Monday, 1 June 2015

A bright idea


Today is the official first day of winter and the weather lived up to all of those expectations by providing a light dusting of snow high up on the main ridge above the farm.
A light dusting of snow washes out the colour on this musk daisy bush

Snow is such a novelty here that it is a real pleasure to see. However, it was a day for both the sheepskin jacket and the sheepskin lined ugg boots because the outside temperature started at just above freezing (0.2’C or 32.4’F) this morning and didn’t rise much past that figure for the rest of the day. Brrr!
The outside temperature this morning was just above freezing
The inside temperature of 14.9’C (58.8’F) this morning was quite reasonable given that the wood heater had been filled with firewood before bedtime and had just slowly burned itself out over the night. I guess that in some northern climates, that temperature would be shorts and t-shirt weather!

Over the past few days I commenced landscaping the area behind the new firewood shed. It is an interesting project because new opportunities have presented themselves. For example over the next few months a dedicated strawberry and tomato area will be established in the very sunny area just up above the machinery and firewood sheds. Sometimes here a project commences and it just takes on a life of its own and new possibilities emerge from that blank canvas.

So, despite the rain and snow, I managed to construct two new concrete steps which will eventually form a staircase leading up to that area above the sheds which will provide new opportunities for new multiple dedicated food gardens.
Two new concrete steps were constructed this week
However, before I could commence construction of the new concrete staircase, I had to run a power cable to the new firewood shed. The 12V power cable is intended to take power to a water pump and lights for the inside of the shed. All of the power cables (and even the water pipes) are buried in deep trenches so that they are not at risk of being accidentally damaged. Flexible plastic conduit also helps reduce damage to the electrical cables and it is worth noting that I haven’t had any failures with that arrangement. Observant readers will note that where the cable goes behind the rock wall, the cable and plastic conduit is further covered by a plastic plumbing pipe to prevent any possible damage from the rock wall.
A 12V electrical cable was connected to the new firewood shed this week
The funny thing about infrastructure is that once it is in place, new possibilities open up. And that was the case this week as now that there was electricity in the new firewood shed, a wholly new idea popped into my head. Aesthetics are integrated into the functional infrastructure here, but sometimes I just do things because I believe that they’ll look good and they may serve no other purpose than that. My idea this week was to install a couple of LED spotlights on the new firewood shed which up-light the very large tree close by. The LED lights are set to switch on between 6.30pm and 8.00pm and I reckon it looks pretty cool at night. Certainly, the new ghost tree will freak out the neighbours!
The large tree nearby the new firewood shed is now up-lit by two LED spotlights
Towards the end of the week, the dogs started complaining about the home made dog biscuits, version one. 'We don’t like them because there is too much pumpkin in them, they’re not crunchy enough and the old dog biscuits were just better', so they complained. 

We listened to the customer’s complaints and decided that they were fair enough and decided to act. Thus, dog biscuits version two were created today. Rigorous product testing was conducted, focus groups were examined and now after exhaustive research and development, we present dog biscuits, version two:
Dog biscuits version two (along with the newly developed dog breakfast mix waiting to be baked in the wood oven
With the cool damp weather here, the resident birds have been busily bouncing through the garden filling themselves up on all sorts of insects that are silly enough to come to the soil surface for a bit of fresh air. I captured the below photo of a lady blue fairy wren who was scratching around for worms and other insects in amongst the dahlia’s and perennial herbs:
A lady blue fairy wren is scratching for worms and other insects in amongst the dahlia shrubs
With the recent rain, the kookaburra birds are also enjoying the easy access to worms and other grubs at the farm here. I captured the photo below of a kookaburra today using one of the free standing solar panels as an observation spot for such activities. It is a pity that the bird also regularly goes to the toilet on the solar panel and even that small an offence really impacts the electrical output of the solar panel!
A kookaburra uses a free standing solar panel to hunt for worms and insects (and often as a toilet)
The winter solstice for this year is on Monday the 22nd June which is in exactly three weeks today. Most people at this time of year worry about the cold weather. I however, worry about how low the sun is in the sky for the next six weeks. The reason for that worry is because the house is not connected to the electrical grid and is powered solely by solar photovoltaic panels which perform the very nifty trick of converting sunlight into electricity. If the sun is low in the sky though, those 4.2kW of solar panels receive far less sunlight than they would at other more sunnier times of the year. Add in some heavy winter cloud, reliable winter rainfall and solar electricity starts looking like a very unattractive option for heavy users of electricity. Add in a bit of bird manure on the panels and it can be a very nerve wracking few weeks.

Anyway, a problem shared is a problem halved, so over the next six weeks I’ll provide the statistics for the off grid solar power system which should make for some interesting reading. If anyone has any questions about the system, please feel free to ask. Here goes:

Battery % full at the start of the day - Amount generated by the 4.2kW of PV panels during that day
Tuesday 26th May – 75% full – 3.8kWh
Wednesday 27th May – 70% full – 5.85kWh
Thursday 28th May – 90% full – 5.42kWh
Friday 29th May – 95% full – 3.25kWh
Saturday 30th May – 97% full – 4.9kWh
Sunday 31st May – 95% full – 3.19kWh
Monday 1st June – 85% full – 4.81kWh

How did the house get here?
In the lead up to the summer of 2010, the manufacturer installed the stainless steel shutters which can cover all of the toughened and double glazed windows in the event of either a fire or a big storm. I have a love-hate relationship with those window shutters because they are really functional but it took me a long while to get used to the appearance of them, but they just work so well.
The stainless steel window shutters were installed protecting the windows from either severe storms or bushfire
The previous boss dog at that time was getting on in years and could no longer manage a staircase, so I built her a temporary ramp for her to walk up and onto the veranda.

A ramp was built for the use of the very old boss dog (note: no kennel had been built yet)

The ceiling plastering continued and two of the corners were an absolute nightmare to construct. Fortunately the editor came to the rescue and assisted with both the carpentry and plastering of two very unusual angles.
It doesn’t look very complicated, but the carpentry and plastering were a nightmare for this particular corner
Additional ceiling insulation batts were possibly a bit of overkill, but I chose to install an additional layer of insulation batts directly on top of all of the ceiling plaster and it was worth every cent!
Insulation batts were installed just above the plaster
And then one awesome day during November after a few months of living with no lights, the ceiling plaster was fully installed and the electrician connected up all of the lights! The editor chose this beautiful light fitting above the bath – it looks like a ceiling of stars when it is switched on at night:
Let there be light: Lights were finally installed
That year of construction was historically the wettest in recorded history. Every time the skies opened, the surrounds of the house turned to mud. Needless to say, I got sick of that problem pretty quickly and started laying down composted woody mulch over all of the exposed clay so that the soil held together better.
Composted woody mulch is laid down over the exposed clay
And then one day the old boss dog had a seizure and died. It was a sad day as she was an exceptionally talented and gifted boss dog. Scritchy, the current boss dog answered the situation vacant advertisement and slid on in.
Scritchy enjoys the perquisites that come with being the boss dog here
The temperature outside here at about 9.00pm is 2.7 degrees Celsius (36.9’F). So far this year there has been 331.4mm (13.0 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 310.6mm (12.2 inches).

54 comments:

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - You're first snow fall! A hassle, but how pretty. It started raining, today (and, for the next four days) and I got pretty wet taking care of the chooks, this morning. Temperature was 55F. Looks like an inside, couple of days.

"...but sometimes I just do things because I believe that they will look good and they may serve no other purpose than that." Your an artist and you don't know it :-). That lit up tree looks ... fabulous!

I laid down some hay books in a couple of muddy areas of the chook pen. Worked just fine, for awhile. Until the naughty chooks decided to try and figure out what I'd hidden underneath the books... :-).

About a dozen more honey bees, inside the kitchen window, again, yesterday. Can't figure out where they're coming from. Did a lot of prowling around, but no dice. There must be a hive or swarm somewhere. Checked the basement, along the foundations. Listened at the walls. If it's another swarm, it will be the third, in the neighborhood, this year. Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

I simply could not spot the female fairy blue wren, I assume that she is not blue. It reminded me of one of those camouflage puzzle pictures. A clue please.

Let's get rid of the shorts and t-shirts nonsense re us northerners. Brr that is cold and I would be as warmly dressed as you. It may be the 1st of June but I have heating on am wearing furry slippers and a pullover and trousers and all the obvious usual garments.

I don't like outside lighting however beautiful. I love the dark.

Inge

SLClaire said...

Hi all!

It's the first day of summer here but it shares the attribute of being cooler than desired with your first day of winter, Chris. Today's high temperature was at or just slightly above 68F/20C, much cooler than the average 81F. As I type I am wearing a long sleeved T shirt and a sweatshirt over that. Certainly not typical of June in St. Louis! It is supposed to start warming up again tomorrow however.

If you don't want to read the entire post I just put up on my blog, at least have a look at the picture at the top and compare it to the same plants in the photo at the top of the post previous to it. I'm really pleased with this year's garden so far!

Claire

Morgenfrue said...

Hmm. It was 15c and windy here yesterday, and I wasn't in shorts and tshirt, but in trousers and tshirt... But here we think 30c is a heat wave, and I move around a lot at work as I'm a district nurse and bike between visits!

I really enjoy the story of your house (actually my dream is to build rather than buy a house, husband is NOT on board, so I will have to live vicariously). With all the fireproofing you have done, do you expect that your house would survive a bushfire undamaged, or would there be extensive repairs?

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Pyrex is the biz for cooking and it is amazing just how strong and rugged the older dishes are. If I spot pyrex dishes for sale second hand, they are definitely purchased. Some of the newer glass ware just doesn't seem to last as long. Many newer items break and chip here and they end up as fill in the concrete stairs.

That is happening more and more here. It isn't like there is a shortage of people wanting to set up shops either. I tell you a sort of sad tale from many years ago: I once knew a guy that spent $0.5m on renovating a cafe and I said to him that it takes a lot of coffees to cover the amount spent on that renovation. Coffee is a high margin product, but even so.

Yes, gold is not wealth either - silly people. I had no idea that it was such a hot button topic until late last week. I've been pondering the idea of writing a short story on the other "story" blog about how the economy is actually working in its current state. The "story" blog seems like a good idea because although I'm serious, I was hoping that people more or less don't take it seriously. What do you do when you see others asking questions to answers that you know the answer to? Dunno, but doing nothing is an option too.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Mate that is so true! How good is that Tolstoy quote? The author went on to bigger things so I suspect that the experience did him not too much harm. Life wasn't meant to be easy.

You know, I read in the book: The Great Crash 1929 that Hollywood was more or less instructed by the government at that time to release feel good films? Thanks for your history too. I hear you and understand. My mother once said to me in all earnest, "I was a star once". To be brutally honest I was thinking to myself at the time: Monster, Death Star, dunno? How did we become that sceptical? The school of hard knocks is perhaps to blame? Still, the naiveties showed through here too, because I thought that if your expectations far exceeded reality and the life choices failed to meet those expectations.

Sometimes it sort of weird because young people are told to pursue a career in the sciences and yet at the same time, funding for those positions is cut and people with PhD's are unemployed, and yet those same people hang on to their prestige. The dissonance is just weird.

Well, the area that the film was set in is much further north than here and it is a bit drier and the soil is far less fertile. The scene with the chickens left quite the enduring image with me. If Idaho has volcanic outcrops, it probably also has much more fertile soils and much can be done with dry land agriculture if that soil is also mineral rich.

Wow, I hope you discover where the bees are coming from. They may be scouts too, sent out looking for places to start a new colony. It says much about the area that you currently live in that bees are scouting for new colony space.

Very interesting. Blue and white patterns in ceramic would indicate Chinese influence here. The area that Romulus was filmed in had a long running pottery business: Bendigo pottery. They even used to export demijohns to the US during the prohibition era (a lucrative trade apparently) but were canny enough to label the demijohns as health drink jugs - tidy work too, very Aussie. What is interesting though is that there is also a Chinese Joss house in that city and it has a beautiful Asian inspired garden.

Thanks for mentioning the oxalic acid, I'll check into that. It is a very common plant molecule.

Yeah, it is hard when you know the facts on the ground. People can start with such high expectations and end up working for either the bank or the landlord. The disparity in wealth inequality is a cancer gnawing away at our societies.

How good are nachos? Yum and total respect! No, no Melbourne has such a large population of people of Chinese descent that the food is awesome. The editor has a particular fondness for Xialongbao (pronounced Show long Bow). There is absolutely nothing western at all about it and they are total yum! I wouldn't worry about such arguments as they fall into the whole: if a tree falls in the forest... Of course it makes a very loud thunk.

Hope you get your nachos. Oh now I feel really dreadful because I thought that Star Trek Voyager was better than the original series... hehe!

All this talk of food is making me hungry too!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Well 13'C or 55'F is really cold! Brrr! I hear you about the chickens as my finger tips felt positively frozen this morning whilst I was cleaning out their water trough. Is that a normal temperature for your summer? The climate here up north has been very unusual this year, like off the scale unusual. Down here it seems damp and cold, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

I hope that you enjoy you couple of days inside and that Nell and Beau don't suffer from too much cabin fever?

Thank you. Sometimes I think of the place like an over sized art project too! :-)!

What is a hay book? Is that like a hay bale? Chickens would love nothing more than scratching one of those apart. I leave their soiled bedding on the floor of their hen house at this time of year and it gives them something to kick around and keep warm in when it is raining outside. The sugar cane mulch gets turned over and aerated every day so it smells very neutral.

The bees are probably just about to swarm into your area as you are in a good paddock. I do hope they are not inside your house though?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

The female blue wrens are very brown for some reason which I have no idea. She is in the middle of the photo next to the plant tag and looks like an undersized soccer ball with a tail. Those clue puzzles make my head spin too and let's not even mention child proof locks... (emoticon for very unhappy face).

hehe! Too fuuny. You know I tell that joke to the locals here when it is 8'C, sunny and still, and I decide to enjoy my breakfast outside in the brisk mountain air at the local cafe. You know what though, I'm actually escaping from the noisy cafe interior. It always amazes me that parents can't seem to understand that their child banging on my chair or table would annoy me whilst I'm attempting to read a book or the newspaper. And let's not talk about the ones that scream! I get that vocal chords need to be exercised and that makes sense, but just a bit of quiet time every now and then would be nice, so when conditions are sub optimal I'll be enjoying a coffee outside. I'm not complaining, but merely adapting to circumstances as I find them.

Dissensus is a wonderful thing and I appreciate both the garden lights and the dark nights too. Sometimes, I'll go for a walk up the street at night just to hear and sense the forest all around me. I understand why you'd appreciate the dark. The funny thing about providing a garden light is that it becomes a source of energy for the night life. Frogs, moths, spiders, bats, owls all take advantage of it and I wonder what might happen to them if I turn it off?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

81'F or 27'C (for metric people) is a very pleasant temperature.

I always enjoy your blog: Living low in the Lou and drop by to check out what is going on in your garden. You are an inspiration with your methodical approach, focus on soil fertility, use of hand tools and the sheer volume of your yields. Very impressive stuff.

PS: I can see when you have a new blog entry up as it shows up on the blogger dashboard.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Ah well, it is great to hear about all of the different climates across the planet. You actually can adapt to hotter temperatures. During summer 30'C is considered to be a pleasant summers day here, but then during the middle of the day I'll keep out of the direct sun and try and stick to the shade. There are usually a couple of days per year where it reaches well over 40'C and they are survivable, but you just have to keep out of the direct sun. Also serious insulation helps.

But then your winters would get much colder than here where it is usually unlikely to get below 0'C.

Respect for the work that you do too.

Building a house from scratch is actually quite good fun, although the editor and I had to negotiate just how to work with each other on such a big hands on project. That would make an interesting future story too about how that was actually managed? Glad to hear that you are enjoying the story of the house construction.

Well, that is the million dollar question isn't it and you receive the elephant stamp for asking it!

Nice question and the answer is, I don't know. I've seen documentaries on the testing procedure and I suspect that the house will be OK, but no one has actually tested the entire structure under those conditions and neither can anyone afford the test. The systems are tested as individual commercial building (not normal domestic housing) systems and not as a complete package. One of the reasons that I chose to construct the house myself was because I wanted to make sure that the very small details that the house survives or fails on were done to the best of my abilities. No disrespect to builders, but they may not be there during a bushfire and it is not their lives on the line so I had a much greater incentive for worrying about all of this stuff.

I saw some interesting things after the Black Saturday bushfires and the mental image of steel roadside guardrails twisted like ribbons was not lost on me. However, I also spotted old school steel sheds that survived unscathed and spent quite a considerable time pondering the why of it all. I've spent even longer here in an attempt to replicate the things that did work.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Thanks, I have now spotted the wren; she does look plump. Of course she is dull in colour so that she doesn't show up on the nest.

I do hope that if people buy gold they actually have it in their possession. A disaster if they succumb to buying it unseen and looked after by a bank or whatever. There simply isn't enough gold to cover all these offers.

If I have my indoor lights on and the curtains open, I can watch the bats fly in to catch the attracted insects.

2 ghastly wet and windy days but good for cooking. So bread and cake baking and made lots of bolognais sauce to use up the rest of last years frozen tomatoes. It is supposed to turn to a heatwave tomorrow, I am not holding my breath. My veg and fruit certainly needs some warmth and sunshine.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - The picture of the lit tree is one for the Official Fern Glade Farm Calendar. :-).

Well, I'm bundled up in my scarf, ratty old poncho and stocking cap. Have a couple of space heaters blowing away. Will shut them of, pretty soon. They're just to "take the chill off the place." It's all the moisture in the air, here. Makes it feel colder. Over at the weather blog I check out, he referred to "June Gloom." A term I hadn't heard before. I guess a soggy, colder June is not unusual. If the forecast holds, in 5 days it will be sunny and in the 80s F.

Pyrex came in a couple of hundred patterns, over the years. I've always gravitated to blue. Don't know why, but the "Butterprint" pattern I collect doesn't have a butter dish. Odd that. The dinnerware pattern I collect, has a butter dish. But, most of the butter dishes I have seen are badly stained from the butter. LOL. The least of my problems. I hope that Australian firm finally get around to developing that true blue rose they've been diddling around with, for years. But I bet it won't have much of an odor.

Well, given the cold and damp, only three bees, yesterday. If they're scouts, they didn't make it back to report :-). Yup, they are on the inside of the kitchen window. Luckily, they seem to just hang out there. None in other parts of the house.

I checked out Bendigo Pottery on E-Bay. Quit a few listings, but mostly from Australia. Looks like it's collectible, over there. Besides the utilitarian ware, it looks like they also did quit a bit of "art" pottery. Figures and decorated pieces. Many of the pottery companies here started out in utilitarian ware and later branched into more decorative pieces. There is a kind of glass called "Carnival Glass." Pressed and iridescent. Originally, very inexpensive. There was some Australian production. With a kangaroo, kiwi or emu. It is so rare and expensive here, that I don't think it was exported. Probably more individual people bringing the odd piece over.

Children who shriek in public places clear my sinuses out better than Chinese mustard :-).

All the blossoms here have really taken a beating, due to the rain. But the clematis threw it's first bloom, today, and since it is under the eave of the roof, is looking pretty good. Saw a snail this morning. Only the second since I have been here. As opposed to slugs which are all over the place. I don't go after the snails as I do the slugs. There's something appealing about the little fellows, hauling their houses along on their backs. Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

Say - have you ever tried fleece-lined jeans/pants (fleece is heavier than flannel-lined)? I have worn them in the winter here for years and rarely need to add longjohns under them, they are so warm. It occasionally gets close to 0 degrees F. here (-18 deg. C.), though not often.

How did you get the concrete to set at those temps? I thought it had to be warmer?

I wish that we had been as smart as you and sent my husband's satellite TV cable through some conduit before burying it. It was recently chopped in half by someone (not me) digging. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth went on there.

I used to have a bumper sticker that said: DOG SLAVE. I am afraid that you may be headed in that direction . . .

Thank you for the solar data. That could be a very big help.

I think that what Lewis is using for his chickens might be what we call a "flake" here - a section of "square" hay bale (not the giant round ones) that naturally pulls off in handy, flat pieces, an inch or two thick.

When we built our log house in the early 90's, our sons were 4 and 7 years old. Boy, did they have a good time (and really helped).

Pam

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

I'd be really interested to hear your strategies for conserving electricity at this time of scarcity. I've created a simple model to look at how our generation supplies our consumption (day by day) and how a hypothetical battery system would perform (very simple, assumes 7 kWh usable storage and 92% efficiency (modelled on Tesla). I've found I would have run out twice so far this winter. However, we use electricity for all our cooking (don't really use wood/gas/oil at all). I guess for you it is still worthwhile to use power as you generate it, rather than using it via the batteries (for efficiency)?

Do you do most/all your cooking on the wood range at the moment? How is your hot water going? I think you boost that from your wood heater too, right?

Our kitchen was 13.5 C this morning -- coldest yet this year. It's been a chilly few days... That's where singled-glazed windows really let us down!

Pam, your comment reminds me of a saying I heard a while back "dogs have masters, cats have slaves" -- not sure how true it is since I only have chooks ;-)

Cheers, Angus

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Haha! The blue wren is a very plump compost fed bird indeed! They bounce through the shrubs all day long and the more shrubs that I grow, the more small birds there are. They also eat every single slug, snail and other garden pest that dares show its slimy face amongst the vegetable beds.

Who would have thought that gold is a hot button topic? Gold has never really interested me. I new a lady once that hoarded jewellery as a store of wealth, but I've always noticed that second hand jewellery is much cheaper than brand new, so I was never quite sure how much value was in that stuff.

Great to hear that you have bats in your part of the world. They get a bad rap, but they eat a huge quantity of insects. You can see them here against the setting sun and they make this high pitched tick, tick, tick sound with a doppler affect as they roar past you. I assume you get the odd owl and friends too?

I hope you get some warmth and sunshine. The fog and drizzle lifted here today too but it has been very overcast. I received an email from a guy far to north of here who is also off grid and he reckons that this year has been the worst for solar production due to the heavy clouds. Same here!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Man, that calender is getting full as! I liked the photo too. I bumped into the neighbour tonight on the road who was admiring the tree whilst walking his dog - it stands out for sure. Probably he was just walking dog though. It is not far off a full moon here so the nighttime is really quite bright outside, although really cold.

Does the humidity drop over summer? Sometimes a very humid summer can feel much hotter than it actually is and it brings lots of fungal problems with the plants. Hope you get a bit of sunshine for the tomatoes. Winter is pretty humid here too, at well over 90% for months on end. How did the rosemary cutting go?

I've never seen anything other than clear pyrex, but maybe that is what we were supplied with down under? Ceramics are quite the collectable item. Ha! I remember the days before margarine when butter pats used to sit on a ceramic dish with a ceramic lid in the fridge or cupboard depending on the season. As a kid I liked the taste of margarine better, but now that I'm older I stick to butter as it tastes better. I didn't realise that butter would stain the ceramics. Is it a strong stain - I assume that it is from the fats?

Yeah, the hybrids don't really have as much odour as the heritage varieties. Still, blue would look pretty cool!

It is a tough life being a honey bee. The scouts sometimes get caught out here over night and take shelter under the veranda if there is a sudden cold snap and you come across the bodies the next day and shell shocked survivor honey bees from time to time hiding from the rain.

Pottery companies were quite common back in the day, but cheap imports over the past two decades have finished them off. The loss of production skill is what troubles me the most about it as ceramic production is a reasonably important component of civilisation.

How good is Chinese mustard? I grow quite a few of the mustard family here and the green mustards which are just sprouting now have a huge amount of kick. I'll bet you like tabasco sauce too?

I'm like a child magnet as my practiced disinterest seems to be some sort of a personal challenge to them and whilst I respect parents as they're doing it tough - particularly with the isolating social arrangements currently in vogue - I really should just man up and demand a fee for child minding services when strange children are running around my table screaming whilst I'm trying to enjoy a coffee and a quiet read. hehe! It is not likely to happen though!

That happens here too and it is always a worry with the fruit trees, but they're all hardier than we give them credit for so you never know. The rain knocked a few of the flowers off the tea camellia here too, so it is probably a natural process. How is yours going by the way? I haven't been tempted to produce a tea from the leaves yet as the camellia is happily growing. Your clematis vines are stunning.

Snails are cool and it is a nifty trick. You need a few blue wrens who'd clean up the slugs in no time flat.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

They sound toasty warm. I've never seen them here, the heaviest duty clothing would be the sheepskin jacket or boots. The jacket incidentally is a vintage which dates back to the 70's and I picked it up second hand for $80. I always tell the editor that if the house was burning down and I could get only one thing from it - other than the editor of course - then it would be that sheepskin jacket. ;-)!

Far out that is cold. Glad to hear that it doesn't happen much.

No concrete is a very hardy material and the chemical reaction just takes a little bit longer, but will still cure. You wouldn't want to be painting outside though in these sorts of temperatures - the plastic wouldn't cure at all.

Ouch. That hurts. Was it an easy repair? The electrician put his excavator bucket through the main house plumbing line here and water went everywhere and only a bit of quick thinking stopped it from turning into a huge disaster... He seemed pretty relaxed about it though. By the way glad to hear that you weren't involved in the digging as you could stand back and watch the wailing and gnashing with a clear conscience! hehe!

Does that mean that they'll (or I'll) do what they're told? Dogs are very useful on a farm. They earn their keep.

Oh yeah. It always makes me laugh hearing peoples big plans for massive solar roll outs - I sort of go, have you guys thought this through?

Thanks for the explanation. I use sugar cane mulch here which has a different consistency.

Well done. I would do exactly the same thing here. Children love that sort of stuff and want to feel useful and involved.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

I'll have a think about that and leave a description on your blog. The word on the street from the off grid people that I speak with is that the cloud has been as bad here this year as most of us can remember. Certainly a few weeks back things were quite grim here (by that I mean around 70% full for the batteries). Mainly lack of generation is handled here by demand reduction.

Well done, you also get the elephant stamp for very big and complex questions. They would take a post all by itself just to answer so I'll have a think about it over the next few weeks and see if I can come up with something.

Cooking is not a problem at all because there is so much free resources with the wood fire going anyway and the hot water is very very toasty. As an interesting side note for you, the system sends hot water into the flat panels at night intermittently to stop them from freezing - an unlikely circumstance but there you go.

On a serious note it has been very cold the past couple of weeks. 13.5'C is actually not too bad but it is about the lower limit for comfortable temperatures. How is the roof mounted heat exchange pump going at this time of year?

The chooks definitely look at us humans as an inferior mob! :-)!

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Chris and Angus:

I can only speak for myself: the the dog "slave" was me, not the dogs. Of course, I was always a cat slave as well. Bit of a chook slave once upon a time, too. I do love all (most?) of the creatures. Time to find a new career, though . . .

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Ah, Pam is right. Bales of hay break into books or flakes. Hmm. How to explain this. The hay bailing machine picks up a swath of hay or straw and it's tamped into a rectangular shape. Then the whole thing is bound with twine. Handy stuff to save and use about the place. So, when you cut the twine, each "tamp" comes out as a separate unit, if you're a bit careful. About 6" thick, but expandable.

Mmm. It doesn't get very humid here, usually. Not like other parts of the US. If it's warm and we get a bit of cloud cover, the moisture gets trapped close to the ground. But then, what's the difference between damp and humid. Damp, we get a lot. :-)

Yeah, the fats in butter get into any flaw or crazing in the ceramic and produce large blotchy, dark areas. I Google'd "Was Pyrex exported to Australia?" and there were quit a few articles. It looks like Australia had it's own Pyrex producer. Maybe because of that, or, trade restrictions, it doesn't look like our patterned stuff was exported, there. Looks like you had quit a bit of solid colored stuff. I don't worry so much about pottery making dying out. There are so many hobby (and serious) potters around. Roman pottery pretty much collapsed as it was an industrial output. Never heard of individual Romans taking up pottery making as a hobby.

Chinese mustard. A little dry Coleman's, water ... let it sit awhile. Voila! Chinese mustard.

The tomato plants haven't been put out yet. Still inside. Growing nicely and not leggy. Not very big, I think, due to limited light. I think I'll try a few outside, during our next run of nice weather. I think the rosemary was a wash. Haven't checked it in awhile. Thanks for reminding me. I'll hit it one more time with worm juice and if nothing happens, will call it a bad deal. And, try again. The tea seems pretty happy in the kitchen window. Waiting for the little leaves to get a bit more established. Also decided to put it in the chicken corral (the area I've fenced off for vegi). I think the defuse light, due to the fence rails, will be ideal. Think I need to build up a bit of a bed to insure good drainage. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Of course and you are entirely correct. We are the slaves! Very amusing too. ;-)!

Actually, what you probably saw in the response was a learned pragmatism about the animals here. It is a risky place for them - and myself as well - to live and I've had to learn a certain detachment, or is distance the correct term? It is not an easy or comfortable thing and it is hard to accurately define.

I love all of the animals too, even when stumpy the house wallaby has taken a new and recent interest in the very productive citrus trees, but sometimes love means providing a refuge, but standing back in the face of their risky behaviour. Dunno, but it is a really big philosophical question that you've raised and sometimes I have no idea when to intervene or even what boundaries to put in place. That is one of the big questions. What do you think about those questions?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks for the explanation. They're just compressed here and you have to pull them apart bit by bit. Of course as you've discovered chickens are very happy to do that work too!

I'm not sure what the difference is. It is certainly damp here right now and up your way. Hehe! A storm is rolling in here this afternoon so it is getting darker, the wind is picking up and it looks as though it is going to dump some rain.

Ahh, right, of course. I was thinking that the fats got into the glazing, but cracks and imperfections would certainly allow that to occur. There is no getting the stains out either. Still don't they call that character?

Yeah, the Pyrex here is all solid colours which is why I'd probably never seen the patterned stuff before. Have you ever noticed whether the patterns make the final product any weaker? Fair enough. At school they taught us pottery but we always made such useless items that it never seemed to stick. I took metal work too but the items were so small as to be pointless. It has taken a lot of time and mucking around and some spectacular failures to learn to repair and make things. I would have enjoyed the lessons a lot more if we were taught to repair everyday items. That would have been very interesting and it would have given us incentive to continue with the work. Tell you what, the tip shop here where all of the scavenged items are sold off is an amazing world of potential projects.

Ahh, dried mustard powder. Very toasty and sinus clearing. ;-)! Mustard powder used to be sold here by a company called Keen's. The old timers used to say: "Keen as mustard" - which roughly translates into "excitable to do something".

Nice to hear about your tomato plants. Good luck with the rosemary too. Haven't tried cuttings for that plant yet, so you are the trail blazer! :-)! Low wind and good drainage seem to be crucial for the tea plant. Mind you, I've killed how many of them now... The ornamental camellias are starting to produce flowers now. They're really hardy plants.

Cheers

Chris

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

That would be great, but I agree it's really a post on its own, rather than a comment ;-).

I guess the thing about being off-grid is there's often something that's scarce. In summer it is water, in winter it is sunshine. Statement of the bleedin' obvious, really: make hay while the sun shines ;-)

The rooftop heater is working, but I _really_ need to insulate the back. Because of the cold ambient temperatures, there is a lot of heat lost. I'm thinking of covering the back (corogated iron) with a couple of layers of bubble wrap, and then rendering over the top. What do you think of that plan? I also considered cement sheeting (with a flashing at the top, of course ;-) The house has warmed back to nearly 15 C since the other morning (was overcast last night and not so cold -- house seems to lose about 1 - 2 C on a cold night). We lose a fair bit through the windows. I'm trying to decide if it's worth spending about $1200 to buy acrylic sheeting to add "secondary glazing" to all the windows...

Understand about the water collector panel.

Cheers, Angus

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

A second gorgeous sunny day and I have masses of ripening strawberries.

Dock is flowering

My pyrex is all of the clear variety. I had one patterned piece, don't know what happened to it.

I have never had a dog or a cat though cats have tried to get adopted by me. I really only love the wild; I suspect that my attitude to people is the same!

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

I am afraid that I follow my instinct, which is probably no instinct, but mostly sympathy (and love). Most everything around here has a name, from Rosie - the Squirrel Who Was Bald - and her new husband, Norton to Toady the Toad, Slinky the Snake, and Skinky the Skink. Some are dangerously endearing, like Alexander, the week-old white-tailed deer fawn who follows his mother (Chloe) EVERYWHERE instead of staying put where he is suppose to in the hidey place where she leaves him. While she grazes he cavorts around like a spring lamb. I nearly ran over the two of them crossing the road yesterday.

So, do I interfere? I try to make sure that people-created dangers are minimal (such as being sure that there are not things lying around like wire, nails, etc. that they could encounter. I leave out fresh water for the toads, frogs (no frog pond started yet), birds, et al. I talk to all of them every time we meet. I have had to put out of their misery ones that were horribly injured (my own cats' work, usually) and had to kill a copperhead snake that insisted on hanging out on the front porch (I would have let him be if it hadn't been for the dogs - and deliverymen). We are part of Nature as much as they are, so I see it as just a very large case of give and take. Can't help loving them all, though.

Pam

P.S. I can't tell if this went through the first time, so I'm sending it again. Sorry.

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I have just spotted a butterfly orchid in flower; I have never seen one before. My subsequent research fails to tell me whether it is a greater or a lesser one. Never mind, it has made me feel really happy.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - I don't think the patterns weaken the pyrex. Sometimes, the patterns, themselves, get a little dodgy, but it doens't seem to affect the basic integrity of the piece. And, the patterns themselves seem to hold up remarkably well. That black background I mentioned didn't, and it had a very short run.

Strip the bottom 4 inches or so of the rosemary twig. Put it in water. Change water every couple of days. Wait forever for roots to form. Shot of worm juice seems to speed up the process. I think mine failed because I waited to long to put it outside ... didn't get well established before winter hit. My bad. Would be easier to just pick up a rosemary plant at the nursery, but where's the fun and accomplishment, in that? :-).

Yeah, I also had two years of rather Micky Mouse fooling around in a shop class. But, I still remember what flux is and how to
solder. Not that I've had occasion. Of course, a (very) small number of those kids took the basics and ran with them. A few years ago, I read a book called "Shop Craft as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work." A very interesting and though provoking book.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a series from the library. "Grantchester." 1952 and Grantchester is a small village just outside of Cambridge. The young vicar and his rough-around-the-edges detective friend are always falling over bodies and solving mysteries. The aftermath of WWII hangs over the whole thing. There are funny bits, just to lighten things up a bit.

Probably of more interest to you (and, perhaps the Editor) is "Anzac Girls." Australian and New Zealand nurses in WWI. Based on diaries and letters.

As far as I know, Nell hasn't caught anything in awhile. Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, she nailed a mouse in the living room! Of course, she played with it til it got away from her. Under the very heavy and hard to move coffee table. Moved it this morning, and no dead, or live mouse. Gosh knows where it got to. But, I think I'd better run a bit of a trap line in the laundry room, bedroom and office. Just to see if anything turns up. Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

@Inge:

We have yellow (aka curly) dock growing all over. It has almost imperceptible flowers, though, so maybe it is a different plant? The root has medicinal purposes and grows REALLY deep, great for breaking up our dense clay soil.

All of my Pyrex is clear, too. I have never seen patterned. I almost cried when I stuck a cold casserole in a Pyrex dish into a very hot oven and it exploded. It was my favorite casserole dish. Luckily, I found another in a second-hand shop.

We have garden strawberries now, also. A lot of wild ones grow here, too, and I like them every bit as much as the cultivated ones.

I like being amongst the wild things, too. That's why we live so far out (well, it's not really that far - 8 miles from town) and I only go into town once a week, unless I can't avoid it.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Hey, Chris!

Go ahead and laugh, but today one of my sons (age 27) turned on "The Crocodile Hunter" TV show and I enjoyed it so much. I hadn't seen ol' Steve-o in years. He was so much fun. The boys watched him religiously while growing up. I think that he is the reason that we ended up with so many reptilian pets, especially Bearded Dragons . . .

Pam

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Thanks for understanding - you asked a massive question.

Exactly spot on! Nature provides in the proper season. I'm only really starting to get my head around that one. Everything is like that here and that is also one of the great unspoken truths about the consistent supply of stuff from an industrial economy compared to that of everywhere else. The old timers had it right with that saying too, although today we think it means something slightly different. Very observant.

Insulation is a good idea although I reckon bubble wrap may not stand up to the test of the elements. Fibro-cement would be hardier, but it would also absorb water and conduct cold temperatures. A thin sheet of steel over fibro-cement might assist with that problem. I once lived across the road from an architect that swore by the benefits of trapping a layer of air between successive sheets of corrugated steel sheeting? Dunno, I've never tested that out, so who knows?

Thanks, it sucks a bit of energy out of the storage tank, but I sort of figure that the manufacturers know what they're doing?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Nice to hear that you are getting some sunshine and warmer weather. It has been cloudy here for well over a week now. Wow, fresh strawberries. Nice to hear. The smell of the strawberries as the sun slowly ripens them during the middle of the day over summer can never be forgotten.

Out of interest have you ever started cuttings of either Gooseberries or Currants (red/black)? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about such matters.

Cats have a certain innate sense of self in that they can just tell where their antics will be tolerated. Anyway, whatever, we're all a bit feral here! :-)! The world needs a little bit more of that sort of thing nowadays. Urban life can be very mind numbingly boring.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Instinct is well worth following, it knows more than your conscious brain can ever know! I'm a bit of a film buff, but there was this one film I saw back in 2008 where one of the characters remarked to another character: because I've got my instincts and they weren't good. And that about sums instinct up.

Every animal here gets a name too and their antics are mostly tolerated and enjoyed too. There are plenty of feral deer in the forest around here and sometimes you will come across a huge buck with massive antlers.

Last night as I trundled back home in the dark driving no more than 30km/h (about 19m/h) I had to jump on the brakes as a wombat became startled by the car and ran across the road from out of nowhere. I tend to drive very slowly at night and fortunately there are very few - if any - cars on the road.

Spot on. We're all part of nature, they're part of nature, so they all play a part in the area that you find yourself in. Nice to hear about your area too. I'm no fan of snakes but have bopped one snake in the many years that I've lived here. They're the second deadliest on the planet and that sort of adds a big risk element to them. Usually the kookaburra birds catch and eat them though.

Your comment came through twice, so no stress.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

If rare and unusual local plants and flowers are turning up then it is a very big thumbs up for your stewardship of the land.

That is a very attractive orchid too!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Ah well, they find the limits of manufactured stuff pretty quickly. Pyrex stuff is just so useful though in the kitchen. I once read something about green dye being a bit of a problem because one of the main chemicals was arsenic. The mad hatter for just another example was actually a victim of mercury poisoning. Not good. I can't even begin to imagine how they would use mercury in the hat making process?

Thanks for the information on the rosemary cutting. Well, it is a tough call about buying the plants in the nursery versus propagating your own. The seedling farm nearby is $2 a seedling and it is a tough bargain, but then they don’t grow everything either.

Today, I picked up a couple of kilograms of olive fruit at the market and processed them all this evening. That is sticking it to the man for sure. The purchased preserved olives changed their flavour recently which has had me thinking about the why of it. But they’re easy enough to prepare and preserve.

Too true. It was a whole lot of fooling around and yeah, there was a lot of flux and soldering involved here too. Thanks for the recommendation / reminder. Many people have recommended that book over the years. Thought provoking is high praise.

Have you ever tackled Robert Pirsig's book: Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance? It was an interesting book and meant to be a classic about a guy trying to reconnect with himself and his estranged family after a bout of serious mental health issues which eventuated in electroshock therapy. I liked the story and appreciated the core insights but had a lot of trouble relating to the central character and his concerns. He did have some fascinating insights into how to get people started and/or writing or observing things. But then he spent the final chapter on the book "the afterword" boasting about he was writing it from a yacht in an exotic location so I was having a lot of trouble trying to piece all of the complex stories together in my mind and just sort of gave up.

That sounds like a delightful tale. It would be a bit unnerving stumbling across bodies though, don't you think? ;-)! I bet it usually happened in the dark. After a while if you were the local police, you’d have start asking the hard questions: Ullo, ullo! Ere, how come you two always seem to be stumbling across ‘em bodies?

Yeah, they would have done it hard during those times. Makes you wonder whether they would have told the half of it in their letters, or glossed over some of the more unpleasant bits. Were you ever a fan of MASH? I have a soft spot for that series, but not sure that I could re-watch any of it.

Well done, Nell. Top work. If she needs a second job moonlighting down here, well, I could use the help? Did you ever find the mouse? Speaking of which, I found a very large and very dead rat yesterday. Poopy the Pomeranian did the deed, but he much prefers his home cooked dog biscuits to a dead rat so had merely moistened the carcass a bit. The worms now have the rat.

PS: I went into the big smoke last night to see the film Aloha. It was a bit out of sympathy, because as you now know I do like the occasional rom-com, and they're very few and far between nowadays. Mate, it has copped a slamming in the media but I quite enjoyed the story, I don't know what they're going on about. I thought that it was very respectful to the Hawaiian culture and people, but then what do I know?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Sorry to read about your pyrex dish - that hurts.

Wow, fresh strawberries. YUM! I'm assuming that the wild strawberries are alpine strawberries?

Steve Irwin did so much to promote the wildlife down here and especially some of the more unlovable animals. It was a sad loss. Nice to hear that you have some reptiles up your way though.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

@Pam

I believe my dock is the broad leaved dock it has tiny red flowers. Nothing deals with the clay that I am on; the trees fall easily because they only manage shallow roots.

I have wild strawberries all over too but tend to leave them for the wild life.

Not as far from town as you, about 4-5 miles. I go in about every 2 to 3 weeks.

Inge

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I don't know whether or not this went through or whether I lost it; so here goes again.

Wild strawberries are smaller than alpine strawberries.

I have been going nuts trying to identify a plant now flowering all over the place. It has teeny weeny white flowers. I have decided that it is heath bedstraw on the basis of its leaf formation. Photos on the internet vary so. Some look identical and some are very different.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Read the second installment of "Shaman." Should have commented over there, but left the site before I got my act together. It scans well, and the only thing that jumped out at me was the, perhaps, overuse of the word "area." Get out the thesaurus and mix it up a bit :-).

I can remember reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" when it came out. Vaguely. That it didn't really grab me and I set it aside, never to pick it up, again. It just didn't seem very ... authentic.

Oh, yeah. In "Anzac Girls", there's been several points where that glossing over, or, inability to address what happens in war is explored. Same with "Grantchester." And, I was a MASH fan. I don't think I'd revisit it, either. I'll just enshrine it in pleasant memory :-). Went to see "San Andreas", yesterday. On the advice of my neighbors, I caught a mid-week, afternoon show. Ideal, for me. Only 6 people in the theatre. Hadn't been in a theatre in years. But, being a disaster film freak, I wanted to see it on the big screen. A pretty good movie, if you like that sort of thing. Good special effects. "2012" was perhaps a bit better, but that was pretty over the top. The only place the movie dragged was when the couple started hashing out their "issues." But those moments were few and far between and over, quickly :-).

Well, Nell doesn't seem to have caught the mouse. At least, no evidence of such. The past couple of nights she's back to sleeping perched on my shoulder. Now rare, as she's such a grown up young lady :-). I find it comforting. When I woke up this morning, we had a rousing 5 minute round of "stalk the hand under the edge of the blanket." It was fought to the usual draw.

Well, the first glorious sunny day, in a long time. Will propel myself out into the yard and do something / anything. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

That is interesting because I'm about 5 miles from the railway station and add a couple of miles on that to get into the town. The railway followed the elevation, whilst the town was close to the river. Two train stops further inland and you can spot the old brick and iron water towers for the steam locomotives. A group of steam train enthusiasts still maintain and run a regular weekend steam service off the main line out of Castlemaine which is much further north than here, but not far from the major apple growing area of the country.

Oh, what are wild strawberries? The wild ones here are actually garden escapee variety alpine strawberries. They're very tasty. A local nursery sells many different varieties of them.

That can be very difficult. Fungi identification is even harder. I grow ladies bedstraw here and whilst that maybe amusing to you, it is a very soft herb and it had to be slowly introduced. There is a similar looking herb here with white flowers that I know as speedwell.

Apologies if there are spelling errors here, but poopy the pomeranian is insisting on sitting on my lap despite overheating in the process.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Many thanks for that bit of insight and I'll revisit the entire story from start to finish after it has been completed with that consideration in mind. I really appreciate that too because the editor here has only had experience with non-fiction, and fiction writing is a whole 'nother beast! Still Cathy said it well when she wrote, practice makes perfect (or merely adequate as the case may be here. hehe!)

Well, that is probably a fair interpretation because in some respects it is a typical redemption tale and the reconnection with his son at the very end of the book felt to me as if it was of a: "and then I woke up", sort of an ending. It sort of felt rushed to me because the very next chapter he was on a yacht off the Greek islands enjoying the ample proceeds from the sale of the book or some such business with a new partner - clearly better than the old one. ;-)! A very difficult business to breezely explain away. The central theme of the book was quite good though.

Good to hear that they touched upon those themes because I often suspect that people can handle an awful lot of badness, but then that also binds them together in a way that outsiders can never quite intrude upon. My grandfather for some strange reason used to drag me along as a child to his Anzac day whiskey and milk breakfasts with his WWII mates after a very early start at the dawn service at the war memorial just out of the city.

Very wise as sometimes you can't go backwards and revisit. I'm thinking of Caddyshack and Eat the Rich... Best to let sleeping dogs lie I think?

Nice work, I was wondering about San Andreas. The reviews have been very positive about the film too. Yeah, well, hashing out issues during the middle of a massive disaster seems a bit weird. Like who does that? Honestly, you'd think they'd be way too busy with all of the rubble, flies, death and stuff. ;-)! PS: That was intended to be a bit of humour based on a very silly and rather unfortunate quote from an entertainer from up your way.

Nell is clearly a happy soul and it is very nice to hear that she can play games with you. Sometimes cats can be a bit: too cool for school but Nell clearly is a pleasant spirit. You may be interested to know that Sir Scruffy actually nips my ankle from sheer exuberance when we go out to check on the chooks in the morning.

I’ve been working in the surrounding forest here today cleaning up and I am tired.

Cheers

Chris

heather said...

Hi all-
Just had to share two notable events here yesterday; I picked two quarts of rattlesnake beans off of an eight foot section of trellis- an amazingly productive variety!- and we had a thirty-minute gully-washer of a storm out of a seasonally atypical cluster of lightning storms moving coming down from the northeast out of the mountains. (Our weather usually comes in from the west, towards the Pacific.) The winds were quite high and I'm a bit afraid of what I'm going to see when I go out to the garden this morning. Hope that bean trellis is still there. Thankfully there don't seem to have been any fires started by the lightning, as that is the big fear this time of year.

The weather is forecast to hit 101 degrees on Monday, breaking what the weathermen insist on calling the century mark for the first time this summer and dancing around it for the rest of the week. Sigh. So begins my least favorite part of the year, but at least my tomatoes may enjoy it.

I strongly recommend against revisiting MASH. I had that unfortunate experience a few weeks ago when my husband found it on Netflix. I remember enjoying watching it at dinner time as a kid, and my parents tearing up at the last episode. But upon the recent viewing, the laugh track grated and the sexist treatment of the nurses didn't wear well. Best to let sleeping dogs lie, indeed.

--Heather in CA

Pam in Virginia said...

@Inge:

I looked at photos to see if your bedstraw might be one that we have here, which I know as "cleavers" (galium aparine; it does indeed cleave, as in cling) and which I make a tincture out of. It is not the same, though this hedge bedstraw - www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/hedge_bedstraw.htm - looks somewhat like your description.

I have alpine strawberries in the garden. The wild strawberries are indigenous ones called "Indian strawberries" - http://www.eattheweeds.com/potentilla-indica-mistaken-identity-2/ - I find that they have a very nice flavor. The wildlife like the garden strawberries better, so we share each way.

In favor of letting-nature-be sometimes: a nice looking shrubby plant came up in a not-so-convenient, and very shady, spot a couple of years ago and I decided to leave it alone and see what happened. It flowered like mad this spring and I was so hopeful, thinking "Ah! Fruit". It has turned to be a bush cherry (neighbors over yonder have a hedge of them; I'd forgotten)! Yay! Would we call "leaving things alone" (sometimes, anyway) permaculture?

As for the clay: we spend more time amending the clay in the garden (and removing the zillions of rocks) than any other task. I try not to complain too much, though, as there are so many beautiful old buildings around here built out of bricks that were made from this red clay. There is still a brick-making operation in the next county. Don't think they're doing as well with the downturn in building here. Perhaps they are exporting them to the UK . . .

Pam

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Wild strawberries (fragaria vesca) are absolutely tiny hence my previous amazement at my mother picking them for jam when she was a child.

I am about a 1 1/2 mile walk from the village and a bus stop.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge and Yo, Chris - Yes, plant identification can be a bear. Buhner, in his books on herbal medicine gets quit cranky and grumpy about shifting plant identifications. As with computers, like trying to hit a moving target. As mentioned in "Nature's Medicine" (the National Geographic one), it's all pretty complicated. Or, can be. For maximum effect, do you use the roots, leaves or flowers? Time of day or even time of year. Soil and growing conditions may affect the plant, even to it's appearance. I suppose, sooner or later we'll have a little counter top machine. Pop in a bit of plant material and it will tell you what the plant is. Already exists on a huge, scaled up laboratory version.

Have been reading a bit about "Nutrigenomics." Maybe the next new fad, but maybe there's a bit of truth to it. It goes like this. Until recently, we've pretty much thought we were slaves to our genes. Nutrigenomics thinks that food can turn on, or turn off parts of our DNA to yield either health or illness. Interesting stuff. I was at a meeting the other night, and standing around chatting, after, to one of the old timers, our conversation wandered to arthritis. He has it pretty bad. I mentioned that dosing different things he ate with turmeric might help. Well, he just takes an Aleve (a pill) a day, and he's just fine. I'm afraid I was a bit sharp when I said "Well, would you rather take something that comes out of a lab, or out of the ground?" Luckily, he's an even tempered old coot, who doesn't take offense. I'm probably grumpy, myself, today, as I had a bit of a sharp e-mail exchange with my friends in Idaho about food. Oh, well. I'll just sit quietly in the corner and eat my long grain brown rice :-).

Finished up "Anzac Girls", last night. The main nurse character met a doctor on the boat going home and married. They set up a practice in "rural Victoria." You're neck of the woods, I think. Her married name was Appleford. Maiden name, Ross-King. She went on to do lots of other great and good medical things, in her life. Learned a new Australian word ... Larrikin.

Oh, Nell can be a lot of fun. Walking around I have to watch my fingers as she loves to leap for any dangly bits. I have to keep her front claws trimmed up so she doesn't do me any damage. Sometimes, she'll charge up one of the apple trees, just for the pure fun of it.

Well, I dead-headed the roses, that I've trained to grow along the back deck. There are hundreds of blossoms. But, if I keep on them, I'll get another 2 or 3 flushes out of them. Try to do that early in the day, or just before sunset, so I don't fry my brains. Beau appreciates any time I spend working in his yard. The landlords wife also mentioned that I should trim up the bayberry hedges in the front. They may trap moisture and rot the porch. Sigh. I'd, sometimes, rather spend my time on food and herbs. Useful things, not ornamentals. Oh, well. the ornamentals are useful in their own way. Feed the soul, if nothing else. Good for the birds and insects. Which, are good for the useful stuff. Must think in systems :-).

Forgot to mention the shasta daisies are all abloom. And, the buttercups. Tansy ragwort has not made an appearance yet. Will be interesting to see if the cinnabar moths made a dent in them, last year. Lew



Jo said...

Hi Chris, what beautiful snow! We have had spectacular frosts all week. I have a rosemary hedge which looks stunning (from inside, where it is nice and warm) when coated with frost.

I have been waiting to comment all week, because I wanted to keep an eye on my solar panel power production, but I am RUBBISH at recording anything like that, or indeed, even remembering to check, even though it just means stepping outside the front door at about 5pm each day! All I can tell you is that our 28 panel, 6.5kW system produced 14kWh on a sunny day this week, 11kWh on a mainly overcast day with intermittent sunshine, and today, which has been so grey and miserable and wet that we have had lights and heating on all day, we generated 0.5kWh. So most days, even in winter our house produces almost double what you use... but less than half of what we use:( Still, there are twice as many of us as your household, and we use electricity for everything, heating and hot water included. If we had a wood heater installed I would have to buy wood in - not sure how that 'wood stack' up economically.. I do have a long way to go for powering down and being more efficient with what I have though..

orchidwallis said...

@Pam

I also have cleavers and it does indeed cleave. The bedstraw is very small and slender by comparison. It is similar in construction but doesn't cleave.

@Lew

I also have ragwort and the cinnabar moth, a very beautiful moth.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Heather,

Well done with the rattlesnake beans, those things are huge. Nice to hear that you received a decent dump of rain too. Hope the place held up well, water can do a whole lot of damage in very little time at all. Interesting that the storm arose from the interior of the continent, but from the south of you.

That is quite hot. Is that early for this time of year especially to be extended over a couple of days? Yes, same here too, summer is the worst. But at least the tomatoes and basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, figs, olives - all of that Mediterranean produce loves the heat. I'm trying to get figs established here, but there was just too much grass competition last year... Have you ever tried Olive herb, tastes like a tapenade but is a way hardy plant?

Same here too. Sounds like good advice, sometimes you can't revisit as things get lost in translation.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks for the identification for Inge. Those particular strawberries are wild garden escapees around here. And, who would have thought that the leaves were edible? Elephant stamp for you! At what point do the berries get flavour though as the ones here taste not dissimilar from an Irish Strawberry fruit? The alpine strawberries are very sweet though.

Maybe, chance plants especially fruit trees are always interesting. I grow seedling cherries here as a decoy fruit for the birds.

You are definitely rock wealthy! Nothing helps clay as much as a good deep ripping and the addition of organic matter - of any sort really. Cheeky!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Your mother clearly was an exceptional lady to collect that particular fruit for jam making. The wikipedia article on the plant did not state that the variety lacked flavour at all, so you'd sort of think that the current varieties are also full of the expected strawberry flavour. A local nursery sells many different varieties and I'm now wondering about planting them in the shade of the fruit trees?

That is a close, but not too close and also very respectable walking distance to the shops. When I was a child, my grandmother looked after us during school holidays and she always walked us to the local market with a little shopping jeep and it was a similar distance.

PS: It is the Queen's birthday long weekend here!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Ohhh, that drives me bananas too! During times when I open the garden here for the locals, I always end with someone debating whether a particular plant is a pelargonium or a geranium. Honestly, it does my head in because my Latin is pure rubbish. If it was up to me, I'd probably go: that plant over there with the crinkly leaves, pungent smell and blue flowers and that would be the end of it. The rest of it is way too complex for my brain. Exactly right, it all depends on so many variables, who is to know really? I test a lot of the herbal plants here for common garden (pun intended) conditions and many of them are really good, whilst others I'm not so sure about. And all of them grow at different times of the year - just to add a little bit more complexity... I tend to remember plants based on their usefulness scale which imprints them better onto my thought patterns. For the rest of them, books do the trick! Glad to hear that you employ a go-to guide as they are inevitably conservative (in the old school meaning of that word) in their advice. The ones that talk about the history of the plants and their use are good too.

Sorry to hear about your email exchange that went horribly wrong. Yes, sitting in a corner is probably the correct antidote for bad behaviour! hehe! :-)! Food is a very hot button topic for most people, although I try very hard to simply go about my business and let it wash over me. Tell you what though I once inadvertently upset one of my friends because I suggested that the dogs here could eat a mainly vegetarian diet. Well, the email stink I received the next day from him and his girlfriend was a bit frightening to behold. I deleted the email and let them have some cooling off time. ;-)! Still, I have made many email exchange mistakes. It is hard.

As for your mate, I reckon the herb Gotu Kola would grow like the proverbial weed up your way, but is apparently quite good for arthritis. That plant is feral here. It just doesn't taste very nice, but is very edible. It is actually an Asian salad green.

Major Alice Ross-King grew up in the town of Ballarat which is in a similar climate and latitude to here but a little bit west. It is a nice inland city and my mate that is moving to Ohio lives there currently. South Gippsland is a very fertile area with rolling hills and reliable rainfall but a little bit south east of here. The government opened that whole area up to returning WWI soldiers. The drought during the Great Depression meant that a lot of those farms were abandoned. It wasn't a dust bowl or anything, but a combination of rabbits, lack of rainfall and rapidly depleting soil fertility. Plus soldiers have to learn how to farm in a fragile and challenging environment and that isn't always an obvious leap for the government policy makers... Thanks for the heads up as Major Alice was a tough lady under very difficult circumstances. The western front in France during WWI was a total bloodbath. Some French towns have memorials for the lost Australian soldiers and the avenues of honour (Oaks and Elms for individual dead soldiers) around here in the country towns are very long indeed. Very sobering.

Nell, sound like quite the spirit! Good on her.

Nice to hear that you are getting some summer warmth up your way. Never tried that with the roses. Very interesting stuff. Beau is a social animal, dogs like company. Some of them follow me around as I'm working and it'll look as though they're asleep but then they'll bounce up if I move to a new spot. They wisely don't get close to burn offs though...

Of course, they all add to the diversity of a place. I doubt that you and I will ever know even 10% of the things that go on in our respective lands.

Good to hear that the moths are getting on top of the Tansy ragwort. Good stuff. I chopped and dropped a few thistles in the past day or so whilst cleaning up the forest. It must be that time of year.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Jo,

Oh yeah it has been unseasonably cold this week. Brrr. But no frost here though. The frost always looks really nice though doesn't it? Rosemary is very hardy to both the cold and the heat, it is a good plant and the bees love it. Did you know that it apparently assists with the memory too?

Hehe! I won't tell you that I have the statistics back to day 1 as it sounds a little bit obsessive, but really I didn't know anyway other to get a feel for the system. Mind you, I don't have to go outside in this weather either - and the wind is blowing tonight and it was meant to be sunny today! – just to check on the meter.

No stress. 5pm is usually chicken bed time at this time of year! hehe! Too funny, sorry, I have to stop making jokes and get serious here.

Exactly, you probably generate on average about 2 peak solar hours per day at this time of year and the stats sort of indicate that is the case. 0.5kWh for the entire day is about as bad as it ever gets. It isn't much energy is it? Still the thing is, it is wise to be aware of the realities of the system because when people start saying strange things like: we could power an entire society on solar PV alone, you know not to engage them in a conversation but merely nod your head sagely and walk on. You're doing OK you know. Most people don't have a 6.5kW system so that is a real advantage for you. Mines a 4.2kW system but I'll probably add another panel over the next few weeks and probably a further 2 next year.

I'll tell you a funny story. About a year ago a couple of locals wanted me to talk about solar PV energy at a renewable energy meeting for the township. Whilst I generally enjoy public speaking, that particular subject I had to gracefully decline because it would be like telling them that Santa is not coming this year or ever again to bring them presents. That ain't in my job description...

Well, I probably have at least 80,000 to 90,000 trees here so a couple of them for firewood every year probably doesn't make much of a dent. Anyway I plant more Blackwoods each year than I harvest of Eucalyptus trees so it is a very cheap fuel for me. It is a lovely heat source though and the smell of fresh baked bread just out of the wood oven is amazing, but firewood would be very expensive if I had to buy the firewood in.

PS: Just to give you an idea of how much cooking I pump through the wood oven. In between replying to the comments, I’ve cooked: A batch of muesli, a loaf of bread, corn chowder for dinner, a kilogram of yoghurt and roast vegies for the dog food and biscuits. I may even have time tonight to actually start baking batches of the dog biscuits. If the comments sometimes lose track of the thread or veer off into other discussions it is probably the cooking intervening.

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

Happy Queen's Birthday! I was going to offer you felicitations anyway as it is printed on my calendar.

Thanks for the link about Major Alice Ross-King. An interesting lady. She certainly did her part in both World Wars. I'd never much thought about the fact that there were probably quite a lot of people who had served in both wars.

@Lew:

One of my favorite books is National Geographic's "Nature's Healing Arts: From Folk Medicine to Modern Drugs". Is that the same as yours? I particularly like it as a lot of the info comes from Appalachia, of which we are a small part.

Pam

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I see that Gotu Kola is a pennywort. Note the 'wort' meaning worth again. However I agree with Lew's recommendation of turmeric, an excellent anti-inflammatory.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge - The tansy ragwort was well established, here, when my landlord/friend went to Oregon and brought back the cinnabar moths. A trunk (boot) full in paper bags. That was about 25 years ago. The first year I was here, I didn't see many. So, I figured out a way to move some of the worms about in a gentle way. I find a plant that is infested with them, and move a few worms to a plant that has none. Too early to tell if it's doing any good. The tansy isn't "up" yet. I keep an eye out for it when I take my brisk morning walk.

Yo, Chris - Even though I took two years of latin in high school, the latin names of plants are beyond me. I just stick with the common names. Unless I'm looking for a particular species. But, once acquired, I just jot the latin name down in my garden journal, in case I have to reference it, again.

I've got a little experiment, going. There's a lettuce that I get from the vege store that I really like. Crinkly leaves with a bit or red toward the edges. Can't seem to fine the exact one among the seed packets at the garden stores. So, I read about plopping a stub end in water. Gave it a whirl and I'm getting tiny little leaflets! If I can bring it full cycle, maybe the seed will breed true, though I suppose it's a hybrid. We'll see. At least the clone from the stub will be identical.

I've got some thistle growing out behind the chook run. Due to my misspent youth, the old liver is a little touchy. Thistle seed really helps. So, I'm going to harvest it, this year, instead of paying for it in little capsules at the health food store.

It was 88F here, yesterday. But, there was a ripping good breeze that made it quit pleasant. The rose I have is some kind of climbing, red, old variety. I think. The blossoms are very simple and smell quit nice. And, it only, naturally, blooms once. But if you "deadhead" the spent blossoms, the bloom season is extended. Usually, I have buckets (well, two gallon ones) to add to the compost bin. Sadly, they don't have much of a hip. I need to plant a variety with a good hip. You can do so much with them, and they're full of vitamin C. Lew