Dying Star

Recently I’ve been watching a charming British television documentary series from 1987: ‘The Victorian Kitchen Garden’. The word charming is used here in the most literal sense. One of the two lead characters in the series is an old bloke who had actually worked as the head gardener for the very English manorial estate for four decades. The series was filmed in the massive old walled garden on the estate – as you do. Probably not something for the likes of the rest of us!

What the old bloke didn’t know about growing edible plants in that locale, probably isn’t relevant to anything. He’s clearly a knowledgeable bloke, but also hands on with every aspect of the garden. Being English, the garden appears to be subjected to quite a lot of adverse weather. In the series, the characters are always talking about ‘forcing’ plants. Basically, ‘forcing’ means to get plants to grow faster than they otherwise may do so, or grow them way outside their natural range, given the prevailing climate conditions.

In the large walled garden, there is an enormous greenhouse, which frankly produces the emotion of envy, as well as a whole lot of forced vegetables. Cold frames were also used, which are a sort of smaller and flatter greenhouse. And the heat from the bacterial activities which goes along with the decomposition of fresh manure, was also cleverly used to get many a plant off to an earlier productive start than would otherwise be the case. The solid brick walls surrounding the garden reduce the wind and capture the heat from the sunlight, radiating warmth for fruit trees at night. The whole garden arrangement was very clever, well thought out and thoroughly tested.

Must have taken a lot of labour back in the day, to keep that massive garden productive for the estate and all the workers there. And the occasional old black and white photo showed a lot of workers. It takes a lot of effort to force plants. Guess labour was cheaper back then. By 1987 however, things were perhaps different, the series had the old bloke, a young assistant, some other bloke, and of course the professor providing commentary. It was hard not to notice that those folks all used the hand tools from an earlier time to get the work done, and they were doing an admirable job.

The months of winter and early spring, are the lean time in any temperate climate garden. Back in the day, on the English estate, they ignored such pesky issues. A massive boiler ran continuously, providing heat to the epic greenhouse via hot water running through pipes. That system worked as a giant heat exchanger. The fuel cost would have been mind boggling, but those heated greenhouses would have been able to produce edible food all year around, not to mention exotic foodstuffs for the manors table, the likes of which would be not seen elsewhere. Not a trick you can do at home!

Forcing plants has been on my mind of late. September was warm. Then bizarrely, October and November were cool and dry. Late last week, the grass in the paddocks began slowly turning yellow due to the ongoing drier weather. And that was when the weather turned strange. Friday about 2pm, thick clouds hanging low over the mountain range, began to produce some rain. And the forecast suggests that it will rain most days for at least the next two weeks. At times over the past few days, the rain was torrential. As I type this blog entry, it’s raining. Utterly bonkers, of course. Here’s the rainfall forecast map of the continent for the next 8 days:

There’s a continent somewhere under all that forecast rain

Incidentally, the farm is located in a tiny little blob of blue colour just to the north and west of the city of Melbourne (which isn’t marked on the map). It’s candidly hard to know what impressions to make of the climate here, other than it’s variable, and stuff happens. Hardly a meaningful description!

The rain is great for the fruit trees, berries, herbs and some of the other plants. The annual vegetables however, are not doing all that great. The tomatoes and chilli’s are tiny and at least a month behind. We gave up on the idea of planting out the eggplant seedlings, despite them being a slim cold tolerant variety. Could be wrong there, but past experience suggests the eggplant has little chance of producing fruit in this sort of growing season. Forcing plants has been on our minds of late. Sandra and I have seriously begun discussing the need for a second greenhouse. The current greenhouse is fully planted out.

All being well, the second greenhouse project will begin sometime mid next year. We don’t have the funds of an English estate, so it takes time and personal effort to get any projects done. And long term readers will note that like the rangy head gardener in the series, we do most of the work ourselves using hand tools and small machines. Economics is a factor too. The idea of running a boiler for a heated greenhouse is just something that will never happen.

What to do then? We slowly construct the farms infrastructure, whilst testing, learning and adapting to the conditions. If there were another way… One day we might even be as knowledgeable as that head gardener in the series, but probably not, instead we’ll be good enough. There are limits to how much you can know about topics. Keep on, muddling on!

During the really torrential rain in the last day or so, which happens most years, the rainfall water capture systems require a bit of manual assistance on my part to clear any gunk (the technical description for unidentified organic matter) from blocking up the inlet filters on the water tanks. Many years ago we looked into the various systems to avoid this blockage of the filters from happening, and came to the conclusion that they all fail sooner or later. So we’ve kept the system simple, and I have to clean out the collected gunk during torrential downpours. It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.

You see what I have to deal with here?

Last week, some large rocks were liberated from a boulder. In the days before the rain began when the paddocks were dry, we were able to bring those large rocks back up the hill.

Large rocks were brought back up the slope

The rocks were all used on the low gradient path project. The current work on that project aims to extend the path on the downhill side of the chicken enclosure. The lower side of that path has a rock wall which curved around some pear trees.

The large rocks retain the soil and crushed rock with lime on the path

Once past the pear trees the curve of the rock wall heads back downhill.

Ruby admires the curvature of the rock wall, yet thinks of chickens!

Another morning was spent splitting up rocks in the paddock. Time was a bit short due to the impending rain, so we chose to split what we thought would be easier to work with boulders. Some were easier, and some were very hard. And we got rained on!

Dame Plum avoids the jackhammer!

Despite some of the boulders being harder than we’d considered, a reasonable amount of rocks were liberated that day. Those rocks were all brought back up the hill to be used on the low gradient path project. The rock wall now runs parallel to the chicken enclosure. The idea is to create a wide path on the downhill side of the chicken enclosure. Sadly for us, due to the slope of the land, the rock wall will need to be two rocks tall so that the path on the downhill side of the chicken enclosure remains flat.

Ruby is impressed by such accuracy with the rock walls

At the very start of the low gradient path, long term readers will recall that we’d created a drainage basin and planted out a tree fern. The torrential rain proved the drainage basin works, and the tree fern enjoyed a good feed and water.

The tree fern enjoys a good feed and drink during the heavy rain

For some reason unknown to me, the King Parrots have decided that I’m OK, and word has clearly gotten around. The birds sometimes follow me around here, and allow me to get very close to them. The other day I was at the local general store enjoying a coffee, and a visitor dropped by to say hello.

Dude, anything but my coffee!

In really wet conditions, raised garden beds are worth their weight in compost. This year is no different and the kitchen greens are doing OK. We’re experimenting with growing rainbow chard (Silverbeet) this year, and cooking it much the same way we do with kale. We have not grown this plant before.

Rainbow chard seedlings are doing well

A late frost in October damaged the very early fruits such as apricots, plums and almonds. The almonds fell off the tree, as did many of the plums and apricots. The remaining apricots show signs of frost damage.

Apricots are displaying signs of frost damage, but may be OK

The later flowering fruit trees appear to have done much better. The climate here is very suitable for growing pears and apples.

European Pears are looking good
Pears are good, but the apples are already larger

Cherry trees grow well and produce fruit here, but I’m doubtful that we’ll beat the birds to this fruit. And the forecast rain this week and next week, will probably split the skin on the fruit.

Cherries hang off the tree

Mulberries also grow quite well here, and the wallabies (a smaller and darker lone forest dwelling kangaroo) do less damage to these trees for some unknown reason.

Mulberries are slowly ripening

We grow a lot of raspberry plants, and they make a very tasty jam. The very first berry ripened this week.

Raspberries are very tasty and produce a lovely jam

Onto the flowers:

Ixia flowers are produced from very reliable bulbs
The succulent garden provides a great splash of colour
Despite the cooler November, the Roses have produced delightful flowers
I’ve always felt that the tighter Rose flowers produce the finest aroma

The temperature outside now at about 10am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 807.6mm (31.8 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 759.8mm (29.9 inches)

37 thoughts on “Dying Star”

  1. Yo, Chris – If I can also recommend “Wartime Kitchen and Garden,” to your readers. Same old duffer. But about half of it is what to do with the stuff, once you get it out of the ground. And the slant is how to substitute and adapt, given war time rationing.

    Those walled manor gardens. I wonder how much was passed down, from the old monastery gardens. And how much they got, from the Romans?

    You could keep a small horse, just for the manure 🙂 . Although I guess chicken poo is at least as effective. How about a solar boiler? You to, could grow your own pineapples.

    If you had your own Prof. Mass, down there (and, you probably do), he’d probably tell you that your weather is completely within the realm of possibility. What a spoil sport!

    Another greenhouse? Well, if needs must. So, the annex to the mead hall will have an annex?

    There must be a system that might fail, a bit, but do it so that it could be cleaned in better weather. So you wouldn’t have to deploy the bumbershoot. And get very wet. And, risk being struck by lightening.

    Rocks and paths. Chutes and Ladders. Turn it into a board game, and your fortune is made!

    You look rather skeptical, of your parrot friend. Stuff a few, and turn them into Christmas ornaments.

    Between the pears, apples and raspberries, it looks like you won’t starve. Pity about the cherries. See: stuffed parrots, above. What do you do with the mulberries?

    The succulents are a real knock out. And the roses, as always, are lovely.

    I went down to the library, on the way back from the Club, this morning. To gather leaves for my garden patches. I took a big plastic construction debris bag, tossed in a few trowels of composted chicken poo, and then a layer of leaves. I repeated, several times, until the bag was hard to drag around. Unfortunately, I had to scramble a bit for the leaves. The city, in a spasm of civic who-who, had cleaned up, a bit. Probably, due to the annual Christmas parade, next Saturday. Bah! Humbug! When I got home, I poured a bit of rain water in the bag, and lightly closed it. If I remember, I’ll give it a bit of a tumble, from time to time. There’s still leaves, on the trees. If I’m up to it, I’ll get another bag, next Sunday. H waits in the truck, and seems fascinated by the whole process. Lew

  2. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for mentioning the other series the bloke was part of. I’m impressed enough by the current series to spend the time immersed in the ‘wartime kitchen and garden’. And that’s a really important point – you have to know what to do with an excess of produce. I’m of the opinion that a lot of those preserving of the harvest skills (not to mention technologies) have been lost over time.

    Ooo, I like how your brain works. And that thought had not occurred to me, but I reckon you’re correct there. The Romans did so like their more solid structures that a walled garden would not be out of the question in very marginal climates. And the monasteries were like the Romans in that they faced the exact same issue: How to feed the troops, err, sorry monks in marginal climates. Hmm.

    I could probably deal with a Shetland pony, although I’ve read credible accounts suggesting that those animals are sneaky and devious. They have a similar brain size to their larger compatriots, but a much smaller body. Probably have their own thoughts if I could hazard a guess! Like H, and Ruby if I were being entirely honest. 😉 At this stage though, the manure has to come from the wildlife (and there is a lot of it), the dogs, us and the chickens. You’d be amazed how much guano a decent sized flock of magpies can produce. But it is not concentrated enough to use the stuff to force plants. And most of the birds consume food stuffs that we can’t (or wont) directly eat, so despite the raids on the produce there is benefits from having all of them here. And the kookaburras have been known to dine upon snakes. I like those birds, and the magpies are also on my side, of that I have no doubts.

    The solar boiler is a good idea, but if the plants aren’t growing over the depths of winter, the sun isn’t producing much heat. A decent sized greenhouse is you know, a kind of least-worst option. The cold frames with the manure, as you suggest would be good, but then I have to feed the larger manure producing animals, and that isn’t cost free. At the moment, we’re just trying to get the basics down pat, as they say, and we’ll go onto more complicated problems once those are all sorted out. We’re getting there with that too.

    The good professor penned a lovely eulogy to his friend, and the bloke sounded like someone I’d be happy to call friend too. The book title was very amusing! And the facts suggest that if the weather is happening, then it goes without saying (although often it does need saying, you’d probably agree there?) that it is within the realms of possibility! 🙂

    Ah, yes, an annex to the mead hall will be the way of it. Already the current greenhouse exactly lines up and is in the same proportions to the mead hall. We can do neat here from time to time. 😉 Incidentally, what I find odd about that, is nobody seems to notice how they line up exactly. Dunno. Maybe people simply expect such things? Beats me. Took a lot of work to get right, but that’s another story. Anyhoo, the second greenhouse will be narrower and have a raised bed on each side with a path running down the middle. And we worked out an interesting way to do the rock wall and soil work, which we’ll test out on the path on the underside of the chicken enclosure.

    Nope, they all fail in heavy rain. If you can find one system that people swear on their mothers grave that works, I’d be interested to hear. Mostly people talk a big game with that stuff. It’s like sun trackers on home solar panel arrays. Sounds good in theory, but every single one of them I’ve ever seen, has been broken. And they’re a great idea too, but trying to do that job economically is beyond most households. It’s like trying to minutely control a ships sail every single moment of each day of the year, even in the worst weather – like a minor tornado.

    I like the sound of this fortune being made biz! Did you mention snakes? You haven’t seen one in the photos have you? Ook! 🙂 Drats, foiled again.

    Man, I’d be in so much trouble if I did that, but yeah, maybe we could! Robinson Caruso knew what to do with the likes of those birds and the interactions with his fruit trees. It wasn’t all fun and games on that island. And you’re right, scepticism was what I was thinking.

    Speaking of such thought patterns. Get this. I’d been reading about bushfires over in the west of the continent, and thought maybe I should get some fire resistant coveralls, welders use such things, just in case I’m caught out here. So it turned up in the mail today, except there are two pairs. What the? One was sized for a kid, and the other was for a giant, and they’d cut the tags off. I smell a rat, and an email request for a refund will soon be sent. Have you ever heard of such a thing happening? A bit bonkers really. Always something new.

    That’s the thing, we’re getting past the starvation point with edibles. It would be nice to have some peaches, almonds and apricots though. It’s not too much to ask, is it? Only taken 15+ years… That’s not too bad really. You wouldn’t want to be in a hurry to learn how to do that trick. Whoa! You don’t reckon people think they can pull off such a feat do you in record breaking time?

    Thanks! There’ll be more flowers to come! I like both of those too. The aroma from the garden beds with the roses is really something else on a warm and sunny day. Hey, we planted out more silver beet, chili and sweet basil seedlings today. Apart from more tomatoes which a friend is supplying (hopefully) that will be it for the season. We’re juggling a lot of different activities.

    I took advantage of the half price discount on the locally made small inverter today (even though they’re stopping manufacturing next year). They’re just so well made, and this one will replace a small cheapie machine (which makes odd buzzing sounds – not good). You did predict that they’d do a clearance before the end, and so they bombed the treasury. Oh well. Had a good chat to them about the most likely parts to fail, and that was a very productive discussion.

    Nice work. That’s really clever with the leaves and chicken poop in the bag over winter. How does it turn out when you open the bag again in the spring? I’ll bet it’s good. Go H, and always good to get some assistance with such work, even if it is merely doggie instructions from the cab of the Ranger.

    Haha! You’re doing the exact same trick we used to do when living in the swisho inner urban Victorian workers terraces. It’s lovely when the neighbours provide heat free of charge. Dude, the lady downstairs may have had some serious health issues, or even died. Could explain the lack of heating. Won’t be so funny then, will it! 🙂 Man, that’s cold – a five blanket night, perhaps? The thermometer didn’t nudge past 57’F all day today, and the clouds were thick. Guess whether it rained here today? 😉 Fortunately with the sun being higher in the sky during this time of year, the batteries seem to be getting a full charge each day from the solar – things could change on that front though. We ran the wood heater tonight, but two small crates of firewood did the job, and the house is quite comfortable now.

    You’re probably right, cats would love cold brekky pizza. It’s not natural! 🙂 Thanks for the laughs.

    Thanks for the process of baking and preserving the pumpkin. Hey, do you eat the skin? I know when it’s roasted, the skin does soften, but it depends on variety.

    You’re lucky that you encounter people who grow edibles. Hmm. It is an issue I’m going to have to do something about. What I hear is people telling me that they want to grow native plants, not even ornamentals. It’s so weird because I have acres of the native plants, do I need more, apparently so based on what other people seem to be doing. I don’t get that at all.

    South Park is fun, and that royal episode was reported in the news down here. They may possibly have gotten the characters spot on. Surely those two have earned enough mad cash that they can get some decent therapy?

    There’s a real yuk factor to the concept of central kitchens. But weirdly, during you-know-what there was some concept of ‘dark kitchens’ which sounded a bit production line to me.

    Did the master gardeners turn up?

    Now, I intend to deal with the coverall folks. They must be taking the mickey out of me?



  3. Hello Chris
    Those old walled gardens are wonderful, I would love to have one.
    Ruby Chard grows okay here but I prefer the white one (Swiss Chard) which grows more strongly.
    Woke to a white frost 2 days ago but it has now warmed up a bit.


  4. Greenhouses- Sounds like more slope to flatten, more dirt to use elsewhere.

    Greenhouses take advantage of energy flows, but it comes down to energy in versus energy out. This design is being prototyped for much colder climes than yours, so some features would be overkill, but maybe some concepts might be adapted? It slows down the energy out.

    Expensive in the full design, but concepts are useful. Hopefully you can access the construction drawings. They are free, but UMN kind of assumes registrants are either in U.S. or Canada.

  5. Yo, Chris – I was looking at the library “new on-order” list, this morning. They’re getting some fresh copies of “Land Girls: The Complete Series.” It’s on my hold list. I saw some of it, when it came out. Be nice to see the whole series. A fictionalized account. The old duffer, at the manor in “Wartime Kitchen and Garden,” has a Land Girl, to lend a hand.

    Here’s an interesting article about the history of greenhouses and sun rooms. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, the section “Italy, 14AD – 37AD” is particularly interesting.


    Silly me. I hadn’t considered the seasonal aspects of solar boilers.

    You may want to consider making the second greenhouse, as large as the first. You’ll thank me later. 🙂 And maybe put it off a year. Gives you more time to gather materials, maybe on the cheap. LOL. It’s not as if you don’t have other things to keep you occupies, in the meantime.

    You might have got someone else’s shipment. It’s happened to me, a time or two. Things get pretty crazy, in shipping departments. Especially, this time of year.

    It’s good you had a chat with the inverter people. As they are going out of business, you may get less gloss and more, the real poop.

    Oh, I don’t know how the bagged leaves will work out. Never done it, before. Whatever comes out of the bags will be worth turning into the soil.

    It got down to 28F (-2C), last night. Still a one blanket / one dog night. This building stays pretty warm. It’s seldom I’ve had to resort to two blankets.

    No, the pumpkin skin is not edible. Although I suppose if you put enough sugar / fat on it, you could choke it down 🙂 . Once baked, it peels off in large sheets. Hmmm. There are recipes for candied pumpkin. Doesn’t look like you remove the skin.

    I just read a chapter, in the seed book, on seed banks devoted to native plants. I think the theory is, you could reconstruct a whole eco-system. And since some native plants are medicinal, or edible (though not utilize, at present), they may prove valuable, in future.

    Yes, the Master Gardeners did show up, this morning, and were busy tarting up the front with Christmas tat. 🙂 Might see them when they come to take down the “decor.” Otherwise, not until we divvy up the garden spots, in the spring. Lew

  6. Hi Lewis,

    Just quickly, but before I forget. Thanks for the article. I’m unsure what people expected. But from the article I really wasn’t clear as to whether to laugh, or express deep feelings of misgiving when I read the two sentences:

    For many, the only real options are rife with compromise.

    which was immediately followed by:

    And it’s partly a problem of our own making.

    You’d hope the author wasn’t being ironic? Limits are powerful.



  7. Hi Steve,

    Alas, the second greenhouse project next year may not be the great excess soil production project it may at first seem to be. Basically soil is going to be taken from the uphill side of the excavated site, and deposited against two layers of large rocks on downhill side. The local earthworks bloke said to me once, he went: “Chris. You’ll never have as much soil as you think you will”, then without waiting for a reply, he continued off and about his work. He was a real character that bloke, and had been long used to dealing with people ‘living up the bush’ (as they call rural and remote living down here).

    Alas the deep winter greenhouse folks wanted all manner of ID before they handed over the design. A bit of a shame that.

    I don’t know whether you recall the original smaller concept test greenhouse we made? Anyway, we looked around at designs for greenhouses in this area and noted when they worked, and when they didn’t work, and adapted the best ideas into the current design. All round ventilation just below the roof sheets is the major modification. It allows rising hot air out on super hot days, and lets insects in, but excludes the birds. It’s an average design thing.

    We don’t really need the thermal mass requirements for greenhouses in super-cold locations.

    Have you made any hazelnut spreads from your harvest? The three hazelnut bushes here have grown massively in the past couple of weeks, but there are no developing nuts. I’ll add in a couple of extra varieties as per your suggestion. The chestnut tree has now produced some catkins. And there are buckeyes on the horse chestnut.



  8. Hi Inge,

    Oh my, the walled gardens are beautiful and pragmatic constructions, and like you I too would appreciate having access to such a thing. Oh well, us mere mortals must make do with what we can manage on our budgets! 🙂

    Did Queen Victoria’s island estate near to you have a walled garden of any sort? The folks working there would have had to provide feed at a moments notice, or at least I’m guessing that was the case.

    The massive boiler installed (but not used) in that BBC series from 1987, reminded me that in one of the high end hill stations up near to the ridge line in the more fashionable end of the mountain range, I’d noticed a smaller, yet similar contraption in a large greenhouse.

    Inge, truth to tell, I miss the open garden scheme down under which from hindsight appears to have been funded by a remarkably wealthy lady. Funding appears to have been withdrawn prior to the lady’s demise, sorry to say. It was an act I’m guessing, of Noblesse oblige.

    Anyway, it was worth noting that the greenhouse in question at the hill station, had (from memory) a lonely grapevine and a boiler which looked as though it had not been run for many a year. Fuel costs perhaps being what they are. As a theoretical exercise I was calculating the amount of firewood to heat such a building – and my mind baulked at the effort. So no pineapples here, ever! 🙂 Ever being a long time, as you’d no doubt agree?

    Thanks. It is funny you mention that about the chard, but when I grew up, we only ever ate the white variety. This year, we have gone, err, feral and planted out about forty seedlings of the rainbow variety – and we’ll make a determination. At the moment, I cannot discern any difference between the varieties – but time will resolve the matter, maybe! 🙂

    Ah, your growing season is coming to a close in the much greater cycle of life. It won’t be long for you until the seedlings are springing forth from the ground again. The clouds are very tall this evening, and the forecast for tomorrow seems ominous and full of stormy portent. We’ll see. It will be nice to go into summer proper with full reserves of water.



  9. Hi Lewis,

    You’ve mentioned that series, and I hope it’s good. It’s funny you mention about the old duffer scoring a ‘land girl’ to work in the garden, but during my investigations – purely for research purposes into the later series you mentioned – I happened upon a scene where a young lady turned up on a bicycle and was offering to work in the walled garden. I reckon it may be the same combination of people in the series I was watching.

    The article on glasshouses across the ages was quite interesting. The Roman’s must have produced a monster economic surplus to have had the choice between sheets of mica and/or development of glass. On both counts, the metallurgical achievement is quite awe inspiring don’t you reckon?

    No worries at all. I live with solar hot water as a technology and it’s pretty good, but like most other renewable energy technologies, it has limitations. When the sun shines at this time of year, the hot water is very impressive, and the warmth gets into your bones. However, on such a day as this when the air temperature is sort of warm and humid, and the thick clouds obscure the direct sun, the heat produced by the solar hot water is akin to that of lighting a mouse fart. And in winter, there is nothing to be gained from the sun. In fact, the water system has a cost at that time of the year, because from time to time, hot water is sent into the pipes in the solar panels so that they do not freeze and burst. That’s a cost which is supplied by the firewood boiler. You can hear the loss of heat.

    Thank you, and yes, I will take on board your advice in regards to the size of the second greenhouse. Three fruit trees need to be relocated for this project, but I can do that tree relocation work early next year depending upon the rains. It depends. And oh yeah, there’s heaps on the ‘to-do’ list which need attention. I don’t really know, but I’m guessing that it wasn’t all that many decades ago that rural life was always this busy? Dunno.

    Actually inflationary pressures with building materials is a bit of a problem.

    I hadn’t thought of the possibility of getting someone else’s shipment, but yeah that is possible. Regardless, the stuff will be returned for a refund, which is a process that does not involve them. And are you surprised that I have not yet heard the supplier? Hmm. I reckon they know what they did.

    It’s funny you mention that about getting the real scoop from the inverter people, but I have had many informative (and as you hint – candid) discussions with them. I should be able to service the older machine over the summer months easy enough. As usual, I have to get a specialised tool to remove the potentially faulty components. Oh well, always something new to learn! 🙂 I got home late tonight from work in the big smoke today, otherwise I’d get an order in for the tool. I’ve discovered the joys of whiling away the peak hour travel times by the gentle art of reading a book at a cafe and enjoying a coffee and small chunk of NY cheesecake. So good. Yum! There is something to be said about avoiding the much larger processes which seem to dominate peoples lives don’t you reckon?

    I reckon you’re onto something with the bagged up leaves, and chucking in the chicken poop was a stroke of genius. I’m not mucking around saying that. I was a bit concerned that the contents of the bag may dry out, but it is possible that condensation will provide enough moisture for the activities inside the bag during the winter months. Dunno, but it really is a good idea. You should be able to tell what is going on inside the bag by the warmth given off. Hey, one risk you’ve got is if someone thinks the bags are rubbish and chucks them out? But, I’ll be really interested to hear how the experiment ends up once spring rolls around – it’s not that far away, although it may seem like it.

    Hehe! An enviable condition. 28’F would be a five blanket night here, and maybe even a getting up in the wee-dark-hours of the night to reload the fire box. Brr! The rain is meant to be epic tomorrow, but we’ll see.

    Choking would be a bad thing, so best if the pumpkin skins are avoided. 🙂 Honestly, I can’t recall if they’re added in, or not.

    The native seed bank thing is a concept, but I do wonder about those seed banks in that will people even know what to do with the plants when the seeds become available at some future date. And what if the climate shifts perceptibly? Maybe I’m cursed with a streak of practicality, but wouldn’t it be better if the seeds were put to growing plants, and then adapting the plants to the conditions as and when they change? Climate changes all the time over a deep enough history, it’s not as if plants can’t adapt. The eucalyptus trees here tell that tale, and can readily adapt to conditions. I think it is foolish that we as a species aren’t doing all we can to keep things the same.

    Did the master gardeners produce an aesthetically pleasing outcome? Well, you’re heading into the quiet time of the year for the garden.

    On the drive back from the big smoke earlier this evening, I thought that the clouds were rather tall looking. A foreboding feeling gripped me. I just read an article on the major storm, but the words ‘perfect storm’ certainly conjure an exciting image! Dangerous supercell storms to bring wild weather and potential flooding to eastern parts of Australia. I do hope that it is purely hyperbole!



  10. lighting a mouse fart- thanks for the new phrase. Will come in handy when debating strategies that will not amount to much benefit.

    hazelnuts- I am a sad excuse for a blogger. We have been quite busy with hazels, and Ive been pressing oil, making crunchy tasty snacks, but haven’t made more spread yet- that is next. I use the press cake left from oil pressing, as it still has plenty of oil still in it. But you wouldn’t know all this from my blog. I have an idea in mind for the next post, so maybe soon?

    dirt- yes, for large civil projects, the final grade is most usually decided on balancing the cut and fill volumes. I just figured that you still wanted more dirt, but moving a short distance downhill is much easier than stockpiling and transporting elsewhere.

    greenhouses- yes, gets much colder here, and then, the intended use of the greenhouse also bears on whether heat retention is needed. The research was intended to help small CSA growers offer fresh veg well into winter, and to be honest, in an energy constrained future, we will be getting back to eating with the season. That first salad in the spring will be quite special again.

    There are plenty of tricks to preserve food to get through the winter till fresh is available again. Reminds me I want to read up on how in the world the original inhabitants got through winter here, food and shelter wise. A wigwam and eating game sounds simple at first glance, but deer are flighty and firewood is a lot of work. I suspect there is more to the story and actual facts (if they are available) would be enlightening.

    Chestnuts- I’m thinking you need at least two trees to get nuts. The link is to a group doing American chestnut hybrids, but pure Chinese chestnut might be different.

  11. Hello Chris
    Yes Osborne House had/has a walled garden though I don’t remember seeing it. I would expect every great house to have had one, necessary in this climate.


  12. Yo, Chris – We’ve seen enough starry-eyed people, over at Mr. Greer’s, contemplating a move to the country, or small towns. I’m sure they ignore all advice. LOL. I remember Joel Saltin’s wife commenting, in a documentary, that things didn’t get easy socially, for them, until one of their sons married into an old local family.

    My friends in Idaho, sure don’t live a life of convenience. Yesterday, she drove a great distance, with her daughter, to see her daughter’s doctor. Today, another long drive to visit his doctor.

    I watched another episode of “Wartime Kitchen and Garden,” last night. Learned how to make a chocolate pudding (heavy on the grated carrots), and that Leeks were pretty easy to get seed from. Not part of the series, but I saw a sidebar, I watched. A ten minute instructive video, from the period. “Winter Work in the Garden.” Stuff to do on your allotment, during the winter. Starting and ground storage of potatoes. Ground storage of parsnips. Compost. Constructing furrows.

    Well, the Romans. I finished the book on Dutch painters, last night. The author made an interesting observation. That the Romans had portrait, landscape and still life paintings. But that those talents were lost for a thousand years.

    Somewhere along the way, I can remember (or, can’t remember) that I’d kill and hour or two with a book, to avoid the commuter crush.

    I happened to have a bucket with rain water, in it. So, I gave the compost bag a bit of a splash. I hadn’t even thought that it might warm up. It’s in an out of the way spot.

    Re: Native plant seed banks. Well, I suppose it gives people something to do … Here’s an interesting article on replacing lost plants.


    Were the Master Gardener’s efforts aesthetically pleasing? I’m not the one to ask.

    It was 27F (-3C), last night. Oh, well. A couple of days and the rain will be back, along with warmer temperatures. That was quit an article about your weather. Super cells. Nothing to mess with. Lew

  13. Hi Chris,
    I’ve heard that filling up black plastic barrels with water that warms during the day and then radiates the heat at night have worked for some but then it would be subject to the same issues as Lew’s solar boiler. Would probably take up too much space as well.

    I’ve grown and enjoyed rainbow chard but mostly now grow perpetual spinach, kale and other lettuces/greens.

    Still recovering from the unmentionable – taking way too long but may have overdone over the Thanksgiving 4 day holiday. There wasn’t time for my usual afternoon nap. Hearing of more and more people getting it including my daughter, Carla, who hosted Thanksgiving.

    I think I forgot to mention that Marty’s girlfriend, Gwen, took a terrible fall and had to undergo an 8 hour cervical spine injury. She’s now in rehab I imagine for quite some time.

    Cecily and I went to the Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree. That farm is the one that purchased all our property and house. Their trees they planted on our old land are way behind due to several very dry/drought years. The owner told me they had lost 95% of what they had planted last year. Their inventory on the old part is quite low so they’re only open for 5 days this year. Anyway we got a decent white pine and Cecily helped me put it up on Friday (which was also my birthday). We had an out of town friend visiting and only ten minutes after I had told her about some of the history of the ornaments we heard a crash. Well the tree had fallen over. Amazingly only two ornaments were broken but water from the stand was all over. We propped it up, cleaned up the water and got a good laugh out of it. I’ve put up trees for over 50 years and this is the first time one fell over. The next morning we stabilized it and fixed all the decorations so hopefully it’ll stay up this time.

    We are in the middle of a couple very cold days – it was only 8F this morning but luckily it’ll warm up tomorrow.

    Love the flowers as always and the picture of you and your feathered friend.


  14. Hi Inge,

    I’d imagine that would be the case. The concept of a walled garden was entirely new to me, but the need for such an advantage is certainly there. And it looks very aesthetically pleasing.

    Speaking of climate, two inches of rain fell here today, with more rain to come for the next three days. We had a lull in the rain a little while ago and were able to take the dogs out for a walk. The canines had a touch of cabin fever. The rain appears to have run south of your daughter living up north, but may have provided some much needed rainfall over to the daughter over in the west. Some of the rainfall totals have been quite epic! Imagine having to deal with a foot of rain in 24 hours! Yikes! Here at least the two inches of rain has been gradual over the entire day. It’s a good thing going into summer with full water reserves.



  15. Hi Steve,

    The concept itself creates a strong mental image of, not much! 🙂

    Haha! Don’t let blogging guilt get in the way of preserving the harvest. On your suggestion, a few years ago I purchased one of those oil making hand cranked nut cruncher machines. It would be nice if the trees produced more nuts, but they do need to grow some more (and I need to plant some additional diversity of varieties). Perhaps proving that guilt is a universal feeling? Nah, I don’t feel guilt in these matters, dude you do what you can do and I sleep well knowing I’ve done my best.

    You figured the soil situation correctly. There is always the need for more soil for use in projects, but land is a precious commodity, and so creating a stock pile is not something I really want to do – as you’d no doubt agree, maybe. Juggling projects is how that soil story gets balanced out. With two inches of rain falling today, and more rain forecast for the next three days (although not as much), I do wonder how much work we’ll get done this week. Oh well.

    That’s my thoughts in the matter too, eat in season. It’s funny you mention salad, but years ago I was having lunch at a friends house and there was some rocket leaves on the table. Thinking these would be good, tasty and fresh, it was quite the surprise to wonder about the flavourless cardboard tasting rocket leaves I’d just consumed. How did they last so long from the farm to the supermarket, to the table. If I pick rocket leaves here, by the end of the day, they’d be moosh (that’s the technical description for unidentified organic matter – or UGG for short).

    So true, but knowing those preserving tricks, and even better, being able to employ the tricks so as to get through a winter (not to mention early spring) without starving – that’s the hard part. I doubt that there are enough forest mammals around these parts to keep more than a few folks fed. Things may be different in your part of the world. Deer is tasty! And as to firewood, we spent years getting that system just right after destroying the first wood heater, and as an energy source, it’s pretty local, very renewable, but is complicated. We have no other heating source, and nowadays I treat all of that system with kid gloves. I agree, the story would be very interesting, and probably require a much larger area of land than what either you or I have access to.

    That’s my thinking as well. I must plant more trees…



  16. Hi Margaret,

    The black plastic barrels would work, but only during the warmer months of the growing season. And I probably can’t spare the water for such a use anyway. We have limited supplies of water, and it is a precious resource. It rained two inches today, and outside now is quite cold, wet and miserable. However, the rain means that we’re going into summer with almost full water reserves. It’s a good feeling, but even then we’ll be careful with how we use the stored wet stuff over the next few months. It truly was an epic storm and some parts of the east coast of this continent have enjoyed a foot of rain today. Needless to say, some parts of the continent are being flooded again.

    That’s the thing, solar hot water is an excellent technology, but it won’t work in the depths of winter. The way I explain solar energy to people is to point to whether the plants are growing or not. If they’re not growing and you’re in the colder part of the year, then there probably isn’t much energy to be had from the sun. We can extract more energy from the sun than plants can, but still, there are limits.

    Thanks! We’re trialling the perpetual spinach this year too, so I appreciate your thumbs up. Kale does very well over winter here, if we get the plant started early enough and established in the early autumn months. One thing I’m learning, that you probably know all about, is that timing planting is a very complicated matter.

    Sorry to hear that you’re still recovering from that-which-shall-not-be-mentioned, but at least you had a good time with the Thanksgiving. 🙂 How’s he enjoying not having to run the restaurant? There is something quite civilised about taking a nap. Refreshes the brain, but work schedules don’t tend to allow for this. Oh well.

    It’s going around, as it does most years. A few days ago I was speaking to people in a business up north, and they were working a skeleton crew because of the flu. You just sort of muddle through, and I do hope that you have some time out to recover over the next week or two? Hope Carla is doing OK? And Gwen has fallen, that’s not good at all, and hope she comprehends the situation. How’s Marty taking it all?

    Young trees don’t do all that well in dry years, sorry to say. Happy Birthday! The odds were stacked against you. 🙂 No seriously, so after half a decade of successful Christmas tree installations the time had come, and at least only a few ornaments were harmed in the incident. Imagine if the tree had fallen onto say, an open fire place. See, thing could always be worse. 🙂

    That is so cold. Brr! 28’F is as cold as I’ve seen it here, and there was a lot of whining that day. Hehe! You’re more stoic than I in these matters.

    Thanks, and the King Parrots have been notably absent today what with all the rain. They really do follow me around. Sometimes I get the impression that they’re trying to communicate.



  17. Hi Lewis,

    Man, that’s so true. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes I get the impression that people move up from the city and expect to be fêted by the good, nice rural folks, merely because they’d graced them with their presence. They’d probably do better with presents! 🙂 But seriously, peoples expectations are just strange on that front. You have to put in a lot of hours to win over the old timers, and the thing is, those folks have seen it all before – people come and go again. An old timer around these parts, told me once long ago, that it takes getting through two or three winters up here before a new comers presence will even be acknowledged. The cold winters and hot and dry summers freak people out, and then they return to the city, and say it’s because of the social isolation – whatever that means. What I’ve noticed is that you have to join in the local groups and respect the long established pecking order, and even then. Hmm, if I had to sum up the core, it’s that well established rural folks have a far longer perspective than most city folks would ever care to imagine. It’s probably quite the shock to be confronted by that.

    That’s not good for your friends, and too many trips like those, and it makes you wonder if they’ll leave the area? I’m guessing that story is playing out around these parts as well given the number of ‘for sale’ signs I’m seeing. Although, facilities can be found in nearby townships, as long as nothing falls into the ‘complicated health care’ category. That could be a problem in the big smoke too.

    Hehe! Thanks for the laughs. Yes, go light on the chocolate and heavy on the carrots. Actually, I quite like carrot cake. Leeks grow like weeds here, but I’m not really much of a fan of the taste. I’d prefer proper onion bulbs, but finding the exact right variety for here, is not as easy a thing to do as you’d imagine. There’s a lot to do in winter in the garden, and not everyone has a root cellar for storage (including us). Potatoes are on the to-do list, but we’ll move them all into the much larger vegetable and citrus enclosure – which we’re yet to finish the fencing.

    The rain was feral today. Two inches fell, and it’s pretty wet out there now. And rain is forecast for the next three days. I’ll bet the wombats are grumpy at the unscheduled interruption to their patterns! I’ve begun reading the book ‘Sand Talk’ earlier today, which appears to be an intriguing book on a different way of thinking about the world. I learned that Echidna’s have an astounding brain to body size ratio. Makes you wonder what goes on in there? Probably a lot.

    There’s always something interesting going on with the Roman’s, and it is amazing how far they fell, and how much was lost no matter how good and useful the stuff was. And then how long it took to regain (or we could afford to do so) many of the skills and technologies used in ancient times.

    I’m usually not in enough of a hurry to want to travel anywhere during peak commutes. And life is better for that.

    Using the rain water was most wise. I reckon the pile of leaves will warm up for a while at least until the bacteria have run out of stuff to eat. Then the fungi will get on with their business. Truly, I reckon you’ll be left with a crumbly black loam when spring rolls around. At a guess, I reckon the contents of the bag will be eventually be around 10% of the current volume.

    You’re probably right there about giving them something to do, and surely the folks were in need of a hobby. 🙂 Ah, those folks are … possibly purists. I’ve met people with such views. Hmm. Well, if they ever come across a true wilderness that humans haven’t been mucking around with for millennia, I’ll be generally impressed. As the song suggests: We’ve been everywhere, man! Using thirty years of data is possibly too short a time period to provide the group with a meaningful picture as to how fire works in that land. Hey, not that it is a competition, but down here, we’ve been mucking it up on that front for almost 190 years. 🙂

    Fair enough, and I hope they had a good time putting up the decorations.

    Brr! Lewis, that makes for very cold reading. How did H cope with the suddenly cold weather? Some easterly parts of the continent have had a foot of rain in 24 hours. As you’d imagine, there has been some flooding. Here, the rain was prolonged, but not damaging, and the wind was inconsequential. There’s another three days of rain to come. The house batteries did not even get close to a full charge today – not possible. The power system recorded only half an hour of peak sunlight. Ook! Not good for only a few days out from the official start to summer.



  18. Yo, Chris – I figure my friends in Idaho, will stay as long as their daughter is there. And it doesn’t look like she’s going anywhere. My friends’s husband Ron, is going in for some “guy” surgery, on the 6th. Used to be kind of major, but not so much, anymore. It is suggested, that the patient become a “person of leisure,” for the first two weeks after surgery. As Ron is a “man of action,” I suggested she sedate him for two weeks. She mentioned problems with her knees. Hip and knee replacements seem to be the medical procedure du jour, these days.

    In “Wartime Kitchen and Garden,” potatoes were preserved in a mound. With hay. No root cellar, needed. Potatoes were never rationed, during the war. And remained relatively inexpensive. And, available. But, people seemed to grow some of their own. Probably tastier. Parsnips were preserved in a trench. Britain also didn’t have a good onion, that would grow there. They were in short supply, during the war. Somewhere, I read that a single onion, was often offered as a raffle prize. 🙂

    The chocolate carrot cake looked pretty good. Carrots are so sweet, that little of the sugar ration had to be used. I forgot to mention, the old duffer showed the land girl, how to set a mole trap, and catch a mole.

    It got down to 27F, last night. But, the rain is coming back early tomorrow, and it will warm up. Nothing in the forecast, but those transition periods are usually when we get snow.

    When I was commuting to Olympia, I finally wised up, and got off the freeway, earlier, and traveled overland. That avoided a major freeway interchange. It was a nice drive, in mostly the country. And only added 5 or 10 minutes to my drive. Going home wasn’t at a peak time, so, less fraught.

    H has so much fur, right now, I don’t even bother with her coat, if it’s not raining. But, she goes to the groomer, this morning. So the coat will come out, again. I gave her a bath, yesterday. LOL. Kind of like cleaning the house, before the maid shows up. While she’s at the groomer, I think I’ll run up to the health food store, and see if I can find the Vegemite and Marmite. There’s also an op-shop in that complex. Still in search of a good reading lamp.

    I saw a book on the new book list, yesterday, that the Editor or you, might find interesting. “The Cactus Hunter: Desire and Extinction in the Illicit Succulent Trade.” (Margulies, 2023). I doubt it will be as good as “The Orchid Thief,” but it might be. Or, at least interesting. I put it on my hold list. Lew

  19. Chris,

    You’re lucky. You got to clean the gutters while wearing comfortable clothes. I had to wear bulky cold weather clothing. At least the sun was shining during my venture on the ladder.

    The soil in this part of town is sand, so anything that runs off the roofs doesn’t travel far before soaking into the ground. Usually. Most other parts of town have soil that drains fairly well, although not as well as sand. The biggest problems for street flooding are 1) Leaves clogging storm drains so that rainwater and/or melting snow has nowhere to go and floods the streets; 2) rapid melting of a large amount of snow after several visits by the city’s snowplows, the plows building up large berms in the gutters that can act like dams; 3) torrential downpours during thunderstorms.

    Snow forecast for Thursday night through Sunday. Maybe 5cm total? Meanwhile, we are in the midst of a thick fog. Fog this thick at these temperatures (-5C) leads to the fog frosting and precipitating, aka the Dread Freezing Fog. Thus, icy roads that look fine and, well, people drive like it’s midsummer with nasty results. Additionally, it means the air is humid and the cold soaks right into the bones.

    The Cold Fog
    While drinking coffee in the fog
    The cold crept deep within my heart.
    I pulled a match out for some heat,
    And tried to light a mouse fart.
    Such rarities are hard to find
    And harder still to light.
    Cold fog chased me back indoors
    Where I thawed out my froze behind.

    Meanwhile, Avalanche noticed a Downy woodpecker in the crabapple tree, her favorite tree. And the woodpecker was in the low areas of the tree which Avalanche likes to lean while standing on her hind legs. I told her, “Leave it!” She turned and looked at me, then returned her gaze to the Downy. Protection of her favorite tree overrode the command to “Leave it!” The woodpecker flew into the cherry tree, unperturbed, and proceeded to find a meal there, out of reach of the husky. Apparently, the “pecking order” states that Rule Number One is “Don’t mess with the dog’s favorite tree.”

    That’s amazing how close the King Parrot got to you and your coffee. They have clearly adopted you! It’s good to have the clear “The coffee is MINE!” boundary with them. Being Birdman Chris is one thing, but being expected to share coffee with the parrots is far beyond the pale.

    Your raspberry picture reminded me…The carving club will be able to have our annual Yule feed following our December 16 meeting. It’s a potluck. When I announced it, I said, “It doesn’t matter what you bring. If everyone brings dessert, that’s fine, just so long as J brings his homemade raspberry ice cream. If everyone brings a main course, that’s fine, too, just so long as J brings his homemade raspberry ice cream. If we all bring salads, that also is fine, just so long as J brings his homemade raspberry ice cream. Any comments?” J quickly said that he would bring the requested item. We can’t have our winter feast without it. Tradition.

    The flower pictures were welcome, as always. The succulent garden is beyond spectacular. I have a soft spot for those purples against the green underneath.


  20. Hi DJ,

    What do you mean? Did you only just recently clean out the roof gutters? What a job to do over the winter months. If that is the case, you have my complete sympathy. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’ve got a Stihl mains powered electric blower which I use to blow any organic matter out of the roof guttering (and it is also great for cleaning all of the farm machines of dust and dirt at the end of any work). The gutter cleaning job gets done maybe once or twice per year – but unlike you, in dry weather. People use those little noisy little two-stroke blowers, but you’ve never seen air pushed outwards by a machine until you’ve seen what a mains electric powered motor can push. Sometimes if Sandra is around and I’m using the machine, I’ll wait until she inadvertently gets close and is distracted, then I’ll blow her sun hat right off the back of her head. Always unwise to get too close. 🙂

    Glad to hear that you survived the ladder!

    Ah, sand. Notably well drained, but I have little experience with such soils. They do tell me that getting more organic matter into the sandy soil assists with the retention of water during the warmer months.

    Not to put too fine a point upon the matter, but points 1, 2 and 3, are simply failure points within the larger system. Hey, that’s no criticism either because the water collection and storage systems here have to cope with similar failure points. I dunno, and would be interested in your thoughts, but it occurs to me that the failure represents the prevailing conditions defeating the economic response? For your interest, with the rains this week, the house water tanks are nearing full.

    Oh my! Please, just like the bears, cougars, and moose, DJ, I implore you to keep such freezing fog conditions in your part of the world. The basis for my thinking is that despite what the facts suggest as to how your compatriots conduct themselves during such conditions, your good self at least comprehend the risks. Mate, I’d be like one of those helpless little baby harp seals, and be clubbed to death by a freezing fog. No, this is something you must keep, and my opinion is fixed in this matter. It is pea soup thick fog outside tight now, but at 10’C! 🙂

    Thanks for the laughs with the poem!

    Is it possible that the Downy woodpecker was possibly intending to excavate a winter hollow in Avalanche’s favourite tree? Wars have been fought over lesser offences. Ah, good to hear that the pecking order has been properly enforced. The birds here largely ignore Ollie, but mercilessly tease the Kelpie’s. Birds are very clever.

    It’s not right, is it? 😉 There are moments when I swear that the King Parrots are trying to tell me something. Hopefully it is nothing more important than: Thanks for the fruit! They’re most insistent those birds, and at times when walking around with Ollie, one bird in particular will follow me around. The magpies will communicate in their own way, and I know their alert call, and always take it seriously. If the magpies need help with a fox, or something like that, and I’m out and about the property, they’ll come and get me by swooping past to catch my attention.

    It rained earlier this morning, and is raining now. But for most of the day, the rain held off despite the thick clouds. We did a big clean up of the heavy duty gauge chicken wire plant guards which are no longer in use. It was a bit of a mess, and we must have sorted out at least 80 of them. I was a bit worried a snake might move into the mess of cages.

    That’s funny, and would make J feel very appreciated. Yes, the traditions must be maintained! Hope it’s good. Yum!

    Thanks, and right now with all of the rain from the bonkers continent sized storm, the flowers are doing their best interpretation of a drowned rat. Hopefully, conditions improve for the flowers this week. The succulent garden has turned out really nicely.



  21. Hi Lewis,

    Ah, of course, the daughter has established herself in the area and is doing well. Makes sense, I’m just not used to parents who like their kids. 😉 Note to your good self (and myself as well), eat more pepitas if you want to avoid guy surgery – prevention always being the preferable option to that of a cure. Hope your friend does OK, and takes it easy whilst he recovers.

    Seriously, du jour procedure’s to the side, I do my best to stay out of the clutches of that lot. I’ve seen things go horribly wrong with them, and realise I’m dealing with very fallible humans. Always unwise to assume that they have your best interests at heart, and don’t ever be frightened to ask questions. I’d rather they said they didn’t know, than lie by suggesting they do know.

    Hmm. Winters are warmer and wetter here, so it is possible that the hay stack potato cellar on the fly concept, may not work. And it’s not just winters that are wet. As you may imagine, it rained early this morning, and is now raining again in the evening. However, today was heralded by thick low clouds and fog which at least had the common decency to hold off supplying us with daytime rain. Basically, flowery prose aside, we were able to do some stuff outdoors today and not end up like drowned rats.

    Lewis, here I have to confess. They tell me that it is good for the soul, and who can argue with such wisdom? There are one or two spots around the property that look less than what can only be described as neat and orderly. It’s true, and no, don’t defend me! 😉 One area in particular resembled an err, junk yard. It was where we stored the heavy duty gauge chicken wire previously used with the tree guards / cages. Honestly, it didn’t really matter when there were only a handful of tree guards (5 to 8 foot tall each), but it had gotten a little out of hand over the years. There were at least eighty tree cages in there. It was a mess, and plants had grown through the cages.

    Every single last cage was hauled out of the mess. They were then individually flattened out, then stacked in a nice neat pile according to the height of the chicken wire. It was a big job, but recently we’d seen rabbits getting into that area, and where there are rabbits, there may be snakes. And a cold, wet and thoroughly miserable day was just the right weather conditions for such work. It barely made it past 54’F today – which should be pointed out, is the last day before the official start to summer down under style. Tomorrow and Saturday look to be much the same.

    Hey, I could see that with onions and not having access to a suitable variety. They’re finicky plants at the best of time, and I have no idea why the seed would have such a short lifespan. I wonder if they’re heavily over-bred? Dunno.

    The mole trap is a great idea. The old bloke set up a rodent trap in the earlier series which utilised two bricks – one of which was going to fall over if a rodent treat was consumed. I’ll check out the series over the next few weeks.

    Over lunch I continued reading the book ‘Sand Talk’. If I’m not mistaken, I’d have to suggest the impression I’m getting is that the Indigenous folks know full well the deficiencies of western culture. It’s a good book, and a guide to better living. Mate, some of the stuff that gets reported in the media, always baffles me. It’s like the media folks never seem to have gotten the idea into their heads, that people in other countries – not necessarily friendly to the west – don’t also read the western media just to see the unusual things being reported on. Truly, it baffles me that.

    It hasn’t snowed here for a few years now, but who knows what the future holds in store. Hope you do get some lowland snow over the next few months. A bit of snow is always nice. However, too much of the white icy stuff can be a drama.

    Yeah, it’s nice to take the back roads, avoid peak hour and enjoy a slower pace of life. What’s the big hurry, anyway? With the recent huge upswing in immigration, the roads during peak hour are a bit of a nightmare. Makes me wonder if the folks in charge have ever heard of Peak Oil? Probably not.

    How did H enjoy the grooming experience? She was clearly having a massive fur situation, and such matters are best left to the professionals in the trade. They know about such things. 😉 The dogs here were finally able to run around like crazy for most of the day today. Yesterday they had a bad attack of cabin fever. Not my problem, although they did try and make it so.

    Candidly, I believe everyone who employs a cleaner, does a bit of cleaning beforehand. It’s human nature. Oh, look a major exception would be the cleaning dudes / dudettes who do those industrial scale cleaning jobs at hoarder houses, crime scenes and that sort of line work. I’ll bet they’re well paid. It would be a fascinating, if somewhat odoriferous and occasionally chunky hands-on, job.

    Did you manage to obtain any vegemite and/or marmite?

    Oh no. Haven’t they fixed up your lights yet?

    The succulent garden is the domain of the Editor, and so she would most approve of the book. Thanks for offering to do the road test on the book. I’m often guided by your literary choices.

    We may install the remainder of the blue kitchen cupboard fronts tomorrow. We’ll see.



  22. Yo, Chris – No sense talking to my friends in Idaho, about such “out there” things as pumpkin seeds. Nope. They’re red meat / processed food kind of folks, and nothing is going to change them. Well, it was nice to know them, while they were around. She takes some kind of anti-depressant. They’ve just upped the dose. She was saying, this morning, that she read a study that exercise was good for depression. But then read another study, that she like better, that said just a change of scene (such as, riding around in a car) was just as good, or better. I just observed that every little bit helps. I chuck and small sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, over whatever I’m having for dinner, probably 5 times a week.

    It got down to 32F (-0-C), last night. But, as the rain is coming back, there’s been a steady rise in temperature, since then. No snow in the forecast, but some loose talk of flooding, from Sunday, on.

    Oh, that’s old news. You’ve already confessed that some unphotographed corners of the farm may be less than tidy. But, as they say, confession is good for the soul, so if you must … 🙂

    Dealing with chicken wire, is like wrestling alligators. Or, snakes. Very large squeezy kinds of snakes.

    They can probably grow onions in Britain, now. As grapes have returned (as in Roman times), so will a lot of other things. I got the feeling the old duffer grew onions in the greenhouse, at the manor.

    I thought I’d see if our library had “Sand Talk.” Oh, yeah. 10 copies, in various branches, 7 copies sitting on the shelf … including my branch. I’ll probably pick it up on Saturday … well after the Santa parade.

    Oh, a lot of Americans don’t care what other countries think of us. As we’re so wonderful and superior. If you don’t look to close. Or, ask to many uncomfortable questions. Once you get beyond our well stocked supermarkets. Jeff Daniels speech in “Newsroom,” comes to mind. Again.

    H was at the groomers for 4 hours! I really didn’t want to come all the way home, and then go back. So, I hit the health food store. No Vegemite or Marmite. Next stop, The River. I checked into a large op-shop, in the same complex. Finally found a reading light I can live with. For $6.

    Then I stopped at “Community Thrift,” which had been in the old Yardbirds center. He told me that out of 70+ vendors, only 7 have been able to find new digs. 4 died, probably from stress. He’s got 1/10 the space, and pays the same rent. Parking and foot traffic is poorer. He’s ditched all the books. They do take up a lot of space, and tend to get out of hand.

    I picked up a 12 disc set of “50 Sci-Fi Classics.” Mostly black and white B and C pictures from the 1940s and 50s. Such classics as “Hercules Against the Moon Men,” and “Horrors of Spider Island.” 🙂 “Teenagers from Outer Space?” Judging from the titles, looks like there’s plenty of cheesecake.

    Then I stopped at the Visiting Nurses op-shop. Hadn’t been there in a long time. Found a small Japanese Hakata figure of an old man selling fish. Less than $2. I’ll add it to the other figures I’m sending to auction. Which won’t happen, this year. Oh, well.

    What I noticed about the first big op-shop and the last, is that everything has been “flattened out.” Hmmm. How can I describe it. Unobstructed line of sight from one end, to the other. Not as visually interesting, but, I suppose it’s due to shop lifting.

    So, then I went to the Club, expecting a call from the groomer, at any time. Well, three hours and many games of solitaire later … So, I think H looks fine, though I’m sure some would think her “do” is too short. Hair grows back and at $70 a pop, the longer I can put it off, the better. Once she’s my dog, I’ll see if she can tolerate the noise my clippers make.

    News from Hollywood. There’s to be a sequel, to “This is Spinal Tap.” Some surprising folks are going to be in it. Sir Paul McCarthy. Elton John (I thought he was a “sir,” also?). A lot of the original cast. Garth Brooks (!).

    And, from Library-Land, a few interesting things showed up on the “on order” list. The new “Pet Sematary” and “Exorcist.” Also, something called “Black Demon,” which is another Meg movie. Just a rip-off of the originals. But, might be worth a bowl of popcorn. All are now on my hold list.

    I don’t know if my kitchen light will be fixed, today. What, over three weeks now? Oh, well. It will give me something to whinge about, on next year’s “anonymous” survey. Lew

  23. Chris,

    I don’t have much choice about when I clean the gutters. The neighbors have maple trees whose leaves blow into the gutters on two sides of the house and fill parts of the gutters. Gotta wait for all the maple leaves to fall before cleaning the gutters. Ugh. And the leaves are falling later this year than usual. The crabapple tree still has over half of its leaves, as does one short hedge. The 2 hawthorn trees have barely begun to lose their leaves. It’s that kind of year.

    Yes, add organic material to sandy soil to improve water retention. However, it takes a LOT of organic material to make a tiny difference.

    Agreed, the larger system is failing. In theory, the residents who live closest to the storm drains are required to keep the drains clean. In reality, this doesn’t happen as there is no enforcement mechanism for this and many residents are unaware of this due to pathetic City communication. The City sent out crews from late August until mid October to inspect and clean nearly every storm drain in the City. Their work had been completed BEFORE leaves began to fall. Also, up until a week after Halloween, the City says to pile your yard’s leaves in the street and they will pick them up. But this service ends before many of the leaves have fallen; people will continue to move their leaves into the streets after the last date of that city service. Some of the streets in my neighborhood have storm drains plugged by the leaves, as well as a plethora of leaves mushed into the travelled lanes of the streets. The City did all of the street sweeping before the leaves had fallen, so the mess of leaves won’t dissipate until they’ve been ground up and decayed.

    Yes, some of the problem is declining City resources. Some is due to residents being unaware of the requirement to clean the drains, or else not caring to. I hope it was clear in the former paragraph that the City policies and scheduling also work at cross purposes, adding to the stormwater and potential flooding problem.

    Chris, I promise to do my best to keep the Dread Freezing Fog away from you! Be aware, however, that natural processes are more powerful than my abilities to forestall them, hence the key word “try”. 😉

    The Princess had to make a trip to the Rez. Left Tuesday afternoon and returned Wednesday evening. She avoided the fog on Tuesday but ran into patches of fog on the trip home. The roads were mostly good until she got into Spokane. That’s where the fog had precipitated and caused icy spots. Then it was snowing on top of those spots this morning – wet snow and only a skiff, the perfect conditions to turn all the roads into the Big Slick Car Crunch Tournament. The Princess was home well before that began and we are prudently avoiding it by staying home and drinking voluminous amounts of tea.

    Glad you enjoyed the poem! Reading the comments about the mouse farts was, well, inspirational. 🙂

    No, the Downy woodpecker visits a few days each week for a meal of whatever insects it can find that are burrowed in for the winter while living in a larger nearby tree. It is fun to watch. The war between the Downy and Avalanche is, indeed, due to lesser reasons than building a home on Avalanche’s turf.

    Yes, birds KNOW. Birds can communicate quite well with us when we’re willing to pay attention to them.

    Okay, the King Parrots. Hmmm. Maybe, perhaps, the King Parrots are nearly as intelligent as dolphins and white mice. And maybe the parrots are aware that something hideous is about to happen, and that they are preparing to leave. The birds may be saying to you, “So long, and thanks for all the fruit!” before they leave the planet. 😉

    Glad you got the clutter cleaned up before the snakes moved in. The snakes you interact with are downright scary.


  24. Hi DJ,

    Guttering, it should be said, has a propensity to collect leaves regardless of season. It’s one of those constant things, and I tell you what, when the hot summer winds are blowing from the centre of this arid continent, the tall trees will respond by dropping their leaves. Probably not an optimal response due to the increase in the fire risk, but good for the trees so as to reduce water and heat stress.

    But I hear you about the deciduous trees dropping their leaves at the end of the growing season. You already know that the trees intend to feed the soil, and not block up yours and the local drainage systems! 🙂 Or maybe that is the trees intention? Block up the drainage to get more water and organic matter back into the local subsoil via a minor flood event. 😉 Getting the water and organic matter back into the soil would surely assist the sandy soil in future years? The local trees probably are aware of this. Mate, I asked the trees once what they wanted, and the reply may have been: More trees. It’s been said before that it does no harm to ask, but the trees needs must be balanced against that of the other life in the forest. Things may be simpler in an urban environment – at least that is my best guess.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how to make the water collection system for the tanks work under all conditions. I don’t believe that outcome is possible, and so I reckon larger drainage systems would only ever work up to a point. The point being determined by the economic ability to pay for a particular response to the climactic event.

    What a nightmare of a problem for your city. In some ways it reminds me of the state goobermunts planned burn offs. You can plan a picnic, but can the weather be controlled? I think not. The city probably has to schedule these activities in advance regardless of the actual weather and climate conditions experienced. What could possibly go wrong? 🙂 But yeah, you called it correctly there.

    The thing is, all that organic matter could be run over in a mower and left on lawns or adjacent to trees for the soil critters to consume. Maybe I expect too much? Regardless, the soil critters will do the job anyway even if the leaves aren’t mechanically made smaller (with greater surface area). I don’t use any garbage services here other than taking metal for recycling to the nearby tip (or when there is a goodly amount – to the scrap metal merchant). Oh, and they take e-waste too, not that we ever have much of that. But a few years ago, the local council for some reason unbeknownst to me decided to provide something like three or four bins per household for different waste streams. So they went from one truck per week, to maybe three or four trucks per week. That, is progress for ya! 😉 Is it wise to try and discern sense and logic in these patterns? That’s what I wonder about. And exactly, everyone is working at cross purposes with inappropriate timing.

    That’s kind of you to at least try. I respect that. There are many things I try without any experience, such as the soldering of surface mounted capacitors on the inverters circuit boards. Don’t know anything about that, but I’ll give it a bash. What could possibly go wrong? 🙂

    Out of curiosity (and glad to hear that your lady made it home safely), do you have any idea why the freezing fog was in Spokane, and not elsewhere at that time? Local weather can be strange, and for some weird reason on the weather radar earlier I observed three storms from different directions converging over this area. It’s been a wet week. And unsurprisingly, is still raining.

    Worked inside today due to the rain and replaced more of the white vinyl wrapped kitchen cupboard door fronts with the intense blue painted coloured fronts. It’s looking good, but was a fiddly job as we did the draw fronts today.

    Glad to have inspired you with the mouse fart words. It’s pretty funny, but I can’t now recall where I original came across the idea. It may have been when we took down the ill fated 600W wind turbine all those years ago. Mouse flatulence produce more energy than that small turbine ever did. Was glad to see it go.

    Did you ever do anything with the lemon to a knife fight idea?

    The house batteries haven’t been fully charged for three days now. An impressive achievement given this is the first official day of summer. You wouldn’t think it was now summer here, but err, official arbitrary beginnings versus actual real world beginnings can be somewhat different.

    Lovely! I hadn’t realised that some of your birds over wintered. I’ll bet they hunker down in their hollows when winter conditions are sub fluffy optimal? Wombats do the same, sensible creatures. Dame Avalanche would enjoy the antics, as would the birds.

    Birds do know, yup. I listen to them birds because they see things I’d otherwise miss. Man, I seriously hope that is not the case with the King Parrots, although the idea cannot be easily dismissed. Dolphins indeed!!!! How funny was that book and series? The news reports are suggesting a horror summer awaits. Mind you, the news completely failed to mention this epic continent scaled storm originating from the unlikely direction of the Coral Sea.

    I have a great deal of respect for the local snakes, and encourage them to be in the wonderful land of, elsewhere. When we spotted a rabbit running into that messy area, we knew something had to be done. Sandra was dreaming about snakes last night after the work, not good. We did the final bit of the clean up there today (when it wasn’t raining).

    Oh, it’s meant to also rain tomorrow. 15mm or something like that. It’s a special treat.



  25. Hi Lewis,

    Oh, bummer about the diet, but it may work for some people. Hey, I wasn’t even aware that pumpkin seeds was an ‘out there’ concept. 🙂 Guess I need to get out more. Anyway, I’ve got this odd feeling that the heavy use of preservatives in processed food (how else do you stop the stuff from going off?), probably might also upset your gut health whilst it does what preservatives do. I reckon it all depends on how heavy handed the producers are with the stuff in the first place. Dunno, but I doubt we’ll ever discover the truth of the matter.

    Ook. Never tried those drugs, but people seem to find comfort in using them. They’re measurable in sewage streams, which are monitored and tested for all sorts of things. But yeah, that’s the problem with a chemical heart, at what point does taking them become the new normal? Dunno. I’d be interested in your thoughts in the matter, but I have noticed that people seem to want a pill or treatment to fix up what are basically lifestyle issues. I’m sure you know the feeling, but there have been a couple of times in my life when I’m forced to face up to previous choices, acknowledge those and the consequences, then head in a different direction. It’s not easy to do so, and I get why people want what they want with the pills and treatments, it’s just not my preferred path.

    The good professor’s words are always interesting, and I had not known that reduced air pressure at sea level increases the height of the sea level surface. Makes sense though. Turns out that flooding may be a risk for you, but at least King Tides don’t seem to be a near-term drama for people living closer to the coast. Wonder what the media had gotten excited about?

    Thank you, and assuredly, I feel better for having confessed my mess. Hey, that rhymes! Cleaned up the remainder of the area today in between the rain. Feels good.

    It’s raining now! And will again tomorrow. For reasons relating to the rain, we mostly worked inside today. Installed more of the blue painted kitchen cupboard fronts on. There were two lots of drawers done today which were quite fiddly to install. The cabinets are quite interesting in that they’re very solid, but are far more difficult to install than other brands I’ve used in the past due to the lack of factory pre-drilled and properly lined up holes for the drawer units. You have to go old school with them – which I can do. Dunno why that was the case, but it is. It took a lot of care and attention to ensure that all the fronts and handles all lined up spot on.

    Hey, did you notice that there is a new Mad Max instalment to be released next year? Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga trailer drops.

    All this talk of snakes is making me rather uncomfortable! Do they really need to be so darned poisonous?

    Hmm, are the onions and grapes grown there due to the current climate, or the availability of suitably bred plant species?

    Wise to dodge such things. You might get asked what you want for Christmas? Books, I’m guessing would be the answer, although perhaps you may ask for no further outbursts of civic nonsense! I’d have to suggest that Santa has a conflict of interest there. 🙂

    The book is making me think. This can be a dangerous thing.

    What a speech! Inspiring. I particularly liked the bit about not fearing so easily.

    A big job job like that with H, demands a bit of time. But 4 hours may be taking pampering to a whole new level. 🙂 Hey, at least they gave you back the right dog. Nice score with the reading lamp. It’s funny you mention that, but I needed one today working on the kitchen cupboard fronts. It was so gloomy, that I couldn’t see the measured markings I’d made on the blue paint. Had to resort to a sharpie pen, and better lighting.

    Ouch! That’s a hard story about commercial rentals. And almost makes me wonder if the business is now sustainable given the much reduced floor space. Books do get out of hand in such a business, knowing when it comes time to flog them off online where the customer base is bigger. But you still have to store the books somehow. That’s an awful story about how things turned out for the vendors. I hadn’t realised that there were so many. I’m pretty certain that community is actively discouraged, just sayin’.

    You’d hope the moon men worked out some way to stop exploding in the thin atmosphere of the moon. And don’t annoy the spiders on that island! Dude, you’ll have a blast with those films.

    The Japanese Hakata figures are pretty good. Is yours a caricature or more realistic? There’s quite the variety.

    Better than spending all your free-waiting-for-H-to-be-done time with the pinball / arcade machines, but I may have some issues there. Man, I’m with you, H’s hair will grow back just fine, and it’s not like she doesn’t have a coat to keep her warm. Save your money, is what I reckon. Oh, and avoid the arcade machines too whilst you’re at it! 😉

    No way. This I have to check out, and yeah I believe there is a ‘Sir’ before the artists name. Seems a bit of an oversight, they don’t give such monikers out to just anybody. Incidentally, Sir Paul was touring down under recently. Sir Mick would be a good addition to the film, don’t you reckon? Hey, I had to look up who Garth Brooks was. 🙂 I’m not mucking around. It was the lack of a title.

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about the latest Exorcist film. And the new Pet Semetary trailer for the film looked good. Hope you have some popcorn, or pumpkin icecream ready to hand? Although it may be out of season.

    Had to replace the LED globe in this room. It kept intermittently flicking off, then on again with long intervals in between. Electrical weirdness makes me feel unsettled. Of course, the light could just as easily be possessed. You can’t rule it out!

    A well deserved whinge too. Hope they fix the thing soon. The reading lamp would surely help.



  26. Yo, Chris – I recently read, somewhere, that smooshed wet leaves on pavement can be as slick as ice. Walking or driving. Lemon to a knife fight? Squeeze, and aim for the eyes. Works better than bear spray.

    Oh, I’ve found talking about diet is pointless. People have to want change, more than anything else. People want pills to treat symptoms, not underlying conditions. And doctors are also at fault, as they prescribe pills, for symptoms.

    All kinds of interesting things in sewage streams. They figure the problem with mutating frogs, and across the board low sperm counts in men, is due to prescribed medications shooting through us, and getting into the environment.

    Oh, the media has to keep us all excited, about something. Keep us reading, so they can charge more for their advertising. Which is based on number of readers.

    Pre-drilled holes? Are you mad? Think of the bottom line! 🙂

    The new Mad Max trailer was good. They’ll have to go a ways, to top the last one. The young girl clutching the teddy bear, was a nice touch. And how good is a name like Dementus?

    Onions … grapes … current climate … plant species. All of the above?

    What I really want for Christmas? Depends on if I’m in mixed company, or not. But for the family friendly list, a reading light (check), a new pair of pants, and a kitchen scale that doesn’t need to be plugged in a wall, or have batteries. I did some research. There are plenty out there, and some, not so expensive.

    “Sand Talk.” Will it hurt my head?

    Speaking of books, I’ve started to read “Pax: War and Peace in Rome’s Golden Age.” (Holland, 2023). It covers the period from the year of the four emperors, to the death of Hadrian. 70 pages in, and we’re still sorting through the four emperors. 🙂

    I’d say the Hakata figure is the more realistic. Older. The newer stuff is a bit “Hello Kitty.” This is an old duffer, sitting on the ground holding a basket in his lap. Which contains a fish, a mollusk of some kind, and two octopi. Some of the other ones I have are a wood carver and an old guy twining rope. He runs it between his toes. 🙂

    I never paid much attention to Garth Brooks, until I heard a song of his with the lyrics, “Daddy loved Momma, Momma loved men. Momma’s in the cemetery, Daddy’s in the pen.” Now that’s country music! 🙂 Lew

  27. Chris,

    All of the leaves that I collect go into either the compost pile or directly into the vegetable garden area. The organic material helps, but it takes a lot of it and a lot of time.

    If you can find a system that works under any possible extreme condition, you will have found the universal elixir. Nobel prizes will be yours for the asking. Riches, fame and a life of ease will follow. As you suggested, the energy inputs needed to make your water system perfect might be prohibitive.

    I’ve been less than enamored by the City’s scheduling and planning processes. I’m sure that the actual workers know how to do it better, but, well, they’re not MANAGERS, so we have to allow the managers and politicians to mismanage things and turn things into a fuster cluck.

    Many years ago, we, too, went away from one truck a week. Now there are 3. The non recycle garbage is picked up weekly. The recycle stuff every other week. Any compostable stuff is picked up weekly from early March until the end of November.

    Why was the freezing fog in Spokane and not elsewhere? Just lucky, I guess. 😉 It happens that way sometimes. At other times, the freezing fog is at other locations but not Spokane. Then there are the times when it is widespread. I’ve driven between here and the Rez in thick fog, freezing fog sometimes, on multiple occasions. Drove from Toppenish to Omak in thick fog at Christmas once, also. That was hideous. It just varies according to the whim of the weather gods.

    I’m still toying with ideas about how to do a lemon knife fight project. And what type of wood to use.

    That’s too weird. Summer and no solar production. Condolences.

    We had no solar production today. Snow. Snow. More snow. 10cm of wet stuff at -2C. All of the roads were ice rinks. Supposed to turn to rain overnight, get up to +3C tomorrow with rain. The County is plowing their roads. Haven’t heard about the City. At the 10cm mark the City is supposed to have all of its plows out and do an “All city plow” rather than only arterials. Color me skeptical.

    Dame Avalanche is thoroughly enjoying the snow. We went for a walk in it today. She was in her element for sure.

    The crows and I seem to relate similarly to how you and the magpies relate. Corvids, right? The chickadees often follow me around. For a few years, every time I went outside, at least one chickadee would fly near me and say hi. They’re fun birds.


  28. Hi DJ,

    It’s never enough is it? We still buy in composts, minerals, and not to mention the thousands of kilograms of coffee grounds – and I’m yet to have a surplus of organic matter. Everything gets back into the soil, even our own poop. And I hear you about the time it takes to manage all of these systems, such as your compost pile. The Earth is hungry, is perhaps the way of things? 🙂 Out of curiosity, have the folks and kin on the Rez ever mentioned how the ecosystem used to be in the general area? I get the impression that here, way back in the day, the trees were a lot taller, and there were fewer of them per acre. But then other parts of the mountain range, depending upon the aspect to the summer sun, varied between dense bush (hideouts for the forest critters) and more open forest (hunting grounds). The sameness of the bush in these parts rings alarm bells at the back of my mind. Of course the current general culture encourages a very contiguous fire prone environment and that is at the core of the story. It is an inability to discern.

    Hehe! Oh, I had not realised the predicament was that great. 🙂 Thanks for the happy correction to my thinking! Mate, the thing is I have to respond to people who have no experience whatsoever, when they ask me whether I’d considered this or that design response to a circumstance. I’m not stupid, we have considered many paths before settling on the option which is the least worst path. Sure, we may have missed an option, so that is why I listen and ask questions and hear stories. But I really struggle getting across the idea that, yes all things are possible, then there is what can we afford to do. And they ain’t the same things at all. Has the realms of physics ever grappled with this limitation?

    I’m so with you. When historians of the far distant future consider reasons for the collapse of western civilisation, they may cotton on to the idea that: Managers disconnected from the lay of the land and prevailing conditions had plans, then the workers were forced to implement the plans whilst having their reservations at doing so largely ignored. Spare a thought for the grader driver whom I spoke with years ago. The dirt road didn’t require grading, and there was an epic storm in the forecast. Before the work got under way, I had a chat to the grader driver and requested that he did not do that work on the road due to the storm forecast. His response was that the boss had ordained that the work was planned and that it was to go ahead, so it did. The mess was epic, and the previously firm road was turned into a quagmire that only the former Dirt Rat could get out of in four wheel drive low range. As you’d imagine, I cracked the sads, and the local council had to bring up several truck loads of crushed rock so as to provide a solid road surface. The take away, and I’m sure you’ve seen this, is that plans and schedules have to take into account the prevailing conditions. And if it’s not right to go ahead with work, so be it.

    Today was not right to work outside. It was raining when we awoke, and is still raining now long after sunset. Two additional inches of rain makes for very wet conditions outside. You know what facing up to reality looks like? A lunch at a local cidery with a pint of tasty local cider and a shared plate of nachos. Yum!

    My thinking is to not gift them the organic matter in those bins. 😉 They’re not worth it you know. It’ll come to a bad end.

    That sort of luck suggests that mad cash spent on lotto tickets would be wasted. 😉 For some odd reason, this week we are at the epi-centre of a major weather outbreak. I couldn’t agree more, if the weather gods decree mischief, mate you’re f$%^&*!

    DJ, I’ll be very interested to hear how the lemon carving goes, and I hope you can work a werewolf into there somehow? And maybe a wombat? And a tennis ball too! It would be appropriate somehow. I was thinking of you the other day. I pruned a thick limb off a quince tree, and the grain in the wood was really something else to look at. Had fiddle backing and just a really tight beautifully coloured timber. True furniture grade stuff, but not nearly big enough to be so employed.

    With two inches of rain today, there was less than an hours peak sunlight. How people expect to charge an energy hungry machine like car batteries this using technology, like this is way beyond me. Bizarrely, I do know someone who does this, and when we next catch up, I’ll ask the hard questions. I don’t wish to do so beforehand lest I scare them, and then the invites are withdrawn. See, I can be diplomatic.

    It’s awful, but I’m reading your depiction of the weather and thinking to myself how great the snow sounds. Sorry… Go Dame Avalanche! It’s in both of your ancestral memories.

    Yup, Corvidae! We’re not the only intelligent species on the planet. The birds are having fun, in between their more serious moments.



  29. Hi Lewis,

    It’s hard to tell, but based on recent finds, the painting was probably ‘retrieved’ as you suggest, from the kitchen. 😉 I’ll bet the family extracted some promises and benefits before handing over the 550 year old painting. I must also add that the folks in the original lead image for the article looked so earnest and serious. Another part of me wonders whether if they’d done their jobs in the first place, it wouldn’t have gotten to that stage. Oh well, I guess there’s a lot of cultural artefacts from antiquity to keep a track of. Mistakes will happen.

    That’s true about wet leaves on the footpath being a slip hazard. I will note however, and in my defence, you are making the assumption that there are many people walking around the footpaths in the first place. Of course, you and H would be, and we also took the dogs for a long walk up the wet dirt road earlier this evening, in the drizzle. Anywhoo, the whole slippery surface issue was at the base of the entire Hardware-sausage-gate incident from a few years ago. The WWII wartime garden dodged the entire onion concerns, by not having any. Things of course are different in these enlightened days, and there have been suggestions that onions pose a physical safety hazard, like those leaves you mentioned.

    Hehe! And I thought you’d ignored my amusing quip the other week about the bear spray. 🙂 Given the nature of the use of the product, how does a person even put it to the test? There’s a lot of questions to unpack there. And I liked the lemon squirt in the eye suggestion.

    That’s my take on the world too in relation to the stuff we shove into our mouths, and I wish it were not so, but it is. In some ways, the entire discussion becomes a test of a persons belief systems, and that’s some dangerous dialogue ground there. Treating the symptoms is a temporary solution. On the other hand, it really can be hard to get to the core of a problem, and then effect change. You’d have seen that in the Club, but the issue is pretty widespread.

    Yeah, that’s true. A few months, or even a year or two back they found traces of polio in Melbourne’s sewage. And nobody knows the source, it may have been from a vaccination, but then again, maybe not. Mate, that’s not good about the frogs. Hadn’t heard about that, and it is a problem in this country as well. Haven’t noticed any mutations in the frogs and toads here, but I’ll keep a look out for such things.

    The limits to growth folks standard run model suggested that pollution will increase in line with population even as the availability of food declines, and that eventually causes a population reduction, probably to a lower carrying capacity than in previous pre-industrial times. I’d heard that about the reduced sperm count, and have long considered that shifting environmental, stress, diet and exercise all contribute into that story. I dunno what people expect. A pill for that maybe? I can’t speak for other people, but we just made the decision not to have kids. It doesn’t seem that big a deal to me, but people get plenty upset about that choice. The thing is, it seems really weird to me that people are pushed into narrow life choices when it wasn’t all that long ago that guys didn’t have to be the ‘family guy’ along with all that stuff. Historically, this just wasn’t the case. Perhaps mine and the Editor’s families were so dysfunctional, that we could look past that option and see what else there was to do out there in the world. Dunno. A mystery? Have you got any thoughts in this matter?

    Advertising revenue does seem to be at the core of the issue. Imagine if the media had a ‘nothing much happened in the world today’ edition?

    It rained pretty much the entire day today. Two inches has fallen, and it’s still raining. Bonkers weather. Maybe six inches has fallen since Friday a week ago. Hard to comprehend. Had the day off work, and visited a local cidery where we enjoyed a pint of cider and shared some nachos. A lovely indoors day, and the place was doing some good business for such a wet day.

    Hehe! You’re probably right there about the loss of profitability.

    It’s pretty good character name, which sounds Latin, with a twist of strangeness. Not a person to trifle with.

    Thanks. I’d just wondered at the difference. I guess there are some cool climate varieties of grapes producing those sweet ice wines. The early frosts would convert the starches into sugars is my thinking on how the grapes end up with the sweetness.

    🙂 A lot of kids reading… Hehe! We’ve got one of those spring powered kitchen scales. They work.

    Man, the Sand Talk book is hurting my head, but in a good way. The bloke is saying what needs saying.

    Are the four emperors really of any great note given their rule lasted less than a year? Hadrian seems to have been a stabilising force. I came up with a theory that western civilisation is in trouble because the managerial elite can’t adapt schedules and programs to that of real world conditions.

    I’d noticed that about the Hakata figures which is why I asked the question, so yeah I see what you mean. Liked your choice too. That’s some strong toes. Makes you wonder what a world with less footwear would look like?

    Thanks for the laughs, and yeah country music goes places. The national youth music broadcaster rarely plays country music, however years ago there was that song which got a bit of airtime: “Spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer”. I’m being serious too, a novelty country song perhaps? I remember from the 70’s some country dude singing the lines: “Oh lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way”. Yep, country music. Goes places.



  30. Hi, Chris!

    I have enjoyed reading this week’s post so much, but I am not going to have time to comment. The moggy had another heart incident – while his mother was out of town – and we have all been cat doctors. He is doing well, though. And I have my mother’s birthday (she will be 86) and a visitor coming to stay with us. See you next time!


  31. Yo, Chris – And, in news of the world … Back to the land, Portuguese style. I’ve been reading about this, for a couple of years. At least back to the upset of 2008. Italy, Greece. Etc.


    Capt. Cook’s ship, the HMS Endeavor, may have been found off the coast of Rhode Island. Mr. Greer’s stomping grounds. There are Australians involved …


    Atlantic Magazine had an article, “Inflation is Your Fault.” I think you said the links to that magazine don’t work for you. The article is by Annie Lowrey. LOL. One phrase that jumped out at me was, “People hate inflation, just not enough to spend less.”

    I see the painting is going to a museum, but the family retains ownership. Wonder what the story behind that is? Maybe the family paid for the painting, way back when. Or, they’re charging 50 years of storage fees? They’re probably getting the restoration, gratis. So many questions.

    “…onions … physical safety hazard…” How so? I suppose you could throw them at someone. Or, if the wind was right, cut them to blind your opponent. Maybe there are onion cannons? As with potato cannons?

    When I was whinging about making pie crust, several people suggested I just buy one of the pre-made ones. My response was, “Have you checked out the ingredients, on those.” Which brought all such conversations to a full stop. And I have the sense not to pursue it further.

    Here, frog mutations were first noticed in 1995. Whatever it is, also effected other amphibians. Anything that lives in a wet environment. At first, they wanted to blame it on a disease. Anything other than the carp we’re putting into the environment.

    I can’t say I ever made a conscious decision to not have kids. I just was never interested. What I find interesting is that some people from large families, have small or no families. My Dad had 17 brothers and sisters. All but one had 2, 1, or no kids.

    We were supposed to have a bit of wind, last night. Gusts to 40mph. Didn’t happen. 25mph was the top speed recorded. Didn’t loose the power. But, we have a lot of rain on tap. Flood watch is going up, tonight, and will continue through most of the week. Prof. Mass has a bit to say about that.

    I was looking at the new book / on order list last night. And spotted another book that might make your head hurt. 🙂 “The Dreaming Path: Indigenous Ideas to Help Us Change the World.” (Callaghan, 2023). He’s apparently some Australian indigenous elder. Might be useful and interesting. Might just be a lot of New Age woo-woo. I put it on my hold list.

    Well, let there be light. The guy showed up and changed my tubes in the kitchen, yesterday. He managed to crack the cover on the fixture. And, there are no other covers on tap. But, it’s not so bad that it can’t be used, or, is even very noticeable. Apparently I was “lucky” that I got the last two tubes in supply. And that the local hardware store didn’t have any in stock. I figure, sooner or later, I’ll be reduced to a kerosine lamp and a mirror. Or a wick and animal fat.

    I baked a dozen plus banana / cranberry muffins, last night. Tasty. I like them cut up with a splash of almond milk, on top. Lew

  32. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for taking the time to drop by and say hello. 🙂 Hope the moggy pulls through OK and you can manage the heart issues.

    Had a cat years ago who had the dreaded cat-flu when he was a kitten. Used to blow snot bubbles on the windows, and if the sun got to them, they’d set like epoxy resin. Hard to clean…

    Enjoy the celebrations and visitor!

    Six inches of rain this week…



  33. Hi Lewis,

    That was an excellent article on the young folks heading back to the land. Inevitably the move involves hard work and compromises, but the couple sounded to me like they were making a go of it, and trying something different.

    A few things stuck out at me in that the parents were travelling a lot whilst the kids were struggling, and I’m not sure how I feel about that – neither of our parents chucked us any bones once we were declared adults, so perhaps I have a bad attitude there? A touch of honest self reflection does no harm! 🙂 The other thing that bothers me is that many people have this expectation that you can make money off the land, and I have a very different take on that. I could be wrong, but at this stage of the game it is probably better to use an off farm income to invest in the infrastructure, systems and your own skills for that matter. I dunno, I seem to be at odds to most other folks expectations there, although the author and farmer Gene Logsdon said pretty much the same thing. And permaculture sorry to say is a beginning point, and not an end point (that won’t win me any friends with that thought either!)

    Knowing the Endeavour was originally a repurposed coal transporter makes Captain Cook’s odyssey all that much more amazing. Talk about waste not. Anyway, I’m unsurprised that the ship ended up sunk there. Did I read the article correctly that it was the British navy who sunk the ship which ended up near to Mr Greer? Odd things happen in that corner of your country, just ask Mr King!

    Oh wow! That’s a novel approach to the issue. Yeah, the Atlantic want mad cash. Hang on, I’ll try something… … Nope, you have to log in. Oh well. Anywhoo, it’s been said before by smarter folks than I, that a fish rots from the head. That’s what is going on here. The folks in charge of the mad cash supply, can’t stop spending more than they earn, so why should anyone else? It’s a road to disaster land, and eventually restraint will be enforced from outside forces, which is why the west is currently experiencing inflation. The mechanisms which tamped that economic monster down, are failing. Basically most people in the west want someone else to halt spending, and forces outside the west appear to have had enough. Be grateful they’re not dumping their western foreign currency reserves in any great mass, but appear instead to be slowly using them up by buying favours.

    Nope, the word on the street at the time of the incident was that dropped fried onion skins posed a slip hazard to customers. There may have been one incident. A house around these parts has a human cannon in their front yard, although it is slightly hidden behind a thick hedge these days. You’d reckon that there would be a story there.

    Yeah, exactly, beware the unknown pastry ingredients. Speaking of which, I’m in the early stages of making a tiramisu from scratch. made the lady finger biscuits today. Turned out well too, and they’re now in an air tight container. Next on the list is making the mascarpone cheese, which is easy enough but will have to wait until maybe Wednesday. What surprised me about the biscuit recipe is that there were so many different variations on the same theme, and one of the most popular didn’t provide any actual measurements, it simply showed the ingredients in separate bowls in an image and you had to work out the ratios. Stuff that. I hunted through recipes until I found one that was speaking my language. Some of the recipes seemed written for people who already knew all the steps in the process. I guess nobody was asking any mad cash for their knowledge. Have you ever had to use a recipe which gave the ingredient ratios in an image format? That’s a new one to me, but as I said, it had a lot of very positive reviews. Perhaps I’ve become a dinosaur?

    Yeah, nah, the frog mutations would be due to pollution. If it was a disease, I’d be imagining that the effects would be more localised. The thing is, it wouldn’t be just the frogs impacted by the pollution, for sure it would be effecting humans as well.

    The end point is the same (consciousness or apathy towards a result), and historically what’s going on now is the aberration, not that most people want to consider that aspect to the story. Still, the truth of the matter is that what cannot be sustained, generally isn’t sustained. Hmm. My lot weren’t from big families, but the Editors mother was one of eight, and the Editors story was as you wrote – one.

    Hehe! Nobody wants to experience ‘intense and interesting’ weather! Probably the source of DJ’s snow, and your friends in Idaho copped a notable snow mention as well. Nobody wants a notable ‘snow mention’ in a forecast. 86’F tomorrow, and after six inches of rain, it’s gonna be humid. Yikes!

    Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say `’head hurt’ at will to old fellas (like me!) There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. 😉 One head hurt at a time please!

    I’m not surprised that those long fluorescent tubes are in short supply. All the cool kids are using LED’s for lighting these days. My experience is that the life expectancy of the LED globes is about the same. Funny that. When the time comes, the mounting hardware can be swapped over easy enough. Waste, what is this thing? Glad the tube could be fixed. Nobody complained about such candles in the past…

    Yum! The muffins sound pretty tasty.

    Cheers and better get writing!


  34. Yo, Chris – I don’t know how many times I’ve read articles where people banging on about permaculture make a good chunk of their farm income by … teaching permaculture. Sweeping generalization alert, but I’ve read enough of them to begin to think it’s a bit of a Ponzi scheme. 🙂 Oh, it’s got some good concepts, but seems to be peddled as a “wander out to the garden, meet all your needs, and never do a lick of work.”

    Oh, I agree. Off farm income for infrastructure. Any small surplus of produce might be better used for … community building?

    Yes, the Brits sunk 5 ships to deprive the patriots (depending on your point of view) of their use. Not the only time they did it. They often sank American ships, to block harbor channels, and such.

    Human cannon? Retired side show performer? Handy if you want to shot the bodies of plague victims, over city walls.

    Making Tiramisu from scratch? Boy, that’s ambitious. But what if it’s so wonderful, the commercial stuff will never again, measure up? But I bet you’re having fun. I’ve never seen a recipe that just had a ratio kind of system. Although really early recipes just had a list of ingredients, and you had to figure it out. Maybe that’s the next step. First our measuring spoons and cups, aren’t good enough, and we have to weigh everything. Next up, no guidance at all, and you’ve got to figure it all out on your own. Although, I do have a book I haven’t dipped into, yet. “Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.” (Ruhlman, 2009).

    It was interesting when I was watching the cook make the chocolate pudding, on “Wartime Kitchen and Garden.” She goes, “Add a cup of flour…” (as she grabs what looks like a garden variety tea cup … at least she said in passing, “…about 4 oz.”) “Add a tablespoon of…” (As she grabs an actual tablespoon out of the eating utensil drawer), and “…then add a teaspoon of …” (the teaspoon appears to be what you stir your tea with.) I’d guess she gets the desired results, with this rather freeform method of measurement, so why change?

    The weather here is still filthy. H and I are headed for the Club, and I hope there’s a little break when we’re on our way back. I’d like to see if I can scrounge more leaves, at the library.

    Onto books. I picked up “Sand Talk,” at the library, yesterday. Usually, I read the introduction to a new book … look at any pictures. But, it didn’t have an introduction, so I just dipped in a bit, here and there. When I ran across “…sentient rocks…” I thought, “Oh, dear. I wonder if Chris has got to that part, yet.” 🙂

    I also picked up “The Lost Supper: Searching for the Future of Food in the Flavors of the Past.” (Grescoe, 2023). I read the introduction. Basically, seems to make the point that we have not enough eggs in one basket. The lack of species variation within species. That we depend too much on two few varieties of plants and animals. It’s well written.

    I also skimmed through “Botanic Gardens of the World: Tales of Extraordinary Plants, Botanical History and Scientific Discovery.” (Trentham, 2022). It’s set up chronologically, starting in the late 1500s. Early botanic gardens seemed attached to universities. As before the Reformation, and as monks ran early universities, I wondered if those early gardens were remnants of monastic gardens? Following the development of glass houses, was also interesting. The first glass house, built at the Jardin des Plantes (Paris), in 1713 was to shelter a coffee plant 🙂 .

    I got to see a bit of your “Royal Botanic Garden” (Sydney, 1816), “Royal Botanic Gardens” (Victoria, 1846 … you can thank them for your European blackberries,) and the “Mount Annan Australian Botanic Garden” (1988.)

    I ran across an interesting bit, about the “Huntington Botanical Garden” in San Marino, California. It was a rich man’s estate (I actually visited), and in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they planted over 100 species of Eucalyptus. As an experiment in it’s viability as timber. I don’t know how that went, but they eventually thinned it out, added a lot of other plants from Australia, and it’s now an “Australian Garden.” I don’t remember that, but the place had several specialty gardens. A “every plant mentioned in the Bible” garden. A Shakespeare garden. A cactus and succulent garden.

    It was an interesting book to browse through. Oh, besides the usual reasons to have a walled garden, another reason, in the early days, was to prevent plant theft. Lew

  35. Hello Chris,

    Your rains look challenging. Good that the tanks are full!
    And the king parrots seem intelligent!

    Here, up in Scandinavia, we got a cold spell. We’ve had more than a week of below-zero temperatures and it seems we will get one more before next thaw. We are in the south of Sweden, and it is quite unusual to have cold periods like this. Strangely enough, it was the same last year.
    Record heat in September and October. Record fog/gray/rain in November. And now a cold December. Plants and animals are confused, as are the farmers.

    Collapse has many flavours. Brittleness comes to a large extent from the religious crusade to “increase efficiency” by monopolizing functions. Ten days ago the only (!) sugar refinery in Sweden exploded, and I talked to a farmer who has 700 ton sugar beets waiting to be processed at the Örtofta plant. Now Father Frost is eating the beets. Caries risk?

    I think you are right with the “living off the land” challenge. As someone quipped, “eke”! is what we hear from people who are trying to eke out a living off the land. Some make it work. I love the book by Emmet van Driesche, “Carving out a living off the land”, where they describe the various challenges and inventiveness needed.
    The same I think is true of the P-word. Actually, I do not think it is the starting point, but an observation that can be done only afterwards. If something works, and enriches the local ecology while giving a harvest, it is permaculture. If not, it is not.

    A major reason why rural life is difficult, I suspect, is that laws and regulations are written in the city. What is good to city folks happen to stay in the legal books. What is bad for city folks is quickly changed. Slowly, over time, rules and regulations are changed in favour of those who sit in parliament and in favour of business.
    Farmer are poorly organized politically, and a very small demographic.

    Most people around here live in a rural villa, commuting to town for work. And those who run industrial farms are just as integrated in the global supply chains as everyone else. I have met only a handful of crazy and wonderful people who are living off the land with minor external needs, like salt and coffee.
    A neighbour told me about the old days when she visited her grandparents. Once per week someone went to town to get supplies and sell surplus. Once per week to church. The rest of the time, everyone on the farm staid at the farm.

    Those times will come back, it is only a question of timing. If we knew, how would it change our actions?

    Thanks for hte


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