Local hero

Many years ago when travelling the surrounding countryside, it was hard to go past second hand bookshops. In other parts of the world, brand new books are probably cheaper than they are down under. Down here, a book can find itself a second life for itself in the dusty shelves of a second hand bookshop where they’ll still bring good quantities of mad cash. Rent being cheaper in the country, a second hand bookshop probably makes more economic sense in rural areas.

Since a young age, my father was estranged. Yet in my early twenties I’d inadvertently became aware that he was running a second hand bookshop in a suburban strip shop. A mate of mine worked around the corner from him, he noticed a passing similarity. Because my old friend has a curious mind, he went into the store and put my father to the question. My mate thought he was being pretty clever, which he was.

Second hand bookshops with expensive rents, probably don’t make much economic sense. Reality being one of the downsides of my profession. My dad eventually closed the business down. In an interesting side story, by sheer chance I later read an article in the newspaper about a lady who purchased my dad’s book inventory and made heaps of mad cash selling them online. That’s business for you.

One my favourite second hand bookshops is located in a country town to the north of here. The shop is on a road leading out of town, and may once have even been the local general store, after all it is surrounded by houses. Stepping into the store you’re greeted with old timey music, a strong musty scent, and a maze of wall to ceiling bookcases and rooms. The handwritten signs attached to bookcases point customers to various categories.

It’s not hard to make a bee-line to the sci-fi and fantasy area, especially when you know where it is. Which by the way, was in a room out the back where less polite customers usually don’t venture. It was in that store where the collection of my favourite author, Jack Vance, and his pulp fiction books was mostly filled. The interweb padded out the missing chunks of the collection. Nowadays the paper has yellowed on the forty and fifty year old books, and the bindings don’t quite hang onto all of the pages. But the covers sure look great!

A pulp fiction novel from my favourite author

The covers are great aren’t they? Strange landscapes, monstrous aliens both alive and vanquished, and way off in the distance in front of an oversized moon, a castle. The promise of a gripping yarn where the hero faces unknown odds and yet prevails using a combination of wit and luck. What’s not to like?

Thankfully, fans of the author have restored the original texts, and using the miracle of print-on-demand technology have reproduced all of the precious stories on low acid paper. A worthy investment for the future.

But back to the dusty old second hand book shop. There are only so many Jack Vance books to read, and after a while the eye wanders the shelves and spies other great authors works. But then there are other authors.

The title “The Mists of Avalon” attracted the eye. There it sat on the shelf just asking to be read. The author was Marion Zimmer Bradley, who apparently did quite well financially from her body of work and from that book in particular. Knowing nothing of the Arthurian tales or tradition, the thought as to purchasing the book went something along the lines of: “Why not?”

To be fair to the author, the read was enjoyable, and by all accounts a commercial success. However, it seemed incongruous that a warlord as renowned as King Arthur could be insulted to his face by allies at a dinner, and then casually just kind of take it on the chin. C’mon guys don’t trash talk me, hey? That was hard to explain, but what was harder to explain was that the warlord didn’t jump onto the table, kick the food to the side and strike the head from the shoulders of the annoying bloke who was dissing him. At the very least the author may have included a bloody sword battle over the insults. It’s not like he didn’t wield the famed sword Excalibur. And Merlin was portrayed as a bit of an ineffectual tool, who at the end of the story meekly submitted to his own death, just because. What the? The only character roughly true to type was Mordred, who killed and was killed by King Arthur. That bit of the story would have been difficult for the author to alter. But even then, Mordred was written about as if he were a sulky teenager. Why is everyone being so mean to me, all the time! Far out! Talk about poetic license of an otherwise powerful story.

The actual story of King Arthur is a narrative of the isle of Britain during the latter stages of the fall of Rome. The Roman Empire was in terminal decline. Wars raged. The Roman legions whom had occupied the island for four hundred years had left within the past century. Chaos ruled. The population declined significantly. London was abandoned. Anglo-Saxon invaders hailing from the continent violently wrested lands away from the locals. One warlord was strong enough and clever enough to unite the land and bring a period of relative stability, and that was King Arthur. With his adviser Merlin and band of merry knights, allies, and armies, they probably spent most of their years fighting just to survive.

That my dear reader, is one possible future awaiting our civilisation. That’s the power of it’s narrative. And as Arthur faced himself and his shadow in the form of Mordred, thus we as individuals and also as a civilisation have to face ourselves and the consequences of our actions.

The story is what decline looks like. It’s all continual threats, wars, loss and fighting just to stay where you’re at. And it’s slow, Arthur’s story took place over decades, and came on the back of a century or two of decline. But the central core of the story, is that Arthur tried, won, failed, and yet despite all else, his shadow fell long upon the future.

The war on rats continued this week. From past experience with the chicken enclosure, in order to thwart the rats and their activities, you have to learn all about their movements. With that in mind, surrounding the house is now a narrow layer of larger and heavier rocks. We can daily observe how the rats get into and then out again from the underneath of the house.

It’s a brutal war, but intelligence suggests that the rats had been entering and exiting via a number of locations, which are now all plugged up. Things are probably getting desperate for the band of plucky rodents.

A hole leading under the house created by the rats

On Thursday I had a few free blissfully quiet hours. As a side hobby, from time to time, I’ll refurbish an old high quality item of stereo equipment dating from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The machines are nearing the end of their life. The work is not difficult, but there is a real shortage of people who can do such work. More than anything it just takes a lot of time and care. So on Thursday I began the process by surveying the guts of the machine, seeing what needed doing and ordered the replacement parts.

I’ll probably do the project over the Christmas break. Incidentally, the machines themselves aren’t worth much to purchase second hand, and the replacement parts were about $50. But after the replacement parts are installed, very few new machines will match the sound quality. There is truth to the saying that: ‘they don’t make ’em like that any more!’ And anyway, it’s a hobby which I enjoy.

An old Yamaha T-80 tuner waiting to be refurbished

The garden terraces needed weeding. ‘Nuff said! We spent five hours weeding those garden beds.

The garden terraces needed weeding badly

Once the terraces were weeded, we planted out the seasons peas and beans.

Peas were planted in the freshly weeded garden beds
The peas get to climb up and onto a sturdy chicken wire frame
Beans were planted in another area of the terraced garden beds

We’d raised all of the peas and beans from seed saved from last years excellent crop. Both plants produce really well here, and we’ve selected varieties over the years which do really well in the variable local conditions.

The garden terraces are now looking pretty good.

Rows of colourful and aromatic roses are between rows of raspberries, peas and beans
The raspberries on the left hand side transplanted only months ago, are growing very well

The weeds were dumped onto a nearby area of grass. We’ll let the material dry out for a week or so before then hitting it hard with the mower which will blitz it all up. The material will feed the soil critters and produce healthier grass for the local wildlife to graze upon.

The weeds were dumped onto grass where it will dry out for a week or so

The plants in the new larger greenhouse are growing nicely. Being protected from frost, we can grow some cool-sub-tropical varieties of plants in there, and one of those is a Babaco which is a kind of pawpaw. This week the plant began the process of producing some fruit. That was fast.

This Babaco has begun to produce some flowers which will hopefully lead to fruit

Also in the greenhouse we are growing a number of strawberry plants, and none has produced as well or as early as the hybrid pink flowering strawberry.

The future is looking bright for this strawberry plant

And when the sun shines and the wind is easy, the insects are out in force. The hum is audible. Some of the butterflies and moths are quite colourful.

A plain tiger butterfly pollinates this onion flower

Onto the flowers:

It’s still Rhodie time! There are two Rhododendron plants in this photo
Some Rhodies enjoy a great view
Comfrey plants have produced flowers
The Geraniums have begun producing flowers with deeper colours
It’s early days for Rose flowers, and this one is rather aromatic
Some of the Roses are real stunners

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 11’C (52’F). So far this year there has been 1,362.6mm (53.6 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 1,351.4mm (53.2 inches)

48 thoughts on “Local hero”

  1. Hi Lewis,

    Thank you for dropping by with the update, and best wishes for a speedy recovery. Remember to keep up your fluids and get plenty of rest young man! 🙂

    Feeling a bit off myself today, and took a sick day off paid work – not that I get paid for such things. Pottered around the place this afternoon just doing things here and there and now feeling better. The weather is still pretty cloudy and on the cooler side. It barely reached 57’F today. Still too cold to plant out pumpkins and melons, and the season is probably going to be so short that they won’t produce much in the way of fruit anyway. Oh well, mustn’t grumble, things could be worse.

    Hope you get better soon mate.



  2. @ Lew
    Sorry to hear that you are sick. Look after yourself and may you soon be well.


    Hello Chris
    Oh second hand bookshops, one of the loves of my life. At one time I was very involved in buying from and selling to them. Unfortunately the only one reasonably accessible to me now, is not too good. I used to go up to London to sell but this is now beyond me. Not keen on doing it on the internet.


  3. Musty bookstores! Yes!
    Well cared for slow media will be around well after the last chip and capacitor have oxidized. I’m lucky enough to live near this quirky but dedicated refuge.

    You’ve mentioned Jack Vance several times, so I have put him on my list- Have read a lot of sci-fi, but for some reason, never read any of his stuff (that I can recall).

    I’m going to start a book club based out of our small local library, and sci-fi will be one of the themes.

    Yes, periods of decline are when humanity’s darker side gets even more free rein than usual. When the pie is shrinking, a sharper knife might be the only way to shave off your share. The centralized monopoly on violence has some advantages I think most don’t even think about.

    Anyhoo, all is well here, the root cellar and pantry are stuffed and ready to carry us through winter. Already got our first seed catalogue in the mail!


  4. @ Lew – I wish you a speedy recovery!

    Chris – the snow didn’t last into the afternoon, so it didn’t create any difficulty. Over the weekend Mike and I rescued two carloads of plastic bags full of leaves that someone had illegally and harmfully dumped in the creek headwaters down the street from us. The leaves are now serving their proper function as mulch in the garden and as ingredients for making compost starting next spring.

    We have a CD player from the mid 1980s that needs repair. The similarly-aged cassette tape deck probably needs repair too. I hope the store that has done repairs on other parts of our stereo system is still in existence. I’ll look them up soon.


  5. Hi Pam,

    Apologies for the brain fart! I missed your comment, and can’t explain why. Err, not on A-game at the moment. 🙂 Was listening to a podcast this morning about a couple of blokes living off the land near to your part of the world, and sweet potatoes were mentioned. Believe it or not, that twigged my memory of your comment. Then the awful realisation sunk in…

    I reckon it is too cold here in the mountains north of Melbourne to grow sweet potato. I found a link to some folks growing the tubers in the big smoke, and they seem to know what they’re doing. How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Melbourne

    Sub tropical plants are really super marginal here. They might do OK in the greenhouse, but then much depends upon the winter. Do you grow them at your place? There was that lovely coffee shrub which grew beautifully, until the snowfall.

    Yams are a different plant down here than what you may know them as. In the cooler areas south of the Great Dividing Range which runs up the eastern part of the continent, they were probably the main source of calories and I believe were traditionally roasted. Believe it or not, the introduced sheep ate a lot of the yams. It’s a sad story, mostly because we don’t really know what we’ve lost. But on the other hand, potatoes and berries grow really well here. Potatoes are not a crop you want to subsist upon because sooner or later the soil minerals will be stripped and the plant will let you down, probably badly. Ook!

    Do you grow yams?



  6. Hi Inge,

    Aren’t second hand bookshops lovely places to while away some time. And I can’t really speak for you, but it was rare that I left such a business empty handed. Did you enjoy the buying and selling activities? Did you ever discover any rare gems?

    For your interest, it’s been many a year since I’ve sold items on the interweb. Over the past decade the process has morphed, and I experienced some of the worst aspects of humanity with that activity, sorry to say. It was an odd decline, that’s for sure. Some of the more recent, and candidly cheaper, platforms for this purpose have encouraged a sort of wild west disregard of social niceties. The stories I’ve heard. Hmm. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive, but then I chose not to deal with such bizarre behaviour.



  7. Hi Claire,

    Nice one! And it’s good that you and Mike were able to get stuck into winding the garden down into winter mode. Oh no! What a disaster. Truth to tell, when the local tip fees went up, people began dumping stuff up here in the forest, like that makes it go away. The land of elsewhere is a beautiful place full of elves and unicorns and stuff. Bizarrely, the increased cost of fuel appears to have slowed that craziness.

    So, did someone bag up the leaves, and then just chuck them in the local creek? That’s so weird. People are a source of endless surprises. A cheap lawn mower will blitz them up in no time at all and then that stuff will feed the soil critters.

    You know, when I was renting in a nearby town’s housing estate whilst we built this house, I used to see people with trailer loads of lawn clippings and garden cuttings, presumably heading to the tip. Used to make me scratch my head in wonder at the stream of minerals heading out of the area. I dunno, a mystery.

    Talk about being out of step, but the house we rented had a front garden which had been maltreated by the former tenants. Their car was parked on the soil and leaked all manner of chemicals. It was a dead zone, so I brought it back to life. Then I began receiving nasty letters from the real estate agent to constantly cut the grass. What can I say, I brought that craziness down upon my own head. 🙂 It was preferable to move into an unfinished house.



  8. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the link to your local second hand bookshop, and I love the name. Cool. Man, it looks pretty similar to the one I wrote about, and I’ll bet your store has that same smell of plentiful books? 🙂 Such a treasure trove of greatness. The one I wrote about is called Book Heaven. Says it all huh? 😉

    If I may be so bold as to recommend a book, I’d recommend: Emphyrio. If you choose to read it, I’ll be very interested as to your thoughts on the story?

    Well done you. Hope the book club is fun. I believe Margaret here has experience with book clubs.

    That’s a very thoughtful observation. I’m going to have to consider what you’ve written for a bit. But yeah, I tend to agree. Eventually the centralised folks I reckon, might over reach, or forget what they are there to do, or get lazy. Dunno. Then there is mission creep too. So many ways to muck that whole thing up. Sad, but true. And keep that knife sharpened, which fortunately I’m guessing you know how to do. 😉

    Awesome stuff! A pantry full of preserves to get you through the winter is as nice as a shed full of dry firewood. Man, I’m dithering about when to get the pumpkin and melon seedlings into the ground. Might do that tomorrow whilst the weather is cooler than it will be later in the week. Dunno.



  9. Hi Lewis,

    Hope you are feeling better mate. 🙂

    Nothing much to report today. It rained this morning, of course. Put down some sugar cane mulch in the sapling fenced enclosure and am thinking about putting in the pumpkin seedlings tomorrow. It’s a bit cool still, but I dunno. I mean, it’s almost December and the growing season is err, progressing.

    Anyway, keep up your fluids and get some rest.



  10. Hello Chris
    Forgot to mention that when I first looked at your offering this week, I thought that the initial photo was a game! This demonstrates my extreme ignorance in the area.

    Oh I loved buying and selling books. I certainly have some good ones but forget when and where they were individually acquired. Keep telling my descendants to check everything carefully. At one time I collected the illustrators rather than the authors and these have done well.


  11. Hello again
    Cecil Court in London was a great place to go for books and they always played fair over prices. You can look the area up if you go to Cecil Court Convent Garden on the internet. It is interesting.


  12. Hi, Chris!

    Isn’t it funny when we realize that we have something in common with an ancestor? And, as in the closing of your father’s bookstore, how one sometimes needs to embrace new technology. Sometimes.

    I have been frequenting second hand book stores since I could drive. There were none close to us when I was younger and I was not allowed to ride the bus.

    What marvelous cover art! Magic, indeed.

    I loved your take on “The Mists of Avalon”, though I have not read it. And your synopsis of Arthurian times.

    So, the rats are now aiming for your house, not just the chooks’?
    I guess we can’t call the leader Mordred, you being the King Arthur of your castle, or you would be part rat . . .

    I am still weeding here where the nights are often freezing, have to fit it in where I can. I eat many as I pull them out.

    I hope you feel better soon.


  13. @ Lew:

    Lew, my dear, I hope that you are back amongst us soon and feeling like your old self. We miss you,


  14. Hi Chris,

    Yes, someone bagged up the leaves in big plastic bags and then hauled them to the portion of the creek system which passes under our street and threw the bags into that. It may have been the people I saw filling the same kind of plastic bags with leaves farther up the street a few days earlier, but I don’t know for sure. They dumped the bags into the headwaters of a small tributary that flows into the main stem of the creek about a mile from here. This headwaters is dry except after heavy rain or when the soil is saturated, and it’s dry now, so at least the bags didn’t get soaked with water.

    I don’t get why people bag leaves either. As you point out, all you have to do is run a cheap lawnmower over them to make them small enough to decay rapidly. Maybe it’s because of leaf blowers. It seems everyone has one and uses them to blow leaves into big piles. Then they seem to think they have to bag up the leaves, instead of letting their children or grandchildren jump into the piles and break the leaves down that way. If only leaf blowers had existed when I was a child … back then, in the dark ages before leaf blowers, we had to rake up the leaves ourselves to make the piles we jumped into.


  15. Yo, Chris – On the mend. Actually took in some food, yesterday.

    At least I seem to be past the dry heaves and diarrhea. The occasional hacking cough that made my ribs ache. The fever.

    When I took H out for her walk, this morning, there were a few snow flakes. Nothing to write home about. Yup. I’ve been walking the darned dog, through my illness. Once I get past it, I’ve got to have a serious talk with Elinor about a plan B. Someone else should have been walking the dog, for the duration. But who?

    Interesting insight into your old man. I wonder … Wouldn’t be the first time a reader and non-reader came to loggerheads. By the way, I got curious about the illustrator of that cover. David B. Mattingly. Quit successful and well know. Lew

  16. @Lew
    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    I think you know I volunteer at a used book store. It’s been around for 12 years but the last couple of years it’s become a bit more upscale. The books were individually priced as low as $1 but now hardcovers are $7, trade paperback $5, mass market paperbacks $3. We do have a clearance room with lower prices. The organization actually has two bookstores, the 2nd one in a more upscale community and the prices are higher. We have a paid manager now and while she’s really fixed the place up she’s also brought in some gift items as well. I’m not alone in thinking that the prices are getting too high at least at the store where I work and I’m not alone in that thinking. I do enjoy working there though and one of the perks of volunteering there is we can take any book home to read and return it. If we decide to keep it then we pay.

    Impressed with your electronic skills. You really are a handy guy.

    Flowers, as always, are beautiful.


  17. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for mentioning Cecil Court Convent Garden. I took your advice and went on a virtual walking tour of the court, and it is a beautiful place. One of the businesses had a notice on their pane glass window which suggested that the business was established in 1782. As you do. 🙂 Beautiful, and I would love to idle away a few delightful hours in such a locale. Alas, my lot is never to venture to such far distant shores again.

    Hehe! Yes, I can understand how the box of electronics could appear to be a game. Certainly game consoles look similar, and the inner guts of the machines are surprisingly not all that different from a visual point of view. I quite enjoy the slow and patient work of restoring such a machine, but I know that in another century or so, their like will be but a mere memory – if even that.

    Respect. Clearly, to me anyway, I reckon you knew the mind of the collector? I know of some people who have the talent of knowing exactly what the collector is after and then providing that need to them – and by all accounts they do really well financially out of it. It’s a real art, and not everyone has that knack.

    Well, I have to say that realistically, that is a risk with your collection. What else do you do?



  18. Hi Pam,

    Yeah, it is funny isn’t it, and you never know do you? Must be in the blood? My grandfather who did very well was an accountant, and so is my oldest sister for that matter. Probably something in the water.

    At this stage I’d probably appreciate if new technology slowed down a touch and we all took a big deep breath and discovered just what mischief has been wrought upon us all. 🙂 But seriously, I bend with the winds of necessity. I was on hold for almost two hours today with a work related matter, about some software issue. It’s a bad thing that it is that difficult to sort simple matters out. I don’t waste time though, and kept working on other things and just kept the annoying background hold music as a counterpoint to the national youth radio broadcaster. Not a good mix, but better than hold music alone!

    Oooo! Lovely stuff, and the shops are one of life’s little pleasures. There’s the hunting and gathering in among the dusty and mildly musty smelling shelves. Then there is the eventual read of said finds. Others may wish to travel to distant and exotic locales, but I’ll bet you’ve been to many such a place and more with a good book enjoyed from the comfort of your favourite chair?

    Interestingly, the author opted for a different title for the book. The publisher had their evil way. However, in a cosmic readjustment, the low acid paper print-on-demand version the title is “Miro Hetzel Effectuator”. Hmm, maybe the publisher was right? The new title does sound like a tale of an insurance assessor. Which I might add, was a narrative included as a minor side-story in one of Jack Vance’s other books. Sorry, I digress. 🙂

    Thanks, and the more I learn about that time in history (which we know very little of), the more interesting that time period sounds. Although, it may have been an uncomfortable time of adventures, and err, hobbits don’t like that stuff!

    No, the rats were always something of a nuisance under the house. Basically, we’re tackling one area at a time. Everything takes energy. Made the decision today to reduce the amount of plantings of annuals this year. My life is not my own. This afternoon a big paid work project bounced in, and work keeps getting pushed back. But I’m keeping ahead, for now, just.

    Now that you mention it, I do seem to have a comprehension of those naughty rodents. But King, it’s a big call! Hehe!

    Fresh greens are so good for you. Respect. We’re inching ever closer to the respective solstices aren’t we? Planted out the cucumbers, pumpkins and melons today. Dunno what they’ll do this crazy cold season.



  19. Hi Claire,

    It was only a wild guess as to what may have happened. You know sometimes when you speculate as to how something really strange may have happened, you consider the situation and then ask the hard question: Now if I was being utterly thoughtless, what are the possibilities? But really? Why go to the effort of bagging them all up and then chucking the bags in the local creek. Nature breaks them down for free. A mystery.

    That’s the thing with commons, you can’t really be sure who done what? It’s not good though, regardless.

    You’re probably right, those machines blow. Sorry for the awful pun, but people misuse those machines. We have a leaf blower here, it’s a mains powered device. We have various rakes for leaves, and so the blower gets used only to clean down machines after their use. I learned that trick from one of the local mechanics. And it works. The best use those blower machines can be put to.

    You might be happy to know that around these parts, I see canny older folks bagging up the autumn leaves from deciduous trees presumably so as to chuck into their compost piles. But you don’t see young folks engaged with that activity sorry to say. They know not what they are missing out on.

    Planted out the cucumbers, pumpkins and melons today. It’s still a bit cold, but I couldn’t wait any longer. And if it gets too hot for them later in the season, and they’re not well established, that could be a problem too. It’s a gamble. The nights are very cold here at the moment, and the days aren’t all that warm.



  20. Hi Margaret,

    Those are pretty good prices for second hand books. Not bad at all, and like you, I too would enjoy working at such a place. Hey, that’s a good deal with being able to borrow the stock.

    Well, you’ve done your time in the trade, and deep down you might know the answer already. Reality being one of the downsides of the profession, hmm? 🙂 Far out. So tell me, how is the paid person funded? No please there is no need to tell me. I too have volunteered in groups where some of the higher up folks were paid. At the time I really didn’t know what to make of it all, but expectations sure seemed high. One amusing old timer farmer said to me one day: “Mate, I’ll send them in a timesheet”. Yes, so true.

    There is a business of op-shops down here known as ‘Savers’ and I believe everyone who works there gets paid. They seem to be popping up in various places, and they’re good. Ah, they appear to be represented in your country as well and began there. Interesting.

    Thanks. It’s a hobby for me, that is when I don’t have too many other things going on. 🙂 The funny thing about the machine is that I know how to repair it, but I have no idea how the thing works. It’s like being in a 1970’s sci-fi novel, or something like that where you’re stuck with some ancient technology and are trying to work out how to keep it going. 🙂 But far out, once the machine is refurbished, they usually sound amazing.

    Had a slightly drier week this week. I must say, at this stage, I’m rather enjoying the absence of rain. It’s hard not to note that there is an old volcano going off in Hawaii which will put more particulate matter into the atmosphere, but you’d hope it wasn’t as powerful an eruption as the Tongan one – probably not likely.



  21. Hi Lewis,

    Good to hear, I’ve kind of missed our regular chats, and man I felt for you. It sounded like a nightmare. They do say that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but I reckon that might also be a bunch of dog poop of a concept.

    Hope it wasn’t the turkey that brought you down? Man, you’re doing it hard and that sounds brutal. Fever, and I’m guessing chills are not good. Please do keep such mischief over your side of the Pacific Ocean?

    Look, this next one is here to cheer you up. And yes, it’s in bad taste, but you did mention heaving. Lewis, mate, you’re like Chucky, and he’s ba-ah-ack… As in a reference to the dodgy horror film Child’s Play, an interesting premise but it is kind of hard to be scared of a puppet even if it wields a sharp knife. Maybe it’s a rubbish joke… I dunno, what even am I saying here?

    Hang on a sec? I thought it was bad when I had no option but to work when I had you-know-what, but getting out in the snow, no matter how light, to walk H, that’s rough. You’re getting some serious sympathy here. And it’s not a bad idea to have a plan B for such times in the future. Hope H has been on her best behaviour during your time of illness?

    I think that there is an element of trust in that possible plan B, and not everyone is up for such a responsibility. Honestly, H would have been fine, maybe. Whenever I’ve been ill, the dogs just had to deal.

    Thanks. Interestingly, I just discovered that the person who bought that shop, business and stock may themselves have departed the bricks and mortar environment in 2019. Well, there you go.

    Wow, the bloke must have been young when he did the art for that cover?

    No rain today. Yay! Planted out the cucumbers, melons and pumpkins (you’d call them squashes, but let’s not quibble – they’re pumpkins!).

    Great to hear you’re feeling better, and hope that this missive finds you in even better health. 🙂



  22. @Lew

    Glad to see you back. I was wondering how H would be taken care of. Yes, a plan B is absolutely necessary.


  23. Yo, Chris – Well, we had a wild night, weather wise. Gusts of wind to 35mph and buckets of rain. Something, I’m sure, you’re unfamiliar with. 🙂 Lights flickered twice, but not long enough to have to reset the clocks.

    There’s snow all over our forecasts, but so far, nothing. Prof. Mass seems to think we’re not going to get any, this far south … at least this week.

    Ah, THAT food book. I don’t think the library has gotten it yet, as it hasn’t slipped into the “pending” status. Which means they’re processing it. I think I’m also waiting on an Australian cook book.

    I felt a bit better, yesterday, but might have overdone it in the eating department. Taking it slow, as far as activity goes. I am going to nip down to the library, this morning. I’ve got stuff to drop off and pick up. Thought I’d better go, in case the snow does fly. And they slam the doors. The plan is, laundry tomorrow night, shower on Friday night, and maybe the Club on Saturday morning. We’ll see.

    On reflection, if H were my dog, I’d be walking her, anyway. Oh, she’s been her usual self. Sometimes a bit naughty, but mostly cheering. Sometimes hard to be patient, when I don’t feel well.

    I woke up at 3am with the oddest thought. It was about your dropping the bomb that your old man had a used book store. “Chris is like an onion. Slooowly peeling off the layers. Or maybe like an exotic dancer. The slow reveal. Keep ’em coming back and wanting more. 🙂 Lew

  24. @ Pam,

    I liked the breakfast you mentioned: fried sweet potatoes covered with runny eggs and hot sauce. Yum. That’s one of my favorites too. It works okay with regular potatoes, but the sweet potatoes make it much better.


  25. Chris,

    Secondhand bookshops? The Princess and I can get lost for hours in them. We have several good ones in the area.

    We are, indeed, having weather. Icy snow on Monday that the powers that be pretty much ignored. I HAD to run errands on Tuesday. Only one word describes that: Ugg. Even the major arterials were still icy at places. Everything else was solid ice.

    Why did I HAVE to do go out then? The major event is occurring. Started snowing about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. By 6:30 there was officially 15cm and still coming down hard. And windy, so it is drifting badly. All of the schools are closed, as are some businesses. The Honda CRV is in the driveway. Buried and drifted in.

    Avalanche, of course, is happy. Snow is her best friend. She keeps hinting that she wants me to go outside to romp in the white stuff. Shhhhh. Don’t tell her, but I will be out to romp with her soon.

    Good luck in the ongoing war with the rats. Being King Rat might not be a good thing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Rat_(film)

    Thanks for the flower photos. They’re a very welcome break from the winter wonderland here.


  26. Hi DJ,

    Mate, you’re both in good company with the enjoyment of second hand bookshops, and honestly I had not appreciated that they were even in your country. Bill Bryson led me to believe that new books being cheaper in your country, there wasn’t a great deal of demand for the second hand product. Hmm. I’ll tell you a little secret. Get in a bit closer. Stop mucking around! Get closer and listen in. That’s better. I deliberately write a long essay each week so as to get rid of people who don’t enjoy reading. 😉 Now, let’s just keep that secret between us two? 🙂 Hehe!

    DJ, I’m so sorry yes, your weather is awful. However, it rained here again this morning, 4mm to be precise and was cold and cloudy enough for the day that I had to run the wood heater this evening. But you know what? Tomorrow is set to reach 23’C, then 30’C for Saturday, and oh my gawd 33’C for Sunday. Yay, the growing season may be here! Maybe. But don’t worry, rain and cooler weather is due to return Monday. Yay, for us!

    On a more serious note, your weather sounds horrid. Be careful and avoid heading out in those conditions. And need I mention it, but it’s only early days for you.

    Subaru’s down here are only sold as all-wheel-drive. I assume this is the case in your country? The extra traction would help in the horrendous conditions you are experiencing right now. It’s funny how product is marketed, but down under that brand doesn’t share the err, possible stigma that is enjoyed in your country. It was hard not to note that one of the vehicles driven – I believe – in the series ‘Breaking Bad’ was of that brand.

    Ugg! I thought it necessary to share an emotional outburst of uggness! 🙂 I always tease the Editor by suggesting that I may have a little bit more Neanderthal genetics than my peers. 🙂 Who doesn’t love a good Ugg! Ah, I feel much better now for uttering that expletive. And hope that you feel better too. And seriously, avoid deep snow drifts. Seek shelter, cave. Where did that last sentence come from? 🙂

    Avalanche is in her element in such conditions, and truly they call to her blood. Sir Poopy used to love the snow. You couldn’t keep him out of the stuff. I used to say to him: Mate, it’s getting a bit cold now, don’t you want to come back inside and hang out in front of the fire? But no, apparently not. And, maybe one day in some distant future, Avalanche may encounter a herd of deer, and like all of her breed deftly send them scuttling off (from the safety of the rear) as if they were a pesky band of maraudering reindeer.

    Yes, probably true. There is a somewhat older song now with the title: You always know the DJ (and not referring to your good self, but the DJ of the Club – sorry). Anyway, when the chips are down it’s possibly good to know people who get stuff done. Isn’t that the side story of that film? A true meritocracy? Broken in the end, but a good outcome all the same.

    My pleasure, and stay warm. The roads here are not good. A bit of snow might hide the mess, but then the snow might obscure the roads – and that probably would be worse. How do you even know where the roads are when snow is that deep? Or do you end up guessing?



  27. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, I’m really glad to see you back. For a moment there I thought that the dreaded flu was going to be not so good for your continuing good health. You of course, have now proven that you’re made of sterner stuff than fear alone. Respect.

    All that screaming wind and buckets of rain would have interrupted your quiet repose. Good to see that you’ve got your humour back, and that was quite amusing. Yes, very funny indeed. And for the record, it did actually rain here again this morning. It wasn’t meant to, but that’s the climate for ya. Far out, what a crazy year.

    Sometimes when the wind very occasionally picks up, the gusts can slam the side of the house pretty hard. Makes you wonder how houses with huge banks of glazing handle such strong wind gusts? I guess toughened glazing is a reasonably flexible material – to a point. In the big smoke there have been one or two occasions when glazing has popped out of high rise towers before then crashing to the street. Not what you want to be crushed to the earth by, and certainly it would be fatal. Although I can’t recall anyone being killed by such a thing. And in a not unrelated side story, if ever you doubted the intelligence of the local parrots, check this out: Cockatoo caught on video dropping pot plants from Melbourne apartment, council warns residents . You see what I have to deal with here? 🙂

    I must say, the good Professor’s grasp of pragmatic solutions is very sensible. Tarps are cheap – I agree. It’s only early in the season, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of snow to come. We’re not even at the solstice yet.

    Oh well, I guess the food book on best essays for the year will eventually show up. Hmm, an Australian cook book might be interesting, and you couldn’t go past Cookery, the Australian way, although it was first penned in the 1966 and is now in the eighth edition, it is light on for glossy colour photos – at least my edition has that dearth. However, more space is spent on how to get this stuff done in the kitchen. Such pragmatism sings to my heart. 🙂 Apparently, it’s sold a million copies, which for a book down under is extraordinary. Best sellers are far less than that heady circulation number.

    Well done you, and good to see you getting back into life. Hope the snow didn’t eventuate and force a closure of the library or the club (later in the week)?

    H would have been lovely company. If ever I’m ill, I spend time upon the comfy couch (and if it’s cold, keep the wood fire going). The dogs play a game of ‘stacks on’ (with me on the underside) and they vie with each other to outcompete and win the prized spot on the couch – sometimes kicking me off in the process. Some of the tricks they pull on each other, are worthy of The Prince (Machiavelli). If I need to sleep, I do send them and their crazy antics packing. If they can’t behave themselves… But on the whole, they are cheering companions at a time when that’s necessary, as I’m sure you’ve found.

    I hear you about the exotic dancer, but I’d tend to prefer the onion metaphor. 😉 Life is full of stories, it always surprises me to learn that other people do not see the world that way. Oh well. Sometimes the interweb produces information, and I discovered that he’d maybe set up the bookshop in about 1980. And I had been misinformed, the new owner from about 1996 had an online presence, but physically moved the store to a new bricks and mortar location and kept that running until about 2019 when the doors finally closed for good. It is now a fully online business I believe. Apparently it is one of the long-timer second hand bookshops around. Who knew?

    Had to do paid work all day long today. We did take a break to head to the post office / general store and get some lunch and a coffee. But then got back into paid work when we got home. Me tired, and my brain is at risk of wearing out. I don’t want that at all. Hopefully that is it for the next couple of days he types whilst yawning away.



  28. Chris:

    Oh, yeah – like gardening. My father and his father were both avid gardeners like me. Your grandfather and you were/are, also. Maybe your ancestors – like your grandfather and you – were good organizers and logical thinkers and could work with numbers (irregardless of the fact that you struggled with maths).

    That title does leave somethinge to be desired . . . I can see where an insurance assessor might fit in if it was a mystery.

    Crazy old season, indeed!


  29. Yo, Chris – I still get exhausted, pretty easy. And I think I damaged my ribs, a bit, early on. From the dry heaves. When I cough, I have to hold myself, as it still hurts. Goal for this evening is to get some laundry done, and make a grocery run. Go hard in the soup aisle. If the weather cooperates.

    Around 1am, I looked out the window, and the snow was a’comin’ down. I thought we’d have at least an inch, by this morning, but it’s mostly gone. It was a pretty steady 32F (-0-C), last night. -0-C sounds more dramatic than 32F. Tonight, it’s supposed to get down to 22F (-5.6C).

    That was quit the article about the parrots. Now we know where lost socks go. I was a bit confused as to if the article was talking about pot plants (as in marihouchie), or potted plants. Talk about the parrots blowing your cover! 🙂 Although here in the States, there are many areas where a pot plant or two on the balcony, wouldn’t be illegal. They ARE pretty plants. And easy to grow!

    I had forgotten that, due to the holidays, everything moves slower. At least, at the library. The essays book could be sitting in a publisher’s box, at the Service Center. Though new stuff has been moving through. The Service Center can be a bit of a ghost town, this time of year. People taking leave, here and there. After the holidays, I’ll see if I can get a copy of “Cookery the Australian Way”, on interlibrary loan.

    In my defense, there seems to be a metaphor shortage. I think it’s supply line problems. Maybe I can order some off the Net? 🙂

    There’s a can of beef barley soup, with my name on it, sitting on my counter. It just sounds good. I’ll jazz it up with some garlic, mushrooms and frozen chopped spinach. I’ll probably only be able to finish half of it. Save the rest, for later. Lew

  30. Chris,

    Hehehe! Thanks for sharing the secret. 😉

    Congrats on some warm weather, at least for a few days. Had to scrape ice off the sidewalks today. Yesterday had a brief thaw after I cleared the snow, then a bit of wet snow, then it froze overnight. After it got slightly above freezing, it was time to use the snow shovel to move as much ice as would freely get removed. I figured physics would take care of the rest – with a little aid. While many neighbors use some type of salt or de-icer on the ice, I used sand. Yup, the stuff that is in all the yards here. Tossed some of that on the iciest spots. It’s darker than ice and snow, so should absorb any “heat” and melt the ice underneath it while also providing traction. No chemical pollutants. And it’s supposed to get to -12C or lower for several nights, so that the ice might “magically” disappear thanks to sublimation.

    The snowplows should be in our area overnight or Friday morning. Then I get to dig ice blocks out of the driveway. These are often the right size and consistency to use as base blocks for an igloo. Winter in Spokane and DJ gets a great full body workout. 🙂 Meanwhile, nowhere I need to go until the carving club on Saturday morning.

    Yup, the Subarus sold here are all wheel drive. The Honda CRV is front wheel drive, but if any tire starts to slip it becomes all-wheel drive temporarily. It does well in the snow, but the Subaru does better. There are a LOT of Subarus in the USA. And Hondas. And Toyotas.

    I know I have Cro-Magnons in the family tree. Caves comfortable. Deep snow drifts too cold. Ugg.

    I was chatting with my favorite cousin this evening. Once upon a year she had 2 dogs that had a lot of wolf in them. Actually, they were 2 wolves that a smidgen of dog in them. The only time they were comfortable was in the winter in eastern South Dakota. Cousin and the dogs spent 2 or 3 years there. They refused to come inside in the winter. “Mama, this is what we’re bred for. It’s finally the right temperature for us. What do you mean -40C is too cold?!? It’s just right for us!” Avalanche feels much the same way, although it isn’t THAT cold.

    During and after winter storms, I like going to the Washington Department of Transportation website. Mountain pass information. Several of the passes have active cameras. After this latest storm, the road over Sherman Pass north of here wasn’t visible. Sherman’s elevation is nearly as high as the highest mountain in Spokane County, so it has some elevation.


  31. Hi Pam,

    And not to mention that your son is also into plants. Hope the figs are doing well? For your info, I cut the figs back hard here so as to produce a better shaped tree, and they’ve grown rapidly in response. If you go back far enough in time, plants dominated peoples lives in one way or another. Many years ago I was watching an early episode of the UK series River Cottage. A charming series, at least the early incarnation was. There was some mention that not all that long ago, people were generally aware of the uses of something like 120 plants found in their immediate area. Not sure how they came up that number, but all the same the point is valid.

    Hehe! Insurance agents probably have stories to tell, but need we hear them? That is the question! 🙂

    The season is what it is. Had a quieter day today, but had to get up very early and complete a work job so that we could send it off in the mail. Christmas is not far away, and being summer, many businesses shut down. I’m hoping to.



  32. Hi Lewis,

    Youch. There’s a lot of muscle tissue in there against the ribs and it can get damaged as you’ve unfortunately discovered. Hope you recover soon, and respect for being up and about. Years ago I knew a bloke who had caught pleurisy, and by all accounts that was a very painful experience, which we’d all best avoid.

    Did you end up getting to the laundry? And I’m curious as to what sort of soup is your feel-better-go-to-soup? Mine is a split pea and ham soup. I reckon it is the salt in the broth and seriously the soup is 99% legumes / water and 1% ham. We tend to start that soup with a proper ham hock – sure looks like a hoof to me, despite the disingenuous name.

    Yeah exactly. 32’F sounds positively toasty warm. But zero, there’s a number which conveys a sense of the frozen wastelands from which such cold air derives. Seeing the snow falling would be nice. Haven’t seen snow here for about two years now. The last time it snowed here was devoid of tourists because of lock downs due to you-know-what. Incidentally, what I’ve taken away from the recent state and federal elections on that score is that things that bother me, don’t seem to trouble the vast majority of the population, if the results are any guide. Things that make you go, hmm. Oh well, best not to dwell upon such matters.

    Hehe! Wouldn’t that be funny? If people were growing actual pot plants on their balconies in the big smoke, and the cheeky cockatoos were dumping the plants into the street. Me thinks the plants wouldn’t go unrecognised for long. 😉 People are many things, and opportunistic is one of those things. All quite illegal down here. You’d be amazed at the number of times over the years that people have asked me if I could grow or supply them. I don’t think so, a lot of trouble, and everyone around here knows my business, sometimes better than I do! I must confess that I have wondered if the new large greenhouse may have attracted undue attention? Oh well, if they’re concerned they can come and just ask, it’s not hard to do.

    Yes, of course that would make sense about the slower delivery and processing of the hold list. It’s an odd time of year to have extended holidays because it’s like, cold for you. But then people might head south into Florida and stuff. Not sure I’d enjoy such a place. The tropics never held much appeal to me.

    It was a glorious day today, but sadly, and woe is me, for I had to get up at an abominable hour of the morning and spend many hours finishing off a large job which we then sent out in the mail. Crashed out on the couch after that, had a relaxed lunch and then crashed out again. This no week off work for three years business has left me a touch depleted of energy. My motto this week is: Just do, less. I don’t think it will sell, what do you reckon?

    The metaphor shortage is a problem. Dare I be so bold as to suggest re-branding? We could begin to mix metaphors just for fun? That’s recycling in action. One of my favourites is: Yeah, the ships bolted. Adds an element of mystery to peoples lives as I’m sure you’ll agree? Maybe? I do respect your attempt to boost supply using the dark powers of the interweb.

    Ah, so you went beef barley soup. Look, it sounds like just the thing considering your present health condition. Gotta keep your energy and fluids up (or perhaps in your case, down maybe more appropriate?)



  33. Hi DJ,

    Now you know! Get’s rid of the idiot element. ‘Nuff said.

    It was a very nice day here today, and we planted out the tomato seedlings in the warm summer sunshine. We’re going with a less is more approach this year with plants, and I think you’ll be surprised with the planting arrangement – if I remember to put in a photo on the next blog. At least everything is growing, and other than the greenhouse nothing else requires watering. What a season.

    And then there is what you are experiencing… Holy carp. As a person who appreciates numbers, did I count correctly that you used the word (or a derivative thereof) ‘ice’ seven times in that single paragraph. Mate, I felt cold just reading about your adventures. 🙂 It was like a story out of ‘Call of Wild’. Brr! Candidly, I would have no idea how to deal with those sorts of cold weather conditions and can only doff my hat to your good example.

    And respect to for using sand, instead of salt and who knows what else. Is this a new trial, you using sand? And has it performed well in previous years? The salt would be a nightmare for the soils, groundwater and local waterways. It’s something I’ve always wondered about. Salt in the old soils down under is a serious problem, and such use on roads would be frowned upon for that reason. I read a theory about the salt in the old soils here on the continent which suggested that rather than an inland sea, it arrived via rainfall just over a bonkers long time scale. Makes sense due to the lack of glaciation. Our mountains are lower in elevation compared to pretty much anywhere else.

    Are you suggesting it may convert to a gas?

    Did the snowploughs show up? You’ve mentioned making igloos before, and it just sounds bonkers cold to me. But then, the dog Buck in the Jack London book Call of the Wild, buried himself in the snow with his pack mates, and was apparently quite warm. Igloos as a technology, probably work well. Does the ice melt and drip once inside the igloo? Can you run a fire inside such a structure? I’d imagine smoke and melting ice would be a problem. But then where would you get dry fuel when it is cold enough to construct an igloo?

    Not a bad system at all the permanent four wheel drive. Some of the earlier models of Subaru’s down under used to have a transfer case (i.e. extra gearbox) with high and low range ratios, much like the Dirt Rat’s system. It amazes me that computers can individually brake a wheel, thus sending power to the other wheel. Quite clever really, and hope the computer doesn’t get it wrong. The dashboard in the Dirt Rat the other day began illuminating everything in red as a warning that the computer had the opinion that I was about to crash. A car in front of me was turning off the main road. It’s nice for the car to have opinions, but flashing red is a bit ‘genuine people personality’ for my comfort. Pah! Robots…

    Hey, you might be onto something with that Cro-Magnon stuff. They did have larger brains than ours. Ugg!

    Aren’t all dogs derived from the lineage of wolves? I’d quite enjoy the wild sense of space in such a part of your country, despite the rigours and hardships involved in living in such a place. -40’C is so far outside my experience, seriously it is beginning to sound like a warmish day on the surface of the planet Mars. Hope Avalanche enjoys the time out, and then enjoys the time in front of the heater?

    Sherman’s elevation is about the same height above sea level that I’m at, it being slightly higher. But yup, those cameras make for interesting sights during such weather.

    Speaking of which, when I woke this morning – an awful early time, there’s no getting around the horror – there was a wallaby happily munching away in the driveway, and another in the orchard. Clearly marsupial party central out there at night.



  34. Chris:

    How did I forget that my son is in that garden lineage as well? We are up to our neck in fig trees and they are doing well.


  35. Yo, Chris – My lung thing may be clearing up, but I did have a few go-arounds, last night.

    Yes, I managed to get my laundry done. I’ve discovered if I hit the laundry room, around dinner time, I usually have it to myself. Four machines …. two down. While things were drying, I nipped down to the grocery. I shouldn’t have gone, so early. Too many people. Seemed like anytime I needed to linger in a section, here came someone with an overflowing cart of whatever. But, I managed to grab some soup. I threw in the towel, on the frozen veg section. They’re poorly lit, and the doors have a tendency to fog up. But as near as I can tell, there’s a shortage of broccoli and brussels sprouts.

    I hit the yogurt, hard. My digestion seems a bit off, and I think it might help. I usually get it from the veg store, but probably won’t make it there, until Sunday. I picked up more beef barley soup, and, the old standby, chicken noodle. Of course, I usually add rice, garlic and some frozen veg. Just to jazz things up, a bit.

    Politics. Best ignored.

    It didn’t get near as cold as forecast, last night. Only hit 30F. No snow. Though it looks like it’s snowing all around us.

    Oh, all the holiday travel, and such, is more about family. Near or far. Or I think people take time off to prepare for the holidays.

    News from Idaho. Both my friends have that which dare not be named. They feel crappy, but, it could be worse.

    I was thinking about going down to the Club, tomorrow morning (Sat.). But, never mind. Tomorrow is that annual spasm of civic hoo-hoo, the annual Christmas parade. So, I’ll sit tight until Sunday morning. I’m going to make a quick run, to the library, this morning. Stuff to pick up! Lew

  36. Chris,

    “Get rid of the idiot element”? Dim ffwl in Welsh, pronounced close to “dim fool”, aka “no fools”. Culture lesson for today is now ended. 😉

    I’ll be excited to see the “more with less” gardening. I’m very familiar with “more with less”, but not in gardening. We were told for decades by the Head Honcho that, as government, the electeds want us to do “more with less”. The Head Honcho said that that would never happen. Immediately thereafter, we would lose a few staff members and have their jobs and other work added to us. But no, per the Head Honcho, it was NOT “more with less”. Whatever. It does sound interesting for gardening, however.

    Today’s walk with Avalanche felt like something out of Call of the Wild. Chilly, snowy, mostly clear and breezy. And the husky felt right at home and extra energetic and thought I was a sled to be pulled. I got some good cardio exercise. Actually, I found it to be enjoyably refreshing.

    I’ve experimented with sand before. It is good traction and does enhance melting somewhat. I don’t like the corrosive aspects of salt. Nor the polluting aspects of salt or the other de-icers when it hits the water. So, sand it is. I seem to live on an endless supply of the stuff. The concrete work I’ve been doing on the front porch the past couple of years is a direct result of 65 years of people using corrosives to remove ice from the porch and steps. Not doing that anymore.

    Yes, the ice may turn directly to gas/water vapor via the sublimation process. Happens every year when it gets cold and dry enough.

    No plows yet here. They are allegedly nearby. Killian the Doberman’s street was plowed 4 hours before I’m writing this and is a mere kilometer from here. They will get here when they get here, probably overnight.

    Never made igloos, but have made and slept in many snow caves. One of these I made in the style of an igloo. It was domed, had ledges on the sides on which to sleep, as well as 3 venting holes in the roof. The door was a bit higher than the sleeping ledges and allowed more heat to escape. About a dozen of us slept in there. In the morning, the outdoor temperature was -7C whereas the indoor temperature was +4C. Due to it being domed, the melting snow ran down the sides of the snow cave and froze before running onto the sleeping shelves. 🙂 A fire or even a few candles would have turned it into a rather nasty mess.

    Ugg. Good word. Ugg. DJ make fire. Ugg.

    Yeah all dogs are descended from wolves. Apparently the Siberian husky is about 3% wolf DNA, or so I’ve read. My cousin’s dogs actually were 7/8 wolf and 1/8 Malemute Husky. They behaved 100% like wolves. Angus, the male, would go into attack mode if you looked him in the eye. His sister, Aoife, was friendly IF and only if you waited for her to make the first move. Otherwise, she would remain aloof.

    Hmmm, so while Chris is fighting the Rat Horde, the Wallaby Cohort is getting larger. I see how this is going. Sounds like the Roman Empire or something. 😉


  37. Hi Pam,

    Hope all the fig trees have somewhere to grow? Garden space as always is something of a problem – even here. There’s always just one more interesting plant you might want to try out. Jam made from fig fruit is very good indeed, and you don’t see it much. It sets pretty well too.

    90’F here today. I tell you, it’s nice to feel warm, and contrary to the more usual seasons here, we’ve got the house open to let the warm air in. 🙂 Don’t worry, the cooler and wetter weather will return on Monday. Yay!



  38. Hi Lewis,

    It’s pretty awful, but you do have to bring up the gunk which is currently being stored in your lungs. Not wise to leave the gunk there and I for one don’t recommend it as a storage area. Hoarders may have other ideas, but they’re wrong. 🙂 And disgusting as it is, there is something mildly pleasing about it not being stored in there any more.

    It’s finally warm here. Yay! 90’F feels quite pleasing and in a bold move we opened up the house and let in the warm fresh air. Unfortunately the many elderberry shrubs are in flower (and we plan to use those flowers soon) and you can smell them. Quite distinctive, but that’s early summer for you.

    No paid work today. Yay! My brain finally enjoyed a well deserved rest. Got outside into the warm conditions and installed a new access gate on the garden terraces. You may note that we are in the process of making living here easier than it was, and that means improving upon the many deficiencies inherent in some of the systems. We also poured an epic cement step in a half finished (i.e. begun and never completed) staircase leading up to the new access gate.

    The plants are loving the warm conditions today. It’s like a jungle out there. 🙂

    Yikes! I’m assuming that your mention of two machines down, means that they’re both down and out, and laying on the mat after the count of ten whilst the medic (i.e. washing machine repair dude) arrives on scene to see whether said machines can be resuscitated?

    Like your style, and I too prefer going to the supermarket when it is quieter. Yes, crowds. Hmm, over rated. 🙂 Hey, speaking of which we went to the pub last night for a feed and a pint, and with the warmer weather, everyone was outside and so we had the public bar pretty much to ourselves. As the evening rolled on though and the sun went down below the horizon, I’m guessing the mosquitoes arrived in force and people began filtering inside to take up tables and seats in the public bar. The pizza was good. Monday looks set to return to cold and damp weather. At least I’m hardly having to water the annual plants, even today when it is 90’F. The sun felt fierce earlier, and you have to recall that we are physically closer than you lot during the summer months to that huge fireball in the sky. I’d imagine it could be quite the surprise for tourists to experience that fierceness?

    Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts tend to produce in late spring here at least, so I’d imagine you might be experiencing a return to historic norms? Hey, do you have fresh food as well as the frozen veg? Glad to hear that you scored some soup.

    The yoghurt is a great idea, and one with live culture is always wise. Hardly surprising that your digestion is off, didn’t you bring up a lot of it? Has to be replaced, you know. Sorry to say. Cheese and proper bread might help too, plus some fermented stuff. Chicken noodle is a proper go-to-soup. Ramen is ok, but does it always have to have so much salt? Makes my head pound that stuff. Mind you, you might benefit from some salt.

    Yeah, no solutions to be found there.

    You might be in a luckier mildly warmer micro-climate? Dodging snow is no bad thing, although I have an odd hunch that the ice would be far worse. Mate, it is so nice to finally be warm. This is the second day this season where the thermometer has exceeded 86’F, and tomorrow promises more of the same. Inside the greenhouse was 100’F and I just kept that shed shut so as to get some extra heat into the soil. I did give the plants inside some extra water, and they didn’t look stressed to me.

    Ah, of course such things are hardly at the forefront of my mind, or probably yours for that matter. Sometimes I forget that folks in your country are highly mobile and move far from their roots. It does happen here, but isn’t as commonly done. Interestingly the housing crisis is producing all sorts of unexpected outcomes on that front. Even rural areas like here are not immune from the crazy.

    Mate, I had to edit your comment because you named that which shall not be named. 🙂 No worries. Hope your friends in Idaho are doing OK? It’s an awful time to get sick, but err, sunlight, vitamin D etc… Everyone experiences that thing differently, and yeah, your mates experience is fairly typical from what I hear. When I had the awful awfullness, it was so bad I had to work every day. Almost lost my voice during that time. Few people cut me much slack on a paid work front.

    Yes, best avoided (as would I do no less), unless of course they rope you in to be Santa? 🙂 Somehow I can’t see that happening, but it’s the time of Christmas and miracles are in the air and stuff! Hehe! Mate, you’d be like Bad Santa, or something like that.

    Did you dodge the Christmas silliness and make it to the library unharmed?



  39. Hi DJ,

    Met a bloke named ffwl. Can’t say he made a favourable impression. 🙂 Thanks for the bardic lesson, it’s in your blood, you know!

    Actually, we’re increasing the spacing between plants, and only just then planted out five more tomato seedlings. Best get them in the ground whilst the soil is both warm and moist. It hit 32’C here today and that makes it only the second growing day of the season. Tomorrow will be another one, before the cool and wet weather return on Monday. Oh well. But I tell ya what, the plants are jumping out of the ground with the increased energy from the sun. Some of the seedlings have doubled in size in only a few days. You really need the heat, as much as it is sometimes a serious pain. With the warmer weather, we opened up the house today and it is just nice to feel warm – for a change.

    Those ever cheeky scamps, economists, describe your scenario with the very technical description of ‘labour productivity’. And they always demand that outcome, although as you and I know, there are diminishing returns. And such is why I’ve possibly not had a week off paid work for three years now. Yes, labour productivity, the precious! I feel your pain.

    Hehe! Well done, and at least Avalanche did not pull you over. Always possible in icy conditions. By way of contrast, I just took Ruby out, and she chased off into the forest a 6ft bull kangaroo. Not sure what he’s doing up here by himself. And at least Ruby had the common sense to return at the edge of the forest.

    Ah, of course. I’d imagine the salt is corrosive on vehicles, and any steel it comes into contact with? I’ll bet it shortens the life span of vehicles in your country? And I’d not forgotten your repair work, and I too would not repeat the conditions which necessitated the repair work. Others however, may choose differently.

    Mate, I have zero experience with ice to that extent where sublimation would occur. The roads here do get ice on them during winter, and it can be a real bummer on occasion, but it’s rare – and few people know to look for such a thing. The nearby freeway has to cross an elevation at about 600m above sea level, and there are bridge heaters (who knew?) and ice warning signs.

    Killian knows, and um, yeah, the snowploughs will be there before you know it. If it snowed that heavily up here, we’d be snowed-in, until the snow melted away. No rescue in sight! I’d imagine your part of the world has some folks living out of town who’d have to wait for a long time before rescue in such conditions? You’d hope they kept stores to see them through?

    4’C is not a bad outcome at all. I’ve slept in tents where the overnight low temperatures were colder than that.

    I salute your Ugg, and raise you an Ugg in response! Only those who know… 🙂

    I’d heard that wolf hybrid’s in your country are something of a problem. Not your average pet if I dare say so. Dogs can get funny ideas, but wolves I’d imagine would have firm opinions. People taking on such animals are repeating experiments performed a long long time ago. Good luck!

    Oh yes, and let’s not forget the rabbits. Spotted a fox the other night, and we had a brief chat. I said to Mr Fox, mate, you’re alright. Just kill a few rabbits and we’re all good. The next day, Plum alerted me to a pile of grey fur and some stinky entrails. It may have been an owl though. One owl the other pre-dawn morning had the temerity to wake me up by hooting just outside the window. Oh well, got a job to do and stuff.



  40. Hi Chris,
    I have a Subaru Forester. It has all wheel drive, gets decent mileage and best of all I can raise the seat so I have a good field of vision. Being so short that can be quite a problem. I have to have a hard cushion to drive Doug’s truck which isn’t large just to see over the dashboard and steering wheel.

    Road salting is really bad around here though on our road which doesn’t have too much traffic it’s kept to a minimum. One salt application and a drive to town and your vehicle is covered in it. Sometimes when its a dry day after several applications there’s actually a cloud dust of salt. I can only imagine the damage it does to soil and waterways. There must be some chemical added too as it works well below freezing. I can only imagine the number of accidents if the roads weren’t salted considering how many there are with salt.

    Carla has the unmentionable now too. They think her husband brought it home after watching soccer matches in local bars. He was sick first but pretty mild so he didn’t even test at first but then she got it and said she hasn’t been this sick in years.



  41. Yo, Chris – Lung gunk wants to be free 🙂 I discovered if I lean over, and put my chest on my knees, it doesn’t hurt so much, to hack it out.

    Sounds like you’re summer had arrived. We’re running a quiet betting pool, to see how long it takes before you’re complaining about the heat 🙂 . I don’t think it got below freezing, last night. And, the sun is shinning, this morning. H and I sat out awhile, after I walked her. I’ve started walking down the stairs, but still take the elevator back up. Ideal weather for their darned Christmas parade.

    Later in life, you may wish you had put in more ramps, and fewer stairs. 🙂 . But, you do do epic stairs!

    This time of the year, it’s mostly frozen veg. Either fruit and veg I buy, or freeze myself.

    I figure the nausea meds I took, probably played hob with my stomach critters. So, I’m eating good sized portions of yogurt, twice a day. I think it’s helping.

    My friends in Idaho seem to be on the rebound. She only lost her taste and smell for a couple of days. It’s coming back.

    I’ve got a lot to watch, but I was more in a reading mood, last night. “Wild New World: The Epic Story of Animals & People in America” (Flores, 2022) is quit good. Lots of interesting stuff, in there. When man first came to the Americas, they (probably) wiped out the megafauna. Things got back to a kind of balance, and then the Europeans showed up, and pretty much wiped out that ecosystem.

    There’s been some studies done, on how nutrients moved from the deep oceans, to the land and inland. Whale poop. Birds and fish carried nutrients far inland. Ooops! Wrong book. That last bit was from “Flush.” There was a “landscape of fear.” “…where carnivores relentlessly stalking herbivores kept them both on the move. That has a huge impact on where they poop and how elements are incorporated into the ecosystem.”

    “Wild New World” had some interesting stuff. We forget (or I forget) that the land bridge between America and Asia, was a two way street. Camels, horses and elephants evolved in the Americas. Their ancestors migrated into Asia … and beyond. Then they became extinct, here.

    I may watch John Waters “Crybaby,” tonight. Library got a fresh copy. Saw it years ago. What a cast! Think of it less as a musical, and more as a movie with a rock and roll sound track. 🙂 Lew

  42. Hi Margaret,

    The Subaru Forester is a noble steed. Yes, that can be a problem with some vehicles, but then some cars just have stupidly tall dashes, and peering over them can be something of a hassle under the best of circumstances. I understand how you feel about that, and assume that from time to time a pillow upon the car seat in certain vehicles would assist matters? The penchant for large err, SUV / trucks is sometimes seen around these parts, and I have noticed a local driving a huge RAM on the school pickup and drop off run. It’s so wide that at times I’ve had squish off onto the side of the dirt roads and there is not much between that and thick forest. Hmm. I suspect that this large vehicle mania is but a moment in time, when I was a kid I thought that the cars were all huge, but line a Mad Max (AKA The Road Warrior) original coupe against a current Corolla and it doesn’t look that big to me. Sandra’s favourite uncle used to own one of those beasts. It was an incongruous, and perhaps frivolous purchase. But whatever, the fuel bills must be economically killing them.

    Yeah, the salt issue is one that I’ve no experience with and so I do wonder about how the steel in vehicles copes with the chemical assault. I could be wrong, but it would be a challenging problem for car makers. It’s been a couple of decades since rust or corrosion was something of a problem in vehicles that I’m aware of.

    Margaret, I’m so sorry to hear that, and best wishes for a speedy recovery for Carla and her family. Everyone seems to be experiencing this one differently, sorry to say. I tend to believe that the time tested advice of get plenty of rest and keep fluids up is not bad. And um, err, yuk, but getting active afterwards to bring said gunk out of lungs isn’t a bad way to go. I had a miserable old week when I got that horror, and was forced to work remotely every day. Apart from a minor sniffle, Sandra had barely any symptoms. Hmm.



  43. Hi Lewis,

    Set the gunk free! Fly away and be free lung gunk, and get thee to the delightful world of somewhere else – which preferably is the sewer in your case. Wise to experiment because you could do more damage, but you do seem to be on the mend, which is a great thing.

    It was 95’F here today, and not so secretly, I loved it. Although truth to tell I re-programmed the house battery charging process a few weeks ago after a minor disaster, and was from time to time today checking in on how the batteries were performing in the heat. And the Editor seemed dead keen on using a lot of electricity today, so yes, best to stress-test systems in the real world. I can’t say it was relaxing, but it is better to run the test and see what happens. The tops of the batteries did feel warm to touch, but rapidly cooled off, so they worked as anticipated. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Oh well.

    But yeah, good on ya! 🙂 Sure, some whingeing might appear later in the season, but for now, I’m feeling like a lizard that is sucking in the extra energy from the sun. And don’t worry, Thursday is forecast to max out at 61’F. My how the plants grew on these two hot days. I haven’t learned much, but I’ve learned that plants need heat.

    Respect for dodging the Christmas parade. Anyway, it’s a bit early isn’t it? Nice one with tackling the stairs. Me thinks that tackling them on the incline will probably bring up some gunk.

    Hehe! Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that very problem with ramps, and there is a new low gradient ramp project on the cards. You may think that I’m half asleep, but that’s only half true. 😉 Experience with older dogs has shown me where the future lies. Poured another stair this morning, and it feels pretty dry tonight.

    Up to lunch time I worked on fixing up a house roof gutter. The plumbers had left it draining in the wrong direction, and I only noticed this issue when I cleaned the guttering a month or so ago. The Editor came up with the simple fix, and today I fixed the problem. Stagnant water had been collecting in that part of the guttering, which is not good – especially given it is part of my water supply.

    After lunch, had a brief nap and then read a book for the rest of the afternoon. I’d dipped into my Jack Vance collection and pulled out the ‘Fox Valley Murders’. It’s a great read, and set in the late 60’s in southern California. I’d never before read this story.

    Of course, and mate I do wonder about the future of fresh veg. Soylent Green anyone? 🙂 That film made quite the impression on my young mind.

    A lot of meds can increase the acidity in your gut, so yes, they can play havoc, but what do you do, sometimes you need to stop your guts from going wrong. All benefits and costs sorry to say. Yoghurt is good too, but you’ve just got to listen and respond to what your system is telling you works.

    Food is such a joy that losing a sense of taste would be like sending the taste buds to a gulag in some gawd forsaken remote part of the world. Hope your friends recover quickly.

    I tend to lean towards similar beliefs in relation to megafauna and human interaction, in that it didn’t end well for one party to that story. People will probably get upset about that, but the facts kind of fit the story. And yes, there were consequences for having done that, which were faced. That went swimmingly, until it didn’t end so well, and here we are today. Thinking along such lines, one doesn’t need to be Einstein to see where the story is headed.

    Now we’re talking serious ‘bidness. Poop and soils are a favourite subject of mine. Have you noticed how I let the wildlife into not all, but most areas of the farm? There’s a reason for that. Yup.

    Ah, camels are related to Alpaca’s and their kin, so that makes a really weird sort of sense. But conditions must have been a lot warmer than they are today for say Elephants to cross that far northern land bridge.

    That’s a cult classic, but err, musical. My mind is blocked in this matter and will probably require lengthy re-programming. And it might not be possible to overcome the deficiencies. Did you enjoy the film?


    And better get writing.


  44. Yo, Chris – Well, even though it didn’t get below freezing, last night, there was some snow. Less than an inch, I’d say. I’ll probably nip down to the Club, this morning, as the traffic is zipping along Market Street and the freeway. Forecast calls for warmer and wetter, the next week.

    Some varieties of North American elephant had long hair. See: Woolly Mammoth. They figure the last one’s died out, about 2000 BCE. They were a small population trapped on an arctic island. Wrangel Island. Lew

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