Monday, 17 October 2016

Winding your way down on Scruffy Street

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I’d like to introduce a new member to our group – Bones Anonymous – tonight and was hoping that everyone can make Sir Scruffy, who is on his first meeting, feel very welcome here.

Everyone: Hi, Sir Scruffy!

Can you tell everyone something about why you are here tonight? The moderator then hands the talking stick to Sir Scruffy who accepts it with good grace.

Thanks everyone for making me feel welcome as I’m a bit nervous as this is my first meeting and all. By the way, we can drop the whole “Sir” thing here as it is just Scruffy.

Everyone again: Hi Scruffy!

Yeah, thanks again. Um, well, I’ve always had this problem with bones and the enjoyment is no longer there for me. I see a bone and it becomes a personal challenge and I turn into a horrid monster. Yes, thanks, I appreciate the disbelief, but here I feel I must keep it real and tell it like it is. Yes, that's right: horrid monster. It all came to a bit of a head about two weeks ago when I was enjoying the Spring sunshine and totally destroying, sorry I meant enjoying, a quiet chew of my beef bone when Poopy the Pomeranian (he is technically a Swedish Lapphund, but let’s not give him airs and graces shall we?) walked way too close to my bone. Not fair, it was my bone, I tell you. Oh sorry, there I go again. And anyway, Poopy copped a good, well deserved and proper biting from me and our dog fight extended for quite a distance into the orchard. Who would have thought that Poopy would have put up such a good fight? Not I! He is pretty handy in a scrap.
Sir Scruffy enjoys a good chunk of bone
Anyway, that is when things turned really ugly. My owner Chris, had to break up the dog fight which I would have won. Chris grabbed me by my collar and dragged me back into the house. Poopy got the bone too. What was worse was that Chris looked me in the eye and said: “You used to be the best dog in the household! What has become of you?” At those words, I felt shame, although technically I still was the best dog in the household, merely because no other dog had seized that title. I had to admit though I do have a problem with bones and I was the major contributor to the ongoing canine Bone Wars. Yes, I freely admit that I have a problem with bones.

“Winding your way down on Scruffy Street
Light in your head and dead on your paws
Well, another crazy day
You'll munch the night away
And forget about everything”

I used to be the best behaved dog, before the bones. Well, technically, I still am the best behaved dog amongst a very motely pack; surely my owners understand that I’m still the same dog underneath it all? It will all blow over in time, maybe.

Anyway, I’m here tonight because, well, I want to find a way back to that unquestioned best behaved dog status. It was a good thing being the best dog ever, as I got to sleep on the floor in the bedroom. I acted as the interpreter for the outside dogs too during the night. For example: Are those fools barking at another boring wombat (unless it was wombat bones… Mmmm wombat bones!) or are they barking at something that needs human attention, like the when the drunks drove down the driveway late one night. How good am I?
Sir Scruffy enjoys his perquisite of sleeping in the bedroom and acting as interpreter for the other dogs
Look, my problem began because I just never had bones as a puppy. None! No bones, anywhere. Not even wombat bones. And bones are the best ever! Look at my bright shiny teeth. Yup, I just can’t control my feelings towards the bones. So, I’m here tonight looking for a canine sponsor to help me control my bones compulsion. As long as it is not Poopy. Who'd want Poopy as a sponsor? Look, the other day he was posing for a photo beside the rapidly growing broad beans.
Poopy poses for a photo beside the broad beans
What a showbag that dog is, he looks good on the outside, but is totally full of rubbish on the inside. And he wants my bones. Oh no, do I have to make amends with Poopy?

Someone in the Group: Yes, Scruffy, it probably isn’t a bad idea to make amends for your past behaviour with Poopy.

What! Well, perhaps I better make amends with Poopy. You don’t know what sort of week I’ve had. It has been one tough week.

Moderator of the Group: Tell us about your week Scruffy, but don’t rubbish on too much or I’ll call it time on you.

“And it's taken you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything”

Oh, well, OK, I can do that. Well, this week it has been waaaaay windy! Do you know how hard it is to look cool when the wind is blowing so strongly that a dog looks exactly like a shag pile carpet from the 1970’s! Yeah, and not like that carpet looked back in the 1970’s when it was new, but as the same carpet would look today. Honestly, it is enough to send any best behaved dog in any household back off the wagon and onto the bones.
Sir Scruffy struggles to stay looking cool in the strong winds this week
Earlier in the week, I wasn’t able to enjoy bones because it was cold. Really cold, so I stayed inside the house as much as possible and practiced my next best gift: Sleeping. And I’m really good at sleeping. I can sleep in the hallway, which has a very nifty in built library, although none of the books have anything useful to say on the subject of bones. Hang on, is that an anatomy book? Oh, interesting!
Sir Scruffy practices sleeping in the hallway / library
But my other favourite spot to explore my gift of sleep is in my sleeping basket. That basket is mine and when I see Poopy sleeping in it, the first thing I do is dob on Poopy! And Poopy always gets evicted, because I was the best behaved dog in the household. So there! Best of all, the sleeping basket is near the wood heater and I feel toasty warm at night, when other lesser canines have to sleep outside.
Sir Scruffy practices sleeping in his sleeping basket
Observant listeners will notice that I look less than impressed in the above photo. Well, there is a good reason for that bad attitude. That’s because the wood heater has been quite smoky this week and hasn’t been putting out much heat. Anyway, on the first dry sunny day, I sent Chris up onto the roof to clear out the wood heater flue. He is very clever and can climb up onto the roof. You would not see me up there.
Chris cleans out the wood heater flue with an extendable brush
Apparently the extendable brush was pushed a long way down into the flue of that wood heater. It is a very clever idea, and I certainly would have come up with such a clever idea if anyone had bothered to ask my opinion.
The extendable brush can be pushed a long way down the wood heater flue
Not much soot fell out of the wood heater flue that day. What actually happened was that a whole lot of steel from inside the combustion chamber had delaminated and blocked up the flue. As I am a sophisticated and intelligent canine of noble breeding, I will not recount the exact words used by Chris to express his dissatisfaction with the wood heater as they included a number of extraordinary and inventive expletives. Who cares anyway as the heater is now burning strongly again. Chris probably needed a nice bone to calm him down. Bones aren’t the problem, they are the solution! Ooops, can I say that here? Sorry for the slip up. Yes, bones are bad.
A large quantity of delaminated steel and a small quantity of soot blocked up the flue in the wood heater this week
Chris was clearly a glutton for punishment this week as he dug up various sections of the gardens watering system today and laid the pipes over the surface. Of course, on a recent dog walk in a local botanical garden I happened to point out to Chris, that those clever gardening people also place their water pipes on the surface and how come we don’t too? Well, I did get a rather withering look from Chris, so I shall keep my opinions to myself in future. One doesn't want to buy more trouble.
Sections of the watering system were dug up, checked for leaks and placed on the soil surface
Who knows what things humans are doing all the time with their constant tinkering and digging. Pah for that! The only digging should be when you are digging up previously buried bones, that’s proper digging that is! Sorry, it’s the bones you see… I just can’t help it!

“You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you're trying, you're trying now”

Then they were mucking around with lovely smelling manure and some plants. Chris said something about the water had to be connected before the tomato seedlings could be planted and so the water pump had to also be replaced as well for some strange reason. There was lots of huffing and puffing in between some rather unsavoury talk. Humans! Anyway, eventually all of the tomato seedlings were planted out. And I said to them: What are you going to do with the rest of the tomato seedlings. And they looked at me and said: Get lost! No wonder, I have to find comfort where I can. Poor Sir Scruffy...
The tomato seedlings were all planted out today just before a couple of solid days of rain were forecast
Given the humans didn’t want me around, I thought I’d do a show and tell for the group and take you on a quick tour showing how everything is going!

“Another year and then you'd be happy
Just one more year and then you'd be happy”

I noticed today that they put some sticks into the two asparagus beds. I don’t know what they’re doing and no doubt, they don’t know what they’re doing either! Still, they must know something, mustn’t they?
The asparagus beds have now had timber supports placed in them so as to stop the spears from falling over
Then I spotted this mysterious flowering bulb. No doubt someone at this meeting will hopefully be able to tell me what it is. Anyone? Then I can show those humans just how smart I am? Well, I was the best behaved dog after all.
The mysterious flowering bulb which produced flowers
Flowers, flowers and more flowers! Can you eat them, that’s what I want to know? I can’t even reach the quince flowers either, but I’m told that they are very attractive.
The quince fruit trees are flowering this week
Yeah, yeah, more flowering bulbs. Blue bells this time.
Bluebells are sporting flowers all over the place
And don’t forget that I was once the best behaved dog in the household! Oh yeah, it is not about me is it, because the next flowers are forget me nots (Haha! How good was that joke, I told you that I was a clever dog!).
Forget me nots are very hardy and reliable flowering plants and even a little bit weedy
The flowers on the pear trees are again out of my reach. I only wanted a taste of them. How unfair! Anyway, there are a lot of unreachable pear flowers this week.
The Asian and European pear trees are flowering
Dogs like chips and I am no exception. Of course being an intelligent dog, I realise that chips come from potatoes so it is very good that Chris planted a lot of them this year. And best of all they seem to be growing well!
The first of the potatoes produced leaves this week
The radishes have also germinated earlier this week. Seriously, what sort of dog eats radishes? What do you mean that you put white radish into my dog biscuit mix. Yuk!
The many radishes and beets have germinated this week in the sunshine
I like bones, but I also like strawberries and it is a total disgrace and a major chunk of unfair that Chris and the editor put layers of bird netting over the many strawberry plants just to keep me out. Not fair at all I tell you!
Several layers of bird netting were placed over the many strawberry plants to protect the fruit and plants from pretty much everything!
Being an old dog, you kind of remember the past and stuff. So I wanted to show a before and after shot to show what is possible for a reasonably neglected garden bed in four years which was the time between the first photo and the second.
Making a garden bed on a steep slope 2012
The same slope in 2016

“He's got this dream about buying some land
He's gonna give up the bones and the one-dog nights
And then he'll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything”

Thanks for listening to my story and with your support and sponsorship I promise to be better behaved in the future. Woof! Woof!

And also serious apologies to Gerry Rafferty for destroying his most excellent song Baker Street. Dogs will be dogs!

The temperature outside now at about 8.15pm is 8.3’C (46.9’F). So far this year there has been 1,040.8mm (41.0 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 1,020.2mm (40.2 inches).

Monday, 10 October 2016

Bow River

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link:

Regular readers will know that this blog does not usually touch upon political matters and I see no reason to disappoint those readers. The main reason for this avoidance of all things political is that there are plenty of other places on the Interweb to read about the surprisingly vision free braying of our political class. And to be honest, the dizzying intellectual heights for what passes as political discourse and discussion these days, is perhaps beyond my understanding. However....

The wind has been roaring over the south eastern corner the continent this week and I almost feel as if there is a feeling of change in the air. Whilst I was feeling a foreboding of change, other people down this way have had change forced upon them. Most people would be unaware, but on the Friday just passed, Ford Australia ceased manufacturing vehicles in this country. Ford had been manufacturing vehicles here for over sixty years and now, I guess, the Ford factories are quiet. General Motors (Holden) and Toyota will also soon cease manufacturing vehicles in Australia too. For whatever reason, the political class and/or the population had lost the will to support the vehicle manufacturing industry in Australia. It is my opinion that the people directly impacted by that change, were in a certain sense, thrown to the wolves.

There is a human face to that change. As many of you will know by now, I am an accountant. I  worked on a production line as a young lad and also again in a manufacturing business many years later as an accountant. Both of those businesses were shut down. And I got to see that process of shutting down a manufacturing business twice from two very different perspectives. So when newspapers report that an estimated 250,000 workers will eventually be “affected” (whatever that means) by the imminent shut down of the vehicle manufacturing industry in Australia, I know some of the stories and faces of people who faced very similar “affects”.

Rest assured that the factories themselves don’t stay quiet for long though. Soon the lights get switched on again and the auctioneers move in, the bids are placed, and the tools and machines are quietly shipped off overseas. During the factory shut down that I witnessed, I quickly realised that other countries value their manufacturing industries and are more than happy to take our scraps. And so I saw the containers arrive whilst the tools and machines were rapidly packed up and it could be said that: they performed their final disappearing act.

“Listen now to the wind babe
Listen now to the rain
Feel that water lickin' at my feet again”

My first job as an adult was with the most social workplace that I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Long lunches and late Friday nights at the pub were all part of that job. Honestly it was like walking into a warm and embracing family. Us young ones used to head off to the clubs after those pub nights – if we were still able to – for a very messy end. I was rarely able to escape the messy end, because the housemates at home, who it was fair to say possibly weren’t as messy as I by that stage of the evening, were often very insistent that I hadn’t yet had enough, and could well use some more. Of course, my housemates weren’t being entirely altruistic in their concern for my partying well-being as my job also enabled me to pitch in with the taxi fare to whatever was their choice of destination. Saturday mornings meant coming down like a dirty mongrel, but there was the warm glow to be had – in between the greasy hamburgers, water and retching – that a good night was apparently well spent in the company of  friends.

Then I was made redundant from that job – through no fault of my own – during the recession that we had to have in the early 90’s and not only did I lose that job, I also suddenly lost a great deal of my social life. The warm and embracing family that came along with that job suddenly disappeared with my income. It was a bit of a shock to me, but I was a young and resilient bloke and so I took that lesson to heart and moved on and was very careful not to repeat it.

“I don't want to see this town no more
Wastin' my days on a factory floor
First thing you know I'll be back in Bow River again”

I wonder what sort of future the “affected” people in the rapidly redundant car industry will face. I have read the average age of the “affected” people is that they are in their fifties and they’ve worked in that industry for over two decades. Sure, they probably received a good redundancy payout so the economic effects of all this will take a while to filter down. But I wonder how many of them had any mates outside of their work and families? Did they have any hobbies or social connections with the wider community or did they give everything over to their work and families? And spare a thought for their unsung wives / husbands / partners who now have to pick up the pieces and form some sort of semblance of a life. I wonder how they’ll all fare?

“I been working hard, twelve hours a day
And the money I saved won't buy my youth again”

Last night, I travelled into Melbourne for food and friendship. And as I walked around the rainy city at night marvelling at all of the people who were enjoying the facilities, I took a moment to look up into the sky and I was a bit awe struck at all the big skyscrapers. It struck me that at the very top of the skyscrapers the city sky was dominated by signs proclaiming the banks, insurance companies, and superannuation funds and I wondered to myself what that lot actually produced?

“Goin' for the heat babe, and a tropical rain
In a place where no man's puttin' on the dog for me”

Speaking of party-time, the marsupials who share the farm have been showing off their little ones over the past few weeks. The other day, the editor took this great photo of a young kangaroo with a joey hanging out of her pouch.
A young kangaroo with a joey hanging out of her pouch has been enjoying the farm’s amenities over the past few weeks
Toothy the long haired dachshund has been assisting me with the construction of the new berry enclosure. A few days ago Toothy was instructing me as to the exact location of the gate post for the far end of the new berry enclosure.
Toothy instructs the author as to the exact location of the gate post for the far end of the new berry enclosure
Observant readers will note that in the above photo the far end of the berry enclosure now sports a delightful new steel wallaby proof gate welded up out of all sorts of scrap metal that we had lying about the place. I love my welder! There you go I’ve said it, and we can now all move on and hopefully the editor is not jealous of my love for this 1970's machine!
The author shows off the new steel gate at the far end of the new berry bed
Funky new scrap metal gates deserve the most excellent surroundings and so the editor and I completed all of the fencing for the new berry bed. I also took the chainsaw for a spin and cut all of the timber posts down to an exact size. Many of the offcuts from those timber posts will make great posts for the various garden taps around the farm!
The new berry enclosure is now complete!
The tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings are growing apace inside the toasty house at an alarming rate. We had an emergency working bee to get the tomato enclosure ready to soon receive the many seedlings. The tomato enclosure was a bit of a minor disaster as regular readers will recall that we had removed many of the berry plants from it and left a total mess behind. Fortunately, composted woody mulch hides all manner of sins and so we placed one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of that material on top of the mess, and the mess disappeared!
One cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch was placed into the tomato enclosure in order to cover over the mess that was the removal of the various berries growing in there
Tomatoes love a soil that has plenty of carbon (e.g. woody material) and also nitrogen (e.g. manure). Who seriously wants to disappoint a tomato plant? Not I! So we also heaped another one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of mushroom compost into the tomato enclosure in nice neat rows.
Another one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of mushroom compost was heaped into the tomato enclosure in nice neat rows
I find it quite ironic that I am now replicating the vegetable growing activities of my grandfather with all those nice neat rows and heaped soil! Oh well, I guess everything old is new again!

Spring is such a lovely time of year here and I wanted to leave you with some photos of the prolific and also beautiful plants here. One of my favourite plants are the Japanese maples and not only do they look superb all year around, they are also as tough as old boots!
A Japanese maple shows off its beautiful foliage whilst at the same time being as tough as old boots
I have absolutely no idea what this plant is, but the red flowers are superb! It also helps that I nicked this particular specimen from a neighbour! I didn't really nick the plant (are cuttings theft, I ask you??), but it does make for a good story!
This red flower looks superb and I have no idea what species it is
The fruiting cherry trees have decided to produce blossoms this week. I always have this feeling that despite my experience from prior years, the birds won’t get all of the cherry fruit. Maybe?
The fruiting cherry trees have decided to produce blossoms this week
The Asian pears are not quite as showy as the fruiting cherries, but clearly they decided that there was a bit of competition going on and so they had better produce some blossoms too!

The Asian pear trees have decided to produce blossoms this week
At this time of year, the various daffodils can’t be beat for showiness and most of them have a delightful perfume.
The daffodils are putting on a good show this week
The editor has a soft spot for the many succulent plants growing about the place and so to do the bees who all seem to enjoy the flowers. This next one is a little ripper!
This succulent produces a stunning red flower which the bees love
Speaking of bees, the native bees have made an appearance too, and I spotted this one on an Alkanet, which is a member of the borage family (which also makes great all year round chicken feed too).
A native bee enjoys this Alkanet flower and the leaves make great chicken feed too
Nothing, but nothing beats a solid hedge of Echium plants for bee food. These plants produce flowers for about ten months of the year and the bees are thick around the flowers.
This Echium hedge produces flowers for the bees for ten months of every year

 "I don't need the score
I'm goin' through the door 
 Gonna tell the man I don't want no more
Pick up a fast car and burn my name in the road"
-with respect to the rock band Cold Chisel
Our politicians would do well to remember that the Golden Rule of: "Do Unto Others" applies to themselves. No more Fords for them, maybe they only like Bentleys?

The temperature outside now at about 9.45pm is 3.7’C (38.7’F). So far this year there has been 1,020.2mm (40.2 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 998.4mm (39.3 inches).