Monday, 6 July 2015

Chooks – the next generation

Chook-trek: The next generation of chicken housing and enclosure on the farm. These are the voyages of the chicken house and enclosure. Its five week construction and mission: to permanently exclude rodents, to provide all weather shelter; to make it quicker and easier to maintain the chickens; and to boldly go where no chicken has gone before!

Seriously, the chickens have been curious about all of the fuss and activity just downhill of their current enclosure, but they haven’t yet steeled (pun intended) themselves to explore their new home which is currently under construction.

Earlier in the week I constructed seven of the A framed steel roof trusses (that is a fancy name for the pointy bits that give structure to a roof). Later that afternoon the roof trusses were installed onto the steel frame and the proportions of the new chicken enclosure and shed started taking shape.
The roof trusses were constructed and installed onto the steel frame for the chicken shed
Looking at a half constructed building for me is like tasting cake batter before the cake has been cooked. Cake batter always tastes nice to me. It is exciting for me too because the steel frame is now showing a beautiful symmetry which is very pleasing to the eye.

In the above photo, you are able to see the existing chicken shed and wire enclosure and a couple of chickens loitering about enjoying themselves. That original shed won’t be wasted and will eventually be converted into a firewood storage shed. Observant readers will note that there is a very handy pile of firewood just waiting to be stored in that future shed so that it is kept out of the wintery wet weather.

The rats and field mice have always been a problem with the existing chicken shed and enclosure. Honestly, the little rodents currently twitch their noses at me in utter contempt every single day whilst enjoying a healthy diet of whatever the chickens chose not to eat as well as some very yummy grains which I'm paying for. The rodents also currently have access to fresh water which they're happy to leave their manure in and they’ve also been known to climb the fruit trees on warm summer evenings enjoying the ripening fruit which I would have otherwise enjoyed.

Over the past four years it has been a battle of wills between myself and the rodents – and they’re winning. However, observation is a useful tool, and I have been watching the rodents and learning their patterns and habits. The new enclosure and chicken run incorporates everything I’ve learned by observing the rodents behaviour.
Trenches dug, steel skirt installed and formwork prepared for the chooktopia project
Rodents can dig, so in the photo above, the steel corrugated skirts are buried into the trenches. Those trenches are then going to be filled with structural grade cement. Take that you rats! The chicken house, which is at the far end of the structure in that photo, will sit on a proper concrete slab. That is the sort of slab that can hold up a house and which the rodents will be unable to dig into. Take that you rats! It is also worth remembering that it is extraordinarily difficult for a rat to climb up a vertical smooth steel surface. And take that one too, you rats!

On early Sunday morning, the sun shone and although it was also very cold, being the middle of winter, the local sand and soil guy brought his small mini mix truck up the mountain to the house with a load of 1.2 m3 (1.56 m3 yards) of cement. Mixing that much cement by hand is possible, but it is a job that is beyond me in such a short time frame, so I called in for help. The truck delivers the cement directly into a wheelbarrow and then I wheeled that over to the construction site. It took 38 minutes to unload that much cement by wheelbarrow and I was feeling quite hot and bothered by the end of that job. I accidentally dropped one load of cement into the orchard too and said many words like: Fudge! (actually, I said something else altogether – and many times over too according to the editor who was on hand) – but I am trying to keep the blog family friendly, so will remove the specifics.
A wheelbarrow was used to move the cement from the truck to the construction site
Kudos to the editor too who set out the timber formwork so that it was not only both level and square, but also importantly that it was able to withstand the pressures placed on it by the huge load of cement. The timber formwork has to be quite tough as it takes a lot of effort to work the face of the cement so that you achieve a very smooth finish. The editor has since declined my suggestion of moving to the career path of concreter and said something about there being not enough Sorbolene in the world to apply to her hands for her to consider pursuing that particular career option.

Later that day, despite the cold conditions, the cement had started to cure and the timber formwork could be removed. Despite the best efforts of a magpie bird leaving its footprints in the new concrete slab (which we had to repair in a hurry), the whole thing looked awesome. Honestly, it is no exaggeration to say that I’ve seen house slabs that didn’t look as good as the new concrete slab for the chicken house here.

The curious magpie taught us a valuable lesson and it was now considered to be very likely that overnight the local wildlife would happily check out the slowly curing cement. To prevent this disaster we set up steel barriers as dusk set in so that the wombats and wallabies couldn’t engrave their initials into the concrete slab during the night. Imagine the total outrage of finding the next morning a scrawl in the brand new concrete slab: “Fatso the wombat was ‘ere, 2015”. Of course correct punctuation may not be Fatso’s strong suit!

The author enjoying a cold, but well earned break after a day of cement activities
Anyway, after all the concrete work, we enjoyed a coffee and a fresh Anzac biscuit and we were both knocked out that night.

It wasn’t all about the chooktopia structure though, because with the delivery of cement, I took the opportunity to commence building the new staircase behind the new firewood shed. The day before the cement delivery the timber formwork for that stair step was set up. The stairs will eventually lead up to future tomato, potato and strawberry beds so they will become quite important.
The timber formwork for the new set of stairs was set up and levelled in preparation for the cement delivery
On the Sunday morning of the cement delivery, any and all excess cement was used to build the beginnings of that new staircase.
The cement delivery on Sunday morning was a perfect opportunity to build a new concrete step
The trees here are of the species Eucalyptus Obliqua (Messmate) and they are the second tallest flowering trees in the world after Eucalyptus Regnans (Mountain Ash) which are to be found a bit higher up in the mountain range. The trees here can potentially grow to a height of 90m (295ft)! A few weeks back I mentioned that just to the side of the orchard there was a very large tree stump. It is a fire damaged tree, which on closer inspection is still alive, and I’d been walking past it for years without ever noticing it. Then one day a few weeks back, when I was on the hunt for rocks, I happened to spot this tree from a completely different angle and went to myself: “Whoa, that tree is massive!” The reason, I’d never noticed the massive tree before was because the damage was such that the top of the tree has literally fallen off due to wind, termite, disease or fire damage and has either been completely burnt or decomposed. Certainly the tree would pre-date European settlement and it is great to see that despite all of the challenges thrown at it, the tree still lives. You go tree!
Massive tree right next to the orchard
The winter so far has been slightly warmer than average, and the other day I noticed that a Manchurian Pear has produced its first blossom despite it being still mid-winter:
Manchurian Pear tree produces its first blossom in mid-winter
In other plant news, the daffodils along with many other varieties of bulbs this week have started sending green shoots out of the ground:
Daffodils and many other bulbs began producing green shoots this week
The combination of damp soil and changeable weather is promoting the growth of a lot of interesting and unusual varieties of fungi and I spotted this interesting specimen yesterday. Nothing quite yells: “I’m toxic – don’t eat me”, like a mushroom with a dark green black top and a yellow / orange underbelly.
I spotted this unusual mushroom yesterday (putting the 'fun' into fungus!)
Over the past few weekly blogs I've been posting the solar PV statistics. As of today it is now 2 weeks out from the winter solstice. Generally the period of very poor performance for the solar PV system is 3 weeks on either side of the winter solstice (22nd of June):

Battery % full at the start of the day - Amount generated by the 4.2kW of PV panels during that day
Tuesday 30th June – 81% full – 5.2kWh
Wednesday 1st July – 79% full – 5.1kWh
Thursday 2nd July – 85% full – 3.9kWh
Friday 3rd July – 87% full – 4.1kWh
Saturday 4th July – 86% full – 2.3kWh
Sunday 5th July – 84% full – 5.0kWh
Monday 6th July – 87% full – 2.5kWh

The temperature outside here at about 8.30pm is 4.6’C degrees Celsius (40.3’F). So far this year there has been 382.4mm (15.0 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 376.6mm (14.8 inches).

I've run over time gas bagging about the chickens and now have no time for the continuing adventures with the house construction. We'll continue next week with that house construction thread! Till then...

29 comments:

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - LOL. I enjoyed all the Star Trek references. Watch out for those temporal anomalies! I hope the rats don't construct a wormhole from outside the pen, to inside the pen. Perhaps Simon Pegg will make a guest appearance? :-). There's a beautiful symmetry to all your buildings. Architecture IS a bit like music. I see you've got a bit of chicken art on the old coop. It's quit nice and hope it makes the transfer to the new chicken coop. Crowning glory, and all that. :-)

I'm surprised you don't have at least one curious hen. I have one that I call Curious Hen. Novel, no? :-). Every night when I go out to shut up the chooks, she comes running out to see what's going on (Nothing to see here, move along ... I actually say that out loud).

I'm sure The Editor has her own areas of interest and responsibility to keep the old homestead perking along. :-). Adding itinerant concreter to her resume, is probably not in the cards. You got to draw a line, somewhere :-). Mathematical genius (from my point of view) seems enough.

Speaking of tracks in the concrete, there's a couple of archaeological digs going on up on The Wall (Hadrian's) and there was a lot of excitement as they found several clay roof tiles with dog and cat prints. And, one footprint from a young person. Bet someone got a beating for that! :-). Sometimes, it's the little things that make those people, so far away in time, seem so close.

When I stepped out this morning to let the chooks out, one of the Siamese cats from next door was hauling home a very dead rodent. Nell presented me with a shrew, yesterday. I know you're a "dog person", but you might reconsider getting a couple of semi-feral cats to knock back those rodents. Maybe if you think of them as tools...

My landlord told me an interesting story, the other day. I don't know the time frame, but a machine shop here put in a composting toilet. The county health authority said they couldn't do that. So, they went to the State. The State health authority said it was just fine, and told the County to back off. That's from our "There's Still Hope", department :-).

I caught a glimpse of a bluebird, this morning! They're coming back. Also, two bunnies in the yard, this morning. Vast Panorama of Nature, and all that :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

It does make you wonder how the Oregon grape even made it to these shores, but it really does seem to do well in the shade of Eucalyptus trees - which is quite impressive because the trees drop oils or some other chemical from the leaves which act as a germination inhibitor. The Oregon grapes I only spotted this year at a garden not too far from here: Diggers Club - Garden of St Erth. The club preserves and imports heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables as well as running a couple of gardens about the place. They're well worth the time.

Oh no! Isn't it amazing to see the impacts of the full power of nature when it confronts human structures. Of course it is very unpleasant to endure such a natural event in the flesh - and bear in mind a tornado did a direct hit here on Christmas day a few years back day now. It makes you wonder what the environment will look like several hundred years in the future? When I travelled to Vietnam back in the 90's I saw some ruins of a city that was about 800 years old and the jungle had just taken it all back and there were very well constructed brick buildings with vines and creepers all over them. I'll bet that Vanport was a place of adventure for a couple of young lads? Hope the goldfish were OK? ;-)!

Thanks. Well, you and the other commenters keep me on my toes too! It is very good exercise for our brains, you know? Thanks for the history, it seems as if Mark Twain had a variety of choices - he was an excellent word smith. He actually visited this part of the world at one time (1895) - he even wrote a book about his encounters. Incidentally I have read of a similar style of book by the most excellent US author Bill Bryson (who hides his title of Dr.) in his travels down here: Down Under - Bill Bryson. The same author also wrote an excellent and also very amusing book about walking the Appalachian Trail called a Walk in the Woods. He is a good author.

No! We are only given a day or two notice for fire bans to take place and heaven help anyone who breaks them - although plenty of ignorant actions go on. Yes, JMG said that the fireworks were a bit low key last year in his area too. You rarely see fireworks here at all and I believe that they are only available for retail purchase in Canberra - go figure that one out! hehe!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Man, I'd be so unhappy if a temporal anomaly suddenly opened up a worm hole (and don't forget the usual time distortion effect) to allow the rats unfettered access to the new chicken enclosure! You can't beat the temporal anomaly for providing a nice neat ending to an otherwise murky and overlong story line... hehe! Hold onto your hat because I haven't quite excluded the following blog titles over the next few week: Enterprising chickens; Chicken Voyagers; or even the very dodgy sounding Deep Chicken Fifteen! Yeah, they're all groaners! Hehe! Have you got any suggestions given the theme?

Well, if Simon Pegg and even Nick Frost turned up here to offer a helping hand (probably to the home made lemon wine) I really wouldn't refuse them. It would be quite the enjoyable day and evening and a good time would be had by all!

Very observant, the chicken art will most certainly be travelling across to the new enclosure, but the details are still a bit hazy. Incidentally there is a globe like steel artefact ornament that will end up on the old chicken enclosure once it is re-purposed. It was a chance meeting that one.

Nice to hear that you have a curious hen. Out of interest what breed is that hen? I had a Light Sussex chicken once that was into everyone and everything's business (I named her Claire after the daughter character in the series Six Feet Under). She became very distressed when the exceptionally gentlemanly rooster of the time (named Miguel - after Brian of Dexter fame, of course) died during one very cold and wet spell. It was unfortunate as he was a great rooster and took his job seriously without all of the attitude of Brian.

Well, the maths does my head in too, so I'm way more than happy to act under advisement in such matters. The concreting would perhaps be financially lucrative but not conducive to a happy home life, so as you say a line has to be drawn in the sand somewhere. We are both very happy with how the chicken concrete slab has turned out and it even lightly rained today and yesterday which helps the slab cure evenly (the outside cement can set before the inside bits which can lead to cracking). Mind you I've never seen a house concrete slab that hasn't cracked. People forget to water fresh concrete slabs every day for up to a week after they are poured to ensure even curing.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

It makes you wonder what actually happened in those far flung ancient days. Hadrian's Wall was a massive undertaking and you'd think that it wouldn't have been considered for merely a whim. The northern tribes must have been very ferocious. Sort of like the Great Wall in China too - you wouldn't start such an undertaking lightly? I wonder if that young person did the footprint deliberately? And also I wonder whether they thought that they'd get away with it and even be remembered so many millennia later? It is pretty awesome to display such audacity and daring!

Yeah, I really like cats and they have lovely, if somewhat difficult personalities, but the bird life would be so much easier for the cats to hunt than the rodents. Sometimes my neighbour’s very large orange tabby shows up to help out around the chicken enclosure at night. But then there are foxes and owls too, so the rats don't get an entirely easy time of it. Incidentally, a possum moved into the orchard a few weeks back and a couple of nights ago a powerful owl absolutely 100% destroyed the possum and left a big blood pool – the dogs were only too happy show me what went on that night.

I never really understood the whole aversion to composting toilets. Nice to hear the little people winning too! When people complain about the Yuk factor of manures I always point out to them that there are plenty of wombats and wallabies doing their business in and around the closed water forest catchments around Melbourne... Don't forget the fish either! Change always takes time and necessity is the mother of invention as they say.

Great to hear about the bluebirds and bunnies in your part of the world. Yes, nature is a vast panorama. There is a wombat outside now having a snuffle around and the dogs are breaking me as they want to go outside too, but their clamour is falling on deaf ears - the wombats get their choice. How are the birds and animals coping with the drier summer?

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

I think that I just lost the comment that I made. I'll repeat if that turns out to be correct.

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

We don't have chickens anymore, but when we did they unfortunately lived in a chicken house that could only be called "hillbilly", except in the worst of winter when they lived in our basement (which is an "English" basement - lots of windows and two exterior doors) and came upstairs frequently to be with the rest of the family (dogs and cats included). Middle Ages, anyone? But they would have envied your chooks indeed! And now we will see if Chris is smarter than a rat!

So, are you a welder as well? I have never built with anything but wood; how does one get all of those steel poles to stay together?

Maybe you would have found ALL of Fatso left in the cement. With a name like that (I have seen his photo!) it seems very possible!

The poor, long-suffering editor . . .

That is one BIG tree! I have read Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" - that's where I live! He is a good writer. I will try to get hold of "Down Under".

It makes me very nervous when I see fruit trees blooming too early in the season. Inevitably, frost comes along and the blossoms all drop off.

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Ruins are always interesting. There was a television show, years ago (National Geographic?) Called, either "World Without Us" or "World Without People." If human kind disappeared, what would be the fate of our works, over time. Fascinating.
Back in the late 40s, goldfish that you could buy at the 5 and dime were all the rage. When the flood waters came in, they floated out of their bowls and when the flood water receded, they ended up in the sloughs. Being basically carp (and, our biome is good for carp) they began growing to enormous size. Back in the 50s, even in our blue collar part of town, it seemed a lot of backyards had little rockeries and pools ... stocked with goldfish from the sloughs. Don't know if that's still the case.

Bryson is such a good writer .. and, funny. I think, over the years, I've read all his stuff. Burning bans are pretty easily thrown on and off. Fire works bans are a whole different thing. Probably all tangled up in our "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." And, most of our fireworks are sold by 1.) Native People's and 2.) charity fundraisers. So, there's guilt and business in the mix.

I will set my mind to Star Trek Chicken groaners. That round thing you were talking about? Escape pod in case of Borg attack?

Curious Chicken is one of the brown Wyondottes.

I think Hardrian's Wall was also used to keep tabs on people's coming and goings. And, as a customs checkpoint. I think one of the most poignant thing found up on the wall was a letter (on wood) from one post commander's wife, to her sister, another post commander's wife, inviting her to her birthday party. Also, the only wooden Roman toilet seat that we have :-).

The animals seem to be doing ok as far as water goes. I guess there's still enough in the rivers and streams to keep them going. I was freezing up blueberries, yesterday (a nice lot ... only one moldy one and hardly any stems). Will 3 gallons be enough? Any-who, as I was futzing about in the basement where the freezer is, there was a little bright green tree frog just taking in the action. Then I noticed that there were none of the usual flies and moths that hang out in the basement. You go, little green frog! :-)

A couple of nights ago I watched a French film "My Afternoons with Margueritte" with Depardieu. About an almost illiterate French, blue collar "good ol' boy" who meets a tiny elderly woman in the park. She gets him to start reading. Of course, his mates start giving him a hard time about his sudden interest in books and expanding vocabulary. Quit a good film, but then I like any films or books on books, reading, bookstores ... or food :-). Last night I went Aussie with "The Tree". Pretty good. A pretty young widow with 4 (!) children is trying to cope with the death of her husband. One of the children, an 8 year old girl, thinks she hears Daddy talking to her from an enormous tree that overhangs the house. A Daily Bay Fig. The girl generally makes life difficult for everyone. Has an exciting typhoon at the end. :-). Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

Love your massive tree.

Chickens: My son has dead chickens hanging up in the chicken enclosure. It appears that maggots fall from them and get devoured by the living chickens beneath. Protein, yuck!

I have read all Bill Bryson's books and reckon that one is most amused by the books covering ones own country as one picks up the humour more successfully.

Yesterday, while waiting at the gate for my son to pick me up for a trip into town, I removed a branch from the road. Then noticed that my son had stopped his truck and was removing other branches further back. It appears that another lorry has trusted his satnav and taken the back road. We passed him at the first point where he could pull over. Oh dear, it was a loaded, soft sided lorry; his top was smashed, his rear was smashed. He was on the phone. My son entertained me with possible accounts of that phone call to the boss.

Returning home 2 hours later. we found the poor devil still sitting in his cab with his head down on his arms. Son reckons that there was no excuse as it was a local haulage firm that should have known better. He says that had he chanced on such a road, with a lorry, he would have got out and taken a walk to see whether it was going to be okay or not.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Blogger ate your comment. I'd suggest that you check your preserves in the kitchen cupboards just in case blogger became a little bit too hungry!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Well there isn't really much wrong with a hillbilly chicken house. ;-)! How cold does it have to be outside to have the chickens living in the basement. It would have been quite the menagerie! That is quite a common arrangement in Europe where the animals were downstairs and the people lived upstairs during the winter. That sort of winter is beyond my experience though.

Fortunately, your chickens can't log onto the Internet and see for themselves how their kin down under are doing! hehe! Pah, I reckon the rats may actually be able to outsmart me, although I'm hoping that the new chicken enclosure foils their ratty activities. They don't say rat cunning for no reason!

Yes, I have an ancient electric welder which is a very excellent, but heavy brute of a thing from the 1970's which will probably still be in good working condition long after the more modern light weight welding units die - possibly due to capacitor failure.

However, the sheds are not actually welded because those structures need to have an element of flexibility in their construction which welds may not necessarily provide. The shed steel is tied together using very heavy duty tek metal screws. The wind loads on the sheds can be extreme from time to time so they need to be able to have a bit of flexibility built in. Plus the heat loads can cause the steel to expand an flex so again a bit of flexibility is necessary. Welds may eventually fail under those circumstances.

Fatso the wombat appreciates the notoriety and would be only too happy to stomp across a fresh concrete slab. Wombats are formidable creatures and not much can stop them once they've decided to crash through whatever is in their way!

Stop encouraging the editor! hehe! Yeah, it was a big ask that day. Incidentally, the editor is pretty chuffed to hear of your sympathies. Living on a farm in a remote spot requires a lady to be able to muck in from time to time.

Thanks, thought you'd like the photo. It is massive. Yeah, that was a great read and he really wrote glowingly of your area and it certainly made me want to go out for a long walk there.

Yeah, it is a bit of a worry that tree. Things are very fluid with the trees here and they do all sorts of unpredictable things. There are old established orchards in Australia now that are not getting enough chilling hours - no fear about that here yet...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Oh, that would have been a fascinating series to watch. I always wonder what would happen to the sky scrapers as they're quite massive and I can't quite convince myself that they are constructed with future demolition in mind? Dunno really, what did the show have to say about that issue? Incidentally, wasn't there a fictional book titled: "World without us?". Have you ever read that? Dunno.

Yeah, the carp got away here and have done some interesting things to the river networks as they like a bit of mud. I saw an English show once where the guy used a contain carp in a fast moving river to clean the mud taste out of the fish. Of course he did keep it contained for several days. The series was called "A cook on the wild side" and it was very eccentric but did combine cooking and a road (well canal actually) trip. Well worth your time if you can get it at your excellent library service.

Agreed, Bryson is an outstanding and entertaining writer and I have read many of his books too. Ah, I see. Those activities are considered here to be one and the same here so I did not appreciate the difference. I get the guilt bit, although I would have to say that there are plenty of laws littered about the place...

Very amusing and I'll try to come up with some more groaners! Yes, the most feared ship in the galaxy... looks a bit like a rubiks cube! As a bit of a confession I used to cheat with those cubes and pull them apart and then reconstruct them all completed. I'm not sure it mentioned that tactic in the rules?

Very nice. The Blue laced Wyandotte's are getting to be quite large birds here. How are you going on an egg front? I'm down to about 2 to 3 per day now but it goes up and down with the sun and warmer weather. They'll probably take an egg holiday over the coming weekend when the heavens will open in full! The rainfall predictions look impressive.

Well that makes sense, a customs point. Yes, the letter is rather poignant. We take our current mobility for granted nowadays. Seriously, did they explain just how the timber toilet seat survived for a millennia or so? It is pretty awesome to consider that. Some of the timber species here are impervious to rot and can live for a very very long time, but they were heavily harvested for boat building so are quite rare in the wild now.

I hope 3 gallons will be enough for the coming year. Preserves always sound like a lot, but then when you start eating your way through them, sometimes you get to a point where you go: Hmmm, family had better hold back on that one. Other times you can have too much preserved. I'll easily make the next season with preserved apricot fruit. It is great to open one of those bottles during the depths of winter too. I hope that you enjoy all of those blueberries! Yum!

That sounds like an excellent film. Speaking of which have you ever seen the series: Blackbooks (with the comedian / actor Dylan Moran - who just happens to be in the country now)? Hey, I still dream about some of the Cuban food in the film Chef. Good stuff.

I'll bet she does too. Haven't seen that film, but I enjoy a good story. How impressive are the native fig trees too. All edible fruit - not that anyone collects them. They grow them in big city parks down here and there are some very impressive specimens in the Fitzroy Gardens. Hope the typhoon left the fig tree alone, but I'm guessing not?

Cheers

Chris

PS: I'll have trouble responding to comments tomorrow but will do my best. If I'm unable to respond, we'll talk on Friday!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

The tree is quite something else isn't it? And, it is even better that it yet lives and could be as old as 300 or 400 years young. Certainly it would be one of the older trees growing in the mountain range. The loggers would not have felled it because it is fire damaged and not good for milling purposes and so they would have left it well alone to produce seed for future trees - which it has also done.

Your son is very clever to think of doing that. A mate of mine leaves a light on at night near his chickens and the moths and other insects fall into the water below the light and drown and the chickens then clean up all of the free protein. The dead chickens would be a problem here because of the flies and the plethora of predators that the scent would bring. I saw a powerful owl a few night back on the side of the road dining on a wallaby that a car had hit and killed. Nature cna be pretty raw, but very little ever goes to waste.

Yes, they are great books and he was quite the Anglophile and lived in the UK for many years. I really enjoyed his books about the UK too, except the last one written prior to his family move back to the US where he was clearly depressed about the situation and the book was a bit less upbeat than previous books. But that was also part of his journey and well worth the read too. My mate that is heading off to Ohio looks depressed too.

Oh no! The short cut that becomes the very long journey! I hope the lorry was finally able to get out of the situation? I've seen the top of a lorry which was pealed back like a can opener underneath a bridge where the truck driver ignored the height restrictions. I have a truck license (I used to drive the fire truck - good fun!) and I know full well that the driver is responsible.

Incidentally, your story reminds me of another story, but up this way. Someone had purchased a pre-fabricated house module and the company was delivering it on the back of a flat trailer. Except that like your area the trees over hang the road and they'd already caused a bit of damage to the house module. Anyway, they ended up sitting a guy on the front of the house module with a chainsaw cutting away the branches from over the roadway... It was very naughty on many fronts and took them many more hours than they expected. You'd think common sense would say: Let's check the road before delivering the module? Honestly...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone!

I'd better hold onto the dogs just in case they get blown away by the wind as it looks as though the weather will get interesting here over the next week or so (snow to 600m - I'm at 700m!)...

Coldest spell in several years to grip two thirds of Australia

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Yeah, the "World After People" was pretty impressive ... but it might have been called, like the book, "World without Us." Lots of impressive computer graphics. Sooner or later, those sky scrapers come DOWN. If a sky scraper falls in a world without people does it make a sound? :-).

Well, up on Hardrian's Wall, the ground can be very boggy and preserves things like wood and leather. Most of the letters and such (shopping lists, troop strengths, letters home asking for wool socks, etc.) were written on splits of wood, kind of like shingles, instead of scrolls. there's a website, www.perlineamvalli.wordpress.com which is a blog about the wall. Answers all those questions you lay awake and wonder about ... like how much did the wall weigh and how much would it cost to build, today :-). If you parse out the url, it's latin for "along the line of the wall."

Your big tree is quit something. It's about as big as the maple tree stump I found buried in the blackberries, here. My landlord tells me a limb came down and crushed a car, so they took it down.

Egg production the last four days has been: 4, 7, 5, 3. I expect it will be up again, today.

Oh, yes. Black Books was a hoot. One of those series where you wish there would have been more of it. Reminds me of another crazed BBC series from the same era. Will have to look up the name.

Oh, another thing about that movie "The Tree". The bats you have in Australia! Oh, my gosh, there's one scene where a bat flies in the house and it's like one of the flying monkeys in the "Wizard of Oz!" Oh, argh. Our bats here are little fellow, but disturbing enough.

LOL. I was reading about what they did about fireworks up in Forks, Washington (Olympic Peninsula). Any reports of fireworks, the fire brigade went out with sirens wailing. They took down the particulars at every site. And, said something like, "By law you can have these. However, if a fire starts in this area, you'll be the first one we'll come and question." It was a very quiet 4th in Forks. :-).

The first snowfall is always so pretty. We didn't get much, last year. Well, it's off to town. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Your philsopohical point was very amusing! hehe! Yeah, does it make a sound? I reckon it just might, but some would definitely argue otherwise.

I feel for the fire brigade having to do that task as some people can take umbrage to such situations.

Gotta bounce, but enjoy your trip into town. Will speak later.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I assume that you've read: "The world without us?" Just out of interest, did the series go into the mechanics of just how a large building like that would fall over due to entropy? I always wonder about that issue because a lot people living in those buildings - at least here - have to pay for body corporate fees because the maintenance of the building is a shared issue. You'd reckon that at some point in the future, the building itself would get beyond economical repair? Dunno, maybe I'm thinking too long term for that to be an issue? Still, it isn't like the buildings go away or anything like that?

A very clever blog name and I'll try and check it out over the next few days. I assume that the bogs have a very low oxygen content in the water which stops the materials in them from breaking down? Fortunately, that is not an issue for me to worry about! On a serious note, I've had a bit of a cold over the past few days so am a little bit under the weather. I still got out today in the very cold weather here and put the roof battens on the chooktopia project and even started putting on some of the steel cladding. Just as it got dark, the chooks toddled off to bed and the threatening storm started to through some rain my way. Some of the tools became wet before the were put back into the sheds, but hopefully they'll be allright. I refilled the firewood bays too. Check this update out as they reckon snow may work it's way right into southern Queensland which is pretty extreme - think snow in northern Florida... :-). Although the Great Dividing Range goes from here right up the east coast. Batten down the hatches!

Melbourne weather: Snow, rain, freezing winds expected this weekend. If it snows here in the range I'll get the camera out. It's very exciting.

Oh yeah, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Why would you park a car underneath a massive tree? I'll bet the blackberries are enjoying a good feed from the stump as the fungi breaks it down.

Excellent to hear of your very productive chickens! 2 today. The cold weather will put them off the lay.

Yeah, Blackbooks was very amusing.

The bats here are marsupial and there is a wide variety of them all over the continent. I get them here and you can see them flying around at dusk eating the insects.

We don't get much snow here anymore either. I had to go into town yesterday too.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - RAIN! We had RAIN, here. That was a surprise. The forecast was for clouds, but didn't say a thing about rain. Looking at the radar, there's not much of it around. Guess I just got lucky. Not a good soak, but, everything is very wet. Supposed to be like this for 5 days, or so.

Those pictures of the snow in Australia, were really something. LOL. That picture of the guy with the snowboard at Falls Creek? He looks a little long in the tooth for that kind of activity. He'll break a hip! :-). Over my life, I've had to drive through a lot of it, for jobs, and such. I'm so glad I'm an old retired guy who can just stay in and watch it come down. In winter, I always make sure I'm well stocked with food for the animals. And, me. Even if I loose power, the little propane stove will chug along and now I've got the heat fans, it will be quit cozy if I'm snowed in.

Sorry about the cold. Miserable things. I haven't had one in quit awhile. Knock on wood. If I can find any :-). Probably because I have so little contact with people. And, it's the two or three cloves of garlic I eat every day. And, the 500 mg vitamin C I take morning and evening. A nice, thick chicken soup is my recommendation. With garlic, onions, a bit of cayenne pepper, juice of one lemon, potatoes, rice ... and, any other veg you want to throw in there.

Oh, we get the occasional snow in northern Florida and Atlanta. It always brings out the climate change deniers in droves. They don't seem to get (or want to get) the difference between weather (local) and climate (global.)

I have bats around here, but they're quit small. The little guys start zipping around about sunset. There's a nest in my porch roof and probably other places. What with all the falling down buildings around. Have had them twice in my laundry room, but I just ignored them til they moved along.

Yes, that old maple stump is putting out some pretty spectacular shelf fungus. There's a similar stump across the pasture from my place. Last year, a pileated woodpecker (one of the big guys) was really working it over. Only time I've seen one. They usually stick to the deeper woods.

Well, the skyscrapers ... rust never sleeps :-). Nor does vegetation. Sewers back up and water eats away at the foundations. Windstorms and earthquakes blow out windows. Allowing more water inside. Birds and tribes of feral cats take up residence. Sooner or later an even small tremor or windstorm brings the whole thing down ... usually taking some surrounding buildings with it. I'm probably forgetting some of the details, but those are the basics. When I lived in Seattle, circa 1970, they were building the Sea-First bank building. Probably Bank of America, now. Across from where I worked. At 4:45 one afternoon the wind brought down 3 stories of the sheet metal cladding on the corners, into the middle of 5th Avenue. It was a miracle that no people or cars were hit.

Ah, the other BBC series I was thinking of was "League of Gentlemen" (1995) About two hikers who stumble into an isolated village somewhere in the north of England. It's a rather dark comedy revolving around the bizarre and lethal residents of the village. The whole thing was just mad. But, it appealed to my offbeat and twisted sense of humor :-).

Have put Bryson's book on Australia on hold at my library. I think I read it, years ago, but, maybe not. The years pass ... the mind goes :-). I hope you can stay in and enjoy your snow. Stay off of snowboards. You'll break a hip! :-) Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

Gee, I hope that you are already feeling better. It doesn't help much to be out and about (and doing manual labor) in that kind of weather. Are you saying that there may be an issue with our "Footie Fever"? I don't mean your fever, or feet, though I hope both are ok. So, you're saying the Melbourne Cricket Ground may have snow? This'll be great!

Pam

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Rain is a funny thing over a dry summer and it is great to hear that your place received some and that you'll get more over the next few days too. It is weird how some areas just get more rain than others - even nearby areas - and it can depend so much on the landscape, the winds and the vegetation types.

Hey, did your asparagus spears ever pop up again out of the trench now that your part of the world is drier? I was also wondering whether you had a chance to glean any fruit from the now abandoned (the farm previously known as Brother Bobs the Batchelor Farm) farm? Given they had a prune; I'd imagine they'd be producing lots of new shoots - although fruiting may be better next season? Dunno. Not all pruning is good though and as I picked some lime, lemons and grapefruit this morning for my cure all smashing amounts of Vitamin C muesli breakfast I wondered about just how much citrus this place would produce if Stumpy the Wallaby hadn't been quite so helpful (or obsessive) with her pruning activities during the last drought? Makes you wonder what I'm missing out on. The citrus trees are regrowing but it is a slow process and I want to get around and feed all of the trees before summer (a highly unlikely hope).

Yeah, with a mountain name like Falls Creek, you'd reckon the old guy on the snowboard would fall (pun intended!) over and break a hip? Hehe! We shouldn't really laugh at such things, but then it is funny. Makes you wonder why people say in the theatre world: "Break a leg". It's not a very nice thing to say is it? Hehe! They've had a huge dump of snow right across all of the alpine areas and I'm going to venture out tomorrow morning to see whether there was any snow overnight or in the morning. As the chooks went to bed it 3.4'C (38'F). Not quite snow weather, but it is early days yet and they reckon the temperature will drop overnight (hope the tea camellia is OK).

Propane backup is a nice idea and it does give instant heat - unlike the wood fire which takes a while to build up hot coals. A funny story about propane too. I have a cylinder of LPG which is used as an emergency backup for cooking or hot water. Now it takes forever to empty a cylinder and the company I dealt with had been taken over twice since I last ordered a replacement. Usually, for obvious reasons, you have to pay before they turn up and replace the existing cylinder - and it is hugely expensive here too (thus my reluctance to use the stuff). However, this new company were very insistent about sending me an invoice after delivery and I didn't think anything about it. So I get the invoice and they've slipped in a quarterly rental charge for the cylinder which just happens to cost more per year than the LPG that I actually use. Needless to say that I've started putting some brain cells towards getting rid of them, but such a process is neither cheap nor easy.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

Your garlic intake sounds like the way to go to avoid a cold in the first place (garlic is popping up all over the shop here now). I read somewhere recently that garlic has anti-viral properties and may have to look up my well-thumbed encyclopaedia of herbs to confirm this. Incidentally I spotted another copy of that same tome but in a hard back format in a second hand bookshop this morning for $30. A hard day’s work yesterday seems to have helped clear my sinuses quite well and I feel heaps better today. Thanks.

Ahh, I was just having a stab in the dark about Florida so thanks for the confirmation. Yeah, people confuse the map for the territory. Despite this Antarctic vortex of very cold and damp air, things are heating up here on average. But they're also getting more extreme in every direction. It is like cooking really, if you add more energy, things happen faster and that can be unpredictable. I'm starting another batch of dog biscuits and dog breakfast cereal tonight. For your info, the dog food has been fascinating because it has pushed back the need to go to the shops to well past a month now.

The bats here do the same thing at dusk. I don't know how I'd feel about them living in the house as bats down under can smell a bit musty. Up north in the tropics they'll live over rivers and creeks (where the water can sometimes be quite warm) and they exude a remarkably pungent odour. A small colony you wouldn't notice at all, but when there are several hundred of them. They produce a remarkable fertiliser so the trees are better for the bats presence than without them.

Some of the fungi can look really cool, like the coral types. Gee that pileated woodpecker has a massive wingspan and the head is unmistakable.

That makes sense about the skyscrapers. Yes, the water damages the structure and then I guess sooner or later... Not sure I'd want to be around anywhere near that mess. I've seen a demolition mob demolish a multi-story building using explosives and it was an impressive feat. My nerves wouldn't really be up for that job.

The League of Gentlemen sounds like a true cult classic. Very amusing! I interrupt this reply to announce that although it is not quite cold enough yet for snow, a light snow rain is now falling from the sky. Woo Hoo! We now return to the reply:

A couple of mates swear by the off beat BBC comedy show Nighty Night which has a very similar dark humour.

Bill Bryson is an excellent author and he does discuss the numerous second hand book shops down under. I hope that you enjoy the book.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

G'day Pam,

Thanks and you are a true blue mate for that thought in my hour of need! You sound Aussie As too! Hehe! ;-)! Next you'll be discussing the Deniliquin Ute Muster or a B&S ball! Hehe!


On a serious note, I rugged up yesterday against the cold weather and wind gusts and went to work on the chooktopia project installing the roof battens, wall noggins and some steel cladding and it did really help my unfortunate cold by getting out and working off the worst of it. I feel much better today and had a very enjoyable "no work" day. Tomorrow hopefully some snow.

Now I'm genuinely impressed that you have even heard of Footy Fever or the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground which can hold just shy of 100,000 spectators which is an awesome spectacle to see! Incidentally I was more of a cricket fan than a footy fan. Did you know that Virginia, South Australia is actually an outer suburb of Adelaide? As to footy fever that would make you either an Adelaide Crows fan. Just sayin!

As to snow in Melbourne (which is next to a very large body of water) it has only happened twice in recorded history Extreme weather events in Melbourne. I can't actually even recall a frost there when I lived in the big smoke. The city suffers from the heat island effect and the hot summer nights were one of the reasons I bailed from the city. Mind you, you can grow sub tropical fruit there and I had a neighbour who grew Babaco fruit

Cheers

Chris

Robert Scott said...

"It is also worth remembering that it is extraordinarily difficult for a rat to climb up a vertical smooth steel surface. And take that one too, you rats!"

Not true. I watched a rat run up a vertical steel fence that was six feet (1.8m) high like it was a ladder. It didn't have the slightest difficulty and it was from a standing start.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - How exciting! Snow! Watch your footing. The only bone I ever broke in my life was slipping in the snow, flying ...bum over teakettle, and coming down with my leg under me. Cast for 6 weeks. You'll break a hip! :-). Glad the old sinus is clearing out. If work doesn't do it there's always 1.) Chinese mustard, or, 2.) a small screaming child. :-). I'm just starting to go dairy free for 15 days. See if I have a sensitivity, or not. I've had this nose drip (post nasal drip, as the old ads used to say.) most of my life. It's particularly bad in the morning. And, some problems with flakey skin. Years ago, when I had a doctor, he suggested I might have a dairy sensitivity. So, I'm cutting the dairy out to see if that works. Not that I'm going to give up dairy. But, at least I can make an informed choice.

Not much happening in the asparagus beds. Sigh. If I take Michael Pollan's advice, I'll just have to think like an asparagus. :-). If things don't turn around, next year I'll try a really raised bed and screen it in. The orchard at the abandoned farm has not been pruned since Brother Bob passed away. Or, watered, either. Oh, I'm sure I'll get something out of it. Maybe the Japanese Pears. But, they will probably be small. My 5 apple trees were pruned. Not many apples this year, but, enough for me. Might be just an off year, or, the pruning, or, the fact that blossom time, rain and bees did not cooperate. The old strawberry bed didn't produce at all this year. Overrun with buttercup. I'll have to put in my own if I want strawberries.

Well, now my propane stove doesn't heat up any faster than a wood stove. Now that I've stopped using the electric blower and just rely on the heat driven fans. Just takes a little patience. And, the fans run for quit a long time after I shut down the stove.

Yeah, it was a thrill to see the pileated woodpecker, that one time. There are several varieties of birds that the rare sight of them always makes my day. The pileated woodpecker, blue bird, turkey, goldfinch or wild canaries. I saw a pheasant on the way to town, the other day. Have never seen one up here. There are also grouse up here, but I've never seen one. Treats in store :-). Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

I also have found that working off a cold works pretty well most of the time. Like Lewis I eat garlic (raw) almost every day and definitely if I feel "under the weather".

I like all the AFL teams; I still have a bit of a time following all of the rules and never seem to make it through a whole game (my attention span is not what it used to be). We get one game a week on our satellite tv. My husband's team is Port Adelaide, so I give them an extra cheer. Cricket I have never tried to figure out. You're right - there was no snow. The tropical fruit would be great, though. We eat an awful lot of it from Mexico. The reason we left our last home (my hometown) of Dallas, Texas 26 years ago was to get away from the hot summer nights, like you. The weather is a lot more pleasant here, if you don't mind the sometimes hefty winters.

Pam

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Robert,

Welcome to the discussion and many thanks for the worrying feedback.

Did you happen to notice just what sort of steel was used in the fascia of the steel fence? The rats can climb up trees here with great ease as well as chicken wire and welded mesh wire. I'm planning solid sheet steel. I've got a plan B up my sleeve too which will stop the little rodents even if they do get to the top of the vertical wall. My current problem is that they will be able to climb up the external door which is a perforated steel sheet. It is a complex design to attempt to outwit some very smart creatures.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Mate! The Antarctic vortex has hit here with a truly big stomp! However, everywhere else across the south eastern corner of this continent seems to have had a dump of snow, but here it just sort of rained a lot. The tourists were out here today in their thousands, but it was just mist, wind and rain. The wind is belting into the side of the house right now at about 8pm and it is much stronger than usual. The problem here was that the cold front hit at about 1pm which is the warmest part of the day. This morning it was 0.4'C (32.7'F) outside which was quite un-toasty! There are some good photos of the storm to be found here: Blizzards, gale-force winds, heavy rain continue to descend across continental Australia. The very strong windows here are rattling with the wind blasts.

Oh that is not a good fall at all. 6 weeks in a cast would be a nightmare. Did you get cabin fever or are you OK in such situations? As a data point, I'd be a bit grumpy. The dogs here have spent a little bit too much time in each other’s company today and the strain is starting to show. I sort of understand their general vibe but they do have to relax.

Thanks for the tips as the mustard is growing very well at this time of year. Vietnamese mint is also excellent for such purposes. It is funny that you say that about the screaming child, but I got up early this morning to see whether there was any snow on the main ridge and added in a stop over to enjoy a coffee and toasty. Good stuff. Anyway, I didn't realise it but at that time of the morning many older people slug into the local cafe to enjoy a bit of quiet time reading the newspaper. Anyway, by the mid 8am's people started bringing their young children up and it had the amazing effect of clearing the cafe. Just sayin... I'm unconvinced that screaming and stomping are compatible activities with reading the newspaper... I can switch off to that lot for a bit.

It will be interesting to see if the dairy free days help with your sinus. Dunno. As an interesting data point for you, I used to suffer from a similar condition with the sinuses but found that I was basically dehydrated and not drinking enough water. Everyone is different though. The dehydration used to affect my sleeping too which was a nuisance and I had to find just what my balance was. Still, dairy may be your concern, and you just don't know. On another data point, preservatives - particularly sulphates and excessive sodium tends to impact my sinus too. You'd be amazed just how much of that stuff is used in the industrial food system because it is cheap and easy.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

Sorry to hear about the asparagus. Raised beds are the way to go here too (or at least mounds of compost). They're finicky beasts. I hope that asparagus don't think like triffids then! :-)! Seriously, that book scared me silly when I was a wee lad. Just had to interrupt the reply as there are about 100 dog biscuits cooking away in the wood oven.

Yeah, the Asian pears will be small if the trees are not thinned, but small fruit is usually much sweeter tasting. Ahh, apple trees tend to be biennial and will produce heavy crops every second season. In the off season they produce fruit wood.

Sorry to hear about the strawberries and that sounds the way to go. I'm planning a complete week off in another week to wrap up some of these outstanding projects and the tomato beds are on my mind (as they have the strawberry beds next to them) - so much to do. Do you get any wild or alpine strawberries?

The heat driven fans are a very clever device. Of course, every system takes a long time to learn how to live with it. Are foibles the correct word to describe that?

Wow, you have quite the collection of bird life up in your part of the world. That is a very good sign for you. I'd like to see a lyrebird, but I think they've all become extinct in this part of the world after the 1983 bushfires.

The wind is absolutely howling and the chickens looked very unhappy with the conditions. The boss chook is quite ill and I doubt whether she will survive the next few weeks. They'll score a good dose of blitzed apples, oats and warm milk tomorrow morning and that should lift their spirits a bit.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Nice to hear. It is hard to sit around during a nice winter's day too, knowing that an Antarctic vortex is going to hit in a day or so! Yeah, garlic seems to be a very good cure all for those sorts of conditions. I grow and eat a lot of onions. The garlic grows well here, but the onions are much more prolific for some reason.

Hey, you and me both! A mate of mine is seriously into rugby and the game was explained to me and I was just going: How do they survive that game? The rugby rules were a bit hazy to me too, but I get AFL because when I was young lad I used to play AFL for the local under 16's team and some winter mornings were very cold and muddy. Good to hear that your husband barracks for a solid AFL team.

Cricket is more my bag than AFL but I understand that it can be a confusing game that can go for 5 days with no result! But then such games can be absolutely down to the wire too and you rarely hear of a cricket inspired riot!

Ahh, parts of Texas would have some brutal summers. Yeah, Dallas would just not cool down at night because of the heat island effect. The funny thing about the central deserts here is that they can have such hot days, but the nights can be equally cold. Up in the forest here it rarely gets hotter than 22'C (71.6'F) on a summers night but in Melbourne, wow, it sometimes does not drop below 30'C (86'F). I hear you.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - To get back to an earlier question I overlooked, yeah, the soil up on the wall is anoxic. Which I read up on, but really don't understand. How can something be wet (water) and not have oxygen in it? Maybe it's just really low oxygen. There was quit a bit of excitement when they found the first shoe of the season, up on the Wall. I guess they're up to 800 or so, over years of excavation. Another bit of excitement came from near London where some camel bones turned up. Associated with some kind of temple complex. Makes sense that a temple to a North African or Middle Eastern god or goddess might have a few camels and crocodiles around for atmosphere :-). Roman camel bones have been found in several places in N. Europe. They figure they're either 1.) soldier's mascots 2.) a rich persons play thing or, 3.) temple kit. They found some giraffe bones in the sewers of Pompeii. Pompeii had a pretty lively arena, wild animal shows, and such. I suppose the thrifty Romans wouldn't let any of that exotic meat go to waste :-).

Keep your head down in that windstorm. I like a good wind, if it doesn't do any damage. The snow pictures were nice. LOL. Rather a light dusting.

Well, I broke one of the two bones in the lower left leg and didn't realize it. In fact, I just laced myself into the big ol' waffle stomping boots I used to wear and walked around on it for about three weeks. Until a friend talked me into going into the emergency room. "There it is!" said the ex-ray tech. "There what is?" says I. "The break." My first clue. So, it was wait a day for the swelling to go down and then into a cast. Didn't slow me down. Had a VW with a clutch then, so, driving was a bit of a trick. Up and down the ladders at the bookstore that I managed.

Yes, we have wild strawberries, not very many. They are rather tasteless, for some reason. Kind of like cardboard.

It's official. Some of my chickens have started to molt. Hit the books to brush up. Extra protein is recommended, maybe sunflower seeds. They get three handfuls of those every day, anyway. Might step up their yogurt a bit. They still laid one egg short of three dozen, last week.

Spotted a book on the new fiction list from the library. Clearly, not fiction, but such is the state of American library cataloging, these days. "Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World's Greatest Tea" by Jeff Koehler. I usually approach a nonfiction book by reading the dust jacket, checking out the photos, reading the first chapter. I know there's going to be a bit about a few organic tea plantations. One of the picture captions made a big deal about interweaving marigolds with the tea. With no other information. If I run across any secret inside tips to tea growing, I'll pass them along. Bryson's book on Australia also came in, so, I'll probably alternate between the two. Lew