Sunday night I lay awake, sweating. Oh my gawd, was this to be the end for me? Sleep was far away. Tossing and turning, I must have woken Sandra up about a dozen times. That’s what a sleep terrorist looks like. It was a cold night too, and I just felt hot.
The next morning, even a quality coffee couldn’t shake the irritability. You know things aren’t quite right when proper coffee doesn’t soothe the savage beast. At such times it’s wise to take some time out and consider the circumstances. Hmm. We’d only just dosed Dame Plum for worms, maybe that’s what is going on here.
Oi! Dame Plum. Come! I yelled into the corridor.
Dame Plum responded to the command, and arrived in short order. Did you give me worms, girl? I asked.
No, yes, maybe, boss. Came the reply. Hardly reassuring.
What new low had my life sunk to? How was this even possible. I’m really careful about contact with the animals. And then the memory hit me. Dame Plum had grabbed the proffered Anzac biscuit from me, but in the process deliberately tasted my fingers. Hadn’t thought much about it at the time. Turns out, I wasn’t careful enough.
Anyway, both Dame Plum and I received a course of medication, and we both now feel much better. Certainly I felt better within the hour. Dame Plum is a good dog, thus the title, and she could forage for her own feed if circumstances necessitated, but her food lifestyle choices involve risks. And not only for her.
Food is such a funny issue. It’s one of those ‘hot button’ issues which sometimes produces a really emotional response from people. I generally avoid discussing the topic. Way back in the 1970’s, I recall adults seriously suggesting that there were three non discussable topics whilst at table: Sex; Religion; and Politics. In these enlightened days, people talk plenty of rubbish about those topics, but the topic of food – whoa! prepare for ignition. It hardly seems fair, especially when at table, the stuff is right in front of you.
However, food admittedly is a complicated issue for many people. Long ago, the food I was eating was making me ill. It was not that I was eating too much, or not enough, it was more that what I ate wasn’t right for me. In another person, the mix of food would have been fine, but I wasn’t that other person. The result was eczema on my hands, and little resistant patches of redness on my upper arms. The little patches of redness are sometimes known as ringworm, but they’re a fungus, not a worm. And they were a torture, because it was always itchy.
You’d go to the doctor, and they’d prescribe steroid cream and that’s where the advice ended. Apply the stuff, and sure the patches would begin to clear up. But the risk is, there are consequences for using the stuff. So I’d stop, and the eczema and patches would return. I bore the irritation stoically, but it’s not fun. Life had to continue, regardless.
Food sure is an interesting subject. Around about the turn of the century, I became interested in growing food. There sure is a lot to know about the subject, but sooner or later in every growers journey, the idea clarifies that growing good food begins with the soil. The subject of soil is an incredibly complicated story, and just like food, people have their hobby horses to push. I read them all, and pick and choose based on what works.
Early on, you get sucked in to some strange soil practices. I’d been brainwashed to believe that just applying composted woody mulch will achieve wonders for the plants. Here, that doesn’t work so well, and we’ve applied hundreds of cubic metres of the stuff over the past decade and a half. Mulch alone isn’t nearly good enough, and it can have undocumented side effects, such as making the soil more suitable for fungal growths. Hmm.
After realising the failings of mulch, you start applying heaps and heaps of compost. That’s not such a great idea either. Who even knows what the commercial stuff is made from? And if it was derived from an area which has soil mineral deficiencies, it’s probably not going to somehow get miraculously better. And plenty of cities have soil mineral deficiencies, after all, that’s where most of the compost stuff comes from. It’s a consequence of living on a poisoned planet.
If you’re lucky, like I was, a friendly chemistry scientist (Hi Claire!) will fortuitously give you a big size eight boot up the rear, and send you on a journey as to what are the actual minerals needed for optimal plant growth. That’s when you’ll then find yourself continuing to purchase woody mulch and compost, but you begin adding in specific minerals based on what you’re observing of the plant growth around you.
Each year (for about a decade now) I also bring back a couple of thousand kilograms of coffee grounds (2.2 pounds to the kilogram). That stuff is amazing, but you can’t just apply only it, because the stuff alone will make the mixture of soil minerals go way out of balance. I reckon eventually it would make the soils here even more acidic than they normally are (the preferable environment for fungi). It’s a bit of a problem, so each week I have to add a good quantity of Calcium Carbonate and Blood and Bone meal to the coffee grounds. Those two mineral additions ensure that the soils remain conducive for good plant growth, whilst ensuring the fungi don’t turn into Triffids. Pesky creatures. There just isn’t another way of using the coffee grounds on soils.
It’s been a strange learning journey that one. And then one day when you’re on that journey, many years ago now, the little light bulb goes on. If you could change soils so as to make them less favourable to fungi, merely by changing the balance of minerals, could you do that with your own body? Well, turns out, I wasn’t the first to come up with that idea. For a moment there, I thought my fortune had been made, but sadly no.
So as an experiment, I changed my diet. Not by huge amounts. We reduced the amount of times we ate out. Stopped eating meat at home. Switched to basmati rice. Reduced the consumption of pasta. Baked our own bread using high protein flour. Reduced the consumption of sugars. We did a whole lot of things, just little changes here and there, all based on reducing the acidity of the food I was taking into my body. And what a surprise, it worked for me. The eczema and other patches of inflamed skin disappeared. It was a relief, and presumably my body is now getting the correct balance of minerals for what it needs. What’s really odd about it, was not that the doctors didn’t suggest this approach, it was that in the end it came down to food lifestyle choices. And they involve risks whether you acknowledge them, or not.
Earlier in the week, a big wind storm ripped through this corner of the continent. For two days, the trees swayed alarmingly. Not a good time to be underneath them. A few small trees toppled over:
And there was one whopper tree which the winds brought down:
It’s free firewood as far as I’m concerned, and the larger chunks will be processed over the next month or so. A lot of the small branches however, were collected and burnt off. We keep a neat and tidy ship here, and there are good reasons for that. The fire was impressively hot for mid-winter.
We rolled a lot of huge upside blackened tree stumps into the fire. These were remnants which the loggers thoughtlessly left littered around the forest. The things are huge and are near the limits as to what I can move by hand. And the fire ate about seven of them over two days.
Once you remove the upside down tree stumps, you can begin to see what is in the area. And there were a number of large rocks. In one mornings work, we split all the large rocks we found, and now have about fifteen still-large rocks to use on projects. Yay! Peak Rocks is for real, but for now the worst aspects have been averted.
That’s a lot of rocks, and they’re all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Speaking of rocks, the rocks we split the previous week were relocated to the new low gradient path project, then installed in the lowest rock wall.
On an otherwise wet day, we made a batch of Kiwi fruit jam. The fruit is relatively high in acid, but low in pectin, so the jam ended up not setting firmly. It’s tasty on freshly baked bread! Yum!
The parts arrived in the mail for the repairs and upgrade of the electric 12 tonne log splitter. For some reason the manufacturer decided not install a soft starter device, which I consider to be a necessity on such a large electric motor. The motor run capacitor had also unsurprisingly died, and so I replaced it with a better quality item. The replacement part unfortunately happened to be about 30% bigger and wouldn’t fit in the existing control box. Being the crafty and resourceful bloke I am, a hole was drilled in the side of the control box. The motor run capacitor was then poked through the hole. The bit which now sticks out is protected from the elements by a thick rubber tight fitting cap I just had handy. The machine works a treat now – better than before.
And in sad poultry news, I had to permanently retire two chickens this week. A very sharp and heavy knife may have been involved. The two Faverolle birds were recidivist egg eaters. I’d remonstrated with them, and they blithely ignored me. That’ll teach them for not taking me seriously, and the remaining chickens – whilst now looking at me a bit funny like – received a very strong message. And what a surprise, we’re now getting eggs.
And we’re experimenting with using the greenhouse to store some of the autumn harvest which was picked a couple of months ago.
We had a light frost this morning, but no signs of snow as yet in the forecast.
Sandra takes most of the photos for the blog, and despite the early morning frost, the day turned into a superb winters day with blue skies and only the slightest of breezes.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 10am is 5’C (41’F). So far this year there has been 533.0mm (21.0 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 524.6mm (20.7 inches)