Forty years ago, on February 16, the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires wreaked havoc in this corner of the continent. During that drought summer, reservoirs dwindled to vapour and the city residents had their water rationed. 1.3 million acres of land burned. Eight days before the really big fire, the city of Melbourne was engulfed in a dust cloud 300m (1,000ft) high and 500km (310 miles) long. Big enough to make you think the world had ended. When the dust cloud hit, I recall the day turning to night. Some things you forget, but not that.

The 1983 fires eventually ripped through this mountain range at night. The fire had begun far to the west of here in East Trentham earlier in the afternoon. Something to do with power lines and trees. The strong winds pushed the fire in the direction of the mountain range, and there was no stopping it. The day remains on many of the older trees and tree stumps here. You can see the blackened scars.

Ollie inspects a large and old tree which survived the 1983 fires

The trees in this mountain range are big. But the really old and large trees are a bit rare. The century of logging has a lot to do with that story. And large old trees aren’t immune from being killed off by the occasional bonkers destructive bushfire either, like that one in 1983. We’re lucky to have a few of the large old trees here. Big old trees, huge things, and oh my, the changes those trees would have seen in their days.

You can tell where that fire moved through the land around here. That’s where the trees are all the same size and age. The previous forest in that case was most likely wiped out. The new trees you see growing today, germinated as seeds in the rich ash beds, mostly because they had zero competition. Seeds don’t require fertile soil in which to sprout, and fire caused the seeds to germinate in large numbers.

In the areas where all the trees are the same size and age, they’re growing densely packed in and fighting each other for light, water and minerals. Tall and straight they grow, seeking the sun. Some trees will eventually prevail. After forty years, they’ve reach about 30m (100ft) above the ground, maybe more. The minimal room between each tree produces little canopy on the individual trees. And when the wind blows the branches scrape one against the other. On windy nights, an eerie clicking and clacking sound accompanies the tussle. During the day, gusts of wind can be tracked moving through the canopy.

Tightly packed in, the new trees don’t allow much room at ground level for any of the plants which the wallaby, wombat or kangaroo like to eat. Instead marsupials turn up here at the farm looking for a feed, because there is a clearing.

All forests change over long lengths of time and the collected combination of plants and critters is a fluid thing. Before the 1983 fires, the Tiger quoll (a native marsupial cat), lived in this forest. After the fires, none survived. If they’d survived the fire, the native cats would have suffered from a lack of feed, and probably also a sudden lack of housing in the replacement forest.

Most of the critters living high up in forest require tree hollows in which to nest. Hollows keep critters out of the elements. And the only way to get a hollow, is to have a big branch fall off a big tree, which leaves behind a round scar. The cockatoos with their sharp beaks peck away at the exposed soft fresh tree scars, gobbling up yummy wood grubs, termites and inadvertently opening up the hollow. The activities of the wood grubs or termites no doubt caused the branch to fall off in the first place. The cavity which is the tree scar eventually heals and hardens, and a new critter apartment is made. However, when tightly packed in trees have to compete with their fellow trees, no matter how tall, they don’t tend to grow big branches, and so not many new hollows get made.

I’ve often wondered why the large old trees here survived the fires when other areas weren’t so fortunate. When we first purchased this block of land way back in 2005, there were rumours that logging had continued here until fairly recent times, and that there had been some sort of resulting trouble. That’s rumours for you. Over the years we’d removed lots of chunks from an old burnt out car. There was even the remains of a destroyed shed, looked like an old timey potato shed. You find things from time to time. Nobody knows for sure what happened here, and if they do, they’re not talking. But I’ve got a theory. For whatever reason, the forest had been thinned, and despite the loggers leaving a mess on the floor of the forest, the trees were widely spaced. When the fire hit, the trees would have burned, but compared to a fire in a thick dense forest where there’s lots of fuel, the fire here might not have been hot enough to kill the trees. And they recovered.

It’s just a theory though. The view from here is pretty extensive. From this elevated position, you can see across a good chunk of Wombat State Forest. And trees extend from here all the way to the distant horizon. The forest could use some thinning, but city people sure have their theories too. And if the 1983 fires, the 2009 fires, and the recent 2019/20 fires aren’t enough to convince the reasonable person that things need to change, then I’d have to say that’s unreasonable.

Looks like summer has finally arrived here, a bit late, but as they say, better late than never. There was even a few days of a mild heat wave. 39’C / 102’F here and warmer again in the big smoke. It didn’t seem that bad to me.

39’C / 102’F that’s summer for ya! It can get even hotter. 26’C / 79’F inside the house

After the couple of days of heat wave, the cool weather returned. Thick low clouds with air full of smoke from nearby fires.

The smoke from nearby fires was visible

Wild Blackberry canes are a bit of a nightmare plant here. I enjoy the berries, shame about the wicked thorns on the canes. They make for interesting picking. We grow only thornless varieties of Blackberries, but the birds drop heaps of well fertilised seeds from the wild thorny varieties growing nearby. From time to time you have to clean these thorny invaders up, and when the canes are crawling along the ground heading towards the house like an 1980’s horror flick, you know something has to be done.

Wild Blackberry canes heading for the house

It takes a bit of effort to remove the Blackberry canes, and you know that despite your best efforts, like the Terminator, they’ll be back. Still, doing nothing is a bad idea, so you have to do something. Getting in with the electric pole saw is one way to deal with them.

An electric pole saw is a very handy tool

The job was hard, but the heat that day made it harder. By early afternoon we’d removed a huge quantity of blackberry canes and received lots of scratches for our efforts.

Blackberry canes drying in the hot sunshine waiting for the right conditions to be burned off

The area now looks like a bit of a mess, but the plants will recover.

The area looks like a bit of a mess, but it’ll recover just fine

The additional energy from the now invigorated summer sunshine, has dried out the farm, but on the other hand has begun the ripening process for many of the productive plants.

It’s been a very good year for Chilli’s and the new greenhouse has upped our game

The most marginal plant we grow are the Eggplants. Outside in the elements, simply to get those fruits produced, then ripened is a tall order. It takes a summer similar to that of Black Summer 2019/2020 (go on, ask me why it has been so described) to do so. In the more usual years, they have to be grown in the greenhouse – no exceptions. And even then, the plants have only just begun to produce flowers and some tiny fruit.

Eggplants are a very marginal crop here

In the greenhouse, the Babaco (a cold climate pawpaw) dominates your attention. Each week the plant produces even more fruit – and it is only in its first year. Hopefully the fruit tastes as good as the promise. We’ve trialled the plant outside the greenhouse and it does not survive the conditions.

The Babaco draws your attention

The greenhouse is looking very lush, and requires very little water each day and only a couple of minutes of my attention.

The greenhouse is a real game changer for marginal plants

Outside the greenhouse, the now warmer weather has been beneficial to the many plants.

We call these variety of pumpkins by the nickname: The Bomb
Queensland Blue Pumpkins are small now, but will grow in size rapidly
The tomatoes are beginning to ripen. This is a Black Russian Cherry variety
Persimmons grow in size on the trees
Hop vines have only been in the ground a few months, but wow have they grown or what?
Grapes are growing in size on the vines

We’re up for another run of hot days this week. Summer has returned.

Onto the flowers:

Agapanthus are super reliable plants which the bees love
The Roses are enjoying the hot and dry conditions
Roses put on a good display

The temperature outside now at about 11am is 22’C (72’F). So far this year there has been 63.2mm (2.5 inches) which is the same as last weeks total of 63.2mm (2.5 inches)

44 thoughts on “Otherside”

  1. Yo, Chris – The very good documentary you linked to, last week, had a bit about the dust storm, before the fires. Looked pretty awful and reminded me of the ash clouds from our volcanic eruption. You don’t forget the feel of grit between your teeth. Every ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) in Portland, went TU. (I’ll let you guess at that one, due to Family Friendly, and all.) People had to put panty hose over their car air intakes, to keep the grit out.

    “Ollie inspects … old tree.” Was that photo taken seconds before, or seconds after he lifted the leg? 🙂 H has the very unlady like behavior of glueing her nose to trees, where I figure a gentleman has left his calling card.

    I don’t know if you’d like the return of the Tiger quoll, judging from their preferred menu. Most of the pictures of them, on line, have them baring their sharp little teeth. They are a handsome little animal. Those spots probably make it easy for them to blend into a light dappled forest. If you’ve got Koalas, filtering back, the quolls probably won’t be far behind. They figure there’s still 14,000 of them, left.

    Sounds like you’ve got the forest succession of your patch, pretty well nailed down. Not that anyone will pay any attention, as you don’t have a degree in forestry management. 🙂 How long before civilization collapses enough, that the gate keepers will be gone?

    102F sounds ghastly. When that happens here, I generally sit very quiet, and consume vast quantities of liquids.

    Yes, the wild blackberries have designs on taking over your house. Eventually, they will, and gently pry it apart. They’re patient, and they never sleep. That’s quit a slope, behind your place. Interesting, one place I looked at when I was house hunting, had a similar set up. I had to sidle around one back corner, due to a similar slope. Those heaps of blackberries look like what I used to feed the goats. I’d cut a couple of big arm full, every morning, and they’d make short work of them. Except for some canes that were beyond even their masticating powers. Once they got started, they burned quit nicely in the burning barrel. Even green. What are those black clusters, in the tree behind you?

    A couple of times, people here at the Institution have grown eggplants, to success. Well watered in full sunshine. Must be a variety that might do well at your place, outside. Given we’re a climate zone or two cooler, than your place.

    The black cherry tomatoes look positively poisonous. But I suppose they’re tasty, or, you wouldn’t grow them. A few years ago, someone down the street had some black tomatoes. But they were the usual tomato size.

    The grape harvest looks good. You might want to invest in a bit of bird netting. It’s fairly cheap. A bit hard to handle, though. Pick a day when you have plenty of time, and can get into the zen zone. I use it for our strawberry patch, and have even managed to keep it from year to year.

    The roses are lovely, and look to be some old varieties. Lew

  2. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking that the sort of volcanic cloud you’ve experienced may have sort of looked like too – an unstoppable force that’s so big you’re gonna end up covered in ash and it won’t be good. And that’s what happened that day to me way back in 1983. Imagine if such clouds were accompanied by pyroclastic heat as well? A real end of days kinda vibe. Yeah toes up (TU!) says it all. 😉 Engine filters aren’t designed to cope with such high levels of particulate matter – no way. Hey, I’d seen similar hillbilly engineering arrangements in use on engine air intakes the year we had the locust plague. I tell you, the local birds here feasted that week. After a while I felt sorry for the locusts.

    Ollie is a gentleman, and avoids being photographed in such compromising situations – which is why you can’t see what was really happening… Let’s just say that your guess was fairly accurate. H has her ways, and us mere humans must not enquire too closely into them, lest we blush at her behaviour, but you’re probably right there too. Dogs, far out dude!

    Years ago I heard an interview with quite a well known local and international act where the lead vocalist and his wife lived in the back blocks of the island state of Tasmania. The interview was going well, and then he casually dropped in that a tiger quoll ate his chickens. What the? Anyway, I’d be happy to have some of the native cats here, they’d keep me sharp. The spots incidentally also blend in really well with lichen spots on the local granite rocks. If the quolls can come to some sort of arrangement with the introduced feral domestic cat, they’ll make a comeback for sure.

    Hehe! Yes, beware the expert proffering advice! 🙂 I doubt anyone will listen to me about forest management. Even the people living in this mountain range hold diverse opinions. What interests me is that some opinions seem to look like a form of social validation, and it’s an option I guess. The next big fire, won’t be an option. You guessed it, and that’s the thing, decline begins at the edges – a nice place to be, if a person is prepared for what that means.

    Candidly it was hot that day, and we stood out due to enjoying a coffee and lunch in the shade. Maybe I’ve adjusted to the heat now due to not relying upon air conditioning? I dunno, but it was hot, but not as hot as it has been. The summer ain’t done yet though, and later this week another heat wave will roll on through.

    Lewis, such talk about the vigilant-to-any-weakness blackberry canes may give me nightmares. Hey, they use goats down here too for munching up blackberry canes, and good to hear of your experience. Hmm. I read an amusing article on the subject many years ago titled: Goats for land care. 🙂 And yup, the canes burn hot and readily – nothing quite says oils like that.

    The black clusters of fruit in the shrub in the photo are Elderberries. Those plants grow very well here, and the native birds love the fruits. As you’d imagine, there are plenty of new Elderberry shrubs which look to me like they readily hybridise. A very good plant, and we make a delightful Elderflower wine which conversely stinks when initially cooked up. The fruits taste like currants to me.

    That’s an interesting point about Eggplants. My understanding is that down here we don’t have the genetic diversity of seed stocks for some short season crops which in other parts of the world are readily obtained. In a few years I’m going to have to put some brain cells towards plant breeding.

    😉 The Black Russian Tomatoes have an odd look to them, don’t they? These are definite cherry varieties and I reckon we’ll save some seeds from them, and all the other early season varieties for that matter.

    Ah, the grapes are in a large fruit cage for exactly that reason. Few fruits pack the sugar those do and everything here will want to eat them.

    Thanks, and a great observation. Some of the roses are real old world varieties. It is possible that those are the ones which have produced little self seeded volunteer plants.

    Hehe! The visitors were lovely, and we laughed a lot and had a very pleasant night.

    Of course, who can forget the Peruvian mummies. And some parts of that country are bonkers dry – beyond anything I’d previously experienced. Over there, we went to an exhibition of a mummy which had only recently been relocated. Fascinating, and the you’d hope that there’d be no consequences for bringing the mummies back down the mountain again? And imagine the impetus to start such a process of appeasing the mountain gods in the first place?

    Hehe! Nice one, and you got me there with the reference to the Breakfast Club. 😉 I loved that film, and John Hughes could recount such a quirky and engaging tale + provide a great accompanying soundtrack. Mate, the Big Chill soundtrack rocked too, but the band Simple Minds was of my early era.

    Nooooo. But you’re not kidding about the coffin, are you? Those things would be even harder to obtain down under than exotic large batteries. If faced with that, I’d probably make one, although who knows whether such things would even be allowed? Regulations and stuff can be a bit weird down under. Oh no, the person in the coffin might get sick, we can’t allow this. 🙂

    Look, I’m not mucking around, unless the American Pickers came across a stash of used Yamaha T-85 FM tuners in great condition, I dunno… Hehe! Have to laugh, it’s like when people discover that old dead crazy uncle whatshisname bought an early model Ferrari and just wrapped it in plastic and stored it in an old farm shed. It would be really weird, except it sometimes happens.

    Exactly, spell out the acronym once, associate the symbols, then move on – otherwise I dunno what they’re going on about? Yup, not much to ask is it really?

    Look forward to your food of the day report. Alfredo is quite nice, although some restaurants can go a bit heavy on additives such as cream. Doesn’t sit well in my guts such food, but who knows we all could be missing out?

    I like how your brain works! A very pragmatic response.

    Yeah, those two avenues are where excess money goes to die. Shame about the real world implications. The national youth broadcaster youth news program had quite the discussion about this rent subject late this afternoon. It’s not good, and few people seem to grasp the fundamentals that ya canna increase the money supply more than the supply of stuff and things is increased, without causing problems. I’m truly and utterly gobsmacked that nobody seems to mention the obvious: Stop expanding the money supply. And because nobody mentions the unmentionable, things are going to end badly.

    Oh! Hey, I picked up the trilogy of Mr King’s Bill Hodges series of books. A gift for the Editor, and I’m looking forward to reading them too.

    My worry of the day was that the article didn’t list all of the feedback loops. What has investigative journalism come to these days?



  3. Hello Chris
    That was very interesting this week, I was absorbed.
    Our blackberry canes look exactly like yours. I have to watch out when I walk up to the road as they appear from above and try to take my eyes out. Son feeds them to the goats.
    Experts and woodland, oh dear oh dear. I dread it when they decide that the time has arrived again to inspect my area.
    Grey and warm here.


  4. Yo, Chris – “Toes up,” wasn’t what I had in mind … 🙂

    Social validation and maybe feeling entitled enough not to be inconvenienced in the slightest.

    It was cold here, last night, but not the cold, cold that will come rolling in, tomorrow night. But I still had to throw an extra (thin) blanket on the bed. Yes, people acclimate to heat or cold. You just have to tough it out and feel miserable, for awhile. 🙂

    Blackberry cane oil. Soon to be seen in bougie food stores, everywhere. Foodie blogs will declare it The Next Big Thing, until people discover it tastes like ca-ca. Oh, I see there’s already blackberry oil, made from the seeds, available. But it seems to be used mostly in skin care, rather than tucker.

    Ask, and ye shall receive. There, on the food swap table last night, was an eggplant. Not something from our food box. Someone must have bought (or been gifted) one, and thought better of it. I let it alone. It was a bit on the soft side, and I really didn’t feel up to turning it into something edible.

    I had forgot that your grapes are in cages. Grapes in Chains. Might make a good name for a rock group. 🙂

    Freeze dried mummies. Which reminded me of the freeze dried potatoes, the folks make up in the Andes. Called Chuno. They leave them out for three nights, under cloth. And then squeeze out any excess moisture, with their feet. Probably not as pleasant as stomping grapes.

    I suppose every generation has “Its'” movie. Or, a handful of them.

    Now, you know I never kid. 🙂

    Car barn finds. Seems like every slow news day, someone, somewhere has found some fabulous car packed away. Of course, a lot of the “articles” are just recycled click bait.

    The Alfredo didn’t happen. I was working on my yearly recertification paperwork. Well, the first round, at least. By the time I was finished, I was pretty frazzled. I needed to print off one, four page bank statement. The fourth page, wouldn’t print. Finally, after three attempts, the printer spit it out. The waste of paper and ink was bad. Then I dropped a pen, into the printer’s innards. Every time I tried to fish it out, it beeped at me. Then I discovered a door, to open, to get at it. I can request a monthly paper copy, of my statement to be mailed to me. But I think it costs $3 a month. But given the ink, paper and aggravation, it might be worth it at twice the price.

    And, Elinor was equally aggravating, last night. So, even though all I have to do is throw the two packets of Alfredo, in boiling water, I also have to figure out where in the process to add in any extra veg. Beyond me, last night, but I think I’ve got it figured out, this morning, in the clear light of day. So, I went simple. Fried up a couple of eggs, threw them on a couple of bagels with a bit of cheese and a spread of yogurt and mustard. Viola! Called it dinner. Watched a Ken Burn’s documentary on the Shakers. They were an American, communal celibate sect, in the 19th century. They were quit successful, for quit awhile. They made wonderful furniture and buildings. And, had a very successful seed business.

    Ah, well that series will introduce you to Holly Gabney. Who has become King’s most favorite character. She also appears in two additional books. And, this year’s King fall offering is called simply, “Holly.” I’ve been watching the library catalog, for it.

    Investigative journalism has died a quiet death. If you can’t string together a bunch of tweets, or screen shots, from you desk, it isn’t journalism. Used to be, we had quit a few weekly, hour long, hard hitting investigative news programs. Now, except for a couple, it seems like they’re all about true crime, or some cold case. Apparently, they’re what people want. Or, at least, they’re cheap to produce. Lew

    PS: I see from the Alfredo box that it is “A Product of India.” Hmmm.

  5. Hi Inge,

    Ah, thank you and it is a pleasure to take you along for the journey through the forests here. From what you’ve read, do you believe that your forests work differently? I’m interested in forest succession as it is a reasonable guide as to how to best manage the arrangement of plants here. It is not lost on me that job will occur without human activity, but unfortunately the wild card which I can’t rule out is arson, and that risk changes everything.

    Oh my, yes wise to keep a close look out for those. Many years ago in an electronics supply store, a sign fell onto my nose and cut it slightly. Of course there was a bit of blood which soon stopped flowing. The staff helped me out and I got cleaned up and was soon on my way. But when I left the store, with a fresh cut on my nose, it was hard not to notice that people were looking at me funny as if I’d just been in a fight. Honestly, they need to get over such things.

    Let’s just hope that the experts are busy elsewhere. You could always produce a fake cough and mutter something darkly about the health subject which dare not be named, should they ever make an inconvenient visit. That will probably get a reaction. Oh yes indeedy!

    Really? That sort of weather would not be out of the question here at the same time of year, but it would be unusual to say the least. The hot weather will begin a run of three days beginning tomorrow. This morning the drizzle was quite prolonged and a quarter of an inch of rain eventually fell. Just the thing prior to some hot weather.



  6. Hi Lewis,

    Really? Well I never. Who’d have thought you’d meant tonsils up? 😉 Although candidly I’m unsure what the sentence may mean? Hehe!

    Sadly, I have to agree with your summary of the situation. Man, it would be funny if I seriously didn’t often speak with people who are ‘so worried about blah blah’. The question: ‘Well what are you doing about it?’ seems to end the conversation because everyone ends up getting all uncomfortable and stuff.

    Oh, hey as a mostly vegetarian, I have to tell you that a gourmet mustard and pickle burger with crispy bacon was harmed this evening. And maybe some chips copped it bad too. 🙂 They were both asking for it. So good, so tasty. Stopped off for a coffee and tiny little New York cheesecake beforehand as well. Yum. We were in the big smoke today doing paid work, so why not fill up the guts on the way home? Work is work, but fun is fun, and earlier tonight was a delightfully cool summers evening.

    And whilst we were lurking around the touristy area I stopped off at a lovely large bookshop which opens late into the evening, and picked up a copy of Mr Kings ‘Fairy Tale’ for the Editors upcoming birthday. Had to the tell the Editor not to look at what I was buying, always a challenging moment. Plus I get to read it afterwards. 🙂 The bookshop was pumping with people, and an authors talk was in process, although the subject was about dementia. Go figure, but the author had pulled a crowd, and I had to push my way down through to the fiction area.

    Did it get as cold as you were expecting? An extra blanket is a sign that things were cold. I find I can’t sleep properly if the air temperature is cold and there are not enough blankets on the bed. I keep some extras on the floor next to the bed just in case – sleep being one of the most important activities of the day. 🙂 I’m sure one day I’ll bring an errant spider onto the bed leaving the blankets there. Bound to hurt or at least be seriously poisonous. And I agree wholeheartedly with you about the acclimation process. You have to admit that very thought is an unpalatable perspective for most people?

    What? … … Thanks. Who knew about the blackberry seed oil? I guess the berries do have a lot of seeds. We eat a lot of blackberries at this time of year, and the season looks like it has another fortnight to go (at a guess). At the end of the season we’ll make some jam and wine.

    I would have made that call too with the eggplant. Run! Soft eggplant sounds bruised and possibly mildly fermented to me. The fruits are usually firm when fresh.

    That’s funny, and I must say the grunge did seem to produce a few bands that were in chains. Perhaps indicative of the mood at the time, and the alleged heavy rains in Seattle? 🙂 Alice in Chains and the Jesus and Mary Chain spring to mind, but there maybe others… I wonder what Lewis Carroll would have thought of the music from Alice in Chains? What is this racket, just make it stop…

    I’d never heard of storing potatoes that way. Hmm. Ah, it doesn’t get cold enough here for such techniques 23’F, but it does in your part of the world.

    True, although makes you wonder what film the rocks the millennials boat? There’s some good lists out there, but sparkly vampires films – burn them with fire, is what I reckon. Some good films. Any thoughts on this subject?

    🙂 I knew that.

    Yeah, probably. Last weekend we happened to see a procession of historic cars cruising around the area. Had to laugh, I’d owned one of those as my first car (although it was already a decade old at the time). I’d picked it up at a car wreckers and brought it back to life, but candidly the snot green car probably should have stayed were I found it. Paints a picture doesn’t it?

    Paperwork is my speciality, but just between you and I, and let’s not spread the news around, I loathe pedantic chunks of paperwork. So unnecessary. The Roman’s were probably into paperwork too, and we all know how that story ended. Did you complete the paperwork? I doubt they’d be making money on the $3 a month statement charge. It’s probably there to discourage people from requesting paper copies.

    Ouch! Good luck, and hope Elinor is feeling better of late? Your brain clearly considered the cooking problem overnight and supplied you the answer this morning.

    Just doing the numbers in my head here in relation to the Shakers. So, if they were all celibate, then surely sooner or later, the sect would run out of active members? Kind of like a reverse Malthus predicament. Incidentally, I don’t believe the good Rev. was wrong, but like Peak Oil, he missed consideration of some additional energy sources, but overall his direction of thought stands solid.

    Very good indeed! I look forward to reading the series, but have second dibs on that.

    Exactly, tweets become news. Yes, this is where we have descended to.



  7. Yo, Chris – Well, speaking of talking around things, due to Family Friendly, etc., the archaeology world was all agog, yesterday. I mean, I must have seen 5 articles, and the “incident” even made CNN. Vindolanda, the gift that keeps on giving. Back in 1992, an item was found, that was indexed as a darning implement. Someone took a second look. Well, no. That’s all I’ll say. I’ve given you enough clues, to do a search on your own. 🙂

    Sounds like you stumbled onto some good tucker, quit by accident, I’m sure. Hunting and gathering, in the Big Smoke. Someone slipped me $40, for the Club Pantry. So, I hit the dollar + store, last night. About half of what I bought was condiments. It’s the most reasonable place to find such stuff. The rest was some canned meat, hearty soups and I even found some pineapple. So, I have two bags of stuff, to take down to the Club, this morning, when we go for our biscuits and gravy.

    Well, interesting times. We had quit a bit of wind, last night. Gusts to 33mph. The lights went out about 11:30. I had just pulled dinner out of the nuker. Ate by flashlight. Then I went to check on Elinor. She was in her chair, sawing logs. I left my phone on, as, it occurred to me that she has an electric recliner. And, if the outage went on for too long, she’d be trapped. Unexpected consequences of technology. She was trapped, once before, when she managed to lose the controls. But got out of that situation, on her own. It hasn’t got really cold yet. That will move in, tonight, maybe along with some snow.

    The whole grunge scene was rather sado-masochistic. Especially on the ears.

    There are plenty of lists of films millennials like. Such as, “20 Movies Millennials Inexplicably Like.” Seems to be heavy on fantasy, though there are a couple of “thoughtful” ones, which even I enjoyed. Funny. Your spell check doesn’t like “millennials.” Maybe they don’t really exist?

    Oh, the Romans did like their paperwork. I haven’t read the article, but I see a Roman soldiers pays stub was recently discovered. Well, I got the first round of the paperwork done. There will be more, but not as detailed and bulky. It’s basically to poke around in your finances, and have you swear that you don’t have a man (or woman) hiding under your bed, bringing in undeclared income. I was a little nervous about the loot I got from the auction. But it asks if you have sold (in the last two years) assets for less than market value. Then it asks if you’ve sold stuff for more than market value. But on reflection, I realize that the auction prices ARE market value. Not less. Not more. Now if they agree with my reasoning, I’ll find out. I mentioned the auction windfall to the building manager, and she (off the cuff) said it wouldn’t effect my rent rate. We’ll see.

    Well, I made up the Alfredo, last night. Put some chopped broccoli, peas, garlic and mushrooms in a bowl, and nuked them. While the bag of noodles and bag of sauce, merrily boiled away in a pan of water. Tasty? Well, yes. Put that much fat and salt in something, and it’s bound to be tasty. But, only 370 calories, not counting my additions. But the bottom line is, it’s a highly processed food. And highly processed foods are not healthy. Just my opinion.

    Well, when hundreds of people were joining the Shakers, it was often family groups. So, kids came in that way. They also took in orphans. But at 21, they had to decide if to be Shakers, or not. And there wasn’t a lot of pressure. They just wanted people to be solid in their conviction, to their way of life. They were also aware of “winter Shakers.” People would show up in the fall, say they were considering joining, and then in the spring decide it wasn’t for them. Year after year. 🙂 . But, as long as they followed the rules, and pulled their weight, they weren’t too concerned. When theft from their vegetable fields became a problem, what did they do? Planted more vegetables. Kind of like you and the parrots.

    So, what did them in? The Industrial Revolution. People, even the Shakers themselves, could buy items more cheaply than they could make them. I saw an ad for a t-shirt, the other day, that I think sums up the problem. “Why Buy It for $7 When You Can Make It Yourself With $92 of Supplies.” The Shakers sold seeds in paper packages, for almost 100 years. Finally, declining membership and competition, did them in.

    I watched Ken Burn’s “Brooklyn Bridge,” last night. What an engineering marvel. It was Ken Burn’s first documentary, and won an Academy Award, which launched his career. The photography is wonderful. There are places where sunlight and shadow, play across the bridge, and it looks like it’s actually “building up.” Rising. Words fail to describe the effect. Lew

  8. Chris,

    Thanks for another history course about the trees and wildfires. It may be a recurring topic, but it’s an important one. Your thoughts about the large trees, well-spaced, versus the clumped together smaller trees agrees with my observations. The thicker forests seem to burn hotter.

    The flower pictures were spectacular. Especially the agapanthus and those roses.

    The cold front is blowing in. Very windy Sunday. There were higher winds on Monday. Calmer today, but the winds will return in force after the snow quits and the COLD arrives. Yes, snowing again. Not sticking – it is +3C. Maybehaps we’ll get an inch or 3 overnight.

    TU? Tails Up. Sheesh! I thought everyone knew that. 😉 Of course, the “T” has several other possible interpretations.

    Recently read an article online. Apparently, scientists may have discovered a replacement for lithium in electric vehicle batteries. It might also last longer than lithium. The source? Crustacean shells. Apparently crab and lobster shells turn to zinc as they decay. And they decay rapidly. They figure that they can get a lot of shells from the restaurants that sell crabs and lobster. Naturally, I thought of one “tiny” drawback: there’s already a publicized shortage of crabs and lobsters in those industries, and the crustaceans are NOT an infinite and renewable resource.

    I also read something about the range of electric vehicles. The writer noted that the range of the typical electric vehicle is increasing and that most drivers of such say that they have never run their batteries down completely, as they recharge them either at work are at home. And the typical range before recharging is 210 miles. My little grey cells combined with all the diodes down my left side and quickly realized that these cars are being driven in urban settings and not on long trips. A useable 210 mile range is LESS than the distance to brother-in-law in Toppenish.

    Another article was about trucks, both large commercial and the ubiquitous American pickup truck. Performance and range of these is greatly decreased in the electric vehicle vs petrol or diesel vehicles. Which I knew from what a local person wrote a few months ago. The local had an electric pickup. It was fully charged for a range of 160 miles. He then hooked an empty trailer to it, drove 10 miles, loaded a medium sized car onto the trailer, and towed it the 10 miles home. Upon his return he noticed that his truck’s range was now 40 miles! Yes, driving the electric vehicle under load and over a few hills radically increased the battery usage. This stuff is not ready for everyday use as a replacement for what we’ve currently got. Plus we will need to change our expectations.

    There were places where the grass was starting to turn green. A couple trees were experimenting with their spring buds for new growth. This looming cold front might surprise them.


  9. Hi DJ,

    It is most definitely a recurring topic, but kind of fits in around the larger theme which is: How should we live in the future. I must say, you seem like rather an alert chap, so probably already know that the future might look like the past, after a few hiccups or three. 🙂 The cool and damp conditions of the last few years have been a respite, but danger always lurks and over to the east there is this: Man arrested as firefighters battle grassfire at Flowerdale, north of Melbourne.

    And yup as to prevailing conditions here and at your place, same, same, but different – but essentially the same. 😉

    Thanks! Years ago an old mate, who was literally old, broke my cojones about the lack of flowers for the bees. He was my bee guru, but yeah, he was right the cheeky scamp. Nowadays though I just enjoy all the flowers.

    Did you get the brief snow, or was it a several inches deep chunk of mayhem? Quite pleasant here and hovering around 30’C for the next few days. Hope the energy gets the tomatoes ripened. Today was as nice as summers day as you’re ever likely to experience. Shame I had to work. Oh well, nobody promised life would be easy.

    Tails up! Genius. Like it. There’s heaps more body parts to go, as you’ve amusingly realised. How about Tibia up? Doesn’t quite have the same quality, but does stick to the general theme. 🙂

    Blessed are the crustaceans, for they will flow with electrons. I must say that the outcome from the experimentation sounds like a good way to wipe out an entire species. Hey, a word to the wise – I wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for that err, solution. Sure, it might work, but I dunno man. A few months ago I discovered that we use more energy from diesel fuel each day than what is produced in the entire electricity grid each day. Not good. And petrol was $2.09/litre Monday morning. Yikes!

    Yeah, that is something of a problem, and there was an interesting article recently about electric vehicle owners sooking about having to wait for something like between one and two hours to get access to a charging spot in a large rural city. But it is also a problem for your brother-in-law. I dunno, I don’t expect fuel to not be available any time soon, our cultures instead seem to be wanting to go down the rationing by price model. It’s an option, I guess.

    It’s been my experience that batteries as a technology are quite good, the problem with all of them is that the more you use them, the shorter the lifespan. And hauling large and heavy loads requires a lot of energy, more perhaps than most people would realise. Look, I’d be more than happy to be wrong, I just don’t reckon that I am.

    Hope the plants are resilient to the coming cold bout, and aren’t disappointed that their expectations exceed reality? Always a bummer of an experience. I lost pretty much all of the stone fruit earlier in the growing season due to a bout of cold weather. Nowadays I’m nervous about what the future holds in store, but the stoics might suggest to face it, whilst the epicureans may simply enjoy the day. As Alfred E Neuman was apt to quip: What, me worry?



  10. Hi Lewis,

    Candidly I was fast running out of body parts beginning with the letter ‘t’, and so the in-joke was rapidly dying of natural causes. Oh, weren’t those Romans up to some naughty business? 🙂 Well done them. Little wonder that the following times were so described as the Dark Ages where such things didn’t happen, if only because the items were lost in the swamps surrounding Vindolanda. It seems a bit big for a darning implement…

    Yeah, the good tucker last evening was discovered by accident. I hadn’t thought of that excuse until you said it, but yeah. 🙂

    Yours was a happy accident receiving the mad cash for Club purposes. Ah, on a serious note, I would never have considered taking condiments, but it makes sense because they would dress up and otherwise very basic meal. Dunno about you, but there are times I do wonder about the most excellent access to spices these days which most people may take for granted. It wasn’t always that way and we’ve spoken of the use of rose hips versus vanilla in the distant past.

    At least the nuker finished doing its business prior to the power going out. Did the wind die down and has it gotten as cold as promised? Not to tease you, but it was an almost perfect summers day today here. 86’F and not a breath of wind. Shame I had to work, but them bills need attending to.

    Interestingly my phone provider sent me an email today saying that they were no longer going to bill me, but simply take their bill from my credit card. And just because, I have to install an app and log onto their system to get a copy of the paperwork. Wow, I dunno what to say, but surely someone must have asked for that convenience for them? A mystery, but a taste of the future perhaps? Horror movie right there in my email.

    Mate, technology traps all of us in various ways, and often without our understanding or consent. Some of the parts of the power system upgrades arrived in the mail this morning. Hope to get them in over the next week or so.

    Really? And they were local lads too. Shame on you. Where’s the support man? 🙂 Well I must say that I see that era differently, it was a recession very early in my adult working life and it looked to me like I’d been thrown under the economic bus. The angry grunge sound track from those days suited my mood to a tee. Not that it made any difference, but it was a good outlet at the time.

    I agree, and that was my take on the millennial’s favourite films list. Most of the films appeared to me to have a very bright colour palate. A sunny outlook, with occasional clouds. I’ve enjoyed many of those films too. The film Garden State pops up in a lot of those lists, and I’ve never seen it. Meant to be quite good.

    It’s an uncanny thing, but the idea of soldiers in the Roman legions receiving pay stubs quite amuses me. The effort behind such concepts speaks of a vast bureaucracy. Bonkers. And I can’t imagine they’d receive such items whilst to the north in central Europe fighting the barbarian hordes? As to the bureaucrats, the cat may change, and the years may dull the coat, but it’s still a fat cat even today.

    Some questions are poorly considered. Mate, who even knows if the forms are being read? For all you know, it may be a box checking exercise, and receiving the form itself is the goal? Stranger things have happened.

    You’re probably right there. A lot of that stuff has a heaps of salt, and who knows what else. It’s hard to make food weeks beforehand, and still have it looking sort of fresh and edible. Dunno about you, but I’m surprised by how many old school techniques relate to preserving the summer suns energy for use during the cooler months of the year.

    A sensible strategy, and my only exposure to the Shakers was in the series: Six Feet Under. The group formed a minor sub-plot towards the end of the series. Hmm, it is possible to out produce the parrots, and that task will get easier with each passing year. I’d imagine that in the past that particular strategy was extensively trialled. The other alternatives were probably very labour intensive.

    Hehe! Yes, did you know the same could be said for going off-grid: Why pay $0.30kWh for electricity when you can go off grid and pay $3.00kWh? Mate, so much of this stuff is like that. My mind sometimes is boggled by this predicament, and it is why a lot of people don’t do things – they might not be able to afford to get off the carousel.

    Lovely, I’ll see if I can rustle up a copy of the documentary.



  11. Hi Chris,
    Very interesting. We have signs of the two tornadoes that hit this property in strangely shaped trees and many stumps.

    We have many wild blackberries growing and the berries are good but production often can’t be counted on. In view of that I planted raspberry and blackberries two years ago and last year there was a bumper crop. Think is my favorite mail order place for seeds and plants only had thorned berries. I didn’t think too much of that as the wild ones’ thorns aren’t too bad. Well I practically need to put on armor to harvest these berries. Oh well, yet another mistake.

    We are under an ice storm warning right now so I popped online to write this in case we lose power which with possibly 1/2 inch of rain and high wind is a high likelihood. We do have a generator and it’s charging right now so it’ll start. Figure the more prepared one is the less likely it’ll happen haha.

    There’s been some talk of late that there are too many beekeepers now and all the honeybees which, while they’ve been here a long time, are pushing out some of the native bees which are also in decline. I’ve found it interesting to observe which plants attract honeybees and which attract native or both. When I grew chamomile I rarely saw honeybees but quite a variety of other bees.


  12. Yo, Chris – Well, I trialed the condiments and they moved pretty well. It’s one of those things that if you get them from the regular grocery, they’re pretty expensive. Something a person down on their luck might pass up. And they do jazz up a meal. Like oil, I suppose a lot of spices from exotic realms, will go the demand destruction route. Eventually, used only for holidays and special occasions. Like the old days. But, there are plenty of herbs and spices that can be grown, locally. Adjustment will be required.

    The power outage we had was pretty widespread. And, it turns out it was a problem with a feeder line, from the Columbia River dams, to here. That happened once before. No reason given. I think there were also some local outages, due to trees down. I expected at least a dusting of snow, this morning. No dice. Though there is a bit of moisture, coming down, and it’s rather “thick.” Forecast for today is “Little or no accumulation.” But tonight, it’s getting cold (22F (-5.6C), but “too cold to snow.” Snow is in the forecast, again, for the weekend, as it gets warmer. We’ll see.

    Well, right off the bat, my phone provider either wanted credit, debit or rummage around in my checking account. I went with credit card. But every statement I get from them urges the checking option. Nope. And debit cards … well, here there’s no insurance on them, unlike credit cards. The only place I use my debit card is right at the bank.

    We’ve got some interesting cases at our Supreme Court, right now, involving the social media companies. Chipping away at that “we’re only a platform” stance. Yup. Technology keeps trying to trap us, or bite us in the ….

    Grunge: Well, I did like the cool flannel shirts. 🙂 I thought it was the punks that were all wound up and overwrought?

    The Roman soldier pay stub was discovered as Masada (Israel). Apparently, they were paid every quadrimester. There were many deductions taken out. Boots, fodder for horses, etc.. Didn’t leave much for the poor soldier. But apparently, many of them had side hustles. The article was in Heritage Daily, in their archaeology section.

    When it comes to chicken noodle soup, you really get what you pay for. With the cheap brands, maybe a chicken walked through the broth. Or might have given it a glance. Similar to the pork and beans, which might have one little piece of pork fat, in an entire can. But last night, I had a can of the high priced stuff. Had actual chunks of chicken in it. So, I added a bit of rice, dried mushrooms and tomatoes, frozen spinach and garlic. Pretty tasty. But, high in salt. I think most tinned soups, here, go heavy on the salt, as a preservative. Or maybe people asked for it. 🙂 You can buy tinned, low sodium soups. But they’re expensive.

    Now the documentary you might REALLY enjoy, is Ken Burn’s “Empire of the Air.” I watched it, last night. It’s about the invention and spread of radio. Basically, a lot of guys patented anything that moved, and then sued the heck out of each other. There was a funny exchange, between two radio comedians, early on. (#1) “What are your feelings about the radio?” (#2) “I don’t hold with it, Bub.” (#1) “It displeases you?” (#2) “I don’t hold with furniture that talks.”

    I read a couple of more chapters in “Indians, Fire and the Land…” The first article was “Yards, Corridors, and Mosaics: How to Burn a Boreal Forest.” (Lewis & Ferguson). That’s the one that mentioned Australian indigenous burning. There was mention of a study you might want to look up. “The History of Aboriginal Firing” (Hallam, 1985). Apparently in “Fire Ecolgy and Management in Western Australian Ecosystems (Ford, 1985). In this chapter, apparently “yards” are what other people refer to as “prairies.” “Corridors” are, of course, trails. Often, American Trappers at the end of the season, would burn out the trails, behind them. So that the next year, there was tucker for animals, when they returned. The indigenous people burned their berry fields, about every three years, in rotation. Said between the berry bushes getting old, and encroaching brush, it was the thing to do to keep productivity, up. The authors made the point that, actually, the forests were pretty resource poor. Unless you kept some land open. Probably figured that out by observing the aftermath of wildfires. I had the thought, that what this all boils down to is, the indigenous people figured out where in forest succession, the most abundant resources were available. And that by burning, suspended succession, for optimal resources.

    The next article was “Time to Burn: Traditional Use of Fire to Enhance Resource Production by Aboriginal Peoples in British Columbia.” (Turner.) That was about the timing of burns. Usually, in spring, while there was still some snow about, and in fall, right before the seasonal rains came. But I wondered. What if the rains didn’t show up?

    Still not snowing. Lew

  13. Chris,

    Interesting article you linked to. Thanks. Hope they have that fire out soon.

    Enjoy the flowers. Bees will come. Plant more flowers, get more bees. It oughta work something like that?

    Brief snow? No. It snowed for many hours. Much of it fell when the temps were above freezing, leaving this nice wet layer on everything. Then it froze, the snow beginning again some time later. And the wind. Due to the drifting from the nasty winds it’s hard to tell how much we got, but I think we got maybe an inch of snow. There was a nice 6mm layer of ice underneath the snow. We stayed home today as the roads were icy and filled with traffic wrecks until noon.

    Tibia up? Clever.

    Petrol prices are rising again here, too, but are less than half of what you pay. Doesn’t stop people from complaining and moaning even if I point out your prices.

    Yeah, the crustacean solution will most likely be dead on arrival. If not, however, it won’t be the first time humans have hunted something into extinction for some stupid idea. Nor the last.

    You’ve got a good handle on the basic physics. The heavier the load, the more energy is required to move it. People seem to forget that. The other thing I noticed in those articles: an electric vehicle might be rated with a range of 300 miles, but it’s actual range when in use on the roads is much less, say the 210 miles the article mentioned. Something about wind resistance, friction, having a human or three in the vehicle adding weight, etc.

    Alfred had it right. Worrying does no good, so just carry on. Ugg. Got to -10C Tuesday night. We hit a blistering -6C for a high Wednesday. With winds. The “warmest” the wind chill achieved was -15C. That wind is nasty and is expected to increase for the next couple of days with overnight temperatures near -15C and wind chills nearing -30C. Having the option to stay indoors is nice. Avalanche has other ideas, however, so I dress appropriately so that she can get some good play time.


  14. Hi Chris,
    I highly recommend North American pawpaws. They survive minus 20F here in Pittsburgh PA with no dieback at all. But to assure fertilization, you need to attach chicken bones to the branches to attract carrion flies. Yes, that really works, although it drives our dogs bonkers…
    Gerry O’Neil

  15. Hi Margaret,

    The scars of the past are in the present, and no doubt will carry on into the future. That’s interesting about the tree trunks and I’d not ever have considered that. The wind here tends to either topple a tree entirely, prune monster branches, or lose the upper third of the tree. It’s funny, but the trees do adapt to the prevailing conditions and dunno about your part of the world, but down here they grow buttressing and lateral root systems so as to brace themselves from the winds. Hope the wind doesn’t come from an unusual direction – as did happen. A lot of trees fell that day, but not so much here because the mountain saddle pushed the easterly winds upwards. It’s quite protected here from the winds, except for that one minor tornado. Holy carp, I’m not sure I’d know what to do in one of your much biggerer tornadoes. Frightening stuff.

    Isn’t that an interesting difference? Blackberries are a very reliable crop here, with one notable exception – the really hot and dry summers. They don’t like that. How does that stack up with your experience of them? In those years the earlier berries such as strawberries and raspberries do better.

    Ouch! Hard to get rid of, and I’ve seen those canes. We call that variety of Blackberry by the name of Marionberry. I hear you about the armour with those sorts of canes (and also planted one of them and it’s almost impossible to get rid of). The thornless variety names are: Chester and Waldo. I recommend them.

    Like your thinking, and I do similar things. But as you say, best to be prepared. Did the ice storm get as bad as predicted?

    Wow. Who knew that about too many beekeepers? There are heaps of plants here that the European honeybees won’t touch and the native bees will, and vice versa. My experience of the city areas (and I realise that this might not apply to yourself) is that they’re virtual wastelands. There might be pollen, but people are so spray happy that I observe few if any insects in gardens. It’s a serious problem, but what do you do?

    Had a really lovely day weather wise today. About 88’F and it felt really nice. I’ve become acclimated to the warmer weather. Split and hauled firewood earlier today before finishing up about 3pm.



  16. Hi Lewis,

    It’s pretty clever providing the condiments, and you’re right, they’ll spice up an otherwise ordinary meal. Plain rice and vegetables becomes an exotic dish of unknown origins! Or whatever the condiments get used for. And yeah, condiments are expensive – I assume you add sauces and other such items into that definition?

    The local variety of herbs and spices require a touch of plant knowledge which may have been somewhat lost. Although if I may point out, hunger is a wonderful teaching method – learn fast or else. It does make you wonder how people will transition from supermarkets into either fresh food markets or gardens? I guess it will happen sooner or later. I grow a number of herbs here, and they’re all very hardy and useful plants. When the Editor is not involved in lunch salads I harvest Chris’s crazy collection of greens. I never fail to notice that my body responds well to such a feed. A bit of tasty cheese gets chucked on with a couple of fried eggs. Yum!

    Storms can wipe out power lines… Even the interconnector power lines between different states down here have been occasionally knocked out, and one of those travels Bass Strait – a notoriously rough, shallow patch of the ocean. Big storms, big waves.

    Too cold to snow, I say too cold to be outside in that! At least the biscuits and gravy were safe.

    Ah, an interesting difference. Debit cards down here are usually credit cards with no credit available, so they operate the same but without the credit risk. I have a vague memory that the insurance had to be provided so that way back in the day people used the things.

    Oh yeah, technology bites! Of interest on those lines the gobarmunt sent me an email in relation to one of their tech system where they explicitly stated that they take no liability in relation to losses from the use of that system, even if it is their fault. Wow. Nice. And then they went on to suggest that the loss was ours even if we are not at fault. Makes you wonder what they know, or the eventuality they are preparing for. I guess they make the rules… It’s bonkers.

    Grunge flannel shirts were pretty cool, and back in the day I wore mine. Keeps a person warm on cold winter days. Maybe about the punks, but I’ve always thought that they were originally a reaction to the Thatcher years, and then spread from there. I’ve heard a theory, which sounds plausible, that the punks were deliberately ugly.

    Thanks for the new word of Latin derivation. When reading that word, a little thought popped into my head which suggested that earlier on in the Roman Empire when legions were real legions, that I’ll bet that the wars netted more mad cash, and the legions didn’t have costs for boots, fodder etc. taken from their earnings? Mate, the whole thing is a bit like paying someone and then forcing them to buy all of their stuff from the commissariat, or company store. It’s an old game. And the thought of a side hustle is an intriguing concept. I’d hate to imagine what mischief the legions got up to in their spare time? Do you have any thoughts on that subject?

    Real chunks of chicken! That’s funny. Your additions would make the soup taste even better. Man, too much salt in food elevates my blood pressure (little wonder people are very reactionary these days with all that salt and preservatives) and affects my sleep. I’m just not into it, but deal with the consequences. I’m not entirely certain anyone asked for lots of salt in their diets. Well, maybe some folks did.

    The documentary sounds very interesting, and I assume they all litigated themselves out of business given that radio is now a very mature technology? Yeah, and that is funny – talking furniture. Whatever will they think of next? Mate, I enjoy the radio and keep it playing along when I’m working. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I still enjoy listening to the newest releases. There was some study recently which suggests that as people age, their desires for new music declines. I wouldn’t suggest that I’m an easily bored person – that’s for other folks.

    Hey, that’s what I was saying a while back. The story down here is that the minimum interval with burning is three years, and the maximum was about fifteen years. And for all of those reasons. And ab-so-loot-ley! It’s been my observation that forests are very resource poor areas, so you have to find that point in which they are at their most productive – and then manage for that. And we do that task mechanically. Did some more of it today. But the more you go on with that task, the more life springs up into play. It’s not a complicated story, but people have their fixed idears (!) about how things should look, despite them not being able to see beyond ideas.

    Exactly. It comes down to succession planning. And few people that I know have the cojones to do that particular task in any situation.

    That’s been my experience too – what if the rains don’t show up? It happens. Burning isn’t a seasonal thing. From how I understand that activity, it gets done when the timing is right. As the climate gets more variable over the years, getting that timing right would take a lot more skill. Not easy, but some times you know it isn’t right, and that is not hard to tell.

    Shame about the lack of snow. Did any snow make a special guest appearance, or were the air temperatures still too cold.

    I feel pretty warm this evening. After the hard work earlier today in the warm weather, it heats you up. At least the nights are cool to cold now. And the days are getting shorter, rapidly. Some more parts for the power system arrived in the mail today. You don’t notice the supply issues going on in the background, until you try and buy some less-than-everyday items such as stuff for the power system. Holy carp! And I can no longer tell which items will be the ones which will hold me up. Dunno, another mystery. There’s some weird stuff going on out there in supply land! The Editor tells me that there are plenty of empty shelves in the local pharmacy, and there are limits on purchases. Stranger days!



  17. Hi DJ,

    The fire is of interest to me because when we were looking to purchase some rural land way back in 2005, we looked in that area. The thing is still going, there’s a good image from an aircraft, and you can see the hilly terrain the fire is in. It’s going to be hot and windy again tomorrow. Yikes. Work to bring Flowerdale blaze under control continues as heatwave conditions challenge firefighters.

    Yeah, that’s about how it works. The old bee mentor was very blunt in his assessment of the flower situation way back in the day. No need to worry though nowadays. We got some seeds for the Canary Island Foxgloves and will get them started soon.

    I must say, you made that description of the wet mooshy snow sound about as unappealing as unwittingly stepping in one of Avalanche’s err, bombs, then walking back into the house and leaving err, slime trails, then having your lady err, crack it, then you cleaning up the err, dirty stanks on the floor. 🙂 Hopefully not on the err, carpet or rugs. How does that compare?

    Oh yeah, a day to keep off the roads.

    I was going to go with tonsils up, but what happened to that bloke in Hitchhikers at the unsuccessful party who worked out the brownian motion? Probably didn’t end well, did it?

    Petrol prices are a sort of relative thing. I sort of reckon it is relative to the previous price you paid, but I dunno. Truly, I do wonder when people are going to moderate the amount they drive due to the sheer cost of the energy stuff. I dunno, I can see all sorts of possibilities, but truly, things are very strange on an economic front. Some things are quiet, whilst others look normal. Makes no sense to me, but then plenty of things fall into that description. I’m sure you’ll understand – like undersized culverts (why cause the later pain from installing such an abomination?) Another mystery.

    Hey, what about the whales? Nuff said, really. Anyway, look what happened with the Star Trek film number four and whales. Might not be a bad idea to leave a few around, just in case.

    Mate, you can see that physics process in action with the power system here. With the power system, you get to monitor the loads in real time and extracting 2.5hp turning force for a motor, takes a lot of kW. Oh yeah, not simple, not cheap – but can be done. Speaking of such things I went to use the electric log splitter today and it looks like the relay crapped itself. The motor did not turn. Hmm. I might construct another control box for the motor and put in a soft start circuit so that the initial start up load isn’t so bonkers. Why the machine doesn’t have a soft start circuit is beyond my understanding.

    Alfred is very cool. Anxiety can be tiresome, although there are some things which it is very wise to worry about, like err, stepping in an Avalanche dog bomb. A person must seek balance, and like the Kung Fu series, grasshopper must walk upon the rice paper without tearing it before being ready to go into the world!

    Dude, that is seriously cold. I won’t mention at all that it was 31’C here today and just felt lovely. Oops, broke my own rule there. 😉 Good luck and stay warm.



  18. Hi Gerard,

    Welcome to the discussion. 🙂

    Thanks for the thumbs up for the North American pawpaws. There are now three growing here which I raised from seed. Incidentally, the seed was not easy to obtain down under due to the trees being very uncommon. For your info, the three small seedlings were relocated in late winter, and so far this season they’ve survived a couple of days of 102’F, and even some prolonged dry weather. You know, being that tough, they might be related to a Triffid!

    I will take your advice in relation to the chicken bones, but at the same time will observe closely to see which local pollinators can do the trick easier. Like your experience, the dogs will be bonkers for dead chicken bones. 🙂 Thanks for the mental image. They’re bad enough with blood and bone meal, and so I mix that in with the coffee ground and it suddenly becomes very unappealing to canines. Can’t imagine why?



  19. A few hiccups or three- Ah, there’s the rub, isn’t it?
    Was able to get through some of the comments, and saw that. As has been said, “sooner or later, everything old is new again”. Sad that hard earned knowledge from a couple generations ago was lost in the energy orgy, and will have to be relearned the hard way. Starting over with a much degraded ecosystem and those “hiccups” will make it all the more interesting. So it goes.

    I have been experimenting in the kitchen this winter. The hazelnuts are all shelled and I have six- 5 gallon buckets full of nut kernels to transform into various snacks and ingredient. We are calling the Nutella substitute “Chazel” for now ( chocolate and hazel). I like Nutella, but it’s full of palm oil and other things, and not made with the best sustainable practices. Mine is just hazelnuts, sugar, and cocoa. I’ll try to do a blog post soon.

    Also making nut butter, pressing nut oil, and making goodies with the press cake as a flavorful dough extender.

    I also saw a mention of chuno! I’ve made some, and it’s much easier with the aid of a freezer. I find squeezing the water out by hand a bit more appetizing than trampling under foot.

    We tend to grow too many potatoes some years, and are very averse to wasting food or the effort that went in to growing it. I put some up in storage, but haven’t tried cooking with it yet. If I survive, I’ll report on that too.

    Blackberries- As they are one of the early succession plants in our slowly returning woods, they are abundant here, to our sometimes dismay. They get so thick, the berries are all small, and hardly worth gathering, if you can even get at them.

    Absolutely feral, and I cannot stay ahead of them. I only manage them next to the paths, and otherwise let them crowd out annuals and prepare the area for the climax vegetation. Just be thankful you don’t have multiflora rose in your neck of the woods. 🙂 Considered an invasive weed here ( was yet another import with good but shortsighted intentions of course). They are worse than blackberries in thorniness, and provide no offsetting fruit benefit.

  20. Hi Chris and Gerard,

    I have about 10 to 12 fruiting pawpaw trees that I do not hang any chicken bones or anything else in. Last year I got 77 pounds of pawpaws from them. IMHO, plenty of trees near each other so that the native flies have no problems getting from one tree to another, and lots of other plants to support the entire ecosystem, does the trick. Oh, yes, and no snow when the pawpaws are flowering, unlike in 2021 when almost no pawpaw fruits formed.

    I posted the 2022 garden results and the plans for 2023 yesterday, for anyone who is interested. It’s seed starting time here. I’ve already got potato onion and leek seeds sown on the front porch. And the daffodils are starting to bloom; time to plant potato onion bulbs!


  21. Yo, Chris “…much bigger tornadoes.” Time to start thinking about that root / fire / tornado shelter, again. 🙂 Hmmm. I think I could squeeze three “Worry a Day” out of that one.

    Sauces? No, I don’t include sauces in the idea of condiments. But that’s just me. I’m not a big sauce person, other than say, salsa. Sauces are so … effete. All French and stuff. And who knows what’s lurking under those sauces. What are they trying to hide? Besides, bottled sauces are pretty awful.

    Speaking of trying to hide things, I see our FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has finally passed down a ruling on if oat, almond and soy drinks could be called “milk.” Apparently, the dairy industry thought people might be confused. The FDA decided the American public is fairly astute enough to figure out those things don’t come from cows. Maybe they don’t get out much. And here I thought that almond trees had udders!

    Well, the weather. It started snowing about 4pm, yesterday. H and I still nipped down to the library and Club for a cuppa. It was an on and off again thing. Pavements were dry. But by this morning we had about 1/2 – 1 inch. Here and there, are icy patches, but only where the snow has stuck. The overnight low did not get down to the forecast 22F (-5.6C), but only down to a balmy 28F (-2.2C). Tonight the forecast is for 18F. And tomorrow night about the same. But, we’re to have clear weather, until Saturday night. Then, for the next week the forecast is for rain … or snow. I guess, stay lose and take it as it comes.

    So it’s kind of like, “Here’s a car you have to use. The wheels will probably come off. But it’s not our look out.”

    Oh, I suppose the Roman soldiers had the usual graft and corruption you find around any established military post. Selling supplies and weapons, out the back door. Some had interests in off post businesses. There’ was a lease agreement for a building a soldier owned. Some provided security in their off post hours. I wonder if the Roman’s had anything like Pay Day loans? Or if they could borrow from the post against future wages? They were also great gamblers.

    I watched a couple more Ken Burn’s documentaries, last night. One on the building of our Statue of Liberty. Another engineering marvel. And a biography of Huey Long. I had heard the name, and knew he was the governor of the state of Louisiana. Back in the 1920s and 30s. And that he was a bit of a rogue. It was interesting. The people interviewed. The obviously poorer people thought Huey Long was great. He really improved their lives. The obviously wealthier interviewees (southern ladies in their silk upholstered chairs and southern gentlemen in their white linen suits and bow ties) thought he was the devil. He gave free school books to children and built a lot of roads and bridges. When he entered office, Louisiana only had 300 miles of paved roads. And very few bridges. Anyway. He was a mixed bag, and the Powers That Be didn’t cotton to him. He was eventually assassinated.

    Up tonight is the last Ken Burn’s documentary. I’ve been saving the best for last. A bio of one of my favorite artists, Thomas Hart Benton. I saw it years ago, and want to see it again. I’m even going to make popcorn. 🙂

    I had to look it up. I mean, sure, four times a year is quarterly. But three times a year? I drew a complete blank. Not a word that gets thrown around, a lot. Speaking of quirks of language, ever notice that “balmy” can mean warm? Or, nuts. 🙂 Lew

  22. Hi Chris,

    The storm was definitely as bad as predicted – maybe worse. We had about 1/2 inch of ice on everything. Amazingly we didn’t lose power though it’s only just above freezing and there’s still a lot of ice on the trees plus the wind is picking up with gusts of 35 mph so we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re still hearing branches crashing down. We did lose a couple of big branches but no damage except one that knocked out my special mealworm birdfeeder I have for the bluebirds. I was able to put it back together but Doug pointed out if it had fallen just a little later I could have been out filling it which I do just as it’s getting light every morning. That’s when the bluebirds show up. In fact when I’m late there perched on the pole or the branch above (not the one that fell) waiting for me.

    The blackberries are only two years old so just produced last summer. I pruned them back pretty heavily so we’ll see how they are this year. The raspberries that I planted on the other hand are great!

    It’ll be interesting to see how the conversation goes about the number of bee keepers. As far as the city there are some roof top beekeepers in Chicago that sell their honey at farmer’s markets there. Also the Lurie garden at Miillenium Park is right in the midst of the tourist area. When I’ve walked through I’m amazed at the number of bees there are. https://www.luriegarden.org/about/
    My daughter, Carla, lives in the city and has planted her small front yard in native plants and has plenty of bees and some other pollinators.

    Watching and listening to chunks of ice falling off the trees.


  23. Hi, Chris!

    What an awful, awful time those fires must have been. They changed so much.

    We got smoked out the other evening. My son decided to turn on our attic fan that pulls outside air all through the house when one opens the windows. He had forgotten that my husband had a fire burning in the woodstove, three floors below the fan. Also, that fire was not burning very well, and smoking some. All of a sudden smoke came billowing out of the door into the basement, I ran down there, and the fan was pulling air through the chimney and the whole house became full of smoke. No fire, just smoke. It still smells of smoke a bit and I did so, too, for two days as that same night the power went out and I could not take a shower. Then when the power came back on, the pressure tank for the well pump wasn’t working and the water only trickled. I had to go to my mother’s assisted living where I volunteer smelling like a hickory-smoked hotdog as my clothes smelled, too. Not something I want to repeat, but at least the house wasn’t on fire.

    Do you have woodpeckers?

    You have a million dollar view.

    Your ferns are so beautiful and the Babaco is really impressive. And big! And, oh my goodness – look at all those grapes!

    A tractor recently ran over my never-blooming agapanthus . . .


  24. @ Lew – a friend and I went to see the Thomas Hart Benton mural in the Missouri State Capitol building before the thing that I can’t name appeared. It covers all four walls of one of the rooms in the building and depicts the state’s history up until the time when he painted it. The documentary might mention it.


  25. Hi Steve,

    Yup, when knowledge is lost or forgotten, we can fall back upon the true and trusty path of: Trial and error. It’s a harder way to go, but sometimes hard lessons have to be learned, the hard way. And I absolutely agree, the margin for error decreases in parallel to the state of the environment. But you know, given what the dinosaurs faced 65 million years ago, it ain’t that bad.

    Hehe! Chazel is a great name, and the use of your hazelnuts sounds delicious to me. Hey, I’m of the opinion that palm oil tastes disgusting, but that’s my palate and other folks don’t seem to notice. Yum! Yum! Drool! Soylent Green! 🙂 I reckon the sugar will act as a preserving agent, and I’ll be very interested to hear the outcome of your experiment. The hazelnuts here just grew massively this year, but no nuts. Oh well, maybe next year.

    Thanks for mentioning the concept of press cake. I’d not heard of that before, but rest assured all such leftovers here – think left over rhubarb from wine making – end up with the chickens. Those press cakes though are the whole next level and would keep for winter and early spring feed. Mate, talk about using everything including the squeak! 🙂

    Chuno sounds fascinating, but here I can dig potatoes year around due to the soil not freezing and usually not water-logging. My refrigerator and power system would baulk if I took the temperatures that low. But your winters are perfect for such freeze drying – for free!

    Potatoes stored here in the dry dark tend to only last a few months and even then they produce monster eyes. I recall as a very young child that my grandmothers house used to have a proper root storage room with sheet metal lined wooden bins. Oh my, man you can’t go back sometimes. Just took a look at what happened to the old Victorian era house, and the modern replacement has eaten the substantial footprint. Oh well.

    Steve, I’m not mucking around, we have the tools to deal with those feral cane plants. Take no prisoners!!! One side bonus of the dense thickets of blackberry canes is that they leave a very fertile dark soil behind. That’s their job in the forests.

    Actually my mates of the big shed fame have to compete with the wild dog roses. And oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean about them. Again, we can take that lot out if needs be. I suspect that the birds consume the plentiful rose hips, thus spreading the seed. Fortunately they don’t grow around these parts probably due to the higher average rainfall, but dunno – and don’t want to know, seriously!



  26. Hi Claire,

    Thank you for the thumbs up, and truly I am babying those three North American pawpaws because I believe that they’ll be super awesome. Your first description of the fruits really piqued my interest, and I’m not mucking around, down under they are very rare trees and the seeds were not easy to obtain. And I have no idea why that would be the case.

    If I may, I believe Gerard was both recounting his experience and taking the piss all at the same time. If I hung chicken bones from any trees, the plants would be destroyed. Seriously, the dogs, foxes and rats would do their worst to the poor unsuspecting tree. There are an inordinate number and variety of pollinators here, and very early on in the season I discovered an unusual and unexpected insect pollinating the almonds. In other parts of the world almonds are only pollinated by the hard-put-to European honeybees. If we but open our lives to a more random and wilder selection of plants then things might be less harsh in the future.

    In the meantime, I’m not mucking around the thought of those North American pawpaw fruits motivate me to assist the three remaining plants to just grow. 🙂

    Thank you for mentioning your update and I look forward to salivating at the bounty achieved in your warmer climate. Picked some of the first ripe tomatoes today, plus a cucumber and some chilli. Super zingy jalapenos!



  27. Hi Margaret,

    Glad to hear that you didn’t lose the power during the storm. For your interest, tomorrow is the final day of a short run heat wave here, and to me it didn’t feel that bad. So, same, same, but different! 🙂 Honestly, what does it actually mean to have 0.5 inch of ice on everything? Those words are beyond my comprehension. And I’m trying to understand how wind could accompany an ice storm, for down here, winds tend to lift temperatures, not drop them to icy conditions.

    But I totally get that. In windy conditions large trees are best avoided due to large branches falling back to the earth. Gravity has been known to have that effect.

    Yes, I recall your Bluebird feeder and you got lucky, or the local trees were looking out for you, no question about that. The local trees would enjoy the soil feed which the Bluebirds bring, but that is no guarantee of laxity. Both Sandra and I were near to a large tree a few years ago when we heard a crack sound, then just ran. It would have been fatal to have hung around and asked the question: What was that noise? Did you hear that? Splat.

    Ah, candidly I have not worked out that pattern either with the Blackberry plants. However, for a few years now, we have cut the thornless canes back, then fed the soil, and I tell you truly, they are a very productive berry. Raspberries are beautiful too, and they make the loveliest of jams. That’s my favourite with Blackberry jam coming a distant second. We relocated the raspberry cane bed and have had success from that this season, but I don’t really know and am making it all up as we go along.

    Margaret, I admit defeat!!! The Lurie Gardens are lovely and if the gardeners can stand to plant so many wildflower meadow plants, well it’s hardly surprising that a huge number of European honey bees will turn up. 😉

    I’m beginning to feel a bit defensive and can only report to you what I’m observing in the big smoke inner urban gardens down here. I dunno! The thing I have to confront is the vast difference between what I observe here and there. And then there was the old timer bee guru who I used to know who really castigated me about lack of flowers. Like, a lot! And so I had to come up with plants which would just work here year after year, and in all the crazy variance of seasons. It’s a warm evening and my door is screened but opened and I can hear a sugar glider just outside the door. This stuff ain’t easy.



  28. Hi Pam,

    It was truly awful those 1983 fires. So much was lost, although we could have worked in advance to prevent the loss had we but the presence of mind to mitigate the risks. Honestly, it is not different to say, the subject of Peak Oil. We could do better, but how would people react? Probably not well.

    With the current fires over to the east which I mentioned in the reply to DJ, an old timer farmer has had to perform a public mea culpa. We’ve all done dumb stuff, but mostly nobody noticed. Unfortunately, that ain’t the case this time around. Oh well.

    Oh Pam, that’s awful and sometimes in the face of adversity, you just have to show up and hope that everyone else is nice about it. That’s truly a confluence of unfortunate events. And I agree, at least the house didn’t burn to the ground!

    Candidly, I felt that way about the batteries late last year when I discovered the terminals were crazy hot. And was sadly too burdened with paid work to do anything about it. Yes, not good for stress levels I can assure you.

    How are you doing now? Has the smoke stench left the house?

    I’ll tell ya a funny story. When we ran out of dry and seasoned firewood late last year, we grabbed some random firewood which had been stored in the weather. That stuff produced no heat whatsoever, and even worse dumped a goodly chunk of creosote on the roof. Now when Sandra opened the window the thick stink of poorly burned timber swept into the house – and as you discovered attached itself to stuff and things. What do you do? A hard lesson to learn. And we’re gonna build a large firewood shed. Oh yeah.

    Nope, no woodpeckers here. However, the Black and Yellow tailed Cockatoos are huge birds with massive beaks which are used to open up tree hollows and search for wood grubs and termites. The family of four birds which tend to turn up in the summer months, now seem to be six birds. They make quite the racket too.

    Thank you, and I like the ferns too. Quite prehistoric looking. Fingers crossed the Babaco fruits ripen, but all the same, I might try them anyway. Hey, it has been an astounding year for chilli production. I’m trying to work out how to best preserve the harvest. How would you go about doing that?

    Oh no, not the only surviving agapanthus!!! You know, the inadvertent pruning job might do the plant some good. I wouldn’t write it off yet.



  29. Hi Lewis,

    You’re not wrong about the shelter, and if the thing could double as a root cellar, I’d say that was winning! At the moment, I’m doing my best, and there is a book on the to-read-book shelf on that very subject of root cellars. I forget now who here recommended the book, but it seems like a good idea.

    More parts for the solar power system upgrade turned up in the post today. And the peasants rejoiced! Yay! Far out, that power system has dominated my thoughts over the past three months, but the way forward is now clear, until the next drama that is. Why is it that every year there seems to be some new and unexpected drama with this technology? Far out!

    Hang on a sec, did you just squeeze in three worries of the day in a single sentence? I’m in awe. 🙂

    Fair enough about the sauces. I hear ya. In the past when the tomato harvest was good enough, we’ve produced our own passata sauce, which is really great to add to all sorts of meals during the winter and spring months. The past three growing seasons have been cold and damp, and there just weren’t enough tomatoes. Sad face emoji! Things are changing on a climate front and it may even warm up. Fancy that? The first ripe tomatoes were harvested today and consumed in dinner. The seeds for those ripe mid-sized short season tomatoes were saved, trust me on that. Plant breeding requires not eating the seeds. Not a complicated story, although many folks don’t get it.

    The thing with sauces is that they have to be cooked and pressure sealed in order not to spoil with unfortunate side effects. But I suspect fear of repercussions from that have driven the increased use of preservatives in food, and I reckon that has flow-on health effects. After all another less polite name for preservatives is a form of poison, after all the effect sought is an elimination of further biological activity.

    Hehe! Probably the diary (!) industry is doing their best to protect their market against newcomers. Dare I say, a form of industry disruption? You can’t blame them really. I tend to agree with the FDA, and there are other forms of milk too. Like goats or sheep milk. Cows don’t really have a hold on that word. What? Now way, are you sure that almond trees don’t have udders? 😉 Hehe! Actually, I overhear people ordering coffees with such additions, and it is worth recalling that not everyone can actually consume cows milk.

    Glad to hear that you avoided the forecast overnight low. Seriously, it sounded like a four, or maybe even five blanket night. Brr! 28’F is far more reasonable, or for me, at least comprehensible. Holy carp dude, did it get that cold? 18’F is uncomfortable from my perspective at least. Hey, at least you don’t have to worry about a lack of chilling hours in the nearby fruit trees.

    Speaking of such matters, I did about half a days of paid work. There’s a lot to do, and it was piling up and I wanted to avoid feeling overwhelmed by a mountain of paid work. Anyway, did that work, headed out to the local general store for a late lunch to grab a bite, visited the bank (set up a CD) and pharmacy and generally did a bunch of necessary life admin. Lunch was nice, and I added in some of my own chilli (whilst nobody was looking) – so good, so zingy! After all that, we went to the local plant nursery and I picked up another three late season peaches and one late season nectarine. Hoping to get them all in the ground over the next few days whilst the soil is still warm. A couple of the relocated mid-last-year fruit trees died, and there were available spots. Why waste them? Treeflation is real. When we first began planting out the orchard fifteen years ago, you could purchase trees for about $10. Nowadays they were an eye watering $60 each. Makes the sensitive person want to simply grow their own. Hmm.

    Tomorrow is another warm day, but by early evening that will be done with possibly a side serving of rain. Oh well, it felt nice for a few days. Mustn’t grumble and La Nina is returning to more neutral conditions.

    Exactly with that description of the car. The email I received which told me that they’d accept no liability and instead shift it onto me, was a kind of slap in the face. There is a power imbalance there, and I used to rail against such matters, now I do and wait.

    Man, you’re probably right there about the pay-day loans in the Roman era. I’d imagine that the debt collection process might be err, less civil than it is these days? Imagine a bunch of well armed legionnaires turning up at your door demanding repayment of a defaulted loan? Sharpens the mind and eases the wallet, that would. Interestingly, I’d heard that bikie gangs used to provide similar collection services back in the day. Not something you’d want to muck around with and have them turn up on your doorstep. Holy carp! You hear things from time to time about dispute resolution services too involving some interesting characters. Ouch!

    Have you ever visited the Statue of Liberty? It’s an epic construction. And I always associate the statue with the Planet of the Apes. A great ending. Huey Long, far out. Man, there are times a person can put their head up and do great works, and that ol’ head gets chopped clean off. I reckon the program he was advocating for was the right way to go too, he may just have sold the program to the incorrect demographic. FDR didn’t appear to have made that mistake, although he was also notably quite disliked in some corners of society.

    Whoa! Did you enjoy the documentary? Achelous and Hercules is an astounding work. The more I look, the more there is to see. And the sheer scale of the work is even more amazing.

    The word didn’t make much sense to me either, but I’d read it is quarterly, being every three months? Dunno. A mystery there.

    Ah, here I have an answer. Balmy is a different word from that of the English word ‘Barmy’. The Barmy Army tend to follow the English cricket team and support them. Woebetide those who seat amongst them and barrack for the opposition, which when the cricket world cup is not happening, tends to be the Australians. We usually deal to the English in that game, so nothing to worry about except getting smashed by a member of the Barmy Army.



  30. Chris:

    That poor farmer that accidentally started the fire; you can tell that he is devastated by it. If he’s been around that long, he should know better. I sometimes wonder if people aren’t under the influence of one thing or another. It is shocking to me how many people here now use marijuana openly. I mean, the parking lots reek, cars pass me with reefer smoke coming out of the windows, and most places I go, I can smell it on people’s clothes (as bad as my hickory-smoked smell). And since you asked: The house still smells just a touch of smoke; not too bad as it was 82F here yesterday and we had windows open.

    I am missing out on cockatoos and you are missing out on woodpeckers. I would rather have woodpeckers as they don’t eat any fruit, as far as I can tell. We have, I think, 6 varieties. The biggest one is the Pileated Woodpecker, huge and laughs like a crazy thing. I reckon they got Woody Woodpecker from that.

    We preserve chillis by making a fermented sauce or cutting them up and canning them in a vinegar, water, salt, and dried garlic and onion solution. The cayennes I dry.


  31. @ Clare – One nice thing about the Ken Burn’s documentaries, is that he lovingly lingers, from time to time. The Missouri State Capitol murals, were one of those times. I have quit a few books about Thomas Hart Benton, and several of them have details of those murals. But nothing beats seeing them up close and personal.

    The American Regionalists are about my favorite artists. Benton, John Stewart Curry and Grant Wood. They’re not exactly regionalists, but also Wyeth and Rockwell. Lew

  32. Yo, Chris – Ah, I had forgotten that you had the root cellar book. I think both Claire and I recommended it, about the same time.

    Also down the memory hole, I had forgotten to consider tomato sauce. Which I have no objections to. Tasty stuff. We have tinned and bottled tomato sauces, but the additives … When I need a good tomato sauce, I usually open a tin of diced tomatoes. There’s usually a good amount of sauce, and not much else in those cans. I can jazz it up with herbs and spices. Nothing beats the first tomatoes of the season. With just a pinch of salt and a bit of pepper.

    I generally use almond milk, in just about everything. It sure keeps a lot longer, than milk. I generally have four half gallons, in rotation, in my fridge. I still haven’t got around to experimenting with making my own oat milk. I’ll probably get to it, about the same time you get that root cellar in 🙂

    It got down to 19F, last night. Supposed to about the same, tonight. But clear and cold. Tomorrow night, however, the overnight temps will be warmer, but snow, on and off, is back in the forecast. I did a bit of shopping last night, and ran down to the Club for a cuppa. Pavement was dry.

    Treeflation and seedflation. Though in seed department, it’s the shipping costs that really bite.

    I really wonder about that Roman soldier, found on the beach at Herculaneum. There really wasn’t much of a military presence, nearby. Soldier home on leave? It will forever be a mystery.

    Nope. Haven’t been to the Statue of Liberty. Never been east of Minnesota. Funny, the Burn’s documentary included that clip from “Planet of the Apes.”

    FDR was also almost taken down by a coup. And people took shots at him, from time to time.

    I see the “Achelous & Hercules” mural was originally painted for a department store (remember those?) It’s now in the Smithsonian Museum, in Washington, D.C.. Well, that’s interesting. Hercules broke off one of Achelous’ horns, and it became the Horn of Plenty. A motif you see in a lot of art. Or, baby Zeus broke off the horn of the goat who nursed him. LOL. Take your pick.

    The documentary was as good as I remembered it. As Burn’s tries to keep a balanced view, in his documentaries, there was the snide art critic (in his little bow tie), who had the opinion that just because a lot of people like certain art, doesn’t mean it’s good. 🙂 I guess he’s the arbiter of “good.” Pompous. I do wish the documentaries would have had subtitles. Some of the original footage … the dialogue was a bit “lost.”

    Cricket seems so … refined. Say, compared to footie. I didn’t realize there were cricket hooligans. 🙂

    Saw a rather funny article, in the Atlantic Magazine. “Happiness is Warm Coffee.” (Brooks.) He mentions that “…caffeine is a naturally occurring pesticide.” And that the bugs don’t know what they’re missing out on. 🙂 Lew

  33. @ Steve – I’ll watch for that blog post, on the hazel nuts. Do you take the skins off? How? And what do you use to whip everything, together? Mortar and pestle? Blender?

    Someone gifted me with several pounds of nuts, and I’ve been wondering what to do with them. Other than eating them as they come.

    Which blog is yours? Lew

  34. Yo, Chris – (Again.) Or, you might find another article more interesting, also from The Atlantic. Might depend on how caffeinated you are. 🙂

    “Permission-Slip Culture is Hurting America.” Demsas. It’s about licensing for occupations. And although the word are never used, gatekeeping. Finally winding down? About time. Lew

  35. Hi Pam,

    Oh, you did watch the video of the farmers mea culpa. It was heart wrenching, and it is possible that his name is now mud in the area. People recall such errors, years afterwards. A few years ago I was at the local general store and overheard a couple of old timers mention a guy at the local water treatment plant who did exactly the same thing with an angle grinder in long dry grass way back in 1983. Memories are long. That was also the year of the really big fires – which came about two weeks later. The funny thing about the earlier incident was that the really big fire hit the previously burnt area and was stopped in its tracks because there was nothing left to burn – otherwise the monster fire would have just kept on going. The guy the old timers were talking about went from zero to hero that day, but the general consensus between the two old timers was that he simply got lucky.

    Exactly, too. He should have known better, or at least had the means with him to put out any spot fires. I observed some sort of welding setup on the back of the tractor or truck, I couldn’t quite work it out. The thing is, people don’t. Mower blades can hit rocks in paddocks with dry grass and spark a fire. It happens like steel on flint.

    The wind woke me up before dawn this morning. The sound wind makes howling through the window is a bit eerie: Ah-woo-ga, the winds call. Candidly I didn’t want to hear that, but it was there – I’m sure you’d understand. Shut the window, but couldn’t get back to sleep. The plans we’d made for the day, were not a smart idea due to the accidental fire risk, so I did something else.

    Hey, it’s illegal down here, but like your experience that doesn’t stop me smelling the smoke emanating from houses. I dunno what to make of things. I’ve never smoked as it just didn’t appeal in any of its forms. I’ve noticed that the incidence of smoking appears to be on the rise down here, and boundaries are getting pushed. Hmm.

    82’F is a lovely temperature, although is that a bit early? Here it would be possible if the seasons were flipped upside down, but it would also be something of an extreme.

    Hehe! We can swap cockatoos for woodpeckers, if you’d like! 🙂 Ooo, that is a big bird. Makes me wonder if some forests in your country which are having troubles with insects, may be lacking in birds? A large bird like that would consume an awful lot of insects.

    Thank you for your preservation techniques with chilli’s. A mix, hmm.



  36. Hi Lewis,

    Yeah, getting the root cellar book seemed like a smart idea, and we’ll see how things work out on that front. We can cut back into the side of the hill for such a structure, and it probably is worth the while. But it’s a way off in the distance future project and not something being considered now.

    Man, the wind was howling this morning and it was so dry. We’d planned to get the stump grinder out and continue with the clean up work, but my gut feeling suggested that the day’s conditions were entirely wrong for that work. The cutting teeth could hit a rock and ignite a fire. Yeah, so best left for another day.

    Rain was forecast for late this afternoon and I was not disappointed, despite only a small quantity of rain falling. Planted out the four new fruit trees so that they’d make the most of the rainfall. And earlier in the day I got up onto the house roof with a mains powered electric blower and cleaned up the roof and gutters. The machine makes the job so easy, and the job is best done when the roof and gutters are dry. After the big clean up of them about half a year ago, I made the decision to do that clean up more regularly. A lot of leaves and organic matter were blown off the roof.

    Yeah, tomato sauce would leave the Club pantry like hot cakes. Like you, we tend to instead use our own preserved passata which is a similar equivalent to what you are using, but the last two cold summers have really emptied the stores. And that is the thing with sauces, it is really difficult to ascertain what else, and in what proportions, were used in the sauces.

    Salt and pepper on garden fresh tomatoes does work. Yummo!

    Hehe! Thus proving that time is short, and if there is almond milk, why bother with making the oat milk? We use cows milk for coffee, yoghurt making and cheese making, and can’t say that I’ve ever tried almond milk in anything.

    Man, with a little bit of warming I reckon your area could grow Meyer Lemons, but 19’F is probably going to be the end of them. Bonkers cold by the way. Did you chuck on an extra blanket or three? Brr! Was the pavement dry due to low humidity?

    It’s all inflation to me. 🙂 Saving seed avoids the postage costs, however that is not always a practical option due to requiring a much larger garden. It is one thing to talk about growing and harvesting 50+ corn plants so as to maintain genetic resilience, it’s another thing to actually do that.

    There is some speculation that the Roman soldier found at Herculaneum was there at the behest of Pliny the Elder who had set off across the bay to assist with the rescue. That didn’t end so well, but someone must have survived in order to recount the tale to Pliny the Younger? Maybe. But yeah, all we can do is speculate.

    Well, that makes two of us not having visited eat of Minnesota or the Statue of Liberty. A person can only do so much, and my travel days are done. Peoples desire to travel is not a desire I share, and without the Editor, I probably wouldn’t have travelled far afield at all. Maybe I just didn’t inherit that travel gene? Tell ya a funny story about travel. Back in the big end of town days it used to annoy me that I worked a stressful, but well remunerated job, and I never quite reconciled my mind to blowing some of the savings on distant travel. It didn’t seem worth it to me. I see other people struggling with that story, but they need to find their own way through that morass.

    Really? Well, I guess FDR like Huey, made enemies by dialling back down upon the perquisites. It happens. But those folks can succeed and then sow their own failure – although I doubt they’d be that conscious.

    🙂 Hey, we’ve still got a few department stores these days, but they are getting thin on the ground. Hope the mythic animals didn’t mind having their horns broken off?

    Hehe! Mate, life is too short to waste time on snide art critics. Yes, exactly, who decided that they are the arbiters of good taste? The Editor just finished reading Cheap Land Colorado and amusingly recounted a conversation within the pages: How do you know the city cooties is real? Reply: Trust me on this subject, I’m from NY An interesting insight into the workings of the mind which spoke those words.

    Cricket is refined, but there are certain bays set aside for those who choose to display different behaviour. From memory the area was dubbed Bay 13. And the chants of: You’re going home in the back of a divy van (divisional police van)!, were a mark of pride for those so hauled away. They also used to taunt the members section. Yes indeedy! That particular chant sounded something like: Members are w#nkers! Yes, a very active bunch there, and possibly never a dull moment.

    Yup, caffeinated – confirmed! 😉 I read the article about the barriers to entry. Well, it is a truth universally acknowledged that second rate practitioners seek to establish barriers to entry. Pliny the Elder appears to have made a bad call that day, but was that his first bad call?



  37. Hi Chris,
    We get pretty high winds here whenever a front, cold or warm, passes through. There was still lots of ice on the trees and the grass as well was encased in ice. We were driving to the vet for Leo and Salve’s annual. The sun came out and the glistening of the ice on everything was just gorgeous. On our morning walk it looked like we were walking on shards of glass from the ice that had fallen. Today it’s above freezing so by tomorrow the ice should finally be gone. Our old road was out of power for several days. Our friends from the retirement home lost their power for days but even worse a large branch came down and punched a couple of holes in their roof. They live in a lovely old neighborhood surrounded by old oaks. Of course that isn’t so good during a storm like this. Doug went by to see them and said their neighborhood looked like a war zone.

    We too have six different woodpeckers as well – probably the same ones as Pam.


  38. Yo, Chris – As far as a root cellar goes, how about rock gabions on three sides, maybe, steel beams to hold up the ceiling. You could cover that with earth and grow something up there.

    I hope your neighbors, near and far are as thoughtful about the use of power tools, at this time. The stuff off the roof and gutters sounds like it would make good mulch, or compost.

    It’s funny. At the Club, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce, move very slowly. The diced tomatoes, not much better. Might be because they’re in kind of generic, off brand cans. I’ve tried the diced tomatoes, and they’re just fine.

    I use almond milk in all my baking. It’s a one to one swap. And, if you need buttermilk, you just add a tablespoon or two of vinegar. The almond milk here, comes in flavors. But I stick with the “Unsweetened Original” The only thing I find I can’t use it for, is instant puddings. Which I don’t eat much of, anyway. There’s even a warning on the box. Though, a peer down the rabbit hole indicates that there’s even a work around, for that.

    It got down to 21F, last night. And, yes, the humidity has been very low, the past couple of days. Even though the temperature has been low, there has been no ice on my truck, in the mornings. I don’t know if you noticed, but Prof. Mass mentioned when we got our light dusting of snow, Portland got 8-10″. And they’re only 90 miles south. Well, tonight the weather changes. Warmer temperatures, and on and off again snow for the next week.

    I save some seed. But I think this year, I need to goose up my Kentucky Wonder green beans, a bit. I’ll do a mix of seed I’ve saved, and a fresh supply. Production has fallen off, a bit. But that could be due to a number of factors.

    Pliny the Elder was a pretty hip and happening guy. Besides being admiral of a fleet, he wrote extensively on the natural world. I’d say, given that plenty of people survived around him, on that beach, he was done in by age and what we’ll politely call, “underlying causes.” Pliny the Younger had a ringside seat, to the eruption.


    It’s two letters which are the first observations of a volcano in action. Pliny the Younger, was no slouch, either. He was the governor of a province for awhile, and his letters to the Emperor Titus are preserved. Probably because he wanted to know what to do about those pesky Christians. 🙂 They’re some of the earliest, non-biblical view of the then, sect. They’re also a look at the inner workings of the Empire.

    LOL. Maybe you lost the travel gene, when your ancestors moved from Scotland, to Australia? “Ok. That’s enough of that.” I traveled more when I was younger. But just got out of the habit, I guess. Now I wish I would have traveled more. Oh, well. Next life.

    Speaking of not spending mad cash … there was an interesting article, yesterday, about one of our NFL (National Football League) players. He was with the Bengals, for ten years. He spent the first two years, living in his teams stadium. He said he just couldn’t see doing what his other teammates, were doing. Houses, fast cars, faster women, jewelry. He lived frugally. I don’t know what he’s doing with his pile, these days, but there’s someone whose story should spread among the young folks.

    Back in FDR’s day, the filthy rich were taxed 75% on their net, over a million dollars. Back when a million dollars was worth something 🙂 And, there were plenty of tax loopholes. These days, the filthy rich pay 8.2%. And due to smart tax lawyers, many of them pay … nothing. Corporate tax rates are a lot more complicated, but in general, it’s the same kind of decline.

    It ought to be an interesting week. Prof. Mass mentioned that the ratio between rain and snow is 10/1. Turn an inch of rain into snow, and you get 10 inches of snow. I wonder if we’ll be able to make it to the Club, tomorrow morning? The forecast for Tuesday morning (biscuits and gravy day) is snow until 10am. Our commodity boxes (with the veg) come on the first Wednesday of the month. Which happens to fall on the first, this month. I wonder if it will be as chaotic, as last month, as we seem to have been caught flat footed. Gee, I think I’ve racked up enough worries, to take care of a weeks Worry a Day calendar. 🙂

  39. Chris,

    Ugg. Extreme busy occurred, but at least it was good stuff. Hence, this is late in the cycle. Totally understood if a reply occurs after your next blog entry is written and posted. Ugg.

    We bottomed out Thursday night at -15C. With wind, but not as windy as expected. But it WAS cold. -11C Friday night after Friday approached -4C. Balmy. 😉 The Arctic air is expected to retreat when the snow arrives Saturday night and Sunday.

    Heat and wildfires go together. Heat and extinguishing wildfires don’t mix well.

    Actually, that last snow was dry and powdery by the time I got in it. Cold and dry night with wind sucked the wet out of everything. Sublimation has removed a lot of ice from things, too – streets are bare and dry. I like physics and letting physics take care of things.

    I had also thought about TU = tonsils up. Then I recalled that I have no tonsils, as they were removed when I was 12.

    Yeah, the whales were exactly what I had in mind with the crustacean shell idea. That Star Trek movie was my favorite of the Star Trek movies.


  40. Hello Chris
    I really don’t know how forests work as we have never had a free hand here. The regulations veer back and forth causing hopeless problems. Incidently the experts do not have to have my permission to walk around my land. Some are courteous and do ask, some don’t.
    Oh yes, I have thought of all sorts of situations in which I might claim to have that which shall not be named.
    Shall now read the other comments, am behind as I have been inundated with visitors. Same again tomorrow when both honorary sons are coming, one of them from the US.


  41. Hi Inge,

    The rules here are a bit bonkers on that front, not to mention sometimes contradictory. Fortunately I can read legislation and make heads or tails of it. I’m not entirely sure about your part of the world, but my gut feeling suggests that eventually the insurance industry will abandon this area, then things may change again.

    My understanding of the law is that those who don’t ask, are at risk of being charged with trespass. My thinking on that front is that much depends upon the person and the mischief they represent.

    The excuse sure gets wheeled out nowadays, and who knows it might be true. I don’t judge, and if people aren’t up for whatever social thing it was, that’s cool.

    Enjoy your visitors!



  42. Hi Lewis,

    You know, that’s not a bad idea with the steel rock gabion cages, although filling the upper most cage would present some logistical issues. My main issue with them is that rats and insects might be able to work their way into the inside via the tiniest of gaps in the rock gabion cages. I could actually mix up on site and pour cement into form-work, and that would give nice smooth solid walls. The old timers used to use timber sleepers in the walls, but I’m guessing that eventually they’d rot out. Sawmills in remote locations used to have them for fire refuges, and I think they were called dugouts. Not sure. Ah yes, that’s indeed what they are called, and they’ve been part of human history for a very long time.

    My gut feeling suggests that only a few folks up here consider the practicalities of living in this area. I’m seeing some who seem to have ‘got it’, and that’s a good thing in my books. Usually younger. Most of the gunk was blown into the garden beds surrounding the house. The roof and gutters were reasonably clean, but that’s one of those weird jobs which is easier if done more frequently.

    The pantry at the Club is a great idea, and if people are fussy, they ain’t hungry. That’s my interpretation of the desire for ‘brand’ stuff.

    You’ve mentioned the almond milk and baking before, and yeah it sounds good. Out of curiosity, does the vinegar cause the almond milk to slightly curdle? Hey, added flavours is a true mixed bag of who knows what! Years ago I used to only want to consume flavoured yoghurt, but after we started making the stuff, three weeks was all that it took to alter my palate. Nowadays, I’m fine with natural yoghurt. The flavoured stuff had an awful lot of sugar, and I want to pick and choose where I get my sugar hits, not have the stuff hidden in all kinds of concoctions.

    Man, low humidity at those cold temperatures would suck the moisture out of your skin. You could feel it. But is Portland able to deal with that much snow? Big rain storms tend to bring things to a halt in the big smoke. And I’ve experienced a couple of days when the rain was so bonkers that once I had to walk out of the city which took hours, and the other time I was on a push bike and the roads were like a war zone (from downed branches) plus the zombie apocalypse due to the quiet. That was a fun day on the push bike just riding on through and around the flooding and detritus. I enjoyed it, but others may have felt differently.

    Gooseing up your saved seed stock, even with hybrids, is always a worthy exercise. 🙂 The beans, that’s hard to know because some of that story may be the soil. Beans enjoy a challenge. I’ll put on a photo of the beans here in the next blog.

    Hehe! Yeah, old Pliny may have put himself out front and centre when perhaps some jobs require delegation. In the days of big egos, for some reason delegation is frowned upon. It was Pliny the Younger who wrote of his progenitors fate wasn’t it? The eruption would have been both awful and also awesome to see – but that involves a whole lot of personal risk. Look at what happened at the awful White Island steam eruption over in New Zealand a while back. Horrific. But then I went a touched one of the faces of a glacier over there without really understanding the risk of getting squarshed by a massive chunk of moving ice.

    Hehe! I see that the Emperors advice to Pliny the Younger may not have played out all that well!

    Mate, you are on fire. Possibly so about that move, possibly so. A mate who is an immigrant once told me that sometimes people aren’t moving towards, they’re moving away. An interesting perspective which I’d never quite understood before. And fair enough, but who knows, you may have done too much travelling in a former life?

    Yes, exactly. It’s no good earning heaps of mad cash if you blow it all. That’s an old story.

    Holy carp, 8.2% is not enough to power an industrial civilisation. The thing is, the last I checked, your big gobarmunt spends twice as much as it receives. That story can’t go on without amassing a bonkers quantity of debt, and each year everyone must hope that nobody calls BS on the whole sordid affair. Sooner or later, someone will, because when there are more dollars than wealth, problems happen and escalate. It’s not a complex story, but people, you know, they just want their day in the sunshine in the land of milk and honey too. And dunno about you, but when milk and honey are the things to enjoy, life is pretty tough.

    DJ has alerted me to that ratio as well. Did you and H make it to the Club? Candidly there are too many worries in that paragraph for my poor brain to comprehend. Alfred E Neumann provides some sage advice in this most horrid of circumstances. One day at a time…



  43. Hi DJ and Margaret,

    Sorry, it’s Sunday evening and I better get writing, or I dunno what might happen. Fish may fall from the sky. Yes, that’s what will happen if I don’t get a wriggle on and turn keystrokes into something which vaguely resembles some rubbish or other! 🙂

    Speak tomorrow!



  44. Yo, Chris – Well, it started snowing about midnight. But wet snow, and it didn’t seem to stick to anything. But, upon getting up this morning, there’s maybe half an inch on some things. But the pavements look fine. In fact, the temperature never got below freezing, overnight. And, today it’s heading into the 40s. But, maybe more snow, tonight.

    Oh, Portland’s as prepared for snow, as well as any big city. They get their fair share of “events.” Snow, ice storms, wind storms. Torrential rain.

    Yeah, I thought about bugs getting through the gabions. What with the wire, and rocks giving it “tooth”, cement could be spread on the outside. Like plaster on a lath wall. Oh, I’m just throwing out ideas. Now the deep recesses of your brain, will start working through the options. And, in a couple of years when your ready to tackle the project, you’ll have many of the details worked out.

    Well, if you don’t consider the practicalities, sooner or later they’ll hit you in the face. 🙂

    Adding vinegar to almond milk, I’ve never noticed a curdle. But it does seem a bit thicker. I also go with the nice locally made plain yogurt. I’ve tampered with it, a time or two. Maybe mixing in my own blueberries. Maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon.

    Our Congress is always wrangling over the debt ceiling. It’s been turned into a political football. Nothing I can do about it, but, I suppose I could add it to the “Worry of the Day” calendar. Right behind fish falling from the sky. 🙂 Lew

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