. Do tomatoes love fruit trees? Do fruit trees love tomatoes? 🙂

    I really have to look into mustard, red or otherwise. Since I’m having no luck with broccoli or brussels spouts (thank you, cabbage moths), they’d make a good stand in. Yesterday, I found a few ripe yellow cherry tomatoes. Tasty.

    I’d settle for a Tardis closet. Since it would be larger, on the inside. 🙂 I have a small, plastic Tardis, sitting next to my computer. It’s hollow, but doesn’t open up. Probably needs a Time Lord. So I have no idea if it’s larger on the inside.

    Well, the inspection went well, kind of. No major problems. We talked about getting my toilet fixed, and it’s probably an easy enough job that Mr. George can handle it. For some reason, she seemed fixated on my window blinds. I think it’s a Women’s Business thing. Now there were a couple of struts, on one of them, that were slightly bent. And, I had no problem opening and closing them. Well, she managed to break the one in the bedroom, and it came crashing down. 🙁 . By the time she left and I managed to find an old sheet to cover the window, I think the temperature in my apartment had shot up 10 degrees.

    I stuck my head in the office this morning, to see if she knew when Mr. George was coming. Wednesday. So, the toilet may get fixed, then. The blinds? They have to be ordered. I asked her to please leave me a voice mail, when they come in. I told her I wanted to clear stuff away, from their work areas, to give the guys elbow room, to work. At least, Mr. George and his sidekick, are very friendly. And, they know what they’re doing. But until all this stuff get done, I’m on pins and needles. I think I’m suffering from PTSD. 🙂

    I don’t think our building manager, will be around in a year or two. I guess she’s working on some kind of an advanced degree. She’ll join the Professional Management Class, and get a nice cushy job, where she doesn’t have to deal with the Great Unwashed.

    I don’t know what’s to become of Elinor. By the end of the month, she either has to come home, or find a permanent bed in an assisted living place. AKA, the old folk’s home. The beds are in short supply. I was told that the wait list, for where she is now, is 3 years long. If she comes home, she needs a caregiver. A problem, as her reputation has preceded her. 🙂 . I happened to see her daughter, this morning, and said I was afraid it was going to be a merry-go-round. Home, back the the hospital, into rehab, home, back to the hospital, etc..

    We have a night manager. The boxes are checked. Beyond that, they really don’t care. On paper, our security is their primary concern. In practice, not so much. As long as the paperwork is done, and the boxes checked, their liability is covered.

    The first gallon of blueberries is in the freezer. Light, so I’ll have to add to them. Probably from our bushes, here. It goes, wash, salad spinner, colander to get good and dry in front of a fan, trays in the freezer, bag. The second batch are at the colander stage. This years berries look pretty good. More stems, then last year, but less field dirt and leaves.

    “Fight Club” had to go back to the library, before I could watch it. The night I was going to watch it, I got hit with the inspection notice. It had holds on it. So, I’ll probably put it back on my hold list, tonight. Lew

  32. Chris,

    When I was 10, one of my fellow students had a pet skunk. It had had the scent glands removed so as not to raise a stink in the house, so to speak. 😉 I’m still not sure how good a pet it really was. It tended to run away.

    Thanks for the photo of the smoke from the bushfires. I’ve seen similar pictures of other fires, large dust storms, volcanic eruptions, and find them all to be fascinating.

    Oh, thanks. History has been a hobby of mine since I learned how to read. The Princess regularly comments about the “useless” trivial facts I have stored between the ears. Students of history understand that these things happen, as you said. For most people, if they don’t observe it themselves, it’s either rare or it doesn’t exist/didn’t happen.

    That’s a brilliant question you ask people about electricity. Okay if I use it? Another infrastructure problem they have yet to discuss in this state: current electric vehicle technology might not allow me to drive from my house to visit my friend north of Seattle without stopping to recharge. Charging could take up to 6 hours. As this would be true for thousands of vehicles, where are the charging stations going to be to accommodate thousands of people taking 6 hour breaks? I’m really baffled by how very little of this has been thought out.

    I gave up on the Dune series when 2 things happened. I read the 4th book, God-Emperor of Dune. Some of the ideas were interesting, but I really thought he’d lost track of what made the first book so good. Then the Dune movie starring Kyle McLachlan as Paul Atreides came to the theatres. To say that I was underwhelmed by the movie would be a gross understatement. I could never read the books again after seeing that travesty. I eventually gave them to a friend.

    We celebrated a birthday Thursday. The Princess “officially” turned “16”. Who am I to argue with a Princess? We had an enjoyable time, having been seated in the back corner of a restaurant. It was quiet where we were, so we were able to relax and enjoy the evening.

    Meanwhile, parts of Idaho and Washington got shellacked by a severe thunderstorm. We could see the clouds while driving to dinner. There were winds up to 90 km per hour, hailstones larger than golf balls. Vinyl fences and vinyl siding on homes had holes punched in them by the hailstones. There were a lot of dents on cars, and many destroyed windshields, too. Areas received upwards of 3.75 cm of rain in a matter of minutes. I’m glad the storm missed us.


  33. Hello Chris
    Still very dry and hot here. The news informed us that there was a risk of rain on Monday. RISK!!! Bring it on.
    I had just finished blanching and freezing runner beans when Son arrived with a huge pan of picked beans. He noticed my expression and said ‘Okay, I’ll take them back if you don’t want them’. I assured them that I was very happy to have them and thanks.
    I also gave up on the Dune books after the first 3 or so. The first one was stunning.


  34. Hi DJ,

    Whatever else can be said about skunks, they just remind me of the old Warner Brothers cartoons with Pepé Le Pew and his tragic but also amusing journey. Removal of the scent glands reminds me of a conversation regarding possum fur I over heard many years ago. A very naive lady upon encountering a possum fur jumper (so warm) made the observation: I hope the possum didn’t mind being shorn. Yeah, maybe it didn’t. 🙂 I don’t expect you to know the background, but many long years ago someone took possums from this continent over to the islands of New Zealand where they have no natural predators and a whole lot of forest to eat. And the possums over there feasted, and continue to do so. Maybe a month or two ago I spotted two possums high up in a tall eucalypt tree, but the owls probably destroyed them, and they were seen once then no more.

    Yeah, the photo from space was kind of hard to take, but we managed somehow. 😉 Mate the particulates from those fires have driven a couple of wet years. Then just for good measure the Tongan volcano decided to blow and it’s wet out there. Today, blue skies reigned, just over the mountain range. I could hear the thunder, and over towards the nearby town, they were enjoying one rain storm after another. It was seriously weird that the sun was shining here. The weather forecast was quite apocalyptic and so we’d made plans to work until we couldn’t. But what with the sunshine we worked late and by 2pm the stomach was growling for some food.

    Your command of history is commendable, and it is a truth not universally acknowledged that those who know history are the least likely to repeat it. It is a shame that history is so poorly taught and/or understood, and I’ve learned much from the many intriguing characters you’ve introduced me to over the years. A common thread with these characters is that passivity leads to a bad end.

    Of course, go hard with the electricity question. Having four little mini-grids here I get to observe how they work in the real world. And the thought of the sheer heat generated in the equipment by having some household pull huge continuous amps from the mains in order to charge their car, bizarrely leaves me feeling cold. The equipment has upper limits, all of them do, and to keep them sitting at such limits for hours on end is not a smart idea. I read a study a long time back about charging electric vehicles, and the study noted ‘hot spots’ in the grid. You can have a few of those, but not too many or the whole thing shuts down. The push to electrify the transportation infrastructure defies my experience with this technology, but I’d seriously like to be wrong. I just don’t believe that I am wrong.

    Many years ago there was talk about having vehicle batteries which could be swapped in and then out again, and it sounds good until you start thinking about the bonkers amount of infrastructure required to recharge more than a few batteries at a time. They do have fast charging stations, but how many people want to hang around for half an hour whilst the batteries get recharged. And seriously, I doubt too many cars could be charged that way at once. Heat is the problem.

    Mate, I haven’t read Dune since High School. But you raised the curiosity factor and so I took a quick look at the bookshelves. Turns out I got to book five, which was Chapter House Dune. The author was apparently good mates with my favourite author Jack Vance. One thing can be said about Jack Vance: He never flogged a dead horse. 😉

    Happy Birthday to your lady and glad to hear you enjoyed the day. And yes, who are we to argue, after all, her maths may be right! I always deduct two decades from the Editors age, and she seems pleased with the result. 🙂 It’s nice to have and share some quiet time.

    How did your Suby survive the hailstorm? Such sized hail can cause a lot of damage. Cars get written off down here when those storms hit.



  35. Hi Inge,

    Yes, the original Dune was an amazing book, and I read the sequels to book five, and they remain in the bookshelves (just checked). One of the interesting things with life, is that time is limited. The question of excellence in literature thus might become: Would I re-read the book if the time was available? Would you re-read Dune?

    I can’t speak for you with that question, but with the Dune series, my answer would be a definitive no.

    My natural temperament is more inclined to re-read my complete collection of Jack Vance books (which I’m in the process of). The ever changing backgrounds and societies, the fleshed-out villains, the quirky but competent protagonists, and the inappropriately timed philosophical discussions among the characters just kind of speaks to me. Dune took itself too seriously. The authors were good friends too.

    A risk of rain on Monday! 🙂 Honestly, I’m not even certain what that means? I do hope that you get some rain, even the news down here has mentioned the summer weather in your part of the world.

    Ooo, runner beans have quite the reputation for producing decent harvests, and yup, shelling them is quite the job for the summer months – although the sun provides a free drying service. I quite enjoy beans and we grow the unusually named variety: lazy housewife. It’s a heritage variety apparently dating back to 1802. It looks like a variety of stringless runner bean to me.

    Watched a huge dark thunderstorm today. It wasn’t too far from here, yet the sun was bizarrely shining over the mountain range today. Elsewhere there was hail and lots of rain.



  36. Hi Lewis,

    utoob was having another freak out this evening. For some reason it wouldn’t play the Simon and Garfunkle song. Between you and I, it is possible that mob are aiming for a subscription service. Surely it wouldn’t be cheap to run, and rumour has it that that lot seem to pay themselves pretty well. The last week or so, that service has been odd, and it is not our interweb connection, because it has become stupidly and unnecessarily fast due to the recent hardware upgrade.

    I did note that the Simon and Garfunkle song was a bit over two minutes, and that puts it into punk territory. 🙂 Everyone knows a proper catchy song is at least three minutes. Can you imagine those two doing a punk song?

    Interesting. I read a recent drought essay from the good Professor, and yes, he calls a spade a spade. Then backs it up with err, facts, which he has access to. Hmm. Look, there’s probably political and economic gains to be made for some folks from declaring a drought.

    There’s also the unpleasant side to the story. Do we expect too much from a natural resource, and even worse, have we over committed allocations based on good years? One of the many things which have become an inescapable conclusion in relation to the solar power system, is that nature provides when she will, but also you have to factor your usage around the worst case scenarios, not the best. Such thinking goes against the prevailing culture, but that’s the way it works, that is if you don’t want the system to fall over.

    Ah, a wise point about the fruit trees and tomatoes. They are fortunately separated by a goodly distance as I don’t believe that the plants will play well together. 😉 They’re going to share an enclosure fence and gates, that’s all really.

    Cabbage moths are a nightmare here too. You could try the. Oh no and far out! Who knew? Perennial rocket is from a lesser known branch of the Brassica family. Well that explains a few things. It tastes the same to me though, and grows really well in the hot summer months. I recommend it and the cabbage moths do try to take a few leaves, but rarely are they a problem. Diplotaxis tenuifolia.

    Mate, even the red and green mustard plants get hammered by the cabbage moths during the summer months. The good thing about those plants is that they’ll cope with a late start and then grow right into winter when there are no cabbage moths, but the extremes of your winter climate might kill them. Unless of course you used a row cover – if it didn’t blow away in the winter winds? Dunno.

    Yummo with the ripe yellow tomatoes. They’re a favourite of mine and are super reliable when conditions are less than optimal.

    We moved about sixty raspberry plants today. The weather forecast made for difficult conditions. The original plan was to work until it rained, except that it didn’t rain and the sky was beautifully sunny (just over the mountain range) all day. Off in the distance I could see a very unpleasant looking thunderstorm rolling along the valley, but it completely missed here. And you could hear the thunder. But yeah, the sun shone, and we kept working. It got to about 2.15pm and man, feeling the hungry’s. Went to the local general store and had a very pleasant lunch (whilst reading a book with the warm winter sunshine on my back). Could have fallen asleep it was so pleasant, but that’s what coffee is for, I guess. 🙂 It’s always a bit risky to go on a weekend due to the crowds, but we nabbed a good table. Came back home and continued on working. By 5pm had a quick shut eye session on the couch. Ollie had decided to usurp this and was quickly relocated.

    We also weeded the other half of the rose terrace and relocated some Chilean guavas. How did so many weeds get established in the rose garden – can’t trust Triffids, turn your back for one moment, and there they are. Took to them with a garden hoe, which is my favourite weeding tool. Take that ya pesky plants!

    We’re trying to work out a management pattern for raspberries and have now set them up in two different garden beds. The thinking is that one year we’ll cut back one set of canes, then do the other set the following year. Trying to come up with a system that will work for us with those plants, is not so easy. People say to cut out the two year old canes. Sure, sounds easy, but try working out which are the two year old canes.

    Oh, that’s good. Yes, a Tardis closet would take up less foot print. Time Lords are kind of busy folks, and may not have gotten around to you yet. Hey, it might just be bigger on the inside! 🙂 There’s a property around these parts with what looks like one of those blue telephone booths.

    Oh my gawd! You would think that given who broke the window blinds, the problem would get sorted out quickly. Mate, with assistance like that… Hey, next inspection you could quip: So, what are you going to break this time? 🙂 Probably not a good idea, but you could think it. That might not be a good idea either and you might have to respond to questions such as: What are you smirking about? Dunno about you, but I’d fail at poker due to an inability to dissemble.

    At least the toilet might get fixed. Yeah, you might have PTSD from the incident. 🙂 At the very least it would be what the kids call: a triggering incident.

    That’s if there is a job for her, and she completes the course. You’re making an assumption there. Who knows what could happen in the next year or two. Honestly, I would not have predicted the preceding two years for sheer and utter bonkersness.

    Well, you know that system and may have predicted Elinor’s future. Hopefully it works out better than that, but you probably called it. I understand Elinor is your friend and is in a difficult situation, but I don’t understand why it is to her benefit that she earned the reputation in the first place. It’s a rhetorical question and I don’t expect an answer. I see people employing say a nanny. Then there is mission creep and they start expecting the nanny to cook and clean, and wash, and then before too long the nanny quits. It’s bonkers and I don’t treat people that way. The tree dudes have turned up here regularly for a decade for work, and they don’t push things and I don’t push things. I guess we’re all playing the long game with that working relationship. Dunno. That one you’ve mentioned is a mystery to me.

    How is Elinor coping with facing such an uncertain future?

    I see. Well, it happens that situation with the night manager and box checking. It’s remarkably impersonal, but then I work with small business. A while ago it was quite surprising to encounter a larger entity where I presumed that the long term relationship meant more than it did. I had to navigate that situation and was not happy about it, but settled on the ‘being useful’ strategy. I dunno, but historically things were different, but then I guess there were downsides to that too.

    Thanks for the explanation regarding the blueberries. I have almost no preservation experience using freezing as a technique so was curious about how it was done. I heard on the radio the other day that a body could still beak down if in the vacuum of space. Apparently the bacteria and fungi would use whatever oxygen on the body they can find. Today’s fun fact! 🙂

    No good, but then it also suggests that Fight Club is a good film. 🙂 Mate, there are only so many hours in the day.



  37. Hi Margaret,

    Yeah, exactly! The both panels can be removed if need be, as can the plaster panel behind it. Imagine having to destroy a plaster and tiled wall just to fix a minor plumbing leak. I’d seen just that happening at a mates place a few decades ago – what a drama.

    Oh yeah, iron in the water does produce some intriguing rust. In the news the other day there was some inland town where that was happening to the town water because they had original iron water pipes and were having to go to the cost of replacing about a third of a mile of the thing every year (I got the impression that was all they could afford).

    And your grout cleaning story is a nightmare. It would be hard to scratch out the grout and then refill it with new stuff because matching the colours would be a total nightmare. Then people would be asking questions like: How come the grout in the shower is new? Can you imagine that? Wow. How’s the water at the new place?

    We drink rainwater, like the stuff that falls from the sky and lands on the roof, and over the years I’ve met some people who appeared sceptical about the quality – which is pretty good. They always seem to ask about filters, not sure why, but it is a commonly asked question.

    Yeah, getting up on the roof is not for everyone, and I dunno about how I’ll do that as I get older, but until then. It is a worthwhile job to get someone else to do, because falling off a roof is a serious problem. I know when in Melbourne there were people who worked as chimney sweeps, and I’d used their services having had a few fireplaces (with old school cast iron inserts). They actually cleaned the chimney from inside the house, and somehow didn’t make a mess, but got a lot of creosote gunk. And once in an exciting incident, a hive of yellow jacket wasps (you could smell a sweet honey like odour). All handled with professionalism. Is there anyone in your area who does such work?

    Nice to hear that it has cooled down, although talk of unripened tomatoes sends a bolt of fear. It was a lovely sunny winters day today, but over to the south west in the valley a thunderstorm ran. It was eerie watching such weather from sunny skies. And you could hear the thunder.

    Yikes! Margaret, please keep both beetles in your part of the world. I took a look at what consumes Japanese beetles, and most of those critters will be equally problematic once the beetles are all consumed. But they might be worth encouraging, maybe not skunks because they seem like bad news. There are some websites which suggest that predator insects attracted to flowering plants will consume the corn borer beetles. More flowers are in your future, but then I am biased in this regard.

    Thanks for the link, that’s an amazing series of buildings catering to all weather. And a lovely spot for a play.

    What? I’d heard that bird flu was in your country, but seriously no poultry at the fair? It does my head in. Hope this won’t affect your bird raising next season? Hope the rest of the fair was fun – I quite enjoy agricultural expos.

    Has your local creek begun flowing again after so much rain? The ground is very sodden here, but hopefully spring soon arrives and dries the place up a bit.



  38. Yo, Chris – Reading over your shoulder… people ask about water filters because birds poop on roofs. 🙂 .

    I haven’t checked out U-Tub, recently. I always get a message when I go there, that my software is too old. But everything works, anyway. So far. I’ll give it a look.

    Apocalyptic news, sells. Right now, a lot of news outlets are all wound up about California being flooded. See: “California Megaflood.” It happened in 1862, and is more likely to happen in the future. I’d link, but I don’t know how many of these news outlets have paywalls. About two or three years ago, there was the same round of articles.

    I’ll figure out something, to get some Brassica of some kind, growing. There will probably be row covers, in my future. I picked three more yellow zucchini. Kept one, put the other two in our community room. Someone will adopt them.

    Sounds like a nice lunch, after a hard day’s work. LOL. Unexpected as the weather didn’t rain on your parade.

    H and I often struggle over ownership of the chair. As with Ollie, you and the couch. H has discovered a cubby hole, under my bed. I refer to it as her cave. Just the right size, for her. Keeps the dust bunnies on the run.

    Our building manager has no sense of humor. Not even worth a try. Oh, once she gets her degree, she may be able to move up in the HUD (Housing and Urban Development), or even the Providence ladder. I hope she quits her job here, before securing a spot. Things might get “interesting” for her.

    Elinor may be a friend, but I’m well aware of her (to me) shortcomings. As far as dealing with care givers, goes. How is she coping? I think she just thinks things will work out. That she’ll come home, have a “good” caregiver, and all will be right with the world. If she does come home, I may be a bit more forceful about “making it work,” with a caregiver. And the alternative of the merry-go-round.

    I have two gallons bagged up, from the fruit stand. But, they’re “light.” So, I went out last night and picked a gallon from our patch, to fill in. They’re freezing on trays, ready to be added to round things out. The bushes are pretty full of blueberries, and a few of the late varieties haven’t even ripened, yet. There are still a lot of green berries, coming on. Looks like either people, or birds, have been at them. But, still plenty, for all.

    I put “Fight Club”, back on hold. Shouldn’t be too long, before it comes around again. 5 copies and only 6 outstanding holds.

    Hit the jackpot, at the library, yesterday. Lots of DVDs and books. Last night I watched “Ice Age Footprints,” a Nova special. That’s the footprints they found in New Mexico. There’s been some new news of another bunch of tracks, in the nearby state of Utah. Previously, it was thought that there weren’t people on this continent, before about 12,000 years ago. The dating on the New Mexico footprints came back, 23,000 to 21,000 years ago. They carbon dated seeds from just above and just below the tracks. But, of course, there are a few dissenting voices, that claim the dating is off, for one reason or another.

    And this just in …

    And, as usual, there are the usual dissenting voices. Well, anything to get your name in print. 🙂 Lew

  39. Yo, Chris – Ah, here we go. Best article I saw on the California Mega Flood.


    And, I’m pretty sure you can see this site. Lew

  40. Hi Lewis,

    The link about the megafloods worked well. Nobody really knows when such a flooding event will happen, but on a balance of probabilities, it’s a safe bet to suggest that if it has happened once, it may well happen again. But how it will play out when it does happen is anyone’s guess, and in such instances, a model is merely a model. The same unknown risk is true here with bushfires. It’ll happen, but how, is the unknown question. Plus it is really weird that a lot of people assume that there is no way to mitigate risk. Dunno why they think that, but it’s a commonly held perspective.

    What? Why would birds poop on roofs? Hey, I’ve heard that fish and frogs poop and die in dams and reservoirs. 🙂 Hehe! Yeah, sure birds do that, but it is not as often as you’d imagine. And lest we forget that animals also poop and die in water leading into reservoirs.

    Hmm. Not sure what is going on with utoob. Tell you a funny story. One bit of software I regularly use, I paid for the lifetime subscription option. It’s more expensive, but probably cheaper in the long run. Anyway, today the software updated itself and then demanded payment. It’s outrageous. Maybe things are getting tight in tech land? Those folks have had a very good run. Like, who can forget the funsters making heaps of mad cash with fear of the Y2K biz consequences?

    Yeah, I do recall at the time there was a lot of talk in your media about the possible megaflood event. Haven’t the cheeky scamps got enough to worry about already? Our supreme leaders down here seem to be tying themselves up in knots over all sorts of issues. Maybe they’ve forgotten that they have a job to do and an obligation to the people who fork out for their salaries?

    That’s the thing with the Brassica family of plants, just keep trying different varieties until you find one that works for you. We’ve trialled lot’s of different varieties of kale (which we use heaps of) and settled on the Russian red variety of kale. It just works here. The other varieties weren’t as good for this environment.

    I’d been wondering about how row covers would work for you. I’d been watching some utoob videos recently from some dude who practices no-till (yeah, right, he uses a broadfork to aerate the soil). Anyway, he used row covers and had good crops growing in the depths of winter and he was knocking snow and ice from the top of the plastic row covers. Probably wouldn’t want to have to deal with a lot of wind though.

    The weather again played nice today, albeit mildly windy. What I experienced did not match the weather forecast at all. It was quite pleasant, and with the sun shining, we got outside and did some stuff. The garden terraces have now all been weeded. Tell ya what, the soil was damp and I’m impressed that the Globe Artichokes plants hadn’t all keeled over. What was interesting was that near to the root systems of those plants, the soil was quite aerated. They must know their own business?

    Hehe! Go H, and enjoy your cave. Ollie has presence and is difficult to dislodge when his mind suggests that: now is not an appropriate time! Still, I kicked him off the couch.

    A shame about that. Some people just don’t have a sense of humour, and it doesn’t matter how hard you work the audience, the jokes fall flat on their face. For all you know, the replacement at some unspecified point in the future, may be better? The show Cheers managed that trick.

    I’d describe that as a rookie mistake, and there’s probably some deep psychology stuff going on, but it is actually easier to get a new job when you’ve already got one. I can’t for the life of me imagine why that would be, but it is a thing. Have you got any ideas about that? So yeah, things might get interesting. And they’re already interesting enough for my taste, but my preferences mean nothing with that.

    It’s hard to acknowledge that side of your friends. I’ve got a mate who is a bit, err, I dunno, self absorbed. Seems unable to provide any support, but you know, he’s amusing company and so I don’t ask for any support. But then, it took me a little while to understand that this is a two way street, and what did the old timers used to say: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. So yeah, nah, no support is given. I dunno, the other person sets the tone in that regard. Understanding that was a bit of a surprise, but it made sense and I’m pretty blunt about it – and it doesn’t seem to matter. People can be something of a mystery.

    Mate, maybe you don’t have to be forceful? Just lay the facts out and let the cards fall where they will. I dunno, what is the right path forward in that circumstance? You can’t make people treat other people with care, or at least set some solid boundaries. When I used to run a graduate program for a big corporate, I found it easier to give the assistant accountants enough rope, and most of them saw the edge of the cliff and stepped away. My old mate who died during all of this current couple of years of craziness (allegedly due to his appointments all being cancelled because the worry was that he’d catch it), used to say that only people who’ve fallen off the cliff, know where the cliff actually is. He fell off, that’s for sure.

    You’re seriously going to enjoy the blueberry harvest when the days get shorter and colder. I’m amazed how productive your plants are. The birds seem to have a taste for blueberries here, and they tend to take the best.

    Well, that’s good about the film: Fight Club. It’s heart warming that the library system has five copies. You know, I doubt very much that that film would be made today.

    Just going with my gut feeling here, but the dissenting voices are wrong. If humans had worked their way down here more than 60,000 years ago (and possibly longer), it’s gobsmacking to imagine that they somehow avoided your part of the planet until only very recently. It defies imagination, but everyone can hold an opinion I guess. I suspect that the dissenting opinion feeds into deeply held belief systems. Hey, New Mexico is a land of startling extremes. Your country has some amazing places.

    Cheers and better get writing!


  41. Yo, Chris – The really frightening thing about a California mega flood is that they produce so much of our food. Among other things.

    Which is why water from reservoirs is heavily filtered and treated.

    I’ve always thought life time subscriptions were a bit of a scam. It will be interesting to hear if you can get the problem sorted. I’m sure two or three hours on the phone, will get the problem straightened right out. 🙂

    Yesterday was one of those perfect weather days. Warm, but with a nice breeze to keep things tolerable. We had a forecast for fog this morning. Our first autumn fog? It was a no-show.

    Our friends. What we’re willing to put up with, and how many accommodations need to be made. That’s on both sides.

    I keep picking at the blueberries. Elinor’s daughter said she doesn’t do the salad spinner step. But I want to make sure what goes in the bags is good and dry. Mine come out like a bag of marbles. I was thinking about it last night, and actually all the steps I go through, well, I manage to catch all the stems and bad berries.

    Speaking of the library, I picked up a new book, the other day. “The Kitchen Front: A Novel” (Ryan, 2021). It’s about Britain, during WWII. The BBC has a program, to help people cope with the rationing. Called, “The Kitchen Front.” And, actually there was a program like that. But early on, it was all male presenters, who were long on theory, but short on practice. So in the novel, they have a competition, to find a woman to be a presenter. It follows four women who are vying for the position. A war widow with three kids, a “lady of the manor.” I don’t know who the other two will be. It’s an interesting book, and you can tell the author has really done her research. The first page is “Wartime food rations for one adult for one week.” Things like, “2 ounces cheese (a 2-inch cube).” What in the heck are you supposed to do with a 2-inch cube, for a week?

    Being an equal opportunity offender, I also saw a book on the new list, that the Editor might be interested in. I’ll reveal more when I have a chance to get a look at it.

    I’ve been watching the “Inspector Lynley Mysteries.” They came out about 2001. Inspector Lynley is actually Lord Lynley. He’s pretty down to earth, but still a bit of a toff. His side-kick sergeant is a slightly younger Cockney woman, who is a bit prickly. Class struggle in a police car. 🙂

    We can’t hold a candle to when your continent was peopled. But we’re gaining on you 🙂 . They just didn’t think we could have been peopled, so early, as, during the last ice age about 10,000 years ago, there was a land bridge across the Bering Strait. As ocean levels were about 400′ lower. Due to all that water being locked up in huge ice sheets. Which also blocked access to North America. But if those people came earlier, they must have come by sea. Complicating matters is that all those early ocean side sites are now deep under water. Well, it will be interesting to see how it all sorts out. Lew

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