Monday, 18 May 2015

Pole Position



Ahh, autumn, ‘tis the season for the smell of: wood smoke! Occasionally on a fine sunny day on a weekend during the seasons of autumn, winter and spring I can look down into the valley below from this eagle’s eyrie and it can look as if every man and their dog are having a burn off. In fact sometimes I wonder whether Tolkien’s mythical land of Mordor had as many fires as can be seen around these parts during some weekends.

The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted that the coming summer here will be an El Nino summer, which may possibly mean hotter and drier conditions, so I (and whole lot of other people) have been wisely collecting and burning off accumulated combustible materials in the surrounding forest and burning them off. The theory behind the burning off is that should a wild fire sweep through the area, there will be less combustible fuels, therefore any fire will be at a lower temperature and the very old eucalyptus trees (which can reach several hundred years of age) will have a far greater chance of surviving the fires. The birds, marsupial bats, sugar gliders, possums etc. only live on the very large and very old trees because they have hollows. As an interesting side note, hollows on the very large and old eucalyptus trees are created because branches have dropped off them at some stage in the past. Such events are an opportunity for a diverse range of animals and birds to set up house in the eucalyptus trees. It is interesting to note that very young eucalyptus forests are very quiet forests!
Smoke from many burn offs rise up in the valley below
One thing that eucalyptus forests produce in humungous quantities is quality firewood. And Scritchy the boss dog at the farm here often takes advantage of that produce as she exerts her perquisites. This means that she can “cook her head” on cold nights in pole position on the toasty tiles in front of the wood fire.
Scritchy the boss dog “cooks her head” in pole position in front of the wood fire
Observant readers will also note that not only is a Scritchy cooking, but there is also a tub of yoghurt happily cooking away, as well as 50 litres of various future brews bubbling in that excess forest heat.

If the dogs here ever had to scramble for raw survival, I suspect that they’d be alright. For example, Sir Scruffy who is the largest dog here and is fed only as much as the much smaller Scritchy the boss dog is getting fat despite numerous farm border patrols throughout the day. Each of those farm border patrols requires much energy and can occasionally involve a confrontation with a 6 foot plus Kangaroo/s which is no small thing for a dog. The additional food source is a mystery which will probably remain unsolved (although I have my suspicions).

Anyway, I’d been thinking about dog food recently as I’d realised that I work in the money economy for one month just to purchase a year’s supply of dog food. This seems an extraordinary amount of my time, so I‘ve recently been investigating other peoples current experiences with dog food. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (and thanks Pam also for your experiences!), I’ve now commenced the slow process of learning to produce dog food here.

It is worth mentioning that for some staples which I don’t grow at the farm (grains etc.); I usually purchase bulk quantities and store them in the kitchen and cantina. I’ve been cooking food since I was about 12 years old, so I’m a bit of an old hand in that area. Cooking is actually a joy for me. However, one product that I did not previously buy in bulk was organic rolled oats, but the good folks at the CERES Brunswick grocery store helped with that lack:
Poopy the Pomeranian looks on with approval at the bulk purchase of organic rolled oats
The first experimental batch of dog biscuits went into the wood oven this week. All I can say is that the dogs thoroughly approved of them.
The first experimental batch of dog biscuits are on the cooling tray waiting for the ultimate test
A replacement and brand new water tank turned up at the local supplier this week. It is worthwhile mentioning that I breathed a huge sigh of relief to see a brand new water tank waiting for me at the suppliers. They were very good about the whole situation as the original water tank which I originally attempted to pick-up from that supplier last week was clearly faulty and would not have lasted very long at all! 

The brand new water tank on the bright yellow trailer was almost as big as the car itself!
The new water tank is safely back at the farm on the back of the bright yellow trailer
Water tanks are very large, very heavy, very slippery and very round. That makes them very awkward to move from one spot to another. After what seemed like an hour the editor and I managed to manoeuvre the new water tank around to the back of the new firewood shed. And there it sat.

The new water tank was moved around to the rear of the new firewood shed

Very observant readers will notice that the gable ends (the high up bits on the side walls) of the new firewood shed have been installed. Over the next day or so, I also installed steel guttering which collects any rain water which falls onto the roof of the new firewood shed. That rain water is then channelled withn the steel gutters into a single hole (the technical term for the hole is called a pop) where it falls and is transported into the new water tank via plastic pipes.
The new water tank is installed and waiting to collect the next few drops of rain fall
As the sun was shining over the past few days and all of the other water tanks on the farm were full, I transferred 3,500 litres (924 gallons) of water from the existing tanks into this brand new water tank.This weight will stop the water tank from blowing away down the hill. Seriously!

As it is now only less than two weeks out from the official start of winter, I thought that it would be interesting to revisit the tomato beds. The tomato fruit are still hanging on the vines and you can see just how much fruit is still to be picked. It is also possible to observe that the vines are slowly dying on the right hand side of the garden bed as that is the side that receives the cold winds. Any unpicked fruit will be brought inside over the next few weeks to slowly ripen.
Tomatoes are nearing the end of their growing season here – two weeks out from winter
It is the absolute latest time here for bulb planting for this year. For some reason a few months back, I had a sense that the local Riddells Creek Daffodil farm, which sells many varieties of bulbs, was perhaps going to close over the next year or two, so I went crazy and just bought all sorts of weird and wonderful bulbs. It was the planting bit that proved to be the hardest part about the bulbs, so I devoted a couple of hours to planting the bulbs out throughout the garden and orchard. Some of the bulbs such as the Ixia’s and Spraxia’s were tiny and the bloke at the farm had sold me tens of dozens of the bulbs. Anyway, after vowing to never purchase another bulb ever again, they were all somehow planted and all was good.

A big box of hard bulb work
How did the house get here?
Living in an unfinished house with no lights is kind of fun. It is sort of like camping with construction materials in your living room and oh yeah, no lights! So it was in October 2010, when huge stacks of fire rated plaster, bags of insulation and miscellaneous tools were littered throughout the living area. And the internal walls of the house were very pink – due to the fire rated plaster. I must say that the pink walls weren’t working for me as a colour and I don’t recommend it. Hehe!
The living area of the house had building materials and equipment as well as the more expected items
That month I also began installing the very thick 15mm (0.6 inch) fibro-cement sheets that form the supporting deck for the verandas. It is a very solid material as well as being reasonably moisture and fire retardant. If you look carefully at the photo below, you’ll notice that there is a steel flashing that sits just under the bottom of the lowest weatherboard. The fibro-cement sheet neatly slots under that steel flashing to give a weather and fire resistant join between the walls and the veranda deck. The funny thing about each stage of the construction of this house is that you had to understand exactly how all the details meshed together neatly well in advance of construction.
The fibro-cement in the veranda decks were starting to be installed
And, another steel flashing was installed under that fibro-cement decking sheets along the edge of the veranda. This was so that another fire rated wall slotted neatly into that and protected the area underneath the veranda.
The outer edge of the veranda deck shows further use of steel flashings under the fibro-cement
The garden and orchard weren't neglected as even 5 years ago, daffodils popped their heads out of the ground!
A few daffodils bravely popped their heads out of the ground 5 years ago
It is also funny looking back at the orchard at that time as the fruit trees were very small. Even the chicken enclosure didn’t exist back then. At that time it was merely a roof over a steel water tank and I used that roof to collect water which was could be used in the construction. Unfortunately, the steel water tank in that system always leaked, despite my best efforts at repair and it eventually was cut up into many discs that are now the raised garden beds that you see today!
The orchard is looking very small and very young, and a steel water tank exists where the chicken enclosure is today
To be continued…

The temperature outside here at about 8.30pm is 10.5 degrees Celsius (50.9’F). So far this year there has been 285.6mm (11.2 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 274.6mm (10.8 inches).

40 comments:

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Yes, I suspect that your winters could be much colder than here. What is interesting is that this mountain range here also forms a link in the chain of mountains that runs up the entire eastern coast of the continent. To the east of here and a little bit north, the mountains rise up as high as 7,200 feet and catch a whole lot of winter snow. Not so much here though! The images of your area are stunning.

Thanks for your experience. That sounds like dog heaven! Ah, you're a vegetarian too. Nice to hear. I eat meat when I'm out of the house as I have no wish to cause a fuss, but no meat here though. Edible plants are hard to grow, but turning plants into meat is that much harder again and that experience made me consider taking up a largely vegetarian diet. I'm experimenting with dog food now as you can see in the photos. They love that stuff.

Yeah, dogs love people food, as much as their normal diet, so they're very adaptable creatures. I have a system of scraps which is in three buckets: dogs, chickens and worms. The choicest scraps go to the dogs!

Yeah, the egg is a great idea. I've been using that as a binding agent for the biscuits I make for us. Plus there are plenty of eggs, most of the year.

Exactly, dogs like a varied diet, so I'll chuck in whatever is growing at the moment. One of my dogs likes rocket (aragula) both the annual and perennial varieties, he'll even steal it from the raised garden beds.

Too funny. That is like the sugar glider craze that Lewis was telling me about. I was going, no way, but he was serious. Too funny. I hope your bearded dragon is growing well!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Deborah,

Busted. Yes, guilty as charged. Seriously, $20 per day makes it difficult to put food on the table, so it is a big sacrifice for the self employed. And the trials can go on for weeks and months and you just never know.

But your greater point is very fair and reasonable. And I'm sure you'd provide solid jury service, as long as it wasn't about how we were all dodging jury duty... hehe! Your comments have always been very sensible and considered.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Heather,

Busted and guilty a second time. There must be something in the water for sure... hehe!

Of course that length of time would be a hardship and I 100% totally agree with you. I would lose my entire income base in that period of time to my competitors. Plus sometimes they lock you away in hotels for high profile cases. In those circumstances it is a dysfunctional system.

Yes, Inge's solution was total genius and that one is filed away for future use.

Wow Michigan to CA would be a massive change - although the winters would be much nicer. Did I tell you that a mate of mine and his lady are moving to Ohio? That is like reverse change to the one that you made.

Yeah, 100'F (38'C) is pretty hot and that is a pretty serious culture shock to be presented with that sort of extreme weather. You eventually adapt though, although air temperatures past body temperature and things are always unpleasant. Did it cool down at night or were those temperatures hot too?

I'm surprised that the farmers were allowed to burn off during that sort of weather. There would be criminal penalties for doing that here. Black Saturday in Feb 09, it reached 45.6'C (114'F) in the shade. Oh my but was it hot that day and the wind just howled and howled... I said goodbye to the orchard that day.

I don't know whether one of the local brands exports, but I seriously recommend Maxwell's spiced mead as being a very top notch introduction to the brew. You mildly warm it before drinking and it is excellent on a cold winters night! It is very easy to make - in fact most country wines are.

Tadpoles eat mosquito larvae here. In fact the frogs thrive on them.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Thanks very much about the shed. Yes, bending the corrugated galvanised iron around the corners was no mean feat as it is very heavy grade sheet steel. It took a lot of grunt, but gives an almost perfect weather seal. The sort of angled flashing that is used on most shed corners these days is almost perfect habitat for huntsman spiders and tell you what they can give you a nip and a fright! They're big up this way...

Of course firewood is about as sustainable as it gets, plus you get to manage your own resource. If you weren't far from here, I'd swap labour for seasoned firewood for sure.

Sorry, I don't know much about the old Metters improved no. 2. It is a solid looking unit. They can all be repaired if you have the time. I was talking to a guy down in Tasmania who's locally made unit which is 20 years old is made of 8mm steel plate whereas the current ones seem to be 6mm and it makes a difference to the longevity.

Yeah, I didn't think that was a problem, but you could be right. Mind you that would make the pole frame ones a problem too. I'll check the off grid PV standard, which I had to buy during the construction. It probably has more to do with the racking being certified though, but you never know. Mind you, they did survive a direct hit from a tornado which dropped a few trees a few years back, so they are pretty well anchored. I'll look into that one and email you direct.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

Those tomato plants look amazing. What is the mixture you have created to grow them in?

Eucalyptus wood: doesn't the oil in it make for rather ferocious firewood?

Just to drag you all back to jury service for a minute. I have only done it once and I found it fascinating and very reassuring. Common sense is definitely the description that best described the jurors and I had not expected it. Twelve good men (women) and true. Common sense is usually in short supply in this modern world but there it was 100% in evidence. I would be very happy to be tried by a jury. I was lucky in that I was not working at the time and emerged in profit.

Have just had a quote of £500 to take down my tree; I regard that as cheap. However I have to have planning permission because of the protected area in which I live grr. It will be 4 to 6 weeks before it is done as the feller has a backlog of work.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Made it alive to Council, Idaho (pop. 800). Good trip. Heading home tomorrow am. Back home by wednesday. Saw mountain goats in Columbia Gorge. Lots of hives. Unfamiliar keyboard & computer making me crazy(er). :-)
Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

I love when the wood smoke smells start up again in September! The view of your valley is very eerie; it would make me a trifle nervous. I use eucalyptus oil for my sinuses, but I never would have guessed that it made good firewood.

That Scritchy is one smart girl! No wonder she's the boss. And I don't know if we really do want to know where Sir Scruffy's extra calories are coming from . . . Your dog biscuits look good enough to serve in a restaurant. Yum!

Those water tanks are so huge! We are, so far - until we build a cistern - only using 55 gallon drums (I think they are 55 g.; they came from the Pepsi-Cola plant and were free).

Oh, boy - tomatoes! We ate our first ripe tomato yesterday & that's only because I grew a tomato plant in a window all winter just so we would be a little ahead of the game; otherwise, we usually get our first one around Independence Day (July 4).

I need more bulbs. I always plant some on the pets' graves when they have passed on and now we have Mr. Jackson's and Bob's burial sites to plant up in the fall. It's so beautiful over there in the springtime.

I love being a vegetarian. It took me a few years to work my way up to it. I was cooking for several meat-eaters and 5 dogs and a cat, which made the temptation a little hard; I got over it, though. I'll eat meat when visiting someone who doesn't know I'm a veg. because I certainly wouldn't want to "cause a fuss" either. No sense in possibly hurting someone's feelings.

@ Heather: Thanks so much for the pond suggestions. I will keep them in mind, though, yes, my priority is to make a froggy resort. Years ago we had a plastic wading pool for the dogs and once we went out of town and I forgot to empty it out before we left. When we came back it was full of tiny tadpoles, so we fed them until they got really big and then released them into a neighbor's pond. Lots of fun for my small sons.

Pam

susan said...

Once again, I'm delighted I decided to investigate your blog at long last. In what's now a fairly distant part of my life I spent a decade or more living communally in a very large city house with a big garden in Vancouver, BC. It was a very high energy, high level of fun environment where we established the first city food coop, an arts and craft centre, a community wellness program, and several other needed projects - like building a play park for the neighbourhood children. As I said, that was long ago and the years between then and now were spent living and working in the US - at least that was in healthcare rather than selling things or making widgets.

Anyway, I only mentioned this as a way of introduction and to let you know how I admire your hard work and tenacity. The house and grounds are wonderful and your writing style is both amusing and informative.

When I was young some friends offered us the key to their small house on the NS coast. On arrival we discovered their dog but could find no dogfood. There were rabbit pellets in a cupboard but no rabbit. Anyway, we took the dog for a walk to the grocery store and returned with food for us and a case of canned food for him. He was very happy. A few days later when we went back to town to return the keys we learned the rabbit pellets had been the only food the dog had ever eaten - he was a vegetarian dog that we'd debauched with canned meat. :)

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

What a great question. Tomatoes, here do best in a 50/50 mix of composted manures and composted woody materials. It is kind of weird that they like a fair bit of carbon and this indicates to me that they probably originated in forested areas (or on the boundaries of forests) with very rich soils. What is interesting, is that the native members of the nightshade family here grow in similar conditions. The edible (but not very tasty) kangaroo apple often pops up in the tomato beds and also other areas that have rich manure + woody soil. A good example of that is just down-slope of the chicken enclosure they turn up too. Top question.

The eucalyptus oil is in the leaves and the old timers used to boil the fresh leaves and either skim or distil the oil. On a hot day, the entire forest can smell like a giant vat of eucalyptus oil and in fact the gasses change the very colour of the air to a slightly hazy deeper blue / grey colour. It does smell nice.

The dried leaves burn equally well because they have a very low mineral content, despite the lack of volatile oils.

The bark can sometimes resist fire which protects the living trunk of the tree, but other species it can hang down from the top of the tree like giant ribbons and it invites fire into the canopy to burn the seed pods and thus commence a whole new phase of germination by breaking their seed dormancy.

The bark here is fibrous so it protects the tree in a cool fire, but provides lots of surface area in a hot fire.

The trees recover from fire by sprouting epicormic growth shoots and the tree just starts anew. Sometimes, a tree can regrow from a coppice and the bark covers the old dead core of the tree so an individual tree may be many hundreds of years old and you'd never know.

They're a very clever adaptation. The timber is always very dense hardwood with a mostly straight grain. It is a beautiful timber and the eucalyptus (Obliqua) species here has a yellow/pink hue to the grain.

Thanks for your story and I completely agree with you.

Just for your interest, it would cost about the same just to fell a similar tree here. Although the closer the tree was to human infrastructure, the more expensive that task would be.

It is not a job for the average person, that one, and I personally feel more confident with a person that has been in that particular trade for many many years than a young bloke out to prove their mettle.

The guys that help me out from time to time with the forest here often look at one particularly large and very healthy example. In past years they've always stirred me up by saying they'd like to fell that particular tree as a bit of a challenge. I'd always brushed them off. The last time they visited, they looked at the tree with something like a bit of awe and acknowledged the silliness of their previous comments.

As a landowner down under, you have an as of right to fell dead trees and also trees within 10m (about 30 feet) of your dwelling. Everything we do is a compromise, and if I was in your situation, I would fell that particular tree.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Nice to hear from you mate. I thought that Idaho had swallowed you whole. Hope Nell and Beau played nicely in your absence too?

Really great to hear that you had a good trip and I'm looking forward to hearing about the mountain goats and hives when you return.

Best wishes

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Of course, your September is my April-ish weather so that sounds about right. The smell of wood smoke can be very fragrant. The oil is excellent for blocked and irritated sinuses, so imagine what an entire forest of the trees smell like! When the trees flower every few years or so, the entire mountain smells of honey. You can smell the eucalyptus oils even during wet, cold and damp weather too.

The trees produce very dense and sturdy hardwood. The species here produce a hardwood which is 650kg/cubic metre (40.6 pounds per cubic foot) and can grow at a rate of 1 metre (3.3 feet) per year. It is not the densest timber species either.

The acacia (melanoxylon - blackwood) species grow even faster again and produce much harder timbers which are very valuable furniture timbers as the grain is very tough and dark. Beautiful stuff.

Excellent! You know exactly where Sir Scruffy sources the extra calories from. ;-)! Hehe! Yes, Scritchy is clever, but the smallest of the dogs here. She is cooking her head right now whilst I'm poaching quinces and baking a loaf of bread too.

Thanks for the inspiration regarding the dog biscuits. I haven't quite worked out how to make them in a bulk batches though...

Yes, well there are 104,000 litres (27,500 gallons) stored which is hopefully plenty for the year, but you never know...

Starting small and seeing how things work and how can you use them is a great idea. I started with a 2,100 litre water tank and just watched how it worked. Even a few 55 gallon storage tanks provide a useful back up supply. You'd be surprised how little water you actually need to get by day to day.

Nice work with the tomatoes. Starting them inside is the way to get ahead of the game! I start the seedlings inside here too as it just helps. Hope you enjoyed that tomato of yours.

A very nice plant for a grave too. It is always nice to remember those that have touched our lives.

Same here too. It takes a lot of skill to make a vegetarian meal really tasty and it took me many years of trial and error too. The whole no fuss thing is because for me it isn't a political statement (merely pragmatism) and otherwise I also noticed that people can sometimes feel as if it is a personal challenge to try to get me to eat meat when visiting them. The whole shrugging your shoulders and being cool / acceptance sort of defuses that situation entirely.

Happy spring weather and may your plants and family all bloom!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Susan,

It is nice to have you here too. You've clearly led an interesting life. Communal living is lots of fun, but I never quite got my head around the politics. I absolutely applaud your efforts of setting up a community garden and play space. Top work.

Thank you and glad that you noticed! I do try to slip some useful information in between all of the fluff. hehe! I used to run a graduate program for a large corporate many long years ago and it was such a joy to both me and them to make learning interesting and fun.

Ahh, NS coast = Nova Scotia coast? Stunning, I can see why it is named after Scotland. Wow!

A very amusing story too. I'll bet you made that dog very happy indeed. :-)! Dogs are pretty adaptable to all sorts of food and they have cast iron stomachs, but sometimes they really like the processed stuff.

Cheers

Chris

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

What sort of combustion oven is that? Is it a nectre? Are you happy with it? (You repaired one, I remember. Is that it?)

I had a dog as a kid, and he loved weetbix. It'd still be cheaper to make your own I reckon. I'm kicking off my first batch of homebrew this afternoon with my father-in-law. Exciting times! I'm (attempting to) sterilise the bottles right now in my solar cookers (though the sun's a bit intermittent).

When your brews have finished their fermentation, do you bottle them? What happens next?

Cheers, Angus

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

The wood heater is this unit: Gourmet cooker.

Yeah, I'm pretty happy with it. The damage to the unit may have been my fault as wood heaters take a bit of understanding to use properly. They're like chainsaws really in that it isn't a bad idea to do a course on their use and maintenance before you are let loose on them.

Oh yeah, dogs would love weetbix and generally making your own food from scratch should be cheaper than industrial food. However, if it isn't then I would have to suspect that you may be talking apples and oranges!

Hey, I hope you blog about that home brew? Fun stuff.

Country wines never quite finish fermenting - unless you kill off the yeast with a campden tablet which is a sulfur based chemical that kills off the yeast - entirely. The stuff gives me hayfever, so it probably isn't a good idea, but each to their own. A lot of commercial wines go very heavy with the preservatives...

Anyway, we'll assume that you avoid the sulfur in your brew. When the ferment stops bubbling after a few weeks (depending on the heat - if it is cold then the process takes longer), you simply pour the mix from the demijohn into wine bottles. I have a mate that collects wine bottles with screw caps. The screw caps are a good idea because if the fermentation continues then carbon dioxide will be released by the yeast. The screw caps on the bottles don't have to be tightened and that allows the brew to continue fermenting - at a much slower pace - and the carbon dioxide can escape the bottle. Of course you have to keep the bottles upright though.

The brew in the bottles can then continue to age and it will get better over time. An 18 month old mead is a very smooth drink. Most wines can be drunk at about 4 months though.

Commercial wineries use the sulfur because otherwise the bottles may explode during storage and transport or at the shop with a build up of carbon dioxide from the fermentation process.

Hope that all makes sense.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

The following plants are flowering

Assorted thistles, I cut most of these down as they try to take over.

Red clover

Spotted orchids, hundreds of them,

Lady's smock

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Yes, thistles can be very invasive if they get into disturbed land. You should see them in paddocks around these parts. Apparently the chokes on many of them are edible?

Geraniums, camellias, rocket, nasturtium, borage and comfrey are all flowering in this topsy turvy upside down climate. Your place woul look very special at this time of year.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris and All - Made it back home, yesterday. Nell the cat is glued to me. Beau the dog did his happy dance. The chickens don't seem to know who I am, but they all survived my absence.

I don't want to overwhelm your blog with "My Trip to Idaho." But, a few items. The round trip was about 1,000 miles (1,600 KM). Glad I didn't pay attention to that before the trip. :-).

I picked the ideal time for the trip. Traveling weekdays, before the vacation season ... once I got off the I-5 corridor, the traffic was a dream. The whole way. Only ran into rain on the Pendleton / Council leg of the trip. I'm used to driving in that. Where I was going was still really green. It will all be sear and brown in a month.

The Columbia River Gorge ... well, I hadn't been out that way in probably 15 years. It's a real celebration of alternative energy. Of course, there are the dams that have been generating hydro power since the 1930s. Now, there are also hundreds of wind generators. Up on the bluff, over the river. The towers are around 280 feet high and the three blades top them off around 400'. A lot of people complain that they ruin the scenic aspects of the Gorge. I think they're really cool looking and there's still vast swatches of the Gorge where you can't see them. Also saw a lot of solar.

I also notice that since my last trip "the Dry" has crept several miles west down the Gorge. On my last trip, the dry started at Rowena. Like slamming a door. Around a bend in the road and the plants and birds change. Now, it's extended many more miles west.

Interesting what you said about "burn offs." My friends daughter and son-in-law work for the U.S. Forest service in fire suppression. And, right now, they are doing burn offs. Everyone in Idaho seems a lot more aware of fire danger. It's pervasive.

The town of Council, Idaho is about 800 pop.. There are empty houses on every block. I looked at one. Am agonizing about moving there. Looking for a sign. "Handwriting on the wall", in large block letters would be appreciated. :-). Lew

PS: Your water tank is a zinger. You showed great restraint with the steel tank. My initial impulse would have been to take a sledge hammer to it "Take that you leaky steel water tank!". But, more constructive uses and a cooler head probably would have prevailed while searching for the sledge. Sometimes, not being so well organized contributes to impulse control. :-).



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Great to hear from you and I hope that you enjoyed your travels and look forward to reading about them.

Yeah, Beau and Nell would be excited to see you. It isn't just the food either! hehe! Seriously, they're probably thinking to themselves: Once again the pack is complete! Mind you, Nell was probably wondering whether she had to be friends with Beau for too much longer. ;-)!

That is a big drive. Hope the Ranger took it in its stride and glad to hear that you kept to the back roads as much as possible? That is usually where the interesting stuff is to be seen. Do you like road trips? I used to, but after a few hours in the car I start getting a bit restless...

Yes, the vacation season could be a real hassle.

That sounds about right for the summer die back. The very hot weather usually kicks in about New Years day here were it is either usually raining heavily or pushing 104'F. Doesn't seem to be much middle ground...

That sounds like one big and deep gorge! Wow, the images are awesome. I couldn't quite tell on the map, but does that river flow down from Canada - it is hard to tell on the map?

Yeah, I don't mind the wind turbines as long as they're not over shadowing my house or the solar panels here. They're banned from this particular shire area - I'm assuming that some people with money decided that they would affect the visual amenities of the area. They may have forgotten to notice the massive multiple antenna's on the top of the ridge...

That isn't good to hear about the dry. You notice things like that when you don't travel through an area regularly. The dry is extending down into the north west of the state here. It is a very bad drought extending way into the north.

Well their hot summers would guarantee fires, so it is better to have a cool burn off than an out of control - very high temperature - wild fire. Most plants can bounce back from a cool burn off, but I should take some photos one day for the blog of what an extreme wild fire can do. The animals and birds can't out run it, but small patches of cool burns tends to reinvigorate an area. It sounds counter intuitive but it does work.

The work that the US Forest service people do during fires is pretty amazing stuff. I hope they shared a few "war stories"?

Well if you know people in the area, don't have to get a job, can afford the housing and most of all can handle the climate - then why not?

Thanks on both counts! Waste not want not is the modus operandi here! hehe! Still, that steel water tank really did annoy me and it was no hardship to take the angle grinder to it at the end. It is much more useful as raised garden beds.

More burn offs today and I'm picking up some steel sheeting for the next project. Rebuilding the chicken run and house from scratch. I'm really looking forward to that one. The poor ladies run is a bit damp at the moment. It has rained and rained here. Still with El Nino coming, I appreciate the rain too.

Cheers

Chris





Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

We don't have antennas on any ridges close to us - thankfully they have mostly been kept all on one sad mountaintop a few miles down - but a while back the regional electric power provider wanted to put a new high voltage power line up in back of our "hamlet"; a few of us complained and tried to get it shoved over a bit (NIMBY, eh? Guilty as charged, I guess). It went in anyway, but, really, do we need to encourage the use of MORE power?

The Forest Service does controlled burns here up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. That's public land - we don't have much of that in Virginia - and so it is easier for them to access. It's more for conservation purposes than preventing wildfire spread. So far, I can't remember any of them getting out of control (quite a bit of damp here usually) though out in the western U.S. (hi, Lewis, Heather, et al!) they sometimes go horribly awry (my parents live in Colorado).

Yay, for rain! Hard to complain too much about it.

Pam

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Actually my place looks like a jungle at this time of the year. I don't get it mown until at least the end of June when the orchids will have seeded. I just cut a bit of a path and around my washing line.

I shall have to get a bigger cut so that the tree fellers can get through more easily. Also remove a gate and post so that their truck can get off the road. When he came to assess the tree, he had to leave the road blocked. Fortunately it isn't used much.

I am now eating strawberries from the greenhouse yum yum. Things seem to be a bit late this year, probably because the nights are still chilly.

Inge

Morgenfrue said...

Hi Chris, I've been following your posts but not reading the lovely comments lately - after the rainwatergate ;) over at ADR I got to thinking, do you use your collected water for everything? I was under the impression that one could not use it for long term drinking - something to do with mineral content. Also, if you do drink it, how to you prevent pollution from the rooftops - roofing chemicals, debris, algae, bird poop etc?

I have to say, now that I've gotten used to living in Scandinavia, where it rains year round and lawns water themselves, and gardeners have a water barrel as a matter of course... the water laws in the west of the US are totally insane. They are Alice in Wonderland bat poop crazy.

BTW, Heather, I am seriously under the impression that I grew up within an hour of where you live, unless you are disguising your location!

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Yup. My little Ranger was ok for the trip. A couple of weeks before the trip I got some coupons from the dealership I bought it from for a check-up. So, I ran it in and also had some nagging problems taken care of. New whipper blades, several lights out (since I usually don't drive at night, not a big deal), one tail light that had to be totally replaced.

I really don't like driving or traveling much, anymore. A lot of it is the old Social Anxiety Disorder. Inertia. Stayed in Pendleton, Oregon, going and coming. It's about halfway. It's a real cow town. Seems like there's a saddle store on every corner. They have a big rodeo there, every summer. Population doubles. The town is all about cowboys, native americans and cattle. A wild west vibe.

Yes, the Columbia River's headwaters are up in Canada. The Gorge is really spectacular. At one point, it was the sweeping vista of the Gorge, Mt. Hood was "out" (here we say a mountain, or, the mountains are out if they're not lost in clouds.) and Multnomah Falls were in view. Lot's of Indian legends attached to that area. Bridge of the Gods. There may have been a natural bridge across the Gorge at one time. Something about two Indian braves fighting on the bridge (eruptions of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams?) over a girl. The bridge collapses, the girl dies. Multnomah Falls is her hair. Or, some such. :-).

The area around Council looks like the Gorge. Hills and outcroppings of volcanic rock. Another thing about Idaho is they treat their old, poor folk (like me) as royalty. They'll give you (delivered) two cords of wood per winter. The property taxes on the place I'm looking at are $400 per year ... but, if you're old and poor, it's half that, or more.

Yes, lots of Forest Service stories. The "kids" have worked for the Service for quit a long time, so, it's less on the fire line than doing PR and media. Training. Education in the schools. But if there's a big blow up, it's all hands on deck. Just before I went to Idaho, I watched a DVD from the library. "The Big Burn." About a huge fire in 1910 that burned from Idaho into Montana. It was kind of the beginning of the Forest Service. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. - There were yellow flowers called "Mule Ear" growing all around Council. Kind of a miniature sunflower. I see the roots were used as medicine by the Native Americans, but haven't found yet what it treated. I also saw a lot of blooming blue Camus. The roots provided a starchy potato substitute.

Well, maybe I got my handwriting on the wall. I picked up our local paper last night, and in the Sports section was an article about the Weiser Trail. An old railroad roadbed now used for hiking and bicycles. 85 miles long. That runs a block from the house I'm looking at. How weird is that? Omen? :-).

The house I'm looking at is $55,000. But, my friends think I can get it for as little as $45,000. It's a double lot. On a corner. In town, but feels private and isolated. Open land across the street. Alley along one side. Blank house side across the extra lot in back. Oh, 4' high cyclone fencing all around. Chimney for two wood stoves.

I seem to have two broody hens. Sigh. Nudged them out of the coop this morning and they didn't put up much of a fuss. Not like the last one. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

No worries, I probably would have been a bit unhappy with high voltage lines going through the area too. Mind you, I'm not connected to the electricity grid either. It would be much easier for them to go around the range anyway as some sections are quite steep.

The funny thing about the antennas on top of the mountain range here is that they are surrounded by a forest of mountain ash (Eucalyptus Regnans) trees. Now my Latin isn't very good, but the joke on the antennas is that Regnans is, I believe, Latin for Reigning - because the trees happen to be the second tallest tree species on the planet (and the tallest flowering plants). I can see a problem one day... hehe!

It is hard to complain about the rain and it is very welcome here even when it makes everything a little bit harder outside. Now the wood shed is complete, it can rain as much as it likes.

Lucky you about the damp. Summers here can be very hot and dry and even a camp fire can quickly get out of control. I'm taking extra steps this winter towards preparation for the summer.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

The diversity of plants in jungles makes them fascinating places to observe. Do you get many climbing plants like clematis?

Nice to hear that you use a washing line!

Access can be a problem here too. Some of the very tall trees are less than a metre (approximately 3 foot) apart and some parts of the forest are impenetrable. I do hope they can sort something out. Mind you, I rarely require vehicle access to the lower parts of the forest here and for a lot of the year, if you got a vehicle in, you'd never get it back out again. The old cobb and co coach service used to travel up my road to go up to: Craigielea Cherokee Mountain Retreat.

The roads would have been horrendous, ahh, the thing we take for granted these days.

Fresh strawberries, yum! Nice to hear that you have a greenhouse. I would as well in your climate.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Oh my, rainwatergate! Too funny. Actually, it is my opinion that the conversation was stomped by JMG because I'd suggested that people approach their lawmakers with the novel idea of collecting rainwater from their roofs in water storage tanks - at their own expense, mind you. I challenged them to address their situation and was rebuffed – firmly. Some people however, took the discussion to mean that acts of civil disobedience should take place immediately. I concluded from the comments that there are many people in the US itching for a fight as long as someone else does the fighting... It wasn't a bad idea to stomp on that particular debate as it had gone to places that I was uncomfortable with. JMG issued a warning for potential leaders in the current weeks blog.

Of course, I use rainwater for everything and it has absolutely no taste whatsoever. You know when I do drink town water - and that happens - I can taste a plethora of chemicals in it. There is very little mineral content in the rain water, although I do believe that rain over the Australian continent has very minute traces of salt.

Pollution! Yikes! You know, everyone asks that question, so I'll put it to you this way: The average wombat can produce a truly astounding amount of manure in a forest. If you are drinking water that has been stored in a reservoir then for sure, you are drinking minute traces of wombat manure (or perhaps deer manure for your area). Humans are very adaptable and I'd have to suggest that we've been doing that for a long period of time.

As to pollution, the farm is in a clearing that is surrounded by forest so chemical pollution is limited to the sort of minor traces that you'd find in the atmosphere in very out of the way places. We're all drinking those and probably less so in the southern hemisphere than the northern hemisphere.

The birds have very little reason to sit on the roof of the house and do their business, they much prefer the trees - which actually appreciate the guano. Most water tanks have an aerobic microbiological ecology and that is cool, because the average water pipe does too – plumbing is a fascinating insight into the world of microbiology.

It has been my experience that even in urban areas here, the water collected in tanks from roofs is very clean and very neutral.

It is a great question, because everyone asks it. I ask you the question in return, what do you think that people did before industrialism?

You are very lucky to live there, it is a beautiful part of the world.

Yes, the laws make no sense in a continuing and very serious drought and that was my motivation to raise the issue in the first place. People seem to want to go thirsty than push for any legislative change and that perhaps reflects their worldview. It is not for me though.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Apologies, but I'll reply to your comment tomorrow. I started replying, but I'm having a bit of a freak out. Two of the dogs headed off into the forest today - which is very extraordinary behaviour. Only one of them returned tonight and I've spent most of the evening since the other one returned trudging through the forest with one of the other dogs trying to track him, but to no avail. The dog may have been shot, been injured and unable to return or been taken out by an animal. Either way it isn't good and if he's back by the morning, it is very doubtful that he'll be back. I'm a bit bummed out by it all.

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I do hope that the dog returns okay.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Hope your pup returns, safe. I will petition whatever makes the universe run for that outcome. Lew

Morgenfrue said...

Oh, no, I'm sorry to hear about the dog, I hope he makes it back!

Thanks for the answer regarding the rainwater - so you just drink it neat without any treatment or filtering? Good to know. I wonder if it matters what kind of roofing material you have. Your roofs are steel, right? Most roofing here is tile, glazed or unglazed, something called Decra, or something called "eternit". Older roofs can have tarpaper, and of course a few percent are thatched. I'm not sure I would want to drink rainwater from a tarpaper roof unless I was quite thirsty!

I think my assumptions about pre-industrial water gathering, at least in Europe, involve dysentery and lots of beer! ;)

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge, Lewis, and Morgenfrue.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Poopy the pomeranian and I tracked toothy through the forest late last night. Poopy led me to a series of wombat holes or fox burrows, so I suspect toothy went in.

Years ago when I was in Vietnam, I descended into the Cu Chi tunnels and it was a very unpleasant experience.

Anyway, we both headed home cold and dispirited. It was 1.4'C (34.7'F) outside at that time. I'd pretty much written him off by the time I went to bed.

Lewis, whom ever you appealed to worked to good effect. At 1.30am, toothy bounced onto the veranda looking very dispirited and very much like a tip rat. Apparently cold, wet, alone and dirty in the forest isn't quite as appealing as his warm kennel... Who'd have thought it? He just used up his last chance at escape too - never again.

Thanks again for your thoughts and I'll reply to your comments tonight.

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

I am so very, very thankful that toothy is back. What a terrifying thing it is to not know what has become of a loved one. Thanks for letting us hear so quickly.

Pam

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Nice to hear that the Ranger is now in tip top condition. The coupons were a bit of genius thinking too. ;-)! Isn't it funny how entropy gets all of us as time goes on? I hear you about the lights and wiper blades, lots of things have broken here this week. I do hope that JMG didn't put a hex on me for watertankgate? I must make amends...

Just out of interest, what was the food like in Pendleton? For some reason you've conjured images of slabs of steak with all that talk of the wild west vibe. In the outback here, sometimes if you step into a pub for a meal and a drink, all of the patrons can turn around and inspect you. It sounds a bit cliché, but it is actually quite unnerving for the outsider.

Thanks for the description and history of the gorge. It is certainly a spectacular place. In a strange sort of synchronicity, that is only the second mention of The Bridge of the Gods. The film "Wild" which we spoke about a few weeks back - and I quite enjoyed - finished at the Bridge of the Gods. It was amazing seeing the colours of the landscape change as the central character trekked north along the trail. You truly do live in a spectacular part of the world.

Thanks for the term "out" too. That often happens here, but we're at much lower elevation than up your way. I have to confess that "out" days are a bit of a bummer here and often visibility gets down to only a few metres (feet). Fortunately it is only ever for a day or two. Does that happen much where you are? Glad to hear that you could see the falls.

Pah! A very nice incentive to receive two cords of wood per year. It is a matter of respect. That certainly is a reasonable amount to pay for property taxes. There are benefits to age!

"Kids" - too funny. Hobbits refused to acknowledge maturity before the venerable age of 33 (please correct me if I'm wrong). hehe! Yes, the SE wind would be much like the NW wind here. Man, that 1910 burn is one big fire. I'm learning quite a bit about US geography from you.

Ahh, the blue camus is present all the way north to Vancouver Island. Interesting stuff.

Yeah, maybe it is an omen? Who knows what the immediate future holds for us. Wow, but that is affordable. I can't offer any advice other than go with your heart - and where the water is...

Wood provides the best heat for a house and cooking, hot water etc...

Yes, welcome to my world of broody hens! I've now decided that the chicken collective shall contain no more than 3 silky chickens. I mean going broody five times within a year is perhaps a little bit excessive.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Many thanks for your thoughts. I'm embarrassed to admit that Toothy has performed that trick before but it has been many years since he did it and I became complacent.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

You have done well! The petition was heard and perhaps Beli granted Toothy the strength to extract himself from whatever predicament held him in place. Mind you, he shouldn't have run off in the first place and is now in the dog house...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Thanks for your thoughts and Toothy did make it back at 1.30am with his best interpretation of a dirty little monster!

Everyone asks that question, so no stress, and there is no filtering whatsoever and the water is crystal clear and neutral tasting. It probably is maybe as good as distilled water. Of course if I lived down wind of the smoke stacks of a coal fired power plant or some serious industry I might add a charcoal filter - or be a bit nervous, but you're breathing those particles in anyway. Every year before summer I use an old vacuum cleaner to suck any organic matter out of the guttering around the roof which helps reduce the build up of organic matter in the water tanks – not that that is a problem.

Yes, the roof here is steel, but glazed tiled roofs are also used to collect rainwater down under. Of course minute traces of that material will be present in the water, but every system that humans use has that risk.

I've heard of tar paper, but do not understand the chemical constituents of the material so who knows what risk there is in that? It doesn’t sound good…

Actually, the old timers added a lot of cider to their water. Apple cider vinegar for example which is ridiculously easy to make is a natural anti-biotic. Of course, it would be much easier to simply stop people from defecating near water sources, but is somewhat difficult in practice. I understand that in many parts of the world that Giardia is a major problem in rivers and creeks.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Thank you for your lovely thoughts. I appreciate that.

Yeah, it is the not knowing what happened. Seriously, neighbours dogs have been killed by kangaroos and let's be brutally honest, he displayed very little common sense in heading off into the forest.

Thank you

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Whew! I'm glad Toothy is back. If Nell gets out too close to sunset, she's likely to disappear until the wee small hours. Many a night I've thought she'd gone and run through the "OK, mourn, go to the animal shelter and get another cat." Somehow, having a plan gets me through the night. Our animals (their humans?) just don't know what they put us through.

Not near the stress of nearly loosing one of "man's best friends" but my chooks put me through something similar the other day. All my fault but it started with the broody hens. I tossed them out of the coop and shut the door. For an hour. Totally forgot about them. Took a nap. Didn't set my alarm. Woke up at almost full dark. Tore through feeding Beau and down to the coop I went. Three chickens huddled by the door. Plucked four more off the fence with a flashlight in my teeth. Four were nowhere to be found. Luckily, there they were the next morning. Whew!

Think that long nap was because I picked up some kind of bug on my trip. This being a family friendly blog, I'll just say I didn't stir far from the bog for two days. Pendleton does seem to have a steak house on every block. But, holed up in my motel room, I just sent out for Chinese going and pizza coming back. :-). Got plenty of meat at my friends. Probably ate more meat there then in the last year. I just decided to suspend my usual sensible eating habits for the trip. People with food "issues" are such a bore. :-)

Speaking of food, I ran across a rather long article from Fortune magazine. "Special Report: The War on Big Food." Apparently, the big food processors are loosing a lot of market share because people DO want to know what's in their food and want identifiable ingredients. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. - Oh, we get fogs here. Not so much this time of year. Fall and winter, mostly. But, the last three days it's been ... gray. No rain but just looks like it MAY rain, any minute.

Multnomah Falls is pretty close to the road, so, it's easy to see. Brought back memories. In high school, my mates and I used to take day trips with our girls, down to the Falls. Hike to the top and have a picnic. Good times. Don't think I could make it, now. :-). Anyone under 50 looks like a kid to me. From my point of view :-).

We have a lot of "asphalt" roofing. Usually, with a tar paper under coat. Tar paper was also used as a vapor and air barrier in walls. Both petroleum products. In Council, Idaho, most of the roofs are metal with fairly steep pitches. No gutters. Due to the snow. The place I'm looking at is on city water, but I think I'd still put in a storage tank, or two. When I was over there, there were a couple of rainstorms where the water poured off the roof for an hour or two.

Yeah, the lure of Idaho is having a place that I own. Nothing affordable here, given my resources. And, the wood heat, which I can't have here.

Cliff Mass weather blog has had a few posts recently about the El Nino. Shaping up to be a super El Nino. What it means for us is that western Oregon and Washington will be dry and hot. East of the mountains will be wetter than average. So, maybe not a bad fire season, over there.

On the other hand, one of his commenters is a firefighter who said it depends on 1.) lightening (which right now, isn't a problem as the ground is so moist) 2.) humans and 3.) fuels. He pointed out that this green, early spring means more fuel load, which may dry out later. But, you're right. Who knows what the future hold? My life has certainly shot off in some strange and unexpected directions. Lew





Jo said...

Hi Chris, I am glad your dog dramas ended well. I just got a call from the dad of one of my daughter's friends - it seems one of our cats now prefers his house to ours - we had been wondering where the cat had got to, but he is an adventurer. We got him from the RSPCA where he had been dropped off by a farmer who had found the six week old scrap of a kitten wandering through his paddocks with not a glimpse of any mother cat or siblings anywhere.. once a wanderer, always a wanderer..

I am also experimenting with dog food, mostly by supplementing the expensive dog kibble with vegies from dinner. Pumpkin, sweet potato, potato, greens are popular. I have made a few slow cooker stews for the dog with chicken necks, oats and spinach in chicken stock, then freeze them in meal-sized portions for daily use. All of this works out much cheaper than the dog kibble, and of course, dog kibble was only invented in the 1920s, and hardly used regularly until the 1960s or so..