There are times when I blame the online computer game World of Warcraft. However, I know that blame is misplaced. The blame, I reckon can be placed on decline, pure and simple. You see, when I was a younger man, I used to be one small part of a much larger social group. I was introduced to that larger social group by a friend I had known since primary school. I also introduced friends to that larger social group too and for many years we had a lot of fun times. But slowly over time, the winds of change swept through the social arrangements and after many years of entropy the binds that held the large social group together failed and people were scattered to the many distant corners of the city.
Strangely enough I was one of the first to move to a distant part of the city. After many years of dating appealing young ladies, I met the editor and I knew I was onto a good thing. We promptly got married and wanted to purchase a house to live together and the only house that we could afford was a small early 20th century workers cottage in a very gritty industrial suburb of Melbourne. The fascinating smells emanating from the nearby refinery competed with the sounds of the heavy truck traffic all hours of the night. At night we used to walk the dogs around the suburb and the editor, the dogs and I were the only signs of life anywhere. In a strange coincidence I used to work with a guy that also worked evening shifts at the local pub and he advised me: Not to pick anyone else’s fight at that particular pub (which shall remain nameless). The other pub in the suburb opposite the heavy industries had fallen on hard times and resorted to attracting the nearby student population with local live music as well as hosting the very eccentric and hilarious drag queen revue night.
Back in those days, that suburb was very dark and gritty and after the editor and I moved to that very unfashionable place some people complained to me that they would not want to cross the Westgate bridge and put one foot in that industrial suburb. It was almost as if they would catch some sort of disease! As an interesting side note, not wanting to cross the Westgate bridge as an excuse has some minor credibility as the bridge had actually fallen down during construction killing umpteen people and if you have ever had the uncanny experience of being stopped on a motorbike on a ten lane bridge 55m (181ft) above the water level whilst the bridge deck bounces up and down you’ll appreciate what I’m talking about when I describe the rather queasy feeling that I get deep down in my guts. However, I rather suspect that my friends and family were cheekily casting judgement upon my supposed poor life choices.
Me, being me, I didn’t really let that judgement by both friends and family bother me, and I chose instead to simply visit them instead. And so I visited those friends regularly for at least the next dozen years. As time wore on, those friends met partners and wanted to purchase a house of their own or they were simply and reluctantly pushed ever further out of the city in all directions. The drive for that push were the forces of economics. In Melbourne the price of houses rose faster than incomes year in and year out and still do, so my friends were scattered all over the city and they ended up living in mostly in very far and remote corners. I on the other hand by this stage was living close enough to the city that I could – and did – walk there every single day for work. My friends kept in contact with each other through the game World of Warcraft where they would meet to battle mighty boss creatures for virtual rewards. Other friends started families and they disappeared into those families rarely to be seen again. Some of those friends even had time to start second families.
Eventually tensions came to a head and after many years of waiting around to see whether the situation would change there was an explosion of emotion and a fight occurred between two competing power blocs of friends. It was a make or break moment and unsurprisingly it broke the large social group.
Having had no hand in that explosion matter, I found that my group of friends had dwindled to not much more than a quiet whimper and there was not much to be salvaged from the wreckage. I chose to sulk my socks off for a few months whilst I contemplated the situation. At the end of the prolonged socks sulking off session, I chose to obtain new friends. The unfortunate thing was that over the years I had been asked by several people if I would like to be their friend and because I had such a large group of friends I always replied: “Yeah, nah” and as such all my eggs were in one basket.
One advantage that I did have with making new friends was that the editor and I had not hung around waiting for the inevitable explosion as we had moved to a rural area and set about constructing our own house. Rural areas traditionally have strong community networks and groups and this area was no exception and I enjoyed them immensely.
However, after a few years, many of those community groups imploded too. Those implosions seemed really weird to me and I always had a sort of rabbit in the headlights feeling as they occurred one after the other. The experience of those community group implosions reminded me of nothing so much as my experience with the disappearing act of socialising with work people in the early 1990’s. Before the Australian recession of the early 90's, drinks on Friday night with work friends was a massive event. In fact there were many Friday lunchtimes we struggled even getting back to work after a few drinks and drunken convivial conversation. Along came the recession and these drinks sessions were the first casualty. I have fond memories of returning to work on Friday afternoons and on several occasions I was instructed by my boss (in a friendly way, of course): “Sit down and shut up for the rest of the afternoon”. To which I always replied: “Yes, boss” which was probably just as well because I didn’t have anything sensible to say in my alcohol addled state!
I sometimes have the strangest feeling that I have seen the end of certain social arrangements. With many of those social arrangements I saw just enough to tantalise me and know that we as a society can do better, but alas, now that we are apparently wealthier, I rather suspect that a certain meanness of spirit has crept into our social lives and so most people have turned inwards. The thing is though, without community, it goes without saying that there is no community.
Did I mention that it has been hot and humid here this week? Thursday morning was the sort of morning you take the chainsaw along with you to the local café.The chainsaw was not required for settling scores like Jason AKA Friday the Thirteenth, but for the more pragmatic reason that the wind gusts blew strongly that morning and in such conditions trees are wont to fall down across the road. I once could not get home in such conditions and had to call a neighbour to come and rescue me. The neighbour, who is a good bloke, brought overalls and gloves that day for me to wear and I spent the next couple of hours hauling fallen timber off the roads whilst trees were crashing around us.
|Thursday's temperatures were hot|
The humidity only seemed to increase as a band of rain rolled in from across the valley. At least the rain brought a small amount of relief from the heat.
|The humidity increased that day as a band of rain rolled in from across the valley|
The next day was still hot, but firewood does not put itself in the firewood shed. The editor and I spent about 5 hours that hot day cutting, splitting and stacking firewood in the heat. We use an electric (solar powered) log splitter to assist with the task of splitting the large rounds but even so it is still hot and heavy work. Fortunately for the editor and I we had a little helper that day who was busily consuming all of the insects which fell out of the various chunks of firewood. By the end of that day the little reptile was very chunky! We had to be very careful at all times not to squash/squish/splat this highly active and hungry assistant.
|A little reptile assisted us by eating all of the many insects that fell out of the split logs|
The firewood shed is really starting to fill up. This year we have stacked the firewood a lot higher than in the previous year and we suspect that this firewood shed, when full, will be more than enough firewood for the cold parts of the year.
|The firewood shed is really starting to fill up|
Observant readers will note that we are nothing if not neat! Speaking of neat, I thought that it might be useful for readers to see just how deep the deep litter mulch actually is in the chicken enclosure. Every day the chickens scratch the accumulated pile of used bedding straw and manure down to ground level. It takes me only a minute or two of work to build the pile back up again.
|Observant readers will note just how deep the deep litter mulch in the chicken enclosure is|
The zucchini (courgette) monsters have produced a few zucchinis and we harvested them before they grew any bigger. And the next photo below also shows a huge harvest of basil and rocket which is to be turned into the most delicious pesto.
|Zucchini (courgette) monsters were harvested before they grew any bigger along with a good harvest of basil which is turned into yummy pesto|
The blackberries have just begun to ripen. Nuff said!
|Blackberries have just begun to ripen. Nuff said!|
Tomato cam shows a thick – but well contained – jungle of tomato vines.
|Tomato cam shows a thick – but well contained – jungle of tomato vines|
And the first ripe tomato was harvested on Saturday. Yum!
|The first ripe tomato was harvested on Saturday|
The many capsicums (peppers) which we are trialing this summer have begun to produce flowers and the first signs of fruit. I hope that there is enough summer left for them to ripen fully. Time will tell.
|The many capsicums (peppers) which we are trialling this summer have begun to produce flowers|
The most reliable stone fruit this season has been the plums and the D’Agen variety are only a few weeks away from harvesting.
|The D’Agen variety of plums are only a few weeks away from harvesting|
The mysterious melon has doubled in size this week! Observant readers will note in the next photo below that the other melon variety flower has pollinated and now has tiny little melons on the sprawling vines.
|The mysterious melon has doubled in size this week and the other melon varieties have produced tiny melons|
Earlier in the summer I planted out a dozen or so gooseberry cuttings and most of them have taken and are now producing a lot of new growth. Next summer I will definitely try and get more cuttings of this plant to strike.
|Most of the dozen or so gooseberry cuttings planted out in early summer have taken and are showing signs of new growth|
And I like to finish the blog at this time of year with a few flower photos from about the farm:
|This is a proper looking meadow|
|Who doesn’t love cornflowers?|
|A yellow yarrow flower mixes it up with a mysterious white flowered plant from the mint family|
|Tansy looks very happy in this corner of the garden and it grows back every single year|
|The various salvias love the heat of the summer|
|Tri-coloured sage (salvia) sits happily among the lavender, gotu kola, and maidens tears|
|White flowered yarrow and the soapwort enjoy the high heat and humidity|