Holy Socks

Monday I was having a mild freak out. It’s not my usual style, but with three work weeks to Christmas, the volume of paid work yet to be done is bonkers. And some of the work is far more difficult to do, than common sense would suggest. Two hours that day was spent on hold waiting for someone in a government department to pick up the phone and attend to a very simple query. Not a super-chill experience. When the call was finally taken, the faceless bureaucrat appeared convinced that there was another way to resolve the query and that he was doing me a favour by processing the query – this time around. And for a moment there, I thought he might hang up. Truly, words could not express the depths of my feelings.

Time in my line of paid work is of the essence, and so the time spent on hold waiting, was used productively doing other work. Sadly, after prolonged exposure, the melody of the hold music is now burned into my consciousness. Some people wake in the dark hours of night after the most frightful of nightmares. That hold music is enough to bring on the night terrors for me.

Later that day, Sandra and I sat down and had a long discussion as to what needs doing, when, how and who is to do the work. That’s life in small business for you. And sometimes life sends you challenges: like not having a week off from paid work for three years. I’m built for work, but no break for three years is a pretty punishing schedule. Can’t say I’m much of a fan of that outcome, but then I probably brought all this onto my own head somehow, although candidly the reason as to why escapes me.

As a practical response, we decided to do less. Unfortunately the decision came with a lot of costs. But crunch time had been reached, and many things had to give. It was painful.

The accounting profession wasn’t always like this. Long ago I heard stories suggesting that technology meant that in the future of now, robots will do our jobs, freeing up time for more leisurely pursuits. I ain’t seeing that. And who can forget the so called paperless office? Speaking of which, I do actually have to pick up a box of 100% recycled paper at the stationery store – the printers are hungry beasts. The reality is that increased technology has meant much of my paid work time is spent fixing up the messes made by technology, or trying to ensure that the technology is integrated, and that the inflexible and often unrealistic demands are met. It’s not hard to understand why older professionals are leaving the profession.

Yeah, it wasn’t always like this. When I first entered the workforce, older accountants had earned their stripes by way of apprenticeship, and professional recognition was a $50 fee. Talk about return on investment! By contrast, my route involved years and years of part time study at night for an undergraduate University degree. Followed by another two and half years of part time post graduate further education. That last bit inexplicably now requires three years (inflation anyone?)

The old timer accountants didn’t have to deal with the continual demands for data and information either, but all the same, they seemed to get the job done. I recall one memorable character. He was a smoker, and after having dulled his olfactory senses over the years, he didn’t realise that everyone else could smell when he’d farted in his office. And he was a bit of a master farter. There were times he’d take his shoes off and put his feet on the desk and you could see the odd toe lurking out from a hole in his socks.

Yep, what a character. He was held in high esteem too. Hardly surprising because after all, I was the bunny that had spent all those years jumping hoops, not him and other people probably knew this. I recall one memorable occasion with him where I’d had to discuss a technical matter. The matter was cleared up after a prolonged discussion, mostly him talking. But then in his best didactic manner he then began drilling me on the basics of double entry accounting entries, like I didn’t know that. Oh well, it wasn’t personal, I’d spoken to other professionals who had endured similar lessons from him.

It’s hard to know where all this is going. A dark whisper at the back of my mind suggests that the government wants continual standardised reporting of data. That’s possibly where we’re headed. But can small business afford it, and can the government systems handle the data? Can’t say for sure, but they’re rapidly pushing change and it would be nice if they took some time out. I’m trying to.

The week began cool, and ended warm. We’ve now had three growing days this growing season (days in excess of 30’C / 86’F), but not to worry tomorrow looks set to return cooler weather. With a bit of rain too. The brief interlude of warm weather produced an epic sunset.

A bit of warm weather produced an epic sunset

Ruby finally struck back hard against the evil Rat Empire and nabbed one of the largest and fattest rats I’ve ever seen. The living has been clearly good, well until the Rat met Ruby. Then things went badly for the rat.

Ruby nabbed a very large and fat Rat

This year I’ve been conducting a War Upon Rats, and the war is going well. Regular readers will recall the huge amount of effort spent rat-proofing the chicken run and enclosure. I’d been concerned that rats may have contaminated the chickens water supply with their poop and urine. Sure enough there was a bit of gunk in the bottom of the chickens water tank. This week, I dumped the contents of that water tank, then cleaned it with a high pressure hose, and refilled it with crystal clear water. With all of the recent rat-proofing modifications, it is highly unlikely that the rats will contaminate that water supply in the future.

The chickens water supply gets a thorough cleaning

I could see in the forecast that two warmer days were approaching. With that in mind the scary old rototiller was again pressed into service on the soil in the sapling fenced enclosure. The soil is now an aerated weed free beautiful rich black looking loam. Using a rake I mounded two long rows and then placed sugar cane mulch onto all of the other surfaces.

Two heaped rows were made and sugar cane mulch laid down over the rest

Tomatoes, Pumpkins, Melons and Cucumber seedlings were planted into the rows. And my how they’ve grown in only a matter of days.

A pumpkin seedling enjoying the warmer weather and neat garden rows

Observant readers will know that many of the projects undertaken over the past year or so have been done so as to improve the existing systems. The intention is make living here easier. Access to the highest garden terraces had not been as simple as it could have been, and so another access point closer to the kitchen is being added. A gate was installed.

A gate leading into the upper garden terraces was installed

A staircase leading up to that gate had been begun last year and never completed. We’ve now decided to finish that staircase.

Before – Ollie and I are sitting on a half finished staircase

Two additional stair steps were added. We use a timber form-work and then pour one step at a time. For the best finish, we limit ourselves to one step per day and that gives the cement surfaces time to set so that they don’t get damaged. Curing can take upwards of a week, depending upon the weather and moisture.

During – The setting cement has to be protected from the dogs and other curious animals

Almost forgot to mention something else about the rats. They can climb trees. Easily. And they can leap too. So plants are kept away from contact with the house. A Japanese maple had been growing so fast recently that branches were coming into contact with the roof, and I see no reason to allow rats easy access up onto the roof. They won’t be able to get into the house from the roof, but who knows what mischief they might cause whilst up there?

A little battery hand held chainsaw is an amazing pruning tool. None better

And whilst the ladder was in use I decided to fix up a roof plumbing issue. For some reason now lost to time, the plumbers had set one of the roof gutters in place so that water flowed in the wrong direction (i.e. away from the downpipe). This is a problem because during heavy rain the gutter overflows and then runs down the wall, but also the water can get stagnant and full of all sorts of organic matter and mosquito larvae. Not an ideal situation when that stuff runs into your water supply.

Anyway, Sandra came up with an ingenious solution to correct the problem. That meant adding in a pipe which would drain any and all water sitting in the gutter back into our water supply – where it should have gone in the first place.

I cut a hole into the gutter and added in a pop. A pop is a round steel pipe which hangs under a gutter and directs water into the plastic downpipes.

A pop was added to the underside of the guttering

A PVC pipe was then added which directs water from that gutter back into the house water supply. The gutter is now dry, which is as things should have been in the first place.

It ain’t pretty, but it works. A roof plumbing issue was fixed

A batch of Elderflower wine was made. Those flowers produce a delightful wine, but far out they stink when you cook them.

Elderflowers in the pot stinking up the kitchen

With the warmer weather, you have to be careful where you place your feet, and not be startled at the continual scuttling of critters.

A Skink enjoys the warmer weather

Two or three warmer days, and the citrus trees have begun to grow. It’s great seeing the trees sporting new growth.

Citrus trees are responding to increased energy from the sun
The cold and wet weather to date promises an excellent Apple crop
Pears have likewise enjoyed the cooler and wetter weather
Grape vines have begun producing clusters of possible grapes

Onto the flowers:

The Succulent garden loves the heat
The Roses likewise have responded well to the occasional warm day
There’s a lot of variety with the Roses

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 12’C (54’F). So far this year there has been 1,366.4mm (53.8 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 1,362.6mm (53.6 inches)

45 thoughts on “Holy Socks”

  1. Yo, Chris – When will the professionalization of everything and gatekeeping end? Probably, not in our lifetime.

    The old accountant duffer sounds pretty “passive aggressive.” I wonder if the proffessionalizers were snapping at his heals? And if there wasn’t a bit of “looking down on” him, as he hadn’t jumped through all those hoops. I certainly saw a lot of that in Libraryland. There was a lot of “I spent all this time and money, therefore, everyone should spend the time and money.”

    I took H out for a walk, right before starting this missive. Guess what? It’s snowing. A very wet snow. Nothing in the forecast, except rain. Surprise! No problem getting to the Club, this morning. Guess I hit the sweet spot.

    About time Ruby got her act together, as far as the rats go. With a deadly duo on the job, they won’t stand a chance.

    Good job on the guttering. Whatever works.

    Looks like it wasn’t too cold or too wet, for the apples and pears.

    The roses are lovely. We won’t see the likes, for months. Still snowing. Lew

  2. Hi Lewis,

    It’s just you and me mate. 🙂 I defer to your guidance regarding the future in relation to the professionalisation of everything, and you’re probably spot on. And that is my view upon the situation too, it is a barrier to entry. The crazy thing about pursuing that particular strategy is that sooner or later people are going to wake up to the ‘return on investment’ perspective in relation to student debt, and then boom, the game is up. I’ve heard rumblings about such matters in the news of late, and who knows what may eventuate? From my perspective it just seems weird to be required to dedicate years of study, not to mention the economic cost, and then someone working in an administrative role earns more mad cash without the time and economic sacrifice. All other considerations to the side, it is not a story which makes a lot of sense. But you’re right too, and maybe it is the story itself which is unwinding? I really don’t know.

    No, the exact opposite was the case. The bloke was held in very high esteem, as were the others which I’d encountered in that circumstance. It was funny because tasks were delegated downwards from those blokes (and this inevitably meant onto me), and even as a young bloke I was forced into a position where I was managing folks who had several decades on my youthful self. Truly it was an uncomfortable experience, but then I learned by trial and error as to how to lead groups, not to mention all of the tasks that get done in such an environment.

    You and I have remarkably similar personalities, and I find it fascinating that we had similar experiences, but at differing ends of the work spectrum. You have to admit, there’s something in there for sure. 😉 Far out.

    From my perspective, I’m guessing that library land was different again, because status is involved. And candidly, there are less job opportunities in that field, and the concept of supply and demand suggests that where supply is plentiful, downwards pressures are applied. That’s my guess anyway, so the job market you were in is probably always tight, and thus demands for professionalism can be made, even when they make little sense.

    Your words about the local conditions paints an unappealing picture. Wet snow sounds horrendous. We get sleet here and, it’s just cold and wet and unpleasant. Did H have to be towelled down after the walk? Today here, by contrast was as expected. Cold, cloudy and windy. It rained a little bit, and the wind is drying things off.

    Were the biscuits and gravy on at the Club? And I trust H was on her finest behaviour this morning?

    It is about time with Ruby, she is not quite as focused as her sister Dame Plum (who is doing all of the heavy lifting). It’s been a bit rough on the critter front ever since Sir Poopy and Sir Scruffy passed on. Those two were a potent tag-team and I never saw any rabbits whilst they were around. There have been times I’ve pulled the two new dogs aside and said to them: Sir Scruffy would never put up with this poop. They’re learning, it will just take time.

    Thanks. It’s not really all that funny, and no disrespect to the plumbers as they did an awesome job with a very complicated and out of the ordinary bunch of systems. Where it has failed is in the later testing phase, and there have been a few modifications just to make systems work better, but this is my modus operandi. What makes me wonder, is what are other people not seeing with their systems? A new house does not mean that the thing is maintenance free, nor in perfect working order, although that is the general sentiment.

    Yup, the apples and pears are real stand-out performers when conditions are less than optimal. I’ve also begun thinking about soil food for the orchards for the coming year, and I’ll begin adding in more phosphate via blood and bone along with the coffee grounds. I’ll dial down the Agricultural Lime and dial up the Blood and Bone. That’s my thinking at this stage, and we’ll see how it goes. The growth rate of the fruit trees has been astounding.

    Hope to bring you more flowers for the rest of the growing season. There were so many this week, that it was hard to choose what to include.

    You’d have to be hardy indeed to live on Wrangel Island. I’m not competent to survive in such an environment. What a history too. OK, so Woolly Mammoths apparently ate grasses and sedges. That island would make for some tough living conditions, and I’d imagine that the mammoths could have once simply walked across the ice to the island, or mainlands to the either the east or west of the island. Trapped is the word. Wow.



  3. I feel for ya, Chris.

    Sounds one you are enmeshed in the classic end of empire complexity trap that Tainter describes.

    More and more complexity happens as diminishing resources require more and more efficiency efforts, management, and struggles to maintain the status quo…………until it doesn’t.

    When I first started engineering, drawings, drafting, scheduling, all the preconstruction work was comparatively simple, and the overall system was gloriously wasteful, but there was plenty of energy to paper over the flaws, and at least in context, it was the “economical” thing to do. The company I worked for was raking in the dough. (Building plants for the fossil fuel industry, I eventually realized was not where I wanted to be).

    But things are different now, and I have been quite fortunate to disengage from that treadmill early, and am trying to slowly move to a low energy lifestyle.

    You’ve reminded me that my rainwater collection system needs a major upgrade. Next spring. Current projections, for what they’re worth, say this area will have similar annual rain totals to the present, but in fewer, more extreme events. Gotta grab it when it happens.

    Maybe Ruby will pick up the pace now? i assume you smothered her with love and treats to encourage continued hunting.

  4. Yo, Chris – Over here, listings for administrative jobs always seem to have onerous (and to my way of thinking), over the top educational requirements. Bachelor degrees, at best. Sometimes you’ll see a listing with “or experience.” But not often.

    Yeah, I’d say some aspects of our personalities are similar. I’d say we fall into the “does not suffer fools gladly” personality type. 🙂 Our BS detectors are fairly finally tuned. And, when things are just stupid, we’re likely to sound off about it.

    Well, it snowed all afternoon and into yesterday evening. Then it turned to sleet and rain. Now, everything is on the drip. Oh, yeah. H gets toweled down, on her way home. Her feet are like little sponges. If it’s raining, I put her little coat on her, and that keeps the worst of it off.

    Biscuits and gravy (maybe) tomorrow morning. When I went to the Club, yesterday, to put the pantry back together, I left her home. What with juggling canned goods, and all. It wasn’t a big job, but I was exhausted by the time I got home.

    Speaking of plumbers, my toilet is on the fritz, again. Tank won’t fill. So, I’m reduced to pouring bowls of water down it, to get it to flush. I put in a work order, last night, but gosh knows when Mr. George will get around to fixing it.

    I wonder if mammoth wool, would make a good jumper? 🙂

    I stopped into see Elinor, last night. She had the EMTs, in. Gassy tummy problems. The EMTs are only taking in the worst cases. From what I hear, the hospitals are a mess. Waits of 8 to 10 hours, with not much help at the end of it. And as you’re sitting around, a good chance of picking up the flu (or, you know what). I’d say the flu vaccine, this year, wasn’t very good. Or the flu “shifted” and the vaccine is less effective.

    Elinor also can’t get caregivers. And I don’t think it’s because she runs them off. From what I’m hearing, they’re either home with sick kids, or sick themselves. From what I hear, the hospitals are clogged with sick kids. I don’t see things settling down, until we’re well past the holiday season. Lew

  5. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the understanding, you’re not wrong about that, and it’s a strange time. I have an odd hunch that the folks at the top are pushing towards some sort of standardised continual reporting model. I’m not sure it’s possible, that however does not mean that it won’t be mandated. Talk about displaying their insecurities. 🙂 The main issues as I see it is that life is rarely smooth and robots are inflexible – eg. ED-209. Who could ever forget ED-209? Yikes!

    Exactly, yup that’s what it looks like. And the costs for increased complexity keep piling up behind the requests. There are better ways to go.

    Well done you, and if it means anything I’ve seen a similar thing take place with house construction. You could have swapped out your words plants and swapped in houses, and the outcome would be much the same. Years ago you could do the timber carpentry framing for a roof based on an engineered design, and nowadays the entire process gets handed over to a roof truss manufacturer. And few people seem to show any concern over that change.

    A couple of years ago I had a chance conversation with an old timer brickie (i.e. bloke who lays bricks). He told me that back in the day, him and his crew used to square off the building site, set out the foundations, and lay the bricks, often making chimneys. That wouldn’t happen these days… Dunno why I ended up in that conversation either, just one of those chance discussions that occur from time to time.

    You’ve done very well indeed. I think of your place whenever I see the Hazelnut bushes, which are growing very strongly this year.

    The extreme rainfall events are the hardest to capture water from. But they also fill up water storages the quickest! Get an umbrella, get a good umbrella, and keep it handy for such weather events. And keep the inlet filters easy to access, preferably from ground level. They fail during such heavy rainfall, sorry to say. Happy to discuss this matter further if you need to? But experimentation can yield results.

    Ruby was well rewarded for her services. Everyday is a new training opportunity with the dogs, although they might also be training me at the same time.



  6. Hi, Chris!

    How can we get around these professional messes? The human mind can only take so much. In fact, I think that we do awfully well considering that we are – mostly – just highly intelligent mammals. I leave others to fill in the “mostly”; there is certainly something else to us. Do you ever feel like Bob Cratchit?

    “Paperless office” – what an oxymoron. And with all the technology junk to deal with on top of that.

    Post-graduate further education: Hey, man – university is just a business, nothing else. They’ve got to maximize profits and hold onto their customers as long as possible. And the government has a hand, forcing one to be certified (as far as I know). Want to be a hairdresser?

    Good for you , Ruby. I think you may have just caught Ratster, the head fink ; that’s one up on your sister, Plum. I didn’t know that rats climb trees. I haven’t seen one around here in years, but the mice can climb anything.

    You made nice swales with your heaped rows.

    What a very handsome gate – with a small boulder in front of it.

    Ollie loves you; that is clear. Or is it the gravy on your beard . . . ?

    Thank you, as ever, for the flowers!

    My daughter-in-law recently came across an article claiming that peanut oil and soy oil are used in the manufacturing of the coating on the wires in vehicle engines. If so, that would account for why we have so many apparently insane mice chewing the wires in certain of our cars and trucks. It’s just food to them.


  7. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah mate, the requirements act like a barrier to entry. I was listening to the radio in the background yesterday whilst working, and heard a strange story that the folks in that huge city up in the north east of your country wants a rat czar, or mitigation was the more technical term used, maybe. That’s not what was odd, I heard some weird demand for a degree for the job. I would have thought that results would have been more important, but what do I know? I’ve been going head to head with the rats here for a long while now and am beginning to turn the tide in my favour, but I doubt they’ll be vanquished.

    Don’t you reckon the people shortage and low unemployment rate is really weird? It seems really weird to me. Wherever have the folks gone who only just recently were working? Maybe the ‘or experience’ option needs a second look?

    That’s true, and sadly I’m working upon ways to counteract such foolish folk. One method I’m toying with at the moment is to replace anger with curiosity. It’s an interesting tool which slyly puts the shoe on the other foot so to speak, but I have to practice the response as it is not my natural inclination. Oh well, life is sometimes not easy. And the BS meter, mate try working in debt collection. 🙂 You hear every story under the sun. And you working with the public, yes, nothing trains you faster than that fun experience, in a few different roles too. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. Go on, did anyone ever claim that their dog ate the book? Mostly people are pretty reasonable and accept the social norms, but then there is a minority that push at boundaries.

    Hey it rained here too today, not that it is competitive, it’s just now weird when it doesn’t rain. Dude, your weather sounds pretty ordinary, but good on both you and H for getting out and about during that sort of gear. Respect. Hope you tackled the stairs? How are feeling anyway?

    Ah, well that’s to be expected I guess about being exhausted. But the social stuff is important too, and that pantry is a valuable resource for the Club folks.

    Sorry to laugh about the toilet, but at least you know that the cistern works that way. Imagine the people who have no idea how the toilet works and have to face your experience with a breakdown? Hey, the maintenance folks might chuck in one of those newfangled spring loaded devices I had to install a year or two back. I did note a touch of derision from some corners at the time. Tell ya what though, it’s a pretty nifty device. Very clever, and just works.

    Hehe! Yeah, maybe it just might. I doubt any of the carcass including the squeak went to waste if our forebears had anything to say in the matter. I saw a Japanese museum display whilst reading about woolly mammoths last evening and it was of an ancient tent using mammoth bones and skin. A very clever design.

    It’s funny you say that about those places, but I read a similar story in the paper today. What the… Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne advises families to seek alternative care amid ‘unprecedented demand’. Obviously I can’t verify the claim. Don’t you think it is weird how many events in other countries are running in a sort of strange parallel over the past two or three years?

    Err, well you just got sick. And I’m pretty certain it caught up with me a month or two ago. Hmm.

    I hope Elinor sorts out her issues with the folks who do the care giving.



  8. Hi Pam,

    Your comment came through just as I was about to switch off and go to bed. Speak tomorrow! Me tired…

    Incidentally, go to the top of the class! 🙂 Well done for noticing.



  9. Hi Chris,

    A couple of years ago Marty wanted to get internet and cable TV. There weren’t many options. Over two days I think I spent 4 hours on the phone, often on hold and I was disconnected a few times too only to have to talk to yet another person not residing in this country. This a major company and they had a physical store not too far away but one couldn’t go there and sign up. Marty is pretty independent all things considered but handling a checking account or credit card just isn’t going to happen for him – it’s been tried. This means that his account is under my name. I pay the bill and he reimburses me. A problem came up that if he was having an issue with his service since it was technically my account he has to tell me what’s wrong and I have to call. Now there is a way to get him on the account so he can call on his own but after that experience I think I would have to block out days just to (hopefully) accomplish that.

    Carla coordinates services for disabled people who live at home with family. I would estimate that 2/3 of her time is spent typing reports to the state rather than actually helping these people. It gets worse all the time she says. She is recovering from the unmentionable and at least she can do these reports from bed.

    Congrats to Ruby – you go girl!!

    We have lots of elderberry growing on our property and along the road. One of these days I’ll have to talk Doug in trying to make mead from elderflowers.


  10. Yo, Chris – LOL. I saw articles about the search for a new Rat Czar, and almost linked an article, to you. I’d guess they probably want someone with a degree in Public Health. Those degrees do open up a wide variety of job choices. Everything from food inspection to septic inspections.

    As far as your wondering about employment, I just saw an article, this morning. Don’t know if the URL will work, or not.


    I don’t know. Approaching nonsense, with curiosity, will probably get you nothing but psychobabble. I think they pass out “talking points.” I think my favorite is: “Our customers asked for it.” Oh? Who? Names please. But then they invoke privacy. It’s never a satisfying interchange.

    I’m taking the stairs, down. I did do a few rounds of “stairs up.” As far as that goes, it tires me out, but is getting more manageable.

    That was an interesting article, on your hospitals. Seems to be the same here. We also have a shortage of over-the-counter meds for sick kids. And, a shortage of antibiotics. The drug companies are stone walling on the lack of antibiotics.

    Well. I had a houseguest, last night. Elinor went to the hospital, about 9pm. She was having problems breathing. I talked to her daughter, this morning, and she didn’t even know she’d gone. But, a few days ago, Elinor mentioned to me that if she’d known it would be so difficult being at home (due to lack of caregivers), she would have gone to assisted living. She also told her daughter, the same thing. So, maybe there’s some movement in that direction. Her doctor runs a nice assisted living facility. She can even have the dog, IF she can walk it, herself. I suppose if she does go to assisted living, there will be a big hassle about cleaning out her apartment. I can predict that she’ll try and micromanage everything.

    I don’t know if you saw an article, but a couple of electrical sub-stations, in North Carolina, were attacked. Similar to what happened in California, a couple of years ago. Wiped out the power to two counties. And repairs might take a week, or longer.

    The guy is here to repair the toilet. Turns out, Mr. George is no longer with us. New guy is named Randy. Older, might know what he’s doing. We’ll see.

    No biscuits and gravy, this morning 🙁 . So I’m dealing with Poor Pitiful Princess. Lew

  11. Hi Chris,

    I’m sorry that you had to spend so much time on the phone and that the faceless bureaucrat on the other end didn’t have much if any of a clue. Good on you for getting some work accomplished while you were waiting, but we shouldn’t have to deal with such disregard.

    I had to get a new cell phone and provider last month. My previous provider apparently decided that it doesn’t want the prepaid minutes market anymore, because the per-minute rate went from $0.10 to $0.35, a 350 percent increase! Even at the previous rate it was no longer the cheapest option for cell phone service for the amount of time I was spending on calls, and the rate change made it the most expensive option. Furthermore, their cheapest per-month rate was about 50% more expensive than the per-month rate offered for a flip phone through a major organization for retired folks, and I called at the right time and got the phone for half off. But here’s the most amazing part: the new provider’s customer service is by far the best such that I have received in years in both of the two calls I made to them. It’s clearly still possible to offer excellent customer service, if an organization makes it a priority – but so few do.

    It’s good that you and Sandra live cheaply enough that you can afford to do less, but I’m sorry that it results from the poor choices of faceless bureaucrats and other low-competence sorts.

    The flower photos are beautiful and very cheering as we live through the season of cold and grey. It was foggy this morning. By afternoon it turned to a light cold rain. At least it isn’t cold enough to freeze and shouldn’t get that way for the next several days. Whenever the weather permits I rake leaves for the compost pile and for mulch in the garden. Eventually winter pruning will join the list of seasonal outdoor activities.

    @ Lew – I’m glad you are on the mend and gaining strength.


  12. Hi Claire,

    It was a sore trial, that’s for sure. Honestly, I have no idea how that lot continue to implement change at breakneck pace, and yet I don’t believe that they have the resources to administer the change. It’s quite the stretch of the mind to have to navigate this strange water. Oh well, probably done something bad in a past life and have to make amends. And I really was worried that the bloke would hang up on me, he displayed a mischievous bent.

    Actually, pre-paid is a pretty good deal for those things. It might surprise you to know that the basic plan I pay for is something around $58/month, just for the phone. Sandra has her own, and then there is the interweb modem.

    Well done you, and nabbing a bargain is all part of the game. Respect. Interestingly, the really big telco down here brought their call centres back on-shore. Hmm. Actually, they have bricks and mortars shops which I tend to visit if I need something or there is an issue. Phone tree hell wasn’t mentioned by Dante and his Divine Comedy. What layer would such folks be in? 😉

    We can cut back expenditure within a very quick time frame, but I suspect that most other people can’t do so. I’ve been cogitating upon this and in some ways it builds a certain amount of inertia into the system. Dunno, just the inkling of a theory at this stage.

    Isn’t it nice getting outside and doing stuff during that sort of grey weather? It’s grey, rainy and cold here tonight, although earlier today the sun shone and it was 20’C. 7’C and wet right now. Brr!



  13. Hi Margaret,

    Yes, exactly. And that’s it, as that was part of the story too. Like your efforts, I was also doing a task on behalf of a client, but was on the ‘can talk to’ official list. It’s exasperating, and don’t you reckon things have swung too far in that direction? But four hours, yup, we’ve all been there, and seriously this topic is raising my blood pressure!!! 🙂 Oh well, that’s life in these enlightened days. Hope Marty’s technical issues were resolved?

    Really? But it makes a strange sort of sense. You’d hope that someone is actually reading all of those reports? A little whisper suggests that the reports are demanded by those who don’t have to head out into the field and actually, you know, like, help people. 🙂 What do you do? Far out.

    Glad to hear that Carla is on the mend from the unmentionable. It’s going around, that’s for sure.

    I’ll be very interested to hear of your experiences with elderflower mead or wine. My only advice is to boil up the flowers outdoors. A potent stench, but such a tasty wine. It’s hard to comprehend the metamorphosis.

    They self seed here prolifically too. And the insects love the flowers and the birds love the berries.



  14. Hi Pam,

    Hehe! Yup, we do indeed all do very well don’t we? Sometimes I’m amazed that civilisation works as well as it does, I mean it is an impressive effort. I was just about to pooh-pooh your Bob Cratchit idea, and then you know, I found myself agreeing in that a lot of that story lies behind the great walking away which is going on at the moment. You may laugh, but that story resonated with me the further I rose in the business world. Truly it was an overworked, only slightly better paid, but thankless task, so it hardly surprises me that it is really hard to get people to do such work. You have to give over everything for such a role, and that’s not me. It just didn’t seem worth it. Truth to tell, the problem with doing such a role is that nobody wants or allows you to move backwards in the career, so I forged my own path.

    Yes! Way back in the day, when paper ledgers were real paper ledgers, we used far less paper. 🙂

    The student loan biz down here is run by the government and repaid through the tax system. What’s of note about the system is that no interest is applied to the student loans. However, the loan balances increase in line with inflation figures in a process I believe called indexation, and so the balance balloons with a compounding effect. The cynic in me wonders if interest was excluded because it may have been a tax deductible expense?

    The return on investment part of that story has to be considered. And in many cases, it makes little sense.

    Ah, I’d seen Rat Fink posters. Hmm. Ruby sure took down a Boss Rat, hey she might be eligible for that rat job in NYC. It seems to pay well, although she might not meet the educational prerequisites? 🙂

    Well done for noticing the swales too. Good one. The seedlings sit well above the soil level, and the expanse of black loam keeps the soil for the seedlings warmer than it may otherwise be. A passive solar collector in action.

    The rock will be removed sooner or later. Maybe later.

    Ollie was trying to give me a big smooch on the face. He’s such a charming personality that dog, a real gentle spirit.

    Hope you enjoy more flowers as the year growing season goes on.

    Who knew? Never had peanut oil, and is soy oil, soy sauce? Can’t say I’ve come across soy oil either. Rats and mice are clearly discerning diners. Seriously, you have to feel for auto electricians and what they have to deal with from the rodents. Had a rat chew through a compressed pipe in the engine bay years ago. The pipe was for the air conditioner, and the rat was blown up. An expensive pipe to replace too. Hopefully your son is handy at electrical repairs?



  15. Hi Lewis,

    I’m mildly surprised that such an article would appear in the news media at all. Gives folks ideas and in that case, spells the ideas out. The first thought that popped into my head was retaliation for recent drone activities, but that was an odd hunch more than anything else mostly because the two incidents were within days. Boundaries are funny things, and it’s been my experience that people push at boundaries. Dunno whether it is wise to do so, and I tend to be respectful of boundaries, but that’s me, clearly others feel differently.

    I’ve got my own worries on that front, believe me. I can’t recall a year with the power system where I haven’t just do something to it. This year involved a major reprogram and test of the charging process after a minor incident. Oh well.

    That degree seems to be a thing down here as well, can’t say as I’ve ever heard of such a program of study before. But then, I don’t seek employment with government, or government agencies so the thing would not have been on my radar. Anyway, sometimes you know that a work culture might not be a good fit. 😉 Probably a personal failing of one kind or another.

    The article was pretty light weight and drew few conclusions, but the comments. Holy carp! I’ve been wondering about that story and have a few ideas:
    – People are living off inheritances due to increased asset prices;
    – People are being supported by other family members;
    – People are earning cash under the counter;
    – People have checked out and given up;
    – People have given up due the inability to achieve home ownership, not to mention rents down here are bonkers expensive;
    – People are now in care giving roles, such as blokes taking on a greater burden in that arena; and
    – Many jobs on offer produce an income where a person goes backwards. The serious risk with inflation.

    There’s probably some other stories, but those ones seem relevant, and are occurring. I recall that after the recession of the 1990’s the number of hardcore unemployed folks increased. Clearly some people can give up, and they get by and realise it is an option. And it’s not like we didn’t somehow decide to shut things down for a while over the past two years – I kept working, though. Dunno how such a strategy would work in an inflationary period.

    Possibly so about the psychobabble response. But that might be the point, forcing another person to justify themselves will probably put them on the back foot. I dunno, again something to try, observe and then modify. Report to follow sooner or later. Seriously, the number of unusual incidents has been on the increase, so it becomes a matter of when and not if.

    Good stuff, getting back up the stairs. It is possible that your lung capacity is reduced and yup, tired would be the result. But physical therapy is very useful for you.

    Speaking of such things, the tree dudes did some work this morning. Far out, those guys work hard. The weather has turned cold and wet tonight, after a cool and sunny day. I might try and get a burn off in over the next week or two. Most years by now, burn off restrictions would be in place by now and run through to autumn. This is about as late as I can ever recall things. I reckon I’m going to start counting the number of growing days this season (days above 86’F). So far we’re at 3 days. The end goal of that counting is to give a rough worst case scenario idea as to growing season. It may guide more appropriate choices of seedling varieties. There are a number of short season seeds out there if you hunt around.

    A lot of that stuff doesn’t get manufactured down under and probably not in your country either, and that’s a problem. Just in time as an economic concept is not quite dead, but the body is now only twitching, and did that dead eye open? Like the gruesome Crumbles murder of Emily Kaye which was the subject of a 1994 song when I was a younger bloke. Very creepy.

    That’s my take on things too. So did the bloke get the cistern working again? Is the name Randy short for Randall? It’s a very old name.

    Oh no! Poor H, and sorry to hear about the lack of biscuits and gravy. Hope you haven’t suffered from any sulkiness from H?



  16. @ Claire – That’s the phone company I’ve used for a couple of years, now. And, you’re right. THE best customer service I’ve ever run across.

    I have some minor issues, with the phone, itself. But nothing major enough to give them a call. Such as, sometimes, it says I have a voice mail, when the voice mail has already been deleted. So I burn a minute or two, finding out there is no new voice mail. But, as I said, minor stuff. Lew

  17. Yo, Chris – There was an interesting speculation, in some of the articles about the attack on the electrical substations. There was a drag show (female impersonators) scheduled for the exact time the substations were attacked. With all the craziness going on in this country, not outside the realm of possibility. People lay awake and worry about this stuff?

    Employment. All of the above. 🙂 . There was an old 1950s TV show. That I vaguely remember. The tag line was: “There are 8 million stories, in the Naked City.”

    Speaking of people getting by, I picked up a new book at the library, the other day. “Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge.” (Conover, 2022). It’s about the San Luis Valley, which is on our Colorado / New Mexico border. Oh, yeah, there’s cheap land there. But, no water … or jobs … Hotter than hell in the summer and sub-arctic in the winter. But, hey, you can “live free!” Until the county shows up and starts enforcing some building requirements.

    Could be Randall or Randolph. Names rise and fall in popularity. In fashion. A look into the rabbit hole indicates that “Randy” was in the top 50 boys names, in the 1960s. “Randi” can also be a girl’s name. Might be a diminutive of “Miranda.” Took him three trips into the apartment, and a trip to the hardware store. But, so far, so good.

    I gave H some plumped up cranberries and yogurt, when we got home. She was pretty happy, with that.

    We’re supposed to get food boxes, today. The one’s with the extra box of some kind of fresh fruit or veg. Lew

  18. Hello Chris,
    Telephone service by government agencies can be nerve-jarring. There is such an asymmetry of power in the relationship. They may make mistakes, but we may not…
    One of my worst experiences was this summer when I called the Swedish tax authority and got to talk to a computer. It had “voice recognition”, but it did not understand what I said. Or it had not been programmed to the option: “I want to talk to A PERSON!!!”. Maybe I was speaking too loud?

    What a beautiful catch of Ruby. I am envious.

    Two weeks ago, I realized that I have got a serious rat problem. A kind of vole (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_water_vole) who live off fruit-tree roots have moved into the field where I had planned to put my nursery trees, so now I am slightly in panic.

    I netted the forty trees I will use as “mother trees” to cut graft wood from, but I have no possibility to individually net the 2000 trees that I brought from the Netherlands… I have made an over-wintering sandbox in a shed where I can keep the trees for the coming months, but before end-of-april I need to find a solution.

    Owls and hawks are invited, and I seriously consider getting a dog for a long-term mitigation strategy. Your positive stories about your companion collective are real inspiration. You can imagine that when I saw the rat catch of baroness Ruby, my heart jumped an extra beat.

    On another note, winter is clutching a grip over Europe, and we are indeed an overpopulated peninsula of the Eurasian continent, full of spoiled people and depleted mines. Last week, I realized that we import everything. I had been foolishly looking at import/export value, but not import/export kilogrammes. We buy a lot and sell very little. Of course that has been supported by overseas violence in the past, but those days are long gone. Winter is indeed coming.
    Chop wood, carry water.


  19. Chris,

    Faceless bureaucrats suck. Before retirement from the bureaucracy, I refused to be faceless and I refused to act like a bureaucrat. Whenever a manager would get irritated with my customer service approach, I politely suggested that they had assigned the duties to me, and that if they didn’t like how I was doing the job, they could do it instead. I’d get left alone for quite some time after that. 😉

    We no longer have salt on the roads. At least not the corrosive stuff. We use magnesium chloride or some similar “de-icer”. Yes, it’s still a salt, but not terribly corrosive. Until they ceased using salt 35 years ago, cars were getting eaten up. I did a LOT of body work to refurbish my old Datsun 500 after it was corroding away due to road salt. Also, as Marg mentioned in last week’s discussion, there were clouds of salt dust whenever the roads got dry. Icky nasty stuff that salt dust mixed with other weird road gunk.

    The snowplows finally arrived at 2:00 a.m. Saturday. We had the good variety in our neighborhood this round: they have a “gate” that can be dropped so that the driveways don’t get plowed shut. Also, it looks like they just moved the loose stuff from the top of the compacted snow and ice, rather than digging down to scrape up the icy stuff. So even the berms they left were tiny in comparison with the usual walls of ice that they make.

    As you mentioned, wolf hybrids tend to be an issue in our country. However, my view is that the owners of the hybrids know not how to be the pack alpha. They would likely have trouble with any husky, spitz, Norwegian elkhound or any of the northern breeds. Heck, I’ve seen people who are so unable to lead their “pack” that little ankle nibbler dogs rule the house. Canines need pack structure, and if the human refuses to acknowledge that and act appropriately, things spiral out of control. Add immediate wild wolf ancestors as per a wolf hybrid to that mix and the large size of the hybrid and, well, you know the result.

    Hahaha! Paperless office! Hahaha! We were told for years that we would be paperless. Yet, the requirements were that we still keep paper records forever. So, the computers allowed more work to be done per person, which meant more paper files than before computers. Lots more paper.

    Good on Ruby. That was one big rat she caught. Almost as big as the neighbor’s chihuahua. Of course, I refer to chihuahuas as “hairless barking rats”. The nearby Welsh Corgi? That’s a “barking Welsh sausage”, which his owner thought was hilarious when she overheard me say it. A neighbor breeds Bedlington terriers, or, as I call them, “jumping lambs that bark.”

    Succulent flowers and blooming thyme. Nice. Those are both favorites of mine. Thanks for the photo of them.

    Good work on trimming the trees. Hope that keeps the rats from getting onto the roof. Nothing good could possibly come from having rats on the roof.

    We went to dinner today. Fancy place for us. The Princess will be on her normal trip to her brother’s during Christmas. Next week, I am on jury duty, so my time will be limited. So we went today. Nice dinner, I had a large Blue Moon ale with dinner. Killian’s owner has invited Avalanche and me to have Christmas with their small group, so I will be with good friends if not with the Princess.

    Meanwhile, I’m currently reading a book about the children of the fur traders in the Northwestern USA. The book included a picture of one John Tod or John Todd of the HBC, born near Loch Lomond, Scotland. (HBC – either Hudson Bay Company or Here Before Christ company, depending on who you ask.) He looked VERY familiar to me. I searched and found a photo of my great-great-great grandfather Thomas Todd. Yup, the Princess agreed that they look a lot alike. The Thomas Todd family originated near Loch Lomond before scattering to Ulster and other parts of Ireland and to the Americas. Yup, part of the same family. Small world.


  20. Hello Chris
    I woke this morning to a white frost world. Very beautiful and not too cold indoors as I leave some heating on over night and there is no wind at present. Wind is the real killer here.
    Meanwhile the country gets ever more crazy and I live apart from everything as much as possible.


  21. Hi Goran,

    Who’d have thought it? Yes, the robots make mistakes. Just hope that you’re not involved. Sadly, from your words I get the distinct impression that you too have also been involved and likewise have shared my experience. 🙂 Remember ED-209. It didn’t end well.

    Thanks, and ouch! Mate, that hurts reading of your issues with the voles. Truthfully from experience, twenty rats can consume an immense quantity of fruit in the orchards. And of note was that your voles are highly adaptable and can live under the snows during winter, probably surviving upon the root systems of your trees in their toasty burrows.

    This too is my issue. It is easy to protect a small number of trees, but when you scale up into the hundreds of trees here, or thousands at your place, you reach a point where that is not economical. What to do? I can only share my experience with the rats. I learned about their movements and how they fed. The weak point with all species is the late winter / early spring season when the weather conditions are still extreme and protein levels are lowest, and that’s when you hit them hard. Habitat destruction and / or exclusion from existing habitat are options which I have pursued with success. Plus understand what eats voles in your general area, and encourage them onto your property, understanding that will bring other problems doing so. There are owls here every night, and they use this place like a hunting ground, so maybe provide some nesting boxes and feed for your local owls and hawks during the winter months, and they’ll do a large part of the work for you. I have good relations here with the local birds on the farm. There are often designs for nesting boxes which suit your local predatory birds. And get a mid sized dog, preferably two dogs. Too small, like a fox terrier, and they’re only good for mice. Too large like Ollie, and he’s only good for deer. But mid-sized dogs like the Kelpie’s are just right and they’ll hunt rabbits and rats etc. Those are your problem animals, and dogs are happy to do the work. Sir Poopy and Sir Scruffy were also top notch rat and rabbit hunters. Mid-sized dogs. Dame Plum though has killed far more rats than all the others combined. She has focus.

    Exactly. There is little you can do about such larger matters, except as you correctly suggest: chop wood, fetch water. And have useful skills. I can’t say for sure how other people see the world, but there are times I scratch my head and wonder what is that they’re thinking.



  22. Hi Inge,

    Frosts are very beautiful in their own ways, and glad that you have the heating. Don’t you love how during a frost the colours get washed out from everywhere and it’s like you’re suddenly finding yourself in a black and white (or sepia toned) movie? Mind you it was 52’F here today, windy and rainy, so I do sometimes wonder if this is summer? It’s meant to be… 🙂

    It’s crazy here too. I’m of the opinion that we are in something of a lag-time, economically speaking? On Tuesday, official interest rates were again lifted, and we ate out for dinner. And there were so many people. How are they affording to do this I wondered to myself? And today there were a huge number of people visiting the area. How do they afford to do that? The local bank is now closed. And today I discovered that the local pub (freehold and business apparently) is up for sale. As is the local general store. It’s not good.



  23. Hi DJ,

    You know, I never once thought that you’d be a faceless bureaucrat. Others, well as you suggest the experience can be something of a mixed bag. And I like your style and response. What I wanted to know from that interaction was: Was the observation a criticism about you, or the way you conducted yourself? From my perspective, based on your words, it seemed as if the manager was looking for trouble.

    Ah magnesium chloride, hmm, I had a brief read into its usage and some folks still add salt (sodium chloride), but also add the magnesium chloride. An innovation! It was hard not to notice that the chemical is present in bore water in Australia, and the Sydney to Perth railway used to only get one third the expected lifespan for boilers on the original steam engines. Surprisingly they were early adopters of diesel electric locomotives. Our history lesson for today, thus concludes… 🙂 Your Datsun 500 would probably still be challenged. Only those who’ve had to weld plates into the rusty floor pans of cars know what a relief it is to no longer have water rushing in during wet weather.

    Nice work with the snowploughs, and maybe the authorities have bowed to the inevitable? I’d imagine that the lesser scraping was easier on their machines?

    Yes. Exactly. All dogs want the humans to be the pack leader, but there’s the problem. And they’ll try to out-alpha you if they can get away with it. Plus they need companionship, structure, routines, reduced stimulation etc. Dogs are complicated. Mate, I’m really happy you got Avalanche. Retirement would have been good, but Avalanche would have been better.

    I reckon having high speed laser printers has not helped the situation either. And dare I mention the day I used my position to force the companies into buying 100% recycled paper – all of them. Facing the subsequent revolt, it was then I knew that as a civilisation, we were as good as the dodo’s. We’ll be fine, most people just won’t like it all that much. As the Monty Python crew once sang: ‘worse things happen at sea you know’. Sage words.

    Actually it was the thought of the rats chewing through some of the heavy duty solar power cables on the roof which gave me the impetus to cut the trees back and away from the house. The Rat Empire has taken a serious blow this winter, and the war is going well brother DJ! 🙂

    Christmas with friends is a lovely experience, families can sometimes wear a person out. 😉 And jury duty. Holy carp! They might pick you. If asked any question, respond obscurely by saying: I believe in justice. If they respond by asking: What do you mean by that, then go on to say: You know what I mean, and then look at them meaningfully.

    Small world indeed. Hope he was a nice bloke… Oh well. There was a lot of incentive to leave Scotland, ask my lot.



  24. Hi Lewis,

    How are you feeling today?

    That’s the problem when there are so many disgruntled people around, you never know what they might do next. And that might be possible, who knows? Mr Greer pointed out today that the first thought which passes a person mind, is not necessarily their best thought, and my speculation on it yesterday was just a random, if but first thought. The awful thing about the infrastructure is that there probably isn’t as much spare parts around as people would imagine there to be. The recent floods here ruined a few major substations and the power for many areas went down. The floods are still ongoing too, it being a large country and the water taking a long time to work its way across the landscape.

    How is this for summer weather? 52’F windy and rainy. It was very unpleasant out there today, and so we took the day off any and all work. Just didn’t feel right about it this morning, and that is never a good starting point. Had to run the wood heater this afternoon as I was beginning to feel the cold in my very bones.

    Speaking of spare parts, I now have on hand all of the replacement parts for the radio refurbishment. Hope to get to that job in a few weeks time. And interestingly, when at the stock food business the other day the lady confided to me that they were having troubles keeping up supplies of dog food. Who knew? And in truly upsetting local news, the local pub now has a ‘for sale’ sign outside and not just for the business, but the freehold as well. The local general store is apparently up for sale too. The tourist onslaught has possibly been a very trying experience, which is sad because where the tourists come from are plenty of amenities, up here, very few and um, yeah, not good. I’m of the opinion that we are in the hang time between bad economic news being set in motion and announced, and the poop hitting the fan. Things will calm down, because people will have to tighten their belts, but that ain’t happening yet.

    Very good! Candidly I had wondered if I’d missed a few explanations? But hey, it is a bit like what you once stated about the fall of Rome. There was no one killer moment, just hundreds of small cuts leading to the eventual demise.

    That quote about 8 million stories sounded like it was a police series. I tell you what, actors in those days earned their mad cash. 138 episodes in only 4 seasons. Interesting, I noticed a reference to Hollywood blacklisting due to left leaning sensibilities. My how that trick has been learned and turned on its head. A good example of what you contemplate, you imitate. Threats of cutting off your income have been used to serious effect in recent times. Can’t say I’m a fan of such strategies, and perhaps that story also feeds into the employment story.

    Holy carp! Not sure I’d want to try my hand at going off-grid in San Luis Valley. The images of the area told me a lot about the climate. And that’s the thing, the legislative environment can change suddenly and without warning. We faced that with the new bushfire building regulations introduced when we were applying for approval to build. Far out. I knew about fire ratings due to work on buildings in the inner city, but it was expensive to comply with them.

    Ah, Randolph, yes of course. You don’t hear that name used much these days. You’re not wrong. I’m beginning to see the craze for zany spelling of names filtering into the business world. I don’t necessarily agree with the penchant for allowing people to spell words however they feel they should. Language has to be commonly understood, otherwise there is a certain pointlessness to the tool. Oh well, maybe I’m just old school with such matters.

    Yes, but are yoghurt and cranberries the same as biscuits and gravy to the mind of the canine? Glad you’re still looking after H. It would be hard on you, and harder on H because at least you understand what is going on.

    Food prices are on the up down here, so I’ll be curious (and hope I’m wrong) to see if your food boxes are impacted? Dunno.

    Went to the pub for dinner and a pint. Seemed busier tonight, but perhaps it is due to the festive season? There were lots of large groups.



  25. Hello Chris
    I agree about the sepia world, but not on this occasion. The sky is blue, the sun is shining but as I am down in an icy bowl, it is not affecting the view until you get about 10 ft up. Then there is brilliant light and the turning leaves are golden. All very beautiful actually.

    Forgot to mention that Son counted his chickens and discovered that numbers had gone down. Oh dear it is Ren again. The assumption is that they have been taken to his assumed vixen girl friend. He is now tied up.



  26. Yo, Chris – I still tire easy, but am back to taking the stairs, up and down. For the most part. For some reason, in the late afternoon / early evening, my tummy doesn’t feel right. So, I try and throw in something light. Usually, applesauce and yogurt. That seems to do the trick.

    Well, some unhappy person is onto the fact that our infrastructure is a weak link. I wonder if they’ll catch them, or not. They never did figure out who shot up the substation down in California. Or who blew up the Guide Stones, for that matter.

    Our weather is so typically “winter” it’s hardly worth commenting on. Overcast. Scattered rain. Cold at night, but not too cold. But I see from the forecast, that there’s snow mentioned, again. But, it’s pretty far out. White Christmas?

    LOL. You said you took a day off, but I suppose you were puttering around doing something or other. Just inside.

    Sounds like you’re having a lot of fun, tinkering with the radio. Ever considered getting a HAM license and set up? Several people at Mr. Greer’s seem to be into that.

    The dog food aisle at the grocery has been pretty empty, since the supply line problems started. Prices are up, too. I lucked out and found some of H’s Very Special Dog Food at one of the cheap food stores. I loaded up. I think I have 20 + pounds, in the closet. One of Elinor’s paranoid fantasies is that somehow I’ll slip up, and H will starve to death. Luckily, H doesn’t eat much and is very good as self regulating her intake. I think H’s perception of food is pretty basic. Things are either tasty, or not tasty. 🙂

    It’s always fraught times, when small communities pubs or general stores go “on the market.” Are you at all tempted, to make a major change of occupation? 🙂 Probably, not.

    As I remember, “Naked City,” besides being a police show, also had a lot of “human interest” stories. “Black listing” also effected the comic book business. In general, it was a dark time.

    I read more in the San Luis Valley book, last night. There’s a lot going on there, and some of it has to do with class and ethnicity. The old Hispanic families have the upper hand, and don’t want a lot of “white trash” cluttering up their valley. There’s a lot of crime, addiction and homelessness.

    I think I’ve mentioned our local newspaper puts out a little special edition, every New Year. All the babies that have been born in the previous year. Looking at the baby names is … entertaining. In this part of the world, it seems there’s a lot of “country western” names. And also, heavy on the obscure biblical names. Those impossibly long lists of “begets” in the Bible, provide rich possibilities. When I worked at the library, I never assumed anything, when taking library card applications. Even the most straight forward sounding name could have weird spelling twists. “Is that Bob, with two b’s?”

    We got our box, yesterday. I thought maybe, because it’s the last one before Christmas, there would be a bit of holiday cheer, in there. Nope. There was a big styro tray of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. A bag of pistachio nuts and a bag of filberts. More cans of yams and green beans than you can shake a stick at. Not even the usual brick of 2 pound cheese “product.” Some cereal. Oatmeal. Apple drink. Plenty of cans of peaches, which are ok. Dry beans and rice. A jar of peanut butter. As far as the produce went, it was a head of cabbage, two yams, two small red onions and a bag of tiny apples. Oh, and two big red bell peppers. A can of tuna and a can of chicken.

    I picked up two more bell peppers, off the swap table. I’ll freeze them up. We’ll get another box, from the local food bank, between Christmas and New Years. I still managed to put together three bags for the Club pantry. There might be more on the swap table, later.

    I watched an interesting documentary, last night. “The Pez Outlaw.” I don’t know if you have Pez, down there. They’re little candies that are dispensed from a plastic dispenser. Which can have all kinds of different “heads” on them. So, of course, they’re collectible. In fact, the origins of E-Buy was trading in those collectibles. A fellow discovered that there were completely different “heads”, in Eastern Europe. So, he started flying over and bringing them back. Made a lot of money. Until the American Pez company caught on, and shut him down. He lost millions. Interesting story. Lew

  27. @ Lew – one morning I couldn’t shut off the alarm on my phone for some unknown reason. No other problems so far, and I didn’t bother customer service with it since it hasn’t happened again.

    @ Goran – we sometimes have problems with voles eating carrots, turnips, potatoes, and especially sweet potatoes. They adore sweet potatoes. I stopped growing sweet potatoes, which limits their interest in the vegetable garden, and doesn’t bother me because we don’t eat sweet potatoes often enough to make them worth my time to grow.

    Our woodland voles are the counterpart of the voles you are dealing with, as they can move into orchards, and they can sever small roots and girdle larger roots. Have you considered the possibility that your trees can outgrow the damage the voles cause by ensuring that soil fertility is at the best level, planting the trees at the right time (so their roots grow as fast as possible), making sure to get some water on them if the soil gets too dry so they don’t stop growing, and planting them at the right spacing so they don’t compete too badly with each other? We have lots of voles but I haven’t known them to damage any of the trees, just the vegetable roots. Or maybe you could grow a crop of vegetable roots between orchard rows to encourage the voles to eat them instead?


  28. Chris,

    “I never once thought that you’d be a faceless bureaucrat.” Yup, I thought that that’s what you thought. Thanks. The pointy haired boss didn’t like the amount of time I spent talking to the public about certain of my duties. Top of the list was my discussions with farmers and the trucking community regarding overweight/oversize permits, primarily during the spring thaw when the roads were fragile. I figured these hard-working individuals needed to educate some of us in the bureaucracy, and having conversations was the best way for me to learn. Some of our policies were rather, ummm, perhaps maybe almost punitive at times. After that manager retired, I was able to change how some of the things were done and be more flexible about some things. Fighting with the folks who grow food is a bad idea. I like to eat.

    The lesser scraping took less time. That’s the main thing. When we get 10cm of snow or more in a single event, they will do an “All City Plow”. They advertise that it will be completed within 72 hours after it starts. If they were to do a high-quality job, it would take 5 or 6 days. People whine after 24 hours…to which I say “Holy Socks” among other things. 😉

    Ah yes, retirement wouldn’t be the same without Dame Avalanche. I have a lot of activities that are mentally stimulating but having a strong-willed dog has added some welcome challenges. And more physical activity.

    Ya know, your experience with the recycled paper doesn’t surprise me one bit. I’ve figured for a good 30 years that we were done as a civilization, and had suspected that for another decade before that. Why? Lots of little things like your recycled paper episode. I’ve often imagined that I understand how Ambrosius from the Arthurian stories must have felt: trying to keep things working while really having a strong sense that it’s doomed no matter what you do.

    Careful, there Chris. Discussing how well the Rat War is going might lead to the Resurging Rat Campaign, complete with rodent reinforcements.

    I figured out why we are having winter this early this year. (It’s snowing again with another 5 to 10cm expected overnight.) It’s Hallmark’s fault. Hallmark, the greeting card people. And the people who have several networks of feel-good programming. All of July is their “Christmas in July” programs on all of their channels. November 1 hits and all of the Hallmark channels turn into “all Christmas, all the time” made for television movies. All of this Christmas stuff out of season has the weather gods all confused, so they just said to heck with it and started dumping snow and cold weather on us. Hallmark’s fault.

    I was on jury duty 20 and 22 years ago. Or was it 21 and 23? Anyhow, I was the jury foreman both times. This time, if I’m on a jury, I plan on keeping my mouth shut. Someone else can be foreman. I really don’t want to be on a jury. However, if I’m not selected, I am on call for duty and might have to show up daily for 2 weeks. Once I’m on a jury and the trial is over, I’m dismissed from further service for at least 2 years. So there is incentive to be on a jury early the first week of service.

    The last time I was on a jury, it was a drug case. 3 counts of selling crack cocaine. During deliberations, the jury was viewing the evidence, including the 3 clear plastic evidence bags of crack, each sample being smaller than my thumbnail. Someone had a question about something that we needed to ask the bailiff. So I pushed the button to request the bailiff. He showed up and asked me, “What do ya want?” I vaguely knew him, so I said, “We’re looking at the evidence and trying to sample the product he was selling. We ran out after 5 of us tried it. We need more for the rest of us.” He didn’t blink and quipped, “Son, back in my day, we lost more than that due to spillage. What do you really need?”

    I like your suggestion, though. “I want justice”. Weird stare. Hmmm, it has possibilities. Thanks.

    John Tod of the HBC? Some of the higher ups described him as being, “unconventional and prickly”. Which actually is a good description of my branch of that family also, at least the ones I met. I guess there are worse things.


  29. Hi Inge,

    It sounds lovely and hope you enjoyed the sunlight in the winter? Another cool, but sunny day here today. I was intending to have a burn off in the forest but the wind was just a bit too gusty for my comfort levels, and I don’t really want a fire getting away from me. Interestingly, the wind dries off the vegetation, so that was another consideration. No fire restrictions have been flagged as yet, and this is as late as I can recall. Most of next week is forecast to rain. We did the burn off, but relocated the materials to the steel brazier in the courtyard.

    Well I never. I’d never heard of dogs interacting with foxes on a friendly basis. Ren possibly surprises us all with his behaviour? I’d imagine the fox would be nabbing some of the chickens if she had the chance too? We’ve got a semi-regular fox here at nights and the torchlight spots the eyes. Rabbits are introduced species here, so the foxes can knock themselves out as far as I’m concerned and if they take out some rats too, that’s good. They have no chance with the chickens. Interestingly, rats have been around for far longer than European settlement, and probably made their way here via trading with the folks on the islands of Indonesia.



  30. Hi DJ,

    The facts in this instance speak for themselves. And talking to the users of the services is a wise idea, a person never knows what you might learn. It’s funny you mention the overweight / oversized issues, because with the new Dirt Rat I was forced to consider such matters. Turns out I may have inadvertently been overloading the previous Dirt Rat. Who knew? But yeah, the issues are real, and roads and bridges have certain tolerances, which have to be considered. One of the larger bridges in the big smoke requests that trucks use the outer lanes, and it makes the curious mind wonder whether the folks making those recommendations know what they’re doing? I’ve ridden a motorcycle over that bridge and been stationary and the bounce and deflection is an unnerving experience. My one major interaction with the equivalent folks here was viewed first and foremost as a punitive exercise, except after entering dialogue, they were wrong. A most satisfying outcome, but questions first may have been a wiser approach.

    And yes, people do so whine down here too. In the past few years the state authoritas have done very little, if any, back burning. Not a story that will end well, but it does appease certain noisy interest groups, and that’s politics for ya. Your snowploughs would face similar discord. Why can’t you get the job done faster? Why can’t you do my street first, we’re paying you to do this? I’m sure you’ve heard such talk. 🙂 Best ignored. The job takes what it takes.

    🙂 Avalanche was a power move on your part! ‘Nuff said.

    Mate, they really cracked the sads about the 100% recycled paper. It wasn’t about the paper, it was about perceived status. The other thing I did was remove some of the fluorescent tube lighting because the office was overly lit with cool white tubes (which I personally do not like as the blue light colour gives me eye strain). What a carry on that caused, even the wealthy owner was commenting negatively about the reduced electricity consumption – something or other about it being a poor look. You wouldn’t want to be comfortable… It’s not good, and we sow the seeds of our own demise.

    Ambrosius was what came before, just at the end, Arthur was what came after. Both bought critical time, and I’d have to suggest are hard-wired into our culture. As one cycle fades to obscurity, the legends suggest what happens next. And sadly, there is failure there, but to shine a light in the dark is a powerful act which casts long shadows.

    Nah. The rat war is being fought by comprehending how the rodents desire to live here. The systems I’m using to thwart them are quite resilient and require little ongoing maintenance. Of course the reality is, in a century or two, the house will be gone and that’s life. All that remains may be a weird collection of very useful edible plants, most of which will be naturalised. But even then, the forest will encroach. Hopefully someone in the area will recognise the treasure trove for what it is and keep the forest at bay.

    You’re probably right! 🙂 Hey, it is winter down here in July, so that loose talk isn’t entirely incorrect. But yes, an oversupply of hubris can bring on a world of hurt. Your ancestors would have known not to tempt the weather gods so.

    Being the foreman in a jury would be a lot of responsibility, I hear you. And I’m with you in that regard to the future. You can only do what you have to do, and hope you don’t get roped into a prolonged legal abstraction.

    Hehe! Isn’t it fun having witty banter with other folks who are switched on and can reply in kind? DJ, you were super-bad with that cheeky request.

    My pleasure, and being self employed I’ve dodged that circumstance twice now. There is little allowance for folks in my circumstances, it’s not like I get paid even for sick leave or anything like that, and the pittance paid with jury service is hardly economic compensation, and the work would pile up and smash me afterwards. The social arrangements for that system, from my perspective at least, work upon a system of mutual obligations, unless of course like your circumstance you can make allowances for the time. One of those mutual obligations is perhaps ensuring the legal system operates at an economically sustainable pace for all that are involved, but I’m uncertain that this is the case. There are some deep inequalities building in society, but no matter, I chose this path for other reasons. Good luck and hope you’re not picked!

    Hehe! A person perhaps demanding reasonable perquisites can be viewed by the higher-ups as “unconventional and prickly”. Nothing wrong with that as far I can see. He sounds OK, that bloke.



  31. Hi Lewis,

    Interestingly the image in the article showed several step down transformer cans. They take the higher voltage from the lines and step it down to the lower voltage of household mains. They’re very simple devices, but like all electronics they have a limited lifespan and tolerances. And if those are the things being damaged, well, unless there is some sort of local grudge, it would be almost impossible to work out who done what and why. However, you’d be amazed by the number of cameras out there.

    Thanks for the article on the book you are reading, and it is a timely article too. Man, the images of that valley strike fear into my heart. How the folks there keep themselves warm during the brutal winters is a mystery to me – there are no trees. The bleakness of the area is I guess part of its attraction, but still. The area immediately at the feet of the mountains almost has the look as if it were once a shallow body of water. And I can’t say for sure why the local council there would want to poke such people. It seems like an act of malicious intent. People head there not to be bothered, I get that.

    Good work with the stairs, and the late afternoon tummy thing is weird isn’t it? You drinking enough water? (said in best dad voice!)

    The guide stones may have invited trouble. Did the bloke who finally fessed up to creating and installing them, live by the guidelines he espoused? I hold the opinion that they were well meaning, but good example may have been a stronger voice. I’m slowly coming around to the old adage that the best revenge is to have a good life, but I dunno yet. Perhaps more time may reveal the wisdom of the saying?

    A normal climate from my perspective would be a wonderful thing, although for all I know, what I’m experiencing may be a new normal? We’ll see how it goes, by the end of the growing season we’ll have a better idea about whether it reached normal or otherwise.

    I’d actually intended to conduct a burn off in the forest today, but the wind had dried everything out, and that was despite a tiny bit of rain this morning. Decided that caution be the watchword, and removed the material to the brazier in the courtyard, and burned it off there. No point creating a local incident, people sure will remember that. 🙂 We mowed a huge swath of the place today, and poured another cement stair tread leading up to the garden terraces. Incidentally the gate and post we put in last week were a bit narrow and now have to be removed. Oh well, it was a three dimensional problem which became clearer the higher the staircase rose. It’s not hard work to remove the gate and post.

    Hehe! That’s about the right of it. 🙂 What can I say, I enjoy activity! It’s currently not a fashionable lifestyle choice, but the future may be different.

    Actually I have thought about a ham radio license, and probably could restore an old rig too, but at this stage I just don’t have the free time to commit to the activity. Limits are a real pain. I’m sure you’ve had to pick and choose what hobbies you spend your energies on? Hey, how is the auction process going?

    Looks like the same thing might be happening down here. What is weird about that story is that the dog food stuff is locally sourced and manufactured, and it is not as if people are now not dumping their health subject which dare not be named pooches. That would push demand downwards. A dog is for life, and not just the you know what period of time. Hmm. It’s weird, but perhaps a portion of local supply is being exported? That would make a weird sort of sense due to the ownership of that behemoth of a business. Anyway, I add some of that dry dog food stuff to the dogs breakfast, the diversity to their food is probably no bad thing for them. And with a months supply of that and a months supply of chicken feed, that set me back $130. Inflation is the situation where demand exceeds supply and the money supply enables that circumstance to continue.

    Seriously, I reckon H would do a death doggie number four trick and trip you up, whereby you fall and crack your head and die. Sorry, but then H would consume your corpse, and learn to get water from the toilet. Dogs are smart, Elinor need not worry about H, you on the other hand have to ensure that H doesn’t get hungry and try that number four trick. That’s what Elinor should be worrying about.

    Pah! What a suggestion. Mate, I can’t afford either business. What is of note is that there are a number of businesses up for sale around here, and I have noticed that there is a slow trickle of properties hitting the property market. Things that make you go hmm.

    Blacklisting is a dirty business. It’s funny, meaning in a sad way, how the McCarthy era died almost overnight, after causing so much wreckage. And he didn’t appear to be brought to account for the damage caused, just quietly shuffled off.

    There’s a word you don’t hear used much these days: begets! It’s a bit racy. 🙂 The misspelling of names appears to be a relatively recent phenomena down here, but I guess the language we use is not a fixed point, but a moving target. I’ll aim for your well considered response.

    By holiday cheer do you mean things like mince tarts, custard and/or Christmas puddings / cakes? For your interest, the styro appears to have been replaced down here with plastic trays. Interestingly both materials are derived from fossil fuels, I do wonder if one is less costly to make? Mate, I’m not excited by cheese-like product, whilst apple drink could contain anything. A surprise awaits! That’s true too, canned peaches are usually pretty tasty. I’ve tried to bottle peaches before but they were a bit soft and the boiling in the bottles was a bit much for them. Turn them into jam nowadays. There’ll be no peaches here this year though. The rest of the box sounds pretty good too.

    Speaking of a swap table, I noticed a food swap taking place in one of the local nearby town yesterday. I now forget what such places are called, but there was someone at the counter and a person perusing the produce. Who knew?

    And I stepped outside this evening to check on the fire in the brazier and there were fireworks going off in the nearby township. It’s a good six miles away, but still it looked good. I think they were doing a carols by candlelight thing.

    Some of the comments attached to movie trailers, such as the Pez Outlaw, are pretty funny. What a notion, and you’ve gotta give the bloke some credit for spotting a market niche, and then filling it.



  32. @ Claire – Lucky you! I couldn’t get an alarm on my phone. Had to go out and buy an alarm clock. And the state of alarm clocks these days, leaves much to be desired.

    Of course, they advertise the thing for $17 a month. Ha! Ha! I say. When I first signed up, the nice young man was trying, in a nice way, to up-sell me, on this and that. Well, it’s his job. But after awhile he realized he was dealing with a skeptical old guy, who was pretty much in his right mind.

    As an example: There’s some kind of medic alert function. My response was: “911 doesn’t work?” So that was off the table. To send texts, was extra. I don’t text. But every time I get one, usually a “wrong number” it costs me 10¢. To receive voice mail, is an extra $3 a month. That I sprang for, as I very seldom turn on my phone. So, when all was said and done, and the taxes were added in (I cannot believe how many different places claim some tax), I pay $27 a month.

    So, why do I seldom turn on my phone? I don’t want to be bothered. I figure I have voice mail, and e-mail. Isn’t that enough? Also, there was the robo calls and outright scams. I discovered, that by leaving my phone off, for long periods of time, they dropped to nothing. But I see now, the government has stepped in, and are squashing quit a few of those outfits. I read an article recently, that they’ve blocked some huge international robo call outfit, from all US numbers. About time. Lew

  33. @ DJ – My friend in Idaho loves Hallmark movies. I copied and sent her what you said about them. Told her if she didn’t encourage those people, they wouldn’t get as much snow.

    I’ll get a lot of mileage out of that. Anytime she mentions snow, I’ll point out, “Well, if you didn’t watch all those Hallmark movies….” 🙂

    I must admit I’ve watched a few. If they have something to do with bookstores, libraries or food. But they irritate me. Everyone lives happily ever after. Just like real life! 🙂 Lew

  34. Yo, Chris – One thing I forgot to mention about my health is the ribs still hurt. When I sneeze or cough, sometimes I have to hang on with both hands. And, yes, I drink a lot of water. I keep a big mug in the fridge, and when it’s empty, it goes right back in, again.

    A lot of the electrical substations, are pretty isolated. I’m sure there will be more cameras, in future.

    The hills around the San Luis Valley, are forested. And some areas are irrigated. Some of the people who move there, have the where with all to put in septic systems and wells. There was mention that Chinese Elms can be grown on the flats. If you water them for the first four or five years, they get established. One guy commented that he’d pay an extra $2,000 for a place, if it had a Chinese Elm.

    The author ended up buying a place, there. He got the well running, again. And, did a solar / wind combo. A lot of people heat with wood, in the winter. Doesn’t seem to be a problem, sourcing it. Though during the course of the book, a few people do freeze to death.

    Speaking of weather and climate, there’s one really terrible story. One September, just when the birds were migrating, they got an arctic blast and 14 inches of snow. Millions of birds, were killed.

    The Guide Stones were there for quit awhile. I suppose it’s just due to the increased general weirdness, that they were destroyed, now. I just kind of think of them as an interesting curiosity. We have our own interesting curiosity, in our county.


    I meant to mention, that seed catalogs are always a good source for figuring out the short season crops. Our seed catalogues ought to start showing up any time now.

    Any day now, the PR for the New Year’s Day auction, ought to show up. I check the auction website, from time to time. They have auctions up until the 18th of December. Then, I figure, they’ll take time off until the New Year’s Day auction.

    Well, it works both ways. If the food system entirely falls apart, H may find herself in a low, slow oven, with an apple in her mouth 🙂 . I gave her a bath, yesterday. That seemed to really perk her up.

    Stinky Bill was a long time denizen of the Club. His wife died, and a few weeks later, so did he. He wasn’t found, for a few days. He had cats. There are stories ….

    Well, I don’t know what I expected in the box, but just something …. more. Due to the holiday. Maybe an orange? 🙂

    I wonder if what you saw was a food bank? Some of them are pretty bare bones, and other’s are hard to tell apart from a regular grocery.

    I went down to the cheap grocery where I always expect to see rats. I hadn’t been in awhile. They had practically no tinned goods. I did find a couple of things for the Club pantry. And, a couple of bottles of a good malt vinegar, for me. And, there’s always a surprise or two. Several boxes of Stash Premium green tea! Even though I bought quit a bit of that, on-line, I picked up four boxes. The price was less than the on line price, by a few pennies. I figure I’ll just stash them away 🙂 Lew

  35. Chris,

    I worked closely with the trolls, er, the bridge engineers, for several years. We had a few wonky bridges. There was one in particular over which I drove occasionally. They blocked off the center of the bridge so that traffic was forced to use the edges. Why? The supports were under the edges and the center had some corrosion/erosion underneath. The structural strength was strongest on the edges. They also greatly reduced the allowable weight to be hauled over the bridge. It has since been replaced by a new one. So…yes, at least our bridge trolls, er, engineers, knew what they were doing.

    Our Sheriff Deputies who were the “commercial vehicle enforcement” team preferred education over writing tickets. Always. Give them any attitude and they would write the ticket. If you were driving a commercial vehicle like a semi-truck and gave them any attitude? They would do a complete truck and trailer inspection and cite you for each and every miniscule violation. Said inspection took a minimum of 3 or 4 hours. A brief educational session was in everyone’s best interest. Not all lawn forcement folks have that approach, however.

    It’s even worse than that with the snowplows. Seriously. Some people threaten them with guns because cars get plowed in. Not all of the plows are equipped with the gates, so driveways get plugged shut. The city plows used to plow the snow onto the sidewalks that people had just cleared the snow from. So, bluster, yell, make rude gestures, threaten the drivers. There have been several wrecks this year involving plows. Each and every one has been the fault of the vehicle driver, not the snowplow driver. Why? Following too closely, trying to pass the plow while it is plowing then sliding into it, things like that. My experience has been that the safest place in deep snow is 200 meters behind the plow. That way, one is driving on a newly scraped roadway whilst having plenty of “oh socks” distance between one’s vehicle and the plow.

    There was one year of record level snowfall in which the city had to plow late in February, a rare occurrence. An ice boulder a meter in diameter was somehow left in the exact center of my driveway/street intersection. yes, it was upsetting. It wasn’t done on purpose, it just happened. So I hacked as much of it off as I could so that the car could get in and out. I’d work on it an hour a day for awhile. Part of that ice boulder was still there come the middle of April.

    Avalanche was a lucky break. Right place, right time. A friend’s daughter volunteered with that dog rescue group and suggested that group to me. She knew what type of dog I like and knew that the group had just gotten some husky pups in. Yes, a major score for the Princess and me.

    Yup, we sow the seeds of our own demise. This tells me very clearly that although humans *might* have logical abilities, we are still animals and collectively revert to our animal character. Look at a local ecosystem. The deer and the rabbits get overpopulated. The wolves enter that ecosystem and eat the deer and rabbits. The wolf population increases. Soon thereafter, the deer and rabbit populations crash, followed by the wolf population. Humans really behave no differently.

    “And sadly, there is failure there, but to shine a light in the dark is a powerful act which casts long shadows.” That was extremely well said and is very profound. Thanks for saying that.

    Ah, so think like the enemy and act accordingly. Cool! Very “Art of War” thinking.

    But I enjoyed that cheeky request! I also knew that that was the one and only bailiff at the time that would’ve enjoyed the banter. Anyone else and I wouldn’t have said it.

    When I was working, I got paid for my mileage to the courthouse from home, even though I worked in the next building. I was also required to work before the appointed hour court started, then work after adjournment for the day. I got my normal wages, so had to forego the pittance they pay jurors. Now the pittance is a smidge higher. Whoopie pickle! My experience in the past is that the small business owners despised being on jury duty for the reasons you gave.


  36. Hi DJ,

    Good to hear that the bridge trolls, sorry, engineers know what they’re doing. And also that the bridge was replaced. Few people really want to experience a collapsing bridge. There’s a small one lane bridge near here (another one) where in the recent floods, the bridge deck is at the correct level, but there is a distinct drop in the road surface leading onto the bridge deck. Not something to discover at speed – probably a bit risky with blowing out tires.

    Always wise not to poke folks who can hit you with a fine. After all, they might hit you with a fine. And as you probably know, time in the trucking business is of some importance. A 3 to 4 hour inspection would be a nightmare scenario.

    Oh my goodness. What a nightmare with the snowploughs, but you know when I was in the volunteer fire services it was not lost on me that it is not an uncommon expectation for people to expect a fire truck at their house during a big forest fire. In this part of the mountain range, there are two trucks, so common sense suggests that the expectation is unrealistic. But that doesn’t stop people thinking those thoughts. What do you do? Responsibility is not something that is easily communicated. There were similar problems in relation to rescues with the recent floods.

    Mate, you learn something new everyday. 🙂 A little bit at a time is a great way to sort out the ice boulder, like any err, rock. But truly if I encountered an ice boulder I’d be thinking to myself: What is this thing? And probably trying to melt it with a blow torch – possibly an expensive solution. Yikes! Things go wrong all of the time, it is how we handle it when they do so is what is telling.

    Lucky you with Avalanche and we got very lucky with the local farmer who wanted to off load the two not-so-great Kelpie’s. And it also proves that a person can benefit from connections. Dog shelters here are full up to their eye balls with pooches from what I’ve been reading. I hope they can learn to adapt, as before things got weird two and a bit years back, they were really hard to adopt from. It was stupid. I may have written about my frustrating experiences with them despite a long association, and I must say that the facts on the ground (with lot’s of pooches on their hands now) don’t tend support their policies, after all the approach they employed doesn’t appear to have stopped dogs getting dumped back with them.

    This talk of logic and reason, I’ve heard such words before, but people are not like that at all. 🙂 No way! Things may be easier if they were, but they ain’t, even the ones with digital watches who say they subscribe wholly and solely to that line of thought. Hehe! And you’re spot on, that’s overshoot in ecological terms. That’s what it looks like – even the trees suffer from that problem. I read a book where that outcome with the trees was a background story.


    That long dead dude Sun Tzu, has much to say in his treatise ‘The Art of War’, upon present matters. Hope someone gets around to reading it, only a few hours work.

    Yeah, that lot do tend to take themselves very seriously and it is hard to note any humour in them. Wise to know the bloke before making that particular joke. Imagine the ensuing trouble if the conversation began: “Excuse me sir, what did you just say?” A whole lot of trouble.

    Dude, it’s apparently $40 per day for the first 6 days, then $80 per day thereafter. I’d probably lose clients as they need the work to be done, and if I’m off doing something else then that might be a problem. Actually the dole in my situation would not be that much different to those rates. Probably hard to live on.



  37. Hi Lewis,

    Hopefully the coughing and sneezing are becoming less frequent? The absence of having to do either will give your chest muscles a bit of a breather (please excuse the unintended pun). We cleared up one end of the garden terraces today in the warm-ish summer sunshine. An indigenous shrub had established itself where the fence is to go, and it has a beautiful aroma, but can make a person sneeze. Probably a good thing that pollen count in your part of the world would be low right now. And on a serious note, I’d have to suggest that people do not drink nearly enough water, but maybe that is a personal bias thing? Dunno.

    That’s the thing with such distributed infrastructure, it’s often in very remote locations. And who knows what goes on in such places?

    It was a lovely day here today. 79’F and the sun shone with warmth, but the day began rather chilly. It was a four blanket night last night. A Kelpie warming my feet last evening would have been a fine thing, but that option is most definitely not on the table. 🙂

    That’s the thing with such places as that valley. A person has to know and play the system, and if it takes a septic tank, that’s what it takes. And also know where the resources are to be found to get through the worst of the winter and summer weather. I had noticed the trees in the nearby mountain range, but don’t know your harvesting considerations. There are some public forests down here where firewood harvesting is allowed, but for some reason it is a fraught subject with many opinions and high emotions.

    Ah, makes sense about the Chinese Elms for they have astounding survival skills, particularly with extreme cold weather which I’m guessing is a feature of the valley. The photos of the valley still strike fear into my heart, but those particular elms are a favourite. One grows here and it has such lovely shape and is clearly heading for the skies. The leaves are like tiny beech trees. In the north of this council area is a bakery and in their courtyard they have three enormous specimens of Chinese Elm, and on a warm day under the filtered light of the tall trees it is a lovely place to consume a meal. Those trees were introduced not long after European settlement in this state. The tree didn’t seem particularly difficult to get started and I don’t recall ever watering it.

    I probably would pay the extra mad cash for a property with such an established tree. I’d imagine that some conifers could survive the conditions in the valley, but would they look as good?

    Far out! Freezing to death sounds like a Jack London story! But yeah I can see that would be a possibility in such a locale. All it takes is for one thing to go wrong, at the wrong time. Wow, that is one heck of an Arctic blast, and stories like that would make for a touch of nervousness if a person set out to grow their own produce. Of course there are greenhouses / conservatories aligned to the winter sun and attached to the house which might help. Actually those sorts of structures make a lot of sense in such an environment, especially if it’s in a really cold area that needs to capture whatever daytime heat there is to be saved and stored for the cold nights.

    Speaking of which, I did mention that the nights here had required a lot of blankets this week, but far to the east and in the alpine area, the coldest summer temperature on record for the continent was recorded. A dubious achievement. -7’C / 19’F, not bad for summer huh? Australia’s lowest summer temp on record. We didn’t run the wood heater yesterday and candidly we probably should have, but anyway, the inside temperature of the house this morning was 14’C / 57’F. Thought all those blankets were necessary. It warmed up today nicely.

    The mass bird deaths reminded me of the mass fish die-off’s that occur in river systems during extreme droughts. It’s brutal. I’ll bet the soil critters in that valley enjoyed the additional minerals from all of the dead birds? It’s amazing how minerals and soil fertility moves around the landscape. Have you finished the book on poop? Hey, have you ever used a compost toilet? People can get a bit weird about them, but they do work.

    Out of curiosity, in the book does anyone scratch a living out of that valley? It seems like a hard place, and I noticed that Little House in the Prairie came up in the article. Can’t say that the author of the article you linked to was a fan of the character Pa. Does the author of the book on that valley still reside there?

    So, cutting to the chase, is Ted Conover’s book a recommendation or what? 🙂 I’m intrigued and in some ways down here in the mountains is a more up market version of that story.

    The world probably needs more eccentric bachelors! 🙂 And you’re probably right about why someone took such umbrage at the guidestones.

    Yeah, I too pour over the seed catalogues when they arrive in the mail. Short season crops here are a must. Three short growing seasons in a row is challenging, but then I’m treating it all as a learning experience, and you do learn far more when things are going wrong, than if you fluke it the first time around. You may note just how much of the existing infrastructure we have either modified and/or upgraded this year. To sum up the year: Yeah good ideas, maybe needs a bit of modifying. 😉

    Fingers crossed for good auction results for you.

    Hehe! True, but if H is hungry, you might have to act first. History, after all, is penned by the victors. Good to hear that H is responding well. The shuttling back and forth with her would be unsettling for a dog. They like structure and routine.

    The Editor is watching an intriguing show with Nick Frost (Simon Pegg’s mate) where he plays a serial killer. Apparently quite amusing given the subject matter.

    Ewew. Well, what can we say, a cat can get hungry. Out of curiosity, why was Stinky Bill given that particular name? I sense a story there.

    Hehe! Nice one, and that orange reference is very Little House on the Prairie. Hey, could you survive in that valley? It seems pretty cold to me. I looked up the authors website and he had a good wind turbine there, but it was not hard to notice that it required bracing as well as the guy wires. I’ll bet the wind kicks up there from time to time. And was he living in a motorhome? They’re not known for their insulation.

    Ah, nope it wasn’t a food bank, it was a (rock lobster?) community foodshare. I just happened to go past on one of the two days that it is open. Not sure how such things work, and it was sheer chance I noticed the place. Most weeks the hours it operates would be useless for my purposes.

    Hope you didn’t step on any rats during the hunting and gathering expedition? Wonder why tinned goods would be in short supply? Do you have any theories? I’m not seeing such things down here. Good score with the tea, and a nice cup of tea can put many of the worlds problems into a more pleasant perspective.

    It didn’t rain today, it will tomorrow though.



  38. Yo, Chris – So, did you move the indigenous shrub, or just whack it out? 🙂 It probably ended up there, as some birdie pooed while sitting on the fence. As happens. I think (a long time ago) I might have mentioned I once had to clear a 175′ property line. It was almost a proper hedgerow. There was all kinds of fencing, mixed in there. Everything from barbed wire to chicken wire. And, obviously, the birdies had sat on the fence and pooed. Some of the “volunteers” I cut out of there were 4 and 5 inches thick.

    H sleeps at the bottom of my bed. But I lay down a big fluffy beach towel. Easy to wash.

    I finished the “Cheap Land Colorado” book. Knocked it off in about three days. I found it so interesting. So, would I recommend it, to you? Hmm. A lot of the people in the book, make bad decisions. And you have a relatively low tolerance, for that. 🙂 But there are a lot of good people in the book, and the stories, in general, I found interesting. Just about every kind of person you can imagine, washes up in the valley.

    So, how do some people scratch out a living? Well, in that part of the world, you can grow a certain amount of marahochie. There are limits, which are often exceeded. There is also a bit of freelance gold mining and panning. That was pretty interesting. There’s a lot of barter and swapping. There’s a lot of cooperation. So, in general, yes, I’d recommend the book. If nothing else, it’s a kind of snapshot of Life in These United States.

    Nick Frost is always amusing. I’ll have to look around and see what the film is, and if the library has it.

    I bet the food shop is a food co-op. They have a long history, and not just here in the US.

    Could I live in the valley? Maybe, if I were younger. 🙂 But that weather!

    I saw an article last night about the poor veg crop in California and other parts of the West. Which probably effects a lot of tinned goods. The other night when I was at the store, I found three one pound bags of chopped broccoli. A bit on the expensive side, but I grabbed them, anyway. Lew

  39. Hi Lewis,

    The article on the Italian wooden cooking boxes was like catnip for me. The photo’s were bucolic, and I delighted in the quest for economy with excellence from the ladies who were promoting the idea. That’s the way of the future and the promoter of the cooking box would understand what I’m up to here. Absolutely, if you blinked and took away many of the surrounding forest trees here, that’s what here would look like. The meals with my foodie friends have that sort of aura shown in the photos. Fun times, and food is a special joy! Thank you. I knew about the technology, but mate there is no shortage of cooking fuel here, and the trees grow at an astounding rate of at least three feet per year, and there are possibly about ten thousand of them. Hmm.

    Speaking of which, today was the first day I implemented the change to the fertilising regime for the orchards. To date, the fruit trees have been consuming a mixture of wood ash + coffee grounds + agricultural lime. Observing how they fruited, yet grew strongly, in this less than optimal year I’ll dial down the agricultural lime by half and replace that with blood and bone, which provides phosphates. That should lift fruit set in another year or so and perhaps find some balance in the soils. The year has produced an excellent crop of apples and pears, but that is about it, and the resilience of the other trees needs to be slightly tweaked so they can perform better in less than optimal conditions. Stone fruit in particular have been somewhat marginal in the past couple of years and that is a shame.

    Do you want an answer that makes you feel good, or do you want the truth about how the indigenous shrub was dealt with? It wasn’t particularly at risk of becoming extinct based on casual observations of the surrounding flora. No, you haven’t mentioned the hedgerow hell drama that I can recall, but I must say I know from first hand experience that such work is very hard. The plants use the steel as a freebie climbing frame plus protection from browsing animals. Oh yeah. There is no envy with that work you undertook. Hey, there is always a risk too in such circumstances that the cutting tools you employ catch upon the steel, and yeah, not good. And yup, birds happily spread seed and fertility – that is their job after all, and the plants pay for the work with tasty morsels. Enjoyed a tasty peach lately? Who is the boss in such an arrangement, the peach tree, or the consumer of said delicious fruit?

    Cool! H is in enviable circumstances, for not all dogs are as well treated. When I was a child a cat shared my world, and she was a pretty good companion. Towards the end of the cats life when I was a young adult and moved around a lot, the cat stayed in the family home. One day my mother said to me to come and take her or she’ll get her put down, and I didn’t hesitate, but that was the last thing my mother had leverage over me. The cat had another year and half of life and enjoyed it to the full. The memory of the cat is carried around even now, you know how it is.

    You know me pretty well. 🙂 Man, so many people tell me that Breaking Bad was such an awesome series, but yeah all the characters did the exact opposite of what my inclinations were and the show used to stress me out so I stopped watching it. Not into it at all, and I’d awake in the middle of the night asking myself: What the heck, why would they do that? Alright, I’ve ordered a copy of the book, but it looks like it will take a few weeks to arrive, being near to Christmas and stuff. You’ve piqued my curiosity, and I must say that it sounds like an emergent future culture. Will provide a review once I’ve read it.

    Nick Frost conveys emotions and sentiment with ease, being a character actor – which would not be an easy task. There is a film he is in with a similar narrative, but I believe that it was a series the Editor referred to.

    Not sure about the food co-op side of that story. Those don’t have much presence down here, although growers co-ops have a very long history down under. Not a bad idea, especially given the distance of some of the export markets.

    Hehe! Yes, the weather in that valley would stress me out too. The heat I could cope with, but those winters, I dunno. And you’re right, probably a young man’s game. Go forth young man! Those sorts of stories may have had a sting in the tail, don’t you reckon?

    The west of your country supplies a vast quantity of food stuffs within your country, but mate, it’s a big country you live in, like here. The floods have been pretty harsh in some parts of this continent, but where I buy my bulk grains from, they’ve had an awesome growing season. And hashtag just sayin, I have an established history of purchasing from them.



  40. Yo, Chris – I thought it was interesting that the woman got the idea from a WWII cookbook, of her grandmother’s. I thought the price of the wooden box was a bit pricey, but, if you have any carpenter skills, and some scrap lumber, that could be gotten around. Or, here, if you look around a bit, you often find old wooden boxes. Old fruit boxes or dynamite boxes.

    I’m sure you’ll figure out the optimum fertilizer mix, for your fruit trees. Tinker, observe, tinker, observe.

    I was pretty chuffed when the hedgerow was out and the fence up. I didn’t do any of the actual construction, but played contractor. I cleared the property line, did all the measuring, found an old guy who had a wood mill (he salvaged out an old cedar logging bridge, for the lumber), rounding up a crew of guys to actually construct the fence. That occasional luck of mine. All the pieces fell into place.

    I forgot to mention the article about your low summer temperatures was interesting. In a way, like our longest, warmest fall on record. These days, we just don’t know what kind of weather anomalies are going to be thrown at us.

    I think there’s enough in the book for you to enjoy it. I’ll be interested to see what you think.

    Time for me and doggie to head for the Club. The usual Sunday morning coffee klatch. Lew

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