Monday, 10 August 2015

Power struggle


As a confession, I’m tight with my money. That may be a product of my genetic heritage as I have both highland and lowland Scottish ancestral blood coursing through my veins (this is not based on any real knowledge of the real situation). However, it is probably because many years ago I realised that if a person was to spend less, they wouldn’t have to earn as much and that is OK with me.

It is a simple, but very effective objective. The difficulty with that implementing that objective is that a person has to employ various strategies to achieve it. Here the old timers have many useful, but sadly often neglected, advice on such important matters. The old timer’s strategic advice includes the mantra: Re-use, recycle, and repair.

That old mantra is such good advice that I keep it at the forefront of my mind when constructing a project. And thus, with the recent awesome and now mostly completed – rat proof, well, so far anyway – chicken housing project (codenamed Chooktopia) a fork in the road was reached and the hard question was asked: Do I purchase a brand new water tank to collect rainfall off the roof of the new chook pen?

That particular fork in the road was a tough fork to ponder. In such situations it is good to reach back to the memories of the old timers and ask the question: What would the old timers do in such a situation?

The answer quickly arrived in the form of the mantra: Re-use, repair and recycle.

All answers are obvious from hindsight, aren’t they? Anyway, the first option of the old timer’s mantra is re-use and I thought to myself, well why not?  Re-use it was then!

It just so happened that I had a small water tank (2,100L or 555 gallons) that was available to be moved over to new Chooktopia project from an existing use without a great loss of water storage capacity in that area. That idea also appealed to my general demeanour of tightness and without much further consideration or pondering, that small water storage tank was re-used on the Chooktopia project. However, it left a dogs breakfast (i.e. that is a colloquial term for a real mess) of the area that I repurposed it from.
The dogs breakfast (i.e. mess) left from re-using the water tank from that area
Re-using that water storage tank occurred in a bit of a hurry, so I was left with no working water taps in the lower garden, a large overflow pipe sitting out of the ground, a flat concrete pad where the water storage tank once sat and two hastily disconnected pumps in covers. What a mess! But at least I didn’t have to purchase a brand new water storage tank!

The flip side of any mess is the opportunity to repair the situation or reconfigure that mess so that it just works better. I took the opportunity to make the mess that little bit better and spent a bit of time pondering the problem, and then just got to work.
Trenches were dug to bring the power cables and water pipes closer to the brand new water pump cover
In the photo above, you can see that I had to dig new trenches so that the power cables and water pipes could be brought closer together so that I could combine the two pumps onto one steel pump housing.
Wiring up the two water pumps on the new scrap steel frame
The pump frame and housing was constructed completely out of scrap steel left over from the Chooktopia project and that seems oddly appropriate given that that was where the re-purposed water storage tank ended up.

Observant readers may notice that there are actually two water pumps attached to that steel frame and that they both sit as far back as possible under the cover so as to avoid any exposure to the strong summer sunlight (extreme UV radiation) which may damage the pump housing cases. Each water pump can supply 17L/min (4.5 gallons/min) at a pressure of 60psi (pounds per square inch – whatever that means) which is enough to drive two permanent bushfire sprinklers as well as all of the various garden water taps.

And once the work was completed and everything was in perfect working order and the site was restored, you’d never know what a mess that area was. Even the large white water tank overflow pipe sticking out of the ground had a pit and drain neatly connected up. That hid its original purpose whilst at the same time producing a new useful function. I reckon that entire area now looks much better than before.
The water pumps are now connected and the area was restored to better than its former glory
And now for something completely different – Power struggles!
As many of the regular readers will be aware, the house here is not attached to the mains electricity grid and relies purely on the electrical energy supplied from the sun via the wonder of photovoltaic (PV) panels. Over the past few months, I have been posting the daily statistics for the electrical energy supplied by the 4.2kW solar power PV system because it is winter and truthfully, solar energy is in short supply here.

Over the years I have heard people say that if you don't have access to much electricity, then it must be like living in a cave. 

There are actually caves up in this mountain range, and they were once the haunt of some pretty nasty bushrangers who used this elevated vantage point to attack gold trains heading south from the astoundingly rich pickings in the gold fields to the north of here. Spending winter in a cave in this mountain range would have been a brutal experience, so it is no wonder they had grumpy dispositions and were prone to attacking those gold laden horse drawn carriages.

However, I don’t live in a cave, and I’m pretty certain the editor would strongly object to living in a cave! Neither do visitors to this farm notice any cave dwelling activities in the household here. Or, perhaps those visitors maybe too polite to mention it! Hopefully, I remembered to shave the bit between my eyebrows this month… Ug!

So it has surprised me that over the past month or so, I have drawn a few questions from people and commenters on this blog asking me the hard question: How does the household survive on so little electrical energy per day? It is notable because I utilise welders, drills, steel cutters, jack hammer, ovens, food mixers, vacuum and water pumps. The editor even has an electrical hair dryer and straightener (Ouch! You told me your hair was normally straight!). All of those items consume electricity.

It is a hard question to answer. Also it may be worth pointing out that there are many good bits of advice on the Internet about how to reduce a household’s daily power consumption.

However, an alternative question which I am asking you to consider (I don't expect an answer) is the rhetorical question: How do you (as a reader of this blog) utilise electrical energy in your household each day?
There is really little point in rehashing the various bits of excellent advice that are already available on the Internet so I will try to show you the world as I see it through my eyes and thoughts in a few small short stories.

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With a few notable exceptions, everywhere I visit there are large screen televisions in operation. In people’s houses, restaurants or even businesses there are screens attached to the walls beaming out whatever happens to be shown on them. And it doesn’t even matter whether anyone happens to be watching what is displayed on those screens or not. Often there is not even any volume.

One of the two local banks is my personal offender favourite because they have multiple screens brilliantly located just behind the tellers. Those screens switch between the promotion of happy older couples enjoying their cashed up retirement and the more useful local weather report. At the same time I’m mildly confused because I’m recalling a recent financial planning scandal at that bank. At the back of my mind I’m daring the tellers to ask me if I’d like any assistance with financial planning services!

Even meals at restaurants can be quite distracting because the screens are just so hard to ignore and everything is just so bright and flashy – even without the sound! Woo, look at the pretty pictures rather than the editors nice straight hair.

I’m starting to wonder whether it is just me that notices that all these screens are active and happily consuming copious quantities of electricity?

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All of those awesomely cool electrical appliances are on stand-by too, just waiting for their humans to command them. Those appliances are the quiet achievers as they go about their daily business all day displaying a level of patience that is quite beyond my capabilities. I mean why wouldn’t you want to get that important email promoting some rubbish at 3am in the morning?


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The quiet is very much like the dark of the night as who knows what may lurk out there? Up here in the forest most of the larger animals wisely hide during the day and then seek out the safety of the night. It is very hard to walk around here at night without disturbing something which may be produce munching, growling, grunting or even blood curdling screams! I know who those characters are and whether to fear them or not merely by their sounds alone.

The dark of the night here is awesome to behold and on a clear night you can look up between the tall trees that are lazily swaying in the slight breeze and witness the arm of the Milky Way galaxy as a smear of light across the sky in amongst that sky of a thousand tiny pin pricks of light. All the while, the marsupial bats and sugar gliders zip across the space between trees hunting out insects, a person may be lucky enough to spot a shooting star. I know the dark here and the dogs usually provide plenty of warning when things are amiss.

However, I’ve assumed that people don’t know or even want to know the night because their dwellings are so bright and there is so much competing noise that the night that is actually just outside their doors is all but drowned out. A little bit of light is a good thing, but does it need to be as bright as it is?


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Down Under there is a delightful expression: “Cracking the sads!” If you are wondering what is meant by that expression then imagine a two year old child throwing toys about the place at random, howling or crying at full volume, and possibly even kicking the nearest adult. Some adults have been known to also crack the sads and (the editor forced me to write this next bit) on very rare occasions (???!! - edit) I too have even cracked the sads.

From time to time I’m subjected to commercial radio and I hear advertisements about people who may have cracked the sads after the horror of receiving their energy bills. I’m genetically hardwired not to like any bills so I’m not sure what excuses those people on the radio commercials are using to explain away their behaviour!

Anyway, an alternative course of action is to ask yourself how much energy can you either afford or produce and then live within that limit. This can be a great excuse to not vacuum today whilst at the same time apologising to the editor – with a straight and sincere face of course – because the sun isn’t shining strongly enough today for that activity! The editor is not easily fooled and she may reply to my observation, by commenting that perhaps today is not the day to either crack the sads, or crack out the electric welder.

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We’ll continue again with the house construction stuff next week.

The solar power system statistics for the week is as follows:

Battery % full at the start of the day - Amount generated by the 4.2kW of PV panels during that day
Tuesday 4th August – 84% full – 4.7kWh
Wednesday 5th August – 84% full – 5.3kWh
Thursday 6th August – 89% full – 3.9kWh
Friday 7th August – 90% full – 4.1kWh
Saturday 8th August – 90% full – 3.6kWh
Sunday 9th August – 87% full – 5.4kWh
Monday 10th August – 91% full – 5.5kWh

The temperature outside here at about 10.15pm is 4.6’C degrees Celsius (40.3’F). So far this year there has been 508.8mm (20.0 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 497.0mm (19.5 inches).

60 comments:

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

As usual, the amount of work that you get through staggers me. Would you be able to manage yourself if there was no physical work available or you were too incapacitated to do any?

Electricity and financial spending. As previously mentioned, I have lived without electricity and could manage okay if I were in the same position again. Yes I use a lot for heating in winter. The rest of the time it is the fridge/freezer and my washing machine, the latter being used on a fortnightly basis. Those are the only 2 things that I would really miss now. Clearly I would have to have a wood stove if necessary and one that could also be used for cooking. nothing else would be required. Oh indeed I like the laptop, I watch television sometimes but could live without it. I have a battery radio. Anything would do for lighting, I adore the dark. A dryer is useful in this climate but not essential. I use an electric kettle which constitutes my only hot water supply!! Again not necessary if I had a wood stove. I have no shortage of wood at all.

I am also frugal with money, debt is anathema to me. I have everything that I need and my small income is sufficient. Having said that, Norris Castle is for sale here on the Island for £1,000,000. That is incredibly cheap: 225 acres, a mile of coastline + other properties. I visited it many years ago. It is just about the only reason why I could wish to be a multi millionaire. At that price, the roof must be a disaster. The photos can be checked on the internet at 'rightmove'.

At the moment I am living with a ghastly smell, clearly a rodent has died in the wall. The 'sweet smell of corruption' exactly describes the sickly scent.

Blackberry seeds in the teeth: my problem also, dealt with with toothpicks and floss. This problem increases with advancing years and gum shrinkage.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - We have a saying here ... "He's so tight (with money) that he squeaks when he walks." :-). Nothing wrong with that. I think I mentioned that a friend referred to me as "thrifty" and I was kind of startled. From my point of view, I think I'm rather profligate. How's that for a 25 cent word, that I should really look up so I can pronounce it, properly :-).

I think our Italian friend had it right when he said that farms (or households, for that matter) aren't to make money, but to save money. And, I really do think about that whenever I do anything "thrifty" that means I don't have to take money out of the bank to pay for something. Well, we'll see how thrifty I can be. Without going into a lot of detail, my next Social Security check will be $200 less, than usual. At least I got fair warning and can plan. It's just a one month thing. And, from there on out, it will be $100 less than usual.

I got the heat fans for the propane stove. Boy, that really put a noticeable dent in the electric bill. I don't use the electric blower, any more. Sure, it takes a little patience for those blades to start spinning, but when they do, they are very effective. It just takes a bit of patience. And, when the stove kicks off, they keep happily circulating the heat for around a half hour. In the evenings, I usually only have one light on at a time. They're the florescent bulbs. Electric heaters and tv are unplugged when not in use. Although it seems like I watch a lot of tv, it's all stuff from the library. No cable, except internet. So, if I sit down a watch something, it's an occasion, and my hands are usually busy with something else.

Last night I watched "The Road from Coorain." While stringing the basil to dry. I now have 4 long strings of basil (one of my favorite herbs) hanging to dry in the kitchen. The left over bits I'm going to use for a nice omelet. Yum! I'm up earlier than usual, this morning, as I want to get that last gallon of blackberries in the freezer, before I tackle the rest of the produce I got. Get out from under it. Of course, we had a light rain last night, so, things in the berry patch are liable to be a bit damp. But, it's supposed to be 90F, today, so best get it out of the way in the cool of the morning. Lew

Jo said...

Orchidwallis, I really need to know this - do you wash in cold water, or use the kettle to fill the bath? I am a complete nosey parker about other people's lives, and I really want to use less electricity:)

Lewis, I like your Italian friend's saying - I want our household to be productive, not just a centre of consumption.

Chris, as always, amazed at your productivity. I have a handyman friend whom I am paying to turn the children's old cubbyhouse into a chicken palace, as he calls it. While he is here I am going to get him to show me how to wield a cordless drill, so I can do the next project by myself:)

This year with electricity we got rid of the large-screen TV, as I persuaded ex-hub that he needed it (didn't take much persuading). We have dropped down to one washing day per week, much more efficient with full loads. We haven't used the dryer all winter and I stopped using the dishwasher two weeks ago. We are slowly changing our mindset from looking at luxuries (dryer, dishwasher etc) as necessities. Still a ways to go, but we are getting there.

Solar news: in July we got a lot of sunny blue days, and made 20kWh/day on a good day - this week we have cracked 25kWh on a sunny day. So exciting!

orchidwallis said...

@Jo

You are welcome to ask questions. I haven't got a bathroom, so no bath! I stripwash with a bowl in the kitchen sink. Old, large kitchen sink; not the current popular Belfast sink but an older larger one. My hair is washed the same way. I come from a generation that only had a bath once a week anyhow. When we were a family with no electricity, we had a bottled gas wash boiler beside the bath and heated the water in that, than panned it into the bath.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

The round worm sounds very unpleasant. I've had intestinal worms as a child and it was a memorable and itchy experience. Occasionally I eat the odd wormwood leaf or two - it is an acquired taste that plant. Of course, the pigs also tended to literally muddy up the waters in drought affected areas which didn't help their cause too. Humans weren't much better though and germ theory is one of those things that would be handy for people to recall as it will save a lot of future heartache.

Ouch, I just burnt my finger on the wood stove...

Thanks for the story. Your mother would have been over the moon about the situation (which is a good thing) and I can well understand how she may have not believed the bargain would be held to. Good for her to have taken a chance and for your step father to take all of you under his wing (in a matter of speaking). Life is a risky and uncertain venture.

Some of my friends are judgemental as a hobby, so very little would surprise me.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Glad to hear that you were in a vehicle at the time that you spotted the bear - and it was a black bear with a cub too... Sorry to hear about the hiker. Not good. Was the use of "mixed results" meant to be an understatement? ;-)! I thought that bears could climb trees to get at hikers food?

Ah. I see a truck garden down here would be referred to as a market garden. Back in the day, the drays would head off early into the fresh fruit and vegetable markets in the big smoke on market day. Many of the markets are still in operation - even the massive one still on the very edge of the city.

Well, harvesting is all part of the process, but the preserving for the winter is a very complex and varying task which would be interesting to know how to do. Still, I'd swap my time for a box of organic vegetables and a good yak.

Yeah, that happens here too. You know, it used to upset me, but now I sort of go with the flow and let events take their natural course. What else do you do? Clearly you are more experienced than I in such matters.

A similar arrangement is in place here for schooling. I'm not sure how much gets taught in such environments nowadays as mostly my memories were of being groomed for the end of year state tests and that was a fair few years ago. So many essays and homework (at least 3 hours per night in the final few years). Actually I hear that children now work even harder and start at a younger age - which seems mildly surreal to me. Unfortunately, I'm unsure whether those children are being taught to think - as that is a different skill set? Dunno. Years back I ran a graduate program for a big corporate, and it was a whole lot of fun getting all these plucky graduates to use their brains. And you could almost see the awareness awakening in them. All good fun and they were better off for the experience.

No digression is too far here as long as we keep it family friendly! ;-)! Sorry to hear about the blisters, but then it does sound as though you secretly enjoyed the experience? I would have enjoyed that time too. Old friends are to be cherished, but not held onto too tightly. Those ideas sound great as there really is a whole world of food out there. I'm eating Afghan peasant food tonight: Sholla Gorbandi (boiled mung beans) and it is very much nicer than it sounds. Seriously? There are students that don't have enough food supplied to them? Wow.

My mate and his lady who are moving to Idaho this week visited yesterday for lunch. It is a bit sad, but I hope they enjoy their adventure.

Of course hindsight is good. What did Yogi Barberra say, The future ain't what it used to be! Years ago a dentist told me to brush the gums as well as the teeth and even gave me a lesson in how to brush my teeth - it was time well spent. Incidentally, given your concerns about health, they don't perform heart surgery here until people undergo dental work to correct their teeth. The mouth is a gateway to the body...

Thanks for the feedback. It doesn't sound very hopeful for chicory substitutes. Yes caffeine is good! Nice to hear about the art and the museum sounds awesome. Of those three plants, my money in your part of the world would be: turmeric which is quite frost hardy. You can buy it here. Mind you, the tea camellia is still alive and looks as though it may produce some flowers. Fingers crossed.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

Wouldn't you know it? Someone has setup a website for the Perseid Meteor shower. Thanks for the heads up, I'll keep a look out tonight and the next few nights. Unfortunately the clouds have rolled in tonight as a big storm from the southern ocean has rolled in again. Just to give you a taste of the weirdness of this winter down under - just in the last couple of days:

Western Australia - Rare dusting of snow falls on Bluff Knoll in Stirling Range

Tasmania - Roofs blown off and trees down as 'mini-tornado' strikes Ulverstone, in north-west

South Australia - Snow forecast for Mid North as cold front set to lash state

It is going off like a frog in a sock!

Great to hear that your friends in Idaho are having an uneventful year. No news is good news on a fire front, despite their wishes to get into the thick of it. Things can get a bit too exciting very quickly. Great to hear about her ribbon wins - very good work.

Yeah, raspberries are OK, but the strawberries are totally worth the effort. Can you purchase strawberries with taste in your part of the world? Purchased ones here are picked so green that they may as well be cardboard.

Fair enough. There was some mention of a vinegar mother in Annie Hawes books, but the memory is a bit sketchy.

Beware the chicken that has not had its afternoon treats! Don't fall asleep when they're free ranging - apparently they'll go for the lips first and then the eyeballs - just sayin! :-)!

Spring is fast approaching here and certainly the seasons have turned - although there are six distinct seasons down here rather than the usual four.

The house batteries hit 100% full this afternoon! Woo Hoo!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

That is a tough question as I have no idea what it feels like to not do work. This pace has been going for over two and half decades now so it feels very comfortable to me. It probably wouldn't be a good thing to be faced with that scenario though, I'd probably find something else to do or another way to manage - it all depends on the circumstances. I don't expect to be able to retire though given how the economy is tottering here.

Yeah, I could get by without electricity too, but this blog would come to an immediate and very definite disruption point. My main concern would be the pumping of water as that would require a whole lot of manual effort. Everything else I could probably manage. Seriously, I'd probably get even more sleep over winter and just roll with the daylight hours.

Thanks for your story. I've never owned a dryer and don't see the advantage - although I do have a lot of firewood.

Respect. Debt is a killer for people and businesses and they don't get it. It makes me upset and sad at the same time. Still Norris Castle sounds pretty awesome, although there may be a bit more than the usual oversight and sticky beak neighbours. I spotted this one too in your part of the world: Palmerstone fort. Very cool.

Sorry to hear about the rodent as there really is nothing to do other than burn some candles and perhaps a bit of incense. I sent the dogs under the house once to retrieve a dead rat and all they did was sniff the carcass and look mildly appauled by the stench - which forced me to climb under the floor and retrieve it. How did the rat get into the wall cavity?

Yes, dental care is everything when it comes to good health.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Squeak, squeak! They also say: More dollars than sense too. ;-)! Down under, they may just drop the e from profligate - or under pronounce it! A good word that one!

Yeah, that canny insight sticks to your mind like glue. Sorry to hear about the minor adjustment to your income. Not good, but a sign of the times. Hope you are OK.

Those fans are very clever as wood and butane heaters simply radiate rather than convect heat. Still a heater is a nice thing on a cold winters night.

Thanks for your story about the electricity usage. Honestly, the blog was a left of center idea I had about how to write about electricity usage without coming over all preachy. There is just so much preachy tones on the Internet and people are really attuned to ignoring it - heck I can too! So, instead I tried to display an alternative narrative for looking at the world with less electricity whilst trying to point out the strangeness of it all. I wasn't trying to run a guilt trip on anyone as there is far too much of that talk out in the world.

Thanks very much for that book reference and I'll keep an eye out for it. What a fascinating life the author would have led. Did you enjoy her voice and story?

Basil and egg = omelet. Yum! My favourite meal actually as the entire meal is sourced from here - start to finish. Your summer is starting to sound like a summer here, you know? Hope you got all of the blackberries that morning?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Jo,

As a data point, I've only ever washed clothes in cold water and my mother who was a single mother forced me to do my own washing and ironing from a very young age. Being a single mother is a tough gig.

Thank you. Well done, a cordless drill is an excellent tool to learn how to use and I hope that the lesson goes well. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask as that tool can perform amazing tasks. There is no such thing as a dumb question either as I've made tonnes of mistakes over the years. Also go gentle on the drill and try not to yell at it if it doesn't work like you think it should. ;-)!

You go. All excellent things to do. The funny thing about dishwashing machines is that they just aren't any faster than hand washing and the chemicals used in those machines are a real burden on the environment. Well done, you!

Wow! 25kWh in one day! Your solar power system is in a good paddock! PS: The sun has been shining here this week too and the batteries reached 100% full today. Woo Hoo!

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

@Lewis

We also drop the 'e' from profligate and the final syllable is almost, but not quite, silent.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Jo - The "our Italian friend" reference was to a series of books Chris "turned me onto." :-). By Annie Hawes. Two of them are set in the hills, up behind the Italian Riviera. The other, in the south of Italy, also, back in the hills. She has another one about North Africa, but, I think, the Italian ones are the best. She is English, and, probably in the 70s, she and her sister bought a neglected hill farm. Later, she married into one of the local families. At the time she wrote the books, life was more simpler, there. Closer to the past.

Yo, Chris - Well, all this thrift talk being thrown around, there's also "penny wise and pound foolish" to watch out for :-).

Bears and trees. Well, I guess you just look for one that is a bit bendy, but, not too bendy. :-). Bears seem to have a good sense of what will hold their weight, and what won't. There noses are rather sensitive. A well placed hiking boot might get them to back off.

Well, it was 90F (32.2C) here, yesterday. National Weather Service says it's going to be cooler, later on in the week, with some rain. Weather Channel forecasts warmer and not much rain. Not looking forward to standing over a pot of boiling water to blanch those beans! And, yes, I got the last gallon of blackberries into the freezer. So, counting the one I had left over from last year, I have six gallons. One's a little light, by a cup or two. If I get all neurotic about it :-), I'll top it off.

Another brush fire just 10 miles (16km) away. I always try to turn stuff into metric before I post, but I'm not sure about the next one. The fire was 103 acres. I THINK that's 0.4168 km2). There were some evacuations, but just for the day. Getting accurate information is ... frustrating. The local paper, in an online article said the fire was contained ... not contained ... in the same article.

Yup, there's hunger in America. Some of our local schools provide breakfast, for free, to low income kids during the school year. And, lunch during the summer breaks. There are 2 or 3 "food banks" in our county. Free food to low income families. There's also a State / Federal government food supplement program that used to be called "Food Stamps." Now they do it with a credit card. I don't know about all the details of these programs. I looked into it, but because of my lavish income :-), I would have gotten about $14 a month. Not worth the paperwork and I really don't need it. The food banks really get hit hard toward the end of the month, when there's more month than money or credit on the cards. Overall, food bank use has really shot up since the crash of 2008.

Oh, I always muddle through. There's plenty in the pantry and freezer. Of course, the animals come first. Basically, it will be a short period of not so much what I want, as what I actually need. :-).

Water and washing and all that stuff. Of course, there's the saga of my not having water for long periods of time, this last winter. 3 days, 9 days, 12 days, without running water. Again, the animals come first. "Bird baths" become the norm. Hygiene levels get reassessed :-). Lots of hauling of water. Keeps an old guy in shape! :-)

Yes, strawberries out of season taste like cardboard and are shipped from who knows where. If they're good to begin with, frozen tastes pretty good. I still have some left over from last year, so I didn't bother putting up any this year. If I want them next year, I'll put in my own strawberry bed. Up to me. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge and Lewis,

There's been another big construction disaster down here: Peak-hour pain for motorists as crane collapse closes Kings Way off ramp.

It's like a disaster film, but worse because it is really happening! The photos pretty much tell the tale.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Oh that's a keeper, that one. However given you're a Stephen King fan, all this talk of penny wise makes me think about demented clowns (oh, and punk bands, of course).

I guess so, about the trees. Hopefully the victim would get the chance to carefully select the tree? There are lots of if's in there, perhaps a bit too many for my liking. People will venture into areas with animals that are also near the top of the food chain. You may not have caught this one: Mick Fanning speaks of 'miracle' survival after arriving back in Sydney following shark attack. Your comment about kicking the bear is not a bad idea at all.

Just out of interest, why would you blanch all of the beans now? I do hear you though as most preserving seems to occur at the hottest part of the year and it is a bit of a chore to heat the house up. If we were smart, we'd have kitchens outside the house!

That is a big fire and worth being concerned about. It all comes down to the wind really when considering that risk.

PS: Everyone uses acres here even now. The metric term next used is hectares which is about 1 hectare = 2.5 acres, but really no one knows what a hectare is (although in reality it is 10,000 square metres).

Apologies, but I don't know what to think about the food stamps as it seems mildly surreal - and that isn't a criticism, I'm just bewildered by it all.

Everything works out that way in terms of needs before wants, it is just that perhaps you and I are a bit more honest about that and perhaps also live quite frugally.

That sounds about right here too. A couple of summers back, we made a mistake with the water supplies and the rain simply disappeared for 5 months between October and February. It went MIA. And the supplies just started being used quicker than they were replenished and I got down to 25,000L (6,600 gallons) most of which couldn't be used because fire fighting reserves had to be maintained. It was a good lesson to learn and now careful is the watchword. And yeah, standards dropped that summer.

Fair enough and I haven't tried freezing strawberries. Do they defrost OK and still maintain their taste? I hear you about the strawberry beds and may well run out of time this year to construct new ones here (that are less work than the existing ones).

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I don't think that strawberries are very nice after being de-frosted. I puree surplus strawberries with sugar and then freeze. Eat de-frosted with whipped cream; absolutely gorgeous.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Many thanks for the feedback regarding the strawberries. As a fruit, they do spoil quickly both on the plant and in the kitchen so your puree idea is a good one. I've been turning them into jam and eating them fresh - plus there was the one very nice batch of strawberry and rhubarb wine. Good stuff and a true delight in the depths of winter.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Palmerston forts: Can't say that I care for them particularly. The one which I believe is currently an hotel, has had a number of different owners who all seem to have come a cropper probably financially but I don't really know. One of them can be walked to when a spring tide is right out. One gets photos of toe to tail walkers.

The strawberries again: I notice when I re-read that I haven't been 100% clear. When the puree is de-frosted, mix in the whipped cream. The result apart from being delicious, is fit for guests.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - That crane story is really something. I don't know about Australia, but here in the States, the infrastructure is pretty much crumbling. Roads, bridges and power grids. Most of it was built in the 1950s. Or, a lot of it was built even back in the 1930s as WPA projects. I forget how many thousands of bridges in the US need to be replaced. And, the money just isn't there. Our State just raised the gasoline tax, again .. 7 cents a gallon. We know have the highest gas tax in the US ... even higher than Hawaii. It goes to transportation. You may remember when a traffic bridge collapsed in Minnesota a few years ago, dropping many cars into a river. That sort of thing happens more often. And, of course, thousands of miles of rural roads are being allowed to revert back to gravel.

Well, it was 90F (32.2C) here, again, yesterday. But, I did the beans, anyway. Wasn't too bad. I now have over half a gallon of green beans, and a full gallon of yellow wax beans in the freezer. We snipped both ends as we harvested, so that step was already done. I've been wondering when you were going to add "Summer Kitchen" to your collection of buildings. It was pretty common in the "old days." I know several of my relatives in Minnesota had them.

If you look up freezing just about any kind of veg, it's usually recommended that they be blanched before freezing. It stops the enzyme action that discolors the veg. Kills any bacteria, too. The trick is to plunge them in the boiling water just long enough to stop the enzyme action, but not cook the veg. Then plunge in cold water to bring any cooking process to a screeching halt. Roll in a clean towel (tricky) to dry before freezing. I don't know. I've always found frozen strawberries to be pretty flavorful. But, you wouldn't use them in anything that requires a fresh berry. Also useful if you don't have the time to jam, right at the moment, or, have a crop so enormous that some of it might spoil before you could jam them.

Well, it's off for my weekly trip to town. Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

Boy, I'm with you on the spending less so you don't need to earn as much. As a rural housewife/home economist (I have to economize so I can stay home), it's the only way we've been able to manage on only one income - my husband's.

A "small" tank of 2100L - a dream!

Lovely, lovely reclamation job where the tank used to be.

Love your bushranger anecdotes. Are we sure that they aren't still in those caves . . . ? A good tale for in front of a winter's fire.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

We have cut our electric bill in half over the past year (we have mains). A bit of the savings came from the last 2 ancient dogs passing on (much daily washing of bedding, heating pads, cooking and heating up of frequent special meals needed at the end of their lives), but mostly we just don't use an electric appliance, etc. or turn it on if we don't really need it. Can manage without lights, mostly, in the day. Hang laundry outside, or in, as the weather dictates and don't wash clothes as often as most of them are for manual labor wear, and if they are already dirty, then they can get a bit dirtier (unless it's been really hot and humid - ick).

Four adults live here, with 3 computers. I think that is where a lot of the power usage is, though they are turned off when not in use. It appears that our freezer, clothes washer, and oven use the most electricity. I gave up using the dishwasher many years ago. We store onions in it. I grill outside over wood (that's free) once every week or 2 and freeze the meat.

As for TVs, we certainly have one. My husband cannot bring himself to give up the satellite TV service. For the first 7 years after we moved here we there was no satellite available - ah, bliss! It's shut down when not in use. We never go out to eat, partly because of the TVs everywhere issue, though mostly because of the cost. I do bring home restaurant food every couple of weeks from one of my weekly excursions into town.

We bought small gasoline-powered generator (3500 rated watts) a year ago. After 22 years of frequent power outages, we got worried about how to cope with the aforementioned old dogs and perhaps any elderly family members who might be here during the longer outages. Before that we just lived like your "cave" people during them.

Contd.

Pam in Virginia said...

Contd:

We have have no debt, own the trucks, the house, have one credit card only for emergencies. We are 58 and 59 years old.

I know as many people on Food Stamps (aka EBT cards) as not (young and old; single, or with families). Also, quite a few children who get free lunches at school. All this in an "affluent, upscale" county. It appears to me that this is because the U.S. is in an economic depression, but I would certainly like to hear Chris' definition (as an accountant and one who is savvy about things financial) of a depression.

Pam

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Fair enough as it appeared to be a building constructed to an idea rather than an aesthetic concept but then it was a military build - which wasn't used as far as I'm aware?

That sounds really nice - and fit for guests is a very useful test for food! Hehe! Very true and amusing at the same time.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah the crane is frightening and they still don't haven't quite worked out how to remove it. The freeway off ramp was closed because the crane was apparently had a minor risk that it could have fallen onto it.

I remember the bridge collapse. Not good. Infrastructure costs a lot to maintain and letting some of it to deteriorate reduces the cost of maintenance. It reminds me of stories of bridge trolls and dodgy ferrymen which may feature again in the far future.

Fuel costs have risen back up into the $1.40ish per litre (3.8 litres per gallon) here. I wonder what point it will get to before people begin reducing consumption in earnest? Dunno.

Very amusing about the summer kitchen. There is already an outside oven for baking bread during summer. Thanks for the explanation about blanching the vegetables - I didn't understand that you were going to freeze them and that makes sense. I don't really prepare much at all for the freezer and it doesn't really contain anything of note.

Hope the trip into town was good? Fresh milk Thursday was a no go this morning as it wasn't at the general store...

Did I mention the wood ducks that have moved in here? Every year at about this time a few wood ducks fly in and build a nest high up in the trees. They love the water and feed here. They quack both at night and during the day. However, they always produce a few ducklings which get taken down to ground level and chaperoned around. I never know whether the ducklings survive as I don't have a pond or anything for them to retreat too but I suspect that every year there is a fresh tragedy of one sort or another - and yet they still come back here every year.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks and excellent to hear!

Hehe! That sized water tank can be very handy in an emergency as it is still a whole lot of water. The area cleaned up quite nicely and thanks for mentioning that. I always try to keep things clean and neat and I get less hassles that way. Once or twice it has been quite beneficial - especially when people that are up to no good are snooping around.

Certainly hope not! The rock climbers in that area would get quite the surprise wouldn't they? A good idea.

Good work with the electricity usage reduction. A dollar saved is a dollar earned as they say. Sorry to hear the primary reason for the reduction though. Are you considering getting dogs to replace those ones?

Exactly, the weather dictates so much of what you end up doing with washing. Hot and humid does make for some pretty grotty work clothes though. Just for your interest, the oven will use about 12 x what the desktop computer uses (depending on how full on the computer is). The freezer depends on what the ambient temperature is and what temperature you set it too and how often it is opened, so over summer it is much more energy intensive than winter. The refrigerator (with a small freezer at the top) uses less energy than the desktop computer! Over the depths of winter, I use a laptop which uses very little electricity compared to a desktop.

That is a good use for a dishwasher!

Satellite internet modems can use a phenomenal amount of electricity (according to someone I know that has one). You wouldn't think it though?

The generators are very good nowadays and amazingly reliable and affordable. I have a little 2kW unit here just for emergencies and it always surprised me how much fuel the thing will go through. I did recall that after the Black Saturday bushfires - many people simply ran out of fuel, so the trick with those units is to keep enough fuel on hand to keep them running during an extended outage.

Did I read somewhere that that very situation happened in New York when there were strong storm surges during a hurricane in the past year or so - or am I imagining that?

Debt is bad, really bad and no one seems to notice down here - which makes me very nervous. It is like a house of cards that is waiting to be blown over. Well done, you. I salute your efforts.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

I don't have any experience with a depression, however I was strongly affected by the recession here during 1990/91 when unemployment was over 10%. I'd moved out of home early and was renting, working full time and studying part time at night (and trying to pay off my student debt - a truly evil thing that!). As I was in my first job, I was made redundant (last in first out) and found myself without a job and contemplating surviving on the dole.

Instead I took a job doing debt collection and kept at that for the next four years until the economy slightly improved. It paid the rent and kept food on the table but was not well remunerated. It taught me much about human nature and overcoming any last vestiges of shyness! Truly it was quite the experience having to do that job.

Friday nights with my mates meant mixing a $2 bottle of port (truly rotten stuff) with coke before heading out - because we couldn't afford to buy drinks out.

At one point, I remember that the money coming in was equal to the money going out and I really needed a new pair of socks - and back in those days things were locally manufactured and thus more expensive than today - and I had to wait a few weeks to be able to buy them.

My old PC at the time self destructed and I had to go to the bank cap in hand for a loan to buy a new one as they did not give out credit cards freely in those days. Honestly, if the car broke down - and it was a very cheap old thing - I had to go scrounging at the car wreckers to find the parts and then fit them myself.

Most meals were made from scratch and they were pretty basic. I used to take in room mates from time to time to help pay the rent and bills or live in squalid share houses and there was no internet or mobile phones in existence (although a cashed up mate had one, which just annoyed everyone because it was very expensive to call).

The first house I ever bought was a dump of a place in a very industrial suburb on the very wrong side of town. I copped scorn from both family and friends for that move. And to add insult to injury, I lost money on the dump when I later sold it.

That's pretty much what a recession looked liked down here. Some people sailed through it, but I was young and very vulnerable.

There are people alive and in the workforce down here who have never known a day of recession and I worry for them.

Cheers

Chris

Coco said...

Well done on the chook palace! Is that all welded together?

Do you have any advice on moving really, really heavy stones? I´d like to use them first, since there would be fewer required for a short retaining wall. But we´ve no moving equipment other than a pry bar and maybe some round stakes to roll them along like the ancient Egyptians.

Thank you!

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris:

My, you have had a chequered past! Yet, if it even hurt you at all, it has also greatly benefited you and made you more resilient. Life is like that - bring it on! (after I've had my chocolate . . .)

The first house we bought was a dump, too, and in a very bad part of town (we didn't realize how bad when we bought it). That's when I learned how to shoot (no - nothing living, ever). Like you, we lost money when we sold it.

Your description of life in a recession fits exactly the lives of way too many young people that I know, and also retirees, on the other end of the spectrum, so I guess we're in a recession here. However, I do see quite a few of the younger people getting into "Green Wizardry", so that's a very optimistic sign.

Yes, one must be sure to have plenty of extra fuel stored for the generator in case of long outages. There have been times when we could not even get into town for awhile because of road closures due to blizzards or massive amounts of downed trees on roads. On at least one occasion, once I got into town the gas stations were shut down because of a widespread power outage. All good training in being prepared.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Hey, Chris!

I was thinking about a recent insurance bill and felt the urge to "crack the sads" coming on, so I decided it would do me more good to reread this latest blog post of yours (it did) as well as ask you what you do about having insurance? We're insured (house, cars, health, life-the first 3 are mandatory. Once the house is paid off, that one is optional) up to our ears for every conceivable disaster. It takes up about 1/4 of our monthly expenditures, I think. It makes me very nervous, as I think it's overkill. And yet, who knows? We haven't been to the doctor in years, but WHAT IF?

I'm not asking for accounting advice, just what your personal viewpoint is.

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Oh, another good thing about blanching veg, before freezing ... the color. The veg maintains it's nice bright colors.

Wood ducks are so pretty. We have them in Washington State, but, don't see them very often. More often, the Mallards and Canadian Geese.

Another 90 F (32.2C) day, yesterday. Getting to be old hat. :-). But much cooler and overcast, today. Never did smell smoke from the nearby fire, but the sunlight yesterday morning was that hazy orange color. It's so weird and disquieting. Nice and cool and overcast, today.

Watched the meteors, the last two nights. First night, 4 every 10 minutes. Last night, about one a minute. I did not stay up for the optimum viewing time of 3 or 4am. :-). The best viewing was supposed to be from the front porch, but the bats ran me off. They're not aggressive, but might bang into me by accident.

Had an interesting conversation with the clerk at the feed store. I mentioned that I slip Beau an aspirin a day, for his hips. She told me that when the aspirin stops working, they have a dog biscuit with medication in it. While I was watching the meteors, Beau was quit entertaining. It must be getting pretty empty, down in the canyon, where they are logging. Every time Beau barked, a perfect echo came back. :-). Beau was talking to himself :-). He got pretty wound up. Wondering who was that cranky old dog down in the canyon. Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

You are correct, the Palmerstone forts were never used.

It is very very noisy here. The red arrows must be putting on a display for Cowes week. It is a horrible day and I can't see anything through the cloud and rain, but they are going overhead for their sweep, round, up, down at both ends of the display.

Rodents get into my walls from underneath, I am used to it. One of the disadvantages of not having built the place ourselves. We can't get underneath it.

I blanch vegetables for freezing exactly like Lew does. I admit to drying the veg. with kitchen paper though. I suck the air out of the freezer bags with a straw.

Inge

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

Nice one! I love the repurposing of the coro. We got our first wicking bed built the other weekend. Had the SA permie gathering in the backyard where it was finished off, which made sure it happened. I made it out of cut up coro from the carport we pulled down. I'll blog about it sometime when I have time.

I've started putting secondary (acrylic) glazing on the windows. It makes a big difference to the warmth, but some of the existing glass is a bit leaky which will be a problem.

Nice work re: electricity use. We're still averaging below 5 kWh/day (drawn from the grid), tho the (all electric) cooking makes it hard to keep down -- when we get a combustion stove that'll help! We had an urn going for the permie bash and I think it used about 15 kWh over the day!

Looking at the numbers from this winter, we could not go off-grid with our solar PV as it is -- we have a 2 kW system, that is not inclined enough, so winter production is low. I think if we were going to go off-grid, I'd install another 1 kW of panels.

Been busy -- sorry for my lack of communication!
Hope you're well and enjoying the (very slightly) longer days ;-)
Cheers, Angus

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Coco, Pam, Lewis, Inge and Angus,

Hope you are all well and thanks for the lovely comments. I'm heading out tonight to see the film "Trainwreck" and won't get a chance to respond this evening. I promise to respond tomorrow night.

I don't know whether anyone has spotted this update on the El Nino event: 'Great Godzilla' of an El Nino likely to linger well into 2016, agencies say. Not good.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

@Lewis

I thought that bats never bump into anything. I know that it is sonar under water, what the heck is it above? Anyhow, bats have it.

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

I had heard of the El Nino news; I read your Sydney article, too. I found this essay on Pacific cooling very interesting, also, though it's from last year:

https://emsnews.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/cold-pacific-decadal-oscillation-causing-sardine-marine-collapse-and-california-drought/

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Rain this morning! Hope we get a good wetting down. I think the chickens knew a change was coming. Only two eggs, yesterday. I was wondering how Inge was making out. I spotted an article that a huge storm was moving across the Channel towards England, and that they were battening down the hatches!

I'm going to stop reading the El Nino stories. Sure, it's the second largest El Nino, measured at this time period. The articles get me wound up, and then don't provide any useful information. Human nature, I guess. Like some of the posters over at CFN. They want to know how, when and where The Decline will impact them. Guilty as charged as far as the weather goes. :-). I'll just stick with Cliff Mass, our local weather guy, who pretty good at long range forecasts for our little corner of the world.

The Soda fire in SW Idaho is at 219,000 acres. It closed the main road that I traveled, that goes from Pendleton, Oregon to Idaho. My friends in Idaho e-mailed me that they were woken up in the middle of the night by lots of dry lightening. Quit a show and hundreds of strikes.

Have fun at the movies! Nosh some popcorn, for me. :-). Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

We had rain, thunder, lightening. The worst of it passed just east of me so I wasn't really affected much and perhaps it will swell the blackberries which are still pathetic. Mind you, I don't know how the new neighbour's works coped!

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Coco,

Thanks. The structure, like all of the steel framed sheds here is held together with hundreds of tek metal screws. You have to allow some flexibility in the frame to allow for very strong wind loads (a tornado swept through here once a few years back on Christmas day). The structure is braced by the corrugated cladding which interlocks and is also folded around each corner of the structure. It is very strong, but can be flexible if required. Hope that makes sense. I'll post a walk through video of the structure in a couple of weeks when it is completely finished. Other projects are requiring my attention at this time.

Not really, other than an 8 foot steel house wrecking bar which I use as a lever to move them around. A bobcat or excavator would be really handy, but they also cause a whole lot of damage. With the pry bar, you have to be very careful with your fingers as accidents can happen very quickly. Sometimes, I roll them into a wheelbarrow and then pivot the wheelbarrow back into a vertical position and then wheel them about the place.

I'm very interested to hear how you go with the large rocks, so please let me know?

If anyone else has any ideas, I'd be very interested in that issue?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks, as they say down here - I was a bit dodgy in my youth! Fortunately there was no social media at the time, so all the evidence of my loutish behaviour dropped off the radar. I feel very sorry for younger people today having to face up to social media when they are young and dumb and do stupid things.

I hope that you enjoyed your chocolate? Chocolate is good. I cook dark chocolate drops into the Anzac biscuits here and they are very good indeed. Yum!

It is very wise to make lots of errors on your first house purchase, as hopefully you can learn from those errors and not repeat them. ;-)! However, there are always new and interesting mistakes to make! Sorry to hear that you lost money on the house - that hurts. No stress about the shooting, as I'm licensed down here to own a gun, but don't have one.

Sometimes living in a "bad" area can make you realise that the particular area is not so bad after all and people are pretty much the same the world over. The differences aren't as great as we'd like to think. I saw that a lot in my travels through some of the rougher parts of south east Asia. The funny thing was though, that some friends looked askance at me for having moved there and they started getting a bit snooty about visiting - which really annoyed me. It was a very interesting experience.

Thanks, that world was very difficult to navigate and is a useful experience. It is very interesting to hear that a lot of younger people and older people are navigating that world now in your part of the world and you have probably drawn the correct opinion - although that may be unpopular. The green wizardry is a good approach because it makes people start to disconnect from the monetary economy bit by bit and that is a good thing because the system is set up to scam people on that level.

Very wise. The downed trees would be an easy way to stop people from venturing too far into your neck of the woods too...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Ah well, sort of glad to hear that you cracked the sads! ;-)! Very funny.

Fair enough. The house is insured and that costs about $1,500 per year - but is not compulsory. The Black Saturday bushfires showed that about half of the houses in these sorts of areas were insured.

Car insurance for two vehicles is about $1,300 per year - but again that is not compulsory.

Life insurance is paid for down under through your retirement funds and as a person gets older it costs more and more (for obvious reasons). Again, this is not compulsory.

Private health insurance is not compulsory, however, everyone pays 2% of their pre-tax income towards Medicare insurance which covers many basic services. A visit to the local GP will cost a person about $30 here - regardless of income - however, many General Practioners don't require that payment, but they are very busy.

That's how it looks down under.

If for some strange reason, house insurance was either unavailable or unaffordable, I'd have to reconsider my strategies in the event of a bushfire - thus the permanent sprinklers which are a sort of plan B.

Of course, the future is uncertain and subject to change without notice.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks very much for that about the blanching as I didn't know it. The warmer winters here sort of don't encourage vegetable preserving. Fruit preservation is mostly what concerns me and I've been putting most of my energies into that. Vegetables are usually available year around, although over high summer when the extreme UV hits over January and February a lot of plant growth slows down and that is what troubles me. A lot of produce is shipped north from Tasmania - where it isn't quite as hot as here - at that time of year.

Ahh, good to hear that there are some wood ducks. Without humans, they'd be pretty common and they are all over the place here now and I see them munching on the fresh spring grass and waddling onto the roads. People are usually very careful with them.

Geese are something else. Don't they have big personalities too (all hisses and demanding behaviour)?

It is funny how we can adapt to the climate quite rapidly and not even notice that it is getting warmer overall? I get to that sort of temperature over summer and think to myself what a cool pleasant day it will be as the extremes are just sort of extreme... Glad to hear that you are getting some cooler weather from here on end, with a bit of rain.

Before you know it, you'll have another short and mini spring in autumn (that is what happens here). I'd appreciate it if you let me know if anything strange happens to your plants and trees during such a time - if it occurs?

Yeah, the smoke haze can do very strange things to the sunlight and you may even get the most amazing sunsets? The smoke brings on a bit of hayfever for me too - not good...

Oh yeah, thanks for mentioning the meteor shower as I've been looking for them for the past few nights and haven't seen many. There has been a bit of moisture in the air which hasn't helped, but still... 3am or 4am is well past bed time though! ;-)! Great to hear that the meteor shower is putting on a good show in your part of the world. There was an article here which explained the meteor shower: Shooting star spectacle not over yet and they reckon it still has a ways to go yet - which will be good.

Sorry to hear about the bats as that would be sort of disturbing and a bit reminiscent of a horror film? The bats here actually make a small high pitched sound as well as the sonar too. Certainly it is an excellent demonstration of the doppler effect in action.

Really, medication in dog biscuits? A good idea, but you have to wonder about the economics of the biscuits? Beau is clearly an alert and interesting character to wonder about the echo. Good on him!

Had to move a few fruit trees today which is always painful, but hopefully they survive the move OK? You really never know with moving fruit trees but this is the time of year as it probably is the best time for it.

I planted a few peaches and nectarines in an area that never received enough sunlight and they have struggled. It is very hard to know when to let go of an idea and try something different.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Yeah, I'd wondered whether the French had implemented an invasion of the UK? It would have been a difficult proposition. Perhaps the forts served the purpose as a deterrent rather than a military base and there mere presence was enough?

Ha! Glad to hear that the birds and forest are both enjoying a handy drink. Out of interest, how many days in a row can your place become fogged in by rain, mist and cloud? Down here it is about 2 days in a row at most.

That is unfortunate that you cannot get underneath the house, whilst the occasional rodent can. For your interest, the building surveyor forced me to build this house with a minimum of 500mm (1 and two thirds of a foot) clearance underneath the house timbers. It was a nuisance, but at least access is easy from inside the house.

Very clever and also very low tech. I'm impressed.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Thanks, there is lots of corrugated iron around if you know where to look. It is good stuff.

Well done and I look forward to reading about it and seeing the photos. Good stuff.

Too true and some of that early glass is only 3mm thick, so it won't stop anything in terms of energy transfer. Nice use of acrylic too.

Those electric cookers can use a surprising amount of electricity, so that is not really surprising. Still, you managed to exchange your electricity for human labour and that is a good deal!

Haha! Too funny. Of course you are correct about requiring an addition 1kW of panels, but truly you never know until you are tested... The editor looks very doubtful about the idea of installing another 1kW of panels here - and truthfully I don't know how much of a difference it will make?

No stress, it is all good.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

I reckon it is a form of sonar - which even the marsupial bats down here - use, but I'm no expert.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Sorry, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to discuss that article. El Nino down here can mean many different sorts of summers and it depends on how much the Indian Ocean warms up as that increases evaporation and rainfall - as well as the intensity - of summer storms here. It is a mixed bag really.

Cheers

Chris

TalkingTrees said...

Hello

Here we are on what is called 'rough country', so, more rocks, trees, shrubs, ground covers, native grasses than pasture. When we arrived almost twenty years ago we had an old, falling down house, poor fences, an old flock of merino sheep. We joked that we had a run-down farm and had been run off our feet ever since. Too true. My husband works in town as we have sadly never made a living from the farm (600 acres). One year we made pocket money on our wool. Too little to pay taxes on, so a rather large hobby farm.

The talk of retirement is pressing here. My husband is 70 in September. We will celebrate with music (my husband is a bass guitarist who began playing at 67, he plays with friends slightly younger and some older and it's a joy to see. Oh, and he was told by a 'real' bass player that it takes 7 years to 'get it'. Four years to go!)

Interesting discussions here, Chris. We lived at Blackwood Two in the Macedon Ranges in the early 80's and shared 50 acres with a librarian who lived in a foresters hut adjacent to the converted shearing shed we occupied. This was the year after Ash Wednesday. We witnessed some sad repercussions for marriages and neighbourly relations following this disaster and I believe it was the first series of fires across several firegrounds that was studied for social repercussions. Now we live in another brushfire prone area. And belonging to the RFS is a whole other story.

Cheers to you too,

Helen

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Your chickens are very clever to have known about the change in weather conditions. Actually, most of the animals here are very sensitive to changes and it seems as though it is the humans that seem to be surprised by changes in the weather. ;-)!

Two eggs though is a taste of things to come for you. The chickens have only this week begun picking up the amount of eggs that they lay and today was an 8 egg day - not bad!

Nice to hear that Inge received some heavy rain, but nothing too serious. I've wondering how things were going on her neighbours property, but I guess we'll find out in due course?

Fair enough and I hear you. You only know where the dice fall, after the roll has happened and I guess it makes little sense worrying about the throw? I don't gamble and my understanding of statistics showed me how pointless an activity that can be.

Ah. What is CFN?

Oh my, that is one big fire. Hope your friends over in Idaho are OK? It looked like some seriously dry country. Hope the winds don't pick up over the next few days there.

The film was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It could possibly be described as a potty mouthed rom com - which is OK by me. ;-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Glad to hear that your place got some good rain, but avoided the worst of the storm. You are clearly in a good paddock. Actually I was wondering how your neighbours earth works survived? A solid storm is a good learning and testing experience.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I really don't know how many days of mist, rain, cloud we can get in succession. I have never thought about it, I would guess weeks! I will be alerted to it now.

Don't know how neighbours ongoing works coped. We are completely puzzled by his activities. A trap has just been built in his sewage/drainage works; my son says that the bricks have been put in the wrong way round i.e. smooth should be inside but isn't.

Son has vehicle insurance, the only required one. We have no other insurances!!

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris:

To some degree I agree with you about "bad" areas. Where we bought our first house, a couple of decades before Mexican people had moved into the area. We got along great with them. My husband speaks fluent Spanish and I understand quite a lot (not a good speaker). Of course, our 2 small sons played with all the Mexican children. But unsavory types lived not too far from our little neighborhood. There were too-frequent shootings and thefts, and a rape only a block away. Best to get out of Dodge. I can't stand cities, anyway.

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Looking at my calendar from last year, I was still getting 6 or 7 eggs a day, in November. Sometimes over the winter, it would drop to just under 4 a day. But, plenty of weeks with 6 and 7. But, of course, I "light" my chickens in winter ... 14 or 15 hours a day ... I mean to say, I have a timer, and make sure they get 15 hours, between the sunlight and the light. I time the light to kick on in the wee small hours. Also, the coldest part of the night. So they get a little warmth. Also, my chickens are very spoiled and probably the best fed chickens in Lewis County :-).

It was overcast and rained, on and off, all yesterday. Everything got a good drink of water. Dare I say it felt a bit like fall? But, the next 10 day forecast is for one 90+F, day. A bunch of 80F days ... a couple of 70F days. Not much chance of more rain. As far as El Nino, goes, there's also the Blob. That big, weird, area of warm water off our coast. No one seems to know if it will go away, or, in what way it might interact with the El Nino. We're in uncharted weather territory.

Hmmm. The wood duck story jogged my memory, a bit (ouch!). I seem to vaguely remember that back in the 50s, the wood duck population was in steep decline. So, I think it was the State Department of Natural Resources, that began a program to build and install wood duck nesting boxes. Built and sited to their particular needs. They bounced back, and I don't know if the program is still on-going. We used to see them when we went fishing ... and, steered well clear of them.

Oh, I know the bats probably won't bash into me. But it's all that sudden movement and flitting about within 3 feet of my head. I also remember when we used to visit my uncle's farm, in the 50s, on summer nights we'd throw handfuls of gravel in the air, and the bats would swoop in to see what was going on. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Delete this? Potty mouth on the screen is one thing, on your blog, quit another :-). I have no idea where CFN came from. I meant to say ADR. What is popularly called a "brain fart", in this part of the world :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi TalkingTrees,

Welcome to the discussion!

Thanks for your story. What an adventure you are on. Well, the farm here doesn't make any money either. In fact, I reckon it is downright hard to actually make a financial living off the land. On the other hand, you do have access to fresh lamb which is a really lovely sweet meat. Heck, I even like mutton and often wonder where the obsession about lamb entered our national consciousness? One strong memory from my travels in India was eating mutton burgers and they were really good.

Well done to both of you. We're all such a long time dead, so life is definitely in the living! Respect for picking up the bass guitar too. I don't personally have a clue about the retirement thing, but expect that the place here will be well set up enough that something will happen.

Wow! What an experience. I tell you the world is a very small place, because I was actually in Blackwood yesterday visiting the Garden of St Erth - which may have been a private garden during those days (although you may confirm that). As a bit of a confession, I was buying some thornless blackberry plants (Waldo variety) which may sound a bit like buying lantana plants to you!

Yeah, I hear you about the RFS as I was with the CFA for a few years. Basically in a nutshell, my perspective - and I'd be very interested to hear your perspective - is that such organisations should be part social club and part emergency services provider. They also have the very unpleasant task of reaching out to the local communities as expectations exceed reality by a considerable margin.

Exactly, a great deal of research went into the aftermath of Ash Wednesday and I have read much from that. It was fascinating stuff. Unfortunately, I see the same tragedy unfolding again at some point in the future. The things I've personally seen and heard, I dunno...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

It would certainly be interesting to hear about your experience. My understanding is that a lot of moisture can actually arrive in your particular area through the actions of fog and mist. Certainly, some summers here it can be a major source of airborne water vapour and often this mountain range is cloaked in fog and cloud when all around is clear and dry.

Time will tell! It is weird how people come into an area and assume that they know exactly how it should operate - and then they are faced with the forces of nature and all of their plans are washed away.

As to the bricks, I don't know what to say other than the smooth side would be less porous. Maybe they were trying to filter the septic system through the porous side of the bricks? Who knows, really? It will be interesting to see how it progresses over time. Sometimes, I have to wonder why people live where they do? I mean why modify the entire landscape to conform with your wishes, rather than altering your systems to fit into the landscape?

Yeah, vehicles can get into a world of trouble! I'm pretty clear about what may happen if I could potentially not have house insurance and am actively working towards this not being quite so much of a problem. Historically, insurance has been a rare thing and I guess we all simply lived with the environment that we found ourselves in. However, I'm also actively limited from managing the forest as it needs to be done - which is a pest of a problem.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Oh my! Of course you are absolutely correct in that assertion and the area I moved too had a bad reputation, but wasn't quite unpleasant in that sort of a way. It was more of an industrial wasteland as all of the historically heavy industries moved into that area. I don't recognise the area now as it has been thoroughly gentrified. Mind you, on reflection I was an innocent bystander in an armed hold up so perhaps things were going on that I was completely oblivious too - which perhaps may have been the case? It was a funny story, well sort of and the editor ducked out the door during the hold up - a smart move, leaving me to sidle over to a lady with her young child who was looking a bit freaked out. The robbers were idiots.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Oh yeah, your chickens are probably the best fed in your county and are totally spoilt rotten. Well, sometimes here in late autumn, early winter I'm down to 1 or 2 eggs per day.

Hey, I met a possible new chicken supplier at a local farmers market yesterday which was exciting and they had a good collection for sale. I did have to put my foot down and suggest to the editor that there would be no more silky chickens here as they just go broody too often (3 is enough). It was very interesting speaking with them as they had some interesting tales about their chickens over the past year or two - with the whacky climate and all.

Yeah, that Blob is just weird and seriously affects your weather. It all depends on where your prevailing winds come from as to what you can expect, but then in a changing world, nothing is certain.

Great to hear that your government took the needs of the wood ducks into consideration. They perform useful functions in the environment - and I read recently and as a fun fact - their manure can assist with sealing leaking dams (ponds). Did you ever catch much in the way of fish? I reckon fishing would be quite meditative and relaxing, but have never tried it myself.

When I lived in Williamstown which is an old port city just out of Melbourne, there was a gas fired power station in the next suburb over (Newport). I nicknamed the smoke stack from that power station - the big cigarette - because that is what it looked like. The hot water used to be let out into the bay and tell you what, every single day there were people out fishing in the warmer waters.

That is interesting about the bats and the gravel - they're very sensitive creatures, as they have to be to catch the meaty moths. Actually, the bats here enjoy the garden lights - which isn't so good if you are a moth. Hopefully we both avoid that part of the reincarnation process! ;-)!

No worries, everyone loves a fart joke! Well, maybe almost everyone...

Cheers

Chris

TalkingTrees said...

Hello

Ah, yes, mutton versus lamb. probably all in the cooking and the spices. Mutton in India is often goat, I think? I enjoy cooking and feeding people and although I cook meat I am a long-time vegetarian of 40 years with a notable blip in an excruciating social situation in the late eighties. Our sheep were looked after by a neighbour during a period when we both worked in town. At some point he returned them to one of our small side paddocks and we were amazed to see Von Ruy/Dorper crosses charge through the gate. Our merinos had been bred with meat sheep over three years and were quite unrecognizable. We have had some fun in the years since. Meat sheep rams and full grown wethers can easily flatten you in the race. For us the real plus is not having to shear because these breeds are self-shedding. For the most part.

Yes, you're right Chris, St Erths came after we left the area. Blackberries are a scourge, especially in our kind of country but a delicious one nonetheless. I have not tried thornless blackberries but we have had loganberries and raspberries, however, the long drought in the first part of this century meant there was not enough water to keep most of our gardens alive. We are rebuilding now and like you have another water tank and have plans for another as funds allow.

Our local branch of the RFS is lucky to have some younger members join in the last few years. Prior to that it was definitely a case of an ageing population. Training has always been sporadic, some members think it's important, others see it as an imposition. When we first arrived the fire captain was re-elected every year in his absence! I'm not so sure about your area but here some fires can only be left to burn. Unless of course the state services get involved. Then it''s a very different story.

Cheers,

Helen

Steve Carrow said...

Frugality- Yes, we all have stories to tell of our ingenuity in making do, but I have to say I was again impressed with Mr. Holmgren when reading his book " Principles and Pathways". Here in the U.S., "the three Rs- reduce, reuse, recycle", is a fairly common phrase, but as usual, Dave took it to a deeper level, by adding two more- refuse and repair. Got me to refresh my awareness of all things frugal.

Which brings me to a question for you. I save left over materials, odds and ends that I have accumulated from years as a homeowner, but they take up room, and can get out of hand and be unsightly very easily. So, in all the photos you've shared of your holding, everything looks so tidy and squared away, where do you save such items for future possible use? I suspect there is another large outbuilding you've never mentioned..........

Preserving food- I'll be posting shortly on my now and then blog how our new solar dehydrator has performed, but yes, we blanch and chill before dehydrating or freezing.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Speaking of guitars ... not that I own or play one ... Stephen King joined an occasional rock band called "The Rock Bottom Remainders" made up of authors. Dave Berry, Amy Tan, King, etc.. They actually took a tour through the South (there's a book about it). They usually play at a big yearly booksellers convention.

In this State, you have to have car insurance, by law. If you happen to let it lapse, the insurance company rats you out to the State!

Ah, yes. "Those" kind of jokes appeal to the 8 year old boy, in all of us. :-)

Well, I'm off today to visit Chef John's truck / market garden, again. I'm going to swap eggs and lend him some cooking books and dvds for his classes, in return for some veg. Going to slip some dog biscuits in my pocket for his hounds. I asked. They're friendly enough, but if I'm going to dog sit them, from time to time, might as well start building a "deeper" relationship. :-). Lew

rabidlittlehippy said...

Hi Chris,

I have some bottles for you if you're interested. Would you mind emailing me so I can arrange for them to make it to your possession? :)

rabidlittlehippy said...

Reading through the comments Chris and where your not-enough-light trees are, try cherries. The tolerate a southern aspect here and mine are on the south west of our house and fruited last year for Christmas. :)