On My Knees

Went to purchase a sack of locally grown potatoes at a farm gate the other day. The sun shone. Warmth pressed upon the skin. Grasses had begun to yellow. The scent of dry and dusty soil. Cicadas called rhythmically. Warm air filled the lungs. The shade of an old elm tree, an invitation to linger. We parked the car at the farm gate. The shed door was closed and locked. Unusual.

For the first time I can recall, the farm gate was shut and the produce signs were removed from prominence. They were stored away in a different place. The shed didn’t look like it was going to open again any time soon. The bloke who ran the farm was always old. Guess he just got older. He used to regale me with tales of the various established families in the area, once he knew where Sandra and I lived. Oh, do you know the … family? Then he’d begin the tales.

The old bloke outlived the folks he spoke about too.

The house on the farm had the air of history about it. Looked settled in its place, with big old elms and paddocks of potatoes. I’d always assumed he’d made his mad spending cash by selling potatoes by the sack to locals. And locals turned up to buy the potatoes. A nice arrangement. Looks like potatoes by the sack are now going to have to be purchased from elsewhere, which everyone knows is further away.

A local history book mentioned that the mountainous area where Sandra and I reside was historically used to grow berries and potatoes. For a fact, both plants grow well in this climate. But we don’t grow enough of either plants to consider ourselves self sufficient.

Seems as though the past eighteen years we’ve observed one local farm gate after another shutting up shop. Probably doesn’t make much economic sense to sell produce at a farm gate. And if a farm has debt, the problems are compounded. Thinking back on the years, most of the farm gate businesses were run by old timers. A few of them told me candidly that their kids had no interest in continuing the farm and were looking to sell the property. Guess the land itself mysteriously makes more mad cash, for less work than farming.

The closure of the potato farm gate was just another episode in the long downwards decline. There used to be two local cherry farms, now there is one (which incidentally is run very well by new younger owners). Of the two blueberry farms, only one ever sold at the farm gate, and that closed long ago. Strawberries, tick, done. Cherry tomatoes, now they were something special, and just like Pavlov’s dogs passing the now closed farm gate still makes me salivate – even today. The stone fruit orchard to the north was one of the earlier contacts we made, I can’t understand what’s going on there now. The old hippy couple living way out in the forest sold some of the best honey around, their sign was removed from the road a few years back. Loss. Loss. Loss.

Other than the local cherry farm, I don’t see too many people trying to supply produce to locals. Heck, we don’t either – it makes little economic sense. But every time a local produce farmer shuts up shop, we consider the consequences and begin to implement systems to replace what has been lost to us. It’s not an easy task, and often it takes time, a whole lot of time and effort. After all, a fruit tree can take a decade or more before becoming reasonably productive.

We’re trying to work out the balance between setting up new systems, repairing old ones, and maintaining others. There’s no right way to go either. You just have to pick and choose something, and hope you don’t mess things up royally!

The other day we planted out five new varieties of citrus trees. Planting the trees out didn’t take long. However, cleaning the grass away from the trunks, pruning, feeding and watering each of the thirty or so trees in that part of the property did take a while. Still, as an old timer once said: The best time to plant trees is a decade ago. Good advice.

Ollie admires the recently planted orchard

And things don’t always work out. The batteries in the power system for the house have been giving me a lot of headaches recently. For those readers who are new, the battery terminals were running hot enough that you’d burn your fingers if left in contact with them for too long. That is a fire risk which I was uncomfortable with.

The problem was investigated. Then a plan was made to correct the issues with the batteries. The parts were ordered and they arrived Tuesday. By Thursday the first battery was modified. The work was very dangerous. Fortunately we were careful and survived the work.

Heavy duty 300A rated bus bars now replace the faulty battery terminal arrangement

By late Saturday evening, the last of the batteries had been modified.

All four batteries were modified so as to work safely

Some jobs are harder than others, and the work on the batteries produced some serious sweat due to the inherent risk of say, explosion. It’s done now, but I can understand why people would prefer to earn mad cash doing nothing other than simply owning property and watching the value increase. Doing actual stuff, by way of contrast, makes little economic sense.

At least the summer weather did finally appear this week.

Hot days and a glorious summer sunset

Fortunately not all of the work we do around here is dangerous. Some of the work just makes the place look more attractive. There’s no reason why a farm shouldn’t look pleasing to the eye. Earlier in the week, the garden terrace project – which had been done over several years was completed. The final bit of fencing was finished.

The end fencing for the top two garden terraces was completed this week

Long term readers will know by now that there are regular jokes about reaching Peak Rocks. They’re not really a joke because we actually are at Peak Rocks. There are still some rocks to be had, but they have to be lifted from the paddock and/or split. However, old timer farmers would know that removing rocks from paddocks is an investment in the future. As well as removing rocks from the paddocks, we’ve also had to tackle cleaning up the left over mess from the century or so of logging operations. That’s likewise an investment in the future, not to mention serious hard work. A tree stump grinder may do most of the work, but hanging onto that machine for a few hours is no easy ride either. And neither is knowing how to maintain the machine so that it grinds the long dead hardwood effectively.

Tree stump grinding equals hard work

Each year the farm produces a little bit more than the year before. And this requires us to know a bit more about everything here each year. As one example, the new larger greenhouse has been a real game changer. Most of the seedlings were raised in the greenhouse.

The new greenhouse has been a real game changer

This year was the second wettest year in recorded history. It was also a very cold spring and early summer, thus slowing the growth of many of the plants and wiping out a lot of the blossoms in the orchard. Yet in the new greenhouse, we already have quite good looking chilli’s.

Japanese Ginger to the left and Chilli’s to the right

There are also unripe large tomatoes in the greenhouse (thanks to a plant donation from a mate – you know who you are!) The tomatoes outside in the old sapling fenced enclosure are growing well, but not as strongly as those in the greenhouse, despite being raised in there as seedlings.

Tomatoes and Pumpkins are growing well and are now producing flowers

The recent hot weather has sped along the growth of the zucchini / courgette plants, and there are even some small fruit developing.

Zucchini are beginning to bear fruit

Due to the cold and wet spring and early summer, only the apples and pears are really producing well . The local birds are thinning the fruit, and this is no bad things because the trees will put their energies into the remaining fruit, of which there are hundreds.

Pears both Asian and European varieties are producing well
It’s been a very good year for Apples
The Meyer Lemon has seen the pears and apples efforts and decided to rise to the challenge

In cold and wet years the late blossoming fruits generally do well. The Kiwi Fruit vines flower very late in the season, and thus avoid late frosts.

Kiwi fruit develops quickly then takes many months on the vines to ripen

Onto the flowers

Foxgloves provide a splash of colour in the fern gully
Olive herb produces fluffy yellow flower balls
The Roses have loved the recent hot and dry weather

The temperature outside now at about 9am is 14’C (57’F). So far this year there has been 12.0mm (0.5 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 11.0mm (0.4 inches)

45 thoughts on “On My Knees”

  1. Wendell Berry is an author that is primarily known for his fiction, but all his writing tries to raise up the importance of agrarian respect for the land and local community.

    He wrote “The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture” in 1977. It’s a nonfiction book, and really struck a chord with me, as ag policy back then pretty much forced lots of farmers (including our family) off the land. The secretary of agriculture at the time said “Get big or get out”.

    The pattern of urbanization and decline of the small family farm has been going on for quite a while. BUT, I think I detect a change in the tide in our area, as a small trickle who may not have even heard of Wendell still see where thing are heading, and are trying to get back on the land. I had some thoughts on it a few years ago.


    We’ve had pretty good luck with potatoes, and for sheer calories per hectare, are hard to beat. It can get pretty overwhelming to try to fill all the gaps, so at some point, you just eat what you have. (I’ve been eating an awful lot of winter squash lately : ).

    Top top work on upgrading the design and getting those batteries ready for the long haul.

  2. Yo, Chris – The place I lived before, well, the family had it for 100+ years. I remember stories of when the vast acres were mostly turned to one crop or another. I remember strawberries being mentioned. And, at one point, chickens for eggs and meat. I’m sure there were other monocrops, that I don’t remember. Plus the usual this and that that contributed to a pretty much self sustaining family farm.

    That’s sad about the farm gates closing. I wonder how much of it is aging out, and how much is harassment due to new rules and regs? As you get older, you have less tolerance for nonsense. Well, if you decide to give up, or seriously trim back the accounting madness, at least you won’t have much competition. 🙂

    The Secretary of Agriculture that Steve mentioned was Earl Butz. True to his name, he was a real ass.

    Ollie is thinking it’s a lot more satisfying lifting the leg, on a tree, than on a post. 🙂 The citrus looks off to a good start.

    I bet you’re relieved to get the battery job done. Looks all neat and tidy. You just think the garden terrace is completed. The rock gabions marching off into the distance look monumental and substantial. Also, pretty.

    Well, look at grinding stumps, this way. You can cancel that gym membership.

    No fear you’ll have stuffed up sinus, what with those chili’s. The zucchini and fruit look to be banging on. Maybe a bumper crop, this year.

    It’s nice to see the fern gully. I don’t think we’ve seen it in awhile. Quit pretty. The olive herb looks like pom-poms. And the roses, as always, are stunning. Lew

  3. Hi Pam,

    Self service key making is probably beyond my competence too. Far out, where would a person even start? Hey, it’s not a bad metaphor for our relationship with technology I dunno how this ‘ere thing works!

    And a car key would be the whole next level of difficulty again. Ook!

    There is a place for ladders with lots of plastic and/or fibreglass. They’re useful for electrical work on the off chance that live wires connect with the ladder. Always a possibility. But will they be around in the long term, and will that plastic break down if presented with strong sunshine. Those are valid questions, and like you I’d also avoid ladders with heaps of plastic.

    The shop sounds full of character – and useful stuff. That’s how some of them are down under too, and amazingly you can get assistance from real live humans. I tend to order my timber needs for projects from such businesses. It’s good to hear that your experience was cheaper too. Big box ain’t always cheaper.

    Dunno about your part of the world, but for a while there, such businesses were becoming endangered species due to the much larger big boxes, but I dunno, the more local shops have their niche.

    A fine hunting and gathering effort. Truth to tell, I sometimes have to head off on sourcing days, and it’s always a pleasure to tick items off the list. It’s not always assured these days that you’ll find what you were after – like your big box experience.

    I quite enjoy the sound of a southern accent. Very pleasing on the ear.

    Speaking of which, yesterday I completed fixing up the old early 1990’s very high end FM radio (which was bought dirt cheap – what a wasteful society we live in), and the sound quality is beyond superb. I was listening to it today whilst working and it was beautiful to listen to the richness of the sound, quite distracting. I’d read that the thing was good and had no idea how the work might turn out.



  4. Hi Steve,

    I’ve never read any of Wendell Berry’s writings. But that ‘get big or get out’ story has been played down here too. I dunno, but it always looked like a land grab to me. The thing is, big corps and absentee landowners appear to be some of the worst of the worst for social cohesion in a town – or even making use of the land. And down here, there are towns that can no longer field a football or netball team. What kind of small town is that?

    There’s a town a couple of hours drive to the south west of here, and you can see the story playing out: How Forrest went from a bypassed town to a destination

    Hopefully that is the case, and change takes place. Land is still way too expensive here for that to be the case. However, if I had to make a prediction, I’d suggest that many of the older land holders around these parts will have to begin dipping into their savings and/or selling off assets, so as to help out their now adult kids who will be struggling economically.

    The local general store was quiet this morning, and the local pub this evening was also quiet. Hmm. I did mention that people may return from their Christmas break and begin implementing some hard decisions.

    Thanks for the link to your excellent blog and I’ll check it out later tonight. Went to the pub earlier for a pint and pizza. So good.

    I agree potatoes are hard to beat, but do I want to have to rely on them as a staple source of calories? I dunno about that, although we grow a lot of unusual varieties such as reds, blues and purples. All tasty, just not what you’d expect to be fed. 🙂

    Go the squash. Yum! Those plants are growing well now that the weather has warmed up.

    Thanks, and fingers crossed about the batteries. But just in case, I’m busy sorting out a Plan B and Plan C. It’s complicated this stuff, and the problems I’m experiencing get replicated on a much larger scale with utility sized installation. They must have some serious problems with that stuff from time to time. So much to go wrong.



  5. Hi Lewis,

    The family would have known a thing or two about farming with such familial experience. It’s interesting that even farming is subject to trends. And the risk with mono cultures like the ones you mentioned is that the market can turn its back on your produce, and even if the weather and everything else co-operates and you have lots of produce to sell. I don’t get the chasing the market thing. You may note that we operate entirely differently and produce a little bit of everything. Mixed farms are rare these days, and interestingly most people tend to focus upon raising meat. I’m guessing that is the case because the produce economic value is greater than fruit, nuts, berries, vegetables, tubers etc.

    I tend to believe that eventually necessity will get people back into growing food. Nobody talks about the fertiliser story any more. Beats me why. Late this afternoon I fed those fruit trees in the photo this week a wheelbarrow load of coffee grounds, agricultural lime and blood and bone (which claims it has added potash). A heady feed. It’s going to be quite warm tomorrow at 100’F. The plants are loving the heat.

    Most farms back in the day had a huge kitchen garden. Even attending to that would have required a lot of knowledge and experience.

    Possibly both counts. Rules and regs can be something of a nightmare, and subject to change without consultation. Such things tend to favour the larger players, not the small producers. I hear that getting meat processed and butchered in some parts of this country for small producers is a nightmare problem.

    Maybe it’s a case with Butz of like how people look like their dogs after a while? 🙂 Instead he probably ended up acting out his namesake.

    For some reason Ollie doesn’t ever cock his leg, he squats. Sir Scruffy also used to do that exclusively.

    Mate, I’m not mucking around with the batteries, working on them really brought out the sweat. There was a risk of explosion. So glad to have that job done. Proving we don’t muck around we’ve begun the process of getting a Plan B and Plan C in place. It was kind of good the batteries pooped themselves but were OK in the end. We got first hand experience of a weakness and risk in our systems. It’s what you don’t know that might get you unstuck.

    Hey, I begun reading Cheap Land Colorado today. And the author has drawn me into his world. A very interesting book. It’s hard not to notice that the author does not follow a linear timeline in the re-telling of the story. He jumps here and there, whilst keeping our attention. I’m enjoying the book. Bizarrely it was a hard back edition and the pages are cut at slightly different widths so that there is texture on the page edges as a totality rather than an entirely straight edge. Not sure why that may be the case. Gives the pages a nice feel though.

    The garden terraces have come up pretty well. I’m pleased with the result, and the roses are lovely to enjoy.

    Hehe! Yes, no need for a gym membership at all.

    Hey, I had the refurbished FM very high end radio working today, and it was a real pleasure to listen too. The sound quality is beyond anything I expected. The reviews had been good, but reality equals the words. It baffles me that such items are disposed of on the cheap. Bonkers, and all up it took about six to eight hours to refurbish. Of course paying someone to do that work makes no economic sense whatsoever.

    Hope the chilli’s are hot, and those zucchini grow so fast, they must be related to Triffids? Every time I see them growing your words about how things roll with that fruit in the PNW come to mind. Always fun.

    Yeah, it has been a while since I posted a photo of the fern gully. The tree ferns are growing quite rapidly, and they’re well established now.

    Went to the local general store this morning (which was quiet) and there was a note that the local newspaper is going to put together a book of oral historical memories of the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires which ripped through this mountain range 40 years ago. A lot of people died. They wanted to hear from people who lived through the experience.

    Hehe! That is a funny turn of phrase in the book ‘Stargazer’. I’ll be curious to hear the bit about automation of the lighthouses and the human cost of that. It’s a subject of interest to me. As to the other book, dump it. Doesn’t sound like the book is calling to you.

    I’ll have a think about your wisdom when it comes to being a custodian of stuff. Hey, the same thing can be true of the land. Hmm.

    I dunno about that idea about writing killing off memory. Dunno about your opinion, but writing is an adjunct to memory, not a replacement. It is possible people get excited about disruptors? And I know plenty of people who struggle putting thoughts into written words, and their memory has miraculously improved. Seems like faulty logic to me.

    Mate, bedtime is calling. Went to the pub for a pint and pizza this evening as the weather was so nice. It was quiet.



  6. Hello Chris,
    How great to see summer colors in your photos. Here in Southern Sweden, we have had rains for every day of the last four weeks. Many rivers overflow and plenty of people have wet feet. We live on a sand bank, no bog here.

    The battery story is one of many nuances, not only the bright green advertisement color. The acronym BMS could stand for Battery Madness System, since every supplier uses a different, often secret, standard. At the site where I work, we have one battery poffing each day of the week. Usually small ones, and they are dropped in big vats of salt water. Larger ones are a major fire and toxicity hazard. You did the right thing, to look into the problem before it took you out.

    Utility scale industries are dangerous. Fossil gas power plants also explode once in a while, gargle can help you find pictures of the Connecticut incident of 2010. A lot of energy in a small place is challenging.

    I think that as a society we underestimate the risks of highly active nuclear waste (spent fuel), which is another case of much energy in a small place. Usually water tanks with continuous cooling. Long power outages would generate mushroom clouds. I think we have 600 of those water tanks, world wide.

    Small is beautiful, but not easy.

    Same with small farms. In Europe, the legislation and subsidy system has been hard on small farms. Nowadays you need to have more than 10 hectares in cultivation to even qualify. And if you sell directly to customers, there are more rules to follow. I speculate, but I think that city people make the rules difficult for food production, in the delusion that “comply, or we buy it from somewhere else”.
    Indeed, the land currently generates more money as a speculative vehicle than from usufruct. When will we realize that we cannot eat money?

    A couple of weeks ago I bought potatoes and rye from a farmer who is still working with horses, no tractor. What a skilled family! I will go there more often this summer to help out with harvest, and learn directly from those who really know stuff. Not many do.


  7. Hello Chris
    Rural life is dying a death here also. Serious money is moving in in its place. Anything residential or with the slightest hope of becoming so, sells very well. They then go to planning for permission for a large house. A lot of mirth carries on behind their backs. Many of them are complaining about the cold and the wet, the state of dirt roads and so on.

    Back to our previous interchange. You were totally misled by me as I hadn’t allowed for different eras plus the fact that you have not had children. My children were superbly healthy and that has persisted. In those days they caught everything once they went to school and this included measles, mumps, chicken pox and German measles. Such vaccinations had not arrived at that time and I was 30 before i encountered an antibiotic. Doctors were rarely called in, one dealt with everything oneself and had to be competent. No matter what they caught, Son never suffered more than a mild malaise, this was unusual and he remains the same.
    Both girls were okay and I don’t think that living in Oz has made any difference to them.
    I am appalled at the excessive use of medications and the medical profession in general these days.


  8. Yo, Chris – I finished Stargazer, last night. A good read. As with “Cheap Land Colorado,” Peter Hill can be all over the place. Talking about making Haggis one minute, and Scot’s dialects the next. But it all flows smoothly. “You don’t HAVE to be mad to work in a lighthouse – but it helps.” 🙂 But onto the section I mentioned ….

    “Sadly, it was not to be. Lighthouse keepers were the first victims of the unhappy marriage between globalisation and economic rationalism. Ours was the first profession ever to be made totally redundant.
    So if you are a bank teller worried about your future, a bookseller, a university academic or a travel agent – be very afraid. What the men in suits have done to lighthouse keepers they are planning to do to you – because it makes economic sense. They will catch you in their internet, fillet you with platitudes, and lock you in the cold store of unemployment.
    In the more Orwellian regions of my imagination I sometimes glimpse a future as depopulated and de-humanised as Ailsa Craig is now – and run with equal precision. Satellites send data. Clouds form and break over oceans. Fog signals blow on cue, but there are no mariners to warn. The lighthouse flashes, the runway lights come on at dusk … traffic lights change to amber to green and back to red, but there is no one left to run a red light … ” Cheery, no?

    Just for fun, check out McCaig’s Folly in Oban, Scotland. Some think it looks like the Roman colosseum. Can’t visit Rome? Build one in your own backyard.

    “The Daily Impact has a new-sh post. “A Unified Field Theory of Crapification.” We now return to our regularly scheduled programing …

  9. Yo, Chris – Well, I think there are plant people and animal people. Though the edges can be a bit hazy. Chickens? Chickens are fine. I can handle chickens. But anything larger? My friends who moved to Idaho tried goats. Once. To get them from kids to meat in the freezer was a long and, for them, unexpected road. Castration, de-horning, vaccinations. It never ended and all cost money. And they were escape artists. So, fencing. And more fencing. But who can resist a baby goat! 🙂 As Mother Nature intended. There’s a lot of delusion around animal care.

    “Nobody talks about the fertilizer story any more.” Well, you can only flog a topic so long, before people get bored and wander off to worry about something else. 🙂 So much to choose from ….

    Is Ollie gender confused? 🙂 Well, he has had a partial sex change operation. Or maybe the hip and with it term is gender reassignment. Or maybe it’s just too much effort to cock leg.

    Book – Deckled edge. I’m happy your happy with “Cheap Land Colorado.” So far. Life in these United States. I fear pretty soon, we’ll all end up like the folks in the book. Living on the margins. Harassed by the authorities. Although you notice a certain breakdown, of heavy handed oversight. But it’s uneven. Yes, I’m tossing the economics book, back. Read a bit more in it, last night. We’re all doomed, so might as well get on with it, as best we can. No sense crying over spilt civilization. 🙂

    “Paying someone to do the work.” Unless you have no inclination and mad cash. Saw an article yesterday, the the young folks are going back to cheap flip phones. In some ways, it speculated that it’s a reaction of overwhelming social media.

    Some days are like that. I used to see it downtown, from time to time. No one in the bank, very few cars parked on the street. Just no money moving around. And there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Could be mid-month … or any other time. But it does give you a feeling of disquiet.

    I ordered my new phone, yesterday. Other than the ten minute wait to be connected to an operator, no problems. I figure the big sales pitches will come when I activate the phone. Should be here in two or three business days. But today is a holiday. Kind of. It’s Martin Luther King Day. A federal holiday (so, no postie), but it is, or isn’t observed depending on … who knows what.

    I don’t know if I mentioned, but Elinor went back to the hospital on Saturday night. Heart beat at 127. Hospital won’t release her to come home, unless there’s someone to be with her. So, it’s life on the edge, again.

    Weather is pretty dreary. I saw a headline that said when Le Nino comes back, it will get even hotter, than with La Nina. Lew

  10. Hi Goran,

    My pleasure to share the photos with you, and sand has perfect drainage so your fruit trees would be enjoying the benefits. Is the soil improving since the horses and their compaction were removed?

    A good point about the BMS. One of the interesting things about the interweb is that there are folks who tear down this equipment and put the items to the test, and then critique the results. Without those brave few souls, the repairs would have been an exercise in blindly groping for an answer as to why the battery terminals were running so hot and had damaged the epoxy holding them in place. A trail blazing of sorts.

    The salt water bath is a great idea for the smaller batteries. Very clever. And yes, the consequences of thermal runaway with the large 50Ah cells was not lost on me. Years ago an old bloke told me that ‘problems are best nipped in the bud’, and he’s right. Easier to fix the batteries than rebuild a burnt out house. So far they’re running cool, so that is good. And the risks in the system which the battery problem highlighted are being addressed.

    Dude, the large utility scale battery banks suffer from the exact same risks. I can afford to over engineer this stuff so as to mitigate (not eliminate) risk. Can utilities face such costs? I dunno, given the number of battery fires you hear about, I have my doubts.

    I agree, the risk with nuclear waste far exceeds the short term benefits, but there are many people who stared into the abyss of a restricted energy future – and some of those are very outspoken folks – and made the choice that the waste isn’t an issue compared to the alternative. Clearly, you and I are unafraid of the alternative. It’s not so bad, and there are many rewards to that path, but people are comfortable and the future won’t look like today. How could it?

    Mate, who owns more than 10 hectares? The cynic in me suggests that the rules were written by folks who have more than 10 hectares. And the fertiliser and energy shortages should be ringing alarm bells, but I cut people plenty of slack because they just don’t know. Unless you’re specifically working the land, you won’t understand.

    I’ll tell you a funny story. For about the past decade I’ve been collecting coffee grounds and husks from a cafe and roasting business in the big smoke. The minerals from that waste (!) have worked their way into the soils here. A few days ago I mixed a wheelbarrow load of coffee grounds + agricultural lime + blood and bone + potash, and fed it to the new citrus. Wow! The results were seen within a day or two. The trees are hungry. But people don’t know that, so I dunno I used to be alarmed, now I have a sense of compassion at the incomprehension. The minds are focused on other activities.

    Goran, mate, I’m super jealous. Get thee out there, build relationships, and learn. Well done you. 🙂



  11. Hi Inge,

    That seems to be the case here as well, and I’d have to suggest is something of a situation of too much money, and not enough wealth. Rural land is a precious thing, especially if it is productive and well cared for. On a more positive note, it amuses me to consider that much rural land is currently being left fallow. Not that many would think the matter through quite that far.

    One of the core issues I’ve taken away from recent episodes of Grand Designs UK, is that the houses are far too large. It stresses me out watching the resulting car crash where expectations meet gritty realities.

    One of the complaints I’ve heard from down this way is that the more usual meal delivery services inner city folks expect where not represented. And yes, the mud. Lot’s of complaints about the mud and cold too. What did they expect?

    True, I did entirely misunderstand your previous comment as to health. However, things are now different in regards to the issues you mention. Incidentally, how you described the situation, with the exception of antibiotics, was similar to my own. If I had to make a longer term prediction, it is that we will return to such a state of being. I wonder if people are braced for the mortality which results from that?

    As a kid, going to the doctor was something of a nightmare experience. They used to be known as quacks, and didn’t quite have the same respect that they might expect these days. The old rhyme about ‘an apple a day, keeps the doctor away’ displays the sort of carrot and stick mentality which was prevalent.

    Good to hear. You do get a bit more Vitamin D down here, but skin damage is the flip side of that story.

    There are very few people I know that aren’t consuming regular medication. There are always costs to the benefits conferred, and it is an option I avoid. I can’t speak for why other people would do so. Do you have any thoughts as to that matter? Motivations are sometimes very muddy to divine.



  12. Hi Lewis,

    The author of ‘Cheap Land Colorado’ looks to me as if he is using a form of push-pull when it comes to timeline. The effort taken during the editing process deserves a quiet moment of respect, for the result reads well. He introduces scenes and characters, and then drops that and describes his own interest then journey – then flipping back to the beginning. I’m impressed, and the story is fascinating. Of course, it is probably hard for many folks to understand why a person would want to live remotely.

    Shoot! Peter Hill’s description of the loss of work that he loved makes for tough reading – and also a warning. I’ve spoken with people who’d love nothing more than to automate many aspects of my work. There was a certain glint in their eye. In point of fact, I’m of the opinion that this is the desired goal of the authoritas who request more and more information. Standardised biz reporting, I’ve heard them call it. But I dunno, it is possible that the goals are never realised? And I agree, a person cannot complain about what gets done to others, when they inhabit the same system.

    Ailsa Craig is a fascinating isle, with quite the history. Your vision is not a cheery prospect, and my experience with technology suggests to me that this stuff just isn’t hardy enough for such a dire possibility. Dare I mention my recent experience with the batteries? 🙂

    McCaig’s Folly impressed me mightily. Nice work with the granite, and I’m inclined to believe that archaeologists in the far distant future will have some fun speculating as to the purpose the building was put to. It was hard to ignore that the family possibly cracked the sads about the costs. Sensitive folks believe that they may have had other plans…

    Yes, I’ve read the new essay. Good stuff, and I agree.

    Last week I had a lovely chat with a young lady who was raising chickens from eggs and battling the inevitable problem as to what to do with the excess roosters. Doubly a problem when residing in the inner city, or any urban area for that matter. Loud stereos are OK, but roosters… As something of a gentleman, I responded politely to the questions, made some suggestions, and mentioned that being a vegetarian at home, the roosters were of little value to myself. That being where the conversation was probably headed. I’m sure you’ve experienced being asked to take up this here poisoned chalice? It won’t hurt a bit. I quite enjoyed the conversation.

    Oh, not having had goats, I’ve not experienced that side of the story, and will take your word for it. Sounds expensive, but baby goats are really sweet. Fencing is not cheap.

    True about people getting bored with difficult topics. And it is something of a target rich environment at the moment. Where to look? I’m just trying to sort out the power system here… Went to an electronics supply shop this evening to pick up some parts, and had a great chat with the bloke working there. Reminded me of my Tandy electronics retail days, so much fun.

    Nah, Sir Scruffy used to wee that way too. Ollie is lovely and needs not have his character besmirched. 🙂 Sometimes it’s better that they do so. I recall once when Toothy (note no title), cocked his leg upon the dog groomers couch. We were picking up Sir Poopy and the outcome of the story was that Toothy never got the chance to visit a second time.

    That’s it! A deckle edge. Thanks for the new word. The texture of the book edges feels nice to the touch. An innovation to avoid paper cuts? Yes, that was my take upon the story. The harassment was sometimes real, but mostly imagined. The author travelled along with some of the county code deputies and they sort of said it like it was. Probably if the places were neat and tidy and not offending the deputies eyes, they’d look elsewhere. What I took away from those guys was that budgets for their work were tight, and the work carried significant personal risk.

    My take is that people will hang on to what they know in that regard, well past its used by date. I’m not entirely certain that most people are self motivated enough to take such a course of action. In some ways it’s akin to the very real problem of timing the top of any financial market. Hard to do. And I’ve noted a sense of loss in people who get out early.

    I’d like to hope so about the flip phones. A lot of people are addicted to their devices. I doubt this is a problem for you. And yup, the things could be built so that they’re longer lasting.

    Yeah, well ‘no money moving around’ is kind of what a recession and depression look like. The system operates on flows, it is not exactly a store of wealth.

    Hope Elinor is OK. That sort of heart rate is not good.

    Summer is here. Got to 97’F today, but a late thunderstorm rolled through and dumped some rain and cooled everything down. But still, at almost 11pm it is now almost 70’F. I’m quite enjoying feeling warmth, and the plants are finally growing. Spotted some actual fruits on the Babaco (a pawpaw) today. And after the feed yesterday, the heat today, the citrus have gone feral. Note to self: feed Seymour and friends more regularly. 😉 Yes, yes, it’s a musical. Hehe!



  13. Hi, Chris:

    Your battery anecdotes are pretty scary. I looked at what you wrote about your experience on the other site. I am afraid that it went over my head – like football . . . – but I am so glad that you are helping others by putting the info out there. And – mama mia! – imagine, after all your wildfire prevention, the house burning down because of some batteries.

    I have seen those farmland losses, too, but I have also seen new producers take their place, even if smaller and perhaps not on the same land. We have 6 regular farmer’s markets in our one county – there was only one we moved here almost 34 years ago. And the counties around us have farmer’s markets, also. I don’t worry about the loss of farmland, even to subdivisions. Someday it will go back, either to farm or forest.

    It appears to me that deer cannot jump into your enclosures because of the slope and the stairs and trees and shrubs, other things, in the way. They are usually very careful to be sure of where they are landing before they jump, though I have seen one break its leg when it was panicked and was not careful. Twice, in fact.

    Your greenhouse is such a restful retreat, besides its practical purpose. I am at the moment pondering when to start our seeds indoors. It is so hard to guess, with winter and summer sometimes in the same day. Or excessive cold one week and then the temperature 50F degrees higher the next. I’d kind of like to err on the side of too early, just in case. I do have some onion seeds in a cold frame outside to see what they might do. I don’t know about onions; used to do well with them, then lost my touch.

    This would not apply to your property or mine, but it is interesting and I found the “creeping culture” pruning to be especially fascinating (though mighty appealing to wombats . . .):


    Are you growing all your chillis indoors? They do look great. My mouth waters at the thought of Meyer lemons. Isn’t the olive herb charming? And the foxgloves – and the roses. Thanks.

    Yeah: “I don’t know how this ‘ere thing works.” I ought to have a t-shirt that says that. Though I guess the store clerks would put out a dummy alert when they saw me coming. That’s good to know about the fiberglass step ladders; maybe the treads of the one I looked at were fiberglass, not plastic. I do wonder about the rent costs of the small hardware store. Downtown rents are awfully high, but they have been there so long that maybe they have some special deal.

    I find Autralian accents soothing. And how delightful that the 1990s radio repair turned out to be what you hoped for.


  14. Hi Chris,
    It almost seems like there are more small farms around here. Some friends of ours sold their farm as they were getting too old to handle all the work. Another local family who was already known for selling fresh flowers bought it and has even a greater variety of produce than our friends. I’m just basing this on the number of vendors at the local farmer’s markets.

    Like Steve, Wendell Berry is a favorite of mine and I have several of his books. “The Essential Wendell Berry: The World Ending Fire” is a collection of his essays. Many of his essays are online as well. He also writes poetry and fiction.

    More rain yesterday with temps in the mid 40’s. We’ve had reasonably good precipitation so far this winter but most of it has been in the form of rain – quite unusual.


  15. Yo, Chris – I’m poking at three novels. One, a cli-sci, I threw back. Four chapters in, and it didn’t “grab” me. Another turned out to actually be a biography. If the guy doesn’t get out of his childhood, pretty soon, back it goes. And the third? Well, not bad. But the author never met a simile or metaphor he didn’t like. Not that those are a bad thing … in moderation. But if it gets to the point that the reader notices, then, I think, there are too many.

    Living remotely has it’s appeals and charms. No old bags smacking you in the back of the head … or demanding discounts. No finance bros that need to be clocked in the head with a bag of frozen veg. I read somewhere, recently, that the major problem makers in retail are older women and younger men. Not that that entirely omits any other sex or age group.

    Peter Hill (“Stargazer”) didn’t continue on as a lighthouse keeper, not so much because of the looming redundancy. More, he was young and the possibilities of further adventures, seemed endless. Go back to art school? Another art school? Hitchhike to India? Work his way on a freighter to South America? Write a novel?

    When I’m having a problem sleeping (doesn’t happen very often), I toy with stories, in my head. One of the latest is about two young archaeologists, who are working on a site that just has so many unexplained anomalies. And they decide to just present the evidence and avoid ANY speculation. Let others speculate and squabble.

    I suppose you suggested to the young lady, that she find a poultry auction. Must be some around. My friend Julia takes any extra chickens (including roosters) to our local poultry auction. She usually gets a check for $30 or $40.

    Oh, I was just using goats as an example. Applies to most kinds of livestock. And, any other kind of pet. People go for the “cute” and have no idea what else is involved. A couple of years ago, I was thinking of a parakeet. Luckily, I had the sense to read “Parakeets for Dummies.” I guess the only low maintenance pet is a pet rock. And I suppose those need to be repainted, from time to time.

    I have a little solar powered calculator. I’m sure I’ve had it for decades. It’s developing a few problems. Noticed last night that it was a Radio Shack product. Got it free, where? Maybe when I opened a bank account, somewhere along the way.

    Everything you ever wanted to know about deckle edges.


    The comments are pretty interesting. Often, deckle edged books have “uncut signatures.” To cut, or not to cut (and, the best way) is the question 🙂 .

    This morning, I was talking to Mr. Bill our Club manager about my replacement phone. He tried to induct me into the cult of i-devices. Get behind me Satan! Even tried to sing the joys of face plant, to me. Of course, he has extensive family, scattered all over the place. Once again, glad I’m an orphan.

    Elinor’s daughter left me a note, that she should be home, this afternoon. And could I please leave her wheel chair, down in the community room, unless I wanted my nap interrupted.

    Audrey. The plant’s name was Audrey. Seymor was her keeper … ultimately, dinner. Keeping pop culture pure since 1949 🙂 .

    Our fortunes are made! We should develop a Worry a Day calendar. Things you can’t do anything about. Only one a day. One to a customer. On the day you stress about fertilizer, you can’t fret over the state of the soil. Climate change but not MMT. Maybe throw in a blank page, every once in awhile, for personal concerns you maybe can do something about. Batteries. FM Tuners. Rats in the chicken coop. Wombats under the deck. Triffids in the tomatoes.

    We had biscuits and gravy, this morning. Tasty. One of our major B & G buyers, didn’t make it in. He gets several orders for his office. He was unloading 2 x 4’s with his son over the weekend, and managed to have several hit him in the head. Knocked him out. Face is a mess, neck is screwed up. He’s in hospital, but lucid. My nightly prayer sick list gets longer and longer 🙁 .

    If things go according to plan, I’m headed to the bank tomorrow morning. Need to take in my jug of change, to run through the counter. Order new checks. AND buy two or three CDs. It will be the first time I’m in their new building. I understand it’s very cold, and the poor employees have to bundle up. Lew

  16. Chris,

    The batteries look good, the way the should look. Good work.

    Small agriculture is hard to keep going. Our favorite local area for fresh produce, Green Bluff, has seen an influx of nonfarmers who get upset by the farming activities. Apparently the newcomers like to eat while disliking farmers. I have one word to describe them: moron. Which happens to be the Welsh word for carrots. Hmm.

    I’ve been relegated to using my phone this week for the internet. UGG.


  17. Hello Chris
    Ignorance is rife. People expect miracles from medication and seem to be unaware of potential side effects. They also seem to be unaware that skin colour and climate were once linked. Now we live all over the world regardless, so skin cancer in Australia and rickets here. Though we have also had a great rise in skin cancer once the 2 weeks holjday in the sun arrived.


  18. Hi Inge,

    Well, yeah, I read in George Orwell’s book, 1984, that ignorance was strength. You know, both the Editor and I recently read the book and have no idea why it was given to high school students to read. That choice made no sense to me. Without getting lost in the detail, it seemed utterly bonkers for the inner party character O’Brien to observe the protagonist Winston for seven years. There are probably easier ways to deal with the likes of Winston… And such a stupid fictional system need not be opposed, it’ll fail of its own accord.

    But I agree, people expect miracles, and are delivered, well, far less than that. There is a lag time between failure of expectations in the face of reality. The mistakes I’ve seen with that lot. Hmm.

    People adapt to new circumstances so I don’t necessarily worry about such matters. As a species we’ve sought out new circumstances. Nature has tools to weed out inappropriate choices. And I apply that understanding to myself.

    Due to the orbit of the planet, we are actually physically closer to the sun during the months of summer than what you’d experience. The ultraviolet radiation is experienced stronger down here. I avoid working outside in the mid afternoon sun.

    But then, it was very cold and wet today. Yesterday was 97’F. My brain hurts.



  19. Hi Pam,

    Hehe! Yours was a very astute observation, and truthfully both Sandra and I were concerned about that very situation. It was a risk. Yeah. Oh, the irony. 🙂 The walls in the battery room are apparently fire rated for 90 minutes, but do I want to put them to the ultimate test? Not really.

    Margaret was reporting a similar change in land use in her part of the world too. It’s heartening, because the US is usually many years ahead of cultural shifts down here. You lot are the trail blazers. 🙂 Thanks! And also not thanks, for the other stuff… 🙂

    My gut feeling suggests first forest. That stuff grows fast.

    Ooo, I hadn’t thought of that aspect. I’ve seen kangaroos caught up in multi wire fences, it’s not good, they get tangled and can’t extract themselves. Usually people have to cut them free.

    Thank you, and it is a lovely and simple productive space. And the chilli plants… Yum! Hey, I struggle with knowing when to begin seeds for the season too. It’s usually cold here, so my September / your March would be right for here, but probably totally inappropriate for your part of the world. Out of curiosity, have you tried using a heat mat for seed propagation? I’m now thinking of other ways to get a head start for next season.

    I’ve only seen good stuff from the low tech magazine folks. Ingenious techniques. Thanks for the link. My grandmother used have a huge lemon tree which we could climb into and up. Out of the wind is not bad advice. Very few fruit trees produce fruit in the winter months, but that lot do. A very valuable addition, and I’ll keep trying until we get the balance right. They like a good feed too, more than other fruit trees.

    Yes, all the chilli’s are indoors. Like eggplant, they have zero chance outdoors. Although some years like say, err unfortunately, Black Summer 2019-2020, I had a bumper crop outdoors. Hmm, not good from other respects like bushfires.

    I really enjoy those flowers too. The foxgloves in the fern gully look great.

    Hehe! It’s the people who pretend they do know, they’re the ones to worry about. Us mere mortals on the other hand… 🙂 At a guess it may have been fibreglass, but that stuff breaks down in sunlight, or at least it does so down here.




  20. Hi Margaret,

    Pam was reporting a similar land use change in her area too. So given you guys are years ahead of us culturally, it probably is how the future will pan out. Fingers crossed anyway. It’s not a bad outcome is it?

    My thinking is that the larger properties might break up into smaller properties eventually due to misuse of debt and also declining soil fertility. As fertiliser goes up in costs, well, either yields go down, pests and diseases increase, or final end produce costs rise. I don’t see any other way around that story, but maybe the silver lining is that it is easier for a smaller producer to restore soil fertility on a smaller and more intimate scale. It really is an investment in the future, and can’t really be done on a massive scale. There’s an old saying about: new blood into an area. And sometimes that does need to take place.

    Getting too old to do the work is a problem I hear you. And yup, I don’t really know what happened to the old timer potato farmer. He was a bit of a character.

    Thanks for the thumbs up for Wendell Berry. I’ll have a read of some of his online musings over the next few days. You know, I really enjoy the writings of Gene Logsdon. A practical bloke with good mindset.

    Winters here are very damp, so as things warm up in your part of the world, I don’t see why my experience won’t be repeated in other parts of the world. After a while it gets difficult moving heavy loads around the property during such times of the year. You may note the new low gradient ramp project, and that addresses some of the difficulties. But what was it last year, 55 inches of rain. Yeah, I dunno.

    Mid 40’F is pretty similar winter weather to here. And also not far off what I experienced today. That’s right 52’F and raining today. It is meant to be summer. Yesterday was 97’F. My brain hurts!!! 🙂 Far out. I assume you don’t experience such continual climate shifts during your summer months?



  21. Hi Lewis,

    Funny about that. The Editor has begun reading Mr King’s book ‘Lisey’s Story’ and not far into it is about ready to put the book down. A first for her with Mr King’s writing. I gave her your useful piece of advice in relation to forcing oneself to slog through books thus diminishing the enjoyment of the gentle art of reading. Of course, your advice may well apply to yourself, no less?

    To be candid, reading George Orwell’s book 1984 was a bit of a slog, and there were times I felt like just taking the protagonist out back and putting an end to his misery, and maybe one or two others in the book deserved it too. Maybe more than a few, but anyway. I liked the Julia character at least as she had adapted to circumstances and just made the best of a bad deal. Winston was her downfall. Anyway, such a bonkers system was going to fail, it didn’t need to be opposed, that was just like feeding the beast. Don’t do it, but do they listen to me? No.

    I’m really enjoying ‘Cheap Land Colorado’. Years ago when we used to travel, we’d go to out of the way places, because most cities look homogeneous, because that’s how to do such scale on the cheap. Outside the cities though, interesting. The book talks about that kind of experience. The author may have had a challenging time unplugging his mind in order to tell other peoples stories?

    Hehe! Mate, rest assured, one day, and I’m waiting for my opportunity, the lady in question (back of head smacking) will be politely informed as to the social boundaries. Yes. The Klingon’s suggest that revenge is a dish best served cold, or something like. They may have ripped that quote, it’s a goodie. And I’ve heard that Shakespeare sounds very dramatic when read in Klingon.

    Can you believe the spell checker hadn’t heard of the word ‘Klingon’? What do they teach robots these days? Far out.

    The author, Peter Hill, clearly had adventurous tastes. None of those options ever occurred to me. Maybe times were different? Less problematic? I dunno. I’ve heard vague tales from way back in the day of people taking off to remote locales with like a VW, and just not worrying about consequences. Hippy trails and stuff.

    Ooo. Can the archaeological world cope with such evidence? One wonders… Certainly, from all you’ve told me about that lot over the years, there’d be, push back and censure. Finding ancient high tech stuff would be an interesting narrative. As an occasional commenter here might possibly quip: Explain this away mofos! 🙂

    I did indeed. There was a local poultry club nearby which I mentioned. However, being where the club is located, they have a problem with enthusiastic folks dumping their roosters there (you can re-home them for me, surely!!!) Look, finding out is a good way to learn. And I was impressed that the young lady asked me the questions, even though there was an element of wanting me to deal with the rooster problem. If one gets into the fight pit, they have to learn to fight.

    Yes, animals are far more difficult than plants, although they are not free of complexity either. I just can’t forget what the old timer said to me many years ago about ‘livestock will eventually produce deadstock’.

    Hmm, I too have a similar calculator (bug buttons) and it has worked for a very long time – and still does. My gut feeling is that with yours, inside the guts of the thing, it has a super capacitor and that might be the first point of failure. If it had a battery, that would have failed years ago. Such talk brings back memories. I enjoyed working retail there.

    Thanks for the link about the deckle edges, but it is getting near to my bedtime, and me tired. Did paid work today.

    Ah, the fruit crowd. Hmm, yes, wisely you dodged, dodged did you do! 😉 Some brands get a cult like following. Afterglow fades. It’s funny but you got me thinking about that lot earlier today and I mentioned the story in conversation. Can you imagine that biz early on. Dude, let’s build a computer, it’s gonna be insane, man! Then they would have done just that. Nowadays can you imagine the process involved in making even the most tiny decisions in such a biz? It would be crazy. Scale sometimes poisons culture. Liked the Satan joke. Very good, and I’m busy writing that one down for future use. 🙂

    So did your nap get interrupted?

    Audrey, that’s right I had it back to front. Feed me Seymour was the catchphrase. Audrey was clearly hungry and not be trifled with. Like people who keep bears for pets. Nothing says don’t hassle me, like you are annoying the bear and he’ll get angry with you. Yes, keep such dangerous pets well fed.

    Ooo, I like that idea. Yes, a worry a day. Tell ya truthfully, I was worried that the battery troubles might burn the house down. Pam picked up on the irony of that situation. Hey do you reckon that the calendar would need a different worry every day? Would obsessive folks cope with that aspect of the calendar? So many questions.

    Wombats and Triffids are worthy things to worry about. 🙂

    Oh my gawd. You have to be so careful, and even then accidents like that can happen.

    How was your experience with the credit folks? Did it live up to the low expectations?



  22. Hi DJ,

    Sorry mate, work day today. Late finish. Me tired. Bedtime. Will speak tomorr… 42, or something like that. Who knows what it means? Is it 21 x 2? or 40 + 2? My brain now hurts more than before. Hey, that rhymes.



  23. Chris:

    I did have a heat mat, and really liked it. Electric, of course. I suspect that it is now in the Baby Fig Tree room . . . I have a couple of heating pads, from my parents, that do not shut off automatically like most of those do. I wonder if it would be safe to use those, with some insulation between it and the seeds as I expect a human heating pad is hotter.


  24. Hi Chris,

    Congratulations on your excellent work with the batteries, especially including not setting the place on fire! I do not have either the technical chops or the courage to undertake such a repair. Which is exactly why we don’t have solar panels.

    You make a good point about the potential dangers in any way of generating electricity. Still, there is a novel element involved with large-scale solar generated electrical energy storage that is not present in the current electricity generating plants. Because there are so few (any?) solar electricity plants with battery storage of the same scale of output as there are coal, gas, oil, or nuclear powered plants, we don’t know how the scaled-up battery storage will perform over the long term and the maintenance issues that will be involved. That’s a separate problem from availability of the chemicals required to make the batteries, which already appears to be far less than what will be needed for solar electric generation at scale.

    Like Margaret, we are experiencing a warmer than normal January with rain rather than snow, though we get less snow here than she does in any winter. I’ve already seen not just daffodil leaves but also flowerbuds above the ground for the two earliest daffodil varieties in our gardens. I don’t recall seeing buds this early in any previous winter, and we have spent 20 winters here. But there are still weeks of winter left, and our heaviest snowfalls are usually in February or March.

    We took our CD player and cassette tape player to the electronic repair shop last month and have them back at the house. The tape player works again, and I am enjoying playing tapes I haven’t listened to in years. However, the CD player is still not working correctly. The shop told us it might not, and they only charged us the bench fee to open it up for examination. We may need to replace it. Fortunately the shop has reconditioned CD players for sale. Our tuner is still in good shape (it has been to that shop in the past).


  25. Yo, Chris – Yes. Life’s to short (especially from my point of view) to waste on books that have little appeal. For whatever reason. And movies, for that matter. There are a few of King’s books, that I read a synopsis, and thought, Naaaaw. The one you mentioned was one of those. I think they made it into a mini-series, and I wasn’t interested in that, either.

    Something you can always count on: things change. For better or worse, but they change.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying “Cheap Land Colorado.” It’s not the author’s first foray into “immersive journalism.” You really can’t even begin to grasp a … foreign country, unless you live there for awhile. There were a few places, that I found interesting, where he changed his view … his perspective on this or that. Things he was sure of … and then not so sure. Some people seem incapable of changing their minds. Rigid.

    “Revenge is a dish, best served cold.” From an 1846 translation of Eugene Sue’s “Mathilde: Memoires de’une Jeune Femme.” You figure it had to be the French, to somehow connect revenge and food 🙂 .

    Times were different. Mr. Hill mentions, it was a time of fat city. Almost full employment. I think, for young folks, different paths and opportunities seemed endless. The last good time 🙂 .

    I don’t know if the I – device Mr. Bill was flashing around was from the fruit crowd, or not. There are many different species. 🙂 LOL. But careful. I’m a believer, at least where it comes to their computers. I mean a beast that has lasted 15+ years? It the software that’s failing.

    “Get behind me Satan.” Bible. New Testament. Mark 8.33.

    No nappis interruptus. Though it was a bit of a problem, nodding off. Pounding somewhere in the building. Laying carpet, I think. Then a dog started barking (not mine). Then a car alarm went off. But, I got a good couple of hours.

    Every have one of those days where not much goes according to plan? Elinor didn’t come home, yesterday, as the daughter who was supposed to pick her up took a tumble. And, she’d had a bad night with two anxiety attacks. So, the wheel chair came back up, last night. And went down again this morning.

    My new phone showed up, and it’s been a struggle getting it activated. First, it turns out that “call us anytime” means, business hours. So, I attempted another go, this morning. Their entire system is down, in five states. And, half the staff is at some kind of training. So, I should try again, later today, or, in the morning. Interesting. One of the folks in the trenches commented that the upgrade, wiping out most of the flip phones, well, they still haven’t figured out why that happened. Anyway. I’m doing all this on Elinor’s phone, so, it’s been ok that she’s been gone. I have to drag over all kinds of stuff, just to make sure I’ve got all the information they need. There’s a 90+ page “bible” that came with the thing. There seems to be all kinds of new “functions.” Any that cost me money will be done away with.

    The bank was just fine. First time I was in the new building. Unlike the Tardis, it looks smaller on the inside. I got 3 $1,000 CDs. For a 13 month term. Ahhh! The interest compounds, monthly. Ordered more checks, emptied my coin jar ($15!). Told them the new branch was fine, but the nearby roundabout, a death trap. They agreed. Lew

  26. Hi DJ,

    Thanks for saying that, and in order to arrive at a workable solution to the battery problems, I had to get to know the technology, intimately. It’s disturbing how much information my poor already over worked brain had to take in on this subject. Anyway, it’s been said before: the merely difficult I can do, the impossible might just take that little bit longer! 🙂

    Far out, you know mate, I never in my wildest imaginings expected to crack open the battery case and spy 6x 6mm2 cables soldered to the underside of a battery terminal. As an arrangement it does work, but the resistance is not good due to the arrangement and conductivity of the differing metals. The distributor really didn’t seem to care, and fair enough, such an approach is an option and they are out of warranty. If someone less observant than I happened to install one of these batteries and failed to inspect it, who knows what might happen, for the epoxy holding the battery terminals was exhibiting signs of failure due to the heat. But I dunno. My personal energy is limited and you have to pick and choose what fights you take on.

    A very good friend suggested contacting the authoritas and making some sort of formal complaint about the issue, but such an approach eats a lot of my energy and um, well, something needed to be done sooner rather than later. The consequences of doing nothing were not so good for me.

    As a bit of an update. I’ve got on order 2x 100Ah additional batteries so that there is a bit of extra redundancy in the system. This means that there will be 3x batteries now and any single failure won’t mean that I have no power. Also, the extra grunt will assist during the winter months. Plus with more grunt, I’ve had to add in extra fusing protection. More energy means that if anything goes wrong, thing can go wrong biggerer. Best to be prepared for the worst case scenario. The new batteries are super basic too. You wait and see. I’ll chuck in a photo of them. They look repairable and are assembled by a business up north of the country.

    Who knew about that Welsh word? Dare I suggest: Carrot brain? 🙂 Truth to tell, some locals around these parts have been offended that I’d want to put the land to use. It’s an utterly bonkers perspective, and plenty of those sorts think nothing of regular overseas travel. It’s a level of disconnect that I find to be disturbing, but all the same, it’s there. I’m working diligently on ways to counter their stupidity, and have some surprises up my sleeve. Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my sleeve. 😉 They won’t know what hit them.

    Ugg! Far out about your phone situation. Makes you wonder how people can send text messages and drive. As someone who lacks such competence, I can do one or the other, but not both. Good luck. What happened to your modem? I have to have a plan B and plan C for that particular problem.



  27. Hi Pam,

    Hmm, the heat mat option was one that I’m seriously considering for seed raising next season. But like everything, who knows how the thing will work, until it’s put to the test. But my understanding is that they use very little electricity.

    Hehe! So are you trying to suggest that you son has permanently borrowed your heat mat? Kind of sounds like that to me. 🙂 Hey, out of curiosity, does he use the device for seed raising, or propagating?

    Oh my gawd, I seriously can’t answer that question without inspecting and testing the mats. As a basic note, the mats have to have some sort of ability to resist water. Oh yeah, water and electricity do not mix as a general rule. Even smoke can conduct electricity. The stuff is dangerous. And interestingly, I do not believe that the plant heat mats get that hot. The seeds wouldn’t need a huge amount of heat, more something just to take off the chill.

    Anyway, what’s wrong with blankets?

    It’s been another cold day here today. A maximum of 57’F. A good day to haul out the tree stump grinder and put it to work.



  28. Hi Claire,

    Thank you, and how ironic would it have been to construct a house which can resist fire from the outside, only to have the thing burn down from the inside? The battery terminals should never have been that hot. From the feel of them I’m guessing they were running somewhere between 45’C and 50’C. The epoxy holding the metal terminal shows signs of heat damage. I’m guessing that eventually the epoxy would have failed with the battery terminal slumping into the guts of the battery. Hmm. Not good.

    It’s all running cool now with the modifications. And breaking open the battery case produced a bit of a sweat. There was a risk of explosion if I’d pierced one of the cell casings.

    And that’s exactly the problem. From what I understand, the scaled up installations are simply just bigger versions of what I’m doing here. On the other hand, large scale generators are quite mature technologies. Things still go wrong with them, but being a mature technology, often the weak points are known about. With this stuff on such a grand scale, I have reservations as to on the ground experience, and you hear stories of fires.

    I agree, the experience has to be learned the hard way, and you’re absolutely spot on, I too hold doubts that there are the resources to build this stuff out en masse. And then do it all over again in twenty to fifty years when the devices have reached their economic end of life. That story makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    I sometimes wonder if this stuff was developed for small scale, and that’s where it is best used? Dunno.

    Wow! And I seriously mean wow! You got me wondering about the daffodils as a comparison, and yes there would be leaves now. But bulbs, nope, that would be comparatively in the first or second week of next month. Ooo, have you wondered what it may mean for the climate in your area? I wouldn’t worry about the daffodils as they survive snowfall here. But then it depends upon just how cold it may get for you next month? -2’C is as cold as I’ve seen it here during winter.

    Well done, and such technology news is, please excuse the pun, music to my ears. 🙂 And the outcome makes sense. The tape deck / player would have been assembled by humans and as such is repairable. The fine tolerances on the CD mean that it is an unrepairable item and best replaced. Be aware that cassette tapes can and do naturally demagnetise, so if you like them, they could benefit from being re-recorded. And not all tape medium is of equal grade. Whatever though, I’m impressed that you have such a shop nearby and have used its services. The things the people working there would know.

    The new citrus plantings have grown very strongly, and I have been feeding them with a mixture of coffee grounds, agricultural lime and blood and bone meal. If they don’t grow well in that, then I dunno?



  29. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, I really appreciated your insight into the art of reading, and the downsides of forcing young minds to complete a book before the joy of reading was known. Literacy levels are dropping anyway, so there seems no point in hurrying along the return to the historical norm. Like you, I found the joy in reading via the local library as a young kid with a library card.

    I noticed that the Editor is continuing to read the book, and I haven’t heard of any further updates. Hmm. A mini series? It’s a brave soul who can convert one of Mr King’s novels into something for the screen. The books are notably descriptive.

    Thanks for that too. Yes, change is constant. True. For one example, if you’d suggested to me at this time last year that the local bank branch would soon close, I’d have doubted your sanity. But then, I’ve been very wrong about a lot of things over these past couple of years. But right as to other things. It’s a crapshoot this trying to hit moving prediction targets. 😉

    Yes, the author of Cheap Land Colorado is most certainly immersing himself into the culture. What I have enjoyed about his writing is that he reflects upon situations and events as he finds them. He’s not shy about casting judgement, however, the judgement cast is usually clearly labelled as being representative of his taste. For example, he’ll write that he probably wouldn’t like such and such a person. And that is a very different way to frame a preference. Often in these enlightened times, people are being lead to say that such and such a person is bad, when what they really are saying is that they wouldn’t be mates with such a person. It’s a subtle difference, but it builds enmity.

    Being able to change your mind when presented with new information is a skill. Is it encouraged and taught? Candidly, it is probably not in certain folks interests for that skill to be widely taught and practised. And so opinions are held to be fixed and immovable. Good orators can work an audience, but where are their like nowadays?

    Oh yes, it is very French isn’t it? Ah, exile was good for the literary interests of Eugène Sue. Thank you for the correction as well as the introduction. A fascinating person. I’d heard somewhere or other that the quote was attributable to the great Bard himself, but no, apparently not. The quote does work as a combination doesn’t it?

    I wasn’t there, so don’t really know, but will take your word for it. In my first adult full time job I was made redundant after only a few years, and then the country plunged into deep recession with 10% unemployment. After experiencing that first hand, it is not a difficult leap to consider that we’ve been in decline since the early to mid 1970’s when the first oil crisis hit. Maybe it was just my experience? Dunno. Anyway, it all comes back to energy.

    Yes, yes, of course, good computers. 🙂 15 years is a notable achievement for such a device. A noble steed. I’ve got a work laptop which still runs just fine (albeit in a modified from the original form) and that’s pushing 14 years. It would be nice if we chose as a society to produce items with longer life spans. That outcome might involve a more uniform and simpler design. Everyday I run the coffee machine, it isn’t lost on me that the same design was made I believe a bit over three decades ago.

    All very offensive behaviour. Don’t they know you were trying to take a nap? Shocking. As a young bloke, and long ago, I’d had a rather epic drinking session with a mate at a pub. Yes, got home late, felt very messy the next day, a bit dusty as the kids are wont to say nowadays. Anyway, the neighbour began using a jackhammer at about 6am. That hurt. The universe was clearly trying to tell me something there. It’s been a very long time since I’ve gone to such extremes. Yes, one must do their best under trying conditions.

    Yeah, such days happen, sorry to say. Plans are good, plans are excellent, then there is this pesky thing called reality. Hey, you can see why some folks avoid making plans huh? 🙂 Hey do you reckon the meds are possibly causing the anxiety attacks? Sometimes those things can have weird changes to peoples brain chemistry. Regardless, it’s not good.

    It defies my imagination that a phone requires a what was it again, 90+ page instruction manual. Did you get past the warnings which suggested that it would be a bad thing for anyone to ingest the product? Wise to get rid of the optional extras that you don’t need. Man, I had to work out how to shut the phone down to the minimum working settings. You have my sympathy for the journey you are now upon. Nowadays I head into the nearby telco shop and seek help there.

    Is 13 a lucky number? I’ve heard suggestions saying that it might not be, but you know your business. Out of curiosity is the roundabout a single or double lane thingee?

    Almost forgot to mention. Another cold summer day here. 57’F to be precise. Cold weather is almost perfect to get the tree stump grinder into action. We’re cleaning up the logging mess, and it feels good to restore some semblance of order. But yeah, mate, I’m feeling it tonight. The machine may do a lot of the hard yards, but you still have to hang off the end of the thing and push it around. I’ve begun servicing the cutting heads every ten minutes, and that seems to make the job a lot easier.



  30. Yo, Chris – Reading is a science. If you had said science, I’d have said art. Just to be contrary. 🙂

    Judgements on people are fickle things. Sometimes. There are a few old farts down at The Club, that I didn’t like, at all. But over the years, I’ve gotten a bit fond, of some of them. Did they change? Did I change? Maybe a bit of both?

    Well, when it comes to quotes and pub quizzes, and such, if you guess the Bard or the Bible, you probably have a pretty high percentage of correct answers. In most cases, seems like one or the other.

    Well, I just keep taking Elinor’s wheel chair down to the community room, in the morning, and back upstairs at night. Fully expecting the building manager to jump me and tell me I can’t leave it there. More stress. On one hand, they’re talking tests and surgery. On the other, coming home. But, she needs someone here, and there was no one available for today, and a caregiver for only an hour and a half, tomorrow. Not enough time to cove the hospitals liability. And, yes, Elinor has quit the pharmacopeia. Of course, every time she goes to the hospital, they take away all her doctor meds, and use their own. When she comes home, it back on her doctor’s prescriptions. Not that she does that well, in general, but I think she does better on what her personal physician prescribes.

    Well, the phone. I tried again, yesterday afternoon, and waited a good ten minutes, and the call was dropped. Got up at 8am, to try again. The customer service people are lovely, but I was on the phone a good hour. Using Elinor’s phone, and toward the end, I think it was dying. Juggling two phones and trying to punch in numbers. But, even though I kept my cool with the lovely lady, I was thinking things like canceling my account, throwing the phone against the wall … next time they do an upgrade, I might just go to burner phones. Seems to work for drug dealers and other crims. But finally, at last, I think I have an active phone. Now to work my way through the 91 page bible (which probably won’t be quoted, anywhere), and fiddle with the setting. But that’s a job for another day.

    Well, it’s the bank that set the term limits. So, it’s their bad luck, not mine. I hope. The roundabout is two lanes. Double lanes. Death trap. Two of the biggest of the big box stores in the area, and numerous fast food joints.

    We’re supposed to have three nice days, in the next week. We’ll see. Might even get out in the garden.

    Local real estate seems to be slowing. There’s a three bedroom house, between here and the library. Looks to be a 1920s cottage. Three bedrooms. Almost $400,000. It’s been on the market 3+ months. Not as well kept houses, in the neighborhood, in the same price range were selling briskly, not so long ago. In under a week.

    “Pull a rabbit out of my hat.” (Keeping pop culture pure since 1949.) 🙂

    Echidnas keep cool by blowing snot bubbles. Must be a slow news day. Lew

  31. Chris,

    Exactly. Carrot head. Which might be an insult to carrots!

    Yes indeed. Biggerer energy storage means biggerer potential problems. Your studious and cautious approach is good. As you mentioned elsewhere, you need to avoid the irony of having the wildfire resistant house burn down from the inside due to biggerer batteries.

    Pictures of the added batteries will be welcome.

    Formal complaint to the authoritas? UGG. Cost vs reward. Pick your battles. Know your limits. You seem to be thinking that way already. Sun Tzu.

    The modem is fine. We are stretched thin this month. Avalanche is with Killian the Giant Doberman. The Princess has obligations at our home. So I am on the monthly aid trip to brother in law.

    Interestingly, as at home, many trees here still have their leaves. Brown and freeze dried but still attached. I’ve never seen deciduous trees with leaves hereabouts in January. UGG.


  32. Hi DJ,

    The dried up and brown leaves on the otherwise deciduous trees sure is strange looking. That happens down here some years too, and you did transition very rapidly from summer to winter. What was autumn again late last year, a couple of weeks? Yes, welcome to my world… How it works here is that sooner or later a wind storm will rip through the area, and the trees will get cleaned up, whilst the ground gets fertilised with the remnants of the dried leaves. Nature has ways. 🙂 The alternative is that the trees hang onto the dead leaves only to then drop them all when the growing season begins anew. The European beech does that trick most years.

    Hopefully the carrot union don’t come and get us for such loose talk. 😉

    Thanks about the methodology employed with the power system: What could possibly go wrong, let’s implement a fall back plan! Kind of like a proficient General who can imagine and implement what to do if events proceed not according to plan and something need being saved. What interests me about the entire problem is that there just aren’t that many folks around who can hack into this technology. Finding a utoob video on how to crack open the battery case was an almost non starter. The manufacturer had used silicone gel to join the lid to the case, and that stuff is devilishly tough.

    The battery terminals should run cool. In fact I regularly check for any hot spots in the battery room. Over the years there have been one or two here and there. The trick then becomes understanding why the components are running hot, and then do something about it before there is a disaster. The larger utility scaled systems aren’t all that different. Can you imagine trying to regularly monitor for these faults at every single connection, and then analyse why a point of failure surfaced? It would be like a game of ‘whack a mole’ and who would want to pay for over specifying in order to eliminate the failure? Those installations are not problem free, the technology is the same, just biggerer.

    Yes, it is not a battle I wish to fight. Spare the energy for more important battles. I’ve put into the public domain a well documented story for public consumption. That’s enough for me. The members of the public have to then take some responsibility from that point onwards. Mate, I don’t know much, but I do know that people will try and eat your energy. Best not to feed the beast.

    I see, and that’s a lovely thing to do. What did the old timers once say: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. That lot knew a thing or three. No doubts both your lady and Avalanche are enjoying themselves.

    The weather here has turned really nice. Not too hot, not too cold, sun, little wind, and just right.



  33. Hi Lewis,

    You got me there mate! So both an art and a science seems to be the way of reading. We all enjoy being a bit contrary every now and then. 🙂 Dunno about you, but I can recall mastering the art of reading when I was quite young. Books took me to times, people and places which weren’t home, and the library was full of them. Very convenient and ejoyable. I’ve never stopped reading for enjoyment. It amazes me that many people I come across now do not share the enjoyment. I’m guessing that the myths and narratives for those folks arrive via visual mediums.

    Man, I’ve had that experience too. It’s funny isn’t it? You can encounter someone, and just maybe ‘not liking’ is too strong a description, but maybe just being more ambivalent about them sums it up. And then slowly the folks grow upon you. And I don’t know the answer to that question either: It’s not me, it’s them, but it could have been me! 😉 You ca substitute yourself into the witticism. Then you get to quite enjoy their company. I’ve noticed over the years that there are some folks who are slow to get to know, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

    It took me a while to find this article, but whoo whee: Giant cane toad found in Conway National Park in north Queensland weighs 2.7kg A bit of a monster, huh! The report of the monster toad has been all over the radio news today. We do news reporting proper like down here.

    That’s a good rule of thumb about suggesting the source is either the Bard or the Bible. He says whilst writing that handy tip down for the next quiz night.

    Elinor’s story reads like a bit of a nightmare really.

    Your phone experience is another nightmare. Mate, do such things come in threes? I dunno. Those sort of technology things need to be reasonably idiot proof as in they should just work. Hey, are burner phones even real?

    Along a similar vein, the company which supplies me with complicated and not readily found items for the renewable power system, which just happens to be located up in some hippy town up on the far north coast, sent me the wrong item. This is a fine joke, because the item they sent me instead was remarkably expensive. Being the honest fellow that I am, I’ve contacted them about this matter. We’ll see how it turns out, and all I can hope for is that they don’t get stupid about it, and just cover the postage. It ain’t my problem to cover that cost. I opened the box which was in the mail today, and peered inside and asked the hard question: Why did they send this item of all things? It really is an expensive item. If I were less honest, I would have shut up about it. A good reason not to get the work experience student filling out orders without doubling checking the contents of said order… 🙂

    Very funny. Did you dare open and ponder the contents of the 91 page tech bible for your new phone today? My phone came with a tiny how to get started brochure, and I was left to figure the rest of it out for myself. These chunks of tech things aren’t intuitive.

    You dodged that for sure, but did the credit co-op dodge it? They did bring that gear down onto their own head with such loose use of numbers.

    Oh no! Yes, two lane roundabouts are problematic when having to turn across them (left in your case, and right in ours). Cars always want to cut you off in those circumstances. I’m of the opinion that the two lanes are OK, but the turn should only be a single lane. Anyway, nobody listens to me.

    Hope the weather turns out nice for you. The next week here looks very pleasant indeed. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. We constructed a new steel rock gabion cage today, and may make some more on Sunday. There’s an interesting new project afoot… I need to construct a small work pit so that I can get on the underside of the ride on mowers and keep them serviced. The machines are very low to the ground – for obvious reasons and they’re difficult to maintain.

    Maybe so. I’ve heard similar property talk down here. Rents are getting crazy. The median rent in Sydney is $679 a week. In Melbourne it is a bit lower at $507 a week, but that’s still $26k of mad cash that a family needs to come up with. It’s biting down here: Rents rising at slower pace despite ‘record high’ 10pc surge last year, CoreLogic says. I no longer understand that market. That property market thing might not make any sense… That could be the entire point.

    Oh, yes of course. Thanks for the correction. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. So good, so very wrong!

    Yeah, I saw that about the snot bubbles. If I did that, people would think I had the health subject which dare not be named. Things would then probably end up badly, but at least like the echidna’s, I’d be cool. The monster cane toad was the news item de jour today. Another slow news day? 🙂



  34. Yo, Chris – We had a small neighborhood library, when I was growing up, in Portland. Went there with mum. Don’t know when I started going on my own. Probably, when I got my first bike. I suppose there’s all kinds of reasons why people don’t read. They were forced to read something awful. Or, didn’t get the memo about not having to finish a book. In some quarters, reading is considered a “chick thing.” Something “real” guys don’t do. Or, that you think you’re smarter than everyone else. It goes on, and on.

    The giant Cane Toad, made the news here. Although the headline was a bit more hysterical. “Toad Will Eat Anything It Can Fit in It’s Mouth!!!” 🙂 We have some pretty big toads and frogs, in North America. See: Bull frogs. But they’re not such a problem. Other things eat them. But then again …


    Well, I actually managed to call my friends in Idaho, last night. After our call, my phone did a download. LOL. There was a notice, on the screen. “Do Not Attempt to Remove Battery During Download.” Something that never occurred to me to do, although now I think of it … Someone, somewhere, must have attempted that. It probably didn’t end well. Any-who. There were old voice mails, stuck in my phone, I couldn’t get rid of. But this morning, I think I did. Maybe it was the download? But I had to sit through them all. Another 5 minutes burned up.

    There was some reference to a “start up sheet,” but it was nowhere to be found. There were just stickers all over it, warning me not to start the phone, until I had called customer service. I did charge up the battery. Glad I did. By the time the activation was complete, I had used up 50% of the storage. Burner phones are a real thing. You can buy them just about anywhere. You can keep adding minutes, to them. It’s more “pay as you go.”

    As of this morning, Elinor is coming home around noon. I figure she won’t be here, long. She needs 24 hour … supervision? And it’s going to be pretty spotty, over the weekend. I intend to just carry on my life, as best I can.

    That’s quit a story, of the wrong item, sent to you. Well, if it’s hippy town, more likely the packer was addled by smoke or drink. 🙂 Sell the expensive item on e buy, order another of what you wanted. If they send the expensive item again, wash, rinse, repeat. Could be a real money maker.

    Before digging the pit … you might want to do some searches for “lawn tractor service work stand.” They’re pricey, but with all the machines you have, might pay for themselves, in time. A pit, well, might cave in on you. Or, gosh knows what might decide to live in it, when your back was turned. Lew

  35. Chris,

    Tackling that problem would sap your energy and then some. The results would be dubious at best. Glad you’re aware of that and not fighting it.

    We’re cool but sunny at brother’s today. Maybe 3C. Pleasant outside even in short sleeves and short pants. Sun feels good. Acclimated to -15C and clouds and wet makes a sunny and dry day feel like summer. 😉

    Thanks for the leaf info. I suspect that these leaves will drop when the new ones start.


  36. Hi DJ,

    Yes, some fights you can win, but also lose. And that was one of those occasions. Have you ever been faced with such a predicament and then walked away? I’ve said my piece, put the knowledge into the public domain. It’s up to others to take that knowledge and do something with it.

    Over the past few weeks I’ve been putting a lot of brain cells towards fixing the battery problem (whilst continuing to use them!) and also how to best incorporate the new batteries. This technology is not simple, despite what some may say. Hey, don’t believe the hype! 🙂

    Hope things are going well with your brother in law and the rez in general?

    3’C just saying that is Brr land for me, but I agree you do acclimate to the prevailing conditions and soon they become the norm. -15’C sounds rather cold to me. I reckon a lot of the time, it is the wind chill which makes cold temperatures feel colder than they’d otherwise be. I recall being in Nepal near to 5,000m ASL and the clothes froze overnight. Little wonder there was no trees there, although you could purchase little bottles of locally made rum and chocolate bars. Very necessary accoutrements. 🙂

    Exactly, that is my guess with the leaves too, and believe it or not, over the winter months here the dead leaves on the ground do not break down. That is left for the early stages of the growing season.



  37. Chris:

    My son and I are like ships in the night, with me being in the little smoke all day with my mother, and I keep forgetting to ask him if: a) He has absconded with my seed heat mat (b) Whether he uses it for seeds or propagation. So, I found this article. By the way I had a stomachache in the night, got out the heating pad, and applied it, and I felt much better. Since I am not a doctor, I would not know if that is a good idea.

    “DIY Seedling Heat Mat
    Many seeds need a soil or ground temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to sprout and thrive, which is one reason to start seeds indoors in the spring and use a heating pad. To turn your heating pad into a germination heat mat for starting seeds, wrap a heating pad in microwave-safe plastic wrap. You will need to leave your heating mat plugged in and turned on for days, including when you’re not home. Bob Vila recommends purchasing one that can handle moisture and turns off automatically if it overheats; that way, you reduce the risk of accidentally starting a fire.

    Select a place in your home close to an electrical outlet to set up the heating pad. If you’re going to rely on natural sunlight, be sure it’s near a window that gets plenty of rays. Place a towel on top of the plastic-wrapped heating pad and use a drip tray on top of the towel. Set your seedling tray on top. You don’t have to use this heating pad for only seeds. You can also use your heating pad for plants in winter for fresh flowers, herbs and more.”

    I have found the San Francisco Gate to be pretty reliable.



  38. Chris:

    P.S. Since I haven’t measured yet how hot the heating pad gets, I am going to put something inflammable over it as a barrier to lessen the heat. Because, after all, I am not a plant doctor either.


  39. Hi Lewis,

    That Derek is a big guy too, so the mountain lion is of awesome proportions, and age. With a bow and arrow, huh, well he’d want to know what he was doing. In the Cheap Land Colorado book there is loose talk of such animals prowling around. Make you a bit nervous going out for a walk to take in the night time air. Avoiding the miasma’s. Domestic cats have established themselves in the forests in this part of the world, and they’ll just keep adapting until one day they are as fearsome. But at the moment, other than accidents, like a tree falling on your head, direct hit from space junk, bizarre car incidents, earthquake, aqueducts, and other general misadventures, nothing here will rend you limb from limb and then feast upon your still warm remains. The mountain lions are to be treated with respect. I noticed in the comments that someone was worrying about their dachshund encountering such critter. Yes, a one sided battle, those dachshund’s have bad attitudes.

    That’s funny! Could you even keep such a huge cat as a pet? Keep the cat well fed before all other considerations is my thinking.

    I’m surprised you get rabbits close in to where you are. The rabbits are a real pest here, but between the foxes at night and the dogs during the day, the rabbit population is kept in check. It would be difficult living rurally without either dogs and/or cats. They work pretty hard. Hope H restrains herself, rabbits are unpredictable and could lead her on a long chase. They’re fast too. I’ve watched one outpace Ollie, and he can run hard. The Kelpie’s can run harder, and it’s just enough to deal with the rabbits.

    I’m seeing a few buyers remorse articles about pandemic puppies. Turns out Kelpie’s aren’t such a good choice for the inner city without serious training.

    Bikes gave a good degree of freedom to go places. Yup. Those are all good points about reading and libraries, and I’d never really considered the problem from those perspectives. Interestingly, most of the perspectives are cultural concerns, and that’s not me providing a critique, it’s just an interesting pattern on display. But I agree, those are issues. Hmm. For your interest my immediate family weren’t all that into reading, and despite my dad owning a second hand bookshop, he left when I was pretty young and I don’t recall him reading. Although you’d have to assume that he did so. Makes you wonder if reading is an activity which people have to be self motivated to do?

    Hehe! The toad was euthanased, so clearly it won’t be putting anything in its mouth any time soon. 😉 The titles were a bit hysterical weren’t they? The toads are toxic too, as you’d expect. I heard a report that the toad was heading to the state museum. It’d take a big ethanol filled jar to hold the toad, or will they go for taxidermy?

    Far out man! That is one big nasty as frog. Holy carp, and the dog saved the day. That’s an Australian red Kelpie dog too, just sayin… It may have encountered giant cane toads before, and knew how to deal with their like.

    Hope you weren’t tempted to remove the battery? Hey, the warning is kind of suggestive and makes you wonder what might happen? A jackpot prize? And I agree, someone, somewhere must have tried that just trick during an update. For legal reasons we now advise you not to switch off the phone, ever

    Mate, take it from me, this battery technology is not all that it’s cracked up to be. 🙂 Seriously though, that isn’t adequate battery storage, but no matter, just keep a charger handy. But just in case, don’t leave the thing plugged into the charger all the time – you never know how good the regulation on the charger is, until the thing fails. It’s a common problem with that sort of battery chemistry. I picked a phone which would go for a couple of days between charges, yes, slack, but no matter.

    Oh! I’m not sure that burner phones are readily available down here, although candidly I haven’t looked into the matter. Interesting, it sounds like a pre-paid account.

    I’m almost scared to ask, but did Elinor make it back home?

    That was my thinking too about whoever picked the order being in a state of fugue. I dunno, karma made me contact them so they can fix it up. We’ll see whether they’re stupid about it from this point, but the business has been around for decades, and I’ve purchased from them before. No need to add to my load of bad juju. Do I need to work harder than now to get rid of that badness? So many questions, so few answers. Had to do paid work today.

    Nah, don’t worry about it. The design of the pit once implemented will make perfect sense, but until then…I’ve thought those issues through. It will be the unexpected things that get me.



  40. Chris:

    Blimey – I couldn’t help myself. I just bought a seed heat mat at our little local nursery. Well, I happened to be passing by anyway . . .

    Guess I’ll chain it to a table.


  41. Yo, Chris – People who keep big cats have serious issues. Apparently, they’re quit popular among big time drug dealers. And people trying to impress their brother-in-laws 🙂 . I think it was National Geographic that stated that there are more tigers, in private hands, than in the wild.

    A fairly credible source saw a cougar, just up the block from us, year before last. And, sure enough, there’s a state cougar sighting map, and there had been other sightings, nearby. When I walk the dog, at night, I stay alert.

    There were cougars around, the last place I lived. I never strayed off the well lit front porch, at night. Occasionally, the cat would be freaked out by something in the dark. I never lingered, outside, on such occasions.

    Oh, we get rabbits, possums, skunks, deer, raccoons. Not many, and not too often. That rabbit, when I spook him, has to cross a wide open lawn, to get back to the woods. One of these nights … There are owls, around.

    I used to wander miles, on my bike, all over north Portland. Either on my own, or with buddies. Sometimes, we’d plan day long expeditions, to distant points. Just to see what we could see. Had to pack supplies 🙂 .

    Some evenings, I read. Some I watch DVDs. Some evenings, I do both. I swung by the library, this morning, and picked up the two X-Men Interlibrary loans. So I can continue the X-Men saga. I also picked up Mr. King’s newish book, “Fairy Tale.” I’ll give it a few chapters, and see how it goes. Some of the reviews say it’s not that scary, and is more a fantasy book. Not my usual cup of tea.

    Yes, the toad. Taxidermy or jugged? Inquiring minds want to know.

    That was a real good movie, by the way. At least, I liked it. Giant frogs were the least of that young man’s problems.

    The new phone came with a charging station, which the last phone didn’t have. But I read (somewhere) just last night, that it’s better to let your phone run down, and then charge it with cable. Which is what I’ve always done. Given that I make so few calls, and leave it turned off a great deal, it’s not too often that I have to charge it up.

    Yes, Elinor did make it home, yesterday. Seemed fine, until the evening, when her heart rate was 120+. This morning, it was 130+. I don’t think she’ll be home, very long. I guess they talked about putting in a pace maker, but at 95, that’s not likely. I guess they’re going to get her a heart monitor, that you glue to your chest. But I don’t think she’ll be home long enough, to get it. But, she may surprise us. She’s just full of surprises 🙁 .

    I occurred to me, yesterday, that maybe I’ll just go to the beach, for a week. I can afford it. Leave the dog, Elinor and her family to their own devices. It’s tempting. Off season, too.

    Well, our weather has been “interesting.” We’re getting some night freezes, and snow is forecast, for Monday. Very early in the day and not much. We’ll see. Someone said they saw a few flakes, today.

    We got a food box, yesterday. Not the one with the produce. Nothing to startling. A pound of ground pork. A pack of four pork chops. More nuts! A 2 pound bag of walnuts, and an equal sized bag of almonds. I eat a small handful of nuts, every day. But I now have enough to probably last me through next summer. So, I bagged them up in smaller bags, took them down to the Club, and we’ll see how they go. If they do. They’re roasted, but no salt. Might not appeal. The rest of it was the usual. Tinned meat (but not much), fruit and veg. A bit of oatmeal. Box of cereal. Eggs. Which are very expensive, right now. But, the eggs are mediums, and I noticed one dozen had an expiration date of Christmas. Might have to float them, before using. There were some canned soups and stews. Dried beans and white rice. A jar of peanut butter. Though I found one pack of brown long grained rice, on the swap table. I managed to put together three bags for the Club pantry. About average. Lew

  42. Hi Pam,

    🙂 Well, if the new heat mat disappears, you probably know where it ended up. I reckon you won’t regret the head start it’ll give you if you get a cold growing season. A mate, Steve, gave me a few tomato plants to get a head start on the season, and I was a bit dubious, but turns out his tomato plants are twice the size of the seed ones grown here. Hmm. Heat mat…

    Hope your mum is doing OK. And chances are that you know where the old heat mat ended up. Where else could it be? 🙂 Good stuff with the heating pad, and glad to hear that you’re feeling better. Candidly, the suggested advice sounds OK, but getting a proper fit for purpose heat mat like you have is probably the safer way to go. From what I’ve seen, the ones sourced from the nursery will most likely cope better with water and be built so that they can run for days and days. Of course, I’m a little bit sensitive at the moment to the risk of burning down the house (go the Talking Heads!) what with all of the battery troubles and modifications.

    Better get writing!



  43. Hi Lewis,

    Ollie encountered horses today. I don’t reckon he’s ever met such huge animals before. He looked positively tiny compared to them. It took me a few moments to get him to calm down, then haul him away. But if a person had a big cat for a pet, things would end badly for the horses and riders. Not to be trifled with, those animals. My cat doesn’t like the look of youse!

    Mate, the mountain lions are big, but then so are the cougars. Holy carp! I’d also keep the place well lit at night too if that was the case, and wise to stay alert and observe H, or formerly Nell for edginess. They’ll know way before you do.

    The rabbits here likewise run a similar risk with the owls. Some nights I awake to hear the most awful screams from the forest, and you kind of know that dinner was had. I likewise keep the grass down over summer because of the snake risk. The magpies warn me about the snakes, but the Kookaburra’s will try and eat them. They bash the snakes head against a rock, but all the same, it’s a risky meal. I guess the birds know what they’re doing… Maybe…

    Good stuff with the bike travel. Hey, for about two years as a young adult, I didn’t own a car and just used the push bike to get around. Far out, you get fit, but it can be done, but only in the inner city where there is allowances for such modes of transport. Not owning a car was not so good for my romantic life. Expectations, you see and in those days it was considered a poverty option, which further compounded the issues of having a date on a Saturday night. 🙂

    Did you watch the next X-men instalment? And for your info, the Editor has continued reading Mr King’s book Lisey’s story. Apparently, she has worked past the language barrier and the author is recounting a good tale, in detail. She’d wondered if this book was written post – the incident with the RV? Now that would have been a scary thing.

    Hopefully we eventually discover the truth about the now deceased cane toad: Taxidermy or jugged? Yes, it would make a good display to frighten the kiddies. 🙂 My gut feeling says: jugged, but the toad has generated a lot of interest. I was reading an article a few days ago about a self taught taxidermist. A person’s gotta have their hobbies.

    We put the new steel rock gabion cage into place today, and then spent many hours pulling rocks out of the paddocks, then relocating them into the cage. The cages look great and work really well. I also had to fix up a battery charger. Who makes this rubbish? Anyway, the device is fixed and I hope to put it into use when the new batteries arrive and are connected.

    The movie is on the to-see list, but sadly I’ve been a touch busy the past few years. The spirit is willing, but time is in short supply, and there are an awful lot of things to do. This is not a complaint, but often I end up doing what must be done, not what would be nice to do. These few years are but a moment in time.

    Yes, I have heard such things too about small device lithium battery life. They have Cobalt in them and pack more of a punch, but have lower capacity. It’s not the same chemistry as the batteries I use on the house which are the opposite, less punch, more capacity. The smaller ones often last longer if they’re charged to only around 60% to 70%. That’s my understanding of that chemistry anyway.

    Elinor may indeed surprise us all. And your gut feeling is probably correct. This getting older thing isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

    Mate, I love the beach over the winter months. And a good storm just adds something to the experience. Shows you who’s the boss! It sounds like a nice idea. It’s been a few years since we’ve been down the coast, mostly because there are weird social issues down there due to the bonkers property prices. Getting employees is difficult at businesses in that part of the world because rents are so high that a person can’t afford to live there. This whole scenario will not end well.

    Speaking of which, we went to the pub last night for a pint and a feed, and it was quiet. Unusual for a Saturday night. Just before we left, a new group of folks turned up and began smoking in the outdoor dining area. A technical no-no. I mentioned to the Editor that these folks were looking for trouble. What was interesting too, was that they all ordered coffees at the pub, like who does that? I suggested to the Editor this morning that it was possible that the folks are promoting the concept (maybe for mad cash) of normalising their behaviour. I was poo-poohed, but I dunno, guerrilla marketing is weird, so you can’t be too sure. And the concept of vaping is being heavily marketed. Rights, my friend are hard won, and easily lost.

    We’re having a cool, humid, but sunny week. There was even a tiny amount of rain this morning.

    I’d heard that about eggs in your part of the world. Interesting. The egg supply down here is highly concentrated in a few families, and cynical minds wonder at the application of the law of supply and demand? We’ve got five broody chickens at the moment. Some of them have bad attitudes. I’m not a fan.

    Better get writing!



  44. Yo, Chris – My bad. Mountain lion and cougar are the same thing. Can also be called puma, panther or catamount. Depending on which part of the country, you’re from. They may differ a bit from each other, but really aren’t different species.

    I watched three of the X-Men, movies, last night. Three more to go, though I’ll stretch those out, a bit. One of the one’s I watched was “Deadpool.” Well. That was a surprise. This trailer gives just a taste …


    Just a taste of how really funny, it is. I don’t know who the writer’s were, but it’s wall to wall, rapid fire, one liners. In some ways, it looks like something tossed off on the cheap. And occasionally references itself. One line is where Deadpool inquires if the professor is the Mcavoy one, or the Stewart one. 🙂 .

    Taxidermy as a hobby. Puts one in mind of Norman Bates, from the Bates motel.

    Ohhhh! More lovely gabion cages. Next time I see monumental ancient architecture, I’ll think, “Oh, two people could do that in a couple of years.”

    So, the crowd at the pub just drank coffee? Sounds a bit like “the meeting after the meeting.” Which seems to have fallen out of use, at least here. Used to be, after an AA meeting, everyone would repair to a nearby coffee source, and just keep on going, in a less formal way. Might have ended because a lot of places tightened up on their bottomless cups of coffee.

    Our egg prices jumped, in part, because of rampant bird flu. And, a lot of other factors. Everything from the cost and sourcing of cartons, to lack of workers due to You Know What. Border issues also played into it.

    Well, this afternoon, we’re having our yearly membership meeting. And, it might get a bit lively, due to discussion of CDs. I might remind people at the beginning, that we might want to keep in mind, the way we run the meetings. I may play a bit of sergeant at arms … or, hall monitor. 🙂 Lew

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